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Monday, 18 October 2010

Back to Foxton just

Monday 5th October and of course after our planned day with family at the Black Country Museum was rained off it dawned a lovely day. We went to move across the canal to use the facilities & got a pair of incredibly tough trousers wrapped around the prop, but at least they came off easily, but my how the water is getting cooler!

Away at 10 and shortly afterwards into Factory locks, top lock full, rest empty, & met a boat at bottom lock. Cruising well towards Brum I noticed the splashing noise from the prop was different & thought we were a bit down by the stern. Quick check & 6" of water in the bilge!!! The weed hatch was tight on, but clearly not seated well. The bilge pump worked well, except that with our transverse engine, the bearers run across the bilge, splitting it into 4 sections, & the pump only emptied the very small bit under the stern gland! It took quite a time to bale one of the other sections out, but after refixing the weed hatch I left the rest till later. We were lucky, if the water had risen another 3" it would have started leaking into the boat.

We then had an easy cruise back into Fortress Birmingham where we stopped for a coffee & to get a few little bits. There were some very big men in suits standing around outside a few swish restaurants, with I'd guess the odd Cabinet member inside.

The entry to Gas St Basin was shut off by this barrier, passable after the boat had been thoroughly checked out.

At 2.30 we entered Farmers Bridge flight, just after another boat had set off! Steady progress down this flight, & of course the other boat also went down the Aston flight in front of us. We tied up for the night at Cuckoo Wharf at 6. It was a bit noisy from the nearby factories. 6miles & 27 locks.

Tuesday 5th was supposed to be wet according to forecasts at the weekend but it was a lovely day. At the top of the Curdworth locks the boat that had sunk in mid channel on our upward journey was now tied up alongside the moorings. The lock keeper said they were having to wait for the statutory 28 day notice before they moved it out. Apparently it was a neat little boat till vandals got at it, stole the outboard & fuel tank, trashed it then sank it. Now we will have to pay for its disposal by BW.

All the way down to Fazely we had locks against us, bar for two. Above Curdworth Tunnel we were very surprised to see a water vole swimming across the canal, this being quite near to civilisation.

The famous Drayton Manor Park bridge.

We stopped the night in Fazely, had a goodish Chinese meal, & debated what route we should use to get home. 12miles & 14 locks.

Wed 6th another pleasant day. I contacted BW about flooding on the Trent & Soar after the heavy rain over the weekend. The Soar was OK but the Trent not, but expected to be OK on Thursday and therefore before we would get to it. The only thing was I had become aware of entries in Carol's diary for the following week & whilst we wanted to moor at Zouch to be handy for a wedding reception for our niece on the 15th at Sutton Bonnington, we would have had difficulty in letting her keep her appointments whilst getting Lily home. So it was back to Foxton via the Oxford/Coventry.

We had a steady cruise this day, with an amazing number of boats coming down the Atherstone flight, one of which was Mick & Carol Golds. We worked up them in conjunction with 2 other boats, making good progress. We had a pleasant mooring by bridge 34, stopping at 5 after 11miles & 13 locks.

Thursday 7th and a very misty start, with it not lifting properly until 2, after which it was very pleasant. I had misread Nicholson as to what was where, expecting to arrive at a certain point by 10.30, it was 5.30 when we reached it & tied up in Newbold! It was busy in places but a good cruise covering 21 miles.

Friday 8th and it was supposed to clear to a lovely day, but it stayed misty/overcast all day apart from a few glimpses of the sun. We had a steady cruise through Hillmorton & Braunston.

The repaired embankment by the tunnel, but it still looks as if it is moving! BW have done a good job of improving the towpath up to the tunnel, including drains to let water from springs pass under it.

Going through the tunnel we followed a boat but met none! We cleared Watford locks at 5.30 and tied up a bit later after having put some distance between us & the noise of the M1. 16 miles & 16locks.

Saturday 8th and the weather was like Friday, and with a cool breeze. Carol took little persuading to stay below reading whilst we cruised. We met Pete & Maz from Debdale on Just Two Bees, not have seen them to speak to for many months. Pleasant chat before we tied up about a mile before the Foxton flight after 19 miles.

