Welcome to the story of Hale and Hearty travelling the canals of Great Britian

Monday, 23 July 2012

The end of the story

Our lovely boat is now sold. We have missed our adventures over the winter but are pleased that Hale and Hearty has found a new owner and hope that they have as much pleasure as we did, the boat was a good friend. Of course, now we are wondering what our next adventure will be. We have to start saving up in anticipation! Thank you for reading our blog, we hope it has given some idea of the fun we had and encourages others to have an adventure and not wait till a more suitable time. Bye bye.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The wanderers return

Our final week on board Hale and Hearty was an emotional time.  We rounded off our visit to Coventry with a trip up the
Foleshill Road
to buy good things and Sunday service at the cathedral. We left on Sunday and travelled out into the country. It was lovely to get away from the noise of traffic and the street lights. We had a few beautiful days cruising as the weather went into its brief Indian summer. We took the last few days easy and really enjoyed the sunshine, eating on deck and sitting in the sun. Our last night out we went to the pub and joined some fellow boaters for a scratch supper. When we awoke the boat was covered in leaves - autumn has certainly arrived.
Back at Whilton Marina, where we have ended up, we cleaned and sorted the boat, barely fitting all our belongings into the hire car. We sadly left the boat with a for sale sign and headed for home.

We have travelled 620 miles, through 473 locks and cruised for about 300 hours, visited 4 cities, travelled on the Grand Union, Stratford, Stourbridge, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, Shropshire Union, Llangollen, Trent and Mersey, Macclesfield, Upper Peak Forest, Caldon, Coventry, Ashby and Oxford canals. We have walked miles, met lots of lovely people and had a wonderful summer.

The End ?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Ashby Canal and Coventry

This week has been less adventurous but no less interesting. We have had a couple of beautiful, sunny days, when we have cruised to move us on south. One day we did the 11 locks up into Atherstone and then spent a happy afternoon at the market and looking at a most interesting exhibition of the history of the town, which grew very quickly due to the hat making industry and so development of housing was in ‘yards’ behind the houses – very cramped and poor quality. The interest particularly was in interviews with people who could remember living there before the programme of demolition took place. We have travelled to the current end of the Ashby canal; there are great plans for restoration of another 8 miles, about to start. On the way we spent some time beside the Battle of Bosworth site, where recent research has shown that Richard III wasn’t killed on the spot previously identified but 2 miles away – some changes to the location of commemorative stones needed there then! Lots to see and do with a steam railway, a glass artist, and on Sunday a dog show and bird of prey flying as well. The glass artist, Richard Golding, is astonishing. I watched breathless for 2 hours as he created a vase, layer upon layer of glass and flowers, and was able to see the finished item when it came out of the annealer the next day. We flew a Harris hawk and a barn owl, only 4 in the group so we were able to get up very close to the birds. Further along the canal we also walked the mile up to Market Bosworth, a lovely little town, beautiful architecture and where Henry VII, the victor at Bosworth, was crowned. The Ashby canal is beautiful, gentle, rural and hardly touching the small communities along the way. And so to Coventry, another city full of interest. The canal basin is just to the north of the ring road and a little haven of peace. Like excited children we have raced from museum to cathedral to art gallery. We have been moved by the spirit of reconciliation that embodies the new cathedral. We attended an evening service. The transport museum has us both enthralled for different reasons; we both especially liked the land speed record experience – sitting in the cockpit for the seven minutes of the drive in 1997 that went to over 700 mph! We have seen another Bollywood movie, just as much fun as the last one, we may be hooked.
The weather has been mixed and is starting to feel quite chilly in the mornings. One evening we had a thunderstorm, interesting experience from inside a metal box. We have lit our little stove and find the boat nice and warm in the evenings.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Curry and Cathedrals

