This weeks blog is going to be slightly different from my normal posts, it’s going to be a sort of day by day diary of my recent Canal Boat holiday
Day minus 1
Our holiday started on Saturday but we travelled up to Stoke On Trent area the night before. This wasn’t only so we’d be fresh for our holiday but more importantly so we could do a parkrun in the area before the start of the holiday.
So we packed the night before ready to go as soon as we could. But my dad had a problem with his car so he had to get a hire car. Unfortunately this was a BMW which is smaller than his normal car – but don’t tell my parent I actually quite liked it!
When dad got home we loaded the car and headed off. The journey was slow because of traffic so we stopped in the farm shop services on the M5 for food on the way. I had a lovely lasagna (which was way better than the one my dad makes).
We finally got to our hotel, which was a Holiday Inn right by Stoke City FC’s stadium. The stadium is called the Bet 365 stadium and Stoke City are called the Potters because of all the potteries that are there. (But not as many as there used to be).
It was late by then so we checked in and went to bed.
Day 1 – The first day was lovely and sunny
The day had finally arrived – yippeeeeee!!!!!
We all got up early and went for breakfast and then me and my dad went off to do a parkrun while the girls stayed at the hotel. We did Hanley parkrun which was only a 10 minute drive from the hotel, it also meant that I could tick H off my parkrun alphabet challenge list (see blog called Dartmouth and other Adventures). It was a lovely 2.5 lap course around the park, which included several crossings over a canal bridge. We looked after we’d finished the run and it was the Caldon Canal it crossed, so I knew I’d be seeing it again in a few hours but this time from the boat.
We then went back to pick up the girls from the hotel
My mum loves things from the Emma Bridgewater pottery so we paid a visit to the Emma Bridgewater factory shop where my mum had a new teapot and mug and my sister had one too. Unfortunately they don’t do factory tours on a Saturday so we may try to do that later in the week as we pass on the boat as the factory is right by the side of the Caldon Canal.
We then went to the Black Prince Marina in Eturia to collect our boat. It was a 62ft canal boat called Elizabeth. We had instructions on how to use her and then we were on our way.
We started on the Trent and Mersey and headed south then almost straight away onto Caldon Canal, this canal should have been called the Cauldon Canal but when someone filled the paperwork our in the 1700’s they spelt it wrong and the name was never corrected.
The first locks we came to were a flight, which is when one lock goes straight into another, which we hadn’t done before. This flight was called the ‘Bedford Street Staircase Locks’ – Mum and I soon worked out how to do them and we actually helped another boat go through first.
A mile or so later we came to our first ever lift bridge (Ivy House Lift Bridge), dad moored up while me and mum went to work out how to lift it. It was an electric bridge so all we had to do was push some buttons. These buttons turned on flashing lights and dropped barriers to stop cars (just like a railway level crossing), when these were down the bridge started lifting.
At the first few locks there were some drunk, rough-looking people who I was slightly worried about, in fact they seemed quite nice and one of them actually helped me close one of the lock gates.
We had been told that the first few miles of our journey weren’t through the nicest area so we pushed on until we passed Engine Lock 4 and then we moored up between Bridge 22 and our second lift bridge, which had a funny name of Long Butts Lift Bridge. (By the way all canal bridges have a number which we use to know how far we have come and how far we have left to go).
When we finally moored up we had food cooked in the boat and then had an early night as we were all tired after our long day.
Day 2 – today was an absolute scorcher
Mum got up early and saw a king fisher but I was still fast asleep.
We left our overnight mooring and soon came to our third lift bridge, this time it wasn’t electrically operated so I had to use a windlass and my muscle power to wind the bridge up to allow the boat to go through. A windlass is a heavy, long, useful tool that is used on canals to work locks and wind up lift bridges.
I drove the boat lots, to give my dad a rest (well that’s what he though anyway, I just really wanted to prove that anything he could do, I could do better) and even took the boat in and out of locks myself. When going up a lock you need to be careful that the front of the boat doesn’t get to close to the front gate as could flood when the paddles on the gate are opened. When going down you need to keep the back-end of the boat in front of the cill marker (that are white paint lines on the wall of the lock) so we don’t tip the boat up as the water drops
They told us in the boat yard that we needed to top the boat up with fresh water everyday so we stopped in a place called Endon to do this. While we were moored we had a quick-lunch. In the afternoon we kept on going and went down three locks called the Hazlehurst Locks. These weren’t a flight as there was a pool in between each one. We finally stopped for the day in a place called Cheddleton right next to the Flint Mill by bridge 42.
