Gailey to Gnosall

WEJourneyMap-40396Apologies for the recent radio silence, EE having decided we had used our monthly allowance (I don’t think so!) and our back up, tethering on GiffGaff, was impossible due to the poor signal, so no internet to upload our blog… Prepare for a catch-up edition.

After waiting at Penkridge until Saturday morning for our post to arrive, the rain arrived with it and so we just moved up through Filance Lock to the 5 day moorings overnight, as we had already been on the 48hr moorings too long. Incidentally, Penkridge market is great and was worth braving the drizzle.

Sunday morning was a great improvement and off we went, but no sooner than we had set off another boater hailed us and asked if we could oblige him with a jump start which we duly achieved. Our good deed for the day done it was off towards Gailey, there were about five locks on our way, all pretty easy and the M6 closed in again for a while as the map shows.

Our Pearson’s guide tells us that after the motorway was built, the lockkeeper at Rodbaston Lock couldn’t stand the noise and moved out of his cottage which was subsequently demolished. The  two picture are taken just yards apart and in the second one you wouldn’t guess there was a motorway behind the trees.

DSCN0667As we approached Gailey with it’s distinctive round lock house we noticed that the lock gates were open and we realised that a kind soul had spotted us coming and opened them for us. Whilst in the lock we ascertained that we could get a pump out at the adjacent J.D. Boat services and fill up with water just opposite. Having done all that we decided we would  stop for lunch, but in the event we stayed there for the night and let Catty have a roam in the nearby woods. Meanwhile I dealt with a slight diesel leak which I had discovered whilst jump starting that boat and fitted the warning panel for my new Fuel Guard water separator.

It turned out that it was Cosford Air Show and we were treated to some flying displays including a Vulcan roaring overhead, needless to say I wasn’t quick enough to get any photos, but the Shropshire Star reports on it here, and here is a YouTube video. A reminder of when I was a lad living near Boscombe Down and saw them on an almost daily basis.

WEJourneyMap-40414We have had some lazy days lately but on Monday we covered about 15 miles, we first headed south to Autherley Junction then turned north, through the stop lock (just about 6 inches difference in water level!) and we were on the Shropshire Union canal.

The Shroppie is a broad (but not enough for wide beam boats) straight waterway characterised by cuttings and embankments being the last trunk narrow canal route to be built in England. It was not completed until 1835 and was the last major civil engineering accomplishment of Thomas Telford.

We stopped for a cuppa at Brewood (most appropriate as it’s pronounced Brewed) but the mooring was in one of Mr Telford’s cuttings and a bit lacking in sunlight so we decided to cruise a further hour to Wheaton Aston. We passed Dave on Free Spirit Rising, another ex-employee from Heyford Wharf and nb Timewarp again on the way. Then it was through the only lock in 25 miles (apparently) and soon after we found ourselves a berth.

IMG_20150615_202208001_HDRSo a long day, for us… seven hours! After that we thought we deserved to treat ourselves to dinner at The Hartley Arms, it obviously has a good reputation as it was packed with diners but we didn’t have to wait too long for our meal and very good it was too. After we had a short walk to the village shop and an early night.

After yesterday’s exertions today started around 10 am, first we reversed to Turner’s Garage where, reputedly, the cheapest diesel on the canal system is to be purchased at 58.9p/litre. We met nb Timewarp there (yet again) regrettably we couldn’t squeeze in more than 45 litres, but every little helps!

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We stopped for lunch after the short Cowley Tunnel outside the Boat Inn at Gnosall it seemed a nice place and we were debating whether to move on or not, when Catty decided it was a nice place too and escaped through the kitchen window and went exploring. She returned large as life about half hour later by which time we had decided to stay. We walked into the village and patronised the village stores, later we might patronise the village pub too!

To Tixall and beyond

The nice thing about being retired is that we don’t have a schedule to keep to now, so when we moved just a couple of miles to Great Haywood and visited the fabulous Canalside Farm Shop and Cafe (they have some lovely fresh produce and we came out poorer than we intended ;-0) we opted to stay there for the night. In the evening Dave & Lesley, who we had been moored next to at Wolesley Bridge walked past so we invited them in and spent the evening chatting about everything and anything, including the fact that I wished that I could splice a rope properly. Lesley promptly offered to come back in the morning to show me, which she did, coming back equipped with diagrams and Swedish fids!

