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Gothersley, Stourton and Kinver

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2020 by netmanianick

Wednesday 8th July 2020

With our 48 hours at Greensforge due to expire today we joined a queue of three boats to descend the lock. The first two boats ŵere single handers, the third was a hire boat with a man and two teenagers aboard who were attempting the Stourport ring in a week. As they had pulled in front of us and were filling with water we moved up to the lock landing and went ahead of them.

Below the lock Anne had several more goes at photographing herons, and of all the ones she took, I think this one is the most striking:

At Rocky Lock we caught up with the trailing single hander, and helped him through, refilling the lock for own passage. The next lock was Gothersley, and the reconstruction of the Round House is encountered soon after.

There was then time for coffee as made our way through the stunning scenery to Stourton Junction and beyond to Stewponey lock. Just before Stourton is a boat house cut into the sandstone and is known as the Devils’ Den.

There are some really stunning places to moor along this stretch and a popular one is just above Hyde Lock. The setting here is glorious, and even the pretty lock cottage has lock gates in the garden.

Immediately after the lock we encountered the start of the Kinver long term moorings, and a few minutes later we descend Kinver Lock, managing to tie up below just as the rain started.

We’ll take a look around Kinver in the morning, before continuing towards Stourport.

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The Bratch, Wombourne and Greensforge

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2020 by netmanianick

Tuesday 7th July 2020

We had a wonderful couple of days on the Dimmingsdale mooring, and were frequently visited by a pair of herons. Usually these are solitary birds, and are mostly seen on their own. I took several pictures, but they weren’t very clear.

On Monday it was time to move again as we needed water. We pushed over to the other side of the canal and I opened the top gate of the lock so that Anne could drive in. The locks come thick and fast on this section, and we were soon tackling Ebstree and Awbridge as well. After that there is a short section before reaching The Bratch.

The famous octagonal toll house is a bit overshadowed by the scaffolding on the neighbouring building at the moment! The Bratch consists of three locks one after the other, with only about 4 feet in between each, so that you could be confused into thinking it is a staircase lock. The difference here is that each lock chamber has both top and bottom gates. The small gap between the chambers conceal underground channels that lead to side ponds that are behind the hedges. This means that when you empty a lock the water goes into the side pond, and not into the next chamber as it would in a staircase lock. The lock keeper was on duty helping a boat up the flight and once they had vacated the top lock we were able to drive in. Anne took the boat through while I assisted the lock keeper with the paddles and gates.

At the bottom Anne was unable to get into the side to collect me, so I walked down to Bumblehole Lock which was just around the corner.

With The Bratch and Bumblehole out of the way, it was time for coffee while we cruised down to Wombourne and a stop for shopping at the convenient Sainsbury’s. With the shopping loaded we made our way to Botterham Staircase, just two locks this time. Again a boat was coming up in the top chamber, so I went to the bottom and emptied it ready for our descent. The next three locks are Marsh, Swindon and Hinksford, and we made our way down steadily.

Our luck held at Greensforge, where there is just one visitor mooring next to the water point. We tied up and our hose was long enough to reach the tap, so we took the opportunity to fill up with water and dispose of our rubbish. This really is an idyllic spot!

The canal is in a cutting of sandstone and there is a tiny nest in the wall opposite, where the young are being fed diligently by their parents. We tried really hard to get a photo, and if anyone can identify the bird from the picture, please let us know in the comments!

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Poppy’s Wood, Compton and Dimmingsdale

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2020 by netmanianick

Saturday 4th July 2020

The plan for Thursday was to climb the last lock up to Gailey and obtain diesel and pump out from the boatyard at the top. Then we would make our way to end of the moorings and tie up at Poppy’s Wood for the weekend, to let the hire boats disperse. Sadly the boatyard was closed, so we dropped off the rubbish and topped up the water tank, and spent only the night at the mooring. We call it Poppy’s Wood because it was a favourite place for Poppy whenever we passed through the area.

We made an early start on Friday to cross the 10 mile summit pound, hoping to get serviced at Oxley Marina near the junction with the Shropshire Union canal. It was a lovely day from cruising. Although there were a few showers they were very light, and much nicer to travel in than the extreme heat of a week or so ago.

We didn’t see another boat moving all morning, and were pleased to find a spot on the wharf at Oxley, although it was a tight fit as the boats either side were moored two abreast. The helpful folks at Oxley tended to our needs and were soon ready to move off. Given Anne’s mishap the last time shoved the front of the boat out, I left her on the tiller and did the deed myself. Anne then expertly steered us out of the tight space, and we were on our way again.

