Thursday, October 9, 2014

And Finally..........

This seems a good point to wrap up our blog for 'Blue Moon' and start afresh with a new blog for our new boat. We have had a very enjoyable year of boating and the decision to swap boats was not foreseen at all. But, we have to say, we are absolutely delighted with what we have done and look forward to getting out and about even more next year. 

The countdown to retirement continues and six months from today I will be able to say goodbye for the last time after 30 years service. Not wanting to wish my life away at all, but as each door closes another one opens I guess.

Checking the internet this afternoon, Blue Moon is now officially 'sold', so I suppose that also helps with the decision to close down this particular blog. I understand that the new owners are from the West Midlands and so we hope that we will cross paths at some point in the future.

As for us, we'll just keep ploddin' along. Thanks to all of you that have visited us in blogland. Our new blog will be available soon at 

All 'Thai'd up' in Loughborough

Over a month since our last blog.....really ?? Where does that time go.

Not much has been happening boating wise since we arrived back from our lovely trip on the Macclesfield and Peak Forest last month. Fiona is now the boat with no name as we have stripped the vinyl decals off the side panels and are awaiting our sign writer Jim to finalize our new design and then it will be all systems go to get her painted up. 

Last night we took the short drive over to Loughborough to meet up with Joe & Lesley on Yarwood and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening in their company. After a quick look at the improvements made to Yarwood over the summer (very nice too), we headed off around the corner to The Albion, a pub we have passed on many occasions, but never ventured in. Apparently the building was originally a farmhouse dating back to the 18th century. I have to say that the landlord certainly knows how to keep a pint, and a pint of his guest pale ale went down a treat. Unfortunately they weren't doing food, but he highly recommended the Thai Grand only a short distance away, and so after allowing us to leave the car in his car park (nice chap) off we went for a meal. 

'Himself' and Lesley about to demolish a starter
Impressive knife work !!!
The meal was first class and the service very friendly. If you are in Loughborough and like Thai food the place is an absolute must.

Back to The Albion for another pint, just to make sure it was as good as we thought it was, before we said our goodbyes. A lovely evening with lovely people. Good to see you both again and enjoy your 'winter' adventure.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Toothache, friends and back through Harecastle.

The first job for Monday was to try and get Louise an emergency dental appointment. The telephone lines opened at 9am and she managed to get a slot at 2pm in Macclesfield - marvellous. 

We made the short trip back to Gurnett Aqueduct and moored up around midday. Taxi booked for 1.40pm (some 90 minutes later) for the 3 mile trip - planning. Off she trots down the steps to the Old Kings Head at 1.30pm in plenty of time for the pick up and at 1.55pm she's still stood there waiting !! Simply incompetent. Heavy traffic is to blame Macclesfield ??

Anyway the dentist was very good and sent her away with some strong antibiotics. We decided to stay put for the night and Jasper and I decided to go for a looooooong walk as the tablets took a bit of time to start working and we were best out of the way. I'm pleased to say (yes, I really am) she's now back on form, pain free and talking again. 
Leaving Macclesfield on a beautiful morning
Tuesday was a fabulous day. We headed back to Bosley Locks and were pleased to see the top lock being opened for us as we approached.
Bosley Top Lock
The first six or seven locks were all in our favour. Plenty of folks about and boats coming up the flight helped. The bottom half was a bit slower as we had to turn locks as there was a boat some distance ahead, but on this flight that really isn't a problem as you take in the scenery. 
Jasper taking it easy towards Scholar Green
We knew that our friends David & Sarah on nb The Hodma'dod were at Scholar Green and we managed to get in next to them before welcoming them aboard for drinks. Jasper was delighted as he entertained their two Border Terriers Tansie & Teasle. 
Sarah with Teasle & Tansie (and a large wine)
Later we went to the nearby Rising Sun for dinner. Good job that David had booked as it was packed. Excellent meal had by all and I can certainly recommend the 'trio of pork' - absolutely delicious. 

Today we headed off about 9am after saying goodbye to David & Sarah. As we headed over the Red Bull aqueduct, four walkers smiled and said hello. I recognised one of them (or I thought I did) as a chap who I used to work with over 20 years ago. I called over to him and he confirmed it was indeed who I thought it was (phew) - another example of this small world we live in. 

