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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday 31st August.

Sunday 31st August.

Yesterday was such a fabulous day; we have a wonderful group of people around us. Yesterday ended with us sitting chatting with Ann and Alan from N.B Taliesin, Mark and Maggie from N.B Forever Young, Martin Fuller joined us, he is spending the weekend on the butty Ilford, Stuart from the blue top working boat Anne came and sat with us and arriving later in the afternoon Jimmy on N.B Border Reiver, moored alongside Ann and Alan and pulled up a stool. It was the most pleasant of afternoons. What made it though was our little visitor, who firstly was seen drinking from the abandoned beer cans, before being startled back into her/his hole in the grass. A piece of bread was then put down by the hole, and our visitor a tiny field mouse could not resist the temptation of free food.She/he was quite happy to let us watch as she/he dragged the bread into the tiny hole.Having dragged this huge piece of bread down into the hole, she/he was not seen for the rest of the evening. That amount of bread will probably feed a family for a couple of days. Nature is a marvellous thing.
So it is now Sunday and we awoke to the first foggy morning of the year. The heavy mist made everything seem so mysterious. I took Paddy out for his walk; I could hear voices coming from the festivals field, but could not see anyone due to the heavy mist. It was a little spooky.It is a reminder that autumn is almost upon us, with the 1st of September begin tomorrow.
The Festival site is now taking shape as marques are going up, and people are busying themselves. Other boats are beginning to arrive hoping to get a decent mooring. The historic boats already have their moorings reserved, so for them it is not so much of a worry to get here early. Moorings have also been reserved for The Fudge Boat, Chandlery Boat and Book Boat. We know The Fudge Boat is on its way as we passed it on our way here.
The sun did eventually poke its head out of the mist, whilst we had our morning coffee, so I took a stroll up the towpath and paid a visit to N.B Pickles No2. With the sun out it was really nice for all of ½ an hour, Keith and I sorted out the t-shirts we have collected to make rag rugs, we pulled out the bags with the red, white and blue t-shirts in them so we could begin to cut them up. Keith is hoping to start our rug this coming week. Having had lunch the weather began to take a downward turn, it started with a few drops of rain and ended in a deluge. The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a washout, so as the evening drew in and having seen the weather forecast for the next couple of days, we took the decision to put the holds sheeting back on, only tying it at the corners, so it is easy to take off again for the festival. The evening has ended the same as the day began, with a heavy mist coming down on the canal.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Below Atherstone Locks to Shackerstone.

Thursday 28th August

Below Atherstone Locks to Shackerstone. 28.6 miles, 11 locks, which took 12 hrs 30 minutes.

We were once again up at 5am, for our early morning start up through the 11 locks at Atherstone. The first thing I noticed was the smell of newly baled straw. The farmer had been baling straw opposite our overnight mooring during the evening. 5.35am we headed to the first of the locks, it was a miracle all the locks were with us all the way up.

The one thing I really like about the Atherstone locks, is that they are well kept, even the grass surrounding them is always cut nicely. The lock keeper Tony Ward MBE really takes pride in his job and it shows. When we got to the final two locks boats were coming down. At the top lock, the Tony the lock keeper was outside chatting to a couple of security guards on their bikes. Keith spoke to him about the incident yesterday at the Pooley Countryside Park, and he said he would report the incident to BW. If you ever get the chance, read the noticeboard by Tony's cottage, he really does fill it with some wonderful things. Over the past couple of days we have noticed that the bridge numbers have been replaced by boards on wooden posts with the bridge number on them, the reason for this is that BW are replacing the number plaques with new ones. Not only are they new they are also larger.I am not sure why they feel the old ones need replacing, is this a cost that BW can really afford, especially when there are canals in which dredging is far more important.We arrived at Marston Junction and turned onto the Ashby Canal at 11.20am, as we turned into the junction N.B Sparticus was coming out, so we reversed Hadar to allow them out, after all with a name like Spaticus, you did not want to mess with such a warrior LOL.The Ashby Canal is really lovely all the way along. It has been described to us, as bridges and fields, more bridges and more fields, and to a point that is true. But if you look further than the bridges and fields you can see some lovely scenery, wildlife, waterfowl, and plant life. We saw two kingfishers, kestrels, herons, dragonflies, butterflies and much more. We arrived at Shackerstone at 6.05pm and found a towpath mooring for the festival. There were already some boats moored up. The Hotel boat Willow was in front of us, but were leaving in the morning so we would move into their place behind Taliesin, we had met Ann and Alan two years ago at the Shackerstone Festival.

Friday 29th August.

Shackerstone mooring.

Despite the fact that we were worn out last night and went to bed early, neither of us slept that well, and were awake early. So having dozed on and off until 8am we finally got up. Paddy had his walk, and then we had breakfast and a cuppa. The day was spent chatting to Ann and Alan on N.B Taliesin, whilst listening to them sing and play the accordion and drum. They are both really talented, Ann even writes her own songs and music. We met Maggie off of N.B Forever Young. Keith and I also managed to get some boat work done, the sheeting was taken off of the hold. We also got a bit of paint work done on the top planks. The weather has not been up to much, it has been very humid and yet the sun failed miserably today to put in an appearance. Keith and I walked into the village to The Rising Sun pub to book a table for a couple of meals. We thought we would get in early, as we know it will be very busy running up to and over the festival period. We have had a lovely day.

Saturday 30th August.

We were not up with the larks this morning, infact we laid in till 9am. I did not sleep that great, so was glad of the lie in. Keith however said he slept really well. Whilst I walked Paddy up the towpath, I noticed that N.B Pickles No2 has arrived at the festival. Now I was made aware by another boater, that Pete on N.B Pickles No2 had seen us travelling to Shackerstone, and posted a message on his blog. So my apologies Pete for not recognising you. I am sure we will catch up whilst at the festival site. So far today I have done some washing and hung it in the hold to let it blow in the breeze. There is nothing nicer than hanging the washing out in the fresh air. I have saved the public from looking at my underwear though, that is kept inside the boat ha ha ha. Keith and I have done the paintwork we needed to finish. Marmite has been enjoying herself off of the boat. She has had her harness on, but we put her on an extended lead, so she can wander a little. She has been funny to watch though, because as soon as a dog comes near, she crouches down, so she is flat on the ground hoping that the dogs won't see her. it has worked so far, she blends in well with the grass. Stuart on his blue top working boat Anne has arrived this afternoon, and we are now getting a real gathering. Already we feel so much more at home at this festival, and we still have a week to go to the actual event. Everyone here is so friendly. I am off now to sit out in the sunshine..... Yes I did say sunshine. The local farmer is due to harvest the field opposite us, so going to make the most of the day, before we have to shut the boat up against the harvesting dust.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Great Haywood, to the bottom of the Atherstone Flight.

