Loo views

Loo views

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Not too shabby

Now that's what I call a view from the loo!

We had the most glorious 3 days at Congleton. A phrase I never thought to utter! Not only were the walks and scenery magnificent, but almost everyone who walked past greeted us and most stopped for a chat. I thought it must be a lovely place to live. Not only that but we met two Cairns! One was a very big boy called Spike who rather took a shine to Bonny. The other was a very long haired little girl who turned into a fierce wolf around big dogs but found Bonny utterly unthreatening.

Today we moved on to Bosley. I thought I would be a bit sad when I turned around, as that was not the original plan. But having set the first lock and worked all four gates (as opposed to the usual three) and found my foot throbbing after only one lock, it was a relief to know I wasn't doing the next eleven. Instead I winded and went back down lock 1 and left the Bosley locks to those more able bodied than I currently am. We moored not far away in an idylic spot just as the sun came out. As you can see, my view from the loo is not too shabby!

Monday 24 April 2017

Freedom and restrictions

Bonny has been such a runaway in the past. Ten hours is her personal best for going missing while hunting rabbits or just being a little madam. I have never had a dog that I couldn't let off the lead and I wasn't about to start with her, so we have been doing some intensive obedience work a la Dog Whisperer.

This morning we reaped some of the benefits. I never dreamt I could let her off in such a target rich environment and have her come back to me.

She has the scent of something here and stops following me.
The little dot you can see is her starting to follow her nose rather than me!

So I ran down to the river and she followed me!

And here she is safely back on the lead, hurrah!

The title of this post mentions restrictions as well as freedoms. I have been struggling with an inflamed tendon under the heel of my right foot. When it is bad it's like walking with boiling marbles in my shoe. It means that once Bonny has had her morning walk I struggle with pain for the rest of the day. If I am cruising, doing locks and doing any other chores on top then it is no fun at all.

The rough timetable for this cruise includes being near Oxford at the latter half of June to meet up with my friends Roger and Shirleyann to go on the Upper Thames. My original plan was to mooch to the top of the Maccy and down the Peak Forest and then retrace my wake back to Fradley where I turn right and go south. But this would mean cruising almost every day and fitting shopping, laundry etc in as well. I'm hoping my foot will improve eventually but it's just not up to that at present.

So, reluctantly, I am cutting short the northern trek to allow more time for the trip southwards so I can have days off where necessary. It means turning after just one lock of the formidable Bosley Flight and returning the way I came. I am particularly disappointed not to get to the High Lane area as I absolutely loved the area when I was here last. But this time at Congleton has compensated at least in part for that loss.

There are walks in every direction here and the scenery is stunning. Bonny loves greeting all the dogs strolling past and sitting high up on the aqueduct, she has a commanding view of the countryside. The people here remind me of how most communities once were. They greet friend and stranger alike. They all make a fuss of each other's dogs and Bonny. Most seem to know the names of each other's dogs, if not the humans! The fear of the stranger that I see in so many places seems to be absent here and it is lovely.

I am going to get a taste of their bus service tomorrow to go into town for food shopping. I haven't been on a bus for years so that will be an experience. Then on Wednesday we will cruise to the flight and enjoy the views there (if we can see them as the weather is closing in).

Saturday 22 April 2017

Accidental Heaven

....Or what you can find when you are willing to deviate from your plan!

I was intending to cruise up towards the Bosley flight of locks today. It was only going to take around three hours so an easy day. However I was just coming out of the other side of Congleton when we crossed an aqueduct with moorings and saw this view:

So without really thinking about it, I swerved into the side right there and tied up (after only about 90 minutes cruising).

After lunch Bonny and I went to explore a disused railway line leading down the valley and found this:

And this:

And this:

(That's my favourite!) It is a heavenly place, made more so by the first proper sun we have seen since we started our cruise.

Normally speaking I would have passed the mooring by a) because I had another destination in mind. b) There were other boats already moored there and c) it's very close to the town with lots of walkers and cyclists passing by. I am so glad I didn't let any of that stop me!

It made me think of life in general. How many wonderful experiences have I missed because I was too focused on my goals? How many chance encounters have I missed because of my prejudices? Perhaps if we all lived in the present moment more often we would all be a little happier and maybe even find our own 'accidential heavens'.

Friday 21 April 2017

Fears realised but survived

I was awake at 5am this morning as I was fretting about navigating the Harecastle Tunnel. It is one and three quarter miles long, pitch black and in places very, very low. I am mildly claustrophobic and have issues about queuing so my nightmare is to be stuck behind a convoy of boats going very slowly through the tunnel.

Since I was still awake at 6am I got up, had breakfast and walked Bonny round the pretty but noisy Westport Lake. A boat passed me going towards the tunnel as we got back from the walk and my heart sunk. The only way for me to go through the tunnel without too much fear is if I'm in front so I can set my own speed and not have any obstacle between me and the entrance.

