Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Fenders and Handover

We had a date at 1:30 at Nantwich to have new fenders fitted so we made a prompt start - just after 8 am. The first lock - Tilstone - proved difficult as the top gate refused to shut after the boat had exited. Even with three people it refused to shift until given a little help with a rope and a boat!

Just before we arrived at the Bunbury Staircase we realised that Mike had left his lock key at the previous lock in all the effort to close the gate. Not wanting to lose it (it is a good lightweight one) Mike set off back wondering if it would still be there. No immediate sign but the boat going down (who had also had problems with the top gate) had still not left. They admitted to having picked up the lock key and returned it - with everyone signing up to the deal that they were just looking after it for us!

We called at Calverley Services before continuing down to Nantwich basin arriving early around 1 o'clock. After we had agreed with the boatyard staff what to do, Mike walked into the town for a little shopping whilst Andrew - having driven up from South Wales - walked down from his chosen parking spot at Barbridge Junction.

Just as Mike arrived at Morrisons, there was a very heavy downpour - the car park was soon flooded and torrential streams drained out onto the nearby road.

Back at the boatyard, work was underway on fitting both stem and stern fenders. Somehow the promised one hour job was not completed until 5pm - clocking off time! The staff who did the fitting were very keen to make a good job of it and that it should look aesthetically right!

Back up to Barbridge Junction to moor for the night and to prepare for the handover in the morning.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ellesmere Port


We had moored close to the bridge with a footpath to the nearby Waverton church. Christine established, via A Church near You, that communion was at 9 am. We were warmly welcomed - two couples were quite enthusiastic about canals. It was a traditional form of worship (Common Worship Order One in Traditional Language for afficionados) with a retired canon presiding. It was not the main service for the day (which was matins at 10:15) but almost 30 in the congregation.

After walking back to the boat we set off for Chester. Shortly before the first lock at Christleton, a Wirral Narrowboat Trust boat pulled out just metres in front of us. It turned out that they were on a 'lock training' trip for volunteers - the Trust runs trips most days with a couple of boats - young children through to 'pensioners and 'the mentally retarded' - but this set of volunteers were tending towards the upper age limit - hence the terminology!

We opted to share locks with them although they offered to let us go ahead after the first lock. Neverthless, they did not impede us too much, especially when they realised that Christine could go ahead to set the next lock! They paused, ready to turn around, after the fifth lock.

The route around the city walls is in places quite spectacularly cut narrowly through red rock and in other places building loom tall either side. Soon we arrived at the Northgate Locks - a staircase of three locks. with a combined fall of over 33 feet, they are heavy work. Mike was able to explain how they worked to two American men - not together - who came and expressed interest in what was happening. neither had seen anything like it before.

On then with a nearly three hour cruise towards Ellemere Port - slightly longer than we had expected so it was not until around half past four that we reached the basin.

Although there is a water point, the museum official who greeted us at the top of the lock explained that there was no longer an Elsan dispoal and pump-out facility - they had been converted into the kitchen for the museum's cafe! However he offered to sort us out when the museum had closed (at five) so we took a quick look around the site, even though there was not enough time to look at everything, not at the many exhibitions and displays.
The whole complex is quite impressive, even though Telford's original warehouse, which was burnt down by vandals in the 1980's has been replaced with a Holiday Inn!

The basins around the museum contain a number of historic boats of different purposes - including one of the famous ice breaking boats that took ten men to rock from side to side to open a passage along a canal in winter. With a view out across the Manchester Ship Canal and the river beyond, we realised that this year we have navigated from Thames to Mersey!

Despite a promise of "just ten minutes" from the friendly museum official, it was almost six o'clock before we were able to set off (perhaps best not to enquire about how he 'helped' us!)

The trip back seemed to be much quicker - but it usually does when travelling along a more familiar stretch - and we moored alongside the golf course just outside Chester before half past eight. More than ready for tonight's roast pork!

