Monday, 6 June 2022

HAPPY DAYS

 


Foxton Locks

Our trip from Loughborough took us 3 days, although it is only 16miles and 11 locks for me to do.

The Captain had planned it this way, as he wanted to use the pump out machine at Leicester Marina on the Friday, and we had planned to be in Leicester itself on the Saturday. We had hoped to meet up with Heath and Jennifer, but unfortunately they were away on holiday in their new camper van. Hopefully we will see them in the summer.

https://canalriverhub.co.uk/moorings/leicester-marina/

After visiting the marina we moored at Birstall for the night, but with difficulty, as a hire boat had left a right git gap not leaving us quite enough space, so we had to moor the best we could. We didn’t venture to the pub as it was hard for me to get on and off the boat.

The 4 locks into Leicester, were a few years ago, some of the worst maintained locks I had ever had to deal with, and I did contact CRT about them. There has been some improvements, and we were lucky enough to pair up with another boat for the first 3 called Koi Carp Diem, the Captain and crew were heading for Foxton locks to help out a friend who had broken down.

At the last, and the very worst of the locks, North Lock, we caught up with another boat Eau de Vie and Koi Carp Diem joined them in the lock. Leaving us to do it on our own.

There are so many things wrong with this lock. I turned in my windlass and choose to take the boat into the lock instead. I am so glad I did, as the Captain had major problem getting the gate open, and he is a big strong fella.

But we made it and headed for Castle Gardens, on the way we checked the pontoons at Memory Lane moorings but nothing seemed to have been done since last year, CRT are meant to be building a sanitary station here, which is really needed. Disappointed we were.

We passed Friars Mill mooring and there was space which was good as Castle Gardens was full, it didn’t help that a large CRT work boat was moored on the pontoons taking up much needed visitors moorings. So we winded and returned to Friars Mill. Last year there were a lot of stories about access to these pontoons, and the first thing I did was make sure that the waterways key opened the access gate, it did. Even better the water had been turned on again. So we were set for the night.

We joined narrowboats Winging It and Jaracanda. NB Matilda turned up later and we helped them moor before having a chat.

It was date night so we headed into town, calling first at the Blue Boar, an amazing real ale pub that also sells Samuel Smith beer. It was heaving and so noisy, but the choice for the Captain was amazing and Taddy lager for me. Then onto the Salmon, another fantastic real ale pub but a lot quieter than the Boar. We had decided to go to Zizzi’s for tea. Unfortunately my meal wasn’t up to scratch, but the waitress was marvellous and sorted it out. Then didn’t charge me for my meal. Very good customer service.

http://www.blueboarleicester.co.uk/

https://www.blackcountryales.co.uk/pubs/the-salmon

We left Leicester on Sunday, and this is why this episode is called happy days. We did 8 miles and 11 locks, but the gongoozlers we met made it a very special day. I had help from both young and old. Many questions were asked and answered. Everyone was smiling, the sun was out. A perfect day. We even helped some people magnet fishing retrieve their magnet when it got stuck between 2 rocks and they couldn’t dislodge it. The fishermen were happy to.

We did meet 2 very different groups of teenagers, the first were cheeky, well mainly one of them, and wanted to get on the boat, but no way jose, this is our home. The second were respectful and listened and asked questions politely and helped out when ask. One made my day when he asked how old I was and then guessed in my forties, ahhhh bless him, for those that don’t know I am actually 59.

Monday was a quiet day, and after 4 miles and 8 locks we moored in the MONW for the night.

Tuesday was an interesting day, we had 6 miles, 5 locks and Saddington Tunnel (880yards) to do to get to Foxton Locks. At the last lock we met up with some volunteer lockees, and they had a very important guest with them, Phil Mulligan who is the CRT regional director for the East Midlands. Now earlier in this blog I mention reporting the problems with the Leicester locks, and I did this by emailing, yes you guessed it Phil Mulligan, and I got a substantial reply from him. So it was great to but a face to a name. We managed to chat about various issues, the main one being the sanitary station and moorings at Memory Lane. He said they had been the bane of his life for the past 3 years, but was hopeful that within a year it would all be sorted. Fingers crossed he is right.

We also mentioned the up coming riverside festival in Leicester, and the suspension of the mooring there as there was no notification of this on the CRT webpage. He was most surprised and said he would look into it.

I complained about North Lock, and he and the lockees all rolled their eyes already knowing all the problems at this lock. Again hopefully it is on his to do list, well at the top I hope.

