Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Liquid Day

After watching the weather forecast last night the plan was to cruise in the morning when it would be dry and then moor to avoid the predicted afternoon showers.  So much for the plan!

We woke to droplets of liquid sunshine impacting on the top side of the canal.  thinking it would probably get worse we cruised a very short 200 metres to the water point at Wheelock where we proceeded to top up the water tank.  It was obvious filling the tank would take some time but that wasn’t an issue as we had the entire canal to ourselves.  Then a boat arrived also looking for water. 

It was nb Nice-n-Easy with owners Helen and Derek.  Helen mentioned they read Waiouru’s blog!

There was time for one of those canal side conversations whilst waiting for our respective water tanks to fill.  It transpires Helen & Derek have started a new phase in their lives by recently purchasing Nice-n-Easy and becoming full-time “live-aboard” boaters.  They are experienced hirers but; like us; have discovered living on a small narrow boat doesn’t mean you can’t misplace something you later need! Smile 

Two other boats arrived just as our water tanks were full so there was only time for a quick goodbye and we were on our way towards Middlewich.  Great to meet you both and hope to see you again somewhere out there on the network.

We’d only cruised around two bends when we came upon a very tired plastic cruiser that had stopped for a rest on the bottom of the canal.  Or perhaps the weight of the rain had become too great.

At least there was a boom around it to minimise the impact of any spilled fuel and oil.  It looks like the boat has been sunk for quite some time and I assume CRT want the owner to recover it rather than them having to pay.  Somehow I think it’s been abandoned!

We made good progress, mostly meeting boaters at locks, which is an advantage.  Jan discovered the rain had caused her legs to shrink.  This resulted in her getting a soggy tail climbing over the gate beams.  We arrived in Middlewich at 11.30am and found plenty of vacant moorings on rings.  This is a significant departure from our previous visits to Middlewich.  But on those occasions we were on a hire boat and it was the end of the day.  All the damned “live-aboard” boaters had already grabbed the best moorings.  Still, if you can;t beat them… join them! Smile

After lunch I wandered down to Kings Lock Chandlery and browsed around.  Jan had already looked on line and found out they sold Craftmaster Paint.  Despite the rain it must have been our lucky day as they had light grey paint in stock.  On the way back to Waiouru I stopped and checked the opening hours of the fish & chip shop opposite.  We’ve both read good reviews about the shop and plan to try them for dinner tonight.  I’ve also booked a car from Enterprise so we can reach the Settlement Checking Service in Manchester for our visa appointment.  I booked a small van as it was cheaper than a car (£27)! 

Oh……  The liquid sunshine continues to fall!

The Romping Donkey and on to Wheelock

OK…. so it’s Mow Cop and not Mop Cow!   However I think my name is better! Winking smile

All of this has made me rather inquisitive about Mow Cop.  I though it was an ancient ruin until Wikipedia informed me it’s only 250 years old! SmileBuilt in 1754 as a folly in the shape of a medieval fortress and round tower. It’s open to the public and owned by the National Trust. 

Over the years I’ve read various blog posts that The Romping Donkey pub at Hassall Green is open, closed, open, closed.  After walking to it I can confirm at the moment it’s very definitely closed and looking rather dilapidated.

However the partially demolished extension enabled me to see the small triangle of exposed wall which I suspect is an example of wattle & daub.

The area of interest is the brown triangle.  Wattle and daub is an infill method where a lattice of woven wattle branches are covered with a mixture of clay, mud, animal dung, and straw.  It’s not a method I’ve seen employed in NZ.  Probably because other more modern methods of building had been developed by the time Europeans arrived.

There is a short canal arm running to the west at Malkin’s Bank which looked interesting.

Trying to find some information about it has proven to be quite difficult.  All I could find was the arm is being used for the restoration of historical canal craft, moorings and sometimes has room for DIY.  The link to Malkins Bank Services is <here>.  But I can’t find any information why the arm was originally constructed.

At Wheelock I walked a couple of kilometres to Aldi at Sandbach to top up the pantry.  Jan removed the last of the 2012 blackberries from the freezer and has made a blackberry sponge pudding.  The main reason (my main reason… not Jan’s) for the Aldi trip was to buy some ice cream to go with the pudding!  However some basic essentials were also purchased… chocolate!

On the way back I peered over a hedge and noticed this rather Victorian looking building. 

