Friday, 16 August 2013

What a Wally times 2

The day started with a leisurely breakfast and the usual preparation for the off when Keith lifted the hatch on the stern deck to stow something away when he noticed that we were awash with water in the bilges! Panic, where was it coming from? The stern tube gland had shown no signs of leakage and it didn't rain too much in the night. He started to mop up and soon discovered that it wasn't water it was DIESEL. Was the tank or the fuel lines leaking? No. Then a drip appeared on the upper side of the sloping slipper stern from underneath the newly fitted Fuel Purifiner. This device is designed to remove water and solid particles from contaminated diesel by centrifugal action. These can then be drained off by releasing a tap with a screwdriver. This he did yesterday but did not turn the tap fully off therefore it dripped throughout the night.
Before we could go anywhere it all had to be mopped up. So all the boards in the engine room were taken up in preparation for the task that lay ahead. Obviously not a job for the Captain but for the 1st Mate.

Dianne is the smallest member of the crew to fit down here!

Two hours later we were ready for the off with the smell of diesel lingering throughout the boat. We got to Kidderminster to do some shopping in canalside Sainsburys ready for the WE and Keith went off to Maplins and Halfords to purchase a cooling fan for the batteries and to replace the water powered brush that was lost in Bristol City docks on day1.
It was then a steady run back to Stourport from whence we started.

A pair of Kingfishers carved from the stump of an old tree
The last lock

Well, this is journey's end that originally began in Stourport  on 19th June and has seen us travel through 11 counties, 456 miles and 256 locks! Well not quite journeys end, remember the title of today's blog?
We left one of cars in Stourport ready for the return journey to Bristol. Keith suggested offloading some stuff from the boat and into the car. I'll just get the keys he said. Keys, what keys? We searched high and low for them to no avail. What now? A quick phone call to our neighbour Andy, who had kindly been looking after our house, revealed that they were hanging up in the key cupboard. Wally act No2!!
One of us had to return to Bristol by some means in order to retrieve said key. Out came the laptop to look at bus and train times. Dianne has a rail card and so volunteered to make the journey.
The train should got into Parkway at 1pm and a bus to home was caught almost immediately. A cup of tea and pick up keys, it was time to drive car back to Stourport. Normally this takes in the region of 1hr 15mins but, because of all the holiday traffic, took 2hrs 15mins!
All's well that ends well and we were soon packed up and on our way back to Bristol after a very memorable holiday.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Beginning of the Rundown

Only two days left now of our epic journey that started some six weeks ago and what a journey it has been.
Today we started with the usual intake of water and the emptying of the cassette that was showing the red light last night!
Approaching the junction with the Stourbridge canal the Towpath Telegraph was working overtime as we were getting messages that it was closed due our younger element friends draining the pounds. There was no evidence of a queue as we passed the junction however.

Spotted in a canalside garden. Made from wire mesh.

As we approached Kinver lock there was a man out walking his dog. Not an ordinary walk though. The dog seemed to take great delight in retrieving a stick thrown into the canal. Nothing unusual in this you might say. When the stick was thrown Buster ran at high speed towards the canal and took a ginormous leap of faith and landed half way across before retrieving it and then being hauled out by its owner with stick still in mouth. Incredible as its not particularly narrow here either!

The Vine pub at Kinver is open again after a lengthy closure.
As we emerged from the lock there were two members of Wilson's Canopies taking a break. I shouted out "yes, it's one of yours" which produced a wry smile.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's log store.

We were moored at the approach to the moorings at Wolverley lock when a boat pulled up that we last saw whilst travelling down the River Severn from Stourport to Sharpness. Hey, its Hazel and James Bell on nb Gabriel, fellow Boaters' Christian Fellowship members. During a quick natter whilst tying up, their cat jumped off and within a few minutes had caught a mouse that was only a few feet away from us. There's efficiency for you. They have kindly invited us aboard later for cheese and wine after we have eaten in the Queen's Head in the village.  

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A day for meeting people

It was only just over a mile to the famous set of Bratch locks so a leisurely start was made. It must have been feeding time at the greyhound kennels as we passed as practically every dog was barking.
Around the corner we went and a shout came from Dianne on the bow  "It's Trevor". It was our friends Trevor and Alison on their narrowboat Gloucestershire Lass who were mooring for breakfast after coming up the Bratch. Trevor was a curate at our church in Westbury on Trym some years ago and now has a parish in Somerset. Our meeting meant that we lost our slot in the queue and had to wait an hour for our descent but it was worth it as we hadn't seen them for such a long time.

Our rendezvous for Michael, Dominic and Arabella was the Wagon and Horses at Wombourne as it is practically canalside and on a main road so easy to find by car. After lunch in the pub we took them for their first narrowboat experience, half a mile south to the next lock that was a staircase lock. Lots of activity in the lock and once we were through they continued on with their journey to Manchester.
The deep staircase lock

 Tonight we are moored at Hinksford and are booked in to the Old Bush Inn for dinner.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Noisy M6

Sunday 11th August

Today we will be having the M6 motorway for company for most of the day as it hugs the canal as we go southwards.

