Above, Caxton's current mooring which is getting increasingly muddy as the cold weather has receded today. We are, however, are anticipating a further cold snap to hit tonight according to the Met Office and that might see us frozen in again. What do you do? Do you stay near to services or head off in the the great grey yonder when harsh weather threatens? From the example of other boaters hereabouts the answer is to stay put and help each other out. Graham and Jill have just been given a brace of partridge by NB Telford and Joe and Graham are going to get in some coal from Proctors, the local coal merchant, for a lady boater moored nearby. Indeed we have just bought in ten 25k bags of Taybrite/supertherm coal for £8.80 a bag which is now crammed into Caxton's modest well deck. So our movements will depend on the accuracy, or not, of the severe weather warning - 'shall we go or shall we stay now' - and who sang that?
We backed up through the thin ice, and through the lock, and through more thin ice until we got to the waterpoint at the junction on Monday . We then proceeded to gorge ourselves on water related activities, washing machines on, long showers and washed boats, we were in aqua heaven! The plan was to fill with water and then turn down the Staffs and Worcs to moor at Tixal wide where we could catch up on all things laundry before winding (turning) the boat and returning for fresh supplies of water. Not to be. The ice on the Staffs and Worcs was still too thick and there were too many boats, particularly the plastic variety, that could be damaged by our passage.
So we revised our plans.
Caxton backed up through the bridge and moored by Great Haywood marina and Matilda Rose pulled forward and moored above the lock.
Tuesday we have drove into Stafford town and had a look around, hit M&S with my Christmas vouchers - thank you Mum - and found the Tesco store to buy essential provisions; porridge, Tesco Finest porridge, the BEST!
I have bought three boxes of the stuff just in case we don't come across a Tesco's for a while
Perhaps almost as bad a train spotting or Eddie Stobart Truck spotting is the latest phenominum, blog spotting. I can only say in my defence that usually it is the personalities behind the blog that intrigue one rather than the name or number of the boat and here is the best known canal blogger of all, or at least here is his boat, Granny Buttons. We woke this morning to find our neighbour here at Great Haywood was none other than Andrew Denny, the owner of NB Granny Buttons and author of the number one canal related blog. A little later we did have the opportunity to have a chat.
Lovely to meet you Andrew and hopefully the ice will not keep you from a suitable metropolis for your New Year celebrations!
We are carefully husbanding our water supply aboard the ship Caxton, seven days so far which is one day more than we have managed before. We have been iced in and though the canal has now thawed we are awaiting the return of the Matilda Rose crew tonight before moving off in search of fresh water supplies. Caxton as a 160gallon water tank but the gauge is as much good as a chocolate teapot and we can't dip the tank - Ministry of Guesswork rules apply here. To preserve supplies we have been alternating a shower one day with a 'strip wash' the next and it is amazing just how little water you need to strip wash effectively. As a kid it was the norm to strip wash each day, bathing was weekly treat; difficult to believe that now isn't it?. My two younger brothers used to fool my Mother into thinking they had had a wash by liberally shaking talc into the basin and creating a scum - needless to say the flannel had not got beyond their grubby face and hands!
But back to the present day - Our shower on Caxton wastes 3 litres of water before it starts to flow hot/warm so we have been capturing that in a saucepan and using it for cooking and dog water bowls. The dishwasher is only in use every other day and despite opinions to the contrary it is very frugal in its water consumption using a lot less than conventional washing up. However, the washing machine is a another matter altogether and its use is big NO, NO. So the laundry is a bit backed-up and I can see a serious Widow Twankey session happening when we get a fresh supply of the wet stuff...
Well that is done and dusted for another year and here we are entering Boxing day. Boxing day last year we were moored at Foxton and after a very quiet Christmas day suddenly the world and his brother turned up wearing the 'boxing day sweater' - every few minutes another group of legs went past the boat. Children's voices uttered the "Do people live in there Dad?" as eager little faces were pressed against the portholes to check on this new and fascinating environment. I have aleady been asked, 'Is is warm in there?' and 'How do you wash?' - the latter question because I looked scrubbed up rather than in need of a dowsing I hope?