It’s Sandbach School.  Why am I reminded of Hogswarts!

Back at Waiouru Jan had the latest laundry on the rotary clothesline drying in the sunshine.  We seem to be average one wash load every five days.

The weather has been too unreliable to touch up the exterior paint but I was able to do something about the timber panels in the rear doors.  These are exposed to the elements when the pram cover (wigwam for wimps) isn’t erected.  From the beginning I knew these panels would be exposed to the elements and they received some serious treatment in the form of ‘Impreg’ before they were fitted.  However I recently noticed a gap had started to open at the base of each panel where the painted marine ply and oak trim join.  Rather than allow water to get into this area I decided to seal it with construction adhesive.  Using a silicone sealer isn’t a good idea as it deteriorates over time.  The first step was to mask the affected area with cheap masking tape.

The construction adhesive is then applied with a caulking gun and the excess was then wiped off with my finger after it had been dipped into the white spirits bottle.  The masking tape was then carefully removed.

White probably wasn’t the best colour.  But it’s all I had!  Actually,  I suspect the entire join between the oak trim and the panel may eventually have to be sealed.  The edge between the oak trim and the steel door was sealed during the fit-out and appears to be holding up well.

Tomorrow should see us at Middlewich. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Harecastle, a couple of drips, and itchy legs

We arrived at the Harecastle Tunnel moorings just as a lone boat exited.  There were two boats already waiting to go and the Tunnel Keeper kindly let us be the third boat telling us “You’ve got excellent timing!”  Once Waiouru had entered the tunnel the door was shut behind us and the 747 engine extractor fans were turned on.  There was quite a draft and the noise was incredible.  Both of us donned coats realising from our previous transits that it would be wet.  The first boat must have struggled with the dark as it was the slowest of our four journeys!  Most of it was done at tick-over.  To hold boredom at bay we loudly sang our way through.  Heaven knows what the boater ahead thought!
The northern portal looked exactly as we last saw it in 2005. Smile
The orange colour in the water is caused by leeching inside the tunnel
At Kidsgrove we briefly stopped to restock all the cupboards at the nearby Tesco before moving to the Red Bull CRT facilities where we topped up the water point.  Dropping down through the remaining three locks in the Red Bull flight we moored on some rings just beyond the Liverpool Road bridge.
On a number of occasions Jan has mentioned she gets dripped on from the saloon Houdini hatch.  I’ve always said it’s condensation but recently I’ve been sitting under the hatch and noticed there is a drip(or two) from this hatch but not the other two.  On closer examination it appears we may have a very small leak.
This oak joint looks like it might be starting to swell
All the solid oak joinery used to make the internal Houdini trim was given three coats of Impreg before being installed and varnished.  I did it so I know that’s what happened.  The oak is unlikely to discolour or rot in the immediate future but I want to rectify the situation now.  The plan is to remove the metal hatch and liberally smear the area with silicone sealer before reinstalling the hatch.  The first task was to buy some silicone.  A quick internet search showed a B&Q hardware store approximately six kilometres away across the fields and though an urban area.  The walk across the fields proved to be very pleasant.
From the top of the fields there were good views north towards the canal and Cheshire plains.  Looking east there is some high ground with what looked to be some type of ruin at the top.
If my memory is sound the Macclesfield Canal skirts around the base of this hill.  Some digital cutting and zooming gave more detail.
Looking at the map I believe this is ‘Mow Cop’?
Thinking the vegetation part of the walk was over I was surprised to discover the footpath through the urban area was heavily overgrown.  An error on my part was to decide to walk in shorts and a T-shirt.  After forcing my way through the brambles and stinging nettles for some way it was time to pause and take stock of the situation.  I hadn’t reached the halfway point and the stinging nettles appeared to be getting thicker and higher.  Did I need to use this route or was there an alternative?  In the end I backtracked and used a road to reach B&Q.  The sky started to look ominous walking back to Waiouru and any idea of removing the hatch later in the afternoon was deferred until fine weatherThe experience with the stinging nettles came back to haunt me as I now have rather itchy legs.
Now moored somewhere on Heartbreak Hill with more locks in front than behind! Sad smile

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Westport and the Harecastle Tunnel

The moorings beside Westport Lake are very pleasant.  They’re also very popular.  When we moored at noon there were just four other boats but by late afternoon that had tripled. 

