Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Matilda Rose

We saw nb Matilda Rose several times during our time on the Southern Stratford, but it wasn't until last night that I realised that it was the boat featured in the Contented Souls blog. With the boat and the blog having different names, I just hadn't put two and two together.

The first time we saw Jill and Graham was at Kingswood Junction, where Jill was poised with a camera and took some photos of us coming out of Lapworth Lock 21.

Graham and Jill have posted the photos on their own blog, but have kindly said I can re-post them here. Matilda Rose went past us a couple of locks further down, as we'd stopped for lunch, then we passed them later in the day and the following day, when they were still going south and we were heading back north.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Walsall town basin

I realised I hadn't published any photos of our moorings at Walsall Town Basin. We were the only boat there, and I got the impression that boats are something of a novelty, with the pontoons rarely used. The building behind the boat is the new art gallery.

The town centre is immediately behind the basin, and there's a pub along side. In front of Debdale is a large area still awaiting development. It all looks rather different on the Urban Splash website.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

For Starcross

Jim on Starcross asked for a photo of Lowsonford, where Starcross used to be moored. So here's a picture taken while we were on the water point: it's another OwnerShips boat, Scherzo, coming through the bridge below the lock.
Jim said one of the problems of the Lowsonford moorings was that it's seven locks in either direction to turn around. Perhaps that explains why there seem to be so many empty spaces. Some boats could have been out cruising, of course. Or maybe the reason was the one identified a few weeks ago by Bruce on Sanity: before when moorings became vacant the next person on the waiting list could take up the place almost immediately; now, the mooring tendering process takes so long, that spaces are empty for months.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Fourteen

Thursday 25 September

We knew we had quite a long way to go today, so we were up early, slipped out of the Saltisford Arm at 7.30, and had tea and toast on the way. The first locks of the day were the two at the Cape. The pound between them was extremely low, thanks to very leaky gates in the lower lock. Then it was the long journey through Warwick and Leamington Spa, although we did make a quick stop at the Warwick Tesco, which is right by the canal.

Just before Radford Bottom Lock, another boat pulled out behind us, so we shared a few locks with them until they stopped for water at Fosse Wharf. By mid morning the sun had come out, and it was turning into a lovely day. We stopped for lunch once we'd completed the Bascote Locks, and washed the roof and the sides of the boat. Two more locks before we filled the water tank opposite the Blue Lias pub, then it was up the eight Stockton Locks. We were following a pair, but even so the flight took only an hour. It's a really pleasant area, and the locks were looking particularly good in the sunshine.

We arrived back at Stockton Top at around 4.30, and moored on the outside of the marina. We fancied a drink, but found that The Boat doesn't open until 6pm. Some Kate Boats staff were taking the tiniest narrow boat I've ever seen, Mumble, for a spin -- literally.

It's been a great two weeks, covering plenty of new ground, and the weather has been much much better than expected. In two weeks, we've had only two wet afternoons. Adrian will be back on boat for a few days in November, and we're also due out at Christmas. Next year's booking chart has also reached us, and we've managed to secure a three week trip next September. We won't be able to start planning until we know where Debdale will be based next season.

11 miles, 22 locks. (Totals: 133 miles, 222 locks)

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Thirteen

Wednesday 24 September

Last night's mooring on Rowington embankment was very dark and very quiet - except for the ducks, who seemed to quack a lot, and peck the side of the boat. They must be well fed from boats stopping in the area, as they rushed over to the window as soon as they saw anyone.

We set off at about 9, and got to the top of the Hatton Locks about an hour later. We thought we'd wait a while to see if another boat came along for us to share with, and while we waited filled the tank with water. When the tank was almost full, we were delighted to see a boat coming along, and a woman walking along the tow path with a windlass. We told her we'd been waiting for a boat to share the locks with, but she said she was actually with a second boat and these two had already agreed to share the locks. So off they went, leaving us to follow on behind, turning almost every lock in the process. Even so, we got to the bottom in just over three hours, and the weather was much better than forecast with long sunny spells. The locks were looking their best, particularly the steep section.

We moored in the Saltisford Arm, where we are behind Liberty Belle. We went into town for a late lunch, then had a wander round before returning to the boat and lighting the fire.

