Hello, and welcome to our website. We are Patrick and Eileen. In 2018 we decided to quit the rat race by giving up our jobs and selling our home to buy a narrowboat to continuously cruise the inland waterways of the UK. We bought a 57 foot Bickerstaffe boat which we named Dunworkin.
This is a record of our journey, Our Narrowboat Quest to explore the navigable waterways of England and Wales, to continuously cruise throughout the year. Join us as we experience all seasons, the wonders of our beautiful countryside, towns, villages and cities and even our industrial heritage, nowadays an ironic contrast to its raison d'être.
We hope you will return from time to time as we are intending to post regular blogs to accompany our videos, information about our boat, and what it is like to live on a narrowboat all year round along with maintenance tips and tricks.
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We decided not to film our return journey a) because we were now going to head for the Llangollen Canal and we had already filmed that section of the Trent and Mersey twice b) it gives us a break from filming and c) we were about 7 weeks behind with filming so it gives us a chance to catch up with ourselves.
8th September to 16th September 2020 (not filmed)
We leave our mooring at Froghall after our 24 hour stay and over the next week we return to Etruria. The weather is now quite hot and humid during the day but with some rather chilly evenings. At Cheddletton, we stay for a few days and we meet up with Pats sister Carol and brother in law Colin. We manage to take in a visit to Cheddleton flint Mill and return to their caravan which is near the Tissington Trail, where we had a lovely walk. As Cheddleton was only 48 hour moorings we moved down to the moorings outside the Hollybush Inn where we stayed for a further 48 hours and enjoyed a couple of meals at the pub with Carol and Colin.
On 15th September we had a lovely cruise from engine Lock to Etruria, where we stayed overnight and managed a trip to Tesco to stock up on provisions. The following day we cruised onto Westport Lake where again we stayed for a couple of days, visited the Aldi and took a cold but lovely walk around the lake.
18th September 2020
Our passage through Harecastle tunnel was booked for 9am, so we left the Lakes at around 8am. It was a cold start to the day but it soon warmed up, and we arrived at the tunnel entrance at around 0830 only to find 6 boats in front of us. Of course this meant that there would be 6 boats in front of us going down Heartbreak Hill!! We stopped at the boaters services to allow some time for the other boats to sort themselves out but in the end we decided to stop at Church Lawton as there were still 4 boats waiting to go through each lock.
We completed the remaining Cheshire Locks to Wheelock the following day. We really love this section of the Trent and Mersey as it is so isolated but after 20 locks we were knackered and really understood why the old boatman called this section Heartbreak Hill!
20th September to 1st October 2020
We made our way up to Middlewich where we stayed for a few days. We had the Webasto boiler serviced at Kings Lock and we ordered Pat some new glasses. ( He had broken his frames a few weeks beforehand and was wearing them all glued up!). We cruised up to Park Farm Marina where we left NB Dunworkin while we visited my sister in Wiltshire to celebrate my 60th birthday.
2nd October to 11th October 2020
Left Park Farm Marina and moored at the flashes for a couple of days where we met Pete and Ali from Moor 2 Explore who moored up behind us. On the 5th October we moved back to Middlewich where we picked up Pats new glasses and met up with Mark and Debbie from Well Deck Diaries. Sadly she had just had investigations into breast cancer which later proved positive, we wish her all the best with her ongoing treatment.
On the 7th October we cruised through the Middlewich Locks and onto the Middlewich Canal and moored at the 2018 breach site where we met up with Martin and Mandella on Beau Romer, another Bickerstaffe boat and also Jenny and Trevor from Life of Riley whom we last met on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal more than a year ago! These two lovely couples had met on the Llangollen canal and were now travelling together.
The weather was wet and windy for the next couple of days so we didn't leave our mooring until 11th October, when it was bright and sunny so we moved up to a mooring by Aqueduct Marina which is where we take up filming again!
12th October 2020
Following a break from filming you catch up with us on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Heading West, we pass Aqueduct Marina, Church Minshull Lock, Venetian Marina and Cholmondeston Lock before turning South at Barbridge Junction. We contacted Dave on NB Snowgoose to let him know when we would be arriving at Cholmondeston Lock and he came out in the rain to assist our passage through the lock. (Thanks Dave!!)
