Thursday, September 30, 2010

Deptmore Lock To Gailey Lock

Gailey Roundhouse

We left our mooring above Deptmore Lock and Ben and I walked with the boat as far as Park Gate Lock where I popped in to Midland Chandlers to return some battery terminal covers bought a week ago which were of no use to us. They happily accepted them back and I used the cash to buy some loo blue so they didn't lose out.

At Penkridge Lock we stopped to use the sanitary station and fill up with water after catching up with the washing. We moored up the boat on the towpath side and headed off to the Coop for some fresh food. We came back to find bloggers Del and Al and NB Derwent 6 on the waterpoint and we had a nice chat. Today we also met the couple on NB Padworth ( I think that was the boat's name) who read my blog. She thought she recognised Ben and I but said nothing until she saw NB Bendigedig waiting below the lock. So hello to you both.

Four locks later we were moored below Gailey Lock- a good day with lots of boats moving which made locking a bit easier. We had a funny high pitched noise from the engine during our cruise but everything seemed OK but on closer expection when we stopped we found a very worn belt on one of the alternations. Luckily we had spare belts so Eric was able to change the belt. This morning NB Derwent 6 passed by again and Del waved, Al stopped and chattted leaving Del to moor up for the lock. I am sure we'll meet again as they're going up the Shroppie.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's Tixall Wide (Staffs & Worcs Canal)

NB Bendigedig on Tixall Wide

We've been moored at Tixall Wide but this morning it was time to move on. We turned around in the Wide as we wanted to go back along the Staffs and Worcs Canal rather than the Trent and Mersey Canal route. Ben and I enjoyed our walk, first of all working the boat through Tixall Lock. Rather a damp and dull morning but we had the muddy towpath to ourselves. We got back on board near Radford Bank and cruised another mile to Deptmore Lock. I had to turn the lock but we were soon through and moored up above the lock. A good spot as I had a 3G signal to download the trial version of Microsoft Office 2010. Now I can read some boaters' blogs- the signal was very slow at Tixall Wide.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Have You Moored Near Here?

We were on a bit of a mission as I needed to get to Radford Bank in Stafford by Thursday to go back to Newport for a family funeral. At Gailey we met up with Alan and Eiddwen (NB Shush) pointing in the opposite direction to us, so we stopped for a catch up chat before continuing on our way. We finally moored up above Deptmore Lock about a mile a way from Radford Bank as the plan was that I walk Ben before leaving to catch the train. The lock cottage is undergoing restoration at present after being empty for quite a while.

For a change everthing went according to plan and Eric and Ben waved me goodbye at the bus stop. Eric then moved the boat and found a mooring until I came back. He was surprised to find that Maggie and Bernie on NB Blue Diamond were moored up already s0 he was their next door neighbour. They even made him a cup of tea when he arrived. The picture should give you a clue- he moored up at his favourite place! It's very busy here too, so it's obviously other peoples favourite mooring place too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Slowly On The Staffs & Worcs Canal

Butty Argus being pulled by Bletchley

Today progress was very slow we only had half a dozen locks to work through but ahead of us was a pair of coal boats. We stopped at Lime Kiln Chandlers in Compton for diesel and then continued to follow them very slowly. I went up to help with the paddles as they worked the two boats through the locks and I enjoy seeing working pairs but just wish they were behind us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From Whittington Lock To Bratch Locks

NB Bendigedig at Whittington Lock

We've had a long day today with seven hours cruising which is unusual for us but we need to get closer to a railway station as I am going to Newport on Thursday. We left our mooring at Whittington and managed to work through 15 locks including Bratch Locks. Most of the locks are spaced out so I walked between some with Ben and had a ride between the others. Progress was hampered because everytime we got going we had to go very slow past fishermen and moored boats. Lots of bikers on the towpaths with the weather being dry and sunny which meant I had to keep Ben on a lead. Bratch Locks were busy and we were third in the queue which continued to grow even longer. The lock keeper watched from the top lock as we did blue paddles before red as it said on the notice until we reached the top lock where he did help us. Moored up on the Visitor Moorings rather tired- it's been a long day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cruising On The Staffs & Worcs Canal

Stourport Upper Basin

We spent a couple of days moored on the visitor moorings on the River Severn enjoying the peace and quiet. Ben doesn't like unusual noises so going for a walk past the fair was hard going until he realised we were going to the park. It was a change to have a non cruising day and we enjoyed a little shopping in Stouport and some fish and chips too.

