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Monday, 28 September 2009

22 - 29th Sept to Worcester

22nd Sept started coolish and overcast as I started to T Cut and polish the starboard side of Lily, previous polish a few weeks ago didn’t look good hence drastic action, the paint is now 6 years old. Wandered into Kinver again for a coffee and a few bits before setting off after lunch. Day had brightened and warmed up with glimpses of sun. Pretty cruising including through areas of rock cutting, a very soft sandstone made this an easy option for the builders, including this rock hewn horse stable at Debdale lock.

After just 6 miles and 4 locks we tied up in Kidderminster outside Sainsburys. We had the most minute shower of almost mist for perhaps 5 minutes before brightening again. Good mooring point and polishing re-commenced, unfortunately the towpath alongside was gravel surfaced and very well trafficked. With the dry weather the boat son became covered in dust, all along the starboard side!

Wed 23rd we did no cruising but instead had a lovely day on the Severn Valley Railway from Kdderminster to Bridgenorth and back, stopping for an exploration of Bridgenorth first. What a lovely old town, loads of interesting buildings, different shops, a great array of pubs (not visited) and this interesting cliff railway from the Upper Town to the Lower Town.

This incredible old house at Bridgenorth Lower Town was built by a barge owner in 1580 and was one of the few buildings to survive the Civil War.

A view of Bridgenort High Street

This old fashioned butchers had its display window open to the street in the old style, though all the meat was under a clear plastic cover.

The railway runs alongside the river on a lovely route and has a surprisingly frequent service most days of the year, and we were amazed at how busy the trains were. Highly recommended at £12 a head for oldies. Bewdley was the stop we used on the way back and this town presents a lovely front to the river, though a front that all too often has been subject to flooding over the years, though a de-mountable flood barrier now protects these buildings.

Bewdley river front.

We didn’t stop too long, Carol’s back was very tired, and we caught a bus back to Kidderminster, saving us the fairly long walk down from the station.

It being Wednesday we tried our 2 for 1 Orange film vouchers in the tiny cinema. The film was saw was atrocious, or at least the half hour we watched was! I carried on with the rubbing & polishing.

Thursday 24th dawned misty but bright and we had bright sun all day from 10. Staff from the Sainsburys store were seen on a litter picking patrol along the towpath and in the undergrowth. We were horrified to see how many syringes they collected in a 200 yard length, what a sad reflection on the lives of some people.

I finished off work on the starboard side and we set off late morning. Arriving for the second lock I saw a kingfisher fly up and land, and then set about working the locks which had an interesting locking mechanism to inhibit vandalism. Carol had the sight of the kingfisher emerging from the water with a fish in its beak. We arrived at Stourport at 2.30 having covered 4 miles and 4 locks. We got a good mooring above the lock with the towpath on the port side, this time a nicely tarmaced surface, though used as a dog loo too much.

This interesting crane was on the opposite side of the canal to our mooring.

As was this interesting boat which I seem to recall is powered and steered by vectored thrust through two tubes at each end.

We had a wander round the historic basin and bought some new waterproof/breathable jackets at a “factory shop” before I started cutting and polishing the port side, but not for too long as it being a Thursday and there being A Wetherspoons in Stourport we were off for our curry & a drink for £4.99, and excellent it was, but I did need a second pint!

Friday 25th was supposed to be lovely and sunny all day, but it was overcast and coolish much of the day until the sun eventually arrived in late afternoon. I finished off polishing, and then set to touching up small damaged areas on the navy paintwork using a fine artists brush. When it has hardened I’ll see how well it polishes up, but even as it is it has improved the look. Lily looks much better after our work on her outside and in, and the fine weather ensured the laundry got a good airing.

Sat 26th and we were off down the Severn to Worcester, but not before we filled with water and incredibly, just as we were about to set off two boats passed us, including a very smart “trad” T.S.Element with a lovely Gardiner 3 cylinder engine. We not only had to wait for them to descend the lock, but then found they were both filling with water, just what we needed to do! I found another water point on the new mooring pontoons on the opposite side of the basin & used that, and we set off a few moments after they did, again!