Back onto the T&M and first boat in the 'queue' for Harecastle Tunnel. Estimate was an hour before we could be let in, so time to have a wander round and take a few pics. 
Waiting in the orange water

Once out at the other end, everything was going well until we collected a piece of soft furniture, pillow, cushion or similar on the prop, so a trip down the weed hatch followed. Once cleared it was on to Etruria and the Stoke Locks. Very quiet today and we didn't see another boat until we exited the bottom lock. 
Etruscan Bone & Flint Mill dated 1857
Bottle Kilns in amongst new housing
We are now at Barlaston for the night. Some decent fishing and a very boring England performance against Norway have filled the evening. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

All quiet back on The Macc

After a lovely couple of days at Bugsworth Basin with friends coming and going to take our minds off the wet weather, we are now heading back south on the Macclesfield Canal.

We hung around the basin on Saturday morning hoping the rain would clear as the forecast had promised. I took the opportunity of a walk around as the history and work which went into re-opening the basin is fascinating.
Interesting model of the basin
Our mooring in the middle basin
Before we left, one of my old work mates popped by again on his Indian built Enfield motorbike. You could certainly hear him coming from some distance away !!
Eric and his Enfield
We had barely seen any boats coming and going over the last couple of days, but having watered up, we appeared to have left at just the right time as we passed 8 boats heading for the basin before we reached Furness Vale. There was a boat ahead of us in the distance as we approached the first swing bridge. We were in view, so why oh why would you shut the bridge, jump back on your boat and clear off. Not once, twice or even three times, but all four swing bridges were the same. In the end I gave up shaking my head and just smiled, more in sympathy I think. 

We noticed this sign (you couldn't really miss it) near New Mills. Apparently if you brush against this stuff and then are subjected to sunlight, most people suffer severe blistering of the skin and it can take years for the symptoms to subside. No wonder the sign was so visible.

We weren't planning in going far, but the Peak Forest is so shallow and despite our best efforts we couldn't get in at locations which took our fancy and so ended up turning left at Marple Junction and back onto the Macc and mooring out in the country and mile or so from the junction.

Today has been a very lazy day. A bit of a lie in before we set off late morning. As we pushed away from the bank, Louise set off walking, she thought with Jasper, but he had other ideas and hopped back on the boat. He couldn't quite work it out why 'Mum' was walking without him and so went to try and find out with a wander along the gunwale. It's certainly the first time he's displayed any cat-like tendencies and I'm pleased to say that it ended well as he hopped off at the next bridge and resumed his walk with Louise. 
Mum.......where are you going ??
There have been very few boats moving about today, despite the good weather. Plenty of Braidbar Boats at Higher Poynton where there seemed to be a bit of a gathering going on. A few day boats about with people enjoying themselves and lots of walkers, cyclists and runners, but other than that, very quiet indeed.  It's even very quiet inside the boat too, as Louise is battling a bout of toothache and an emergency dentist may be needed sooner rather than later. There's only so many painkillers you can take in one day !!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Back on my old stomping ground

The last few days have been great. Fabulous scenery, good company and the chance to catch up with some old work colleagues.

Bosley Locks was early on the agenda for Wednesday. We really enjoy this flight of 12 locks and it's hard to believe that they are the only ones, apart from the stop lock at Hall Green, on this 26 mile stretch of canal when you are surrounded by hills for most of its length. We were straight into the flight as a boat was just leaving the bottom lock as we approached. We shared the locking and the steering and met a couple of boats coming down, and only having to turn one lock as we ascended the flight. Without seeming to rush at all and taking in the views as we went, we were at the top in under 2 hours. 

Bosley Locks
The phrase 'It's a small world' is often heard, and today was no exception. Louise was chatting to a couple of walkers half way up the flight who were watching us through a lock as they had a picnic lunch. Louise thought she recognised the lady, but couldn't place her. Turns out she works at our local supermarket in Derby. I'm sure the chap she was with would have been her husband..................

Louise was again at the helm as we approached Fools Nook electric swing bridge. She's not a fan of technology - turning keys and pressing buttons and all that. Just one 'City Link' van held up for all of a minute or two, but looking less than impressed by the experience. I'm sure he appreciated my cheery wave and thank you as he sped off once the barriers raised. Slow down man !!
Approaching Macclesfield
We were heading for Gurnett Aqueduct for the night and hoping there would be room. We were in luck as we rounded the bend, although the rings here seem to be awkwardly spaced and very wide apart. We were soon joined by our youngest son Luke and his girlfriend Annabelle who were going to be with us for a couple of days and we decided to try the Sutton Hall pub close by. What a lovely place. 480 years old and a former convent amongst other things. A fabulous meal, a varied and interesting menu (Louise loved her tandoori Hake fillet with cauliflower bhajis) friendly service and dog friendly too. A definite winner.

