Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Tuesday 21st December

We had a lovely night out at The Swan in Stafford, the food and room were excellent.

Today I drove down to Calcott Boats and parted with a lot of money to get the new Hurricane Heater that we need to keep us warm. The trip there and back wasn't too bad but they have a lot more snow around there than we do here and the back roads that they are on were very snowy indeed. All we have to do now is wait for the engineer to come and fit the thing.

Wednesday 29th December

Christmas has come and gone and we had a wonderful time at John's place in Stafford. As you can see from the picture, Daniel had a good time as well.

Because of the ice we couldn't take the boat as somewhere to sleep so John re-arranged the sleeping plans and we took the already booked hotel room which saved us from having to drive home every night. On Boxing Day I decided that we should at least visit the boat to see how it was coping with the record low temperatures. Of course the car wouldn't start! Damon came to the rescue and drove me out to Great Haywood. The temperature inside the boat was -4 so I took the chance of leaving the electric heater on its frost setting to see if the frozen pipes could be saved.

We arrived back on Monday to find that my plan had worked and the only damage was to the shower unit's temperature control. During that evening the electric feed tripped, so I reset it and checked to see if I could find the cause. Nothing showed up, but after a while it tripped again. I started shutting things down to try to find the cause but nothing worked and the trips continued at random intervals, sometimes a few hours long.

Tuesday I drove into town to get another shower mixer and fitted that during the afternoon. The nuisance trips continued despite all my efforts and over night we relied on the batteries. On Wednesday morning I started again to check out all the systems and wires to try to find the cause. While I had the boat disconnected from the power the main feed again tripped! What a relief, it wasn't us at all, but a fault in the feed system. The marina engineer was called and had it fixed in a few hours.

Meanwhile the engineer arrived to start work on our new heater. I had already started to remove the old unit so I left him to it while I got on with installing the wiring and controls in the living area.

The engine compartment is now ready for the heater and the fitter will be back tomorrow to continue the installation, maybe even finish it.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Addendum to Sunday

This morning our Eberspacher heating unit failed catastrophically. I think the fan motor has seized and the damned thing has let us down for the last time (that's the third fan motor in 5 years)!

We decided to go into town to buy an electric fan heater to tide us over until a new heater can be fitted. Got out to the car and..... it wouldn't start! Too cold, flat battery! There was a small get together at lunch in the marina office so we wandered over for a chat while we called John to see if he could help by giving us a lift into town to get a heater. Of course he headed our way as soon as he heard of our plight.

Heater purchased we got back to the boat and plugged it in. Heat, glorious heat. Well, for a while, after about half and hour our main trip came out so I thought maybe the heater was dragging too much power while other things were running so I turned it down while the slow cooker was on and turned it up again later. It tripped again after about half an hour of full power and this time wouldn't reset. The trip is well hidden down in the electric cupboard so I had to do a bit of digging. Once I got it out the cause was apparent. The trip had been installed by the boat builder and I had assumed it was 16 amps, but it wasn't it was only 10. No wonder it didn't like the load. I'll get a new one tomorrow.

Now we've decided that the Eberspacher is history! We will replace it with a Hurricane heater which is meant to be the dog's whatsits, it ought to be at the price, but if it's as good as advertised it will be worth it. I won't try fitting it myself but will get it done by the local yard, I hope.

I'm charging the car battery overnight and hope it will start in the morning.

More Winter Magic

Sunday 19th December

We managed to continue getting water up until Thursday night when it froze again.

John (my son's father in law) offered us a chance to go to an evening American supper with his rambler group where the speakers were Terry and Monica Darlington, the writers of the well known book Narrow Dog to Carcassonne. The evening was not very well attended because of the weather, but the talk was interesting and we enjoyed the whole evening until we had to drive home. It was snowing heavily enough to keep the car down in third gear most of the way because of the visibility.

The marina froze up again on Thursday night and looks like it will stay that way until at least after Christmas. I'll soon have a chance to try out our new scheme of water fetching, 7 drums at a time in the car instead of 2 at a time in a hand trolley. This should allow us to keep the washing machine going, saving us a fiver at a time in the marina laundry.