Coming out of the Stourport basins there are two 2 lock staircases, and after one of these boats had gone down, a boat came up. Eventually we got to the top of the locks, and stopped to fill with diesel, needing nearly 200 litres. I declared 60% propulsion at £1.07, 40% at 62p. Incredible that we get red diesel at a greater cost than road fuel, despite the fuel being not so good! I initially understood that HMG was not wanting to introduce the removal of derogation on this tax imposition, but I have heard during this summer of enquiries being made of retailers as to why peculiar levels of propulsion fuel had been declared.

Anyway, £175 poorer we emerged from the final lock at 12.30 and set off down stream on a lovely afternoon. We thought we had found a nice spot to tie up and watch qualifying for the Singapore GP, but the pontoons were still under construction & the publican didn’t want us to tie up, so we carried on through the 3 manned locks down to Worcester and tied up alongside the Race course in a section that was nominally closed for refurbishment, and at a charge of £3.20 per night. We cruised all the length through Worcester and the recommended moorings below Diglis locks looked ideal, except the developers of the new apartments had fenced off access and they were barred.

Part way between Stourport & Worcester is this, the entrance to the Droitwich canal which is nearly ready for re-opening we believe.

The river was pretty and with hardly a boat moving. We shared one lock with a cruiser and both he and another one, both with fly bridges etc, had very smokey exhaust. He gave me a very odd look when I asked him if he would cut is engine whilst in the lock – obviously he has never been in locks on the Thames where the lock keepers get everyone to cut their engines.

After watching the re-run of qualifying I set off walking to have a quick reconnoitre of the city, with Carol far from the best at walking I decided I needed to eliminate wasted walks. There are some lovely bits to the city, and some not so lovely bits from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Carol wanted to go to Communion at the Cathedral, but she also wanted to watch the GP, they clashed so she will catch an Evensong sometime.

Sunday 27th I walked around the city to suss out where we can moor on the canal. We are off to Narborough by train on Wednesday for the official opening of a car park I designed and supervised and over the weekend are off down to see Clare. Ideally we would like to get into a marina so we can plug into mains power to leave the fridge & freezer on. After a phone call and a chat with someone on his boat, I’m not so sure we will be able to so are likely to have to cart the frozen food with us, though fortunately there is not too much in it.

After the GP we had an amble round, which we also did on Monday, including a visit to the Cathedral, which is a lovely place and interesting. On Tuesday we are visiting a National Trust property in the city, and when we leave we will catch another as we pass Droitwich.

Monday, 21 September 2009

On to Kinver 14th to 21st Sept

Monday 14th started overcast and coolish and after attention to cash via the Post Office we moved on a bit from Fradley to the edge of Tamworth & bought things we need for a visit by friends on Friday as we don’t think we will be close to other decent sized shops. We didn’t set off till 1.30 and cruised slowly to Fradley Junction, but before we got there I noticed there were no instruments working, a repeat of the earlier electrical problems. I waggled the wires I’d tweaked before but nothing worked and as we reached Streethay Wharf we pulled up after Carol had hailed a chap on the side to see if they had an electrician. He came and touched this to that, and then the other and declared we had no live feed to the engine alternator, and stripped open the junction block I had checked previously, to no avail. As he knew what he was after, he then pulled at the red wires into the connector block, and lo and behold, one wire had broken. Obviously when I had “solved” the problem before all I had done was waggle the bits till they made contact. £25 later a connecting wire had been installed and all was well and we stopped, short of Fradley, but we had been told it was as close as we would get. 10 miles, 0 locks

Whilst at Streethay Carol started talking to a chap who was blacking his bottom. She looked and saw it was Helen’s bottom, Helen was the narrowboat fitted out lovingly by an old friend Bill Turnbull who had sadly died of cancer a couple of years previously. Bill’s partner was an old school friend of Carol and we knew that the boat ad been sold to one of Bill’s friends, so she had a good natter.

