Friday 27 July 2007

Caldon Canal - Penkridge to Calf Heath

27th July 2007
Penkridge to Calf Heath
Staffs & Worcester

5 Miles
5 Locks
3 Hours

A steady run back on a familiar stretch under a constant drizzle. Back to the marina by lunchtime leaving plenty of time to clear the boat, return home and drove down to Stratford to watch the swollen Avon swirl and foam past the theatre.
A wet but memorable trip which was particularly special as it was the first week without children for 13 years! Hopefully the first of many trips for just the two of us.

Thursday 26 July 2007

Caldon Canal - Aston Lock to Penkridge

26th July 2007
Flint Mill to Aston Lock
Trent & Mersey and Staffs & Worcester

19 Miles
21 Locks
10 Hours

Today was as bad as yesterday was good - a sort of nautical ying and yang.
It chucked it down all day, testing the Captain's wet weather all the way to it's limits and then some. After a drenching morning we decided on a long lunch in the shelter of the tree lined section of the S&W, between Gt Haywood Junction and Tixall Wide moving on again when the rain slowed to a mere downpour. The intervening days had done little to reduce the water levels of the Sow and the Penk, and the vast lakes remained, topped up by the continuing deluges.
We finally made it to Penkridge, mooring up above Filance Lock and walking back to eat a meal in the newly redecorated Boat Inn. The food and beer was good and I will use the pub again - well worth another visit.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Caldon Canal - Flint Mill to Aston Lock

25th July 2007
Flint Mill to Aston Lock
Caldon Canal and Trent & Mersey

21 Miles
26 Locks
12 Hours

Our previous plan had been to end at Stratford and to this included a tickets to the RSC to see one of the Shakespeare histories. As we still wanted to go to the theatre we decided to put in a big day and make sure we returned to base in plenty of time.
It was therefore an early start at 8.30 am in the pouring rain, with the Captain togged out in full wet weather gear. Belle cowering in the cabin, only to emerge when the Stockton Brook locks really demanded her attention. Thankfully, the rain continued as we passed Northwood (yobs dislike rain almost as much as getting up before 11.00am) without incident. The rain finally petered out as we descended the staircase at Eturia and rejoined the Trent and Mersey.
The evening weather got better and better as time went on, so we didn't stop. We sipped out Gin and Tonic's alone on an empty canal, passing through Stone, finally stopping as darkness descended at Aston Lock. These sort of evening occur so unexpectedly and are forever remembered as what boating is all about.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Caldon Canal - Stockton Brook to Frogall

24th July 2007
Stockton Brook to Frogall (and back to Flint Mill)
Caldon Canal

21 Miles
18 Locks
10 Hours

We covered a lot of ground today, being the first boat up the Stockton Brook Flight. First we took in the Leek Arm, which was very pretty as it contoured round a steep hillside before finally diving through the Leek Tunnel (very dry). We winded at bridge number 9 but could have gone another 1/4 mile or so, as we later learned that a 45 ft winding hole exists at the very end, which would have been just enough for Wand'ring Bark's 43 ft.
We returned to the Caldon Canal and paused for a couple of pints at The Boat, next to bridge 44. Belle had the bright idea of taking in a couple of plastic beer mugs, which we used for a final "take away" round, and returned to the boat make slightly less direct progress down to the Churnet river section.
Whilst the rain had been much less in the upper Trent / Churnet valleys, the water level was sufficiently high to prevent us making a passage through the infamously low Frogall Tunnel. We therefore turned and went back to Flint Mill, using the folding bike to go into the village to collect fish and chips. Watch out - it is a long slog up to the fish and chip shop but only a five minute wizz to complete the one mile journey back down again. We had good weather for the day, the only dry day of the trip as it turned out.

Monday 23 July 2007

Caldon Canal - Stone to Stockton Brook

23rd July 2007
Stone to Stockton Brook
Trent & Mersey and Caldon Canal

14 Miles
14 Locks
7 Hours
It was a wet start but cleared as we climbed the final flight into Eturia. There was a nasty case of stone throwing near the Northwood hotspot (bridge 15) with a couple of adolescents lobbing ballast from the dismantled railway track in the woods to the left. A combination of ammo, cover and altitude made this a nasty mix, and we sustained half a dozen direct hits before we got out of range. Luckily none hit us or anything breakable, but next time we pass this way we will time it for a very early morning transit.
We had a temporary stop at lift bridge 21 and walked into Norton Green where we enjoyed a very acceptable pint at the Foaming Quart. Sadly no food was available in the village so we fell back of the supplies we had on the boat. We moved on a little further, mooring just below Stockton Brook Locks and passed a very peaceful night in the company of two other narrowboats.

Sunday 22 July 2007

Caldon Canal - Deptmore to Stone

22nd July 2007
Deptmore to Stone
Staffs & Worcester and Trent & Mersey

15 Miles
10 Locks
9 Hours

After passing Deptmore Lock we passed over a causeway which appeared to divide two parts of a huge lake.

The swollen Penk now stretched from one side of the valley to the other, covering the entire flood plain and was nearly on a level with the canal. The Sow valley was little better, with flood waters reaching the top of the aqueduct arch. A couple of feet more and the waters would have overtopped the banks. Brindley made a good job of the aqueduct - the pressure on the structure must have been immense.

We had a steady run up the unspectacular section Trent and Mersey to Stone, mooring just below bridge 96 at the top of the flight. We noticed Phyllis May moored up in the basin above the Star, all encrusted with salt and recently returned from her American exploits on the Intracoastal Waterway. We went looking for the Rising Sun, but never found it. Instead we walked back to the Star, which failed to live up to its promise with crumples and sticky menus putting us off their food.
We then wandered into the market square and ended up in Wetherspoons which, whilst lacking in atmosphere, did deliver exactly what we expected. During our meal we kept seeing ariel photos of the flooded Severn and Avon - the exact place we have been planning to visit! We made the right decision to head for the Caldon.

Saturday 21 July 2007

Caldon Canal - Calf Heath to Deptmore

21st July 2007
Calf Heath to Deptmore
Staffs and Worcester Canal

9 Miles
10 Locks
6 Hours

Index of posts in this series:
1. - Calf Heath to Deptmore - this post
2. - Deptmore to Stone
3. - Stone to Stockton Brook
4. - Stockton Brook to Frogall
5. - Frogall to Aston Lock
6. - Aston Lock to Penkridge
7. - Penkridge to Calf Heath

With both Tilly and Jeff off on a camp, Belle and I had an unprecedented six days to ourselves. The plan had been to take WB down the Severn, possibly as far at the Gloucester and Sharpness before returning up the Avon and leaving her just short of Stratford for a couple of weeks, returning her to Calf Heath later on. As we drove round Birmingham to drop off one car the terrible state of the tributary rivers became apparent. It was clear that the Severn would be impassable for some time, so we devised plan B which involved the Caldon Canal, which was about as far from a river as it was possible to get. The flooding turned out to be the worst in 30 years with Tewkesbury and Gloucester submerged.

The first day was therefore somewhat delayed and we set off at lunch time, making our way through Penkridge where we got our first glimpse of the Penk Valley. The Penk is usually no more than an overgrown stream in summer but it has amazingly transformed itself into a mile wide sheet of water flowing over a metre deep. We got as far as bridge 94 near Deptmore Lock, just short of Stafford Boat Club. The rain finally paused allowing the Captian 30 mins of fishing before the evening meal. The fish were in fine form and he pulled 10 good sized specimens out of the water in quick succession. The mooring is fairly remote but the south westerly breeze carried a fairly constant drone from a nearby main road.