Sunday, 31 March 2013

Silent Sunday 2

Decisions - when to go and when not to go

Thursday 28th March to Saturday 30th March 2013

5 miles during this period

Totals: 1482 Miles, 1198 Locks, 47 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 97 Swing Bridges

How deceptive it can be when you only look at what is happening around and not further on.

We woke on Thursday to a glorious day – a bit cold with a slight breeze – but what the heck, it was sunny and dry.

Just a little bit of very thin ice on the canal surface – only 5 miles to Marple, so we thought we would leave early-ish and be able to moor up easily at the top of the Marple flight.

Mmm – it all started to go off script as soon as we cleared the linear moorings and rounded the bend – what is that strange noise – it couldn’t be the mill way over there – nope – it was the louder sound of ice crunching from the bow and along the sides – that’s not so good.

We persevered for about a mile and a bit before we decided that it might be better to moor up for a little while and let the sun do it’s work.

After about an hour and a half we (banjo and I) ventured out for a bit of a walk – it was still icy but definitely not as thick as earlier and this time we did go far enough to see ice-free water and also the bridge signifying that we were almost at Higher Poynton – where we wanted to fill the water tank.

So, the decision was made even before getting back to see the management – we would move up at least to the water point. By the time we were ready (less than 5 minutes) there was a boat moving our way from where we wanted to go – excellent – whatever ice had remained was no broken and a pathway available.

In less than 15 minutes we were filling with water – a slow water point it is – but very enjoyable – looking at the CaRT people doing some work on the mooring outside The Trading Post; a  number of people wandering path, with a couple stopping for a bit of a chat and relating their life stories as tends to happen – having the Australian flag on the back and “Melbourne” on the back panel gives them a starting point and an understanding that we are not locals and therefore it was safe to tell us everything – don’t get me wrong these chats are very enjoyable from our side as well and we  quite like hearing about their histories.

Whilst there, one of the moored boats that we had already passed decided to reverse through the bridge, past us and many more moored boats to a pontoon about 500m further up – he did an excellent job of it all.

approaching Marple
Water filled and we were away – nothing of any note occurred for the rest of the trip until we were about a mile or so from the junction – quietly passing moored boats and then on nb Moon Shadow there was some “crazy” woman madly gesticulating and pointing towards our boat and herself – not sure what she was trying to say to us.

Little did we know that we would be in contact again.

Despite all of our thoughts about it, all moorings south of the junction were full – at least those where it was possible to get close to the side – the usual Macclesfield problem; so we had no choice but turn at the junction and head a little way along the Peak Forest and find a place where the plank would reach – just 200m down and we were fine – able to get close enough.

A couple of hours later we were joined by Dot and Gordon who had cruised all of the way from Macclesfield despite some heavy ice (they were fortunate to have a hire boat break through the worst of it for them). Good to have them back again.

They abandoned their aim to get to Bugsworth Basin – ice was a problem again the next morning – and decided to stay put.

under the hood at the back the thermometer was
showing the temperature at 35C - admittedly
it was in direct sun on a black container top -
summer is nearly here
To give Gordon some breathing space whilst he relaid the kitchen floor, we took Dot for a bit of a walk down to the old Marple Village (that we had been advised as a lovely place to see).

Marple village

River Goyt
It was nice and I had originally thought – down the hill to see the village and then back up the hill – unlikely once the two D’s were together –

“Is there another way back up to Marple?” they said

“Why oh yes” says the man in the bookshop. (It transpired later that this same person had neither visited the lakes nor had he walked out even part of the course he had given instructions about - we were in good hands with this)

With directions clearly stated we were off – up and down hill – via the Mellor Mill and the Roman Lakes – morning tea included as well – then up the side of Mt Everest to the road and a short hike along the towpath and we were back – in less time than a football match with overtime and penalty shootout.