This morning the outside thermometer showed -10° C so the central heating is working very hard indeed!

Tomorrow is our 35th wedding anniversary and I've booked us into a hotel in town for the occasion so we're both looking forward to unlimited hot water for the night.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

On the Trent & Mersey at Great Haywood Junction

Sunday 11th December
I decided to go the Wheaton Aston again this week to get some more fuel, now is not the time to be running out of heat. While there the chap serving me gave a good tip to save some of the fuel which comes out from the bottom of our fuel tank in a very dirty state. If I were to leave it to settle and then if the weather is cold enough it will freeze the water in it and I should be able to tip off the pure diesel. Sounds like it's worth a try.
Friday the thaw finally set in and we were able to get water again, yippee! Just in time for this event we finally managed to source some 25ltr. drums to fetch water in ready for the next time we are frozen up. The marina pond is still frozen over and I think it will be some time before boats can move again.
This morning it is once again freezing but I don't think it will last and the water taps are still running, we intend to take water into out tank every day just in case it goes solid again.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sunday 5th December

We're still frozen in, and there hasn't been any water through the taps all week. With only two drums provided by the marina getting water is pain. We have managed to keep ourselves down to using just the two so only having to make one trip a day. The routine is to haul a trolley from the boat up to the marina office, fill the drums, (if they are not already in use by another boater and you have to wait) and then haul them back through the snow to fill your own tank. When finished return the drums to the office for the next user. Of course laundry on the boat is out and we must use the marina machine, for which there is inevitably a queue.

The sun is shining brightly at present and the forecast says this will continue through Monday although the temperature isn't due to rise above 0ยบ C.

Due to all the ice we have had to postpone our lift out of the water for blacking and a new propellor. When this will now go ahead is down to the fates. However we are at least warm and cosy as the Eberspacher heater is still going strong so we've got our fingers crossed on that score.

Christmas is fast approaching so we really must get our fingers out but I suppose we aren't the only ones not to be ready yet.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Baby it's cold outside

Monday 29th November

We drove down from Leeds on Wednesday and when we got home and started to unload the car I found I had stupidly dropped Damon's keys in our boot!! A quick phone call confirmed that he need them on Friday so we had to drive back on Thursday feeling a bit of an idiot (nothing new there then!). Friday morning dawned bright, very bright, as the sun shone on the covering of snow. We only had about 2 inches of the stuff, but as usual it caused its share of chaos. We decided to drive into Stafford for some necessary supplies and we got on OK but I came across one idiot trying to drive off our marina and have a great deal of trouble, skidding all over place and failing to get the car to go straight. As he came towards me I pulled over to give him room to pass and the source of his trouble was quickly apparent, he was driving with the hand brake on! I stopped him and pointed out his problem giving the poor guy a big red face.

Saturday night the temperature dropped to -7.5 on our outside thermometer and the central heating is burning through the fuel at a great rate of knots.

I went out Sunday morning and took some pics of our winter wonderland. About the only problems we are expecting to have are the usual ones of boats on canals at this time of year, frozen water taps so that we can't top up our fresh water tank and frozen water stopping us from moving when we want to. Hopefully we will be able to move within the marina to get to the slipway week after next, but more importantly we definitely don't want it frozen for when our new blacking has been done. We made that mistake 3 years ago and had to have the blacking re-done a few months later because of the damage done by the ice.

This morning I walked up into the village for a date with the local quack which at least got me some exercise. The main roads are still clear here but the marina road is a sheet of ice and great fun. Still no a water is flowing in the taps and the marina have got some drums available to carry water to your boat should people run out. Not looking forward to that.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday 23rd November

Despite the earlier optimism about the heating system the noise returned. I decided to leave the darnn thing alone and see what developed. Thankfully it hasn't got worse and in fact seems to be slightly quieter. I'm going to just let it go and if/when it fails we we will probably bite the bullet and go and get a Hurricane Heater. We've heard nothing but good about theses things as they seemed to be designed to run on lower quality fuel and are more efficient than the usual boat heating units.

