Saturday 2nd June: Bugsworth Basin

We are planning a fire tonight; that’s how miserable it is! In spite of the dull, overclouded conditions coming along, the Peak Forest Canal is still stunning; the towering Mellor Moor (1000ft) on our left with higher, exceedingly misty heights beyond. There were stands of yellow flag at intervals along the way and the cooler weather means the hawthorn blossom is still stunning, the breeze occasionally sending it whirling like confetti. On the hillsides the rhododendron is coming into flower and there are briar roses in bloom. There are still 60+ tedious turns of the windlass to open the lift bridge at Woodend. We stopped short of Disley and I walked up to the centre to find another new artisan baker who has set up there. A blackboard by the road advertises what bread is ready and when, none of it before midday. But the bread is delicious! And the chocolate brownies! I have made one loaf since returning to Gloriana, having found a sour dough recipe that takes six, rather than 10 days to prepare. However it doesn’t seem so suited to boat life where I need to bake every second or third day and  loses its potency. It may be that the hot weather ‘overcooked’ it – so it’s back to the drawing board for bread on board. Meanwhile, we’ve enough slices ready for toast for the next 2 weeks in the freezer section of the fridge. And who cares when we’re in the ‘Mecca’ of artisan bakeries, Higher Poynton and now Disley!

We walked up into new Mills this morning, intending to do the Millenium Walk, missing the smell from the sweetie factory – they must have a long Diamond Jubilee break. It is good to see that New Mills is looking quite prosperous with some fresh shops and a number of trendy art galleries though it’s sad to see the organic shop and the greengrocer have gone. We bought a few bits from the one greengrocery stall set up in the tiny market place and it was great to see the owner greeting customers by name and even offering to deliver bags home for elderly shoppers. When it came to actually climb down into the gorge to do the walk we changed our mind because of the dull weather and Nick’s condition - he had forgotten to take his hayfever tablet and is still trying to shake off a chesty cough.
So now we are in Bugsworth, as busy as we’ve ever seen it for a while, with a hotel boat doing its changeover day and at least a dozen other boats. We’ve even managed to get our favourite mooring (where we originally met Rick and Wendy).

Sunday June 3rd: Furness Vale

Yesterday, it was a challenge staying chirpy! As the clouds rolled in, and with the cold, even our favourite Bugsworth mooring wasn’t enticing and furthermore we lost FM on the radio which is a life-line when you can’t get out and about. The loo was still ‘ailing’ – that always creates anxst! and Nick’s cough and chest didn’t seem to be responding to Potter’s Vegetable Cough Remover. We lit a fire which did provide some cheer. But it rained on us all night and it was still raining this morning; the dawn chorus isn’t so entrancing when the rain rattles on the roof.

One good thing is that Nick’s cough is better; he was up and moving the boat along to Whaley Bridge so that I could leap onto a bus to go to Quaker Meeting in Disley. I hadn’t realised that there was a 10.15 start and the bus dropped me in Disley at 10.45!  Still, I settled into the comfortable and comforting silence. This Meeting is as amazing as the one in Marple, made especially wonderful by its building and garden: I’ve waxed lyrical about the place in our blog, way back. It’s also impressive that the two meetings are within a few miles of each other and both seem to be thriving in a gentle fashion. I was given a lift home by a delightful lady who lives in Bollington, very new to Friends, who, on her first visit to this Meeting was convinced that she had found a spiritual home she had long been searching for. She even returned me to Whaley Bridge, avoiding the A6 and introducing me to some breathtaking scenery.

Meanwhile, Nick had a lovely morning fettling! (North country DIY-er) I’m being a little sarcastic because he took the dreaded loo to bits and it’s now performing just perfectly, as it should. What a wonderfully heroic effort! We travelled on, had a light lunch and walked up to The Crossing, a pub in Furness Vale to see the grand river pageant in the capital which was well under way. Not only did we get the impressive BBC coverage but the comments of the locals – not so effusive! Nick returned to the boat for his next heroic effort – the boning and stuffing of a breast of lamb. I confess I stayed to see the royal barge reaching its destination under Tower Bridge. I’m not the most enthusiastic Royalist, but confess to being quite moved.  The meal was so good. I said Nick’s mum (she taught him the makings of this frugal feast) would be looking down and approving and his response was she would question the expense of an egg in the stuffing!!!

It’s still raining now. Please, let us see some sun tomorrow!