But wait that’s not all – we then were off for last part of the original morning assignment – to do some shopping in Marple.

across the valley
After all of this and much later in the afternoon there was a tap on the back of the boat – we investigated and it was Peter off nb Moon Shadow (the other half of the “crazy” flapping woman - Meagan) – two fellow Australians – ahh that explains the gesticulations – it was to do with the flag.

We were not long away from heading to the Ring O’Bells pub for a drink so suggested that they join us with Dot and Gordon.

It was a lovely evening chatting about all of the usual things that come up when a group of boaters get together – especially when two are new to the rest of us – but by the end of the evening (not too late) we had had a great time together.

Dot, Meagan Gordon and Peter
Peter and Meagan have been continuous cruisers for about 2 years and came over from Sydney having been residents of the northern beaches area there.

Their intentions are to head over the Leeds and Liverpool canal and we have no doubt that between here and Wigan we will be spending a bit more time together.

Looking forward to some more dinking and conversations.

Saturday was a much more quiet day and we did not do very much at all – but peace was to be disturbed in the early evening – a message from Paul and Elaine – they were moored just up from us and just intending to using the CaRT services – we really weren’t going to the pub tonight – oh well – these things are all meant to be changed at short notice; so once again the Ring O’Bells was the venue – numbers had swelled to 8 – but it was not too long a night and we were all back on our boats before 10 (or is that 11 with summer time included) – plans had been firmed up between the upper management of each boat – which means that I await my orders.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Snow, Sun and then more Snow

Tuesday 26th March to Wednesday 27th March 2013

7 Miles during this period

Totals: 1477 Miles, 1198 Locks, 47 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 97 Swing Bridges

The girls were off on shopping trip on Tuesday – off to Stoke to retrieve a credit card left behind – would have been cheaper to just leave it there.

Still that left Gordon and I with our individual lists of instructions on what we had to do in their absence – a form of peace and quiet – but all the time this omnipresence looking over to make sure we aren’t slacking off to the pub – although we did get messages to say that the two of them were in Wetherspoons.

We got everything done – even had a chance to visit the local farm shop – very nice local produce – the fridge and freezer are a bit fuller with some pies and bacon.

Not long after the return to the boat following a cuppa with Dot and Gordon the message came through that Paul and Elaine (nb Caxton) were aboard so we were back with D&G to catch up with Paul and Elaine on how they were after a week or so in Macclesfield.

One thing led to another and we decided to venture off to the Sutton Hall – which was apparently an old estate house turned into a pub – just across the canal via the bridge about 200m back.

It is a huge place with at least 10 or so large rooms converted into a pub – tables and chairs everywhere – you could well cast yourself back 100 years and see the way it would have been – without the bar.

A couple of drinks in here and we needed to be off – P&E back to the boat – a medical test in the morning for Paul meant he had to start the fasting.

For the remaining four of us ….
Tuesday night was Curry and Pie night at the Old King’s Head so we couldn’t miss out on that.

When we had been through in 2008 this pub has been closed down and as we were to learn during the evening a young couple had purchased it and reopened the pub – it was not going to listed in Vogue for its interior d├ęcor but then it shouldn’t try to be – it gives the feel of a country pub and with what seemed like a good number of regulars as well as visitors like us it will surely do quite well.

The food was good quality and plenty of it – no complaints from any of us.

We were wanting to move on Wednesday – the grey tank needed some attention and the diesel tank also – as well as that we felt the need to start getting some effort done on shortening the distance that we still needed to travel to Liverpool – it is a couple of weeks away but with canals freezing and the like it made sense to try and get to Marple for at least the weekend.