We soon arrive at Hurleston Junction and ascend the 4 locks here. With a total rise of just over 34 ft (10.4m) , the first lock (Lock 4) we encounter has been subjected to recent major repair work undertaken last winter. The Canal and River Trust have built a hidden retaining wall behind the original brickwork as movement of the 233 year old lock wall, meant that passage for narrow boats had become increasingly difficult. Opened on 1805 the lock flight was built by famous canal engineers John Fletcher and Thomas Telford.
We stop at the boaters facilities at the top of the locks before torrential rain stops us and we moor just pass Bridge 1A on the Llangollen Canal.
2nd September 2020 (not filmed)
We make our way from Leek to Cheddleton today, its a cool start to the day but the weather soon warms up and by the time we reach Hazelhurst Junction and descend the locks I have started to shed a layer of clothing. We make a fairly early start (for us!) and are moored in Cheddleton by 1145. By the time I have prepared lunch the sky has clouded over and the rain has set in for the rest of the day.
5th September 2020
Leaving our mooring at Cheddleton, we pass Cheddleton Flint Mill. a fine example of a water mill that uses water from the River Churnet to grind flint for the pottery industry. Sadly the mill was closed but we did get to look around the grounds and on our return journey made sure that we arrived when the mill was open. Once through Cheddleton we reach the railway station which is just on the edge of the village. The station was closed in 1988 but was later purchased by rail enthusiasts who re-open the line in 1996 to run a steam operated passenger train. The Churnet Valley Railway operates between Ipstones, through Cheddleton, to Consall and Froghall.
We pass through 3 locks and some attractive countryside before entering Oakmeadowford Lock and the River Churnet which takes us to the pretty Consall Forge. Here there is a popular Canalside pub (The Black Lion), where the railway passes between the pub and the canal, also restored lime kilns, dating from the early 19 century. We didn't manage to get a picture of any trains crossing the canal but we did get some video of the steam train chuffing its way through the valley! We only stay for the permitted 48 hours here but there is no internet, wifi or phone signal , we had to walk a mile up hill out of the valley to phone our daughter to let her know the we would be incommunicado for a couple of days!
We walked the Consall Loop which took in the Devils Staircase and a lovely little waterfall.
We stay for a couple of days before continuing our journey towards Froghall.
7th September 2020
Leaving Consall Forge, we pass through Consall Station with its’ waiting room cantilevered over the canal, we enter a steep wooded valley, seeming to be untouched and unspoilt by man, a raison d'être to its original purpose, when boats and trains laden with limestone from the Cauldon Valley would compete for trade.
It was a 2 mile cruise to Froghall and there were several narrow sections on this stretch of the water so I walked ahead, even so Pat said that he found this section a little stressful at times and he didn't enjoy the cruise as much as he would have liked. At Froghall there are some derelict industrial factories which make this area less attractive, and the 24 hour moorings mean that we can only stay overnight.
We moored a little before the tunnel as we were too high drafted to go through the tunnel, here you can moor for 2 weeks in the rather attractive basin. We did however walk into Froghall Basin and was quite surprised at how lovely it was. There is a great little coffee shop, several walking routes which are popular with the locals and some more of the lovely ancient lime kilns.
27th August 2020
After hunkering down for a few days at the top of Engine Lock we continue our journey up the Caldon Canal. We pass through two lift bridges and navigate the 5 Stockton Locks which raise the canal up to summit level, 484 feet (147m) above sea level. It was a cool and overcast day but still a pleasant cruise. The first lift bridge (Norton Green Lift Bridge)that we encounter is described in the Nicholson guide as requiring a windlass but at some point it has become electronic and now requires a BWB key which of course I didn't bring so Pat had to throw it to me from the stern of the boat! On arrival at the second bridge (Long Butts Swing Bridge!) a young lad from an approaching boat had already opened the bridge and kindly motioned as through. It was then a really pleasant cruise up to the five Stockton Locks with plenty of wildlife nestling in the reed beds.