Sutton Hall. Luke not really wanting to be photographed !!
Yesterday we moved on up to Bugsworth Basin. Sunshine most of the way apart from a very brief shower. Not many boats moving at all and of course lock free, so the new crew were pretty redundant. The old mills along this stretch are a reminder of the industry that once was. Clarence Mill at Bollington in particular is a magnificent building.
Clarence Mill
We were at Marple Junction by early afternoon and turned right onto the Peak Forest. The water is a little down on this normally shallow water and we scraped the bottom on several occasions. The crew were soon in action on the swing bridges along here. The views out over the hills were fabulous once again.

Views across to the hills...........magnificent
Passing through New Mills, the smell from the Swizzels sweet factory was lovely. I'm sure everyone has tasted a packet of 'Love Hearts' in their time. Well this is where they came from.
Swizzels factory
Bugsworth is a lovely spot to moor and pretty quiet at the minute. Just a handful of boats scattered around the basins.

We ate last night at The Navigation, once run by Pat Phoenix of Coronation Street fame, before we were joined by our friends Paul and Jane for drinks. Today we have stayed put. We had always planned to stay here for a day or two as we have the time, plus the weather has been very wet. It was a chance to invite some of my old work mates along for a catch up. I worked up here as a young cop back in the 80's and have a lot of great memories and friends up here. We have had a steady stream all day and it's been great taking a trip back down Memory Lane with them. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The tunnel is alive with the sound of music.

The curtains were opened early this morning and it was very tempting to shut them straight away and go back to sleep. Grey skies, rain and wind greeted us, but the forecast was for an improving day and so we were soon up and way towards Stoke wrapped up in some warm wet weather clothing.

The five Stoke locks were all with us and no queues, but plenty waiting at the top lock to travel down. We headed on towards Harecastle Tunnel and were soon being 'chased down' by another boat. Now we don't travel what I would call slowly, but this guy was catching us hand over fist. Personally, I'd rather let quicker boats pass as I'm not keen on having a boat sitting on the back button, so as soon as an opportunity presented itself, I slowed right down and signalled for the steerer to pass. Now if we overtake another moving boat we do it slowly so that it makes it easy for both of us, but not this guy. Full steam ahead as he passed and to make it worse radio on full had to be that way so he could hear it over the engine.

Another couple of miles up to the tunnel portal and it turned out there were five boats ahead of us. As we arrived we knew it was midday as the news came on the radio.....not ours you understand, but our friend who was now moored ahead of us. We commented on the fact that at least he wouldn't get a radio signal in the tunnel !!
Queuing at Southern Portal
We had a wait of about half an hour before the oncoming boats had all emerged and we started to enter. We were tail end Charlie and all boats left a decent gap between. The fans were soon on and the  air rushing back past us. The going was pretty slow and before long the sound of the fans was soon over ridden by the sound of music !! No radio signal, but we were 'treated' to the greatest hits of Nat King Cole for the entire length of the tunnel. Bearing in mind you have the noise of boat engines to contend with in such a small space, Louise could name half the songs as the music was so loud and clear (slightly worrying I have to say). It was certainly a different experience. We have travelled through Harecastle many times, but never accompanied by music. Maybe CaRT could consider a speaker system and play relaxing music for those not keen on tunnel travel or maybe they could just issue this joker with an ASBO !!

The journey was indeed a slow one. The tunnel keeper at the northern end informed us that the second boat through had held everyone up and had emerged 16 minutes after the lead boat. Maybe the lead boat didn't like Nat King Cole and the second one did ?? Thankfully most of the boats ahead stayed on the T&M and we turned left at Hardings Wood Junction, leaving our resident DJ on nb Eigerdancer to 'entertain' the other boats queuing at the locks. 
If only our pictures had sound !!
Peace and quiet now regained, we headed up to the stop lock at Hall Green and then dropped onto the water point just beyond.

Hall Green Stop Lock - onto The Macc.
We were joined by nb AreandAre, a boat whose blog we follow. We soon got chatting to Barry who runs his Home Brewing business from the boat and I wasn't going to resist trying a sample of 'Evil Dog' at 7.1%. 
We enjoyed a chat whilst our tank filled and we shall be in touch on our return home as Louise likes the sound of trying to brew some wine which only takes five days to make, so she won't have to wait long !! We wished Barry well and headed off, soon passing Ramsdell Hall dating back to around 1760 and built by the Lowndes family before we moored up for the night near to bridge 81 in a lovely spot. 
Ramsdell Hall

Potteries & Peaks.

