Day-by-Day: 2012

First Visit

8th – 10th January 2012
Sunday, 8th January: Norbury
Drove down from Lancaster in time for lunch. Afterwards went for a walk along the embankment towards Gnosall and back on the road. Later, Hil carried on down to Hereford and I stayed on the boat.

Monday, 9th January: Norbury
A whole day on the boat. On the previous visit we noticed some water ingress into the kitchen which we assumed was coming through the window. I’d applied some sealant to the frame and tightened up a few of the screws holding it is place and this seems to have done the trick. I spend a happy half-hour mopping out the bilges, removing two litres of a combination of rainwater and condensation. Nothing serious! During the day I kept a tally of boat movements and noted a total of five. That evening I met Dave, a newcomer to the moorings who amongst any other talents he may have is a ukelele player and George Formby impersonator!

Tuesday, 10th January: Norbury
Making the most of my bus pass I came home to Lancaster by bus. Got off to a bad start when the 08.40 from Norbury village to Stone didn’t turn up and I had to walk to Eccleshall and wait for another one there. After that it was plain sailing via Stafford, Newcastle, Crewe, Northwich, Warrington, Wigan and Preston where, in the absence of anywhere to eat I caught a train back to Lancaster.

Giving Notice

28th January 2012
Today I have Norbury Wharf the requisite three months’ notice to terminate my mooring agreement. I plan to go exploring over the summer, heading off towards Lincolnshire and the Chesterfield Canal and look for another mooring nearer Lancaster later in the year.

Through the Ice to Drayton

7th – 10th February 2012
Tuesday, 7th February: Norbury to Bridge 47
Drove down from Lancaster hoping to get away from Norbury just after lunch to make the most of the daylight, but I couldn’t leave Lancaster until 11.00 so didn’t get there until 13.10. Then I had to call in and see Simon at Norbury Wharf as this was the first time I’d been down since I gave notice to leave the moorings and we ended up having quite a long chat. It was just as well I went in as he told me that the bank had managed to pay my last mooring fees twice. He was able to arrange to pay the extra back into my account there and then and this must be the only time I’ve walked out of a boatyard better off than when I’ve gone in.
By the time I’d collected some drinking water and made a spot of lunch to eat on the way it was after 15.00, not helped by the engine needing several goes to get it started due to have been idle for a month in very cold weather. There was just time to get up to the visitor moorings at bridge 47 beyond Knighton for the night.

Wednesday 8th February: Bridge 47 to Market Drayton
I had the moorings to myself last night and it was a very cold one. The fire stayed in fortunately, but there was ice inside the cabin windows at the back of the boat and ice on the cut as well.

                                                            Icy Morning at Bridge 47
The mooring ropes were frozen and it took half-an-hour to untie. At this point I realised that I hadn’t brought enough water with me from Norbury (the boat’s water tank is drained for the winter) but I was hopeful I could get some at Goldstone or Tyrley.
The ice wasn’t particularly thick so I set off, getting under way at 09.00. On the exposed sections nearer Goldstone the ice got thicker and I was making very slow progress and began to think that I might have to stop there after all.  British Waterways installed a water tap on the visitor moorings some time ago when the one at Tyrley was out of action, but it’s never worked and wasn’t working today, leaving me with no alternative but to carry on.
Woodseaves cutting is very sheltered and hence almost ice free, but the water point at Tyrley (since repaired) was now frozen. Tyrley locks were ice-free due to the flow, but the lock sides were slippy and I took no chances. This, coupled with the fact that there was now a boat ahead of me meant that it took an hour-and-forty minutes to get down the five locks and I arrived at Market Drayton at 14.00
Wednesday is market day in Drayton, but by the time I got there it was nearly all over, very few customers and the stallholders beginning to pack up so I went back to the boat and took her under the bridge to wind, which I did with some difficulty due to the ice in the winding hole. There are two water taps here: the first one I tried was frozen and I was beginning to get worried about my water supply, but the second was working and I filled all three 5-litre bottles and the 25 litre plastic jerry can.  I ate in then went for a walk round calling in at the Talbot (where it was quiz night), the Kings Head (excellent Barnsley Bitter) and  the Red Lion.

Thursday, 9th February: Market Drayton to Norbury
It wasn’t so cold overnight but there was still a thin skin of ice on the cut in the morning. I waited incase it would either get warmer or that someone else would go through in front but eventually set off around 11.30 after a leisurly breakfast and walk into town for a newspaper.
I reached Tyrley bottom lock at 12.00. No one had been through since yesterday so the locks were all in my favour. The locksides were still slippery though but I did make the passage in an hour-and twenty, considerably faster than yesterday.
Someone had been in front from Tyrley (or maybe it was just the passage I forged on the way up) and the going was so much easier that I decided I could probably get to Norbury. Stopping briefly at Goldstone to make some sandwiches I ate them on the move through what became a cold and miserable afternoon. “Only the idiots out today!” said a boater tied up at Shebdon as I passed. I had to agree. I arrived at Norbury moorings at 16.40 to find, for the fourth time in a row that I couldn’t get on my mooring! The boatyard had been moving boats around and had not left enough space for me between “Holly” and my other neighbour. Fortunately, the lad who has been working on the moorings refurbishment saw my predicament and offered to move my neighbour’s boat up a foot or two so I could get in. Unfortunately, when my neighbour returned he was extremely unhappy that someone had untied his boat – even briefly!
There was no placating him so in the end I walked off and had a shower before going over to the Junction Inn for a meal.

Friday, 10th February: At Norbury
Last night I had noticed some puffs of smoke escaping from the front of the stove when the blower was turned up. The stove rope around both the door and the blower turned out to be in need of replacement. Fortunately we had spares of both ropes aboard (I have no idea when we got them) and it wasn’t a big job to fix them. I wondered whether the CO monitor/alarm had picked up any traces of Carbon Monoxide and discovered that it hadn’t – probably because it had a flat battery! Next I sawed up some logs and kindling and tidied up the boat and then, not wanting any more washing, I went over to the cafe on the wharf for lunch before driving home.

New Friends

2nd – 6th March 2012
Friday, 2nd March: At Norbury
Train to Stafford and then, after lunch in the market cafe, bus to Gnosall and cycle to the boat arriving about 14.00. Spent the afternoon cleaning out the water tank, which was filthy – a mixture of rust, crud and the remains of the paint coating. Stopped about 17.00 and lit fire only to find chimney needed sweeping and, of course, the grate needed cleaning afterwards to remove all the soot that collects on the baffle plate above the fire. Two filthy jobs and no running water on board. Thank goodness for the BW shower block!

Saturday, 3rd March: Norbury to Gnosall
Finishing off the water tank took the rest of the morning then I took Starcross over to the water point. After putting a little water in I switched on the pump – to find a burst pipe under the sink. The lagging had fallen off and I had been unlucky to encounter one of the few really cold days of the winter. I made arrangements with the boatyard to repair it and then went down to Gnosall for the evening, catching a bus into Stafford for a few drinks.

Sunday, 4th March: Gnosall to Stretton
Today I had arranged to meet Sarah and Jim on Chertsey (a large Woolwich working boat) and Bakewell (a converted butty) who moor at Stretton. It was the first time we had met, having got to know of each other through our respective blogs. We got on very well and continued the meeting down at the Swan at Brewood that evening.An excellent day that made up for the trials and tribulations of the previous two!

Monday, 5th March: Stretton to Gnosall
First thing in the morning I moved Starcross across the canal from the boatyard to the towpath side to have breakfast. Later in the morning I moved off back as far as Wheaton Aston, where I washed and polished one side of the boat and had lunch. After tying up at Wheaton Aston I found the engine stop not working. Then I noticed the instrument panel was dead. Suspecting an electrical problem I went to the batteries and fiddled with the toggle switches. When I turned the switches to “off” the panel came back to life and the engine stop worked! Switching them “on” again allowed me to restart the engine and this time I could stop it as well, so I dismissed it as “just one of those things” and carried on to Gnosall – where the same thing happened. However, as I didn’t intend to go any further that night I let things lie.

Tuesday, 6th March: Gnosall to Norbury Junction
The engine started OK, but as soon as I moved off the panel went dead and when I tried it the engine stop wasn’t working either. I tied up and called out River Canal Rescue, who came within the hour and swiftly diagnosed the fault as dirt in a connector box in the line from the battery. A quick squirt of WD40 was all it took (although the engineer did subsequently go off with it in his pocket! I gave the other side of the boat a quick wash and polish and then went off back to Norbury where Hilary picked me up in the car on her way back from Hereford at 16.00.

Spring Sortie to the Staffs & Worcs.

24th March – 1st April 2012
Saturday, 24th March: At Norbury Junction
We had a delayed start to the trip as we had to remain in Lancaster until the afternoon to see a man about our allotment, which we’d been waiting for for almost a year, so it was 16.45 before we arrived at Norbury. The new decking and path on the moorings is finally finished after almost a year! We took the boat up to Grub Street and winded before taking it back to the visitor moorings, which are nearer the road to unload the car. The Junction Inn was advertising a special Mexican food evening so we decided to eat there, only to find that didn’t actually have any Mexican food on! I ended up with Gammon and Chips and Hil had fishcakes. I don’t think I’ll miss the Junction Inn very much.
With the plumbing having been repaired we were able to light the Morco water heater. This can be a pig to get going – it once took me 52 consecutive turns of the switch and it’s usually at its worst after a winter lay-off. But this time it lit first time, which it continued to do all week!

Sunday, 25th March: Norbury Jc to Slade Heath
The clocks went forward this morning, but we were still up at 07.30 and, after breakfast, took Starcross over to the wharf for 61 litres of diesel, elsan fliud, coal, stern-gland grease and a paper, which came to £91 (on a 60/40 declaration). The bill for the plumbing wasn’t ready, which saved a bit of cash. Then we went over to the water point to re-fill the tank after which we were fully set up. We were finally away at 10.45, or at least I was, Hil having opted to go for a run along the towpath as far as Gnosall. We made good progress on a lovely fine afternoon, saying hello to Jim and Sarah on Chertsey as we passed them at Stretton and Adrian on Treskelly, who we saw at Gnosall. Autherley Junction came on schedule at 16.15 and we passed Coven at 17.10, opting to carry on a little bit further as the moorings there were in the shade and finally stopping at Slade Heath where we sat on the towpath for the remainder of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine.

