Monday, 30 June 2014

Oil change and Brewood

Friday 27th June to Monday 30th June 2014

The lovely weather that we have been experiencing has disappeared and we are back to overcast conditions - but we really knew that this was coming - the main reason that we have not moved on Friday.
The forecast was for heavy rain and even a bit of Queen weather (thunderstorms and lightning).
Wimbledon however was unaffected, which meant that the lady of the boat would be keeping an eye on what was happening to the south; meanwhile the clock had run up on the engine hours since the last oil change and that would be my lot later in the day.
In the morning I set about getting some work done which helped to keep me ahead of everything.

I had not long put the engine on, to heat up the oil ready for pumping out, when down came the rain - pouring down and the promised lightning and thunder as well.

Boats were still moving and in all cases without exception, there was the male of the boat out the back on his own looking like a drowned rat - strange how there are always things to be done inside when the rain comes.

Anyway, as I was readying the engine area for the oil change - it is all under cover - a situation of which I am very happy and again glad that we had the pram cover installed - when another boat goes past - Cockney Sparra II - Dave and Sue - well, really just Dave on the back and closely following was Damper Van - yep, you guessed it, just Tony out there - Julie was inside.

They both had decided to moor up just in front - not long later the rain eased off and the three guys had a bit of a chat about it all.

The engine work took a bit longer than usual as all filters were due to be replaced and then the diesel decided that it didn't want to flow through.
Eventually I got it going and the engine sprang back into life - thankfully that was done for another 250 hours.

We caught up with Sue when she was out walking Bella, but the rain reappeared and we headed back inside and that was that - the books came out, the TV was off and we enjoyed the peaceful quiet of the area, occasionally interrupted by intermittent rain.

The following morning we heard boat engines start early and I could see both Dave and Tony heading off on their respective boats - they were meeting others in Brewood and had said that it would be an early start for them.

Not much later we headed off ourselves - as we have seen in a good many other places around the system, a mixture of heavy rain and very shaded towpaths lead only to muddy conditions.

We did try to moor up just after Bridge 11 - nice and open - but the Shroppie shelf was hiding down there and it took a good few minutes for us to extricate ourselves away.

Much better moorings on rings after Bridge 13; towpath was nice and dry and solid, but it was quite shaded and we weren't hopeful of much sun for the panels - especially as it was cloudy anyway.

We were last through Brewood in 2008 on a hire boat and had some minimal memories of the village, so we went for a discovery tour to see it a bit better this time.
The memories had not let us down too much; of course you do see more with more time.

It was nice just to take it a bit easy and we made a casual decision on lunch- The Red Lion looked quite nice - it was now essentially a bar and restaurant and we both enjoyed the food very much - prices were quite good as well.

Once again the tennis beckoned and after feasting we relaxed in the afternoon - Diane will tell you that I had another of my increasingly frequent afternoon naps, but I was sure that the screen went blank and the clock went into fast forward.

The lack of sun was not doing us any favours and so we looked through Bridge 14 on Sunday morning where it appeared much more open - so much so that we moved the boat just 800 metres into bright sun and things were looking much better.

As a Sunday treat, Diane washed the roof between intermittent showers - rinsing showers she called them, but she got wet as well.

The rest of the day was a bit more rest and a bit more football.

Monday came and we had an appointment in Birmingham around lunch time, so it was a bus ride to Wolverhampton and then the train into the city centre; found our way to the place - early, just so that we knew where it was.

Then it was back to Gas St Basin and the Slug and Lettuce for lunch - one of Diane's favourites - a stroll back for the appointment.

It was for Diane only, so I headed to a nearby man-creche (The Shakespeare) for a couple of pints and quietly read my book - sun on my back, some quiet background music - really was lovely there - could have stayed for at least another pint, but Diane found me and we needed to get back.
We had a bit of a chance to see a small part of the centre of Wolverhampton and what we saw we liked - might investigate a bit more at a later date.

The lack of intensity of the sun over the last two days plus the two previous days of very low solar levels and some very high usage has meant that we have put a bit of a strain on the batteries, so an hour's engine running has given them a bit of a boost.

2 Miles

Totals: 2616 Miles, 2001 Locks, 90 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Lover's Lane

Thursday 26th June 2014

An early start this morning, but a bit of a false start - we had barely travelled 1/2 a mile when we moored up - we had an empty shopping bag that needed filling.
A quick Sainsbury stop and we were back underway - fortunately we were at Compton lock with it empty, the crew from the boat approaching above had opened the gates and she was straight in - perfect locking.

