Thursday, July 31, 2008
Alvechurch to Birmingham, Bridge 88.
6 am the alarm goes off, and Marmite walks over us, meowing to make sure we know we have to get up. Having had a night of heavy rain tap-dancing on the roof of the boat, we were not surprised to see it was still raining, albeit only a few drops. Poor Keith had been awake since 4 am, and was just dozing off when the alarm sounded, so he was not for jumping out of bed.
Paddy was not for walking this morning because of the wet conditions, but a dog must do what a dog must do, so we set off along the towpath, we had only gone a few yards and he did what he needed, then did an about turn and legged it back to the boat. He is such a wimp when it comes to getting wet.
6.45 am we left our over night mooring, scaring a heron into flight, it’s wings beating furiously as it tries to gain height to miss the trees. A fisherman is out early to catch the first fish, with his flask of hot tea to hand. A Kingfisher scurried ahead of the boat, a flash of blue as if to show us the way. Even on a dull, damp morning, nothing could dampen our spirits, especially when surrounded by such beauty, which is then only spoilt by the M42 and its rumbling traffic, and the graffiti in huge black letters scrawled on the bridge walls ‘Stop Eating meat, be a Vegan’. My reply to that was ‘Stop your graffiti, its spoiling the countryside’.
It was not long before we delved into the darkness of Wast Hill Tunnel (ear plugs firmly in ears). Its imposing walls and ceiling running with water, leaving lime scale deposits, like coloured pictures. Some Twenty minutes later, I saw an arrow and the 900 metre sign pointing to the exit. As we exited the tunnel our eyes had to adjust to the daylight, albeit overcast. We arrived King’s Norton Junction, and carried straight on towards Birmingham.We were now in a much more built up area, with factories and lots of graffiti everywhere you looked, but very little rubbish in the canal, mind you we could not see what lurked under the water. In amongst the graffiti, we have seen a lot of flora, wild Honeysuckle, Golden Rod, Ragwort, wild Sweet Pea, and much more, it has been a real eye opener.We had the railway for company as we passed by the Bournville Station, and Cadbury Bournville Chocolate Factory. That is a place we want to visit, go and look at Cadbury World and its history of chocolate, a must for any chocolate lover.I was really surprised how pretty it was going into Birmingham, I imagined it would be much more built up, but most of the canal side is taken up with Birmingham University, which has a vast site along the canal. They even have their own Hydrogen Boat. We skirted past Selly Oak and still the railway followed us like a limpet attached to a ship.There were trains every couple of minutes going in both directions, we then headed into Edgbaston Tunnel 105 yds long and lit.We were soon approaching the end of our trip, having reached The Mailbox, so we found the first available mooring, near the sanitary facilities and tied Hadar up for the day, the time being 10.45 am.The last time I can remember coming to Birmingham was when I was about 9 or 10 years old, I came with my parents to a family wedding. My mother and her family are from Birmingham, I still have an aunt and uncle who lives in the city, sadly my Nan died a few years ago, at the age of 90, but she had lived in the city all her life. I cannot remember what the city centre looked like, so was really interested to see what it was really like. Keith last cruised this part of the system in 1996 and said everything had changed such a lot. It is now all café’s and bars. First on the things to do was get some food shopping done, as the fridge was almost empty, so we found a small Sainsbury’s and stocked up on a few things. We later realised there is a Tesco Metro in The Mail Box. We then had lunch at Kinnaree a Thai restaurant, £4.95 for a lunch, it was really good. Having had lunch we then took a walk into the city, to look around and find our feet a little. I have never seen so many people, which I found quite intimidating. I was only to glad to hold on to Keith’s hand as we walked to the Bull Ring and around the shops. It was then my phone went off and who should be on the other end but Nick Owen from Midlands Today. We had been in touch with Nick through Myspace, and had remained in e-mail contact despite the fact that none of us keep our Myspace pages up anymore. I had e-mailed Nick saying we would be arriving in Birmingham and would love to meet up, so the phone call was to arrange a time for us to get together.
3.30 pm and Nick Owen came and met us on Hadar, he was all dressed up in his suit and tie ready for the news program that evening. Keith said “You really should not have dressed up just for us” which made him laugh. We welcomed Nick onboard, and gave him the guided tour of the boat, telling him some of her history and the reasons for the boatman’s cabin being as it is to this day. I think he was a little amazed at how much we have fitted into such a small space.It was wonderful to meet Nick in person, we have watched him since the days when he did the breakfast show with Anne Diamond, and now when we are in this neck of the woods we watch him on BBC 1's Midlands Today. Nick if you are reading this. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to come and see us, we really appreciate it. Due to time constraints Nick was unable to stop long, and we wished him well as he left to go back to work.
The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting to other boaters, including a couple on N.B Talisman who we met way back in February at Harecastle Tunnel. They recognised the boat and so we caught up on all the news and gossip. Our evening onboard was continually interrupted by a woman shouting at the bow of the boat, we did our best to ignore it. I noticed a community officer on a bike having a few words with the woman, so I reckon someone from the apartments had asked for assistance in getting her to keep the noise down.
I took my last photo of the day as the evening was closing in at The Mailbox.Thursday 31st July.
