Friday, 11 June 2010

Zoe on test

The July issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes by boat test of Zoe, a widebeam by Piper Boats.  This test was done on a lovely sunny at Apsley Marina on the Grand Union.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Droitwich Canal

Part of the reason for visiting Hanbury Wharf was to see the restored locks at the end of the Droitwich Canal.  They were completed in 2002, according to a plaque, and it's hoped it won't be too much longer before they're back in use.  Here's the junction: Worcs and Birmingham Canal continues to the left, Droitwich to the right.

Beyond the bridge, which has a chain across it, are a few moored boats.  It's a pleasant spot, apart from the busy road which runs alongside.

The locks will probably need a bit of tidying up when the Droitwich Canal re-opens, to remove the plants growing in the walls.  The water level in the pound below the lock is a couple of feet lower than it should be, but even so, it's a deep lock.

There are three locks in total here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Shirley, Alvechurch, and Hanbury Wharf

To Shirley on the North Stratford today, for a boat test.  We parked at The Drawbridge and walked down to where the boat was moored between bridges 9 and 10.  The summit pound is several inches lower than it should be, and it's a deep draughted boat, so we spent quite a lot of our trip dragging the bottom.  At the Shirley Lift Bridge, we probably upset quite a few motorists, as a large lump of rope round the prop meant that our progress through the bridge was extremely slow -- quite a large queue had built up by the time we made it.  It was lunchtime by the time the test was completed, so we went to the pub for lunch with David, the photographer, (in payment for our parking!)  You'd think that as hyalf a dozen boats came through the bridge while we were there, I'd have at least one photo.  But I haven't.

Leaving the pub at about 2pm, we decided to visit a couple of other canal places that we haven't seen for many years, and about which we remember nothing.  We did the Stourport Ring on a hire boat some ten years ago, but memories are very few and far between.  So first stop was Alvechurch, where we parked near Bridge 64 and walked along the tow path to Alvechurch Boat Centre and back.  The tow path was well used, and lined with yellow irises.

A little Anglo Welsh day boat came chugging along, and at ABC there were loads of hire boats, presumably between outings.

We decided to head for Hanbury Wharf, near the junction of the Droitwich Canal.  Our route took us through Stoke Wharf, where we passed the Black Prince base.  We parked at Hanbury Wharf, hoping for an ice cream, but the shop was closed.  So after a look at the locks on the Droitwich, we went to the Eagle and Sun for a cold drink and a slice of cheesecake, sat outside overlooking the Worcs and Birmingham.

Then it was back home, via the M5 and the M4, a route which somehow seems more pleasant than the long slog down the A34.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Lady Teal

One of the boats (yes that is a boat, not a brick) which had long queues all day at Crick, was the widebeam hotel boat, Lady Teal.  The queues were so long, we made do with looking through the windows.  Lady Teal was fitted out by Milburn Boats, and will operate on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.  It's based on an L&L Short Boat, so it's 60ft long, and 13ft wide.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


One of the old boats at Crick was Laplander, a steam powered ice breaker.  As we walked along the tow path, we could hear the distinctive sound of its whistle.  The chimney is so tall, a crew member has to lower it to get under bridges.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Ellesmere Port and the MSC

Speaking to Richard and Sue of Indigo Dream the other evening about Ellesmere Port and the Manchester Ship Canal, reminded me that I never got round to posting some pictures from our visit (by car) in April.

One of the first things that struck us was that we couldn't understand why the bridge over the lock down onto the MSC needs to be swung, as there appeared to be plenty of headroom even before the water was let out.

Later, I learned that the water level in the basin at Ellesmere Port has been lowered, while work is carried out on the broad locks.  The level is down by as much as four feet, meaning that much more of a sunken boat is visible than usual.  It appears that normally only the top of the funnel sticks out of the water.

On the day we visited, the Ship Canal was flat calm, and would have posed no problems at all to narrowboats.  We've investigated doing the trip from here to the River Weaver, but the Ship Canal company insist that shared boats aren't allowed,

The view across the canal and the Mersey to Liverpool was great, with both cathedrals clearly visible.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Indigo Dream

Sometimes, a lack of planning works really well.

It became clear during Sunday that we didn't really need to go back to the Crick show on Monday, so we began to wonder what canal-related activity we could fill our Bank Holiday Monday with.  We knew Sue and Richard from Indigo Dream had been moored at Billing Aquadrome on their way back up the Nene, so wondered if they might need a bit of help with some locks.  As we were driving away from Crick, we established that they were just entering Blisworth Tunnel and planning to moor at Stoke Bruerne overnight.  We'd been wondering where to eat that evening, and thought Stoke Bruerne would be as good a place as any.

And so it happed that as Indigo Dream emerged from the tunnel, we were just walking up to the tunnel mouth.  We knew there were no moorings above the locks, so grabbed a windlass each and worked the boat down a couple of locks to the long pound, where there was an Indigo Dream sized space on the visitor moorings.  It wasn't long before four humans and two dogs were sat under the patio heaters at The Navigation, eating, drinking, and talking.  And toilets were mentioned only once, and even then only in passing.  It was a really enjoyable evening, and it was gone 10 before we headed back to our hotel which turned out to be only ten minutes away.

The next morning we were back at Indigo Dream again, with the intention of providing a lock crew for the decent of the remaining five locks.  On Richard's advice, we parked free beside the penultimate lock, then walked up to the boat where we were plied with tea and coffee before setting off.  A passing remark from Sue about steering saw Adrian hesitate for almost half a second before taking the tiller.  Richard and I worked the locks -- I'd forgotten how large and heavy these Grand Union lock gates are.  We thought a rather frail looking couple were going to wait for us in the lock below, but they didn't.  However, we caught them up at the next lock, and they were grateful to be able to stay on their boat while we did the work.  There were a few boats coming up, some of whom even knew what they were doing.

Once at the bottom, we stayed on board for a couple of miles, surprised at how busy the canal was.  There were boats in both directions, including Nutfield and Raymond.  At about noon, we hopped off and left Sue and Richard to continue their journey back towards London.  We'd had a very enjoyable morning in excellent company, and are looking forward to seeing them again in London during the summer.  We walked the two miles back to Stoke Bruerne in about half and hour, and saw Nutfield and Raymond again, just leaving the lock where the car was parked.

In the village, the whole place was swarming with people.  We went for lunch at The Boat.  We sat outside even though it wasn't very warm, and watched the trip boat loading up for its first visit of the day to the tunnel mouth.  There must have been about 35 or 40 people on board, each paying £3 for a trip lasting about 25 minutes.  Then it was back in car for the drive home, which was successfully completed before the Bank Holiday traffic really got going.