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DSCF5816We knew the weather forecast was not good for Saturday but there looked like there might be a dry spell between 10 & 12, so we departed before 10 and it immediately started raining! We started the descent of Offerton Locks and were soon drenched to the skin. The only good thing was that most of the locks were in our favour, but we stopped after 3 locks to change into dry things, which was a waste of time because we were soon wet again.

DSCF5825We took a lunch break on the outskirts of Worcester and phoned up to book an overnight berth in Worcester Marina, aka Lowesmoor Basin. After lunch we carried on through another 6 locks to the marina where we were directed to a berth which involved reversing though a kind of ‘goalpost’ arrangement, which is designed to hold the boat straight as we were moored end-on to the basin edge.

IMG_20140719_210221We were glad to have the luxury of mains electricity at the marina as we needed to make good use of our tumble dryer! We had arranged for our son Jer and the children to meet us there, but whilst waiting for them we had a phone call from my niece Kate who was on holiday in the area with her husband Stephen, so we had five visitors & a dog for the evening which led to a visit to The Anchor at Diglis Dock for a meal!

The grandchildren stayed with us overnight and in the morning we left in much better weather, the staff at Worcester Marina were most helpful despite it being a ‘turn-around day’ for their hire boats. Morley was a big help with the remaining locks and by 12 noon we were through Diglis Dock and out onto the wide waters of the River Severn, which was quite calm despite the previous day’s rain.

DSCF5842 Diglis was our only lock on the Severn today so it was a straightforward cruise downstream to Tewkesbury with the Malvern Hills in the distance. Upton Blues Festival was in full swing as we passed and we saw and heard a couple of the acts as we went by, also the Conway Castle was just manoeuvring as we approached so we had to hold back, just glad there wasn’t more flow on the river! “MV Conway Castle is the largest passenger vessel on the River Severn”

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Soon we were passing under the M50 and as we saw Mythe Bridge we knew it was time to leave the Severn and join the Avon. Bob the Lockkeeper locked us though Avon Lock, found us a nice mooring facing King John’s Bridge and told us to make ourselves comfortable before relieving us of the fees for our Avon Navigation Trust licence and mooring. Jer came and collected the children before tea as they have another week of school before they break up.

We are spending a few days here and already have visitors scheduled, but more are always welcome.

Summer Cruise Day 14

After yesterday’s exertions an easy day was on the cards today, we left Stoke Wharf at about 10:30 and stopped off almost immediately at J. Pinder’s  Little Shop Of Chandlery and managed to purchase two more cigarette lighter sockets for my project.

It was a pleasant run down to to Astwood Locks passing nb Chelonian moored up, yes they were the guys who helped us yesterday!

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I quite like these Worcester and Birmingham Canal locks, they are easy to operate, well maintained and I rather like the engineering of the paddle-gear too with nicely designed pawls on the ground paddles which are balanced to disengage when you take the pressure off and proper handles on them too so you don’t get greasy fingers as you do on the Oxford canal.

 

We bought some runner beans at the bottom lock cottage, by that time it was really starting to warm up and a lunch stop outside of the The Eagle & Sun at Hanbury Junction was in order. Naturally we were tempted to order some chips to go with the salad Joy had prepared and drinks to go with it too.

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After a brief rest it was nice to pass through the cool Dunhampstead Tunnel, and finally moor up at Tibberton Visitor moorings. After a bit of a rest I fitted the cigarette lighter sockets and then had to clear up the mess before a light tea.

We had just given up on getting a TV signal when a Viking Afloat hire boat moored by us… and it was friends from Heyford! Chris, Emily and their boys Oliver & George on a ‘late-booking’ trip out of Worcester. What are the chances of that???

We sat and drank cups of tea and caught up with each other’s news for perhaps a little too long as they were planning to get a meal at the Bridge Inn but I’m afraid they were too late by the time they got there!

Embarrassed smile

Summer Cruise Day 13

When it’s forecast to be the hottest day of the year and you’ve got 35 locks to do, who ya gonna call… Lockbusters!