It was a very interesting meeting and he seemed genuinely interested it what we had to say.

We were lucky the rain held off until we got to Foxton and moored up outside the Lock Inn. We also managed to dodge the showers when we headed to Bridge 61, a little real ale pub that sells Langton Brewery beers on draft and in bottle. The Captain is very partial to their Bulls Eye stout, so a couple before tea.

https://www.facebook.com/Bridge-61-174949759195755/

https://langtonbrewery.co.uk/

We decided to stay at Foxton the next day, before heading down the arm to Market Harborough and a curry at the Bengal Kitchen and a pint at The Beer house with Dave and Sandra Biddle, some old boating mates who have given up life afloat and now have a motorhome. This change in life style means they get to spend time with their lovely daughter and grandchildren.

https://bengalkitchenle16.co.uk/

https://beerhousemh.square.site/

Foxton Locks next time folks.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxton_Locks


Monday, 23 May 2022

FEELS LIKE SUMMER

Family

 Well, the weather has really improved. We are cruising the River Soar heading for Leicester and the sun is shining and the sky is blue. And the rain only comes at night.

So, I will take you back to our trip up the Erewash. Going up was very hard work, especially on the first day, as we had 2 boats ahead of us which meant all 8 locks was set against us. In simple terms this means I had to, empty every lock and then fill it when the boat was in. The paddles seemed so heavy, as did the gates. But we made it to the Gallows and decided to stop there for the night, but we didn’t go to the pub, shock horror I know, but I was just knackered, and my knee had really had enough.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erewash_Canal

Next day seemed a little easier, and I got chatting to a very nice man called Carl who helped me at a couple of the locks. So we invited him on board for a short cruise into the basin. He said it made his day.

As we arrived at the basin there was great excitement, as the resident swans eggs were starting to hatch. Out of the 9 eggs 7 hatched successfully, and the proud Mum and Dad showed them off to the waiting crowd over the next few days. Unfortunately when we left a week later there were only 5 signets left, so fingers crossed they will all survive to adulthood. Nature can be so cruel.

Our first port of call was to see Vicky, who runs the boatyard, for a pump out and diesel before mooring up for the night. The Captain showed his steering skills, as he backed the boat down to the pump out machine with only a couple of inches each side to spare.

https://langleymillboatyard.co.uk/

Then we did go to the pub. Firstly The Railway Tavern, who had Nine Lives porter on by Parkway brewery from Somerset. Then we tried the Bunny Hop, and the Captain wasn’t disappointed once again they had Cherry Raven on by Magpie Brewery and Pravha for me.

https://www.facebook.com/tavmicrobar/

https://www.facebook.com/BunnyHopAleHouse/

Our week in the basin was quiet, our friends Chris and Sue came to visit and we took them for a cruise down 4 locks, before winding and returning to the basin. Chris was my apprentice for the afternoon, and I showed him the right way (well in my opinion) to do locks. We had a great time.

My old workmate, another Chris, came next day for a chin wag and we had a great time catching up.

On the Friday we took a trip to Ripley on the bus, but wished we hadn’t due to the roadworks on route. Finished the night off with another excellent curry at the Royal Gurkha.

https://royalgurkhalangleymill.co.uk/

Saturday, and the main reason for making the trip up the Erewash, my kids came to visit. I did a tapas feast and we had a few drinks sat in the sun.

The Captain was now concerned that we were a little short on time to get back to Coventry in time for our holiday to Croatia. So we decided to make the trip back down the Erewash in one day, that’s 11miles and 15 locks which took us a respectable 6hrs. This was mainly because all the locks were set in our favour and when going down locks the Captain is able to help me. At some locks I had help from gongoozlers young and old. Apart from at one lock, were a gentleman believing he was helping opened a gate we didn’t need opening, and then wandered off so I had to close it. I hadn’t the heart to say anything as he was only trying to help.

All the way down we met fisherman after fisherman, but not sat fishing, but walking a long casting their lines as they went. This is called lure fishing, but we had never seen so many at one time. Eventually the Captain struck up a conversation with one, and it turned out to be a competition.

https://uklureseries.co.uk/

Once at Trent Lock we went for a well earned pint in the Steamboat. The Captain was a very happy bunny once again, as they had Blue Monkey Guerilla Stout on. Now Simon who owns the pub always has all sorts of things on sale dotted around. Books, pictures, pottery and canal art. Well I spotted a newish looking fender, not something you normally see in a pub, and as Simon passed by I asked if it was for sale and it was £50. Now that’s a bargain to be honest. Well we need a new rear fender, and the Captain had been pricing them up and had paled at the prices quoted. So he ummed and ahhed a bit before asking if they would take £40, and much to our surprise Simon agreed. So now we are the proud owners of a fender that should have been well over £100. Happy days.

