Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Norbury Junction

Jim from Starcross reports that Debdale has arrived at Norbury Junction. This will be our base for the next year at least.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Not Canal Street

There are several places on Google Street View where you can see canals. You'd think Canal Street in Manchester would be one of them. But it doesn't take long to realise than something is wrong: there's no canal; and the street sign clearly says Richmond Street!

And the embed link facility doesn't appear to work either.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

GEO Projects

The other day I had a message from someone from the map makers, GEO Projects, asking for permission to use one of my photos. They don't pay, but you get a name-check and a complimentary copy of the map. I had a similar request a year ago about a photo of Autherley Junction but didn't hear any more, so assumed they hadn't used it. But it turns out they had; they just hadn't sent me my free map. They have now!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Fizzical Attraction on test

Among the huge pile of post on the doormat when we got home last night was this month's Canal Boat, including my test of the Crown boat, Fizzical Attraction. On the day we did the test, Macclesfield was alone in virtually the whole country in having an overcast, showery day. So although we took the boat for a short cruise, the weather wasn't good enough for exterior photos. David, the photographer, had to go back and get the running shots a few weeks later (fortunately he lives a lot closer to Macclesfield than I do). That explains why I don't appear in any of the photos.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day Eight

Not much cruising today -- just 200 yards to a more convenient spot for loading the car. Then we headed north to Chester (crossing several canals on the way, including the GU, the Birmingham and Fazeley, the Staffs and Worcs, the Shroppie, and the Llangollen). The purpose of heading in the opposite direction from home was to visit one-day-old Rachel May. And her parents, of course.

The one hour visiting time wasn't really enough, but it was well worth all the extra hours of travelling. On the journey home we added several more canal crossings to our list, including the Stratford, the Oxford, and the K & A.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day Seven

Cloudy but dry when we set off from Newbold at around 8.45, just behind another OwnerShips boat which had been moored in front of us. Passing through Rugby, we said a quick hello to Del who was looking out of Derwent6's side hatch, and then waved to Ernie on Ten Bob Note a bit further along.

At Hillmorton Locks there were plenty of boats on the move, but we made rapid progress. As we headed towards Braunston, I had a phone call I'd been waiting for: my sister has had a little girl, so I'm an uncle!

We stopped just before Braunston for lunch, just after a shower passed through. By the time we started moving again it was dry, but still cloudy and quite cold. But soon we could see the edge of the cloud, with blue skies beyond, and before long we were in sunshine. We turned right at Wigram's Turn, and moored on the water point at Calcutt Top Lock. While the tank filled, we washed on side of the boat. When we were ready to go down the locks, a boat was coming up. It turned out to be Chris and his crew on Slow Pace, who've been blogging their build. It was good to meet and have a chat, having followed the blog.

It was turning into a lovely sunny evening as we went down the locks and carried on to just before Stockton Top, where we moored up for the night and washed the other side of the boat and the roof.

19 miles, 6 locks. (120, 14)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day Six

We had a very quiet night at Coventry Basin, and woke to a clear, dry morning. We treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast, then prepared to set off. As we'd had to reverse down to the far end of one of the basin arms, the water was a bit shallow and we had to remove a few plastic bags from the prop before we set off. We left just before 9, and took an hour and a half or so to get back to Hawkesbury Junction. The water point on the Coventry side is out of action, so we went through the stop lock and used the one on the Oxford Canal.

As we set off again, the sun came out and it was really quite warm for a while. I have to confess that the North Oxford isn't my favourite stretch of water. It's lock free and has long straight sections, often accompanied by the motorway or the railway. However, today I quite enjoyed it. Maybe the sunshine helped.
Arriving at Ansty we said hello to Pete on Pickles No2, then stopped briefly for lunch. There were no spaces in the section with a proper edge, so we went through the bridge, leapt ashore, and moored up with pins. We carried on for a few more hours after lunch, arriving at Newbold at around 4pm. There are very few boats here, so we had our pick of the moorings.
16 miles, 1 lock. (101, 8)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day Five

Rain overnight, which didn't clear as early as the forecast had suggested. So we got wet when we set off at just before 9. An hour later, we were turning back onto the Coventry Canal, and immediately started to see more traffic: of the three bridges to Hawkesbury, we met boats at two of them.

At Hawkesbury Junction we continued straight on towards Coventry. Lots of things have changed since we last did this stretch, back in 2005. The acetate works has closed down, there are lots of new flats, and there's a dramatic new footbridge.

We arrived at the basin at around 12.30, to find it full of boats. We turned and reversed to the end of one of the arms to an available space. For some reason, a swing bridge over the other arm is locked shut, meaning two possible moorings can't be reached.

We went into town, had lunch, and had a look round the Cathedral and the shops. There were some changes in town too, including a new art gallery opposite the Cathedral.

11 miles, 0 locks. (85, 7)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day Four

It was very windy overnight, but we again woke to a bright sunny day. Set off at 8.30 through the Snarestone Tunnel, to the current head of navigation. I turned in the winding hole and reversed onto the water point -- only to find that the hose pipe wouldn't reach.

We dumped the rubbish and set off again, back through the tunnel. It was a very blustery day, and on exposed sections of canal there were white topped waves. As a woman standing on the back of Best O' Mates said as they passed us, it was like being on the open sea. Once or twice, we were going straight into a head wind, which made it seem difficult to make any progess at all. Still, like yesterday, we travelled at a pretty steady 3 miles per hour, with each mile post appearing on cue every twenty minutes.

