Saturday, 30 August 2008

Wootton Wawen aqueduct

Next stop on our quick tour of places on the Stratford Canal was Wooton Wawen aqueduct. We knew we were there when we saw a narrowboat apparently above the roof of a pub. We parked in the pub car park and had a drink sitting in the garden by the canal, before walking round to have a look at the aqueduct itself.

Friday, 29 August 2008

More boating

A share in Debdale came up for sale a few weeks ago. We thought about buying it, but decided we wouldn't have time to use all the weeks that two shares would give us.

Then one of the other owners suggested that a few of us get together to buy the share. So we've gone in with two other owners, giving each of us an extra week on board. It means that we no longer own a twelfth of Debdale; we're up to a ninth.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


We left the IWA Festival at around 2.30 on Sunday afternoon, and got a full bus back to the car at Birmingham Midshires. We were surprised at how many people had only just arrived, and were waiting for a bus to the site.

We headed off to Stratford, as we'll be coming this way by boat next month, and wanted to check out the ground. We parked in the town centre, and found Bancroft Basin just over the road. It's a bit chaotic at the moment, as they're re-doing the gardens and the basin is surrounded by security fences. Access to the lock down onto the river looks particularly difficult. Perhaps that explains why there were still spaces on the pontoons. The signs say the work is due to be finished in August -- so that looks like a deadline missed.

From the basin, we walked a little way up the canal, to the bottom lock. There was a surprising amount of rubbish in the water, and there was an ominous looking matress at the far end of the lock. Not the sort of thing you'd want to get round your prop.

We retraced our steps to the basin, bought ice creams from the ice cream boat, and walked across the bridge to the far side of the river. It was very busy with boats -- rowing boats, some with little outboards, punts, and trip boats.

We checked out the river moorings, and decided we'll probably spend our night in Stratford on the river rather than in the basin. There were free spaces even on a bank holiday weekend, so midweek in September shouldn't be a problem. The moorings extend almost all the way down to Colin P Witter lock, which has massive girders over it to stop the chamber collapsing. A hotel boat came through, watched by plenty of gonzoozlers.

The rain which had been threatening for a while then came, which with the showers while we were at the show meant we'd got wet three or four times. We took the little chain ferry back over to the other side of the river. Each crossing was packed, so even at 50p a time they must take a fair bit of cash.

The RSC theatre looks a mess at the moment, partially demolished and with a tower of girders up one side. It'll look good when it's finished. We headed off in search of more bits of the Stratford Canal, of which more later.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Napton Lock Cottage Restoration III

The owners of the Napton Lock Cottage have commented on my last post about the near completion of their restoration project. Nigel says that accusations (not by me, I might add) that they've enlarged the cottage are wrong. He says the attic room was always there. He also says they're very boater friendly -- so when you're next stuck in a long queue at the bottom of the Napton flight, you know where to go for a chat!

Here's Nigel's comment in full:

More of a major restoration than conversion. The attic room has always been there, we've added conservation approved skylights. Several people have accused us of enlarging the cottage (or building a new one!) However I can assure you that the square footage remains exactly the same as when we bought it. Perhaps removing the old white paint gives the impression of the property being enlarged.

Next time you are passing, say hello and check on our progress. We are "boater friendly" as Louise and I occasionally crew on the ex FMC steamer nb President (time permitting!).

Monday, 25 August 2008

IWA National Festival

Sunday was spent at the IWA Festival at Autherley Junction. We'd stayed the night in Warwick, having driven up after my shift on Saturday evening, and it was less than an hour to Wolverhampton. We followed the signs and parked at the Birmingham Midshires HQ, and got the first bus to the festival site. This meant we were among the first in at 10am, and we went straight away to the boats on the pontoon. There was a very poor selection of new boats on show, I felt. We were actually disappointed by most of the show, with many of the stands having nothing to do with boating at all. There were engines and bow thrusters and toilets, of course, but there didn't seem to be the usual stands of boaty bits and bobs.

The best bit in many ways, which we could have done for free I suppose, was walking up and down the tow path and looking at all the visiting boats.

We walked down to Autherley Junction, where there seemed to be hardly any difference at all between the levels of the Staffs and Worcs and the Shroppie.

We also walked down to Aldersley Junction, the start of the BCN, and the foot of the Wolverhampton 21 (which we have done in both directions).

Moored opposite the junction, next to a sign on the fingerpost saying that it was the last visitor mooring before the festival moorings began, was the OwnerShips boat Shadow. No sign of Halfie on board though, and I didn't spot him at the show either (although if he wasn't wearing the stoical expression of his blogger profile photo, I wouldn't have recognised him).