                                                                   Mooring at Slade Heath

Monday, 26th March: Slade Heath to Milford
It was very cold overnight and we awoke to a slight frost. Hil started the day with a run along the towpath whilst I got Starcross underway at 08.40. We were at Gailey Top Lock by 10.10 and found all the locks “against” us.
Following an accident at Stourport, where a young lad lost his life cycling across an unguarded footbridge, British Waterways had been installing “temporary” scaffolding on similar bridges elsewhere to prevent their use until a more permanent solution could be found. Here is the one at Otherton Lock:
We saw the first baby ducklings of the year, a very early brood, at Filance Lock and tied up for a lunchtime and shopping stop at Penkrudge visitor moorings. Hil managed to get her summer weddings outfit at the Hospice charity shop!  Then, after emptying the toilet cassette, we were away by 15.00 and the canal was suddenly busy with boats – we passed a convoy of four coming up the locks as we went down. We stopped for the night at bridge 104, just short of Milford, which was an excellent spot for a piece of stargazing later on, with Mars, Venus and Jupiter all visible along with the crescent moon.
                                                         Hil, stargazing

Tuesday 27th March: Milford to Shirleywich
It was 09.30 before we were away today and we only got as far as Tixall Wide before a morning coffee stop turned into lunch turned into afternoon tea before we finally dragged ourselves away as other boats started to arrive.

                                                                       Tixall Wide
Passing Great Haywood, where we turned on to the Trent & Mersey, we continued for a short distance to a spot between bridges 77 and 78, known as Shirleywich, where we tied up and went for a late afternoon cycle ride through Hixon and towards the reservoir near Abbot’s Bromley but which we had to cut short when Hil’s chain broke. It was warm enough on board this evening not to have to light the fire.

Wednesday, 28th March: Shirleywich to Great Haywood
Change of Plan: The original plan to get to Stone was abandoned in favour of a day’s walking on Cannock Chase. I reversed the 200m to the winding hole and turned whilst Hil went for a morning run along the towpath. We were back at Great Haywood at 11.10 and tied up on the visitor moorings just before the junction. We’d spotted a route to the Chase through some National Trust land, but it turned out to be only accessible from the village end, causing us to have to retrace our steps to the towpath.

         Great Haywood Memorial Hall. The Great war lasted a year longer in Great Haywood!

We followed the towpath to Little Haywood, crossed the river by the old packhorse bridge and walked up past “Seven Springs” onto the Chase, getting slightly lost in the process. Our way back was via the main road and through the grounds of Shuckborough Hall.

Thursday, 29th March: Great Haywood to Penkridge

Our first call this morning was at the water point and we were then away sometime after 09.00 on yet another lovely day. We passed “Columbo II” from Norbury near Tixall. At Tixall Lock BW staff were painting “only the black bits” but these included the lock gate handles so Hil got paint all over her hands!  We reached Deptmore Lock at 11.10 to find another boat in front. Hil was getting a bit tired and fed up by now so we stopped just north of Acton Trussel for an early lunch. Afterwards we set off on our bikes back up onto Cannock Chase, this time visiting the Katyn memorial.

The memorial commemorates Polish officers and civilians murdered by the Russians in World War II, which for many years was blamed on the Germans. It was placed here by the large Polish-exile community in nearby Cannock and Stafford.
Once back at the boat we set off for Penkridge, where we took on water and emptied the cassette before tying up for the night. We went out to check on possible venues for a birthday meal for Hil tomorrow night, but weren’t over-impressed with any of them. We did, however, manage a pint in the Star, which is the best pub in Penkridge.

Friday, 30th March: At Penkridge
Hil’s birthday. After she’d mended a puncture from yesterday we set off to do the southern half of the Chase on an interesting route via Hednesford and the Chase Visitor Centre – which had no visitor information, only a cafe, toilets and cycle hire shop! It was cooler and duller today than of late. The roads were very busy which spolied the enjoyment a little, but we did follow a bridleway to get away from the traffic for a lunch stop. The route led us to the top of the Chase at Pye Corner and past the base of the TV mast that can be seen for miles around, even from the Shroppie. In the evening I cooked Hil’s birthday choice of meal – goat’s cheese on Ryvita followed by a stir fry and bananas in chocolate sauce.

Saturday,31st March: Penkridge to Bridge 7 Moorings
Cold and damp this morning, with a thin drizzle to start the day!  We were away at 09.45 following another boat up the locks, which consequently were all against us. Gailey Top reached at 11.25 after which we ate lunch on the move. Soon we caught up with a slow boat in front and stayed behind all the way to Autherley Junction. The boat was painfully slow, particularly through Pendeford Rockin’  where we had to knock  Starcross out of gear to stay clear.  There was the usual kerfuffle at the junction. We followed the slow boat round the turn – Hil making a perfect job of it – only to have to reverse out as there was a boat waiting to come through the other way above the lock. Hil didn’t make such a good job of her second attempt – although she would have got round if she’d kept her nerve – and we had a little stop at the water point for a “cup of tea”. Afterwards we went on to the rural moorings between bridges 7 and 8 on the Shroppie arriving at 16.00

Sunday, 1st April: Bridge 7 Moorings to Norbury Junction
Hil cleaned up inside as I steered us homewards. We passed Jim and Sarah at Stretton, getting ready for their trip to Droitwich, and were back at Norbury for lunch.

Summer Trip Part One: Norbury to Birmingham

27th April – 1st June 2012
Friday, 27th April:Norbury to Gnosall
Made the journey to Norbury by train to Stoke and the once-daily bus to Norbury village arriving at 15.15 in pouring rain. Called at Norbury Wharf to pick up the keys and say goodbye. Simon (owner) was not there, which was a shame and David (manager) dealt with me. I had to get someone to move two boats so that I could get Starcross out of the arm to the dry dock where she has been since they did some work on the propeller – putting a chamfer on the blades to reduce the noise as recommended by Crowthers.
Stopped at the water point to fill the tank and was planning to tie up on Shelmore embankment and go and say goodbye to a few fellow moorers but there was no room on the moorings. As it’s not very easy to tie up on the embankment itself I gave up that idea and carried on down to Gnosall

Saturday, 28th April: At Gnosall
I dedcided to have a day without moving on. As I needed some shopping I thought I’d get the bus to Wellington and visit the market there that I remembered from a previous occasion. Wellington used to be the principal town of East Shropshire until Telford New Town was built but it doesn’t seem to be doing too badly these days.

On the way back I changed buses in Oakengates, a much smaller town nearer to Telford and which possibly because of that seems rather more run down. It does however have three decent pubs all next to each other in the High Street. One is run by the Ironbridge Brewery, another has a range of beers from small breweries and an unspoiled public bar, whilst the Crown also has a good range of beer supplemented today by a beer festival!


I spent the afternoon back on the boat and that evening was back on the bus this time to Stafford to visit some of my favourite pubs for the last time for a while no doubt. The last bus back to Gnosall is nowhere  near as busy as it used to be now that it leaves just before 11, rather than an hour later!

Sunday 29th April: Gnosall to Brewood.

                                               A very wet and windy Cowley Cutting
Awoke to a very wet and windy morning at Gnosall. Not a day for going anywhere, but I had arranged to meet Jim and Sarah from “Chertsey”, at Brewood this evening. I waited until after lunch when it appeared that the worst had passed but as soon as I left the shelter of Cowley cutting I found that the wind was stronger than ever. I even lost my Tilley hat, blown away despite being tied on and I couldn’t stop to retrieve it as I was passing two moored boats with a third coming up behind and a bridge right ahead at the time!
I reached Brewood by about 16.30 and met Jim and Sarah, with their friend “Hairy Neil” in the Swan that evening.

Monday, 30th April: Brewood to Bridge 54, Staffs & Worcs. Canal

                                     A much better morning at Chillington
What a difference a day makes!  It was warm and sunny this morning and after walking into the village for a paper and polishing the brasses I set off from Brewood about 12.30. I paused at Autherley Junction for a coffee break and then carried on along the Staffs & Worcs. I was in two minds whether or not to stop at Compton, but the visitor moorings were full so that decided that. I remembered that we had moored near bridge 55, north of  Hinksford on our previous trip down this way and found a spot not far from there for the night.

Tuesday, 1st May: Bridge 54 to Wombourne
I am travelling very slowly as I don’t plan to go on to the River Severn for a fortnight, which is just as well as with all the rain we’ve been having it is in flood! It was raining again today and I was glad I only had a short distance to go. I reached The Bratch locks around 10.00 and the lock-keeper said I was the first boat through that day. I felt guilty about dragging him out of his office into the rain but I was grateful for his help in working through.
I got to Wombourne shortly afterwards and stopped for the rest of the day, venturing out later for some shopping and then again for a pint in the “Round Oak” pub (not much good) before tea.

Wednesday, 2nd May: Wombourne to Greensforge
Not actually raining this morning but soon after I’d set off i noticed that the instrument panel was dead and when I tried it the engine stop wouldn’t work either. My first thought was to call out River Canal Rescue but this has happened before and when RCR came all they did was to squirt some WD40 onto one of the connections. So I stopped and tried to do the same, with success. That wasn’t the end of the problems though: after stopping for lunch at Stourton Junction I went inside to find the boat full of smoke! The door to the stove had fallen open. It must have only just happened as the smoke alarm hadn’t gone off and it was only smoke!  I had to open all the doors and windows and sit outside in the well with my lunch until the worst of it had cleared.

                                            Stourton Junction with it’s distinctive signpost

                                     Close-up of the signpost at Stourton Junction
I was away again at 15.00 for the short trip to Greensforge. Walking to the pub later that afternoon I found a charity road race in progress. The runners passed the pub twice in the space of half-an-hour, but I don’t know how long the race was or what it was in aid of.

