Oct 22nd 09 - Hem Heath
Wednesday Oct 21st – Shirleywich to Stone
Our friend Shirley thought it very weird that we were in a place called Shirleywich – especially it being so close to Halloween! I have to say, she did cross my mind when I saw the name on the map! Actually the wich in the name is not referring to the spooky, warty sort that ride brooms and wear pointy hats! Any town with “wich” in its name almost certainly has something to do with salt! Nantwich, Middlewich, Colwich etc etc and sure enough at Shirleywich there is the site of an old salt works. In fact only a short distance from Shirleywich there is another village called simply Salt!
We set off after breakfast and there was a lock immediately in front of us – I quickly donned my boots and jacket and headed off with my trusty windlass to do the necessaries then as soon as we were through it I took them off again and went back inside – Clive didn’t really need my services for a while and I had things I to do, so I left him to it. In fact we had a couple of hours of cruising and nothing else until we reached the first lock in the Stone flight, number 26 The Aston Lock. Adjacent to the lock is an old mile post - there are many of these along the canals. However this one is special, it showed that we were exactly half way along the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Half way mark!
Just as we were approaching the Aston Lock we saw that there was a lot of construction work going on at the side of the canal and as we got nearer we realised it was a new marina which was being built or dug or whatever you would call it. It is amazing just how many new marinas are popping up around the country but believe me they are needed. There has been a huge rise in the number of boats on the canals over the last few years, they reckon around 1500 a year! So marina's are now big business - this is what they look like before they let the water in! This one was a wee bit behind schedule though, according to the hoardings on the bank it was due to be opening in October 2009 - I don't think so!
New marina under construction
The second of the locks is in Stone itself, number 27, The Star Lock, it is adjacent to a very old pub called The Star, which dates back to the 16th century! There were moorings straight after the lock and it wasn’t long before we had the boat tied up and secure. Clive immediately announced that he was going for a pint at The Star. I decided not to join him – I’m not really fond of beer or ales and very rarely drink them and I didn’t really fancy anything else so I suggested he go on his own and I would take the opportunity of having a shower whilst there was plenty of hot water, then afterwards I prepared the dinner – stew and dumplings, yummy!
A short while after Clive returned from the pub I looked out of the window and saw something odd on the water. I grabbed the camera and went up on deck to have a closer look and there were two guys on the bank with remotes operating a couple of model boats – how cute are they!
I left Clive on the boat a short while later and headed into town - I had a special birthday present to buy for my sister! I also called in at the local Co-op for some more bread and a couple of other bits and pieces, then back to the boat for stew and dumps!
Thursday Oct 22nd – Stone to Hem Heath
We slept in again this morning! Clive was quite shocked to discover it was10.00 o’clock when he woke up! We really ought to start going to bed earlier, this is ridiculous! There was a lock right in front of us and when Clive noticed there was a boat in it coming down he told me to get my skates on! I quickly scoffed my last piece of toast, brushed my teeth and had my boots and coat on in a few minutes as the oncoming boat passed by and a few minutes later I had the gates open ready for our boat. When we emerged from the lock we were faced with a very congested bit of canal, there were boats moored on both sides leaving a pretty narrow channel and there was another boat coming the other way – eek! Clive managed to negotiate his way past the other boat without any mishaps and we were soon a tthe next lock, which of course was in our favour. I had to go through a little tunnel under the road bridge to get up to the lock itself and when I arrived there was a chap already filling the lock! I was not best pleased – one should always check before filling a lock that there is no traffic coming in the other direction as they really have right of way, he obviously didn’t check! Anyway, as I am a nice person I helped him with the lock anyway. His boat was called Dudley, the town he and his wife hail from! Finally we got into the lock and resumed our journey. By the time I was filling the lock up there was another boat waiting to come down – it really is busy at the moment. I suppose partly because it is half-term and also because, like us, people are trying to get where they want to be before the winter stoppages start next week.
At the next lock there was yet another boat waiting to come down and the lady from the boat came to help me with the lock. I exchanged pleasantries with her and she promptly said “where are you from?” I told her that originally Clive and I were from Huddersfield – “I knew it” she said, “so am I!” Well it turned out that she was from Golcar (a village in Huddersfield), that her mother now lives in Salendine Nook and that she and her husband currently live in Wakefield and she used to go to Colne Valley High School. I told her where Clive and I came from too. We both know Golcar very well as we used to live in a village nearby called Scapegoat Hill. We both went to school in Salendine Nook and also used to live in a village called Flockton, which is near Wakefield and believe it or not Clive used to be a teacher at Colne Valley High School – what a small world. I asked the name of their boat – Golcar Lily– there is also a restaurant of the same name where we celebrated Clive’s father’s 80th birthday a couple of years ago – how amazing! The couple were called Joyce and Derek and we gave them our card with the website and our contact details, hopefully they will get in touch with us and who knows we may bump into them again somewhere on the cut
Derek at the helm of Golcar Lily
After the four locks in the Stone flight we soon arrived at the Meaford flight, another four locks. Once through these and we had passed our first deadline – seven of these eight locks are closing for maintenance on November 2nd. So now there is nothing to stop us reaching the Macclesfield canal, which is where we need to be to attend the wedding in Poynton, Cheshire, at the beginning of December.
Before that however we have to be in Huddersfield for my sister Thelma’s 65th birthday celebration party, which takes place on Sunday. We have booked a hire car from Congleton on Saturday so we just need somewhere to leave the boat for a couple of nights. The last time we were in Congleton, September 2008, we moored in a lovely spot which we think should be pretty safe, so we are planning on mooring there again – I hope there’s room!
We continued cruising for another couple of hours and finally reached Hem Heath, then out into the countryside again where we moored up. Tomorrow we will hit Stoke on Trent and plan to get all the way through and out the other side, then through the Harecastle Tunnel, which reputedly is haunted by the “Kidsgrove Bogart”! Evidently in 1839 a boatwoman was murdered and decapitated and her body thrown into the waters of the tunnel where it was found days later. Since then a “bogart” (a house fairy, or in this case a tunnel fairy!) evidently haunts the tunnel. Her name was Kit Crewbucket and it is reputed that if she likes you she will cook you breakfast, well evidently the smell of bacon fills the tunnel! We passed through the same tunnel last year without smelling bacon butties! Maybe our luck will have changed this year –ha ha!
We passed by the famous Wedgewood china factory a short while after Stone. Last year we moored up here and went to visit the factory but decided to give it a miss this time.
The famous china factory
We didn’t want to go any further today mainly becausewe didn’t fancy mooring up in the middle of Stoke on Trent! I am going to set the alarm tonight to ensure that we wake up early tomorrow morning. We have a long day ahead of us, at least five hours cruising including several locks and the tunnel. The nights are drawing in now and we really need to be moored up by late afternoon so we need to be off in good time tomorrow.