It’s been an enjoyable, funny, different sort of day today. With friends meeting me it was always going to be a round trip back to where we started kind of day. Rather overcast and drizzly which actually turned into heavy drizzle and while planning routes on the computer, I’d opened the side hatch as I like to do if I don’t think it’s cold, and looking at map books and raising a hand to passers by, as you do, and this youngish guy sort of stopped and said something about it being cold and raining and I said it didn’t seem cold and I hadn’t realised it was raining and he laughed and said it was cold when you’d slept out all night and he walked off. I’d assumed he was a boater as he had what I thought was a carrier of rubbish in his hand. He was polite and not threatening and normally well spoken and definitely not aggressive in manner, mid twenties or early. It was seeing a few homeless folks in Leicester about 10 years ago that got me into care work, which I’ve just come out of this year, and now felt like I should have made him a coffee and had a bit of a chat but I find it daunting and while in care always worked with adults with severe learning difficulties in registered care which is a different ball game.
Anyway the rain had about stopped my friends were getting nearer so I got ready started her up and I has I was only just down from the lock went up to open the gates as I’d seen a boat come down but when I got there the top gates leaked so it had filled up enough for me not to be able to open the gates and I hadn’t taken my windlass with me. As I was walking back a couple of boats arrived so ended up third in the queue. Next time I will move my boat up.
Once through Haywood lock it’s only a spit up to the junction with the Staffs and Worcs and stopped and picked my friends up. It was by now about 11 am but I’d sorted a little route out so we didn’t have to rush or be travelling all the time so we set off up the Trent and Mersey. I just feel that most of the canals I’ve seen are beautiful places to be unless they are running through cities or towns and some of them are pleasantly different. Lovely reeds and trees and fields which if the sun had been out would have been even nicer but still picturesque. Just one lock going up, Hoo Mill lock, and I was explaining to Brian what we needed to do and a boat caught us up so after opening the gates I went back for the boat and this other chap quite happily explained and showed Brian what happens and why. There really are some nice people about, some not so nice and grumpy but we won’t dwell on them. Through the lock and more lovely open countryside. Brian was on his third cup of tea by now. Caroline his wife and me don’t really drink that much tea and coffee so we let him drink alone after the first one. under bridges 77 and 78 then wound in the winding hole and a slow trundle back down to Great Haywood and moored up so we could nip to the shop there. Be very careful with this shop as a loaf of wholemeal bread, which was all I went in for, cost me £11 odd. OK so I added two home made faggots, a bulb of garlic, about a kilo of tomatoes, a jar of Staffordshire honey and a huge two scoop ice cream waffle cone, Cherry and Passion fruit which was delicious. So if you’re passing through or near Great Haywood this canal side farm shop on Mill Lane also does a selection of fresh veg, cheeses, cooked meats, fresh meats, fresh bread, home-made cakes large and small and all as far as I know of very good quality, not cheap but not too bad. So this is place to be avoided as you will spend more than you intended unless you’re of the iron willed brigade or devoid of any taste buds. It is a diet breaking shop.
From here we had to go about 50 yards and turn right into the Staffs and Worcs canal. At the junction the T&M is very wide, the bridge is high and wide and the S&W is quite wide compared to some junctions I’ve seen and there was no wind to speak off. Don’t you feel a plonker when you miss it by a country mile and have to use reverse to get enough room to spin it round and she’s only 50 ft. Never mind I’ll get another go sometime. Over the narrow aqueduct and onto the canal proper and there on the left is an almost submerged day cruiser which would have sunk further but it was on the bottom. Does the C&RT come round and fish these boats out or are they just left there for ever. There seemed to be quite a few sunken boats around Manchester.
Down then a short distance to the Tixall wide. As we approached there was a mooring so we took that in case there weren’t any more further down. There was a long line of boats which didn’t look to have any spaces. Popped a light under the steak and kidney in the oven and we had a walk down the wide where there were some spaces further down. It’s quite nice down there but was as stated above quite busy.