                                                           The Navigation, Greensforge

Thursday, 3rd May: Greeensforge to Hyde Lock
Another short day so I could afford to wait a while before setting off.  I planned to leave the boat near Kinver but wasn’t sure exactly where so I got the folding bike out and cycled down the towpath. There wasn’t anywhere at Kinver itself – it’s all permit holders or 24-hour only – but I did find a spot just north of Hyde Lock on a wide bend with other boats moored that looked suitable. I was just in the process of tying-up there when the heavens opened and the rain set in for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Friday, 11th May: Hyde Lock to Wolverley
After a week back home in Lancaster I came back to Starcross by catching a bus to Preston, trains to Wolverhampton (changing at Crewe) and buses via Stourbridge to Kinver. Arriving about 16.15 I unpacked, made a cup of tea and then set off towards Wolverley, where I had arranged to meet Dave and Annette in the morning. I was slow going, with most locks against me and no other boats around to help out and it was after 20.00 by the time I got there. I made a quick meal out of a home-made pasty I’d brought with me and then went over to the Lock pub for the “last hour”, as we used to say before the licensing laws were liberalised. The Lock is a nice pub with a good, traditional public bar and Banks’s beers.

Saturday, 12th May: Wolverley to Stourport
The unseasonable weather continued and it had been too cold to sleep properly in the night. So I was up early and able to give the boat a good tidy-up inside and out before my guests for the day, Dave and Annette, arrived. They were walking up the canal from Stourport and I met them below the lock. Dave and Annette have done some boating before so they were happy to work the locks all the way down to Stourport.

                                                              Dave and Annette
We tied up near the Bird in Hand and walked over to their house for lunch. Later I moved Starcross down to the York Street moorings, getting pole position at the end of the line nearest the lock.  That evening there was a blues band on at the Hollybush pub which passed a pleasant hour or two.

Sunday, 13th May: At Stourport
I stayed in Stourport a few days waiting for my next crew member, Ken, who would not be arriving until Wednesday.

                                           The view from the bow at York Street
I had a lazy day: sitting in the front well reading the paper all morning, then listening to the F1 Grand Prix on the radio. The Williams team secured their first win since 2004. F1 is always much more exciting on radio, where you don’t really get the impression of a long line of cars following each other that you see on TV.  I broke off to help a single-hander through the lock down into the basin and later had a walk along the river, past the funfair, partly to check the river level gauge, which was firmly in the green.

Monday, 14th May: At Stourport
A lazy day at the mooring. Helped a few boats through the lock and David Morris came over from Bromyard for lunch and a chat! In the evening Marcus took Dave, Annette and me over to Bewdley for a meal in the Woodcolliers Arms.

Tuesday, 15th May: At Stourport
Took the bus to Worcester to have a look round and see what the mooring situation was as I’ll need to leave Starcross there for a few days. Bus was diverted via Great Witley due to a road closure to the obvious delight of the regulars. In the afternoon I moved down through the lock to the water point and tied up against the basin wall near the old Tontine Hotel. Hil came over for the evening on her way to Hereford.

Wednesday, 16th May: Stourport to Droitwich
Hil left at 09.00 and Ken arrived from Wolverhampton half-an-hour later. Ken helped me get the anchor sorted out and then we moved down through the locks and on to the river.

                                              Ken steering Starcross on the Severn

                                                               Holt Fleet Bridge
The Severn seemed very wide after the narrow canals and a bit scary: I was glad I had Ken with me. The trip, however, was uneventful and we tied up at Hawford – at the junction with the Droitwich Barge Canal – for lunch. The last time I’d been this way, on Gardenia in 1971, the junction was just an indistinct indentation in the river bank. Now the way to Droitwich is clear!

                               Hawford Junction: The Droitwich Barge Canal from the Severn
The Barge Canal is shallow and fringed with reeds. There are very few stopping places and it didn’t help that the guidebook we had showed it as being under restoration. So it was all a bit of an adventure.

                                                               On the Droitwich Barge Canal
Much of the time we didn’t know whereabouts we were and the trip up to Droitwich, with the slow, broad locks, took most of the afternoon and it was 17.30 when we tied up on the visitor moorings at Netherwich Basin. That evening we walked into town for a pint in the Hop Pole, noticing on the way Norbury House, originally a hotel but now converted into flats and looking like something out of a set for a Poirot episode.

                                                                 Norbury House

                                                                         Norbury House

Thursday, 17th May: Droitwich to Worcester
It was raining first thing, but by the time we’d walked over to Waitrose for milk and bread things were looking up a bit. We were through Vines Park, negotiating the swing bridges on the way and soon through the lock into the River Salwarpe that now forms the link to the narrow Droitwich Junction Canal.

                           Vines Park Lock has a swing bridge over the chamber itself!

                                        Canalised section of the River Salwarpe
Next comes the crossing under the M5, which has been achieved by utilising an existing culvert, with very low – and variable – headroom.

                                                    Squeezing under the motorway.
After crossing the motorway the canal rises by means of a new staircase lock, followed by the three locks at Hanbury before joining the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Hanbury Junction, where we turned right for Worcester.

                            New Staircase Locks on the Droitwich Junction Canal
There followed a long descent to Worcester on a warm and humid afternoon. A “Canal Time” (timeshare) boat pulled out of Lowesmoor basin in front of us and we followed it through the next lock excruciatingly slowly as it was the first lock they’d ever done and they were anxious to get it right. We winded Starcross in Diglis Basin and then tied up on the visitor moorings by which time it was 18.00
Friday, 18th May: Diglis to the Blockhouse
A very short trip – just half-a-mile and one lock to take Starcross to a mooring where I hoped she would be safe to be left for the weekend. Ken caught a train up to Birmingham and I got one to Ledbury to meet Hil for a car trip down to Pembrey.

Sunday, 20th May: At the Blockhouse
Hil dropped me off at about 18.00 and then drove home all the way to Lancaster. Later, I walked into Worcester and visited a few pubs including the “Cricketers” and the “Cap & Gown” (Hook Norton).

Monday, 21st May: Worcester to Tibberton
First job of the day was to take the (full) toilet cassette back to the sanitary station at Diglis and empty it! Then into town to re-stock the food cupboards. Mark arrived about 14.00 and we set off shortly a fterwards on a hot and sunny day. We had a quiet run out of Worcester, with a few low pounds that didn’t really cause any problems and tied up at Tibberton at the end of the afternoon. Mark mended a puncture on the folding bike whilst I polished the brasses. I wanted to visit a pub called “Speed the Plough”, which last time I’d called – in 2007 – was virtually unchanged from my previous visit in 1972 (!) but I was too late: a new landlord had had it refurbished (a fact of which he was very proud) and for me, this spoilt it.

Tuesday, 22nd May: Tibberton to Stoke Works
Not away this morning until 10.00 and as we had so much time in hand decided on a second visit to Droitwich, this time using the Junction Canal only. At Hanbury Top Lock Mark knocked a piece of wood marked “Please do not remove from lock” into the cut. At first we couldn’t find it again, but it turned up in the next lock down, so we were able to retrieve and replace it.  We were at Droitwich for lunch and left again about 15.10, this time using the side ponds at two of the three top locks.

                Droitwich High Street: affected by subsidence caused by salt extraction
We carried on up Astwood locks and tied up at Stoke Works at 18.45 being quickly joined by a flotilla of hire boats. We spent the evening in the Boat & Railway.

Wednesday, 23rd May: Stoke Works to Alvechurch
We made an early-ish start at 08.10 to get in front of the hire boats, but needn’t have worried as we saw only a handful of other boats all day. The passage of the six locks at Stoke seemed to take a long time and it was 09.10 at the top, by which time the temperature was already in the mid-20s. Stoke locks are followed almost immediately by the thirty of the Tardebigge flight and these we fairly flew up in 3h 25m, making good use of the folding bike to ensure that the next lock was always ready.

                                         Going up the Tardebigge flight
We soon settled into a steady rhythm and by the top were averaging six minutes a lock. We stopped on the moorings below the top lock for lunch and as it was so hot decided not to go any further for a while. Mark borrowed the bike and went off to look at trains on the Lickey incline, while I had a kip! By 16.45 we were ready to set off again: up the top lock and onto the wharf for water. Then through the Tardebigge and Shortwood tunnels and on to Alvechurch arriving 19.00. An attempt to find the two pubs in Alvechurch village was abandoned due to not having taken a map with us and we settled for the Weighbridge, which was OK

Thursday, 24 May: Alvechurch
Mark left on the 10.02 from Alvechurch station, which is situated next to the canal. I tidied the boat up a bit, had lunch and then left on a bus to Birmingham and trains home via Manchester.

Monday, 28th May: Alvechurch to Hopwood
Arrived back at Alvechurch by train early afternoon, where Starcross had been on a 48-hr mooring for over 4 days! Neighbouring boat was “Jandai”, which I’d last seen in Stourport. They’d turned round there not wanting to wait for the Severn to come out of flood and were still heading for the Droitwich, so I was able to brief them. I had a short cruise up to Hopwood on a hot, sunny afternoon arriving at 16.10. I tied up just past the winding hole and, after tea, walked over to the Hopwood House Inn. It had had yet another make-over and is now very food-oriented. The beer quality wasn’t very high either, so I left after one pint.

Thursday, 29th May: Hopwood to Birmingham

                                                             Cambrian Wharf
Up early and away by 08.30 and became the first boat of the day through Wast Hills Tunnel, but then met a steady stream of boats coming out of Brum. I stopped briefly at Holliday Wharf so that I could walk up and check if there was room on the 14-day moorings at Cambrian Wharf. There was, so I immediately moved Starcross there. I had thought it would be a good idea to base myself at Cambrian Wharf during my stay in Brum, but when I returned from an afternoon walk around the city I found that the pub that overlooks the moorings was very noisy, so I moved round to Oozells Street instead.