Wednesday 6th Disley

We’ve just waved goodbye to Angela who joined us for part of the Diamond Jubilee weekend. We always enjoy a fair bit of laughter when we share Angela’s world view. Can’t say the weather blessed us, but it wasn’t as awful as the forecast had predicted. Angela had joined us on Monday evening and we stayed overnight in Disley. On Tuesday morning we turned around and introduced her to a bit of the Peak Forest she hadn’t seen before and to Bugsworth Basin. Yesterday we walked through amazing meadows of wild flowers rich with buttercups and biswort, down to the Goyt, following it through the gorge and along the stylish Millennium Bridge, built along the rocky side of the gorge, opposite the sadly derelict old cotton mill. On our return to Disley and Angela’s car, I hopped off at New Mills and caught the bus to Artisan Baker No1 in this area, in High Lane – there’s dedication in seeking out the very best in bread! Helped, of course by the excellent bus services in this area! By the time the said excellent bus returned me to Disley, Gloriana had arrived and we shared lunch and a goodly brew before Angela headed back, from Derbyshire, thro’ Cheshire, Lancashire bound.

Saturday 9th June Marple

Blazing June! Whoever coined that! It seems to have rained non-stop for three days and the barometer  went totally anticlockwise for 48 hours and tho’ it’s now creeping up, the weather is not noticably responding. I headed for town when the rain stopped but within minutes it started again and I was drenched on my return. We have been rationing the few bits of firewood and coal in two hour bursts to keep comfortable and air the towels which feel constantly damp. Though the south seems to be warming and drying up, things don’t look too hopeful up here!
We did have a lovely time on Thursday when Patrick, Elanor, Cathy and Louis turned up, shared some lunch and we went for a ride in the damp and cold. Louis (a bubbly 8 year old) didn’t care about the weather, so Nick obliged! Other than that high-light we have just battened down the hatches and survived the weather.

Sunday 10th June: Higher Poynton

The rain has stopped! Glory be! Yesterday afternoon, dear Mary delivered some components for the fire which we truly appreciated.   Today Nick was up betimes boning and stuffing the second breast of lamb. I went off to Meeting which was wonderful; two weeks ago an hour of quiet, today some powerful ministry. Hilary, who has married since I was up here previously, presents as an altogether softer and mellower character – I think marriage suits!One ministry bemoaned the Diamond Jubilee Mania for Quakerly reasons. Mary’s short ministry brought the focus back to a more positive ending. Then she came back to the boat with me for an excellent lunch (the second breast, this time with the stuffing sans oeuf) and a pleasant afternoon.

But . . .  we are off! We have heard from Rick and Wendy that they are on the Trent and Mersey, and we are heading south to eventually catch them up, possibly in Stone, to join them on their journey to Lincoln. So we are saying farewell to the Macc and to Mary and Marple Meeting. Who knows, we may yet be back.

Tuesday 12th : Red Bull Aqueduct

So, we’ve hi-tailed it down the Macc in not so warm June weather. But it’s been dry, while it seems the south is experiencing the dire few days we ‘enjoyed’ over the weekend. We’re still dressed as we would for March/April travelling and lit a fire last evening. We’ve lost all that glorious white hawthorn blossom but there are a few pink and red varieties in bloom as well as briar rose and foxglove along the cut. We have also enjoyed regular stands of beautiful yellow flags and the elderflower is coming into flower.

We locked our way down the beautiful Bosley Flight in 15 minutes under the regular two hours, and stopped for a welcome cooked breakfast at ten o’clock.

We again stopped awhile for me to shop in Congleton and were tying up at Red Bull Basin at tea time. So . . . it’s the dreaded tunnel tomorrow.

Sunday 17th June: Burton on Trent

So, we’re now travelling with Rick and Wendy of Just Do It. We journeyed through the tunnel and onwards down the T & M, to where they were awaiting our arrival in pastoral splendour a few miles south of Stone. We have travelled onwards in mostly indifferent to dull and rainy weather. Fortunately most of the blustery rain was at night. Yesterday as we were approaching Heywood Junction we passed through shady birch and oak woodland with rhododendron at their best. The night before last we were at Alrewas, a particularly attractive village and yesterday we motored onwards towards Burton on Trent where we found a place to a) get diesel, and b) pick up Angela who, it seems is finding difficulty keeping away from the canals! She is the guest of Rick and Wen for this trip.