For anyone interested we only had mashed potato with our steak and kidney, whipped with butter and milk, potatoes should be just under cooked so they can be well mashed and handle the butter and milk without going gooey. Even though I say so my self it was bloody lovely and Brian and Caroline said so too. Wash the pots after a cuppa and wind round and back to Great Haywood where upon re-entering the T&M we couldn’t find anywhere to more. I hate to think what it’s like in the summer. We couldn’t find anywhere and were back at the lock near Shugborough so they walked it back to the car and I decided to go through and then find somewhere to more as there is a long stretch from the lock so shouldn’t be a problem.
As I moored up the boat to go back and close the gates I saw the same guy from this morning sitting on bench seat a bit down the canal so after I’d been thinking about it part of the day I was now faced with a dilemma. I could just have ignored him and trundled off down the canal. I could have stopped and offered him a drink and a chat, which I’m not sure I was ready for so I took the easier option of greeting him and asking if he had any money, which he hadn’t, so gave him a few pounds and though he seemed like he would welcome a bit of time and a chat as much as the money I said see ya and moved off. A chat would have been good for him I think. I need to look into doing a bit of voluntary work somewhere now I’m not in care. All this philosophical stuff is for my benefit and can be ignored by the reader if you wish to. It does show that we all come from many walks of life and the canals and surrounding areas contain life in all its diverse and many coloured facets. Sometimes you get a second chance to make a bit of difference to someone this was a very quick second chance.
The light beginning to fade as I neared Colwich lock and found a nice place to moor up among a few other boats. Might be a bit close to the train line but should be OK. Nice aspect out over the fields. A couple of glasses of Scottish flavoured water and lost internet connection so that’s why I’m finishing this off this morning. I did sleep well.
May God bless you all and lead you into places where you’ve always wanted to go, really.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tonight.
I jumped out of bed at the crack of 8.40 to the sound of absolutely nothing, well pretty close I could hear the sound of a few birds singing but basically nothing else. I thought about what I needed to do today and decided I would get the steak and kidney into the oven before I had my coffee. Frying pan with a touch of olive oil, she has a lovely touch, steak and kidney in followed after about ten mins by a couple of onions and good dollop of ground cinamon which really does go well with meat of anykind and is vastly underused in main courses in my opinion.
Tin of chopped toms into casserole type dish with a bit of original bisto a good dose of mixed herbs and bucket full of mushrooms. Once the meat and onions browned up, I left them for about a half hour, then into pot and stuff it in the oven on a very low light.
Breakfast consisted of milky coffee and a nectarine cut into pieces then covered in proper greeek yoghurt and a couple of teaspoons of honey drizzled in. I only used drizzle to make me sound posh. I put this information in so those considering a narrowboat life realise how basic and hungry a life it can be when out on the cut.
I struggled to get moving this morning after breakfast and it was 10.40 before I got my shoes on and about 11.15 when I weighed the anchor, 4st 6lb, and set out for Great Haywood. The woods looked lovely as the sun started to break through as I cast off and I counted my blessings as the trees and ferns and fields slowly drifted by. I love trees and the greenery so it really was a pleasure to just be slowly cruising through and even when reaching Handsacre and the scenery changed it was still wonderful.
Then Armitage Where the canal seems to sit in a large concrete chanel with alotments by the side, the Plumpudding pub and then the Armitage tunnel which has no roof. Once through the tunnel there is a long stretch of private moorings on the left and good moorings on the right, the canal is quite wide here and at the bottom of this stretch is a water point which I moored up at as I’d had my monthly shower this morning while I had hot water. I made a phone call to see if a couple of my friends where still joining me tomorrow and they still are so I will have crew.
Setting off again there is a bridge and a very sharp bend into it and a pub on the left as you go through which I think is called the Ash treee and looked nice and family friendly. Brereton and Rugely centre are pleasent to pass through with just a brief spell behind a factory, which seemed to be still working, and a little industrial estate with overgrown sides which hid some of it then a stretch with plenty of moorings which today were just about all taken and as I came to a bridge another boat was coming under and he pulled over and waited as it would have been tight as I was passing moored boats, many thanks.
This part of Rugeley has a Tesco’s and Asda I think it is in easy walking distance from the moorings. After this section there is a graveyard and then the canal becomes a bit more picturesque as the nice houses run down to the canal with the tended gardens and an occassional boat moored at the end of. I think it a little strange that more of these houses don’t have boats of some description when they have a mooring, if only a dinghy.