On Sunday morning Ben and I went for a walk to the park next to the river and we were the only ones there so Ben had a really good run off lead. Back on the boat it was time to go as the moorings are 48 hours only. Eric untied the boat as I made sure no one was coming down the pair of staircase locks leading to the Upper Basin. In this basin we stopped to use the facilities before going up York Street Lock to begin our cruise along the Staffs & Worcs Canal. I struggled with the paddle gear on this lock!

We were luck as all the locks were empty ready for us today and after a shopping stop at Tesco's in Kidderminster we continued on our way. With lots of overhanging greenery and some narrow sections as well as a horseshoe bend before Debdale Lock made meeting boats a challenge but luckily we only passed a couple of boats. Some lads were keen to have a go at opening the paddles at Debdale Lock but soon changed their minds after realising it wasn't as easy as they thought leaving the other paddles for me.

Finally we moored up below Whittington Lock enjoying the peace an quiet of the counytryside again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Severn Cruise

Leaving Worcester

Hawford Lock for the Droitwich Barge Canal

Moored at Stourport on Severn

I went for a walk this morning with Ben the dog and on the way back we had a look at the river levels to find it had gone down to the point where amber and green meet. So no lights meant we could begin our cruise on the Severn to Stourport. One lock down the lockie informs us the river has risen slightly so was now on amber but we decided to go anyway. We enjoyed the views of Worcester from the water and also kept a keen eye on the dials to see that the engine was OK. We were going against the flow so it would take longer than usual to go to Stourport.

We were relieved to reach Bevere lock with no problems and the gates opened for us being an automated lock, this was the first of the three automated river locks. After the lock we spied the lock which joins the Droitwich Barge Canal with the River Severn called Hawford Lock- the house next to it is for sale too. It seemed to take ages to reach Holt Lock with frothy foam 'icebergs' passing us by. Out came the gloves and hats we felt really cold in the wind. The lockie was chatty- he said he was feeling the cold too.

The final automated lock was about 3 miles ahead and the only boats we saw were going towards Worcester so it felt as though we had the river to ourselves. You could see the muddy line along the banks where the water had been and progress was still slow to avoid any chance of the engine overheating. Approaching Holt Lock the gates opened and shut automatically and we were quickly through the lock. The river level was way down and showing a big green line when we left this lock. Eric said he could feel the difference with the boat. We moored up on the visitor moorings on the river as there was room. Here the pontoons raise up if the levels go up in the night so we'll be OK. It had taken us five hours and Ben was glad to get off the boat!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Moored At Worcester- River Severn On Red!

Going down

Today we did the final descent to moor up on Diglis Visitor Moorings. Leaving Tibberton at 9am an early start for us we were delighted to find the locks in our favour for a change. First we worked through the 6 Offerton Locks , then Tollanine and Blackpole Locks before stopping at Bridge 19 as there's a Sainsbury's ten minutes walk away. An hour later we were on our way again with a nice full fridge. We worked through 6 more locks, some with very stiff paddle gear and finally found a space at Diglis Visitor Moorings. All the moorings filled up very quickly with people coming off the River Severn. The red light is showing on the locks down to the river so we're going nowhere until the water levels go down. It's all the rain they've been having in Wales causing the river levels to rise !

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Water Levels Down In The Night

We spent last night in the long pound between Tardebigge Bottom Lock and Stoke Top Lock and in the night we had a surprise as the boat began to tilt- it felt like we were going to fall out bed! The levels had gone down over 30 cms so we loosened the ropes which didn't make any difference as the back of the boat stayed put. We managed to push it out until it floated- there must have been a shelf under the water. The water levels started to rise again in the morning before we left so I don't know if a paddle had been left open or it was just a case of leaky gates.