Monday 25th August.

Great Haywood.

It is Week 27, of our adventure onboard Hadar. The sun was shining on this Bank Holiday Monday, but there was a stiff breeze blowing the trees about. We had a lovely lie-in, till 9am before getting up. Marmite as always was protesting loudly that it was well past her breakfast time and would we please get up and feed her. Whilst Keith cooked us a lovely breakfast of sausages, bacon, poached eggs, mushrooms and toast, I took Paddy for his walk along the towpath. As we walked I could hear the Shugborough donkey calling across the field, announcing to those who were listening that it was there, a woodpecker was also knocking seven bells out of a tree trunk somewhere. By the time Paddy and I returned to the boat, breakfast was almost cooked. Keith always makes the best cooked breakfast, which keeps us going to well past lunchtime. Come 11.30am having had our morning coffee, we took a stroll into the Shugborough grounds, which are beautiful. When we were here two years ago, they had begun to clear the walled garden, so we were back to see what progress had been made. We were amazed to see that the old greenhouse had been taken down and the gardens were planted out with vegetables of every description and flowers, it looked stunning. The gardeners had done a fabulous job so far, and still have plans to do more. They have also put in a working blacksmiths workshop, where you can place orders for items and buy items already made. We had a look around the craft shops, they only had a wood carver two years ago, and they now have a candle maker, someone working in leather and a fence maker as well. Shugborough is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. On the way back to Hadar, we passed N.B The Narrow Shop, where Lisa was doing a brisk business in ice creams. Back onboard Hadar, we have yet again sat and watched the boats speeding past us. If these people like speed why don’t they go back onto the motorway and leave the canals to people like us who want the slow pace of life. Grrrr it really gets my goat that they have so little respect for others.
Early evening we were sat watching The Towering Inferno, when Keith saw the bow of N.B The Third Lily passing the galley window. So we climbed out of the boat and spoke to Basil and Lillian. N.B The Third Lily was on the BCN Explorer Cruise as well, so we got to know Basil and Lillian whilst we cruised the second half of the week, as they were in Group One and we were in group two. They decided to pull in behind us and moor up, so the conversation continued, we exchanged news since the BCN Cruise. They had a drive plate fail, so had to have that replaced and we told them our plans for the coming few weeks. There is always something to chat about with friends when you live and cruise on a boat. More often than not it is always ends in a laugh. The evening has turned very chilly, and it looks like rain is in the air, so I dare say we will wake up to a wet morning.

Tuesday 26th August.

Great Haywood to Kings Bromley. 9.5 miles and 1 lock.


Having had a peaceful nights sleep, we awoke to boats cruising past us, as they set off on their days cruising. We were not in any particular hurry to set off, so had breakfast and a cuppa. I walked Paddy as always and we were then ready to leave the mooring at 8.55am. Just as we were getting ready to move off, working boat Dove an old Fellows, Morton and Clayton boat went past towards Colwich lock 6’6” at Little Haywood, where we joined it for the trip down through the lock.
They are also heading to the Shackerstone festival, so we will see them there.There are always things that make you go awwwww, everyday this can happen and this morning was no exception. Seeing a mare and her foal made me go awwww, it really brightened what was a dull morning.It was not long before Rugeley Power Station came into view; it dominated the sky line all the way to Rugeley. Rugeley has happy memories for us both, because it is where we got Paddy our border collie from. He came from the Border Collie Trust in 2005, and has been a pleasure to own.The country side views along the Trent and Mersey canal are beautiful, I reckon being on the canal we probably get to see something’s, people driving will never get to witness, they really have no idea what they are missing. We had passed under bridge 68, which was one of James Brindley’s original bridges and it wasn’t long before we crossed the aqueduct at Brindley Bank, where it is said that Christina Collins was murdered in 1839, and her body was carried up the steps to the Talbot Inn, these steps are known as the “Bloody Steps”. At 10.45am we arrived at Rugeley, where we did a food shop at Morrison’s, before heading off again. Whilst underway I un-packed the shopping and put it away, whilst also making lunch and a coffee, which we enjoyed on the way. On the return trip we may well stop in Rugeley and have a look around, as we have never done this on previous visits, it has always just been about a food shop. The Nicholsons guide describes Rugeley as an unexciting place; well we will judge that for ourselves I think. We passed by Hawkesyard Priory and Spode House which stand side by side. Josiah Spode’s grandson founded the priory in 1897, along with Helen Gulson, when they lived in Spode House. The Priory is now home to offices, there is also a golf course. We crept past all the moored boats alongside the priory, before heading through Armitage tunnel, well that was the idea, until we noticed not one but three boats already coming through from the other end, so we pulled Hadar over, and I then walked ahead with the radio to see if the coast was clear, which it was. The Armitage tunnel 130 yds long had its roof removed back in 1971 due to try and combat subsidence; this was due to coal which had been mined close by. We then past the Armitage Shanks factory, which many of the world’s toilets and basins are made.We have seen such a lot of boats coming up the canal, it has been as if they are trying to escape something, and no one has bothered to tell us. We seem to have met most of them in bridge holes, which has been a little exciting at times. Apart from one bridge hole we have been the ones doing the reversing, which does take sometime with Hadar. By the time you put her into reverse, she has to have a think about it, before complying with the instruction, so it can make for some close contact with on coming boats.
Our stopping place for the day was King’s Bromley, just before King’s Bromley Wharf. We have never walked the 1 ½ miles into King’s Bromley, but there is an old mill there and it has been said that it was the early home of lady Godiva, so if you like a bit of history then it is worth a visit. That will be for another time for us.

Wednesday 27th August.

King’s Bromley to Below Atherstone Locks. 20.3 miles and 5 locks.