I fully expect that today we will find ourselves inundated with walkers and families eager to escape the confines of the house and there will be many more little faces pressed against the glass for a quick recce asking Dad if people live in there?
And of course we do, lucky blighters that we are!
Here we are mooring at Great Haywood on Thursday last, just before we scurry off to find a pint. Crisp but glorious sunshine.
And here is Caxton a week later, encased in ice and snow and enveloped in a murky cold winter mist.
I took the dogs for a walk along the Staffs and Worcs canal this lunchtime and as you can see below, we are quite frozen in. Nothing is moving at all apart from boaters wandering back up to the junction with trolley's and containers for water.
Above, Great Haywood lock and Lock House Restaurant.
We had a very lazy start yesterday not even waking until 08.30 and then doing very little until noon when we went for a walk with the boys in the Shugborough park land. After our walk we wandered into Great Haywood village and enjoyed a pint at the Middleton Arms which was doing a roaring trade. Here is a local that serves very reasonably priced food, serves good ale and welcomes dogs and children - perhaps that is why they are always busy?
This morning we wake to find a covering of snow and a grey mist everywhere. I was considering taking myself and the dogs up into Cannock Chase for a good walk but I will wait for the mist to lift or I can see a rescue team out tonight looking for us!
Last Thursday we moved down to Great Haywood from our overnight mooring at Weston-upon-Trent. Having spent most of the Summer seeing next to no boats and the Autumn and onset of Winter seeing even less, Great Haywood was a veritable 'Piccadilly Circus', boats shuffling everywhere to get at the water point and the Anglo Welsh diesel pump. We filled Caxton's water tank and then did a quick dance with another boat to get onto the diesel pump, with Matilda Rose (MR) breasting up with us we filled both tanks with fuel at 68p per litre. With the two boats serviced we headed of to find a mooring below Essex Bridge where we would be able to stay throughout the Christmas period. As you know from yesterday's post, we have been off to see our family, leaving Graham and Jill to boat-sit Caxton and now it is their turn to head for Norfolk while we stay here and tend MR. We have miles of walking here abouts, two village inns and several shops to provide essentials, a depository for our rubbish at the junction just above us and hopefully enough water in the tank to see us through until we can move off.
My apologies for the lack of blogging but we have been to Norfolk for a few days to see my family. We travelled across on Friday through all the snow and ice to Bressingham where David, my youngest brother lives. Robert, number two brother, arrived on Saturday with his family and our Mum and we were also joined by Val and Alan our friends or 109 years or so. Our Mum had just had her 78th birthday and so this was a birthday cum Christmas gathering for us all. Eleven people and four dogs, thank goodness everything was frozen solid and we were not tramping mud in and out all weekend!
Above, new armco and repaired bank between lock 34 and lock 33
We made our way down from Barlaston to Stone this morning and are now moored up on the Town moorings. Lunch in The Star, two meals for £8, a result. We had called into Stone Boat Building to buy a couple of bags of coal and another vacuum cassette for the loo. We are now have three cassettes aboard so that safely takes us to twelve days before we need a sanitation point. Well that's enough of that.. Moving quickly on.
Streethay are coming out to see Caxton again on Wednesday to discuss dinette options and costs? We have had the costing for the bow stretch and have tentatively agreed to that but we need to bottom the remaining costs and then pin them down to a timeslot. Maybe Wednesday's meeting will provide some clarity. There again, maybe not.
Caxton moored on the Town moorings in Stone
A small but nevertheless significant question - Why has it taken me 14 months to realise that a longer cracked windlass is much easier to use? Answers on a postcard...