5 miles, 21 locks. (Totals: 122 miles, 200 locks)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Twelve

Tuesday 23 September

It's been a day where the fleeces and jackets have been on and off all day, as the came out and then disappeared behind clouds. First thing, I went into Wootton Wawen to get a paper. It's quite a nice village, spoiled by a very busy road. The lane from the canal down to the main road is even worse, with no footpath, no speed limit, and people flying round blind bends without expecting anything to be coming the other way.

We got underway at 9.15, and didn't see any other boats until we got the the first lock where we were behind some hirers doing their very first lock, and a man single handing. One of the locks is immediately followed by the diminutive Yarningale Aqueduct.

We stopped for water at Lowsonford, and as the tank took a while to fill had lunch while we waited. Setting off again, we had more locks up to Kingswood Junction. It's a very pretty area, with little split bridges.

At our penultimate lock, Adrian (who was on lock duty) got rather frustrated to find an Anglo welsh hire boat on the lock landing above the lock. He'd hoped they were coming down, to save him some work, but in fact there was no-one to be seen. Five people arrived back on their bikes as we were rising in the lock, and one came over to say how pleased they were that the lock would be set for them. Adrian asked if they realised they were on a lock mooring; they did, but said there was nowhere else to stop. Adrian pointed out that there was plenty of space below the lock. Then to make matters worse, they all stood and watched, without even offering to help open the gate!

More excitement at the last lock before the junction, where a boat was being hauled across the basin. Its propshaft had become detatched from the gear box. We turned right onto the link, then right again onto the Grand Union. Now we're really on our way back home. We're moored just through Bridge 62, on the Rowington embankment, with a great view across the valley.

I'd forgotten to get milk at the shop this morning, so I walked the mile or so to Shrewley. It included going through the towpath tunnel up to the main street of the village. Nicholson says it's exciting and slippery; Pearson says it makes an entertaining walk. In truth, it's very steep and very dark. And I've no idea how you'd get down to the towpath the other side of the tunnel: there are no signs showing the way.

8 miles, 17 locks. (Totals: 117 miles, 179 locks)

Monday, 22 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Eleven

Monday 22 September

We made an early morning visit to the Sainsbury's Local just up from Bancroft Basin, then had breakfast and pulled away from our pontoon at 9.30. It had started very overcast, but by the time we left, the sun had come out. We'd seen a couple of other boats leave before us, so we had to turn the first few locks, before we began to meet people Stratford-bound.

Water levels at the Wilmcote flight were very low again. We had a nasty moment waiting for Lock 47. I was holding the boat at the lock landing with the centre rope, and when the woman operating the lock for the boat coming down open opened the paddle, a huge amount of water came out, caught the bow, and began to sweep it across the canal. I let the rope out, and as she wasn't watching was was happening, shouted to her to drop the paddle. I hadn't tied up the boat as I thought this might happen (the shallowness of the pound made the effect much worse); if I had, I think the boat wound have been pulled onto its side.
We stopped for lunch at Wilmcote, then headed off under darkening skies. Soon, it was raining (not in the forecast), and at times threw it down. It was still raining on and off as we went across the Edstone Aqueduct.

We've moored for the night at Wootton Wawen, arriving at just before 4. We were hoping to visit the farm shop, but it turns out that it's closed on Mondays!

7 miles, 17 locks. (Totals: 109 miles, 162 locks)

Sunday, 21 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Ten

Sunday 21 September

It was a chilly, misty morning, but with the promise of a sunny day. Very soon, it was warm and sunny, and we were forced into our shorts again. First job of the day was the remaining three Preston Bagot Locks. Then it was over the aqueducts at Wootton Wawen and Edstone.

At the Wilmcote Top Lock, we were behind two day boats we'd also seen at Bearley Lock. They were planning to go down the top lock, wind, and come back up again. They had dozens of crew, none of whom seemed to know what they were doing. Fortunately, they let us go after the first one, so we weren't delayed too long. There were quite a few boats coming up the flight, but some of the pounds were very short of water.
We had lunch on the move, and arrived in Stratford at around 3.15. On entering the basin, we found lots of spaces on the pontoons, and I spun the boat and reversed into a mooring really quite impressively. There's some kind of fetival going on, so there are throngs of people about. We went for a walk across the bridge, along by the river, and back via the chain ferry. A few more boats have arrived, and it's a lovely evening. It's just a pity that Bancroft Basin is still surrounded by landscaping works and fences.