Our alarm clock woke us at 5am to a dark, calm morning. As we poked our heads out of the back cabin, nothing was stirring, not even the birds were yet singing. Keith fired Hadar into life and we set off at 5.45am. We met N.B Shiloh as we approached Woodend Lock, our first lock of the day, they like us were up early, and they followed us down through the locks to Fradley Junction, where we turned right onto the Coventry Canal, leaving the Swan Inn behind us.The countryside around the canal is very pretty, even more so early in the morning, when it seems so unspoilt. We saw many boats going in the opposite direction, and we knew there were a few behind us. We arrived at Glascote locks at 12 noon to find several boats in front of us queuing for the locks, so we joined the queue like everyone else. It was not long before 4 boats were behind us waiting just like us.There were boats coming down the locks which helped to speed things up a little, but it still took us 1hr 15mins to clear the pair of locks, behind everyone else. We stopped at peel’s Wharf to empty the loo cassettes and to take on water, which it seemed so was everyone else, as we had to wait a long with other boats to use the facilities. It gave me the chance to chat to the owners of Matilda Blue, who are from Australia and had stopped alongside us to get rid of rubbish. We had met previously but not had much of a chance to speak properly. We would see them later on though.
We had passed by Alvecote and the remains of its priory, and were travelling under the M42 motorway bridge; by this time it was 2.30pm, when we saw a group of lads on the embankment. I thought they were just chatting, but saw them move so was just turning back to speak to Keith, when something struck me on the right side of my face by my right eye. At first I thought it was a stone, because of the ferocity of the item hitting me. Clutching my face I then realised that I had infact been hit by an apple, some of the remains of the apple were lying on the cabins roof.The apple had hit me with such force that it had broken into bits. To say I was shocked was an under statement, it actually reduced me to tears, which were more from the shock than the pain. I climbed into the engine room and sat down, whilst Keith moored Hadar up. After checking I was ok, he ran along the towpath, over the foot bridge and into Pooley Country Park, to try and catch the hooligan that had thrown the apple, but they had of course legged it. Keith met up with the park rangers Mike and Lisa. Mike and Keith went in search of the group of lads, whilst Lisa came to see if I was ok. I was on the phone to the police when she arrived. We moved the boat to a mooring at the park, so the police could find us. To cut a long story short, the group of lads were found, and one of them owned up to throwing the apple. He was advised by Mike the ranger that he should apologise to me as the police had been called. He did come and say he was sorry, and at that point I totally lost it with him. I wanted him to realise that what he did could have caused me serious injury and even death, had I been knocked off balance, fallen in the water and been dragged under the propeller. This clearly shocked him as he had his head in his hands and said he did not realise. Keith also had words with this 12 yr old young man, hoping to make him see that doing this sort of thing could have serious consequences. Lisa made us both coffee and we sat in the centre waiting for the police to arrive, but as it approached 4.30pm it was clear they were not coming and the park was closing, so we left our details with Mike the park ranger and left for our over night mooring at the bottom of the Atherstone Flight, where we met up with Matlida Blue again. I have been left with a splitting headache, and a painful temple, but thankfully that is the only damage. Keith has been on the phone again to the police, and they have said they will come and see us at Shackerstone. I am now looking forward to a good nights sleep.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Great Haywood.

Saturday 24th August.

Great Haywood Mooring.


We had a hit and miss day with the weather, one moment there was sunshine and then all of a sudden a shower would appear. Paddy enjoyed his morning stroll along the towpath, on the return to Hadar, I got chatting to Sue on N.B Alder. Sue, her husband and son Roger from the Isle of Man, are taking N.B Alder back to Preston Brook for the owner, they get to use the boat for a few weeks in the year. We had a lovely conversation about boating and life in general, and found we had friends in common. As they were about to leave, we spotted a pair of boats gliding down the canal towards us. It was Roger Fuller, Hadar’s builder with his pair of boats N.B Azalea and the butty Ilford. Onboard the butty were the rest of the family, with Roger’s twin brother Martin walking a long the towpath.Roger very kindly delivered our post to us, as the pair of boats passed by; they are on their way to Shackerstone for the Festival on the 6th and 7th September. With it being the bank holiday weekend, it was the only opportunity to get the boats to the festival site.
Being back on the Trent and Mersey, we have come to realise that we are back on the canal motorway, with boats cruising past us at well over tick over speed, but saying something, just means you get a mouth full of abuse back, so we have said nothing. Not only that it is very busy, with queing at the locks the norm.
During the afternoon Ian on N.B Pavo pulled in behind us and we stood chatting on the towpath, it had been sometime since we had seen him, and then Sylvia and Robert from N.B Tee Pee came down for coffee, so it was a day of meeting and greeting friends. 7pm Keith and I headed off up the towpath to the Clifford Arms to meet up with Tina and Rob. Tina painted Hadar for us and she and Rob own N.B’s Burma and Star (previously Unspoilt By Progress II). We met up for a meal in the Clifford Arms, which was fantastic. If you are ever in Great Haywood, definitely have a meal in the pub, it is well worth it. We also enjoyed an evening of catching up on news and gossip, which is always great fun.

Sunday 24th August.

Still on Great Haywood mooring.

It has been a lovely day; we have had plenty of sunshine, with the sky darkening at times producing the odd spot of rain. We had a visit from Chris Hardman, who we got to know when he came to see Hadar, whilst she was being built, and we have remained in contact. I promised Chris some Victoria Sandwich if we saw him at the IWA festival, but as we are not there, he came to see us on our mooring at Great Haywood, which was really nice of him. The afternoon was spent watching the F1 GP, and cleaning the brass. There have been boats coming and going all day, so just as well we did not bother moving.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Autherley Junction to Great Haywood.

Thursday 21st August.

Autherley Junction to Acton Trussell, 14.4 miles and 11 locks.


