Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Llangollen Canal at last

Tuesday 30th June

So it was good bye to the Shroppie.....the north end is much nicer than the south we have decided. From Tyrely Locks onwards we have enjoyed it.

Ideally we should have been going on the Llangollen much earlier in the year before there was so much traffic but we have made it in June....just.....

We were in two minds whether to abandon the idea altogether as we discovered last weekend that the Eisteddfod begins on 6th July so I imagine people will be flocking there already. In the end we have decided to give it a try....it will either be fantastic or disastrous!!!

Our early start this morning was not as early as planned (blame the tennis) and we did not set off until 0645am. By then several boats had gone past us. We reached the entrance to the Llangollen at 0945 via a very sharp left hand bend, to find one boat coming out of the locks and one ahead of waiting to go in.

There are 5 locks here at Hurleston and we had an easy passage through. There seemed to be several British Waterways staff there also. some obviously doing maintenance but presumably or of them was a lock keeper. Anyway they were very helpful.
Geoff is waiting patiently here, one coming down, one ahead going up....good job we are not in a hurry......
We stopped at Swanley Marina to buy a new gas bottle. This looks like a fairly new marina and not marked in our Pearson Guide Book, however it is in the Nicholsons.

Eventually moored at Wrenbury just after the first of what I think will be several lifting bridges.
Very hot and muggy now with occasional short sharp showers.....have just seen the forecast and Thursday looks very wet................................

Weekend in Audlem

Sunday 28th June/Monday 29th
An extremely pleasant and relaxed weekend. We visited the local church on Sunday morning followed by finding a geocache and a leisurely lunch in the Bridge Inn. The picture below is the Shroppie Fly which has the best situation of the two pubs but we had been recommended the food at The Bridge.

We sat outside for our drinks before lunch and when we went in to eat a very kind couple offered to dog sit Barnaby so that we didn't have to take him back to the boat....he was working his magic again!

The food was as good as recommended. We then retired to our very congenial mooring spot. It was very hot in the sun but we have several areas of shade. If you click on the picture to enlarge it Petroc can be seen as the 5th boat on the left.
A sudden rush of energy later one(whilst Geoff was still siestering!) led me to touch up the black of the gunnels on the shore side. I think we drive quite carefully but we seem to pick up a lot of scratches. They don't bother Geoff in the least which is why I was painting!!
There were quite a lot of boats going to and fro now. We decided that it was so congenial there that we would stay an extra day and set off very early Tuesday morning before anyone else was around.
We had a reasonable digital TV picture so I was able to watch Wimbledon. Geoff was not impressed that I stayed up to watch the Murray match which did not end until about 10.45pm. He was sound asleep long before.....................

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Made it to Audlem

Saturday 27 th June
Below is our mooring above Tryely Locks that we left at the slightly later time of 0630 this morning!!!

This meant that mooring where we wanted to be was likely to be difficult, but very kindly Dot & Bob said there was a vacant permanent mooring on the opposite bank which we were welcome to use. This was ideal as yet again we had a ringside position for the music (no vision just sound) but good vision for the fireworks. We had our own Pimms/G&T without having to brave the weather. There were two good showers during the course of the evening...just like last time....

Wonder of wonders we also had a good TV picture.....not normally so important but it is Wimbledon............
We are moored in a good quiet spot, adjacent to a field of cows. Luckily there is a fence between them and us. barney may not be interested in them, but they are curious about him!

Who is the most handsome?

The fireworks were excellent and viewed from our nice quiet spot away from all the crowds were even better!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Bratch Locks (Staffs & Worcs)to Tyrley(Shroppie)

Thursday 25th June

We were ready and waiting for the lock keeper to open the locks at 8 am and by 8.30 we were at the top. The goal was Breewood on the Shropshire Union.........Geoff has a touch of pressonitis at the moment as we would like to be on and off the Llangollen before the school holidays.