So we were off reasonably early – being farewelled by D&;G – early going was quite good – apart from the snow – which started light and then it seemed like a blizzard arrived – we know it wasn’t – or should I say I knew it wasn’t – someone else had disappeared below – Diane had started to develop a cold and we didn’t want it getting worse with her being outside – she seemed happy to obey orders for a change.

goodbye guys - see you soon

Once through Macclesfield the snow stopped, a bit of sun came out and it was really quite enjoyable cruising along – still cold but the appearance of the sun seemed to make it a whole lot better – no wind certainly helped.

somewhere under here is the towath - and maybe walkers buried
without supplies
Just after Bollington the snow reappeared as well as some wind – we had decided to head towards Four Lane Ends and to Lyme View Marina for a pumpout and diesel – we achieved this but found it a bit inconvenient that they didn’t accept a credit card – after-all this is a marina and I am sure that there would be some who would be paying their fees in this manner – no – cash only – it isn’t bloody Cyrpus !!!

Anyway, it was lucky that we had the necessary notes on us or else Diane would have been scrubbing boats clean for a week or so.

We find that after a reasonable day, when you finally do pull in, the tiredness seems to descend so we moored up opposite the marina – on rings – simply happy to put the hood up; the aerial up; and the feet up as well – end of the day.

Winter - Spring - Winter- just make up your mind

Sunday 24th March to Monday 25th March 2013

9 Miles, 12 Locks and 1 Swing Bridge

Totals: 1470 Miles, 1198 Locks, 47 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 97 Swing Bridges

The window of opportunity opened itself and we obliged – we should have however waited a little while to make sure that it didn’t close before we set off.

In what could be best described as a chilly day and at worst as outright bl____y freezing we headed off with a fair degree of determination to get to the top of the Bosley Locks, water up, and make for Gurnett’s Aquaduct (just short of Macclesfield).

That we made it in the end was because of that sheer and bloody-minded determination; that we attempted it in the cold and biting wind can be looked back on as a bit bloody stupid.

All four of us were freezing cold to the bone by the time we moored up – and that was despite the warm thermals and coats and everything else we could muster.

all rugged up and still not warm - but a warm smile

even the cows were starting to turn blue
To begin with it was a pleasant cruising day; wind was chilly and gusting but didn’t affect the boat handling.

The first 6 locks were a doddle – apart from the cold – close together so that the next lock could be set whilst the previous one was still filling and with Diane on board and me locking we worked well and efficiently.

Then almost without warning the cross-wind hit all of us – especially the boats – and getting across some pounds was diabolical – pushing off with poles when a lull appeared, only to be blown back onto the side – arching backs and a desire not to give up got us through.

For two of the pounds I decided to simply put on maximum revs – about 2300 – and roar out of the lock and get clear of the side before the wind had a chance – it worked but it was hard work to get it done.

After 2 and ½ hours we made it too the top; Dot and Gordon ahead of us on the water point were filling, so with no other boats around we simply filled our tank whilst in the lock – not the right thing to do but it didn’t cause any problems and gave us a clear run out of the lock instead of pushing off against the gale.

We were lucky to meet Alton the working boat as they were almost through the bridge and we were still short of it – would have loved to fill up with them but conditions were not anywhere good enough to do so.

Once in the shadow of the hill around Oak Grove we felt a lot better – no wind and normal cruising resumed – a last flurry just short of Sutton Wharf before we eventually moored up at the aqueduct – what a day !

We were so knackered that we could not be convinced to leave our chairs for a walk down the 25 steps to the Old King’s Head with Dot and Gordon – it was a reasonably early night for us both.

A brighter day on Monday showed itself and looked almost like true spring weather – looked like it from inside the boat; it was still chilly out but with reduced wind.

It was actually quite warm to walk as we found out when walking into and back from the town centre – a chance to have a look around Macclesfield.

As is the case it was not possible to escape without something to carry back and yes there was an apparent dire need for the milk stocks to be increased – we may need to get a bigger fridge and build an extension to the kitchen – maybe a nice conservatory on the side.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Silent Sunday 1

A pub crawl of sorts

Saturday 23rd March 2013

2 Miles – today

Totals: 1461 Miles, 1186 Locks, 4 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 96 Swing Bridges

Saturday started off very much like Friday ended – there had been overnight snow; the wind was not letting up; the heater was working and I am sure that we had no intention of moving – let me re-phrase that – Diane had no intention of moving – for me it was time to walk the dog and when Dot and Gordon knocked and asked did we want anything at the shop, I was despatched to maintain the investment in milk futures – oh and also to get the weekend paper.