Out of Rugeley via a 90 degree turn onto an aqueduct, a real one over a real river, the Trent. A bit of a straight then a sharp left then under a bridge and after trees and woods and town the view changes dramatically into open countrside with sheep grazing on the right and Cannock Chase on the left, I believe.
The sun is still shining and I decide to stop and have a coffee. The canal here isn’t overly wide and has reeds and rushes either side with every now and then a small piece of cut grass with about 60ft or so of armco so having missed a couple as you have to look out for them I managed to tie up in the middle of nowhere again. Remembering the tips on mooring up so the boat doesn’t move I tied up properly behind and before which I’m glad I did as there werer a few boats that passed at a little more than I think they should have. I had to kick one of my armco mooring pins a few times before I could free it when I left as it had been pulled very tight. I didn’t shout or yell at anyone as I didn’t really think it would do any good and would have got me wound up if anything.
After coffee I set off again with just a couple of miles to do get to Great Haywood with the intention of mooring just before the lock. Plenty of traffic about but a lovely pleasurable journey and came into Colwich,
some lovely properties overlooking the canal and some marvelous Weeping Willows, and so to Colwich lock with a boat coming out as I got there so straight in. No ladder near me so I’d climbed onto the roof before realising I hadn’t got my windlass. Back down and a kind lady with two children asked if I need any help. I thanked her but said I was ok and after shutting the gates two chaps came up from a boat behind me they opened the paddles and the gate for me, thanks muchly gents.
I offered the lady and her children a lift which she declined as she didn’t know me, I had thought about this before offering but thought I would anyway.
It made me think about how we view the world around us these days and I certainly understand her decision as I’m not the prettiest of chaps and I think twice sometimes about offering and sometimes about who you may be talking to when you don’t know them.
Anyway through the lock round the corner or a few corners actually and Shugborough Hall in site and a mooring a couple down from the lock. I think it’s pretty close to where we moored when I fetched the boat down from Manchester. All moored up and deciding whether to try one of the pubs for tonights dinner or eat in, the steak and kidney is planned for tomorrow as it tastes better when left till the day after.
I have now returned from the Clifford Arms having had steak and mushroom pudding with side salad, chips and peas. There is something about this pub, I visited it when we were bringing Forty Winks down to Mercia and I wasn’t struck with it then.
Another lovely day in which I’ve travelled about 11 miles and only done one lock and I’m not sure but probably not much over about 4 hours cruising. Some folks are just bone idle. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was on holiday.
Now it’s getting late and I need my beauty sleep. It’s after 9.30 and thinking of time and naughtical things. As you’re not supposed to drink till the sun is over the yard arm. What time is the yard arm and does it count if I make my yard arm as low as possible?
Good night folks, sleep well.
A rather drizzly start to the day along with the noise of the gravel pit behind me starting the monday morning shift so I’m awake quite early. A cup of milky coffee to get the system going and before I know what’s happening I’m setting off at about 8.15 and was gentle past the other boats moored, just read the courtesy post, and then down to my first lock of the day Barton Turns with the pub of the same name beside it and a couple of miles along side the A38. Might be 20 yards away so not the nicest part of the canal but that’s how it is untill it brings you to Wychnor bridges lock where the canal turns off from the A38. There seems to be quite a few boats about this morning and moving early so others are there and helping me on my merry way. Up through Wychnor and then onto the river section at Alrewas as the canal uses about 100 yards of the river Trent and can be unusable when the Trent is in flood but open as normal today so no problems. and moor up and help with a paddle as someone is coming down.
Now we move onto Alrewas a nice little place from the canal and not too bad to drive through either. I’ve had the pubs here recommended to me but haven’t sampled their wares yet myself. Another lock and I think this was the one were the ladder wasn’t at either end but in the middle. Oh dear thought I, I’m not exactly built or happy climbing, I’m going to have to get on the roof so the little step on the side and holding the hand rail and then on my knees and up we got and while it may not have been elegant it was at least done with no damage to me or boat and moored up for lunch and posted yesterdays blog. It was nice and peaceful so I had a couple of hours all together and considered stopping there for the night but it was only 1 o’clock so I thought I’d go a little further.
