Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Summer At Last

The days are definitely getting warmer as this cruise has progressed. Today has been the sunniest and the wind has dropped making for some very enjoyable cruising. Now we are back on the Staffs & Worcs canal the traffic has increased with our first occurrence of having to wait at a lock, and it was a staircase!
As we are ahead of ourselves we decided to moor overnight just short of Kinver at a very picturesque location that have on numerous previous occasions been occupied by the same group of "continuous moorers". One of their boats was a very sad looking wooden hulk festooned with blue tarpaulins to help keep the rain at bay. You could see daylight through the rotten planks and indeed last year when we passed there was an aged battery mounted on the roof supplying a bilge pump; and it was in action. Later that year the boat had sunk to the bottom of the canal and to our delight has now been removed and now we are in splendid isolation at long last.
A few years ago The Vine that is canalside at Kinver lock had gone out of business and lay fallow with the threat of housing being built on it. It was to our delight that is has now been re-opened under new management and so we were compelled to sample the locally brewed Crystal Ale.
Only woodpeckers and the ducks to listen to tonight!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Back on the Staffs & Worcs

A leisurely start this morning as we have not far to travel today. Took advantage of the sunshine to prep some small rust spots that are the result of little dings getting on and off the well deck over the last four years. Yes, Fruit of The Vine is four years old now having passed her first MOT with flying colours. The inspector did notice one thing though There was no plate next to the fuel filler to say DIESEL. A quick trip to Lime Kiln chandlery soon put that right though.
There is a marked absence of traffic on the cut this year. We got to Bratch at 11:30 and the landings were empty. The lock keeper informed us that they had one boat up and one down and we were the third. Times must be hard me thinks.
We are moored at Wombourne as there is a Sainsburys one side of the canal and a pub on the other.
Post lunch Dianne settled in with some reading whilst Keith went off on his Brompton to explore the local area.
Supper in the Wagon & Horses tonight.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Flying Down to Aldersley

The visit to The Great Western last night was a success. The pub is steeped in railway memorabilia with genuine information castings and photographs on the wall. Indeed even the kitchen has a sliding door marked "Booking Office". The only downside was that I arrived an hour too late at the end of their beer festival with all the real ales sold out!

A deep intake of breath and we were prepared to tackle the Wolverhampton 21.
The single handed cruiser we moored behind last night set off one and a half hours before us so all the locks were set against us but we managed 7 in the first hour and then we met one coming up so the next couple were set for us. It wasn't long before they were against us again which meant we were catching him up! It was a good descent achieved in 3hrs 5mins.
We stopped off in Crompton on the Staffs & Worcs canal opposide what used to be Lime Kiln chandlery now moved to Stourport. Our gain! Dianne shopped for essentials and came back armed with a box of delicious Fish and Chips from Pepe's Plaice.
Two locks further on we moored up to re-visit Whightwick Manor. This is a NT property that was the home of Geoffrey Mander of Mander's Paints. The house was designed by his father Theodore and mother Flora and boasts original William Morris furnishings. Recently discovered in the cellar is a box of original 1920s 110 volt AC light bulbs a couple of which are on display.
The day was competed with a meal in the local Mermaid pub.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Long Birmingham Main Line

Oops the Thetford red light came on in the night. Good job we were only a stones throw from an Elsan! Chance to top up with water as well as we embarked along the wide straight Birmingham Main Line towards Wolverhampton interspersed with Gauging Islands and some interesting bridges.
Thanks to Ali and John on nb Triskaideka we are now able to publish some of the photographs we have taken by inserting the camera's memory card directly into the laptop.

Only three locks today but the pound at the middle lock at Tipton Green was almost dry with a multitude of rubbish dumped in it including a fridge, cones and the inevitable shopping trolley.

There were some softer sights though.........