I had had a wonderful nights sleep and only got woken up at 6.30 am by a seagull calling out. For a moment I thought I was by the sea and not in Birmingham. Keith however had been kept awake by the boat in front of us. They had probably been to the pub and were drunk, they spent a fair while he said arguing and banging what he thought was wood on something, and he thought they may have even been hitting each other. We had been told about this couple by one of the residence in the apartments opposite their boat. He said “It was like watching a soap opera”. He told us they would come back from the pub in the early hours totally out of their heads and stand on the path rowing. So Keith was not so wide awake when it came to getting up at 8 am. We decided that we would take a walk into Birmingham and have a proper walk around; we went to the indoor markets, the Bullring and up and down all the other streets. Because it was just after 9 am, it was still quiet and it gave us a chance to enjoy the architecture before the hustle and bustle began. I am not one for crowds, I guess it comes from being bought up in the country, oh and the fact I am only 5 foot tall and hate people towering over me ha ha ha. Some of the buildings old and new are really beautiful. The old ones survived the blitz and are here to tell a story. The new ones do their best to compliment the old ones, so it is a good mix. We even sat and had a coffee outside at one of the street cafes.Once back onboard Hadar we thought we would move her from The Mailbox mooring and moor up near the NIA, where hopefully it would be quieter and Keith would get a decent night sleep. So we slipped off the mooring and through Gas Street Basin.The mooring was already quite busy with other boats, so we knew we would be safe with others around us. Having had some lunch we then headed off to The National Sealife Centre, as we had a free ticket for one of us to get in, unfortunately it would cost £15.50 for the other, so we qued up behind the masses and then paid the entrance fee. Now if we had, had to pay for both of us there is no way we would have gone in, because we felt it was over priced. But with one of us getting in free that was fine. The fish were really beautiful and the Rays were fantastic, we got a real feel for what lies beneath the oceans of our world. The highlight for me was seeing the Sea Otters, because I am passionate about them, oh and the walk through the tunnel where the fish swim over you, that was good as well. They have two giant Sea Turtles in the pool, they are magnificent. Basically we paid £15.50 for an hour and a half’s enjoyment.Whilst back onboard Hadar, I nipped up to the Tesco metro to get a couple of things we needed, and Keith stayed on the boat chatting to passers-by. By the time I got back he was nattering away to Chris who owns a cruiser named Fleur de Eau, I soon discovered that Chris uses the same boat forum as we do Boats and Canals, which I have to say is a very friendly forum for all boaters. It was lovely to meet Chris and his wife Mia; they are out on a boat club cruise, so we are surrounded by the Cheshire Boat Club boats this evening. We stood in the rain nattering away totally oblivious that we were getting wet. But who cares when you are in such lovely company. Keith and Chris soon found out that they had both been on Ashtac the same time back in the 1970’s and we most probably working on the same patch as well. It really is a small world.
The weather today has been showery, which was forecast, but even though it has rained on and off, it has not really been enough to get us soaked. Tomorrow we will be heading off to the Black Country Museum.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Yesterday was spectacular day weather wise, giving us the chance to do other boat jobs. In between painting and varnishing, we enjoyed chatting to other boaters, who either pulled in for water, or moored up for the night.
Today yet again we woke up to a bright, sunny and very warm morning, but the weather forecasters were telling of thunder storms during the afternoon, so any last minute painting had to be done during the morning, so having had breakfast, walked Paddy and drank our morning cuppa, we set about finishing off the painting. It turned out to be just in time as late into the afternoon as forecast, the dark clouds gathered and the humidity creep to sweltering levels, along with this, the rain pelted down. Thankfully the paintwork we had done had dried in time.
We have enjoyed the Tardebigge mooring; we even took advantage of using the shower at the sanitary station, which was very good. I languished in the shower for sometime, making the most of the facility, even though we have our own shower onboard.
By the time Keith bought Paddy back from his evening walk, we could hear the rumble of thunder in the distance, and not long after rain pitter pattering on the boats roof, it was to continue until gone 9pm. someone up there was having one hell of a fight. Still it did clear the air some before we headed off to bed.
Tuesday 29th July.
Tardebigge to Alvechurch. 3.3 miles.
After a night of heavy rain, we woke up to a dull, damp morning, but it felt somewhat fresher. There was no hurry to be up or moving as we were only going back to Alvechurch today, so we ate breakfast, Paddy got his morning stroll and then we moved Hadar off of her mooring and over to the water point, where we took on water, emptied the toilet cassette and got rid of all our rubbish at the refuse point.
We eventually left Tardebigge at 10.05 am. Keith was still enjoying his coffee as we headed off towards the tunnel.As you can see there were dark clouds looming in the background, so it did not look hopeful for a dry hop, skip and a jump to Alvechurch.We slipped into Tardebigge tunnel, as another boat was coming out. I stayed in the engine room with my ear plugs firmly pushed into my ears. Tardebigge tunnel is really quite amazing as most of its length is carved out of the rock, it really is very impressive. It made me think of how many men it took to dig their way through from one end to the other, and how many lost their lives, so that we today can enjoy this spectacle? Tardebigge tunnel does not have a towpath, so you have to walk over the top if you want to get to the other end by foot. Until the turn of the century a tug would pull all boats through the tunnel. As we were just leaving the tunnel, the Mikron Theatre boat was entering, Keith called over ‘morning’ and we were then on our way, out into a wooded cutting, with sunshine streaming through the trees, it was quite delightful, we slipped past the Anglo Welsh hire company, which had very few hire boats still in their moorings. Most of those out had past us during Friday, Saturday and Sunday.The canal wound its way through the picturesque Worcestershire countryside, where the fields are paved with gold at this time of the year, waiting to be harvested, if we get enough sunshine to dry the crop out that is. Onwards towards Shortwood Tunnel, but just before reaching the tunnel there is a grass airstrip in a farmers field, it runs alongside the canal. We saw the plane on the way up to Tardebigge; it was being readied for take off.
I wonder how many boaters actually know the airstrip it is there.
As we drifted towards the tunnel, we could see a figure descending the steps at the tunnel entrance, he was lowering what looked like a canoe into the water.My first thought was ‘Which way is he going’? Then ‘I hope he doesn’t fall in’. As we moved to the tunnel entrance, we exchanged pleasantries, before we were both on our. We carried on through Shortwood tunnel and were soon greeted with views over the valley, which were much clearer today, down below somewhere the River Arrow was meandering it course.