On the way this day we had passed these enormous poly tunnels full of strawberries. I reckon the tunnels were about 300yards long each and about 5 yards wide, and there were 21 tunnels. Imagine how many tons of strawberries they produce.

The farm also had a large field of asparagus growing with its lovely foliage.

Tuesday 15th Overcast and windy, put shorts away and donned jeans. Boats coming from Fradley started before 8 and when we set off at 9.30 there were umpteen moorings available at the junction. We had to wait at each of the 3 locks for boats descending and met loads of boats coming the other way. The Shroppie is closed because of a breech and there is also a boat gathering towards Tamworth next weekend. A stop for lunch at Handsacre before we followed 2 other boats through the “tunnel” ( it nearly was one but they opened it to the sky) cut through rocks and only just over one boat wide. Weather improved through afternoon with wind easing and clouds breaking. We carried on through to Gt Haywood junction before we left the M25, sorry, Trent & Mersey, and set off southwards on the Staffs & Worcs canal, stopping shortly afterwards on Tixal Wide, overlooking the gate house to, I assume Shugborough Hall (though as there is a canal between the two and no road between them I wonder why) a lovely spot.
13 miles and 5 locks

These Alpacas were grazing in a field as we approached Gt Haywood and this Swan resort appealed to us, though only host to a moorhen.

Wed 16th opened as breezy & overcast, making it cool, but then we’d get bits of bright sun when it was very hot! Very little traffic, only waited at one lock, it usually worked us entering as another left, brilliant. We met President & Kildare (see Braunston & Watford Locks 4 weeks ago) at Penkridge lock where there was a sanitary station that had appeared since our copy of Nicholson’s was produced. We tied up for the night past Gailey, so much quieter now the M54 has taken the traffic away from the A5. Our cruise was shallow in places, and sometimes very narrow but we covered 13 miles & 11 locks.

Gailey lock

Thursday 17th was overcast all day but there was less of the breeze but it was still cool. Several boats passed the other way but we had no locks and it was easy cruising. We followed 2 other boats through the narrow stretch up to Autherley Junction, where we turned in and stopped. Problem, visitors due tomrrow and no Elsan emptying facility despite it apparently being shown in Nicholson. 8miles and just one tiny lock. This Heron showed us the way. It was very shallow in places, we even ran aground going through a bridge hole, I must check how deep Lily draws.
This heron pointed the way.
I had told our guests where we would meet up from looking at the excellent Phillips Navigator map, as well as Google maps, but still needed to check as Geoffrey is not too good on his pins so I walked the ¾ mile to the bridge. It looks OK, but not too good for mooring so we’re staying put.

Friday 18th and it dawned bright and brightened and warmed up through the day. Our friends had an excellent run to meet us, arriving early as the M6 was behaving itself. We cruised very gently to Brewood, and noticed that branch cutting and chipping on the off-side, and came upon the boat responsible part way along blocking the cut, the stern mooring line had come adrift. A few minutes work fixed it, and it was still secure as we returned.

We found a good mooring on the visitor moorings and enjoyed a fabulous lunch courtesy of Carol’s skills. Both Stephanie & Geoffrey were felled by the lunch & wine and were grateful to be asked if they’d like a few minutes snooze, whilst I walked into the village to see if it was worth a visit. It was and three of us set off a bit later, Geoffrey excused himself as he said he would only slow us up. Brewood has some interesting bits, worth a visit and showing a big range of architectural styles.

Friend Mo keeps going on about mason's marks, well here are carpenters marks showing how the joints should be assembled.
This house was supposedly build out of the winnings on a horse.

This house is said to date from 1350.

Does anyone else remember these signs from the 50's, showing the Cyclist Touring Cub recommended this pub. I havent seen a sign in many years.