The next mile was wonderful cruising - wide and with depth; brilliant foliage overhanging and with the morning sun it created a delightful picture into which all we had to do was move the boat.
Doesn't get much better than this.

It was only going to be a regular cruising day - time-wise, and whilst we pulled in for a couple of jerry cans to be filled with diesel and after Autherley Junction (and onto the Shroppie) we topped up with water - we were still just slowly cruising or so it seemed.

This section is so nice and wide - literally no problems

The engine was barely above tickover at best yet we drifted along with some speed.
Even at low speed we were gaining on this boat...

...they were slower than us and eventually waved us past

Absolutely brilliant.

Our target was to moor up between bridges 7 and 8, which we easily reached - and rings as well - nice and open; good signals; sun shining down.

ahhh - our target - not the two young lads - the moorings ahead

Seems that this particular stretch has the nickname of "Lover's Lane" - who knows what may happen!

With the weather reports we are seeing, I think that Friday will be another rest day and we will have to tough it out with Wimbledon and the World Cup and the locality name.

Brewood will have to wait for the weekend and beyond that - well that will be next week - too far away to have to be concerned about just yet!

7 Miles, 2 Locks

Totals: 2614 Miles, 2001 Locks, 90 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Day off / Day out

Wednesday 25th June 2014

We had made the plans for today and would be visiting Wightwick Manor, but as it was not due to open until mid-day, so whilst I spent the morning working, Diane decided to sort out doonas (duvets), pillows and other things stored in crevices under the bed and dinette.
Those vacuum-pack bags again came in very handy as the bulky items were reduced to much smaller sizes and easily packed away.
We needed to run the engine (just for an hour) for the vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of those packages; also for a bit of a cleanup (the boat looks a lot better on the inside); as well we generated hot water for showers.
With it being so sunny outside and the panels producing over 10 amps we were comfortable with leaving the engine off for the rest of the day.

So we headed off, the satnav indicating that the Manor was only 0.4 miles (640m) away - think that it was out a little bit, but it wasn't really a long way.

Our National Trust memberships got us in free and with being there about 11am we were able to look around the gardens and outer buildings a bit, as well as having time for morning tea, before the manor was open.
extensive gardens and the sunshine helped

they smelled as delightful as they looked

Wightwick Manor was built in the 1880's and so in 1937 when it was being bequeathed to the NT, it was considered not old enough for them - apparently there was a financial advantage offered to the NT to take it on and so we get to look through it.

Unfortunately there was a no inside photographs policy and we only have exterior shots, but it is a remarkable house for it's time.
Being of no set period in the design inside, in fact no set period on the outside, it encompassed an eclectic mix of styles and recycling of other objects.

The front door

It was a very large home and even today the family retains a quite large apartment in the upper floor with 4 bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms, kitchen, bathroom etc - the private quarters.

There are a number of NT personnel spread out through the premises to give you a very informative explanation of various rooms and to answer any of your questions.

just a little different - the chimneys

On the way back we stopped for lunch at The Mermaid pub (part of The Vintage chain) for a very nice lunch indeed - over indulging by not too much but enough to quell any desire for much to else for the rest of the day.

As expected, when we arrived back on board the batteries were fully charged and even though the tennis was back on the TV, they remained in that state for the remainder of the day.

Yet another evening of the world cup beckons and with an interesting situation in Group E we look forward to 2 more good games.

Tomorrow it will be cruising again and we expect to turn left at Autherley Junction and be back on the Shroppie for the first time in 6 years.

No Travel

The slow boat from hell

Saturday 21st June to Tuesday 24th June 2014

We thought it would be a good idea to walk in towards Stourbridge, Diane wanted a Wilkinsons and her phone said there was one not that far away; so we headed back over the last bridge, along a public footpath, got some more directions from a lovely lady along the way, made our way along and around a few streets until we found the location - trouble was it wasn't there.
Fortunately for Diane she found a butcher shop and an Aldi - between them she managed to fill three bags with things that we apparently needed - after thinking before we left that there was nothing at all we needed.

Not to be deterred we carried on to central downtown Stourbridge and found Wilko's; she bought the camp shower that she wanted - the practical side of this being (what she had read somewhere) was to fill it with water, put it on the roof on a bright sunny day and when we weren't moving we would have hot water for the dishes or just for a wash - the theory will be put into practice now.

A walk around the Saturday market; a coffee each and we found a lady who knew where the terminus for the Stourbridge arm was - instructions followed and we found it.

Moorings are available either in the secure area operated by the Stourbridge Canal Trust or outside this - both looked suitable and now marked in the memory for future recall.

