Torrential times on the T and M
Tixall Wide to Hardings Wood Junction: 25½ miles, 18 locks, 1 tunnel
Cleddau had been moored at Tixall Wide on Saturday, bow towards Stafford, stern towards Great Haywood – this meant the glorious watery vista would be visible from the side hatch window. Obviously if moored here you’d want the best possible view!
Come Sunday morning bow and stern needed to be in the opposite directions. All was cleared for a lengthy reverse followed by a winding (turning round). It started well – and all ended well, despite a boat appearing from the Tixall Lock direction and passing behind Cleddau on the shallower side, the wind suddenly getting up, unhelpfully, and a few unnecessary sharp words from a moored boater.
It’s about half a mile to Great Haywood, over the thin little River Trent and under the junction bridge – and under the surveillance of several spectators. Northwards now on the Trent and Mersey Canal towards Stone and Stoke-on-Trent. Since passing this way in March Spring has sprung and there’s plenty of new life: calves
The 4 locks to Stone are well spaced out over about 10 miles and with little other boat traffic nostalgia hit: wasn’t Weston Lock the one where the rudder once got into an argument with a five foot fence post…? Wasn’t this stretch the one with the very aggressive male swan…? Has this village been improved or otherwise by the building of these canal-side buildings?
Just past Aston Marina is Aston Lock and THAT milestone, look closely and you’ll see that this is the midpoint of the Trent and Mersey Canal, the Shardlow end further east in Nottinghamshire, the Preston Brook end in Cheshire, near Runcorn and Warrington.
A mile or so further is Stone, a pretty canal side town. Finding a mooring here just below Star Lock seemed a positive triumph – here were spent the last couple of hours before the rains set in for much of the next two days…
Stone to Barlaston on Monday – not far, about a three hour trip, with 4 locks in Stone as well as the 4 Meaford Locks.
There’s rain – and there’s deluge. When the rain stings the skin, when the eyes can barely see what’s ahead, when gloves are saturated and hands are losing sensation – then boating is no joy! The route is familiar and safe mooring places known – cold and waterlogged the crew moored up just past The Plume of Feathers. Has Boatwif ever before taken a hot shower at 2pm just to warm up?
The weather forecast for Tuesday was bad, worse even than for Monday. More rain was due and high winds too. By 1130 cabin fever had struck, the rain was easing and the trees were dancing less… Togged up again in full waterproofs off set the Cleddau crew. With precision timing, a mile further on at the first lock torrential rain hit. Squalls and deluges, squalls and downpours, squalls and cloudbursts became the pattern over the 8 miles between Barlaston and Westport Lake. It was odd to cruise for two consecutive days without a camera to hand, but cameras and constant moisture are probably not good companions…
Through Stoke-on-Trent, unescorted along the towpath by walkers and cyclists, but the noise of traffic on wet roads was quite intrusive. Up Cleddau climbed through five more deep locks, past crumbling bottle kilns and derelict pot banks, past boatyards and modern factories eventually to Westport Lake where white crested waves drove towards the shore and birds struggled to make their landings.
“Why am I putting the central heating on again in this boat on the 6th June?!” the Captain had remarked in exasperation. A day later it was still on…
From Westport Lake just 3 miles remain of the Trent and Mersey before the left hand turn onto the Macclesfield Canal. Those 3 miles do include the Harecastle Tunnel, 2919 yards (2675 metres) of dark underground travel.
Third in an 8am convoy on Wednesday,
Stats since Higher Poynton: 409½ miles, 7 tunnels and 222 locks
Monkton Moments*: 16
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)