Cruising down the River…. Severn

Saturday 25th June

DSCF1291Just a 20 minute journey from our overnight mooring in the countryside and we were at York Street lock being met by two cheerful volunteer lock keepers  who ‘saw us through’ to Stourport Upper Basin.

As we entered the basin we spotted nb Avon which used to be moored at Lower Heyford and I believe was used in filming a 1981 episode of Worzel Gummage.
We wound our way through to the Lower Basin and joined the queue to descend to the Severn.

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I guess we had to wait about an hour while two boats went down and one came up, but when it was our turn it took about 20 minutes to transit the two double staircases of locks with the help of our cheerful chappys.

Once out on the Severn we were soon at our first Severn Lock, Lincomb Lock, they look HUGE after our little narrow canal locks.

DSCF1302Holt Lock and Bevere Lock negotiated as well we arrived in Worcester to a welcoming party of Dragon Boats who were racing. Their safety boat asked us to wait until they started to race then basically  chase them down the course so we would be out of the way for the next race.

Once past the rowing club we found a mooring under the railway bridge, which we had to pay for by buying a £4 ticket at the nearby car park.

DSCF1312The first train over the bridge almost frightened the life out of us as it was so loud, fortunately they didn’t run through the night!

After we had settled in we had a visitor who we hadn’t seen for about 25 years; Phillipa was a member of the Cornerstone youth group which we used to run when we were much younger and we have re-connected through Facebook.

Sunday 26th June

The weather forecast today bode well until late afternoon so we decided to try to make it to Gloucester non-stop. There was only Diglis and Upper Lode locks to go through and we made good time covering the 30 miles in 6 hours 40 minutes. We wasn’t speeding, honest, although we did almost reach 6 mph at one point  the down stream speed limit is 8 mph.

Finally we reached Gloucester Docks lock just before 3 pm and went up into the docks with nb May Pink, and whilst they successfully reversed onto a pontoon we were blown out of line by the wind and eventually conceded defeat and went in forwards. We are moored up right outside the Dr Foster’s pub and thought that it might be noisy, however as soon as we were settled it started to pelt with rain and as I write this there’s not a soul sitting at the outdoor tables.

We plan to spend a couple of nights here and then head down towards Slimbridge and no doubt meet up with lots of local friends.

Kinver to Kidderminster

DSCF1249We left Kinver just before 9 this morning and found we had a stowaway, he was just sat on top of a locker and was in no hurry to leave.

Just an hour into our journey we were hailed from nb October “Are you Jeremy’s parents?” we replied that we were and were assured that he was a Nice Guy.

Surprised smile

DSCF1262The four locks were accomplished quite easily, Debdale Lock has an interesting cave beside it and apart from meeting some poorly supervised child canoeists right on a bend shortly afterwards had an uneventful trip into Kidderminster.

We moored up right next to the retail park had some lunch and soon we had a phone call to say we had visitors. Our friends Hazel & Edward were travelling back to Gloucestershire and had arranged to meet us.

We enjoyed catching up with their news and after they had left did a shop at Sainsbury’s.

DSCF1265It had started raining so we decided to cook ourselves some tea and maybe stay overnight. About quarter to eight it cleared up and against Joy’s better judgement I persuaded her to move on, away for the town and about nine I could see the evening sun lighting up the trees on the hills and later a magnificent rainbow appeared.

At 20 minutes to ten, just before Stourport, at Upper Mitton we moored up for the night behind nb Recalcitrant which we last saw at Hillmorton on our way up to Atherstone.

The latest boating we have done for a long time!

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Cider with Joysie

This morning passing joggers and dog walkers had us awake at 5:30am, and despite our best efforts, further sleep evaded us and we were ready to leave before eight. We thought we might miss the rush, which we did, but nearly every lock was against us!

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Just look at the height of those gates!

Before we left we bottled some elderflower cordial which Joy made yesterday.

It was a pleasant morning though, our first lock was the quaintly named Bumblehole Lock and the second was Botterham Staircase, where one lock leads straight into the next, dropping us down over 20 feet. From there it was a steady progression of ten more locks to Kinver, our destination for today.