DSCN0639After my instruction we filled up with water etc. and then turned through the junction bridge onto the Staffs & Worcs (Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal). Tixall Wide is a broad stretch of the canal which the owners of Tixall House insisted on, so it looked like an ornamental lake, as part of the deal for routing the canal though their estate. Ironically all that remains of Tixall House is the impressive gatehouse, which is visible in the distance.

DSCN0646We passed through several locks and for most of the way the M6 was our near companion although we couldn’t always see it. There was an attractive Turnover Bridge to photograph swapping the towpath from one side of the canal to the other.

We paused at Park Gate lock to visit Midland Chandlers and buy some rope to practice splicing, then after passing through Penkridge Lock found ourselves a mooring where we shall stay for a couple of days as we need to have our post forwarded Post Restante to the local Post Office.

IMG_20150611_122949869_HDRWhilst here we have explored the town which has a good range of independent shops, including a proper hardware shop where we got cotton sash-cord, and had lunch at The Boat Inn who took 45 minutes to produce a burger, although it was nice to sit outside with a pint in the sunshine whilst we waited, but seriously guys, why serve an outside meal on a wooden breadboard so the salad blows away and the chips get cold?

DSCN0656I am happy to report that the Eye Splice has been mastered and I have made a couple of short mooring straps (or is it strops or maybe warps?) with eyes on either end, like this anyway!IMG_20150612_093657459sml
A little more challenging was the ‘Turk’s Head’ a largely decorative knot, used for Boy Scouts’ woggles, but in our case to decorate and protect the paint on the swan-neck from being damaged when opening the hatch in the counter (back deck).

It took me a while to find a set of instructions which I could understand but this set at Ropeworks worked for me.

IMG_20150612_101132761We passed Tony and Jacqui on nb Timewarp on our way here and yesterday afternoon they caught up and moored behind us. They were colleagues when I worked for Oxfordshire Narrowboats at Heyford Wharf  and they are now selling brass tiller pins from their boat.

Wolesley Bridge

DSCN0556Firstly, as promised here is a photo from our mooring outside The Plum Pudding, but perhaps it doesn’t convey the strange sensation of being above the road traffic too well.

There was a stiff breeze blowing as we left which helped us out of our spot but didn’t make for pleasant boating for the rest of the day.

IMG_20150606_102010321_HDRThe first task was almost immediately to put Joy ‘ashore’ onto the towpath as we had go through the Armitage Tunnel, now this is another of those tunnels which have had the roof removed but it is only single way working so it’s as well to send a crew member ahead to check it’s clear. Joy simply sent me a text to say ‘OK’, what did we do before mobile phones?

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The power station heralded our entry into Rugeley and we were lucky enough to find a space on the town visitor moorings as another boat was just leaving.

We were welcomed by the sound of a brass band, which was very kind of them but apparently it was the town’s Charter Fair that day and probably accounted for the strangely dressed folk whom we saw later in the indoor market. Rugeley is a pleasant town and we were able to do a shop in Morrison’s (there’s also a brand new Tesco near the canal) and get Joy’s prescription from Boots.

IMG_20150606_141120885While we were waiting for that we got ourselves a snack at Holly’s Cafe in the aforementioned market, it had a delightfully chaotic atmosphere with market traders and customers alike popping in and out. Sue the proprietor seemed heavily into charity work and was offering a roast pork dinner, followed by a pudding and tea or coffee all for £6 per head with £1 going to special care baby unit appeal (bless her). We however contented ourselves with a pasty and a sausage sarnie. Joy was asked if she’d like tomato with her sausage, but was surprised to get tinned ones! Perfectly fine, if a bit messy!

The wind continued to buffet us as we carried on after doing our shopping, so we found ourselves a somewhat sheltered mooring at Wolseley Bridge, where some folky folk were having a barbeque and a sing-song.

We knew that fellow bloggers Brian & Diana on nb Harnser were headed towards us but it was not till later we realised they were moored just the other side of the bridge and were able to have a brief chat as they passed us in the morning.

Now, I can’t seem to find out if this place is pronounced ‘Wools-ley’ like the cars or ‘Wol-sey’ either way we liked the mooring here so much that we have stayed a couple of days, done some odd jobs, varnishing for me and washing & painting for Joy (the arty type).