We had a bit of a lie in, after so many early morning starts it was wonderful. Having had another night of heavy rain, it was nice to wake up and see no rain hitting the waters surface, it was however overcast. Having walked Paddy, on the way back to the boat I spoke to N.B Hineroa’s (New Zealand for Long Maiden) owners, we first met them on the Peak Forest Canal two years ago. Having had breakfast we set off at 8.30am to leave the IWA Festival mooring; it was with a sad heart, that we left it all behind, but it was the right decision for us. We past working boat Ben with Rupert onboard and said our good mornings.
At the junction we passed through the Stop Lock and turned left onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, the sun was doing its best to try and stay out, but we were always aware of dark clouds in the distance. At the junction a heron sat on the sign post watching as the boats moved by.Just after leaving the Junction the canal narrows through a cutting in the rock, there is only room for one boat at a time, others coming in the opposite direction at the same time must use the lay-bys, and as you would expect we met traffic. I got off of Hadar with my radio and walked ahead, three boats were coming down, so Keith held Hadar whilst they past and then I suggested he made a run for it, but blow me down another boat was coming, so I asked if they would use the lay-by, which they kindly did so we could pass, otherwise we would have been there all day, with the stream of boats coming for the festival. I did have to help out a hire boat that could not reverse back along the cutting to get out of the way of an on coming boat, I grabbed their centre rope and hauled them out of the way, of which they were most grateful. So we were on our way, meeting lots of boats heading for the festival. We past Hatherton marina and the Hatherton branch, which they are trying to re-open. Soon we had our first lock of the day at Gailey and as luck would have it a boat was coming out of the lock, allowing us to go in. This happened through out most of our journey, making life a lot easier. Some of the boaters on their way to the festival were contemplating going home if the weather was going to be bad, because the rain had begun to fall again. At Penridge Lock Keith emptied the loo whilst I worked the lock, and a nice gentleman on a boat coming up through the lock helped me open the lock gates. Through the journey you are constantly reminded that the motorway is never far away, in this case it is the M6. The valley is however pretty and it had been nice to see lots of open countryside, instead of the industrial areas of the past couple of weeks. Instead of what look like a war zone, with its piles of rubble, we now get to look at open fields of corn, cows and sheep grazing. Teddesley Park runs along the canal, giving lovely scenery to look at through the rain drops. It was all very pleasant until a flash of lightening and a huge clap of thunder announced the heavy rain which was to follow us for the rest of the day. By the end of our day we were soaked, despite wearing waterproofs. I was fortunate to sell some coal along the way, everyone seems to be feeling cold and damp (I cannot think why ha ha), so they want to light their fires. The last lock of the day was Shutt Hill Lock; we then found a place to moor in Acton Trussell, with the roar of the motorway not far from our gaze. It always amazes me how fast the traffic is travelling. We would be going no further today; instead we would enjoy a nice hot shower, to wash off the rain and coal dust. I painted our winter chimneys, in preparation for lighting our stoves. I cannot believe we are thinking of lighting our fires, after all it is supposed to be August. With all this rain, everything feels damp, so we may have to bit the bullet and strike a match. So another day is over and I am now settling in for the evening, so I bid you a good evening.

Friday 22nd August.

Acton Trussell to Great Haywood. 7.9 miles and 3 locks
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Having had reasonably good nights sleep, we woke up to sunshine and the hope that it would be with us for the day. Before leaving our mooring, Paddy got his morning walk. What annoyed me was a woman coming towards us as we stepped off of the boat. I put Paddy on his lead as always, and I saw this woman approaching the boat, as she did so, she let her collie of the lead. As we walked towards each other, the dogs wanted to introduce themselves and I said “Paddy is fine with other dogs”, her reply was “my dogs isn’t”. I was dumb struck for a second. I then replied “Then you should have kept your dog on the lead then”, with that she walked off. Geesh some people make me so angry. If you know your dog is not good with others, you should always keep it on the lead. Some people are totally irresponsible. With that we prepared Hadar for the off, I bit the bullet and lit the back cabin stove, because we still had damp clothing from yesterday to dry. Not only that our bedding was feeling chilled and I hate a cold bed.There are some stunning views on this canal, and with the sun shining it always makes everything look beautiful. The first lock of the day was Deptmore Lock 10’3” we met another boat already coming up in the lock, which was handy. The canal today was very busy with boats mainly coming up, many probably going to the IWA festival. We then reach Radford Bridge, which is the nearest point to Stafford, to walk there it is about 1 ½ miles to the centre of town, if you want to go there is a good bus service, so I am told. We carried on along the valley of the River Sow and at Milford we cross the River Sow on the aqueduct, which was built by James Brindley.On arriving at Tixel Lock 4’3” and the lock cottage, a boat was already coming into the lock at the bottom, so I took off the centre line and tied up on the lock bollards and went and helped get the boat through. As always I passed the time of day with the lady before they headed off on their journey. I always love chatting to other boaters. We were then out onto Tixel Wide. This is always stunning. Two years ago the Willow trees where cut down, due to disease. It was great to see that they are sprouting all over again. It has been two years since we have been on the wide and it still looks fantastic.There were a few boats moored up, including a couple we met at Brentford on N.B Sorted, so we exchanged adventures as we pasted. For us it was onward to Great Haywood Junction, where a boat was coming through the bridge hole, we were coming over the aqueduct and through the narrow, so he waited for us to clear that before we past at the Anglo Welsh yard.We turned right onto the Trent and Mersey Canal and were pleased to see N.B Narrow Shop. Lisa and her husband run a fantastic business from the boat, selling ice cream in the summer and chutney and jams in the winter.Lisa waved and we said our hello’s and let them know that we were on our way to Shackerstone. We then discovered that we were going no where fast at Haywood Lock, as there was already four boats waiting to go down. So we joined the queue and pulled up along side a moored boat and waited, and waited. Some ¾ hour later it was our turn to go down. Whilst at the lock Sylvia from N.B Tee Pee came and said hello, they have a winter mooring at the Canal Farm Shop, where you can pick your own strawberries. Our next thought was that we would be in the same queue at Colwich lock, so we decided to moor up below the lock, looking over at Shugborough Hall. It is a lovely setting here and a quiet place to moor.
Having eaten lunch we then took a stroll up to meet Lisa and buy an ice cream from her narrow shop. We got to catch up with news and chat generally about canal life. Even with the summer weather not being great Lisa and her husband have done good business, it seems people will buy an ice cream no matter the weather, she also sells fudge and other items. We then walked up to the Canal Farm Shop where you can buy provisions, we were looking for N.B Tee Pee and her owners Sylvia and Robert, where we enjoyed a coffee and a chance to catch up with all their news. On our way back we popped into Anglo Welsh and met up with Viv who owns N.B Monarch down at Fradley Junction. I first got to know Viv off of Canals and Boats forum, so it was lovely to put a face to the name. Viv is also hopefully going to Shackerstone, so we will see her there. Today has been fabulous; it has been great to catch up with so many people. This is why I love canal life so much, it brings people together. The evening has worn on and we have a very warm back cabin, the weather forecast is for a chilly night, so we maybe glad of the fire tonight.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oldbury Locks to Autherley IWA Festival.

