Saturday 25 September 2021

North Kilworth

Up to North Kilworth today for a boat test.  The weather was kind, and the ducks were tame.

Monday 20 September 2021

Calopteryx on test

The October Canal Boat came out while we were away, and includes my boat test on Calopteryx by Forton Boat Fitters.

Sunday 19 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 24

We were a bit later setting off this morning, probably due to a General Reluctance to end our trip.  It was 8.45 when we left our mooring and headed for the lock.

A single hander was going down ahead, so he waited for us at the third lock.  At the next one, the pound was so full of water there was no chance of getting the top gates open, so we had to run some water off to lower the whole pound.  A CRT man turned up and did the same at the bottom lock.  Once we were down we made a brief stop at the services to use the Elsan and top up the water tank — it’s easier to do it here than at the marina.  It had begun to rain at the bottom of the flight, so I put my waterproof trousers on, at which point it promptly stopped.  It stayed pretty much dry for the whole journey back to the marina.  We were tied up on our pontoon by 11.45.  Adrian had been packing as we came along, so after some lunch we’ll be loading up the car and heading home.

5 miles, 5 locks.  (283 miles, 270 locks)

Saturday 18 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 23

We had a nice evening with the Provincetown boys, including a look at their boat, which is beautiful.  It was very misty this morning when we set off at around 8.  None of the other boats pointing our way showed any signs of life, so we set off down the locks on our own.

As usual on this flight, some locks were full and others empty.  We completed the flight by 9.30.

At the bottom, there was a lovely boat moored up.

We hadn’t seen any boats at all on the flight, but then they came thick and fast.  Similarly, the sun had also burnt off the mist and it had turned into a lovely day.  At Weedon a site on the offside is being cleared — not sure what will be going in here.

We made a diesel stop at Rugby Boats, where the price has gone up to 84.9p per litre basic.  Just after Heyford Fields Marina, a hire boat coming the other way had got stuck on a rock, and we waited while a boat behind them helped pull them off.  Towards Gayton Junction I spotted a heron which had just caught a fish.

At Blisworth, the widebeam trip boat from The marina was moored right in front of the bridge so you couldn’t see anything.  The boat in front of us had had to take avoiding action when a boat came through the other way and ended up aground close to the mill building.  It all took a while to sort out. How the trip boat thinks this is a suitable mooring, I have no idea.

We passed one boat in Blisworth Tunnel, then did the two locks down to the long pound where we moored.  We walked back to the village and called in to see Kathryn, then on to see Jenny and Pete on Momentous, which was moored above the locks.  Back at the boat, we washed and polished the other side which was no on the towpath, and then Jenny and Pete joined us for a drink.  We all ended up going to The Navigation for dinner together — one of those great evenings that’s all the better for being unplanned.  On the way back to the long pound, the moon looked great above the lock, and a boat was coming down in the dark, it’s headlight lighting up the gate. 

16 miles, 8 locks.  (278 miles, 265 locks)

Friday 17 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 22

Some days everything seems to take a long time, and some days things seem to happen quicker than usual.  Today was one of the latter sort.  We started with a plan, having heard how busy Hillmorton Locks can be, especially since the hours were limited: they open at 8, so we’d aim to be there about then.  So we set off at 7.45, and arrived at the bottom of the locks at about the same time.  One boat we passed was just about to set off, and another was already going into one of the bottom pair of locks.  The other was empty and we could go straight in.

As we rose in the middle locks, boats were coming down, so the top locks were also ready — by when a volunteer lock keeper had arrived.

The other boat, an ex-Viking Afloat, stopped at the top for breakfast while we carried on towards Braunston.  It had been quite chilly, but the sun came out and the temperature went up, and before long the spire of Braunston church came into view.

We made two brief stops in Braunston, the first at Midland Chandlers for boat was and polish.  We stopped on their mooring right opposite the junction.

