Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Just passing through

Today was a lazy day for me, no locks!

This morning we headed through the Netherton tunnel, we have seen very few boats on the Stourbridge and Dudley canals so where did we meet one? Halfway through the Netherton tunnel! It is a nice wide tunnel but it is always nicer to go through tunnels without meeting on coming traffic. Once through the tunnel it was onto the mainline, into Gas Street Basin and onto the Worcester and Birmingham, all of which we did in the opposite direction last summer.

The canalscape around Birmingham is full of contrasts, the remnants of Birmingham's industrial past and the heyday of the canals set against the modern development of central Birmingham.

The junction with the Wednesbury Old Canal

Approaching the motorway bridge

The centre of Birmingham looms

The bulk of the ultra modern 'Cube' dwarfs the canal below

Just past Bournville at Kings Norton a left turn took us onto the Stratford Canal through the disused guillotine stop lock.

We continued, pausing only to stop the traffic at Shirley Drawbridge, until we reached Earlswood where we are meeting the Hobbins' on Thursday.

Today's journey 21.9 miles, 1 lift bridge and 5 tunnels

So far this year we have travelled 321 miles, 228 locks, 32 lift bridges and 12 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled 1056.7 miles, 873 locks, 55 swing bridges, 36 lift bridges and 37 tunnels

Monday, 29 August 2011

Stourbridge and Dudley

From the canal Stourbridge doesn't look too bad as these photos show.

The next one makes an interesting  photo, a canal bridge over a dry canal?

No, look at the scale, it is just a little bridge over the run-off.

I love the attention to detail!

After spending far too much money yesterday, mainly Ray not me for a change, it was an early start to attack the Stourbridge Sixteen and the Delph Nine (which is only eight locks but was once nine).

We had no problems at the first lock (16) but at the next (15) the bottom gates refused to stay shut, luckily a towpath walker volunteered to lean on one for me so that we could get the lock filled. Locks 14 and 13 were fine but the pound between 13 and 12 was about 16 inches below the normal level. Our plan was to stop at the Red House Glass Cone Museum which has it's own moorings but initially it was impossible to get close enough to the side to moor and we ran aground. One of the crew from the boat that was following us up through the locks went ahead and started letting water down as they ran aground in the centre of the channel.
Eventually there was enough water to allow us to moor and them to get through the pound.

After a pleasant couple of hours looking at the history of glass, exploring the workshops and watching the glassblowers in action we had to continue our journey. I could have spent much longer there.

Red House Glass Cone

Looking back down the flight to the Cone

The remainder of the flight was uneventful but hard work. I am sure it was not just my imagination that the lock gates are exceptionally heavy. After all too brief a break The Dudley No. 1 canal and the Delph locks loomed before me but once we had negotiated them I had time to relax. Moorings are few and far between, I didn't fancy mooring by Merry Hill Shopping Centre so we carried on through Blowers Green Lock onto the Dudley No. 2 canal and found a mooring  next to a park just before the Netherton tunnel.

Today's journey 8.2 miles and 25 locks

So far this year we have travelled 299.1 miles, 228 locks, 31 lift bridges and 7 tunnels.

Since Ray retired we have travelled 1034.8 miles, 873 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 32 tunnels.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Stourbridge, gateway to nowhere

Yesterday we spent our time dodging the worst of the rain and managed to complete our journey to Stourbridge.

The weather, as usual couldn't make up it's mind whether to be fine or not but we stayed mainly dry. The last couple of miles were a little a bit dodgy as a radiator hose split causing us to lose water and so the engine temperature was a bit high. We managed to make it to the moorings in Stourbridge then Ray had to spend this morning searching for a appropriate bit of hose. None of the garage service places had any but a very kind mechanic at Nationwide Tyres said he had some at home which he offered to bring to the boat for us. There are some very nice people around! He dropped it off a little while ago and Ray is now fitting it.

Stourbridge is uninspiring, there are some nice bits of architecture but the overall impression is one of a place that had seen better days. Lots of derelict factories or warehouses and boarded up pubs and shops, and, no, they didn't have a riot here!

Tomorrow is the Bead Fair at the Bonded Warehouse where we will both spend too much money, me on beads and Ray on stuff for his glass bead making. Although after me having had a go at glass bead making while we were at Barry and Alex's place I suppose that is for both of us.

