Saturday, 1 April 2017


Today's Canal : Trent and Mersey

Our first full day of cruising with Alchemy and so a chance to see how everything performs. The day started grey and occasional light rain but later in the day quite a few bright patches arrived and generally the temperature was rather warm.

None of us was exceptionally keen to make a speedy start! Before leaving, Andrew popped to the shops for a newspaper and some kitchen gloves for Christine. We eventually set off around 10 am. However, several serious technical IT failures mean that most of the log information for today has been lost. Mike had particular difficulty in the afternoon with GPS signals although by late afternoon he was able to restore some level of service.

The stretch of canal from Stone down towards the Trent has only isolated locks, apart from at Fradley. As a result we were able to maintain a good cruising speed. The new hull shape swims very well indeed (it should as that is what Tyler Wilson hulls are noted for) so that it was quite easy to exceed the 4 mph speed limit without causing a breaking wave!

The lock cottage alongside Aston Lock has an intriguing old outhouse, no doubt allowing the lock keeper to keep his own livestock.

A little further and we passed the Georgian Burston Hall. A set of agents particulars when the house was sold, for only the third time, record that "Owners of Burston Hall even have their own pew in the village chapel. They also have the right to fish the village pond - a gift from a grateful local council to a previous owner of the Hall."

We pulled in for lunch just after 1 o'clock and by now the day was quite bright. There was a steady stream of traffic but not enough to cause a problem. As we approached one lock a boat that had just come through said to us that there was quite a queue but it is possible that he did not realise that most of the boats were moored up.

Salt Bridge is noted for its ornate design.

We were keeping a lookout for signs of the past at Weston, having looked up some information a few days ago, especially from old maps. A long abandoned railway crossed the canal on its way to Stafford, as part of the Uttoxeter and Stafford Railway. The local station was called Ingestre Station, no doubt indicating the importance of Ingestre Hall. There is little sign today - on one side of the canal there is the former bridge abutment and on the other side a recently built housing estate - the hedge seems to be the railway alignment.

A short distance away is Weston Wharf, still a base for a few contractors boats. The arm originally ran for about two hundred metres and on the right hand side were once a salt works and a manure works!

Hoo Mill Lock.

In the afternoon we stopped at Haywood Junction for our first service stop. There is no elsan facility here (just as well we bought a spare!) but we still had quite a bit of packaging materials to dispose of. It was also a chance to try out the new XHose which we bought as an experiment to see if we could avoid a garden hose reel - there is not really enough space in the foredeck. This is a type that  contracts to fit in a small box and then expands as soon as the water pressure is turned on. It worked surprisingly well but the sight of it writhing around as it does expand is mildly amusing so perhaps we should try to post a short video in the future.

By the time we arrived at Rugeley it was still a little early to call a halt - in any case we were still enjoying the mild sunshine. The main feature here is a mooring very closer to a large Tesco but we are well stocked and not anticipating a need to get anything tomorrow. So, we pressed on, through Armitage. Unfortunately there is quite a long narrow section with no option for mooring - we had to practice sharp braking on a couple of occasions as boats coming the opposite direction wanted yo pass at the narrowest places!

Armitage Shanks factory is normally an obligatory blogger photo opportunity with endless stocks of toilet bowls stacked up alongside the canal. (We have conformed to expectations moored than once in the past!) However, apart from one very small pile, all we could see were large numbers of pallets.

We eventually found a suitable place to stop just before the centre of Handsacre village.

On Thursday we received a routine stoppage notice from CaRT that announced that Aston Lock 3 (there are two quite different Aston Locks on the Trent and Mersey which caused us a little confusion initially) is to be closed all next week from Monday to Friday for urgent repairs. This is between us and the direction we had intended to travel for the rest of this trip. It is just too far away to be able to clear it in time so a re-plan is called for. In addition we are not having much luck with the marina enquiries we had been making - we need to find somewhere safe to leave Alchemy for about a month between this trip and the next. At the moment the idea is to turn right at Fradley and see where we get to whilst looking for a different marina. This might well see us returning to the Trent and Mersey at the end of this trip, ready to explore the Erewash, the Trent and onwards to the Chesterfield, on our next trip. Watch this space for developments!

Overall we have had a good first day and we are still pleased with how it has all worked out. Almost everything has now been stowed away, at least provisionally, allowing us chance to see what might need re-arrangement for best convenience.

19.5 miles - 7 locks

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