Saturday 2th August: Stone

It's now Saturday evening and I'm having difficulties remembering what we did yesterday. I remember the weather was indifferent, and we had some rain and few locks. What is memorable was that Rugely was indifferent. At one point where there was once a tunnel followed by a bendy narrow stretch: I had to walk on to stop oncoming boats and soon after that we passed a handsome, nay beautiful, building, Spode House (well, we are in Staffordshire and potteries country) spoiled by an advertising banner for a golf club, and skirted around a huge power station on our right. Soon after we passed high over the River Trent on a quite spectacular aqueduct. Thereafter the canal follows the river quite closely and for most of it we were really close, sometimes seeing it just below us beyond trees. And yes, this is a beautiful part of the canal, Cannock Chase, a huge country park rising up beyond the river to the west. Then the valley widens somewhat and we approach Great Haywood and Shugborough House where we moor and are entertained to a live concert and fireworks in the evening - an Abba tribute band and Toyah Wilcox performing across the river. Some boaters had come specially with chairs and picnics and traipsed through a field with cows to sit by the river and enjoy the evening free! This was a special weekend as there was a prom the next evening and the folk on the next boat Carillion, Hilary and Zane had tickets. We spent a pleasant evening chatting and drinking with them. Although the rain started mid evening it didn't stop the fun which finished with fireworks at about eleven.


We set off again after admiring the Essex Bridge over the River Trent and its tributary the River Sow. It is said the Earl Of Essex built it for Queen Elizabeth I to visit. It is a pedestrian bridge with buttresses and triangular recesses, well over thirty or so. In spite of a fair bit of rain in the night the sun was coming out and the weather improved as the day went on - a glorious sunny, breezy day. The valley widened and although the river stayed on our left we saw nothing of it. It has been a lovely day - we've travelled up about five or so locks, sometimes having to queue to go up, but it's all been very civilized and sociable. We started with woods, oak, beech, sycamore and the odd evergreen but increasingly we found meadows with cattle and Canada geese. There is still meadow sweet and marsh willowherb but also a lot a hymalayan balsam( I know there is concern that this very pretty late summer flower is spreading at the expense of our native plants!) I'll remember the Trent and Mersey for the cobbles; the elegant bridge over the junction of the Stafford & Worcestershire Canal was cobbled and quite tricky to cross and there are cobbles around most of the locks which are quite fierce to work - I guess there are a few twisted ankles - should Health & Safety be informed! We arrived in Stone at sixish and Nick went off to explore and find the Quaker Meeting House which occupies the old railway buildings. We've done a lot of travelling in the last few days so we intend to stay here for a bit.

Sunday 3rd August: Stone

We awoke to a dull but warm morning, and before long were back on the Coventry Canal. This does not mean we've turned around - apparently the B & F ran out of money and the Coventry Canal Co. completed this section of the canal up to Fradley Junction. We stopped at Whittington to get a few items I'd forgotten yesterday. It was quite a walk up to the village and was raining quite steadily on the way back. It has continued on and off like this all day. As you can see from the photo it was quite pleasant as I worked the swing bridge approaching the junction, and the canal was exceedingly busy. We moored briefly to change 2 gas canisters which we had to do over another semi-obliging boater (his boat, that is!) and then had to adjust to the first few locks on the Trent and Mersey. We are now locking up. The first few are approached under very narrow, low bridges and we found them quite fierce, so care had to be taken with the opening of the paddles. We are now moored just beyond Fradley Woods. Yesterday we had the deep red soil typical of Warwickshire, now it's more moorlandy with lots of brambles, our first foxgloves. some pines and rhodedendron - it would be wonderful along here in May. I picked our first blackberries, just a few for our muesli in the morning. We are debating our  future progress. We had planned to be in Stone for me to go to Meeting on Sunday but the area just after Rugeley is apparently particularly beautiful and interesting so we're not sure. Do we make steady progress up to Northwich, or stop and explore the Caldon Canal which is by all accounts exceedingly pretty taking one into the Peak District. We've not yet decided and our decision may be determined by a number of factors such as when/where friends/family might like to join us.

Monday 4th August  Stone





I am ashamed to say it was 8.15. when we surfaced today. After a walk with Caspar and a quick breakfast Nick went into town where he was unable to find the electrical bits he needed and then I set off to the launderette - a good mile, much of it up hill. However, much to my surprise I was met and ferried back to the boat in a smart BMW! Alan and Kim, our Kiwi friends, were delivering the family dog to a gamekeeper,  not that far away, and to explore some old family localities and connections over here. We had been expecting them but tomorrow, so that was a lovely surprise and an excuse for a pub lunch sitting by the lock in the centre of Stone. Caspar was as delighted to see them as we were and seemed disappointed not to be whisked away in their smart car back to Berkshire!

