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Monday, 2 November 2009

Sunday 11th to Sun 25th October Back to Debdale

Sunday 11th Still moored in central Birmingham it started cool and damp, ideal for the 15000 runners taking part in the Birmingham half marathon which started & finished near Symphony Hall. I saw many low order runners as I went for the papers, and in early afternoon we saw more as we walked to the Birmingham Back to Backs. These are several old basic houses, built in the early 1800’s around a court, each of them 3 storeys high by one room wide and with very steep spiral stairs. They are back to backs because there is a single brick wall between houses, one facing the road, the other the court. As restored they show a house as in 1820, 1870, 1920 and 1970.

They are National Trust properties and only viewable on a guided tour which was excellent. They are alongside the Hippodrome Theatre and we must have parked our car by them on our trips to see pantomimes there over the years.

Monday 12th was a fine bright day but cool and I set off to the Museum/Town Hall and joined a queue at 8.45 to see the newly discovered Staffordshire Hoard of Saxon gold and garnet treasure found earlier this year. I met a charming couple in the queue and Carol joined us by 9 and we chatted away merrily whilst waiting to get in. It was the penultimate day on display in Birmingham before the treasure is sent to the British Museum for full conservation and documentation and there had been immense queues despite the museum staying open till 11 on two nights. It was interesting, but Carol & others wished they had washed off more of the mud, and only a very small pert of the hoard was displayed. The craftsmanship was brilliant, and the treasure hunter will be over £1m better off!
We had a coffee with our new acquaintances & exchanged email addresses before we returned to Lily for lunch & then off to Sea World which, being none too busy we enjoyed.

Tuesday 13th we did some shopping with Carol looking for an outfit, and failing, before we went to watch “Up”, the new Pixar movie in 3D. It was excellent.

I knew of Boulton & Watt, but not William Murdoch but this freshly re-gilded statue caused me to look in Wikipaedia. It’s worth a look, but briefly he wanted to work with Boulton & Watt so walked down from Glasgow. Boulton was so fascinated by the wooden hat Murdoch was wearing that he gave him & job & he made great improvements to the working efficiency of the Boulton & Watt engines. He also invented gas lighting and was a significant force towards the development of the dyestuffs that were developed from the coal tar by-product. He would have been fabulously wealthy if he wasn’t employed on a contract where his inventions became the company’s.

Wed 14th started bright & warm for the time of year. We cast off at 10.30 & met a new fuel/pump out boat coming through the Worcester Bar and reversed back to tie alongside to get a new gas bottle and add diesel. Note he seems to be alongside Sea Life every day. We stopped at the services at the Mailbox and were off. We came across this work starting half way to the Stratford Canal where they are constructing a new bridge to facilitate work to the railway alongside the canal. An interesting way of using tyres.

Steady cruise meeting perhaps 10 boats and stopping near bridge 15 on the Stratford. 12miles

We passed this boat that seems to be being fitted out. The hull sides are almost as high as Lily’s roof so how will it ever be able to cruise?

Thursday 15th Overnight rain and very damp and misty as we got up, but it wasn’t cold. It got wetter as we cruised towards Kingswood Junction and after 4 locks and 2 lift bridges we’d had enough at 1 and stopped for the day. Having worked the lift bridges with Carol I asked how a single handed boater we met at a lock how he coped……with difficulty as there are no landing areas on the operating side of the bridges. 5 miles & 4 locks

Friday 16th A fine day though not warm and we had a pleasant cruise through the Lapworth flight having a pleasant chat at lock 19 with a waiting boater as we filled with water at the slowest tap imaginable. After filling & emptying we passed through onto the Grand Union and tied up having done 1 ½ miles and 15 locks.

At the bottom of the locks is this old telegraph pole with notches for about 14 cross pieces. Not things of great beauty and part of our canal heritage, but I reckon we are better without them, though my erarly memories of roads is of them lines with these poles.

Saturday 17th Another fine day but we were not cruising much but just did 5 miles to a winding hole and returned to moor at bridge 66. After and early lunch we walked to Baddesley Clinton (NT) and viewed this historic house with a history from the 1400’s. It had several priest holes within it & despite numerous searches, no priests were found. If you visit, catch the talk about the house, and be aware that there is a very good restaurant on site. We only had drinks there but the food looked good and it was busy.

Brazilian GP qualifying finished off the day. 5 miles.

Sunday 18th Cool overnight, we have been using our boiler/heating for the last few days. Away around 9 after filling at the nearby water point we reached Hatton Top Lock about 11.30. Here we met a couple from New Zealand who were ready to go down, but they had a problem with their heater not working. We lent them one of our phones to call Kate Boats and I dipped their fuel tank to find barely 1 inch of fuel there. The handbook with the boat talked of a gas heater but there was none to see, Kates said they would bring fuel and meet us down the flight.

