Monday, 29 September 2014

Lapworth Locks......not a layover day!

Having taken Barney for his early morning stroll I settled myself back in bed with my cup of tea all prepared for a nice lie in ......................................WRONG.   Geoff decided that we should push on and do the Lapworth locks today.  So being the obedient crew that I am we were away by 8.30.
I even said I would do the first lifting bridge which was a mistake as it was very stiff and took far too many turns to lift the tiddly little bridge.
Unfortunately a boat moored ahead of us had left even earlier so all the locks were against us.  Still they are in a nice setting and still single locks.  The possibility of a shower spoken of in the forecast did not appear and it is still incredibly mild.  In fact we have had several very warm days recently.
We met a couple of boats coming up which makes passing in some of the short pounds quite interesting.
After 13 locks we moored below lock 33 where there are 48 hour moorings as I wanted to visit the canal shop nearby.  I was also in need of my morning cup of coffee.  The shop also sells home made cakes and I bought us a piece each which sadly has to be kept until tomorrow as today is one of our 2 days (doing the 5 and 2 diet!)
The moorings are not unpleasant and I casually suggested we call it a day as it was about 12.30 by then but no luck...Geoff was determined to carry on.

and so to the last lock, our 19th of the day
We pulled across to use the sani station where we had to wait for someone to finish.   A reverse out of there and onward we went and turned onto the Grand Union.   If we had had more time it would have been nice to carry straight on down to Stratford but that will have to wait for another year.

Once we were round the corner I was sent to sit in my preferred position in the bow to watch the world go by.   Geoff had a mooring place in mind which we reached after about 3/4 of an hour.  Quite up to our standard....lovely and open, not hemmed in by trees.  


Total distance:4.1 miles 
Elapsed time:5h35m40s 
Average speed:1.05 mph (3.61 lock/mph) 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hockley Heath

Geoff assured me that the walk to the church at Hockley Heath was not far, but that depends on ones interpretation of 'NOT FAR'...It was about a mile so by the time I had walked a mile back I decreed that I could not walk another mile for my lunch at the we moved Petroc onto the visitor moorings which ware adjacent to the pub.  The lunch at the Wharf was OK apart from the Yorkshire puddings.  They shattered when you tried to cut into them...  much to Geoff;s dismay I complained so they brought me a replacement eventually.......that one was like rubber......

To add insult to injury Emma sent me a picture of the ones she made for their dinner

After lunch we moved again..Geoff was determined to find somewhere in the open, not a lot of choice as the canal was very tree lined.  However we eventually found somewhere reasonable about a mile before the start of the Lapworth locks.....and there was talk of a layover day tomorrow.  Mind you there had been talk of this since Friday and it hasn't appeared yet.

Total distance:0.59 miles    (Journey to the pub for lunch)
Elapsed time:0h21m14s 
Average speed:1.66 mph (1.66 lock/mph)

Total distance:0.68 miles 
Elapsed time:0h29m8s 
Average speed:1.40 mph (1.40 lock/mph)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A much longer day than we bargained for.

We decide to beat an early retreat from Birmingham as it was all gearing up for the Conservative Party Conference.   After a bit of reversing from our mooring spot we gently meandered through Gas Street basin.  There were quite a few security guards in evidence behind the ICC centre just over on our left

spot the security guard!
Parts of the towpath blocked off

Somewhat quieter this morning than it was last night!
Once were were clear of the town Barney and I alighted for our morning perambulations.  An incredible amount of resurfacing has been done along a very long stretch of the towpath.  The railway runs alongside for some miles.

 There are convenient moorings for a couple of boats at Selly Oak which we availed ourselves of to nip up to Sainsburys
This boat apparently belongs to Birmingham Uni and is Hydrogen powered.
Classy Graffiti
Kings Norton and what used to be a lock with guillotine gates at both ends.
We had thought we might moor at Warstock but when we saw the visitors mooring we abandoned that idea.   As with most of this stretch it was tree lined and gloomy....admittedly the sun was not shining.  By now we had picked up what must have been the slowest boat (hire boat) on the system.   After following him for about 3/4 hour we managed to pass him, although we were not sure if he had put himself in the bushes by accident or by design so we could get past.  ( 3 hours later he passed our mooring and a boat behind him told Geoff he had been following him for an hour and a half!)