Sunday 9th and a late start after watching the Japanese GP and a lovely day. We arrived at the top of Foxton at around 12, no boats waiting either end so we went straight down & then tied up in the basin as we were not able to reach home at Debdale as a breech in the canal just North of Foxton was being repaired, due to reopen on the 15th.

The brickwork under the footbridge was in a poor state but was being repaired.

So this is effectively the end of a rather fragmented Summer of cruising, but we have enjoyed basically everything other than our mechanical problems. You will have noted that I have not mentioned alternator belts for some time. This is because the last re-jig seems to have provided us with a drive mechanism that works. We have slowed down the alternator an amount, yet we still get a reasonable rate of charge at tick-over, and we are still using the belts we started out from Debdale with in September, & I see no reason why they should not last for ages. I intend to give the engine battery some TLC during the Winter with regular re-charging in the hope that this one will last more than 2 years. As to the inverter, well it works well, the power is delivered well and we will just have to hope that it lasts longer than the previous one, and that if it does break down that it will be capable of being repaired. When we get back to base I intend to see if the old one is capable of being repaired.

As to the cruising, we loved the Great Ouse and Middle Levels as well as the Nene, but unfortunately for many people unless they are prepared to leave their boat on these rivers, they are too far away to make them accessible from most of the canal network for a fortnight's holiday. For those not constrained by time, do go, but accept that the EA aren't greatly into facilities provision. I intend to spend some time this Winter making a nuisance of myself over the disgusting habit of using sea toilets on the Gt Ouse.

And finally, until we are off again, we went to our IWA branch meeting where National Chairman, Clive Henderson, gave us the latest info on the way forward for the waterways, a very timely meeting, being on the day details of the QUANGO bonfire were given. He believes that, because BW had created their vision for taking the waterways into a form of trust status and out of the Government's ownership, exactly what the Government want, these changes for the waterways fitted in perfectly. We are all going to have to watch carefully what goes on and almost certainly going to have to give help by volunteering, but this is how pleasure boating got kicked off after 1945.

Sorry there are hardly any pics, it was so misty often I didn't bother taking many.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A stay in Birmingham

Monday 27th Sept to Friday 1st Oct we were tied up in Cambrian Wharf at the top of Farmers Bridge flight & close to the National Indoor Arena, and also Birmingham's Symphony Hall.

We looked to see if there was anything being performed that we wanted to see, there was but it was a bit pricey, and then from the middle of the week it was taken over, along with the area outside it and The Rep, by the Conservative Party Conference. It was amazing just what they moved in to stop anyone from crashing in with a vehicle. Even if terrorists don't get in to do something dramatic, they have almost won anyway by getting all this precautionary work done. I didn't take a photo of it all lest anyone thought I was taking them for nerfarious purposes!

We didn't waste our time there, we went to see things. The Barber Institute ( ) at the University is a wonderful art gallery, not a vast number of pictures, but what quality. Just a bit further up the road from the Barber is Winterbourn House (, except we didn't know about it when we visited the gallery, so we made a separate trip.

Built by a Mr Nettlefold (of GKN) in an Arts & Crafts style the ground floor has only just been restored and is interesting, but the special bit is the lovely garden, so if you go, go on a good day. You could possibly moor up alongside the hydrogen powered boat, but we caught a bus from Corporation Street.

We also went to Aston Hall ( , alongside Aston Villa's ground. Part of the Birmingham Museums service so shut on Mondays, it is a lovely Jacobean house. Nicely restored but they need to see how the National Trust shows off places, but is worth a look & I reckon it should be possible to access it from a canal near Spaghetti Junction.

As far as I was concerned the best house visit I made was to Soho House (, extended by Matthew Boulton, his "manufactory" was close by, he held meetings of his Lunar Society here. Another museum, but much better than Aston Hall. I have to read a book about the Lunar Society, they were the brains of their age, and met on the nights when there was full moon so they could see their way home.

We did other things too, like an "Orange Wednesday" film, quite good, some shopping and generally having good time. We intended to set off on Friday for the Black Country Museum (, I'd bought the tickets on-line with Gift Aid, so they are valid for a year, and a good job. Weather on Friday was terrible, rained all day, so we stayed put!

