Friday, 31 July 2009

At Last!!

The sun came out yesterday evening so a desperate attempt was made to throw together a BBQ and take advantage of our super mooring and the pleasant weather. Matilda Rose had her engine started to run the microwave and rapidly defrost some meat whilst Joe assembled and lit the Hibachi. Jill and I cobbled together some accompaniments, raiding each boat to find something that could be prepared on the hoof and hey presto, a BBQ was had by all.
Above, Caxton's mooring.

Looking at Leek

God must have taken a shower yesterday morning and then I think he might have defrosted the heavenly freezer by the sound and sight of the hailstones raining down on us and all about us. When I thought He had got His tasks completed I took the dogs for a good walk and got caught by yet another very heavy soaking... There has so much rain that the Churnet River that accompanies the Cauldon Canal is in flood and much of the valley floor is now an aqua park with the cattle bellowing from the valley sides where they have taken refuge.
With the dogs exercised I walked into Leek in the company of Jill to have a proper look around the town. The centre of this small market town is a mix of building style and range from timber framed 15thC and 16thC Ale Houses through the elegant Georgian with the majority being Victorian. There are still many original cobbled streets, a Market Square, a Butter Market and a Cattle Market. Many of the shop frontages are original and there is a goodly mix of independent small retailers along with art galleries and antique dealers. It is a lovely little town and well worth the long tramp from our mooring to see it. Thumbs up for Leek.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Traditional Fare

Anyone for Oatcakes? I was intrigued by references in local eateries to Staffordshire Oatcakes and here they are. Povey's Oatcakes are on sale in Aldi and other stores in Staffordshire and are a traditional 'dish' of the Potteries. They look like a cross between a pancake and a crumpet and are rather nice. I have been wrapping them around a chopped banana, popping them in the oven to heat through and eating them with natural yogurt for breakfast. They can be eaten hot or cold and norm in this part of the world is to fill them with egg and bacon.

Catch of the Day

OK, I've got to eat my words. Joe has caught a fish! His effort has been rewarded and here is the evidence. Yesterday evening, dinner finished and galley looking like a bomb had hit it, Joe takes himself out on the bank to contemplate ripples in the lagoon whilst I wander about and get into conversation with the chap on the crusty boat behind Caxton. Suddenly a shout goes up 'You've caught a fish, strike!" and while Graham of Matilda Rose rushes to get a landing net, Fletcher joins in and ties himself in fishing line and float which he proceeds to wrap around me in his excitement - see Fletcher wasn't convinced his master could catch fish either. Estimates are that it was a one and a half pound roach but whatever, we were all very proud of our 'hunter gatherer' even if we couldn't eat it...

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Come Rain, Come....Rain

It has been teeming all morning and it looks as if this weather plans to stick around for the next few days. Joe, and Graham of Nb Matilda Rose, have taken themselves into town, primarily to get a sack of dog food for Fletcher and Floyd and cat food for Daisy the Demon cat. I think there is a haircut, a visit to Argos and a pint factored into their plans as well.
I have cleaned and hoovered and started a letter to my Mother who doesn't DO computers and emails and blogs etc. Actually I have enjoyed writing the letters, I only hope she enjoys reading them?
We intend to stay here until Saturday I think, then pull pins and make our way back towards Etruria and the Trent & Mersey canal. Monday should see us tackling the Harecastle Tunnel ahead of going onto the Macclesfield canal.


Have you got a licence for that Sir? Joe sits and enjoys the evening sunshine in his hopeless quest for a fish....
Above, the view from Caxton's side hatch - our own lake no less!
Yesterday we tramped on over the Leek Tunnel and headed for town. Our mission, to find food and a Bank. It was a fair old walk into Leek along the towpath, through a Countrypark, an industrial estate and suburbs and finally into the town proper. First job, find a LTSB to get my bank card 'un-blocked'. Our attempts to pay our credit card bill had resulted in a 'fraud alert' and our cards being blocked and trying to get this resolved by means of a dodgy broadband signal or a mobile phone were proving impossible; so we needed to find the bank and get them to resolve it. I ended up in the bowels of the bank on a phone trying to communicate with an automated system that cut me off after 14mins....twice! In the end I got a member of staff to try contacting the security team on their internal number, only 22mins before we spoke to a real person and got it resolved in minutes. Joe's card is however still blocked but at least I got a STD number rather than o845 numbers that everyone seems to use these days.
Card cleared I could concentrate on the food quest. First stop Aldi for fruit and veg. Half the price of anyone else and worth using when I can find one. A visit to Morrisons as Jill and I headed back to our respective boats completed the task.
All that was needed now was packhorses to carry it all back, and like taxi's there is never one about when you need one. "Anyone seen a Ass around here?"

