Monday, 31 May 2010

Crick Show 2010

We decided to make a weekend of Crick, even though I was at work on Saturday.  Adrian came up to London on the train and met me at work.  We were on the road as soon as the 1700 news was out of the way, and arrived at our hotel on the outskirts of Northampton a couple of hours later.

Saturday had been a rainy day, so we weren't too disappointed not to have been at the show, and the forecast for Sunday was much better.  Sure enough, although it was breezy, Sunday was bright and sunny.  Our media passes let us into the show before the doors were open, so we were able to start talking to builders and looking at boats before the crowds built up.  Several firms said that although the number of visitors to the show on Saturday had been lower than usual, the people who had braved the rain were serious buyers.  Among the boats we looked at during the day were the Fernwood, William Piper, and Stoke on Trent Boats.  We also had a chat with Bruce Napier and Sheila and had a guided tour round Sanity Again, their new Braidbar.

As we were waiting to look at the Barnowl boat, Oakapple, the editor of Canal Boat, Nick, came along with a camera man.  They're making a DVD of Crick boats.  We had a look round the boat, then kept the crowds at bay while Nick did an interview with Stuart, the boat builder.  Oakapple went on to be voted the best boat at the show.

The show seemed a lot smaller this year.  The number of boat builders was down, but the biggest change was in the land based area.  There was only one big marquee, and the stalls outside also seemed a lot smaller.  We chatted to Paul from Waterway Routes, and later in the day went to find Fiona and John from Epiphany who were on the NABO stand.  During the afternoon, we also went for a walk along the towpath, spotting such boats as Alnwick and Derwent6, although both had no-one at home.

By late afternoon it was obvious that many people had already headed home.  We went for a drink in the sunshine, amazed to find it was nearly 6 o'clock, then headed back to the hotel.  On the way, we formulated a plan which resulted in a lovely evening ... of which more later.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Crick Show

My media pass for the Crick Show has arrived, and it's a big improvement on last year.  In the past, the media pass has consisted of a bit of paper, wonkily put through a photo copier.  This year, it's a proper credit-card sized piece of plastic.  I wonder if the organisers have arranged a similar upgrade to the weather?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Kidderminster Mural

Dropping down Kidderminster Lock is like moving from one world to another.  At the top, you have the idyllic scene of the canal and the lock, overlooked by the impressive church and its grounds.  Below the lock, you're under the ring road in a lengthy underpass.

Sue on No Problem had blogged about the mural, but I still wasn't quite prepared for how dramatic it was.  A series of faces of a young man through the decades.  It's certainly a big change from how it was before.

1920s and 1940s:





Monday, 17 May 2010

Moorhen chicks

We spent a long time watching five moorhen chicks and their parents at Kinver.  The adults were continually going backwards and forwards with food, and having to round up the chicks after they wandered off through the reeds.  And while there were ducklings at every turn, this was the only family of moorhens we saw.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

May Cruise Photos

I've put a set of photos from our May cruise on flickr.  There are almost seventy of them.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Revilo on test

This month's Canal Boat was waiting for us when we got home, and it includes my review of Revilo, a 60ft boat by GWV with a Russell Newbery engine in the back.  A lovely boat, and really quite special to steer.

Friday, 14 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 8

Just a couple of hundred yards to go this morning, in light rain, up to the basin where we reversed onto the wharf.  We got there just in time, as a few minutes later boats started arriving back in all directions.  Then it was just a matter of loading up the car and heading home.

It's been a great trip, in spite of the cold weather and a couple of days of rain.  We couldn't remember much about the lower half of the Staffs and Worcs, yet it's a beautiful canal with plenty of interest.  The unplanned jaunt onto the River Severn added to our enjoyment.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 7

We set off at 8.30, straight into Wightwick Lock.  At Compton Lock, there was already a boat going up.  We turned back onto the Shroppie at Autherley Junction, and went through the stop lock.

The boat we'd see earlier was just ahead of us, and managed to get their stern stuck on the end of the slipway at Napton Norrowboats.  A lot of pushing and pulling wasn't working, so we attached a rope to our bow, and gave them a tug backwards.  Eventually, they came free.

It was fairly sunny, and even warm at times, as we headed towards Wheaton Aston.  Once down the lock we stopped at the water point, and had lunch while the tank filled.  We then washed one side of the boat.  Of course, during the next stretch towards Norbury Junction, we went through a rain shower.

We got to Norbury at 4.30, and moored up on the towpath side, leaving just a couple of hundred yards for the morning.  We washed the other side of the boat, which was promptly followed by the inevitable shower of rain.