Well maybe not quite, but our son Jeremy had promised to drive up and help us but he did better and brought two friends with him. Max & Nicky have been live-aboard boaters since last October and had never been through a lock yet, well they are on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal where there are no locks, so we certainly put that right today.

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We left our overnight mooring at about 8:15 (yes, a.m!) and pottered on down, through Shortwood Tunnel, to the Anglo Welsh Hire Base at Tardebigge Old Wharf, unfortunately there was nowhere to moor except their wharf so we had just pulled in there to ask if there was another mooring nearby, when our crew arrived. Jer had met the manager previously and he kindly allowed them to leave their car there.

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After introductions we set off and went through the Tardebigge Tunnel, another first for Max & Nicky, on reaching the top lock another boat was just starting down so we helped them through and gave our recruits some basic lock training. Of course following another boat meant that every lock would be against us but bless them, as they left each lock they raised the top paddles for us so the lock was almost ready for us when we arrived (sorry I can’t recall the name of their boat, but many, many thanks to them). We were soon into a rhythm with one person ahead preparing the next lock and we only met one boat coming up the whole flight.

DSCF5802We were at the bottom lock by 1pm in just 3¼ hours, where we stopped for lunch just past the Queens Head, another canal-side pub which doesn’t encourage boaters to use their moorings. After being fortified with hotdogs which Joy had prepared on the way, Jer took my bike and went back to fetch the car, whilst we carried on, with our now proficient crew, down the Stoke Prior Locks and moored just above the bottom lock opposite the Black Prince Hire base where we found Jer chatting to the staff as he has an ex-Black Prince boat and was enquiring about replacing the front fender rubber.

After some cooling drinks in the nearby Navigation Inn we returned to the boat for a spaghetti bolognaise and a well earned rest before saying our goodbyes and arranging to meet again.

We left our noisy mooring by The Sealife Centre tout suite in the morning to see if we could find a better berth, fortunately there were two free 24 hour moorings at the back of Gas Street Basin (Old Wharf), one seemed to have been commandeered by Canada geese so we chose the other, outside a closed down bar. This was much more peaceful with just a few pedestrians passing by, oh and a water bus stop at which the little taxi passed on a regular basis, without us seeing them pick up one passenger.

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After chilling out for an hour or so we ventured into the city and found the markets at The Bullring. I have been thinking about getting a new MiFi device and after visiting several shops and then returning to the boat eventually decided to go for an Alcatel Y855 aka EE’s Osprey. So it was a trek back up to The Bullring to do the deal,  a 30 day rolling contract with 6Gb of data for £15/month and an up-front cost of £40, it’s 4G capable as well, which is already available here in Brum, we shall see how it performs on the rest of our journey.

After a good night we were up in good time to visit Sherbourne Wharf on the Oozells Street loop to top up with diesel, and get a ‘pump out’ and be on our way back past Gas Works Basin, The Mailbox and out into the leafy suburbs of Edgbaston with the railway line to keep us company. Catty, who was sitting on the hatch by us suddenly took a dislike to these noisy contraptions, freaked out and wanted to go back in the boat.

Between Selly Oak and Bournville there was a terrific amount of activity improving the tow path and we spotted a couple of interesting boats to carry the diggers etc. one of them was broad beam but was made to split to become a narrow beam to pass through locks, really neat!

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 Bournville News reported last December (2013)

The route along the Worcester Canal is on a major cycle route and is often muddy after rainfall with puddles of standing water.

The proposals to improve the route form part of the wider Birmingham Cycle Revolution project – which won central government backing to the tune of £17million in August of this year.

Hmm… A lovely smooth surface, just imagine the speeds cyclists will be able to achieve. 

It was straight on at Kings Norton Junction and into uncharted territory, the Wast Hill Tunnel was next, a mile and a half of dead straight tunnel open to two way traffic. The ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ could be seen all the way through and although the notice at the portal indicated a transit time of an hour, fortunately there were no boats coming the other way and we were through in not much more than 30 minutes.