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

In the Lagoon

We set off yesterday at nine down through lock 15 to wind (turn) just above the next lock. Jill and I locked Matilda Rose through and then prepped the lock for Caxton's transit. Off went Caxton in MR's wake while we chatted and got ready for the re-emergence of our homes and the start of our journey to the Leek Branch of the Cauldon Canal. We were aiming to get back to Bridge 31 and the services at Park Lane where we were hoping to get a broadband signal and order a delivery from Tesco. We couldn't get any broadband signal so the re-provisioning plans were scuppered. We turned the boats and headed off up the Leek branch. What a trip. What a lovely canal! We are now moored in the 'lagoon' just before the Leek tunnel. There are only three boats here, Caxton, Matilda Rose and a cruddie 'fixture'. This is the most beautiful setting and I thinks we will be here for a few days.

We have a SIGNAL, of sorts

We have a signal, of sorts anyway.. I can't promise any photo's again but I will try.

So catch-up time.


We moved along from Denford towards Cheddleton on Thursday afternoon planning to moor between bridge 40 and 41. That plan was scuppered when he who is charge of the throttle sailed straight through. We ended up moored after bridge 44 in a quiet spot with a reasonable TV signal; F1 at the weekend you see.


Friday we walked back along the towpath to Cheddleton to meet Graham and Jill to see the Cheddleton Flintmill. The Flintmill was closed. Lack of volunteers to man it sadly. The heavens then opened so we sort refuge in the Red Lion. That was Friday about done and dusted.


Saturday dawned and the sun shone so we caught the steam train from Cheddleton Station along the Churnet Valley into Froghall which is the terminus for the Cauldon Canal. The trip on the train lasted a mere twenty minutes but was well worth it. We walked up the hill from the station to have a look at the basin and tunnel and judge whether we could bring the boats down. A big no. The tunnel is too low. Strangely BW and Staffordshire CC have spent a lot of capital on refurbishing the terminus, creating a basin and installing facilities but barely any boats can get through. The basin is badly weeded up and the new pontoons are rarely used. How did that spend get approved then?

We all walked back to Consall Forge along the towpath and had a pint at the very popular Black Lion which overlooks the railway station and the river/canal. Joe got the train back from there while Graham, Jill and I, plus the four dogs of course, walked the remainder of our five mile trek.

We all had dinner that night in the Boat Inn at Basford Bridge. Very popular and very reasonably priced food so worth a visit if you are in this neck of the woods.


Sunday it teemed all day! We watched a tedious F1 Grand Prix and did very little else. Which brings us to... Monday in the next post!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Deep Hayes Disappoints

Went for a wander around Deep Hayes Country Park this morning. The CP is adjacent to the canal and accessed from bridge 39. Formerly a reservoir built in the mid 19th Century to provide fresh water to the Potteries but abandoned when the maintenance costs made it non-viable and transformed into a Country Park in the mid 1980's. It was a bit disappointing really, dogs on leads, no cycling, (restricted breathing......) no horses, no this, no that, no anything. The park must be run by a former Blackpool Landlady! It was evident that little money had been spent on the park since its conception and things were looking decidedly down at heel. There is still very little traffic, a few hire boats out of Stone and a scattering of private boats are about it. We saw NB. Debdale - we gave it a wave Adam - this morning as they moored behind Nb Matilda Rose at The Hollybush Denford.
No Photo's again as the signal is dire.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Eight locks and 4.78miles today. The weather couldn't make up its mind, bright sunshine one minute and heavy showers the next so a number of soakings but we soon dried again. We moved up to Denford, stopping on the moorings outside the Hollybush Inn for a light lunch before edging just around the corner for our overnight mooring.
The Caldon is particularly well equipped with BW services, three full services plus a water/rubbish point as well in its seventeen mile length. We availed ourselves of the services at Park Lane before continuing our journey.
The signal is very poor so photo's are too much to ask I fear..