We arrived at Sutton Cheney just before one, and moored on the water point to fill the tank. We'd planned to have lunch at the cafe, but it doesn't open on Mondays during the winter. We knew this from the website, so had put the breadmaker on before setting off so we had fresh bread for lunch.

Our second attempt at eating out was thwarted a bit later, when we stopped at Trinity Marina for coal. We'd thought we'd stay the night at go to the pub there for dinner, but there were no moorings on the front of the marina. So we carried on, and moored for the night at Burton Hastings.

20 miles, 0 locks. (74, 7)

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day Three

Heavy rain overnight, but we woke to bright sunshine. It was still cold when we set off at 8.30, with another couple of boats starting right behind us. In less than an hour we reached Marston Junction, which turns out to be angled backwards when you approach from Hawkesbury. Adrian did a neat spin turn into the bridgehole, and we were on new territory.

Now regular readers will know that I haven't really been looking forward to the Ashby, not being a fan of "lock free cruising". But I immediately rather took to it. There are plenty of bridges, which are all uniform and made of stone at the southern end of the canal before turning to brick further up, and your progress is measured by stylish little mile posts. There's plenty of interest alongside the water too, including massive, ugly pylons, dwarfing the bridges.

As the scenery deteriorated towards Hinckley, so did the weather, and we had the first of several showers. But the rain was never heavy, and we pressed ahead. Just after Hinckley we passed Gypsy Rover, and Dot emerged from the cratch to shout hello, and tell us about the unfortunate leak in their calorifier.

In the afternoon, we had almost every type of weather imaginable, sometimes all together. At one point, my face was being stung by hail stones, while up ahead was blue sky and white fluffy clouds.

As the day went on, the wind got up and it was cold. But there were still things of interest, including the steam railway at Shakerstone, where there seemed to be an engine in steam, if not actually moving.

We ended the day just before 5pm a few hundred yards before Snarestone Tunnel, and about a mile short of the current end of the canal. We'll do the last mile in the morning, before turning round and heading back.

24 miles, 0 locks. (54, 7)

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day Two

We started the day with a cooked breakfast, as it was Saturday, then set off at 8.30. It was a lovely sunny morning, and we passed quite a few boats going the other way. Before long, we arrived at Hillmorton Locks. I was surprised to find both top locks empty, but a boat was coming up one of the middle locks, so the rest were set for us. At the bottom, we moved onto the water point to fill the tank. It took ages – a good 45 minutes. But while we were waiting I spotted a familiar boat moored a bit further along, so went and had a chat with Del and Al on Derwent6.

As we’d spent so long on the water point, we had lunch on the move through Rugby. Then we made a brief stop at Newbold to go to the Co-op. Ten Bob Note was moored there. We reached Ansty at about 4pm, but there were no moorings available. We spotted our third blogger of the day, Pickles No2, resplendent in newly applied green paint. Because of the lack of moorings, and with it still being relatively early, we decided to carry on to Hawkesbury Junction. The lock was in our favour, and Adrian did a skilful 180 degree turn through the bridge.

Now in spite of all the things Hawkesbury Junction has in its favour -- the lock, the bridges, the pump house -- I still don't like it much. It's probably because of the electricity sub-station, the pylons, the M6, the modern housing, and the scrub land between the two canals. It's no Fradley, and not even a Fazeley. Still, we're much further ahead than we thought we would be, so it's good to be here.
We moored up just after 5pm on the Coventry Canal, with a chicken casserole bubbling away on the cooker. And no more locks until probably Tuesday.

21 miles, 4 locks (30, 7)

Friday, 6 March 2009

Spring Cruise - Day One

We had a trouble-free journey up to Stockton Top, arriving at 1pm. We loaded the boat and were off at 1.45. Getting out of a packed marina was a challenge.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon, with just a slight nip in the air. As we approached the Calcutt Locks, we saw a Kate hire boat going into the bottom chamber. Then as we got closer, a boat came out of Calcutt marina, giving us someone to share with. We realised later that we'd shared the locks with the same boat on our very first Debdale trip back in 2007. It means this is an almost exact copy of a photo from the earlier cruise.

While we were in the bottom lock, a boat left the wharf and joined the Kate boat, so everyone was neatly paired up.

We turned left at Wigram's Turn, and made good progress. It was 5pm when we reached Braunston Junction, and turned left again. We moored up shortly afterwards in a very quiet spot just beyond Bridge 88.

9 miles, 3 locks.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Lunch today at the staff canteen with Simon from Tortoise, who works a few floors above me. For the record, toilets were mentioned only once, and even then only in passing.

Monday, 2 March 2009


It was a nice spring day yesterday, so we made the short journey up to Loxwood on the Wey and Arun canal, to see what progress had been made since we were last there. In order to take the canal under a busy road bridge, the Wey and Arun Canal Trust has lowered the Onslow pound by about five feet, and the bridge has been replaced.

The new road bridge is in place, but the water is still held back.

From the other side of the bridge, we could see why: a team of workers were building a wall which leads to a brand new lock, put in to restore the water to its original level. The lock hasn't yet got any gates.

As the towpath in that direction was blocked by the work, we walked the other way, reaching the Drungewick Aqueduct before turning around.