We continued to have no luck in finding a decent mooring, so Saturdays brunch was abandoned and we had sausage sandwiches instead whilst we carried on.....

We saw very little signs of habitation and it was all quite drear so I occupied myself with a little boatwork(just like housework but it doesn't take as long).

As we passed Dickens Heath, out of the blue was this huge block of apartments.   Straight afterwards we were back to countryside

The central white steps have water cascading down
Eventually just before Hockley heath we found a short bit of piling that was reasonably in the open, but not quite up to our expected standard of mooring!   Still it was past Geoff's siesta time so we decided to call it a day.

Total distance:14.65 miles  (Too far)

 Elapsed time:6h20m40s   (Too long)


Average speed:2.31 mph (2.47 lock/mph)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Into the big city of Birmingham

We decided to fore go the exploration of the Dudley No 2 canal as we wanted to be in Birmingham early enough to have a look around so we could depart early on the Saturday morning.

View from our mooring at Bumble Hole Bridge
Lovely bridges on this stretch.....all similar so they must have come as job lot!
No early walk for Barney and I as the Netherton Tunnel was just around the corner.    At over 3000yards it is about a half hour transit but dead straight and you can see the far end as soon as you enter.  I occupied myself down below needless to say.

There are then long straight stretches with a good towpath either side so Barney and I were able to hop off.  
Passing under the M5
wonderful aqueduct
Eventually we reached the centre of Birmingham and made for the sani station just outside Cambrian Wharf.   We were hoping to find a mooring space in there but it was chock a bloc.    The mooring signs are confusing in there.   There is a sign that says long term and visitor moorings, and another one that says 14 days.  But alongside what seems to be the 14 day spaces there is painted a sign saying private mooring.  There is only room for about 2, maybe 3 boats there anyway and it was all academic as there was no space.  Three of the boats on the 14 day/permanent moorings had CRT warning notices on and no sign of any bodies aboard.  So we turned round (not that easy as it is quite tight) and came out and took one of free spaces just back along a bit.   There was not a lot of choice, more boats than we have seen for a while.  

I took myself off to town after lunch and became quite lost.  I eventually found the Bull Ring Shopping Centre where I was searching for the EE shop.  How I arrived there I had no idea and by the time I found my way back to Petroc I was fit to drop.   Still, a couple of hours rest and I was fit to go out to the Mail Box area for drinks and a meal.

Whilst having our pre dinner glass of wine this party boat pulled up outside, and shortly afterwards filled up with a couple of dozen people intent on a good time, they pulled away and we wondered how far they were taken.
Afterwards we went to COTE for our meal and had their Early Bird 3 course menu for 11.99 which was excellent(You have to be seated before 7pm)

and so back to Petroc 
We shall depart early tomorrow, we have managed to hit Birmingham on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference!!

Total distance:9.2 miles 
Elapsed time:4 hours 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

stay-go-stay-go a little day

We were going to stay over a day after 2 long days and 1 quite long day.......BUT Geoff had a plan!
He decided we should explore the Dudley No 2 Canal which turns off just before the entrance to the Netherton tunnel, so instead of my rest day he suggested that after shopping we set off......what can one do but agree.......
In fact I had visited the shopping centre yesterday and M&S didn't have what I wanted and Smiths didn't have the book I what the heck....might as well go....
We did have a leisurely start to the day however and then shopped in Tesco's...the only downside of that being the fact that Geoff had to carry the wheelie trolley up umpty umpt steps.
After coffee we set out, with Barney and I planning to walk to the only lock of the day at Park head Junction.   We immediately go past the Waterfront which is not as exciting as it might have been.  There are only two restaurants, a Brewers Fayre and a Wetherspoons, no little shops.  The rest seems to be offices or vacant.