Then we pulled in outside the marina for a quick trip into the village.  We had an early lunch before setting off again.  A boat expecting visitors had tucked in behind us, right by the marina entrance, but was quite a long way out from the edge, so we’re pleased that they could move forward into our space.  Earlier on, I’d sent a message to Mark from the hotel boat, Ellis, as we’d noticed he was in Braunston Marina with alternator problems.  As I walked up to the lock he replied, so came along to say hello.

We were joined up the locks by a nice couple on a boat which they moor at Norton Junction, and who have been boating since the 1980s.  We met no-one coming through Braunston Tunnel, and when we got to the junction there were no boat movements either.  A boat had just gone down the lock but the volunteer lock keepers helped set it for us.  This evening, we are going to the New Inn with Peter and Stu from Provincetown, and I was surprised to find Stu already having a pint outside the pub, many hours too early!  We moored immediately below the lock, and washed and polished the towpath side of the boat, something we have neglected to do the whole trip.  I even polished the tiller arm and pin.

13 miles, 10 locks.  (262 miles, 257 locks)

Thursday 16 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 21

Last night, I had a great evening at a Radio 2 presenters’ event in London, and didn’t get back to the boat until well after midnight.  Adrian went out for a meal at an Indian restaurant.  Also last night he discovered that the fridge had been off for a while, and things in the freezer had defrosted and needed to be replaced.  This morning, after an early trip to the little Tesco just down from the basin, we set off at 8am.  Going this way, you get a much better view of the Cash’s Hundreds, the houses which used to have weaving looms on the top floor.

At one blind bridge we came face to face with a hire boat, prompting lots of reverse from both of us.  We ended up with something round the prop, which turned out to be the fabric from an umbrella.  At Longford, volunteers were out in force litter picking and tidying up, including removing a huge amount of bushes from in front of a wall.

We got to Hawkesbury Junction after a couple of hours and stopped on the water point before the turn.  We filled the tank, got rid of rubbish, and started some washing.  Numerous boats from the opposite direction arrived and made the turn, making the pool beyond the junction bridge rather busy.

It was soon our turn to go under the bridge, and then through the stop lock onto the North Oxford Canal.

The next section is not that interesting.  We managed to get past a couple of slow boats, and just pushed on in the sunshine.  When we got to Brinklow Marina, where we used to moor when we first had the boat, we turned in — in order to catch up with Mark who’s now the harbour master there, and Del and Al from Derwent6.  We spend a good hour swapping news from the last couple of years, which seem to have been quite eventful.  It was really great to see them.

The locks at Hillmorton currently close early, with the last entry at 4.30.  We knew we wouldn’t get there in time, so went through Newbold and Rugby and moored at the golf course.

20 miles, 1 lock. (249 miles, 247 locks)

Wednesday 15 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 20

It was dry and a bit brighter this morning, but quite chilly when the cloud was at its thickest.  We set off at 8, and made our way past the allotments and back gardens of Nuneaton.  We past a fuel boat going the other way.

At Marston Junction, a boat seemed to have just come off the Ashby Canal, but was over at the far side of the winding hole, so we slipped past.  Charity Dock seemed to have more boats, now double moored most of the way along, and more comedy, with a load of new characters in the gardens.

We planned to stop for water at Hawkesbury Junction, but two of the taps we could have used were in use, and another was broken.  The two boats ahead of us turned under the bridge onto the Oxford Canal.

We carried on straight towards Coventry Basin, where we haven’t been since 2015.  Then I commented on new housing, and now there is even more.  Some, down by the basin, has Coventry Canal Company on it, and I wonder what the actual company would have made of it.

The bridge into the basin always looks impossibly small.

At the moment you have to book a mooring in the basin, because of Coventry being UK City of Culture.We booked online at the end of last week, and the only space available was on C mooring.  I had no idea which one that was, but by fluke we seem to have pretty much the best mooring in the whole place.  There is a floating library/reading room behind us.

We went for lunch at the cafe in the basin — passable toasted sandwiches, but nothing special — and then went for a walk into the city centre, which seems much improved since the last time we were here.  We visited the old and new Cathedrals, where the tapestry and stained glass always impress.