9 miles, 20 locks. (Totals: 102 miles, 145 locks)

September Cruise - Day Nine

Saturday 20 September

A slightly later start today, partly because I made some bread dough after breakfast. It was gone 9am by the time we set off, only to find ourselves behind two girls with a motor and butty. Consequently, our progress down the Lapworth flight was a bit slower than expected. They moored up below Lock 14, so we were on our own.

However, it was a lovely sunny day, and it was so warm we had to change into our shorts. (It also helped the dough rise, sitting on the roof). It was nearly noon by the time we got to the water point below Lock 18, and while the tank was filling I walked down to the shop. Then it was down to the junction, where there were boats coming in all directions. We stopped for a lunch of freshly baked rolls just after Lock 23. We were passed by Matilda Rose who asked us if we had a blog! We then continued south, with quite a lot of traffic in both directions.

The locks seemed very slow to fill and empty, and the gates were very heavy. The towpath was busy with walkers, and everyone was happy with the sunshine. By Lock 20, five white geese were making their presence felt!

We passed through Lowsonford, past the pub where we ate after the National a few weeks ago. The canal side garden was busy.As it was such a nice afternoon, we carried on until gone 5pm, when we moored up in a very quiet spot between Locks 35 and 36. This is proving to be a fantastically beautiful canal. We’ve done one very tiny aqueduct (Yarningale), and we’ve got two more to go tomorrow, as we head into Stratford.

5 miles, 29 locks. (Totals: 93 miles, 125 locks)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Eight

Friday 19 September

Another bright sunny morning. I knew my faith in a September Indian summer was well founded! We had a relaxed start to the day: it was 9am before we set off, through the Broad Street Tunnel, Worcester Bar and Gas Street Basin.

Having hardly seen a moving boat for days, we were rather taken by surprise by the number of boats about. We made our way along the Worcs and Birmingham Canal, taking two hours to reach King's Norton Junction, where we turned left onto the Stratford.

The Stratford Canal looked lovely in the dappled sunshine. We stopped for water at Warstock (excellent pressure), then had lunch on the move. Soon we were stopping the traffic for the Shirley lift bridge. Then two more lift bridges (but manual ones) before reaching Lapworth Top Lock. A boat was just coming out as we arrived, which was fortunate. We went down four locks, then moored up near the cricket ground for the night.

17 miles, 4 locks. (Totals: 88 miles, 96 locks)

September Cruise - Day Seven

Thursday 18 September

The pub by Walsall town basin was still quite noisy when we went to bed, but when I woke up in the early hours there was absolute silence. It's a pity more boats don't use the basin. It seems like a perfectly safe place to moor (even though the pontoons are not secure), and the more boats there are about, the better everything would be.
Adrian was awake early, and decided we should set off. So it was 7am when we slipped out of the basin. It was chilly, misty, but showed the promise of a sunny day. The stretch of the Walsall Canal from just after the town arm to Bughole Bridge was full of weed, meaning that we made very slow progress. It felt as though we were wading uphill through treacle. The weed made the water very shallow, and we needed frequent blasts of reverse to clear the prop. In addition, in places the bullrushes made the channel very narrow.

What did come as a surprise, though, was how green the canal was. Even though there were often factories, houses, or roads nearby, we were surrounded by trees and wildlife. We saw dozens of herons, the occasional kingfisher, and three-inch dragon flies.

We reached Ryders Green Locks at around 10 am. It was busy with BW men mowing and strimming, and one of them went up the flight and set all the locks for us. It was another surprisingly attractive flight, considering that there's industry all around.

At Ryders Green Junction we continued onto the Wednesbury Old Canal, then at Pudding Green Junction we turned onto the Birmingham Main Line. We stayed on the New Main Line all the way into the city, passing under the Stewart Aqueduct that's we'd crossed over the other day. We arrived at Sherborne Wharf at 1.30pm, and filled with diesel, pumped out, replaced a gas bottle, and started some washing. Then we moored at the end of the Oozells Street Loop, and went for a late lunch. The rest of the afternoon wa spent pottering about.

