Sunday, 27 May 2012

River Wonderland

Saturday 12th May to Sunday 20th  May 2012
55 Miles, 51 Locks, 3 Tunnels – for these 9 days

Totals:  1090 Miles,  908 Locks, 31 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

We finally left our home for the last 6 months – not just the marina but the town of Stone – slowly at first just making it to first Barlaston and then to Stoke in the first two days – no new territory here – we had been here already this year and must have done the trip a half dozen times before.

We did however moor around in the arm off to the Caldon Canal just near to the services and outside the Etruria Museum – which sadly we have to report appears to be very much closed – due to lack of funding form the council. The same council who thought nothing of spending a vast amount of money on a new carpark for councillors and council officers – the same amount which would have funded the museum for a few years to come.

They have their own thinking in the way of their priorities.

After filling the water tank and a self pumpout we continued northwards, through the Stoke area, past Westport Lake and into the Harecastle Tunnel – our 6th trip through there; finally getting through 12 of the locks making up the Cheshire flight to moor up at Rode Heath.

We caught up with Lyn and Phil on nb Valentine who were friends of Joyce and Ray on nb Jemma from Aston Marina – they too were heading into Liverpool so we are looking forward to being able to have a drink with them and chat a bit – as you do.

Mother Duck went quack, quack quack
and there were 12 ducklings to round up
We have now come to the best arrangement – sharing the duties of locking and steerage – the management of course decides which I shall do and which she does – it amazes me that it seems to be the locks furthest apart that fall into my basket to set whilst the closest come down in her favour.

She explains it as simply pure coincidence.

The following day – now the Tuesday – we planned on completing the flight to Wheelock – again sharing the locks.

In the time honoured tradition of “paper, scissors, rock’ – I started on the locking and at the second hurdle there was a message over the walkie-talkie to come back to help her – in the process of mooring the boat at the bollards she had whipped the rope and hit both the thumb and forefinger on her hand, pulling back the nail – “I can’t do the locks, I have a serious nail injury” – so it was the sit down job for her and the other 14 locks for me.

After tying up at Wheelock the skies opened up -
rain, wind and hail
Seems the injury had recovered sufficiently just as we exited Lock 66 and moored up at Wheelock – mmmmm!! A miraculous recovery me thinks – didn’t interfere with her fish and chips

The journey continued the following day – a bit cold and windy – through into Middlewich where we moored just up from Kings Lock.

Taking an after dinner walk we bumped into Ali and John off nb Triskaideka – they were waiting around for the engineer to appear for their 750hr service on the engine.

We chatted for a while then agreed that we would meet up further along the way – we are both pretty much heading up along the Trent and then onto the Bridgewater and towards Liverpool.

Down through the three Middlewich locks with their tight turns should have been a bit quicker (no rushing in this) but being held up by other boats leads to interesting conversations as we had with one single hander who we later caught up with and shared the Big Lock with – he was moving on ahead and us slowly after.

We had decided that we would take up a mooring at Brambles Cutting if there was one available – Eureka, on our own – a pleasant area cared for by the Broken Cross Boat Club.

at Brambles Cutting - very relaxing

he finally sat still for the photo - he still won't smile though
With such a nice and relaxed area all to ourselves it was necessary to get a few jobs out of the way – like checking on the engine – do you really have to do this every month? – all was OK; batteries still doing wonderfully well – and then onto repainting the back right panel which on the last attempt had suffered from the metal temperature being stone cold and freezing before drying the paint.

All well this time – so it was time to apply the remaining transfers with the boat name and home town – she was now completed for a bit longer.

Alas, the following morning, Friday, we were joined by another boat – nothing wrong with that, but the news was that we were to be joined by other members of the boat club for their regular clean-up of the area and BBQ prompted us to leave and head a couple of miles further on and moor opposite one of the flashes – just before the wind really blew up and the rains appeared.