A Break and then Waverton


The last two days were spent with the boat resting at Nantwich, along with Christine, whilst Mike made a quick trip back down to Truro for an important meeting. The planned rail journey went according to schedule - 3 legs on the way down, 4 coming back - even if a tad boring! Around seven hours each way on the train, plus the extra at each end. Amazingly, it cost almost as much to do the last 9 miles from Bodmin Parkway to home as it did for the train ticket from Natwich!

Actually, Christine did not feel as if she had been resting as she not only went into Nantwich to do shopping but also several trips to the launderette at the the boat yard. She also investigated new fenders for each end of the boat and booked it in for Tuesday afternoon to have some fitted. We also replaced the water inlet cap as the original one was worn, making it difficult to turn when preparing to fill up the tank.

Back on the water, today we set off in good time but first had to stop about a hundred metres down from where we moored for the water point and disposal facilities. Once really under way we made good progress. At Nantwich the canal becomes broad gauge as can be seen from the first bridge after the boatyard arm.

Passing both Hurleston and Barbridge Junctions we headed on towards Chester. As we arrived at the Bunbury Staircase (two locks joined together) and were filling the top lock ready to descend, two boats arrived at the bottom - they would also have needed to fill the top lock in order to come up. One of the skippers was very keen to save water by doing the up and down at the same time. this required Christine to do some nifty steering as neither of the other two boats were keen to do the 'cross over'. (One boat has to go from one side to the other in order to complete the operation - think about it!)

The Beeston Locks are interesting: the original lock (which must have been really deep) was replaced by one made from stone as is commonplace) but the other from iron sheets, using the same technique that telford developed for the Pontcysllte Aqueduct. The reason for this change was because of a long history of problems with shifting sands at the site, eventually leading to a complete collapse.

Beeston Castle stands on an amazing rock outcrop - obvious to see why it was chosen as a place to defend. The stretch around Hargrave was tedious as, for about a mile, there were moored boats. One of the least attractive moorings we have ever seen. In many cases, staging (of dubious safety standards!) has been built out over the water thus reducing the navigable width. A high proportion of the boats seemed to be heading for retirement, built perhaps 20 or 30 years ago and many of the cruiser style more common in the 1970's.

We checked on services at Waverton church before find a mooring at the nearest bridge. Mike painted the pole with blue paint.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cuttings and Embankments


A bright sunny day. Almost as soon as we set off we passed under the famous High bridge, with the addition of an extra buttress in the middle and an even later addition of a telephone pole, now disused. The next bridge is known as Double Culvert bridge. The guide described some interesting details so we stopped to take a closer look. The bridge carries both a footpath and a watercourse, although the latter now seems to be dry.

The canal passes through many deep and overgrown cuttings,interspresed with huge embankments. The Woodseaves Cutting is especially narrow, hewn out of solid rock, making passing other boats quite difficult.

We moored up for lunch at Tyrley Wharf where we also used the disposal facilities (the water point was out of action as a result of poor quality water supply) before setting off down the flight of five locks.

At Market Drayton we stopped to fill up the diesel tank (53 litres at what seemed to be a very good price). Whilst Christine was paying (it took some time as the man at the boatyard is still finding the unnecessarily complex paperwork for the new duty rules quite diffiuclt to get right) Mike pushed across to the other side of the cut to fill the water tank. (Hopefully we have put the right liquid in the right tank!)

We moored for the night just before the Adderley flight. It was a wonderful warm sunny evening - bright until well after ten - in fact we actually went to bed whilst it was still light! before dinner, Mike decided to put primer/undercoat on the new boat pole and then to sand down the rear cabin steps before applying two coats of varnish.(They really need a good polyeurthethane coat as well).

Bt the way, if - dear reader - you have spotted the lack of photos since last Friday that is because we do not yet have a means of processing them on the new laptop, until we go back to base!

Shroppie to Norbury Junction


We pushed back to the boatyard at 8:30 as planned and made contact with the man Christine has spoken to at the weekend. He quickly measured the window and made arrangements with his nearby glass supplier. It was promised for 10:30 at the latest!