But its still waiting to be fitted.

https://www.steamboattrentlock.co.uk/

Next morning, and after getting rid of a load of rubbish, we headed down the last lock and onto the river. Trent Lock is a busy junction where the Trent and Mersey, the River Trent, the River Soar and the Erewash canal all connect.

And we were heading down the Soar, our first port of call would be Loughborough. At the last 2 locks into Loughborough, we teamed up with a hire boat with very experienced Captain and crew onboard. They liked their boating holidays, but didn’t think they could actually live on one full time. Each to their own.

We moored up and had a walk into the town for a couple of pints in the Swan in the Rushes, which is a Castle Rock brewery taphouse.

https://www.castlerockbrewery.co.uk/pubs/the-swan-in-the-rushes/

Our bird spotting is going well. At one of the locks there was a ruffling in the undergrowth and a male pheasant appeared and gave me the eye, these are a beautiful bright coloured bird, well the male is and I was pleased to see him. Overhead we have had the swallows, sand martins and one of my favourite birds, the common tern, with its snowy white sleek arrow like body and forked tail. We have also managed to see 2 Red Kites on the Soar and a Little Egret. Along with the swans, cormorants, geese, moorhens, coots and a very pretty Mandarin duck.

Pheasant

A quick update on my knee, there does seem to be some improvement, so finger crossed all will be well soon.

On to Leicester next.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

RAIN AND LOCKS


I don’t know what it as about rain and locks, but it seems if rain is forecast, it always catches me as I am just about to do a lock, and I end up getting soaked.

The week started with nice weather as we cruised down the Trent and Mersey, we moored up in the middle of nowhere, as the moorings were full at Whittington and Hopwas. It was a lovely afternoon, so we sat on the back with the pram cover down and had a couple of beers. The number of boats that passed us was quite amazing.

Next day was the Captains birthday. We did a short cruise to Alrewas before I took him for a celebratory pint in the George and Dragon, and then cooked him a lovely steak dinner.

7 locks the next day, and we met up with NB Aquaholics and its crew, they were have problems with their electrics, and heading to Shardlow marina for someone to look at it. I hope they got it sorted.

As we cruised in to Burton on Trent the Captain jumped ship to go to the Marston Brewery beer shop, and he came back a very happy bunny with lots of nice dark ales. As recommended by Petra and Kevin of NB Autumn Myst last year.

https://www.facebook.com/MarstonsTourandStore/

Then just round the corner we bumped (not literally) into some very old friends Lisa and Fred off NB Chyandour, so we hovered in the centre of the canal and chatted for a while. They have a mooring in Shobnall marina but are planning to head south like us later in the year, so hopefully we will meet up again.

A plan had been hatched to moor in Burton on Trent for the weekend, and hopefully catch up with another friend Phil Hancox on the Sunday. But first we had to give the pubs a try, after all Burton is the brewing capital of the world.

Friday night and we took a short walk to the Weighbridge Inn, a lovely little micropub not far from the canal. They had Muirhouse Stout on for the Captain and Pravha for me.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057584283863&sk=about

Saturday and we caught the bus into Burton. After a little shopping we tried a few of the local hostelries starting with the Old Royal Oak, local CAMRA pub of the year 2022, very good choice of beer from Fownes Brewery.

https://oldroyaloak.co.uk/

Then on to The Dog, a Black Country Ales tap house, so another great selection of real ales on the bar.

https://www.blackcountryales.co.uk/pubs/the-dog-inn

And finally Beeropolis were the Captain decided to push the boat out and try 3 beers, a 3rd of each. I didn’t ask him how much the round was, but his face was a picture when he sat down, glad it wasn’t my round.

https://www.facebook.com/BeeropolisBurton

We were going to walk around the corner and try the Burton Bridge, which is a tap house for a brewery of the same name, but hunger got the better of us and we decided to have a meal at Baan Thai. The food was lovely, and the staff very friendly.

https://www.baanthaiburton.com/

Unfortunately the terrible bus service marred the rest of our visit. I have been having problems with my knee, and the options of waiting an hour for a bus, or a half hour walk back to the boat didn’t suit me. We made it to The Last Heretic, another very good micropub, but I was in no mood to enjoy its delights. The Captain had a half whilst we waited for a taxi.

