Monday, 29 September 2008

A week's cruise from Worcester: day 6

Wednesday 27th August 2008

Birmingham to Stoke Prior

We left Holliday Wharf at 0800 and enjoyed the cruise down the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. While we were still close to Birmingham we saw hardly anyone walking along the towpath: it was busy with cyclists and joggers heading in to work.

unusual boat at Edgbaston

We stopped at the secure (BW key operated) visitor moorings at Bournville to explore the area by bike (well, David and I did, anyway). Before tying up we had to move a hire boat along a few feet so we could fit in.

At King's Norton we stopped to have a look at the village and its old buildings, including the Grammar School, recent winner of a BBC Restoration viewers' poll to receive money to, er, restore it.

Then, at 1140, we entered Wast Hills Tunnel. This has iron brackets with insulators every so often on the roof: according to Nicholson's these were for telegraph lines. There is the occasional scrap of line still attached.

At Alvechurch we dieselled up. I was concerned that we might have used an excessive amount fighting the current on the Severn at the beginning of the holiday, and diesel here was a good price (78p / litre).

Another couple of tunnels, Shortwood and Tardebigge, and we were at the top of the Tardebigge Flight: 30 locks, which lead straight into Stoke Locks, a flight of six. These were a joy to work, filling and emptying rapidly.

We zipped down, and moored at Stoke Wharf. To the Navigation Inn for a meal, which, according to Jan, was good. I'm sure it was, but I can't remember what we ate now. The food was certainly better than the music, which was provided by a man singing, karaoke style, to backing tracks.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A week's cruise from Worcester: day 5

Tuesday 26th August 2008

Aldersley Junction to Birmingham

Fergus assisting with the locks

trains overhead

one of the new strapping posts

In order to beat any possible log jam ascending the Wolverhampton 21 we set off at 0545. A couple of boats had already gone up, but they had efficient crews so didn't slow us down.

arriving at Wolverhampton Top Lock

I think I was making up for taking only two pictures the previous day, especially when we kept coming across President and Kildare. The first meeting was at the top of the 21 locks, where they had moored the previous night. We showered and watered at Broad Street Services, and President chuffed by. We soon caught up, and were waved past.

We wondered about legging through Dudley Tunnel, so I phoned the Dudley Canal Trust to see if a passage was possible ... but, sadly, not today. We went to the north portal anyway, and tied up opposite the Black Country Living Museum. David and Fergus booked onto the trip boat for an excursion into the tunnel.

While they were gone I walked over the top to try to find the open air basin where the line of the tunnel alters. With directions from a local man out for a walk with his granddaughter I found it, but it was completely fenced off and impossible to see.

I walked a bit further and came across a ventilation shaft - more like an opening in the rock encased in a steel grille - and heard the trip boat approaching. I called through the grille "Hello David", and was told afterwards that I had been heard. David and Fergus had positioned themselves such that, as soon as the invitation came for volunteers to leg the boat, they made sure of bagging that one.

As we were leaving, President and Kildare arrived, on their way to their home mooring in the museum.

We then cruised along the Wolverhampton Level (old main line). Approaching Smethwick Locks the engine seemed to have lost power: it was, of course, owing to the collection of carrier bags round the prop. These were removed, and we tied up for the night breasted up to Ayer Rajah. The owners are fellow BCF members whom we met at St. Ives last year.

An excellent day's cruise: the early start giving us plenty of time to fit everything in without rushing.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

A week's cruise from Worcester: day 4

Monday 25th August 2008

at the IWA National Festival

David and Fergus accompanied Penny to Wolverhampton Station while I cycled down the towpath to Limekiln Chandlers. It was further than I'd remembered from passing it in the boat. There I bought exactly the right bilge pump, for about £15. I say "right" bilge pump: it was the same as the failed one, so I hope it's OK!

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the fine weather and looking round the festival. I had particularly wanted to attend Terry and Monica Darlington's session in the theatre tent where they read from Terry's Narrow Dog to Indian River.

We did several of the new boats, but I found I quickly got "viewing overload". After going through just a few boats I couldn't remember which boat had which features.

Steamer President, towing butty Kildare went past while we were on one boat.

Back on Shadow we had leftovers for tea, then Jan played cards with Fergus while David and I returned to the festival for some beer and evening entertainment. The Brummie comedian was good.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Log book found!