At Bridge 36 is a beautiful private garden belonging to the owner of the adjacent Ashwood Nurseries, however a party of ladies was being shown around.

devils den
Devil’s Den

Near Rocky Lock we kept an eye out for Devil’s Den, but as it’s rather overgrown at the moment this 2002 photo shows it in a less overgrown state.
This photograph is copyright
Stephen Atty and is from CanalPlanAC. It is Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence
No one seems to really know why it’s there, carved out of the soft sandstone, although our Pearson’s Guide suggests it may have been once used as a boathouse.

 

DSCF1238We passed through Stewponey with it’s toll house by the lock and C&RT workshops alongside. The name Stewponey is apparently a corruption of a long gone pub called The Estepona Tavern named after the landlady’s home town in Spain. Rev Sabine Baring-Gould in chapter 2 of his 1898 novel Bladys of the Stewponey gives a succinct account:

“An old soldier in the wars of Queen Anne, a native of the place, settled there when her wars were over, and, as was customary with old soldiers, set up an inn near the bridge, at the cross roads. He had been quartered at Estepona, in the south of Spain, and thence he had brought a Spanish wife. Partly in honour of her, chiefly in reminiscence of his old military days, he entitled his inn, ‘The Estepona Tavern.’ The Spanish name in English mouths became rapidly transformed into Stewponey. The spot was happily selected, and as the landlord had a managing wife, and provided excellent Spanish wine, which he imported himself, and with which he could supply the cellars of the gentry round, the inn grew in favour, and established its reputation as one of the best inns in Staffordshire.”
Read more at http://www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk/stewponey-got/story-28472973-detail/story.html#TgRcGd3kylREHo9F.99

On arrival at Kinver we were fortunate to find a mooring and promptly decamped to The Vine and enjoyed a light lunch of battered mushrooms & brie wedges along with a shandy for Joy while I was tempted to a pint of Orchard Pig cider, a heady 6% brew with an equally heady £4.20 price tag!

Returning from the pub we found a guy measuring up a boat for a cratch cover so Joy asked if he had a piece of material to patch a couple of pin holes in our cover caused by sparks from our chimney (oops). He kindly went and found us a bit and only charged £ 2 and if only we’d had the foresight to ask which company he was from would have given them a plug. [Will try to find out tomorrow]

Once more into the Bratch dear friends

Our generator arrived back safely by TNT courier, it arrived strapped to a pallet and while I went to get a knife to remove it, the driver had carried it to the boat pallet & all!

DSCF1179This signalled our departure form the Fox & Anchor, and off we went towards Autherley Junction where last year we turned off and explored the Shropshire Union, but this year it was straight on towards Stourport after a stop for lunch. I noticed the clearness of the water hereabouts  and just a bit further I noticed a strong flow of clear water from a culvert, I later discovered this was Autherley Sewage Works Outfall … Oh well!

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Just half a mile away is Aldersley Junction, what an opportunity to get confused! Some serious dredging work was going on along this stretch and we had to pass the dredger carefully.

 

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We had heard that our son, Jer was headed this way and at Dimmingsdale Wharf we met him coming in the opposite direction and stopped to chat for a few minutes. He was on a mission moving a friend’s boat so Joy sent him off with a home made takeaway,  Spetsofai (Greek sausage casserole)

 

There are some interesting features at Awbridge Lock but there seems to be some conflict between ‘Elf & Safety and the listed status of the lock resulting in an awful looking temporary/permanent handrail made of scaffolding being put in place, next to the attractive cast iron walkway.

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We intended to stop before Bratch Locks but on arrival the Lock Keeper was still in attendance and saw us down the flight and we moored at the bottom.

Pausing at a Pub

I know, it will be a shock to you, but somehow we find ourselves moored outside a pub! Just before we set off on our cruise our 15 month old Hyundai Generator failed, to cut a long story short, it had to go back to Genpower, because the dealer from whom we bought it, so we would have a local service agent, told us they didn’t really know much about them and it would be about 3 weeks before they could look at it. Anyway I had an email yesterday afternoon to say it was ready and had to give them an address to deliver to, so The Fox & Anchor was ideal.

DSCF1162Today we covered 8 miles & 7 Locks in 5h20m. Our last lock was at Gailey where we celebrated with ice creams from  the gift shop in the keeper’s watch tower.

Apparently it was necessary because the view northwards along the canal was obscured from the lock-side by Gailey Bridge.