I was only a short distance from Fradley junction and a kind chap who was filling with water at the lock mooring waved me straight in and I didn’t have to do anything, many thanks. The next lock had the ladder in the middle again so more climbing, I’m getting better at it, and there was a volunteer lock man on this lock. It appears that they have volunteers, I assume through the C&RT at a few places from what he was saying and there were volunteers on the next two also but not on the last one. Only had to do one lock out of a flight of five seems like a fair deal to me.
From Fradley the canal is quite wooded which makes it look so beautiful even if it is a bit of a problem when branches hang over the canal. Woods and fields and then a small rise lock and round the bend was Ravenshaw wood where because of it’s solitude I’ve decided to stay the night. It will get very dark later but very little road noise and plenty of bird song. Nearest house is a farm about 1/2 a mile away. Loads of Oak trees even if they aren’t two hundred years old they still stand about 30 foot high and are dropping acorns so I must remember that if I start to hear noises in the night.
The weather started drizzly but has warmed up in the afternoon and another good day has been had with plenty of help and friendly people to talk to as I’ve passed through. I’ve learned some more things about single handing like how the water drags the boat forward too quickly if you open the ground paddle too much too soon. How to climb on my roof and to take the windscreen off when travelling singlehanded as it gets in the way a little if you have to climb. This time when I moored up I had a small glass of Fettercairn whisky to signal the end of the travelling day even though it was only 4 o’clock.
Oh and I have a question but I don’t want people to think I’m a bit of a wimp but are there any fairly large crocodiles in the Trent and Mersey? Just asking like.
Todays stats are 7 miles, 11 locks in about 5 to 6 hours actual travelling time. Photos are Top; heading for Wychnor. Right; misty just before river section. Left; and Right; Common lock between Alrewas and Fradley. Left; my mooring for the night. Centre one unidentified swimming object.
Bon voyage me hearties till tomorrow.
Hi it all seemed a bit scary when I got up Sunday morning and started checking over things. Bread and a few odds n sods was all I required on the food front. Fridge and cupboards would last at least a fortnight if not more. Bag of coal, stuff for the loo and a bleed key for the radiator as I can’t find the one I’m sure is on the boat. Is there such a thing as a boat fairy which goes round removing items that you know you’ve got and can’t possibly lose as there isn’t enough space to lose things.
Anyway by about 1 pm I was ready to go and my neighbour, Keith, had topped up my water when he did his. He’s a good bloke but has this obsession with Brasso and cleaning things, but otherwise sound. 1.15 and unmoor the ropes and off we go heading for Burton. The run into Burton I’ve done a good few times so know it fairly well but passed Horninglow basin is new territory and the first lock is just round a bend and catches me a bit by surprise. A boat coming out which is good timing but I had to back up a little as I was on top of the lock before I knew it was there. Straight in and a crew waiting to come down so my first single handed lock and I didn’t have to do anything at all. Nice people and much appreciated and Dallow lock negotiated.
Onwards past Shobnall basin and my first single handed lock set in lovely fields with nothing and no one around. Branston lock is only about 5ft deep and letting the water in slowly and no problems. Once you pass under the A38 the countrside and the views open up lovely and I was most impressed when reaching Tatenhill lock which a really picturesque place. I feel anywhere from Branston lock to Tatenhill lock would be nice to moor even though you can probably here the A38 still it is very nice. Branston water park is at the side of the canal and the Bridge inn at Branston which serves pizza and pasta. There is as you progress an industrial estate on your left hand side but most of it is cut off from view by the bushes and trees.
I checked the time when leaving Tatenhill lock and it was 5pm and I was undecided whether to try and get to Wychnor or Alrewas or moor up for the night. I decided after a few hundred yards to moor up and enjoy the beauty of the fading evening rather than rush about. I ended up going a bit further than I should have to moor up as I was only about 4 or 5 hundred yards from the A38 but other than that noise it was a lovely tranquil spot with a couple of other boats moored about 100yds up the canal.