Shame as we had had such a good day.

A message from Phil on Sunday had us out of bed quite early for us. He came and had a coffee and a long chat. He is planning to head out cruising later in May, and hopefully we will catch up then. The rest of the day was quiet and I rested my knee the best I could.

Next day, Fred and Lisa hooted as they passed us, but as usual we were still in bed, but not for long as it was time to move on. Our next port of call was Willington and we passed a boat called Avalon Mist, the second one with that name we had seen. As we moored up I could not believe my eyes, the boat next to us had 2 owls on board. The things we see.

A walk to the Dragon was on the agenda and this took us past Avalon Mist, we had a chat with its crew, unfortunately they had a very noisy generator running and stated they were intending to stay on a 2 day mooring for at least a couple of weeks. This is inconsiderate to other boaters as Willington is a popular spot to stop due to its shops, pubs and takeaways. Even worse, about 6am next morning they started running the generator, there is a rule on the cut no running of engines (unless your moving) or generators before 8am or after 8pm, we were 3 boats away and it woke us up. Oh well!!

Now here comes the bit about the rain, our next port of call was Shardlow and we had a number locks to do. The forecast said rain, but it seemed to be holding off, that was until I got to the second lock, off I jumped with my windlass in hand, and no coat on (it was quite warm), then little spots of rain began, and then it got a bit faster and faster, luckily the Captain had my waterproof coat on hand so I didn’t get to wet, back on the boat and it stopped raining so the coat came off. At the next lock exactly the same, only this time it didn’t stop and we had to take cover under a bridge. We had to have a fire in that night, not something we normally do at this time of the year, but it felt damp, and its a feeling we don’t like.

We passed NB Hang Loose and I waved madly as Stephanie is a friend on Facebook but unfortunately she wasn't at home. She also writes a blog about their travels by narrowboat. 

https://www.facebook.com/shakahangloose

 Next day and we were back on the River Trent. I like being on rivers, they seem so big after being on the narrow canals. It was also very good for bird watching, and I managed to spot the first 2 kingfishers of the season, my first heron, great crested grebes, cormorants and a majestic buzzard soaring high in the sky.

We actually managed to get on the pontoons at Trent Lock, a first for us. As always we had to go and say ‘Hi’to Simon at the Steam Boat, the Captain was very happy as there was Blue Monkey Chocolate Amaretto Guerilla stout on.

https://www.steamboattrentlock.co.uk/

The next 2 days were spent doing the 16 locks, and 12miles of the Erewash canal to Langley Mill, but more about that next time.


Saturday, 30 April 2022

PREPARATIONS AND WE’RE OFF.


Well I have finished work for another year. It was sad to say goodbye to all of my friends at UTL, but I will be back before they know it.

Before leaving for our cruise there are always jobs to be done. Maintenance for the Captain, and usually shopping and cooking for me.

This year was no exception. The Captain did an excellent job of cleaning out the engine bay and giving it a coat of paint. He has fitted a solar dump too, don’t worry its not as bad as it sounds. It should enable us to use any extra solar power to heat the water in our emersion tank. We just have to see if it actually works. I have great faith in him but my fingers crossed just in case.

I have made sure we have plenty of food, but more importantly a good stock of beer and wine.

We could not leave the day after I finished work, which was Good Friday, as I had a hospital appointment on the following Tuesday. Nothing got done on Good Friday either as we bunked off and went to celebrate my sons birthday at the New Inn at Shardlow. A lovely canal side pub that does great food, (we went by car not boat).

https://thenewinnshardlowpub.co.uk/

We didn’t actually leave until the following Friday, as a plan was hatched with our good friends Col and Mags for them to join us as far as Atherstone, and as they still work it had to be the weekend.

This meant we didn’t have to rush, and we took the opportunity to nip into Coventry and say our goodbyes to Mr and Mrs Hop, Vyk and Greg at the Hops d’Amour.

https://www.facebook.com/hopsdamourcoventry

We also got a ride in Keith’s new toy, a 1930 white Rolls Royce.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Swan Lane and we were off. The weather gods were kind to us, the sun shone and the wind was warm.

I spent the first part of the journey cooking, as once again I had promised to produce one of my tapas feasts.

But once done I was able to enjoy the passing scenery and the bird song.

We moored in the middle of nowhere for the night, enjoyed good food and a couple of drinks with our friends. Next day we pushed on to Atherstone.

The weather was a little cooler but still fine and dry.