When we got to our moorings at Wolverhampton top lock we were greeted by a helpful gentleman occupying a very smart pink coloured cruiser who told us all about the immediate area including the location of an Asda, the home ground of Wolverhampton football club (Molineux) and a must visit pub later on this evening, The Great Western that boasts a hoard of railway memorabilia. Can't wait!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Exploring Birmingham

After a lazy start we ambled over to the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham where every street is lined with shops selling all kinds of watches, rings, necklaces and every other type of jewellery you would want. It was a good place to for Keith to pick up a good quality watch strap.
Matthew Boulton moved from Sheffield to Birmingham when the steel industry collapsed after the end of the Napoleonic war. In Birmingham there were no trade Guilds so artisans had the freedom to develop their business skills. The Jewellery Quarter was gradually established using whole families many of whom were relocated from Digbeth. The area is unique as there is no other historic townscape like it in the world.
From there we visited The Pen Room that is the home of the Birmingham Pen Trade Heritage Museum. We were shown how pen nibs were made using hand operated fly presses. The museum houses literally thousands of different designs of pen nibs some quite ornate. The trade placed Birmingham at the centre of pen making during the 19th Century establishing over 100 companies and kept it there until it's decline after the 2nd World War.
Truly Birmingham has a lot to offer the tourist and there will be ample for us to see during our next visit.

The Rain Cometh

Shortly after negotiating Tardebigge top lock and emerging from the tunnel afterwards, it started to rain and did not stop until we were able to occupy the last mooring spot at Cambrian Wharf at the top of Farmer's locks. This is one of our favourite spots right in the middle of Birmingham that allows us to explore all the popular attractions that this vibrant city has to offer.
We decided to eat out in one of the popular Indian restaurants in Broad Street that we have visited before. It turned out to be in their Happy Hour so a pair of good value curries were enjoyed in warm, comfortable surroundings. Would like to transport this establishment back to Westbury on Trym!
Before returning to the boat were had a beer in the famous Tap Et Spile that opens to 4am in the morning! Interestingly, they only supply plastic glasses after 11pm.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Tardebigge

After being serenaded to sleep from the Musak coming from the Queens Head garden last night we arose early in an effort to beat the two hire boats that were pointing in the same direction as us, up the Tardebigge flight. The locks would have largely drained overnight and would be set in our favour. 8am and the first engine started up. Not ours and so we were beaten to it! Oh well, another piece of toast and let them get some distance on. 8:25 and it was our turn to begin the climb in the thick, thick mist. As we gained height it gradually cleared and we were able to enjoy the magnificent scenery offered to us.
A C&RT employee on a quad bike kept buzzing us as we worked the flight until at lock 46 I flagged him down to report the steel rubbing plate was almost hanging off one of the bottom gates. How he didn't know before this is beyond me as it would taken months, if not years, to get into that state.
Flight completed in 4 hours, crew exhausted and confident she can now run a 10K after walking forwards and backwards between each lock.
After lunch it was time to explore so over the 580yd Tardebigge tunnel we walked and down to the Old Wharf, the home of Anglo Welsh hire boats. A well deserved ice cream was had.
On the way back we visited St Bartholomews church that commands a prominent position on the hillside above the tunnel. On our last visit we were able to view inside but alas, this time it was locked.
Back to the boat for a leisurely pint sat out in the well deck enjoying the early evening sunshine. Still a bit chilly at night though, so the log fire was lit for supper.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

No Photographs

Been clicking away with the camera over the last few days taking lots of interesting photees but when it came to download them onto the PC for the blog, discovered that I had brought the wrong connecting lead! Sorry.
Left our delightful moorings in Droitwich basin this morning and worked through the town's swing bridges towards the dreaded M5 tunnel. With tiller pin removed (the highest point on the boat) we were able to slip under the gauge bar with a good 100mm to spare so confidently proceeded to the tunnel with heads ducked, No problem, so this meant we could proceed with the rest of our planned circular voyage.
We got to the last three locks on the Droitwich Junction canal and were met by a C&RT locky volunteer on a bicycle. He took us up through these as they operate in a different way to the norm. They use sideponds that fill the lock to half full then they are closed and the top paddles are operated as normal. This saves half a lock full of water each time the lock is used. Trouble with sideponds is that the water flows in from the side, hits the wall the other side and pushes the boat up against the lock wall scraping the side on the way up; hence the term "Lock Rash".
At the junction we noticed that all the residential boats previously there are all gone now.
After passing through the five Astwood locks on the Worcester and Birmingham canal we stopped off at Stoke Wharf to empty the Elsan. The only place we could find to moor in order to carry out this operation was in Stoke Bottom lock. This is the home base for the Black Price hire company and there were no less than 34 of them moored 3 or 4 abreast! Must be a grim start for the season for the hire business.
We are moored between Stoke Top lock and Tardebigge Bottom lock outside The Queens Head. This pub has been extensively and tastefully refurbished since our last visit in September 2012. Needlessly to say we have booked in for an evening meal before tackling the Tardebigge flight in the morning. (It is the longest flight of locks in the UK, comprising 30 narrow locks on a two and a quarter mile stretch).