We opted to return to the boat via the towpath - the reasoning being that it was flat - unlike the up and down trek that got us into town originally.
on our stroll back to the boat, we spotted these two
youngsters enjoying swinging over and sometimes into the canal.

Once back on board we decided that we would move - just a mile or so - the reasoning being that there had been just a few too many people wandering around - on bothsides of  the canal the previous evening - no problems at all, we just wanted it a bit more quiet.
So a mile later, we were out in the open; nice and peaceful still; more light; and the TV signal was much better.

With no particular plans of how far we would travel on Sunday we set off about our usual time.
I must say that the 4 locks leading down to the junction with the Staffs and Worcestershire Canal are in about the prettiest setting we have seen.
It's all new to us, so we didn't know what would be next.
down through the Stourton locks...

...and to the junction

Heading northwards, the canal gets a bit covered in by the foliage and with mooring a bit difficult because of the uncut towpath edges, it would make it a bit unfriendly here - still it was nice to be cruising.

we moored up for water at Greensforge and boy did it suddenly
get very busy and little room to move

Onwards we continued until we decided to call it time just before Swindon Lock where we moored up for the afternoon and the night.

The new BBQ came out later on for its first tryout - if my fire-lighting skills get any better then we should manage to eat a great deal sooner, but in the end it all worked out well and we didn't starve.
the end of the barbie - just chucked a couple of spuds on to
slow cook in their jackets
we were being watched very closely by these three - hoping
for some of the leftovers

Monday - if only we had been 15 minutes earlier in leaving - we would not have been caught behind the boat from hell.
Two people on board who in essence didn't give a s__t about anyone else behind them.
Talk about taking it completely easy.
- Only used the gate paddle (going up the locks) - we are pretty sure that she couldn't or wouldn't use the ground paddles - so the locks filled very slowly.
- Actually stated that they were in no hurry at all
- Didn't bother to go forward to help anyone
- In the staircase lock at Botterham, we finally arrived to find their boat at the top of the bottom lock of the two; gate opened to the next lock; where were they - both off the boat chatting away to someone who had strolled by; not even when I approached did they seem at all concerned that we were waiting for them to move their boat along.
- At the bottom of the Bratch Locks, they were the third of the group of boats in front of us to be going up the locks; the 2nd boat had long gone and were almost at the top - they were chatting away at the bottom, not even untied - it looked exactly as though they were waiting for the volunteer lockie to set the lock for them - at least it was that way until the CaRT lockkeeper yelled at them to get a move on and get themselves sorted out quickly. (a bit of chuckling at this from those of us behind them)
The name of the boat - Bubbles and Squeak - commiserations to you if you get stuck behind them.

Eventually it was our turn and we all moved through the locks without any problems at all - and as it should be we helped each other through.
Bratch Locks

the blue gate paddle let water into the lock with the usual force
that you would expect

the procedure involved opening the blue paddle and then the
red paddle on the gate above. The short gap in between was
the scene of some rough water as it tried to even itself out with
the lock below and the side storage pound

she has made it to the top lock!

Enough was enough for the day and we stopped on the 5-day moorings at the top - after all it was the start of Wimbledon and nothing comes between that and my lovely wife.

We wandered down to the locks later in the day to have a more relaxed look at them - very interesting indeed - although they are described as staircase locks, there is very short pound between each of the three locks.
now quite peaceful - the top of the Bratch Locks

and the village of The Bratch

Another lovely day of sunshine and a distant memory of real a__eholes.

We weren't sure exactly what we would do on Tuesday - there was a National Trust house at Wightwick that we thought we might like to see, but not open on Tuesdays - so do we cruise to there and spend an extra day there or do we miss it - not sure.

The day started well with the first two locks being our way; the weather was a bit cooler that for the previous few days but it was still better than not being where we were.

Met a lovely old guy from a boat moored up at Dimmingsdale bridge who was telling me about all of the boats that were mooring up for too long around there and CaRT were coming down and putting Patrol Notices on them - I couldn't make out half of what he was saying sometimes, but I suspect that he knew who was ringing CaRT to complain about the overstayers.

Further along the locks went from being empty to full - we were catching up to a boat, which we did at the last lock for us for the day - we had done enough and Wightwick Mill Lock was the last one.

She who must be obeyed had been a bit concerned (read as on the way to frantic) about the milk supply situation - down to the last litre - but she is smiling again, the Sainsbury Local at bridge 59 came through and we have supplies again.

Now decided that we will visit the NT property; the worry of the milk has passed.