Saturday 2nd Oct a lovely day, we flled with water at he Cambrian Wharf tap which must be about the slowest one on the system and then filled with fuel and gas at the floating services block outside Sea Life in the centre before a gentle cruise to the museum. Very impressed by some of the buildings on the way, Mo in his blog the other day ( was moaning about new uses for old chimneys, perhaps he would approve of this.

Under this scaffolding canopy is the remains of Matthew Boulton's Soho Foundry, I guess that English Heritage have insufficient funds to repair the building and this protects it, but the trees growing around it will be a threat.

The canal engineers created some fabulous structures, such as this glorious aqueduct,

and then this tremendous bridge.

As well as these lovely bridges.

We moored outside the museum and made a short visit, intending to view the remainder on the Sunday when our family visited, except that on Sunday it poured all day and though the family joined us we ate well and played board games, the visit to the wonderful museum has been delayed.

This was inside the re-constructed chainmaker's house, the lady hostess was a fount of Black Country knowledge.

President & Kildare were at their moorings.

Sorry for late posting, had signal problems..  Ian

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Lots of locks

Monday 20th September We expected visitors this day for a cruise & lunch but at 8am we had a call, Stephanie had been up all night, ill. Oh dear, we had already unfrozen the meat. Clever Carol, she had only a day or so earlier arranged an evening with my ex-boating cousin, Ros, & David previously of nb Ruth, and had apologised for it being so far in advance. A quick call & they were on for supper, meeting at The Lime Kiln. Worried it might be busy, we set off betimes to get there early. Stopping at Ashby Boats to refuel we arrived at the A5 by 1.30. Noticed nb Peregrine the Penguin there, she used to be owned by Les & Barbara in Debdale. Freshly painted she looked good.

We had a lovely evening, Carol knocked them out with her main course.

Tuesday 21st and now we are off cruising again. A lovely warm day after a misty start, how glad we were not to be queuing on the A5 like all the motorists! Shorts on again and away, we saw three kingfishers on the run down to the junction plus another water vole, that made 3 seen on this trip along the Ashby, fantastic!! We had a steady cruise until we arrived at the top of Atherstone flight at 4 & decided to stop for the day.

I went for a wander into the town, not a lot to see, yes some 18/19thC buildings with modern shop fronts, but nothing remarkable. A large Coop store & an Aldi in the centre. The large derelict mill at the top of the flight was the last "felting" mill in England, I reckon it closed around 1990. It used to make felt hats, perhaps it shut because I stopped wearing a trilby (never did, but father did).

 Water at san station at top lock turned off. Lock cottage no longer occupied by a BW employee, he was given early retirement & had many observations to make. After not moving much over the previous week & a half we covered 12 1/2 miles, locks loom!

Wednesday 22nd A lovely start to the day, but it clouded over a bit later. Wind not too bad, but cooling.

Away at 9.15 we met possibly 10 boats on the flight so all locks were for us.

Can anyone tell me what these things are? They clearly are a valve mechanism, I have seen them in many places.
Used facilities just after bottom lock, waiting for a couple of boats from Stourbridge to finish with them. Very good water pressure so not too long there, & we soon caught them up, they were cruising at tickover! We let them move a bit further ahead at Glascote Locks, one paddle was u/s, and passed them at Fazeley when we turned for Birmingham. We carried on in the cooling afternoon before stopping at the Dog & Doublet at 5.
A prettied up little lock shack at the Dog & Doublet.
After so long with no locks, 14 miles & 16 locks today. M42 very noisy here.

Thursday 23rd and it was supposed to be an awful, wet cold day, but it only rained a little overnight and only rained a little later in the day. Off into Birmingham today and uphill all the way and we were away at 8.15 and straight into a lock on the Curdworth flight, lock set for us.

Why do BW spend money on pretty flowers? These little planters were on the Curdworth flight.

We didn't expect to see many boats early on but started crossing boats almost straight away, two boats had hirers from Panama!! I walked/jogged through this flight of 8 locks over around 2 miles. The Minworth flight followed, no boats floating in this flight but one submerged Charnwood cruiser badly placed almost under a rail bridge. Another walk/jog over the mile & 3 locks before stopping at services.