Paul and Jacqui came up over the weekend and brought fuel with them as well. The boat is once again full but all the spare cans are empty so I'll have to go over to Wheaton Aston soon.

We can thoroughly recommend The Clifford Arms pub at Great Haywood. The four of us fed there on Saturday night and all enjoyed the food.

On Monday Cath and I drove up to Leeds to spend a few days with our Grandson, Daniel, and of course Damon and Liz. What a ball of energy he is, running them ragged at every opportunity.

Today was spent in town doing some Christmas shopping. Still much more to do though. We'll stay here until Wednesday before returning to the boat.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Tuesday 16th November

I think we fitted the “double glazing” just in time because the weather has been terrible recently. As with most of the country we have been battered by high winds and torrential rain. Rain is ok as long as you don't have to go out in it, but wind rocks the boat around. Lying in bed and feeling it move around under you isn't too bad, but these things aren't meant to be seaworthy just canal and river, so rocking around is not something we experience often. To cap it all the movement causes the tv to lose the signal sometimes; life can be a bitch!

Last Friday I finally got around to doing the annual service of our Eberspacher diesel central heating unit. The burner had started to get that rumbling, fluffing noise which is the usual sign that it needs cleaning so out came the spanners, gaskets and seals along with a cleaned out burner tube. All went well, and I re-installed it and fired up. No trouble, but that night the thing started making an awful racket. A high pitched scream which sounded like the air fan bearing. Oh no! thinks I, we've been here before, twice I've had to replace the air motor and it's damned expensive. On the assumption that it coincided with my service I had to have a look just to see if anything I had done may have caused it but I was convinced that the noise was a bearing and we steeled ourselves for the expense.

This morning I plucked up the go, drive and ambition to whip it out and have a look. First inspection of the fan motor didn't show up anything which I could put my finger on, so on the off chance that it was something else I dug deeper. When I got the burner tube out I found that it had a slight crack in it and it seems as if that may have been the source of the noise, the crack causing a resonation of the flame. I replaced the tube with the old one which I had now cleaned and so far (touch wood) it has been quiet.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Monday 08 November
We have been here a week now and things are settling down. Wow have we been lucky with the weather! I think it has rained more in the last week than in all the time we were out. At present it is hammering down outside and doesn't look set to stop. The barometer is firmly stuck at its lowest reading.
I have arranged for Lyra to be drydocked here at the marina on December 6th to have a new propellor fitted, the bottom rudder bearing tightened and the hull blacked. Our insurance company accepted the quote from the on site engineer after I managed to persuade them to drop their price to nearer the one we received from the dry dock in Stone as I didn't want to have to go all the way back there to have the work done, and also their price for blacking is cheaper.
I took a sample of fuel from the bottom of the tank the other day and frightened myself silly. We still seem to be getting water into the tank, and the state of the fuel was awful. I just hope that I can find the source of the trouble. One idea I have is that it is getting around the fuel filler fitting and I will seal that and keep my fingers crossed.
The list of small jobs we want to get done over this winter grows longer by the day. This morning I went into Stafford and raided B&Q for some floor tiles to replace the broken ones in the kitchen where heavy objects have landed. To try to prevent this happening in future I will be fitting a retaining rail to the shelf above the microwave oven to stop the slow cooker from slipping off if we ever get tipped over as far as we did the last time it crashed down destroying itself and another floor tile.
We have also bought a car to get us around while here. John very kindly ran us over to Stoke on Trent to view it and the owner offered to drive it to our marina next day while we sorted out insurance and road tax for it.
Yesterday we fitted the plastic film 'double glazing' over our windows, another sign of approaching winter. This was an idea I got from a friend on Saltford Marina, the stuff is dead cheap from Wicks and worked a treat last year, keeping the condensation out very well as well as holding the heat in much better than the bare windows were doing.
If the weather does cheer up I'll get some pictures to put on the blog.