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Just another 3 miles and we found a place to stop at Alvechurch Visitor Moorings to contemplate tomorrow’s journey.

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Summer Cruise Day 10

After a good night’s rest we were raring to go by 9.30 so it was just a couple of miles to Minworth Locks passing the empty Cincinnati works en route (those of an engineering inclination will recognise the name of a once world famous machine tool manufacturer) the locks passed uneventfully except that we picked up an old coat on the prop at the top lock which necessitated opening the weed hatch to remove it. As I went to dispose of it at the rubbish skip I fell into conversation with a gent attired in dressing gown & slippers who told me that he used to work for British Waterways and once looked after this stretch and would have been “Bloody ashamed” for it to be in this state!

DSCF5672Another couple of miles on and we were at Factory Tunnel where it’s not so much a tunnel but part of a factory built over the canal. This was apparently once the Birlec Electric Furnace Works. Emerging from this Stygian gloom we  approached Salford Junction (South) under ‘Spaghetti Junction’ where we took a dogleg turn to the left onto the Grand Union Canal DSCF5687(Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal) and took the opportunity of a lunch break at The Harvester at Star City which has free, secure 24 hour pontoon moorings for canal visitors.     It was a surprisingly good meal at a very reasonable cost, but don’t expect real ale with your meal, in fact don’t expect anything but lager. I opted for soda and lime as it has more flavour!

 

DSCF5691To stay or to carry on through the next 25 locks into Birmingham? We carried on, past heavy canal-side industry, scrap metal mostly. Our introduction to Garrison Locks was not auspicious, as the lock cottage looked as if had suffered an arson attack as there were remains of burnt tyres which had even charred the lock beam.

 

DSCF5695All went reasonably well except that we were following a hire boat which meant all the locks were against us, except one (were they being kind to us???) however we paid the price as the pound above was so low we were ‘on the bottom’ and I had to let a couple of lockfuls of water down to float us again. Surprise, surprise another trip down the weed hatch to remove rubbish!

DSCF5709The area from the top of the locks has had some regeneration, Bordesley Village I believe. Right at Bordesley Junction, past Warwick Bar and right again at Proof House Junction and onto the Birmingham Canal Navigations (Birmingham and Fazeley Canal – Digbeth Branch) and Ashted Locks, looking behind us there was the once famous Typhoo Basin (Yes, of tea fame!).

DSCF5717The first of Ashted Locks has a huge building project going on next to it, as does most of the area, however lock 2 presented a puzzle, something seemed to be blocking the gate, investigation found a large floating work-platform in the way, which I dragged back to the lock moorings. We developed a strategy of working the locks, bring the boat in and whilst leaving that one filling prepare the next lock to go straight into. This was successful especially as there were no other boats about. Before the last lock is Ashted Tunnel, boy is that tight! I expected us to scrape the cabin sides but they seem to be unscathed.

DSCF5721Onwards to Aston Junction and the final stretch, just another 13 locks to go. People often comment about unsociable behaviour from young people along the canal and at the bottom lock I felt I had walked into an American B movie, there were two lads and a girl sat on the lock beam swigging wine from a bottle inside a paper bag. However the older chap told me how he used to walk miles along the canal as a kid and offered to demonstrate how he could leap across a lock, I declined his offer advising him that it’s safer to do it when they are full and the girl was keen to attempt to open the lock gate for us, although I did have to explain it’s generally easier when the water level is the same both sides! As they left she wished me a ‘Nice romantic trip with the missus’ and waved us off. You never can tell!

DSCF5723We continued our ascent of the locks using our previous method marvelling at how the office blocks had been built around the locks incorporating the pounds actually underneath the buildings and still providing passing places at most locks, not to mention some interesting decoration of one block of flats.

