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.

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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.

Fazeley to Fradley

Friday 25th May

Today was wet, wet, wet,  so we watched a couple of old Michael Caine films this afternoon [Funeral in Berlin & Million Dollar Brain] neither of which we had seen before.

We heard from Paul & Rosemary today who had had a few problems of their own on the BCNS Explorer Cruise, the photos explain it all.

Being moored opposite the former C&RT offices meant we were almost opposite  our friends  Peter & Chris’ apartment which overlooks the empty mooring basin.
A phone call to them got the answering machine, but this evening they called us back having been away at their caravan and despite just having got in, they invited us round for a very enjoyable Chinese takeaway from Wongs.

Saturday 26th May

Today we caught the 110 bus into Tamworth and met up with Linda & Cookie from our moorings, we were going to do this yesterday but the weather put paid to our plans.

Our bus and theirs arrived within 5 minutes of each other, Cookie was well miffed as he found that his bus pass had run out and he had to pay! We went into town where the market was on and then had lunch at The Bole Bridge  a Wetherspoons establishment, which despite being really busy served up a very acceptable meal.

Last of the Summer Wine cast taking a break in the Castle grounds. 😀

Mid afternoon we said our goodbyes and caught our return buses.

Sunday 27th May

Peter & Chris offered to take us to church today so we surprised a few of our friends there who thought they wouldn’t be seeing us again so soon.
A lazy afternoon was accompanied with rain and rumbles of thunder.

Monday 28th May

We pushed across to the water point this morning and Peter & Chris came to see us off the premises by 10:30.

Barbecue at Banbury – Easter 2015

Just a few minutes into our journey we met a couple we first met back in April 2015 and hadn’t seen for ages,they are now selling bedding plants from their boat.

Naughty Geese

A little further on the Lichfield Transmitter Mast came into view which can be seen for miles around, the ‘notch’ in the treeline in the header photo is where the A5 cuts through.
A flock of geese were making free with the farmer’s young cereal crop, bet he’ll be pleased.

 

We stopped for a late breakfast at 12:45 just short of Huddlesford Junction next to a field of curious cows, then pressed on to arrive at Fradley Visitor moorings at half past three at the same time as a fibreglass cruiser and there was room for us both on the last length of piling.

After a bit we walked up to the junction and visited the Kingfisher Canalside Cafe where our friend Russell works, being a Bank Holiday they were incredibly busy in the kitchen so we have arranged to meet up with him and his family for breakfast tomorrow.

Leaving Birmingham

Tuesday 22nd May

A late start today, not leaving Star City before noon, we set off back down the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, we negotiated the three Minworth locks having a bit of trouble getting out of the middle one as the water level was low. There have been ongoing problems here since the embankment was repaired (read more here)

Just one visit to the weed hatch today, but we were glad to be approaching Curdworth and see open countryside around us.
We thought we might moor there but the only likely spot was occupied by fishermen so we carried on down eight of the locks to moor at The Dog & Doublet at Bodymoor Heath.
We had a well earned drink in their garden and looked at menu but they had run out of several choices and we weren’t inspired to order so cooked bacon, mushroom and pea risotto back on the boat.

We will probably stay here tomorrow too and have a ‘rest day’. It’s good to be able to boat at your own pace and have a day off when you want to.

Wednesday 23rd May

As planned we stayed put today, but a rest day it really was not as a Microsoft Windows update caused the laptop to crash and I spent several hours installing a backup.
The problem was described on The Register.

[Users] go through the three stages of installing this update: frustration, fury and despair.
The affected users report that after accepting the request to “restart and install” Windows 10 and waiting the requisite hour or so for the update do its stuff, users can find themselves staring at a blank desktop with no icons. An alarming message stating that the Desktop file could not be accessed is then shown.

Thursday 24th May

A short day travelling today as we left The Dog & Doublet and descended three locks. C&RT volunteers were about maintaining the flowerbeds, but helped us through the last lock.

It was then a straight run into Fazeley, skirting Kinsgbury Water-park and glimpsing the entrance to Drayton Manor through the trees.

We called into Fazeley Mill Marina for a pump-out, water & rubbish disposal, as it was a cooler morning, they had lit the stove in their office and it was very cosy in there.

Turning left at the junction we were soon moored up and after lunch we caught the Sapphire 110 bus which took us directly to Asda at Tamworth to get some groceries.

We’ll probably stay here for the weekend as rain is forecast, well ther is a Bank Holiday coming up!

The BCNS Explorer Cruise

Saturday 19th May Wolverhampton to Pelsall Junction 

To quote from C&RT’s website:

The Wyrley & Essington Canal is nicknamed the Curly Wyrley, due to its twisting course. Its peaceful, meandering waters see few boats, but it is popular with walkers, cyclists and anglers.

We were moored alongside nb Augustus overnight and being on the ‘inside’ we waited for them to leave and got away at 9:20 and in just 10 minutes we turned into the Wyrley & Essington Canal at Horseley Fields Junction.

The first impression of an industrial environment was balanced by the appearance of a shiny stainless steel ‘bridge/scupture’ spanning the abutments of an long gone railway bridge. If you look carefully at the picture above, you can see the reflection of our boat roof in it.

