Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Sheffield Keel on test

The November issue of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test of the Tyler Wilson widebeam Sheffield Keel.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Going West: The Stats

For the purposes of this, I've included the weekend in August, when we took Briar Rose from our marina to Calcutt.  That means that in total the trip was 30 days, 372 miles, and 292 locks.

Waterways covered were:

  • Grand Union Canal
  • Stratford Canal
  • Birmingham and Worcester Canal
  • Droitwich Junction Canal
  • Droitwich Barge Canal
  • River Severn
  • Gloucester and Sharpness Canal
  • Staffs and Worcs Canal
  • Stourbridge Canal
  • Dudley No2 Canal
  • BCN New Main Line
  • Wyrley and Essington Canal (including Anglesey and Daw End Branches)
  • Rushall Canal
  • Tame Valley Canal
  • Walsall Canal
  • Wednesbury Old Canal
  • Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
  • Coventry Canal
  • Oxford Canal
We turned round in five places:
  • Sharpness
  • Hawne Basin
  • Black Country Museum
  • Anglesey Basin
  • Coventry Basin
  • Blisworth (3056 yards) (twice)
  • Braunston (2042 yards) (twice)
  • Shrewley (433 yards)
  • Brandwood (352 yards)
  • Wast Hill (2726 yards)
  • Shortwood (614 yards)
  • Tardebigge (580 yards)
  • Cookley (65 yards)
  • Dunsley (25 yards)
  • Gosty Hill (563 yards)
  • Netherton (3027 yards)
  • Coseley (360 yards)
  • Summit/Galton (122 yards)
  • Curdworth (57 yards)
  • Newbold (250 yards)
That means we spent 11 miles underground!

Saturday, 3 October 2015


To Newbury this morning for a boat test. While it wasn't as sunny as the rest of the week, it was still fine enough -- and the tearoom at Newbury Wharf was doing a roaring trade.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Going West: Day 27

Maybe we were subconsciously trying to delay the end of our trip, but we seemed a bit slow to get going this morning. However, it was another bright sunny day, and we actually still got under way before 9.

The five miles back to our marina usually take an hour and a half, and they did today -- we were slowed only by two large fishing matches. I seem to have taken only two photos.

At the marina, Briar Rise seemed very reluctant to slip into her berth -- I like to think she would rather have kept going! But once we were moored up, we quickly sorted things out, packed up the car, and hit the road. We had to go first to Calcutt to collect Adrian's car, then we headed home. We've spent the afternoon putting the house back together, as the decorator has been in while we've been away, painting a couple of rooms.

5 miles, 0 locks. (340 miles, 269 locks)


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Going West: Day 26

Another beautiful start to the day, particularly the view from the galley window. We set off at 8.30, to make the short journey to Rugby Boats for diesel, and where we were meeting my second cousin Catherine and family. We spent a great morning plodding along the lock free pound, catching up. It was great hearing about their recent trip on their shared boat round the Four Counties Ring, and plenty of other news. We stopped at Blisworth for pasta cooked by Adrian, and cake cooked by Catherine.

In Blisworth Tunnel we passed three or four boats going the other way, and Grace and Matthew could be heard singing 'There's light at the end of the tunnel' -- particularly loudly when they could see people at the Stoke Bruerne end peering round the entrance.

We shared the locks with a boat called Kelly Louise, which had just been bought from Wilton Marina. It looked suspiciously like the one which used to be owned by a couple like Peter and Margaret, and which was loaned to Tom and Jan while they waited for Waiouru to be built. This post has a photo (at the end) for comparison.

Anyway, thanks to the crew working hard, we made good time down the hill.

We moored up at the bottom of the locks and said goodbye to our visitors. We then walked up to Stoke Bruerne, as we'd spotted Cleddau moored there. We introduced ourselves to Ken, then a little later Sue returned; we had a great chat, which ended up with us having bubbles on board Cleddau, and staying until gone 7pm. On the way back we knocked on Kathryn's door and dragged her to The Navigation for a drink. It was dark by the time we walked back down the locks to the boat.

13 miles, 7 locks. (335 miles, 269 locks)


Friday, 25 September 2015

Going West: Day 25

It was a beautiful clear sunny morning when we woke up, although rathe chilly outside. With the sun low in the sky, the shadows across the fields were amazing as we set off just before 8.