We were greeted this morning by a very hard frost and a crystal blue sky again - lovely. By the time I had emerged from bed and boat the sun had cleared the ice and it was time to walk the dogs. I left himself doing some computer housekeeping and headed off through Barlaston village to the Down, a tract of wooded land now owned by the NT. A couple of hours rambling about up there was just the ticket and by the time I arrived back at Caxton the boaty chores had also been completed and I could reach for a book and just chill.
This naked beech tree just looked fantastic in the bright sunshine.
'I have a wonderful feeling everything is going my way..' OK, it's NOT Oklahoma but there was not much wrong with Stoke-on-Trent this morning. We moved off at 09.30 after I had wandered up through Victorian back2backs to the nearest corner shop selling newspapers and milk. The first chap I met to ask directions to a newspaper shop from was from London though he had lived in the Potteries for nine years.
We winded and watered again at the Etruria services before starting to descend the five Stoke locks. Watery sunshine and the remnants of an early morning frost kept us company as we journeyed. No boats about and surprisingly, no fishermen either.
As it got towards late morning on the towpath I encountered hoards of the Stoke City fans making their way to the Brittania stadium - today's game was against Wigan apparently and it seemed that the whole of Trentham was on the move towards the stadium!
Caxton steams off into the distance.
We are now moored at Barlasten close to the Wedgewood works with the following views from our side hatch -- can't be bad.
We left our mooring on Poole Aqueduct, at the start/end of the Macclesfield canal this morning at 9am and gently made our way through the early morning fog towards the moorings at the Harecastle Tunnel. It was a very cold start but the bonus of a cold snap is much less mud on boot and dog!
Here we are awaiting the arrival of the BW tunnel keeper. As soon as Caxton and Matilda Rose dissappeared into the tunnel Jill and I and the four dogs started our journey, up and over the top. There were only our two boats booked to go through and they were through and out the other side - some 37mins - before we had completed our hike over. We watered both boats at the south end of the tunnel and then set off to Etruria and our overnight mooring. I walked with Fletcher and Floyd all the way so I am feeling quite pleased with myself and the dogs are both comatose in their beds.
Here Caxton is moored just past the museum at Etruria, the museum that I wanted to see and the museum that closed on the 6th December for the winter - bugger.
On Wednesday evening we were invited to David and Linda's home in Scholar Green for dinner, gin tasting and a game of Who wants to be a Millionaire? The dinner was excellent the gin was superb and the game had the womens team winning a million and thrashing the men - what more could you want?
Me, competitive, surely not...
I have spoken to Streethay and we will have their estimates for work on Caxton tomorrow. And tomorrow, we move off from our mooring here at Scholar Green to Kidsgrove; we are booked to go through the Harecastle Tunnel Friday morning. We plan to moor at Etruria over the weekend and hopefully I will get the chance to visit the museum and grinding mill - if they are open that is.
We left Dane Aqueduct yesterday morning and headed for Congleton where we moored for a couple of hours to allow Jill and I to do some Christmas shopping. That done we pulled pins again and headed down towards the outskirts of Scholar Green where we are now. This morning while Joe was changing the gearbox oil I washed the side of Caxton, and made some soup and cleared out some cupboards.
Chores done it was time to take the dogs out for a walk. We headed up the hill towards Mow Cop and then off towards Great Moreton Hall where we came across these pigs.
Are they Lincolnshire Curly Coats or Kune Kune perhaps? Does anyone recognise the breed?
Picking up from Sunday morning; Jill and I got the dogs and ourselves into the Pajero and headed off to Oakgrove, the first obstacle on the canal, a swing bridge. We walked the dogs back along the cut until we saw the bow of Matilda Rose hove into view then it was a quick about turn to operate the swing bridge. A quiet Sunday morning, no traffic about to speak of and an electrically operated bridge. As soon as both boats had gone through we closed the bridge and removed the company back to the car and our next port of call, the first of the locks on the Bosley flight.