Being a mild sunny day I took the opportunity to check everything was well in the engine bay.  We have gone through some battery water using the automatic watering system and doing a visual inspection of the domestic bank was high on the ‘to do’ list.  The battery terminals looked to still be in good condition after petroleum jelly was smeared on them six weeks ago.  However I noticed there was a significant build-up of crystals on the aluminium buckles that tension the webbing retaining straps.  It obviously been caused by the batteries gassing hydrogen during the recharging cycles.  Access to the batteries is very restricted which is why the automatic watering system was fitted!  The crystals need to be removed before they cause any damage.  That’s when I discovered the crystals had been corroding the aluminium buckles.

Only two of the four buckles have been affected.  There are the two buckles on top of the batteries.  The plan is to replace them with plastic buckles thereby eliminating a repeat occurrence.

In the early evening I walked around the lake and then down to the southern portal of the Harecastle Tunnel.

The walk took me under Bridge 128 where construction of the Trent & Mersey Canal commenced with Josiah Wedgwood turning the first sod.

We’ve been through the Harecastle Tunnel on three other occasions when hiring a boat.  However this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to walk around the southern portal.

The mouth of James Brindley’s original tunnel can still be seen.  It looks very low and one of the reasons for it’s closure was apparently subsidence.

I assume water is still running out of it because there was water running out of the sluice in the entrance pool.

Thomas Telford’s tunnel is now the only one in use.

There are stone stairs immediately below the Tunnel Keeper’s white cottage.  If the flight to the left are taken it’s possible to walk around the left side of the cottage to a track behind.  This leads up the hill to a busy public road.  Nothing is signposted which makes it difficult to identify the towpath….. Actually the track the horses would have used…….

The room above the tunnel portal contains the electric motors and extractor fans which are used to remove boat engine fumes.

Telford’s original tunnel included a horse towpath which was subsequently removed.  During the first half of the 20th century electric powered tugs were used to tow a convoy of boats through the tunnel.  The extraction system was then built to allow powered boats to navigate the tunnel.  At the same time the tunnel towpath was removed to provide a greater air draft.   

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Potteries

It was a short cruise from Etruria Junction to Westport Lake.  However before we set off I walked to the nearby ‘Staples’ office supplies store to purchase a folder for my visa application and supporting documents. The return trip was via the Tesco Superstore for a couple of last minute items.  We then moved forward onto the water point at Etruria and topped up the tank.

We’ve previously done this stretch of canal although it was nearly a decade ago.  There have been some changes, particularly on the western side of the canal where many buildings have disappeared and the ground prepared for rejuvenation.  Hopefully it was be something that adds value to the canal.  We passed the Royal Doulton Showroom and factory outlet.  There is a sign beside the canal pointing out that there is a pedestrian access bridge across the canal from the towpath side where there are mooring rings to the showroom.  Jan visited the showroom 10 years ago and was ambivalent about a return visit so we didn’t stop.

The eastern side of the canal does have some old buildings, a number of which are derelict and at least two were being restored.  Not much remains of the early potteries buildings.  Most of what can now be seen apparently dates from the late 19th century.

The Anderton Canal Carrying Company had a large warehouse constructed at Middleport in the 1880’s.  One end of the warehouse was adjacent to the canal and had a lift to move materials and products between the canal boats and warehouse.

This entire area was dotted with potteries, two of which were built by John Brindley, the younger brother of James Brindley.  Some of the local history alludes to canal operations at Longport and Newport.  Subsequently in the 1880’s ‘new’ potteries were built at Middleport. 

There is at least one pottery working in Middleport.  We passed visitor moorings for Burleigh Pottery which appeared to be undergoing extensive renovation.

The Garmin map showed Longport and Middleport but the only mention of Newport was a ‘Newport Lane’.  I assume Newport was located where the lane crossed the canal?

It was also interesting to read about the Pottery Riots of 1842.  Click <here> if you’d also like to read about them.

We’re now on a very pleasant mooring beside Westport Lake.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Waiouru fits the gauge

It was a lovely cruise from Cheddleton down to Froghall.  Waiouru especially loved the River Churnet section between Oakmeadow Ford Lock and Constall Forge.  With plenty of water underneath the baseplate she cut her way through the water on using fewer rev’s than the previous two days.

At Constall Forge there is a water point and 48 hour moorings.  There are also four old lime kilns adjacent to the moorings. 