Monday will, hopefully, see us braving our way up the Stourbridge and Dudley flights, 25 locks, ready to run the gauntlet of Birmingham on Tuesday. After that we will be heading for Stratford-on-Avon.

Yesterday's journey 5.4 miles and 6 locks

So far this year we have travelled 290.9 miles, 203 locks, 31 lift bridges and 7 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled 1026.6 miles, 848 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 32 tunnels

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Thank you brother!!

Yesterday I was feeling very pleased with having reached our 1000 miles. However, my brother has pointed out that this equates to 1.9 miles per day since we started our travels! I'm still pleased with the 1000 miles anyway and we have had breakdowns, being frozen in, me working for nearly four months and most recently a two week break to look after animals. I'm sure he will be happy to know we managed a lot more than 1.9 miles today.

After a night of rain we bid farewell to the Shroppie this morning in sunshine and started heading down the Staffs and Worcester. There was a fair amount of traffic and we did have a few delays at locks, most notably at the Bratch Locks where we had to wait for three boats to come up before we could head down. The weather was kind to us and we had a dry day of cruising eventually mooring below Greensforge Lock for the night, where we found some mirabelle plum trees. Most of the fruit wasn't quite ripe but I managed to gather about three pounds of ripe fruit before the heavens opened.

Today's journey 11.1 miles and 17 locks

So far this year we have travelled 285.8 miles, 197 locks, 31 lift bridges and 7 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled 1021.2 miles, 842 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 32 tunnels

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

1000 miles !!!

Today we reached the 1,000  mile mark on our travels, and there is still so much of the canal system for us to visit. We have decided a nice bottle of red will be opened tonight to mark the occasion.

We are still on target to reach Stourbridge for Saturday night, in fact we might reach there on Friday. We have moored at the end of the Shroppie, ready to go down the Staffs and Worcester tomorrow. It is just under a year since last time we headed south on the Staffs and Worcester but this time we will not be travelling the full length but diverting onto the Stourbridge Canal at Stourton.

Today was a fairly easy day for me, only one lock, although I did have to rescue a boat that had come loose from it's moorings, twice! The first time it was it's stern rope that was adrift and it was blocking the canal just above Wheaton Aston Lock, we were waiting to come up the lock so I went and helped pole it back across the canal and retie it's rear line. I should have thought to check the front rope! By the time the boat that was waiting to go down had descended and we had ascended, it was across the canal again, firmly secured by the stern but adrift at the front.  A judicious nudge from Morgana and a bit of manoeuvring managed to bring the boat closer into the bank so Ray, assisted by another boater, managed to haul it in and retie the front rope.  Apart from that it was an uneventful journey.

Today's journey 14.8 miles, 1 lock and 1 tunnel

So far this year we have travelled 274.7miles, 180 locks, 31 lift bridges and 7 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled 1010.1 miles, 825 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 32 tunnels

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

On the move again

We have spent the last couple of weeks looking after some pigs, chickens and dogs plus our cats of course.

Barry and Alex have been away in their caravan and we have been staying at their house. When they came back they were minus four pigs and one chicken. The pigs had been sold so that was OK but the chicken got into the dogs' run and they obviously fancied chicken for dinner, oops! It wasn't a major problem as it wasn't laying and was destined for the chop anyway. I also managed to make another 3lb of damson jam,a bottle of damson gin and a bottle of damson vodka.

While we were there Gwynie managed to give us a scare by staying out all night and not even coming back first thing in the morning, we thought we had lost her but she reappeared late in the afternoon.

In some ways it was nice not to have to worry about how much power we were using or whether we had enough water but I missed being on the boat and was very glad to be back and on the move again today.

We are hoping to make it to Stourbridge for Saturday night, it shouldn't be a problem unless the weather turns very nasty. Today we were travelling familiar territory, back up the Shroppie through Tyrley Locks, past the site of the rockfall, past the Anchor where we were frozen in last winter and on to Norbury Junction. We stopped for a chat with Mal Edwards at the Anchor and also saw Pete's boats but he wasn't around. We moored up for the night between Norbury and Gnosall. Tomorrow it will be on to Wheaton Aston to fill up with diesel and hopefully reaching the junction with the Staffs and Worcester for the night.

Today's journey 12 miles and 5 locks.

So far this year we have travelled 256.9 miles, 179 locks, 31 lift bridges and 6 tunnels.