Thursday, 31st May: Birmingham
Last night I’d noticed that Jubilee, new boat of blogger Halfie, tied up opposite. This morning he called round to say hello. We’d been following each other’s blogs for some time, but had never actually met before.
In the afternoon I fulfilled a long-term ambition to ride all the way around the Birmingham Outer Circle bus route! It takes over three hours, even if you do it on one bus, which I didn’t – breaking the journey several times.  That evening, just as I was about to go to bed there was a knock on the cabin side: “Your ropes have been cut” said the caller: and so had everyone else’s!  Actually only one of mine had been damaged but some of the other boats had lost both.  We were soon all tied up again and the police called, as it was a bit scary to think that there was someone on the towpath with a knife sharp enough to do such damage.

B C N Marathon Challenge

Friday, 1st June: Birmingham
After last night’s trouble I moved Starcross round to Oozells Street, which is more secluded and has the benefit of CCTV and regular security patrols. I found myself behind narrowboat “Tacet”, so went and introduced myself to Ian and Karen, with whom I would be doing the BCN Marathon Challenge over the weekend. We met the rest of the crew that evening over a meal – a diverse group of all ages, some experienced boaters and some newcomers all brought together by James and Amy of narrowboat “Lucky Duck”  The Challenge is designed to promote the lesser-used sections of the Birmingham Canal Navigations. Competitors must travel for 24 hours over a thirty hour period with points being awarded for each lock and each mile travelled, weighted to reflect the degree of perceived difficulty of each section.

Saturday, 2nd June: Birmingham to Pelsall
The challenge began at 08.00. Collingwood was at the top of Farmers Bridge locks – but without the steerer! After a few minutes wondering what to do the crew bow-hauled it into the top lock to await his return.  With a crew of 12, once we had a steerer again we flew down the flight and on to Bordesley Jc and Garrison Locks.
                                                Farmer’s Bridge Locks
We turned left at Salford Junction onto the Tame Valley Canal and up Perry Barr locks

                                                    Perry Barr Top Lock
Then on to the Rushall Canal and Daw End Branch and up to the coal wharves before Anglesey Basin, before turning bac k onto the Wyrley & Essington. At Pelsall Jc we turned onto the Cannock Extension Canal for a side trip to Norton Canes and back before refvesing to the pub near Pelsall Junction, tying up at 22.00

Sunday, 3rd June: Pelsall to Birmingham
A day of unremitting rain. Away at 05.05 along the Wyrley, turning right at Horseley Fields to visit Broad Street depot for drinking water (no tank on board, just a few storage drums). Then back along the Old Main Line and down Brades on to the New Main Line and back via Oozells Street loop. I spent most of the day on the back keeping the steerer, Graham Wigley, company and getting soaked in the process.  Boats were supposed to finish the day at Walsall, but that wasn’t possible for us as Collingwood had to go back to Gas Street so after tying up Ian, Karen and I got the train up to Walsall and met a few of the other competitors in the Blackcountryman pub.

Monday, 4th June: Birmingham
Spent the day in Birmingham recovering from the weekend!
Tuesday, 5th June: Birmingham

Visited the bus museums at Wythall and Aston Manor (now at Aldridge) making use of the free bus service provided by the two museums.

Summer Trip Pt 2: Birmingham to Boston
6th June - 14th July

Wednesday, 6th June: Birmingham to Bodymoor Heath
Ken Harrop arrived 10.25 and we set off down Farmer’s Bridge locks again at 11.00, following the same route as on Collingwood to Salford Junction. On the way at Ashted locks Ken found a superb “long-throw” windlass, which he left with me on Starcross. Following a long-held ambition we did the “Typhoo Arm” at Warwick Bar, much to the surprise of two locals on the towpath. The arm doesn’t go very far, just under one bridge and then to a basin where you can wind. It’s not the most exciting bit of canal in the world, but it has to be done at least once! I suppose a fair few boats must do it as the channel was deep and clear.

                                                         Typhoo Basin
We got to Salford Junction at 15.15 and then met with torrential rain on then Minworth flight. It was so bad that we stopped for a while above the bottom lock and under a road bridge to wait for it to ease.

                                   Sheltering from the rain above Minworth bottom lock
There was more rain all the way down Curdworth locks and a lit the fire so as to dry out our clothing. We came across a drunken cyclist at Bodymoor Heath crashed out on the towpath. He declined any offer of help, but lay there in the rain for quite a long time before wandering off.

Thursday, 7th June: Bodymoor Heath to Alrewas
It was raining again this morning but we took advantage of a brief dry spell to set off. The rain began again after we had passed Fazeley Junction and turned on to the  Coventry Canal. The steam-powered narrowboat Emily Anne was seen at Streethay.
We stopped at Whittington for lunch and the rain was so bad we considered stopping there the rest of the day, even going so far as to walk to the bus stop to check bus times for Ken to get away in the morning. However by the time we’d done that we decided we were so wet that we might as well carry on. Then the rain got worse!  Unsurprisingly, Fradley Junction was very quiet and we tied up above the lock at Alrewas at 17.45 very very wet. Once again I had to light the fire to dry our clothes out.

Monday, 11th June: Alrewas to Shobnall
After a weekend at home I returned to the boat by lunchtime and did some shopping before meeting Hugh off the bus from Burton at 14.43. We were away by 15.15 and, once again, it started to rain. This section of canal is not particularly enjoyable as it runs alongside the noisy A38 and I was glad to tie up at Shobnall at 18.15.

                                                  View from the bow at Shobnall
Tuesday, 12th June: Shobnall to Shardlow
Set off 10.30 on a cool but dry morning. The first few miles were again uninspiring: dull countryside spoilt by road noise. Things got better after Swarkestone with better views and even a glimpse of a distant Charnwood Forest. We shared Shardlow lock with a boater just taking her boat back to Swanley Marina having been delayed by flooding on the Trent at the weekend. Little did we know it but we had picked just about the only couple of days to navigate the Trent that it had been – or would be – open for some time. We were also lucky to get the last space on the moorings in Shardlow even though that meant being jammed on the corner outside the New Inn and the Malt Shovel pubs.

                                                                Mooring at Shardlow

Wednesday, 13th June: Shardlow to Langley Mill
A pre-breakfast start at 08.00 but still shared Derwent Mouth lock with another boat. River levels were still high and Sawley Flood Lock was in use. The turn into the Erewash Canal at Trent Lock can be tricky at the best of times, especially with a strong flow on the Trent and I was just lined up nicely when I spotted two boats leaving the lock!  It was “hard astern” to avoid a collision but we managed it. We shared Trent Lock with “Me’ander” which was also heading up the Erewash crewed by a liveaboard couple who’d be on the cut for five years. We had to stop for breakfast, but we caught them up after their lunch stop and stayed with them all the way to Langley Mill. The broad locks on this canal were very slow to fill and were fitted with handcuff keys. The bridges are also very low and in the end I took the chimney and water can off the roof.

                                                   Typical Erewash Canal Lock
The rain started at 16.00 and continued all the way to the end of the canal at Great Northern Basin. Technically the last lock is lock one of the Cromford Canal and a junction is made above it with the Nottingham, but neither of these canals is navigable any further.

                                            Great Northern Basin, Langley Mill
.Langley Mill is a bit of a sad place but the Great Northern pub at the basin offered a surprisingly good pint of Greene King IPA!

Thursday, 14th June: Langley Mill to Beeston
Hugh had to get away for a lunchtime train from Nottingham so we made an early start at 05.10, poling the boat into the lock to avoid disturbing the crew of Me’ander. We had a good run down the valley and the views were a bit more open coming this way

                                         Erewash Canal near Sandiacre
As there had been no other traffic since yesterday all the locks were in our favour, except – inexplicably – one. Two visits had to made to the weedhatch, one of these being when we had to wait for a 70ft-er to wind in front of us at a boatyard near Long Eaton.  We made a quick toilet/water stop at Trent Lock and then headed down the Trent to Beeston.

                                  Approaching Beeston Lock from the Trent
We mad a good run down the river and I was slowly getting used to deeper and wider waters. We were through Beeston lock at 12.50 and I swiftly tied up on the water point so that Hugh could get away and make a dash to the station for his train. Then I moved over to the 14-day moorings and tied up properly and went for a lie-down (well, we had been on the go since 0500). Later, I walked up into the town centre and found a greengrocer/fishmonger so it was hake and strawberries for tea!

Friday, 15 June: Beeston to Castle Marina, Nottingham
More heavy rain in the night, but it had stopped by morning. I spent the morning doing a few jobs including clearing out under the counter – which has become a sort of storage area/dumping gound – and checking the batteries. The sun then came out, so after lunch I headed off to Castle Marina, where I had booked Starcross in for seventeen nights, whilst I went back home and then on holiday.
Just as I was arriving at the marina there was a terrific thunderstorm, so I quickly tied up on the towpath outside and sat it out before going to book in. The turn in from the Beeston direction was quite tricky and I also had to manoeuvre onto my allocated berth, which was at the far end of the moorings. Despite the rain, which had returned, I did go into town and visit a few pubs (well, it was Friday night).

Monday, 2nd July: At Nottingham
I returned to Nottingham after a fortnight away, during which Hil and I had been cycling from Banbury down to Christchurch to Hil’s nephew’s wedding. We then cycled across to my mum and dad’s in west Wales before taking the train back to Lancaster. A journey not without incident and which you can read about here.
I got to Castle Marina just as it started to rain so waited a while before taking Starcross over to the fuel pump and taking on 90 litres of diesel. I also treated myself to two new ropes, to replace the back one that had been cut in Birmingham and the front, which was overlong. I was surprised – and pleased – to be given “moorer’s discount” of 10% and the cost came to £136.
After shopping in the canalside supermarket I ate on board after which it was too wet to go out until well after 20.30 when I caught a bus into the city and sampled the live jazz at “The Bell” in the market square.