Our gentle cruise home showed several shallow and surprisingly narrow places, especially surprising as at water level it looked wide, but about 6” down it was a rocky ledge. When we stopped we had a light tea of fresh scone, clotted cream and my homemade damson jam which surprised everyone as I had managed to remove all the stones!!! This was followed by Tea Loaf, Lemon drizzle cake and flapjack. They departed full! The day had been lovely with it sunny all the way from around 11.30, and they had an equally good journey home.
We checked our draft. I had assumed it would be around 22-24 inches, it is 30 inches, plus the skeg!

Sat 19th cloudy but warm to start and after a wander to get papers we were off, and shortly afterwards I put my shorts on, Carol was a bit slower. After 3 miles & 3 locks we reached Wightwick and we stopped to visit the National Trust house, Wightwick Manor which is only a few yards from the canal.

It was a lovely house, a Victorian fake old house, decorated with much from William Morris and the Pre Raphaelites. What made it so wonderful was that the whole house and its contents were made over to the National Trust so everything is of a piece. The family that built it was the Mander family of paints and varnishes fame, and the chap that had it built married a Miss Paint!! The house, while large, is not enormous and was built to be lived in by the family, and the family still has some private rooms upstairs where the many branches stay frequently. It’s gardens were pleasantly laid out and maintained, it is worth a visit. Our mooring above Wightwick lock was pleasant and quiet and we stayed the night.

Sun 20th was a fabulous day from start to finish, sunny & warm with barely a breeze. With wonderful timing we set off at 9 and caught up with a family who had just cast off at our second lock and their slow pace dictated our progress. We had no need to hurry and there were plenty of locks and interesting things to see. This really is a lovely canal, despite passing close to Wolverhampton and other Black Country centres it is in glorious countryside and has some lovely little features of canal engineering.

The bywashes have some lovely circular weirs, as well as other shapes, no bare channels.

Locks have a simple bridge across the top, but this one had a delightfully cast iron treat., and notice the way the wall of the bridge has been constructed into pillars.

It also had this interesting cut through for access to the bottom of the lock.

Most of the locks have two ground and a gate paddle, but beware of the jet of water that shoots up from many top ground paddle channels as they are raised, many get soaked.

We stopped for lunch at Wombourne bridge. Carol asked a chap on the towpath if there was a newsagent nearby and after a moment’s thought said over the bridge, first left, second right, first left, spoken quickly and absolutely spot on, so I was able to get my Sunday Times fix. Avoiding the pub we were off again, catching up with a boat that was just setting off before the next lock!! These women were slow, but it was a lovely day, I had my shirt off and Carol had her bikini top on.

This new lock bollard shows wear & tear, but not from ropes, from the strimmer.

Bottom lock gates on this canal are made of several 6" thick planks of timber with no framing.

We were getting a bit anxious to find somewhere to empty our toilet tanks, two were full and our emergency reserve was in use, and at Greensforge lock we were able to sort them out. Needless to say after our longish stop to fill with water when we set off we caught up with another boat that was also setting off! Below this lock alongside the canal was a bungalow with a large and absolutely fabulous garden. It looked as if they ran a nursery or garden centre, but even so it was delightful. Anyhow around 4.30 we called it a day, a wonderful day for weather and also for sights, we covered 8 ½ miles and worked through 16 locks.

The Bratch was an interesting set of locks, nearly a staircase but not quite. We dropped in lucky, straight in, often there is quite a queue.

Along this stretch some joker has decorated many posts and trees with happy faces. We asked fishermen if they knew what they were for, but they didn’t know.

Monday 21st dawned overcast and cool and stayed that way till mid afternoon, but by that time we had reached Kinver and stopped to look around. Threw another alternator belt, put last spare on so need to search one out soon. We met Barry and Kathy on Goldie2 below Stewpony lock, not having seen them since early April. 3 miles & 3 locks.

At many places along this canal the side is straight rock.

A lovely mix of buildings can be found in Kinver.