We had been debating for some time about doing the Ribble link and the management was a bit concerned about doing a river so we had decided that we might venture down onto the Weaver and kill another bird by also doing the Anderton Lift – expecting that we might be lucky to get an available spot we called in and the lovely Kath was ever so helpful and explained so much to us about the river and what to see that we were sold over again.

entering the holding area and then onto the aquaduct

moving into the caisson ready to go down
smiling at the moment - but before we start the descent
one is smiling - the other concerned about taking the photo

the view as we descend onto the Weaver

It is a true feat of engineering and the trip down was further enhanced by the both Richard and Dave the two guys rostered on that day – had a great time talking with them both through the trip down.

We headed left out of the lift toward Northwich town centre where we moored up to have a look through; “she” felt not too comfortable, for no particular reason so we headed back in the other direction and moored up at the mooring bollards in Barnton Cutting.

Sunday was a brilliant morning – cool air and sun – down through Saltisford Lock – the lockkeeper was equally friendly and helpful about places to go – on a bit further past Acton Bridge (bridge) – the bridge at Acton Bridge – winded and back to claim the last mooring ready for a walk and then lunch at the Leigh Arms – can highly recommend it too.

the locks on the Weaver are massive - according to the lockie
they can fit 24 narrowboats into them
It is difficult to go too far around without being noticed or messages to be passed on and so it was upon our return through Saltisford Lock – the lockie had had discussions with John and Ali on nb Triskaideka and had informed them of our progress down that morning and similarly with Lyn and Phil on nb Valentine – we had missed both, but later as we found out – Lyn and Phil were sitting just around a corner from us in the pub for lunch.

Over lunch we chatted about going back up the lift and continuing our journey north – and so we did. The return on the lift was equally as good as the one down – Richard and Dave were again there – their roles reversed to the previous day – but great guys to talk to.

Going back up the lift we met the other caisson going down
with the trip boat
We exited, winded and cruised another couple of miles north before mooring up with excellent views over the valley, and of the railway viaduct.

thanks to Dave for the picture of us both on the return journey
The River Weaver is now on our agenda for next year – two weeks down here will be firmly pencilled into the 2013 diary – this is just a truly wonderful experience and very peaceful and quiet.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Happy Birthday to Diane

Friday 11th May 2012

A very special day today – the anniversary of the birth of my lovely wife.

It would be very wrong of me to say just how long ago that took place, suffice to say that when she says it is her 21st, she is just a little bit out in that calculation.

It was last century; our oldest child is now almost 27.

She has had many many cards and presents - half the suitcase returning with me from Australia seemed to be for her birthday

Anyway she has had a great day and started planning for the next one.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Not that Right – The Other Right

Tuesday 1st May to Thursday 10th May 2012

Leaving work aside – as one should always do – we have had a very busy time of late. The main attention, from which a few other things developed was yet another trip to Old Trafford; the last home game of the season and one we had been anticipating that the title would have been decided in our favour – very sadly that was not to be the case – but there is still one more game remaining and winning it at Sunderland this weekend will still be a great achievement.

Anyway, one thing led to another and the long weekend started on Friday and ended at the close of Monday night.

We had a getaway night from our bank for opening accounts with them some time ago and decided that we would use this as the start.

Car hire made on Thursday; dog off to the kennels on Friday we headed northwards – up the M6 and the turnoff onto the M55 – yes heading for Blackpool but certainly not staying there.

We had not been there in 12 years – last time was with the kids and the town certainly has changed dramatically – very much for the better.

There has been a lot of money invested in modernising the frontage to the sea as well as new trams and a feeling of the recreation of a wonderful place to visit – the businesses have invested in renovating tired and rundown building facades and made them into almost something you would expect to see in a theme park.
There is still the overhead wiring to contend with -
for anyone driving a mobile crane.