We worked through the 5 Stoke Locks and then stopped at the BW Rubbish Point next to Black Prince, Stoke Prior. We can remember starting a holiday here and doing the Stourport Ring anticlockwise. We filled up with water opposite the 'Boat and Railway' and then moved a little way to find a mooring spot. Not long after we stopped the rain came down so we were very lucky not to get very wet. It's been very quiet on this canal with just a few boats passing us going in the opposite direction. Out of the window we can see the twin 700ft high masts of Wychbold radio transmitting station- it's call sign 'Droitwich Calling' became well known.

In the morning we headed for the first of the 6 Astwood Locks in the wind only to be held up in a queue waiting for the empty pound to refill between the first two locks by the lockkeeper. Apparently a paddle had been left up overnight. He was a very chatty lockie so the half hour passed quickly. Ben enjoyed his walk while we worked through the locks and I bought some free range eggs from the lock cottage by Lock 18. No more locks as we passed Hanbury Wharf where the Droitwich Junction Canal (being restored) meets the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. We stopped at Tibberton to go to the shop only to find it was half day closing- we always seem to pick the right day to look for a shop. There's a definite shortage of shops on this canal although the pubs are surviving.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tardebigge Locks Done And Dusted

Tardebigge Reservoir

Going down Tardebigge Bottom Lock

Today we did the Tardebigge Flight in four and a half hours. Considering we had to fill almost every lock that's not bad timing. We did meet two boats coming up, one of which was NB Oakfield who reads our blog and do one themselves- so hello again.

Eric did a lot of the lock paddles and gates while I steered the boat. It took me a while to get used to lining up the boat for down locks so I went in the locks very slowly. The rain when we were halfway down so by the time we got to the bottom of the flight we were rather wet. So now we've moored up drying off and just relaxing. I have been thinking about how many locks we'll have done in our seven month cruising session and did a count to find it was over 400!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lock 58 Tardebigge Top Lock

Going down!

We've not gone far just moving for an hour to give Ben a walk and get a bit closer to the Tardebigge Locks ready for our descent when I've had my three Shredded Wheats! Above the Top Lock we needed to use pins so we moored up and walked to have a look to see if the Visitor Moorings were still there. We've come across marked moorings which no longer exist so I think we need a new book- ours is a 2003 edition- a lot can change in seven years. As we could moor on rings below the Top Lock (14ft deep) and under the bridge we moved and Eric was delighted as he could now get a satellite signal to watch the Grand Prix.

It's nearly twenty years since we last did the Tardebigge Flight and that was coming up them with our daughters as crew on a Black Prince hireboat doing the Stourport Ring in a week. We are far more leisurely now!

Gwenllian On Holiday

I've been looking at Facebook and this picture made me smile. This is my grandaughter Gwenllian on her holiday having a ride on a boat.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We're On The Worcs & Birmingham Canal

Shirley Drawbridge, North Stratford Canal

Brandwood Tunnel, North Stratford Canal

Former Guillotine Stop Lock, King's Norton Junction

King's Norton Waterpoint

We spent last night opposite some moored boats on private moorings near Swallow Cruisers, mainly because it was away from the road noise. Overnight we had heavy rain but by the morning it had stopped or so we thought, but ten minutes after we'd started off it hammered down. We put on the wet gear sheltering under a tree! I continued my walk with Ben armed with a windlass as I knew there was a lift bridge not too far away. Walking along the towpath I spotted NB Moore2Life moored up so I tapped on the window and they came out to see us. Eric moored up our boat and Chas and Ann made us a cup of tea as the dogs made friends. After a lovely chat we said goodbye and Ann came to do the next lift bridge for us- thanks to you both.

