Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year Cruise - Day Six

A lovely bright cold morning. It was almost 9.30 by the time we set off, just behind a Chas harden hire boat. Talking at the first lock to the couple on board, it turned out they were blog readers. They very kindly opened a paddle at each lock as they left. By the time we'd gone up the top two locks at Audlem and arrived at the Adderley locks, an Anglo Welsh boat with quite a large crew had caught us up. It was the first time this trip we'd been in anything approaching a convoy -- in fact we've hardly seen any boats travelling in the same direction as us.

Arriving at Market Drayton, we stopped on the water point to top up the tank. There's a sign saying that stays are limited to half an hour. Someone has written underneath that the tap is so slow that half an hour means it's hardly worth bothering. We then moved on through Bridge 62 and moored up in the same spot we used in November. Lunch was had a The Talbot just up the road, and then Adrian and his mum went into Market Drayton. I went for a look at the aqueduct just along the canal, so here's a photo especially for Captain Ahab. There are 39 steps down to the road below.

5 miles, 7 locks. (24, 45)

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Year Cruise - Day Five

Disappointingly, it didn't snow overnight, so we could easily have carried on further before turning around. Instead, we had a slow start to the day, and have slowed to Lazydays proportions!

After a cooked breakfast, we walked into Audlem to get a paper, and were pleased to find that the newsagent sold coal. They even let us borrow the trolley to take it to the boat. We then went up one lock, and moved onto the water point outside the Shroppie Fly pub. After filling the tank, we continued up the flight. It rained virtually all night, so the by-washes were quite fierce today making the entry into many of the locks very tricky. We met only one boat coming down. This is becoming one of my favourite flights of locks: it's pretty and dramatic at the same time.

By the time we got above Lock 3 it was lunchtime, so we stopped and decided not to go any further. We're moored in exactly the same place as on Monday (except we're facing the other way, of course). Adrian and I went for a quick walk through the tiny village of Coxbank, which we can see from the boat.

1 mile, 11 locks. (19, 38)

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

New Year Cruise - Day Four

Grey and damp as we set off down the remaining Audlem locks this morning at 9.15. We passed three boats coming up, including a hire boat being moved from Anderton to Alvechurch, and Mike on Zulu Warrior, who's moving from a mooring at Middlewich to a new one at Uxbridge.
We stopped for water below lock 13, while having tea and Christmas cake. Tomorrow's forecast suggests there could be snow, so we've decided not to go too far. So we went down the final two locks, winded in the hole at the bottom, and came back up them again. The ice in the winding hole made it trickier than usual to get around. We moored in a nice open spot on the embankment below lock 13 at just after midday, by which time the rain was much heavier, so we walked up to the Shroppie Fly for lunch. The we went into the village for some shopping. In the afternoon, in a break in the rain, Adrian and I went for a walk through Audlem, and found a footpath across the fields to the bottom lock. The forecast doesn't seem to include snow anymore, so it'll be interesting to see what happens in the morning.
2 miles, 15 locks. (18, 27)

Monday, 28 December 2009

Rachel opening presents

New Year Cruise - Day Three

We woke to a heavy frost and a thin layer of ice over the canal. Getting away was something of a challenge: we had to put hot water on the ropes in order to untie them. The scenery was beautiful as we went down the Adderley locks. It's then just a short distance to the top of the Audlem flight. We went down the top two locks and moored up -- it was before 11am, a very short day for us. The reason was visitors. My sister, her husband, and their daughter Rachel were visiting. We had a lovely afternoon with them; Rachel was very cheerful, had a sleep in the cabin, and enjoyed opening her presents.

2 miles, 7 locks. (16, 12)

Sunday, 27 December 2009

New Year Cruise - Day Two

A real mixed bag of weather today, everything from winter sunshine to very cold rain showers, and the odd hail stone. We set off at 8.45, heading north. I have to admit that this is not my favourite section of the Shroppie. There are miles of moored boats, which makes progress rather slow, and much of the canal is in a straight line. However, the old Cadbury factory at Knighton looked lovely in the sunshine, and as we passed Goldstone Wharf a man on a moored boat called Andante asked if we were the Debdale bloggers.