Now we both love to see fishermen going about their hobby, but why do they sometimes have to hide themselves in the reeds and bushes?
Keith spotted a fisherman just in time to slow to tick over speed as we always do when passing them by. The only thing to give him away was his rod. Then no more than 6 feet further on was another sitting in the reeds. I said ‘good morning’ to which he replied ‘Cor that’s a noisy UN in’ it, you’ll end up with one of these you know’ He produced his hearing aid. Keith then produced his ear plugs and said ‘That’s why we have these for the tunnel’, the gentleman laughed. He then told us ‘I could hear ya comin way back there’. With that we said cheerio and continued on our way. We meet some real characters everyday. That is half the fun of cruising the waterways; you never know who you will meet up with next.
We arrived at Alvechurch Marina, where pretty much all of their hire boats were out too, we moored up outside of the Chandlery, and so I could go in and buy some paint to replace what we had used, since we have been out. Unfortunately there were no mooring spare on the towpath opposite the marina, so we carried on to the moorings near the Crown Inn and found they were totally empty, so there was nothing for it, but to claim our mooring before others should do the same.
The towpath got quite busy with walkers and cyclists and whilst I was reading my book ‘The Water Road’ by Paul Gogarty, I found myself listening to their accents. One couple walking past the boat, I could hear them talking to Paddy with a Brummy accent. Paddy was on the back counter soaking up the sunshine. The couple then started to call him off of the boat. Now Paddy knows he is not allowed off the boat unless we say so, but he was stood tail wagging, as if wondering could I get away with it just this once. The answer to that was NO, because we called him back into the boat quick smart. Neither of us would ever call someone else dog off their boat without permission. Not only that we do not know the temperament of someone else’s animal. Maybe we should have a sign up. ‘Please do not call our dog off of our boat’ ha ha ha ha. Since mooring up the breeze has certainly got up, at times it is very gusty, but the sun still keeps putting in an appearance through some dark clouds. Tomorrow will see us head for Birmingham and another first for me. To date we have covered over 777 miles and done 643 locks. We have seen some awesome scenery and met some lovely people. I am now looking forward to the next chapter in our journey.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Rowington to Hockley Heath. 4.6 miles, 19 locks and 2 lift bridges.
Having spent a pleasant weekend on the moorings, we were off and running by 8.50 am. Destination Lapworth Flight first of all on the North Stratford Canal.
We started off with a wooded cutting, which was bathed in sunlight.
It really did look quite glorious in the morning sunshine. The variety of trees was quite breath taking, with some very old oak and ash trees still standing tall and proud. I can imagine that in the autumn they put on quite a show.
We turned onto the Stratford Canal, at what is a pretty tight corner. Lucky nothing was coming the other way.We pulled in to empty the toilet, and I then walked ahead to set the first lock on the Lapworth Flight. We were lucky with some of the locks going up due to the fact that other boats were coming down.It certainly makes life easier, and it gave me a chance to chat to other boaters. One such boat was in the capable hands of a couple of elderly gentlemen, we had quite a conversation about boating. He told me of a cruise he did on the Trent and Mersey Canal in a hire boat some years ago, and they were coming up to a lock, when a private boat took the lock from them despite the fact that she had seen them coming. When the gentleman walked up to the lock to tackle the woman over lock pinching, her reply was “We do not give way to hire boaters”. Has very little changed today I wonder?
I wished them well and we were both on our way.
There really are some stunning views on the flight, which is not really that heavy going as they have double bottom gates.Another interesting thing we have noticed are the old cast iron split bridges. These bridges were built in two halves, with an inch gap so that the towing rope between horse and boat could be dropped through the gap, so the boatmen did not need to disconnect the horse.All the way up we were followed by Autumn haze, so as we were leaving locks, if there was no one coming down, I was setting the locks for the couple.
We finally exited the top lock of the Lapworth Flight, which is numbered number 2, as the old stop lock at King’s Norton is number 1.Now we would carry on to Hockley Heath and see if we could find a mooring, but before getting there we had two lift bridges to get through.They are not difficult, you wind them up with the windlass and then wind them back down again. I was beginning to feel like I had done enough work, and it was not even lunch time yet. We found a mooring just past The Wharf Tavern which overlooks the canal; it sits above a small arm that once served a coal wharf. Having tied up, we enjoyed a well deserved lunch. The weather and the locks have been kind to us today.
Not having visited Hockley Heath before we thought we should investigate the place. Firstly we discovered that the Wharf Tavern does a carvery meal for £4.25 each Monday to Saturday. The Nicholsons Guide tells of a useful garage, well it could not have been that useful because it has closed down and is all boarded up. There is a useful One Stop convenience store, Dentist, Post Office, small Hardware Store and hair dressers, so some useful places if you are in dire need. We were going to make use of the Post Office, by having our mail sent Poste Restante to them. As we need the information from the IWA about the National Festival, which we are attending in August. Tina at Roger Fuller’s boat yard was very kindly going to post all mail for us, she is a diamond, and she really is. We count ourselves lucky to have her as a friend. So not much to see or do in Hockley Heath historically wise, but as I have had it pointed out to me by a fellow boater from N.B Nanshe, Hockley does have more to offer than I first wrote. Apart from the garage that is now closed there is another old fashioned one just a short walk away opposite the 2nd pub, the Nags Head which does a varied menu every day. There is a very good butcher that I did not mention and they also sell veg & cheeses. There is a Chinese take away and an Indian restaurant that also does takeaway. So Hockley Heath is a place to stay if you are in need of any of these facilities. I would like to thank N.B Nanshe for the in put, and we look forward to meeting them on the BCN Cruise. It is always lovely to get feedback.