Next stop was some food shopping at Hockley Heath before moving out of Warwickshire and into the West Midlands. We cruised through various suburbs holding up the traffic with the Shirley Drawbridge which is now electric- our book's a bit out of date it said it was windlass operated. We reached the short Brandwood Tunnel with Shakespeare on it's western portal and then past under the former guillotine stop lock gates and we'd arrived at King's Norton Junction.

We turned left onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal stopping to use the elsan and the waterpoint. We'd been advised to moor up after Wast Hill Tunnel (2726 yards)which took an age to go through as we followed a very slow boat. We met four boats coming towards us in the tunnel more than we'd seen all day. Finally we moored up just off the full visitor moorings with a good satellite signal so we're happy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Loads Of Locks- The Lapworth Flight

Lock 25 (Lapworth Locks)

Looking up Lapworth Locks from Lock 14
Today we started at Lock 30 and finished at Lock 2 at the top of the Lapworth Flight- I can't believe we did 29 locks but it's good practise for the Tardebigge Flight. The locks are numbered so number 2 is at the top with number 1 missing as it was the stop lock at Kings Norton. We are in new territory for us we've not been on the North Stratford Canal before. As we climbed the Lapworth Flight we had to empty the lock ahead to use it so it made it harder and it took longer- it took us seven hours in all. Ben and I must have walked for miles and now he's fast asleep.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wootton Wawen To Lowsonford - Delayed Again!

We left our overnight mooring in Wootton Wawen and cruised to the first lock of the day at Preston Bagot where Ben and I began our morning walk. We worked through a couple of locks and then we looked ahead to see a boat apparently waiting in the lock with the gates open. When we got there we found they were stuck in the lock as the gate wouldn't go far enough back to let them out. They'd tried all ways to get out and had eventually rung BW. Anyway help arrived and an hour later we were on our way again. The queue of boats in both directions had grown considerably but we were in luck as we were first to go through once the other boat got out of the lock. Ben and I enjoyed our walk to Lowsonford working the locks as we came to them and sometimes meeting boats coming the other way to make things a bit easier. We found a space to moor up and enjoyed the rest of day.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Hold Up At Wootton Wawen!

Moor Here For The Services!

We left Stratford after a couple of nights in the Canal Basin- it was a change to be in civilisation again. We did loads of locks and came to Wootton Wawen Aqueduct and waited and waited for over 35 minutes as the aqueduct was totally blocked by a boat using the services. This was the time it took to have a pumpout and fill up with water! I complained to the boater (who told me to 'shut up you old hag' ) that he was blocking the canal and he said the boatyard had told him to moor on the aqueduct to use the services. I complained to the boat yard man and he said it's a service point. This strikes me as the most unusual service point on the canal system so if you need water or a pump out you know where to go!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Photographs From Stratford-on-Avon

A view of the River Avon

NB Bendigedig in Bancroft Basin

A sculpture by Christine Lee

Bancroft Basin from the River Lock

This morning we enjoyed a walk along the River Avon and Ben was delighted to have a great big recreation area to play ball in with no other dogs about. We followed the footpath past some locks and then turned around and retraced our steps. Pausing to sit and watch the boats passing by the river we were surprised to see Cathy and John with their dog. We'd met them when they owned NB Marmaduke. They live nearby and had come to Stratford as they knew we were heading this way. Nice to see you both and sorry to hear about the loss of your other dog. Eric's been out with his camera and taken loads of pictures so they're his pictures for a change.