The canal was mostly liquid, although there were plenty of sheets of ice floating in the water. They seemed to collect at bridge holes. The lock sides of the top two Tyrley Locks were like skating rinks, and I couldn't even get enough grip to properly close the top gate of Lock 2.

We stopped for water at Market Drayton, and as it was 1pm had lunch while the tank filled. We carried on for another hour or so, to the moorings at the top of the Adderley Locks. It's a nice spot, but we're a good eighteen inches out from the edge, thanks to the famous Shroppie Shelf. Once moored, I made some pastry, which I turned into mince pies. Although I'd remembered cutters and a pie tin, I hadn;t brought a rolling pin, so I improvised and used an empty wine bottle. Thank goodness there was one to hand!

14 miles, 5 locks.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

New Year Cruise - Day One

Having looked at the weather and seen how much warmer it was, we took the decision to head to the boat. We set off a little bit apart, in two cars, as we'll be heading in slightly different directions at the end of the trip.

I arrived first, just before 1.30, and was relieved to see the canal was mostly liquid. The temperature was 7 or 8 degrees, and it was a nice sunny afternoon, with plenty of walkers on the towpath. It was still very cold on the boat, so I immediately lit the fire and put the central heating on. I unloaded my car onto the boat, with more difficulty than usual. We knew Norbury Wharf would be closed, and that there would be no vehicle access onto the wharf itself. What we didn't know was that I'd have to climb over the fence. I knew Adrian's mum wouldn't be able to do that, so I set off northwards, mooring just beyond the bridge, opposite Starcross.

At around 2.30, Adrian and his mum arrived, and we made several trips along the towpath to unload the car. We decided not to go any further today, so we sorted ourselves out and had an early dinner on board.

200 yards, 0 locks.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Change of plan

Adrian and his mum should have been on the boat by now, and I should have been driving up tomorrow morning, after tonight's shift. But there's been a change of plan.

This morning, Adrian's mum couldn't get to us because there were no trains, and Adrian couldn't get to her because the M27 was closed. He finally got there this afternoon.

And Norbury Junction is frozen solid, with the ice at least two inches thick and no prospect of moving for about three days.

So we've reluctantly decided to stay at home; Adrian will bring his mum here tomorrow. If it warms up a bit as the forecast suggests, we might get a few days on board ove New Year.

Now, I wonder if anywhere has any Christmas trees left...

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Moor and Peace on Test

The January edition of Canal Boat is out, with a traditionally snowy picture on the cover. Inside is my review of a ten-berth OwnerShips boat, built as a bespoke boat for a large family. Not long after the pictures were taken, we all had to resort to our waterproofs as a torrential shower came over.

Friday, 4 December 2009


I have many attempted photos of kingfishers. Most are just a blur of blue or orange; some are of nothing more than the bush or tree where the kingfisher had been just seconds before. But on Wednesday on the Shroppie, a kingfisher surprised us by staying put as we went past. By the time we'd scrabbled around for the camera we were a little way past, but Adrian still managed to get this shot (which I've heavily cropped). It's by far the best kingfisher shot we've managed so far.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

November Cruise - Day Five

More heavy rain overnight, but by this morning it was dry and misty. It seemed just the right weather for the cuttings at Tyrley, Woodseaves, and Grub Street. The Tyrley locks were all in our favour, so the five were completed in less than 40 minutes.

We were held up for about 20 minutes at Bridge 52, where there's major work going on because of a leak in the embankment. The workmen asked us to moor up, but being unable to get into the side, we went alongside one of the boats moored on the offside. Looking at the stoppages, we were lucky not to be delayed for much longer, as starting tomorrow the navigation is closed between 8am and 1pm and 2pm and 4pm.