Tuesday 22nd July.
It is 6.40 am and we are woken up by the start of a boat engine, my guess was it was the Black Prince Hire boat moored in front of us. I stupidly imagined that they must be making an early start, so tried to go back to sleep, only to fail miserably as the engine continued to strain into life. So I got up and made us a cup of tea and settled back into bed. The engine was eventually turned off two hours later, only to start up again after a further 10 minutes, with the sound of their mooring hooks being pulled from the barrier. Now I have a lot of respect for people hiring boats for their holidays, after all some have been hiring for many years and they pay a lot of money for their holidays. But to charge batteries up at 6.40 am and wake us and probably the home owners lining both sides of the canal as well, was a little to much. We did eventually climb out of bed to a cloudy morning, the sun had not put in an appearance yet, but the forecasters promised us a warm sunny day. So before the sun drove the clouds away, I wanted to get the starboard side of the boat T Cut and Polished, so it matched the Port side. Keith set about painting lettering on my board for selling coal. I found the plastic board hiding in a hedge on the way to Hockley Heath and immediately saw its potential. After a couple of hours of hard work Hadar was now gleaming. Our For Sale board was looking good, so all was well with our world. It has been a day of lots of activity on the canal, most of it from hire boats, most of the boats carrying families who are now in the school holiday mode. So we look forward to 6 to 8 weeks of busy waterways no doubt.
With the sun finally putting in an appearance late in the afternoon, it meant that we could get the paint dry on the notice board. Paddy and Marmite have been sat out on the back deck watching the world go by, and as I speak Marmite is sitting on the gunwale by the galley window. She still wears her harness and lead, when we are on busy towpaths; I have a fear of her wandering off and not knowing how to find her way back to the boat. We prefer to play safe, as we would hate to lose her. Tina sent us a text saying she had sent our mail, so with luck it may arrive tomorrow and we will be on our way. I took the opportunity to finish reading ‘Birmingham Friends’ by Annie Murray. I am a huge fan of her books and have her complete collection. Having finished reading the last two chapters. I then picked up a book which Merleen gave me. ‘The Water Road’ by Paul GoGarty. It is the story of Paul’s four month journey onboard NB Caroline, around the waterways of the UK. So far I have got to page 21 and find the book very entertaining and informative. He has been on the Thames and came back through Brentford, which we did as you may have read a few weeks ago. I am now looking forward to reading about other places we have been too through his eyes, and see what his thoughts are on the places he visits.
Wednesday 23rd July.
A beautiful start to the morning, after we got a really good nights sleep. There were more boat jobs to be done and they included varnishing the galley windows and painting the hand rails on the roof. Keith finished the notice board for selling our coal. That now takes its place on the cratch board on the bow. The post that Tina kindly posted for us yesterday arrived safely, so we now have an up to date licence ready for the IWA Festival in Wolverhampton, we also received confirmation from the festival organisers of our mooring for the event, we have E8A which is somewhere past the Wolverhampton Boat Club. So we now know where we are going to be moored for the weekend. We are both looking forward to the event. Also in the post were our arm bands for the Shackerstone Festival which is a week after the IWA Festival.
I know your thinking; they are going to be busy. Yep we sure are.
The very best part of getting the post was a letter from the Environment Agency, which included a refund from the agency for our time on the Thames. We can now afford to eat out tonight ha ha ha. There have been many boats moving today, some stopping for lunch and others stop for some shopping, the only boat to stop for the night was Tam Lin. Keith and I enjoyed a carvery at the Wharf Tavern, it was well worth the £4.25 each. We even found room for a pudding as well. Debbie and Wayne certainly make their customers feel welcome, I would say one of the best pubs we have eaten at. The perfect end to a good day.
Thursday 24th July.
Hockley Heath to Alvechurch. 15.1 miles, 0 locks and 1 draw bridge.An early alarm call at 5 am, so we could leave at 6 am. Our Destination would be Alvechurch. The morning began misty and cool, so I felt a little chilly in my shorts. We spent much of the best part of the trip in wooded cuttings, edging the canal were many large oak trees, which made me think of the tree beards in the ‘Lord of the Rings’. They really looked very imposing bowing over the water.We were soon heading underneath the M42 for the first time today and onwards past Waring’s Green. Just after the M42 road bridge, at bridge 20 you can walk 100 yds up onto the road and find Wedges Bakery, which supplies fresh bread, cakes and some boater’s supplies.
Although we were heading for the outskirts of Birmingham, you really would never have known it due to the wooded cuttings and open farm land. We saw plenty of wildfowl, including a couple of Herons, a tufted duck with her two young and plenty of Mallards, again with young families. We arrived at Shirley Drawbridge, which is operated by the BW Sanitary Key. That was the only real work I would have to do for the day.Alongside the drawbridge is the pub of the same name.
We were once more on our way, through a more built up area. There are many more new buildings than Keith came through her last, many of them new waterside apartments.
We arrived at Brandwood Tunnel 352 yds long, and had only seen two other boats moving and they were BW boats off to do a days work.After the tunnel there is a swing bridge which is left open as is the King’s Norton Stop Lock. The Stop Lock is unusual as it is a guillotine lock; it has two wooden guillotine gates, mounted in iron frames, and is balanced by chains and counterweights. They are now never used, so we could pass underneath without having to stop. When private canal companies were in operation the stop lock was very common, as the companies would wish to conserve water on their stretches of the canal from any newcomer who may pass through.We arrived at King’s Norton Junction at 10.10 am and we actually saw our third boat of the morning wooooooo.We turned onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, where we stopped to empty the loo cassette, before heading on towards Wast Hill Tunnel, which at 2726 yds long, is one of the longest tunnels in the country. It is also known as the King’s Norton Tunnel.We made our way past Hopwood and enjoyed views over the Lower Bittell Reservoir. There are two reservoirs Upper and lower, they were built by the canal company, the upper one feeds the lower reservoir, which was built to keep mill owners happy, after the loss of water due to the construction of the canal. For the second time today we then past under the M42, with its loud traffic and congestion. Just after the motorway we meandered past the Crown Meadow Arm, which is not accessible to boats anymore as it has been turned into a nature reserve.