We are off on our last trip of the year, full of excitement aboard 'Fiona'. We are intending to take it easy with a trip through the Potteries and up into the Peak District via the Macclesfield and Peak Forest to Bugsworth Basin.

We left Kings Bromley on Saturday morning with the intention of heading for Shugborough to meet Lisa & David and their daughter Kirsty aboard nb What a Lark. Plenty of boats about for the Bank Holiday weekend. Plum Pudding was negotiated carefully (don't want to scratch the new boat !!) and then a couple of sharp showers were endured as we headed through Rugeley.
Plum Pudding
Colwich Lock is always a bottleneck on this stretch, but as we arrived we were a little disappointed to be sixth in the queue, so a bit of a wait, but at least the sun was showing itself again and it was to be our only lock of the day.

There was a nice gap behind What a Lark and before we welcomed Lisa & David aboard, Jasper enjoyed a run and swim in the river. Drinks and a guided tour of 'Fiona' completed, we all retired to the Clifford Arms for a very good and very reasonably priced meal and discussed plans for next Springs great adventure !!
Lisa, David and Louise                                  
Sunday was lovely day weather wise. The first hour was spent searching What a Lark for a central heating header tank as David wanted to check the anti freeze content of the system and I had the gadget to do it. As the great Toyah Wilcox once sang 'It's a mystery' and despite searching high and low, the mystery was eventually solved with a text and phone hasn't got one (which I still find a mystery). But anyway we got away about 9.30am after saying our goodbyes and headed through the pleasant farmland towards Stone. 
Sandon Lock has a serious leak on the bottom gates and it took a while to fill as a result. CaRT are aware but are hoping that it will last until winter works...can't see it myself. Aston Lock marks the mid-point of the Trent & Mersey Canal.
Mid point milepost
Aston Lock
The volunteer lockies were out in Stone and very appreciative we were of their help. Louise steered through the lovely Meaford Locks (and Jasper kept an eye on things) and then onto Barlaston, passing the fabulous boatyard which can't fail but to appeal. 
Meaford Locks
Barlaston Boatyard
Today has been a miserable day with rain all day. We decided to stay put rather than cruise in the miserable conditions. So it's been a day of Sudoku, letter writing to relatives, dvd's and odd jobs. We did have a good walk this afternoon thanks to a book we have on board written by the author and walker John Merrill, which took us around the old village of Barlaston and what a lovely walk it was. Through the Wedgewood estate, and then up into the village via a tree lined road with its old and unusual street lighting. 

Unusual street lights
Sadly, the lovely old church looks unused nowadays. 
Lovely church
The spectacular Barlaston Hall was built in 1756 by Robert Taylor for Thomas Mills, an attorney from Leek, and is Grade One listed.
Barlaston Hall
It was then on down to the village green. We spent some time reading the bye laws sign and were left wondering if there is actually anything you are allowed to do. We left thinking that there were eyes watching us from all angles in case we put a foot wrong !!
Is there anything you can do ??
The forecast for Tuesday is much better, so we will head up through Harecastle and onto the Macclesfield towards the Peaks. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

First impressions of Fiona

We have spent the weekend making a leisurely trip back to Kings Bromley in our new boat. It was sad to leave Blue Moon behind yesterday morning as we pulled away from the jetty at Mercia Marina. She is now on brokerage here and will make someone a lovely boat, (although they are asking far too much !!) The sadness was soon replaced by a real sense of excitement though as we start to get to know 'Fiona' as we will call her, until we officially rename. 

We had a short cruise with just a couple of locks before we moored at Branston near to the water park. We welcomed our first guests aboard in the evening as friends Steve and Mave popped in for drinks. They live in Branston and came bearing alcohol and so were very welcome indeed.

We left this morning about 8am in bright sunshine, passing a long line of moored boats. The engine on 'Fiona' is sooo quiet and at tick over it's difficult to hear at all, much to the surprise of the four anglers in their tents at the side of the canal. They certainly hadn't heard us coming and only some last second panic and speedy reeling in of lines prevented us from dragging some very expensive carp tackle into the cut.

