Monday 13th June to Sunday 19th June 2011
52 Miles, 48 Locks, 2 Tunnels– for this week
Totals: 577 Miles, 530 Locks, 17 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 9 Swing Bridges
This week has been a rather satisfying one for us; we have managed to find a marina which meets our needs for a winter mooring; we have made our way into Birmingham; we have sorted out our TV aerial problems; we have experienced 2 new canals.
We left Barlaston on Monday and made our way down to Stone, a town that holds such good memories for us – this is where we commenced our boating experience; mooring above the locks enabled us to have quiet mooring and reasonable TV reception as well as good internet.
A shopping expedition to restock the pantry and a general walk around – checked that Stone station was handling trains again – our last visit 3 years ago saw them out of the loop a bit as work was taking place at the station with the tracks – but good news, the train links ran to Crewe in one direction and London the other way.
On Tuesday it was on down through the 5 locks to Aston Marina where we pulled in onto the visitor moorings; we had a good long chat to the people there; a good walk and look around; spoke to moorers; saw the farm shop, the pub/restaurant; visited the local off-site pub and spent a night there to get a better feel for the place – in the morning we paid our deposit for a winter mooring – this gives us the requirements that we were looking for in a mooring.
Wednesday was back out onto the canal and down to Great Haywood Junction where we turned onto the Staffs and Worcestershire Canal for the first time, mooring at Tixal Wide. A chance to have a bit of a walk around – it is just so peaceful and quiet here – we will be back to spend some more time and walk around a lot more I the future.
Onward to Penkridge and the going was very hard indeed – the canal was pretty shallow in places and any deviation from the centre meant a meeting of boat bottom with the canal bottom – 2 or 3 times we managed to get stuck. Diane also did a fair amount of steering this day, allowing me a chance to do the locks – none of the groundings were during her reign at the tiller.
We had decided that Penkridge would be a suitable place to stop which allowed some respite from the noisy M6 without the need to travel too far.
It was at Lock 39 (Longford Lock) that we pulled up waiting for one boat to go up and then one to come down that we came across Elsie and Eric (and Ben) on NB Bendigedig and had the usual short hellos as we briefly crossed – we will catch up with them sometime.
It is one of the disappointing aspects of this canal north of Autherley Junction – there is so much co-habitation with motorways and busier A roads that inject their level of noise into the peaceful quiet of the canal.
The journey from Penkridge was very enjoyable and the canal had more depth and width – so none of the trials that we had earlier experienced. We had wanted to moor up before reaching the narrows but didn’t find anything suitable, so we ventured through there – only encountering two boats but with the passing placing suitable sited we had no problems at all. Eventually we moored up just past Autherley Junction and as has been our lot recently, the heavens opened up just as we had made it inside - so no chance of walking a half mile back to the pub.
Saturday was the day for us – the Wolverhampton flight of 21 locks and then the long cruise into Birmingham. We have done this flight before (back in 2008) so we had no problems with it – we just knew it would be a long day – longer than we thought.
The locks we great; the paddlegear was easy to use; some of the top gates were heavy to move; the water was crystal clear – you could see the bottom and the fish swimming around; no rubbish around but there was a bit of floating weed along the flight.
We were up the flight in just over 3 hours and had a bit of a break at the top as we took on water and had some morning tea – the facilities are quite good and the showers were hot and refreshing.
Then it was into the troublesome area – two boaters we passed on our journey up had told us about the level of weed after the locks – more than we have seen before and we lost count of the number of times that the shift into reverse was made to clear the prop - there was a need to stop to clear it, and it was the weed fouling things up.
We had decided to try the old line into Birmingham on the Wolverhampton level as we had previously been on the New Main Line and found it quite boring; glad that we did.
After the turn to stay on this level we ummed and aaahed about mooring at the Black Country Museum, but decided to press on as we had planned to catch up with James and the girls at Birmingham.
In hindsight it might well have been better to have stopped.
The journey through the outskirts of Wolverhampton leading into Birmingham on this waterway was indeed very nice; the weed was no where near as bad as earlier – in fact, after Coseley Tunnel the weed dramatically reduced.
The waterway was through a residential area so a bit more to look at and cruising beneath the motorway was opportune as it occurred just as the rain started.
We did not encounter any rubbish until just after the three locks at Sandwell and then it was not an issue.
This will be our preferred course into Birmingham from the west next time – a mile longer but well worth it.
Finally 10 hours after we had set off we were able to moor up just outside the NIA and rest some weary bones.
We had agreed to meet up with James and the girls in Victoria Square at the International Food Fair, but a change in circumstances for them meant that it was not possible – still we enjoyed the food, the music and the cider and beer, but we were very tired and 9 o’clock found us very much fast asleep.
Sunday was a much better day weatherwise and we felt more invigorated; so it was off into the city – why don’t the shops open before 11 on a Sunday and why aren’t the markets open at all.
We managed to find the tourist information and we found Maplins we were able to get a few cables and connections that we needed to install the new omnidirectional digital TV aerial that we had purchased at Midland Chandlery (Penkridge) a few days back.
In just a couple of hours we had installed the aerial on a new pole onto the side of the boat and the digital enhancer box which was able to split the signal between TV and radio and presto – excellent digital TV signal without any pixellation and excellent radio – we had achieved; and we are very happy about it.