We descended the lock at Compton and tied up on the visitor moorings so that Anne could get some shopping. We decided to stay for the night and make use of the launderette in the morning to wash the bedding. This is a very busy spot to moor with constant towpath walkers and cyclists passing by. Just opposite was a moorhen nest. You will have to look very closely at the next photo to spot the babies in there!

Of course we made sure that they had plenty of food, and mother moorhen spent a lot of time gathering up the pellets and taking them to the nest.

As it was so busy, we decided to move on to a more out of the way spot, and as we were preparing to leave the first hire boat of the year came past! We caught them up at the lock, and they were having a wonderful time at the start of their trip around the Black Country Ring.

After Whitwick Lock, we cruised for a further half an hour and lucked onto the perfect mooring, on the offside at Dimmingsdale lock. This will do nicely for a few days!

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Man Overboard!

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2020 by netmanianick

Wednesday 1st July 2020

Some days, no matter what you, will be bad days. It didn’t start that way – we had a lovely peaceful night and a gentle start this morning. It was about 9.30 when I began to prepare the boat for departure and when I noticed a large quantity of diesel in the bilge under the engine. I wanted River and Canal Rescue to sort it out (free as part of the membership) but decided that we would have to move on to somewhere nearer the road so that they could get to us. I selected the Cross Keys Pub on the far outskirts of Penkridge, which was 5 locks and about two and a half hours away.

We were just about to untie our ropes when we noticed that the boat that had been moored about 100 yards behind us had just pushed off. We didn’t want to jump in in front of them, although the temptation was strong, as they would be going up all the locks first and we would have to turn them. Being good, we sat back down and fed the ducks to give them a good head start. Five minutes later we stood to untie the ropes again, only to discover another boat coming under the bridge towards us.

It was third time lucky, but now we had two boats ahead of us for the locks. We cruised through Acton Trussell one tick-over as we wanted to give the boats ahead plenty of time to get up Shutt Hill lock before us. This meant we were able to get a good look at the annual Scarecrow entries as we went past.

Shutt Hill Lock is around the corner from the lock landing, so you can’t get a view of the gates if you are holding the boat to the side. I grabbed the walkie talkies from the cupboard, switched them both on and was pleased to see them both indicate full batteries. I went ahead to set the lock, and tried to radio Anne to let her know she could come in. On the first attempt to transmit the battery died, and then I remembered that they hadn’t been charged since last summer. Doh!

Anne has been getting very good at steering into locks, but her steering head wasn’t on today, and she bumped into the side on the way in. This made her frustrated with herself, and unfortunately meant that she got worse and worse at each lock as we climbed our way up to Penkridge. Time for a break so we pulled onto the services and filled the water tank and disposed of our rubbish. We had just one more lock to do for our rendezvous with RCR, Filance Lock. This one is difficult at the best of times. There is no lock landing nor is there a footbridge at the tail of the lock. I avoided a long walk round to open both bottom gates by doing the ‘Atherstone’ technique – shown to us by one of the volunteer lock keepers on the Atherstone flight. This involves cracking the first gate open by about a foot, and then moving to the middle of the gates to use a foot to push the gate fully open, and then carry on across the second gate to open it normally. There is a fierce bywash which pushed the boat out of line as Anne was driving in, so another bump and more frustration! I closed the first bottom gate then walked all the way round the lock to close the second one, and was heading back to the top of the lock when I saw that the first gate had swung open again. I opened one of the top paddles a little bit to let some water start flowing, and then had to cross the top gate and walk all the way back to shut the damn gate again. The water flow kept it shut this time!

The bottom gates also leak badly, and this means that you have to open the top gate as soon as the level is reached. If you close one of the paddles before opening the gate (which is normal), so you have to make an extra trip across the top gate after you have closed up. Finally we were through, and shortly after we tied up at the Cross Keys pub.

The system for summoning RCR is now very modern. I have an app on the phone which you fire up, and press the ‘request assistance’ button, and it automatically sends your location. A few minutes later they called me to take the details, and then they had an engineer with us within half an hour. He quickly found the source of the leak and fixed it, he also tightened up every connector in the fuel system. He was all done within half an hour, so we decided to carry on up,to Gailey for the night.

We had four locks left to do, and the first three weren’t too bad, but we were both hot and tired by the time we reached the final lock of the day, Brick Kiln Lock.

