Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Staffordshire And Worcester Canal (Again!)

I spent the last few days in Newport leaving Eric in Great Haywood. It was nice to catch up with family and friends. I collected our repeat prescriptions as our doctor will only give us 28 days at a time. By the time I got back I had been missed by Eric and Ben the dog- hugs, kisses and licks in that order. After a cuppa we decided to move up to Tixall Wide on the Staffs and Worcester canal, but first we needed fuel, coal, gas and water from Anglowelsh. Tixall Wide was quite full of boats as usual but quiet and peaceful nevertheless. The ducks came for tea from the side hatch but we didn't see any other birds. In the morning we moved on , Ben and I walked miles while Eric steered the boat. We stopped near Stafford and caught a bus into Stafford while Ben looked after the boat. We both needed to get some new walking boots - after 8 months our boots were letting in water and we hate having wet feet! Millets in Stafford here we come!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On The Trent And Mersey

Photo of us taken by Mo

After an entertaining evening with Mo and Vanessa on their beautiful boat, we walked back to our boat wondering if Ben the dog had eaten anything he shouldn't! He had been very good and so we played ball along the boat for a little while before we went to bed. It was a very noisy night the rain hammered down and the wind howled and about nine o'clock in the morning we were just about thinking about getting up when we heard a bow thruster. As Mo and Vanessa left I heard a ' goodbye' and they were gone.

We travelled up to Fradley Junction which was surprisingly quiet, but the weather was not good, still windy and raining. We opened the paddles slowly remembering our last time through these locks when someone decided to help and opened the paddles right up and we crashed forwards breaking loads of glasses. No problems this time! Not an easy day due to the wind and so many moored boats which required us to go slowly past but we needed to get to Rugleley ( Morrison's very close to canal) to stock up with food- the cupboards were bare! We did the shopping then headed out into the countryside to moor for the night.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bloggers Meet At Streethay

We've been keeping our eyes peeled to spot Mo and Vanessa on NB Balamaha! As we approached a boat moored on the towpath we saw the orange lifebelt in the cratch and a green boat, so we pulled in to have a look. Yes it was them and coffee was shared and a photo opportunity too! We'll crack open a bottle or two later!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Onwards Up The Coventry Canal

We continued to follow the Warwickshire Ring passing Marston Junction where the Ashby Canal starts. We passed slowly through Nuneaton and headed back out into the countryside again. The BWB Yard at Hartshill was quite impressive with a clock tower and clock that chimed the hour, showing the correct time too! We moored just past the yard, as far away from the road as we could get. We walked up the hill to the village as we needed bread and milk and Ben needed a new ball- he had decided to shred his tennis ball to tiny bits during his mad hour before he fell asleep.

In the morning we headed towards Atherstone with a flight of eleven locks to do. It was an extremely windy day which made the boat more difficult to handle than usual.We had a few lucky times with a boat coming in the opposite direction so we could leave the gates open, and some of the locks were actually full waiting for us. The narrow locks always seem easier than the wide locks and you can usually get through them more quickly. After the locks we stopped just in time to miss the heavy rain. The night brought fog but it was soon gone in the morning.

We headed towards Tamworth and got held up in a queue for Glascote Locks- it took 3 hours to go through two locks as the second lock was filling very slowly as it was losing water from a damaged cill. Never mind it was a chance to have a chat with other boaters. We have been on the lookout for NB Balmaha- we hope we haven't missed them!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hawkesbury Junction

The Engine House At Hawkesbury Junction

The Greyhound At Hawkesbury Junction

Sam arrived to service the engine and we moved the boat nearer to a road to make it easier for him. While we were moored we had an 'I spy' moment. NB Madasca Soles with Maureen Davies on board came past and we spotted each other. Quick hellos were exchanged- nice to see you Maureen! Then we headed off for Hawkesbury Junction where the Oxford Canal meets the Coventry Canal through a stop lock. Boats moored everywhere here and we waited for a space at the water tap quite patiently. The water took nearly an hour to fill the tank and time was going on- we needed a spot for the night. Luckily as we headed off towards Atherstone we found a space for us. Eric took the photo of 'The Greyhound' as I did a cross stitch of this pub in the dreaming years (when we dreamt about having a narrowboat) when I did quite a few cross stitch pictures of canals and boats. It now lives in Clare and Lisa's house as do many others!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Braunston And Rugby On The Oxford Canal

Although we moored way outside Brauston we decided to go for a walk and follow the footpath up to the church and get some bread and milk. Then we walked down to 'The Boat Shop' on the canal and I saw a canal art painted bucket- it was £24.95 so we bought it and I got the inside all dirty by putting coal in it! After a quite night we headed onwards towards Rugby. Lots of boats about as it was Sunday but as the canal towpath is poor there were few walkers and even fewer places we could moor. We stopped at the services at Hillmorton Locks and managed to find a space although we had to get Ben to do a big jump to get onto the bank and we crashed a bit as there was a shelf under the water.
In the morning we did a big shop at Tesco on the outskirts of Rugby and couldn't get over how noisy it was in the store. We are so used to peace and quiet! We rang Sam at Foxton Boats to arrange a service-we've done 1250 hours now. So now we need to moor near a road where he can get to us. We found a place and await his visit. It's OK here as there good internet reception, good satellite reception and a pub if we fancy a drink. We've got a few jobs to do too- the chimney needs sweeping before we use it again, and of course there's always painting to do!

