Sunday 19th November – Rode Heath to Red Bull Visitor Moorings
We woke up to a cold and frosty morning but with the promise that it was going to turn out to be a lovely morning. We began our cruise up through the last of the locks on Heartbreak Hill and it did indeed turn out to be a lovely sunny day!
We met an elderly gentleman at the locks who talked about how the locks had come about. Originally there was a staircase lock which created a bottleneck for the working boats so the course of the canal was changed and the locks were widened out. A few years on the second locks were built alongside, the first locks were built by James Brindley and the second set by Thomas Telford. The ones that are still being used today are the older locks, built by James Brindley.
We moored up for the night at Red Bull Visitor Moorings where the facilities are excellent – washing machine, showers, rubbish disposal and water and a quiet mooring as well.
Monday 20th November – Red Bull Visitor Moorings to Barlaston
We made an early start this morning as we were booked to go through the Harecastle Tunnel at 10.10am We moved up to the water point and put on water and disposed of rubbish before continuing on up through the last locks before the Tunnel.
As Ella passes through the water she churns the mud deposits and creates a swirling colour changing pattern.
The black and white board shows how low the roof of the tunnel gets in some places in the tunnel, due to past subsidence. Dave drove the boat through the tunnel and followed the advice to go at normal cruising speed as this would help to keep the boat in mid-stream and away from the tunnel walls. He managed to bring the boat through in a record for us – 35 minutes – an excellent smooth passage!
We cruised past Middleport Pottery and saw nbDane moored outside, an old working boat built in 1946 at Mersey Weaver that used to be next door to the pottery. Enthusiasts believe that nbDane used to ferry china clay to the potteries and other materials from the city to the North West.
After a 4 year restoration she will used for boat trips and an extension to the current tearooms.
This is the first of the 5 Stoke locks at Etruria and begins the decent of the canal down towards the River Trent at Shardlow and the Derwent Mouth Lock. This is our ultimate destination for this part of our Winter Cruise.
I was struck by the interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new here, the old bottle kilns next to the modern housing!
Again, a fascinating view of the old canal system next to the newer railway line. When the railways were built after the canals they followed closely the path already cut by the canals.
Our view from the dinette window – a golden tree in the middle of a field!
Tuesday 21st November – Barlaston to Stone
We set out and cruised alongside the railway line towards Stone. There was a team of lumberjacks working on the trees alongside the railway track, stopping each time a train roared past and giving us a cheery wave as we crawled along!
We then went down the 4 Meaford Locks towards Stone. I love these locks, they are in a very pretty setting, however the first lock was very slow to fill and quite difficult to open! Put your back into it Janet!
We cruised through the Stone Locks and moored up for the night below the Star Lock. We shall stay 2 nights here as tomorrow the forecast is for high winds, not ideal cruising conditions.
Wednesday 22nd November – Stone
We went for a walk along the canal towards Aston Marina, and on the way we passed a boat with a little rowing boat attached, I love the owl and the pussycat in a pea green boat!
Aston Marina was particularly windy but their price for diesel was excellent so we decided to call in tomorrow for diesel and water. NbDyonisus was the boat launched just before ours and was moored here, but no longer apparently. I wonder where they have gone?
On our way back we called in to the Star Inn alongside the canal and sat in the Canal bar. The Star was built before the canals and was originally a coaching inn. It is in the Guinness Book of Records for the pub with the most different levels, it is very up and down and you must take care not to hit your head!
Thursday 23rd November – Stone to Sandon
We set off and called in to Aston Marina for diesel and water, it was a little tricky as the wind got up and where we were moored up under the bridge we seemed to be blown around a lot!
We carried on, but the weather soon deteriorated so we called it a day and moored up about a mile before Sandon with cows to keep us company!
Once the weather had improved we went for a walk up to Sandon Lock and then up the hill towards Sandon Church, it stands proud on the hill overlooking the valley, very impressive. It dates back to 1311 during the reign of Edward II.
On the way up the hill we found the abandoned Sandon School, looking very sorry for itself, but it had a planning application attached to it for permission to turn it into 2 dwellings. It will make beautiful homes.
Friday 24th November – Sandon to Great Heywood
Woke to a glorious morning, cold and calm with a mist rising from the canal as the sun was coming up. Cruising was an absolute joy today, beautiful conditions and hardly any other boats moving.
Salt Bridge is one of the prettiest bridges on the canal and my favourite.
An interesting reflection in the canal as we cruised past. Many of the trees have been cut back along here and the stumps painted orange – I wonder what the significance of the paint is?
At last a decent shot of a heron on the canal side. We have also seen several kingfishers on our journey but they prove far more difficult to capture on film.
We moored up just past Great Heywood Junction with Staffordshire and Worcester Canal where we shall stay tonight and possibly tomorrow.
Saturday 25th November – Great Haywood
Woke up this morning to sleet and snow, some of which began to lay on the cold plants, but not for long. Today has been a bitter, cold day with squally showers and a chilly wind.
A rainbow came out over the finger post after a particularly heavy shower. We are continuing towards the Trent tomorrow, when hopefully the weather will be better.
After a walk through the National Trust woodland beside the canal we called in to a Craft Fair at the Memorial Hall and began buying a few unusual bits and pieces for Christmas. Then back to the boat and light the fire for the evening.
This is the end of Week 7 and with only a month until Christmas we shall think about planning our journey back towards Market Drayton, in the meantime we are enjoying our time on the boat immensely.
Map Key Week 1 - Brown Week 2 - Purple Week 3 - Dark Blue Week 4 - Light Blue
Week 5 - Green Week 6 - Olive Green Week 7 - Yellow
Week 5 - Green Week 6 - Olive Green Week 7 - Yellow