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.

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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!

Berthed at Birmingham

Monday 14th May

Up and away by 10 past 9 today and we had the remaining seven Curdworth locks under our belt by 11:00. We found these locks quite heavy and offset some way from  the towpath, it was then an hour’s cruise into Minworth. It’s hard to believe you are so near Birmingham as the countryside was still very rural, and as we approached Minworth we had farmland on one side and a lorry yard on  the other.

The three Minworth Locks were notable by the amount of rubbish in them and as we left the last one and went under a bridge we stopped dead, investigation found the cause to be a hi-viz jacket around the propeller!

We were now definitely surrounded by industrial buildings, which was the reason for the canal in the beginning, we actually passed under one factory.

Salford Junction was reached at by 2 o’clock and we reversed 500 yards into the  Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal and found ourselves the only boat on Star City visitor moorings for a while. These are secure moorings with gated access to the attractions of Star City where we got ourselves a selection of Southern Indian street food for tea.

Tuesday 15th May

Off at 8:15 this morning as we had 24 locks to do but we hadn’t moved a 100 yards before we had a fouled prop again! That cleared we turned left at Salford Junction back onto  the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and the eleven Aston Locks. All these locks were empty for us and we didn’t see another boat until we reached the top at 10:30.

After just about half an hour’s respite we were at the bottom of Farmer’s Bridge flight and were pleased to be greeted by a Volunteer Lock-Keeper who offered to help us up the whole flight, an offer we gladly accepted.

From the bottom we could see the BT Tower and we wended our way between and even under buildings most of the way up.

Reaching the top we thanked our helper and shook him warmly by the hand. We then turned left passing Gas Street Basin to find ourselves a mooring just past Worcester Bar, NOT a pub but the site of a trans-shipping point between rival canal companies.

According to Wikipedia: The Birmingham Canal, completed in 1773, terminated at Old Wharf beyond Bridge Street. When the Worcester and Birmingham Company started their canal at a point later known as Gas Street Basin the Birmingham Canal Navigations Company (BCN) insisted on a physical barrier to prevent the Worcester and Birmingham Canal from benefiting from their water. The Worcester Bar, a 7 ft. 3 in. wide straight barrier 84 yards long was built perpendicular to the run of the two canals. Cargoes had to be laboriously manhandled between boats on either side.

Once moored  up at 12:40 we treated ourselves to tapas and drinks at Bar Estilo at The Mailbox.

Tomorrow we will have a rest from boating while we wait for Paul & Rosemary to arrive.

A Sociable few Days

Hello! It’s seems like it’s time for a catch up post as we have had a sociable few days.

Friday 11th May

We left Hawkesbury at 10:00 am and had an uneventful journey to Atherstone.

Near Mancetter we noticed that one of the moorings was for sale, Garden Farm, complete with boat and a smallholding, but out of our price range I’m afraid. We were tied up at Atherstone by two o’clock and later went down the town for some shopping and came back via the chip shop.

Saturday 12th May

We invited our (land-based) neighbours, Deborah, Jon & Izzy,  from our Grendon mooring to a trip down Atherstone locks as despite living next to the canal they had never been on it by boat.

We left Atherstone about 11:30 and made our way down the locks, with help from the volunteer lock-keepers, stopping at the Kings Head for lunch. The pub has been renovated since our last visit but we sat outside and enjoyed our panninis.

After lunch we tackled the rest of the flight with Jon taking the helm and Izzy working the locks with me. We dropped our guests off at their house and moored up near Linda & Cookie’s boat where they had prepared a barbecue to share with us. They came into us for the evening for more tea and chat.

Sunday 13th May

Up and away by half past nine, we topped up with water and collected our post and we were on our way to another lunch appointment.

At Ammington we saw our first signets of the year, I Iike Ammington as it seems to embrace the canal with most properties looking good from the canal. This morning was sunny but there was still a cold wind but by the time we got to Fazeley Junction coats were off but it was not quite shirt-sleeve weather.

At the junction we turned right and moored opposite the old C&RT offices, and more importantly opposite our church friends Peter & Chris’ flat overlooking the basin.

Chris was waiting to help us moor up and soon we were sharing a gammon joint with them which Joy had been cooking as we travelled along. After a three hour lunch break we turned in the basin entrance and headed back to the junction where we joined the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal and started the ascent into Birmingham.

It seemed hard going up to Curdworth Locks where I decided to take a look down the weed-hatch where I found a piece of very pretty green material wrapped around the propeller, after removing that progress was a lot better!

 

After three locks we moored near the Dog & Doublet and had another visit from Chris & Peter who brought along Charles & Anne (also from church) and we enjoyed a nice evening with them. Anne brought a print for us, we need to frame it now!

Meanwhile we have been kept updated by Paul & Rosemary on their progress, they are catching us up having reached Springwood Haven, but realistically I think it will be central Birmingham before we see them.

 

The Best Laid Plans…

Who’s stalking who?

After I posted the last episode of our blog and Mr Morrison had made our delivery, there was I minding my own business when a familiar boat passed our window; it was Ian & Ali AGAIN, this time towing a decrepit wooden boat behind their boat Truro so I went and helped them work the boats through the bottom lock.

The boat in question was originally a ‘butty’ (unpowered) but at sometime in it’s past had been converted to a ‘motor’ by having an engine fitted and the back end modified. They were delivering it for it’s new owner to a mooring in Braunston where we trust it will restored to it’s former glory.

Wednesday 9th May

On this morning’s schedule was a short hop to meet up with our friends Paul & Rosemary at Calcutt top lock. We set off fairly leisurely passing Napton Windmill, the obligatory photo was taken and we turned left at Napton Junction and who did we spy???
Ian & Ali walking along the towpath carrying two trays of eggs!

On arriving at our rendezvous point I sent Paul a text to say we’d arrived and shortly after he rang to say that they had been delayed and couldn’t leave until Saturday so suggested we went ahead and they would catch us up.

 

After some deliberation we decided that we wouldn’t tackle the broad locks without them so turned at the adjacent ‘winding hole’ and made our way back to the junction and headed for Braunston where we found Ian & Ali had delivered the boat to it’s new home.  At Braunston Junction we took another left and made it as far as Hillmorton top lock where later, you guessed it, Ian & Ali caught up with us again.

Thursday 10th May

Bright and early! We were away before 8:30 and by 9:00 we were down all three locks with another boat in the parallel set so were able to help each other through. We had decided to make for Hawkesbury Junction today and we did the seven hour journey non stop, Joy made cheese, potato & leek pasties on the way for our lunch and Greek, lamb  Giouvetsi for our tea.

This part of the Oxford canal seemed much busier today, lot’s of ducklings about now and a few moorhen chicks too. On the way we passed this smart little Stewarts & Lloyds tug, Vesta.
It was sunny all day but a biting, cold wind.
We moored up at 5:20 pm next to Tony & Jacqui on nb  Timewarp who used to work at Oxfordshire Narrowboats with me and now sell brass tiller pins & fudge from their boat.

 

Life as Liveaboards