We arrived in Alvechurch and found a mooring near the Crown Pub, tied up had lunch and then took a stroll into the village. The town is below the canal and is a little bit of a walk, if you are not walkers like Keith and I. It has some nice old buildings, along with a Co-op, butchers, post office, hairdressers, pub and St Lawrence Church which sits on top of the hill, it is of Norman origin, but was rebuilt by Butterfield around 1861. We walked back to the boat along the towpath having visited Alvechurch marina. Having enjoyed a nice natter with other boats owners, I then set about rubbing down the Port side galley windows ready for varnishing on Friday. With the sun out now it was extremely hot, so we called it a day and tried to chill out, until bedtime.
Friday 25th July.
With another beautiful day weatherwise, we stayed put at Alvechurch and did some more boat jobs, paintwork and varnishing. Then enjoyed an evening sitting watching the world go by.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Like any other live aboard boater, there are always jobs that need doing and due to the fact that we were on the electric at the mooring, I thought I would take the opportunity to get a few jobs done that had not really been done since we left Stone. Firstly I used the laundry in the Arm to wash our mattress cover, as it was too big for our machine, whilst that was washing I washed the sheets in our machine. They have two washing machines and two tumble driers. The washing machines for a quick was cost £1 and for the drier a 12 minutes cycle costs 20 pence, what a bargain. So washing done and dry it was then onto task two, which was to Hoover the boat out from bow to stern. Keith kindly fished the Hoover out of the hold for me and I was well away. It was really refreshing to be able to get such jobs done. With that achieved we had lunch and I then walked down to Sainsbury’s to pick up a few bits, just making sure we were topped up with food, as our next big shop would be in Birmingham. The brass was the third item to do, but with showers throughout the day, I saw little point in cleaning the brass outside of the boat, so had a shower instead.During the evening we were taken to the Cape of Good Hope Pub by Merleen and Paul off of NB Lady Celine, where we enjoyed a fabulous meal and an evening of very entertaining chatter. It was so nice to catch up with them and hear all their news and we told them all about our adventures to date. The meal was excellent as was the service. If you ever eat there, do try their Mango Sorbet it was out of this world, as was the whole meal. What made the evening special though were the company, so thank you Merleen and Paul for a lovely time and we hope to get to Switzerland.Having got back from the pub, we then gave them a guided tour of Hadar before they headed back to their boat for bed. The two Shelties in the photo are Kyle and Kory and they are 11 year old brothers. Kyle has been a very, very poorly boy, but hopefully is now on the mend, we all have our fingers crossed.
A good day as far as getting the jobs done and an even better evening spent in the company of good friends.
Friday 18th July.
Saltersford Arm to the top of the Hatton Flight. 2.8 miles and 21 locks.
Keith and I then took off to the Craft Center and farm for a look around. To get into the farm it is £6.75 for adults and children, we did not bother with the farm side of it as it was geared towards children, with play areas around the site. It is a great place if you want to entertain the children for a few hours. We spent our time walking around the shopping outlets and farm shop; we also spent time in the antiques arcade, but found nothing that caught our eye. We did however have a mint chocolate chip ice cream mmmmmmm. By the time we got back to Hadar, the showers had become prolonged so it was time to close up the boat and sit in front of the computer. There is no proper TV signal, so we would be enjoying a DVD instead.
Top of Hatton Flight to Rowington. 2.9 miles and No Locks.
Having left the wooded cutting we soon found ourselves looking at views across the valley and a perfect place to moor up. So we pulled in, Keith knocked in our mooring pins; we turned Hadar’s engine off and made a coffee. As I sit typing this John Jackson has just gone past on his coat boats Roach and Gosport. Margaret and Colin have arrived and moored up as well. We will now look forward to a peaceful weekend. See you next week.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Royal Leamington Spa to Saltersford Arm Warwick. 3.8 miles and 2 locks.
The sun was shining and we were on our way at 8.40 am, heading firstly for Tesco near Warwick, where we could stock up on provisions. We crept past Colin and Margaret on NB Seeburg, who we had got to know late yesterday afternoon, after they moored up in front of us.
