Settling In

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been here at King’s Bromley Marina for a week now and so far we’re loving it, the picture above is our view from the front of our boat. Just a few steps away is a little island [just above centre in the aerial view] where you can have a barbecue or just sit and relax in the shade.

It’s very peaceful here and has a ‘village’ feel about it, whereas Sawley was more ‘housing-estate’. This is probably because high usage moorers like us are sandwiched between those who use their boats less often.

There’s been a fair bit of admin to do, advising our change of address to companies and officialdom! We’ve explored both Lichfield and Rugeley to some degree, visiting Wade Street Church, Lichfield on Sunday where we felt quite at home, we’ve discovered Whitehouse Foods in Rugeley, great for fresh meat and groceries (not to mention misshaped chocolate biscuits) a handy Morrisons and an ironmongers to rival Durcan’s, back in Dursley.

There’s always jobs to do on a boat and with the luxury of mains electricity I needed to create a way to charge our front set of batteries from the mains as a back-up from solar power or running the engine. You see… I’m a belt, braces AND elastic waistband kind of guy!

I found a second-hand caravan charger on eBay which I collected from Leicester, and mounted it in the front step locker. As this was already occupied by our radio speakers I had to make a new front for the locker to accommodate both, which anyone who knows my carpentry skills would know was a risky endeavour.
I found Mike Baker Timber who cut an off-cut of plywood exactly to the right size which meant I only had to cut the holes in it. No work of art, but not too bad though I says it as shouldn’t.

Next week is looking busy already, but more of that in the next episode!

Just a heads-up, we will be changing our blog address soon as this one is getting too full [of pictures] it won’t look any differant but Volume II will be https://narrowboatwrensnest.wordpress.com
Not to worry if you click through from Facebook or use wrens-nest.com to find our ramblings as those will still work.

 

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Arrived at King’s Bromley

Where was I now? (Didn’t Tom Forrest used to say that when introducing the omnibus edition of The Archers?) Oh yes, we had just left Langley Mill with shiny new blacking and moored at Potters Lock. During the evening the local kids seemed to regard the lock as their own private swimming pool, but were not a nuisance.

Wednesday 4th July

Today was a day of two halves, we left Potters Lock at 8:30 am and covered the 6½ miles & 6 locks as far as Sandiacre where we arrived twenty to twelve. We moored in the shade of a tree, had lunch and rested for the afternoon, then got some provisions from Lidl.

Our plan was to gently do the three locks down to Long Eaton in the cool of the evening.

All was well until Dockholme Lock where another large group of kids were swimming, although they opened the gates for us and were polite a few of them had no concept of the dangers of jumping into the lock with a 20 ton narrowboat and we had to suspend operations until they were out.

Joy was quite unnerved by this and called the police as we were concerned for their safety, especially in view of the lad who was drowned earlier that day at Colwick Country Park. The call handler had no idea where  Dockholme Lock was and although they promised someone would call us back no-one did! We arrived at Long Eaton just after seven and spent the night beside the main road again.

Thursday 5th July

A later start today, at 10 am and we made our way down to Trent Lock past a long line of moored boats through a section infested with blanket weed which wound itself round our propeller impeding our progress. Eventually we were there after watering up shared the lock with another narrowboat before joining the River Trent,

Another steam launch at Sawley

through Sawley Lock, past Sawley Marina and back onto the Trent & Mersey canal at Derwent Mouth lock.

By 12:30 we were moored in the shade at Shardlow and spent the afternoon and evening not doing very much at all.

 

Friday 6th July

Back to an early start today, leaving at 8:10 am hoping to do the last five broad locks before it got too hot. Aston lock was leaking very badly meaning the water level was very low all the way to Weston Lock (We reported this to C&RT but once again our call was not returned).

We cleared Stenson Lock by 13:00 with the help of two cheerful volunteer lock-keepers and planned on mooring at Willington for the afternoon but so had everybody else, despite trying a couple of likely gaps neither was big enough, one guy moved his boat to try and squeeze us in, but to no avail, so we pressed on for another hour and a half and stopped at Horninglow visitor moorings, on the outskirts of Burton on Trent which were completely empty.