About 5 hours, 3 locks and 9 miles of slaving away under a hot blazing sun I opened a bottle of Marstons English Pale Ale, which I’d put in the fridge as it was hot but I prefer my beer normally at room temp as there is more flavour, so a cool beer went down very well with a chicken and tuna fish salad and wholemeal bread cut in a couple of doorsteps. It was lovely just to sit out on the deck in my sunlounger and watch the sky fade into black star speckled night. A glass of scotlands finest Talisker whisky and I realised I should have done this before. It will certainly be done more often next year. I talk to myself sometimes and repeated “unwind, let go, relax, enjoy” as even in a quiet place the mind still comes up with some rubbish.
A good days work all round and one happy boater.
Photos; Top leaving Willington village. Left; Branston lock. Right; Tatenhill lock. Left; my mooring for the night. Right; One happy camper.
Just a couple of nice pics I took yesterday when some friends came round and made me walk it into Willington village. It must be the best part of a mile, then they forced me to have a couple of pints and walk it back again in the lovely warm sunshine. Friends hey?
Today all being well I shall set out on my first solo voyage where I shall be away for a few days. A bit of shopping first and a bag of coal, just in case then set off at a leisurely pace through Burton and see where we get to. I would have gone sooner as I’ve been off since Wednesday but my car died, ended up running on two cylinders instead of three so a trip to London, Ealing to fetch another. I wanted the same again a Daihatsu Cuore, so so reliable and cheap to run and cheap to buy, £650 for an 03 with 52,000 miles. If you want something small and very reliable they are great cars and much more room in them than they look. End of advert.
Nice to have transport back as it is needed for work. One of the nice things about living at Mercia and probably applies anywhere is coming home, turning into the entrance and thinking “I live here”. Makes me feel very grateful and happy. I think I’m settling in more now but the winter will be the real decider.
More photo’s and a blog later when I’ve done a couple of miles and sitting with a nice beer or something similar.
Hope it’s sunny where you are too.
Hi everyone hope the weather is to your liking as there isn’t much we can do about it except enjoy. I find myself being very grateful for how things have and are turning out for me. We have at last been blessed with a decent summer to ease me gently into the boating life. A mooring which is very quiet and picturesque with top class facilities and friendly neighbours and a new job which will pay for my new life of luxury.
I don’t have a main theme for this post just a catch up of what I’ve been doing and how things are going as it is now four months since I picked up my boat from Lymm and set sail for Derbyshire. I now am beginning to feel more at home here. I still count myself fortunate but I feel like this is where I should be. It is still early days and the winter to come and I’m looking into areas where I might have a problem if we get a harsh winter.
I’ve been out cruising upto Burton again. It makes it a good day out with between 4 and 5 hours worth of cruising and while there is some noise from the A38 it can be put up with. It is a lovely stretch of canal with open fields and an aqueduct over the river Dove.
We get some wonderful skies around here. Hopefully you have the pleasure of big skies where you are. Notice that this picture shows that we have a slight down hill to our marina which makes it very popular for people taking up water skiing as the can take their first gentle “steps” with out having to be towed at a fast speed.
Amongst my many boring interests is a love of clouds and I will now promote a website which I came across a couple of years ago. The Cloud Appreciation Society which has over 33,000 members. There’s some weird folks out there folks. The cloud formations around here are wonderful and ever changing and with the pace of life it gives me chance to take in more of the things that I find beautiful and amazing. Talking of amazing, do I or do I not know how to spend an amazing Saturday night when not at work. Never mind clubbing I sat all night the other week, when we had torrential rain and thunderstorms, with a glass of whisky and watched it rain. I loved every minute. I do wonder about myself sometimes.
I bought a fishing license about 4 weeks ago and have at last got round to doing a spot of fishing over the last three days. A couple of hours of an evening. The first night nothing at all but did catch about 10 small roach on the second night and a bream about 5 or 6 ozs. I was well chuffed as they were the first fish I’d caught in about 35 years or so. Then this evening I caught another 10 or so little roach and bream and a 5 or 6 oz perch so another good couple of hours. Loads of missed bites and quite a few times where they were on the hook briefly but escaped. Little buggers.
Looking forward to the end of September when I shall be off work for a week or so and will venture out on a holiday jaunt to somewhere exotic like the Ashby canal or the Caldon canal or upto Great Haywood and turn left and set off for the edge of world. I do hope the summer lasts till the end of September but I’ll enjoy whatever I do and wherever I go.