On Sunday morning I set off up the canal, on foot, across the cut, down an alley, across the railway (foot, not bridge, looking and listening) and up to Stone Station which houses Stone Quaker Meeting. No trains stop there at present and the town council bought the building and let it to the Quakers who had previously met in homes. It is a beautiful building with a number of rooms and I was made most welcome. It was a lovely meeting - a treat after a whole 4 or 5 weeks without  that wonderful silent spiritual sustenance.  It is the first meeting I've been to where a little, all-white Jack-Russell called Chalky joined us, first on his owner's lap and then curled up under the central table. He is clearly a regular and much loved attender. We were also treated to a fair number of whistles and trains, some slow. and one or two extremely fast passing thro' the station. (I began to think I'd risked life and limb crossing the track!) The gathered meeting were embarrassed and assured me that this was not usual and that normally only one or two trains passed. I also appreciated the beautiful deep purple clematis on the table and the large egg timer which is turned over 3 minutes before meeting starts and sifts the sands of time for exactly 63 minutes. I did a little shopping and rang for Nick to meet me to help carry. We did meet at the pub and enjoyed a drink with Brian, a solo boater who had travelled up the cut with us for a day or two previously. He is another of the special people one is privileged to meet on the cut. He is the priest at a church in Stoke on Trent who is completing a 3 month sabbatical; he and his 3 dogs. one ancient and physically needy had travelled to Peterborough to where he had been ordained 20 years ago. He keeps his boat on the Leek arm of the Caldon Canal where he will join us later in the month for a meal. He runs a very high church and is anti-women priests. How different, from the equitable way of worship I had experienced earlier in the day! How much does it matter? It was pretty clear to me that he is pretty effective in a pastoral way, serving in a relatively tough urban environment for many years and turning down, after a great deal of thought, an idyllic parish in Wales. I guess his boat, his dogs and his God give him strength. Brian travelled on later in the day as he had a special  service to conduct on Tuesday, while we stayed on to eat, and enjoy a quiet evening after the dog enjoyed a run behind Nick on the new bike and a swim in the River Trent.


Thursday 7th August  Stoke

We set off soon after 6.30. on Thursday morning as we are hoping to be on the Caldon for the weekend and to take advantage of a 'window' of better weather. The canal continues beautifully pastoral and we've  worked 9 locks. We passed the huge Wedgewood factory with visitor centre which we resisted, We saw the enormous square 60's style building off to the east while passing beautiful water lilies, arrowhead leaves with their pretty white and black flowers and the regular meadowsweet and ragwort and decided we were happier on the canal rather than trudging through a factory in a queue - whatsmore I have never really liked  the famous Wedgewood design. We also travelled up the cut with a group of Siberian scouts and cubs. Nick eventually managed to persuade one or two of them to help with the locks -they were quite reluctant - but then they all wanted to get involved!  Soon we were on the outskirts of Stoke, passing the huge football stadium to the east, the amazingly huge Sainsbury's distribution warehouse, and an enormous incinerator to the east. We have stopped on a stretch with a the railway 300yards to the east and a busy road the same distance to the west. In spite of this I have picked blackberries and raspberries and it is not too noisy now. Nick decided to remove the loo and do a lot of work on the toilet tank which was quite rusty and required scraping and treating. He also did some re-routing of pipes so we are another step closer to preparing for the arrival of a washing machine. Meanwhile I've been sitting with my legs crossed - the loo is being re-assembled at bedtime! We intend to be up early again tomorrow and in a day or two we'll be on the summit of the Caldon at 450+ feet and hopefully will see Pat, Abi and Elanor this weekend.



Well, we remained in Stone for 4 full days on a 5 day mooring. This has been partly because the forecast was poor and we had previously travelled for a full week. And Stone is an attractive canal side town. Our mooring was pleasant with a wide well kept tow path and access for meadows and the River Trent just a couple of hundred yards to the west. This allowed me to spend a longish morning in town where there was a market and I was able to trawl the charity shops and was pleased to see lots of independents and a health food shop - the owner knew Liz Chandler from Nature's Corner in Newbury. He owns 4 shops, 2 in Stoke and believes independents should work together more as he does with another local health shop proprietor. On Wednesday I traipsed up to the launderette again so we are now really clean! Nick has also sorted out things do-it-yourself wise so we can have hot water when we are not travelling without also having the radiators. I guess this became a necessity because it has been extremely humid. He has also been working out the logistics of the installation of a washing machine.

Friday 8th August  Stockton Brook

Another early start; we were off at 7am with the intention of getting through the centre of Stoke by mid morning and indeed it was about 11am when we turned on to the Caldon, and by 4 o'clock we'd moored way to the north at Stockton Brook having stopped at Milton for provisions. One might be intrigued by the affordable housing provided in this area if one weren't aware of the listed building status of the several bottle shaped brick furnaces that have survived. The day started very cool but dry and happily got warmer as we travelled, with sun and 50% blue sky until late afternoon. The journey started through a concrete jungle of road, railway, and canal; we were in a built up environment of industry, dereliction/development, and residential for most of the time, although there were small patches of green and wooded area the more we travelled out of the city on the Caldon Canal. The only piece we were aware of on the T&M was the cemetery which was, however, particularly pleasant despite the stones.


I have more plumbing to do in the bathroom - rerouting the hot water feed and the drain to make room for the washing machine in the adjacent cupboard, but I resisted the temptation to cycle to B&Q in Stoke for components so I won't be able to do it for at least a week!

Well, Nick felt moved to write a web entry - I hope I won't be made redundant!  The day, as he says has been pleasant but busy - my knees are telling me I've had enough! I'd like to comment on last night's mooring. We were not far south of the city centre and I confess I was a little anxious as no other boats had moored - city centre moorings can be notorious! However it was a quiet apart from the hum of traffic and apart from a little rubbish accumulated around the bow in the morning you would not have known we were in an urban area, until our onward journey. The area where the Caldon leaves the Trent & Mersey has seen a great deal of investment, courtesy of the EEC, and there are lots of green areas around the handsome industrial buildings, now a museum, though the industrial area closes in again for several miles. I have just discovered that there is a Quaker Meeting at Leek just 4 hours upstream of where we are moored and we want to share a meal with  fellow boater, Brian Williams who is currently in the most remote, and beautiful far end of the canal. There are lots of lush blackberries on the side of the canal and we've seen some dragon flies again! A heron flew up from the other side of the canal just as we were arriving. We've eaten and I trust Nick won't find major works to do tonight - my nerves won't cope. I still need to give the bathroom an intensive  clean after last night's effort but it was worthwhile - Nick says the loo with new seal is better and more solid than it's been for a fair while!