We had a clear run until just before Braunston, when suddenly there seemed to be boats everywhere. Among those coming through bridge holes towards us was Armadillo. Once we'd picked our way through the crowds, we stopped at the water point at the junction to fill the tank and start a wash load. All that was done by 10.30, so we made our way up to the locks. A boat was almost up as we arrived, and as I walked up to the lock I realised it was a Braidbar Boat, Mister E, with Mike and a couple of friends on board. We've previously met Mike at Higher Poynton and at the Crick Show. They said they'd wait for us at the next lock, and I quickly dashed into the shop by the lock to add to Briar Rose's collection of brass canal plaques.

It was great fun sharing the locks with Mike and his friends. We met boats coming down, so progress was pretty quick.

Both boats went through the tunnel, and we stopped just before Norton Junction for lunch. Mister E went to the junction to turn around before also mooring up for lunch.

We headed for Buckby locks after lunch. A boat was going down the top lock, and the volunteer lock keeper asked the, to wait at the next lock. It turned out to be a couple on a Diamond Resorts boat from Gayton who knew what they were doing. There was even a bit of synchronised boating between locks.

Lock 12 is the one that had a stoppage a few weeks ago when one of the gates fell apart, having completely rotted through. The temporary fix is a significant metal collar to hold the gate together. I gather it was due for replacement this winter anyway.

As it was such a lovely afternoon, we decided to continue a little way, to get away from the M1. I was pleased to find a nice spot just beyond Bridge 23 was free. We've stopped here a couple of times before; the trains are fairly close, but that's usual round here, but there are nice views across farmland, and the neighbours across the towpath seem friendly enough.

15 miles, 13 locks. (322 miles, 262 locks)


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Going West: Day 24

The Coventry Basin moorings are surprisingly quiet. We slipped away this morning at 8am in sunny but chilly conditions. By Bridge 2 are the Cash's Hundreds weavers' cottages. They used to have accommodation on the lower two floors, and looms on the top floor. A hundred were planned, but they actually built only around half that number.

Just beyond Bridge 8 we made a brief stop, so Adrian could go to the nearby Tesco, which is huge. I got the boat tied up and started some washing, and then Marilyn, David, and Lesley went by on Waka Huia so I had a brief chat to them. Before long we were approaching Hawkesbury Junction, which is much easier from this direction as you don't have to double back on yourself.

Adrian worked the lock, which has a rise of less than a foot, and we were then on the North Oxford. Thanks to improvements in the 1830s, this canal has long straight sections which combined with the fact that we used to moor round here and travelled it frequently, makes it rather dull. There were some moments of interest, though, provided by wildlife. I saw what I'm pretty sure was a water vole; it set off from the offside, swam right into the side of the boat, looked confused, and then went round us as we went past. Later some sort of bird of prey flew overhead and settled in a tree. I had very bad photos of each of them.

At Stretton Stop, Adrian jumped off to open the little swing bridge, which is used by staff at Rose Narrowboats.

We passed the entrance to Brinklow Marina, where we moored when we first bought Briar Rose. Not. Single one of the coloured lights in Newbold Tunnel is working any more. At Rugby, building work is well advanced on the new retail park near Tesco; and there's also a lot of building work going on a Clifton Cruisers.

It was still relatively early, so we decided to go up the locks at Hillmorton. A big change since we last came this way is that all the masts from the Rugby Radio Station have gone. A volunteer lock keeper emptied one of the pair of bottom locks for us. At the middle pair, Hillmorton Church looked rather nice in the sunshine.

There was a space on the piling at the top of the locks, so we pulled in and moored up. As we were reasonably close, I phoned the Canal Shop, which supplied our composting loo, to see whether they had any cocoa shell in stock. This is one of the best things to use as a base in the loo, but we've never been able to find any. They had some, so I walked along to buy a couple of kilos -- I had no idea what a kilo would look like, and it turns out to be quite a volume; 2kg should do us for about six empties of the loo.

Later, just before 6pm, Brian and Diana on Harnser went past. I went to chat to them as they went down the top lock.

21 miles, 4 locks. (307 miles, 249 locks)