Tuesday, 3rd July: Nottingham to Newark

                                       Starcross from Carrington Street Bridge
For once it was not raining as I took Starcross out of the marina and down through Castle Lock to tie up just above Carrington Bridge in the city centre. The boat in fron (a cruiser) casually left both bottom gates of the lock open behind him, even though he could clearly see I was waiting to come through! Bernard was arriving by bus at 12.15 and by 12.30, after getting the anchor ready and deploying my lifejacket, we were ready to set off for the Trent. Contractors were working on Meadow Lane Lock and had rigged up a gantry across the chamber to carry buckets overhead. After we had negotiated this we then found a widebeam boat waiting to come on on the lock landing below, which made getting Bernard back on board interesting to say the least – although to be fair a crew member at the lock had given him the option of getting on before leaving.  Our arrival at Holme lock was unexpected, but after that we were “in the system” and all the locks were made ready for us by the friendly lock-keepers.
                                                                Gunthorpe Bridge
Progress downstream was swift and we were soon passing under Gunthorpe Bridge. Gunthorpe’s lockie wanted to know where we intended stopping for the night. Our first thought had been Fiskerton, where our Nicholson’s Guide showed a mooring, but we were firmly advised that stopping there was not an option “despite what your guide book says” and so we decided to carry on to Newark, even though we’d be arriving after the lock-keeper had knocked-off for the night.

                                                           Newark Town Lock
In the event it was 17.30 when we arrived. Bernard got into a muddle working the lock and at one stage managed to have both sets of paddles open at the same time! Once through, we then had to wind to tie up. The channel below the lock is narrow and the river was fast-flowing, so the turn was not without excitement – we got a bit too close to the bridge for comfort – but in the end we were safely moored alongside the wall opposite the castle.

                                       View from the mooring at Newark
Wednesday, 4th July: At Newark.
We spent the day in Newark.  Wednesday is market day and also Auction Day The Auction reminded me a bit of  “Antiques Roadshow” with queues of people waiting to see the auctioneer, except that objects waiting to be valued were worth rather less – often only £1 or 50p being reached in the auction.

                                                             Newark Auction
                                                 The Auctioneer
The main market is held in the market square, which was very busy.
                                                    Newark Market
After a day spent wandering around the town we returned to the boat for a meal before venturing out again to try a couple of pubs, but being a mid-week evening they were very quiet.

Thursday 5th July: Newark to Saxilby
Heavy rain woke me up at 06.00 this morning, but there was no rush to get away as yesterday when I ‘phoned the lock-keeper at Cromwell I was told to be there for 11.00 to lock through onto the tidal section of the Trent. It wasn’t until 09.00 that we set off, in lighter rain, and because the ‘keeper at Newark Nether lock didn’t know we were coming the lock was still on self-operation, although he turned up half-way through to assist. At Cromwell we were first of four boats booked to go through. Due to the low tide and the large amount of fresh water in the river we were told not to expect much help from the tide, which indeed proved to be the case.
Cromwell lock is enormous, even with half of it closed off by intermediate gates, by far the largest I’ve been through on Starcross.

                                        Starcross leads the way out of Cromwell Lock
We were soon overtaken by two of the convoy, although “Matilda”, with its Aussie skipper, stayed behind all the way to Torksey. On arrival we found the lock not ready for us and Bernard had to go and find the ‘keeper to let us through. Torksey lock is very interesting with a plethora of gates, windlasses and capstans all manually operated.

                                                                           Torksey Lock

After penning through we pulled over to the water point to top up the tank before setting off along the Fossdyke Navigation. I’ve wanted to see the Fossdyke ever since I first got interested in canals in the 1960s and I wasn’t disappointed.  After an initial section through Torksey lined with moored cruisers it is straight, wide and lined with high banks and passes through flat and featureless countryside – just what I’d expected!

                                         First view of the Fossdyke near Torksey
We arrived at Saxilby at 16.30 and just managed to get one of the last vacant moorings that lie opposite the High Street. Beranrd and I set off to locate the bus stop for his journey home tomorrow and on the way getting caught in a torrential rainstorm that necessitated an urgent visit to the pub!  After that I had the remains of last night’s casserole for tea but Bernard preferred to get himself some fish and chips! (A comment on my cooking, perhaps?).

Friday, 6th July: At Saxilby
Bernard left on the 09.30 bus to Newark after we had eventually found the correct stop. Lincolnshire County Council, who maintain the bus stops in Saxilby, do a very good job at publicising local services but completely ignore the Newark buses, presumably because they run under contract to Nottinghamshire!
After that it rained solidly and heavily all day. I didn’t need to go out again for supplies so I just stayed on the boat all day.

Saturday, 7th July: At Saxilby
Whilst at Saxilby I had planned a day out on the buses. I hadn’t done it on Friday because of the rain so was going to go today, but when I got up I found that the towpath was flooded to the extent that I had to use the plank to get to the bank. Although it had now stopped raining I wasn’t sure how much further the water would come up so decided not to go very far from the boat, contenting myself with a walk around the village. After lunch a boat moored just behind moved off and I was able to pull Starcross back onto a less-flooded area of the moorings. In one of the village’s pubs that night I found that the flooding was caused by the River Till, which enters the Fossdyke just below Saxilby and causes water in the canal to back up whenever it is in spate.

                                                  Flooded moorings at Saxilby
Sunday, 8th July: At Saxilby
The water level had fallen during the night and continued to do so until the gangplank was no longer required. I’d noticed a place called “Odder” on the map so thought I’d cycle over there to visit it. Sadly there was no road sign to photograph – and not much else there either. I carried on round to Torksey Lock, where the water level in the Trent had risen so that the flood gates had had to be closed and the landing stage that Bernard had used on Thursday was underwater.

                              View of the Trent in Flood from Torksey Lock
Monday, 9th July:  Saxilby to Lincoln
It was raining yet again this morning, but by now I’d had enough of Saxilby so untied and moved on to the Pyewipe. The Pyewipe is described in all the guides as an isolated canalside inn. Isolated that is apart from the adjacent railway and A46 viaduct. The “distant views towards Lincoln”  show mainly several blocks of flats to the north of the city and the “inn” includes a restaurant and conference centre! Not quite what I was expecting.
The rain had stopped by mid-day so I walked into Lincoln to check the mooring possibilities there and have a look at the flow of the river through the “glory hole”. The Canal & River Trust had just been launched to take over from British Waterways and I was approached by a “charity mugger” who tried to persuade me of the virtues of the new trust, but didn’t want to talk about the apparent shortage of visitor moorings in Lincoln.  I did notice that there was at least one space on the small stretch of moorings above Brayford Pool so walked back to the Pyewipe and brought the boat back to Lincoln – in the rain.
Tuesdsay, 10th July: At Lincoln
Yet another wet and miserable day. I decided on a bus tour of north Lincolnshire via Scunthorpe, Barton-on-Humber, Grimsby and Louth. Unfortunately, the bus from Grimsby to Louth was very late so I had far too much time in Grimsby and not enough in Louth! I spent another evening on the boat and it was so cold that I had to wear a fleece after 21.00.
Wednesday, 11th July: At Lincoln
Mark arrived on the train at 12.21, before which I’d done a bot of shopping in the market and the Co-Op. The Lincoln Co-Op has its own members’ card and so doesn’t accept the “national” one. When asked by the check-out staff whether I had a members’ card I took to responding “No, I’ve only got one that is valid everywhere else”.

The Glory Hole is a short section of the River Witham flowing through the city centre and is a tricky place when the river is in flood.

                                                          The Glory Hole
It is controlled by a system of traffic lights: green for “proceed”, red for “proceed with caution” and flashing red for “closed”. During my time at Lincoln it had been alternating between green and red, but today it was flashing red and remained so all day. Mark and I therefore spent the afternoon looking round Lincoln and the evening trying out a few pubs, with mixed success.
Thursday, 12th July: Lincoln to Kirkstead Bridge
It was sunny again (two days in a row!) but the glory hole was still closed. But at 10.30 a boat came through from that direction and the steerer reported the light was now green. We didn’t just take his word for it but went to check, but he was right. I suppose it took us about half-an-hour to get away and across the Brayford Pool and by this time the light had returned to red (caution). We carried on anyway but I saw why caution was needed as the current takes you round a sharp bend faster that you’d expect and you have little time to straighten-up before the bridge.

                                                                Stamp End Lock
There was a slight delay at Stamp End Lock. The lock is electrically operated and the top guillotine gate is interlocked with the bottom paddles. At first we couldn’t get it to open and a young Polish man fishing at the other end told us the lock was “broken” and that “special men” were coming to look at it!  However, I noticed that one of the bottom paddles wasn’t fully closed and as soon as I closed it we were able to open the top gate and pen through. The crew of a boat waiting to come up were rather surprised as they had taken the Polish lad at his word and also hadn’t realised that the red light on the lock was for the Glory Hole rather than the lock itself.

                                                   River Witham near Washingborough

The Witham is a wide, straight and slow-flowing river and sparsely-trafficed. We made good progress downstream and there was no sign of the weed that had apparently plagued the navigation the previous year. There are very few features and very few places to stop, although a few mooring pontoons have been provided recently.  The first settlement of any size is Bardney and at the approach to the lock there we met up with Meand’er again, with whom we’d shared the Erewash.

                                                                        Bardney Lock
Bardney is the only lock between Lincoln and Boston but the swing-bridge over it is no longer used. We carried on to Kirkstead Bridge, arriving at 15.45. There are two pubs here one on either bank. That on the west side was nothing special but the Railway sold an excellent pint of Bateman’s.  One of the summer’s few really good sunsets occurred here.
Sunset at Kirkstead Bridge

Friday, 13th July: Kirkstead Bridge to Boston
A late start  -and a cloudy day again after the last two sunny ones. We were soon passing the entrance to Kymes Eau and giving it the once-over for a possible visit on the way back. This section of the Witham consists of long, straight stretches and high banks, but it's not unpleasant in it's own way.
We stopped for lunch at Anton's Gowt, where a lock gives access to the Witham Navigable Drains. As the name suggests these are primarily intended for drainage but are available for boats to use. In the planning stage of this trip I had considered exploring at least some of them, but to be honest, they didn't look too inviting and with all the recent rain the already restricted headroom under the bridges would have been a problem. Instead we contented ourselves with an exploration of the entrance lock.
Anton's Gowt Lock, Witham Navigable Drains

Afterwards we both cycled into Boston to have a look at the mooring possibilities. We also cycled down to Boston Docks to have a look around and whilst we were there it came on to rain! We made our way back to Anton's Gowt and took Starcross down to Boston, tying-up at 18.00 and spent the evening touring the pubs of Boston (a mixed bunch!).