We're glad we did the W&E and the Walsall Canals. They're much more pleasant than we'd expected, and although the rubbish and the weed is a problem, it's not insurmountable. And if more boats used the waterways, surely things would improve.

Tomorrow, we head out of Birmingham on the Worcs and Birmingham Canal, then turn onto the Stratford.

14 miles, 8 locks. (Totals: 71 miles, 92 locks)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Six

Wednesday 17 September

We made an early start this morning, as we had no idea how long our planned route would take. We'd been warned that the Wyrley and Essington Canal could be very slow. So we slipped quietly away from our moorings at 7.20, and had tea and toast on the way. Two hours later, we were at Horseley Fields Junction, turning onto the W&E. The next five miles, to Sneyd Juntion, took three and three-quarter hours. The canal was shallow, weedy, and full of rubbish. At some points, the floating pennywort is almost taking over, leaving just a boat's width of channel.

At one point, we were halted by a huge clump of weed caught across the bow. Adrian also made two trips down the weedhatch: the first revealed a bicycle inner tube; the second a high vis vest and a load of plastic bags. We passed one moving boat, an Anglo Welsh hire boat.At just after 1pm we stopped at Sneyd Wharf for water, made bacon sandwiches for lunch. We also saw our second and final moving boat, a man testing his new gear box.

The next section, to Birchills Junction, was also quite full of rubbish, but we managed to clear the prop each time using blasts of reverse. Just after the junction is Walsall Top Lock. This had been one of our possible mooring places, but it was only 3pm, and the visitor mooring was occupied anyway. The locks are quite attractive. The paddle gear is very clunky, some of it is still, and one didn't work at all. For some reason, Lock 6 has a pair of bottom gates rather than a single one; lock 7 is overlooked by Smiths Flour Mill, which has been converted into flats, with more apartment blocks built alongside (starting price £52,500).

After the bottom lock, we turned into the town arm. The hire boat we'd seen earlier said there was nowhere to turn here, but I think they were fooled by the boom across the basin entrace. It moves to one side when you drive up to it. So we're moored on a pontoon in Walsall town basin, which it has to be said is a work in progress. There's an art gallery and a pub, and a huge site waiting for development. Hoardings say Urban Splash is coming soon, but it'll be a while yet. Adrian and his mum have been into town (it's right next to us), and say it has everything a town should.

13 miles, 8 locks. (Totals: 57 miles, 84 locks)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Five

Tuesday 16 September

After a dash into Birmingham town centre to buy a charger for the camera battery (!), we left our moorings at 9.30, heading along the Main Line towards Wolverhampton. At Smethwick Junction we turned right, and went up the rather attractive locks onto the Wolverhampton Level.

Soon afterwards, the canal goes under the M5, and spends quite a long time underneath the motorway.

At 1pm, we reached Tipton Juntion and made the tight left turn towards the Black Country Living Museum. We winded, but there were no available moorings in the Museum area, so we moored just the other side of the bridge. We spent the afternoon at the Museum, looking round the re-created Black Country town, and going down a coal mine. The afternoon ended with a trip into the Dudley Tunnel, to see the caverns created by mining.

9 miles, 3 locks (Totals: 44, 76)

Monday, 15 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Four

Monday 15 September

After a quick visit to the village shop, we left our moorings at Catherine de Barnes just before 8am. I was at the tiller; limited movement from the rest of the crew! The canal follows a cutting through the Solihull, so there's not much to see. Two and a half hours brought us to the top of the Camp Hill Locks, where we reversed into the little basin to fill with water at the BW facilities block. Then it was down the locks, (back to narrow ones, thank goodness), crossing with a couple of hire boats coming up.

The takes a strange loop, the result of a road scheme, which puts the two forms of transport right next to each other. There's also lots of graffitti all over the place. The bottom lock is next to Bordesley Junction, where the Saltley Cut goes off to the right. We continued on the Grand Union, through Warwick Bar, and took a quick spin into Typhoo Basin (there's not much to see!). Then it was on to the Digbeth Branch, and up the six Ashted Locks. These had the advantage of single gates at both ends, and there are attractive reedy pounds. The problem is that none of the locks are on the same line, so lining up properly is almost impossible.

