Sunday 12 April 2015

Sunday 12 April 2015 Home Moorings

Only a short trip today back to the Marina,its only 2 miles from Shadehouse lock. Just as we were leaving the boat entering the lock behind us was the same one that said he was going to Heywood last night, I didn’t get a chance to ask if he made it or not.

We didn’t meet any boats on our way and followed one up Woodend Lock that came from The Old West River, well that is what it said on the side, actually they moor in Cambridge and were heading for the Trent.

By the time we reached the marina the wind had really picked up and as I swung in the wind just stopped the bows coming round into the entrance. So it was back off for a second run at it. We stopped at the service pontoon for a pump out. At the end of the service pontoon a goose has decided to make a nest in the flower box.DSCF8628  We then headed down to our berth. The wind in the second bay was very gusty, I swung round nicely to drop back into our slot, just as the bum was in the wind picked up with a vengeance and the bow shot round so it was a case of going out into the lake and come back in forward.

Today’s Journeymap 37 2 Miles 1 lock in 1 hour

I have just run our cruise through canal Planner and we have gone 300 miles 196 lock and 156 hours. The engine hour counter recorded 157 hrs.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Saturday 11 April 2015 Fradley Junction again.

It was a good job I daubed that gloss paint on the primer  yesterday afternoon and didn’t leave it until today, as we woke to heavy rain, thankfully it had stopped before we were ready to leave.

A few minutes after ten and we were off through the swing bridge that CRT have still not fitted a lock to and turned right down the Trent and Mersey Canal. As I waited for a boat coming up I spotted these two drakes sat on a roof by the lock.DSCF8620 A good place top keep an eye out for the odd female who may be swimming around.

We followed a boat down all the rest of the locks so turned each one. Last time we were here there was a large hole lined with concrete rings beside Hunts Lock, that has now been filled in and it looks as if they pulled the rings out. See my blog for Sunday 23 November 2014

As we approached Common Lock on the off side, at the long term moorings a chap was just starting his Bolinder engine in his converted working boat, smoke rings and diesely smoke for a few minutes until it got hot, the sound is wonderful.

We carried on passed the winding hole in Alrewas and moored by the railings. It was surprisingly windy as we approached the town with the wind funnelling under the A513 road bridge

The objective of the visit was to buy some home made chutney from a house in the town down Post Office Road. Jam houseHere is a Google Street view of the house. 
It is NOT by the Post Office as the old Post Office has closed. We ended up buying 2 Jams and 2 Chutneys. We then visited the butchers to buy tonight's dinner before returning to the boat.

We had to reverse back a few hundred yards through the bridge to the winding hole, there was a steady stream of boats coming down through the lock, winding and then going back up, we slotted between a couple of them and turned ourselves to go back up. It turned out that the Litchfield Cruising club were having an outing to celebrate a members birthday and were all gathering half way between Bagnall Lock and Common Lock where there is a nice spot to moor beside the towpath.

Alrewas were holding a cricket match beside Bagnell Lock, I am not sure when the cricket season starts as the football is still in full swing and its the earliest match I have seen.DSCF8623 

CRT are doing a lot of work just above Common Lock on the lock moorings, the digger arrived on a boat, I don’t know how far it came as I don’t think it would have fitted under the bridge at the tail of Bagnall Lock.DSCF8627

We continued up to Fradley Junction meeting yet more members of the Litchfield Club. At the junction we went straight ahead going up Middle and Shade house locks. We were assisted by the crew from the boat 2 boats behind, the set ahead for us as they were hoping to reach Haywood Junction tonight and it was already 4 pm. and its another 8 miles and 3 locks to go.

The moorings above Shadehouse lock looked quite full but there was about 60 foot between the lock moorings and the first moored boat which suited us fine.

Today’s Journey (the map is not quite right as it didn’t record the outward journey but as it was virtually identical to the return its not much of a problem)map 36 4½ Miles, 2 canals, 1 Swing Bridge, 1 Junction twice and 12 Locks in about 4½ hrs

Friday 10 April 2015

Friday 10 April 2015 Fradley Junction

Last night we had a Chinese takeaway from Wongs and found it very enjoyable.