A lock free break allowed lunch on the move in sunshine before the Aston 11 over a mile (less jogging now) and finally the 13 on the Farmers Bridge flight, walking only here!! Crossed with two boats only on these flights. After 35 locks, over 5 miles of walking/jogging in a journey of 11 miles I was a bit tired!!! But Thursday is Wetherspoons Curry night, so I was more than able to make the walk to their pub on Broad Street. The guest ale I had was delightful & so needed. We moored up in Cambrian Wharf, a bit noisy from the Flapper pub alongside.

Friday 24th we went into town, I needed more comfortable shoes as my right foot has become sensitive, probably arthritis in the joint. We dropped in at the museum to look again at the Staffordshire Hoard we saw last year, expecting it to have been beautifully cleaned but were disappointed to see it still needs a good clean, but I expect they can't just drop it into water & scrub it with a brush!!

On Saturday Carol's back was bad so I went off and did a walk around the Jewellery Quarter again, we did it last year but this year I had a map. We intended to go to Aston Hall on Sunday but it was so cold we had a day at home with me fighting with the computer and losing.
The Birmingham assay office.

The Victorians certainly built some attractive factories.

The Jewellery museum is an old factory where the owners were unable to sell it when they closed in the '80's and just locked the doors. It is a place well worth a visit.
So an interesting week, plenty of locks in 2 days, reasonable weather and interesting things to see.

Monday, 20 September 2010

A week of entertaining and a new canal

Monday 13th September and it started overcast and none too warm. During morning engine check decided to pinch up the belts on the domestic alternator & found the smaller engine alternator was loose. Lock bolt had broken & the adjustment bracket had sheared! Coventry used to be the centre of our engineering industry, but where is it now, & when tied up in a city centre where do you find and engineering supplier or even a hardware shop?

Good old internet & I found a place about 50 yards from Hawkesbury Jn where they actually make bolts & where they had some of the size needed. I rang Ashby Boats & they said they could weld the bracket, so all will be well soon.

On the way out of Coventry we stopped to reprovision for guests, and gathered a lovely bit of rag on the prop! We cruised on till 6, not having started very early with the problems, stopping by bridge 13 on the Ashby. Slight drizzle during the afternoon but a good mooring.

Tuesday 14th and a dull start & rain during day. Friends coming for lunch & tea so stopped at The Lime Kiln. 5 boats moored on the 48 hr moorings, I noted the numbers as it will be interesting to see if they are still there on our return.

We saw this painting on a boat, I asked the crew why name a boat with a pic of a Lancaster, but it was a hire boat with nothing on it to describe it as such.

Pleasant day & good food & cards before they left us at 5.30 & we cruised on a bit to tie up before bridge 22.

Wednesday 15th and dull with some rain and windy too. We had more guests arriving from Scotland & we arranged to meet them at Sutton Cheney. On way there got alternator bracket welded in Stoke Golding and tied  up3/400yds before the wharf, and a good job too as there was nothing nearer. Emma & Karen arrived around 3 & stayed the night, more catering by Carol.

Why do you only ever see one shoe or boot abandoned?

Thursday 16th a day of mixed weather, but above all a cold wind. We took our guests for a bit of a cruise to Shenton embankment where the winding hole was very silted up before returning them to their car before they set off to Oxford. We then cruised on to bridge 51 and rang friends who live nearby in Market Bosworth who came for a drink & a nibble at some shortbread & flapjack Carol had made. On the way we passed Cyril Blackford on Venone who told us they were opening a new bit of the canal on Friday, were we coming. Well we weren't before, but soon did!

I asked the owner of this boat if it was named after the bird or the beer, a few of which I enjoyed in NZ earlier this year. A friend sent her on of the brewery's flags.

Friday 17th and the navigable Ashby is now 100metres longer!

A lovely bright day, mostly sunny but a biting wind, arriving at Snarestone in good time to polish the brasses before the 2.30 opening. We were delighted to see that our IWA National Chairman, Clive Henderson, had been invited & I got a shock when he remembered me from our 2000 Harborough Festival......I must have misbehaved terribly! We both got another shock when off the official boat stepped the County Council Chairman, who used to be married to my cousin.