Saturday 9th August 

It's 8.30 and I want to write about the splendid start to the day before I forget! Yesterday I forgot to say that we actually found a baker who baked on the premises. The establishment also boasted a butcher. This was in  Milton  where there is also a wonderful 2nd hand bookshop. Well, this morning we were up early and thro' the remaining four locks at  Stockton Brook.  We'd done one just before bedtime last night to moor where a handsome pumping station stood on the other side of the canal.

 In spite of the forecast it's a splendid morning. The first lock we do has a lovely sculpture celebrating the potteries. as did the second. As I opened the first lock gate a perfect spider's web attached to the land and the beam twisted but, amazingly, remained intact.

But now, at 9.30, it is beginning to rain so we are mooring above the locks at Hazelhurst Junction to have breakfast and to wait for the sun to come out (which might mean tomorrow morning!).It rained heavily 'til about 2.30 when I (Nick) cycled a couple of miles back along the cut to get provisions for tonight's meal. Caspar decided to come with me but one gets the feeling that he regretted it: he has never before followed me on a bicycle travelling non-stop at about 10 miles per hour. And when we got there: no sign of the promised farm shop, but, fortunately a little further, a local store which provided most of what was required. At 6.30 it is raining heavily again and I am now aware of further jobs required to make Gloriana fit for winter.

In the evening Father Brian joined us , bringing Joseph, his poorly dog with the missing bottom jaw -  the meal was a bit of a challenge for me because Nick hadn't found the things I needed and consequently I had to make a toad with 4 sausages! The leisurely meal and conversation was lovely. Brian entertained us telling us how he was one of the contestants on the show (don't know what it's called but it's a fly on the wall cookery thing where 5 contestants from an specific area entertain the others for a meal and are marked by each other on the meal and the hospitality). He was approached  because the TV company liked the idea of a dinner party on a boat. When they discovered that there was no way they could get a camera crew and 5 people on a narrow boat they decided he would still be 'good value' in his home in Stoke. As he does not possess a television and is unfamiliar with shows such as this, he became a bit of a thorn in the producer's side when he was not prepared to get involved with the unpleasantness that goes along with it! We also talked about his  parish and church, Holy Trinity in Stoke, pilgrimages to Lourdes, his forthcoming week with a group of his parishioners in Iona and how he saw his  role or vocation as well as touching on a number of other topics. We hope to see him next week before we leave the area.


Sunday 10th August: Leek

On Sunday morning I realised the beauty of the place we had moored. To the south was a steep bank with birch trees and ahead an elegant black and whitewashed iron bridge by a lockside cottage, and the first of the three locks taking the Caldon down from the summit. Then, there to the rights the Leek Arm proceeding under a mellow brick bridge. We set off down the Leek Arm and over the other arm which by then has descended the three locks and is thirty feet below us! (click here to see a little of our journey) We enjoy about an hour of beautiful country along the side of a valley with the hill rising to the north west with fir, oak, alder, rowan and some rhododendron and  the occasional house with terraced land down to the water, and to the south west less dense vegetation, ferns, foxgloves, harebells, hazel and thinning birch and grass sloping down to a small river 30 feet below (the 180 degree panorama above, where we moored on our return for Monday night, shows this). Finally we pass through the Leek Tunnel,  turn in the winding point and reverse to take the last of the few moorings at the end of the canal.

  I  hurriedly set out to find Leek Meeting House. There is the most violent culture shock: I find myself in urban cementation land! The book warns you but it comes as a shock after the green tranquillity I have left. The first people I asked knew exactly where the Meeting House was and I found the way thro' the heavy industrial park, past Focus and Morrisons and turn north and up a long hill, past the Salvation Army Hall (looked pretty busy!) and find the Meeting House behind a thick stone wall encircled by trees and grass. I find the door and enter tentatively through several doors to find a caretaker who has just opened up. We chat for a while and share brief life histories. She shows me around upstairs where the women of the meeting once watched the men below, the room now furnished with the caretaker's no longer needed chairs. It becomes pretty obvious that this meeting is struggling - it smells a little damp and there are sadly neglected plants. The caretaker tells me at 11 that "somebody is usually here by now" and asks that I shut off the lights and put the latch down as I leave. 


I sit quietly and look at some reading material and at 11.50  I'm thinking of leaving but at this point the first of three people arrive and the meeting settles. I think of Father Brian in Holy Trinity with a congregation of 70+ but I'm happy to be here in this historic Meeting House with 4 strangers who are not at all strange because, like me, they have chosen to be here.  At twelve the meeting concludes and I hear of the problems here in Leek - apparently trees are undermining the wall on the north side of the building and also the wall surrounding the gardens. It seems that part of the grounds will have to be sold to cover the cost of the work. I try a different route back hoping I might find the town centre but wind my way back downhill through what I guess is a fairly typical north country town, dense housing and industrial units interspersed, missing the attractive town centre.

I get some shopping at Morrisons and by the time I arrive at the boat Nick tells me that Pat, Abi and Elanor are due soon so I put the joint I have just bought in the oven and start the veg. It's great to see them and Elanor is excited as she has never even seen the boat for real, only in pictures. She is soon playing with Nick - she rarely sees him but loves him! After an hour or so we eat and Elanor is very anxious to have a ride so we drive back through the tunnel, turn in the winding point and luckily no one has taken our mooring! Abi has some lovely pictures of her sitting on the roof at the back of the boat, one standing. arms out Titanic fashion! All too soon they have to return to prepare for work and nursery the next day.