 

 

DSCF1164aAt Calf Heath the canal passes through the  SI Group, Inc. chemical works (parent company based in Schenectady, NY U.S.A. hence Schenectady Works Bridge) I digress however.
I’ve always been puzzled by their sign saying no mooring or stopping for 200 meters (sic) when the signs must be about 1000 metres apart. I know our American cousins don’t ‘do’ metres  but that’s a big difference.

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Just past Hatherton Junction we spotted a familiar boat moored, Nene Pilot which used to be owned by a boater from Banbury.

 

 

DSCF1173We were almost at the pub when we spotted another familiar boat nb Timewarp, and stopped to chat with Tony & Jaquie who used to work at Oxfordshire Narrowboats with me and they now sell brass tiller pins from their boat.

So here we are until we get our generator delivered, let’s hope it comes tomorrow.

Penkridge Bound (another day, another canal)

The weather forecasters were right because it rained all morning and we stayed warm and dry aboard the boat, but by noon brave souls were starting to leave the mooring above Haywood Lock so we thought we should make a move too. We motored up to the water point where I filled our tank while Joy crossed over the road to the Farm Shop returning with veg and cake :0)

DSCF1129Jobs accomplished, we reversed to make the turn onto the Staffs & Worcs Canal, past the Anglo Welsh hire boat base and on through Tixall Wide, by this time the drizzle had stopped but it was by no means warm!
We reached the old junction with the Stafford Branch, which it is hoped will be restored one day as The Stafford Riverway Link, and paused for a bit to escape more rain.

 

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IMG_20160620_191328082_HDRIt was then on through Acton Trussell and a couple more locks to pause at Midland Chandlers and purchase some more fenders as my brilliant idea to fit quick release clips caused the loss of one already, so it’s back to stainless steel shackles to attach them.

 

Another boater tipped us off that there were moorings available just before Penkridge Lock and by 6:15 pm we were moored in exactly the spot recommended, alongside this magnificent carving.

On to Great Haywood

We enjoyed our meal at The Swan last night, we had a burger apiece, simple well-cooked pub grub and more than either of us could eat!

IMG_20160619_094048950_HDRThis morning we were up with the lark (well almost) Joy walked up and opened the swing bridge and we swung left onto the Trent & Mersey Canal and almost immediately were at the first lock, where we were helped through by a volunteer lock-keeper and likewise at the second lock. At Wood End lock another volunteer was recording usage and once through that was the end of the locks for the next ten miles.

The next familiar landmark was the Armitage Shanks ‘sanitary ware’ factory and the following ‘tunnel’ which required Joy to walk ahead to ensure nobody was coming the other way. As it happened I think all the boats had passed us previously as there seemed to be a convoy coming the other way before we reached there.

DSCF1117We passed Spode House moorings with the house partly hidden behind the trees, once owned by the Spode family of pottery fame.
We breezed on through Rudgeley, then crossed the Brindley Bank Aqueduct over the Trent and on to our next objective the fuel boat Dexta at Taft Wharf where we replenished our diesel tank and wished we had waited to buy our gas there too as their prices are so good.

At Wolseley Bridge we stopped for tea and cake and to let Jade out for a while, we decided not to stay overnight as the TV signal was poor so pressed onwards to Great Haywood despite the threat of rain. The forecast was right and we got a bit damp but managed to get the last free mooring just above Haywood Lock where we spent a peaceful night despite the rain and adjacent railway line.

Catty & The Night Visitor

So there we were at Fazeley Junction, sleeping the sleep of the just, when at 2:45am an almighty caterwauling erupted in the back of our boat. I tumbled out of bed to investigate and in my half awake state found another cat had found its way through the cat flap, and Jade was having none of it. The fluffy grey visitor was at the top of the back steps unable to get out again until I released it, even after it had gone Jade was still growling and moaning until Joy calmed her down. Needless to say we couldn’t get back to sleep for some time and when morning came we didn’t feel like rising very early.

DSCF1108After restoring our energy with a cooked breakfast we did manage to leave by 10:30am and we were under way, headed for Fradley.
Last night I managed to extend the tiller arm by a couple of inches, by drilling another hole and fitting a brass sleeve which gives a slightly more comfortable arm position when I am perched up on the back like this. Joy insisted that I had made the tiller too high for her until a tape measure proved it was exactly the same height!