The tunnel is open from 8am so I set off aiming to arrive around 8.10. As I arrived, I saw the boat that had passed me and a hire boat that had obviously spent the night moored at the tunnel, waiting to enter. I just had time to pop Bonny safely inside the boat and turn all my lights on and we were off inside the belly of the beast. 

Almost immediately I realised it was going to be bad. The three of us were told by the tunnel keeper to travel at normal cruising speed as the bow wash helps keep the boat away from the tunnel walls. Also, and more importantly for me, it means you can get through in around 35 minutes. The first boat in soon got up to cruising speed and quickly vanished into the blackness. However the skipper of the hire boat obviously thought cruising speed was tick over and that bouncing from side to side off the tunnel walls was normal. He cocked his Australian bushman's hat at a jaunty angle and kept whistling a merry tune in a slightly forced way as we crawled painfully slowly through the dark cold damp tunnel.

As the roof got lower and lower, he got slower and slower and despite bringing my boat up close behind him and his seeing the one in front disappear he stuck to very slow and kept looking back at me, waving and giving the thumbs up. He was having a high old time. I, on the other hand, was suffering the torments of hell. If I could reached the poor unfortunate hirer I would have ripped his head off!

Fifty (yes, fifty!!) minutes after entering the tunnel we emerged back into the daylight. My 'friend' in front waved gaily to the 5 boaters waiting to enter. I noticed that none waved back! The tunnel keeper smiled at my drawn expression and asked what had kept me? I didnt dare open my mouth to reply as I knew a torrent of terror induced frustration would have poured out!

The hirer didn't realise how close to death he had come as he stopped at the next lock and waved at me as I mercifully turned off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Macclesfield Canal. If I had had to follow him up Heartbreak Hill, I swear I would have drowned him! A couple of hours slow cruising up the Maccy slowly calmed me down and I eventually regained my good humour. It's amazing what a monster I can turn into when I'm terrified. Tied up now in a quiet and beautiful spot to recover. Photos to follow.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Improving things?

I have just moored up on the outskirts of Stoke on Trent. Despite being very close to the city, I remembered a very good mooring with a lovely walk from when we were last here in 2012. This is what the footpath looked like then:

And this was the view:

This is what we found today: the path...

And the view...

But the reason I am writing this post is because of the notice I found on the fence...

'Footpath improvement works?' 'Aesthetically enhance my enjoyment of the area?' Not sticking a huge warehouse in the middle of a meadow would aesthetically enhance my enjoyment. Not laying down loads of sharp rocks would improve the footpath. As for 'creating a wetland area' that used to happen naturally every winter!

It is yet another example of the state and big business trying to spin a negative into a positive. In this case trying to make out they have enhanced the area rather than ruined it. It makes me so angry! It's bad enough that green field building is all the rage these days but don't then try and make out you have done us a favour!

Ah well, on the upside my foot wasn't as painful today and at least Bonny found a view!

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Slow and painful

A slow cruise today. I started fine, cruising to Stone through the water meadows. I then managed to find a space on visitors moorings while I went off shopping. Then off again but after getting through 2 locks, a volunteer lock keeper appeared to say I couldn't go any further as they were working on a gate, two locks up. He said it would be a couple of hours and I might as well tie up where I was. So, secured my boat and was just shutting things up when a boat came towards me having just come out of the next lock. "Yes they are working on the lock, but they are letting boats through". Good to be given accurate information!

So I woke my boat up again and put Bonny back on the roof and off we went. We were allowed into the poorly lock but once in, they asked us just to hang on a bit. Half an hour later, we exited the lock! I had intended to do the Meaford flight as well but by the time we were clear of Stone my foot was throbbing fit to burst.

I have an inflamed tendon in my heel and wear special insoles that help my foot position. It hasn't given me any trouble for a couple of years. However, since I started walking on the hard floors of Alrewas Hayes for my job, my right heel has flared up again. I was absolutely convinced that as soon as I stopped working and started cruising, all would be well again. But it has been a couple of weeks since I last worked and my heel is no better. The more I walk on it, the angrier it gets. So having walked Bonny, cruised, shopped, worked the locks and then walked Bonny again, I am in a lot of pain.

I am very disappointed and it is spoiling the cruise a bit as one of our joys is exploring new walks. I have resorted to anti inflammatories but I can't live on them! Ah well, hopefully it will feel better by morning.

By the way, those of you with an intimate knowledge of locks will know the picture above is not of one of the Stone Locks but it gives you a flavour of our temporary imprisonment.

Monday 17 April 2017

Easter Break

A bit of a square view from my loo but I wanted to catch the lambs playing in the field so I took it from above my loo! I found the most beautiful mooring at Burston and since the weather has been cold and drizzly and the canal busy, I decided to see the Easter weekend out here.