We walked into the village to stock up on shopping and as it was boiling i was really looking forward to an ice lolly. It was about a mile walk (up hill) to the shop and i was absolutely gutted when they had no lolly’s!!!!!!!!
We decided to moor up for the night in Cheddleton and had food in the red lion. I had a lovely rump steak with came with some lovely side dishes!
We then went back to our boat and read on the tow path alongside the canal for an hour or so. I also started a book called Northern lights written by Philip Pullman who is a very famous athour and he has written many good books!
Day 3 – Hot and sunny again
We left our mooring at Cheddleton nice and early and went straight down 2 locks numbered 13 and 14 – that I drove while dad helped mum with the locks.
These locks were a little bit after where the Caldon Canal splits into the Froghall and Leek branches. We were heading down the Froghall branch which took us under the Hazlehurst aqueduct carrying the Leek branch. It was cool crossing underneath another canal!
We then had a lovely section of the journey through lovely countryside with another lock called Woods Lock. Our fourth lock, which was called Oakmedowford lock, took us onto the river Churnet. I think my dad thought it was going to be white water rafting down the river seven! But in fact it had less of a flow than the actual canal! I let my dad drive the boat on the river section while I helped mum operate the lock. Unfortunately there was another boat moored at the exit of the lock so my mum and I couldn’t get back on our boat!!!!! This meant we had to walk almost the full length of the river section until there was a suitable place for us to get back on. While we were walking along the river bank I managed to fall over twisting my ankle and hit myself on the leg with the Windlass and as I fell my mothers windlass also banged into my knee wich didn’t help!
I’ve now got a big bruise on my right leg
We got back on the canal at a place called Consall Forge, and as we were just getting on the canal a steam train passed us. My mum told me that she had read that it was a very rare thing to happen! Yipppeeeeeee!!!!!
The next couple of miles of our journey was so beautiful through lovely quiet countryside, but the canal was so narrow and windy with really tight turns so dad drove this bit again. This took us to a place called Froghall which is the end of the Caldon Canal. There is a tunnel that takes the canal the last couple of hundred meters to the basin at the end but we couldn’t go through this tunnel as our boat was slightly to high. Boats can’t be any higher than 5 feet tall to fit through this tunnel!!!!!!
We moored up just before the tunnel and walked around to the other side and then up to the canal basin at the end, it was a lovely area with a picnic spot and a lovely looking tea room. But, just our luck, the tea room is closed on a Monday so we couldn’t have anything!
So back at the boat we turned the boat around in the winding hole (I still don’t know whether you say this like wine-ding or win-ding!!!) and headed back up the way we’d come. This time mum walked ahead on the narrow bits to tell us whether it was ok for us to come through.
We travelled back to Cheddleton and moored in exactly the same spot as the night before.
The pub we ate in last night didn’t do food on a Monday so we had food in the boat. Dad and I walked to the shop in Cheddleton, which was about 1km away, to buy some bits to stock the boat up with. I had a lovely orange Calippo to eat on the way back to the boat. This was such an event because it was the starting point of me being virtually addicted to them!
Day 4 – Another really hot and sunny day
We had a later start than normal on Tuesday and left our mooring at Cheddleton about 0930. We headed west along the Froghall branch and back under the Hazlehurst aquaduct to the Hazlehurst locks.
These locks were so busy today and we had to wait for others to come down before we went up and then had to wait in the middle holding ponds between each of the locks for others to come down so we could go up. It took us much longer going up these than it did going down them yesterday.
There were some lovely sights on this section of our trip, and also some that were not so nice.
We then pushed onto bridge 31 (Parklane bridge) where we stopped and filled the boat up with water. We also moored here and walked into the local village (Endon) and had a Carvery for lunch. My dad stuffed himself with a massive extra-large plate of food – the fat pig.
In the afternoon we drove our boat a little bit further and then moored up in a lovely quiet section for the night. In this short section we had 5 locks to go through in a very short stretch so I helped mum do these while dad had the easy job of driving the boat. These were called the Stockton Brook Locks.
Day 5 – A cooler and cloudier day
We set off from our mooring and soon come up to the Long Butts Lift Bridge. While operating this bridge we met an old man who was from The Rhondda (Where I live) and when I asked him what part he said Merthyr Tydfil!!!!!!!
Long Butts was manually operated so I had to wind it up with my Windlass. It wasn’t far then to another lift bridge, this one was called Norton Green, but this time it was an electric bridge so all I had to do was press a button to make the bridge go up and down.
Soon we arrived back at ‘Engine Lock 4’, where we had to wait for a boat called ‘Lady of Trent’ to come up before we could go down.
Not long after that we got back to Ivy House Lift Bridge which I’d already done a few days ago so I knew how it worked.
