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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Back to Debdale

Sorry, I didn't take many pics this week

Monday 19th The morning started bright so I put on my shorts, then it got colder! A kingfisher flew past early on and we were away by 8.40 and down two locks to Fradley Junction where we turned right onto the Coventry & then tied up to use facilities......and the coffee shop! It didn’t open til 10 but we had bought a paper at the junction so we were fine, good coffee & away at 10.45. We set off behind two slow boats, one of which stopped at Streethay Wharf, the other at Hopwas. We cruised steadily all day until reaching Tamworth. Carol wanted to cook a certain dish & had used all the eggs so I made a quick run to Sainsburys before we carried on to moor near Pooley Hall, one of our regular stopping points. Whilst I was shopping Carol was hailed by Mick & Crystal, former Foxton Lock-keepers, as they cruised past. 16 miles & 4 locks.

Tuesday 20th a cloudy but mild day and we were away before 8.30 and reached Atherton Bottom Lock at 9.30. The locks are subject to restricted use because of water shortages, so we expected a slowish trip up this flight, but as we left the 2nd lock we met a boat that had started at the top lock that morning & looked as if he would work his way through the flight in just over 2 hours! For us trying to enter the third lock we went aground! Fortunately Lily came free shortly after, the rest of the flight being OK, but slow as we were just behind a working pair with the butty being bow hauled. We met IWA national chairman Clive Henderson about half way up & had a chat, the next boat we met being 1899 boat Enterprise, an ex steamer tug with a lovely 5 cylinder Gardner dating from 1931. A really interesting boat, as was the beautifully restored Joey boat being bow hauled down the locks.

We reached to top in time for lunch & had intended to buy train tickets for next week at the station, except there is no booking office in Atherstone! We carried on to Nuneaton by 3 and stopped near br 21. It was dry whilst we cruised but it poured by 5 & carried on for a long time. Nuneaton station has a booking office & we got our trip to Dundee sorted.    10miles & 11 locks

Wednesday 21st Setting of around 9 we soon pulled over to fill with fuel @ 88p. It was a fine day with a cool wind that was gusty at times. We had an easy cruise to Rugby with a slight hold up at Hawkesbury. We had difficulty getting a mooring by 4.30 when we arrived, but by bashing down a load of Giant Butterbur we were sorted. We dashed off to the cinema to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which was excellent, and with the Orange Wednesdays offer only cost us £6.   19miles 1lock

Thursday 22nd and Happy Birthday Hannah (14 today). Another day that started bright & sunny and then clouded over with a cool breeze. After topping up fresh fruit etc in Tesco we were away around 9.30 for a slowish cruise to the Hillmorton Locks, which are also subject to restriction, but we only had a short wait before starting up. We had an awful coffee at the cafe on the flight, it tasted burnt!
Lily at Sutton Stop

There were many boats waiting at the top to descend the flight, and we passed many more approaching it. Our cruise to Braunston was fairly slow, and when we arrived at the bottom lock we had a wait of about 15 minutes until Warwick joined us enabling our cruise to continue, saving water by pairing up through the flight. Warwick used to be one of the Challenger Syndicate boats, the owners of this boat not having lost too much when Challenger went bottoms up. They now manage their syndicate themselves & have relocated to Yelvertoft Marina.

After meeting 4 boats in it we left the Braunston tunnel before 4 & tied up just round Norton Junction at 4.30, not being able to progress further as Watrford Locks are shut at 4 to save water.

14 miles & 9 locks

Friday 23rd and it started and ended sunny but it clouded over during the day and again the wind was cool. Setting off at 8 we hopped over the fence at Watford Gap services to get a paper guessed Reaching Watford Locks there was no-one waiting and we entered around 9.20 and volunteer Richard helped us up. He has been working 2 days a week through the cruising season, driving to Watford from Countesthorpe. The lock keepers at Watford really have pushed the boat out to get the locks and surroundings looking tremendous, it was a definite flower competition with Lily.
Flower competition