Going up Bratch Locks with Lock keepers shop at the top

Three locks further on at Dimmingsdale Lock this was the sight that greeted me as I rose in the lock. Apparently it was a purebred Arab but it did seem a strange place to take it to graze. Maybe the owner had a contract with British Waterways to keep the grass cut round the lock!!

We had a planned stop at Compton on the western outskirts of Wolverhampton to buy the paper. They have an excellent local store called Daisy which is highly recommended. We noticed a boat yard also which was advertising fuel at 59p a litre and having ascertained that we could declare our own split we decided to fill up. We had intended filling up at the garage at Wheaton Aston on the Shroppie as he is normally the cheapest around, but since we couldn't find a phone number for him to ascertain that we could declare our own split, we decided to go ahead. (Read Friday's blog!)

A very pleasant run up to Autherley Junction where we turned left onto the Shropshire Union.

Our memories of this canal are not good. We came here two years ago and did the trip up to Brewood in torrential rain. We pressed on that time because we had arranged to meet Perentis with Dick & Jill and Geoff vowed than that he would never do that sort of trip again! It was also the time of the earlier heavy rains in 2007 and it made the many narrow tree-lined cuttings on the Shroppie even more dismal....we were hoping to revise our opinion this time.

We eventually stopped just short of Breewood about 2pm. There were 48hr moorings in the open which were not shown in our guide book. There were a couple of other boats there and since they were officially designated a moorings the edge did not have the dreaded shelf which seems to be all along this canal. We both retired below for a siesta and were surprised when we emerged a couple of hours later to see we were surrounded by boats. Geoff learned later, whilst out walking and chatting as he is wont to do, that a lot of them were Stephen Goldsborough boats on their way to an owners rally in Chester at the beginning of July. We had in fact today met more boats than we have done all summer.

Friday 26th June

We wanted to be in Audlem for the weekend (We know there is a church and also a pub for Sunday Lunch!) so we had a very early start.......6am.......it was a grey chilly morning, is it really late June? This section of the Shroppie has only one lock but what seems like thousands of bridges. All the bridge holes are only wide enough for one boat to pass and it seemed that at almost every one there was a boat coming the other way who was just that bit closer to the bridge so had right of way. As yesterday there seems to be many more boats on the move.

Unusual bridge with surviving telegraph pole

Going through Wheaton Aston we checked the price of Fuel at the garage we had been going to fill up at.................just under 50p a litre!!!!!! As far as we know(from a resident boat) you could declare your own split. C'est la Vie!

We passed through the many dingy cuttings where the phrase "Stygian gloom" springs to mind. Admittedly they were not as bad as when we went through 2 years ago in heavy rain with fallen tree branches littering our way. Luckily when we went through Woodseaves Cutting which is the worst of all as passing can be difficult, we did not meet anyone coming the other way.

Weather eventually perked up and we even had a little sunshine. Moored just before 2pm, which is a very long day for us and not to be repeated too often!!! We are moored just above Tyrley Locks ready for yet another early start. Lots of locks tomorrow.........

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Getting closer to the Shroppie

Wednesday 24th June

A very early start today with no fixed goal. Clear sky although at 0630 I found the knees a little chilly as I had put on my shorts!

At Stourton junction we turned right and shortly afterwards passed the Devils Den. A peculiar cave set deep into the rock, said to have been the boathouse of the Foley Family at Prestwood hall (Whoever and wherever they and it may be!)

A couple of stops en route, watering etc, and then the paper and milk, but we gently bimbled along until we had had enough........I reach this point before Geoff at the moment as my back is still troubling me and I cannot do the walking I promised myself at the beginning of the trip. However he is reasonably(sic) understanding when I show signs of tiring.