Anyway, appropriate words were said & then he helped Audrey Boston to swing the bridge across the junction, she having funded it in memory of her late husband, the Reverend Teddy Boston. Tea & bikkies followed along with nattering, with Carol ear bashing some BW types about the failure to cut offside trees & general shallowness of the canal.

When the great & the good had left we moved our boats into the new bit for the night & then had a barbie together. One of the boats there was Storm Petrel, a beautifully constructed Cowburn & Cowpar replica that had been fitted out by a girl I worked with at Blaby D.C. and her other half. He had only used hand tools, no power tools other than a cordless drill and they had done a fantastic job, and almost exactly the opposite of how Lily is. The engine was a lovely 3 cylinder Gardiner and the shell was incredible having been built alongside an original boat so all the "rivets" were in the right place. The shell was actually ordered & made for 2 IWA colleagues, Ian & Sue Caddick, but they moved on to other things allowing Rob & Eleanor to get started.

Saturday 18th and a call from my cousin (ex wife of the LCC chairman ) asking where we were to meet her? Embarrassed to say we had forgotten, but soon fixed for her to meet us at Shakerstone.

We moored alongside the farm there, the weather was warmer and quite pleasant, and in the farm yard was a tractor/tilling combination. Sorry, I should have snapped it, but it was quite the biggest tractor I have ever seen with twinned rear wheels & large powered front wheels & articulated in the middle. The tool it was hitched to was at least 30 feet long with discs and tynes and wheels. I spoke about it to one of the lads on the farm. The tool was converting freshly harvested grain fields into a planted oil seed rape field in one pass! Incredible, and the tractor, when working hard, will use 800 litres of diesel a day!

For some reason loads of sparrows were attracted to the towpath by Lily's bows.
It rained later but we had a pleasant day catching up on things.

Sunday 19th and a reasonable day of weather. We cruised to Sutton Cheney ready to pick up the friends due on Monday, he is not very mobile so we needed a good mooring. On our way there we stopped at Market Bosworth wharf so we could get some provisions. It is a pretty little market town, well worth a wander up the hill to get there. Alongside the wharf is the Battlebridge Line station.

As we hadn't seen anyone for ages(!) we rang two dear friends who lived reasonably close & who are in the throes of moving for the first time since 1976!! They joined us for bangers & mash etc (hell it's Carol cooking so there is always a big etc!) and it was great to catch up with them.

So a week of no locks and not a lot of cruising but a lot of socialising, lovely except that the canal is shallow. On several occasions we went aground just passing out-growing trees from the off-side, and this was with the canal right up to the weir height.

Monday, 13 September 2010

From Debdale to Coventry

Since last I blogged we visited Carol's cousin near Forfar (no trains any more so no "4.44 to Forfar" of old music hall ditties) and saw her aunt, her cousin from Oz and others in the family. We took him to see the Falkirk Wheel as this is a truly significant structure, unique in the world.
We use trains to get up there, it works out probably about the same cost as fuel for the car & is much more relaxing.

We brought Carol's Scottish cousin back with us for a few days, taking her into Harborogh where Frank the Plank looked as good as ever and a lady was taking her 80 year old tortoise for a walk near the basin.

Carol's tomatoes were fruiting well.

The water behind our mooring is becoming a real jungle.

Whilst away Debdale were supposed to be sorting out our alternator, but instead when we returned I took it off & then refitted it with new V pulleys plus a new engine pulley to slow it down. I measured the set up for the belts......and got it wrong! With the right length Steve came to check alignment & reckoned the pulleys were about 1mm out longitudinally plus a bit out angularly. I couldn't believe the 1mm would matter but Steve was determined to get it right & spent an hour or so fiddling, welding & grinding before declaring he was satisfied!!!