The mronings are chilly and the days are noticable cooler, autumn is on its way.
We enjoyed Leek market, what a bustling little town it is, we notice that there seem to be fewer empty shops and more independent retailers in the towns we have visited recently than in Devon. We walked to a huge Victorian mental hospital, a community in its own right at its peak, now converted to prestigious housing, even the water tower making a family home. The return trip to Stoke was uneventful, stopping at Etruria to visit the museum and bone mill, once a very busy place grinding bone, flint and stone for the pottery industry, now a similar business is still functioning on the site and run by the same family but no longer using the canal for transport. Whilst going down the Stoke locks I was able to pop to the shops and return with curry, burfi and samosas for a special tea. This week all the locks have taken us down, away from the high land of the Peaks and on to the flatter land of the Midlands.
We cruised to Burslem, stopping to pay a brief visit to the Wedgwood factory – it is sad to hear that much of the china is now manufactured in the east (china from China?) with only some of the more prestigious and special items still produced on site as part of the tourist experience. The weather started to deteriorate and we found ourselves trying to ensure sheltered moorings and the canal surface agitated and rocking the boat – exciting stuff. We stopped overnight in Stone, again a bustling little town, attending Sunday service there before continuing. Steering the boat in these high winds is quite tiring so we travelled relatively short distances for a few days. At Great Haywood we almost crossed our own tracks and took another walk around the grounds of Shugborough and visited the museum of country life there, lots to see and enjoy. From there to Armitage was probably the hardest day weather-wise, the wind was very strong and we found it hard to moor due to the high wind. We spent the night overlooked by the Armitage Shanks factory!
So here we are at Whittington. We caught a bus into Lichfield, and found ourselves in a beautiful, historic town with a splendid cathedral, where we attended evening service, and lots of history, lovely architecture and civic pride – well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Sunday, after a surprising service at the little church in Higher Poynton, saw us retrace our steps towards Macclesfield where we collected the forgotten boat key and continued to an overnight stay near the top of Bosley Locks. We set of early on bank holiday Monday and were through the locks by 09.30 – helped along by a nice gentleman from the Macclesfield Canal Society who were doing a lock wind to raise funds for the excellent work they do in helping to maintain and restore the canal. Lunch in Congleton and on to an overnight stay back near Little Moreton Hall. The weather has been less than kind to us all week and we have had a couple of fires to warm up and dry out. After the excitement of using the launderette in Kidsgrove we had the even greater treat of the Harecastle Tunnel. This is 2950 yards long and you are booked in by an official who informs the other end that you are on your way. The tunnel has no ventilation so doors close the southern end and fans suck air through the tunnel. It is quite an adventure - no light at the end of the tunnel to follow, the arc of light from the entrance gradually diminishes behind you and darkness descends. It took us 38 minutes, we know because we were timed through, and as we reached the doors they swung open and admitted the light and warmth of the day. We never cease to be amazed by the feats of engineering achieved with no technology, just manpower. We stopped overnight at Hanley and took the opportunity to visit the museum which is excellent with lots of ceramic history and a Spitfire aeroplane. In the covered market we found a little cafĂ© serving a Hungarian/Slovakian speciality, langos, a kind of flat deep fried bread served with sour cream, onions and cheese which was delicious. We turned at Etruria onto the Caldon canal and after a very urban bit, still interesting as there are bottle kilns still in evidence where potteries used to be, we were again out in the country. We joined the 21st century by hiring a car and driving to Kent for a wonderful wedding, sunshine all the way, and returned to re enter the 19th century by travelling to Froghall and through the tunnel at the end of the canal. To achieve this Martin had to remove the chimneys, tunnel light and all the plants from the roof. Because the tunnel is so low we had the lovely basin to ourselves. Briefly the sun shone and it was delightful. We left in the morning and are currently at the end of the other branch of the canal in Leek, again moored in a wonderfully rural and lovely setting.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A week in The Peaks

And so a week in The Peaks. After spending time with Martin’s uncle and aunt on Sunday Graham kindly drove us up the Snake Pass and dropped us at the top so that we could have a walk down to Old Glossop. It was a beautiful day, clear and dry, and the views were quite breathtaking. Ten minutes with our feet in the stream at Mossy Lea readied us for a tour of Howard’s Town micro brewery. Tuesday again dawned well, not as forecast, and Viv and Graham joined us for the ongoing journey. We stopped for lunch with their daughter and grandchild at New Mills and then on to Bugsworth Basin – a large and nicely restored transhipment basin for lime and stone from the hills. Saying that does not do justice to the massive amount of work that has been done to reclaim the canal and environs and make it a lovely mooring place. We were so lucky with the weather as the front that was hitting further south just about missed us so we had a few good days. Martin did a bit more walking and found the most wonderfully located cricket pitch, with hills all around. Before heading back down ‘The Macc’ we visited Whaley Bridge,  and had an overnight stop at New Mills where we found the Millennium Walkway, an amazing piece of engineering carrying a walk around a gorge, high above the river and leading to the Goyt Way taking in the mill history of the area. Goyt Mill at Marple still stands intact and massive and is where Martin’s great aunt worked for all her life. These huge edifices, where they have not been demolished, now stand as reminders of the important industrial past of the area and it is good to see where they have either been reopened as work units or flats, some never actually went out of use as for many the mill itself only used the top floor and the lower floors were always let out as individual businesses.
The weather finally hit on Friday and we travelled onward in heavy rain arriving wet and cold (we are at 518 feet above sea level here) so we lit our little stove to dry out – very effective.  Now we have stopped again at Higher Poynton and despite travelling in rain the day improved and we walked again up towards Lyme Park, remembering to take the binoculars this time!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Onwards and upwards

We have spent 10 days in Gloucestershire, where we spent lots of nice time with Martin’s mum and dad and also had outings to south Wales, visiting a lovely nature reserve and a Roman town, where a villager was selling excess produce, which included figs, grown perhaps on a descendant from Roman times, Newark Park NT property and looked for fossils at Aust Cliff, on the Severn, where they abound in the layers of rock that are gradually eroding. We caught up with old friends and found living in a house tiring, so much walking about and the kettle more than five paces away!
Now we are back aboard our lovely boat, safe and sound and continuing our adventures. We revictualled in Macclesfield where there is a cracking fish shop, long may it last, and headed off into the Peaks. Towns and villages now have the distinctive stone build look of the Peak district and the canal passes by many huge textile mills, now used to house other businesses. The canal is 518 feet above sea level and one of the highest in the country. As we go further into the undulations of the land the views become ever more extensive, wonderful. To maintain the contour the canal is carried along on embankments and over aqueducts, feats of engineering hard to envisage the scale of manpower needed. At Higher Poynton Martin visited the Anson Engine Museum, which provides a complete history of the internal combustion engine with working examples going back to the 1880’s. We walked to Lyme Park (alias Pemberly in Pride and Prejudice), a long but rewarding climb to over 800 feet with fantastic views en route over the Cheshire plain, Manchester and the Pennines beyond. The house is a magnificent pile with lovely grounds and parkland, but regrettably no sign of Mr Darcy and his wet shirt! We shared our mooring place with flocks of geese which arrived at dusk with a great show. And so we find ourselves in Marple, moored on the Peak Forest Canal, having travelled the full length of the Macclesfield, and looking across the valley to the high Peaks. Martin’s uncle and aunt live close by and we have been able to meet up with them. We are still excited and awed to find ourselves moored amongst so much natural beauty and magnificent history.