Monday, 1 November 2010

That's it!!
For the time being we are no longer wanderers but have put down the anchor for a while. This won't stop us from going out and about in the local area if the weather looks fine but there are also winter stoppages to consider. There are already scheduled maintenance shutdowns on several locks in the local area which preclude us from going very far.
I will keep the blog going but, of course it won't be filled in frequently. I'll just have to see how things go.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Manoeuvring for Penkridge Lock

Saturday 30th October

Another lovely day, we set off in bright sunshine to return to Stafford for dinner tonight at John's.

The weather had brought a lot of boats out and the canal was as busy as we have seen it. The half term hire boats are all heading for home and the end of season people seemed to be taking one last day out. We came across an interesting boat at one lock. A single handed operator with a remote control so that he could operate the lock and then drive the boat in without having to get back on the boat, then drove it out again and shut the gates before getting back on board. A real boon for the singleton.

We got to Radford just gone midday and treated ourselves to bacon sandwiches for lunch before taking the bus into town for session in the local Sainsbury's to stock up for the first few days on the marina.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Friday 29th October

It seems as though we get one day a fine and the next is foul. Today's was poor. We had decided to move to Penkridge today. Last night was very windy, the boat rocked and nearby trees could be heard swishing around and when we got up the sky didn't look too promising.

Despite that we set off. Some of this length of canal is very exposed and the wind whistles across causing the boat to veer sideways from time to time. Sometimes at lock moorings the wind would pin the boat against the side and Cath coped very well, unlike one chap we came across at a lock. He appeared to be having a bit of trouble because he was hard against the side and couldn't get off. When I offered to help him he was very pleased and said that he'd been trying to get off the side for about 10 minutes!

The sky continued threatening rain but somehow it kept off and there was even a tiny show of sunlight. (about 30 seconds).

At Penkridge there is a winding hole so we turned around before mooring up. I went off onto town to get a few things before we settled down for the evening.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wednesday 27th October

Yesterday was a good day not to be moving! Monday night we had a good meal in The Star, and wandering back to the boat we could feel that the weather was on the change. When I woke up in the night the rain was pounding on our roof, a lovely noise if you're not planning on going out in it.

Morning light showed a dull and dreary day under leaden skies, so our decision to spend the day here anyway was re-enforced. I took a walk over to the supermarket to top up our wine supplies but that was it until the rain let up mid afternoon. I then had a go at tightening our 230 volt generator belt which had started to squeal under load. I wasn't happy with the result of my attempt as the belt still didn't feel tight enough, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get any more on it.

This morning showed that I was right to be concerned as the belt was no better. We suffered throughout the day with a much reduced power output so tomorrow morning I'll put a new belt on it and that should cure the problem.

We travelled down from Stone to Great Haywood today and then turned onto the Staffs & Worcs so that we could spend the night on Tixall Wide, a really pretty spot.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Monday 25th October

Clear and cold again this morning. An even thicker coat of frost over everything, and that magical glitter to the landscape.

Once again we didn't plan on going far, only to Stone, about 12 lock/miles. We were followed all the way by a party on a share boat “Stolen Time” who were very friendly and keen. They had plenty of hands and helped with all the locks. Just before Stone we stopped at the facilities to do the necessary and then at the boat yard to see about a quote for our damaged prop. The chap who can give definitive quotes wasn't there, but a best guess was around £500 with little or no delay if the quote is accepted. I'll go back next Monday to get the written article. We only need to get one more now to put before the insurance company and we should be okay.

We've moored up in Stone again and after doing some shopping we are now planning to go out to The Star Inn, one of the oldest pubs on the canal system. It's mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records because non of its rooms are on the same level.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday 24th October

A frosty morning, we set off under a clear sky to cover the short distance to Wedgwood. The canal was fairly busy today and we had to wait to take our turn at all the locks. In the sunshine it felt quite warm, there was only a hint of breeze to take the heat away if you were in shade.

After two days moored up the batteries need a bit of charging and with only a short distance today we must run the engine while stationary.

Checking the fuel I transferred all but one of our spare cans into the fuel tank, I could get the last one in but it is in an awkward position in the engine bay and I can't get at it while the engine is running so I'll leave it for another day.

