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Friday, 31 August 2012

Up Heartbreak Hill and down to Stone

Monday 27th August Only a short blog this week as we are leaving Lily on Saturday for a trip to Chichester with a stop in London on our way back to see our friends from New Zealand who are coming over for a week’s stay after visiting the boatyard in China where their new Off-Shore cruiser is being built. It looks very impressive and getting it from China gets them a lot more boat for their money. I must say it hardly seems a direct connection going from NZ to China to UK, back through Bali to see their son & family & then home, but we are glad we are going to see them again.
Nothing particular to do with Monday, just a pretty!!

Anyway, onto boating, and on Monday it was Bank Holiday, lousy weather and lots of boats moving, so we stayed put in Wheelock, and took the bus into Sandbach. We also ate at San Marco restaurant at the wharf, which was OK, not cheap & we will not stop again. Shame as it is a lovely setting and has made over the old wharf building in a pleasant way.
Sandbach really worked hard
naming its streets

I noticed signs mounted on the side of the Aldi store in Sandbach. It and the adjacent stores have been built on the site of the original ERF lorry factory and the signs give a potted history 

Tuesday 28th and a fine day and quite warm. After early morning chores in Costa & topping up the water tank it was 12 before we were away hitting the locks. 

This mooring spike was bent by passing boats, some load!

We crossed several boats at locks and seeing surveyors at work for a possible new marina not far from the M6 crossing. We stopped for the night just past lock 49 after 5 hours of cruising covering 5 miles and 18 locks.
Wrapped around the prop shaft this was hard to remove

Once stopped I had a look, or rather a feel, of the prop as we had a “tinkling” though drive seemed OK. I pulled off some fishing net and poly bag with much heaving and a bit of cutting, but there was a metal rod wrapped around the shaft with a length sticking out past the blades. The chrome plated bar was about 4mm diameter, not in a spring steel but in a fairly robust metal and I heaved and strained for a long time without success. Eventually I got out a mooring spike, in fact the one that cleared the bow thrusters last week, and I eventually managed to pry it off the shaft, with a little bit of fine nylon net through the hole in it. Rotten really as we always are very kind and polite to fishermen yet they get back at us like this!

Wednesday 29th The forecast was that the overnight & morning rain would clear around 12, but it had stopped by 10.30 so we were away, only for drizzle to start a short while later. We were following an ex-Challenger boat, all smartly repainted, on its way from being shown at Nantwich, with 6 shares to sell! The rain stopped and started several times before we got to Red Bull services where we got rid of our rubbish when as we entered the lock it threw it down. I told Carol to say below, I drew a paddle just a bit to let Lily rise slowly, and stopped under the road bridge, but I got wet. When the lock was full I opened the gate but stopped on board to eat my sandwich......and a boat came!!! The deluge eased somewhat so we moved on to the next lock and repeated the procedure, as did the rain. It had eased by the time the lock was full, but I don’t think  have ever been so wet, my shorts needed wringing out and my boots with their waterproof sock were squelching!
Carol's spiky plants brushed the tunnel roof

We had a short wait for Harecastle tunnel and discussed what we should do with the flowers on the roof which were clearly going to hit the roof. We shuffled them around and went in following the Challenger boat, which had a horribly noisy exhaust. About 50 minutes later we were out, the plants survived but the roof of the boat was covered in debris, the Cordilines had acted as a good brush for the lowest parts of the roof!
We carried on for about an hour longer before mooring near Etruria Marina and going to the adjacent cinema on a 2 for 1 deal to see a not great film. 6.5 miles and 8 locks.

Thursday 30th started dry and bright but with a cool breeze, I reckoned it was more an October temperature, not August. Costa before starting and then away at 10.15. We met several boats at the locks and the breeze eased and it warmed up a bit. We stopped by Stoke railway station for me to get the tickets for our trip. I had done quite a bit of research on-line to get the best price, but the booking clerk came up with a new wheeze that has saved us £20+ on the return ticket, I just hope there is not going to be a problem!
After lunch we were away in a pleasant afternoon, again meeting boats, and as we were near Stone where we wanted to stop, we were told the moorings looked full top and bottom of the bottom lock. I looked at the Google map for Stone & decided if we stopped above lock 30 we would be probably nearer to our target than in the other spots. We stopped and there were mooring rings set up for us to use and a quiet spot. It was Thursday, our target was a Wetherspoons curry. Excellent and Ruddles was only £1.69!!!  9 miles and 10 locks.
The old Joules Brewery's incredible cast iron lintel on Newcastle Rd

Friday 31st It had been cold overnight, some places had experienced an overnight frost!! It dawned bright, but again the breeze was cool. Coffee & paper plus buying an extra birthday present to give to granddaughter Emily who is 10 today meant it was around 11 when we set off. 
This old brewery also has another use now

Seen in Stone, I don't ever recall seeing a violin maker before

Volunteers were helping at lock 29 and again at the bottom lock which was pleasant. We followed an incredibly smart boat, still owned by its original family after 35 years, beautifully repainted, only the basic style and registration number hinted at its age. Still on its original Lister engine, oil changed every 250 hours, blacked every 3 years and not re-plated, amazing.
Below the bottom lock we stopped for lunch and then pootled onto Aston Marina where Lily is to stay whilst we travel away. Very impressive place and it has a wonderful deli and butchers. The Bistro looked OK but seemed expensive, we resisted the temptation to book for Xmas day at £79.95 a head!! We used the on-site laundry to finish off our washing. Just 2 miles and 5 locks.

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