This morning we have been for a walk around the nearby Wolseley Centre which was very nice walk and we took loads of photos. There is also a Museum of Buildings which didn’t seem to be open and I can find no information about it except in this blog called Lichfield Lore.

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Tomorrow we shall be off, but not far, just up to Great Haywood Junction and on to Tixall Wide.

Plum Pudding for Tea?

DSCN0538A less eventful day today as we left the Coventry canal and headed for the Trent and Mersey. Well.. We were missing an essential, Joy didn’t have a Pearson’s Guide book for the area, we tried to purchase one at the first Marina we came to, but the access gate from the towpath was locked, so we called at Streethay Wharf (an old fashioned boatyard with some boats having serious welding work done on them) but they had every guide but that one,  however we topped up with diesel at 69p/litre.

A little further along we saw a large pump extracting water from the canal and (presumably) irrigating a crop a couple of fields away.

DSCN0549At Fradley Junction we did the usual chores of topping up with water & disposing of rubbish before turning left and immediately up the two locks assisted by a cheerful volunteer lock keeper at each.

One more lock today, Woodend Lock and it was sandwiches on  the move for lunch, through Ravenshaw Woods where there were masses of Rhododendrons.

 

DSCN0552We had intended to make for Rugeley, but as we came into Handsacre the skies began to darken so after passing the famous Armitage Shanks works, producing fine sanitaryware since 1817, don’t y’know?,

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we came across The Plum Pudding with moorings for patrons, interestingly this is an Italian Pub/Restaurant, so it was decided; stop and sample the new Piattini Menu! (Italian Tapas)

We were made very welcome by Giuseppe and his staff and enjoyed sampling six different dishes between us for just £10.95 per person. Food just like ‘nonna’ or grandmother used to make!

It’s quite odd being moored on an embankment looking down on the road and pub below, I’ll try to take some photos tomorrow.

Oh! That Cat!

DSCN0510We left our spot, moored between two pubs and a road, where we had spent a surprisingly peaceful night and set off at about 9:30. As soon as we were underway Catty assumed her normal position on the slide, supervising proceedings. Shortly after taking this picture at 10.02 at Tamhorn Park Bridge she decided she needed to get down and the subsequent whiff confirmed that she had needed to use her poo tray.

 

DSCN0531A little while after Joy went to make a cuppa and said she couldn’t find Jade, regular readers may have a sense of deja vu here, but we weren’t unduly worried, but at Whittington Brook (where the Birmingham & Fazeley changes back to the Coventry canal (see note 1) we got a length of fishing line tangled around the prop, which necessitated a stop. We used the opportunity to thoroughly search the boat, Catty was nowhere to be found! But where could she have got off?

Of course we needed to go and look for her, the problem was, there wasn’t a turning point until Huddlesford Junction 30 minutes further on, so up and back to where we were took an hour and then it was back scanning the towpath all the way. We met another boat at a bridge and asked if they had seen a cat on the towpath, they said no, but then the guy called back, “But I saw a grey one sat on the back of a boat, way back” which raised our hopes.

Finally we were almost back to the bridge where we had last seen her and there she was, trudging along the towpath by a blue boat, she meowed loudly when she saw us (something she hardly ever does) and as we pulled the boat in she jumped straight back aboard. We have no idea how or when she escaped as we hadn’t stopped, it could only have been when we went through a bridge or got near to the bank or another boat but why didn’t we see her as she would have had to have come past us.

aAs it was over an hour to the next winding hole (South) we opted to reverse about half a mile to the next winding hole (North) where we were able to retrace our route back to Huddlesford Junction and were gad to moor up shortly afterwards, near the Plough Inn where we had a restorative beer and a couple of tasty ciabatta for a very late lunch.

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So then it was back to chill out on the boat for the rest of the warm afternoon. Phew!!!

Note: 1) Wikipedia

Some maps show the canal as a northern and a southern section, connected by a stretch of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, but others show the through route all as the Coventry Canal. This reflects a complicated period of ownership and re-leasing when the Coventry Canal company was in financial difficulties during construction.