Tuesday 19th August.

Top of Oldbury Locks to Windmill End. 5.5 miles and 9 locks.

The plan had been to leave the mooring at 5.30pm to head back down the locks, but the best laid plans always go south it seems. The weather was not that good, it was cold and wet and windy, but we were up and ready to go, but so were others grrrr. It meant that we were at the back of an eight boat convoy. In front of us were N.B’s Temeraire, Tenacious, Gerald No13, Longmead, Clover, Alder, Kyle and then we played the rear gunner. So we did not get away until 6.30am. We were fortunate enough that we did have someone helping us with the locks, but it was slow going.We arrived back down to Oldbury Junction at 7.45am, with the M5 roaring already. At the junction, Hadar clobbered the concrete wall, as she tried to stop. I then walked a long the gunwale to the bow and leapt off onto the towpath, so I could haul the bow around at the junction as the wind was trying to take her the other way. We managed to get her heading in the right direction, but as we approached Whimsy Bridge we had to pull in and moor on a pontoon as there was something on the prop. The something turned out to be electrical wire, clothing, plastic bags, gold braiding and other bits. It took Keith one hour, twenty minutes and three Stanley knife blades to clear the prop. Once we finally got under way N.B’s Patience and The Third Lily had caught us up and over taken us. We soon caught The Third Lily up and she allowed us to pass. We turned off of the Birmingham main line canal at Bradeshall Junction onto the Gower Branch and down the three Brades locks and turned at Albion Junction onto the Wolverhampton Level. The August weather was not improving at all, and for a time it seemed that we would get a soaking. Just as well we have good wet gear. At the Dudley Port Junction we turned right onto the Netherton Tunnel Branch

We followed trail boat Jenny Wren into Netherton Tunnel 3027 yds and into Windmill End where we winded Hadar and moored with Muriel and Jerry on N.B Moonstone. Having chatted to other boaters to see how they fared on their trip, I then went food shopping with Muriel and Jerry; we even managed a drink in the Swan pub in Netherton to quell our thirst. Back at the boat we set up the TV Ariel, as we had been told by Jerry that Britain had won 15 gold medals so far and we were going for another in the woman’s 400 metres, so I had to watch that.We then heard squeals from Muriel and wondered what the problem was. I dashed out onto the stern of the boat and there on the towpath by N.B Moonstone was a rat.This rat was not scared of anyone; it just carried on munching grass why everyone gathered to watch it. It certainly provided some entertainment and a few photographs.
Wednesday the celebrations would get underway for the 150th anniversary of the Netherton Tunnel, the mayor would be arriving with his part etc, so BW were out in force, clearing the rubbish out of the canal, and scrubbing the graffiti off the walls. I wonder how much extra pay these men got paid for making the place spotless?
During the evening we went over to the marquee for the evening entertainment. We joined Elaine and David from N.B Patience for a chat and began listening to the speeches, but they all got a bit boring, so we left and headed back to our boats and an early night.

Wednesday 20th August.

Windmill End to Autherley Junction. 14.5 miles and 25 locks.


We were up with the larks, as the alarm buzzed into life at 4am. Up we got, it was dark outside, but dry.
Paddy decided he was the size of a cat this morning and chose to sleep in Marmites bed.How daft is this dog?
He normally loves to sprawl out, so how on earth he squeezes himself into Marmite’s bed I have no idea. We left him to sleep whilst we headed off at 4.50am into the pitch black of the tunnel. With our headlight blazing we set off along the length of the tunnel with N.B Moonstone following on behind. Hadar’s light the only beam of light in this dark void. Moths scattered as Hadar thumped on her way. 5.30am we were out into the dawn of a brand new day.We made our way to Factory Locks only to find the bottom pound of water arghhhhhh, so before we could do anything Muriel from N.B and I had to let some water down to fill the pound back up. Keith took the opportunity to check the prop and just as well he did, because we had a sports bag and plastic bags around it. With that done we got the three locks done and headed through Coseley Tunnel. Now I know they always say never look up in tunnels or when birds are flying over, but if you do look up in Coseley tunnel, the roof of the tunnel is covered in spider’s webs ewwwww.
We finally made it to Wolverhampton and the flight of twenty one locks.There were a couple of boats in front of us, which did not seem a problem. It was only after we did the first lock we knew were in for a difficult day. At lock to a boat pulled out from the bollards which it had been moored on, onboard was Pam who was doing the flight single handed, so I offered to help her as much as I could. She told me that she had broken her arm and hurt her shoulder 3 months ago after falling off her boat; she told me she was panicking and did not know what to do with the locks. So I got her started down lock 2 and all seemed well. It was not until we reached lock 4, that I could see a situation developing. Pam was becoming short of breath and unsure on what she was doing, she then told me a few years ago she had, had a heart bypass, alarm bells were beginning to ring in my head. At lock 5 with a que now developing behind us Pam was getting very short of breath, so I suggested she moor up and rest for a while, but she was determined to go on. Lock 6 Pam made a mistake which could have emptied the pound, by opening all four paddles whilst in the lock; I was quick enough to spot the situation and shouted for her to drop the paddles, which she did. I was really not happy with the situation and the fact that she had no idea what she was doing, and why she was even doing the trip, she was very confused. Having run back and spoken to Keith, I decided to find the one BW man who was helping with the locks, I explained the situation to him, and he took the decision to pull Pam and her boat over to allow us all through. He suggested to her she made a cup of tea and sat down for a while. He would then get a couple of the BW chaps to take her down. Really Pam should not have been out, she was a danger to herself and clearly not well. She is a really lovely lady and I wish her well. Once we were underway again we were progressing well, with boats coming up and us going down, I was then setting the lock for the gentleman behind us who was also single handed. We eventually arrived down at Autherley Junction at 12.40pm, through the lock we then cruised passed a lot of boats already moored for the IWA festival, we found our mooring way up past the Wolverhampton Boat Club on E8A, and it was a long way from the festival site. We winded before settling on our mooring, which was not great as we could not get into the bank. Just after 3pm we walked down the towpath to get into the site to sign in, but found the towpath fenced off. To get onto the site to sign in we had a 30 minute walk across park land, and through a housing estate to the main road. We eventually found the entrance and the office. Having signed in and picked up our goody bag, we asked if the towpath was going to be open for the festival. We were told No it was remaining shut due to security reasons. So anyone who wanted to come and see us or the boats has at least 30 minute walk. To be honest no one is going to make that effort unless they are a friend. Now no one can arrived at the site by car. Due to the weather conditions they cannot have parking on the site, so now everyone has to park at the Wolverhampton Race Course, where they can catch a bus every 15 minutes. The whole site is in mud and chaos. Keith and I were bitterly disappointed with our mooring and the facilities for visitors to the site. Only the boats nearest the site will get seen, which is no good to us. We wanted to be able to show our new boat off and her engine. So it was with deep regret that we decided to not stay for the festival, there seems very little point. In the morning we will leave for Shackerstone instead. I am sorry for anyone who wishes to come and see us. The situation is out of our control, but we will hopefully be at the Shackerstone Festival at the beginning of September