We would definitely visit there again and not wait another 12 years to do so.
The iconic view from the central pier -
tower and sand in the background

Our intended destination for the night was in the town a little south of Blackpool – Lytham St Anne’s – we had a one night booking at a B&B there.
Driving into the town was eye-opening – the buildings and atmosphere was one of a very affluent seaside town and the shopping precinct was of the same manner – more that just the usual coffee shops/cafes, banks, charity shops etc – there was a vibrancy to the area which has been sadly lacking in our other travels.
Here is a place that knows what it wants and knows how to do it – creating an environment within which you would feel at home and be able to leave the home and go out and certainly enjoy yourself.

The accommodation was up to the standard that we had expected and we had a very enjoyable stay the The Lindum. I do have to stay that we did bring down the average age of the guests on this particular night but it was a very nice place to stay.

The following morning (Saturday) we spent a bit of time shopping in the centre of town and then we were away.
We decided that we would make our way down to Manchester without utilising the motorways at all.
It led us through Preston where we visited the marina to gather directions to the sea lock for the Ribble Link – sadly we were not in the presence of anyone knowledgeable in that particular waterway – “I just work here” was the common reply. Not to be deterred we purchased knowledge in the form of a map of the area and headed off in search of the lock.
We found the canal and walked the path alongside a few of the locks but regrettably we ran out of path before we ran out of locks – but it did give us a good look at the lower parts of the canal. Here’s hoping that we can finally get the notification of the right of passage to here – it’s a bit like “the cheques in the mail” waiting for the BW confirmation.
Alas, we needed to leave and it was onwards via another A road and several more B roads in search of something as elusive as the northwest passage – a motorwayless route into Manchester.
With trusty navigator by my side (she has been telling where to go for years now) we headed south by south-east – past the canal at Burscough Bridge and then over a toll bridge – yes correct spelling – there was no ugly troll under the bridge – there was however a toll booth on the other side where the princely sum of 12p was the charge for our trip over the top – we were lucky – if you were going the other way it was 25p – so without waiting for the change of the 20p coin we proceeded further.
True to form we found the correct roads and made our way to the Mercure Inn at Altrincham. Our rooms was quite resplendent – the only problem being it was on the lower level – read as almost basement-like – and the free wifi was non-existent as well as any phone signal – that aside we settled in and it was a spacious room.
Another good nights sleep was greeted with a very hearty breakfast.

We had a latish checkout and decided that we would park the car close to the light-rail line at Old Trafford and use the time allowed by the late kick-off to see a bit more of Manchester city.

We have an area where we always park – safe and within a short walk of the ground as well as the light-rail stop, but we were approaching from a different direction to usual – the very clear instruction from the left hand front seat was “turn right at the next intersection” – indicator turned on – car directed to the right-hand turn lane – the next words were – “where are you going?”; answer “right hand turn as you said”; “not that right, the other right”; no other right hand turn in sight – “do you mean left?”; “yes turn left – the other right”

Directions and dimensions – “your honour, I rest my case”.

We made the left hand turn and found the location for the car to be left; short walk to the tram stop and into Manchester.
Prince Albert in the background - my princess in the foreground

We managed to find some lanes, roads and alleyways that we hadn’t visited before – a brief stop at Albert Square and a visit to the Manchester Art Gallery before a very nice lunch at The Bank.
Back on the tram and off to the match – another win to Man United, 2-0 over Swansea, but the earlier match was a 2-0 win to Citeh over Newcastle – no change in overall standings.
The holy Trinity looking out over the masses

A final home farewell after a 2-0 win over Swansea

Headed back to the boat for the night, before we were off again to Long Itchington  for the last day of the Beer Festival – 6 pubs all serving a huge variety of real ales – we were to catch up with Mike and Stella (nb Isobel) – Mike had, however, headed south with his brother-in-law to do some work down there and pick up tools he needed for the boat – missed him by 10 minutes; but we had an enjoyable day with Stella – visiting 5 of the pubs – the visit to the Buck and Bell included a group of Morris men doing their jingling and jangling and altogether having a good and entertaining time – the scene has been set for return visit for the festival next year, but get there sooner.