Saturday, 14th July: At Boston
Mark left on the train home and I spent the day in Boston, visiting the market
Boston street market

and the Maud Foster working windmill
Maud Foster Mill
Tours of the mill are self-guided and very informal. Unfortunately it wasn't actually working, due to the lack of wind, but you can get right up close to the machinery and fathom out how it operates.
Summer Trip: Pt 3. Boston to Nottingham  15th July - 17th August

Sunday, 15th July: Boston to Langrick Bridge
I had hoped to be able to leave Starcross in Boston for a week but the lockie was adamant that the 5-day limit had to be adhered to and I'd already been there two. Even so, I did plan to stay today but the constant roar of a nearby boater's generator, which had been going all day until midnight yesterday and had started up again this morning made me think again.
Mill machinery
Firstly though I did take a walk down to the Grand Sluice to see it in action to allow the "Boston Belle" trip boat into the harbour. Infortunately it was a private charter rather than a public trip so I had to content myself with a few photos.
The Boston Belle in Grand Sluice lock
The generator was still running when I got back so I upped sticks and left making my way up to Langrick Bridge for the evening.

Monday, 16th July: Langrick Bridge to Dogdyke
After yesterday's sun the low cloud and rain returned today with a vengeance. My plans to reconnoiter Kyme Eau were scuppered due to a flat tyre on the folding bike which in attempting to mend I had disabled the hub gears! Even so, I thought I'd give it a go, especially as I had missed out the Navigable Drains. The Eau is a tributary of the Witham that was originally navigable as far as Sleaford. It fell into disrepair and a section of it was restored relatively recently. After a 09.30 start I reached the Eau at 11.15.
After branching off the main river you pass through a set of rather intimidating flood gates, marking the point of no return - or so it seems.
Floodgates on Kyme Eau
 Immediately I began to wonder if I'd done the right thing. The channel was narrow and shallow. The flow, however, with all the recent rain was very strong and the propeller soon became choked with weed. The first mile-and-a-half took an hour-and-a-half, after which I reached the bottom lock.
Bottom - or Taylor's - Lock, Kyme Eau

The top guillotine gate is manually-operated: not heavy but required many, many turns of the windlass. After emerging from the lock and stopping on the lock-landing to close it behind me I had to make a sharp getaway to avoid being carried towards the weir that the lock bypasses. It was still raining and still very slow going. Although I had cleared the prop in the lock it soon fouled again. By now I was more than ready for lunch and in view of the lack of progress and the weather had decided to stop at South Kyme, the major settlement on the navigation just a mile or so ahead.
But I didn't get there!  Just short of the village I was brought to a stop by a warning barrier under a low bridge.
Low bridge ahead
The barrier was warning of the next bridge and although these warnings are often on the pessimistic side there was no way to get off the boat and go forward to investigate. Neither was there anywhere to turn round!  I had no option but to reverse along the Eau - not easy in a strong stream - for about a kilometre to where I had spotted an inlet in the bank that looked as if it might serve as a winding hole. Fortunately it did - I reversed Starcross into it and the current at once took the front end round and we were off back down to the Witham.
Winding on Kyme Eau
Progress downstream was much better with the water behind me but arrival at the lock was tricky. It was necessary to keep power on to counteract the current pulling towards the weir until the last minute and then attempt to stop before hitting the lock gate, which I did partly-successfully! Once back on the Witham I made my way up to Dogdyke for a much delayed lunch. The only pub in the village could offer only John Smiths bitter, which I thought was poor reward for such a day!

Tuesday 17th July: Dogdyke to Tattershall Bridge
Not raining for once, this morning, but a constant stream (scream) of RAF Tornado fighter/bombers from RAF Coningsby overhead. Eventually I took the folding bike to cycle up there and have a look at where they were coming from. What I found was the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight: a collection of WWII aircraft, including Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster Bomber.
I joined the guided tour and it soon became obvious that are guide was dragging the tour out and trying to kill time. Eventually he admitted that the Lancaster was due to take off and if we hung around we could get close to the action.
Lancaster bomber awaiting take-off at Coningsby

Afterwards I cycled over to Coningsby village and had lunch alongside the remains of the Horncastle Canal and then back to Dogdyke via "New York"
New York Village
Back at the boat by 16.30 I untied and moved on to Tattershall Bridge for a change of scene and a pint of Batemans in the Royal Oak.

Wednesday 18th July: At Tattershall Bridge
Today I decided to follow up the World War II connection by walking up to Woodhall Spa and visiting the Packwood Hotel, which was used as the Officers Mess by the "Dambusters" or 617 squadron. One bar has been left as it was in those days as a memorial.
Packwood Hotal, Woodhall Spa

The rest of Woodhall Spa is interesting also. A Victorian Spa town in a forest surrounded by miles of flat, bare, Lincolnshire arable fields. Another feature is the "Kinema in the Woods" a very early (1920s) cinema still going strong and showing the latest films (unfortunately nothing I wanted to see).
The Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa
Instead I walked back to the boat although not without difficulty as part of the road had flooded and the Fire Brigade were in attendance.  It was, of course, raining.

Thursday, 19th July: Kirkstead Bridge to Lincoln
It was raining again this morning so I decided to carry on all the way to Lincoln. Leaving the mooring at 10.30 I made good progress upstream at nearly 4mph. At Bardney Lock I took on water and emptied the toilet cassette and then embarked on the rather weedy stretch up towards Lincoln.
I stopped for a late-ish lunch at the Fiskerton Fen moorings and had a walk around the nature reserve here. The rain had stopped and it was quite sunny. After another fast run up river and a trouble-free passage of Stamp End Lock I tied up on the river section between the lock and the Glory Hole at 17.00.

Friday, 20th July: At Lincoln
I was intending to leave the boat in Lincoln for a few days but first of all I was going to have a day in the city. It was, naturally, cold and wet! I walked uphill to the Castle and took the guided tour, which was good although there isn't a lot to see and the best bit is the view of the Cathedral from the ramparts! I had a look at the bits of the Cathedral that you can see for nothing - basically the nave - but didn't pay to see the rest. 
After tea I did an evening crawl of the pubs. There was poor beer in the CAMERA-recommended Dog & Bone, but elsewhere things were OK.

Saturday, 21st July: Lincoln
Left the boat and came home by train via Newark, Leeds and Preston. 

Thursday, 26th July: Lincoln to Saxilby
A poor journey back to the boat. A signal failure meant that no trains were leaving Lancaster and I had to abandon plans to return via Skipton to Leeds. Eventually I got on a train to Preston and after a further delay another to Manchester. There I changed my plans again and abandonned the advance ticket I'd bought from Leeds to go instead via Sheffield eventually arriving at 15.06.
After leaving my luggage at the boat I walked up the hill to the cathedral to return and exchange an angel I'd bought for Hil becuase the chain was rusty.
Back at the boat, I untied at 16.30 and moved back through the Glory Hole to the rather less glorious sanitary station. After that I carried on back to Saxilby and just got the last mooring spot, arriving at 18.30.
I had an early evening pint in the Sun Inn and then sat in the well listening to the radio and reading until 23.00 - one of the few days this summer when the weather has been good enough to do so.

Friday, 27th July: Saxilby to Newark
Bernard arrived on the train at 10.34 and we set off shortly afterwards up to Torksey. I had previously arranged with the lockie to be there for 14.00 to catch the tide, but we arrived in time for lunch before moving up to join the convoy of three narrowboats and a cruiser all heading up the Trent.
The upstream convoy in Torksey Lock
Bang on 14.00 we were admitted to the lock, penned through and away up to Cromwell Lock. The three narrowboats were ahead of me and the cruiser soon overtook so before long we were dropping behind. I increased speed to try and keep at least one boat in sight, but this was a mistake as the engine temperature started to rise and eventually the overheat warning buzzer sounded!  Not sure of what best to do I slowed down until we were barely making progress. After about ten minutes the buzzer went off and after another ten I gradually increased speed and rang the lock-keeper at Cromwell to say we were way behind the others. 
Shortly afterwards we got something round the prop! This time I had to switch off and make a mad dash for the weed-hatch and remove the offending article (only weed) before the tide and current drove us aground. We eventually reached Cromwell Lock at 18.30 after a four-and-a-half hour run. Not that our adventures were over! Shortly after leaving Cromwell we were hailed from a small cabin-cruiser tied up to some trees on the bank. They had stopped for a while and then been unable to re-start their engine.
After a fruitless attempt to jump start it, we tied in alongside and took it to Newark, where its home mooring was.
Vic and Royna of the Laggan Lass
It was well after dark by the time we tied up at Newark Quay and we hadn't eaten, but Vic and Royna bought us a drink before we went for a well-earned curry.

Saturday, 28th July: Newark to Nottingham
Despite a long day yesterday, we were up and away by 0715,sharing Town Lock with another early riser. We made a slowish run up the Trent and were overtaken - or met - a succession of interesting river-going craft.
"Dutch" barge on the Trent
Former naval tender

Dinghy racing at Holme Pierrepoint
Double-decker trip boat
As well as the above, we passed three "working" narrowboats including Bath and Petrel just before Meadow Lane Lock.  By 16.30 we were back at Nottingham city centre and I dropped Bernard off for his bus home before continuing up Castle Lock, which I shared with a small cruiser. On the way down I had paid £10 a night to leave Starcross at Castle Marina for seventeen nights but now I decided that she would be equally safe left on the towpath outside for nothing, whilst I went back to Lancaster for a few days.

Thursday, 2nd August: Nottingham
I had been down in Pembrey (South Wales) for a few days and called in at Nottingham on the way back north. The public moorings outside Castle Marina are excellent with convenient pubs and shops nearby (with toilets) and a good bus service into town.

Friday, 3rd August: Nottingham to Beeston
I took Starcross up to Beeston in then morning and got the last available space on the moorings there. Then I got a bus back into the city to retrieve the car before driving back through the Peak District to Lancaster. The moorings at Beeston appeared every bit as "safe" a place to leave a boat as those in Nottingham and I had no qualms about leaving Starcross there for ten days or so.