Moored opposite the festival site was Guelrose, but Mike was probably working.

Sanity was also there, but moored in the middle of three abreast. I did snatch a few words with Bruce, though, as he tipped yet another barrow load of wood chips into the mud. He told me 80 tonnes of bark chippings would have been put down by the end of the day.

After lunch, we walked up the Shroppie as far as the Wolverhampton Boat Club before turning back. There were still boats further up, but we felt we'd walked far enough. We left at about 2.30, catching a bus back to the car. We then headed off to Stratford, but more of that in a separate post.

Strange Ethos

A good day yesterday at the IWA Fetival at Wolverhampton, but more about that when I'm back home from work and can post photos.

We left the festival soon after lunch, and headed to Stratford-upon-Avon, as we're due to be taking Debdale down there in three weeks time. We then called in at a few places on the South Stratford Canal, as we made our way back to our hotel in Warwick. We saw several hire boats from ethos narrowboats, which we'd never heard of before, so I looked up their website. They appear to be a management company that also runs apartments and mobile homes.

But they have some very strange rules for their boats, including that each must have three adults on board. Three? Thank goodness other hire firms don't have the same rules, or we and plenty of other people would probably never have taken to the water. But then most hire companies don't put on their websites that narrowboats can be lethal weapons, either.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

IWA tomorrow

I'm at work today. But I've managed to do a swap so I've got tomorrow off. And this evening, we're heading to a hotel in Warwick, so we're well placed for the IWA at Wolverhampton tomorrow. Then we'll stay in Warwick again tomorrow night, before I'm back at work in London on Monday morning. We're just hoping that the weather tomorrow is as good as today.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Ventnor Farm again

I've been back up to Warwickshire today for another boat test. The photographer, David, and I met the boat and its builders near Stockton Top, and we set off along the Grand Union for the exterior photos to be taken. Halfway to the boat's home mooring at Ventnor Farm, we moored up for David to take the internal photos and for me to have a good look through the boat. We were lucky because the sun came out, and stayed out the whole time.

This is the view this morning from Bridge 21, looking towards Ventnor Farm and Calcutt.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

One year on

I've noticed that it was on 16 August last year that I made my first blog post. We'd just got back from our first outing on Debdale.

It was a couple of days before I put the hit counter on, and that's currently reading just over 9800 hits, which I think is pretty good going. Of course I don't believe that figure; I've got three hit counters of various types, and they all come up with different figures every day!

Friday, 15 August 2008


I've been to Reading today for another boat test. Just after we turned onto the Thames from the marina, the fire brigade came past.

Moored just downstream from the entrance to the Kennet and Avon was a large Dutch barge where there was filming going on. The giveaway wasn't the light shining onto a hatch, but the large catering facility on the towpath! Just beyond the first bridge was a long line of trucks, including one which seemed to be a huge generator.

We went up through Blakes Lock, which is still in Environment Agency waters, before winding just before the traffic lights and the Oracle shopping centre.

When we came back a little later, a hotel boat pair from Bywater Cruises came up behind us, breasted up. The lock keeper decided to get all three boats in the lock, so we went in first and positioned ourselves diagonally, leaving just enough room for the pair. Among the holiday makers were several Americans, enjoying a week's trip from Newbury to Oxford.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Whitefield on test

September's Canal Boat magazine contains my review of Whitefield, the extraordinary Fernwood boat.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Mobile Broadband

Our new mobile broadband dongle arrived this morning. We got a good deal with 3: 5GB for £7.50 a month; the dongle itslef was free. This means that (signal permitting) we'll be able to blog our way round our route in September. That'll make it much easier for anyone who wants to come and help with some locks to know where we'll be!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Debdale sighted

Amy and James of Lucky Duck spotted Debdale yesterday and have put a photo on their blog. Debdale is shown moored at the Bridge Inn at Napton.

The Whites are on board at the moment. But in five weeks time, we'll be loading our stuff on board and heading off down the Stockton flight. We can't wait!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

IWA National Festival

Last night I finally got round to ordering a couple of tickets for the IWA National at Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton. I was due to have been working all over the August Bank Holiday weekend, but I've managed to do a swap so we'll be able to dash up on the Sunday.

The tickets are a pound cheaper if you order online, and you don't have to queue. Last time we went, a couple of years ago at Beale Park on the Thames, we arrived before the gates opened, and still found ourselves in a long line of people who all seemed to want to pay by credit card.

There's lots of information on the IWA website, and I particularly like this feature, where they've marked the main sites on a Google map.

And because I don't like posting without a photo, this is Autherley Junction as we went past in 2006 on our extended Leicester Circuit.