We stopped for lunch at the top of the locks, then made the short journey to Aston Junction, to turn onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal towards the Farmer's Bridge Flight. A boat was just going into the bottom lock, and apparently hadn't enjoyed their trip down the locks. I told them it was one of my favourite flights!

A little way up the flight, I could hear paddles being wound, but couldn't see a boat. Then I spotted a man in a suit, carrying a windlass. "Are you Paul?", I asked. And it was: Paul Balmer, from Waterway Routes, who'd been reading the blog and came to help us up the flight! There are some unusual locks, with some under bridges and a couple under a tower block.

Paul was also helping a couple of New Zealanders, readers of his blog, who were on their way down. We crossed in one of the smallest pounds of the flight. Thanks to Paul's help, we completed the thirteen locks of the Farmer's Bridge in just an hour and a quarter, and were soon at the top.

After a quick cuppa, Paul then took me for a look at his boat, and we were for a cruise round the Icknield Port Loop so I could experience electric powered boating. The silence and smoothness make it ideal for the filming Paul does.

In the evening, Adrian and I went to pick up take away burgers from the Gourmet Burger Company, which we took back to the boat. No TV signal here, so we've been watching the DVD of the Llangollen Canal, which Paul kindly gave us. All in all, a fascinating day, through some interesting industrial heritage, with the added excitement of meeting a fellow blogger!

11 miles, 25 locks. (Totals: 36 miles, 73 locks)

Sunday, 14 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Three

Sunday 14 September

A misty start to the day. As it was Sunday, we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast.

There were no other boats in sight when we left our mooring, and headed up the remaining 17 Hatton locks. The first one was empty, but most of the rest were either full, or had an annoying few inches in them, so a paddle needed to be lifted. We were four or five locks from the top before we met any boats coming down. Even then, the top gates were so leaky that the locks had begun to fill.

Although boats were scarce, the locks were busy with walkers, cyclists, and runners. Many of the walkers wanted to know about the locks. I felt like a tourist guide! We completed the 17 locks of the morning in 2 hours 20 minutes, which we thought was pretty good going.

We're always taken by surprise by how long it takes to get from the top of Hatton to Kingswood Junction. In our minds, the junction is much closer than it actually is. Just before we stopped for lunch, the sun came out, and the temperature shot up. Lunch stop was just beyond Kingswood Junction -- the start of the new territory for us. Each other time we've come this way, we've been turning onto or from the Stratford Canal; this time, it we were continuing on the Grand Union. The surroundings were much more pleasant than we'd expected (although we were constantly accompanied by planes taking off from Birmingham Airport.)

When we reached the Knowle Locks, a boat was just coming out, and a Kate Hire boat was going in. It took a couple of hoots on the horn to stop them closing the gates in our face, but then we joined them in the bottom lock. Fortunately, the other boat had loads of crew (mostly just visiting for the day), so the locks were set well ahead. I was at the helm for these locks, and I suggested to the other skipper than we do some synchronised boating: leaving the lock together, keeping close, and entering the next one together. It worked well, and is so much easier than going in one after the other.

Thanks to all the help, we completed the five locks in no time. It's a very pretty area, with well kept lawns, and well maintained locks. The flight, although quite short, looks impressive, as the locks are close together and quite deep.

We continued until Catherine de Barnes (very close to the airport), where we moored up at about 4.45. Not the most attractive mooring ever, but it'll do. There's a paper shop in the village (next to an art gallery!), and a 3G signal. Tonight, there's a chicken roasting in the over; tomorrow, into Birmingham.

13 miles, 22 locks. (Totals: 25 miles, 48 locks)

Saturday, 13 September 2008

September Cruise - Day Two

Saturday 13 September

We woke to a bright day, and then the sun came out! We had breakfast, and pulled the pins at just after 8.30. The first locks of the day were the staircase pair at Bascote. A boat was coming up and was in the top chamber, so I went to empty the bottom one. This caused a certain amount of consternation amongst the crew of the other boat, until their skipper explained that I knew what I was doing.