Watford top lock office

We met nothing in Crick tunnel & tied up at the Wharf to fill with water & to pop over to see Barry at ABNB. Lovely chat, picked some lovely Cox apples and looked across the mooring basin. I was amazed to see Lily Pad tied up in there, the boat we had built in 1992 and sold 10 years later. Freshly painted she looked lovely, and being for sale we were able to look her over. She looked great, our upholstery & curtains still looked fresh & she has clearly been loved since we sold her, it was a real delight to see her again.
A very smart Lily 2 freshly repainted

Two Lilies with us on the water point on the canal

We set off just after a slow boat & we caught up with 2 more. We had a pleasant gentle cruise until we met Hazel & Brian on Willum of Ozney just past br 33 & stopped for the day to have a really good chat after not seeing them since leaving Debdale. 11miles & 7 locks.

Saturday 24th and today we had to juggle Foxton Locks opening times with watching qualifying for the Singapore GP. As such we tried to set off before 8, but were solidly aground. Try all we might we were stuck, but fortunately Brian was up to watch the rugby from New Zealand & he came to add push & eventually we were free.

A very easy cruise saw us meet one boat close to the end of Husbands Bosworth tunnel and carried on to the top of Foxton by about 12. Very few boats are permitted to use the locks currently, only boats & hire boats with moorings between Foxton & Leicester are permitted to use the locks. The reservoirs supplying the Leicester summit & the locks down to Leicester are effectively empty and drastic measures are in place to preserve the little water there is left though the summit was almost up to weir thanks to back pumping at Watford.

A quick trip down the flight and we were back in Debdale by 1.30. This day Carol managed to tip her seat cushion into the water, whilst my hat was removed by a branch as we made the turn in the marina. Both were recovered by some drastic reverse manoeuvres.     Just 12 miles & 10 locks.
Lily at her home moorings

So a really enjoyable cruise, shorter than we had wished. On the Sunday we walked to Foxton to collect papers as we had no car and met John & Jo of Acen who told of their epic cruise from Feb to date, covering over 1000 miles and heaven knows how many locks. It makes our total for the trip at 347 miles and 287 locks sound very lazy, but we loved it so much we are going to repeat much of it next year.

Just a comment on the Foxton restrictions. Only hire boats & boats with moorings between Leicester & Foxton are allowed to use the locks. The flight up from Leicester is woefully short of water, but some people make it up to Foxton, as did John & Jo. These boats are not permitted to go up Foxton, they therefore have to use loads of water to get back down to Leicester and it doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially as water is being run down Foxton each day to keep the Debdale-Harborough pound up.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Away from Sale and starting home

Monday 12th We were intending to set off from Sale today but the arrival of the tail end of Hurricane ?? and the strong winds it brought made us decide to wait, so I went for a walk around Sale to see the two houses where I was in digs whilst at UMIST. It was also a great day for collecting fresh conkers!
A very cold place to spend a year

So on Tuesday 13th after coffee we set off to see Stuart at Hesford Marine to fill with fuel. 
The Bridgewater don't mess around if there is
a sunken boat!
Whilst there I looked at the alternator belts, to find they were in a bad way, but then they were the ones being used when the alternator fell off. It was a day of mixed weather with one heavy shower and sun. We stopped for the night at Stockton Heath, where we stopped on the way north for me to get my ribs checked. Thanks for asking, they’re fine.  13 1/2 miles
Carol happy to be cruising again

What on earth is this meant to be?
I'm sure it is a sculpture, but what?

Wednesday 14th and it was 10.30 before the coffee bug had been slaked and we were off. 
A pair of Springers that looked much loved
& must be 30 years old.

We stopped at Claymore Boats to collect spare alternator belts I had ordered and we the cruised on to Preston Brook tunnel and the start of BW water again. We had a 20 minute wait till our turn to start the traverse, ample time for lunch. Through we had a short wait at Saltersford tunnel & went straight through Barnton tunnel. It was busy around Anderton but we carried on & moored at Billings Green Flash, past Northwich at 6 in a lovely spot on a lovely evening, the weather being pretty good all day. 17miles & 1 lock.