We have eventually moored just before the Bratch locks. I have discovered that I get a lie-in tomorrow as the locks don't open until 8am. The lock keeper has a few things for sale including some second hand winch handles. I bought a lovely one for £4.50 which was painted blue (to match Petroc!). I felt it was a much better bargain than the rusty one Geoff gave £5 at the top of the Tardebigge!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Delph Locks to Wordsley Junction

Tuesday 23rd June.
Big locking day today. We started with the Delph 9 down to Black Delph Junction, a twisty windy section down to Leys junction where another left turn took us to the 16 locks of the Stourton Flight. We were stopped by BW after a couple of locks as they had a problem further down but it made a welcome coffee break.
We eventually called it quits after lock 15 as I had had enough several locks back (it was very hot by now). There appeared to be a lovely spot to moor alongside a huge recreation area. The downside was that it was a little shallow near the edge......later on when all boats had ceased coming through the locks we had to let a little water down to float ourselves off again!

Red House Cone (Kiln) part of the Stuart Crystal works near the bottom of the flight
Two crew waiting for me to drive out of the lock
A beautiful evening with hardly a cloud in the sky....brilliant.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Netherton Tunnel to Merry Hill

Monday 22nd June

After watering etc at the excellent facilities at Black Country Museum we set off in a NWesterly direction (I think). I was not looking forward to the Netherton Tunnel as it is over 3000yds long and it promised to be about 4o minutes.
The approach to Netherton Tunnel
Entering the tunnel

This was the point at which I disappeared below and occupied myself on my computer, together with Barnaby. The reality was only just over 30 minutes and Geoff declared this to be a most gentlemanly tunnel. Dead straight, very wide and a towpath either side.......I'm so glad he was happy!!
The route between here and Parkhead Junction was surprisingly pleasant and not at all as expected. We had expected built up and industrial but it was surprisingly rural.
At Parkhead junction we turned left. On our right was the other end of the Dudley Tunnel. Now we have seen both ends but will never go through it.
En route we passed High Bridge, very aptly names compared to the height of some of the bridges we have been through recently.

We also passed this boat and I couldn't resist a picture......domestics still have to be done even when boating!!
Shortly after the turn we reached "The Waterfront" and Merry Hill Shopping Centre.

There is plenty of good mooring here, both opposite "The Waterfront and sitting high above the Merry Hill Shopping Complex.

There is a large M&S amongst other which necessitated a visit, but I was strong-minded and purchased nothing. However the 3 items I went into Sainsburys for grew somewhat and I then struggled back up many steps to Petroc!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Sunday 21st June

What else should one do on Fathers Day after a good lunch??

We had set off early from the Black Country Museum in Dick & Jill's car for the 2+ hour drive to Giles & Susannah's. It was a real family day and lovely to see both the children.
Proud Geffiepa with Finlay now 7 months. His half sister Ella at 4 declined to pose for the camera.

However Barnaby & Parga were more obliging.
After seeing both children off to bed we journeyed back. A great day out.

Black Country Museum

Saturday 20th June

This was Geoff's day in the museum. Museums are not really my thing and as I was still not walking very easily I decided to have a relaxing domestic day! The BW facilities for boats are excellent here. Showers, loos and a washing machine & tumble drier, all kept scrupulously clean. I managed to wash and dry a couple of covers that are too big for our small Candy washing
machine we have on board.
The pictures below are all taken in the museum, which is a living museum. All the buildings have been taken from elsewhere and rebuilt here. No one lives in them but there are people in costume inhabiting them. Geoff found the whole thing fascinating and had to give up eventually (his feet did!) before he had seen everything. Entrance is not cheap (£10.50 for a senior citizen) but a remarkable place
It is situated at the entrance to the Dudley tunnel, through which we could not pass. Some smaller lower boats can get through but passage has to be booked. However they do take intrepid tourists through, complete with hard hats. Fancy paying to go into a tunnel!!!
As can be seen from the picture above the place attracts large numbers of visitors.

The building below is the pub in the middle of the transported village.....luckily serving real beer.

