Sunday, 23 August 2015

Back Home

On Friday we were moored alongside the beautiful Dane Aqueduct in readiness for Bosley. Jonesy was quite poorly having hoovered up all the remnants of Congleton's fast food outlets the day before. He'd been sick in the night and just ate grass, looking sorry for himself.

So we were apprehensive about climbing the flight, although it passed relatively easily and as you look back down, the countryside is stunning as it slips away from you. 

We made good time in getting up the 12 locks, aided by a fair few boats coming down. We did it all in under two hours. Jones had cheered up by the time we got to the top, and after a lunch stop we pushed on to The Gurnett Aqueduct, another favourite place, and had dinner at Sutton Hall.

Saturday we cruised, lock and bridge free, into Marple. We left Jonesy barking to go for our last dinner at Marple Spice. He'd had a great run round the park and we knew he was knackered. When we got back he came to greet us from the direction of our cabin, and although you never actually catch him on the bed, the warm patch on Captain's tee shirt, laid out as bait, confirmed where he'd been sleeping. We let this go pretending we hadn't detected the transgression. He knows he is not allowed on the bed but it's his minor protest for being left.

The other surprise from this long trip is that despite having 8 static days, and average hours per (moving) day as low as 3 hrs 20mins, we still seem to have had very little spare time. The idea of reading lots of books is a joke. Not a page has been turned. We did finished re-watching the epic Jewel in the Crown, which is a richer experience every time.

Today is Sunday, and assuming the relatively short run from Marple to Furness Vale goes OK (it did), we will be home after 31 nights away. This is the longest holiday we have ever done, and the, perhaps surprising, news is that neither of us has killed the other. We are still speaking and still have things to say which is quite remarkable. Going home feels like the end of the summer even though it's not quite over.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Rode Heath to rain soaked Red Bull

Yesterday we left Rode Heath in full sunshine just before noon. We knew the afternoon weather forecast was heavy rain, so we set off  to tackle the 13 locks. The rain was not so bad, except for the last two locks in the Red Bull flight, where we did get soaked. Our spirits took a dive when we saw the queue to go up and rain made everything difficult, slippery and especially dangerous.

After Red Bull, the rain cleared, and it was then a gentle hour's cruising to Scholar Green and to dinner at the friendly Rising Sun.

Today was less ambitious, with no locks and under three hours cruise to the bottom of the Bosley flight which we will tackle tomorrow. We stopped off and walked into Congleton to explore somewhere we have only passed through before.

It's an interesting town with some attractive old buildings. The Weatherspoons is in a particularly historic and impressive former hotel/bank. The ladies toilets still boasts an open fireplace which probably hasn't been lit for many years. The town is lined with charity and bargain basement outlets. Symptomatic of many former trading towns, Congleton has retained its High Street character, but has failed to keep any proper shops. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that pushes its residents out to shop in the bigger cities and malls.

We are cruising now towards The Dane Aqueduct having rescued Jonesy. He was trusted off lead on the stern for 5 minutes and in this time managed to jump ship in a bridge hole to have a go at another dog. Captain abandoned the tiller and scooped him up in a flash. Jonesy is in bad books now.

Captain's spreadsheet shows we have completed 106 locks on this trip so far. No wonder we are all wasting away! Tonight we will debate, again, whether we should have a night off the alcohol. I think the discussion would be better had over a drink. Captain's argument is that we need the calories.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Night Manoeuvres and a Sun Streaked Wheelock

It's been good to have a busy and sociable few days as we begin to make our way back home. As usual we are taking our time with stopovers at Middlewich and Wheelock to meet friends. We moored next to a busy road in Middlewich. However, this had the dual advantage of being away from the chaos of the hire boats, many for the first time negotiating a difficult junction and locks

Rod and Sue, our neighbours were kind enough to bring post and essential supplies like Bellini and truffles. Much appreciated. After cocktails, we dined at The Kings Lock pub. Rated highly on Trip Advisor and rated even more highly by us. It has a small menu but everything tasted fantastic. Captain sat staring out of the window at the lock, wondering if that day's (and his first) dropped windlass might jump back out of the lock. It didn't.

Following some reckless night boating by the Captain and Rod, we were later able to move the boat and reverse into our assigned drop off point for the next morning's Ocado delivery (Kings Lock Chippy).

The next day we got to Wheelock and enjoyed a day sitting round in the sunshine with old friends David and Elaine who came to find us for lunch. They brought us some impressive home grown vegetables and tomatoes. So we will avoid scurvy after all. Man cannot live on chocolate alone.

Jonesy got the chance to run and play with Roly and he really enjoyed that too. Roly is such a character and puts Jones, the whippersnapper, in his place. It's funny to see Jones meet his match. He might out run him but he is never going to outsmart Roly.

The sun is beginning to dip behind the trees. It's a gorgeous evening and time for a stroll to the locks and then a snifter before dinner.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

What Goes Around

When I was small, we had our groceries delivered each week. This was in addition to separate deliveries for meat, milk and bread. The deliveries were from the neighbouring village of Tutbury from Parrick's the grocers there.