This evening, I am making use of being reasonably close to a station by getting a train into London for a work event.

13 miles, 0 locks.  (229 miles, 246 locks)

Tuesday 14 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 19

The rain was little more than drizzle when we set off this morning a little before 8am.  It took around an hour to get to the bottom of the Atherstone Locks.  I’d been gradually catching up to a boat ahead, so I was pleased when they pulled onto the water point before the locks!  The first couple of locks were empty, which was good, but they takes ages to fill.  A boat then arrived behind us, so as we left the second lock I lifted a paddle to empty it for them.  At Lock 9, a CRT man was prodding about on the cill with a spade with a hugely long handle.  There was still plenty of water coming round the gate, though, which he took photos of.  The pound above was well down, so he ran some water through Lock 8 as we came up in 9; it was still very shallow though.

As we rose in Lock 7, I could see than someone was coming down the lock ahead, number 6.  It turned out to be an old working boat going to the Brownhills Festival.  As he came out of the lock I waved so he knew to leave the gates open for us, so we could just swap locks.

There was another historic boat above the lock waiting to come down, also going to Brownhills, but basically just pleased to be going anywhere.  The locks in the top part of the flight continued to be in our favour, right up to Lock 2 which needed emptying.  By now it was properly raining, and we were getting pretty wet.  I’d put my waterproof trousers on at the start of the day, in the hopes that would ward off the rain — but it hadn’t worked.  As we rose in Lock 2 I walked up to Lock 1 which was also full.  It turned out there were five volunteer lock keepers there, huddled in their hut out of the rain, who hadn’t even noticed us coming.  By the time we were coming into the lock, there was a lockie on each bottom gate and one on each top paddle!

The flight had taken around two hours, which is not bad going.  We carried on, with the rain pretty steady. At least there was no wind though, because vertical rain is much more manageable than the horizontal variety.  Mancetta Marina, which is fairly new, now looks to be full of boats, and has a very impressive canal frontage, with rock gardens and the planted-up front half of an old boat.

I was surprised by where moored boats had congregated.  We’ve often stopped near Hartshill, one bridge back from the yard, and sometimes struggled to get in there.  Today, there was no-one moored at all, either on the official moorings or the piling before them.  Instead, everyone was a couple of bridges back towards Atherstone.  I was aiming for the bridge just beyond Springwood Haven Marine, which it turns out is now owned by ABC leisure (like Fazeley Mill Marina which we passed yesterday).  We moored up about 12.30; it was a soup-for-lunch type of day.  This afternoon I have written up a boat test I did a few weeks ago, and which I’ve been meaning to start the whole trip.  At least it’s now mostly done.

9 miles, 11 locks.  (216 miles, 246 locks)

Monday 13 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 18

This morning’s forecast light rain never materialised, which was good.  We set off about 8, went through the diminutive Curdworth Tunnel, and then arrived at the top lock.  This was relocated and rebuilt when the M6 Toll was built.  I always look out for it from the motorway.

It’s a very pretty flight, and the locks all seem easy to work.

We met a couple of boats coming up, which also helped.  Alongside one of the locks there’s another HS2 site.  One of the things I like about the Waterway Routes map is that the route of the new line is shown, so you can see where it will impact the canal.

We stopped for water at the point below Lock 9, which neither of us had any recollection of.  We thought it might take a while, as we haven’t topped up the tank since Thursday, and we were putting the washing machine on.  But it was a decent pressure, and the tank was soon full.  Just as we were getting ready to push off, Alchemy came by — I’d been following their blog so knew we’d pass at some point today.  I was on my way across the bridge to the towpath side, and once I was over there we had a brief chat as Mike and Christine manoeuvred onto the water point themselves.

We completed the remaining two locks in the flight.  We’d taken two and a half hours including the water stop, so not bad going.  The next section includes the Drayton footbridge, which it’s obligatory to take a photo of.

The mill at Fazeley is under scaffolding, and is being converted into apartments.  Very smart they look too.

The mill is very close to Fazeley Junction.