As we approached the visitors mooring I spied and old friend on the towpath, Eric off NB Cherrie. I shouted across and he waved and said see you in the Angel.

The Angel is our favourite pub in Atherstone, great real ales for the Captain, and Krombacher lager for me. Col and Mags were happy bunnies too. Eric did come in but didn't see us.

https://www.facebook.com/theangelinnrealalehouseatherstone/

After a couple of pints a delicious curry at the Raj Mahal finished the day off nicely.

Back to the boat and an early night for Col and Mags, as they had an early start in the morning to do the 6 hours cruise back to Trinity Marina, whilst we were heading down the 11 Atherstone locks.

A tap at the window as we watched TV took us by surprise, and apprehensively I got up see who it was. It was Eric and his dog. We chatted for a while, catching up on the gossip before he headed home. It was great to see him again.

Col and Mags did get off early next day but the Captain got up to say bye, before back to bed for our usual cup of tea and a biscuit. We eventually surface about 10am and set off for the locks. There were volunteer lock keepers on the first 3 which was helpful, but then we were on our own for the next 8. I soon got back into the swing of it and it took us a respectable 2½ hours. Good going.

It was a day for bird spotting, the main event being the number of Kestrels there were about, and I even thought I spotted a Red kite soaring above us, but I didn’t get a good look at its tail (buzzards have a round tail whilst Red Kites have forked tails).









The cutest thing we saw was at a lock, a tiny wood mouse, which showed no fear as it made its way round the Captains foot and down to the water for a drink before hopping off through the grass like a miniature kangaroo.







We moored up at the bottom of the locks, it was so peaceful with only bird song to be heard. Across the water was a field of yellow rapeseed which sparkled in the sun. As night dropped there was no traffic noise or people disturbing the peace.

A late start next day, we did the 8miles and 2 locks in about 4 hours to Fazeley. Slightly cooler again but when the sun came out it was lovely.

And Fazeley can mean only one thing, a fish and chip supper from Fazeley Fish Bar for the Captain, and a kebab for me.

https://www.facebook.com/Fazeleyfishbarfazeley

We had a couple of pints in the Three Tuns first. This canal side pub has been hit and miss in the past, there were a selection of real ales on the pumps but non suited the Captain, but he did spy a can of Northern Star porter by Northern Monk brewery, which he found very much to his taste.

https://northernmonk.com/beer/

Next day on to Fradley Junction were we joined the Trent and Mersey canal. After mooring up we had to go and try the Dirty Duck or to give it its proper title The Swan, it claims to be the most photographed pub on the canals. Again it can be hit and miss with its range of real ales, but the Captain was a happy bunny when he spotted a mild on the bar (didn’t remember to gets the name). They were serving food which looked very tasty and good value for money.

https://www.swaninnfradley.co.uk/

That’s all for now folks.


Sunday, 10 April 2022

SO WHERE NEXT?

Again I must start this blog by apologising for not posting during our stay at Swan Lane Wharf. There is not much to describe when we are not cruising the cut. We have spent the winter trying many new cuisines on our Friday night date night. Mexican, Caribbean, Lebanese and Vietnamese to name just a few. The Captain has tried many a new stout at the Hops d'Amour.

There had been much discussion about our route this year, but I insisted that we needed to do the Kennet and Avon canal, and visit Bath and Bristol. For some strange reason the Captain isn't at all enamoured with this part of the system.

So we will be setting off and heading for Nottingham first to visit family. We will go up the Trent and Mersey, through Burton on Trent and Willington, and return via the River Soar calling in at Leicester and Market Harborough. Then in early June we will be leaving the boat back at Swan Lane to go to the city of Zadar in Croatia for a week.

We will then start our journey south down the Oxford canal, joining the River Thames at Oxford, before joining the Kennet and Avon canal. On returning to the River Thames we will hopefully visit Godalming on the River Wey, to see Mike and Sandy Debens who we met a couple of years ago in Newark and their boat Syd. 

Then into London, before returning up the Grand Union Canal back to Coventry.

Well that's the plan for now, but as you know things can change, so watch this space.


So to the last blog of 2021 enjoy.



FINAL TRIP OF THE YEAR, PROBABLY.

As I said in the last blog, we got back to the wharf on the Sunday. The first couple of days were spent cleaning the car and catching up on some chores a round the boat. Wednesday was Auntie Rita’s funeral up in Bolton so we set off in plenty of time. This turned out to be a great idea, as the M6 was closed at the junction we needed to get off at, so we ended up taking a detour round the problem but we still arrived in plenty of time. The funeral was lovely, and it was nice to catch up with the Captains sisters and cousins.