The whole place gives a fantastic glimpse of what life used to be like here in the heart of the Black Country.
The day was completed by a visit to "The Pie Factory" for supper. Pies of all descriptions and all at a very reasonable price.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Black Country

Friday 19th June

After the top of the Tardebigge yesterday we went straight into the tunnel. This is when I do my disappearing act and go below as tunnels are not my scene. My latest ploy is to get my computer out and busy myself.....there is always something needs doing!! I find the time passes very quickly then. Barnaby also does not seem too keen on tunnels so he is invited to join me on my bed and we cuddle up together. We carried on to Alvechurch to moor as we were expecting to meet up with Dick & Jill Just on Perentis who were cruising up from their mooring at the Black Country Museum. After drinks on board both boats we repaired to the local pub for our meal. Our guide book has a written entry saying "Good pub grub" this from 4/5 years ago when we passed this way in Tickey. It must surely have changed hands as the food was lousy!!!!
We (Or should I say Geoff, as he does all the planning) were still undecided as to which route to take towards the Llangollen but Thursday evenings discussions made the decision for us. I had been contemplating a visit to see the grandchildren as we were near Birmingham from whence I could get a train, but Dick & Jill offered us the use of their car for the day which was by their mooring. A phone call ascertained that we could go for a Fathers Day lunch with the family so the plot was made.

An early start on Friday with the lunchtime goal of Birmingham. We had been here before in Tickey and knew how much effort has been made to create a good atmosphere for boats.

We moored right in the centre and after Jill & I had been to the shops for a few necessities we joined the menfolk in a tapas bar in The Mailbox, when we had a very pleasant lunch. I had been under the impression that their mooring near Dudley was just around the corner.......but I was informed that it was at least 3 hours away!!

Going through Birmingham on a boat is a delight, and whilst we would not choose to moor right in the centre on a Saturday night, there are plenty of places to stop.
We took the New Mainline route to Dudley which is the longest, straight stretch of canal we have been on. It is also quite boring!! We had planned a pot luck on board Petroc so the later than normal (for us) arrival did not matter.
Dick & Jill have 1 6 year old black lab called Beth, and we think Barney is in love!!!! He keeps disappearing from Petroc and inviting himself on board Perentis. It is either the lure of Beth or the dries pigs ears Jill keeps as treats!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Tardebigge for the first time

Thursday 18th June
We had been undecided as to our route northwards but in the end Geoff decided that we had heard so much about the Tardebigge flight that it just had to be done. There are 29 locks altogether but they are all single so I find this much easier. Double locks are fine if you have another boat companion.

Mary and Ivan had arrived the previous day partly to visit us and partly to help. Due to the forecast for Wednesday we decided to delay until early Thursday morning. Good decision as it turned out. Thursday was dry and when we set off at 0730 it was even sunny. The sun did not last and at times the wind which got up was decidedly chilly...however it did not rain on us.

Ivan & Geoff did the first 6 locks and were getting into their stride but then Ivan departed to collect his car and take it to the top. He was back in about an hour and normal service resumed. However one of the first things Ivan did was drop his winch handle in the lock.........there is no retrieving in these circumstances. That makes the second we have lost this year as Geoff left one behind.

It took us 3 3/4 hr to reach the top by which time I could have done with a rest! I had been on the tiller most of the way, although I had surrendered the tiller to Ivan for a few locks as he wanted to see if he remembered how it was done. He coped very well for a pilot!! I was able therefore to do the odd paddle and gate. I did not attempt any of the opening of the top paddles as they are all extremely stiff. I am still suffering with my back and now my walking so did not want to make matters worse. However it was good to have a change of role for a while.

Mary and Ivan left us at the top after unloading their car with all our shopping from the previous days outing to Morrisons. We then continued through the tunnel and on to Alvechurch where we were hoping to meet up with yet more friends!

Resting at Tardebigge

Tuesday Evening

Cocktail Hour with Ronnie

Watching others doing it -bottom of the flight.