First job today was to get a bit of paint onto the rust spots we treated yesterday so that made us a bit late in getting away.DSCF8604 First port of call was to fill with water at the services at the CRT West Midland Office almost opposite. I find it surprising that they don’t offer toilets and showers at this location. Once the rubbish was dumped and the tank filled we moved on to Hopwas where we stopped for lunch and had a walk up to the church, its an unusual building of brick and timber, inside all the woodwork looks like a tithe barn supporting the roof where as all the walls are finished brick work.

While we were moored there one of the other Harnsers sailed by, a Steve Hudson vessel. The latest owner, there have been at least 3  said it was nice to meet the person who people thought he was.

Hopwas wood was full of small white flowers which we think are AnemonesDSCF8612

Further along the railway runs parallel to the canal and the DSCF8614smartest freight train I have ever seen shot by. At Huddlesford Junction the train crosses the canal. Also at the junction is the Litchfield cruising club and in their front garden a swan has set up residence.DSCF8615

Last time we were this way on the 8th. March The Plough pub was closed and advertising for new management, today it was open again with people sitting out in the garden drinking. We decided to carry on to to Fradley Junction for the night, I wanted to moor on the right to put a bit more paint on top of the primer. In the village we passed the other Harnser moored up so stopped for a few words before continuing on to the junction. As we approached I could not only se a space but also an ex working boat approaching. I thought he had stopped to let me through, but when we got in shouting distance he said his intention to moor in that lovely spot, so I drew back so he could cross the cut and get. Luckily for us there was a gap just passed the next boat about 60 ft long and the owners of the boats each end came and took our lines, so we were pulled sideways to be a nice fit. As it turned out I knew the boater by our stern and also the owner of the ex-working boat that had beaten us to the other mooring. Shortly after arriving all the red oxide blotches have turned grey as have the ones on the side which really should be blue and white, that can be changed another day, for now its protected from the weather.

Today’s Journeymap 35 10¾ miles 2 canals in 4¼ hours

Thursday 9 April 2015

Thursday 9 April 2015

Occasionally the International Space Station is visible for quite a long time, last night was such a night and looking across the canal we had a good view of where it should rise, about 2102 hrs it appeared as expected and we were able to watch until it was overhead, then the trees on the towpath side blanked it out. I still marvel that it just keeps going round and round.

This morning I needed to sort out the Dickinson flue connection, When we argued with bridge 9 up the Caldon canal and knocked the flue off it belled the end of the roof transition part, luckily this is about 3” longer than necessary so I was able to easily trim half an inch off and get rid of the damage, so now the chimney stand up OK again. While doing this we noticed that the boat was about 30 forward of where we moored last night, we had tied to two loops of blue string that someone has conveniently attached to the piling and they both snapped.

We set off a little after 10 30 am and had a 4 mile trip the the winding hole to turn round. Someone has moored this raft in the winding hole and it really concentrates the mind as the ends of DSCF8589 the scaffold hand rail are ideal to do a window in or gouge the cabin side.

At Grendon Dry Dock a duck has decided to nest on the foredeck of an old butty that is awaiting restoration. DSCF8587Look closely, her head is just behind the mooring line by the fore stud.

We headed back the way we came stopping in Polesworth for lunch. Before setting off again we had a session with the Kurust on the cabin sides and roof rusty patches. We only got as far as Alvecote Marina where we ended up in The Samuel Barlow for a pint and a good chat with Mike and Krystyna, I am not sure what time we left them but it was gone 6 when we got to Fazeley Junction. On the way we passed a Kingfisher’s nest.DSCF8594 I wont be saying where it was, but its the first I have seen and that was only because the Kingfisher went into and out of it as we approached. The locks at Glascote were with us and no queues so that was a bonus to add to our sunny journey. The buildings right on the junction at Fazeley look finished,DSCF8599 I am not convinced that a glass fence is the best idea along the canal bank in an area that has its share of vandalism but time will tell.

Another  thing we noticed in Tamworth is that the Anchor Pub, canal side at bridge 73 is now a building site which will soon open as a Co-op store, I wonder if they will rename the bridge Co-op Bridge? it doesn’t quite sound the same as Anchor Bridge.DSCF8597


Today’s Journeymap 3411¾ Miles, 2 locks 2 canals, 1 junction in 4¾ hours

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Wednesday 8 April 2015 Alvecote

Had a nice pint to go with our faggots, chips and peas last night in the Dog and Doublet. People were still outside when we returned to the boat.

