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.