We trekked through snow and waist deep mud to get there – I may have exaggerated about the depth of the mud – ankle deep was probably more accurate; and the return trip was interrupted by much needed sustenance – it was a quiet little pub with a friendly atmosphere.

We had had an annoying incident earlier on with boats moving – the first was quite gentle as it nudged us – the cross wind was a bit fierce – the second boat decided as they were right along side and gunnel-to-gunnel that they would fire up the engine to mach 3 – accelerate the boat to cause more scraping and take the fender with you as well – I was less than pleased and no sign of any apology at all – we will find you!!

So after the return from the expedition to the frozen tundra, there seemed to be some agreement that going the short distance to Congleton would stand us in good stead for Sunday and Bosley; so we were off and apart from a couple hairy moments all was fine – we moored up in the basin and later trudged down to the pub for some well earned refreshments – maybe a couple too many for me as when I returned, dinner awaited and after that the room went blank until I was woken 2 hours later on – it had been an exhausting day.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Little girls with red shoes excepted

Friday 22nd March 2013

No movement today

When I say no movement today I mean that we remained moored in the same place as yesterday – there was some movement today.

I read in The Age ( online that north-eastern Victoria had experienced a tornado – around the Rutherglen/Yarrawonga area (good wines from here); Diane’s parents had experienced one in Bundaberg a month or so ago (and were without power for a couple of days) – well we didn’t quite make the tornado class but the boat was rocking and rolling – I guess they all were around us.

The wind came up last night and continued throughout the night and was really quite incredibly strong – especially as it was side onto us – the mobile weather centre (Diane’s phone) indicating about 100 km/h.

When I looked out this morning I was greeted by a white vista – the wind was accompanied by snow and the two together made for swirling snow, boat moving and the flag about to fly off.

It appeared to us that we really weren’t in Kansas anymore.
winter wonderland on the 2nd day of spring

another first for us - first snow whilst we have been out

and yet more of it

We really have left !!

Tuesday 19th March to Thursday 21st March 2013

13 Miles, 7 Locks, 1 Tunnel – for this week

Totals: 1459 Miles, 1186 Locks, 4 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 96 Swing Bridges

We set off about 9am to head up into Stoke – Diane was wanting to get to Etruria Junction to do a self-pumpout and fill with water; Dot and Gordon wishing to moor at the bottom of the Stoke flight to visit an Asian supermarket.

Trentham Lock is set in such a lovely location and never fails to give a pleasing feel to it – this time we met a boat coming down – a couple who were back into boating and had just purchased a share in a boat. The anti-vandal lock caused them a bit of concern as it didn’t retract when unlocked so they were filling the lock by just opening the gate paddles – a bit of friendly persuasion with the windlass to knock the locking cylinder out of the gear wheel worked a treat.

The cruise up from here to Stoke is pleasant and chance to just sit back and enjoy – the light breeze and part sun didn’t do any harm at all either.

Locks completed with the help of a very nice young man on his bicycle and then around to the CaRT station for water and pumpout – all finished and we were just coming out and back onto the Trent when Dot and Gordon appeared from the top lock.

They were getting a changeover gas bottle just before bridge 117 where a 13kg cylinder is only ₤17.48.

Our preferred mooring spot is just past the Toby Carvery through the bridge, but from a distance it appeared full – our luck was in though, when we spotted nb Uccello just about to head off – we bobbed around for a little bit; exchanged hellos and goodbyes to them both (and Carrie passed over a voucher for the carvery) and we were able to moor right out the front. We noticed that the usual occupier of our position was in the marina – about time too – we had only ever seen that boat where we now were – we think it is another boat made to move on by the new enforcement by CaRT.