As a treat on our way back we stopped off at the Walsgrave for a meal. It was very nice and a good end to a hard day.

Then it was back to normal for me, I contacted Tom at GI, the agency I have worked for over the last 4/5yrs. He was happy to hear from me but not so good for me, he said the paperwork I usually fill in in the office was to be done online, and I needed to send my documents by email.

Well he sent me the files to be filled in, but even the Captain couldn’t work out how to do it (he is much more IT savvy than me). So I phoned Tom and to my relief he said everything could be done in the office on the day I started, which would be the following Monday.

We were really looking forward to our weekend with Col and Mags and set off Friday morning to do the 12 miles to Trinity marina. It took us just over 4 hours. On our way up the Ashby canal we spotted NB Orkney again and had a chat with Lesley and Nigel, we did the same on the way back to. Hope to see them in Coventry at some point, as they intended to stay in the area over the winter.

When we got to the marina we found a serious lack of moorings. The ones on the offside belong to the marina, and there are no guest moorings to be had. The towpath side is over grown and shallow, apart from one short piece of Arnco, but a very inconsiderate boater had plonked his boat right in the centre of this making it very difficult for anyone else to moor. But we did, by turning round first we managed to get our back end on the Arnco, but the front ended up against the uneven canal side, which made it difficult for the Captain to step on to the front of the boat to get the bow rope, and pin the front in the soft ground on the edge of the canal. But he managed it.

As planned we met Col in the Marina Brewers Fayre, Mags was still working, so we had a couple of pints and when she joined us we had a very enjoyable meal. The staff were excellent and the food tasty. We then decided to try the Wharf pub just across the road, as soon as we saw it we knew we had been in before a few of years ago, and it hadn’t changed at all. The same golden retriever dog was wandering around, and a selection of books were still on the shelf. These books are free to be taken, and on our last visit I did indeed take one.

Next night I did one of my tapas feasts, it was enjoyed by all. It was a lovely finish to our 2021 cruise and next day we headed home to Swan Lane for the winter. We will be meeting up with Col and Mags again soon.

Back at Swan Lane and we have met some of our new moorers, Mickey of NB Water Rail is lovely as is Rob off NB Pegaus. We haven’t met Fliss and Neville yet, but are looking forward to doing so. Big Chris the boat painter came and went, and was replaced by little Chris the boat painter. We have caught up with Alan, Arun, PJ, Mark and Stuart. The Captain has seen Steve, but I have yet to have the pleasure. And he is back doing bits round the wharf for Keith, it will keep him out of mischief during the winter. I am planning to do a boaters get together and quiz after a Christmas, so hopefully everyone will support this and it will strengthen the community spirit of the wharf.

I am back at work, and very happy to be there, everyone was pleased to see me and I was soon snapped up by Jo, the outbound manager and returned to her department.

The only downside is getting up at 4.30am, it is certainly a shock to the system.

We have called in at the Brickies and resumed our friendship with Theresa and her staff. And we have a new favourite pub in Coventry, the Hops d’Amour, a great micropub with an excellent selection of beers and friendly staff

https://www.facebook.com/hopsdamourcoventry



Thursday, 30 December 2021

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL



First I must apologise for my tardiness in not posting a new blog sooner. In my defence returning to work, my daughters 30th birthday and Christmas just have taken all my energy and time.

So hear it is

HOMEWARD BOUND

The weather has certainly turned autumnal in the last few days, the leaves are falling from the tree’s and there is a dampness in the air, but I love the smells of autumn and the changing of the seasons. The colours are changing to from the vibrant greens of spring and summer, to the browns and yellows of the coming winter. People are lighting their fires, (not us yet) so the drifting smoke adds to the whole scent of the new season.

On leaving Rugeley we headed to Fradley Junction were we turned on to the Coventry Canal, there are only a couple of locks and we were helped through the first by lockees, but by the time we reached the second they had gone for their lunch. But much to our surprise an old friend was on the lock, Julie Hancox, and her husband Phil was steering the boat. We first met when we did the River Thames with St Pancreas boating club, and have met up a couple of times since. They have renamed their boat, it was A Perfect Match, as they met on Match.com, but as a sign of respect they have called it Norwind II, Norwind was Julies fathers boat. We arranged to meet in the Dirty Duck, or to give it its proper name The Swan later.

https://www.swaninnfradley.co.uk/

Then the heavens opened, and boy did it rain, we were so glad to be moored up. When it was pub time the rain had stopped luckily

It was great to catch up with them, they have decided to try continual cruising this winter rather than staying in a marina, its something I have never fancied. So we will see how they get on. The time flew and it was soon time to part ways, hopefully we will catch up again soon, maybe they will come down to Coventry at some point.