Hooray! The log book has been discovered in the glove box of the car, so I can now flesh out my blog posts. I've been busy at work, so that's my excuse for not keeping as up-to-date as I would have liked.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

A week's cruise from Worcester: day 3

Sunday 24th August 2008

Wightwick to Aldersley Junction for the IWA National Festival

festival moorings on the Shroppie

We had promised to play at the Boaters' Christian Fellowship service at the Festival, which started at 1030, but we needed to be there early in order to rehearse. Also we didn't know the layout of the site, and we needed to pick up wristbands - so we left Wightwick at 0700. We moored at Aldersley Junction at 0830 and had breakfast. We'd tied up next to a boat which the owner had built himself. He proudly told us about his four engines: it seemed that every appliance had its own generator! He regretted that he'd made the roof flat, he was always having to repair leaks. My regret is that I didn't take a picture. He gave Jan and her guitar a lift half a mile to Autherley Junction while I cycled slowly along the towpath. David, Penny and Fergus walked. We met up with David Litchfield from the BCF, a regular helper with the National Festivals, who got us in to the muddy site, and we found where the service was to take place. It was very well attended. The local vicar preached; I played my recorder and Jan played her guitar. There was a keyboard and bass as well.

Dave Moore's signwriting workshop

Jan had a look round some of the new boats while I went off in search of a bilge pump. I found a stand with some, but they weren't the same as the old one, and seemed quite expensive.

David Litchfield making final preparations for the procession

We crossed the canal and had a cup of tea on Kew. I stayed to help David with rigging the lights for the illuminated procession while Jan returned to Shadow to cook a beef casserole for tea.

Kew illuminated (the theme was "football")

At 1900 we returned to Kew for the illuminated procession of boats. We were facing the wrong way, so we had to travel northwards for a couple of miles to a winding hole which would accommodate a 70 foot boat. Having winded we joined the procession ... and came to a stop. We were waiting for the boats in front to move on, and progress from then on was very slow. There was little information filtering through as to the reason for the delay. During the procession Jan was at the front with several other singers, singing hymns and choruses as befit the Boaters' Christian Fellowship. I was assisting with the steering. Eventually we reached the stop lock, and found both sets of gates being held open! With the engine working hard we crept through against the flow, and turned right onto the Staffs and Worcs. There were crowds of onlookers on the bridges, but not as many as last year at St. Ives. The procession winded at Aldersley Junction, where Jan got off (at 2315) to return to Shadow. I stayed with Kew - back down the stop lock - flushed through the oen gates - and back to Kew's mooring. I then walked back to Shadow, arriving at 0015. A long day!

Friday, 12 September 2008

A week's cruise from Worcester: day 2

Saturday 23rd August 2008

Astley Burf to Wightwick

After taking a few photos of our mooring in the mist outside the pub we set off at 0730 and arrived at Lincomb Lock a few minutes before it opened. Barely enough time to get the hose connected to the water point.

Now we were on a mission to get as far as we could, despite the enforced "late" start. So, unfortunately, there was no time for stopping en route, that would have to wait for another time. It was rather a relief to get off the fast-flowing Severn and into the first of the staircase locks of the Staffs and Worcs Canal at Stourport. Now we could keep the revs and the temperature down.

It felt slightly strange going through places which, until now, had just been names of other OwnerShips boats: Wolverley, Debdale, Cookley and Kinver. It was fascinating going through the sandstone cuttings. The countryside and the regular locks make this a lovely canal to cruise.

I keep seeing Elk on the system


cutting through sandstone

David at Debdale Lock

Botterham Staircase pair was good: the intermediate gates towering above you as you enter the lower lock.

And then the Bratch. We just made it before the "closing time" of 1940 (is it possible to go through when the lockie has gone off duty, or are the locks padlocked?)