Monday, August 18, 2008

Top of the Ryders Green Locks to Top of Oldbury Locks.

Monday 18th August.

Top of the Ryders Green Locks to Top of Oldbury Locks. 3.6 miles and 9 locks.


It was a dark, drizzly morning which greeted us early starters. The plan was to set off at 6am, because with 30+ boats to do locks, someone needed to be off early. So once again it was us on N.B Hadar, Brian on N.B Kyle and Roy on N.B Gerald No13 who set off first, closely followed by N.B’s Clover, Alder, Temeraire, and Tenacious. There is little in the way of scenery on our trip, it is very industrial, with factories and old disused factories, probably waiting to be demolished all along the route. With the drizzle coming down thick and fast N.B Gerald No13 left us at Pudding Junction, he had an appointment with the vet in Oldbury, as Thomas his whippet had hurt his foot. So we waved him goodbye and turned right onto the Birmingham main line where at Bromford Junction we turned and made our way up the three Spon Lane Locks with Brian a head, Paddy was allowed off for his morning walk, and despite the fact it was raining, he was eager to run up and down the towpath. After the locks we had to make a sharp right turn at Spon Lane Junction, which made for an exciting time as the wind was now getting up. So I took the bow rope and followed Keith’s instructions. We got Hadar around the sharp bed with ease and followed beneath the M5 for a while until Oldbury Locks Junction. Brian overshot the junction and had to reverse N.B Kyle back, by which time we had run aground, due to the strong wind, whilst waiting for him to get into the junction. We were now onto the Titford Canal, which climbs up the Oldbury flight of six locks, when the heavens opened for a short time. We all had a good system going up the flight. Brian would set his lock and move into it, he would then set the next lock ahead for himself. After leaving the first lock, I would then shut the gates behind him and then set it for us. It worked like clock work, until three locks from the top we noticed the pounds were down like yesterdays had been, so we set about letting water down, this did not take long and it was not long before we were at the top. Titford Canal serves as a feeder from Titford Pools to Rotton Park Reservoir. We both winded our boats and moored above the locks, as we will be making another early start in the morning back down the flight. At the top of the flight is the old Titford Pump House, which is the BCN’s headquarters and houses the BW sanitary station. It was sods law that as we got to the top the rain stopped and the sun came out.It was not long before the others were joining us, so we went lock wheeling again to get everyone through. What I love about doing the locks, is that you get to chat to everyone that you may have not seen that morning, or get to see later in the evening.We had two casualties on this part of the journey. Roy on N.B Gerald No13 got stuck in a lock due to a tyre behind the gates that was soon sorted out though. Brian on N.B Kyle has blown a head gasket, and as I type he is having it repaired, by people who work at Russell Newbery. We are supposed to be going to a bar-b-q at the Titford Pump House later. It is not bar-b-q weather, its cold and raining at the moment, just as well they have erected a tent and opened up the meeting room for this evening.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anglesey Basin to the top of Ryders Green Locks

Saturday 16th August.

Anglesey Basin to Longwood Junction. 7.4 miles, 4 hours 20 minutes.
7.20am and we were off for a reasonably early start. Brian on N.B Kyle joined us as we set off. We headed back along the Anglesey Branch past the coal shoots and Ogley Junction.At Catshill Junction we turned onto the Daw End Branch and headed for Walsall Wood. At 8.40am Brian was the first one down the weed hatch, pulling out allsorts of rubbish, so this did not bode well. We now had a convoy amassing behind us. At 9.15am it was our turn. Hadar came to a sudden halt in Walsall Wood Bridge ‘Ole, her engine stopped dead, so we knew it was serious. I managed to get to the bow and haul the bow in whilst Keith coped with the stern. Steve from N.B Bluemoon came down and gave us a hand, to stern haul her out of the bridge ‘ole and into a safer place so the others who were behind us could pass. Keith then striped off and disappeared into the weed box. He reappeared saying “We are going to be sometime, we have what looks like a boat canopy around the prop, and I cannot even move the prop by hand, so wave everyone on” ,So everyone was waved on whilst Keith grappled with this mystery object. It then got revealed to me on the towpath, that there had been a banner on the bridge, advertising Fitness First. I looked up, no banner was there. So I put two and two together and made four. Yes it was around our prop arghhhhh. I then conveyed this message to Keith, who was hacking away at this thing with the Stanley knife.Some 50 minutes later he emerged from the weed box with the offending item, and yep as I guessed it was the Fitness first banner. Companies really should be careful where they hang their promotional banners and I will be sending them the photo and conveying my message. We only got half of it, so god only knows where the rest went. This one was taken down by the local kids and just thrown over the bridge. Despite that interruption to our day, we did have the most wonderful time and saw some fabulous countryside. The canal itself is weeded up and the water quality is poor, but the scenery makes up for that part. We arrived at Longwood Junction at 12.30pm and moor up against a BW hopper, with Brian’s boat alongside, giving enough room for the others to join in, because two groups will now become one as we all meet up at the same place for the rest of the cruise.
The evening was spent in the Longwood Boat Club eating ordered fish and chips, which were mmmm yummy and enjoying the company of like minded people. Brian gave a talk about the scandal of Russell Newbery over the history and we were treated to a monologue by Peter, which was all about a holiday they had on a hire boat. It was excellent. We needed our beds so did not stay till late.