Tardebigge viewed from above when Geoff went reconnoitering

After our Pimms at cocktail hour Geoff and Gill Smith arrived to take Ronnie back to her car, but first we decided to sample the food in the Queens Head. We can report that it is excellent. Reasonably priced, excellent cheerful service and very friendly.

Wednesday 17th June

We were undecided whether to tackle Tardebigge on Wednesday or Thursday. However the forecast of a belt of rain for Wednesday afternoon made the decision for us. Mary & Ivan arrived at lunchtime so had a lazy day followed by an excellent meal at the pub again. This time we tried their set 3 course menu at £15.95 which was excellent. The portions were very generous, in fact the fruit pavlova that 3 had was the biggest I have seen!! This seems to be our week for eating out.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Sunday 14th June
The picture below is opposite our mooring on the Severn by the racecourse at Worcester, and this is how it looked on Sunday morning.

After Geoff had taken Barnaby for a long walk around the race course (he didn't bother with the jumps!) we set off for the 10.30 Sung Eucharist at the Cathedral. My walking which had started to be bad the previous evening, had not improved and despite taking my hiking stick with me, it was a slow walk. We met our visitors, Tony & Di Fletcher with Di's cousin Ann and Ronnie Dunn afterwards and we managed to find a good pub in town where we had a Sunday Roast for £5 a head. We should have stopped after that but some of all (all the ladies) fell foul of things like treacle sponge and sticky toffee pudding. We should had had a long walk after that but it was all I could do to gt myself back to Petroc.
Since only Ronnie was staying for a couple of days, we took a trip down the river and back for everyone else's benefit.

The weather was so kind to us and the views of the Cathedral as you go down the river are wonderful

Monday 15th June
Monday morning was an early start to water just past the rowing club (a water point that is not mentioned in our guide book) and then it was back to the canals again. With Ronnie to help at the locks it was somewhat quicker as Geoff could carry on to set the next lock. I still was not walking well but could just about manage my normal job on the tiller.
Ronnie was soon into the swing of things.
However most of the top paddles were extremely stiff and it was hard work. We managed 16 locks and stopped about 2pm for a well earned rest at Tibberton. Ronnie and I spent the afternoon sitting on the bank with our books in the sunshine.......this is what it is all about.......
Later the rain came and we had a torrential downpour but we had had our share of good weather so did not mind by then, besides it watered the plants.
Tuesday 16th June

Set off today with the intention of stopping at Stoke Prior after 6 locks. However at the first lock we met some friendly local walkers who told us the moorings after the next 6 locks were much better. Since the weather was still being kind to us we decided to carry on. We passed the church at Oddingley early on which we had been recommended to visit but the skipper is not keen on stopping en route so we didn't force the issue as it was very pleasant sitting up in the cratch whilst he steered the boat to the first lock. The canal was very narrow in parts on this stretch.

Oddingley Church

Shortly afterwards we went through Dunhamstead Tunnel. At only just over 250 metres I did not have to do my normal trick of burying myself below and pretending I was somewhere else!
So we are now moored just past the Queens head pub at the bottom of the Tardebigge flight. We await more visitors, Geoff & Gill Smith who will join us for supper at the pub and take Ronnie back to her car.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Weekend in Worcester

Wednesday 10th June

Well we did stay over an extra day in Upton and we did see it in the sunshine. Not only that but we had the pleasant surprise of unexpected visitors. I was just about to dip my paint brush into the tin ( For days I had been hoping Geoff would get around to the touch up job required on Petroc's sides, but there was no sign!!!) when Mary & Ivan Childs appeared. Paint put away we lunched in one of the local hostelries overlooking the river. They were en route and could not stay long so there was plenty of time for my painting in the afternoon. At least I managed to get one side done.