As we ascend the locks there are a couple of interesting sculptures here, a reminder of both the pottery and spitfire industries in this region. The monuments are made up of a collection of ceramics and a spitfire fighter plane funded by the City Museum and Art Gallery to celebrate the career of a locally born designer R.J. Mitchell.
We moored at Park Lane Visitor moorings which are near Endon village, there is a small shop here, just a few minutes walk from the canal. which we walked to but they didn't stock the item I wanted so we ended up just buying an ice cream for the walk back.
We travelled just 2 miles today, with the 2 lift bridges and 5 locks in 2.5 hours.
After spending the night at Park Lane moorings we use the boaters facilities before moving on to Hazelhurst Junction. Here the main line falls through 3 locks towards Froghall, but we bear right and take the Leek Branch and moor for a few days just after the bridge. I must say this has got to be one of my favourite mooring spots, surrounded by countryside with some amazing views. We take a walk across the bridge and up onto the hillside looking down onto the boat nestled in the valley. We walk through the gate at the farm, cross some fields before finding the road that takes us back to the canal at bridge 31and return to the boat. A rather pleasant evening stroll!
30th August 2020
Leaving Hazelhurst Junction we cruise the 3 miles to Leek. We cross the main line over Hazelhurst Aqueduct, which carries the Leek branch over the main Froghall branch line and is a Grade 2 listed building. We pass a number of lovely canal side cottages before entering a wooded valley, and soon approach Leek Tunnel which was engineered by John Rennie, built in 1801 and is 130yds long (118.9 m). There is a lovely lagoon area just before Leek Tunnel which provides the opportunity to wind, however we pass through the tunnel, wind just after the tunnel and reverse into the last available mooring space. Surprisingly there is no restriction on mooring here so effectively could stay for two weeks, however there are no boaters facilities so any restrictions would be down to water and elsan capacity. We have travelled 3 miles today and it has been rather cool for August but we have had some sunny spells. Everyone passing on the tow path spoke to us and seemed really friendly.
Leek was approximately a 30 min walk from the canal with a Morrisons just 20 mins away.
30th July to 23rd August 2020
Our last video left us just before Fazeley Junction and since we have already filmed this part of the Birmingham and Fazeley, Coventry Canal and Trent and Mersey, we decided to have a break from filming and just enjoy the cruising. We were on our way up to the Caldon Canal as we had arranged to meet Pats sister and brother in law who were bringing their caravan down to Ashbourne. We have passed the entrance to the Caldon Canal twice, last May on our way up to the Ribble Link and then again in January this year when the Canal and River Trust were repairing the staircase lock so we were unable to access the canal. We were really excited to be going at last!
We have had some of the best of the weather in this last month and for several days we were on the look out for some shady mooring spots. We had the advantage of keeping the boat cool but the disadvantage of no, or very little solar, we ended up having to run the generator on some of the hottest days of the year!
We also managed to catch up with( or rather they caught up with us) our lockdown buddies, Andrew and Julia on NB Lingalonga.
24th August 2020
So, after making our way up the Trent and Mersey Canal to Etruria, we have turned onto the Caldon Canal. The area here is seeped in history and the figure of James Brindley stands tall and proud. However his association with the Caldon Canal was not a happy one. He was out surveying the route for the Canal when he was caught in the rain, a chill ensued after sleeping in his wet clothes and he died in September 1772. It was also interesting to see the development in the area with lots of new housing but a shame to see some of the old warehouses being replaced.