 

DSCF5729 At the second lock from the top I found another group of lads, one of whom was practicing what I now assume to be the West Midlands favourite sport of lock leaping, he cleared the lock beautifully but stepped back in triumph, up to his knees in the fortunately silted up and reed filled side pond. His mates were on the floor creased up with laughter and when asked, regretted that they hadn’t had their phones ready for the photo opportunity.

Eventually, just before 8pm we emerged triumphant at the top lock, unsurprisingly Cambrian Wharf moorings were full, but another boater kindly directed us to a mooring just tucked beside the Sea Life Centre. This kindly gesture was a two edged sword because we found it was next to Sea Life’s air-conditioning plant and the noisiest footbridge in Birmingham.

We should have slept the sleep of the just but at 1am we heard running water from  the footbridge, was someone taking a leak? Well if they were they must have had a prodigious capacity, so peeping out from behind the curtains we found the flowers planters on the bridge being watered by night staff, as if that wasn’t enough, a black cat tried to come through the cat flap and was seen off by Jadey, and it sounded like someone giving a ‘call to prayer’ at some other unearthly hour! We seriously considered forgoing our planned day off and heading back to the country!!!

Summer Cruise Days 8 & 9

DSCF5634Saturday was hot and we didn’t travel very far, after leaving Polesworth we passed Pooley Hall, once the home of the late Edwin Starr, American Soul and Motown Singer and found the local cattle lined up for a drink. We stopped at Alvecote to try to purchase some parts from Narrowcraft but they didn’t have what I need for my project so we pottered on until we found somewhere where we could stop and use our generator to run the washing machine without annoying nearby residents.

DSCF5640Meanwhile I started that project by drilling holes in the cupboard door which I liberated from the Braunston wheelie bins and filling the back cabin with sawdust.    OK so I’m making a new power distribution panel for all my electrical gubbins, before I knew it was 8pm and it was nearly finished apart from 2 more 12v power sockets which I’m short of so I can get rid of that 3 way extension.

DSCF5642We had planned an early start today but a disturbed night and a heavy rain shower meant we didn’t get away until about a quarter to 10. Glascote Locks were first then the aqueduct over the River Tame. Fazeley Junction was upon us next where we swung left onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal – Main Line stopping for water at Coleshill Road Bridge.

DSCF5654The old gravel pits which border the canal have been transformed into a nature reserve, the canal was quiet today with few boats about and we found all of Curdworth locks were set against us. We decided to take a break 3 locks up at The Dog & Doublet where we had our lunch, homemade cheese, leek and potato pasties helped down with a pint of M & B mild and  half of Stowford Press.

After this break we saw a boat coming out of the next lock… Yes all the locks would be in our favour now… No!  Either these locks leak like crazy or there was another boat in front of us. By the time we had done all 11 locks we felt knackered so we moored up at the Visitor Moorings just through the Curdworth Tunnel, and no, we haven’t even been to The White Lion.

Summer Cruise Day 7

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That promised painting :-)

The first leg of our cruise this morning was short, to Springwood Haven for milk, a Pearson’s Guide and a few bits of chandlery. The last time we passed this way Valley Cruises were based here. Hartshill Wharf onetime major BW centre looked dowdy and neglected.

 

 

DSCF5618It was an uneventful cruise to Atherstone, where we stopped before the locks and walked up to the town for some shopping, Atherstone is quite an ‘old fashioned’ town with many independent businesses having escaped, as one boater remarked, the destruction of the 60s but as Aldi has its UK headquarters here they do have a store in the town.

At our first lock we met a motley ‘Last of the Summer Wine-esque’ crew who clearly spend their summer days hereabouts, who were chatty and helpful.

We met boats at most locks which helped our progress, at lock 5 the volunteer lockie was just going off duty, but a group of lads were hanging about and a couple of them were amusing themselves by jumping, yes jumping across the lock. Never-the-less they were no bother and helped lock us through.

We finished the flight in about 2¼ hours and motored on to squeeze onto the end of Polesworth Visitor moorings.

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