18 miles, 5 locks (105, 75)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 6

A sunny start and end to the day, but in between we had rain and even hailstone at times.  We left the moorings at Kinver at 8.30, having spent quite a while watching the moorhen chicks, and a family of ducklings.  The first few locks were in our favour, including Hyde Lock, with its lovely lock cottage with the garden gates like mini lock gates.

Gothersley Lock was full, so we knew we must have someone in front of us.  As we passed Ashwood Marina, we noticed Breaking the Ice moored outside, facing the other way from on our way down.  At Greensforge Lock, we caught up with Xilion Rose, and I had a chat with Malcolm and Annie.  We stopped at the water point, and this time got the slower tap (the more northerly one), so spent the best part of an hour there.  In fact, we were there so long we had lunch while we were waiting.

At Botterham Staircase Locks the broken paddle had been fixed, which makes you wonder why some have BW Aware notices on for years.  When we arrived at The Bratch, Xilion Rose were on their way up, and the lock keeper said we could follow them.  The sun also came out for the first time in several hours.  In spite of it being a wet Wednesday, there were still a few gongoozlers around.  Ebstree Lock and Dimmingsdale Locks had both had the balance beams repainted.  There were wet paint signs, but Adrian found it difficult opening and closing the gates without getting paint on him.  Above Dimmingsdale Lock is a fantastic mooring, on the off side.  It had been empty on our way down, but had a boat on it today.  We carried on to Wightwick, mooring for the night immediately below Wightwick Lock.

12 miles, 18 locks.  (87, 70)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 5

You'd think that a Monday night in Worcester would make for a nice quiet mooring.  But we were woken at 3am by some drunken lads running up and down the roof.  We didn't get a lot more sleep after that.

We left Worcester at 8.  It was sunny but very cold, and progress was a little slower against the flow of the Severn.  There were very few other boats about, but we joined one in Lincomb Lock, the last before Stourport.  They let us leave first, as they wanted to watch us enter the locks up to the basin so they knew where to go (although it wasn't an entirely successful plan, as they over-shot and had to double back to get into the bottom staircase).  Then it was up the York Road Lock, where we started meeting boats coming in the other direction, many of them Alvechurch hire boats. Although it was still cold, the sun came out for prolonged periods, making stretches of the canal really attractive, like Caldwall Lock.

At Kidderminster Lock we came up behind a Black Prince boat with a couple of South Africans on board who took everything very slowly.  They didn't like using the gate paddles, so each lock took an age.  At Wolverley Lock, there were boats all over the place, and we also met a boat in the narrow section just after Graham Booth's house (and boat) at Wolverley.

Our mooring for the night was at Kinver, where we saw our first moorhen chicks, on a nest on the other side of the canal.  They provided plenty of entertainment.  In the evening, we had a great meal at The Vine, next to Kinver Lock.

21 miles, 14 locks.  (75, 52)

Monday, 10 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 4

A cooked breakfast to celebrate a non-working Monday (although I work only 50 per cent of Mondays anyway), then we set off at 9am.  We were soon in Kidderminster, with the picturesque lock below the church -- although what you can't see is the ring road over the tail.

We stopped at the moorings by Tesco to restock, and I mopped the roof of the boat.  It was lovely and sunny and quite warm.  Setting off again, we were soon in Stourport.  Our plan of mooring at York Road for lunch was scuppered by a lack of space, so we went down into the basins and filled with water while having lunch.  Then it was down the two staircases onto the River Severn.

We'd had a plan to moor on the river pontoons, but there were no spaces there either, so we decided to head down the river and go through one of the big Severn locks.  Having done that, we made a snap decision to carry on to Worcester -- it's only about three hours, and we could easily get back in time.  The river was lovely -- flat calm, very little flow, great reflections.  Swans flew overhead and swallows darted about catching flies.  Progress was quick and we were soon in Worcester.

The river in Worcester was very busy with rowers and canoeists.  We went down past the Cathedral before turning near the locks up to Diglis Basin, mooring on the river between the railway bridge and the pedestrian bridge.  We were on our own to start with, but first two more boats then another arrived, so we were four narrowboats all moored together.

19 miles, 12 locks.  (54, 38)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 3

We woke to bright sunshine, a great contrast to yesterday.  We set off at 8.30, and were the first boat down The Bratch.  The lock-keeper's son helped us through.

Botterham staircase locks were quite slow, as there's only one paddle working on the bottom lock.  I was expecting the BW Aware ticket to have a date of 2003 on it, but in fact it was only put there last week.  We last did this canal about ten years ago, but neither of us can remember anything about it.  This came as a big surprise to us, as it's so picturesque -- you'd think we'd remember a lot of it.  Pretty lock followed pretty lock, with lovely stretches of canal in between, flanked by red stone cliffs and bluebell woods.  We stopped for lunch next to the remains of the round tower beyond Gothersley Lock.  Nowadays there's just a wall about three feet tall.  It used to look like the tower at Gailey.

We soon reached Stourton Juntion, but carried on down the Staffs and Worcs.  Hyde Lock has a lovely cottage with garden gates shaped like lock gates.  Whittington Lock is even prettier, and the lock cottage there is for sale.  Debdale enjoyed Debdale Lock, even though it's not the Debdale she's named after (that's on the Leicester Line).

The pub garden next to Wolverley Lock was packed with people enjoying the sunshine.  We moored up for the night just below the lock, and roasted a chicken for dinner.

13.5 miles, 18 locks (35, 26)

Saturday, 8 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 2

The mooring at Wheaton Aston is nice, but by the morning the boat was covered in bits of tree and bird droppings.  We had to get the mop out before casting off.  I'd slept extremely well, going to bed just after 9pm, and not waking up until 6.  It was still quite early when I walked into the village to get a paper.

We left at about 8.45, heading into Wheaton Aston lock.  It had rained over night, and continued to rain on and off all day.  It was never heavy rain, but it was cold.  The canal was quite busy.  Last time we headed this way the Shroppie was closed, and consequently very quiet.  Brewood was particularly busy.  Beyong Bridge 8, we passed Jim on Starcross, and he pulled away behind us.  By the time we got to Autherley Junction it was raining quite hard.

We turned right onto the Staffs and Worcs towards Stourport.  Passing Aldersley Junction, we were now on water we hadn't travelled for ten years or so, when we hired from Stourport and did the Stourport Ring.
We went down Compton Lock, and moored up for lunch, with Jim not far behind.  I made a quick visit to the Spar shop for soup (we hadn't expected to need winter-style lunches!).  After lunch we set off again, finding the Staffs and Worcs has a very different character from the Shroppie.  The little bridges over the tails of the locks are a great help, although the one at Awbridge Lock requires nerves of steel!

 We carried on a little further, to the top of The Bratch, where we moored for the night opposite the cricket ground at around 4pm.  We'd lit the fire as it was fairly cold, and I used it to cook a meat sauce for pasta.

14 miles, 8 locks.  (21.5, 8) 

Friday, 7 May 2010

May Cruise - Day 1

We left home at 9am.  I was rather tired: having vowed not to stay up all night watching the election results, it was so fascinating I didn't go to bed until 3.30am.  However the journey to Norbury Junction was problem-free, and we arrived at 12.30.  Lunch in the cafe, then a very constructive discussion with Simon from Norbury Wharf, about Debdale's future.

Having unloaded the car and taken delivery from Tesco, we set off in bright sunshine at 2.10, heading south.  In spite of the sun it was quite chilly, as there was a cold wind.  Debdale has a new look, having been repainted during the winter and having new signwriting, which looks fantastic.

Being lock-free, this isn't my favourite stretch of canal, but it was looking lovely in the sunshine.  We moored up at 4.45 at Wheaton Aston.

7.5 miles, 0 locks.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

On the verge of boating

We are off to Norbury Junction tomorrow to take Debdale out for a week.

At one stage in the past few days, we wondered if we'd be able to go.  As the news broke that OwnerShips had a huge hole in its finances and was going to be wound up, it emerged that most boats had outstanding unpaid bills.  Some boatyards started disabling boats, refusing to let them out until the bills had been paid.  It's been a busy few days, with emails whizzing backwards and forwards between our owners, trying to sort things out -- both for the past and the future.  We're still not entirely sure how everything will be settled, but things might be slightly clearer after a this weekend.  We're meeting the staff at Norbury tomorrow, and other owners will be attending a big OwnerShips meeting on Saturday.  Whatever happens, all owners will be out of pocket, thanks to the actions of OwnerShips' founder who died earlier this year.

But at least we'll be on board, with a plan to go to Stourport.  The last time we boated in May, on a hire boat in 2006, it rained almost every day for a fortnight.  The forecast isn't looking much better this year, with Saturday looking both wet and cold.  I'm beginning to think that on the evidence of the past few years, April might be a good time to go next year.