Narrowboating

BBQ in the rainWe arrived rather late at Autherley Junction, Wolverhampton (really part of Birmingham), due to trouble and strife at the bank, more fuel needed for the car, a larger (and more pleasant lunch than expected with my brother and sister in law), several torrential downpours on the motorway and perhaps a bit of a late start. Add a comment

Read more: Voyage of the Elizabeth

What ropes do to cast ironEngine Start 33.5  Finish 38.8 - 5.3 hours (2.5 yesterday)
Distance 14 miles (5 miles yesterday)

A bit too much headache juice last night, Mary made me drink it. Honest. Perhaps if the BBQ had been ready a bit earlier (putting the lid on puts the charcoal out). Of course asking a non drinker to go and buy wine may not be the smartest move either.

The picture shows the cast iron protectors that the canal builders put onto the corners of their bridges to protect them from the tow ropes. Some of the protectors are almost cut through.


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Read more: Day 2 - A British Sunday

TunnelEngine Start 38.8 Finish 44.8 - 6 hours
Distance 12 miles 10 Locks

Another much more successful BBQ last night and a more moderate headache juice consumption had us in bed by 10.

Woken by excessive movement of the boat as others went past. Seems the pegs had come loose in the bank, no surprising as we were moored at the top of a huge embankment part of the canal. The rain started shortly thereafter and persisted throughout the day (apart from while we enjoyed our brief sojourn in Market Daryton)

A large part of the canal was effectively single lane where it has been dug through a kind of soft(ish) rock. It still is an unimaginable amount of work to be done entirely by hand. The picture shows a tunnel dug by hand originally intended to be 690 yards but only 81 yards remain as it was opened out in 1831 because of dangerous faults in the rock.

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Read more: Day 3 - Talk About Wet

Leaping from gate to gateEngine Start 44.8 Finish 50.4 -  5.6 hours
Distance  5.5 miles 17 Locks

Well yes, it's not very far but it takes ages getting through the locks especially if you have to fill almost all of them before you can get in to go down. I think the idea is that 3 locks are equivalent to 1 miles travel.

Locks are also a good source of 'canal rage', some people appear to forget why they are on narrow boats, it's certainly not because you plan to go anywhere in a hurry.. We had some of the boat people shouting at each other and in one case shouting at us to hurry up. We ignored them and tied up for lunch instead. Jennifer shouted 'keep it down there' at one chap and then hid. He thought it was Mary who was sitting minding her own business.

The picture shows Charlotte risking life and limb to avoid having to walk right around the lock to open the other gate. I presume the whole thing is quite good exercise though, walking to and fro, between locks winding paddles up, opening and shutting gates? Probably not as good as a big run but there you are.

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Read more: Day 4 - A 'Blast' from the Past

stone stepsEngine Start 50.8 Finish 55.1 -  4.3 hours
Distance 10.5 miles 2 Locks

Only a short (but fine) day today on the canals. We spent most of the morning exploring Nantwich and getting yet more provisions. It's a very pretty town and clearly very prosperous, lots of cafes, clothes shops, bakeries and at least one big supermarket, some way away from the canal however.

The picture is of a set of stone steps that used to be used by farmers wives getting off (or onto) the farm horses when they came into town. Jennifer is showing us how that is done.


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Read more: Day 5 - Four Go Exploring

Jenn & Charlotte in LockEngine Start 55.1 Finish 60.8 -  5.7 hours
Distance 9 miles 7 Locks

The longest day today and we actually got drenched. The rain started just as we were committed to entering Middlewich Junction. This is a complicated T junction with a lock on either side and a water point in the middle where we needed to fill up. The entire process took well over an hour and the heavy rain just fell and fell and fell.

We are starting to approach more built up areas now. Middlewich Junction is built under (or has later been crossed by) a busy main road (the A533). It's an odd feeling after a week in rural England to step through a little gate and find yourself in the bustle, dirt and noise of the 21st Century.

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Read more: Day 6 - Four Get Very Wet

It's wet out thereEngine Start 60.8 Finish 65.8 -  5.0 hours
Distance 6.5 miles 14 Locks

Wet, wet, wet, is the only way to describe the weather. Jennifer left us after lunch at Malkins Bank Golf course where she was able to get a taxi to Crewe railway station and was almost directly onto a train back to London and work at the Barley Mow for the weekend.

We had a very brief excursion to a dairy to pick up some OJ and a paper but otherwise we were moored up before 5pm and waiting for the rain to stop. We've started to get back near 'civilisation', we saw several yobs hanging about in the rain which gave us pause about leaving the boat while we went to the pub.