The trip to Fazeley was cold and windy, but we got to go to Fazeley chippy for our tea. I got my much anticipated kebab, and the Captain had his fish and chips and curry sauce. The portions were huge and great value for money.

https://www.facebook.com/Fazeleyfishbarfazeley

Next day, and we decided to give Polesworth a miss and moored for the night at the bottom of Atherstone locks. On our way we met up with Rick, a working boatman selling gas, coal and fuel. The Captain got him to fill us up with diesel, no shortages on the cut. After saying earlier we hadn’t had a fire as yet we decided we needed one that night.

There are 11 locks in the Atherstone flight, they raise the canal by 80ft over 2miles.

We set off and at the first lock I had help from the crew of NB Orkney, we chatted and they were only going to the middle pound, whilst we were heading for the top. I hoped to see them at the next lock but the heavens opened and I decided they had stopped to let the rain ease. We just kept going, and eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out. We met a lot of boats heading down the locks, some were helpful, some not, but we made it to the top in a respectable 2hrs and moored up.

Now there are 2 great things about Atherstone, the Angel Ale House and Bates Butchers, which do the most amazing faggots.

https://www.facebook.com/theangelinnrealalehouseatherstone/

https://www.facebook.com/BatesOfAtherstone/

When we set off for the village it was getting late in the afternoon, but I decided to try Bates anyway, it looked closed but the door was open so I went in, I had to shout to get some ones attention and was disappointed when there were no faggots, but the very nice young man assured me there would be some tomorrow.

The Angel was quite busy, I spotted Eric off NB Cherie who we had met in there before, but he was busy with friends. As all the tables were occupied it would seem we would be standing at the bar to enjoy our pint. A lady sat at a table nearby kept looking over, and she seemed familiar. She turned out to be the crew I had met at the first lock, and she very kindly asked us to join them. Lesley and Nigel have been living aboard 7 years like us, and they met on the internet like us, so we had lots to chat about. They are staying out on the cut for the winter, hopefully they will make it Coventry at some point. Lesley is a crafter, making necklaces and bangles out of beads and semi precious stones.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/606636937173737

We had a difficult decision next day, the weather was forecast to be heavy rain all day, but we really needed to get to Hawksbury junction about 11miles away. After I had called at Bates for our faggots we bit the bullet and set off. And yes it did rain the whole time. I was lucky as I could disappear downstairs into the dry now and again, but the poor Captain just had to stay and steer, he did have his trusty golfing umbrella which kept him quite dry, and it was actually me that got the wettest as I didn’t fit under the umbrella fully. I did manage to light a much needed fire on the 3rd attempt. So by the time we were moored up the boat was warm and cosy and we could dry out. Of course we had to nip to the Greyhound for a pint when the rain subsided.

The final leg of our journey back home to Swan Lane was uneventful, apart from a rude hire boater, who after the Captain had let him come through a narrow bridge first never said thank you, but curtly asked if they could turn in the entrance to Springwood Haven marina, rather than going down to the next winding hole. We said it wasn’t normally the done thing and they carried on.

Back at the wharf, and it was great to see familiar faces and catch up with old friends. Keith was there, as busy as ever, and we have new moorers to meet. Neville and Fliss on NB Edith Annie, and Mickey on Nb Water Rail, we also have a couple more boats joining us, so it will be a squash in the wharf this winter.

We still have one final cruise, we are going to Trinity Marina on the Ashby canal to catch up with our besties Col and Mags on NB Henry.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

4 CANALS IN 7 DAYS.


 The Lower Peak, Upper Peak, the Macclesfield and the Trent and Mersey. A journey of 36miles, 32 locks, 1 lift bridge and 2 swing bridges. It includes 2 tunnels, the Woodley and the Hyde, and 3 aqueducts, Marple, Watery Lane and Red bull. And it took us a week.

Monday was our last night in dry dock, Dan got us up early to do the necessary welding on the new anodes and the skeg. Pete Findlow called to see us again with a gift for me. He has an extensive music collection, and on his previous visit I had told him about a band I used to know called Persian Risk (early 1980’s). He had compiled a CD of their music for me which was lovely.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Risk

Tuesday, and dear old Avalon Two was refloated and we set off, but not before thanking Dan for his help and saying hi to Guy who had returned from his holibobs.