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Oxford Canal

We stopped for the night near the top of Stockton Locks- went for a drink at a nearby pub- but it was ten past three and they closed at 3pm! After 15 locks on a hot day a cold beer would have gone down a treat! With the road near our mooring place it was going to be noisy but we were too tired to care. In the morning we set off and before we knew it we had gone up the 3 Calcutt Locks. While we were getting diesel and water from Calcutt Boats, I had a surprise! Adam on NB Debdale walked down from his boat moored above the locks to tell me he reads my blog- nice to meet you Adam.
We continued on towards Napton Junction, and noticed lots of marinas on this stretch of the Grand Union- Venetian Farm Marina is massive! Napton Junction itself was quite insignificant and dreary but left turn for us to continue on the Warwickshire Ring. This section of the canal is called the Oxford and Grand Union Canal and changes to the Oxford Canal at Braunston. At Braunston there were lots of 14 day moorings but it was only midday and they were all full. Lots of the boats looked as they had been there quite a while with very few actual visitor places. We have noticed a lot of permanent moorings along the towpath side and very few visitor moorings on the Grand Union Canal. Although the towpath on the Oxford Canal is poor after Braunston Junction, we moored out in the wilds and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the countryside.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Grand Union

Shrewley Tunnels

Sharing Hatton Locks

The Grand Union Canal was another venture into unknown territory. We turned right at Kingswood Junction and headed for Warwick. I enjoyed steering on such a wide canal with wide bridge holes- no chance of crashing! We stopped near Shrewley Tunnel to get a few essentials at the nearby shop. This wide tunnel is underneath the village and to get to it you walk up a separate tunnel formerly used for the horses as the main tunnel has no tow path.

As we approached Hatton Locks a call came from a garden by a moored boat (possibly NB Shilling) 'We follow your travels on the internet'. Please leave a comment to tell me who you are. Before we knew it we were at Hatton Locks- all twenty one and all wide locks. Alison and Jackie on NB Mandarin asked if we were going down so we could share the locks with them to make it easier for them and us. I really appreciated the help.
Eric and I shared the steering and working the locks as there was no way I could have done the paddles and gates on 21 locks. I quite enjoyed steering the boat and now I can do it without crashing!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Back On The Canals- The Stratford Canal

The photograph shows one of the narrowboats stranded at Evesham Lock Island, brought there by the floods! We also saw narrowboats stranded in fields! It certainly shows that a river in flood is not the place to be!
We spent a lovely few days on the Upper Avon and finally reached the basin at Stratford and it seemed as though the whole world watched us go through the final lock. We found the Upper Avon very quiet too, just a few more narrowboats about. Clare ( our middle daughter) was not used to all that peace and quiet and was glad to escape the boat and have a wander around Stratford. She was also missing her motorbike! There was plenty of room in the basin to moor and Wednesday and Thursday nights proved fairly quiet except for a very vocal duck nicknamed the 'ruddy duck' even though he was a mallard. Lots of tourists photographed our boat. A fair was being set up as we left, so the weekend would obviously be rather noisy. Clare returned home via Stratford Railway Station, Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham New Street and finally Newport Railway Station as there are no direct trains. We were sad to see our daughter leave and she would have stayed longer but she starts her new job on Monday.

We left Stratford Basin to start the climb up to Kingswood Junction, it was great to be back on the canals. We had a crashing time at the locks and extremely low and narrow bridges until we got used to being on the narrow canals. The bridges were so low we had to remove the TV aerial and satellite dish from the roof. Sixteen locks later we stopped at Wilmcote- we were both tired as we shared the steering and doing the locks! Wilmcote has Mary Arden's House in it- she was Skakespeare's mother. The Stratford Canal has some lovely barrel roofed cottages, split iron bridges and interesting aqueducts. It was nice to be somewhere we had never been before. We did meet a few boats each day but it has been much quieter than the canals we have previously cruised along. At Kingwood Junction after a stop at the services we headed down the Grand Union Canal.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Up The River Avon

This is our second visit to the River Avon- we last came here from Tewkesbury when I was expecting my youngest daughter Lisa about 25 years ago! Paula (Eric's sister) came as crew and what a holiday we had! This time we have Clare, our middle daughter as crew. Some of the Lower Avon needed two people to open the gates, so I was happy to have a crew member. It has been really quiet on these rivers, obviously many people are concerned about water levels, but it has been green all the way!

All the way up we have seen the devastation caused by the floods. At Evesham Lock we were so busy looking at the narrowboats in the trees we nearly missed the lock.The lock keeper said two boats were heading straight for his house until they spun in the water and hit the lock gate, bending the arm and ending up amongst the trees.

At George Billington Lock we spotted the pub 'The Fish and Anchor' and remembered how we crossed the weir in a skip attached to a chain- easy in daylight but after a few beers a trip in the dark was a different matter. I know Paula can remember this well! Now the 'ferry' has gone and posh new moorings are available alongside the pub. Next to the lock was a grassy area where Ben enjoyed a run around chasing his ball. But beware boaters are not allowed to venture into the adjoining grassland its private property but there are no signs to tell you. Just a miserable lady telling me she owned 20 acres of land for her little Jack Russell to run in! Well it takes all sorts!