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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.

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