We were all set for our 10 am. start this morning when the hire boat moored ahead of us started his engine and walked forward to set the lock. Rather than chasing him down we did a few odds and ends before setting off at 11 am. At the first lock we came to I noticed that the pawl was not in line with the cog, this can be quite dangerous as if it just catches then it can also let fly with no warning putting the weight back onto the windlass. DSCF8578

Our timing was quite good as we met boats at both locks 10 and 11.

Last time we were this way CRT or their contractors were installing safety bollards beside the lock, I assume to stop cars driving into the lock, I am not sure how useful they are as I couldn’t see any paint on them.DSCF8581

We continued towards Fazeley, the chaps are doing a fine job at Drayton Foot Bridge with a new paint job, new timbers on the bridge deck and new walkways around the offside. We stopped at Fazeley Mill Marina for diesel, one of the cheapest in the area. Needless to say as I stopped to reverse in, a boat wanted to come out and once I was in, with the bows still in the entrance bridge a boat wanted to come in so I had to drop right back. As we came in originally it was ten to one and they close between 1 and 2 for lunch. once we were in we saw a note on the door of the shop “back in 10 minutes” lunch time, so we thought we may as well have our lunch. Diana had just got it ready and the chap came back, be we agreed we would both have lunch before he served us. After lunch we were soon on our way with a full tank at 65p/lt. We didn’t get much further than we saw nb. Jubilee with Jan on board, John was playing with his Sea Searcher a little further towards the junction. Diana need a couple of things from Tesco and then we both spent most of the afternoon chatting and drinking tea on Jubilee. So far we had not gone far enough to charge the batteries so we decided to head up the Coventry a bit. CRT have had a problem on Tamworth bottom lock, there is a tyre in the top offside paddle and the couldn’t get it out, the paddle is still usable but there is a yellow card on it. As we locked up I think it was a CRT volunteer who emptied the top lock and opened the gates, he was in a blue tee shirt but had left before we got there to thank him.
It was a bit sad passing the late Steve Hudson’s yard, the basinDSCF8583 just has a couple of boats in there still in the grey plus a few moorers, he will certainly be missed on the cut.DSCF8584

Today’s Journeymap 33 8 Miles, 3 locks, 1 junction, 2 canals in 4¼ hrs.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Tuesday 7 April 2015 Bodymoor Heath

Last night we ate at Piccante at Star City. there was one boat moored there when we arrived and before we went for dinner a second arrived, there was probably room for a forth on the end but no one else turned up.

This morning we left backwards at 10 am, the two hire boats had left earlier of course. At Salford Junction I noticed that they had removed the sign requesting boaters don’t hit their wall.

Last time we were this way the CRT contractors were down below the Curdworth flight cutting the trees back on the off side, bow they have completed it up to the Tame valley canal.DSCF8557 At the factory entrance at Troutpool Bridge they have brightened things up a bit with flower boxes on the bridge, but its nothing compared to what it use to be like at the Cincinnati works, which is now looking a bit vandalised. At Minworth top lock a boat was just locking up so we thought the lock gods were with us again, how wrong can you be. After that every bottom gate was wide open until we came to lock 4 on the Curdworth flight where a CRT Volunteer turned that and 5 for us and after that we met a boat coming up. We were told there was a single hander ahead of us going down and he was just leaving them all open.

We deposited the duvet that we collected yesterday and other rubbish in the skip by the top lock, in the skip were brand new still wrapped vertical blind rails, shame we don’t want any. The high speed towpath now runs from Salford Junction to Minworth Service block, a nice 4 foot wide strip of tarmac.
Several years ago British waterways had problems with theDSCF8560 embankment below the Minworth bottom lock so the scaffolding in the water holding shuttering against the bank can be considered semi permanent, so I think CRT should invest in some proper signs saying “No Mooring” and “Underwater obstruction” to replace these encapsulated A4 paper excuses that they have pinned all over the place.DSCF8559 Work is still ongoing at the Knigsley Arms its 2 years since they received planning consent to build a 3 story bedroom block and other changes. I wonder how long it will take for them to recoup their outlay.DSCF8561 At lock 1 of the Curdworth flight the bywash runs in a long channel covered by reinforced glass fibre grating, I noticed one of these was missing and I could see it at the bottom of the bywash, so being the good chap that I am, while the boat was filling with water at Duton Wharf I walked back, retrieved the grating and replaced it in its proper place.