Leaky Locks
Ramming Speed!
You would think that they would come up with a more appropriate name!
We enjoyed peace again when we reached the famous Round House at Gailey that was once a toll keeper's watch-tower.
All means of transport are seen on the canals.
We have noticed that there are more and more canalside pubs that have closed. Last time we passed through Hatherton junction Misty's Bar was thriving with families sat outside enjoying the location. Alas, today it is firmly closed. Quizzing a resident moorer as to why, came the reply that nobody uses the bar during the winter. Shame!
Today's plan was to moor at Cross Green that would then put us within a few miles of Aldersley junction. This would allow us to pass through during early morning as we have been stoned here by lads in the past.
Just doing some paint touching up when Richard and Lesley on their newly launched boat that we saw craned into the water, moored up behind us. After a few wines aboard their boat we decided to book into the Fox & Anchor for an evening meal. Not the best quality food that we enjoyed this holiday but we all had a good natter and  then we broke into some more wine later aboard Fruit of The Vine. Hic!
Another steam boat that passed us whilst we were moored

The power room

Complete with smoke
Monday 12th August
Dianne had arranged for her son and grandchildren to visit us on our boat on Tuesday on their way up to Manchester. We agreed a venue and then set about planning our next overnight stop so that we could be within easy striking distance of the arranged meeting point on Tuesday morning.
A beautiful row of Poplar trees as we approached Aldersley junction  

They usually fly off when a boat passes
Soon after passing the junction Keith noticed a marked change in the engine note as we passed through a bridge hole. 
This was the reason.....a coat around the propeller!
Tonight we have moored up at another of our favourite spots. It's at Dimmingsdale lock. Its unique in that you can moor for up to 5 days on the opposite side of the towpath just before the lock and it is so peaceful with just the sound of the wind in the trees and the canal overflow just behind us.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Market Day at Penkridge

Last night we moored at the end of a straight leading up to Deptmore lock and were later joined by a pair of lads pushing a wheelbarrow full of fishing gear. They unloaded about 50yds behind us and proceeded to erect a small tent. They are here for the night we thought; shall we move? No. If fact they were as quiet as mice and greeted us with a good morning at 8am.
At 7am we heard the thump, thump, thump of a single cylinder engine, possibly a Bollinder. Dianne looked out of the porthole and realised that it was pulling a butty behind it with nobody on the tiller. Surely he can't be single handed. If so it will be slow progress following him later. We gave him 90mins whilst we had breakfast before we cast off.
We soon picked up the roar of the holiday traffic on the M6 that stayed in close proximity to us for some 5 miles until we reached Penkridge. Here we moored up to visit the market that is held here each Wednesday and Saturday. It was huge, over 100 stalls just like the one at Eastville in Bristol before the Rovers ground was sacrificed for an IKEA.
We had lunch in the canalside Boat Inn before deciding to stay the night in Penkridge.
Keith decided to dismantle the interns of the wood burning stove and decoke the chimney flue with a purpose made circular wire brush on a rod. A lesson to be learnt here. Never attempt this task if there is a wind blowing. The dust goes everywhere! It was a good job done though as it will go some way to explain why the fire has been such a pig to light earlier in the year.
We were then visited by Lesley and Richard, the owners of the boat that was launched at Great Haywood on Thursday, who passed us earlier. Their boat is a "sailaway" which means that it has an engine but is not fitted out except for sprayfoam insulation. They intend to do this themselves so we were delighted to show them through our boat in case there were any ideas that they might want to adopt on theirs. We will Email them the photos we took of the launch from the bridge we were standing on at the time.
We are moored outside a local's garden and they came out to pass the time of day with us and told us of a good Indian restaurant to visit this evening. It's called FLAMES. Booked for 7:30!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Shugborough Hall

Shall we stay or go? This is a beautiful place but our water level was getting low and our toilet cassette level was getting high! A compromise. We turned around and went back up to Great Haywood Junction where the Anglo Welsh hire company has an Elsan facility and a water tap. We did the business. This movement got us closer to the National Trust property Shugborough Hall that we planned to visit.
In order to get to the entrance to the grounds we had to cross on foot a Pack Horse bridge named Essex bridge that spans the river Sow that joins the Trent.

Shugborough Hall is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield and is a magnificent building. It is set in acres of immaculate grounds that have remained largely in tact since 1693.


Shepherds Monument

The Chinese House

Wots going on?

Spinning local wool


There is also a walled garden that has been restored to its former glory.
Feeling a bit walked off our feet, we caught the train shuttle back. All in all a very good £3.50s worth!
We said a fond farewell to Tixall Wide and motored on for a few miles in order to put some charge back into the batteries.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

A Day of Surprises

Carrying on up the Trent and Mersey canal we came across this plastic boat tent with the sun just catching its reflection in the water.

Then a skeleton on the doorway of a house. This has been there as long as we can remember.
Approaching the Armitage Shanks factory home of all our toilets!
The rejects.
Would you like to live here? Rugeley Power Station.
Brindley Bank Aqueduct

With its legend.
Dianne couldn't resist this bargain at a bridge hole!
When we reached Great Haywood junction we turned left onto what is to be our last canal of the holiday, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. We were delighted to see moored up our old friends on the "The Cheese Boat" who travel the system selling Welsh cheese and chutneys. Just had to sample and buy.
A short distance along we came to our most favourite spot on the whole canal system, Tixall Wide. Its an amazing and delightful stretch of water more resembling a lake than a canal. This is a very popular spot and is difficult to find a spot especially when we arrived at 2:15pm. We asked a boater coming the other way if he noticed any free spots. He said "yes, I have just cast off, feel free". Full steam ahead and we slotted into his space right opposite the Gatehouse. This is run by the Landmark Trust and can be hired to stay in. We have been moored here before and have seen the setting sun right through the windows on both sides of the building. Quite a sight.

We were running a bit short of provisions so we walked back to the junction in order to visit the superb farm shop.
When we got to the junction we saw this strange sight on the road bridge leading to the farm shop.
A narrowboat sat on a low loader!
Then a crane arrived followed by the boat.

A launch is imminent we thought so we stuck around. Then a Hercules flew over at super low level. What's going on?

Lift Off!
Nearly there......
So there we are. You never know what the next day will bring. Roll on tomorrow!
310 miles and 199 locks thus far.