Disaster! Of a boating sort! After Nick had taken on diesel he forgot the rope with which he had pulled her into the bay and Voila! Oh No, or even Oh Bloody Hell and worse! Rope round prop! After several hours of struggle (putting it mildly!) it was completely free but unbelievably a remnant was picked up and we were back in the same situation. Nick was too exhausted to attack the problem for a second time on one day and we joined the others on Just Do It for supper, An early night was essential to allow Nick to start all over, and as I write this he is toiling. To get his arm down to deal with the issue he is required to lie in an uneasy position on his stomach and over a step so there is plenty of groaning and panting! We hope to be away by mid morning!

Yesterday I clocked on to most of Radio 4’s Ulysses coverage – a special Bloomsday epic with hours of coverage through the day. Sadly, I just couldn’t stick with it for the Molly Bloom finale which started at eleven.

Monday 18th: Sawley Bridge

We heard gentle rain all last night but today has been so much better; we actually sat out this afternoon for a couple of hours in the sunshine. We travelled onwards, locking down together through double width locks towards Trent Lock. Just before mooring we passed the actual river entering the canal and certainly felt a powerful current.

Apparently, the major river up from Trent Lock to Nottingham was on amber alert today so I guess we will whizz down to Nottingham tomorrow.

We now have two beautiful new soft 'Jac-handleable’ ropes. Nick went in to the marina here to buy one but was persuaded by yours truly and a helpful assistant that we couldn’t have one ancient rope on starboard and a beautiful smart one to port! Oh, and Angela has written her Ode to Bridge 24a! Impressive!

Bridge 24a – built 97
Ugly concrete – hardly bridge heaven!
But most are of red brick built from the start
of the Trent and the Mersey – right at the heart
of the British canal system – linking the east
to the west of the country – the smell of the yeast
at Burton on Trent where beer they do brew
The museum there tells the story anew
Marstons and Bass – there’s plenty of places
to moor up your boat – as long as there’s spaces.

Rugeley and Stone, the Harecastle Tunnel
Very low headroom – beware of your funnel.
Brindley and Telford this great cut they took
From the Mouth of the Derwent to reach Preston Brook
93 miles and locks seven-six
Cast iron mileposts you’ll see in betwixt.
Shardlow, Swarkestone the junction at Fradley
Five locks are there – you work at them madly
So lunch you can take at the Swan or the Crown
You’ve worked up a sweat so gulp your pint down.

The Nicholsons guide tells you all you need know
‘Bout the wildlife you’ll see as onwards you go.
Briar rose, kingfisher, hawker and sparrow
Campion, flag iris, bright yellow yarrow.
In July and August it’s time for the teasel
Keep your eyes skimmed you may see a weasel.
Orange tip, dragonfly, small Holly Blue
Skippers and damsels you may see them too.
There’s cygnets galore and wood pigeon, duck,
Heron, reed warbler – they’re all in the book.

It’s lovely to be on the Mersey and Trent
Summer or winter, if boating’s your bent.
Beautiful scenery, boaters galore
For serious cruisers it’s never a chore.
So one end t’ut t’other “Just do it” – oh mi
You’ll visit the Lift Bridge, and see ICI.
The salt mines of Cheshire, the Wedgwood so blue.
We met Gloriana and cruised with them too.
The swallows so daring they tumble and dive
The sheep in the meadows on buttercups thrive.

The throb of the engine, the hum of the bee
The softness of blossom, the green of the tree.
We cruise round a sharp bend – what’s that I see now
We pass by a field full of brown and black cow.
The scones we’ve enjoyed the fruit ones and cheese
We’ve all had good fun – it’s been such a wheeze.
The fruit cake we’ve shared but Rick has said NO
To sharing the lemon and poppy seed though
So let’s drink to friendship – just raise up your glass.
To the Trent and the Mersey it’s just been first class

Angela Washington June 2012

Shardlow Wharf

Sunday 24th June: Lincoln

And "whizz down to Nottingham", on Tuesday morning, we did. Leaving Sawley Bridge lock just after nine, we were soon travelling under minimum power at about 12 knots - twice our normal maximum speed on the canals. It wasn't long before we were through Trent Lock, a flood lock so no work needed here as it wasn't closed, and no time afterwards we were approaching Cranfleet Lock where a thirty-footer awaited our arrival. If he had turned diagonally across the lock we could, all three, probably have fitted in (Cranfleet is 80' in length) but we let him down ahead and did all the work. This was later reciprocated at Beeston Lock when he opened the gates for us - very helpful as there is a serious weir at Beeston which can cause a lot of trouble. It wasn't long before we were arriving in Nottingham and mooring within easy access of Sainsbury's. Jules and Mike who, in the narrowboat Ebony had crossed the Pennines on the Rochdale with us two years ago have their home in Grantham and Julia works in Nottingham so I rang to let them know we were close by. The outcome was that Julia joined us for a cuppa and a chat in the afternoon and we made plans to meet again soon when Mike was back from Didcot where he's currently working on a contract.