Meanwhile, Christine followed instructions to Morrisons, mainly to find a cash point but also some milk and bread. Perhaps a little further than expected but she returned well before the window! It seems that Wolverhampton time is about as accurate as Cornish time! Still, it did eventually arrive and was duly fitted. Mike also identified that we would be able to order a matchigngreplacement from the original manufacturers. Alas, by the time we had sorted out why the email address on their web site was not working, we had moved on and remained out of braodband connection for the rest of the day, even at our final mooring.

We set off but there was a queue at the stop lock onto the Shroppie so it was not until just before midday that we actually began serious navigation!

The canal is quite remarkable for its engineering achievement - long straight sections with few locks. In fact, today we only passed through one 'real' lock at Wheaton Aston, almost 7 miles from the start. The next pound is 17 miles! At times the canal runs through deep cuttings or steep embankments. As we reached the short (81 yards) Cowley Tunnel, we could see from the profile ahead the massive amount of rock that had to be removed to create the cutting. Inside the tunnel itself, the rough rock face showed how much labour went into its creation.

Unfortunately, a blocked sewer at Wheaton Aston meant that the disposal facilities were out of order - although we did pick up water. This meant that we needed to reach Norbury Junction - but that was the plan anyway. Another shower greeted us as we sought a mooring just north of the junction but by the time we were tied up, bright sunshine had returned.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Wolverhampton 21

Overnight was different - what the BW man had not told us was that the old Fellows Morton warehouse is occasionally used as a late night disco! He had thought that it was not on that night since no-one had been to set up but around 10:30 it kicked off and lasted -so Christine discovered - until well after 3:30 in the morning. We did see a police patrol around before midnight so assumed that there would not be too much trouble. Mike slept through it all and Christine was not badly disturbed - helped by a cup of camomile tea at one point!

Next morning we moved away from Broad Street basin as soon as possible but only about 100m around the corner to the overnight mooring just above the locks. We had planned to go to the parish church at 11 o'clock but we found via A Church near You and the parish's own website that it was to be Civic Service - so we decided that we were not respectable enough for all that pomp and ceremony!

Instead we relaxed - it was bright and sunny, pleasantly warm and not too noisy, although the main ring road is only metres away. Doing some writing, emails and mending the chimney as well as reading, the time passed remarkably quickly. We had lunch and befroe we knew it, it was 1 o'clock.

We set off down the flight, with two other boats now waiting to come down behind us - we had to wait a few minutes for a boat coming up. However, we saw no more of those boats as we quickly left them behind. The first part of the flight was clear and locks set for us - with the occasional help from our friendly BW man who was out keeping the flight free from blockages and water shortages.

Half way down and we began to meet a succession of boats coming up - which generally helped - including a hotel pair. The racecourse appeared in sight after the Alstom train works and then, one minute over three hours, our boat was moving out of the bottom lock!

It was only a few minutes up to the moorings at Autherley Junction, opposite the boat yard where we are booked in first thing to have a new window light fitted. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the summer sunshine - trying not to worry if the forecast for tomorrow is still rain!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Birmingham to Wolverhampton

Following information and advice from Andrew last night, Mike set off into the city centre to call at Maplins as soon as they opened. Here he was able to replace the GPS unit and the battery stabiliser for the laptop. By 9.30 we set off and proceeded down the New Main Line. At least this section was quite speedy - wide and with good depth. Nevertheless, it took some time to get to the three Tipton Factory Locks.

Soon after this - and as time was pressing we had lunch 'on the run' - Christine discovered that yesterday's thief had also removed one of the fanlights from a side window. A phone call to the next boatyard - soon after the bottom of the Wolverhampton 21 - set up a repair first thing on Monday morning.

As a result, there was no point in rushing to complete the flight today as we had planned. We called at Broad Street Basin to use the facilities and a very helpful BW man found a spare piece of hardboard and cut it to fit the window space for now. A bit more secure (?!?) and will keep the rain out if it should do so in the next 24 hours.