Here we parked the car in a lay-by and waited at the services for the two boats to arrive. Matilda Rose pulled onto the pump-out and Caxton onto the water and while we serviced the boats I got on board to make tea. The kettle had just gone on when a head appeared in the cratch and a shout rang down the boat... it was David and Linda, fellow boaters who live at here abouts, they had arrived to help us down the flight! Teas all round then we were off, Caxton leading and preparing locks for Matilda Rose. One hour thirty minutes for Caxton and one hour twenty-two minutes for MR to descend twelve locks - good going! We moored at Dane Aqueduct, prepared a caldron of home made soup and cut up a loaf of bread made that morning and we all enjoyed a well earned lunch together - thank you kindly the NB.Critical Point crew for all your help.
Saturday morning I spent a couple of hours shovelling Caxton out and then got down to writing a letter to my Mum - Joe had gone into Macclesfield with Graham. When the men returned Jill and I left them to wield a chain saw and convert the ash logs we had gathered into precoius firewood whilst we took the four dogs to Macclesfield Forest. The forest is near a village called Langley and is spread over high ground and around a series of reservoirs; mainly conifer but there has been an increasing amount of native broadleaf planted.
The dogs had a serious rummage, we were not mown down by cyclists and it made a pleasant change.
Sunday we pulled pins and headed towards the locks at Bosley.
At the moment we still have Graham and Jill's Pajero with us which means that one of us has to move it in the general direction of our journey. As the two boats set of in watery sunshine, Jill and I set off to retrieve the car.
About 100yds back from Caxton was a moored boat called Serendipity and the owner popped his head out of the offside side hatch and commented on what a fine morning it was - we, naturally, responded in an equally pleasant way and agreed. Casting his eyes down the cut the boat owner spots the sterns of Matilda Rose and Caxton as they set off , 'I am glad to see those two boats are going' he says 'they have done nothing but run engines since they have been here.'
'Oh dear.' says I, 'Surely they didn't run their engines late at night or early in the morning?'
'No, no, not that, but I can't see why they have to run their engines for so long, all these new boats are the same, boating is meant to be simple, I built my boat 22 years ago and my life has been blighted in the last fifteen by people running their engines!'
OK, time to fess up I thinks...
'Well goodbye mate, those two boats are ours and we now need to catch up with them.'
A bit of bluster from the 'lucky' boater ensued but have no fear, he was soon back into his stride.
'Why do you have to bring your homes on board a boat?' he enquires.
Jill at this point has had enough and tells him that she isn't prepared to do her washing in the cut.
'Use a launderette' is he response
'What launderette, there are hardly any of them'. says Jill
'There are three in Macclesfield' he replies
'I don't live in Macclesfield' says Jill 'I live on the boat.'
Time to go me thinks....
'Come on, why are we wasting our time arguing, lets go..' says I, ushering four dogs towards the car - I think I might have asked him where he kept his boat horse at this point,which perhaps wasn't helpful but I had had enough as well by now.
I am surprised that this boater has continued this lifestyle given that he claims to have had his life blighted by selfish engine running boaters for at least fifteen years - he must be a very stoic fellow indeed - and he obvoiusly has strong views on how everybody else should run there lives!
The man from Streethay, Ray, called today and has taken away all the details of a possible, very maybe possible, change to Caxton. We have asked Ray to price a 4ft stretch in the well deck and another possible 3ft stretch in the saloon - taking Caxton to the full 70ft. Also, to strip out the pullman style dinette and replace with an L shape dinette. Ray has taken away his scribblings and calculations and will contact us in due course. I thinks we need to prepare ourselves for a shock to the system - I'll just go and lie down now...
Floyd the 'Chugster' sits patiently waiting for me to get a lock prepared. After a year out here and countless locks the two dogs are no problem at all around the lock side, they know the routine and apart from occasionally demanding attention when I am trapped, back staining against a beam, they are as good as gold - love em!