A little while ago I bought another hook for our cratch cover, along with what I hoped to be reasonable quality self tapping screws. I've just had a go at fitting it and to my disgust the screws are worse than the ones I had before, absolute chocolate! Back to the drawing board, maybe it will have to be pop riveted.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Saturday 23rd October
Chickened out this morning! We had always decided not to travel in rain unless it couldn't be avoided. As we prepared to leave it started to rain so we decided to wait and see what was going to happen. The rain continued on and off so it was decided to close the hatches, settle down and give it until midday, if by then it was still wet we'd stay until tomorrow.
The rain continued so we're still here. The outlook tomorrow is very bright, so fingers crossed.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Yet another statue to James Brindley, at Etruria
The day started out cool, the sun was doing its best, but this is October. Setting off this morning we had 8 locks and 7 miles to do to reach Etruria. Surprisingly the canal was fairly busy today, we met boats at the first 5 locks so that every one was in our favour.
During the morning the wind started to get up a bit and cloud developed, but out of the wind any sun still felt warm.
We reached Etruria at about 2.00 o'clock, and by then the cloud cover was complete, it did try to rain but only a few drops. Once again we are moored up at Etruria and will start down the Trent & Mersey tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A Taste of the lovely scenery around here

At the junction where the Leek and Uttoxeter Branch split

An LMS engine driver training on The North Staffordshire Railway

Wednesday and Thursday 20th 21st.October

After yesterday's deluge the weather decided to give us a break. The day dawned very cold and perfectly clear. Everything was covered in a thick layer of frost, the ropes were frozen and we had ice on the inside of the windows. But the sun shone high wide and handsome.

In brilliant sunshine we plodded through a wonderland of frost with mist rising from the water.

Our first goal was Cheddleton where there is an old flint mill. This mill, which is powered by a water wheel, was saved from destruction in the 60s and has been kept in working condition.

We walked up into the village to do a bit of shopping before continuing.

The canal has been following the course of the River Churnet and at Oakmeadowsford Lock we drop down onto the river itself for about a mile. Here we are joined by the North Staffordshire Railway which runs right alongside the river for about half a mile. We have moored up in the river section, right across from the railway. They are carrying out driver training today and the engine keeps coming back and forth.

No internet signal here so will post this tomorrow.

Thursday 21st October

Not such a cold night, no ice on the windows this morning.

We have decided not to go the full distance to the end of the canal. The boat can't get through the tunnel near the end because she is too tall and with the possibility of rain we do not want to be caught either on the river or on the wrong side of the river section. We went to the end of this river section where there is a winding hole and started back towards Stoke.

The decision looked to be a good one when it started to rain, but it was short lived thankfully and we continued motoring until we arrived at Endon, where we spent the night a few days ago. Once again we'll stop here until tomorrow.

For any boaters who may be reading this, we can't help but recommend this canal as a place to see. Local tourism does try to say that it is the most beautiful canal in England and I would rate it up there with the best.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hazelhurst Aqueduct, where the Leek branch crosses the Froghall Branch

Tuesday 19th October

With the weather report saying that it would be showery by this afternoon we set off, expecting to stop if it became to threatening.

After using the Park Lane facilities block we continued the junction where the canal divides with one branch, which once went to Leek but has been opened only as far as Barnfields, a journey of only 2½ miles goes off to the right before turning and crossing the Froghall branch on an aqueduct.. The other branch, which we are taking, goes straight on down 3 locks and passes under the Barnfields branch.

The showers had started soon after we set off and became frequent so we decided to moor up as soon as we could find somewhere suitable. This turned out to be at Denford and we are now all closed down watching the rain and thinking it was a good decision to stop.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Monday morning and people were back at work! We know because the factory we had moored near to started banging and crashing before 6 o'clock!
When we finally got up it was to a fairly dull day, but not too cold. Setting off through the still industrial landscape, with plenty of signs of regeneration going on. Since we were last here there has been quite a lot of work done clearing old industrial sites and putting up houses, but there is still plenty to do.
As we continued out of the urban sprawl the outlook started to improve greatly with some nice views over the surrounding countryside. We are now moored up at Endon for the night and will continue, probably to Froghall tunnel, the end of the line for us as we are too big to get through it.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