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Overnight the flow down the Severn had increased considerably so we set off back through Bevere Lock and asking the locky what the air draft was under the M5 tunnel up at Droitwich. 1.8 mtrs was his reply. The height of our tiller is 1.77mtrs with the tiller pin withdrawn, so game on!
Plugging the flow we soon reached the first lock at the junction with the R Severn, doubles I'm afraid.
We met a C&RT man at one of the locks further up and he said that it had been extremely busy over the Bank Holiday weekend but only met one boat coming from the opposite direction and that was from our marina in Stourport, Bewdley Jester. The last time we came up through the Droitwich canal was during the year it was re-opened in 2010. Then it was heavily reeded and in places room for only one boat width. Now, however, it is much wider over its whole length. maybe its because we are at the beginning of the growing season, Indeed, as the canal stretches away in the distance one can see a definite green line where the new growth is approx 2ft tall set against the dead brown colour of last years crop.
Arriving at the moorings in Vines Park we were able to reverse into the end slot in pole position. Just as were preparing to think about eating we were conscious of the continuous variations in engine noise as a Canal Club boat was trying to reverse into one of the last available slots between two other boats. The wind did not let him achieve this as it blew the bow around and so he moored on the very outside on the easiest of mooring points. Trouble was, this is a watering point with a clear notice to this effect. On with the shoes and a quiet word advising the visiting Australian of the fact and I ushered him into a berth with a little more manoeuvring space.
Anxious of the possibility of not being to be able to negotiate the M5 tunnel in the morning we walked along the canal to take a closer look. Our fears we unfounded when the level board indicated an air draft of some 1.85mtrs.
So, back to the boat for some Coq a Vin and a glass or two and then a visit to the Gardeners Arms that we spotted on our walk. The last time we visited the town this was a very run down pub but in the meantime it has been tastefully refurbished boasting some superb real ales and a good menu. We have now noted this for the next time we visit.
The Tardebigge beckons!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Yes, we've made it

After spending Sunday night on our moorings in Stourport Basin we set off down the two staircase locks to join the benign River Severn. After the winter floods it was all too evident as to their severity by the presence of Himalayan Prayer Flags in the form of plastic bags high up in the trees on either bank.
Glorious sunshine and no wind it was a real treat to beat off the winter blues and trundle down this beautiful river once again. With all the manned locks set in our favour we were soon through Bevere lock to quickly turn in the flow to moor right outside the Camp House Inn. It was soon obvious how this area had suffered in the floods with areas of the garden "Out of Bounds" due to them still being saturated. Even worse news when we tried to order a meal at the bar. The kitchen was completely out of action due to it being flooded and no date in sight for it to be back in action. To justify mooring at this beautiful spot we visited the bar and bought a couple of beers and took them back aboard to enjoy a snack of pasty and baked beans.
Suitably restored we went off for a walk through the local bridleways to the local village of Hallow. Apart from a small general store there is a school, village hall, tennis club, a pub and a church, St Philip and St James that boasts a ring of 8 bells. It was rebuilt in 1869 a stones throw from its original Saxon site nearer the river.
With clouds congregating and the sky getting darker we decided to take in an early meal in the Crown. A good choice indeed as we slipped back in time to enjoy the ambiance of this tranquil pub accompanied with excellent food and ale. Sure enough, the heavens opened whilst we enjoyed our meal. We chose the roads for the return walk to the boat in order to avoid the muddy paths. Batten down the hatches in rediness for tomorrow's trip up the Droitwich canal.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

!! 2014 Here We come !!


A Happy New Year to all our Followers as we prepare to head off into tomorrow's (hopeful) sunshine on our first trip of 2014.
We will travel up to Stourport from Bristol after the Easter Day service at church, stay overnight in the basin and then set sail down the River Severn to one of our favourite pubs on Monday, The Camp House Inn. It's right out in the sticks by road, friendly, good beer and food and the garden is home to numerous species of wildfowl and pheasants. Just hope we can get a mooring on a Bank Holiday Monday.