Tuesday, 30 July 2013

oo-er...............another tunnel!

We leave Etruia on the Monday morning to put Swamp Frogs in Festival Park Marina for a few days while we go and visit family and friends in Southampton. We had a wonderful time in Southampton (albeit very rushed) catching up with everybody but it truly is a big wrench leaving Swamp Frogs and we couldn't wait to get back. We got back Thursday teatime and had a "cheerio" meal with Fred and Lisa  as they will move south and we are heading north in the morning. It was so nice spending time with them both and we will meet up again when we head south for the winter.
We left the Marina the next day and moored up at Westport lake for the weekend.

As it was so nice we thought we'd try our new purchase out......A small foldaway BBQ.......well, after burning the top of our new table and then red hot charcoal spitting out onto the tinder dry grass which started to smoulder it was decided that we'll extinguish the BBQ due to safety reasons and the fact that on lookers thought I was doing some kind of crazy rain dance when I was only stamping on the smouldering charcoal...... I can see the local headlines.....Crazy boater sets fire to the grounds around Westport Lake....ho hum!!!!

Up early and onwards to Harecastle tunnel (2926yds long) which I was not looking forward too....I really do not like the tunnels maybe it's because they are so small and I feel claustrophobic??! but in we go following 4 other boats. Going last is good because I can go at my own pace and not worry about anybody behind......it's so hard to steer the boat when you have jelly legs!!!!!

The southern end.....
Almost 3000 yards later, the northern end,
Look at the colour of the water? YUK!!
As you can see from the second picture there was 2 tunnels but the one on the right has long since closed due to subsidence. There are no ventilation shafts in the tunnel and they shut doors at the southern end and use an extraction fan to remove exhaust fumes.....was all a bit scary but ok in the end.
Out of the tunnel and we soon pass the junction of the Macclesfield canal.

The Maccy is through the narrow bridge on the right.
We make good timing with Suzie at the helm and me doing the legwork we cover 11 locks in just over 3 miles and moor up at a place called Rode Heath. We end up staying here for a couple of days due to weather (nothing to do with the hangovers we both have). We had a great time here in Rode Heath and spent a lazy afternoon at the local pub with a couple of retired Police CID inspector's and a couple of boaters and between us we put the world to right's and had a good laugh doing it!
We leave Rode Heath very early the next day to make our way to Church Minshull to meet up with Dennis and Ann (A.K.A. Lord and Lady Malakas) owners of NB Emily.
Getting to Nantwich we have to get through a heavy stretch of locks this is often called "heartbreak hill". It's at this point after 4 1/2 months Suzie decides that she will take over on the tiller and I can do the leg/lock work. I have to point out that this is pure coincidence that Suzie has come to this decision and that I do 22 locks in 1 day (this is defo our record)!!!!!!!


Going down nice and slowly

Another successful lock done,
Well done Suzie

Anyways, hard as it is to believe, it was a coincidence as Suzie was unaware of what laid ahead and to be honest it was great seeing her on the tiller going in and out of locks and her gaining more and more confidence.
On the way we pass Malkins Golf Course which advertises breakfast so we moor up in a pound (the space between locks for those that don't know) and in we go at 09:30....."are you still serving breakfast" I asked......"ummmm we start around 10:30" the blokey behind the bar says.... "hmmmm....okay no problem, we are in no rush"  so we sit on the terrace and wait and well worth the wait too....if you pass here do stop (between locks 62 and 63) as it was a scrummy breakfast set in beautiful surroundings and great value too at £7:85 for 2 breakfasts and 2 coffee's.
We make good progress and I am enjoying doing the locks although when it's raining I'm not so sure I'll feel the same.... We arrive at Middlewich and moor for the night.
I've got to turn left, very tight and with a boat coming at me 2 boats moored
on my right AND another boat coming out from the left!!!
From here we continue down the Middlewich branch of The Shroppie and moor at Church Minshull (Thank you Fred Webster for the mooring advice, you were 100% correct, I expected nothing less)
This branch is reknowned for it's wildlife and we were very fortunate to see a river dolphin.....very very rare and known only to exist on this stretch of canal.
A bit blurry as I had to be quick!
The next day we were joined with Denis and Ann (AKA Lord and Lady Malakas) owners of NB Emily
After a few drinks we walk to the Badger Inn for a meal...."lets do a short cut" I say. "I have a new phone with maps and all, we can follow the map".......what the phone didn't show is an overgrown footpath covered with thorns and nettles and said footpath meanders (is this the right word?) at the edge of a 100ft sheer drop......The girls were not impressed with me!!! needless to say we walked back via the road!
Our view overlooking Church Minshull....stunning!

More or less the same view the next morning

Lord and Lady Malakas with Suzie aboard NB Emily

We both left the next day, Denis and Ann back to Nantwich and us to moor up at Barbridge Junction where we meet up with Suzie's Brother-in-law Steve. It's a flying visit as Steve is on his way to Germany to see Kiri his wife.

Steve with Suzie and a spider crab!

As you can see, Steve loves his dogs Phyllis and Karla

I've just told Steve I will be watching the Grand Prix
and does he want to watch it too?

It was great seeing Steve and after a few beers we visit the pub.....again (It does seem that our lives revolve round visits to the pub......maybe it's true?)
Next day Steve and I watch the F1 Grand Prix (well done Lewis) and then we say our goodbyes and Steve makes his way to Dover and we make our way to the pub.......again!!!
We leave Barbridge Junction and make our way into Nantwich where we meet up with Denis and Ann again. This time we have a Indian curry as they read about our sorry tale in Stoke. I wasn't disappointed this time! The Red Melon......lovely Indian restaurant, lovely food....10 out of 10! Then next door to The Black Lion for the pub quiz. Denis and Ann's "team name" in the quiz is The Malakas' and they are fondly known as Lord and Lady Malakas........it's a Greek word which roughly translates into English as "a nice person, a friend, a mate"....where we would say "hi mate" when meeting someone we know, the Greeks would say "malakas"....that's what they told us anyway (I must Google it)!  We do the quiz and come a respectable 4-5th out of 9+ teams. At this point I must add that had I'd been lisened to, we would have got 2 more points and come 3rd!.....tis only a game and was a great night, brilliant fun as Suzie grabbed the mike and gave us a burst of something she called singing during the quiz.......we are now barred from The Black Lion!!!