On a Friday evening, Mr Parrick and his assistant (whose name I cannot remember - but we will call her Miss Roberts) arrived on our road. Mr Parrick, appropriately - I now realise, visited our wealthier neighbours, whilst we had Miss Roberts. Miss Roberts took down the grocery order from my mum, although the most exciting bit, well for me, was being allowed something from her sweet basket.

On the Saturday, Mr McGiven arrived with the groceries. I must have asked why he smelt funny, as I wouldn't have known then what stale beer smelt like. I remember him sitting at our table, smoking his pipe and saucering his tea, whilst my mum checked off the order.

Ocado delivery in Middlewich
It seems we have now come full circle. For the last nine years, we have been using Ocado for our grocery deliveries, and we wonder why we ever had to suffer with actual supermarket shopping, especially the time it wasted.

On our boat, we are very slowly becoming more confident with the Ocado delivery, but this week using our mobile data connections proved very frustrating. We wasted hours watching blank screens. 

Where was Miss Roberts when we needed her?

Of course we now realise we should have done the entire order in a pub. The penny dropped last night on our return trip to The Badger at Church Minshull, with its open WiFi.

We ate again in the slighty gloomy Tap Room. This time Jonesy was uninterested in the stuffed badger. 

There were just a handful of people in the only 'dog friendly' room. A couple at the bar; two boating lads who couldn't afford a map book and had only a vague idea where they were and where they were going. And in the corner, on his own, an older man with an unlit pipe. Could it be Mr McGiven with his pint of mild?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Barbridge Revisited

Last night, after 5 days of Chester, we aimed for countryside. We doubled up with another boat in the five Chester locks and chatted pleasantly as they filled. We ended up somewhere near Tarporley - well, that was where the weather app tuned into.

By now it was way after 8pm and we saw the sun setting on Beeston Castle. With the inside boat temperature approaching 30C, putting the oven on to cook salmon seemed unreasonable. We suddenly remembered we had bought a folding barbeque but never expected to actually use it. In absolute peace and quiet, we cooked and ate dinner on deck. The sun dipped into the canal and the evening cooled dramatically.

Today, we both woke after 9.30, but still managed to complete another mammoth 3 hour stint. We have no idea where we are, but there are ducks and we are past Barbridge Junction (towards Middlewich). It's all vaguely familiar as we are now retracing our pathway back up towards the Macclesfield canal and to home. - eventually. 

We'll have a quiet night inside tonight. It's rainy, gloomy and feels very unlike last night's dragonfly-filled balm.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Leaving of Chester

On Friday evening we arrived in Chester and have been here for 5 nights, staying longer than planned. It hit us that this is part of the dual privilege of owning our our boat and the luxury of a month long trip with flexibility. 

We have had visits from family and friends and the weather has been hot and sunny. Amanda popped over for dinner from the Wirral on Saturday and we happened to be moored outsid her favourite pizza restaurant. Dawn and Craig came and stayed over in the nearby Premier Inn. We did plan to leave on Tuesday, but as we have a relatively easy run to Middlewich, where we need to be on Saturday, we stayed an extra day.

A another first (for us), whilst in Chester, has been a grocery delivery from Ocado. Although we are surrounded by supermarkets, first-mate decided she needed some bed linen only available from Ocado. We picked the nearest business (on Steam Mill Street) and put notes on the order explaining exactly where we were. It worked like a dream. Now, brimming with confidence, we are to go for attempt two next weekend in Middlewich. If it all goes wrong, Kings Lock Chippy will get our delivery.

The other night we bumped into fellow bloggers "AmyJo", who were tied up a couple of hundred yards behind us. They are about to tackle the Manchester Ship Canal, so we chatted about that, and paint, and other boaty things.

By comparison we are realitively inexperienced at going places other than our usual route. We have loved being in a beautiful city like Chester and just ambling into the shops. We had a gorgeous walk round the city walls. We actually feel like tourists - but ones with our own hotel. 

We really do have to go today. Jones' opportunities for scavenging street food are over for the time being but we'll be back.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Bunbury to Barton Rouge

Yesterday the Captain's sister and her husband paid us a visit in Bunbury, and as they often do they brought stunning weather. We sat on deck at the bottom of Tilstone Lock and after pre-dinner cocktails, dined out at the impressive Dysart Arms. This is a converted flagstoned farmhouse in the cinematic Cheshire village of Bunbury. We had booked for 4 adults and one terrier.
But Mr Jones wasn't just tolerated, he was provided with his own bowl of water and three doggie biscuits on a napkin. It was the best service he's had anywhere. He has requested that we go back on our return leg.
This morning began again with clear blue sky and we mooched to, and past, Beeston Castle in one of the prettiest stretches of canal we have seen.
The plan was to stop for the night near, at, or in, The Cheshire Cat, but, conscious of the preparations to be made in advance of our weekend guests, we pushed on down the last 5 locks into Chester.
Weary but triumphant, we tied up outside the Barton Rouge Indian restaurant. The aromas were enticing. We chatted to friendly waiters and chefs larking about outside, who laughingly offered to deliver. So we cracked up and ordered a take-away (or take-out, or carry-out, depending on where you live). This was a first for Princess Lucy because we don't do takeaways preferring to either cook or eat out. However, it seemed to be rude not to. The food was good and it was a very easy option given how tired we are.
The restaurant kitchen's extractor fan is directly facing our boat, so we may need to adjust our position. Or we could just drink it all in.