Since Ray retired we have travelled 995.3 miles, 824 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 31 tunnels.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Market Drayton

After a delicious breakfast of toast and homemade damson jam we pulled pins and headed for Market Drayton.

As it is only a short journey with no locks we were moored by lunchtime. I took a stroll into town, nothing has changed much since we were last here, the Netto is now Asda and the Barnado's charity shop has closed down but everything else seems much as I remember it from earlier in the year.

We will spend a few days busy doing nothing so no blogging for a while.

Today's journey 2.9 miles

So far this year we have travelled 244.9 miles, 174 locks, 31 lift bridges and 6 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled 983.3 miles, 819 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 31 tunnels

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Damson Jam

The weather this morning was decidedly unpleasant for cruising so I took the time to make about three pounds of damson jam. I would have made more but I didn't have any more sugar. At the moment I have only tasted it warm, but it tastes delicious!! I'm looking forward to toast and jam for breakfast tomorrow.

Around three this afternoon the weather cheered up and we decided to do the short journey up through the last two Audlem locks and then the five locks at Adderley. It took us nearly an hour to gather up the three cats, they weren't happy that we had decided to cruise so late in the day and wanted carry on catching mice. There was just enough traffic on the canal to mean that I had help at most of the locks from the crew of a boat coming down which speeded things up.

When we reached the top lock at Adderley I couldn't resist buying a couple of slices of cake from the farm shop there, they display their goods beside the lock with an honesty box. I've had cake from them before and it is really tasty.

We decided to moor at Adderley for the night and carry on to Market Drayton tomorrow. We have plans to see Barry and Alex this weekend and Market Drayton is as good a place as any to meet them.

Today's journey 1.6 miles and 7 locks

So far this year we have travelled 242 miles, 174 locks, 31 lift bridges and 6 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled  980.4 miles, 819 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 31 tunnels

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Lots of locks

We made a relatively early start today, I needed to stop in Audlem for a little bit of shopping, the newsagent there has a good selection of beading magazines. I also needed to (belatedly) post Tim's birthday card, I did ring him to wish him happy birthday and explain that we were about three miles from a post box.

We tackled the first three locks of the Audlem flight, then moored for me to do the bits I needed to do. After a coffee we pressed on and tackled the next ten locks of the flight leaving us just two to do tomorrow.

Where we moored above the lock there are a couple of damson trees, the towpath and bank were littered with damsons, most of those on the towpath were beyond redemption but those that had landed on the grass were perfect. Ray collected about five kilos of them while I was preparing dinner, they will become damson jam, damson gin, damson cheese and damson anything else I can think of!

The next story requires your visualisation skills.

Often when we moor dog owners are concerned that their dogs may chase and injure our cats. we always assure them that our cats can move fast enough to escape their dogs and if not they are capable of defending themselves. We had a wonderful illustration of this tonight.

Picture, if you will, a lively medium sized dog, enthusiastically barking and diving into the hedge where Lance had dissapeared to hunt for mice and voles. Imagine a couple of seconds later a yelp and the sight of the dog dashing back down the towpath to its owners hotly persued by Lance. It really was funny, luckily the dog's owners thought so too!

Today's journey 3.8 miles and 13 locks

So far this year we have travelled 240.4 miles, 167 locks, 31 lift bridges and 6 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled 978.8 miles, 812 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 31 tunnels

Monday, 1 August 2011

Slowly progressing

After making sure we had all the supplies we need for the next week we pulled pins and made our way through Hack Green locks to the moorings at Coole Pilate. The locks were fairly busy but no great delays as most people were travelling in the opposite direction to us.

We have intended to stop here before but have never got round to it. The mooring have a nice wide area of bank with picnic tables and barbecue stands which makes it a popular spot. We chose it because it means we can get the clothes airer out without cluttering the towpath and it is time we did some more washing!
We did our good deed for the day by lending our barbecue to "Debdale", they had a little disposable barbecue but needed more grilling space.

As it was a pleasant evening we dined al fresco, for us it was pasta with goats cheese and walnuts, then we joined the folks off Debdale for some chat and elderflower 'champagne'.

Tomorrow will be a non-cruising day to get the washing done then it will be off to Audlem.

Today's journey 3.1 miles and 2 locks

So far this year we have travelled 236.6 miles, 154 locks, 31 lift bridges and 6 tunnels

Since Ray retired we have travelled 975 miles, 799 locks, 55 swing bridges, 35 lift bridges and 31 tunnels