The scenery is pretty uninspiring, and nothing to get over excited about, so having arrived at Tesco at 9.25 am we found ourselves somewhere to moor and went and did our shopping. Having arrived back at the boat, I was putting the shopping away, when I heard voices, and who should it be but Colin and Margaret on NB Seeburg, they had moored behind us and were off to get their shopping done. We continued on our way at 10. 50 am towards the locks where we paired up with another boat to do the pair of locks. We saw moored up NB Valerie, but there was no sign of Les, so we continued on, we then parted company with the boat we shared the locks with, as they continued on their way and we took a sharp left hand turn into the Saltersford Arm. We met coming in the other direction the Willow Wren boat Dipper, who was coming out of the arm to turn around, having done a pump out. We managed to pass each other and we continued up the arm, noticing two people waving at us, those people were Merleen and Paul on NB Lady Celine; they now have a residential mooring in the arm. We were instructed by Ian who looks after the arm to turn Hadar around in the winding hole and moor outside of the office, which we did. Everyone there made us feel so very welcome. A mooring over night till midday the next day is free, then after that it is £4 a day. You can hook up to the electric for £3 a day. There is a laundry which is £1 for a warm wash and £2 for a hot wash; they also have a drier for 20p a go, an absolute bargain. There is pump out elsan and rubbish point. Everything you could ask for, they also do short or long term moorings, or moorings for the winter. Moored behind us were the Willow Wren boats Crane and Dipper with 18 young people onboard, who were at Warwick Castle for the day. Having eaten lunch, who should appear and moor alongside us but NB Seeburg. We took a walk into Warwick and had a nose around. There are some lovely Antique shops in the town and other places of interest. We were not sure if we would visit the castle. Anyway tomorrow we would investigate further; this was a quick look around. We got back to the boat and were met by Merleen, who invited us to their boat NB Lady Celine for a coffee and a catch up chat, which was really wonderful, as the last time we saw them was at Braunston. One of their Shelties has been very, very poorly, but hopefully now after an operation is on the mend at long last. We have said we would go out for a meal with them on Thursday. We were just on our way back to the boat when we were met by Les off of NB Valerie, he was out for a walk and saw Hadar, so knew we were about, we stood and caught up on the news with him. It has been a day of catching up with boating friends. During the evening we enjoyed watching the 18 young people off of NB Crane and Dipper playing rounders, they were using a stick and a conker, so I found them a ball to play to use out of my carrier bags full of balls of all shapes and sizes. It was so enjoyable to watch a group of young people having so much fun and laughter. In this day and age we hear so many bad things about the youth of today, and here were this group of young people playing and enjoying each others company and the company of their teachers. The day drew to a close at 9.45 pm with the youngsters going in and the evening getting chilly.
It has been a fantastic day. We plan on staying in the arm for a few days.
Wednesday 16th July.
Today was a day of culture and history. We did all the usual morning chores and said good morning to Margaret and Colin next door to us. Keith and I then walked into Warwick early as I wanted to find a hairdresser, who would do a dry trim and not charge the earth. I found such a hairdressers who trimmed an inch off my hair and only charged me £10, which was not bad at all. Although £10 for two minutes work seems a little over the top, but it had been 12 weeks since my last trim, so needs must I suppose.
We then did the museum in the square and St. Johns House Museum, both of them free to enter and very informative, especially St. Johns where we learned the history of the Warwickshire Regiment. By this time it was lunch time and our feet needed a rest, so we found a Thai restaurant which was doing a 2 course meal for £6.50 each from a set menu, which would do for us. It was a really good meal and service. By this time it was 12.45 pm and we were going to visit the castle, Merleen gave us a voucher for one of us to get in free, we made our way to Warwick Castle where we had the most fantastic afternoon. The castle itself was bustling with school and college parties, so it was a little crowded, but we climbed over 500 steps to the ramparts and towers, to see spectacular views across the country, we sat and watched the falconry display by Hawk Experience which was really amazing, we then enjoyed a walk around the grounds. Inside the castle the exhibitions in each of the rooms was truly amazing, with wax work figures dressed in period costume. The even had sound affects for each of the rooms and people on hand to answer any questions. Of all the castles we have been to this was by far the best and I for one recommend you visit it. Having done all that walking and climbing we left the castle to find a street café for a well earned coffee, before making our way back to Hadar. The rest of the day was spent relaxing on the boat, neither of us had any energy for much else ha ha ha.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Being moored up for a couple of days has given us the chance to get some much needed jobs done; it has also given us the chance to watch the wildlife around us.
Saturday we woke up to a hula baloo going on outside. A bird was screaming and another was calling back, but neither Keith nor I could figure out what bird it was. The noise died down and we got out of bed to what was a hit and miss day as far as the weather was concerned. One minute it was sunny, and the next, dark ominous clouds would appear overhead.
Having taken Paddy for a walk and stood on the towpath for a while I heard the screaming of the mystery bird all over again and the other bird calling. It was soon clear what bird it was, when the parent bird hovered overhead.
A pair of Kestrels had either one or two young and the youngsters were screaming for food whilst flying after the parents. I just wish I could have photographed them together, but they were too quick for me. Neither of us had ever seen this behaviour before, we have only ever seen the adult birds whilst hovering, but certainly hope we will see it again. Another bird of prey was also near and they were Buzzards, they were mewing and calling, so maybe they had young as well.
As the day wore on the weather turned into dark skies and heavy showers. So it meant anything we wanted to do was put on hold till Sunday.We did nothing much during Saturday, and enjoyed a quiet evening onboard watching films.
Sunday began with glorious sunshine, such a contrast from the past few days. It should have been a day of rest, but not for us we had a list of things to get done. First on the list was to undo the sheeting and open up the hold, so we could see what we were doing. We wanted to move all our clutter and put it on top of the water tank, so we could cover it up with a tarpaulin. We are hoping to have the sheeting off for the IWA National Festival to show the open hold and the coal we are carrying. The sun was beating down making the job a hot one. We also wanted to cut up all the wood in the hold, so Keith got the chainsaw out and got it ready for work, but no matter how hard we both tried the darn thing would not start, so it was back to the hand saw and axe. We managed to chop up all the dry stuff and bag it up ready for the winter. At that point we had lunch and a well deserved break. Just as we were about to get to work again Dave and Jade on NB Flamingo appeared out of the lock. Dave reads our diary whilst at work; he said it is what keeps him sane. Dave asked if we had any coal onboard as they would like a bag, so whilst they moored up I pulled a bag out of the hold. Flamingo is an ex-working boat from the Willow Wren Fleet. She was originally known as Letchworth and still has her air cooled Lister engine from her BW days sitting in her original engine room.I promised I would give Dave and Jade a mention in the diary. I hope you’re keeping sane at work today Dave. Here is your five minutes of fame ha ha ha. It was lovely to meet you both and hope we will meet again someday. Flamingo looks fantastic keep up the good work.