Monday 11th August: Leek

A lazy day. I go up to Morrisons as there are no shops at the end of the main line of the Caldon, and then Nick rides up into town to try and get mechanical thingies for the ongoing boat works! We have a light lunch and then Nick dashes off again to the scrap metal place at the end of the industrial estate and comes back triumphant with a piece of brass. The hardwood connection he made for the tiller handle had given way and he had decided that he needed a piece of metal, ideally brass to match the tiller. We set off back through the tunnel and soon the rain started so we moored up in a beautifully quiet spot just a mile or two from where we started. Noisy work started on the new brass connection.


Tuesday 12th August: Cheddleton

The BBC forecast was absolutely correct - the rain started before dawn and was relentless so we had a lie-in and I dressed up to take the dog out but not for long. More work on the brass connecting gizmo for Nick and reading for me but by 11 or so the weather was improving and we set off, Caspar on tow path and within the hour we were passing over the aqueduct and were back at the junction and setting off down the Hazelhurst flight and passing under the aqueduct. As we had had a light breakfast we were quite hungry and enjoyed a drink and a pub lunch at the Holly Bush where we met a fellow boater who lived on the marshes in Hungerford back in the seventies!. The weather had been sunny and cloudy with the odd rumble of thunder and we met a boat coming up reporting the the river section of the canal was moving into the red alert zone and rising! So here we are deciding how long  we are prepared to hang around for the level to drop so we are able to pass along the loveliest part of the canal. It is what we came for after all! At least we will see the steam train tomorrow as it runs on Wednesdays in August - we spotted two handsome engines and old carriages just across the valley!

Wednesday 13th August: Frogshall

Rain in the night and it was cool - my jimjams came out -they've not seen the light/dark for 6 weeks! Is this the end of summer? I confess I've pretended not to notice the odd leaf in the canal and the minimal change in colour, particularly the birch and oak trees. And yesterday I sorted my accessible clothes and the really summery stuff was stashed away. We didn't hurry to get up this morning because it was cool and dull. However, a number of boats passed us and none returned so we assumed the river section of the canal was now passable, and it was. Soon we were heading towards the end of the Caldon and it was indeed very beautiful with banks of white and pink Himalayan balsam. I've heard that there is concern about this plant as it takes over and our native plants are choked, a shame because it is very beautiful and a treat as it flowers late when our native summer flowers are past their best. The river section is not long but extremely pretty, then we approach Consall where the river leaves and we hear a steam whistle and to our left we see 2 goats skipping off the railway as the train approaches.

We stop for water by some impressive blocked up lime kilns and then realise we are close to the Black Lion. This has to be my favourite pub to date, It has retained its simple Victorian solidity. It looks over the area where the river leaves the canal, which takes a sharp bend under an extremely low bridge and then under a railway bridge. We are advised by a fellow boater we really should stop here as we will see the trains passing in the wonderfully historic station; any excuse for a pint! The character of the pub matches the railway which you have to cross to gain access, just a few yards from the front door. We linger over our drinks, enjoying the trains and looking down the cut to the narrow canal we will soon be passing with the platform cantilevered over it.

We wander back across the track and have a cooked lunch before heading on. Now the river falls away below us and the hill rises to the east. By the time we pass through the last lock, the river is way below us and the the slopes to the east are occasionally craggy, once in a while green and pastoral and mostly wooded with oaks, birches and alders giving way to pine trees further up. It will be wonderful in Autumn, possibly worth a visit on our way back to the Ashby for winter 2009/10. Then suddenly it seems  we are in Colditz land with a tall concrete fence with barbed wire aloft - an old copper factory awaiting redevelopment. Here we have to stop or turn around as Gloriana is too high for the extremely low Frogshall Tunnel. It's a reminder that canals once served industry and is part of their charm. The weather has been kind to us today - a little of sun now and again and the odd shower, light and short, and, we have been told, much better than in the south!

Thursday 14th August: Milton

Cheddleton Flint Mill: Caldon Canal

We set off moderately early on a fine morning and indeed today has been good weather-wise (10 hours of sunshine and 5 minutes of light rain). Between 4 and 5.30 we sat in really warm sun on the towpath to recover after what is surely our longest day's travelling yet. Back through the lovely pastoral canal. At the second lock I complained to a passing boater that we had not seen the kingfisher we had been promised on the Caldon, her response being that you never do when you're looking. A few moments later there it was! Back past the Black Lion and on climbing back to the summit, under that impressive aqueduct. And then onwards and downwards the Stockton Brook flight, quite busy today. We found ourselves heading a queue of boats locking down so were unable to stop and had to have lunch on the go. I'm exhausted when we finally we find ourselves back at Milton where we will shop tomorrow before heading back into Stoke and onto the Trent & Mersey, northwards through the Harecastle Tunnel (1.5 miles -aagh!) and on towards our next challenge, the Macclesfield followed by the Peak Forest Canals, lots more beautiful and interesting countryside. So, prospective visitors, for the next two weeks we are around Macclesfield; we'll be at Congleton at the beginning of next week, Macclesfield mid-week and I hope to be at Marple for Quaker Meeting on Sunday. Then the following week we'll be returning along the same canal as we are not inclined to do Manchester - not only is it extremely hard lock-wise, it can be a bit 'iffy' in the school hol's!  If the weather is better hopefully we might get some painting done as there is no time pressure.

Friday 15th August: 0n the Macclesfield Canal

I was in Milton early to get provisions so I could be back for Desert Island Discs on the radio, and our departure. The forecast is good for today and not for tomorrow so we planned to travel again today with the probability of remaining static tomorrow.  We travelled towards Stoke - just one lock and a lift bridge and we stop in Hanbury Park; this route into Stoke is much less daunting then approaching from the south. We enjoyed a coffee; Caspar enjoyed some freedom and I comment on the multicultural aspect of the place - a Muslim (I imagine) sits below, and a young black girl walks with a much older white man who is old enough to be her granddad. Then we chatted for 10 minutes with a lovely gentleman of 86, Martin, who lives nearby but worked for Rolls Royce in Crewe for most of his life. We learn about his marriage, kids (the son has just got his bus pass!) and find out that he is not too impressed with multi-cultural Britain! Bidding him farewell, we carry on towards and down the staircase lock and into the Etruria Basin where we used the BW facilities and press on.