We had intended to stay at Etruria for 48 hours, so that we could take a trip into town. I needed to visit a fabric store here at Hanley and there is a large Tesco store about 15 mins walk from the canal. However storm Francis was due to hit the UK and we didn't want to spend more time there than was necessary, so we decided to visit the town in the morning and do the 4 hour cruise to Engine Lock that afternoon
So, after stocking up on provisions and a quick lunch we negotiated the staircase lock, and navigated our way through to Hanley Park. The local council have spent millions of pounds on this lovely park which spans both sides of the canal, it has a man made lake, band stand and some lovely gardens, and there is some lovely mooring here. Unfortunately, though the park has become a hang out for the local addicts and overnight mooring here is discouraged. We soon approach Planet lock and cruise through a mix of urban and industrial landscapes. Just as we approached Ivy House Lift bridge Pat was pulling into the bridge landing when we heard a thud and the engine cut out. We were stranded in the middle of the canal and drifting over into the reeds on the opposite side. We tried to use the barge pole to push us over but it didn't reach the bottom of the canal, in the end we had to use the bow thruster to move the bow over enough for Pat to jump off with the centre line to pull us over. On investigation of the weed hatch we discovered a large piece of wood empaled on the prop which had caused the engine to cut out! Pat removed the wood but it had slightly damaged the prop which Pat managed to bend back into place. We have already had one new prop, we really didn't want to have to get another!! He really wasn't very happy!
Once we got going again, we passed through the swing bridge uneventfully until I tried to close it. The bridge closed and the safety barriers lifted but the warning sirens wouldn't shut off and I wasn't able to remove my key. I tried resetting by opening and closing again but nothing was happening and after what seemed an age Pat moored up and managed to get the barriers to close and reopen. (even though I had already tried to do this )
We continued our journey and as we were passing through Milton there was a group of boys on bicycles, one of them was hanging on the railing on the canal side of the bridge, the others were shouting out for him to jump onto the boat and another threw a stone at us as we passed under! We didn't record this on the vlog but we were really not enjoying this journey today. I have to say that in the 2 years and 4 months of continuously cruising this was only our second experience of dealing with troublesome youths.
It wasn't long before we left the urbanism behind and we entered a pleasant cutting, it was here that we moored up after passing through Engine Lock! Phew, it hadn't been an enjoyable start to our Caldon Canal experience, lets hope things improve!
29th July 2020
Following our overnight stay at Star City, we are soon on our way towards Salford Junction. Despite our trepidation at mooring here we had a quiet night except for some road noise. Of course it did help that the whole of the complex was closed due to covid 19.
It was going to be another long lock filled day, so we made an early (for us ) start at 07.20. At Salford Junction the waterways meet a tangle of motorways and railway bridges known as Spaghetti Junction, and it was interesting to see the layers of canal, railway bridges and road bridges from below. We were certainly glad to be where we were and not on the busy roads above. We turn East here onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, it was a sharp 90 degree turn and Pat really made use of the bow thrusters. Directly opposite the junction was a long row of tyres, we could certainly see the reason why and I'm sure many a boater had made use of them! We pass through a few miles of industrial estates and business parks before open countryside surfaces around Curdworth, it was amazing to see how the landscape changed and we visibly relaxed. We pass through the 57 yard Curdworth Tunnel and heading north now, negotiate the 11 Curdworth Locks before mooring just South of Fazeley Junction.
We were aiming to moor beside Kingsbury water park but there were no moorings available here. This is a 600 acre landscaped park with 30 lakes and pools created from gravel pits worked over the last 50 years and we were quite disappointed not to get a space here. We moored a little further up though and visited Middleton Lakes nature reserve which is an RSPB site. They acquired the site in 2007 and later in 2011 opened up as a 400 acre nature reserve with nature trails and viewpoints.We show some pictures of our visit in the next video. We had travelled 9 miles today and negotiated 14 locks.
28th July 2020
Catherine de Barnes is famous for its isolation hospital which was built in 1910 to isolate patients suffering from contagious diseases. When these became less prevalent the hospital was converted into a maternity hospital in 1953. However in 1966 it became the national isolation hospital and was kept on permanent standby, ready to accept patients within an hours notice. This happened in 1978, when Janet Parker a 40 year old local medical photographer contracted smallpox. Janet was the last known patient to die of smallpox in this country when scientists believed that the virus had been totally eradicated. It is thought that she contracted the disease from a lab at Birmingham University and her sad story makes compelling reading.