Thursday 15th and this is the start of hard days. We were up just past 7 with a lovely misty sun flooding over the flash, the sunken wreck and Lily. A kingfisher flew across just before we set off, only our second this year, but setting the scene, but as we cast off the mist became fog, but the day became glorious. 
The sunken boat in early morning mist

We stopped in Middlewich for fresh fruit (& coffee!!) and cruised on until 6. We crossed with several boats at locks and there were no hold ups, but it was a tiring day, stopping past the M6 past lock 55 and with Harecastle tunnel within an easy cruise to keep in the opening times. 12 ½ miles & 21 locks.

Friday 16th Overcast & cool at start with occasional bright bits & rain as we set off at 8.20. Good progress with most locks being paired & many set for us & crossing other boats. Topped up water at Red Bull services before Harecastle tunnel where we had a 15 minute wait before we were second in of a group of four. This long tunnel has a sagging ceiling in places & we took down our satellite dish & took the buckby cans off the roof. 
Waiting at Harecastle in the rusty water

Headroom was OK, we didn’t need to take the things off, but better safe than sorry, but ventilation in the tunnel used to be poor, so now giant fans such foul air out after the southern end has doors closed to make the pumping possible. 40 minutes after entering we were through & we carried on through the Stoke locks, commencing our descent, and mooring past bridge 112. Quite a good mooring, but 30-40 years ago there would have been large pottery factories hemming in the canal on both sides, now just waste land and bare level stone. We saw Clim & Brindley (last seen in Liverpool) set high out of the water at Stoke on Trent Boatbuilders where Brindley had her hull grit blasted. We stopped at 4 after a good but tiring day, with it raining again as we moored. 11 ½ miles 19 locks.

Saturday 17th and rain overnight and heavy rain just before we got up. Shower as we set off at 8 but it soon brightened to a lovely day. Pleasant cruise to Stone where we stopped for fresh salad from the market, Useful Morrisons there, but the shop that had the sub-Post Office within it had recently gone bust...there was also a Costa! Stone was the place where the T&M was started and it opened through Stone 240 years ago.
What a fantastic bike seen in Stone

On our way to Stone this morning we saw 10 kingfishers, they were everywhere, after on 2 in the previous 4 months! The afternoon was a pretty cruise in good weather and we stopped at Weston upon Trent (Staffs there is one in Derbys) and got a lovely mooring. We ate at The Saracen’s Head, a local reporting it served better food than The Woolpack, but we should have stopped earlier at bridge 82 to go to the Holly Bush. Meal was pretty good, Temple Meads beer was excellent, we sat in the conservatory overlooking the surrounding hillside which was stunning.   10 ½ miles 10 locks.
Carol admires a fantastic display next to the Saracens Head

Sunday 18th and it was lovely at first as I set off at 8.30 to walk to the first lock, by which time it had clouded over & cooled down noticeably. Steady cruise through more pretty country, crossing with boats at all 4 locks. Weather improved during day, but we had a very slow cruise through the narrows at Armitage. We stopped just after the first lock down to Fradley at 4.30. 14miles & 4 locks.
Amazing decor on a wool boat

Many admire our rotary clothes line
but this must take the biscuit, look at the pegs!

Good news this week, boat contents insurance is paying to get my camera repaired. Busy week, much harder than we usually do, but we are anxious to get back to Debdale before there is no water left on the Leicester summit. 79 miles and 55 locks.

Monday, 12 September 2011

In Manchester & broken down again

Jenson Button blasts down Deansgate

Castlefields is not the quietest place to stop with railway lines high on viaducts close by alongside the trams but road noise is not too bad. There is a useful little shop under the railway arch and the basin is right by Deansgate Station for rail and the Deansgate tram stop. Also useful nearby is the “Green Bus” stop for the free eco friendly bus that is one line of three that loop around the city. For bus pass holders there are other routes served from stops close by.
Overlooking the arms near the YHA is Manchester’s Roman fort, but these are very much remains with walls built along the lines of walls revealed during excavations, but much better is MOSI, the Museum of Science & Industry that is right by the YHA. 

The YHA has very good washing machines (£3 a go) & dryers (£1 a go) & I was told the food they offer is very good & very reasonable. If you need a shower, and why Carol did will come later, for £3.50 you get access to their lovely gym.

