Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Armitage 'tunnel' on the Trent and Mersey June 2016

Our Summer Cruise to London 2016

To Fradley Junction  June 2016

Day 13 To Rugeley Br.66 - 5 miles and 2 locks
Day 14 To Fradley Junction, visitor moorings - 8 miles, 2 locks and the small swing bridge

Up early to await the delivery of the new engine starter batteries. They were coming from Longton, S-O-T. Eventually, lunch they arrived!
Quite easy to fit, these new ones are slightly smaller and slipped into the space easily.
Connected up, the Lister fired up and we were ready to go again.
[At £132 incl. delivery, ordered and paid through Kev at Anglo Welsh. If you need help at Great Haywood, I would certainly recommend him.]

The run down to Rugeley is well known to us and we chugged along happily, enjoying the countryside. Arriving at Rugeley, we went through to the Bridge 66 moorings and just got in.
It is a shortish walk to Aldi from here, and even closer to Tesco's.

We had got our post forwarded by Mailboxes and I picked this up first thing, which gave us time for a cooked breakfast in Tesco's. and some last shopping!

We knew the weather would turn to rain in the afternoon!
For now, the trip further south was a gentle twist and turn along Brindley's 225ft contour.

An atmospheric shot of Rugeley Power Station. Built in 1972, it ran on coal.
It has just been closed by it's owner's International Power/GDF in June 2016 and will be demolished by 2109

Spode Hall (not due for demolition as far as I know). Former home of the pottery family

Entering the narrows - having checked all clear?!

Originally Armitage Tunnel (137ft long), the sandstone subsided due to coal mining and the tunnel was opened out into a cutting and the newish road put across in 1971 - now listed on canal maps as Bridge 61A !

Concrete supported by sandstone

Just around a sharp bend - brick bridge supported by sandstone - Br. 60

The famous Armitage-Shanks factory making toilets and basins

A sorry sight indeed! Presumably licensed?

And then the rain came! Camera went away and in pouring rain, we dropped down to Fradley Junction. It was already full at the favoured moorings at the top, so we needed to descend down through Shade House and Middle Locks, turning onto the Coventry Canal.
Even in the pouring rain we need water, empty the cassette/rubbish, so with the domestic jobs done, we moored at the end of the visitor moorings. The rain drumming on the roof.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Leaky engine battery - a day of engineering! June 2016

Our Summer Cruise to London  2016

Battery problems delay journey  June 2016

Day 12 To Great Haywood Junction - on the services outside Anglo-Welsh  1 mile

Yesterday, when I was topping up the batteries with distilled water, I noticed that one of the engine starter battery took a lot of water, even though the light indicator read 'green'.
Further hands and knees ferreting showed an acid weep!

So today, we came down to the Anglo-Welsh yard (outside on the end of the services) for a full investigation. I lifted both engine starter batteries out and this showed the casing of one of the batteries had a small split. Acid had wept onto the adjoining metal framework and the engine floor.
Kev from Anglo-Welsh was extremely helpful (I would thoroughly recommend him for services and parts etc - I buy my Morris SAE 30 from him in a 25 Litre drum!).
Kev agreed to take the old batteries for disposal and phoned a friend for replacements - to arrive tomorrow!

We have a 24 volt starter (the Lister JP2 Marine came from a fishing boat!) and so use 2 x 85 amp 12 volt batteries in series. These were last replaced in Feb 2008, so have done well.
Having only done less than an hour cruising down to the Junction, we needed to run the engine for some domestic battery charging. The benefit (?!) of a vintage engine is that it can be started by hand.
After 5 goes and my heartbeat telling me almost enough, with Chris on the decompressor lever, the engine fired and up went the leisure battery voltage! Relief!
Tomorrow we are going for a Full English Breakfast in the Canalside Café and await the arrival of the new batteries.

The two 85 Amp 12v engine starter batteries - in series for the 24 volts required

These have done us well - 8 years of service

Bi-carbonate of soda to eradicate any residual acidic water, having washed it all down

The chunky (lorry) 24 volt starter

Engine battery space awaiting tomorrow's delivery

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Staffs and Worcs Canal 2016

Our Summer Cruise to London 2016

To Tixall Wide June 2016

Day 9 Around Stafford to Tixall Wide - 9.5 miles and 5 locks
Day 10 and 11 - Moored at Tixall Wide

We continue our route northwards and then eastwards, heading for Brindley's other major canal achievement, the Trent and Mersey Canal. The route takes us through some lovely countryside, only a walk from Stafford.
We had decided to stop at Tixall Wide for a few days, one of our favourite places to moor.

The Captain locking the boat down Deptmore Lock - at 10' 3" pretty deep

Passing the well appointed Stafford Boat Club

This is Brindley's idea of a low bridge
On the canals you are never far from the railways - here a Freightliner chases on the Stafford line from Rugby 

Moored at Tixall Wide - a man made lake to disguise the canal, a requirement of the landowner,  Thomas Clifford, son of the 3rd Baron of Chudleigh. Constructed in 1771, it is said that Izaac Walton learnt to fish on this lake!