Leaving Catherine de Barnes we enter a long deep cutting that creates an illusion of peace and made for a surprisingly pleasant cruise. Soon we are into the suburbs of Birmingham and housing estates and disused wharves surrounds the canal along with Birminghams industry. Opened in 1799 and initially known as the Warwick and Birmingham Canal before being integrated into The Grand Union Canal in 1927, the canal was built to relieve congestion into Birmingham.
We arrive at Camp Hill Locks where we fill our water tank before making our descent. The six Camp Hill Locks provide a fall of 41ft 8 inches (12.7 m). The area became known as Camp Hill in 1643 when Prince Rupert, the then Duke of Cumberland set up camp there prior to the Battle of Birmingham during the first English Civil war.
We lost out here as just as we finished filling our water tank a boat came up the locks, but before we had a chance to move off the water point another boat that was moored behind us at Catherine de Barnes arrived. This meant that the locks would be in their favour whereas we would be going down behind them so every lock would be against us. Oh well you have to learn to deal with life little knock backs! LOL
We descend the Camp Hill locks, our first narrow locks for some time, before making a right turn at Bordesley Junction. We pass under several bridges and descend the five Garrison Locks where we pass a collection of old wharf buildings. These locks also were set against us, so in all of the ten locks we passed through today, only one was in our favour. This added quite a bit of time on our journey, and as Pat did not feel very well we had already made the decision to stay overnight at Star City. As it transpired, nothing at Star city was open so we had a pretty quiet night. There were a couple of boats moored on the tow path side here but I must admit too feeling a little safer on our pontoon on the opposite side of the tow path.
Today we had travelled 9 miles and did 10 locks in 6 hours.
22nd July 2020
We stay at our mooring at Rowington for three days and then and take a short cruise to Kingswood Junction. It was a lovely cruise on a lovely warm day. We fill our water tank at the tap at Bridge 63 where there are nice moorings and a nice pub (although not yet open). Watch out for the beautiful old beamed house at Turners Green en route.
At Kingswood Junction, the Grand Union Canal meets with the Stratford upon Avon Canal. We moor here overnight and have a short walk up to the junction. This is an ideal place to stop if you don't like the idea of taking your boat into Birmingham, as there is a railway station here, a short walk from the canal.
23rd July 2020
We set off around 9am the following day to continue our journey North, passing through some open countryside and hills as we approach Knowle Locks. The flight of five wide locks are the most northern for many miles now and used to be six narrow locks until improvements were made in the 1930’s. It really is quite lovely here and you wouldn't think that Birmingham is only a short drive (by car) away. The locks are quite pretty and well maintained by the Canal and River Trust. It does however get quite windy here as the landscape is quite open and Pat did have a little difficulty when approaching the locks. We are now heading North towards Birmingham and we moor just before bridge 72 so we could access the village, pick up some groceries and visit the town.
Knowle is still considered a village despite it's proximity to Birmingham and its well worth a visit. The Church of John the Baptist was completed in 1402 and has some lovely intricate stone work and stain glass windows. Apparently its worth a look inside but when we visited it was closed due to Covid 19. In the town there is Chester House, this dates back to the Middle Ages and is now the local library.
26th July 2020
We continue our journey North towards Birmingham and cruise the 3 miles into Catherine de Barnes, considered to be the last safe mooring before the bulk of Birmingham makes its presence felt. We stop at the water point at Copt Heath Wharf . Here we chat to an elderly couple who have just sold their house as it was too much for them to manage and they have bought a bespoke disabled boat complete with stair lift and wheel chair access which they moor on a linear mooring near to their son ( who also lives on his boat). She showed me around and I was amazed at what could be done in the limited space.
It was a fine day and a lovely cruise, we moor on the visitor moorings at Catherine de Barnes. In the afternoon we had a short walk through some woods and returned to Dunworkin on the tow path. The following day was forecast to be wet and windy, just more of what we have come to expect from summer 2020!
19th July 2020
We leave our mooring at the top of Cape Locks at around 9am and make our way to the Stairway to Heaven. Today, Hatton Locks are a flight of 21 wide locks and form part of the Grand Union Canal. The flight spans just less than 2 miles (3.2 km) and has a total rise of 148ft (45m) When the canal first opened in 1799, it was known as the Warwick and Birmingham Canal, built to carry locally mined coal to the power stations and factories of the Black Country. Originally a narrow canal, it wasn’t until 1932 that the narrow locks were modernised and widened using concrete, a revolutionary new material in canal building.