Saturday 7th July

We decided to have a day off from boating today after the exertions of the last few days, I went off on a little adventure catching the train from Burton back to Long Eaton to retrieve the car with a bus ride either end. The train fare was £9.50 for a 30 minute journey but the carriage was quiet and air-conditioned, it took me via Derby and strangely I was facing forwards going there and facing backward to Long Eaton. It was an easy journey back by car which I parked in  the C&RT car park at Horninglow.

In the afternoon we travelled back to Derby to visit Dunelm to buy a breakfast bar stool, but the one we chose was out of stock but they had one at their Burton store so it was back there to make the purchase and it was £6 cheaper there, than it was priced at Derby!

Sunday 8th July

This morning I took the opportunity of varnishing a couple of pieces of plywood, which I had bought whilst at Langley Mill to make a gang-plank, more of which anon.

We took a trip down the town this afternoon and were surprised (and Joy was delighted) to find several charity shops open.

We had arranged with our son, Jeremy, to shuffle our car to King’s Bromley Marina this evening and had arranged to meet him there at half past five. So we drove down and waited, and waited, finally there was a phone call from him, “Aren’t you there yet?”, “Yes we’ve been here ages” He thought we were coming down by boat and was waiting at the marina entrance while we were waiting at the car park entrance!

He drove us back to Burton where we re-visited The Manzil Indian restaurant where we enjoyed another fine meal with him and his girlfriend Louise before returning us to the boat for tea and chat, oh and Jer solved an updating problem with Joy’s tablet and it runs much faster now.

Monday 9th July

Back to boating today with six narrow locks down to Alrewas
[Ol-ree-wos] following a guy in a cruiser which he had bought only 3 days earlier, he had a lady with him whom he had also only known 3 days.

She told Joy her ‘life-story’ at one of the locks and it transpired that she had been very ill and given only a few years to live, but her health had improved after following a vegan diet and was determined to live life to the full while she could!

Tuesday 10th July

This morning we left at 8:20 and before 10 and four locks later we were at Fradley filling up with water from the slowest tap we’ve ever used before mooring opposite.

The lock-keeper at Keepers Lock recommended The Laughing Duck Cafe which is adjacent to the water-point so we arranged to meet our friends Carol & Ted there for lunch, it was a good choice with good food, good service and reasonable prices, in fact Ted said it was the best Ploughman’s Lunch he’d had in years. The café is apparently under new management so well done to the new owners.

Carol & Ted joined us for the rest of today’s journey arriving at our new mooring at King’s Bromley Marina just after 3pm.

This week’s journey, 44 miles & 37 locks

In the Dock

It’s OK, I’m not up in front of the beak we are at  Langley Mill Boatyard.

Langley Mill Boatyard, is a traditional working yard based in the East Midlands at the junction of the Erewash, Cromford and Nottingham canals. The yard has been established for over 40 years, and is now under the ownership of Dan and Vikki Cauldwell, a hard-working, friendly couple whom we can heartily recommend.

Friday 29th June

Just after 9 am there was a tap on the boat & Vikki from the yard announced that they were ready to dock us, so we motored across into the dock and once positioned she and Hugh manoeuvred the gate into position to close the dock.

Supervising operations

The gate isn’t hinged (like a lock gate) but the steel structure actually floats, helped by air pumped into it and let out to let it sink once in position. Then the huge valve was opened and the water started to drain out dropping it into the river Erewash. At this point the traditional method of using shovelfuls of stove ash to plug leaks around the sides and bottom of the gate was employed.

Once settled on the steel bearers, and the access bridge securely in place for us to get ashore, Vikki set to work, first scraping then jet washing the hull.

Meanwhile I wasn’t idle and took the opportunity to replace the stern gland packing which stops water coming in around  the propeller shaft. Thank you, Joy for the flattering portrait, I think it shows my best side!

Meanwhile Joy was doing arty stuff and produced this lion using watercolour ‘crayons’  she also made some elderflower cordial from elderflowers foraged on Thursday.

When Vikki’s husband Dan came home, he welded on two new ‘sacrificial’ anodes (to minimise electrolytic corrosion) and cleaned off the sides with a rotary wire brush.
You can see the the valve that drains the dock in the centre right of the second picture below.

When it was a bit cooler, as the boat had got really hot in the sun, Vikki returned to apply the first coat of blacking, working until nearly nine o’clock, bless her.