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Zulu and a pint please...

We were going to move today but it has been persistently raining so we have stayed put..., almost. We did walk along the towpath about a mile into Stockton Brook for a lunchtime pint and meet ZULU at Pipe bridge lock. I think I have mentioned that I am rather attracted to Tugs and Zulu is a lovely example that we first clapped eyes on last December at Foxton.
A 60ft David Francis, I think, hull.

At the next lock, Railway Lock, we found what we were looking for.... The Sportsman is a traditional pub, frequented by the locals, with a taproom and a snug.

The locals even demonstrated how to play bar skittles for us.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Silly Cow

No, I am not referring to my bovine neighbour here but rather to myself who fell in the cut today.. There I was balanced on the bow applying a bit of canuba wax to the paintwork and on stepping off, in I went. There is now a lump of my shin attached to the base plate and I got a fair old whack to the back of my head as I hit the ground; no problem there then. The travelling pharmacy, known as Nb. Matilda Rose, supplied arnica ointment for the bruises and abrasions and a couple of aspirin dispelled the headache. The thing is, I have still got to polish the waxed paintwork...

Give me Erbs

Today I have planted up the first of my herb pots.. Though tempted to festoon Caxton with a display of flowers I thought that culinary herbs might be rather more useful. I love to use fresh herbs in cooking but they are few and far between on the cut so our own moving supply will do the trick. Matilda Rose already has a veritable market garden on her roof with a growbags full of lettuce and rocket, enough to supply both boats so we won't be growing any green stuff just yet. There are some adventurous gardeners out here, I have seen boats with tomatoes and runner beans on the bow and growing up the cratch boards!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

First Day on the Caldon

Here are the brand new moorings at bridge 8 in Hanley (Stoke-on-Trent). These give access to the centre of town and the Potteries shopping centre. We were going to moor in Hanley park, a well tended and extensive Victorian park but though the moorings were good and plentiful the off side was very overgrown making if difficult for passing boats.

Heading out of town this is the kind of scenery we were passing through.

We moored for the night at Milton (below) arriving at about seven a bit wet and very weary so it was no great task to persuade us to skip the cullinery chores and eat out!

A pint in the Millrace - Jill demonstrates how to do it and Joe gurns for the camera - we decided to stay here and eat as well. Four meals for less than £20! Very good value, well presented and a friendly pub. We will definitely call here again.

We shopped in Milton on Sunday morning before pulling pins. There is a Co-op and a Netto, a Chinese and an Indian restaurant as well as a book store, barbers, hairdressers etc.

He's away....

Above, the lift bridge (21)at Norton Green. Compared to the automated Ivy House (11) lift bridge, this was a doddle to operate.

We moored at lunchtime on Sunday having covered a mere 1.2 miles. Above is the view looking back to Heakley Hall Bridge from Caxton's stern.

Caxton from the bridge.

Note the condition of the towpath. I am really rather taken with the Caldon...

Data Stream - Doggie Stream

Yesterday afternoon Jill and I set off to walk the three miles to Knypersley reservoir, the feeder for the Trent and Mersey canal. Apparently the setting is very attractive...apparently because a herd of bullocks stopped the excursion. Neither Jill or myself are phased by cattle and were quite prepared to 'shoo' them away and make progress but when a herd of 50 plus starts to move in it is time to move out so to speak.... We abandoned the walk and the dogs found this stream to play in for a while.
I was hoping that with someone as high profile as David Blunket being injured by cows when he was walking a public right of way recently we might see some legislation to protect walkers. A simple electric fence would do the trick; it's not really rocket science is it?