Tuesday 2nd Sept and at about 3.30 we set off, but only got as far as Bridge 61!! (this is the old pub at the bottom of Foxton Locks) They were doing a new feature of a supper & a beer for £5.50 so we thought we'd support them, hell we've known the family for 20 years. The beer was good, but it was the first time Hannah had made lasgne. On the way down from Debdale we saw Sogno whom we had last seen on the Nene at Irthlingborough. She was in a bit of a mess as a hire boat had forced her into trees, scratching the side a tearing her cratch cover badly. What happened to BW's Hedge Pledge of some years ago?
1 mile

So it was Wednesday 3rd and a very misty start to the day and after I polished the port side we were up Foxton, except we clocked in to go up at 11.15 but had to wait 2 hours before entering the flight, out in under an hour and armed with Bennets ice creams. The mist never fully cleared all day until after 6 by which time we had tied up just past the Welford Arm having met 2 boats in Husbands Bosworth tunnel. Autumn Fruits pulled in behind us, had an interesting chat about insulation & heating and a few other things before polishing the starbord side. Carol had made a lovely chilli which fuelled the polishing. 8 miles & 10 locks.

Thursday 4th was a lovely day no mist some sun & the slightest of showers. Away at 8.15!! we had an easy cruise to Crick by 12, stopping to fill, empty, have lunch & call in to see Barry at ABNB. They had lovely apples & plums on the trees near the office & we left with a good picking.

Meeting 2 boats in Crick tunnel as we came out I noticed the instruments were not showing anything. Had this before, several times & it is the small wire from the engine alternator that breaks, but why. Did a quick fix & I've decided that when I do a proper job I'll form the wire into a coil to let it flex. Had a wait at Watford before entering & met Doug Beard, IWA stalwart. He worked us down the flight so we could chat, and he was excited to hear that Tic Toc was following us down. He had shared locks going down the GU years ago when the widow of the first owner was taking it south, apparently the owner was killed when the engine hatch cover fell down on his head! Also the hire boat we were following was due back at Barton Turn on Saturday, though as they had lost a day with a breakdown they were allowing it to be 9.30 Sunday.......I doubt they got there before Monday, even starting early & cruising till dark. Not much of a holiday for the 3 foster children on board.

Out of Watford we had to stop at Watford Gap M1 services for a coffee & papers before cruising on to Weltonfield for the night.   14 miles & 7 locks.

Friday 10th and it had been a very wet night, neither of us slept well, why? Away for 9 a bit drizzly then dry then near sun, then drizzle and so on all day. Good cruise to Braunston, met 3 in the tunnel, fortunately not in the really twisty bits, I'm sure Lily would get stuck spanning the kink. Getting to the top of the locks, it was good to see how well the repaired embankment looked and also how well the towpath had been restored. Paired up on way down, meeting boats in every pound so it was fairly quick work. Met Andrew on Loose Woman, he used to work for one of our main yarn suppliers in the '90's. Dashed into chandlery by bottom lock to buy polish & a new lay flat hose, the old one developed awful blisters as we filled at Watford whilst Carol was descending & I popped out the shop as she left the lock.

Cruised on steadily before mooring for the night by bridge 68 alongside the golf course, lovely spot.

13 miles & 9 locks

Saturday 11th Rain overnight again & damp start but mostly dry during day with odd showers. Short cruise to Brownsover where we stopped at Tesco, then stayed to watch qualifying for the Italian GP, during which time Idle Woman tied up opposite, followed by two old friends from Countesthorpe, now mooring at Debdale with Puffin Slimline. Good chat over the canal & a promise to meet for a drink back at base.

Our subsequent cruise was somewhat slow as there was a lot of boat movement, but at least it was good weather. We tied up for the night just short of Ansty after 11 miles.

Sunday 12th and good weather all day. Chaos at Hawkesbury, but fortunately not our way, we went straight though before using the services.

Watched GP and popped into the large Tesco near the Ricoh stadium before cruising into Coventry Basin where we moored alongside Budleigh. We shared Buckby/Whilton locks with the boat on our way back from Northampton, but being shared ownership, it was a different crew, sadly the boat now has a rather nasty scratch along the port side. Maybe T cut will sort it.

I noticed that bridge 13 near Ansty was built in 1941. It is only a farm bridge so why was it so important for it to be built in those hectic & straightened times?

Another thing, in the basin there is a statue to Brindley, yet the Coventry Canal Co sacked him after only a year!!

9miles + the stop lock

Hardly took any pics this week. Sorry.