As we came down the flight I noticed these recesses in a couple of the locks and I wonder if anyone has any idea what they are for, they are quite close to the water level of an empty lock and look is if they have a steel bar running the length of them. DSCF8567In this lock there were 5 in one lock wall but at the next lock there were only a coupe but in both walls towards the tail of the lock. 

We carried on down the flight meeting a second boat and moored for the night below lock 8 at outside The Dog  and Doublet pub, it was surprising how busy it was on a Tuesday afternoon with people sitting outside in the sunshine.DSCF8570

Today’s Journeymap 32 8¼ Miles 2 canal 11 locks in 5 hours

Monday 6 April 2015

Monday 6 April 2015 Star City, Birmingham

Last nights moorings were very quiet and we had no problems at all. DSCF8527 Today we had a choice a short day and stop at the top of the Perry Barr flight or a longer day down to Star City, we chose the latter so got away in reasonable time for us 0925 hrs.

It took us just 2 hours to get to the junction with the Tame valley Canal. We did see one Narrowboat down here.DSCF8528 We were also lucky enough to see a fox sunning his self on the canal bank behind a lorry breakers yard. He didn’t even move as we passed.DSCF8539

There is a tremendous amount of work going on below James Bridge Aqueduct, its hard to say what they are doing but I am sure someone knows.DSCF8533

At Tame Valley Junction we turned left onto the Tame Valley Canal, a much wider canal with a towpath both sides. It was much cleaner than last time we were this way. In the distance we could see a windmill, I don’t recall seeing this before, maybeDSCF8543 its been painted so it shows up more. Further investigation shows that its actually a folly in the grounds of The Round house, Wednesbury. It is quite an impressive set up looking on Google Maps at WS10 9DH ‎

DSCF8545 The M5 is undergoing road works with slip road lanes closed so I am glad I am on the canal and not on there.

We met lots of young people at looks and had a surprising range of conversations from how long would it take to do all the canals, a couple of weeks? which expanded into the Falkirk Wheel, another group enquiring in the horsepower of the engine. and general comments and photos but all very friendly.

There also lots of work going on under the M6 motorway bridge where it crosses the canal leading to a narrow restriction. DSCF8549

We passed a boat for sale if anyone is interested it has a BSC until 2017 and there definitely wont be a problem with ventilation, it was moored at a place offering cheep diesel for barges but they were closed up today.DSCF8551 for sale It wasn’t long before we were at Spaghetti Junction I just love the way the roads twist and turn, one above the other, it always makes me think of a giant marble run.DSCF8554 Since we last visited Salford Junctions they have trimmed back the vegetation on the Tame Valley part. last time a Narrowboat would be brushing the bushes now its all been cut back. It was here that we would see the first boat on the move, a hire boat coming out of the Birmingham and Fazeley canal and turning up the Grand Union. The people sitting at the bows never even considered looking to see if another boat was coming. We followed the up the Grand Union a short way as we moored at Stare City for the nigh. Here Diana noticed a full duvet clinging to our bows, I dread to think the fun I would have had removing that from the prop if it had slid under us. I also removed some black polly from the prop, but its the first time I have been down the hatch today.

O I better mention the weather, warm and sunny with more of the same forecast for tomorrow.

Today’s Journey MAP 31 15 Miles, 13 locks, 3 canals in 6¾ hours.

Sunday 5 April 2015

Sunday 5 April 2015 Walsall

Yesterday evening we wandered down to The Fountain to watch some of the folk performing, one who we knew and decided that we would move on this morning. It turned out a lot of people had the same idea as when we got up the two boats ahead had all ready gone. It wasn’t long before Scorpio and Leo a working pair owned by CRT came by. We set off at our normal 10 AM start following the old Main Line to Factory Junction where we turned hard right to go down the three Factory Locks on the New Main Line a very straight canal compared with the others. As I rounded the junction there sat Scorpio at the top of the locks waiting to go down, they were already bow hauling the butty Leo down so I walked down to lend a hand only to find they had a load of people already helping.DSCF8494 The pounds between the three locks were quite low but if Scorpio was OK then we would have no problem.