2 boats exited top lock before we entered and another 2 entered as we exited. We had struck up a great rapport with Rowan & Suzanne and shared sandwiches they had made and coffee and biscuits Carol had made. Though we worked well as a team we had a slow trip down having caught up with a very slow boat and also with the fuel stop & work to get their heater working, but the weather was fine and we were enjoying the company. We stopped below bottom lock just after 4 when the GP was about to start. Rowan & Suzanne were behind & we agreed we would try to eat together at The Cape of Good Hope & they walked there to see what time they finished serving as the GP was not likely to finish much before 7. They hurried back to say she wanted to finish at 6 as the cook was going out so we hurried off, recording the race. We were glad we did as it was not just excellent food but brilliant company, they are a couple much like us, and they have come over the last 3 years for a 10-14 day cruise on the canals.

We caught the race later on after they had left after coffee and more nattering and what a great ace it was! 7 ½ miles & 21 locks.

Monday 19th A fine morning & we set off with our friends to return through 2 locks & then to Kate Boats, but not before they had insisted that on our trip to New Zealand we should cancel our hotel booking in Wellington and stay with them! Incredible! After waving goodbye we moved on to tie up outside Tesco to provision for Sally, John, Sam & Hannah joining us on Thursday. A big bill later we set off after 1 in sun, but the day got worse as we cruised through Leamington and on to the Radford locks. After 4 of these locks we tied up just past 4 as it was cool and drizzling. 7 miles & 6 locks

Tuesday 20th Threatening weather but it was only damp. We were away around 10 and cruised to The Cuttle by 12.30, mooring near The Two Locks pub where we had such good meals last year. We shared locks with Harebell, a beautifully painted boat but one suffering from a very iffy gearbox. I was not surprised to hear it was a Hurth, considering on our previous boat we got through 3 gearboxes in just over a year. I insisted that the engine/gearbox supplier (Beta) should change it to a PRM box and never a scrap of bother afterwards. The poor chap on Harebell had bought the boat (used) just over 4 years before, had a gearbox change by Calcutt Boats. After just over a year it failed again, they repaired it & then it lasted just 60 miles, and they refused to do any more work on it!!! He got another engineer to sort it, but after only about a year the trouble was back! I think he was interested to hear our experiences.

After stopping and lunch and letting the engine bay cool I went into the weed hatch. I had been putting it off as the water has cooled, it seemed to clear at times, but then was back rattling the tiller. I found a cycle tyre nicely wrapped around it, but fortunately something had cut through the metal reinforcement & my knife was able to do the trick, though one of the wires embedded itself into my finger. I celebrated by working on our tax returns!!!

We rewarded ourselves with the incredibly excellent Steak & Kidney pie at the Two Boats, plus an enjoyable treacle pud for me. We had an interesting chat with Chris, the landlord. He & Michelle have only been there 3 years and he loves it, finding it a pleasant change from covering 48000 miles a year working as an engineer for car insurers. 2 miles & 5 locks

Thursday 22nd After staying put and completing the returns & Carol cooking hard on Wednesday at lunchtime on Thursday, Sally, John, Sam & Hannah joined us for our last few days.

Weather fine in morning but showers during the afternoon as we worked up locks and onto and round Napton junction. It was a pleasure to have a good team working the locks and we tied up about a mile past the junction in a lovely mooring. 6 miles & 13 locks

Friday 23rd was a glorious day, sunny & little wind. We stopped in Braunston to deal with services & to collect some side strings from Tradline Fenders and we entered Braunstom locks about 12 and almost immediately caught up with a boat with many in its crew & a real novice on tiller so we stopped for lunch below the 3rd lock.

After lunch we collected another pair of slow boats but cleared the locks in good time. We met 2 boats in Braunston tunnel but were very excited about a mile the top side of it to see something swimming in the water. It looked too big for a mink & it looked tan in colour, so we reckon we saw an otter!

We carried on to Watford locks, arriving at about 4 & with me thinking we would have missed the opportunity of clearing the flight that day, but on Fridays, I was told, they are open till 6. The locks were clear & most were set for us & I think it only took us about ½ an hour to work up the 7 locks. We carried on in the still lovely weather to moor opposite Crick Marina at about 6. 13 locks & 11 miles.

Saturday 24th was wet overnight and continued that way with intermittent showers through the morning, but the forecast had been far worse! Carol & the girls stayed below doing arty things whilst John, Sam & I enjoyed dodging rain and wind. It brightened after lunch and we continued until stopping about a mile past Husbands Bosworth tunnel, where we met 2 boats. Summit pound down about 4 inches and very shallow in places with us rubbing over something at bridge 28. 13 ½ miles

Sunday 25th A beautifully sunny day, but with a strong wind. It took much pushing to get Lily off the mud and against the wind as we cast off. Third day with Sam in charge of the tiller.

Approaching Foxton.

Laplander, a steam powered ice boat built around 1830 was moored at bridge 60.

We arrived at Foxton at 12 with flight empty & water being run down to the Kibworth pound. I must have been barely 40 minutes before we were out, we had a large crew & plenty of willing helpers in visitors.

We decided to have Sunday lunch at Foxton Locks Inn (a mistake, the meat was overcooked & dry). We had pudding & coffee on Lily before setting off for Debdale where we arrived at about 3. 6 miles & 10 locks.

6 months and 4 days after setting off we have run the engine 573 hours. I have yet to tot up the miles & locks covered, but it has been a wonderful 6 months, but we had to get home as Carol’s social diary started up on 26th!! We have met some wonderful people, seen some wonderful places and had some unique experiences. Roll on 2010!