We finally tied up as it was getting dark in Wightwick: we wouldn't have to start too early the next morning to make it to Aldersley Junction, where we intended to moor for the IWA National Festival.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

A week's cruise from Worcester: day 1

Friday 22nd August 2008

Lowesmoor Wharf to Astley Burf

Our first trip on our shared ownership boat Shadow this year would take us on waterways mostly new to us, so I was really looking forward to it. The plan was to get to the IWA National Festival at Autherley Junction by Saturday evening so we could have all day Sunday and Monday there. In order for the plan to succeed we had to get through the last lock on the Severn, Lincomb Lock, before it closed at 1900. I had calculated that that should be possible if we left the boatyard in Worcester (Lowesmoor Wharf) by 1330. Well, we managed to leave on time, having had a reasonably straightforward drive from Norfolk, but I hadn't reckoned on the speed of the current on the river. When we were loading our things onto the boat we were warned that we might not even be allowed onto the Severn as it was in flood, but by the time we set off the level had dropped sufficiently. My brother, David, his wife, Penny, and their son, Fergus, were on their way to meet us at the boat, but they were late. We couldn't wait, so we arranged to pick them up at Sidbury Lock about half an hour later.

The first incident of note came just after turning right out of Lowesmoor Wharf onto the main Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Just after Bridge 8 Jan saw two young male vandals pushing a supermarket trolley along the towpath, and then tipping it casually into the cut. I heard the splash but didn't actually see it happen. By the time I'd got my camera out the two were mere silhouettes under the bridge. What does one say to the perpetrators of vandalism when catching them in the act? I don't know. They will always laugh and saunter off.

With the London crew now on board we carried on to Diglis Basin and the pair of large locks, the last of which led directly into the worryingly fast flowing water of the Severn. I lined Shadow up diagonally in the lock so as to exit pointing as much upstream as possible. Even so, we were taken downstream a bit before being able to return to the ladder to pick up David, who'd been closing the gates.

going through Worcester on the River Severn

Passage through Bevere and Holt Locks didn't take too long, but I soon realised that we were almost certainly not going to make it through Lincomb lock before closing. We were doing 2000 rpm, with the engine temperature reading 100 celcius. I didn't want to push it any more, especially as there had been reports of problems with the calorifier, and the engine loosing coolant.

cows taking a drink on the Severn

We got to Lincomb Lock at 1930. Half an hour too late. Oh, well. We'd just have to turn round and tie up for the night at the Hamstall Inn (is it still called that? Lost the log). Winding in the lock cut was no problem, but winding in the river to point back upstream was a bit more fun. It's always a little scary going downstream sideways. We made it, though, without hitting any flimsy plastic boats, and ate on board before patronising the pub and playing a game of pool.

tied up by the Hamstall Inn (pic taken the next morning)

The next day would have to be non-stop as far as we could go before darkness, but we couldn't start early as Lincomb Lock wouldn't open before 0800.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Anderton to Northwich via Winsford (almost)

Saturday 19th July 2008

Jan's friend Jane from college days joined us today, driving over from Saughall. It seemed a long way on the map, but I was thinking in terms of boat distance. It actually took her not much more than half an hour. She came aboard just as we were about to descend the boat lift. This pleased her, as the other time she'd done the lift was in the trip boat where you're not allowed to leave your seat.

Caption please:

Another punning boat name.

We tied up just upstream of Town Bridge and sought sustenance in Northwich.

Then we headed up towards Vale Royal lock to see if we could get to Winsford. The salt works along the river add interest.

This one looks like something from a Bond film.

In order to make it back to Vale Royal for the last locking of the day we didn't quite make it as far as Winsford, winding perhaps a mile short. That leaves us something for another time.

The Weaver was busy, especially after Vale Royal lock disgorged its load.

So, back to Jalsea Marine, and Willow's home. Plenty of time to clean the boat and part-load the car. We would be sorry to hand it back to its owner: it had served us well and given us a great holiday. We couldn't blame Willow for the rain, after all!

Apologies again for the paucity of detail in the record of the last few days of our two week cruise. I'm looking forward to being reunited with the log

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Marston to Anderton via Middlewich

Friday 18th July 2008

We had a bit of time in hand so we continued down to Middlewich where we had a good lunch at the Big Lock pub. On the way we passed the familiar wrecks on the flashes: this is Billinge Green Flash.

An hour further on, approaching Middlewich, this hopper appears to have been colonised somewhat by weeds.

We tied up below Big Lock. As we were preparing to set off after lunch a pair of hotel boats passed us: motor Snipe and butty Taurus. The butty was being hauled alongside the motor to go into the lock breasted up.

Another punning boat name, this one a nice spoonerism!

And then back through the chemical works on the outskirts of Northwich. I'm always encouraged that there's still industry happening in this country: well, it looks industrious, with all that noise and water vapour escaping. Two mushrooms on Willow polished now!