We arrived back at Norbury Wharf just after 1pm. Adrian had made use of the long lock-free stretch by starting the packing and cleaning. Once we'd moored up, we went to the Junction Inn for lunch, then finished up on the boat. Shortly before we left, we spotted Lazydays coming past, and had a quick chat with Alan and Frances. We've been using a roof-mounted magnetic antenna for our mobile broadband dongle, as tested and approved by Alan (although I note he's now moved onto something involving a pole!) It does seem to improve the signal strength, except where there's no signal at all. We packed the car, and were away from Norbury at about 3pm. The journey home took just under four hours, much of it in very wet weather.

11 miles, 5 locks. (55, 54)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

November Cruise - Day Four

I love winter boating, and this morning was one of the best. We woke to a sharp frost, and the most amazing red sky. Had I been a shepherd, I'd have been worried (although there had also been a red sky last night). The ropes were frozen solid, which made getting under way a bit of a challenge, but the canal was free from ice, presumably because there's such a flow on the Shroppie.

We set off at 8.30, and were soon up the first three locks at Audlem and on the water point at the Shroppie Fly. While I dealt with the water and rubbish, Adrian went shopping, visiting the deli, the Co-op, and Boots. We set off again at 10.15, and took just under two hours to do the remaining 12 locks. We passed a boat coming down, and almost caught up with a boat ahead of us going up. The locks with a top gate paddle fill in no time, while the ones without takes ages. We stopped at the beautiful moorings above the top lock for lunch, then set off again at 1pm. The five Adderley locks took just forty minutes. Four of them were in our favour, while one was inexplicably completely full. It was much colder after lunch, with a bit of a breeze from the south.
We moored at Market Drayton, just beyond Bridge 62, where there are rings but they're just slightly too close together. We had tea and mince pies from Audlem, warmed through on the top of the stove. The forecast is for rain overnight, with another fine day tomorrow. That will do fine.

9 miles, 20 locks. (44, 49)

Monday, 30 November 2009

November Cruise - Day Three

More rain overnight, but we woke to a beautiful clear sunny morning. The fire had stayed in all night, and the ecofan really helps keep the back of the boat warm. We set off at 8.20, and soon arrived at the Hack Green Locks. Then it was on through Nantwich where there were lots of boats moored each side of the aqueduct. As we headed north, the wind was quite strong and very cold, straight into our faces. Hurleston Junction was the next landmark, with the locks looking very inviting. We'll come back and do the Llangollen on a future trip.

We carried on to Barbridge Junction, which we've passed several times by road on the way to my sister's, where we winded.

Now heading back south, the wind was behind us so it felt much warmer. We went alongside the Batchelor's boats, Mountbatten and Jellicoe, and bought a couple of bags of coal.

Back at Nantwich we'd planned to stop on the waterpoint, not just for water, but to see ourselves on the Empress Holidays webcam! However, there was one boat already there and another waiting, so we gave the waterpoint a miss and moored up on the towpath. We had lunch, then walked back to the Canal Centre to buy cakes from the cafe. There was also a very strong 3 3G signal, so we checked email and I posted yesterday's blog. Adrian was pleased to see that Sue and Lesley were concerned about his back! It's much better today, incidentally.

We set off again at 1.30, and retraced our steps back up the Hack Green Locks, and moored at just after 3pm back on the moorings at Coole Pilate (does anyone know how Pilate is pronounced?) just along from where we'd spent last night. There was a fantastic sunset, watched as we had tea and ate our Nantwich cakes.

15 miles, 4 locks. (35, 29)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

November Cruise - Day Two

The forecast of rain turned out to be rubbish. True, there was rain overnight and strong winds, but the day was far better than expected. As it was Sunday and we were on holiday, we had a fry up for breakfast, then set off at 8.45. It soon began to drizzle, then rain. But by the time we reached the Adderley Locks an hour later it had stopped and the cloud was breaking up. We did the five locks in 50 minutes. We crossed into Cheshire and met our first moving boat of the day just before we arrived at the top of the Audlem Locks. The sun was out, and working the locks meant I had to reduce my five layers of clothing to three, ditch my scarf, and change my fleece hat for my Tilley.