He also said that, in the circumstances, we could moor overnight in the basin which is perhaps that bit more secure than the other mooring spots above the locks. None are especially quite or salubrious but we are not fussy at this stage!

This gave us time to track down a few more replacement items - Andrew had advised that there is an Argos within walking distance so off we set. After a few false turns we found the Mander Shopping Centre and first called at Currys. This put us in a quandary as we suddenly found ourselves confused over the screen size! Mike volunteered to go back and check which
gave Christine the time to find a third option - a local Euronics store. As the other sets we had seen had DVD drives that come out from the side, rather that a slot version, we opted for this one.

We also managed to pick up some other small items including a signal booster to replace the one that was stolen. To add to all the problems, Mike managed to stype in the wrong pin number - twice - resulting in the card being locked. Back at the boat, a phone call to the card company yielded the advice to follow the instructions on most cash machines! Back to the city centre!



Not a good day!

We meandered gently along the rest of the northern section of the Stratford canal, picking up water along the way. By the time we reached Kings Norton Junction (where we needed the elsan disposal station) it was lunch time so we moored up in the sunshine.

Setting off once more we followed the Worcester and Birmingham route towards the city centre. Although we were not low on most supplies, we decided to take a stop at Selly Oak where there is a Sainsbury's just five minutes from the canal and a 'proper' mooring. (The Swiss couple were just leaving having also been to the supermarket) Whilst Mike picked up some wood preservative for the new boat pole, Christine completed the food shopping and we returned to the boat.

Alas, we found that there had been a break-in and that the laptop, television, jewellery, a small amount of cash and various electrical items had been stolen. the thief had broken in by forcing the front door and bending the catch - we had done all the right things, locked the doors, pulled the curtains etc. Also, it seemed quite a safe place as there were plenty of cyclists, joggers and walkers to deter unwanted activities - it seemed.

Apart from the obvious annoyance, the loss of irreplaceable data on the laptop was especially irritating, both of us having just completed drafting work to send of by email later in the day.

Before long a pleasant young PC arrived to take details and considered it worth asking for a forensic check. That was completed a little later - they speeded it up so that we could get away in time to reach the centre of Birmingham by evening.

Meanwhile, Christine set about reporting the losses to the insurance company and Mike went in search of replacement items - fortunately there were PCWorld, Homebase and B&Q alongside Sainsbury's. At least by midnight we were back on-line with emails!

Eventually we moored in our now familiar spot alongside the Indoor Arena. There was a long queue of people waiting to go in - we found out from another boat crew that it was Britain's Got talen - On Tour with Susan Boyle appearing (for the first time since the Final?)

After repairing the front door catches - and adding an extra hasp for a padlock - we felt that we needed a treat and booked a table at the Japanese we had patronised two years ago. It proved just as entertaining as we remembered and at least it was something we could not have done for ourselves.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Lapworth Flight

We set off around nine on a bright, sunny morning (too good to be true, as we found out later!) We were kept to a fairly slow pace by the same boat which had preceeded us up Hatton yesterday.

The main canal feature along this stretch is Shrewley Tunnel - OK so we took a photo last year but forgot this time! The tunnel is noted for the fact that there is a separate tunnel entrance for the horses!

Alas, the boat ahead turned off the Main Line at Kingswood Junction. It might have been a bit naughty, be we took the alternative route (cutting across to the Stratford and the lock on that line. (If interested, look it up on a canal map - it is a bit difficult to describe the layout) In any case, we emerged well ahead of the other boat and continued up the Lapworth flight. At first we made good speed until we met several boats coming down and a Swiss crew going up who were determined to 'do it slow'. With so much traffic it can be quite interesting to pass a boat coming the other way as the pounds are often little more than a boat's length.

Before long the rain arrived, despite the weather forecast promising a sunny day! By the time we arrived at Lock 6 the rain was falling very heavily so, with a longer pound, we pulled in for a lunch break. Time for bacon butties!