God bless you all and have fun.
Hi everyone and isn’t it great that we’re actually having a summer this year, which I forecasted shortly after the start of May, I have been forecasting a good summer for the last few years too so I was bound to get it right sooner or later. I love the sun and warm weather and WILL NOT COMPLAIN about how hot is as I think the main problem is the fact we don’t get enough of it so people moan because they aren’t used to it.
It’s made me smile that so many people who aren’t boaters ask if you’re going to be cold in the winter but nobody asks or warns you that you’re going to roast your whatsits off in the summer. I’ve taken the top of the windows out which allows a better through put of air. This was after a few weeks of swealtering as I didn’t realise the top of my top hopper windows just lift straight out, how wonderful.
A few of us were stood about chatting the other day and I mentioned I would probably repaint the boat next year and I was thinking about black mainly with purple highliting but nothing decided yet and we got to discussing heat properties of colours. So I am now thinking of painting her white with probably purple trimming or panels as it seems no problem to keep to warm in the winter but a little more work needed to cool the interior down in summer. Someone said that if you feel the top of a dark coloured boat in the sun it’s hot and a white or light coloured one it feels cooler.
A tip for anyone who has trouble sleeping when it’s very hot, which I have used for many many years myself, fet a freezer pack and wrap it in a tea towel and lie on it like you would a hot water bottle. It cools you down nicely once you get over the ooh aah. You can do it with out the tea towel but I find that to be a bit too much of a shock. You could use a hot water bottle and put it in the fridge or freezer as you require but it does work.
I’ve put a few pics in of a little trip I took up to Burton on a beautiful sunny Monday morning. 4 hours in the blazing sunshine but it was wonderful just crawling along at about 2 miles an hour. I do need to just potter out a little more if only for a few hours.
I’ve now done two weeks proper work and while it’s very tiring doing 12 hour shifts which do just entail, work, eat and sleep basically but having 4 days off seems nice. They’ve asked me to do over time already so next week I have five days of 12 hour shifts. I shall be cream crackered and definitely not blogging during work days.
Time for a bit of sun now. Have fun and may your God go with you.
Sodding narrowboats are supposed to be relaxing well not when you’re trying to link your stupid blog posts with the even more stupid b****y facebook account and you’ve gone through it 177 times checking you’ve done what you’re supposed to and then finding out you missed a bit. Agggghhhhhhh SSSSSSSuuuuuuggg gaarrr. Then it still won’t link up and every time you manage your posts you click on the damn “needs authorization” link and press the bogsnorkelling “Authorise” button and it just goes back to telling you to stokfestering “needs authirisation” again and shows you the “press this” widget thingy again which is another piece of dampseaweed infested techno bable along with all the other ISDKS and APIS and none words that they make up instead of using words idiots like me can understand and it makes me hair fall out and me teeth itch and me nose run and if it carries on I may have to end it all by throwing myself willy nilly under a fast moving kayak and cause untold trauma to the unsuspecting paddler.
Ooh I feel so much better now. Anyway the gist of what I’m trying to get at is do any of you nice people out there know how I’m supposed to authorise my posts so the link appears on my FB home page. Others are doing it so obviously I’m not quite pressing the right buttons or I am pressing the right buttons but not necessarily in the right order, as someone once said.
Techno Bable Barry the enlightened one. hehehe
Hi to all and everyone who followed our progress. This has been an amazing journey for me and my crew. Some journeys aren’t just about the mileage involved sometimes it’s the inter-dimensional space time continuum transponders too. A time to just not think about anything other than the event happening to you right now. Nine days we had of that with the first four or five taking up so much of our focus and concentration purely because we hadn’t got much of a clue what we were doing. The rest of the world didn’t exist so for a short time no worries at all apart from where the next tap is? Or how the hell am I supposed to manoeuvre the damn thing into there then?
I have now had a few days back in something resembling the real world to look and think about what I’ve done by taking on a new life and this epiblog which was only going to be one post looks like it might turn into a couple more. If you get bored feel free to find another channel. Some of my old friends will sort of slip out of my life a little and some new ones will appear. This will happen over the next few months and years. This is a healthy way for lives to progress as some times we’re reticent to make changes or let them happen. Life is about moving forward and not just sitting where it’s comfy. We all have the option to choose which ever suits us. I feel I’ve made the right choice for me even though some of the people I know have looked at me strangely and really can’t see why I’ve swapped a house for a boat. They really are baffled.
