Friday, 30 August 2013

Life in the Slow Lane …….

It’s been the safest place to be!

The last two weeks have been so busy with boats!  We have taken our time getting from Hazlehurst Junction on The Caldon to Cannock on The Trent and Mersey – a total of 55 lock miles which a boater on holiday, doing 3 miles an hour and cruising for an average of 5 hours a day, would probably do in 3 or 4 days!

To be fair, like most other boaters it would seem, we cleared Stoke fairly quickly.  The city of Stoke-on-Trent confuses me!  Certainly from the canals I can’t quite work out where it starts and where it stops!  On The Caldon near Etruria, there are two ways of looking at it – either an area of sad dereliction or an area of massive regeneration.  All the old factories are being demolished but being replaced with some rather nice housing.  Some old kilns have, thankfully, been safe-guarded amongst it all.Leaving The Caldon 026

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Having cleared Stoke our next stop was the village of Barlaston.  One of our walks took us by the rather modern little church.  The daughter of some long-standing friends of ours is in charge!  We felt very proud to see her name displayed on the board.

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Having been unable to stop in Stone on the way up, we were keen to do so on the way back.  No chance!  It was jam packed solid with moored boats.  There’s lots of mooring available so ………………………?  Anyway, we were forced to keep going and did so until reaching Burston which we discovered to be an absolutely delightful little village.  The Greyhound Pub is a short walk up from the canal and looked very nice.  We walked up to the little church in Sandon Park from where there are fabulous views across the Upper Trent Valley and, on another occasion walked the area of Hopton Heath – more lovely views.  We came across the village of Salt and the very pretty Holly Bush Inn.

Another Holly Bush Inn

view from Hopton Heath

We have found Staffordshire to be a very large, diverse county.  Before travelling around on “Ellen” we weren't even really aware of the county of Staffordshire!  BUT, it fraternises with lots of different canals which give access to many beautiful natural areas and some lovely towns and villages.

The city of Lichfield is really nice too – the masonry on the cathedral is just fabulous.


On reaching Great Haywood it was no surprise to find the junction very busy with boats.  It’s such a lovely area and, if the HS2 does eventually go ahead, will be completely dissected by it.  It upsets me to think about it so how the local residents must feel probably can’t be put into words.  Central to the area is the National Trust owned Shugborough Estate where there is the mansion house, county museum, gardens and a park farm.  What impact will the HS2 have on them I wonder?  The area around the old packhorse bridge – known as Essex Bridge – was thoroughly enjoyed by a certain young spaniel who is upholding the well-established notion that her breed enjoys the water:-

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Making the most of the dry, warm weather we have also been up on Cannock Chase a couple of times and a certain young spaniel thought that was rather good too:-

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Every time we go up there I’m surprised at just how quiet it is.  I’m sure it is full of birds but you hardly ever hear a sound!  The most prolific species seen are cyclists on their mountain bikes!

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This Small Copper butterfly was a much rarer sight.

And finally …………… 

keep that gennie dry!

love and protect your generator!!!!!  Not us I hasten to add but it’s given John something else to think about!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Arriving in style …….

Our friends, Anne and John, had a week touring part of Yorkshire in their new toy.  They took a detour and came to find us for Sunday lunch on their way home.

What a way to arrive ……….

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Love it!  I shall look forward to the time when I can be taken for a spin.

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Just don’t ask about petrol consumption!!  Special toys are worth it!


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Up Hill & Down Dale

The Claytons + The Allebones = excess!

  • Excess of physical exercise!  We have been walking our little socks off!  The scenery has been amazing and it’s all been pretty fantastic!
  • Excess of food – again, pretty fantastic.
  • Excess of alcohol – pretty fantastic but ……………. all rather hazy!

Seriously though, this week we have, in some way or another, experienced all or part of:-

  • Dovedale which, as could only be expected, was far too full of people but beautiful nevertheless.  We did see one dipper which pleased me at least.

                          Walking in Dovedale          Up hill & down dale with Angela 006  Lovers’Leap – Don’t do it!!