There was a boat coming down, so I went up to help. Unfortunately the wind blew the one of the bottom gates partially closed, so I tried to flag Anne down as she drove in, but it was too late, and City of Durham hit the gate with a bang. Fortunately there was no damage done and we soon filled the lock and I opened the top gate.

Anne pulled the boat out and while I was closing the gate the wind pushed the front of the boat into the bank, wedging it in the lock mouth. Unfortunately the lock landing here is in a terrible state. The bank has collapsed behind the edging stones and flooded. Canal and River Trust have responded by fencing the area off with DEFRA rash. Nevertheless Anne thought that she could push the front of the boat out, so she left me on the tiller. The nose of the boat edged out into the canal and I waited for Anne’s head to appear above the cabin, but it didn’t happen! I quickly looked down the other side of the boat and saw Anne in the water, hanging on to the bow for dear life. I quickly realised that if I moved the boat near the bank there was a risk of Anne getting crushed between the bank and the boat, so I took the decision to slowly drag Anne around the corner where I could get the back of the boat into the bank but leave the front sticking out. I managed to get a rope on the last bollard, and then rushed forward to help Anne find a place where she could stand up. I am so glad that we went to the expense of buying a gang plank that incorporates a rescue ladder, as I don’t think I could have got Anne out without it. With Anne safely ashore, I sent her aboard to get straight into the shower while I pulled forward onto a mooring and tied up.

A hot cup of tea later and the adrenalin rush was subsiding. Anne is now a true boater, having been baptised in the canal!

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A Wet Weekend and on to Acton Trussell

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2020 by netmanianick

Tuesday 30th June 2020

We moved up to Great Haywood early on Saturday morning to refill the water tank and dispose of rubbish. Having left at 7.00 am we didn’t expect the services to be busy, but it was 9 o’clock when we arrived, and there were several boats moving around. Fortunately one of the taps was free, so we were able to get on with the chores. Once finished we reversed back to the junction and turned on to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, finally getting a change of scene from our hanging around between Rugeley and Great Haywood.

We only went as far as Tixall Wide and had only just tied up when the rains came. There was only one thing for it – a lazy day! We stayed on Sunday as well to make the most of the location. I read on Facebook that next weekend there are expected to be 17 share boats and 8 hire boats leaving Great Haywood when the lockdown lifts, so it’s going to be really busy at the surrounding locks. I think we will aim to be above Gailey before next Saturday so that we are on the 10 mile summit pound.

On Monday we battled the strong winds to move down to Radford Bank, which was handy for the road, and Aldi, and a newsagents. We were somewhat sheltered from the wind with the houses rising up Baswich Hill on one side, and the raised cycle path on the other, and had a busy afternoon feeding the swans and geese, and chatting to the myriad of passers by on this busy stretch of towpath. We had a good sleep and in the morning set to on the laundry, taking advantage of the less fierce breeze to get it dry. After a stroll to the shop for the papers, milk and bread, we decided to move on at 4pm to find a quieter spot for the night.

We found this just after Deptmore Lock, one of favourite spots on the outskirts of Acton Trussell. There wasn’t much wildlife to feed this afternoon, just a mother duck and two offspring who competed viciously for the food – no motherly love was shown here!

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The Wrong Way and New Batteries

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2020 by netmanianick

Friday 26th June 2020

Yesterday, having done all the washing, we decided to head back to Great Haywood to refill the water tank, dispose of rubbish, and get a pump out. Beth called to say she would meet us at the junction, so we set off early to the winding hole at Pasturefields (Teapot Turn) span around and headed back via Hoo Mill Lock. It was very hot today with temperatures reaching 30 degrees, but this was bearable because of the fairly strong breeze.

The water point was vacant when we arrived so we were soon tied up and topping up the tank. Unfortunately the pump out machine at Anglo Welsh was broken, so we decided to turn around at the junction and head back to the marina to get it done there. This was accomplished, but on leaving the service wharf, the stiff breeze made it difficult to get away, and in the end Tony came out to give us necessary shove at the critical moment. Our troubles didn’t end there. The wind was funnelling through the marina entrance, and try as I might I just couldn’t get City of Durham to turn left against the wind. We ended up facing the wrong way, and I tried reversing back along the main line for another go at turning round, but the wind just wasn’t going to let it happen. So I carried on back to Ho Mill Lock.