Day one of this trip seems so far away yet it’s only just over a fortnight since we travelled to Lymm and picked up Forty Winks. We stalked a guy into Manchester as we were travelling at just his walking speed when he joined us walking up the towpath. A few times I felt like offering him a lift but chickened out. This was the only day we had the pram hood up and it was the only day it actually rained most of the time. I do agree with Paul though that it’s much better and much easier to travel with it down and out the way. It was because of Paul’s advice that we took it down the following morning as we were ready to set off.
The night before when we had arrived at Castlefield was a frightening experience for a real novice boater as I had to try and manoeuvre into a mooring knowing nothing, well very little anyway.
I wonder whether I would have been better taking a boat handling course before embarking on this journey. It would have made it easier but would it have been such an experience and challenge. I do feel as though we achieved something on a personal level. Myself certainly and Steve agreed it had helped sort out some of his mid life choices too. Who would have thought Manchester could be so therapeutic. We could declare it another spar town.
People said I was brave doing this and I suppose I thought I was a bit too but I’ve just read Mary’s post and at 86 my admiration, respect and good wishes go out to her and puts my exploit into perspective. Life is to be lived. If this is what you fancy don’t wait about humming and ahing about it. Choose life in all its fullness while it’s still here. I’ve had a week in the marina as I write this bit and I can’t remember feeling as relaxed, content and peaceful as this for a long long while, if ever. Sitting with a cup of coffee on the back of my boat in a morning is just a wonderful experience and just about equalled by sitting on the back of the boat with a glass of malt whisky of an evening. I feel so lucky and blessed it brings a tear to my eye, but not admitting to that in public. Even though I can hear the A38 in the background the feeling of peace and wonder has knocked years off me I feel. I feel alive again. I just hope it will continue and I don’t get bored of it in another month.
Boredom was something we didn’t see in the journey through Manchester. It was a blur of so many new experiences, sights, sounds and smells that the rest of the world didn’t exist and on top of that swapping stories with Les and Heather our new companions through the locks was a great way to start the week. A Canadian couple, Les was 71 and had recovered from cancer a few years ago and had more recently suffered a heart attack. They had done one weeks narrowboating before but that was about 13 years ago. So a little like Mary they were taking life by the scruff of the neck and giving it a good shake. I know it isn’t everyone in the boating world but there are a lot of nice people on boats which does restore your faith somewhat in human nature. The Rochdale canal is not the ideal place to start learning how to use and negotiate locks but we don’t always get the ideal places to start learning anything. The first lock didn’t want to fill up and after about forty minutes the guy behind us came up to see what the problem was. Which was the last 1/4 inch of water or even less. The BW workers at the side said the water level in the pounds was down a bit and this was the problem as they normally flow over the top of the gates and equalise the levels that way. The guy behind suggested we push gently with both boats and see if we could just open the gates enough to let some water through which we were able to do. Can’t say I was happy as I didn’t want to damage the gates or anything but here didn’t seem much alternative and it was the same with some of the gates later on but the Rochdale canal was the only time we had this problem thankfully. The rest of the locks weren’t as bad but there are places where there isn’t any towpath and one of the boats has to pick up the lockers to take them to the next one.
While waiting for the locks to be prepared I found it difficult at times to keep the boat straight and ready to enter as the pounds weren’t wide and even though you’re between high buildings the wind was whistling down in places and pushing us where it wanted. Now I see the use of the barge pole or at least one use of it. I learned quite a bit about the steerage problems and a little about how to line up but using reverse while much needed at times didn’t always make sense to me. It was with some relief that we made it to the last of the Rochdale locks which is actually beneath a building and felt a bit strange as there were concrete columns for you to rest against or the boat anyway. Steve asked me afterwards if I’d seen the signs near the lock. These threatened prosecution for anyone caught indulging in lewd behaviour. There might have been CCTV there as well. Don’t know if this had anything to do with having passed or being in the GAY part of Manchester. I did notice a bar with G.A.Y. in huge letters as it’s name. A subtle little touch I thought and would the understatement be missed by some.
Out of the lock and a very tight right turn followed by a very sharp left turn with a bridge and a boat half way through, oh bugger, but a bit of reverse and thankfully a little bit of room on the canal at this point and we cruised on for a few hundred yards and moored up for lunch in front of some very nice looking flats at Piccadilly Village. Heather and Les had been recommended to overnight there but as it was only one o’clock we thought that maybe we could get through the rest of the locks that day so after lunch we set off again. After we had negotiated another three locks and this section while prettier than Manchester wasn’t exactly wonderful we passed another boat going down who said to Heather that after the next three or four locks then there were no safe moorings till the last lock. We took this on board and did another couple and met another boat who’s crew said the same thing so we found a sheltered spot in front of a stone wall near the Velodrome and moored up for the night. People were jogging down the towpath so we thought maybe this isn’t such a bad area and there wasn’t much litter and no bottles strewn about.
After eating a hearty meal, of I remember not what it was, Les and Heather came round and they offered us some very nice and well appreciated Port. None of us are very young and after a hard and long day we drew stumps early and went to bed. No disturbances in the night. I never heard a thing. I was totally bushed.
Bear with me folks on the Epiblog but there’s so much to do now I’m home. People visiting, getting used to the marina, fetching my worldly possessions from other peoples houses and seeing what can be dispensed with as I still need to downsize some more.
What a bank holiday we had. Wall to wall sunshine and a trip out with some friends upto The Mill House pub for Sunday lunch and a pint. Theme pub but they brought the food quickly and it was ok but nothing special. The beer was good. For any one thinking about the joys of boating this was a good day with sun beating down and just gently cruising. A little bit of excitement in Willington as there were boats everwhere and the one we were following used the winding hole and he was a 70 footer so just had to hold her in mid stream but hey where’s the rush. It really is nice to meet up with friends and a leisurely pint and then upto Burton to turn round. Which, I say boastfully with great pride, I did absolutely spot on. Turned her on her own axis. This helps to make up for some other escapades but I was dead chuffed even if that is a little childish.
Bank holiday Monday I had a group of four friends who brought lunch, wine and cider with them.
We set off for Stenson lock which is a very deep double lock so I thought I’d take advantage while I’d got so many crew. Their first time locking so I explained as best as I could what they might encounter and again went through it once we arrived. Plenty of Gongoozelers and two boats coming up so they could see a bit of what was going to happen. They coped ok and off we went heading for Swarkestone. We must have been doing nearly two miles an hour and it was blissful in sunshine. Having turned with only one bump we moored up for lunch. Hawthorne hedge with leaves starting to fill it out, birds singing, no road noise at all and an occasional train rolling past which was far enough away to add to rather than detract from our lunch. Home made mushroom quiche, home made potatoe salad with salad leaves, tomatoes, onion and that sort of thing washed down with a nice cider for me and wine and cider for the others then followed by home made coconut tarts and cheese scones.
I just might invite them again, not that I’m mercinary you understand. A slow meander back to base and a seven hour outing which covered about 7 or 8 miles saw everyone so chilled out it was ridiculously wonderful.
For anyone thinking of joining the boating community that was the colour brochure day out which lures you in with false promises but doesn’t tell you about being led astray into unnatural and down right depraved rituals which no one has mentioned to me ever. This is a world exclusive for this site too as they have never been mentioned before. Think about this before you take the plunge and sell the grandchildren to finance your new boat. I have done things this week which I’ve never in all my 56 years done before and have been lured and enticed by new nextdoor neighbour. I washed the boat down and then BRASSOED the slide for my hatch, I have taken to getting my hands dirty greasing the stern gland. Buying sheets of SANDPAPER willingly and PAINTBRUSHES. And as if that wasn’t depraved enough I’ve ordered some LOOSEPIN BRASS BUTT HINGES so I can reseat my windscreen. So please be aware that it’s not all sunshine and cheese scones there are the forces of the Dark Side lurking in amongst the reed beds. I may need to see my therapist as I think I might have been traumatised. These practises were what other people did not me, no not me ever, nurse the screens. Aaaaagggghhhhh