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Whistling in the Wind

The weather forecast today was for 16-20 mile an hour winds gusting to 35mph - at half six this morning, listening to the wind whistle around the boat, we were really considering staying in bed but we didn't. Just after half seven we we off heading north towards Stoke-0n-Trent and the turn off for the Caldon canal. I was swathed in wet weather gear that became a tea-shirt and a pair of shorts by the time we slipped on to the Caldon. So much for weather forecasts! We are now moored just outside Hanley Park, lunched and refreshed ready to push on to bridge 8 in order to access the shops and main market to replenish provisions. We will continue our cruise late afternoon heading for a quiet spot for our mooring tonight.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Rained off, Chores on

The forecast today was for heavy rain showers so given that we do not need to travel, we didn't. Rainy day chores that have been postponed by good weather got done instead. First on my list was Caxton's capacious larder. Following our move back onboard armed with the remnants of our land-life larder to be added to it things have been getting steadily more untidy so I set about major sort out this morning. Once everything had been emptied out and the shelves cleaned I tried to make sense of what was on board. Three boxes of sea salt, two bottles of Worcestershire sauce, enough cous cous to keep the people of North Africa fed for a fortnight; you get the picture...
The saucepans have now got a new home and so has the crockery but how long before the muscle memory absorbs that? It remains for me to tackle the bathroom cupboard but that might have to await a hurricane warning before I venture there!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Down along.....out along

With Joe and Graham off on a trip to Stoke-on-Trent, myself and Jill took ourselves and the four dogs off to Barlaston Downs, owned and managed by the National Trust. We were out walking for four hours! We met the two youngsters below, Winston a four month old dog and Molly a six month old bitch had a wonderful time socialising with my Labs and Jill's Tibetan Terriers.

Only a twenty minute walk from the canal and here we are ready to start our walk on the downs.
Keep up...
The downs are grazed by young 'bully-beefs' who surprisingly completely ignored both dogs and us humans as we walked by.
This is the route off of the Downs along clear tracks alongside the ripening wheat.
We will mark this as a grand place to visit again when we pass this way in the future.

I Spot...

I spotted another Barn Owl boat, Morpheus, as we left Stone. Morpheus is now up for sale if anyone is interested in a lovely immaculate trad on a Tim Tyler hull, £79950.


Here we are moored above Barlaston last night. It was a glorious sunny evening though through the day we had experienced some heavy rain showers. Jill and I had caught the bus from the Plume of Feathers pub into Stock-on-Trent for a look around and some essential shopping; socks for me - which then expanded to books, sandals, boot bags, newspapers and cashew nuts and summer trousers/shorts and drawers for her. It cost £2.50 return, took about 40mins to get into the city and gave us the opportunity to get an alternative view of the countryside we are travelling through.
Joe supervising the polishing of Matilda Rose last night..
Caxton will get a wash and polish today as we have decided to stay here another day/night and travel up to Etruria on Friday. Joe and Graham have taken themselves off on the bus to see Stoke-on-Trent this morning which leaves me in charge of boat and dogs and cleaning and walking and shopping and meal preparation - too much fun could be bad for me...

Stone the crows

The original T&M boat building-repair yard now used by the Canal Cruising Company.
We moored up in Stone on Monday and stayed overnight on the town moorings. We had arranged for our mail to to be forwarded to the Stone post office and that arrived at 11.30 on Tuesday. While I was waiting I happened to see this chap, the Stafford/Stone Town Cryer doing his bit. He was handing out leaflets about a housing development? We had a chat and I congratulated him on a town that recognised the relevance and commercial value of having a canal, so many don't. The moorings were well kept and plentiful and boaters were welcome.

There's a few gallons to go into this lock to fill it.

This historical shop front had been stripped and was being prepared for renovation - that's the way to do it..

Stone's pedestrianised high street, lots of al fresco eating here and a lovely mix of shops.

The Crown Hotel, with its bow front where, the initial planning meeting for the building of the Trent and Mersey canal took place on June 10th 1776. The Head Offices of the T&M were situated here in Stone.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Caxton's New Clothes

Caxton is now adorned in new finery. Last week ( sorry for the delay in posting but the lack of signal has been extremely frustrating) AJ Canopies came out to us at Handsacre and Rugeley and fitted Caxton's new cratch cover, semi-trad cover and houdini covers.

Fraser busy doing the initial fit. He took everything away and returned the next evening with all items altered to make and exact fit, service indeed. We have had plenty of rain since to test it and all is fine and dandy. Thank AJ Canopies!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Vee for..fender

Whilst we were moored at Shugborough we met Keith and Lynn. Keith makes fenders, and buttons and tipcats, while lynn makes rag rugs and knits childrens cardies etc.
Joe decided that Caxton was deserving of a little more protection so purchased a Vee fender for the bow. Below, see Keith risking life and limb to fit it.