We went for a walk this morning to look for the local shop which is shown on our map. No luck, we found where it should have been, but it was gone.
Once more the day was wonderful, wall to wall sunshine as we set off to go a short distance to Hanley Park, which is a very pretty park just along from Etruria. When we got there we found that there was a local fishing competition going on, so rather than disturb them (discretion being the better part of valour) we decided to go a little further and have moored up near a main road bridge with good access to Hanley town centre.
I decided to have a go at straightening our propellor because yesterday while manoeuvring for a lock we picked something up in it which caused a big bang and now we have an annoying shudder through the tiller. A quick inspection of the prop through the weed hatch soon showed what I suspected but I cannot straighten it fully while it is in the water so we'll have to wait until it comes out for blacking this winter.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Trenham Lock in the rain 2007 (above)
The same place 2010 (below)

Saturday 16th October

Another glorious day today as we set off heading for Etruria, Stoke on Trent. The last time we came this way it was a very wet and cold February in 2007. I've included the picture I took at Trentham Lock at the time to compare the scene.

Six locks today, rising 62 ft to the summit level of the Trent & Mersey. After Trentham, the last 5 were Stoke Flight where we had a great deal of trouble last time around. Yobs had managed to drain the pound between locks 37 and 38 and I had to go to the top of the flight to let water down and fill the pound. No such trouble today and we sailed up the top and turned onto the Caldon Canal.

Here at Etruria is the start of the Caldon Canal and also a museum based on a flint and bone grinding mill which supplied the potteries with raw material. There is a lovely beam engine here, but it isn't running today. They do run it on the first weekend of the month for most of the year.

Tomorrow we will continue our trip along the Caldon Canal. The last time we tried this it was shut after a few miles for maintenance, but now it's open so we'll have a go.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Friday 15th October

A lovely breakfast of bacon and egg baps this morning before setting off expecting to stop somewhere near the Wedgwood factory.

Just after the first lock we stopped to take on water and throw rubbish. Opening the cupboard where we keep the waste bin under the sink, we discovered that we had a leak somewhere in the sink drain. Clearing out the cupboard and throwing some water down the sink soon showed where the water was coming from. The sink overflow had come adrift and the tube had fallen down allowing liquid to spill into the cupboard. A bit of cleaning up and a simple repair and we were back in operation and carried on up the canal. The weather was very overcast and soon a bit of mizzle was noticable.

Rising through 7 locks, about 70 ft., we passed the villages of Meaford and Barlaston before deciding to moor up just short of the Wedgwood factory, in lovely open countryside. This was another good call because not long after that it started raining constantly.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Star Lock and The Star Pub, Stone, Staffordshire

Thursday 13th October

We decided to stay in Stone for the day. I had a look above the first lock in town and there was a good mooring available so we moved up there and decided that we might as well stay put as Stone is a nice place, and the weather looked very dull. It was a good call because it did actually rain later. There are some good looking places to eat here so we may well stop on our way back and sample one of them.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Salt Bridge, No. 82 Trent & Mersey Canal

Wednesday 13th October

Following the Trent & Mersey northbound from Great Haywood, it is at first pretty ordinary countryside. The canal is bounded on one side by the A51 and a railway line, and on the other by the River Trent. They continue to follow us for the rest of the day, sometimes the railway line is so close you feel that you shake hands with the drivers.

The weather started quite cool and cloudy, but as the day wore on it became much clearer and by 1.00 o'clock it was wall to wall sunshine and fairly warm. As we climbed through the locks the countryside improved and soon was very pretty. We're now moored up about ½ a mile from the town of Stone. I took a walk into town to buy my MCN and when I got back decided to sweep off the top of the boat as it was starting to get bit a leaf covered. The local police helicopter paid us a visit and decided to disturb the countryside peace for nearly 30 minutes. Must have been looking for a doughnut shop!