Back to the hold I swept it out and stacked the bagged wood, we then moved some of the coal, ready for a new intake in the autumn. It was then time for another sit down and a can of lager. We have seen quite a few boats moving this past couple of days, up and down the locks. Whilst sitting enjoying the break, Marmite was lying out on the towpath by the galley window, she was trying to catch Bumble bees, which we do not encourage. We soon discovered that Marmite was actually laying a couple of feet away from a bees nest under the ground.We sat and watched the bees flying in and out of a hole no bigger than my thumb nail.
Isn’t nature wonderful?
What amazed us both was the fact they knew where the hole was to come back to. They are fantastic little creatures.Marmite looked on as they flew to and fro all afternoon. There was no way we were allowing her to play near the nest so she was put on her harness and lead. Having completed all the jobs we had in mind we called it a day as we both felt shattered. During the evening we both needed a shower, you can only imagine what a state we were both in after lugging coal about, not only that Keith had managed to catch the sun as well, so he was feeling a little tender on his back. Due to a busy day it was bed at 10 pm for us both. We were both pooped after a long day, but it was rewarding because we had got all the jobs done on our mental list.
Fosse Locks to Royal Leamington Spa. 3.7 miles and 2 locks.
Another Monday morning to week 21 of our cruising of the waterways and we are still having lots of fun, so much so, that today we were heading for Royal Leamington Spa. It was just a small jaunt, but one that would mean I could get a wash done and we could go and explore an historic town.
So 8.50 am and off we went. We were met at the lock by a ewe that had somehow got out of the field beside the lock. She seemed to know her way back, so we left her to get on with life, whilst we carried on our way. The scenery is not as pretty as we had seen before, but never the less it is pleasant. We descended Radford Bottom Lock where there is a place to get rid of any rubbish and continued past wooded areas. The River Leam runs a alongside the canal for a way, before the canal joins a busy road for a short distance, we were then into the outskirts of Leamington. We were told by George on NB Penny that the moorings by Bridge 40 were good, so as we approached bridge 40 we pulled in at the 48 hour moorings, only to discover that they were too shallow for Hadar. It took some manoeuvring to get her off, so whilst Keith sorted that out, I walked to the other side of the bridge to see what was on offer. Hey Presto there were more moorings. To get to them not only did we have to get Hadar moving again, but we also needed to wait for the three hire boats to pass us going in the same direction as us. My only thought at that point was. “Heck I hope they don’t want to moor up on the other side of the bridge”. Thankfully they continued on, probably to Warwick. So we took up a mooring place just big enough for Hadar and tied up.
Whilst walking around the town Keith spotted overhead a Douglas Dakota Aeroplane it seemed that the plane was circling over us. What we found out was the Dakota was flying farewell flights from Coventry.
During the morning I had dropped my mobile phone and the screen split, but I managed to get another cover whilst we were on our walk. I also got a new pair of steel toe capped shoes to replace the ones I wear now which are forever splitting. I have lost count of the times I have spent gluing them together. But now I have a brand new pair to wear in. I like to feel safe under foot on the boat, so want my shoes to be nonslip. But also because we are dealing with heavy bags of coal I need steal top caps. We really enjoyed our walk around this largely Victorian town and will most definitely come back again.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Bridge 129 near the Medieval Village of Wormleighton to the bottom of the Napton Locks. 6.3 miles and 9 locks.
Having had a night of heavy rain, we were woken at 6 am by the alarm clock to a cloudy yet dry morning. Paddy enjoyed a run across the field before setting off at 7 am. You’re probably thinking we start early. We start early some days to avoid all the traffic when it comes to the locks. The first 3 miles or so of the trip today was enjoyable open countryside, with wonderful scenery across the valley and no other boat in sight.Although the morning began dry it did not last long and we were soon getting heavy showers, which are more associated with April than with July, but a little drop of rain never hurt anyone. Our first lock Napton Top Lock was at Marston Doles, where you can begin to see the Windmill clearer from the summit. You also get fantastic views across the valley. We then began the drop down to the junction. We passed Old Engine House Arm, which is now home to private moorings and the boats. It used to be the site of a firmer pump house. Dropping down the Napton flight we began to notice cattle in the fields and not just any old cattle, these were water buffalo. We have been to farmers markets and seen water buffalo meat, cheese etc for sale, but never seen them in the flesh before. Well now we have and not only that we were probably the first people of the day to see a new arrival to the water buffalo family.This perfectly formed calf had just been born and was taking its first tentative steps in life.Mum was giving him/her an introduction to the world. It really gladdened the heart seeing this beautiful.
It seems a local farm has a herd of around 80 or should that now be 81 water buffalo and is doing very well with the herd and the produce they get from them. We look forward to trying that produce sometime.
We arrived at the bottom lock of the Napton flight having seen very few boats moving, only to become part of a traffic jam. We wanted to use the water point as did other boats, but also boats wanted to get through to use the sanitary station on the other side and to use the lock, so we had to do a bit of boat juggling, because with Hadar being 70 ft she needed a lot of room. But it was all sorted out with a minimum of fuss and we tied up at the water point and began filling the water tank. It took over an hour to fill the tank. Be warned if you want to fill up at the bottom of the Napton Flight it takes an age because the water pressure is practically none existent lol. Still we were in no hurry as it was only 10.45 am, but the weather was also not helping as it was chucking it down. Eventually the tank was full and we found a mooring just big enough for us to squeeze into. Having had a bacon sandwich for lunch we, decided to take a walk up on to the hill of Napton on the Hill, so see the views. The walk takes you to over 400ft up but it is so worth it for the view. The windmill is now a private home, but you can use a public footpath to see the view by the side of the windmill.They say you can see seven counties from the highest point on a good day and I reckon we saw a few of the seven, it was a stunning view and well worth the walk.We could even see as far as Coventry, which was 12 miles plus away. Having sat down to admire the view for a while we then walked back down the road past a Rowan tree.Which was planted as a mark of remembrance for the 50th Anniversary of the Blitz. The seat and tree are very close to the site of an observer post, which witnessed the Coventry blitz. Our next port of call was St. Lawrence Church, which is also up on the hill. It is a stunning church in such peaceful surroundings.The church itself dates back to the 13th-C. It is told that the church was built on the village green, but the devil kept removing the buildings stones and placing them in its present site, where the church was eventually built. How spooky is that?