11 Miles, 21 Locks

Totals: 2607 Miles, 1999 Locks, 90 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

Saturday, 21 June 2014

From City to countryside

Tuesday 17th June to Friday 20th June 2014

We thought it might be nice to have a bit of a cruise on Tuesday - after all we had finished our time on the 48hr mooring, so we had to move; we needed water; Diane wanted to get a load of washing done and we needed the elsan - this last item we didn't really need to move the boat to get done.

We headed west and took a turn off the New Main Line onto the Soho Loop - it is so lovely up here that we are tempted to moor here sometime; and then we looped through via Sherbourne Wharf - yikes, is it ever crowded through there with moorers and trip boats; then straight ahead when we emerged from that loop to the services opposite Cambrian Wharf - watered; elsaned; and de-rubbished, all we needed to do was wind and move back.
Diane tied the bow line to a bollard and with no other boats moving it was a simple matter to pivot on that point.
A group of school children with the CaRT people were impressed.

We moored up again on the 14 day moorings.

After lunch we took a trip up to the viewing platform of the new library.
a couple of panorama shots from the top of the library

looking down to the canal where we were moored the
day before - outside the NIA (on the right)

and inside the library

Wednesday, we headed into the city for a bit of shopping - firstly down to the Bullring markets - Closed on Wednesdays - only the fruit and vegetable stalls were open - luckily we needed things there.
There are a 2nd lot of indoor market stalls a bit further on where we managed a few more items to cross off the list.
the family business?

We made our way back - me to the boat and put the purchases away; Diane down towards the Mailbox to await me - she was after Tapas today.
A lovely restaurant at the Mailbox called Bar Estilo - excellent.
We had a lovely lunch and sat and watched everyone racing around on their lunchbreak; a few boats make the turn towards the basin (and beyond) and completely unrushed at all.

After that it was back to see the tennis and the football - unfortunately Australia went down to The Netherlands, 3-2; but we were in front and looking good for the upset of the series.

All of this time we have had magnificent weather - sunny, a bit of cloud, a nice breeze - why then on Thursday, when we schedule ourselves to move out of Birmingham does it turn cold - so cold in fact that coats, gloves and hats came out.
Coat, gloves and hat weather - certainly changeable
Our newest tiller pin - the welsh lady - and a miners
lamp below

We wanted to look at a different way out of Brum and decided on a trip through the Netherton tunnel. It was just a lazy 7 miles to the entrance - peaceful cruising. We chatted to a guy walking his dog (boat moored up at Titford) but gave us some helpful hints about where to moor around Merry Hill (our intended destination).
approaching the Netherton tunnel

The tunnel itself doesn't present any problems - it certainly is big enough - two-way traffic and a towpath on each side; straight as an arrow - each end could clearly be seen.
No problems in the passage - only one boat to pass.

Exiting at the other end and into some warmer weather - tunnels always seem to do that - that other side is always better - or is it that you have been in a cool, dark, wet place and it seems better instantly upon leaving it.
and on the other side - warm sunshine

We resisted the moorings at Windmill End - our target was further on - the canal was winding around and we slowed to cope with the twists and turns and didn't really notice that we had lost some power until we neared the junction where we stopped for water.
An inspection down the weedhatch produced a bit of rubbish from around the prop and hardly surprisingly the boat performed better.
We finally moored up outside the Copthorne Hotel.
A couple of visits to the Merry Hill Shopping Centre refilled the pantry along with a few other bits and pieces.
We were a bit apprehensive as the Wetherspoons across on the other side had been promoting the England v Uruguay game and the supporters were gathering - our thoughts being that if there was an England victory then the celebrating might go on noisily for a while - in the end there was barely a whimper either on the screen or in the pub.
a panoramic of the Merry Hill basin

the gardens around the basin were full of roses

We could easily have settled for an easy day on Friday and stayed for another 24 hours, but we craved a more rural setting and prepared ourselves for the 2 flights of locks that lay ahead.

The weather had warmed up and with so many locks we were expecting a reasonably tiring day - not to be disappointed at all.
Looking down the Delph locks..

..and up

all of the locks were quite deep

This has to be the shortest pound on the system-
in the foreground is the top gate of Lock 10
and in the background the bottom gate of Lock 9

A single hander was in front, but we all worked through the Delph locks steadily and then through the Stourbridge flight he allowed us to go ahead and with the help of friendly unofficial volunteer we both made very good time down the flight.
a well deserved drink 

We didn't travel too far before mooring up and enjoying the openness and peace of the countryside.

20 Miles, 25 Locks,  2 Tunnels

Totals: 2596 Miles, 1978 Locks, 90 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges