Monday, 1 September 2014

Onwards to Celebrate!

Yesterday our pleasant anniversary journey ended at Great Haywood and in the gorgeous sunshine, that finally appeared, we celebrated with a glass of Champagne on the rear deck.

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A few passers by would certainly have joined us, had they been invited!

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Today, having had a quiet night at Great Haywood (which isn’t very surprising as we’ve seen so few boats around over the last week) we ventured forth amid cloudy, threatening skies.

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The stretch of the Trent and Mersey canal between Great and Little Haywood has been described as “its most memorably beautiful” and the lock at Little Haywood is very pretty and tranquil, even though it’s bourn down upon by the brooding mass of Cannock Chase.

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Entering the outskirts of Rugeley there are some tremendous gardens on show.  The houses are high up and the last part of their gardens plunge down to the edge of the canal.  The owners all have different ideas of how best to utilise their plots.

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We stopped for a short while in Rugeley for some shopping.  Very few people take photos of Rugeley – but pausing for a moment from our shopping the town centre is really very pleasant.

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Travelling on towards Armitage we passed the quaint and lovely Spode House – sadly, now reduced to a carvery for this moment in its history.

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At Armitage, of course, we passed by the massive but “crappy” looking factory producing its famous sanitary ware.

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Although we had a dry day today it was evident that autumn is in the air.  A few leaves are beginning to drop from the trees and land (annoyingly) on the roof of the boat and, looking into the fields, the harvest is now safely gathered in and the land is being prepared for the winter crops.

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At 4 o’ clock we arrived at Fradley Junction, our destination for the night.  If we’d arrived any earlier we’d have been caught up in a frightful event, when a boat caught fire right on the junction.  Thankfully it seems no one was hurt but it shut down the canal traffic for much of the day.

We’re intending to celebrate yesterday’s anniversaries with a meal in the “Mucky Duck” this evening and, with that in mind, we’d like to say again another big THANK YOU to everyone for the huge number of tender messages (and a few ribald comments!) we’ve received for the occasion – it’s been most  touching.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Two for the Price of One.

We’re  making our way back along the same route (for a while at least) as we used on our journey into Manchester, so we’re pretty familiar with everything around us at the moment.

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The duplicate locks at “Heartbreak Hill” are a God send as it’s often the case that one will be empty for you.  The six we did when we left our mooring yesterday morning near Church Lawton were very easy.

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We took on water at Red Bull services and, while waiting, there’s a very nice ‘themed’ garden house (and garden) opposite to enjoy.

P1060238`The officially named Pool Lock aqueduct takes the Macclesfield Canal over the top of Trent and Mersey Canal.  It’s been standing for 150 years or so and  there wasn’t a drop of water leaking through as we passed under!

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We always like to take a picture of our blue boat floating on the most orange water you’ll find as it’s around here.  The iron oxide leaches into the canal from the surrounding underground springs.   The north portal of the Harecastle Tunnel waits for just us to enter.  Being “Billy No Mates” with no other boats to join us we had a pleasant trip through the tunnel, taking 32 minutes.

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The now disused original tunnel was opened in 1777 and was one and three quarter miles long. Teams of “leggers” had to lie on their backs and walk the boats through.

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This is what happens in long tunnels – Doug takes to vacuuming or ironing.

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Travelling back through Stoke, what’s left of the old potteries at Longport and Middleport provide an iconic view into the past.

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At Etruria our paths crossed (for the first time) with fellow blogger Jennie on nb “Tentatrice”.  It was good to meet up and chat. 

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Not all is well with the locks around these parts!  One of the original wooden construction beams is still visible beneath this hole in the lock wall.

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Quite by chance (pun intended) we caught up with Barry and Sandra on nb “Areandare” and pitched up with them at Stone for for the night.  We were treated to their generous hospitality and sampled their home brewed wine.  They are licenced canal traders and sell the wine kits from the boat.

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This morning dawned onto an auspicious day for us.  It’s James’ birthday (21 again!) and also the 2nd anniversary of our Civil Partnership.  Our thanks to everyone for their best wishes and kind words for both occasions.  James was treated to the best gift ever this morning – he woke up and still had a pulse!

We said our farewells to Barry and Sandra as they waved us on our way, hope we meet up again soon.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Friends, laughter, locks and “heartbreak”.

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On Wednesday evening friends Neil and Pauline (nb “Waterlily”) invited us to their home for dinner.  It was laughter all the way of course and after a lovely meal and a fab time with them they drove us back to “Chance”.  Thank you so much both – we hope to see you soon.

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Heading out on Thursday, we came across this little gem – “Ventura”, based on a 1905 ice breaker hull.  The bow is curved under the waterline to ride up onto the ice and men would stand on either side of the boat and rock it to break the ice as it was pulled along.  A fairly rare beast these days. 

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A crane and stop planks is a regular feature on the Bridgewater canal.

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Having said farewell (for the time being) to Rich and Andy on “Carpe Diem” we caught up with them again today!  As we left the Bridgewater and got onto the Trent and Mersey, our first challenge was the Preston Brook tunnel.  Being a timed tunnel there were six boats waiting for a short while to go through.   Following Rich and Andy in ……..

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…….  they took this really great shot of  “Chance”.  It’s not often you get to see this sort of angle.

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‘Old England’ – cows, sheep, a village, blue sky and fluffy clouds.  We boaters shouldn’t  take this wonderful scene for granted.

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Can boats get much smaller?

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The old Lion Salt Works at Marston was derelict for years and at the point of collapse.   After a huge restoration effort  it’s now as good as new.  In fact, it does look a bit too new at the moment!

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It was a long, eight hour day for us and after twenty one miles we ended up mooring above King’s Lock at Middlewich.

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Soon after tying up friends Eileen and Bill arrived for the evening.  We enjoyed both their company and the fish and chip supper from the chip shop which was only 100 yards away.  It was very nice to see you both again.

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Leaving Middlewich this morning at 9:30 we were soon at Wheelock and negotiating “Heartbreak Hill” - a rise in altitude of 250 feet.  In the short time since we came down this section we were glad to see that all the broken paddles had been fixed and these brand new gates up and working on the first lock. 

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At the bottom of “Heartbreak Hill”, and with some twenty locks ahead of us, Doug took to his ‘wheels’ to make life easier …..

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……. although there was still time to snaffle some cooking apples (30p / lb)  from behind someone’s garden gate.

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With twelve locks behind us we got to the pretty setting of Rode Heath ……

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…….. and, climbing the final few locks at Church Lawton, it felt very much as if we were in the middle of nowhere.

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“Mrs Mop” used the last lock of the day to wash off the orange slime which covers the lock walls in this area.  We can’t have it all over the boat now, can we?

Just round the bend we found good moorings with rings and have now bedded down for a quiet evening and only the strong wind, which has dogged us all day, for company.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Good Bye Manchester

The last few days have been a complete whirl of fun and laughter.  The next three pics (courtesy of Chris and his amazing camera) are of Saturday:
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The long and short of it!
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Rich and Andy with their ever growing collection of stickers.
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All of us on Saturday evening in Canal Street.
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On Sunday the arena was packed and in eager anticipation of Conchita Wurst and All Saints.
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As is perfectly normal at Pride everyone talks to everyone else and who should we start talking to in the arena but Ian, the owner of “Gaydio” radio station.  A very friendly, interesting and successful guy.
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And then, what we’d all been waiting for - the amazing Conchita.
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A sensational performance! ………..
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As darkness fell and the bands finished, Doug was about to lose his voice because of all the ‘whooping’ (well, it’s no bad thing!)
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On Monday the crowds were less due to people needing to return to work after the Bank Holiday.  Nevertheless, there was plenty for us to enjoy.  Age does not weary some people!
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On Monday evening, after the last stage performances were finished, we had the candlelit vigil.  This year’s host was Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley from Coronation Street).
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As the candles were lit, and during a minute’s silence, we remembered all those who have died due to HIV and Aids and of course those who still live with the condition.
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The vigil also attempts to dispel ignorance, fear and prejudice surrounding HIV and Aids and there were some moving moments as we heard people tell “their story”.
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After the vigil was the firework display which ends the weekend …
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…… and we then laid our candles around the statue of Alan Turing.
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On Tuesday Les, James (behind the camera),Chris, Rich, Andy and Doug enjoyed a ‘last breakfast’ at the Lost Dean in Deansgate …
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…. and after breakfast we prepared to leave Manchester.  However, before we left Doug managed to fall into the canal (only up to his knees!) while jumping from the boat.  The wonderful sunshine, which we’ve experienced for most of our stay, continued through Tuesday just to dry his boots!
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All three boats (“Eleventh Heaven”, “Carpe Diem” and “Chance”) travelled out of the city and met up again later in the evening – firstly for Champagne and nibbles on “Carpe Diem” ……
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…. and then afterwards in the Axe and Cleaver at Dunham Massey for a lovely meal, where we were also joined by Simon.
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This morning it was a very sad farewell to Andy, Les (and Chris) and Rich.  A weekend to remember without a doubt and thanks all of you for your wonderful company.