Saturday 30th June

This morning Vikki cleaned off and blacked our tunnel band before the second coat goes on this evening.

We had visitors this evening, Maureen& Dave, friends who  live nearby and share our love for the Greek island of Skiathos (although I believe we have ever met out there once). We first ‘met’ through an early internet ‘Bulletin Board’ about Skiathos (long before Facebook), needless to say the island was the main topic of conversation.

Sunday 1st July

This morning Maureen picked us up at 10 and took us to her church (Newthorpe Baptist Church) where we were made to feel very welcome.

 

An interesting note from the churches history “In November of that year [1847] a baptismal Service was arranged for the first Lord’s Day in December. The baptism was to be in the canal. ” Made of stern stuff these old Baptists!

After the service Maureen took us back to her house where Dave had prepared a lovely Sunday Dinner for us. We spent the afternoon in their garden before returning to the boat.

Monday 2nd July

The blacking now completed, Vikki asked if we wanted to be back in the water today, or give it another day to cure/dry.  As they have another boat being docked tomorrow it made sense to wait until then.

I needed some adjustment to my new denture and a phone call to the dentist got me an appointment for this afternoon, so after lunch we had another trip to Nuneaton and I now have comfortably fitting teeth.

Lunch was home-made Greek Style Green Beans – Fasolakia Lathera with tiger bread from Lidl. There’s a recipe here although our’s comes from  the owner of Taverna Avli in Skiathos.

On the way back from Nuneaton we also dropped our car off at Long Eaton, ready for our journey back, and caught three buses back to Langley Mill. The connections worked out well and we had no more than a five minute wait at either stop.

Tuesday 3rd July

This morning we were floated and reversed out of the dry-dock, turned at the winding point disturbing the fisherman who consistently fishes next to the large yellow ‘No Fishing’ signs, then reversed [yes, I’m a glutton for punishment] to the wharf for a pump out, water & diesel.

That done it was straight ahead  for Langley Bridge Lock then we squeezed under Anchor Bridge 27 (or Bailey Grove Bridge as Dan called it) which was a tight call for us clearing the TV aerial & hose reel by a couple of inches and the roof boxes by a couple of inches more. There are a couple more low bridges on this canal  Long Lane Bridge No 25 next to Shipley Lock and Broad Street Footbridge near Long Eaton Lock.

At one lock we were engaged in conversation by a lady funeral director (so she informed us) who was very interested in how a lock worked as they were planning a narrowboat holiday next year with a view to purchasing one. As they were from Lancashire I told them about John Slee’s boat Epiphany which is moored in Garstang Marina it is newly re-painted and up for sale.

Oss in trendy outfit!

Just five locks today before mooring at 1:45 pm just outside Ilkeston before Potters Lock where I was surprised to find a couple of mooring rings hidden in the grass.

More Greek Beans for lunch, finish this blog and relax!

On the Erewash

We enjoyed the three days mooring allowed on the pontoons at Trent Lock and were amused by the Scout camp at the activity centre opposite whose’s favourite form of activity seemed to be canoeing or maybe kayaking, I never know the difference but they seemed to enjoy getting wet whatever it was!

It was quite an anticlimax when they departed Sunday afternoon but even that was exciting as there was no vehicle access to the centre so they all had to be ferried across the river.

Monday 25th June

Monday morning we said goodbye to the perpetual sight of Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station which is visible from all around the area. We saw no discharge from the cooling towers so guess it was not currently operating.

We swung left into the Erewash Canal and immediately negotiated Trent Lock. We did just that one lock and moored at Long Eaton and I caught the bus back to the marina to collect our car. We were moored alongside the main road so didn’t have the quietest of evenings but it was all right once the traffic died down.

Tuesday 26th June

In the morning we drove the car up to Langley Mill and returned by bus. We had about half an hour to wait but fortunately  we were able to shelter from the sun in the handily placed Great Northern Inn where we were able to quench our thirst.

The journey was quite easy with just one change at Ilkeston.

When we returned we waited until the heat reduced a bit and set off for Sandiacre to get three of the locks out of the way. Our mooring for the night  was against a road again with a junction adjacent, but we slept well enough.