On Wednesday morning we all said goodbye to Angela who had an appointment with some hens in the Lake District, and the rest of the day passed without much to note.

Thursday: Gunthorpe Lock

Thursday morning was a day of pampering for the girls; all three went to have manicure/pedicure sessions whilst the men trudged around the city doing practical things though ending up in "the oldest pub in England" cut into the rock below the castle. With the weather a lot better than expected, we decided to set off for the Trent, Gunthorpe being our target on account of its being the nearest place to have a buis back to Nottingham, necessary for Jackie to return to catch the train on Friday morning. In the event it was just as well we did because we heard from Angela, who keeps a close eye on such things, that Meadow Lane Lock has been out of order since Friday morning. One will just note here that two boats had negotiated the lock up into the city after we had come down.

Friday: Newark

It was an early rise on Friday morning, 5.45 to be precise: Jackie had an appointment in Nottingham with a train departing at 0835 and had to catch a bus at 0652. Everything was perfectly timed and, as Jac was texting Nick to say she was on the train and it was pouring down, Gloriana and Just Do It were passing through Gunthorpe Lock bound for Newark.

With the exception of a couple of short-lived downpours, the weather was good if not too bright, and a strong current had us in Newark in just under seven hours: a fair time for five locks and twenty-two miles. On arrival, we moored opposite the castle and, after a quick lunch, walked into the town and around the market. En route back to the boat, I stopped to have a haircut. On our return, Wendy provided a chicken with accompanying vegetables which I cooked aboard Gloriana and the five of us sat down to a very pleasant meal completed by a particularly nice pecan cheesecake. As the evening drew on, the illuminations were apparent across the river, and another enjoyable day drew to a close.

Saturday: Torksey Lock

On Saturday morning it was not quite so early a rise: at about eight o'clock, and before breakfast, I stepped from the boat as the four from Just Do It were doing likewise. We walked again into the town, this time with a purpose - another visit to the market for provisions. Mine were soon obtained and I returned to the boat, again with a purpose - it was time to empty the foul tank and there was a pumpout just a few hundred yards away.

By ten o'clock we were on our way to Cromwell lock - the tidal lock, which we reached soon after eleven, in time for the 1130 high tide. Unfortunately, a small, but annoying, mishap earlier at Newark Nether Lock: as I moored below it and stepped up the ladder, Gloriana's stern drifted in and her tiller swung to the port side. I heard a crack which happened to be my new tiller handle reacting to being pressed far too firmly against the high concrete mooring wall. I was not a happy man! Fortunately, the handle dropped into the engine room and I have been able to repair it: time will tell how successful the repair has been, but I am optimistic - they say the glued joint, which in this case is multi-faceted, will be stronger than the original material.

At 1130 we dropped through Cromwell Lock and there began a three-hour journey to Torksey. The sky was grey but happily there was no rain, however there was a very strong wind which created two-foot waves in places, and one or two difficult negotiations of bends in the river of which there were many. With one or two exceptions, I don't find rivers all that entrancing so I was glad to recognise the final 180 degree bend which preceeded the approach to Torksey lock. Turning into the Fossdyke Navigation was interesting against the strong Trent tide, the more so when I looked astern to see that Just Do It was coming in behind me at an angle of something between 30 and 45 degrees!

Through the lock, we were soon moored up, after a bit of rearrangement of plastic boat moorings to allow us to use the mooring space, and, about five minutes after we'd sat together for a brew, the heavens opened. Again, Rick and Wendy invited me to dine with them, and after another sociable evening bed beckoned.

This morning we set off for Lincoln at about ten. The heavy rain we had overnight had all but cleared and the sun was breaking through the cloud. Not far short of Saxilby I received a text message from Julia, Mike was home and she wanted to know my position. Half an hour later Gloriana was tied up on Saxilby visitor moorings (I had told Rick that I'd catch up with them in Lincoln) and the three of us were enjoying coffee and a chat. It is possible that they may join us in a weekend or two for a cruise up to the Chesterfield. Jules has offered to drive Jackie there whilst Mike and I take the scenic route, but I hope the presence of another experienced helmsman might persuade Jackie to join us onboard as a foursome.

As M & J had a leg of lamb slowly reaching succulence in their oven at home (Mike's speciality) we parted company and I set off for Lincoln . . . . . . . . where I arrived mid afternoon. Soon after Saxilby, six miles west of Lincoln, I saw the twin towers of Lincoln Cathedral.