As we completed the last four locks, Mike spotted a timber yard alongside the next-to-top lock (No 3) and asked if they stocked long poles. It seemed that they did so as soon as we had completed the top lock we moored temporarily to take a closer look. Indeed they did - the owner said that they sell several each year to passing boats - and would we pass on the message! Consider it done! (and what is more it only cost £11!)

The rest of the afternoon (now sunny but cool) was uneventful - except for two unexpected lift bridges. The first was quite stiff, despite having an hydraulic mechanism. We eventually moored up just beyond Lady Lane wharf.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


We set off as ususal and made our way through Leamington Spa, although we did not stop on this occasion. Just before eleven o'clock we pulled in at the moorings alongside Tesco on the outskirts of Warwick. once inside we were surprised to bump into Adrian, one of the long-
standing regular guests at Trevanion House! It was supposed to be only a top-up shop but we still managed to fill a rucksack and four carrier bags!

A little distance further on and we called at Kate Boats for some diesel - 90p a litre - and will filled up. had hoped to pick up some bolts to fix the chimney 'hat' but their chandlery was very much reduced compared with last year.

We passed through the two Cape Locks before mooring up for lunch just below the Hatton flight. Just before 2 o'clock we set off to tackle the feared 21. About three locks up, Mike mishandled a lock key whilst raising a paddle and received a nasty bruise to his left little finger for the inattention. OK for now but it will be painful later, no doubt.

Soon the promised rain arrived - it just would not be Hatton without rain! However, by mid-flight it cleared and much of the afternoon was rather pleasant.

Just as we arrived at the top section, where the locks are close together, as boat with six crew set off, not waiting to share locks. Despite their numbers and our need to empty the locks, we still proceeded faster than them!

We arrived at the top lock three and a quarter hours after we started - not bad. Alas, you can imagine our disappointment when, just as we arrived, the BW cafe closed and we missed our promised ice creams! tea and muffins had to substitute as we filled up with water. We moored
for the night not long after clearing all the moored boats.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Lots of Locks

Not long after we set off we were at the top of the Stockton flight - eight locks with multi-wind paddles. Although they were all set against us, there were no other boats about and we managed the the whole flight in an hour and six minutes.

The Itchington Locks quickly followed and then we were at the Bascote flight.The top two locks form a staircase - two locks joined together with a single set of gates in the middle.

Below the flight we moored up for lunch - finishing Christine's delicious soup from yesterday. Internet connection was still being difficult and, although we managed to collect emails once in the morning, we could not upload the blogs from the last two days!

More locks continued to mark the afternoon route - we stopped at Fosse Road Bridge (where the old Roman Road, Fosse way, crosses the canal) to collect water and empty the toilet. No rubbish disposal here - that has to wait until Radford Bottom lock.

We had agreed earlier to stop sooner rather than later - Leamington Spa and Warwick provide the canal-side scenery for the next stretch up to Hatton - and we were definitely not going to tackle those today! So, in the last stretch before the built-up area we moored. Hooray -
there was internet connection and so the blogs for Sunday and Monday were uploaded. However, within half an hour, Christine pleaded to be allowed to move round the corner - less overgrown and fewer midges. On the way to sussing out a suitable alternative she went on wildlife photography!

Summit and Napton


We set off as usual, just after nine, with the long summit pound ahead of us. The scenery was fresh and interesting as it is always changing.

Before long we were passing through the section called 'The Tunnel' - once it really was a tunnel but at one stage it was opened out. Now it is a narrow cutting with the old turnover bridge in the middle (a modern concrete bridge carries the road over close by). The first part of the section is only wide enough for one boat, made worse by the amount of overhanging vegetation. The traffic from the other direction was quite busy and knowledge of 'working turns' at such places seemed sadly absent!

The long summit pound gave Mike a chance to work on the dividing door by the main bedroom - the new shelves meant that it could not close. Not really a difficult task but the inability to open fully meant that it was not possible to unscrew the hinges until some of modification had been done in situ!

By the time we arrived at Marston Doles, ready for the Napton Locks, it was definitely lunch time - the smell of Christine's new lamb soup (using the bones from yesterday's joint, curtesy Russell at Duttons Butchers!) had been tempting us for a little while!