What will happen next..........???

Since the last blog we've done 31 miles, 35 locks.
This gives a grand total of 223 miles 100 yards, 164 locks and 7 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

......"Is that a deep fried boiled egg and chips you want Madam"?

We stayed at Stone for a couple of days to replenish some stocks as Morrison's was close by and also to watch the swans.....there were Mr and Mrs Swan with 3 cygnets and they were so protective it basically shut the towpath down.....nobody and I mean nobody was going to go past the parents. Some locals told us they have been a nightmare for a few years now, although you often hear people say "don't go near the swan they can break your bones" does anybody know somebody this has happened to?

We left Stone and made our way to Stoke-on-Trent which is our first "biggish" city we have been to. As you approach Stoke the first thing you see is The Britannia Stadium home of Stoke City FC, looks pretty similar to St Mary's home of my beloved Southampton FC (not keen on the new home shirts...where are the stripes)

Stoke City's Britannia Stadium

We moored up opposite a cemetery adjacent 2 restored bottle kilns, in it's heyday there were almost 4000 kilns and up to the 1950's still over 2000. Today there are only 47 still standing.....sad eh? We decided to wander in to the town and not to do the people of Stoke a disservice it is a bit run down though with more shops and pubs shut down than I have ever seen although I did see an Indian Restaurant close to where we were moored.....Hmmmm.......I really miss Indian food!!

2 of the 47 remaining bottle kilns

Suzie was quite happy for us to go in, I'd eat, she would watch and I'll do her some egg and chips back at the boat. We get in the Restaurant only to find that they would cook Suzie egg and chips......nice one!
2 mins later the waiter came back and asked if Suzie wanted the eggs in a sauce?.....No no just fried please says Suzie. The waiter returned again to ask if she wanted deep fried boiled eggs???? It took some explaining what Suzie wanted but they got it spot on! out came 2 fried eggs with chips, it did look lovely and we were very pleased. My curry........It was probably the worst  Indian meal I have ever had.....we expected Suzie's eggs to be a bit of a disaster with the difficulty we had explaining what a fried egg was, but my curry!!!!hey ho, such is life.....I am still hankering after a nice Indian meal!

We get up the next morning and do a couple of locks and the turn right at Etruia and go down the Caldon Canal. Etruia is the home of the last steam powered potters mill in Britain and has been "steaming" since 1903.
The last steam mill still working in Britain

 Down the Caldon we go and after we do a few locks we then come across our first (real) swing bridge. We pull over and I go and have a nosey.....phew! it is electronic. I jump aboard and Suzie goes up to barrier off the road and to press the buttons. Once through Suzie closes the bridge and then spends the next 5 mins swinging on the counter balance weight of the barriers trying to open them all to no avail!!!!.....it was like watching a comedy sketch as I could see it just wasn't going to happen! Thank you to the guys on their lunch break!

Under the swing bridge and round the corner and we meet a boat coming at us......tis Fred and Lisa...."We'll meet you at The Hollybush Inn in a couple of days" they both shout. "No problem, we'll find it" I say.......we moor up not long after and get out the laptop only to find that The Hollybush Inn is here in the village.....happy days. The next day we walk into the village of Stockton Brook and have a bit of a nosey round and to post a birthday card to Suzie's Brother-in-Law John (we did receive a text from John thanking us for his card although it's a month early, however, he went on to say that it was Suzie's sister Pat's birthday!!!.....we'll send her one next month!) In the village we find The Hollybush Inn has closed down and is now a fancy Italian Restaurant (surely Fred and Lisa don't mean this?) we carry on walking and come across a locals pub where not to be rude we pop in and have a few. Back to the boat and have a afternoon nap.....such a hard life we lead! We wake up about 4pm only to find NB Chyandour moored right behind us! So, 2 hours later we are back in the local pub till closing time. We discover from Fred and Lisa that the Hollybush pub he meant is 4-5mls away in the village of Denford....doh! The next day the sun was out so we all decided not to move on but to stay and have a BBQ which was delicious and move the following day.
Off the pair of us go for a few miles, over the Aqueduct, down 3 locks and moor up round the corner from The Hollybush Inn. we stayed here for 4-5 days it was a bit of a busy time......late night drinking and BBQ's with Fred and Lisa, but brilliant fun was had by all.
Suzie and Fred trimming the hedge!

The BBQ king at work
Out and about on our daily walk! 

Fred and Lisa moved to Leek the next day to catch the market but we stayed as it was here that I caught up with an old mate from work who had the same attitude as us that life is more important than money. Terry also retired at 55, moved to Staffordshire and he and Jayne have their Narrowboat moored at the bottom of their garden. Was really nice to meet up and we'll meet up again in a few weeks. The next day we move back towards Stoke to spend the weekend at Etruria again with Fred and Lisa

We have to say a big thank you to Fred and Lisa (NB Chyandour) for wonderful hospitality and truly great company the plan was to meet for a drink as we were passing each other and it turned into a 10 day holiday!
If you see Fred and Lisa......say hello!

Since the last blog we've done 20 miles, 25 locks.
This gives a grand total of 192 miles 100 yards, 129 locks and 6 tunnels (tunnels over 1000yds only).