We are staying here at Gurnett Aqueduct for a couple of days a) we awaiting a visit from the Man from Delmonte Streethay Wharf who is going to access assess the work required to 'tweak' Caxton and b) we are waiting for NB Matilda Rose to catch us up. So this morning I had a look on-line to see if there was a bus from here into Macclesfield. There is but, it involves walking for seventeen minutes catching a number 1 bus for a two minute journey - perhaps we will give the bus a miss then.
Joe has found a motor factors that has the oil filters that Caxton requires as a fraction of the price of the chandlers so he will go in this morning while I clean the boat and then I will go in this afternoon while the three males mess it up again - joke...
Having moored at Bollington overnight we moved off this morning heading south, destination the Gurnet Aqueduct just below Macclesfield. It was a lovely bright day that followed an extremely windy night, Caxton had been buffeted about quite a bit during Tuesday evening. We watered at the water point near the Hovis Mill in Macclesfield. Though advertised as visitor moorings these are not moorings that you can actually moor at, that is unless you have a draught of only six inches.
Here Caxton is moored at Gurnett Aqueduct, just above the Old Kings Head pub where we were fortunate to meet Sue and Richard and Lou and Blue of Indigo Dream this September. I will have to have a pint to commemorate this auspicious meeting!!
Above, a wintery towpath and views of the surrounding hills. These are good moorings here, designated as winter mooring in places but not occupied.
Yesterday was a cracking cruise down from Higher Poynton to the Adelphi Mill at Bollington, ice on the cut 90% of the way. Caxton cracked and crushed the ice all the way but it wasn't very thick at all. The frigid conditions made walking the towpath with the two dogs so much better - much less gloop and gunk to be removed from canine legs and undersides than of late. Once moored I scuttled down the steps from the aqueduct into the town and located the Co-op stores, fresh milk and bread gathered I then got back and heated some soup for lunch.
I am not sure that everyone appreciated our cruise yesterday though. Passing one lady who was standing on the gunwale of her boat polishing her windows it was evident from her stern expression and the fact that she chose to ignore Joe's cheery greeting, not once but twice, that perhaps she thinks boats should not move in slightly icy conditions. Ah, well... it takes all sorts.
We had just left Higher Poynton yesterday morning, when I came across a fisherman that had just hooked a fish. He landed this while I stood a watched - a fine looking Pike, lovely markings. He carefully lowered the fish back into the canal after I had taken this shot.
There I was this morning, sporting the very latest in really silly winter hats, as I clambered out through the winter tat that accumulates in Caxton's well deck after I had finally managed to undo the cap to the water tank, when a gentleman apears at the bow -
'Hello Lesley, I'm Bruce'
And he was right, he was Bruce.
Bruce of NB Sanity, a fellow blogger. Here is the proof - Joe and Bruce pose for some idiot in a tea cosy. Lovely to meet at last!!
My phone rang last night, Tesco Customer Services no less.
Sorry about the incident with our trolleys, I have spoken to the likely store and they have taken measures to stop the trolleys being taken, they have a gadget on the front wheels.
Well it evidently doesn't work, says Lesley
Well, yes, you only have to wheel the trolley on the back wheels and you can overide it, says Tesco
Exactly, hence seven trolleys in the lock. What are you going to do about securing your trolleys properly?
That's it, there is nothing more we can do.
Not true! What about a coin in the slot solution. It works because the Stalybridge ALDI store which is immediately adjacent to the lock in question and uses the coin in the slot didn't have any of their trolleys in the canal.
We won't do that. Tesco have decided not to go down that route because our customer feedback says they don't want it.
So there you have it. Tesco don't give a toss - what a surprise!
Woke this morning to bells and whistles ( Joe has some funny habits?) no, not Joe but low battery warnings and consequently couldn't fire up the central heating. The fire had stayed in overnight, just, but the canal is frozen and there is a thick frost all around. Given that our mooring is quite isolated , not another occupied boat for 100yds or so, we have turned on the engine - at 07.36!!!
Wimps and sinners! Please forgive us our transgression...