The other reason this mooring has given me a break is that, with a bend and bridge one side and reeds the other, I have had no one snuggle up to me for the last two nights which has been a relief after the night before!

It's the first time for weeks I haven't either had loads of pre-cruise jobs to do or haven't been actually cruising so it's been lovely to have a rest. Bonny has been a total 🌟 so far. She has had off lead walks and stayed with me. She has mooched around the mooring untethered and has stayed within sight of the boat. She had a wee moment this afternoon when I told her to come in and it took her a few minutes to obey, but this is a dog who used to take several hours to obey, so she's doing ok!

I'm still struggling a bit with pain in my heel (tendon damage) but I'm hoping it will improve now I'm not spending hours at work walking on hard floors.

Tomorrow I shall be tackling the Stone flight of locks and doing a spot of shopping. Then onto the larger locks at Stoke, followed by the dreaded Harecastle Tunnel, all 2926 yards of claustrophobic darkness!

Friday 14 April 2017

Challenging my hang ups

I faced a challenge today. I have a real issue when people come too close to me. I get feelings of anger and even fear in situations like crowded public transport or when queuing and people stand really close behind me. In my boating life the feelings are triggered when people moor their boats unnecessarily close to mine. I can just about cope if this is on visitors mooring as there are good reasons for mooring nose to tail. Although having said that, I do tend to avoid visitors moorings unless there is no choice. I particularly don't like mooring opposite other boats where we can see into each others homes.

Today I moored out in the countryside where there was really only space for one good sized boat as there were reeds on one side and a bend on the other. I was so happy to find it vacant and enjoyed letting Bonny run free. But this afternoon, as you can see from the photo, a boat came and moored directly behind me. They had to use four ropes as they moored on the bend and the only mooring ring they could reach was the one I was using so they were very close. It felt very intrusive and even more so when I saw a lady on the boat and smiled but just got a blank stare in return.

I took Bonny off for a walk so I could get my feelings under control. I had made a resolution before this voyage that I would try an address this issue. In the past I would have fumed for the rest of the day and so ruined the mooring for myself. I might immediately run my engine, light a smoky fire or play loud music to encourage the intruder to move on. If it's really intrusive I have been known to confront the other boater and have a blazing row!!

But I don't want to be like that anymore so I walked until  I felt calm and made a plan to help me stay calm. Firstly I posted what was happening on Facebook. I know some people sneer at Facebook 'friends' but I find them really helpful and supportive. I also moved my boat just a foot or so forward, so we weren't sharing the same ring and that helped my feelings of claustrophobia. Lastly I sat outside (with a whisky!) and just looked at both the boats until I could accept there was no threat. All this helped me feel calmer and more content than ever before in this sort of situation. I've got a way to go but I'm really encouraged!

Thursday 13 April 2017

Mooring heaven

The top picture is our beautifully peaceful mooring last night near Wolseley Bridge. Then this morning we cruised for just an hour to reach Great Haywood. The second picture is actually a view from the saloon rather than the loo and you have to squint in order to spot Shugborough Hall in the distance but it's a lovely view!

The weather is more Spring than summer like but Bonny and I are still loving it! There is no reception where we are moored, so after visiting the farm shop for some treats, we were forced to go to the Clifford for a half and their wi fi!

Tuesday 11 April 2017

We are out!

The first day of the cruise could not have started better. A sunny day with a cool breeze and a lock flight manned by more volunteer lock keepers than you could shake a windlass at! We were at Kings Bromley Marina for the necessary within a couple of hours.

It was a little tricky as both spots on the diesel dock were taken so I had to station hold in the exposed marina for 15 minutes. One of the boaters on the dock said "You're unlucky. It's usually me that's unlucky like that". To which I replied "I am starting a four month cruise today, I'm the luckiest person I know!"

There was another plus to having to wait. I have only taken the boat out once since November and so my confidence needed a bit of boosting. Managing to hold the boat in one place in a sideways breeze really helped with that.

We were a while in the marina but eventually managed to fill with diesel, empty of poo and get gas and wood. Then off towards Handsacre where there is a brilliant circular walk that Bonny loves. She hadn't been cruising all winter and yet she took up her accustomed place on the roof as if she was born to it!

So here we are, safely moored and gazing at the bright sunshine reflected up from the rape seed blossom. That'll do.

Monday 10 April 2017

Starting a new adventure

It is the last evening Bonny and I will spend on our home mooring for four months. We are off cruising in the morning and I am very excited. I will endeavour​ to blog regularly as we travel around. We are heading first towards Stoke on Trent to get to the Macclesfield Canal and on to the Peak Forest.

I doubt I'll sleep much tonight but I will take it gently the first few days as it has been hard work getting ready to go. Still I've got four months to relax!