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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