At  Wednesfield there was a Sainsburys beside the canal where several of our fellow ‘Explorers’ stopped for supplies, but we travelled on for an hour or so before having to stop & clear our propeller having collected a piece of material around it, a theme that was to continue throughout the day often having to engage reverse to try and throw off the rubbish, but often failing and having to do it manually.

We took a lunch break on secure moorings outside The United Kingdom pub, and had lunch aboard, meanwhile at the pub they were setting up the TVs to show the Harry & Megan’s wedding. As we continued after lunch Joy was able to catch some of the coverage as the reception was so good it didn’t seem to matter which way our aerial was pointing.

Very soon we were at  Sneyd Wharf, quite an attractive little spot with some residential moorings, where several of our group were lunching.

 

Onwards through  Birchills Junction and Goscote, with scenery varying from industrial decay to open countryside and just before 5 o’clock we arrived at Pelsall Common, a beautiful spot, feeling totally frazzled after 7½ hours and a dozen trips down the weed hatch.

After discussing the problem with Paul, who works at Rugby Boats, we decided it may be due to the design of our boat as no one else had anything like as much trouble.
Our R & D hull has what they term a ‘Slipper Stern’ which is designed to pull water up over the prop from the bottom of the boat, obviously it has the effect of hoovering up the rubbish too.

Just as we arrived we had a phone call to say our son Jeremy and his family were here to meet us and were waiting at the Fingerpost Inn on the edge of the common. I had sent Jer on a mission to Toolstation to buy a Patio Weeder which had been recommended as a prop clearing tool if suitably sharpened.

We had a mediocre meal with them, their steaks being overdone and my cheese and potato pie being mostly potato with melted cheese on top then returned to the boat to chill out for a bit before they left.

 

Sunday 20th May Pelsall Junction to Longwood Daw End canal

We thought an early start might give us a better chance as the water wouldn’t have been churned up too much, in the event we were the third boat away and we did have a better day cruising up to Catshill Junction and explored the Anglesey Branch, which was very pretty in parts with amazing views of the countryside.

We returned to Catshill Junction and took the Daw End canal, mooring at the  Longwood Boat Club where we had a barbecue and were entertained with songs by Phil Clayton of the BCNS.

Monday 21st May Longwood to Star City

Overnight we decided that as on Tuesday the plan was to return to the Wyrley & Essington Canal, where we had struggled so much we would avoid that, either by diverting via Tipton or leave the cruise and head back to Fazely which is what we decided.

We left Longwood  at 8:00 am and descend the Rushall locks (assisted by BCNS lockwheelers for which we were most grateful), and by 11:00 we turned left at Rushall Junction onto the Tame Valley canal waving goodbye to the others who turned right towards Walsall.

 

The difference was remarkable, we were able to make good progress down the very straight Tame Valley canal and before 1:00 pm we were at the top  of Perry Bar Locks watering up and have a bit of lunch.

The 13 Perry Bar lock were well maintained and  not too difficult, halfway down we met nb Rune coming up, which meant most of the remaining locks were in  our favour and of course the locks we had come down were right for them.

At the bottom lock we got talking to a guy who lives in the lock cottage and said that since a WW2 bomb was discovered and detonated nearby at Aston, water from the lock has leaked into his cellar.

The next section took us under Spaghetti Junction to Salford Junction and we reversed down  Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal to moor outside Star City again.  As we had the mooring to ourselves I took the opportunity to finish the repairs to our cratch table which involved some drilling, while joy did a jigsaw.

So we have put the last few days down to experience, and to be fair, the Explorer Cruises can only help to popularise the BCN backwaters, just not in our boat!

 

 

Give My Regards to Broad Street

Wednesday 16th May

We spent this morning wandering up to find The Bullring as we had to visit a bank and explored the adjacent markets. In New Street I bought a couple of short sleeved shirts in Primark, as mine seem to have shrunk since last summer, Joy got a couple of tops too and on the way back we discovered Cherry Red’s Cafe Bar where we sampled a swift half each of Hogan’s Cider and Salopian Brewery’s Divine Comedy (a dark mild)

On our return to the boat I tried on my shirts and found that despite being the same size one was too small so I had to go back and exchange it (“Oh that will be because it’s a ‘Muscle Fit’ Sir” … “What, you mean it’s cut too small???”)

Paul and Rosemary arrived mid-afternoon feeling exhausted having had a much harder time coming up the locks than we did.

Thursday 17th May

We declared today a Rest Day, but Rosemary and her daughter still managed to hit the shops whilst we contented ourselves with cruising up to the water point and turning around, a short walk to Tescos and washing & polishing one side of the boat.

Friday 18th May

We left in convoy with nb Henry Chichelle at 9:20 this morning, through Gas Street Basin & Broad Street bridge taking the New Main Line out of Birmingham. This was the M6  of it’s time, with toll island to charge boats for the privilege of the new direct, often die straight, route.

The only locks today were the Factory Three which we reached about lunchtime and in less than another couple of hours we were at another Broad Street bridge, this time in Wolverhampton where we winded and moored up with all the other boats taking part in the BCNS Explorer Cruise, which starts tomorrow.

After an informal meeting we repaired to The Great Western a proper ‘real ale’ pub with believe it or not a railway theme!

Life as Liveaboards