The continuing flow of boats coming up meant some waits as their crews emptied locks in front of us, but mainly they were set ready and the passage through the flight was straightforward. Along the way we saw a field of buffalo.At the bottom we called at the shop and filled with water etc.
It was a short distance then to Napton Junction where we turned onto the Grand Union. In the field below the famous windmill were some attractive ponies.
The wider and deeper cut meant that the speed over the ground was somewhat faster, still well below the offical 4 mph speed limit! The three Calcutt Locks are the start of the 'multi-wind' paddles - not difficult but take a lot of turning. Time also to remember how to work through wide locks.
A mile or so beyond the locks and we found a suitable mooring spot for the night. Still no internet copnnection - although we did briefly manage to access emails first thing this morning. The blog will have to wait to tomorrow when hopefully we can upload two days' worth!

Banbury and Cropredy


Overnight there were heavy rains and when we awoke it was still very wet. However, by 9.30 it had eased somewhat and there was just the hint of brighter weather coming over the horizon as we set off.

The journey up through Banbury was mush as was expected. During the morning there seemed to be very little traffic about - although quite a few moored up waiting for the rain to stop! Passing under the Tom Rolt Bridge, Christine rather approppriately put up our new IWA memebrship stickers! (Tom Rolt is credited with creating the idea that canals could be used for leisure purposes once their commercial role had dwindled)

Within about half an hour the rain had ceased and sunshine gradually broke through. The rest of the day was very pleasant, with fluffly white clouds and a steady breeze.
By lunch we felt the need to change into lighter clothes! We took a break just above Bourton Lock where we spotted some bright, large red poppies beside the almost derelict lock cottage. There must be plans for its restoration, however, as during lunch a lady (who said that she now owned it) stopped to ask if we had been there long - someone had kicked in the door yesterday.

Off once more and we arrived at Cropredy Wharf where we planned to make a service stop. It was a little wait as another boat was already filling up. However, within half an hour we were on our way once more.

The cut through Cropredy (place of the famous annual Fairport's Cropredy Convention) is rather narrow and made all the more difficult with boats moored either side.

The last target for the day was the Clayton Flight of five locks up to the summit pound. Thanks to them being all set in our favour we passed through the flight in about 50 minutes. Just above the lock we moored for the night - a place we had moored in the first trip up here last year.
After we moored, Christine went off to photo some little ducklings who clearly already knew where food comes from!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Off to Wales

We awoke early - just before six - but it was still 8 o'clock before the car was packed, everything that needed to be checked was checked (mostly ast least twice!) and we set off.

Traffic-wise the journey was as uneventful as we had hoped by setting off early (it being a Saturday) but around Exeter and Bristol there was very heavy rain which made driving quite difficult and speeds reduced, sometimes down to 40 mph.

With a stop for coffee at Michaelwood, we arrived at Lower Heyford before 12:45 and began unloading. The trolley and the new bunjee helped and were surprised how quickly we were ready to set off. After checking out a few things, including filling up with water, we began to push back just on 2.30 and headed northwards.

This was familiar territory, of course, so the fine drizzle and cold conditions did not mean that we missed new things! However, on the canal there is always something new to see. Just before Aynho Wharf some fresh yellow irises lined the canal bank. Aynho Weir lock gates were as difficult as ever!

Christine then spotted that the wood surround to the bathroom wash basin had dried out well - it has always been a problem because the varnish had failed and the veneer was not only stained but quickly became soaked. So, she persuaded Mike to start work on it. The basin itself had also come unstuck from the surface so the underside need plenty of cleaning. The stains in the wood cannot be removed entirely but it will be a lot better for several coats of varnish.

Once we found a mooring spot away from the nearby motorway we stopped for the night. The bank is rarely approachable along this stretch and Christine risked turning her ankle as she jumped off, straight into the only pothole nearby!

Mobile signal was not good enough overnight so this is being posted the next moring - same location!