One of the locks has a cantilevered foot bridge across its tail, it you look to the right hand end you can see this end is clear of the ground to allow a tow rope to pass when the boats were pulled by horses.DSCF8497

In its heyday there were lots of junctions on this canal where loops went off and even canals crossing, lots of them have been filled in now, the first joined the Walsall Canal to the Old main line and crossed the New main Line on the level at Watery Lane Junction.DSCF8500 One side is still in water and being used as a boat yard but the other side has long gone. This use to go up through 3 locks to bring it to the same level as the old Main Line, now the land just falls away.DSCF8501

We had a slow run, not only because we were following the pair but also passing through a fishing match of 25 anglers, I wonder it the boats behind were met as cheerfully as we were.DSCF8503

At Pudding Green Junction we turned sharp left up the Wednesbury Old Canal, we passed the other end of it yesterday at Deepfield Junction, unfortunately the middle section like a lot of other loops has been lost as can bee seen on this map produced by Waterway Routes paul map Luckily for us the pair ahead carried straight on or I would have changed my plans for the day.

After a short time you come to Ryders green Junction also know I believe as Chemical Junction on the Chemical canal after the DSCF8507chemical works on this arm. Here we go straight ahead down the Riders Green flight of 8 locks on the Walsall canal.DSCF8508  Half way down the flight we hit our first problem as Diana was unable to open the top gate of lock 4, when I got there I had a poke about and recovered this metal ladder that was in front of the gate, maybe the gate had been happily riding over it for years and today it decided just to hit it. DSCF8510

At the next lock it was a Transit wheel and tyre floating behind the gate. As we went down some locks were full and some empty but non seamed to leak excessively, strange. When we reached lock 7 I could see people at lock 8, maybe a boat coming up, but then they vanished. Looking through the binoculars I could see the bottom gate open and what I was the top paddle up. When we arrived it turned out the bottom gate and bottom paddle was up, whether they would have succeeded in raising the top paddle if we hadn’t arrived is anyone's guess. Just below the bottom lock there are what looks like a lot of old loading arms on the right hand side, it is hard to see as the scrub in covering everything. so a very poor photo I’m afraid.DSCF8511 From here the canal was in a much more depressing state with dereliction along the banks. There are parts where there are modern housing estates but they are all shut off from the canal by high steel railings even though they were built with sweeping staircases running down.DSCF8515 Every development we saw was like this, some with double railings top and bottom of the stairs.All the old buildings if not abandoned and burnt are covered in anti climb devices, razor and barbed wire.

Another old arm goes off at Ocker Hill which is now a long term mooring, last time we were this way we got invited to moor there overnight rather than staying out on the towpath.DSCF8517 On the opposite side the Tame Valley Canal joins and we will be going that way tomorrow.

Soon there are more disused arms, the first just before the new Metro Bridge use to run through to join the Wednesbury Loop, now completely grown over after a few yards.DSCF8518 A little further on there is yet another junction at Moorcroft bridge again connecting to the Wednesbury loop. About 5 minutes latter we passed a huge cemetery on the towpath side with row and rows of stones.DSCF8521

Someone has been clearing the towpath along here, they have gone a good job removing the turf that had taken hold on the path, what I don’t know is why they didn’t clear it away instead of just throwing it on the grass, it should do something for the efficiency of the grass cutting.DSCF8522

At the next junction we turned right down the Walsall Town Arm, at the end is a basin with pontoons, but at the entrance there is a floating boom and behind that about 10 foot of solid floating rubbish. The basin its  is partly surrounded by high rise buildings.DSCF8524 Luckily for us CRT have installed a floating pontoon on the offside back at the junction for 24 hour mooring, this is only accessible by water so no chance of visiting town or town visiting us. We reversed back and are now sitting opposite the new flats that have been built on the towpath side.DSCF8525

Today’s Journeymap 30

11 miles, 11 locks 5 canals and hundreds of junctions in 5¾ hours