Brewers Fayre 

Some more visitors moorings on the left but not as nice as where we had been
Some permanent moorings ahead
My goal of walking to the lock was not achieved, I had to call a halt after a mile and thumb a lift.  The towpath was good, if the surroundings were a little sombre but my back was playing up.   Soon after I rejoined Petroc we picked up an incredibly slow CRT boat ahead......only boat we had seen all morning.    So a wait whilst he went up the lock and then it was our turn.

Ahead are 3 more locks at the entrance to the Dudley No 1 canal (no longer navigable) but we were turning sharp right aiming for Windmill End and the junction with Dudley No 2
No more locks so I retreated to the bow to survey the world going by.  However the sun had disappeared, it became chillier and the canal was shallow in parts and to add insult to injury we picked something up on the prop again.   By the time we were nearly at the junction Geoff's enthusiasm for exploring had waned somewhat so we decided to moor on the quite pleasant looking moorings.  Plenty of grass for Barney and it was late lunch time by then.  

Later (after his siesta!) when Geoff checked the weed hatch he found a large amount of plastic...

So no Dudley No 2 this year as tomorrow we will go on to Birmingham centre.

Total distance:3.94 miles 
Elapsed time:1h56m26s 
Average speed:2.03 mph (2.54 lock/mph) 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

24 locks to Merry Hill

Later yesterday before it was dark we had a knock on the side of the boat.  A gentleman on a bicycle purported to be looking for his cousin who was fishing.  He said his father had just died and his car was out of action and he needed his cousin to drive him......he had rushed out without any money!!!
So £5 later he disappeared promising to return the's act of charity?

This morning I awoke to the pitter patter of rain so did not bother to stir too quickly!!

However as the forecast had predicted, it began to die away and when we set off about 8am it was much perkier.
All rain gone and promise of a good day
the sun trying to make itself felt through the trees
Barney and I walked to the junction where the 16 Stourbridge Locks started with the ambition of doing the first few locks, however I fell at the first hurdle.    No small bridges to get across from one side to the other,( I don't do this death defying leap from one gate to the other that Geoff does) and the walkway across the top gate was narrow and impeded by the mechanism of the gate paddle.   Not my cup of tea so over to Geoff.

It was a good job we didn't need to use the lock landing at the second lock as the fisherman was tucked up on his camp bed inside the tent with all his gear parked on the quay!
Most of these 16 locks are in pleasant surroundings apart from a couple where the neighbourhood seems less salubrious.
Fun and games were had at the third lock.  Geoff found a huge obstruction which had to be removed from the lock before we could get in.  This involved him getting on the bow with the pole and Petroc shimmying back and forth.  He not only found the object but also a huge coat and rucksack

When Geoff first found these two articles he thought he had found a body!   Upon opening the rucksack which was very heavy we found it contained a large brick.....we are presently drying them out whilst we decide what to do with them.
We couldn't identify the object but a chat to a workman provided the answer, so Geoff manhandled it across the lock
It was one of the bases of their security fencing!
The side pounds provide mini waterfalls
part way up is a small store and off licence.....amazing they manage to scrape a living situated where they are.
Also seen in this picture is a volunteer and we had high hopes which were soon dashed when he was not very communicative and far more telling he was not carrying a winch handle!!
Part way up is a small boat yard, completely trapped by locks below and locks above, but there were quite a few boats there
At the next to last lock the engine died with a clunk......weed hatch time again.....

This time it was a pram hood ....
The 16 locks had taken almost 3 hours due to the prolonged stay in the 3rd lock.   We were lucky in that they were all set for us.  A sharp right turn at Leys Junction at the top, followed by about a mile and a half of many bends and bridges brought us to Black Delph Junction and the start of the Delph locks.
Without being a flight or staircase they are all very close together.  Not so lucky this time as they were all set against us, although there was no sign of anyone in front.  However we were up all 8 of them in just over an hour.......
Once at the top it was only a short distance to the moorings at Merry Hill.  Having climbed 24 locks today we feel we are on top of the world....
We are certainly sitting high above the Merry Hill Shopping centre.  The moorings are pleasant, lovely grassy surroundings for Barnaby and a line of silver birch trees.  All very congenial.
However 24 locks seems to have exhausted Barney!
We too were ready for a rest but not until a small beer and some bacon sandwiches, they just hit the spot nicely after all that work.    We did not meet a single boat on the whole trip.  On reaching the moorings we found two other boats but by evening we had been joined by half a dozen more.

