Early start this morning. We boated the three lock-free miles that remained from our mooring by Westport Lake into Stoke and ventured down the Caldon Canal, which was surprisingly busy for moorings at this time of year. On the way we passed lots of evidence of the once renowned pottery works, mostly unfortunately disused now. We moored by the Etruria CRT yard and Museum and walked in to Stoke for supplies. There is a 24hr Tesco within walking distance of the moorings here; probably 10 minutes walk.
We then descended the five locks down from Stoke. These locks are very deep. The canal south of Stoke is surprisingly pleasant; at least until it started properly raining. We moored just above Trentham Lock (no35) as the rain started to pour.
Friday 4th October
Weather brighter this morning. Wished we had continued as nicer moorings can be found below the lock and there were several boats around. We passed the Wedgwood Factory and continued down the very scenic Meaford flight of locks into Stone.
It was busy for moorings in Stone as it was the weekend of the Food Festival. We had not planned our visit to coincide but it did which was nice. We moored alongside NB The Grand Affair until a mooring became available - thank you to her crew. The moorings in the town centre are very nice and the town has excellent boating facilities - pubs restaurants etc with Morrisons and Aldi within walking distance. We stayed in Stone for the Saturday. David visited friends in Manchester and came back with a two day hangover after an interesting night's sleep. Victoria's parents came to visit - going to the Food Festival and sampling cider and Stone's finest Folk Music!
Sunday 6th October
David returned from Manchester and we set off with Rob and Sue late morning to head South. We made it to Weston Upon Trent for a mooring for the night. The boys had already organised the logistics of the car being there for the visitors to get home. That evening we were surprised to have a familiar passing boat travelling the other direction. We had previously shared locks with Sirius over a year ago out of Leeds on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. On one of those things called a boating holiday which we used to have when we worked. Sirius have also more recently been boating partners with Ian and Helen (David's parents) on their narrowboat (Leo) on the River Nene.
Monday 7th October
Continued down the Trent and Mersey, passing Great Haywood, popping into the Marina to have a look around. The canal is very peaceful and not too hilly with easy narrow locks so easy for the lock workers.
We turned into the junction with the Staffs and Worcs Canal to fill up with Diesel at Anglo Welsh boat yard. David made the turn very well despite it looking impossible. The boat yard men were all so relaxed about it of course.
We moored near the aqueduct at Brindley Bank just short of Rugeley for the night. Nice spot with mooring rings. We walked into Rugeley in the afternoon which is not too far from here.
Tuesday 8th October
Great weather this morning sun shining very low and Victoria decided to take change and do a lot of steering.
Until it got too difficult. West of bridge 61 at Armitage narrows you have to walk on and check for oncoming boats as the channel gets very very narrow (it used to be a one way tunnel).
Weather stayed beautiful all day and we moored at Fradley Junction where we have been before with Pas Meche when we first bought her four years ago. David spent the afternoon down the engine hole swearing at a new gearbox changing the oil for the first time and cursing the fact he wasn't born with ten pairs of hands.
We ate at The Swan that evening which is a very traditional canalside pub also known as the Mucky Duck.
Wednesday 9th October
We set off from Fradley, accidently pushing in front of a hire boat who suddenly appeared out of a lock whilst we were already making the turn. Good job we were slicker at locking than them so managed to get out of their way! There are really good facilities at the BW yard in Fradley (toilet, elsan, water, rubbish, recycling) . Moorings for this just under lock 51 but mind out for the hidden shelf just under the water. The back of the boat slips nicely on and off this with water levels changing according to the locks.
Moored briefly in Alrewas to pop to co-op. 5 min walk from Canal - lovely village and would be nice as an overnight mooring.
We made our first outing on the River Trent at Alrewas. The river level was not even high enough to be in Green on the Indicator so pretty safe to go onto it. Fingers crossed it stays like this for next time we meet the river.
The canal then follows the A38 for a decent stretch. At one point we were actually going the same speed as the cars..... Some of the bridges looked impossibly narrow - but we did fit honest!
Nice mooring for the night by Branston Water Park, shown here at sunset between the rain showers. David spent another good few hours down the engine hole, mainly changing the engine oil this time.
Thursday 10th October
This morning it was absolutely freezing in comparison to weather recently. Winter is coming ... time to head back to the mooring... Freezing but bright clear sky with lovely sunshine. We lit a fire during the day - our first daytime fire of the year.
We passed through Burton Upon Trent. We have been here on Pas Meche when we first bought her on our trip from Derbyshire to Cambridgshire but we hardly recognised any of the canal. Victoria puts this down to the panic she was enduring at the time; having just bought a boat and not having the faintest clue how to do locks or steer but having to be in Ely in just a week's time!
Notice the attire is somewhat different to when we boated this stretch in a July heatwave 4 years ago!
We passed over the River Dove, discussing the fact that it is probably a tributary to the River Trent that we have yet to face on our return to Leeds. Wikipedia confirms this fact as the Dove flows into the Trent just to the south of this photo:
We popped into Mercia Marina, partly to return to the place we bought Pas Meche from four years ago but also to visit Midland Chandlers - there is a Chandlery mooring just as you enter the marina. But only space for one boat really unless you double up as we did. The clouds doing crazy things all afternoon as per this photo.
We had lunch and then continued to Stenson lock where we went for a quick walk, advising some very tired boaters that they were doing the lock the wrong way round.... filling the lock to come up when their boat was underneath the lock. We discussed the fact that some days boating can be very long...! We had a drink in the pub near the lock - The Bubble Inn. Heading for Shardlow and Nottingham over the next few days, where we will buy charts for the River Trent to study in the hope of making it back to Leeds without being swept out to the North Sea. Watch this space.