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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Marathon and Mishap.

Sorry that there was no post last night but this is it, a little late. We went to have a look round Stone and see what the market had to offer. Not a lot as it turned out. It was nice to have a wander and pick up a few bits and pieces. After a cup of tea back at the boat we pulled the pins and set off, a couple of hundred yards to fill up with water! There was a steady stream of boats both ways and once we filled up we slotted in and went up the first, Star Lock. The were Lockies in attendance and they told Helen that on the days they were there they averaged 70 boats a day and that it was the busiest flight on the system. I doubt that but it is still busy. The next lock is Workhouse Lock as the bridge crossed over to the Workhouse. By the bridge is a wooden figure and this is dedicated to a Christina Collins. In times past the canal was the National Coach equivalent of getting about long distance cheaply. To get from Preston Brook at the north of the Trent and Mersey to London cost 1/6p as the fly passenger boats travelled down. Pickfords, the house removers and heavy road transport company used to have boats doing this journey. Christina Collins was on passage when the three men and a boy who were working the boat started to drink. She must have felt threatened as she reported her worries to the Toll Keeper at Stone. He told her to report them at the end of the journey. Unfortunately she never arrived as her body was found in the cut near Rugeley. In the end two men were hung and one was transported for the murder. The Workhouse was built in 1793 and is still there. After being a hospital it is now appartments. When a workhouse there were about 60 'inmates' and they were put to work making blankets, linen and mops.

Wooden figure dedicated to the murdered Christina Collins.

Workhouse Lock with the Christina Collins Figure.

The Stone Workhouse as it is today.

Between the top of the four Stone Locks and bottom of the Meaford locks were these Weeping Willow Trees with a haircut. I wish more had been trimmed as it does look neat and helps to stop everything been swept off the roof, and means you can actually see what is coming the other way.

As I was coming up to the bottom lock at Meaford there was a very fast 'clunck' as something went through the propeller. It was very quick and I thought nothing of it. As I got in the lock I felt that the boat wasn't reacting properly and I had a quick look in the weed hatch but couldn't see anything. It was only when we cleared the lock flight and got properly underway that I could hear something odd too. Once again I stopped and checked down the weed hatch and found we had two bent blades on the propeller! It meant that we weren't quite so manageable but the vibration was minimal and it seemed that we just needed a few more revs to achieve the same speed so not too serious for now. I would have to find a dry dock etc to get it off and straightened. I now don't need to worry about whether to black the boat this year as we may as well do them both together and save a dry dock fee.

Our original plan was to stop for the night at Etruria. There were lots of boats heading there that there would likely be no room and with the forecast of evil weather for Sunday we decided to press on to Harecastle Tunnel. We finished at about 1930 so it was a full eight and a half hour day. Mind you we were following a few boats and they were not the slippiest through the locks so it added a bit on to the time.

What looks like a Stone Mason's mark in Etruria Lock. If this is really a mason's mark it is the most intricate I have seen and must have taken them a fair bit of time to complete. As it was very distinctive it would ensure their work was not mistaken as anybody else's so ensured they were paid for their work correctly.

As we came through Etruria, the last lock of the day I also noticed that it was a fair bit wider than a normal lock, maybe by more than 6 inches. When I read the notice board I saw that it was a gauging lock too. This was where they measured the draft and freeboard of the boats by putting measures down the side of the vessel so probably needed the extra width. The notice also said that the lock was covered over to protect those doing this work. Wouldn't that be a great idea to have all the locks covered over, maybe like those covered bridge in New England. Especially on a day like today (Sunday).

Etruria Lock.

Trent and Mersey Canal on the right with Etruria lock and the Caldon Canal on the left. It is a pretty tight turn when coming out of the lock and heading up the Caldon Canal.

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