Wednesday 27th June

Springfield Mill was converted to flats, back in 2006 from a Victorian lace mill.

We left Sandiacre before 9 this morning and did six locks, finding a nice mooring just past Potters Lock with open land opposite, so we spent the afternoon reading, sheltering from the sun in the shade of the boat. Later we heard a whoop of delight and looked out to see a young lad, who was fishing by our boat, had landed a fish but his delight turned to frustration as he couldn’t remove the hook from it’s mouth as it was leaping about so much. Eventually he was helped by a more experienced fisherman who was passing.

Thursday 28th June

Another five locks today took us into the Cromford Canal and the end of the navigation. We met several friendly fishermen on the way and we were engaged in conversation by a gentleman who told us that he remembered his boatman grandfather bringing coal from Birmingham, up the Erewash unto the Cromford.

The Erewash is a pretty canal, even the industrial areas seem well cared for and it’s good to see the old mills being used.

Sawley Missed!

Whatever have we been doing to have failed to blog for two and a half weeks?

Last Friday we drove down to Gloucestershire to collect our grandchildren for the weekend, we had a good journey down and visited several friends in Dursley before picking up the kids after school. The journey back was slow, to say the least, the Friday evening traffic on the motorways was horrendous.

On Saturday we all enjoyed Long Eaton Carnival and after the parade Iona & I went on the dodgems while Joy was persuaded to let a parrot sit on her shoulder, although she is not fond of flying creatures, this one was well behaved and kept still for her.

On Sunday we went to a car boot sale, part of the carnival event, had breakfast in the Marina Cafe before taking the grandchildren back to our son in Birmingham. Being Fathers’ Day, he treated us to a meal at the Red Leaf World Buffet in West Bromwich “Red Leaf World Buffet brings you an ever-changing variety of dishes from across the world. English, European, Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Thai… “, where we enjoyed a great meal despite them being very busy.

Red Leaf World Buffet

Part of the reason for hanging around in Sawley was so I could be in striking distance of Nuneaton for some dental work which was booked. In February I had a couple of teeth out and now was the time to get a new denture,  so for three Tuesdays this month I have been visiting the Cottage Dental Practice for impressions, bite checks and next week hopefully a set of teeth that fit nicely. I have every confidence that Sachin will achieve that. Incidentally I discovered he has a practice in West Brom immediately opposite the Red Leaf World Buffet!

This Tuesday evening we met up with our friends Hilly & Peter, who we know from Gloucestershire but they now live the other side of Nottingham.

We met at the Esquina Spanish restaurant in Sawley where we enjoyed their “Tapas Tuesday” offer, then went back to the boat and chatted about our families & old times.

 

 

After being in the marina for three weeks we have decided that this one is not for us. Although the facilities were so convenient, we were put off by the jetties being only half the length of our boat making even filling up with water or changing a gas bottle difficult, involving walking along the gunwales and, heaven forbid,  in an emergency we had no alternative exit to the back doors.  So we are considering elsewhere.

Before all that though we have an appointment to dry dock the boat  for blacking it’s bottom and so next week we set off to explore the Erewash canal.

Sawley Lock & our new hand-turned Yew tiller handle

Meanwhile we have left the marina this morning and are now on the River Trent moored up on the pontoons outside the Trent Lock pub.

and so to Sawley

Saturday 2nd June

Today we were away before quarter to nine as the weather forecast wasn’t promising for later today and set off through Shardlow, as we passed the moorings were we stopped last year we collected a woven bag on the prop and had to struggle on to  Derwent Mouth Lock before I could stop to clear it.

Another boat arrived while I was ‘down the weed-hatch‘ so we were able to share the lock with them and then we were on the River Trent, passing the mouth of the River Derwent [see, you guessed there was  clue in the name of the last lock]

These big rivers always seem scary to begin with, but in just 15 minutes we were at Sawley Flood Lock which strangely was closed but there was only about an inch difference in level. Immediately beyond the lock was Sawley Marina where we tied up outside.

We have been considering taking a marina mooring to have a few more ‘creature comforts’ during the winter months, so we decided to test the waters (so to speak) so we had arranged to spend some time here.  We reported to reception and were told our allocated berth, but when we got to it it was occupied by another boat.  Neighbouring boaters were very  helpful and suggested we temporarily moored in another free space while the management sorted things out.