These kilns started working in 1819 with coal and limestone being fed into the top with a fire in the base. When the burn was complete the resulting quick lime was dug out of the base and loaded into narrowboats for transport to Etruria.  In its heyday the Churnet Valley had thousands of people working on the extraction, manufacture and transportation of flint and quick lime.

At Consall Forge the route to Froghall reverts to a canal with the River Churnet going straight ahead over a weir and the canal deviating slightly left under a bridge and then It squeezes past Consall railway station.  One assumes the canal was there first and the subsequent construction of the railway encroached upon it.  This is a narrow section and one wouldn’t want to meet a boat coming in the opposite direction.

A steam train was operating and although we could hear it and see the occasional puff of smoke we never actually managed to see the locomotive.

At Flint Mill Lock there is a 70ft winding hole.  This is the last point where boats 65ft and longer can wind without going through Froghall Tunnel.  Immediately after the lower lock gates is a tunnel gauge.

Waiouru just fits under the gauge.  The handrails would be a tight fit.  We’d already filled the water tank in the bow.  The sat-dome on the roof won’t fit, but it’s removable.

We’d also near to clear the roof of all other removable items.

There are stretches of this last section to Froghall that are very narrow.  Basically a concrete edged culvert very similar to the ‘narrows’ at the top end of the Llangollen Canal.

Surprisingly, (for us) there were a number of long term moored boats on the ‘off-side’ just before the tunnel at Froghall.  The towpath moorings are only 24 hour before the tunnel but 48 hour in the basin on the other side.

We moored before the tunnel and walked forward to have a look.  Waiouru would fit if we removed everything off her roof and took it slowly.  Paul (Waterway Routes) had suggested Jan position herself in the cratch to act as additional ballast during the transit (Jan is waiting for her next meeting with Paul…. and she has a long memory!).  One of the locals looked at Waiouru and confirmed to us she would fit but that we’d probably lose some of the handrail paintwork on the way through.  In the end we decided it just wasn’t worth damaging the paintwork.  If we had an additional two people to assist with the transit we’d have given it a go.  But we chickened out erred on the side of caution and walked the towpath route to the basin.

There was only one boat in the basin…… A CRT workboat!

All the boater facilities are there and there’s also a lovely cottage.

Walking back to Waiouru we took a photo of the tunnel mouth from the far end.

For obvious reasons there is no gauge at this end.

Now we have completed all the Caldon Canal what are our thoughts.

  • The latter two thirds are very attractive with the Froghall branch more attractive than the Leek.
  • The top sections generally have reasonable water depth.
  • The lower portion is undergoing urban redevelopment and in a few years will probably look very attractive.
  • Something needs to be done about the restricted clearance through Froghall Tunnel.  Especially if the canal is restored back to Uttoxeter.
  • It’s well worth visiting

Now we must retrace our route back to Etruria.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Lake Rudyard

We’ve been locking uphill all the way to Leek which obviously means the canal must obtain water from a source near Leek.  The existing end of the canal has a small ditch which is obviously a feeder.  My earlier look at the history of the canal identified James Brindley as having lived for quite a few years in Leek.  Construction of a reservoir on the Staffordshire Moorlands to supply the canal with water was mentioned. 
I’ve been able to trace the route of the feeder from the canal back to Lake Rudyard (red line).  There’s even a footpath beside the feeder.  Wikipedia states the village of Rudyard was named after Ralph Rudyard who reputedly killed Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field.  Lake Rudyard (Rudyard reservoir was constructed by the canal builder John Rennie rather than James Brindley.  There is a second reservoir, Tittesworth Reservoir, in the top right but I can’t find a connection from it to the canal.  Which isn’t all that surprising after reading it was constructed in 1963. 
Rudyard Lake became a popular attraction for visitors, day trippers and courting couples after the railway was constructed. John Lockwood Kipling and Alice MacDonald from Burslem met there and loved the area so much that they named their first son after the lake.  And that’s how Rudyard Kipling acquired his name!
We returned to Hazlehurst Junction and turned onto the Froghall branch.There are two water wheels at Cheddleton which are part of the old Cheddleton Flint Mill.  Flint was extensively quarried and milled along this branch of the Caldon Canal.  The flint was (of course) used in the manufacture of pottery and (naturally) the canal was used to transport the ground flint to Etruria and beyond.
OK… enough of the failed artistic attempt! Smile