Before setting off I prepare a chicken to roast and all of the vegetables for a roast dinner. I set my timer on my phone to take out the chicken which was ready half way up the locks, and when we arrive at the top of the locks while filling our water tank I par boil all of the veg and put them in the oven. It was lovely to smell the chicken cooking while ascending the locks!
It took us about 20 mins to reach the bottom of the Hatton Flight and we had decided to wait for a lock buddy to ascend the flight. However when we arrived, Neil and Jackie on NB Eleanor Jane were waiting at the bottom of the locks for a locking buddy! Great!! We managed the whole 21 locks in 3 hours and we were at the top filling our water tank by 12.10. The day was spoiled however by a rude boater who accused us (me as I was packing away the hose pipe) of washing our boat on the water point!! Not sure where he got that notion from, I suspect he was jealous of our shiny boat!
Now we are heading north westerly, we pass through Shrewley Tunnel with its unusual horse tunnel and a deep cutting before mooring near Rowington between bridges 61 and 62. We have travelled just 5 miles. Dinner was served 15 minutes after we moor up!!
1st July 2020- 12th July 2020
We moored at Radford Semele for 2 weeks, while here I explore the local nature reserve and found the local Asda, where we topped up our groceries, this was 15 minute cycle ride, all on cycle paths. The earlier days of our visit here was marred with lots of rain and high winds so we didn't explore the area as much as we would have liked. We ordered and picked up some prescription medicines here as the pharmacy was only a 10 minute walk away.
We hired a car from Enterprise ( 15 mins walk) and return to Kent for four days for a family visit, we haven't seen our daughter and grandchildren since Christmas and its was so lovely to catch up with them once again. We felt there was never going to be a good time to go so just bit the bullet and went. It would have been lovely to be able to catch up with friends as well but due to Covid 19 it really wasn't practical to do so. We tried to book the boat into Saltisford Canal Centre for the few days we were going to be away but they were closed to visitors, so for only the second time we left Dunworkin on the tow path. We really don't feel comfortable doing this, but Pat set up the CCTV cameras so we were able to monitor the boat while we were away, which gave us a little peace of mind.
13th July 2020
On our return we take a short 45 min cruise into Royal Leamington Spa where we stay for a few days. We moor next to the student accommodation block which we were assured was a good place to moor and on further investigation found that it has a CCTV monitoring system as well as a water tap which isn't in the Nicholsons guide.
We were really quite surprised at how nice Royal Leamington Spa was. There is some lovely architecture in the Town Hall and Pump Rooms which now houses a museum. The old town next to the canal was a bit run down and shabby looking but once we passed through this area and into the main shopping area the buildings were quite attractive. Just before the main town there are several nice park areas (Victoria Park and the Pump Room Gardens) but we had a lovely walk round Jephson Gardens. This beautiful formal Victorian garden, complete with lake and water fountain and once the place 'to be seen' are listed as Grade II on the English Heritage register of historic parks and gardens and is named after Dr Jepherson (1798-1878) the local practitioner who was largely responsible for the spa's high medical reputation. There is a cafe here which sadly was closed at the time but the small out door cafe was open and selling lovely ice cream, beverages and hot and cold snacks.
15th July 2020
Before going onto Warwick, we take a short cruise up to Lidl and moor for a couple of days as Pat had a couple of parcels to pick up from the Amazon Locker in the Morrisons about 10 mins walk away. (not recorded in this vlog)
17th July 2020
We move 2 miles today and negotiate 2 locks before mooring above the Cape Locks ready to ascend the Stairway to Heaven (Hatton flight of 21 locks). We had a lovely cruise, the weather wasn't too hot and we stopped for water at the bottom of the locks. The Cape of Good Hope at the top of the locks was quite busy with all of the outside tables full. We did consider having a meal here but we really don't feel ready to visit pubs yet.