We walked to the church on the top of the hill, but it was locked!! Good view though, and our amble through the village revealed 3 Indian restaurants, 2 Fish & Chips, 4 pubs, 2 tea/coffee houses, 2 small supermarkets, a greengrocer, 2 butchers, baker plus plus…..basically a well sorted place. Our coffee was good and I had said to Carol the other day I really fancied some fish & chips, I don’t think I’ve had any since February. I bought some for lunch and they were lovely!

We stopped for the day and Carol got her paints out for the first time since heaven knows when and created one lovely painting and completed another one. I walked up hill to view the troglodyte houses on the escarpment that are owned by the National Trust. They are only open from 2-4 on Saturdays and Sundays, but I thought I‘d be able to see something anyway. It was a good long uphill drag but worth it as I met a caretaker who was doing some gardening and he let me up to the upper level and explained about the buildings which had been rebuilt since the’80’s but an interesting visit.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Cruising again:- to Worcester & Tardebigg!!

We stopped at our base in Debdale for longer than we originally intended as we were just too busy seeing people & doing things. One of the things we did was to go to the National Festival at Red Hill at the junction of the river Soar onto the Trent. We were surprised by how good the site looked, though the traffic queues getting off the M1 were not good, much of the traffic not going to the Festival but going to Nottingham. What also surprised us was the weather. We had left home barely 30 miles away in bright warm sun, dressed in shorts & T shirts, and we only took a light waterproof each. At Red Hill the sun was mostly covered by clouds, and there was a very crisp wind blowing. I spent much of the time on our IWA Branch stand, pleasant meeting old and new friends, but chilly.

Monday 7th September on a warm day we set off at mid day and had only a short wait to be 5th boat up the Foxton Locks. The day brightened especially as we didn’t meet a boat going through Husbands Bosworth tunnel and we had an enjoyable cruise arriving at 5.15 on the Avon Embankment where we polished the boat as we set off in April. 9 miles & 10 locks

Tuesday 8th dawned bright but overcast but it improved as the day went on and warmed up significantly. We were off at 9.15 and cruised steadily, the pound is shallow in many places. We stopped for a newspaper and bits & pieces at Crick before passing through the very wet Crick Tunnel, again not meeting a boat!! All the day we had met a large number of boats coming the other way.

Approaching Crick this building is part of a farm, yes it is one of the old Pre-Fabs.
We arrived at the top of Watford at 3.15 and were the 5th boat, but there was a batch coming up and even more waiting. Suffice to say that we only dropped down the first lock on that batch and then waited for the next 6 or 7 to come up. I spent some of the time touching up the black on the hull. We eventually finished the flight at 6.15 and cruised on to tie up close to where we had stopped for repairs in April at about 7. 14 miles & 7 locks

Chris the lock keeper was telling me how her husband, also a lock keeper & whose name escapes me, had parked his car overnight in a lay-by in Braunston the previous weekend and that some kind youths had torched it. By the sounds of it the car was much as is mine, cheap & old, but it is a major inconvenience.

Cruising along on Tuesday we passed 4 British Waterways workboats at work including bits of “dredging” with the spoil spread on the edge of the towpath, good to see work being done, but Lily rode over underwater obstructions at 2 locks.

Wednesday 9th Another good day forecast and we were off at 9! Amazingly when we entered the long and bendy Braunston tunnel we could see right through it. Never have we been able to do that before, and this was with a boat preceding us, but in a kink. More amazing was that we did not meet another boat going through the tunnel, again a first.

We caught up with the very pleasant couple on the boat ahead of us at the top of the Braunston flight and had an easy descent, exchanging pleasantries and meeting boats coming up at most of the locks, making the passage even easier. By 11.30 we had tied up at the bottom to see the Fender maker and then stayed put until we had finished our lunch, setting off again at 1.

The day was sunny but with a cool breeze but we made good progress, speeding down the 3 locks at Hillmorton, meeting boats each time. We tried to reach Newbold this day to meet up with our friends Mike & Gerry from Debdale, but they rang and said there were no moorings there so we stopped short by bridge 58 in Rugby. There is a large Tesco alongside, which we used, as we did the nearby cinema. It was Wednesday & Carol has an Orange phone contract & we used their 2 for 1 Orange Wednesday scheme to see the new Meryl Streep film,” Julie & Julia “, on its opening day in the UK. We thoroughly enjoyed it, & only £5.25 for the 2 of us. 14 miles & 9 locks.