Arriving in Lincoln, I moored up behind Just Do It just to the east of the Glory Hole, a tunnel beneath an older building leading in from the Brayford Pool.

After having a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive, I went for a short stroll around the immediate area though ended up extending it to take in the environs of the cathedral.

We have done a fair bit of travelling over the past few days so it is time to take a rest and I think this location is as good as any to tarry awhile.


Tuesday 26th June:  Lincoln

Travelling into Lincoln Central  on the train yesterday afternoon, I caught a glimpse of all the boats in Brayford Pool and presumed Nick would lead me there. In fact he lead me in the direction of the castle but I found Gloriana moored right in the modern city centre just east of the Glory Hole, a tunnel under an ancient timbered building.

We are moored alongside the Waterside Shopping Centre and the Central Market is right across the canal with excellent fish, meat and veg.  After supper we walked up the steep hill, known as Steep Hill, with charming shops, to the cathedral sitting atop the rise, dominating the city. There is plenty of history here with evidence of Roman remains alongside stuff going back to Norman times, when the castle (dwarfed by the immense cathedral) was built in 1068 for William the Conqueror. It all looked splendid in the evening sunshine.

This morning after a lazy start to the day we went up to the cathedral again, hoping to do the Tower Tour. Sadly, we found it to be only available on Saturdays so we’ve booked for that, and having just admired the splendour of the Nave (and Rick's backside in the foreground). We were with exceedingly good company as Rick, Wendy and their friends, Christine and Ian are all Lincoln born and bred. After sitting awhile beneath the gaze of Alfred Lord Tennyson, we did a short trip in a horse drawn carriage around the cathedral and castle precincts, and the knowledgeable driver could barely offer our companions information they didn’t already know, like the only Roman archway in this country, through which traffic still passes!

Back on the boat, we enjoyed a quiet afternnon, skyped with George and with Emm and I did a further recce of the city near the boat and we’ve just had supper. Lots more to do in this city! And the Olympic Torch is passing through on Wednesday and leaving on Thursday. I’ve heard that the torch bearer is so surrounded by protection squad/outriders etc that the effect is spoiled. We shall see!

Saturday 30th June: Washingborough

A few days have passed pleasantly as we have slowly acquainted ourselves with Lincoln. I have been delighted to find a bus which regularly goes from close by our mooring up to the top of town where almost all of the history and beauty of the city lies, thereby allowing me to avoid the toil up the cobbled Steep Hill with its charming  homes and stores.

Our city centre mooring has just two disadvantages, both connected with the fact that we are in an area where sound is funnelled; one is the accordion-playing busker who is regularly playing all the time the shops are open (ok but not all day, every day!) and the second is groups of youngsters who gather on the bridge over the Glory Hole late at night and who don’t realise that we hear every intimate part of their conversation. As with most city centres, Rick and Wen know weekends in Lincoln can be particularly noisy and consequently we have moved a couple of miles downstream.

One highlight of the week was the Olympic Torch transit just a few yards along the cut as it made its way over the Glory Hole. People were claiming prime positions mid-afternoon for the six o’ clock fun and games. The prelude of police motorbikes (lots!) and huge Coca-Cola floats and varied other vehicles was tedious and after a five  or ten minute pause, more police motorbikes preceded the flame – we saw a shocking red head of hair and a flash of fire, and lots of flag-waving and cheers saw it on its way! Later at ten o’clock a spectacular firework display was set off alongside the Brayford Pool. Wendy and her granddaughter ran along bare-footed in their jimjams to enjoy the grand finale! Rain on Friday morning put the dampers on our plan to see it set off again from the historic top of the city.
However, by way of a total non sequitur, can anyone offer an explanation as to the meaning of this sign on the roadside to the market?

We are moored just three miles out of the city, and the view astern is dominated by the cathedral on the skyline well into the night.

Today was the highlight. We had booked for a tour up to the top of the high tower (for a short while the highest tower in the land). Lots and lots of steps took us high up above the nave and then up again to the clock room where the clock controlling the quarter-hourly tolling of the bells resides, then the bell tower with the mammoth bell Great Tom, which duly was struck twice on the hour of two, causing reverberating ear drums and shuddering torsos due to our being only feet away from it. Then up still further we went, on up steps, increasingly narrow and uneven, to the breezy and crazy top with amazing views, near and far.

After walking back down Steep Hill, stopping for a cup of tea after a few yards down, we did some shopping in the market and caught the bus back to Washingborough.