We stopped just after this bridge for a drink and some biscuits – YUM YUM
A few bridges and bends later and we passed the Emma Bridgewater factory – we tried to book a factory tour but they were fully booked – you can see from the photo that the outside of the building is nowhere near as nice as the things they make.
We then pushed on through another locks before we came to the flight we did at the start of our first day on the boat.
Just below the flight was a statue of James Brindley, the famous Civil Engineer, who built this canal.
We then joined back onto the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria and headed north past the Black Prince base where we collected the boat on day 1.
The canal here was really wide compared to the Caldon Canal but not a very nice area. We went past Middleport Pottery which is where the TV programme ‘The Great Pottery Throwdown’ was filmed but we weren’t able to stop as mooring wasn’t allowed.
We finally stopped next to a big lake called Westport Lake which is a wildlife reserve for birds. We decided to moor up here for the night so we had a walk around the lake and then played on the adventure playground for a while. I sat down for a quick rest in a spinny moon chair and when I closed my eyes and started to drift off my sister came and swung me round and I screamed!
We then walked into the closest town, Tunstall, which was about a mile away. We were trying to find somewhere nice to have food but couldn’t find anywhere so we went to Asda and bought some nice food to cook back at the boat.
Day 5 – Started lovely and bright
We had a lazy start today, my dad went for a run while I made breakfast. We then went and visited the Visitor Centre at the wildlife reserve
We wanted to hire multiseat bikes to ride around the reserve but they didn’t have any available for the time we wanted. Instead we walked down to Middleport Pottery which was about a mile from where we had moored. It was really busy at the Pottery, probably because of the Weeping Window Poppy Display. This is a memorial for the centenary of the First World War. The poppies were infront of, and climbing up, the bottle kiln. I thought it looked very beautiful.
Dad had booked some spaces on a factory tour which started at 13:45. We arrived a lot earlier than this so enjoyed our time looking around the place, our tickets for the tour included entry into other areas which were part of the heritage trail. We saw lots of areas including the old bathrooms, offices and the inside of the old bottle kiln.
There used to be 7 bottle kilns but only one remains. These old kilns were replaced by gas fired ovens a long time ago but the reason that the one kiln remains is that it forms part of the walls of the factory and the owners didn’t want to pay to have the walls rebuilt.
We met our tour guide, Rob, who happened to have originally come from Aberdare which is very close to where I live, but he had lived up here for 40 years.
He took us around loads of areas of the factory and we saw the whole process from making the clay right through to the finished pottery
When we got back to the boat we left our mooring and headed north for about a mile and moored for the night just before the entrance to Harecastle Tunnel
Day 6 – Started Sunny but very heavy rain all afternoon
So we woke up and had breakfast and had just about finished when the Tunnel keeper arrived and was ready to allow us through the tunnel.
Looking into the entrance i was petrified! Heres a little bit of a diary of my tunnel adventure:
We’ve just had our safety talk and are about to enter the tunnel. My thoughts are I’m worried!
We have been shut in and we won’t see daylight for 45mins! I am petrified!
So we have about 25 mins to go and I think the boat in front has stopped. It probably hasn’t and I’m just panicking but I’m making no assumptions
We are nearly out I think and I can see the northern portal ahead which is daylight! This is such a relief to me as I have been rather scared. Yay!
I’m Out! Thank Goodness
There are actually two tunnels going through, the first was built as part of the original canal by James Brindley, the second was built by another famous Civil Engineer called Thomas Telford. This second tunnel was added as the first one was a bottle neck where all the old freight used to get held up as the tunnels aren’t wide enough to pass boats inside. Unfortunately there was a collapse in the original tunnel and it closed in 1914 so the tunnel we went through is the only one you can travel through now.
Here is a photo of the portal of the original tunnel built by Brindley
We moored back at Westport Lakes around lunchtime which was just as well as the heavens opened just after and continued all afternoon. We just had a relaxing afternoon in the boat with the rain ‘tip tapping’ on the outside.
Day 7 (last day) – Lovely and sunny but cold
Early start today, we were up at 6 ready to leave our mooring by 7. We then motored for 45mins down to the marina
When we got back, we unloaded all our stuff into the car and travelled home.
I had a great holiday and we are already starting to plan our next adventure – WHERE WILL IT BE????????
On another note – I have set myself a little challenge to run 12km in one go sometime in September, I am not only doing this to challenge myself but to help raise some money for this great charity that works for children with cancer.
12km will be a huge challenge for me as it’s further than I’ve ever run before, so if you could possibly sponsor me it would be greatly appreciated.
If you can please click here to visit my page to donate today!
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That’s it for this week but remember