We found walking around the church yard that names kept cropping up, Sheasby’s, Eaton’s, Alsop’s and Batchelor’s, and feel that these must have been families who spent their lifetimes in this village. I will delve further to see what I can dig up, so to speak. We also found that some had died in the First World War; one such person was a Bombardier who died in 1918. Some think of grave yards as being sad places, I find them useful in finding out all about the history of a place. For instance the Sheasby’s lost three men in the Great War, now I wonder where they brothers?
Keith and really enjoyed our walk to the top of Napton on the Hill, we have been through her so many times before and never walked into the village. The village itself is lovely with thatched and Georgian houses, there is a useful post office come shop and the Crown Pub. We went to The Folly Pub near Napton bottom lock for our evening meal, which was very nice. We both had the Steak and Kidney Pie with chips, which was very nice. The food at The Folly Pub is your basic pub grub. So if you like good honest plain food then give the place a go. Whilst there we met Bob and Jane from NB Hobo, Jane asked me if we could deliver a couple of bags of coal to their boat in the morning, as the weather was going to be awful and they wanted a fire. We of course said “it was no problem”. The day ended with a lovely sunset over the bow of the boat and us enjoying a coffee before bedtime.
Wednesday 9th July.
True to the weather forecasters word Wednesday was a complete and utter washout, so much so that we did not more and neither did an one else on the moorings. Keith and I deliver two bags of coal to Jane and Bob, so they could light their fire. I went to the sanitary station to get rid of rubbish and then called into the Folly Shop, where I stood having a natter with the owner. We were discussing the diesel situation and she was telling me of how the local farmers have been having their diesel stolen. I also read on Sue and Vic’s diary from NB No problem that they had, had the diesel stolen out of their boat. Nothing it seems is sacred anymore. It is a darn right low act to steal someone else’s diesel, but then these people have little respect for others. I also found out why BW is putting in new bollards a long the lock chambers. I will give you one guess why they are doing it.
Go on I bet you know the answer?
Three words, Health and Safety that is why they are putting them in. They have been told to do it apparently. Where on earth will this end I wonder?
Anyway I was gone so long that Keith came looking for me ha ha ha. We spent the rest of the day hunkered down in the boat against the darn right awful weather. The only boaters moving were the hirers and none of them looked happy with the rain lashing down on them. We are lucky we do not have to move if the weather is bad like it was today.
Thursday 10th July.
Napton to Long Itchington. 6.1 miles and 13 locks.
We woke up to a bright sunny morning; it was such a contrast to yesterday’s awful weather. 8 am and we were off, hoping to avoid the heavy showers forecast.
We descended down through the last lock of the day, with it pretty lock cottage looking on.We then found a mooring just below the lock at Long Itchington. Having done some lunch, Keith and I took a walk into the village, which has a village pond co-op, post office, hair dressers etc. There are some pretty cottages in the village some dating back to the 17th and 18th-C. Opposite The Duck on the Pond Inn. It is said that Queen Elizabeth 1st once stayed at the house. It is now up for sale. The village is a jumble of old and new which gives it a lot of character. You are spoilt for choice as far as pubs is concerned, we counted five.
So another day done and the weather stayed pretty good, we only had a few spots of rain. We met lots of other boaters heading in the opposite direction, they had all stayed put in yesterdays weather. We’ve only seen a couple of other boats coming down our way, so all in all it is pretty quiet.
Friday 11th July.
Long Itchington to Fosse Locks. 2.8 miles and 8 locks.
We were awake at 6.30am, Marmite made sure we did not go back to sleep by standing on Keith’s chest, meowing at him to let him know she wanted us up because she wanted her breakfast. She reminded me of Garfield in the film we watched last night, where Garfield stands on his owner’s chest, wanting him to get out of bed.
The sun was shining as I opened the back cabin doors to let Paddy out for his morning walk. So we would be off to destinations new again today.
We cruised by the Two Boats Inn and under the A 423 entering into wild expanses of farm land and hills.We headed towards Bascote Locks. The top two locks being staircase locks, along side the lock is a pretty toll cottage.The paddle winding gear on these locks was harder to wind up, either that or I was feeling the affects of yesterdays locks. I think it was the fact they were harder to do ha ha ha. Having let Hadar out of the lock, I then shut the gate behind her and walked on to the next lock.No one else seemed to be moving, we had seen nobody else about.
Once again we were into the quiet countryside, with lush wooded areas along the canal. It was really quite pretty, even if the weather was looking a bit iffy. Dark clouds were on the horizon.
Having cruised under the Fosse Way, Roman Road and past Fosse Wharf, we did the first of the Fosse Locks before finding a mooring, which is where we will stay for the weekend. We sorted ourselves out and had some lunch when we heard a boat coming. It turned out to be George and Carol on NB Penny; they were doing the locks with NB Talisman, who bought a bag of coal from us, before going down the second of the Fosse Locks. We may see George and Carol in Warwick next week if they are still around. As they left the lock dark clouds were over head and drops of rain began to fall, light at first but then it got heavy and prolonged. So it looks like a wet end to our day.
We shall see you next week, all being well. Have a lovely weekend no matter where you are.