This is our mooring at Upton. There is very little space to moor and the outside of the pontoons was taken up by boats which looked suspiciously like long term liveaboards who didn't move very far. (The mooring was designated as 48hr only)

Petroc, 2nd from left at top
Thursday 11th June
Leisurely start today after shopping. The run up to Worcester was completed in sunshine and was somewhat more interesting than the previous stretch. We needed to empty the loos so we stopped at the pontoons at the entrance to Diglis Basin, where our guide book said there were facilities....NOT SO. Geoff had to get out the luggage trolley and do a longish trip up to the top of the locks through the basin. Things look very different here from our last visit. Huge buildings of, presumably, apartments have sprung up.
Immediately before the lock waiting pontoon where we were was a lovely long pontoon completely free. We initially pulled up there, but just before the end there was a sign saying "No Mooring-Fine £250"!!!!

All domestics completed we carried on up the river and moored just by the race course. A pleasant quite spot which is very convenient for Barnaby. We can walk straight onto the race course which is common land. This means that when there is not any racing you have the whole area to walk over.

In the evenings so far we have been entertained by all the rowers. in particular the Dragon Boats. We had never seen them before. You can hear them coming from some way off, as the drum is beaten slowly to mark the rowers time. I am sure the person beating the drum must have a special name but I don't know what. (I have just googled it and it says "drummer" or "caller")

We will stay here today Sunday and re-enter the canals tomorrow. We are expecting visitors today. Tony & Di Fletcher for the day and Ronnie Dunn for a couple of days.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Back to Tewkesbury and then Upton on Severn

Tuesday 9th June

The picture below was taken on Monday evening when the sea cadets were out in force practicing.........is the future of the British navy to be all female????

We were unsure what the state of the Severn would be for our planned departure and the lock keeper had told us to ring him about 8.15am to check. By the time we managed to contact him (he was out and about doing jobs!) he said it was OK but would we wait about an hour as there were two other boats going through and one of them was watering and doing a pump-out. By the time he was ready it was 10.15 before we were in the lock and no sign of the third boat.

By now it was high tide and since it was Spring Tides this part of the river is tidal up to Lower Lode Lock just before Tewkesbury. So we had not only the current against us but the tide as well and it took us 4 hours to reach Tewkesbury. The original plan had been to go as far as Upton on Severn but as we were still just in date on our Avon licence we decided to go up the lock into Tewkesbury.
The run up is pleasant enough but devoid of much interest as the trees cover all the banks.
The one interesting thing we passed is shown below........the owners of this home obviously did not wish to be caught out by the floods again!
Our friends Geoff & Gill Smith came to visit in the evening and brought us some of our mail which we had had forwarded to them. We repaired to "Ye Old Black Bear" the pub opposite and had an excellent and incredibly cheap meal. Mixed Grill for £6.59 can't be neaten and there was so much that what I couldn't eat had to be put in a doggy bag for Barnaby....
Wednesday 10th June

A gentle start today as the plan was just to hop up the river to Upton on Severn. Whilst watering before departure we chatted to the lock keeper and he showed us his album of pictures of the flood here in 2007.....quite horrific. The lock was not visible and the lock keepers hut just had the top of the roof showing.

Mythe Bridge just after leaving Tewkesbury

Another pleasant but uninteresting run to Upton. The sun was shining and was even quite hot so we were not complaining. We met no other boats until Geoff came to a sharp right hand bend. He was giving the bend a wide berth in case it was shallow, when all of a sudden a large trip boat appeared, closely followed by a working barge! Both going at a goodly pace which certainly disturbed his morning reverie.

Further on we passed the gravel plant which uses these working barges, how nice to see the canals being put to use.

We reached Upton at mid-day and searched for somewhere to moor. We had been warned that space was scare and that we would probably have to breast up. At first glance even this didn't look possible but a chap on the small pontoon told us we could moor inside as it was deep enough so a couple of turns later we were snug inside. How lucky we were as the rain started as soon as we had the pram cover up and it did not let up for the rest of the day, complete with thunder and lightning. Geoff was therefore unable to go for his normal explore of a new place. If the sun shines tomorrow we may stay over a day to see the town in a better light.