  • Mill Dale – two really nice properties up for sale here?  Just look at the view!!

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  • Wolfscote Dale – still partly following The River Dove but far less crowded.

Wolfscotedale            up hill & down dale with John 061            Lola has some friends!

  • Biggin Dale – excellent pub called The Waterloo Inn here.  They had an attached touring site for caravans and motor homes.  NB Gary & Joan.
  • The Manifold Valley
  • The Tissington Trail

“Damn fine walks”, pronounced Lynn!  These were all thanks to ‘my Michael’ who had come prepared and was equipped with the “AA 50 Walks in The Peak District” publication.

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On the Wednesday we felt we needed a bit of an easier day so we went to The Black Lion at Consall Forge.  Peppa Pig and her friend George were making a celebratory appearance so the place was heaving and we had to QUEUE for drinks and to order lunch.  Who ARE these characters?  By the time lunch arrived it was nearly tea time!  We ended up having supper rather than dinner!

Barbecues in the rain?  A Clayton/Allebone speciality!  IMG_1910


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Access to Wheels ……

The Claytons are here!  They are safely ensconced in one of the cottages next to The Holly Bush Inn and all is working out well.  The pub is good – good food, good ale, dog friendly and be-decked with REAL flowers(!), the cottage is well situated, there are good moorings close-at-hand for us – some above, some beside and some just past and the area is really pretty with masses of walking opportunities which is what we like to do the most.  The only downside at the moment is the weather – it’s turned quite cold and showery.

Yesterday we went to The Roaches – those weird shaped rocks of millstone which form a ridge above the moorland.  The rocks themselves are very popular with climbers.  What a fabulous area of outstanding natural beauty!  We were expecting a tough climb:-

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Ready for ‘the off’!

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Going up …..

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And up …………….

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to the top.

What magnificent views …………


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And then the Heavens opened and …………

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we all got soaked!

Back to the car and to the nearby Tittesworth Reservoir for a chilly picnic complete with posh tablecloth, napkins, beers and a gin & tonic for me!

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Later, a chilly barbecue was enjoyed in the little courtyard at the back of the cottage.  A lovely day.  Thumbs up to the British Countryside….. British weather?  Well, no great surprises there but it could be worse and we’re made of tough stuff!        xxoo

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Caldon Canal–Part 2

The Leek Branch.

We’ve limped our way to Leek!  In actual fact that’s not true – we’re quite a way from Leek having stopped at the entrance to the short tunnel.  ALeek branch 003 (768x1024)fter this there’s about another 1/2 mile in water and then about another mile into the centre of the town.  The cLeek branch 006 (768x1024)anal used to go as far as a wharf in Leek but this was filled in during the 60’s and has since been built upon.

                        “Billy-no-Mates” -moored at the tunnel entrance.Leek branch 019 (1024x768)

The Leek Branch is:-  short, shallow but incredibly scenic.

We don’t think it’s short of water – it’s just in dire need of being dredged.  At times I think we were limping along at about a mile an hour. Since we’ve been here, only three boats have gone through the tunnel and  two of them have turned around and gone straight back again!  Not busy then!  We’re not short of neighbours providing some degree of entertainment however -

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We went for a walk and found the Ladderedge Country Park.  There are several way-marked trails and some of the views over the Churnet Valley and on towards The Peak District were stunning.

Leek branch 016 (1024x768)I think this rocky outcrop might be called The Roaches – if it is, it’s on our agenda for next week!                             

                   Leek branch 014 (1024x768)  Looking towards the town of Leek.

Last time we were here we walked into Leek and thought it a very nice little town. 

Tomorrow?  We’ll be limping back to Hazlehurst Junction and awaiting the arrival of our pals.  Really looking forward to spending the week with them – just need the weather to stay relatively dry!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Caldon Canal–Part 1

We have been here before but it was five years ago and, like The Weaver, we’ve forgotten more about it than we remember!  It was also pre Blog days so something new to write about!