The next winding hole (turning point) after the Marina was back at Teapot Turn. I wasn’t too keen to repeat this morning’s journey and suggested that we ask Beth to meet us further up the canal, but Anne also wanted some shopping so we had to go back again.

We eventually arrived back at Great Haywood and met up with Beth above Haywood Lock. We made a quick descent, and were lucky to bag one of the visitor moorings just past the lock landing, and well covered by shade. A very pleasant afternoon was spent catching up with Beth as we sat out on the shady towpath.

The River Trent runs behind the towpath hedge, and from the sound of things hundreds of people were there splashing around in the water. Not quite as busy as Bournemouth Beach, but for a small village it must have been quite a turn-out. Extra showers were called for in the evening to enable a good night’s sleep.

Midland Chandlers phoned to say that our batteries were now in stock at Braunston, so the alarm was set for 6.00 am this morning, and we set off for Rugeley, aiming for the Tescos mooring that we had used a few days ago. Here there is a gentle ramp down from the road, and would be an ideal spot to unload the heavy batteries. We hadn’t reckoned on works to improve the towpath access, which meant that this route was fenced off.

I’m sure it will be lovely when it is finished!

We retrieved the car and drove down to Braunston, which meant a very pleasant hour and a half in the air conditioned car, as we watched the temperatures rise back up to 30 degrees. This wasn’t supposed to happen! According to the weather forecast it should have been cooler, and rainy with thunderstorms expected in the afternoon. If you based your judgement just on the forecast it definitely appeared to be a day to stay firmly indoors. Instead, we had a cloudless sky, and a scorching sun once again.

We collected the batteries and a spare part for Rob’s fuel line on Lakeland Belle, and then took a series of random turns in order to come home by a different route. This worked out well, as we passed many places that we had been to by boat last year, and we played a guessing game of ‘which trip did we see that?’.

All too soon we were back at the boat, and batteries had to be carried from the car down the steps and on to the back of the boat. The first couple were ok, but the last two felt twice as heavy!

With sweat pouring off me, I had the deck boards up, and managed to swap the batteries over with relative ease. It was encouraging not having any extra bits left over, and the lights and the water pump were still working!

Rob turned up later to collect the old batteries, to see if anything can be salvaged for Lakeland Belle, and he also collected the part he needed for his engine. He also very kindly followed me home with the car, and gave me a lift back to City of Durham.

Anne went over to Tescos to get some fresh supplies for the next couple of weeks, and when she returned we decided to move back up to Wolseley Bridge, to get some shade. It was 8.30 pm when we left and the evening was cooling nicely so we had a pleasant late cruise, and tied up shortly after 9 pm, to coincide with the dinner being ready and needing to be taken out of the oven and eaten.

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Wash Day and Wine Boat

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2020 by netmanianick

Wednesday 24th June 2020

I was up early this morning because I wanted to get through the chores before the heat of the day made things unbearable.

The first job was to pump out more of the water from our leak a few weeks ago, in the hope that it would offset some of the list from all our tins under the sink. I managed to get another four gallons out from under the broom cupboard, so water is still making its way down the boat from the water pump.

The next task was to do the weekly laundry. We have a marvelous table-top twin tub that uses very little power. We removed a cushion from the dinette so that it can be raised off the floor, which makes draining it very easy. You can’t get much in a single load, but the wash and spin cycles are completed very quickly, so that within the hour about 8 loads were pegged out on the whirly washing line.

While the washing was drying I vacuumed the boat from one end to the other, and then we decided enough was enough and we sat in the shade on the towpath for some lunch.

Anne noticed a boat coming past, and exclaimed ” It’s the wine boat!”

The steerer must have seen the pleading in her eyes, so he pulled in to the bank and Anne relieved him of three bottles of his finest home made wine. A fair reward for a good day’s work!

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A Gap in the Trees

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2020 by netmanianick

Tuesday 23rd June 2020

The mooring at Shugborough had an uninterrupted view of the sun, so the batteries were well charged when we woke up this morning. We even had hot water, courtesy of the Eberspacher which had run for an hour before we got up. While Anne came to, I took a gentle stroll to the Spa shop in the village for the paper and some milk. I am amazed at how busy the tow path and estate are with walkers, joggers, cyclists and many families with small children who come to play in the river.

Eventually we were ready to set off, and found a gap in the flow of boats to move up to Haywood Lock. There were crowds watching the boats pass through, and we waited for one boat to go up ahead of us, and another to come down. Then it was our turn, and we were ‘helped’ by a small boy and his grandmother who were both fascinated by what we were doing.