The Elizabeth Gatehouse opposite where we are moored. Added in 1580 to Tixall Manor, it is all that is left of the House, although the working Farm still stands. The house was demolished in 1927 and the estate sold off piecemeal in 1960.
You can stay in the Gatehouse as a holiday let!
The main claim to fame is that Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned here for two weeks in 1586, before being moved to Fotheringhay Castle.

Sunset over Tixall Wide

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The new and older canals in Staffordshire June 2016

Our Summer Cruise to London 2016

To Penkridge June 2016

Day 6 Heading south in the country, mooring near Bridge No.8 - 12.5 miles and 1 lock
Day 7 On the Staffs & Worcs Canal, going north, moored near Gailey - 12 m and 1 lock
Day 8 To Penkridge - 3 miles and 7 locks

As we continue southwards on the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, my map guide tells me it was eventually completed in 1835, being designed by the famous Thomas Telford as the 'motorway' of it's age. The canal largely follows a direct line, dealing with the land variations by cuttings, large embankments and, below, a tunnel.

This photo is us leaving Cowley Tunnel, just after Gnosall. Cut into the sandstone ridge which is along the route, it only measures 81 yards as parts collapsed and were opened into a deep cutting

This is a very overgrown emergency gate at the end of an embankment. It is there to protect the water supply in the event of a breach. This one doesn't look functional though?!

Crossing the A5 at Stretton Aqueduct - the railings need some tlc
[For canal and vintage engine enthusiasts - see I am using the tall exhaust chimney]

This photo is for Steve Parkin - to add to his records!

Passing under the M54 - a modern motorway!

And then, having reached Autherley Junction, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, we joined the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.
Commonly called the Staffs & Worcs, it was built by the legendary James Brindley, completed in 1772 being a marvel of it's day. Transporting coal and other goods, it linked to the Trent and Mersey Canal and hence the Rivers Trent, Mersey and Severn in an 'across middle England' conceptual genius! It was highly profitable.

The canal design was a product of the, then, modern thinking. Lower bridges and the route following the contours of the land in a winding series of 's' to avoid cuttings, tunnels or embankments - with the locks generally spaced out along the route.

Here Brindley had to cut through that sandstone ridge - the canal narrows to single passage. They were known to the old boaters as the Pendeford Rockin'.

Looking back! Happily we did not meet any other boats

Passing under the M54 again

An example of Brindley's curves - you need to keep well over and have a good look out!
[Also note the short exhaust being used - due to low bridges!]

An example of recent works. A win-win for the Canal Trust.
Re-claiming the eroded canal edge and dumping dredgings

Another example on the bend around the Hatherton Junction

You can see this for miles around - Staffs County Council incinerator

Also at Calf Heath are some extensive chemical works.

Clear instructions! New H & S boards

Very clear!

The simple beauty of the countryside

Evidence of the horse-drawn days. The white metal strip protects the towing line - though you can see where it has cut into the soft stone on the lock entrance

More new additions of railings

On the move - Chris takes the helm at the locks

It seems motorways are never far away - this is the M6

This inventive treehouse caught my eye!

Followers of this Blog may wish to view some earlier posts when we passed this way in 2014 - see this link and other posts around then.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Shropshire Union Delights June 2016

Our Summer Cruise to London 2016

To Norbury Junction June 2016

Day 2 Stayed on the Market Drayton Visitor Moorings - a very wet day
Day 3 Heading south to Norbury Junction 11 miles 5 locks
Day 4 Moored at Norbury Junction
Day 5 Moored at Norbury Junction

The depression had passed through and the day proved to be warm with some sun.
We were heading for Norbury, where we often stop on this route. On this occasion, to also meet my brother with the car for a Saturday morning of rugby and some shopping!
Firstly though, we had the notorious Tyrley Locks to ascend.

Notorious because of the by-weirs on locks 5 and 4 being angled across the entrance to the locks. There was also considerable water flowing down due to the recent rain!

Chris waits below Tyrley Lock No. 5 in the delightful sandstone cutting

Repairs needed!

The ferocious bywash - coloured sandy brown from the field run-offs after the heavy rain

Entering the Tyrley Top Lock - Chris steered extremely well.
Chris 4 - Tyrley By-weirs 1

The delightful Tyrley Lock Cottages

This is the deep and impressive Woodseaves Cutting.
Towpath and sandbagged retaining walls are new

A recent incident

With a deep cutting comes a High Bridge No.57

These working boats moor at the historic Cadbury's Wharf at Knighton.
nb Starling is a 1936 Yarwoods of Northwich built motor, trading out of Trafford Park, Manchester. Sometimes called a 'bottle boat' as it carried the chemicals in glass carboys

Newly painted up, 1936 Harland and Wolff Town class motor

Onwards to Grub Street Cutting with the iconic High Bridge No.39, complete with the strangely located telegraph pole!