Aqueducts And Lots Of Locks To Stratford

Wootton Wawen Aqueduct
Edstone Aqueduct

Leaving Wooton Wawen we crossed the aqueduct which is a cast iron trough, unusual because of the towpath is at a lower level. It's dwarfed by Edstone Aqueduct which we crossed a mile or so further on. Edstone Aqueduct consists of a cast iron trough on tapering brick piers and it made us think of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal as the wind pushed the boat against the metal edge of the trough. The boat looked strange from the sunken towpath. Ben and I had a good walk today although he didn't like the factory noises on the outskirts of Stratford. Eric and I worked through seventeen locks sharing the driving and the hard work. I say hard work because some of the locks were a nightmare as the gates were difficult to open and close in fact I can honestly say the big double gates at Hatton on the Grand Union are a lot easier. At Lock 44 we came across a narrowboat stuck partly in the lock revving his engine trying to move. We flushed through some water thinking he was caught on the bottom with no luck and then I noticed his fenders were causing the problem squashed against the lock sides. Anyway fenders lifted with a bit of a struggle and he finally got into the lock, came up meaning we could carry on with our journey. Finally mooring up in Bancroft Basin in one of the two available spaces, we could relax for a few days before retracing our steps as we're not going on the River Avon this time.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Kingswood Junction To Wooton Wawen

Yarningale Aqueduct (Lock 34)

An unspoilt barrel roofed cottage (Lock 31)

Leaving the Grand Union behind at Kingswood Junction we travelled through the narrow bridge and turned left to begin the descent to Stratford on the Stratford Canal. We had our first glimpse of a barrel roofed cottage which are a feature of this canal. Many have extensions but there are a few unspoilt cottages, one at Lock 31.

I found the locks on this canal hard going mainly because I found it difficult to shut some of the single bottom gate after the boat had left the lock- the gate took a lot of force to shift it from the lock wall. Eric and I took it in turns to work the lock and steer the boat. The split cantilever bridges are another feature of this canal and there's no room for error it's like going in a narrow lock. After nine locks we moored up near the 'Fleur de Lys' in Lowsonford.

We decided to move on in the morning, I walked with Ben the dog and Eric steered the boat as well as helping with the paddles at the locks. It's been really quiet on this canal with very few boats about although we did see one boat coming up from Stratford we recognised- NB Turn Again who moor up on the Llangollen Canal. The rain came earlier than forecasted so we got rather wet as we worked through some more locks to moor up at Wootton Wawen on the Visitor Moorings, but we soon dried off and Ben had a rub down with a towel.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

We've Done The Hatton Flight!

Leaving Hatton Lock 37

The final climb!

Please read the sign from Hatton Top Lock

Today we did Hatton 21 and it took four hours to do 21 locks mainly because we had to empty every lock before we could use it as there were no other boats in the flight. It was obviously slower also because we only used one gate and one lot of paddle gear. Lots of walkers and families about along the flight but as far as moving boats are concerned we have found this section of the Grand Union really quiet. The sign by Hatton Top Lock made me smile with its 'Towpath Code of Conduct' as pedestrians have priority! Unfortunately some of the cyclists don't take any notice of the signs! After all those locks I'm tired so we're moored out in the countryside enjoying the sunshine before heading down to Stratford and more locks!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Leamington Spa To Newport (By Train)

My dad in Porthcawl-looking good at 83!

On Tuesday Eric and I walked to the railway station and Ben came too. I waved them goodbye and set off by train to Birmingham New Street and then to Newport in south Wales. A few hours later my daughter Clare met me at the station and we had lunch together then I went to see my daughter Lisa and grandaughter Gwenllian before going to stay with my dad. It's always nice to see our girls and thanks Paula for bringing down our mail.

My dad wanted to go to Porthcawl- a local seaside resort so we used our free bus passes to travel first of all to Cardiff and then to Porthcawl- in all it took about nearly three hours to get there with all the stops but it was nice to see and smell the sea! I know I spend my life afloat but I do love to see the sea. Of course we had fish and chips and a walk along the sea front although as the weather was so beautiful there were no crashing waves. A few hours later and the marathon journey began again but we were home by half past six. It would have been much quicker by train but thanks to Beeching there aren't any trains to Porthcawl.

I returned to Leamington Spa to find Eric had come to meet me on the boat so I didn't have a long walk back to the boat. Ben was pleased to see me and so was Eric- it was very quiet out in the country. We didn't want to stay in a built up area so we headed toward Tesco on the outskirts of Warwick for a quick shop before mooring up on some Armco the other side of Warwick.