Sunday 17th August.

Longwood to the top of Ryders Green Locks. 7.6 miles, 17 locks, 7 hours 40 minutes
.

We had agreed with Brian that we would leave at 5am, so we were in bed pretty early only to be woken up by rain lashing down and a howling wind. My thought was I only hope we are not going to be working locks in this weather at 5am. The alarm clock shattered our slumber at 4am and we crept out of bed.I opened the back cabin doors to a dark but glorious morning and no rain; the daylight was just putting in an appearance. Brian was up because I could see his back cabin light on. We had breakfast and a cup of tea, but Paddy did not get his walk until later in the morning. So come 5am we could hear the engine start up of N.B’s Clover, Alder, Temeraire and Tenacious, so they as always were off early. Come 5.10am Brian was ready to go, so we set the locks between us and off he went, we had problems with the gates at lock two as they would not stay open, but soon cured that problem and he was off into daybreak. Keith then fired up Hadar and worked his way slowly and as quietly as he could to lock one, where I was waiting. Daybreak revealed a misty morning, but it looked stunning. The weather for the day would be occasional showers, but mostly sunshine, which at times was really hot.I even got to hear the first bird sing at the break of dawn, it was beautiful. By this time Roy on N.B Gerald No 13 had also set off below the locks, so we had a 3 boat convoy down the locks at Rushall. Brian was in front followed by Roy, followed by us, so we helped each other do the Rushall seven.At Rushall Junction we turned onto the Tame Valley Canal, where we caught up with the boats that left at 5am and Brian who was having a breather, we then followed the M6 for away, with its roaring traffic and usual mayhem. The canal then goes over the M6 so we get to look down on the cars for a change. Some of the canal can be very weeded up so you have to keep to the channel, especially with deep drafted boats, but it is worth the visit. At the Tame Valley Junction turned onto the Walsall Canal and made our way to Ryders Green Locks, which were to prove our biggest challenge of the day.We arrived at the locks with Roy on N.B Gerald No 13 and set off up the flight of eight locks. At Lock 2 we noticed a boat coming down, they had set four locks in advance, so we thought we would wait and not steal their water, what we had not realised until we went through and got to Lock 5 was that they had used all the water from the pounds above and had left a paddle up grrrrr. So the pounds above lock 5 to 8 were all empty. Roy immediately rang Brenda on N.B Colehurst and Ian on N.B Temeraire to ask them to slow people down as it would be a while before we could get enough water down. He also ran British Waterways, to inform them of the situation and to tell them we had 30 + boats wanting to come up. So said “they would send someone out”, which they did but we had between us sorted the problem out and were soon on our way with a que of boats following us up. By 1.20pm along with Roy and his boat we had moored up, so we decided between us to work some of the locks to get people through, which worked really well, and as some people moored up they came and helped as well. We had all the boats up through the locks by 5.45pm.The Eight Locks pub, kept people in drinks ha ha. Roy on Gerald No13 had worked like us had worked like trojans getting everyone moored up. With everyone safely moored up we could enjoy and quiet evening onboard our boats. I think everyone was shattered after the day’s events. No one would be going down the locks until the morning anyway because the canal was blocked with all the boats.As I sit here typing my last posting for this week, it is once again raining, lets hope it runs out of rain before we set off in the morning at 6am.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wolverhampton to Anglesey Basin.

Thursday 14th August.

Wolverhampton to Pelsall Junction, Wryley and Essington Canal.12.3 miles 9 hours no locks
.

We had agreed the night before with Brian on N.B Kyle that we would make an early start, so having heard N.B’s Alder and Clover leave at 5.40am we were up breakfast done and boat started. Brian already had N.B Kyle warming up and was ready for the off, so he headed off with us following on behind at 6.10am. The weather was a real contrast to yesterdays. The morning was chilly, just like an autumnal morning, but the sun was out which made everything look so beautiful, even the factories and tramline.At 6.20am we were turning into Horseley Fields Junction onto the Wryley & Essington Canal. It has the reputation of being messy and weedy and they were not kidding, as we were to find out through our 9 hour cruise, bearing in mind it should take around 4 hours to do. At 7.25am we made our first of many tours down the weed hatch at Wednesfield, to bring out plastic bags, a jacket, weed and other things. After that we would be like Brian spending a lot of time getting to know the weed hatch.If it was not the fact that the weather was so wonderful, I reckon Brian would have given up. He even got out a bottle of red wine, which he drank along the way to drown his sorrows. At one point things were so bad, that he was contemplating selling the boat. Keith and I did our best to keep his spirits high, when ever he stopped we would wait for him and he with us when we stopped, it was purely in case if one of us had a problem, we had back-up. We had been one of the first pair of boats to leave and yet we were to find out that we were the last pair of boats to arrive at the Pelsall Junction mooring that was how bad things had been for us. But Keith and I were not down hearted it is a part of boating you must accept and just get on with it. The canal not only had plenty of rubbish in it, it also had Pennywort and Blanket weed, which made life hard work as well.The best part of the day’s trip was the last two miles when we had pleasant countryside views and some deeper water. We finally arrived at Pelsall Junction and found ourselves a mooring at 3.10 pm. I was going to do a lovely write up about today’s events but I am way too tired. We managed to fill five pedal bin liners with rubbish from around our propeller, I reckon we had someone whole wardrobe of clothing in those bags.We did however finish off the day on a hire note, we had a fabulous meal in The Finger Post Pub, the tables had been pre-booked for us, and we just had to arrived and order a meal. We sat with Brian and Helen from N.B Harnser and enjoyed a nice evening. The icing on the cake was seeing the sunset on the walk back to the boat.It was truly awesome, there was not a breath of wind and we could hear the coots calling across the water. It was amazing, so a perfect end to a rather long and frustrating day.