We were turning right here onto the Coventry Canal.  I was glad I was going slowly, because as we reached the bridge a boat was coming through.  I backed off to let them through; the steerer said he couldn’t sound his horn, because he was holding a sandwich!  I’ve not heard that one before.  At Glascote Locks, there were three boats waiting to go up in front of us — the first queue we’ve had all trip.  Adrian went up to help, and although it all took a while, at least there was constant movement and everyone helped everyone else.  As I rose in the top lock, the first downhill boat arrived.  Adrian headed off to the Co-op at the next bridge while I finished up the lock, and by the time I got to the bridge he was there waiting to step on board.   I always find the back gardens of Amington less than inspiring, but at least we were having lunch on the move as we passed them.  Past Alvecote, I caught the briefest glimpse of the top of the gold leaf sculpture on the hill.

In spite of travelling this section of canal dozens of times, we’ve never stopped in Polesworth, so we thought we’d correct that today.  There was a space which turned out to be just big enough for us on the moorings, and we had a walk into the village, finding the abbey and the bridge over the River Anker.

The forecast for tomorrow is not good, so it looks as though we’ll be doing Atherstone Locks in the rain.

12 miles, 13 locks.  (207 miles, 235 locks)

Sunday 12 September 2021

West Mids Meander: Day 17

We had a really nice evening with Helen and Andy last night.  We were collected at 5pm, had great food and great company, and were late back because we all watched Emma Raducanu winning the US Open tennis.  This morning, we set off at about 8.15, entering our first lock since Thursday.  Alongside the lock, on the clubhouse, the Longwood Boat Club has a couple of boards showing how long it will take to get to various places.

Most of the Rushall Locks were in our favour.  A couple of the pounds were low, but not too bad, and at lock six one of the bottom gates wouldn’t open fully.  By opening and closing the gate a few times, whatever was behind it moved enough so that we had enough room to get out of the lock.  Towards the bottom of the flight, a couple of CRT guys turned up to check the flight.  They knew about the gate at six, and the low pounds are routinely low, so they’re well aware of the problems on the flight.

Below the locks, some way off, there appeared to be a boat or two in the middle of the canal, but not getting any closer.  It turned out to be a pair of work boats, which seemed solidly in the middle not adrift, with just enough room to get past on the offside.

At the end of the Rushall Canal, we turned left onto the Tame Valley Canal.  The junction is really tight, and it’s a job to get round.  Shortly afterwards we met a boat going the other way — a significant event in these parts.  The A4041 bridge is having a lot of work done on it.  The next one is Chimney Bridge, a very tall bridge named because the pillars look like chimneys.

After that deep cutting there is a high embankment, with glimpses of the Birmingham skyline in the distance, and aqueducts high over roads.  When we got to the Perry Barr Locks, a CRT man was running some water down to refill empty pounds, and he asked us to wait a few minutes.  The delay was minimal, though, and we were soon on our way down.

The top seven locks in particular are quite pretty and are easy to work.  There were plenty of walkers, runners, and cyclists, and seeing a boat is clearly a novelty.  I even roped in some onlookers to open and close some gates.  At one lock I pulled a tyre out of the water, and a traffic cone which was stuck in the paddle recess.

Alongside, the Alexander Stadium is being rebuilt for next year’s Commonwealth Games, along with lots of other facilities.

We had time for lunch in the long pound between Locks 11 and 12.  At the bottom lock a dad and two children said they’d been waiting an hour for a boat to come along so they could see the lock in action.  Shortly after the lock, the canal passes underneath Spaghetti Junction — and coming from this direction you get the full experience, with something like eight different bits of road at different heights for about a quarter of a mile.

We then came to Salford Junction, where we joined the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and finally left the duckweed behind.  Here the Saltley Cut of the Grand Union also joins.

Through Bromford and Minworth it began to rain, lightly at first and then more steadily.  We followed a hire boat down the three Minworth Locks, so they took a little more time than they might have done.  We stopped for the night at a place we’ve used before, just after Wiggins Hill Bridge.

12 miles, 25 locks.  (195 miles, 222 locks)