We stopped for water at Fosse wharf, then waited in the next lock for another boat which we'd seen coming. We shared the last three locks down to the sump pound through Leamington Spa and Warwick. As we went through Leamington, the weather seemed to match the surroundings, with the clouds coming over and the temperature dropping.

At Warwick, we wanted to stop at the Tesco moorings, but they were full so we went through the bridge and found a place to stop. Adrian and his mum went to get a few things from Tesco, while I discovered that we had a 3G connection and did yesterday's blog post. The sun had come out, so I sat on the front deck, peering at the laptop screen against the glare. It was too nice not to be outside though.

Setting off again, we went up the two Cape locks, where a Chinese family wanted to know whether it was OK to open just one gate. Then we embarked on the bottom of the Hatton flight. At the third lock, a couple who'd been sitting on the offside balance beam having a drink, helpfully opened the gate -- only to (less helpfully) wander off, so I had to walk round to close it. We were aiming for a mooring just above the fourth lock, and moored up at about 3.45 (very early for us!), a good time for a glass of wine and some crisps.

The towpath was busy with walkers, runners, and cyclists, and there's the odd train going by quite nearby. But there aren't many boats on the flight -- just a couple of Kate hire boats going up so far. Tonight, we'll eat on board. Tomorrow, we'll do the rest of the flight, and carry on to Catherine de Barnes.

10 miles, 16 locks. (Total: 12 miles, 26 locks)

September Cruise - Day One

Friday 12 September 2008

We arrived at Stockton Top at 2.15pm, but Debdale needed an oil change which hadn't yet been started. However, we unloaded the car and unpacked while Simon the engineer worked on the engine. the previous owners had reported a screeching noise, and it turned out that we needed a new alternator. It all took quite a long time, and by the time we were ready to leave at just before 5, it was raining heavily.

We turned left out of the marina, and started off down the Stockton Locks. Fortunately, we soon met a boat coming up, so the locks were mostly in our favour (or just needed topping up). I like the Stockton flight: the surroundings are pleasant, the locks seem well maintained, and they fill and empty quite quickly, even using only one paddle. Even the pouring rain didn't matter.

We made rapid progress, and reach Itchington Bottom Lock (with its ridiculously low balance beam) just before 6.30. We continued through Bridge 26, and moored up for the night in a very peaceful spot. We are on board. It continued to rain all evening, but the weather forecast for the next few days is a great deal better. There was no internet signal though (which is why this post is being made half a day late!)

2 miles, 10 locks.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Whitefield part 2

My second article about Whitefield is in the new issue of Canal Boat. This one concentrates on some of the challenges faced during the build.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Plan G

I think we have agreed a plan. Another plan, that is. After all the changes because of the rivers in flood and the Stourport breach, I think we're up to Plan G.

We'll head off down the Stockton locks, up Hatton, and into Birmingham via Knowle, Camp Hill, Ashted, and Farmer's Bridge. We'll then take the Old Main Line to Dudley, where we'll visit the Black Country Living Museum. Then we'll spend a couple of days exploring some of the northern BCN, including the Wyrley & Essington and Walsall Canals. We'll head out of Birmingham on the Worcs and Birmingham, turning down the Stratford Canal at King's Norton Junction and making our way down to Stratford. Then we'll return to Kingswood Junction, go back down Hatton, and return to Stockton Top.

I reckon that's about 136 miles, and 219 locks, which should keep us busy.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Dry maps

I've been looking forward to using this proper map holder, to keep our canal guides dry. Adrian bought it for me for my birthday back in March (just after our last trip). It's a bit big, as it's intended for an Ordnance Survey map rather than a Pearson's or a Nicholson's. But I'm hoping it'll be more effective than the freezer bag and clothes peg I've used up to now. It's certainly looking as though we'll need it.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Floods and a breach

Someone, presumably a local, has posted some great pictures of the breach on the Stourbridge Canal, which is why we won't be taking this route next week. It seems there's a 50 metre hole in the embankment, and all the water drained into the river below. BW say the canal will be closed for at least four months.

And here's why we won't be going on the Avon or the Severn: floods in Tewkesbury, and in Worcester.