At the top of the lock it was just as busy, and one boater was wheeling water back to his boat. He shouted across that it was mayhem at the water point, and another boat that we passed confirmed this. I was thinking of diverting down to Tixall Wide, but as we rounded the bend I saw a gap at the end of the services moorings, so we pulled in, and were able to get our rubbish into the bins while we waited for a tap to become free. Two boats were breasted up by the first tap, and another boat was on the second, but in the end it turned out that he was just getting diesel from the Anglo Welsh boatyard. Once he moved off we were able to take his place and get our hose connected up. It took an age for the tank to fill – I think the water pressure is quite low when both taps are in use.

There must have been a dozen boats passing through the junction while we were filling up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the junction so busy. It will be even worse in a couple of weeks time when the hire base will be able to reopen!

A family of swans complete with 6 cygnets spent ages demanding food from us, which Anne was happy to supply!

After an hour we were full, and so we pushed off away from the madness. We were following another boat up to Hoo Mill Lock, but he was able to drive straight in, so we weren’t delayed there for long.

The next task was to feed ‘Anne’s geese’. They live in a field at Pasturefields, and have become so accustomed to Anne feeding them that they recognise the boat from some distance. They immediately start squawking at Anne, and run down the field to the water so they can get their meal. 13 came for dinner today!

It was becoming very hot in the sun now, and we had the dilemma of whether to moor in the shade, at the expense of sunlight on the solar panels. We struck lucky finding a gap in the trees that enabled our panels to stay in the sun all day, whilst the fore and aft were in glorious shade!

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To Shugborough

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2020 by netmanianick

Monday 22nd June 2020

Our overnight mooring at Wolseley Bridge was wonderful! We had a lovely shady spot right next to the river, and whilst there were a few walkers along the towpath during the evening, it was very peaceful.

A drawback of the shade though was that the solar panels didn’t contribute much at all during the afternoon and evening, so by morning our batteries were flat. Clearly there is something amiss, as the battery monitor was still showing 95% and 12.7 volts. Time to get the batteries sorted. I went on line to Midland Chandlers and found the batteries I wanted at a good price, but they are not available to buy on-line, and can only be purchased in store. The shop at Penkridge has plenty of stock, but remains closed due to the coronavirus. I was lucky to get a very helpful person on their online chat, who is arranging for the batteries to be delivered to the Braunston store, which is open, and they will put them aside and call me when they arrive.

So for now we will need to hang around the area for a few more days so that I can retrieve the car to fetch them.

In the meantime, I fired up the engine to charge the batteries and to give us hot water for our showers, so it was a slow and relaxed morning waiting for the boat to do its thing.

Once we were showered and dressed it was just turning into the afternoon, so we set off for Shugborough once again so that we could do the rubbish disposal and top up the water tank in the morning. It was a very pleasant cruise in the sunshine, with a slight breeze making the temperatures comfortable. We soon worked our way up Colwich Lock and tied up overlooking the hall.

The rest of the afternoon was spent stowing the food that we had brought from home. It was a little like the Towers of Hanoi puzzle, where various things had to be moved around to create the space needed. By late afternoon everything was taking shape nicely, although with all the tins stowed under the sink we seem to have developed a slight list again. 75 tins at 300 grammes average contents, plus the weight of the tins themselves is quite a few kilos in one place. I will have a look at repositioning some of the weight in the morning!

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Moving Day

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2020 by netmanianick

Sunday 21st June 2020

The final bags were packed, and the last few jobs at the house needed to be completed. So at 8.30 I set off on the walk home to load the car and bring the last bits to the boat. Then Anne and I drove back to the house, stopping at Morrison’s to pick up prescriptions, in order to leave the car and hand over the house keys.

All this took until about 3.00 when we took advantage of a lift back to City of Durham, where we untied and turned around at the Moseley winding hole. We enjoyed a pleasant cruise back through Rugeley, although there were one or two squally showers which brought us a little too close to a moored boat for the owner’s comfort. Soon we were back out into the countryside, and the sun chose that moment to shine brightly. Anne was kept constantly busy feeding the many swans, ducks and geese we passed along the way.

We pulled in at Wolseley Bridge, with a fantastic view over the River Trent. Then we set about the massive task of organising the food cupboards. I’m sure everything we brought from home will fit … somewhere!