We were told of a little Indian Restaurant in Marton – The Essence of India – if you book 24 hours in advance they will come and pick you up and return you after your meal – we decided to give them a try on the way home – we were not disappointed and will be back here again (next year).

Picked up a rather dirty dog on Tuesday; returned the car; normal services had been restored, except for the fact that we were due to leave the marina this week for the summer cruising – we are off to Liverpool docks, then to Leeds and down through Standedge Tunnel to Marple Junction, Macclesfield Canal and back to the marina in October.
mmm- maybe our next project !!!

So it was on Thursday morning we finished water tank filling; diesel tank filling,  grey tank emptying and we are now off for the cruising to begin – not a very long first day – barely over a mile and just the one lock to complete – but we are off – no right turns to negotiate or worry if it is the right or should it have been the other right – just straight ahead.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Home is never far away

Monday 9th April to Monday 30th April 2012

To the great relief of Diane I have made it back to the UK, touching down on Monday 30th and being greeted at Birmingham airport by a very happy “she who must be obeyed”.

It was a total of 6 weeks away and it has been a lovely time to catch up with everyone back in Australia.

Following on from Easter I was off to Bundaberg to see Mum and Dad (Diane’s parents) and I was very pleased to be able to report that they were both very much more active than I had seen them for quite a while – both walking well without any problems and in general very much more healthy.
What's an agricultural show without cows and bulls - oops not these three

They were eager to have a good time and to see a few friends as well and we were on the move on most days – down to the club for a show and friends and coffee as well as out to the Agricultural show and then down to the foreshore and the beach.

Looking forward to the next visit already – whenever that may be.
Mum and Dad - both fit and very well
We spent a very good 4 days together before it was time to leave and head to Sydney to see the favourite sister-in-law Vivienne – a quick pickup from the airport and we were then heading into Sydney proper for a delicious Yum Cha luncheon – Vivienne’s favourite.

As with the rest of the time I had been back there were precious few times to sit and relax – caught up with Doreen (aunt), Kyle and Leigh (a new grandfather).
Leigh - the new grandfather

Both Viv and I spent a happy/sad 3 and ½ hours visiting our friend Phil in hospital – he has been diagnosed with cancer and is showing the signs of this horrendous disease – I say a happy/sad time as he did not shy away from what was happening and we discussed a lot about how he was facing all of this and then almost straight after we were laughing out loud with some very amusing stories and jokes – it was a time that made you realise the precious time that we have available and that we should make the most of it whilst we have a chance.

A customer visit on the Monday and then the flight back to Melbourne (Sam was there to pick me up – she is a good girl) and another week at work – 3 days off was the extent of the time away from work.

The football season was back on again – AFL – Australian Rules – and for Mitch the first game of the season. A rather warmish day; Brenda was down from Mortlake and we enjoyed a good day, a good game and a good win – by 73 points.

More work the following week which was a broken week – Anzac Day (25th) breaking the week neatly in half – this is the most respected of days in the Australian calendar; when we remember the lives and sacrifice of generations of Australians during war – a day that the spirit of Australia is celebrated to its full.

Mitch celebrated his birthday on the Friday – a very old 23 years of age – time is flying by for him –he responded by celebrating over 4 days with different friends and managed to fit another game of football into all of that.

Sam and I were able to take him off to lunch on Sunday before I finally flew out and back to the boss and the boat. She thought that she was fooling me that I had to make my own way back, but she just cannot hide what she is doing.

More good news that came through was that Elly and Mick have finally agreed to a price for their house, so it will just be a matter of a few months for the completion of the sale and they will finally be able to realise their dream and join the rest of us cruising the canals. Looking forward to you guys getting here.

They were the weeks that were and we can now ready ourselves for just a little bit of cruising, but there is a few days of adventure for next weekend to get through before we leave the moorings behind.