The latest thinking is that we might go into Birmingham first, then on to the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley, then down the Stratford Canal to Bancroft Basin, before turning round and heading back to base.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Thwarted again

As Richard of Indigo Dream points out in a comment to the previous post, there's been a breach on the Stourbridge Canal, and it's closed between Stourton Junction and the Stourbridge flight. The photo on the BBC news website looks pretty serious, and someone on the Canal World Forum says the whole of the town arm was drained.

This is bad news, as the Stourbridge and Dudley Canals were some of the bits we particularly wanted to do, as they would have been new territory. So we've spent a good part of the evening trying to decide what to do instead.

Maybe we'll stick to the Rethink Plan, but go up the Wolverhampton 21 and visit the Black Country Living Museum, then into Birmingham and out via Farmer's Bridge and Knowle. We've also looked at reverting to part of the Original Plan, by going down the Stratford Canal and back, before going into Birmingham. It's all a bit up in the air at the moment, but at least it'll give us something to think about between now and Friday! All suggestions welcome.

Radical rethink

One of the advantages of night shifts (actually it must be the only advantage, as I can't think of any others) is having the time to plan different routes.

We're beginning to think that even if the Avon and the Severn go back down during the week, with plenty more rain forecast it might be wiser just to avoid them. The ground is so wet, the rivers could go up again rapidly, and we don't want to get stuck (or even to keep worrying about getting stuck).

So the route I've been looking at will take us up the North Oxford and Coventry canals to Fradley Junction (one of my favourite canal places), along the Trent and Mersey to Great Haywood, down to Stourton Junction, up the Stourbridge and Delph locks to Windmill End, into Birmingham, down the Farmer's Bridge and Ashted flights onto the Grand Union, and back via the Knowle, Hatton and Stockton locks. It's 163 miles and 155 locks, and will give us some shorter days (which might be good if it's raining a lot). It means we still get to cover some new ground (the Stourbridge and Dudley Canals, and the Ashted, Camphill, Knowle section), and takes us to some favourite places. It also means we'll be doing Hatton only once.

We'll have to try to get down to Stratford and the Avon some other time. If it ever stops raining.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The trouble with rivers...

I see that both the Avon and the Severn are closed at the moment, because of all the rain we've had recently. Unfortunately, both are rather crucial to our planned route. But maybe they'll be back down by the time we get to Stratford - we won't be there for ten days or so. If not, we'll just have to turn round, and go somewhere else.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Art of Communication

We're planning to do a lot of locks this trip, so we thought it might be an idea to have some form of communication between the helmsman and the lock worker. We've seen other boaters with two-way radios, and they can be really useful when the next lock is through a bridge or round a corner.

So I ordered these from Amazon, and even with the free postage option selected, they arrived in just a couple of days. They were only £15 (paid for with some Amazon vouchers I'd earned for doing surveys), and they certainly work from outside the back gate to the kitchen. It'll be interesting to see how much we use them.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Hatton locks

From Lowsonford, we followed the road to Lapworth, where we crossed both the Stratford and Grand Union canals. We could also see the canal at the top of an embankment near Rowington. Then we called in at the Hatton Locks visitor car park.

It was beginning to get dark by this time, but there were still a few people walking up and down the towpath, and there were two boats a couple of locks from the top. They said it had just them just under three hours to do the 21 locks in the flight, which was pretty good going. At the top lock, we suggested the crews got on board, and we closed the gates behind them.

We've done the Hatton flight in both directions in the past (in rain on the way up in 2005, and in sweltering sunshine on the way down in 2006). On our trip later this month, we plan to do the flight in both directions.

Monday, 1 September 2008


Last Sunday seems a long time ago now (but it does mean we're a week closer to getting back on board!). Our next stop on our country lane route between Stratford and Warwick was Lowsonford. This is lock 31, with a lovely little barrel-roofed cottage.
We walked up the towpath past the visitor moorings to lock 30.

It was 6.30 by this time, and we'd seen the Fleur de Lys on the other side of the canal, so decided to go there for dinner. There's a lovely big canalside garden, but if you want to eat outside you're limited to the patio, which puts the car park in between you and the garden and canal. We opted to try items from the pie menu, which were pretty good, if a little expensive. We're just hoping it's as sunny when we do this stretch on the boat, as it was just over a week ago.