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)