A trip by tram from the Deansgate stop takes you to Media City in Salford, the new home for the BBC, it cost us £2.40 return, though we did buy tickets to Salford Quays, reckoning that this would be where we wanted to go, but was the same reasonable cost. Media City is reasonably impressive, but the Outlet Mall is poor. 
Lift bridge by the Lowry, incredible glazed
building on other side of MSC

The Lowry Centre certainly is impressive, it looks interesting, and the Lowry Gallery is tremendous. We arrived just as a guide was about to start a guided talk.....except that without s he would have been talking to no-one. We had a really interesting talk, possibly better because it was 2 to 1, but when you go do take one of these free talks. Then there is a really interesting film about Lowry & his life, but best of all is the lovely collection of his works, and it showed he didn’t just paint “matchstalk men”. 

Across the Ship Canal is set the Imperial War Museum North in an interesting looking building that I will visit next week, and there are two wonderful bridges across the canal, one a lift bridge, the other a swing bridge, but I doubt they operate very often.

Swing bridge over MSC from Lowry forecourt

We had previously visited the Manchester Art Gallery on Princess St where there were several Lowry’s but a large display by one of his tutours, Adolphe Valette. This gallery also has a large collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and a good general display. To find your way around the city, go to Princess Gardens & visit the Information Centre & pick up a useful map, across the tram lines is the Greater Manchester Transport info office with all the details of buses & trams.

I had a rather disturbing visit to what was UMIST when I was a college & we were deadly rivals to “Owens”, Manchester University, just along Oxford Road from our Whitworth Street centre. UMIST (University of Manchester, Institute of Science & Technology) is no more and all the buildings are labelled University of Manchester now. Worse still, the Civil Engineering Building I inhabited for 3 years is now the Paliser Building, teaching I know not what. Still, a walk along Oxford Road to visit the Whitworth Art Gallery (a long walk) showed just how much building has been done to the University since I left in 1968, with the Metropolitan University intermingled it is an absolutely staggering place........not so the displays at the Whitworth.

During our stay I made several visits to the Museum of Science & Industry and I still have not covered all the galleries. This incredible light bulb is around 150 years old and this replica of one of the first railway engines gives short rides. The MOSI is based in what was the terminus of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway for which the engine speed trials won by Stephenson's Rocket.

I always meant to go to the Whitworth when at uni, as I did when daughter Clare was there too. What a disappointment it was. Neither Carol nor I appreciate modern conceptual art, and quite why a large gallery was given over to large slide projections of 1960’s tower block housing we don’t understand. The Textile displays were of interest and  perhaps other displays they put on will be better, but we certainly will not be wandering along to see them!

Otherwise, Manchester has some wonderful buildings that reflect the wealth that the cotton industry brought to the city in Victorian times. As always you have to look to levels above the shop fronts, but do so & you will not be disappointed, though I found it odd to see a building that I knew as The Refuge Assurance building has now become the Palace Hotel.

Tuesday morning & we were up early for Carol to take a train to Leicester to go to a friend’s 70th birthday lunch. We were running the engine to charge the batteries when suddenly there was a horrible noise at 8am, and the domestic alternator mounting had sheared again! After seeing Carol onto her train I took the alternator off to find one of the two mounting bolts had sheared and the bracket nearest the pulley had broken, just the same as a few weeks before. I put the back deck down & too the tram to Media City & went to the Imperial War Museum.

I had been to the original museum in London & this one is very different, covering many more recent conflicts and with some very atmospheric slide projections around the main display area. Very interesting is the “War Correspondent” displays that is moving around the country and highlighting the dangers these reporters are exposed to. One point made in the displays was that the Falklands Conflict exposed the press to possibly the greatest level of censorship ever. Reports passed through 5 or 6 layers before publication, aggravated by the difficulty in getting reports back from the South Atlantic.