We were now on the Trent & Mersey and it was  just an hour to the Harecastle Tunnel which we had timed it just right as the last boats from the other direction were coming out. We are the fifth of a convoy passing thro' and are reminded of the safety procedures as we enter and have to give details of those on board. Apparently pets used to be taken over the top as they figured that in an emergency owners would refuse to be evacuated without their pets. Now they have satisfactory ventilation which we felt blasting along soon after we entered the tunnel. It took about 40 minutes and I'm glad Nick was on the helm as, although the tunnel is virtually straight, incredibly so for its age, you are constantly having to control the weight of water on the rudder! At last we emerge to a canal with a distinctly red/orangey colour (don't know why!) In no time we see a pair of locks ahead but we turn an acute left and onto the Macclesfield - its narrow and quite tatty for a while but within 5 minutes we cross two aqueducts over a road and the T&M, and find ourselves in the countryside. Mooring is a bit tricky - we have been warned that it is best to use recommended moorings - but we managed; swifts are zooming over the water and across the cut is a golden field, already harvested.  All is well with the world though the weather forecast for the weekend ain't that good!

Saturday 16th August: Congleton

We had a fairly leisurely start to the day - I took a walk with Caspar back down the two impressive aqueducts and then down some steps  to the T&M which was still orange in colour, and no one I met could tell me why. When I found I was walking along past a large sewage farm I decided to turn around. Back on the Macclesfield I picked some lovely blackberries to go on our breakfast cereal. After breakfast Nick told me he was concerned about a certain amount of water loss from the engine and was worried about the head gasket (serious stuff!) However after a phone call to brother Paul, it was felt some adjustments could probably sort the problem and Terry on 'Still Waters', another boat we've been travelling with, loaned us a torque wrench to allow Nick to "tighten down the head". We'll see them again further up the cut and return it when the job is done. Manuals have to be consulted and Paul is rung again, but we'll have to wait 'til Monday to get the settings from the engine manufacturer! So we travel on: the beginning of the canal is truly lovely with unending interest, a balance of meadows and wooded sections, but basically we are on a hillside with very high land (over 1000ft) to the south and the valley beneath us. We could walk up to Mow Cop which has wonderful views over the Cheshire Plain. The vegetation is different now, few alder and a wider range of weeping willow, oak, sycamore (definitely looking like the beginning of Autumn), horse chestnut, beech (ordinary and copper) and hawthorn as trees, apparently quite common in the north. We've also seen lots of luscious blackberries and some wild raspberries and honeysuckle, berries and flowers. We passed an extremely handsome Georgian building, Ramsdell House, set back from the canal to the south with old ornamental posts, beautifully painted black and white, on the canal to the north allowing the house wonderful views to the valley across the cut. Apparently it is owned by the manager or owner of Stoke City FC.


As we approach Congleton we pass under a beautiful snake bridge. These elegant bridges allowed the horses, in times past, to cross the cut without being untethered from the boat . 

We stop in above the town and I walk down to the centre which is lovely - this might well be an area we could winter as there are few locks. The town has everything we need, a small covered market, with fresh fish daily, and a town centre on a human scale, but with a splendid Victorian Town Hall, a few multiples including a Costa Coffee and a not too large Morrisons. There is an excellent deli with a good range of cheese and other goodies, a sports centre, a small theatre, bus and railway station.

When I get back Nick is playing good Samaritan to Annie in 'Tancred', the boat moored next to us. She has a problem with  her batteries which Nick discovers are not holding a charge due to two of them being totally dry. She has three grandchildren on board with her and looks 20 years younger than me though she's not far off my age (she's just sent off for her bus pass)! She looks as agile as a teenager and William the oldest boy tells me proudly she's a fun grandma and can do the splits! I have a go with his hula hoop and get up to 33 circles until Caspar gets his nose in the way. Perhaps I need one (a hoop, not a nose as I've one already) - it would do my waist a power of good! The kids are treating Nick like a long lost uncle and he's abandoned our engine work midway, having lost a bolt, to sort her problem! Things don't change, just people and places! Early evening, and the promised rain has started, after a relatively dull, cool, but dry day. We will probably stay where we are for the next 36 hours.

Tuesday 19th August: bottom of Bosley flight

When we set off I can remember saying that the chance of another bad summer was remote. I am beginning to think I was wrong! We are now a few miles north east of Congleton having travelled for an hour or two today through glorious countryside and it only rained a bit. But for the last two nights we've had lots of rain and a fair bit in the day. Last Friday we saw a beautiful full moon but there's been no chance of seeing it since! I cheered up a bit reading Quentin Letts praise of old fashioned English seaside holidays - he'd been on the Gower with his three children and they are clearly well trained and had no expectations of fine weather and have learned never to whine, doing all the things children do at the seaside, rock pools, sea and walks. Basically he celebrates 'Britain's stoical strands' rather than the 'slush of the Mediterranean' Well, I guess we have seen the Staffordshire/Derbyshire country side as it is most regularly seen, in the wet. We are moored at the bottom of a flight of twelve locks within one mile which will take us higher (almost 600ft) than we were on the Caldon. We are moored for the night just by an aqueduct with a river speeding 60 feet below, tall trees reaching up from the steep banks.