How to find a Tame Otter

DSCN0478On Monday evening we enjoyed a lovely meal aboard Penny and Ray’s boat and opened a bottle of fizzy wine to celebrate the new doors being hung.  We had intended to move on yesterday but the weather was dull in the morning and by the time the sun came out the wind had become really quite strong, so we decided to stay another day and enjoyed Penny and Ray’s company for another evening, playing ‘Balderdash’ on this occasion (like TV’s Call my Bluff, if you’re old enough to remember!)

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IMG_20150603_112902122_HDRThis morning was lovely and sunny so we prised ourselves out of bed and were away before 9am.  It was a pleasant cruise down past Alvecote Marina to Glascote Locks. It was sad to see Steve Hudson’s boat building yard looking deserted following his death a few months ago, he was renowned for the quality of his boats.

The locks are infamous for how slow they fill, but we met boats coming the other way which always helps. Someone has immortalised the problem in verse and fixed it to the fence, there were volunteers painting and weeding at the locks too.

The Tale of Leaky Lock

             Just a note, to let you know, that this here Lock, is very slow.
            So take a breath, relax and smile, (you might be waiting here a while.)
            The problem is, (or so we’re told,) is lock Thirteen is very old.
            Her paddles shot, through wear and tear, the water pours out here and there.
            We’ve had them fixed, then fixed again, by some of Waterways finest men.
            And for a while, the Lock works well, until again they leak like hell.
            Now if this pause in your sojourn, has made you stop and think and learn.
            That on the “cut”there is a pace, that’s not for those who want to race.
            So if you’re rushing, running late, this tale of Leaky Lock you’ll hate,
            If you’ve no time to gently float, then why a bloody Narrow Boat?

The Bard of Glascote Locks

DSCN0493Soon we were crossing the Tame Aqueduct and on our way to Fazeley Junction where we kept right, leaving the Coventry Canal & joining the Birmingham & Fazeley, past C&RT’s offices at Peel Wharf and out into the countryside were it was hard to believe you were so close to the conurbations of Tamworth & al.

 

 

DSCN0500We motored into Hopwas about half past one and found there was a mooring available outside the Tame Otter and opposite the Red Lion pub, so it would have been churlish not to patronise them wouldn’t it?

So it looks like this is were we will stay tonight.

Through the Locks & on to Polesworth

DSCN0457The problem at Lock Number 6 was fixed by 1:30pm on Sunday, but by that time we had arranged for friends Carol & Ted to visit as we had not seen them for quite a while. The weather forecast was not good so we had decided to stay put for the day, however by the afternoon the weather had improved and by the time our friends left we considered doing the locks in the late evening sunshine. We decided, however, that as tomorrow morning’s forecast was OK we would wait… it turned out to be a bad decision!

We started off before 9am Monday morning (yes, I know!) and no sooner than we reached Lock No 1 it started to drizzle! On the plus side a boat had just come up the flight so all the locks were in our favour and only a couple needed topping up due to leakage. Lock 6 has a working side pond, these ponds are water saving devices which can save half a lockful of water each time a boat goes through, if the boater understands how to use them. Working side ponds are so rare now not everybody does!

The locks completed, we pressed on to Grendon Bridge where we topped up with water and disposed of rubbish. On the way we passed Grendon Dock, still with the old butty moored alongside. The half timbered cottage there  seems to have had a later extension removed, hopefully it will be restored it’s to former glory.

We had intended to moor up at Polesworth to do some shopping but the only two spaces were both marginally too short for us, so we continued, past Pooley Hall and found a space on the visitor mooring at Pooley Country Park. You can’t miss the pithead winding wheel marking it out from the canal.

Pooley Hall Wheel

Although difficult to visualise it now, “Pooley Country Park was once Pooley Hall Colliery which became the North Warwickshire Colliery in 1951 when the mine workings from Alvecote, Amington and Pooley met underground. It was the first mine to generate its own electricity (from excess steam) in the early 1920s, and also the first to have pit head baths, which were opened in 1928. Former Pooley and North Warwickshire miners have donated memorabilia, which can be seen in the Visitor Centre.”

The main reason for our stop here was to collect our wonderful newly painted doors from the fantastically talented Penny Taylor-Beardow who has a mooring in the old colliery loading wharf. Aren’t they wonderful?

This morning it was a shopping trip down to the village  on my bike.