The newly blacked sides made the boat look very shiny and new, but it wont last.

The first of the tunnels was Woodley Tunnel, its 176yds long and has a kink in it, so not a favourite of the Captains, this is closely followed by Hyde Bank which is 306yds long, but so straight you can see daylight at the end. We stopped off at our old moorings in Hyde, but Captain Jack Sparrow wasn’t about so on we went

The wonderful Marple Aqueduct, which carries you over the River Goyt, is the highest aqueduct in England at 90ft and is 105yrds long. The aqueduct opened in 1800 and it was built by Benjamin Outram, a familiar name to those of a certain age who came from my home town of Ripley in Derbyshire. It was the name of the towns secondary modern school for many years, before merging with the grammar school and becoming Mill Hill. He also built the 16 lock Marple flight which was on the agenda for the next day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marple_Aqueduct

As we cruised across the aqueduct I spotted a bird high up on the trees, it turned out to be a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, and then a bright blue kingfisher darted down the side of the boat.

After a night moored just below the locks we set off to do the 16, which raise the canal 214ft in just 1 mile and was opened in 1804. We were not alone as we had 3 hire boats with us. Their crews had differing amounts of experience, which made it an interesting day.

The first 8 locks were a doddle, even with no boats coming down. But at lock 8 we met the first coming down, and with the bad news that the next 8 locks and pounds were extremely low, and they had struggled, scrapping the bottom of the canal at times. This has been a reoccurring problem all summer, and there should have been lockees on to help with water management, but there was no one in sight. After struggling through lock 8 and 9 I walked up to lock 12 with one of the hirers and decided we needed to let water down to alleviate the problem, but how much I had no idea, so just had to wing it. The captain in the meantime was on the phone to CRT trying to get us some help, this proved to be unsuccessful as they had no one available to come to our rescue.

The going was slow and painful, boats had to be gently coaxed out of the lock making sure they didn’t get stuck on the cill, and then negotiate the empty pounds trying not to get grounded.

Eventually an off duty lockee called Roger turned up and apologised for the lack of assistant, there should have been a lockee on but no one had seen him all morning. The 4 crew’s worked well together, and eventually we were all out of the last lock and on our way. That’s when the duty lockee appeared, with no apology or explanation of were he had been at our time of need.

We were now on the Upper Peak Forest canal, but only for a few moments as we then turned on to the Macclesfield canal and moored up for the night.

Off to the pub we went of course, a little micropub, The Samuel Oldknow and we weren’t disappointed with the selection.

https://www.samueloldknow.co.uk/

The top half of the Macclesfield is unkempt and uncared for. There is a lot of overgrown vegetation, and in most places it is impossible to get to the side to moor. So we had to go all the way to Macclesfield to find moorings on pontoons. Even the bank side visitors moorings here are being left to nature.

North Rode was our aim for Saturday as there was a Vintage Transport Show on, both the Captain and I are partial to old vehicles of all types. I especially love traction engines of all sizes, but to my disappointment there were only 2 miniatures to admire, but there was a good selection of cars, lorries, stationary engines and assorted stalls, which kept us happy for a good few hours. The Captain treated me to a burger for tea, we had a very enjoyable day.

We moored at the top of Bosley locks to attended the show. We had planned to do a pump out at the CRT facilities there before doing the 12 locks in the flight. But disaster, even though the machine had only been fixed that week, it ate our card and then nothing. The Captain spoke to a couple of CRT employees who happened to be on site, but they just shrugged it was not their problem. A phone call to CRT but still no help, they couldn’t get anyone out until the next day. So what to do, stay and wait for someone to come, or head down the locks and get to Sherbourne wharf, hoping the toilet would last an extra day.

We decided to do the locks, which turned out to be great fun, with lots of boats and crew about to pass the time of day. But not before a lady tried to tell me how to do locks, it did not go down well, as after 10yrs of boating I am pretty sure I know our way and the right way.

We moored at Congleton for the night but didn’t visit the town, but we did go to the pub, The Wonky Pear, another micropub discovered on a previous cruise. It belongs to Beartown brewery and had the Creme Bearlee stout for the Captain.

https://www.facebook.com/thewonkypear/

We got our pump out at Sherbourne wharf next day, and headed to Red Bull and on to the Trent and Mersey canal. We called at the Red Bull pub, no darks on, but the menu looked interesting.

Next time the Harecastle tunnel and Stoke.