We stayed in Congleton  for three nights, to do washing, and for Nick to wait for an engine bolt to replace the one he lost when he was sorting the engine. He has also been addressing a new issue - the log burning stove. When we set off it was fine but with the vibrations of all our travels the pipe that is the chimney has slowly come adrift. While considering  how to sort it and cleaning off some rust, a section of the collar broke away! We have a bit of water coming in from the chimney area so that is also being investigated. The fireplace shop in Congleton was no help and the internet has been consulted. There's no obviously easy solution and I'm anxious as we have visitors for the next two weekends. While in Congleton we enjoyed the company of a lovely Dutch girl who was feeding the swans. She shared some tea with us and we were privileged to share a poignant sadness with her. Afterwards, Nick  said, probably quite correctly, that relationships on the cut, fleeting as they are, can be quite intense. People seem to open up more than long term neighbours on land. On Sunday evening we went for a long and pretty walk, and yesterday a boater recommended another lovely walk which I managed between the showers. The blackberries are in desperate need of sunshine. I have been overdoing the walking and my knee is troubling me tonight, so Nick will be doing the locks tomorrow then it's on to Macclesfield, B&Q, and hopefully solutions!

Wednesday 20th August: Macclesfield

There was a suggestion of blue in places when I awoke this morning tho' by the time we were starting up the flight at eight it had disappeared. It took two hours to do the flight, Nick doing most of the running around and walking ahead with yours truly on the tiller. We enjoyed a coffee and then motored on towards Macclesfield {canal still attractive)  stopping only for some welcome lunch, and later to pick up some walkers who had been stopped by a towpath closure because a wall had collapsed (we've already received a "thankyou" on the net!) Then as we were approaching Macclesfield we stopped at a boatyard for Nick to search for bits to fix bits. A few moments later he was back with a young man, Matthew, who confidently advised Nick of what was needed for the stove, and furthermore felt certain that the bits were in stock, including the cast iron pipe that Nick had attempted to find on the internet without success. Within half an hour the old pipe was out though Nick took a few hours prising off the terminal collar. Of course it left a hole in the roof but that is now fixed and the rusty surface where the water had been getting in has been treated. And it hasn't rained until the last hour when we had a few spits and spots. We have experienced Caspar difficulties as we are on a pontoon on the canalside and although the pontoon is fixed Caspar was really anxious about getting off. Nick eventually pulled the boat along so Caspar could see a straight run towards landfall! He is now fine. Tomorrow we anticipate a busy morning finishing the work.

Thursday 21st August: Ryles Bridge, Booth Green





We took a while to surface this morning - Nick had planned to be back from B&Q before the Boatyard opened but we hadn't done much more than dog walk and breakfast, This didn't really hold up proceedings as the yard didn't open 'til 10.30 so after Nick set off for the DIY stuff from B&Q, I decided to set out for Tesco leaving Caspar to guard the boat. It wasn't quite where I expected to find it and I had to ask a gentleman who queried "metro or main store" as apparently they were equidistant. I decided I might as well explore the town centre and then had to repeat the instructions back to him (obviously a teacher!) I  followed them until I couldn't resist a cobbled lane and then wandered around the town, couldn't find the store and eventually spotted the superstore which I traipsed towards across major roads finally having to walk 300 degrees around  till I found the entrance - these places are not designed for pedestrians! When things are not going well they just get worse and I was frustrated by not being able to find the things I needed, finding a check out where there were no queues and then being held up by the customer in front with a product that had no bar code! Then I had to deal with the concerned looks as I put my shopping in my rucksack (no one walks around here it seems!) By this time I was tired and anxious about my sore knee so I did what I have never done before - called a taxi! This was truly inspired because at this point the heavens opened and I was drenched just getting from the taxi to the marina chandlery!

Back on board the job was virtually complete - Nick had to get Matthew's help at one point but we now have a stove which is solid and won't need regular replacement of fire cement! Matthew shared his life story - a dismal educational saga - his first two years' education was in a school where he became quite fluent in Bengali and when he moved to Macclesfield couldn't believe the world wasn't multi-cultural. Unfortunately he never caught up and from 11 years upward found himself in a special unit for those with learning difficulties. He is now 19 and assistant manager at the marina and the most ambitious, personable, computer literate and capable young man with a sound business head! The heavy rain was excellent for Nick as he was able to locate the last point where rain was getting in around the chimney! We set off on up the cut with regular, heavy showers and are now mid-way between Macclesfield and Marple. We look forward to enjoying this section of the canal in better weather! Bollington looked interesting with a huge renovated mill plus gigantic chimney.

Sunday 24th August: Marple



On Friday morning we continued north and were unable  to moor near Bridge 23 and the local launderette. Consequently I had to trail back laden with a heavy load. When I had returned to the boat and recovered my breath I was able to walk down to explore the town. We are moored in a specially pleasant part of the town where the Macclesfield meets the Peak Forest which goes north down a flight of sixteen locks and crosses the River Goyt on an aqueduct: it goes east to Bugsworth Basin and Whaley Bridge ( At the top of the town you can look down over the houses to Stockport and the outskirts of Manchester. The town is pleasant with just a large Co-op supermarket and a short pedestrianised street with small independent shops, a small cinema currently showing 'Mama Mia', a library, park, and railway station. The Quakers meet in part of the Methodist Church complex just down the hill from where we are moored.

Nick does a little painting to finish a not so little job, and on Saturday I walked to the launderette to find it closed because of the bank holiday! Terry and Geraldine arrive at midday and after a cold lunch we set off along the Peak Forest Canal towards Bugsworth Basin, at a gentle pace because lots of people were out and there were lots of narrow bridge holes and some lift bridges. Not much sun and indeed as we arrived in the basin there was a misty rain which became heavier through the evening and night. Terry and Cath were there on 'Still Waters' so Nick was able to return the borrowed tool, and they joined us after supper for a drink. Terry and Geraldine, having had experience of sharing the 4 ft bed on the boat had bought their own foam folding bed!