Tuesday, 14th August: At Beeston
Returned to the boat by train to Manchester and buses to Buxton, Ashbourne and Derby. 

Wednesday, 15th August: At Beeston
As if yesterday's bus trip wasn't enough, today I had another bus ride to Loughborough, a place I used to visit regularly when I had friends living there in the 1980s. In the evening I got a train from Beeston station over to Derby for a few drinks in some of my favourite pubs (Derby Brewery Tap, Exeter Arms, Alexandra Arms and the Brunswick).

Thursday, 16th August: Beeston to Nottingham
It was time to move on from Beeston, but I didn't want to go on the river just yet, so I winded and went back to Nottingham. In the afternoon I took advantage of a dry day to retouch some of the paintwork on the roof handrail, which gets worn away by the centre rope.

Friday, 17th August: Nottingham
With the boat now legally-moored for another week I returned to Manchester by bus and on to Lancaster by train.

Summer Trip Pt 4: Nottingham to Etruria
25th August - 18th September 

Saturday, 25th August: Nottingham
Hil and I drove down from Lancaster in sometimes torrential rain, which became a thunderstorm just after we'd arrived. I took the boat into Castle Marina for diesel and gas and was surprised - and pleased - when the staff remembered me from my stay in June and even gave me the 10% "moorer's discount"!

Saturday, 26th August: Nottingham to Aston-upon-Trent
First job was to take the car to Beeston and then cycle back to the boat. After elevenses on board we set off back to Beeston, this time by boat. First call there was the sanitary station and while I did the necessary, Hil went to prepare the lock. She'd just got it ready when another boat turned up, so I waved him in thinking we could share. However he was already travelling with another boat, which now turned up behind so I felt obliged to let that one in as well, thoroughly confusing Hil to whom I hadn't been able to explain what was going on.
There was still quite a strong stream on the Trent so our progress was slow and we ate lunch on the way. Trent Lock was very busy and the volunteer lockies at Sawley were just about to knock-off for the day at 16.00 when we got there.
The intention had been to stop for the night at Shardlow, but although there was space on the moorings a very loud pop concert was taking place nearby - probably at the marina, so we pushed on to nearly Aston on Trent and arranged for Ian Brown to come over and join us there for the evening. Unfortuantely we assumed he would have eaten and he assumed we were going to feed him - a problem only made worse by neither of the village's pubs serving food, but we did manage to rustle him something up for supper in the end.

Monday, 27th August: Aston on Trent to Swarkestone
Hil gathered blackberries on the towpath this morning whilst I gave the brasses a polish. We set off around 10.30 up to Weston lock, where we'd arranged to meet Ian (again) and Suzanne. Aston lock was very difficult to work. Hil couldn't get the bottom gates closed on her own and I had to leave the boat and assist. Then the top paddles were very stiff and hard to raise. After we'd got through she peddled off to the farm shop in Weston-upon-Trent and I carried on with Starcross.
We met up again below Weston lock, which we were able to share with another boat. Ian and Suzanne hadn't arrived so we thought we'd take water while we waited for them. The water point here is on the lock landing (!) which caused a few problems, but we were there legitimately!  
Ian and Sue arrived after about half-an-hour and we set off - just as it began to rain again - towards Swarkestone. We shared the lock there with a boat that had been waiting for someone to turn up and then tied up on the visitor moorings above for lunch. In the afternoon we cycled over to Melbourne Hall and back via Swarkestone Causeway, just before which I got a puncture and had to walk the rest of the way back.
Ian and Sue dropped Hil off at Beeston on their way home so that she could collect our car.

Tuesday, 28th August: Swarkestone
Hil left about 11.00 after which I walked up to Chellaston partly along the former towpath of the abandoned Derby Canal.
Towpath of former Derby Canal
 I found a Co-op to do some shopping and waited over 20 minutes for a bus back after which I gave up and walked. After lunch I washed and polished one side of Starcross and fitted some new gasket tape on the weedhatch. In the evening I walked over to the village for another look at Swarkestone Bridge and the medieval causeway that takes the road over the flood plain of the River Trent.
Swarkestone Bridge
Swarkestone Causeway
 Swarkestone has another claim to fame. "Bonnie Prince Charlie" in his march on London from Scotland is usually said to have got as far as Derby before giving up and retreating. In fact he turned back at Swarkestone Bridge.

Wednesday, 29th August: Swarkestone to Willington
Another day of rain, during which I moved on to Willington. There was fun-and-games at Stenson Lock, one of the deepest on the system and the most awkward. A noddy-boat was tied up on the lock landing, which meant I had to stop much nearer to the bottom gates that I wanted to. This made it awkward for a boat that was leaving the lock and had to manoeuvre around me. When my turn came I tried to hold Starcross back from the top gates whilst filling the lock, but the undertow from the paddles, even when only slightly open, made this difficult. Just after I'd started another boat turned up and suggested we shared the lock, to which I readily agreed.
Then I had to follow a day-boat on to Willington. These day-boats often have inexperienced crews and this one was no exception, making a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to tie up in a particularly unsuitable place at Willington ending up with two crew members stranded on the bank and the ropes in the cut!
I tied up there for lunch and then took the bus into Derby for the afternoon and an evening pub crawl.

Thursday, 30th August: At Willington
I spent the morning washing and polishing the boat and then took an afternoon bus into Burton-upon-Trent, soending the rest of day riding round on Midland Classic buses to Swadlincote and Ashby before returning to Burton for a few early evening pints and a bus back to Willington for tea in The Dragon.

Friday, 31st August: At Willington
I left the boat and returned home by bus to Derby and Stoke and then by train to Manchester and Lancaster. 

Wednesday, 5th September: Willington to Burton-upon-Trent
I came back to the boat by train via Manchester, Stoke, Tamworth and Burton (not the quickest, but definitely the cheapest route) and then a bus to Willington arriving at 14.25 on a warm and sunny afternoon. First job was to get the brasswork polished back up to a decent condition, then a cup of tea and away in the direction of Burton. I soon came upon a hire-boat well and truly stemmed-up on a bend. Another hirer had been trying to rescue them without success and I was glad to lend a hand and get them unstuck. I tried to keep them in sight for a while afterwards in case they got stuck again but they were going very slowly and eventually I lost them. Dallow Lane lock is the first narrow lock you come to and after the wide and deep locks on the Trent and even the Trent & Mersey it seemed like a little toy. I was quickly through it and tied up at Shobnall fields just in time for "The Archers".

Thursday, 6th September: At Burton-upon-Trent
A lovely sunny morning, but with just a hint of Autumn in the air. Sad news though, that both Harriet Cass and - especially - Charlotte Green ("the sexiest voice on radio) are to leave Radio 4 at the end of the year. The shipping forecast will never be the same again!
I got a bus into Burton and did some shopping in the market- still doing relatively well and supporting two fishmongers; one in the market hall and the other in the outdoor market.
Shobnall Fields
 I was back on the boat for lunch and in the afternoon went for a bus ride to Uttoxeter, coming back via Abbots Bromley on a bus that broke down due to overheating. A fitter arrived from Burton with a replacement after only 35 minutes - quite an achievement in the rush hour. In the evening I couldn't resist another pub crawl of Britain's brewing capital.

Friday, 7th September: Burton to Alrewas
I was away at 10.30 but soon found queues at most of the locks so stopped for an early lunch at Barton to see if the traffic would clear. The afternoon has hot and stuffy and the traffic noise from the A38 was considerably as far as Wychnor. By Alrewas I'd had enough for the day. Fortunately a boat was just leaving the lock above the river section, which meant I could go straight in and after penning through I tied up in the village for an early stop at 15.45.

Saturday, 8th September: Alrewas to Shugborough
I walked over to the Co-op before setting off but they had no copies of the "i" newspaper and after I'd bought the rest of my shopping I didn't have enough cash to buy anything else! I was away at 8.45 but a hire-boat pulled out in front of me above the first lock and I ended up following it all day. Fradley locks were busy, but that did at least mean I had assistance at every lock both from other boaters and the two volunteer lock-keepers on duty. Just below the top lock I met "Stein" from "Like Ducks 2 Water" and we shared a chat while it emptied.
Queue above the Top Lock, Fradley
There aren't many places to stop after Fradley but there was some piling near King's Bromley where I tied up for lunch. In the afternoon I carried on straight through Rugeley, which was very busy, and eventually stopped near Shugborough Hall, overlooking the parkland. I was just ringing Mum on her birthday and watching two hot-air balloons taking off when who should come along but "Captain Ahab" (Andy Tidy) on Wand'ring Bark, who stopped to watch the balloons and have a chat.
The balloon goes up at Shugborough
Captain Ahab Stops to Watch
Sunday 9th September: Shugborough to Stone
I made an unsuccessful attempt to aviod the queues at Haywood Lock by setting off before breakfast but still spent 45 minutes waiting to get through as indeed I did later at Hoo Mill. Weston was the lunchtime stop after which the prop made one of its increasingly rare attempts to annoy me by being noisy! A shame really as it spoilt my enjoyment of this interesting and scenic section.
I carried on all the way to Stone and was taking water just below the Town lock when Duncan rang, which delayed me a little. There was nowhere to stop so I had to continue up the Stone locks, which are deep and awkward for a single-hander. Low water levels didn't help and I had to force a gate at Newcastle Road. By the time I tied up above the top lock it was 19.40

Monday, 10th September: At Stone
Well, Starcross was at Stone. I made a marathon bus journey via Newcastle-under-Lyme, Biddulph, Macclesfield, Stockport, Manchester, Bolton and Preston that took from 11.00 to 20.30, but cost me nothing!

Monday, 17th September: Stone to Trentham
I met Martin at Lancaster station and we travelled down together via Crewe, setting off on Starcross in the early afternoon. I misjudged the situation at Meaford bottom lock when what I thought was the closed top gate was actually the bottom, leading to an embarrasing "bump"!  Only minor damage ensued but that did include the front fender chain. That, fortunately, was the only incident before we stopped for the night at Trentham.