DSCF1107Joy made some home made pasties for lunch-on-move with the remains of the Scouse avoiding the temptation to stop at The Plough for lunch.
Poor Jade’s traumas hadn’t finished however as we had to use our air horn to warn an oncoming boat we were emerging from under a bridge and the poor animal nearly jumped out of her skin. Two boats were just leaving Fradley visitor Moorings as we arrived so we swiftly took their place.

DSCF1111Jade has been (cautiously) exploring the moorings, although she did get a wet tail when she jumped back on board to avoid a passing dog and Joy accidentally pushed her off the gunnel as she turned round to see her. (Cruel woman!)

Joy’s been doing some watercolour painting while I’ve been fettling the electric horn since we arrived which has been working only intermittently, hence the air horn on standby.

Tonight we’re planning to eat at The Swan (aka Mucky Duck) this evening, a real traditional boatman’s pub right on the junction which has been there as long as the canal I suspect.

… and they’re off!

DSCF1052Yes, just one month after arriving at our new mooring at Grendon Wharf we left this morning to commence our Summer Cruise. We had been waiting for our postal voting papers to arrive, Chris’ has but Joy’s hasn’t despite being requested on the same day but we decided we were unlikely to see it until after the weekend so will have to figure out some way of getting it later.

 

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We reversed up to the water point to fill up and had to wait while a passing boater finished washing his boat (!) then it was more reversing, through the bridge to the winding hole to turn around and commence our journey.

 

 

DSCF1071An hour’s boating and we had seen these cute little Shetlands, passed under the busy railway line where we saw three Virgin trains flash past in as many minutes, through Polesworth, then Pooley Country Park and on to Alvecote where we stopped for lunch while we waited for the boatyard to have theirs before emptying our  poo tank and purchasing a bottle of gas to see us through the next couple of months.

 

Alvecote_Priory_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1029086As you approach Alvecote there are tantalising glimpses of the old Alvecote Priory but we have always failed to get a picture because of the trees, so here’s one from Wikipedia.

By David Rogers, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6043485

 

 

Onwards through Ammington and the two Glascote Locks, where we met boats at both, which helped to share the work. Very soon we were in Fazeley where we spotted a sunny mooring opposite Peel’s Wharf and C&RT’s offices so we decided to call it a day.

After Scouse1 (cooked in our new pressure cooker)  & Red Cabbage for tea we went for a short walk into the town and found a plethora of takeaways, three pubs and a Tesco Express within a few hundred yards.  We bought a packet of butter and then really spoiled ourselves with a bag of radishes and an aubergine from the reductions shelf at 3 pence each!

I did a little gardening afterwards, as the tomatoes on the roof were looking more than a bit windswept, I drilled some holes in my planter and inserted some canes to give extra support and pruned off the most straggly bits (I’ve no idea what I’m doing really!)

Tomorrow we plan to move on for a few hours to Fradley Junction, no sense in rushing things!

1) Scouse is a type of lamb or beef stew. The word comes from lobscouse, a stew commonly eaten by sailors throughout Northern Europe, which became popular in seaports such as Liverpool. Wikipedia

Settling In

We have spent the last couple of weeks settling into our new mooring, getting to know the neighbours, registering with a local doctor and exploring the nearby towns.

We have had our first visitors, our good friends Carol & Ted who came on a mini cruise with us up to Alvecote where we had lunch at the Samuel Barlow pub before returning home.

Last week we celebrated living aboard Wrens-Nest for six years and went out for a Greek meal at Zorbas in Coventry. We had Tzatziki and Saganaki (fried cheese) for starters and for the main course I had some of the tastiest Yemistes (stuffed vegetables) I’ve had, even in Greece, Joy wasn’t feeling that hungry so had Spanacopittes (Small filo pastry parcels of spinach and feta)

We have bought a couple of items of garden furniture and been to a few car boot sales where we acquired a small electric mower which has helped us to tidy up the grassed area by the boat just in time to have a barbecue on it with some of the local boaters.

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We have been to Tamworth Baptist Church a couple of times now and last Sunday we met the minister’s daughter-in-law, Emma, and her new baby who we knew when she was a teenager back at our old church in Gloucestershire, Wotton Baptist, what a co-incidence!

Soon we will be thinking of setting off on our summer cruise, so watch this space for the next exciting installment.