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Read more: Day 7 - One Down

Harecastle TunnelEngine Start 65.8 Finish 70.2 -  4.4 hours
Distance 6 miles 12 Locks

We found a Tesco at Kidsgrove railway station (our lives are dominated by buying food), just before the Harecastle tunnel, a one way, 2926 yards long, brick lined edifice. It can be said with some certainty that the tunnel is wet, cold and in actual fact rather boring due to it being completely dark (we have a headlight and a torch). They must have been truly awful to build, all done by hand and dark and so dangerous (there were three tunnels, now only one remains)

The big news is that the rain has stopped, a couple of light showers of no consequence and we even saw the sun for a couple of short bursts.

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Read more: Day 8 - Down a Long Tunnel

Pepper PotsYou get a bit fed up with rain. There was a little bit this morning as we came down the Trent & Mersey canal towards Stoke on Trent. We had a brief stop at the Royal Doulton Factory Shop where large quantities of expensive china and glassware are on sale. I shall draw a veil over this excursion.

There are lots of the old 'pepper pot' kilns standing around the area, I suspect they are protected as they sre often surrounded by waste land where the rest of the factory has been demolished.

After some discussion we turned off onto the Caldon Branch of the canal, in part so we can be near a main line station for Jennifers return tomorrow.  

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Read more: Day 9 - Not More Rain

Raining StairrodsEngine Start 75.7 Finish 82.5 -  6.8 hours
Distance 8 miles 9.5  Locks

It's official according to the Daily Express. "Today Is Wettest Day for 50 Years". Not quite sure how they knew as the paper is based on a weather forecast, no doubt todays will have actual news. I don't remember the last wettest day (I was only 7) but today was in any event very wet.

Luckily it started out dry and sunny even but as the day wore on the heavens just opened. Ordinary mortals tied up and sheltered except for the British Waterways man who had to go and let some water out of the canal the rain was that bad.

We had arranged to pick up Jennifer at the Stoke on Trent railway station and once committed we had to get there to pick her up. Astoundingly we saw lots of other boats waiting for the locks at the Etruria Junction in Stoke on Trent, you'd have thought they would have had more sense. Apparently not but this made us very late.

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Read more: Day 10 - Wettest Day for 50 Years

John & IEngine Start 82.5 Finish 85.5 -  3.0 hours
Distance 5 miles 8  Locks

This update is brought to you courtesy of of Simons Home Network in Stone, Staffordshire. thanks Simon.

Cool news about the Americas Cup race and even better news about no rain today!

Today was less about narrowboats than a visit to the Wedgwood factory where se saw around the factory, various exhibitions and got to throw a pot ourselves. John was very helpful and we all (except Mary) had a go.

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Read more: Day 11 - Not The Narrowboat

flooded fieldsEngine Start 85.5 Finish 91.1 -  4.6 hours
Distance 10 miles 4 Locks

Mostly fine but you can see the damage where the rain has flooded the river Trent. We also heard from some passing traffic how the Shropshire Union has overflowed and also been blocked by fallen trees and a small landslide. Having seen the narrow cuttings involved I can well imagine it taking only a little to block.

We were rather lucky that we went clockwise rather than our initial plan of going anti clockwise. I don't know what happens when you ring up Napton Narrowboats and say you won't be bringing their boat back on time.

A desperate shortage of provisions led Mary and I on a foray into Stone which is a really nice little country town.  Stone has an excellent small shopping centre and some splendid old buildings. If you're in the vicinity I suspect that the various pubs and restaurants would be well worth a check out.

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Read more: Day 12 - Too Slow or Too Fast?

Tixall WideEngine Start 91.1 Finish  -   hours
Distance 9.5 miles 6 Locks

A quite day all round and nice weather if a touch cool when the sun went in. Not wishing to tempt fate by putting on sunscreen, I've even ended up a touch of sunburn!

Today we were back to journeying through pleasant countryside interspersed with small middle class towns where graffiti and vandalism are not much of a problem. A highlight was the Tixall Wide, where the canal was broadened so as not to spoil the view from Tixall House. The house has  long since gone and it's owners forgotten but the Wide remains and is home to much wildlife including kingfishers which we did not see and herons which we did.

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Read more: Day 13 - Tixall Wide

sunsetEngine Trip start 31.0 Finish 104.8  - Total 73.8 hours
Distance 10 miles 7 Locks

Last day on the boat passed without event until the end of the day. We got Jennifer onto the Birmingham train at Penkridge. The village boasts at least two butchers making excellent pork pies and pasties which we purchased samples for lunch.

Several hours of motoring bought us through to Autherley Junction where we went past the base and wound (turned the boat around) to return in the morning.

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Read more: Day 14 - And the Bog fills up