Imperial War Museum North, over the MSC from The Lowry
Over lunch I met my godson, Steve, for a coffee and then he took me to his work base, driving an incredibly complex desk for 5live at the BBC. He is loving his transfer up to Salford from London, but it was interesting when he joined us for supper on Thursday night that he was grateful for our copies of bus and tram maps, surely Greater Manchester should be issuing welcome packs to the 3000+ new people that will be arriving in the next few months. Back to Lily and having completely removed the domestic alternator I was able to run the engine to give us hot water before meeting Carol back from a very enjoyable day, and then to make up our packed lunches for an early start on Wednesday.
Lovely old Victorian decoration at Victoria

We had to be at Victoria Station for 7.20 to catch a train to Blackburn, fortunately the tram aided our journey, but being us we were up and ready well before time. The weather as we climbed to Blackburn was poor, fast drizzle and very poor visibility, just what we didn’t want as our day was on a steam hauled train over the fabulous Settle to Carlisle railway. Pulled by The Sherwood Forester, built by Armstrongs in 1936, our carriage was built in 1962, sadly not a corridor coach, and the train extended to 14 carriages. The train is called The Fellsman & operated on Wednesdays through the summer till the end of September, operating from Lancaster in a long loop to Carlisle & back, and pulled by steam all the way.

Climbing hard

The weather improved, we had sun, lovely scenery and good company on the train and one of the volunteers saw my Lily Pad embroidered sweater and asked about it. His boat was built for his father in the early ‘60s and he will be doing the Ribble Link later this week. More amazing still, it used to be in Debdale at the time we had Lily 1 there!!! All in all a great day out. We didn’t do the First Class deal, & certainly not the Dining Deal, and considered it was a good value day out. We enjoyed stopping in Appleby again as it used to be the nearest town to our first home and I recalled having to collect a package my father sent Red Star to the station in 1969! I heard that the water tower & delivery device (it has a name but I have forgotten it!) are the only working set left in the country, maybe that is on a Network Rail line.

On the way we had filled twice each way, and at the other water stops a road tanker provided the water. For quite a lot of the run to Carlisle there was a steady 1:100 uphill haul and the engine was working hard. All that hard work was fired by one incredibly fit chap in his ‘20s! It was a really good day and we would thoroughly recommend it if you are in the area.

After these two days it was time to sort the alternator. We had joined RCR after the last problem & on Thursday Paul came to see the problem that I had tried to describe to him on Tuesday. Not being able to do anything himself, he put us in contact with Stuart Hamilton at Hesford Marine at Lymm and we arranged to see him around mid-day on Friday. On Thursday night Steve, godson, joined us for a spicy Thai style meal, using the prawns that had thawed through in the switched off freezer. It was good to hear all he had to say and great to spend time with him.

We then used the facilities at the YHA, before setting off at 8 on Friday after topping up & emptying at the Castlefield facilities.
Lily at services, Beetham Tower in background

On our way to Lymm we stopped in Sale to get a few groceries before dashing to meet Stuart. I had expected a lot of head scratching and a bit of whistling between clenched teeth, but no, he came up with what I had thought we should do, & what RCR Paul also recommended, which was to replace the two short pieces of mounting tube with one long one. He duly sorted one out and welded it on and used a really strong bolt, this one a proper “shoulder” bolt rather than the totally threaded one used before. The most amazing thing was that it took him barely an hour to sort it out. A really great chap and an engineer who really knows his stuff, and he said that what he had done is exactly what he did when fixing a mounting for his identical alternator on his boat!

We waved him farewell around 3 saying we’d return on Monday to top up with fuel (& perhaps to check the mounting!!) and headed off to find a winding hole to enable us to return to Sale where we moored up near the rowing club and barely 100 yards from the home of two good friends with whom we were going out to have a curry to celebrate their 42nd anniversary. I had lived in digs in Sale whilst at UMIST and the world of great coincidences came up again. Our friends had a friend who used to live on the short road where my first year was spent, and then as we turned into the very short cul de sac where I spent my 2nd & 3rd years Jane said that they had nearly bought a house on it, one of only about 14 houses, incredible.

It’s a GP weekend so we haven’t moved much, only about 18 miles and no locks, but from Monday we head off back towards Leicester, but with water levels around home I suspect we will not be getting back to Debdale for quite some time.