Nb Ewn Ha Cul then breasted up and we were quite settled.

Various trips to the supermarket, B&Q, Go Outdoors and others over the next day and a half ensued – relieving the wallet of valuable filling.

We found time for the movies as well – went to see the Wizard of Oz prequel called Oz – The Great and Powerful (in 3D) – very enjoyable.

Have to say that we really didn’t eat any of the munchies we had taken – we had been treated to Dot’s famous fish pie – really yummy too – and Diane had been busy with an apple and berry crumble with clotted cream – didn’t really feel like moving let alone going to the movies – but a very enjoyable night was had by all.

In between all of this I managed to get some work done on three of the windows – building up the frame to take the new double glazing with a good seal – very pleased with myself.
Moored up at Westport Lake

Icons of Australia

Anyone for coffee?

Thursday morning and we were off – this time up to and beyond Harecastle; I tend to think that until we have actually gone through Harecastle we are not yet really off cruising for any length of time – we have often just come up to Stoke for a small break and then gone back to Stone; but now we really were off – the tunnel is still a bit of a doddle – the Standedge does that to you.

The wind was getting up a  bit and both boats had problems turning into Macclesfield and it continued to be a hindrance as we cruised along taking in the “huge” lock at Hall Green.

We have moored up at Bridge 86 with an intention that should the weather be even half kind to us we would do the walk/climb up to Mow Cop.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Wales - 6 Nations champions !!!

Tuesday 12th March to Monday 18th March 2013

5 Miles, 9 Locks – for this week

Totals: 1446 Miles, 1179 Locks, 46 Tunnels, 24 Lift Bridges, 96 Swing Bridges

We are free – we have escaped the umbilical cord of the marina and now back out in the real world of boating.

This last few days had been about weather watch – we knew that we couldn’t leave before Thursday because the weather didn’t look the best – especially as the night’s were going to be quite cold – below freezing and the last thing that we really wanted to have to do was break through the ice when it wasn’t a do-or-die situation.

As it turned out Thursday morning brought with it a 2-3mm sheet of ice across the marina and we had to then evaluate our options. Do we stay put for a few more days and wait for an ice-free morning – the weather reports were saying it wasn’t going to happen for another week – or do we bite the bullet and go through – we had to get a pumpout and fill with diesel first – given that the pumpout hose is always semi-frozen in the mornings we would have to wait a little while.

Dot and Gordon on nb ewn ha cul needed a diesel fill and they were definitely going – they had paid up until Thursday morning, so we had one part of the equation solved when they swung past clearing a way through the ice.

Dot and Gordon leading the way - and also breaking the ice

The temperature went up a notch or two and some of the ice was melting – quick decision we would go out.

It took just 20 minutes to fully prepare everything; unplug the electricity cable; up fenders and tyres; down the pram hood and fire up the engine – we were off – we had a short length of ice to get through to where it had been cleared earlier; we negotiated that with relative ease; pumpout and diesel were done.

Elly joined Diane to cruise out to the first lock whilst I was left to settle the diesel bill and head over to Aston Lock ready for their arrival.

In the meantime Carol and Barry from nb Winton’s Folly were going to hitch a lift into Stone with us and met us at the first lock.

We took the opportunity to give the tiller to Carol for some instruction in steering – it seemed better to have someone not related to Carol to help her get some time under her belt.

As we have all done and as we all know, it just takes patience and practice to become able to take control of the boat – we then progress to proficient but none of us are experts – we can all learn and indeed we keep on learning.

Carol did an excellent job and one of the two blemishes was entirely my fault with some dodgy instructions – I got better – now, Carol, you have to get more time in on your boat and if Barry gives you any trouble he will have to deal with Diane.

A visit to the Swan is always on the agenda when we come into Stone and it wasn’t too long before Dot and Gordon joined us.