We made ourselves at home and even had electricity to plug into. Oh, and the forecasters lied about the rain and we had a gloriously sunny, hot afternoon.

Sunday 3rd June

We woke up quite late this morning and after breakfast at The Marina Café,  got in our car (which we had moved up here with Barry & Ruth last month) and explored some of the surrounding area.

We got back to Sawley around 5 o’clock and decided that it was too hot to cook dinner so we went to the nearby Plank & Leggit pub for a Sunday Roast, we were told, as they we busy there would be a 30 minute wait which actually turned into 45 minutes. When the food arrived we were ready for it and despite the cauliflower being stone cold we enjoyed our meals. Two of the serving staff asked the usual “is everything OK?” but despite telling them about the cold cauli did nothing more than apologise.

When we got back to the boat our neighbours said they would have recommended somewhere else if we had asked, but they also had a message from the marina management to say our allocated berth was now vacant.

Monday 4th June

A few weeks ago I bought some second hand batteries on eBay, from a fellow boater, so now we are re-united with our car for a while we drove over to Great Haywood Marina to collect them. We called into Long Eaton on the way back for some shopping and while it is well served by Tesco, Asda and Aldi the town centre itself looks a bit ‘tired’.

On our return to the marina we moved our boat to our allocated mooring and now have new neighbours and a family of coots nesting next to us.

 

Fradley to Shardlow

Tuesday 29th May 

First thing this morning we boated up to Fradley Junction and dropped down Junction Lock  to moor on the 48 hour moorings but our planned breakfast rendezvous with Russell, Louiza & family came to naught as Russ was feeling poorly and called in sick, while Louiza was chasing one of their dogs who had done a runner, not a good morning for either of them.

At 10:00 am we left and at 11:15 we stopped at Alrewas for lunch and walked down to the village Co-op to do some shopping, then we continued for another four hours covering 8 miles and another 6 locks to moor at Horninglow to try to effect another rendezvous tomorrow with another couple of boaters.

Wednesday 30th May

Twizzle

At about lunchtime nb Twizzle arrived with Quentin & Sue whom we haven’t seen for a couple of years and we spent the afternoon chatting and drinking tea.

Quentin, Chris & Sue at The Manzil

Later we walked [yes, walked!] down to Burton upon Trent town and visited The Manzil Indian restaurant where we had an excellent meal with ‘bring your own’ alcohol from Aldi, just around the corner, they even called us a taxi to take us back to our boats at Horninglow.

Thursday 31st May

Today’s plan was to visit The National Brewery Centre for which we got a great deal on Groupon.  [£25 for a brewery tour and three beer tasting vouchers for four (48% off)]

The guide explains the complete brewing process

There was a guided tour available at 11am so we ordered another taxi but after the second bus came along we decided to hop on and it took us ‘all around the houses’ so we arrived somewhat late. We needn’t have worried though as no-one had arrived for the 11 am tour so the guide  offered to give us our own personal tour. We were joined by another group after a while and we had a great time ending, of course in the bar to sample the products as 3  x ⅓  pint vouchers were included in the price.

In the afternoon and evening we had ourselves a barbecue with Quentin & Sue and more chat and catching up.

Friday 1st June

Today we said goodbye to our friends about 10:30 and headed off in opposite directions promising to meet up again soon.

We had a long day’s boating covering 15 miles and 5 of those wide locks, we shared the first one, met boats at the second, but did the rest on our own. Tomorrow’s forecast was rainy so we wanted to get as far as possible and despite all the odds were able to tie up on The Clock Warehouse’s mooring for the night.

We naturally had a meal there, a rather nice sharing platter including “Jack sprats, honey glazed porkies [that meant chipolatas, apparently] , black pudding bon bons, mature Cheddar cheese, mushroom pâté, a wedge of Brie and a brace of pork pies. With wholegrain bread, toast, homemade tartare sauce, a tomato & red pepper chutney & onion marmalade.”

The only disappointment was that they only supplied 2 pats of butter for 6 slices of bread & toast and didn’t seem to know what a non-dairy spread was, still no problem for us as I just fetched some from the boat.

We had a good night’s sleep there,  grateful  for a safe and convenient berth.

Life as Liveaboards