Our first lock of the day was Tatenhill Lock, which always looks lovely as you approach from this direction. We used it to take our first picture of 'Fiona"

Tatenhill Lock
Onwards to Fradley in quite a strong wind. Nev from nb Percy was busy laying some decking at his mooring but spotted us as we passed. We moored on the visitor moorings at Fradley and he popped up to see us for a drink and guided tour. Great to finally meet up after so many near misses.

Fradley was busy with gongoozlers, motorbikes and the like, but these two 'Rollers' were absolutely fantastic to see. 

Louise got some help doing the locks as is usual on a busy day at Fradley. She was particularly grateful at Shadehouse Lock where the bottom gates are so very heavy. The American 'tourist' was  more than willing to help and surprised just how heavy the gate was to close. But how he let himself down as Louise started to open the top paddle as he called down to me "Do you ever risk letting your wife do the driving?"

I politely told him that Louise was in fact quite good at the helm, but preferred the locking which seemed to come as quite a surprise to him !! If looks could kill, Louise would have had a victim.

So 'Fiona' is now safely tucked up at Kings Bromley. Early impressions are very good and we can't wait to head off out next weekend for the Macclesfield and Peak Forest. Well Chuffed.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The rather sudden end of an era.

Well we certainly never envisaged that our last trip on Blue Moon would infact be our final one, but you never quite know what's hiding around the corner.

The last three and a half years have been wonderful. Our first 'owned' boat that has really done us proud and as we have eluded to in previous posts, we planned to have her repainted next year and we were also going to replace the windows and therefore spend quite a bit of money on her to coincide with my retirement. 

However, out of the blue last weekend, we went and looked at another boat which was for sale close to home and to cut a long story short, the chance was too good to miss. We proposed a deal, a little tongue in cheek to the brokers, which surprisingly interested both them and the vendors and the deal is now done.

So this weekend has been hectic to say the least. Blue Moon moved from Kings Bromley to Mercia Marina yesterday and today we have spent the entire day transferring everything across to our new boat. We just didn't foresee how long that would take and how much 'stuff' we have accumulated over the last three and a half years. We haven't even had time for any photos !!

Blue Moon will soon be on brokerage and will make someone a cracking boat. Our new boat is also an Aqualine, but this time a reverse layout with a semi-trad stern and less than two years old. We know she will give us many happy hours of cruising.

So next weekend we will make the return journey at a much more leisurely pace and take 'Fiona A' back to Kings Bromley and look forward to setting off for the Macclesfield and Peak Forest the weekend after. It was obviously meant to be.

Fiona be re-named

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ending our trip with a double celebration

We made it back home to the marina last weekend after a couple of pleasant days cruising in some lovely weather. We have been blessed with a couple of glorious weeks and thoroughly enjoyed our trip, meeting up with great friends along the way. 

Friday saw us cruise between Grendon and Tamhorn. We soon passed Grendon Wharf and then fields full of poppies which looked fabulous. 

Grendon Wharf
Poppy fields
By mid afternoon the sun had got the best of us as we tied up to get some shelter. A nice spot with some trees for shade as we sat out on the towpath with a bottle of wine and just the occasional boat passing us. One final piscatorial session brought this lovely chub to the net.

Saturday was a short trip back to Kings Bromley and the end of this particular trip. Normally we would be on a bit of a downer as we turn into the marina, but on this occasion it was just tinged with sadness as we had a couple of significant events to look forward to and celebrate.

On Monday we travelled down to Cardiff and booked into a very nice hotel overlooking the castle. We have got to know Cardiff quite well over the last three years as our eldest son has been at university there. It just so happened that his graduation fell the day after our Silver Wedding anniversary, and so we celebrated both events with the city break and had an absolutely wonderful time.
The 'still' happy couple
Tuesday was our anniversary and we spent it relaxing and wandering around the city. You can't keep us off the water and the best mode of transport was the water bus along the River Taff from the city down to Cardiff Bay, a 25 minute trip for just £3 seemed excellent value. Cardiff Bay was vibrant and the regeneration is just fantastic. On our return we met both our sons who had travelled down by train and we all enjoyed a family meal together in the evening.
Passing The Millennium Stadium on the Water Bus
Panoramic view of Cardiff Bay
Wednesday was 'proud parents day' or graduation. Cardiff University put on a great event at St Davids Hall which ran meticulously well and for us all to be together celebrating Liam's achievement was indeed one of our proudest days.

So, after all the goings on, it's back to reality and work. How depressing !! Still, on the bright side, we have now firmed up our plans for our re-paint next year, it's just five weeks until we head out again and 266 sleeps until retirement. It'll be here before we know it.