We were all eventually heading off to Weatherspoons for Curry night and there would be another 7 joining us for a last hurrah.

And so at 7pm 13 of us descending (or is that ascending) to the top of the High street – a last supper gathering – before we literally headed our own ways – some north and some south and others out and back in after short trips.

It was a replay of the last pie night at The Three Crowns – just the venue had changed – and as usual we really had a good night.

Morning came along and with it a little bit of rain, Banjo would have preferred a torrent so that he could stay in but he was off to the dog clippers for a short back and sides.

Diane on her way there met and spoke with a lovely lady from nb Invincible – who are also in Aston Marina – but in her haste to drop off Banjo forgot to ask her name, so hopefully we can catch up with her again when we get back.

After Banjo it was my turn for the trimming operation and I also managed to get the beard trimmed as well – saves a bit of a job later – as Denise (the barber said) – You now look as though you belong to someone”.

We spent Friday evening with Lynn and Phil for some after dinner drinks and a few nibblies – and met Caroline and Stuart from nb Catkin – they are selling up and moving back down to the south-west to  be closer to their family and their grandchildren – such a shame about having to sell the boat as well – they have been boating since 1973.

Saturday was 6-Nations day and we were back with Lynn and Phil to watch the match – Diane resplendent in her Wales cap – and ready to support the team. Phil was the “enemy” for the afternoon being the England supporter.

Diane was jubilant at the result whilst Phil took it in his stride.

We bid our goodbyes to both on Sunday morning as they helped us through the four Meaford locks – we are going to miss them whilst we are away; they will be eagerly waiting for their boat (nb Valentine) to go into and then come out of the paint shop with Tina Paramore.

As is the norm with Diane, when we leave Stone at any time heading northwards, we seem to always be able to time it all to be at Barlaston for Sunday lunch and this was no different – and of course the quality of the meal was up to the standard that she expects – we couldn’t really move much afterwards, so we relaxed in the comfy leather lounges and enjoyed a drink and read of the papers – it wasn’t long before we were joined by Dot and Gordon – a delay in receiving a text meant that they were not exactly sure where we were and so we not able to join us for lunch.

We had moored behind nb Uccello and Diane had spoken with Derek back in Stone a few days before, but this time we arranged to go over to get to know them a bit better – having never met them before – Diane had been following them on their blog for some time now.

Both Derek and Carrie know the previous owners of our boat – Dot and Derek (when it was known as Gypsy Rover – and had spent a lot of time travelling with them, and they were now interested in seeing how we had changed the boat around – having also been reading this blog.

We had an enjoyable couple of hours with them on Sunday night – hearing that they too were selling their boat and going back to being landbased – as they both said, after 6 years they were moving onto something new to do.

Dot and Diane had arranged a short walk to the Wedgewood factory on Monday morning and then Gordon and I would join them about an hour later and then continue on to Downs Banks.

In the meanwhile Derek and Carrie were coming over before they departed to have a tour of inspection on Ferndale – they remembered the way that it had been and were surprise a bit by the result of the changes that we had put in place.

I had thought that Diane and Dot had already left for their Wedgewood experience but it appeared that there had been a hold-up and Diane was still aboard nb Ewn Ha Cul and therefore we were both able to say goodbye to Derek and Carrie.
Carrie and Derek on Uccello - see you guys somewhere along the way
before it all finishes

The walk via Wedgewood (which was a no cost affair) and then on to Downs Banks was interspersed with proper footpaths, normal public footpaths and wide seas of sticky mud, but we negotiated our way there and back – probably passing along tracks which weren’t exactly public access – but we got back – had lunch whilst we were there and enjoyed the views.

Two buzzards overhead - enjoying the thermals

... and a heron also

This is only a training exercise as we prepare for bigger and longer walks on our travels.

The views from the top are absolutely lovely - there was a bit of a haze around but didn't stop us enjoying it all