* We did move - but not until the fifth night! For some reason, the relatively empty Chester visitor moorings had gone from nearly empty to nearly full, but we found another spot. I then saw a boat that was clearly looking for somewhere to tie up and suggested they could go where we had come from. I did shout warning him about the kitchen extractor fan. A passer by assumed I was being racist - and commented "Ah - you don't want to live next to them then!" I was speechless, and still am. But I must admit to being restaurantextractorfan-ist.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Uses for a Lifebelt (Part 2)

Back in 2013, we blogged about uses for a lifebelt. At the time we were using our lifebelt to keep glasses of wine secure. The gist of the blog was that when space is tight, which on a 45' narrowboat it certainly is, then it is helpful if items can perform multiple functions.
The latest use for the lifebelt, and we have plagiarised here - a skill the Captain has always valued - is as a bed for Jonesy. The picture shows clearly the arrangement as copied from another boat with a similar sized terrier. Jonesy just needs the confidence to use it without falling off the side.
Last night we ate at The Badger pub in Church Minshull. The food was superb, and the only problem was the stuffed badger on the mantle-piece.  It looked fiercesome, as if it was ready to bite. Another first for little Jonesy who started to growl in his most threatening voice. 'Back off Badge,' he said.
Conflict management was required and to resolve the issue, Captain held him up so he could see it was dead and not a threat. After much sniffing of the coat which moved like the real coat it actually was, Jonesy was unsure, but offered Mr Badger a tentative kiss. Unrecipricated, Jonesy slunk back under the table. The walk back through a wild wood got him very excited. He was hoping to meet the live version, but to no avail.
All in all, the crew had a lovely evening, ending in drinking wine and watching episode 5 of The Affair, set in the glorious Hamptons. It stars Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, Brits who have to affect American accents. Their numerous illicit encounters involve a blatant disregard for matters of personal hygiene. This is mildly irritating as is Wilson's pouting which is reminscent of a carp taking its final gasp.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Different Strokes

On Sunday afternoon, we tied up for lunch just beyond the deafening M6. It was the only place really, else we would have been pitched into the next series of locks.
As we untied after lunch, the unmistakable bow of Chertsey thundered around the corner and quickly caught and overtook us.
To aid their progress they also had assistance from the enterprising "Rob the Lock" and the 26 locks from Kidsgrove must have been completed in record time.
We ambled into Wheelock, a good half hour or more after them. Rocky and Jonesy were reacquainted , and we dined outside together at the canalside Italian. It was a warm evening, and the food and carafes of wine felt almost continental.
The next time we saw Chertsey's monstrous bow was through bleary eyes. Peeping through our cabin curtains at the deathly hour of 7am the monster boat was on the move. Even though all available crew were drinking quite late, Chertsey's version of Whacky Races began another day. Why? We kept asking ourselves but it wouldn't do for us all to be the same. We've perfected a lazy lifestyle on board. Sarah and Jim are supreme warriers battling through an insane number of locks each day on their punishing schedule.
On Monday afternoon we tootled into Middlewich, and were serviced by Martin on the very tidy Fuel Boat Halsall. Top bloke. Top service.
Martin on Halsall
The idea was to stay in Middlewich for 2 nights, but the town centre seems closed and forlorn.  There are no shops to excite First Mate, who was hoping for new pyjamas. The town seemed made up of beauty parlours and funeral parlours. So we concluded that Middlewich must have the best groomed bodies dead or alive.

We will now move to the next village and find its pub.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


The 1967 Bond film, You Only Live Twice, begins with an unknown orbiting space ship closing in on its much smaller nemesis. It's jaws open and the smaller, and slower American ship is swallowed whole.

For the last few days we have been chased by something similar. This is the bigger (almost twice our length) and faster (around 3 times the hours we do each day) Chertsey, a 1937 71'6" Woolwich. 

Current predictions show contact in less than 24 hours, possibly around Wheelock. We are scared, very scared.
Seriously, we look forward to Chertsey catching up with us. We could all use more Rocky love. And, of course, it will be nice to see more of Jim and Sarah.

Today, moored in Rode Heath, we were honoured by a visit from Leigh, Alison and Princess Lucy.The weather did its best to spoil the afternoon, but we are made of sterner stuff. Not quite daft enough to proceed with the BBQ, we had lunch inside. 

However, in some cheeky heavy showers we descended the Thurlwood locks. Princess Lucy had the good sense to stay inside and keep Jonesy entertained.

It's always refreshing to have little Lucy's perspective on our boat. She exclaims that 'the best thing ever' is our battery powered colour changing moon candles. Cheers Luc.