Friday 15th August.

Pensall Junction to Anglesey Basin. 4.9 miles, 3 hours 40 mins.


Having had such a frustrating day yesterday, it had been decided that we would not be setting off until ninish, so that meant a lie in for us all. I was awake at 6am and up at 7am. I wanted to cook my meatballs early, so they would be ready for the evening meal, I also wanted to strip the bed and wash the sheets, before we would fill up with water again at Brownhills. With those jobs sorted Keith and I then got Hadar ready for the off. Brian on N.B Kyle did his weed hatch and prayed it would be the one and only time he would have to do it today.At 9.05am we headed firstly up the Cannock Extension behind Brian. The Cannock Extension, was built between 1858 and 1863, it once connected with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, we could not turn in the basin at the end because other boats were moored their and our 70ft boat would not wind, so we decided to wind just before at the terminus which used to serve the Brownhills Colliery. The whole of that stretch of canal is beautiful and at the moment the heather is our, so you see a carpet of purple, it is wonderful. The oak trees are producing their acorns; there were crab apple trees, and a plethora of blackberry bushes. Having winded we headed back to the Junction and turned left, passing The Finger Post where we ate last night.The weather was outstanding as we meandered past fields, new housing estates, woods and meadows. Summer had arrived at last. With the good weather came the gongoozlers with their mobile phone cameras, small children wanting to wave at us and fishermen out to catch the biggest fish of the day.
We arrived at Brownhills, to take on water and get rid of all the rubbish we had collected yesterday. We had no need to stop for shopping, so vacated the mooring for N.B Harnser to take over.We were now on the last stretch of the day. The Anglesey Branch last carried coal from the Cannock mines in 1967, the land is now rural and quite beautiful, we then past a lovely cast iron bridge which spans Ogley Junction, where the main line of the Wyrley and Essington once join to the Coventry Canal at Huddlesford Junction. The route which was abandoned in 1954, is now under restoration and will be part of the Lichfield Canal.
We arrived at Anglesey Basin and were greeted by some old coal shoots. We then winded in the basin, which is now a heritage site. It was the site of No 1 pit of the Cannock Chase Colliery Company, it opened in 1849 and closed in 1856, it was known as ‘The Marquis’.
N.B’s Patience and Norken Dream were already moored up, so we found a nice deep water mooring behind them and set up camp. At Anglesey basin there is the Chasewater Country Park, 700-acre of park land, which is rich in bird life. They also have a railway which is open to the public. Chasewater itself was built in 1799 as a feeder reservoir, the dam collapsed causing death to livestock and wildlife, when it was rebuilt they faced it with stone, and there have been no further problems.
We've seen loads of wildlife today, Coots, Moorhen, Dragonflies, Crickets, Common Tern, fish and much more.
We will spend a pleasant evening here and may even have the bar-b-q out for the first time this summer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day 1 BCN Cruise. Birmingham to Wolverhampton.

Wednesday 13th August.

Birmingham to Wolverhampton. 14.3 miles and 3 locks.


Having had a night of very little sleep (no idea why), the alarm went off at 7.00am, although we were already awake. So this was the day when it would all begin, we would be taking off on the BCN Explorer Cruise, we knew are destination for the day, after our group get together last night and we have our map. Brian on N.B Kyle was also up early, although it seems that some had left at 6am. We did not leave our mooring until 7.45am, along with Brian.The first order of the day on our sheets was to navigate around the Oozells, Icknield Port and Soho Loops. We left out the Oozell loop as we were pointing in the wrong direction. So we carried on to the Icknield Port Loop where there is a BW yard over looked by the Rotton Park Reservoir.No sooner had we done the Icknield Port Loop, we crossed straight over to the Soho Loop. This loop is the longest of the three, it runs for over a mile in an arc, and along its course we came to Winson Green prison and Asylum Bridge, aptly named I think.The water quality differed so much in places, from a dirty black colour to clear as a crystal, where you could see the plant life and fish. In the dark deaths the water smelt of oil and other horrible things. Certainly not somewhere you would want to take a dip that’s certain. Coming out of the Soho Loop and back onto the mainline, we discovered we had something around the prop, which left us with poor steering, so we stopped and Keith got down into the weed hatch. He pulled out plastic bags, nylon jacket and weed, so already we had half a carrier bag full of rubbish. Brian had waited for us, so we set off again and headed along the main line, under the engine arm aqueduct bridge, which is stunning.The weather really could not make its mind up, one moment we had sunshine and then it was pouring with rain, this is how it continued throughout our trip, not knowing whether to don the waterproofs or not. Still what is a little rain between boaters?
We did not use the Smethwich Locks they were being used by group One, we carried on past Spon and Brades Locks which were an option, towards Factory locks, which we did with N.B’s Kyle and Harnser. British Waterways had laid on some help at the locks so it meant my job was made easy. At Factory Junction we carried on along the main line through Coseley Tunnel 360 yds long and along the Wolverhampton level. At Deepfields Junction we could have turned into the Bradley Arm, but decided to give it a miss, as we were told by the BW guys it was weeded up and we would be checking our weed hatches ever two minutes, so we gave that a miss. At Ladymoor it was Brian’s turn to get rubbish around his prop, so we stopped whilst he took on the mammoth task of removing the obstruction.N.B Patience with Elaine and David onboard had caught us up, as had N.B Bluemoon, so we now had a convoy once again. No sooner had we set off then we had to stop due to another thing around the prop, this time it was weed and plastic bags grrrrr. We arrived in Wolverhampton at 2.30pm and moored up opposite the Sanitary Station with N.B Kyle. The one drawback with our mooring is we cannot get to the other side of the canal at all we have our own private space, so no going to the pub for us ha ha ha. It has been an enjoyable days cruising in great company, not even the weather dampened our excitement. What struck me about the trip was the difference in scenery. At times it was really lovely, old industrial land had been taken back by nature, so we were seeing lots of wildlife and flora, such as Evening Primrose, Golden Rod, Ragwart, lots of species of grasses, and in other areas, it also looked like a war zone, with piles of rubble and dirt everywhere. It is clear they are trying to use the old industrial land, but in the meantime it looks like a bomb site, which a bit of a shame. There were many disused factories along the route today, an industrial ear gone by the board, never to return it seems.