Thursday August 28th:  away and back to Marple

view from our Friday night mooring

On Tuesday we visited the town centre together, Nick to look for DIY bits,  me for provisions and information. I visited the library and collected all the information we might need if we do over-winter here. We discovered a chap selling fish, obviously popular, like the Hungerford chap, and bought a delicious halibut steak for the evening meal. Marple, it seems, is half the size of Newbury and appears to have all the facilities we will need if we do winter here. In the afternoon we set off back towards Macclesfield as Nick figures this is the only place we will get the things he needs for his next project.

We stayed overnight midway in a quiet spot and travelled on again. Caspar did a reasonable walk on the towpath. He has always stopped at every bridge anxious to be picked up and we now throw a dog biccy ahead and he seems much happier! As long as he keeps walking he gets the odd biscuit but none while he's on board. It works well! We arrived in Macclesfield about midday and as Caspar had had his exercise were able to leave him with the boat. It's a bit of a trail down to the town centre where I repeated the information gathering exercise while Nick went to B&Q and made enquiries about projects in hand. We are happy with the information we have picked up in the town - there's lots going on culturally as it's a far bigger place than Marple, and there's a Quaker meeting but only once a month. Today there was an article reporting on contentment produced by National Geographic and Macclesfield come tenth in the country with Powys top of the heap!

A couple of hours later we were back on the boat and returning towards Marple. It was grey and drizzly - this really is a disappointing summer. In spite of this the gardens we see as we travel are colourful and summery but there are more and more Autumnal tones on the vegetation on the canal side and certainly the silver birch, the sycamore and the oak are showing a turn of colour. Technical difficulties arise - our new water pump which has been a little problematic has stopped functioning completely: no water, hot or cold, no shower, no loo flush! Serious! We stop in Bollington and I trek to the local co-op to get water while Nick tries to solve the problem which totally perplexes him. However he has solved the issue provisionally by the time I get back by running a cable thro' the boat but the issue still troubles him. (literary point - I am aware that I slip from past to present tense rather too readily - I am aware of this!)

I took Caspar for an enjoyable morning walk on Thursday morning,  across one of the lovely snake bridges, and uphill onto a bridleway towards the hills -it's beautiful and the stone farms and cottages I see blend beautifully with the landscape. We turn and walk through the pretty street and make a circuit back to the canal passing a lovely pub and a corner shop which would have been much closer for me the previous evening. The problem is still not solved when I return tho' we do have water. We carry on under grey, drizzly skies and stop in High Lane for a quick pub visit as the damp greyness was getting oppressive. We climb up to the canalside pub to find it closed and, not to be deterred, walk down the busy A6 and enquire at the next pub whether dogs are allowed. Not only are they allowed, they are welcomed and adored by Becky, the warm and friendly barmaid! She gives us all the local info including the source of a lovely rye loaf baked by her brother. We wouldn't have found the bakery otherwise as it was off the main road. After a quick lunch we were off again thro' the mizzle and back to Marple for a hurried Caspar walk, a quick stir fry and off to see Mama Mia at the local cinema, a lovely old fashioned one screen place. What a joyous film. I'm not a good audience as far as vocal laughter but I laughed loudly and lots!  I think I could watch it again and again - just perfect after a dull, miserable day!

Friday morning and Nick finally resolves the problem with the water pump: it transpires that its fuse was not fully inserted in its holder, it resting on the screw rather than the brasswork, and though the motor terminals were registering a full 12 volts, no current was being passed. As ever, a simple solution to a very perplexing problem. However, we now appear to have a problem with the diesel burner! ( Wow Nick! you have just written a paragraph - technical, I admit, and it could have been me! Are we morphing?)

In the morning the rain had stopped and it slowly improved as we  travelled back to Disley where I had resolved to go to Quaker Meeting. I trailed up a steep hill from the canal and found myself on the busy A6 from Marple to Buxton. I was directed along the busy high street and then uphill again, then right, up an even steeper narrow lane to find the exceedingly delightful Meeting house with a lovely garden at the end of the lane . I was greeted at the door and directed up stairs to the Meeting Room. On the table were fresh roses that looked as if they had been conjured from a perfect June garden (how I wonder in this cool, damp August?) and also smelled beautiful. There were about 18 or so people and comfort was the order of the day with various footrests and cushions ensuring everyone was comfortable, I looked out onto a canopy of trees and immediately outside was an apple tree with surprisingly large apples. The meeting was entirely silent but afterwords there were some shared contributions, one about Daniel Barrenboim (he suggests we should try 'to think with our heart and feel with our head'), one on a two handed production (the last performance, sadly!) that five of the community had seen at Swarthmore Hall the day before, and finally some information about a young member who was going to do voluntary work in Tanzania and was looking for some financial support.  After Meeting for Worship there was coffee, a range of lovely preserves to raise money and a huge selection of Fair Trade products for sale. Disley Meeting have a children's meeting just once a month like Newbury. I would be all too happy to make Disley my  winter meeting. If we do stay on this canal we will be confined to the section between Macclesfield and Marple from early November to Easter as the collapsed wall on the western outskirts of Macclesfield is going to take the entire winter to sort. We have ten days to 'sus out' the area.

I was met in the town by my fellow boaters on my return and we walked back down to the boat and made our lazy way back to Marple. We are again on a contour canal but the views beyond the valley over to the dales is quite dramatic. It's wonderful walking country. Back at Marple Nick volunteers to mind the boat while Terry, Geraldine, Caspar and I walk down the Marple Flight to the aqueduct right at the bottom - quite impressive - 3 tall arches carry the canal over the River Goyt and over to the east we see the railway on an even longer and equally dramatic viaduct. On the way back Caspar sees a perfect entry place and takes a swim. It was a lovely walk, a little damp underfoot but well worth the effort. Back at the boat I was busy preparing a late Sunday lunch which seemed to be quite successful and we spent a lovely evening sharing travel and grown up childrens' news. Terry is very keen on the canals and they may even join us for a few days on the Llangollen.