A little bit of background:-

All the Guide books and articles about The Caldon say that it’s one of the loveliest canals and under-utilised at least by hire boaters and that is true but it does have a somewhat rocky start because it goes through  the middle of Stoke-on-Trent and the very heart of the old Potteries.  The canal turns off The Trent & Mersey at Etruria Junction which has been re-developed very well and now boasts visitor moorings, services and a small museum.  The canal is called The Caldon  after a limestone quarry from which thousands of tons were once transported each year.  Today it is possible to cruise as far as Froghall Basin and that’s all thanks to the efforts, persistence and determination of volunteers who worked hard to achieve the canal’s restoration.  In the 1960’s it had deteriorated so much that it was virtually unnavigable.  However, it was back in action in 1974 and Froghall Basin was fully restored and opened in 2005.  At Hazlehurst Junction there’s a short branch of only 3 miles which goes off towards the town of Leek.

Stoke-on-Trent to Hazlehurst Junction

Just passed Etruria Junction we had to negotiate a deep pair of staircase locks.  It’s not often I meet my match but the middle paddles of these locks absolutely beat me!  I could not raise them and neither could the lady from the boat behind.  Like it or not, we had to enlist the help of some muscle – yes, the men folk!  Even they found them tough though!  On through Hanbury Park.  The area doesn’t have a good reputation amongst boaters but I have to say that there was virtually no rubbish or graffiti and it was all very quiet.  In fact, it looks a lovely park.  We didn’t stop though!!!!  It’s an area of serious regeneration and the new housing looks very nice too.

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This very creative tribute to the area of The Potteries was at one of the locks.

I think if you double click on the picture it will be enlarged and you will be able to see all the different parts of  it in more detail.

The rope is a symbol of the county of Staffordshire.


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Once it had been explained to me by a passing motorist how to lower the road barriers(!!), we got through the Ivy House Lift Bridge (number 11) without any hassle!  After Bridge 14 we were beginning to leave the city behind and things started to become more rural.  We stopped at bridge 18 to see what the village of Milton has to offer the passing boater.  Quite a lot as it happens – butcher, baker, greengrocer, post office and small Co-op for starters.  We carried on through one more lock and two manually operated lift bridges before mooring up for the night near the bottom of the Stockton Brook flight of five locks.  High above planes headed on to Manchester Airport but didn’t bother us.

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The next morning we travelled up the locks, stopped at Endon where I found a post box, chemist and small convenience store and then went on to the service block and visitor moorings at Park Lane Bridge.  Yet another place where there are free shower facilities for boaters.  (You don’t find them everywhere on the system). John is getting to the point where he can’t resist utilising these free showers!  He says he hasn’t had to fill the tank,  heat up the water, empty our small bathroom and clear up the mess afterwards and there’s more room.  Room for two he came out saying today – …………. where is THIS leading to Caldon - Angela 012 (1024x768)I wonder?! 

From here we walked to Hazlehurst Junction and The Holly Bush Inn close to which Mick & Lynn have hired a cottage for next week.  It all looks very nice.  Fingers crossed, the weather will be good because it seems that there’s a lot to see and do in the area.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Call this a Holiday?

“Come and have a lovely, restful holiday, Gill.  You so deserve it.”  …………….. my ‘friends’ said.

Little did I know that my few days on the boat would, in reality, be such hard graft!  Just look at the chores they’ve been making me do!  Call this friendship?  Huh!!

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I’d been on board less than 12 hours and they had me washing and polishing the external paintwork and cleaning the windows!


I obviously made too good a job of the outside because then they ordered me to do a whole lot of tasks on the inside.  I was threatened with not being allowed any dinner, Pimm’s, Gin & Tonic or wine until these chores were completed to their satisfaction:-


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Some restful holiday!

I was only allowed off the boat to operate every lock single handedly whilst walking the dog.  No mean feat, I can tell you and I’ve been charged with full responsibility of training the mutt not to pull on her new, Mark 4, anti-pull harness.

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Angela made me go shopping with her WITH my credit card.  OK – she may well have invested in a new Dolly-Trolley but who is the mug who’s had to lug it all back to the boat?  All those bottles of beer weigh heavy!

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I’ve learned my lesson and it’s The Maldives for me next year.