Caldon Canal Diversion

18th - 25th September

Tuesday, 18th September: Trentham to Cheddleton

A prompt start at 08.30 but we were soon overhauled by a faster boat, which i let past. The Stoke Flight would have been difficult single-handed as the locks are deep, but no trouble with a crew of two.
Lock 37, Stoke on Trent
 Turning right onto the Caldon Canal at Etruria we paused to refill the water tank, Martin taking the opportunity to have a shower in the sanitary station there. The lower reaches of the Caldon may not be to everyone's taste, but I found the mixture of old and new industry and more rural views fascinating. It can be narrow and shallow - and with very low bridges - but the lack of moored - or moving - boats makes up for that. In many ways I found it more like the BCN than the BCN itself.

I was glad I had a crew for another reason - the lift bridges, bane of a single-handed boater's life. In many ways, the first - Ivy House Bridge - is the worst. Ironically, it's the only electrified one but the control panel, of course, is on the non-towpath side and there didn't appear to be anywhere to tie up on that bank. That wasn't a problem today, but what was a problem was that the full and comprehensive instructions for operating the bridge are to be found inside a locked box, which has to be unlocked to start the process!

The other two, more rural, lift bridges are conventional manually-worked ones, but even so a second hand was a huge advantage.
Norton Green Lift Bridge
   We reached Hazelhurst Junction, where the Leek Arm goes off, but stayed on the main line and descended the locks and passed under the aqueduct carrying on as far as Cheddleton where we decided on a quiet night in, which meant we lit the fire for the first time since 7th June.

Wednesday, 19th September: Cheddleton to Leek
Cheddleton Flint Mill

Yet another cold and wet day. We let go about 8.50 down Cheddleton Locks with distant views of the Churnet Valley Railway's steam loco depot. I'd already decided that Starcross had completely the wrong profile to pass through the low tunnel at Froghall, so we winded beforehand and walked to the basin to inspect the end of the Caldon and start of the (disused) Uttoxeter Canals.
Froghall Tunnel

Froghall Basin

 It was back to the boat for lunch and then, on a warmer and sunnier day, back along the main line to Hazelhurst, following a hire-boat up the locks at Cheddleton  and under the aqueduct to Hazelhurst.
Hazelhurst Aqueduct
 Here we made the sharp turn back on ourselves to find the Leek branch, which showed itself to be weedy, narrow, twisty and slow! But with excellent views. It stayed this way all the way to bridge 7, where it suddenly became a veritable motorway of a canal - deep, wide and straight.
Leek Tunnel is narrow and low, but not too low for Starcross and has been neatly relined following a collapse many years ago.
Leek Tunnel
  Soon afterwards a sign warned that boats over 45ft should wind, but we ignored it any carried on to the very end of the branch about 400 metres further, but round a bend.  The sign was correct and winding here was impossible for Starcross, but this is the nearest point to the town centre so we tied up anyway.
The end of the Leek Arm

 Thursday, 20th September: Leek to Hazelhurst Junction
Rain yet again. Walked with Martin to the main road for him to get an early bus to Hanley and then took the recycling to Morrison's before walking back to town to do the shopping in the local shops.
Back on the boat by 11.00 I soon decided to go back to Hazelhurst junction for the rest of the day, where I'd spotted a good mooring overlooking the Churnet valley. It turned out to be every bit as pleasant a stopping place as I'd hoped: but the rain got steadily worse.

Friday, 21st September: Hazelhurst Junction to Endon
A short trip down to Endon Basin to wind and back to the visitor moorings at Bridge 28. After whgich I spent the day bus riding to Hanley, Longton, Newcastle, Tunstall and Burslem, calling in for a few pints at the latter.

Saturday, 22nd September: Endon to Leek
For once, a nice sunny day with clear skies. I moved back to Leek and then spent the afternoon in the town, enjoying the market-day atmosphere. That evening I had a night out in the town's pubs.
Leek Market Place by Night

The Cock Inn, Leek

  Sunday, 23rd September: At Leek
The fine weather didn't last and it was back to rain and wind today. I walked into town for a paper but spent the rest of the day on board not doing very much at all - and even less when the vacuum cleaner stopped working! The evening was no better, so I stayed in.

Monday, 24th September: Leek to Stockton Brook
It rained all night and was still raining in the morning. Mark arrived from Oxford at 12.15 and forty-five minutes later, despite the rain, we set off back down the Caldon as far as Stockton Brook.
Top Lock, Stockton Brook

  Here we called it a day and stopped as soon as we got to the bottom the locks, spending most of the evening in "The Sportsman" a nicely unspoiled pub on the main road.
The public bar of The Sportsman, Stockton Brook
 Tuesday, 25th September: Stockton Brook to Kidsgrove
Yet more rain! Back at Etruria we stopped to seek out a pub mentioned in the Good Beer Guide, but found it didn't open lunchtimes. So we carried on to Harecastle Tunnel, where we had to wait an hour for passage.
Waiting for a passage of Harecastle Tunnel

 We were the only boat going north and made a swift passage in 35 minutes, ten minutes quicker than the guideline time and surprising the tunnel keeper at the far end. Dropping down the first lock we stopped at Kidsgove at 17.00 and later repaired to "The Blue Bell" a renowned canalside pub amongst beer and pub lovers, although I was a little disappointed at its range of light, hoopy, pale beers.

Wednesday, 26th September: Kidsgrove to Wheelock.
Yes - it was still raining!  After a visit to Tesco (necessary as it has forced most of the town centre shops to close down) we made our way down the Cheshire Locks as far as Wheelock, where we just found space off the end of the water point, outside the Italian restaurant.
Heading down the Cheshire Locks at Malkins Bank
   I upset another boater at Malkins Bank. We were following another boat down the locks and the lock-worker closed the gates behind her. I assumed from this that there was nobody coming up and proceeded to fill the lock. Of course, I hadn't taken account of the fact that she hadn't actually checked before doing so - and the overbridge prevented me from seeing from myself. There was a boat coming up and of course I had now delayed it - and my apology was only grudgingly accepted!
By the time we got to Wheelock it was after 17.00 and most people had already stopped for the night. The visitor moorings were full, but we just managed to squeeze in past the water point and alongside the Italian Restaurant that now occupies the old warehouse.  That evening we visitied Wheelock's two pubs. I'd last been in both the Cheshire Cheese and the Commercial almost 40 years ago so it wasn't surprising that my memories of them were a little hazy.

Thursday 27th September: At Wheelock
On the way down the locks yesterday we had heard rumours of a breach on the Trent & Mersey and consequent closure of the canal. This morning a Canal & River Trust operative confirmed that the canal was breached at Dutton and closed as a precaution against another breach at Croxton, just beyond Middlewich.
This meant it was impossible to reach Starcross' new mooring at Uplands Basin (well, not without using the Manchester Ship Canal and the Anderton Lift).  The CRT man suggested I ring the mooring officer at Red Bull and arrange to keep Starcross at Wheelock until the canal was open again. They said they'd get back to me - but didn't - and eventually I arranged it all by email when I got home.
Mark having left for Oxford on the bus I tidied up the boat and decided to have another evening on board before going home myself the next day.
Interlude at Wheelock
27th September - 3rd December
Wheelock Mooring
  Starcross stayed at Wheelock until 3rd December. Before leaving I moved her back away from the wharf to a spot that had mooring rings and wasn't directly underneath the trees that were already losing their leaves. Every so often I went down for a few days to run the engine, polish the brasses and make her look generally "lived in".  Moored next to me was "Kalmia", also stranded but this time with a seized engine that was brand-new and the subject of a dispute between the engine supplier and the boatyard that fitted it as to whose fault it was!
River Canal Rescue came down on the 29th October to do an engine service - much overdue - and otherwise I contented myself with local walks and bus rides to pass the time.

To Uplands at Last
2nd - 3rd December 

 2nd December: Wheelock to Crows Nest Lock

Croxton embankment re-opened on 27th November and the way to Uplands Basin was clear. Unfortunately that date co-incided with the death of my father and so it was in the interval between his death and his funeral that Hilary and I took Starcross away from Wheelock.
After a morning planting trees in Williamson Park, including one unofficially in memory of Dad, we drove down to the boat and got away from the mooring by 15.00 trying to get as far as we could before dark. This turned out to be Crow's Nest Lock where we had to tie-up on the lock landing, although as it was already dark and we would be away first thing I didn't feel too guilty. As it was only after stopping that we could light the fire the first couple of hours in the evening were very cold on board.

3rd December: Crows Nest Lock to Uplands Basin
We were away at 08.00, not long after it got light and made good progress  to Middlewich.
Kings Lock, Middlewich
 Middlewich was where I started a number of early boating holidays, hiring from what is now Middlwich Narrowboats, so passing their base in the town always brings back happy memories.
Middlewich Narrowboats

 Having had a recent change of ownership I was pleased to see the fleet looking smarter than for some times. The company hasn't had the best of reputations in recent times so I hope the new regime gets things sorted out.
Shortly afterwards we reached Croxton embankment, where the scale of the recent works to prevent a breach were evident.
  I was anxious to get to Uplands in time to book in and find my allocated mooring before dark, but we seemed to be making good progress and could afford a lunch stop on the way just beyond the Lion Salt Works.
The entrance to Uplands Basin involves a right-angled turn under a low bridge off the main line and has to be taken slowly. I was therefore completely unprepared for the crosswind that caught me as I emerged into the Basin. It was blowing me against the jetty ends, which jut out at another ninety-degree angle. It took me three goes to get out from the bridge and when I did so I was going so fast to counteract the wind that I overshot the end of "Jetty 3" to which I'd been allocated.
Eventually, however, we got tied-up and without hitting anything either!  
All that remained was to get a bus back to Wheelock to pick up the car and then drive home.

Monday, 10th December: At Uplands Basin
My father's funeral was on 11th December in south Wales. Hilary and I drove down the day before and stopped at Uplands for a coffee as it is only just off the direct route along the A49. This was the last visit of the year.    


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