After a leisurely and naughty full English breakfast we said goodbye to the Potters Bar Weinerts,  Nick did some plumbing and painting and I helped a bit and did some tidying and sorting, Tomorrow we take a closer look at the local amenities, do the launderette and move on, ie back towards Macclesfield for a day or so.

Friday August 29th

A late, well even later start, after a late evening and Nick does the dog walk. Nick apparently lay in bed in the night and mentally pinpointed the problem with the pump but now we have another problem. Last night as we walked down to the cinema a team of environmental people were pumping the canal. Apparently dead fish have been seen in the canal and they (the environmental bods, not the fish) are oxygenating it and investigating the cause. I keep complaining about the smell of gas and Nick tells me it's because of the pumping. Nobody will tell you exactly what is wrong but the rumour is that the problem is along the Macclesfield line so we decide to take the Peak Forest Branch, going far enough time for me to have a hot shower when we stop. We moor with this lovely view (shown below) and another boat pulls alongside. The boat has a delightful couple, brother and sister, John and Frances who moor their boat in Newbury. He lives in Arizona and she in Sulham. She has a daughter in Pangbourne, in Horseshoe Road, and we find we actually have several common associates! As children they moved out of Manchester in World War Two and lived up on the hill you see below. Apparently her mother was a city girl but ended up growing food and keeping chickens and a pig! Frances had a wonderful childhood while John was sent off to boarding school at seven! One of the environmental girls comes along to test the water on up the cut. They now think the pollution came from this way so we came the wrong way after all. At least there is no smell but we have the challenge of keeping Caspar out of the canal which is tough as it is quite warm. We are having a lazy day. Nick has caught up with some Nursery School business and I did our main meal midday, well, 2ish! We've dashed out to enjoy the occasional 5 minutes of sunshine and now the meal is out of the way we take a walk. On the way we meet Ron plus dog plus Thomas cat who has been living on his boat for 10 years, makes a huge fuss of Caspar and gives us lots of info about the Llangollen much of which we will forget before we get there. He also advises us that New Mills, by the sweetie factory is well worth a visit especially a recently installed Archimedes Screw ( big boys' meccano, he calls it) We stay talking so long that we barely make it down the hill thro' meadows and past horses to 'The Sportsman' for a quick drink and back to the boat before we break an ankle on the steep path.

Just to say we continue to think of all f/Friends, relatives, neighbours (most of which enjoy membership of a least two of the three categories) back home and reiterate our invitation for them to join us wherever we are! Which is on the Macclesfield or the Upper Peak Forest for the next week  and then down the Bosley Flight, Tuesday, and then Congleton, back on to the T&Mersey, down Heart Break Hill ( long flight!), then off on to the Middlewich  branch to the Llangollen.

Saturday 30th August

We are pretty close to where we were last night but facing the other way and a ten minute hike up the hill into Disley and, for me a repeat visit to Disley Friends Meeting tomorrow morning is on the agenda. This morning, after a late start (we're good at them!) we set off for New Mills. The trees on this part of the canal are particularly varied, conifers, spruce, silver birch, oak, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, copper beech and hawthorn. From the canal New Mills doesn't look special. but yet again we are impressed. To get to the town centre we cross the River Goyt yet again way below us under a canopy of green. There is a pleasant town centre, no unsightly modern buildings, with lots of small independent shops including an organic shop, a butcher, several bakers (we discover the best is shut today), a  small covered market, and a hardware store where they advise Nick of a place to go on Monday to get some metal work done for the tiller. Then we find the Heritage Centre where we discover there is lots more to see and enjoy in New Mills. It is sad we won't be here at the end of September as they have an arts festival which culminates in a Lantern Procession (lanterns made in workshops throughout month) down thro' the gorge, and over their Millennium Bridge where there will be fire sculptures. It sounds wonderful!

Is this an idea for HADCAF and Hungerford? Back on the boat we cook some of the butcher's sausages then head back towards Disley. All week they have been promising a lovely day today but we have to wait until 4 or 5 o'clock for hazy sunshine which we enjoy sitting on the tow path.

Sunday 31st August

When I awoke in the night there were clear skies but when we surfaced the sun was distinctly hazy. I walked to meeting and again found the Disley Meeting delightful. It appears that the building was formerly a farm and then a pub, 'The Ring O'Bells' which explains the address and the bells painted on the building and today we were treated to bells ringing from the local church for part of meeting. There was one ministry just towards the end of the gathering. A member had spent several days at a Buddhist gathering. She explained that she had always found the Buddhist idea of 'emptying' her mind difficult but had been advised to see experience and notions in a glass. We regularly empty those which are of no use to us on our life journey and keep those that are valuable. She had thought of an aspect which she would like to empty - being judgemental - and said that the long-held Quaker value of 'discernment' is preferable and is difficult to perfect, as are all virtues, I guess. I walked back downhill to the boat wondering when I would return to this comfortingly benign group of people. Would we be back in November or would we be so impressed by the Llangollen and stay there where Nick has found there are accessible Meetings? By then the day was grey and misty and soon after I returned it started raining and is still raining  now as dusk sets in. So we have thoroughly read the Sunday papers and enjoyed Sunday lunch a deux. I sallied out with the dog for 25 minutes or so, and we trust the weather will be somewhat better tomorrow tho' the prospect for the coming week is not encouraging.