Total distance:4.29 miles 
Elapsed time:5h26m57s 
Average speed:0.79 mph (5.19 lock/mph) 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Role reversal on another chilly autumn morning

I decided that it was my turn to do some locks so Barney and I set off.   We completed the first 4 locks as far as Greensforge lock and the sani station there.   This had been our goal yesterday if we hadn't flagged and when we went through the lock and saw the 48 hour mooring we were glad we hadn't bothered.  Our Pearsons guide describes it as a delightful mooring but in fact it is dark and gloomy....just show that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Still chilly but the sun is on the way and this is a pleasant stretch near the Stour aqueduct.
Just before the junction at Stourton we picked up a boat just ahead of us.......fingers crossed they were not going our way!   Our prayers were answered as they carried straight on and we turned left onto the Stourbridge Canal and the 4 locks after at the junction
A pretty junction one solitary fisherman (look closely!)
Alongside the top lock was an incredibly neat garden, mostly in their own garden but also alongside the canal.
Today's sad sight
The next junction was about 2 miles ahead at Wordsley after which we had 16 locks to negotiate and I managed to persuade Geoff that it would be late by the time we had accomplished that and that a shorter day than yesterday would be nice!   he agreed provided we could find a congenial mooring spot.   Luck was on my side as we found one small length of piling opposite a big field full of horses.....just room for one boat.

Total distance:6.21 miles 
Elapsed time:3h55m47s 
Average speed:1.58 mph (4.13 lock/mph)

Monday, 22 September 2014

Cold and annoying start to the day

The decision on which route to take back to Rugby was taken last night..........or was it.   This morning Geoff was having second thoughts..........and then third thoughts brought him back to last nights decision.  

However before decision time at the junction we had to cast off which was the annoying bit.   Since the morning had such an autumnal air I had on 3 layers, woolly hat and gloves and 'twas the gloves that were the undoing.   As I leant over the side to pull in the fender, the darn thing slipped out of my gloved hand and sank to the bottom like a stone!   It had our metal fender catch on so I was all for stopping and trying to rescue it with our big magnet but I was not allowed.   I was very cross with myself........

After a couple of bridges and the gloomy bits through the trees Barney and I alighted (or do I mean disembarked!) and we walked to the junction.   Whilst Geoff watered the boat I walked up to the hire base to try my luck for replacements.  We did have other fenders but not the nice small tyre one I had lost.    I struck Gold........very helpful staff, who produced another tyre for me and drilled the required holes and even better they had just two of the metal thingies (Not sure what you call them) required to attach them to the boat......not quite the same as the ones we have but cheaper and they seemed to fit OK.

So through the stop lock and the decision was taken to turn South on the Staffs and Worcester instead of north,   There will be more locks this way including the Hatton flight but Geoff seems to think we have the time to do it and we haven't been through Birmingham for a while.

Just a little way along was Addersley Junction where the two boats ahead of us were queueing to go up the Wolverhampton flight but we were going straight ahead.   This first bit was rather drear and it was still chilly 
Things did improve and gradually the layers were stripped off.   Here at the Bratch Locks it was all rather pleasant.
The lock keeper has a dinky little hut here with odd things for sale but nothing we needed.
The moorings beneath the locks were in the shade so we decided to carry on as our guide said the moorings at Greenforge Lock were delightful.   However we bit off more than we could chew as we were both flagging by the time we reached March Lock......about a mile and 3 locks short of the goal.
There was just room to moor behind the lock moorings and Geoff walked up into the small village of Swindon (Not quite the same size as Swindon on the M4)  

A bit of a marathon day for us but after the chilly start the sun shone and the idea was to take advantage of the nice weather.........and it was very pleasant cruising gently along meeting a few other boats but not too busy to cause hold ups.......just our stamina let us down or we would have gone a little further.

Total distance:11.81 miles 
Elapsed time:6h47m45s 
Average speed:1.74 mph (3.65 lock/mph)