Thursday 10th Mike & Gerry arrived about 10 and we had a good jaw over coffee. We were off at 11.30, we needed to get to Ansty as we had invited friends to supper and this would be an easy place to get to. As I had cast off both fore & aft ropes & before I had eased out a boat came round the nearby bend, so I waited, and another one came, followed by 4 more!! A boat came past going our way & then I was off, only to meet another boat coming round the bend! Just after that the boat I was following moved over to the left (the wrong side) just as another boat was coming the other way! He was heading to moor up, but given the chaos of the previous several minutes, very disturbing.

It was another bright, sunny day with a cool wind and lots of boats coming the other way again but we found out that it was boats returning from a boat Rally on the Ashby Canal. We got to Ansty about 3 having covered just 9 miles 7 no locks. We had a lovely evening, Carol doing her usual magic with the cooking.

Friday 11th Another bright & sunny day, cool wind , but not as strong as the previous days. Carol had slept badly on Tuesday & Wednesday nights with her back, but Thursday night she slept well and was far from anxious to rise. We picked some blackberries, had a light lunch & set off at 1.15 having watched first practice for the Italian G.P., setting off just as the boat in front set off too, timing! Slow cruising to finish up past Nuneaton near bridge 27 at 5.30 having covered 9 miles and 1 lock.

Saturday 12th and a FANTASTIC day. Bright warm sun and little breeze all day. We set off at 8.15 to make suitable progress before stopping to watch qualifying for the Italian GP. Yet again as I had cast off the bows a boat passed us, going our way. After about ½ mile we passed Valley Cruisers and exchanged greetings with the couple with whom we had descended Braunston locks, they had enjoyed a fantastic holiday. A short way further on I recognised the man walking his dog, it was the lock keeper from Marlow lock who had allowed us to moor on part of his weir in July. His boat Time Warp had been moored a short distance in front of Lily last night.

We passed through 9 of the Atherstone locks before stopping for qualifying, setting off again at 2.30 we cruised on gently to Polesworth and moored outside Pooley Hall. I had often tried to see it better as we cruised past on previous trips, but decided this time to go for a walk to see what I could see. From the road it was still shrouded by trees but as I had seen brown signs to a Pooley outdoor centre I thought it might be at the Hall, so I walked down the drive.

Getting closer I could see it wasn’t, and was turning to go back to the road when a new Range Rover drew alongside & the occupants asked if they could help. When they heard what I was trying to do they invited me to go closer & see the place which was started as a fortfied tower in 1504. It is now split into 3 or 4 homes, and very lovely too. The following morning a chap walking the towpath asked if I knew who used to live there? Edwin Starr the American soul singer used to own the place it seems.

Total of 9 miles & 11 locks.

Sunday 13th September started as another bright morning, but with more breeze and by mid day it had clouded over and required a sweatshirt, though still in shorts and sandals. Steady cruise to the edge of Tamworth, stopped to get the Sunday papers as Sally & Mark in Forever Young passed us, last seen in Crick Marina and before that at Debdale as their new Piper boat was to be lifted out to be repainted as the paint was lifting. Paint looks good now, we had a look at it as we met them at the top of Glascote locks. They were on a long cruise this day, we were just aiming to get through the locks in time to watch the GP, and we tied up just as the program started.

Race over we tootled on another half mile to Fazeley junction where we used the services to fill and empty, and seeing a good mooring opposite we decided to move across and tie up for the night. After 4 ½ miles and 2 locks we were shattered!!! I wandered up onto the road alongside to see what was there and they obviously like cooking in Fazeley, there were 3 Indian restaurants, 1 Cantonese, plus about 5 take-aways. We opted for the Cantonese and very good it was too.