Most of the locks were in our favour, so we did the first twelve locks in an hour and 45 minutes. It's a very pleasant flight, which reminded us in many ways of the Stockton Flight on the Grand Union. They're both down through cuttings, and have a similar feel. We moored up at the water point outside the Shroppie Fly, and had lunch while the tank filled.

We then walked the boat back on to the (empty) visitor moorings, had a walk round the town and visited Audlem Mill. We set off again just before 2pm, and completed the final three locks. A boat had just come up, so they were largely full. We passed a massive new marina and moored up at 3pm at Coole Pilate, a lovely spot made even better by the sunshine. Even though we have full Vodafone signal on our phones, there's no 3 internet! Roasted a chicken on board, followed by home made apple crumble.

9 miles, 20 locks. (20, 25)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

November Cruise - Day One

We left home at 5.45am, and arrived at Norbury Junction just before 9. We quickly unloaded the car -- but not without incident: Adrian managed to slip on the rear steps (which were quite wet as the rear hatch had clearly been left open during one of the morning's showers), hurting his back. It's still qute sore this evening. We visited the chandlery, and bought a couple of things that had been decided at the owners' meeting last week: a new chimney, to replace a very delapidated one, and an ecofan. We also had a chat with David from Norbury Wharf about a few things regarding the winter works. He took us into the paint dock to see a boat that's just been repainted and re-sign-written.

We set off at 9.45 northwards -- new territory for us (although we have walked some of it. It was cold, and there weren't many moving boats. There's plenty of evidence of the significant works needed at the Shebdon Embankment to fix the leak, although it's difficult to see exactly where it was. There's another leak a bit further along, with a coffer dam stopping the water escaping. We passed the former Cadbury Wharf at Knighton, complete with boats moored under the canopy.

As we'd had breakfast so early, we stopped at about 11.45 and made an early lunch of soup and bread just beyond bridge 48. We were on our way again at 12.30, and made fairly slow progress thanks to all the moored boats along this canal. We saw only a couple of moving boats, and even the towpath was quiet until we reached the locks at Tyrley. Most of the locks were partially epty, with some of them almot fully empty. Even so, we were down the 5 in around 50 minutes.

We moored at just after 3pm a little way south of Market Drayton, in a nice open spot with a view of the church. I put together the new hosepipe (another owners' meeting decision, as the one one was broken and wouldn't wind properly). Th ecofan has been spinning all day on the stove, and does seem to make a difference. There seems to be a much more even distribution of heat, with the ceiling much cooler and the rear of the boat warmer. The next challenge is to keep the fire in all night. Tomorrow's forecast promises rain, rain, and rain.

11 miles, 5 locks.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Chichester Canal drama

Last week's Chichester News, a free paper you can pick up in town, led with an unfortunate incident involving a taxi which ended end in the Chichester Canal. It's brakes failed as it came down Basin Road. The driver and two passengers all got out safely. The picture is the taxi being craned out of the water a couple of days later.
It's not the only canal-related story in the paper. On page 3, it says the Chichester Ship Canal Restoration Project Board is looking for a project manager for the next stage. The plan is to install a swing bridge to take one road, and a drop lock to take the canal under a much busier road, in order to restore navigation from Chichester Basin to the sea. It would start off as an unpaid post, but could become paid once the project manager has managed to secure finance for the scheme.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Tardebigge flight

First stop last Friday was the Queen's Head at the bottom of the Tardebigge Flight, for lunch, which turned out to be very good. When the website says the canal is only a metre away, it's telling the truth. After lunch, we set off up the flight, the first lock being just round the corner.

I like the big chunky cogs on the paddle gear on this flight.

We did Tardebigge on a hire boat about ten years ago, but neither of us could remember much about it, except that we got up it much faster than expected. I have vague recollections of the reservoir, which feeds the canal about two thirds of the way up the flight. But the top lock in particular came as a bit of a surprise, as it was nothing like my memory of it. I remember it being deep, which it is, but everything else seemed new to me.

Just along from the top lock, on the offside, is the plaque to mark the meeting between
the Rolts and Robert Aickman, which led to the founding of the IWA. There's a newer plaque on the front, correcting the date on the main one.

Further along is a little basin, which in the days when our Pearson's was printed was home to a hire fleet. No longer. It's a very nice spot though, and I'm sure that had the flight not been closed for winter works, the visitor moorings would have been much fuller.

The tunnel was another surprise, something else we couldn't remember at all.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Tardebigge stoppages

On Friday afternoon, we went for a walk up the Tardebigge Locks. There weren't any boats about, because of stoppages at Locks 36 and 50. This meant there was a chance to see parts of the canal that are usually under water. This is the pound between Lock 35 and Lock 36. We assume that the channel down the middle has been created in the days since the stoppage started, worn by the water that's still flowing.

Above Lock 35 there's a single stop plank, and you can see a brick floor above the lock, and the workings of the paddles.

Lock 36, where the works are, is having a top gate and extensive re-pointing.

There's more work going on at Lock 50. This is looking back towards Lock 49, along another drained pound.

The work at Lock 50 seems to involve the culvert which carries the by-wash. There's a huge hole on the left hand side of the lock, and you can just seen the brick lining of the culvert. A large pipe was waiting nearby, so perhaps they're going to line it to stop leaks.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Owners' meeting

On Saturday, we were in Birmingham for the Debdale owners' meeting. Eight of the eleven sets of owners were there, and we agreed to stay at Norbury Junction for at least another year, and to have the boat repainted this winter, with the signwriting re-done. We'll also be buying an ecofan, in an effort to stop the saloon being sweltering and the cabin freezing.

We actually travelled up on Friday, and had a nice canalside walk in the afternoon -- but more on that when I've had time to upload some photos.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Tickety Boo on Test

The December issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my review of Tickety Boo, a narrowbeam Dutch barge by Wharf House in Braunston. I was surprised how much I liked this boat, and and the piece says, I can't remember being on a boat which attracted so many positive comments from other boaters and from the towpath. It certainly makes an impression.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Bratch

The Bratch was the place I really wanted to have a look at on this trip. Again, we'd come through ten years ago, but all I could remember was that there was a long queue. It's such a photographed place, though, that you feel you know it even when you don't.

When we first arrived, there were no boats or people about at all, so we went for a walk down to beyond Bumblehole Lock before returning. I really wanted to see a boat going up or down, to fully understand where the water goes: there are three locks at Bratch, but they're not a staircase. They're a flight, but the pounds between the locks are only a few feet long; instead, they stretch out to the side. The paddles have to be opened in the right order, and then everything levels up. When we got back to Bratch, there was a boat about to go up, and another waiting to come down (a Viking Afloat with a Scandinavian crew. Viking must advertise over there, as almost every other of their boats has a Scandinavian crew, it seems).

And here's one for Halfie: the paddle which opens to the side pound between the top and middle locks creates the biggest, deepest vortex I've ever seen.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Stourton Junction

There's something special about junctions, even when you're on foot rather than afloat. There's the anticipation of deciding which way to go, and more often than not they're in attractive settings. Stourton Junction is just under the bridge, with the Stourbridge canal going off to the right, up four locks.

Naturally, we had to go and have a look at the locks. The first two are very close together, although the pound in between stretches off to the side.

The third lock is on the other side of the A449, and is approached under a bridge. There's a much more suburban feel.

The fourth lock is virtually in someone's (very well kept) garden.

This is another route we did ten years ago, and again neither of us could remember it at all. A return visit must be on the cards.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Stewpony Lock

There's some dispute about the spelling of Stewpony Lock, with the guidebooks adding an E in the pony part. However, the sign at the lock itself does without. The name is apparently thought to come from a local soldier who returned to the area with a Spanish wife from the town of Estepona. Anyway, it's another attractive setting with a cluster of buildings, including a little toll office. The large cottage has been sold, so I hope the new owners don't mind lots of activity because BW still have plenty going on at their little depot here.

The boat was a Countrywide Cruisers from Brewood. They could so with some new pictures on their website, as the boats are painted far more attractive colours these days.