We have decided to go and have a run down the Caldon Canal. When we were here in 2007 we took a short trip along it, but it was winter and a lot of it was closed, hopefully it will be fully open when we get there as it is said to be a pretty bit of canal. The museum at Etruria may also be open I hope.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Monday – Tuesday 11th, 12th October

Monday morning we spent shopping with John and then returned to the boat to get some much needed cleaning done. Carol was due back from Manchester Monday evening so John suggested that we go out and get a Chinese take away. This was enthusiastically seconded by us.

While shopping this morning we bought a replacement for our destroyed slow cooker, but were unsure of the size the original was so bought a 4.2 ltr. Model, but when we got it home it turned out to be too big for the shelf we keep it on so when we went to pick up the take away I took it back and exchanged it for the smaller model, which actually cost more. A good night was had by all and we retired to the boat ready for a good nights kip.

Tuesday morning John again picked us, this time to go to the local doctors' practice so that we could replenish our medicines. Once that was done we set off to travel to Great Haywood Junction where the marina we intend to spend the winter is located.

Once we were moored up at the junction I took a walk to the marina for a look around and to confirm our booking. It looks rather good in there, all facilities are clean and new and the clubhouse has free tea and coffee available all the time. Every mooring has a pin coded gate access and the marina itself has an automatic barrier also with a pin code. The only downside is they don't handle mail so we must get a box at the local Post Office.

We'll spend tonight moored at the junction and will head off north tomorrow towards Stoke on Trent.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Surprise visit!
Sunday 10th October
Yesterday was spent in Penkridge as planned. We did some shopping and then I took the bike for a ride along the towpath to visit Teddesley Lock where there is a branch of Midland Chandlers, so I could have a browse in the 'toyshop' and also buy a hook to replace the one I dropped in the water a few days ago.
Planning on stopping in Stafford to visit John (our son's father in law) we rang up and were told that Daniel was with him for the weekend while Liz was out larping, so we had lovely surprise. Today we set off fairly early to get to Radford Bank, a good mooring spot to get into Stafford. When we moored up we set off for John's house which is only a few minutes away. He fed us a lovely lunch and we got to play with Daniel as well, what a bonus!
We're now back on the boat and John has offered to take us into town tomorrow to do some shopping.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday 7th October
A really dull day today, warm but with no sign of the sun. After a very good meal at The Fox and Anchor last night we chugged off this morning hoping that the sun would break through, but it didn't. Our route was joined by the M6 for a little while, noisy things are motorways. The countryside around here is quite ordinary, farmers fields, and occasional factories. As we approached Penkridge housing estates became visible crowding right down to the waters edge. We're moored up in Penkridge now and will probably stay here tomorrow.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A very decorative bridge over the Shroppie

Brewood church spire from the canal

Wednesday 6th October

After a late breakfast we plodded off, heading for Wheaton Aston where there is cheap fuel to be had. When we were here in 2007 this place was well known for its fuel prices and that is still true today. Their non propulsion diesel is priced at 58.9 ppl, which is another country from some of the prices other rob-dogs on the system try to charge.

The Shropshire Union is a very pleasant canal. One of the last to be built, it isn't a contour canal and has made use of cuttings and embankments to straighten the route, and because the country through which it passes isn't very hilly, at least around here, there are few locks. In fact we only passed one today, at Wheaton Aston. The canal itself changes from very wide in places to just enough room for one boat in some places. We had a minor disaster at one of the narrow bits this morning. While pulled over to allow a boat through a narrow section I noticed that as it came through something on the canal bed caused him to tip sideways quite a lot. Thinking that I could avoid the obstruction I decided to keep over to the other side of the channel. Big Mistake! There was an even bigger rock on that side which caused us to tilt over so far that the slow cooker fell off the shelf and smashed on the floor, cracking a tile as well as breaking its crock pot interior. Ah well, we'll have to buy another because it so useful.

After filling up at Wheaton we carried on for a few miles until we found a winding hole where we could turn around and are now heading back for Autherley Junction. We have moored up out in open countryside and have just missed a rain shower, our luck holds out again.

Thursday 7th October

Another misty start today as we headed back along the Shroppie. While passing Brewood I took the chance to drop into the local shop and get some provisions and MCN. After a while the mist started to lift and by midday the sun put in an appearance.

We were disappointed on reaching Autherley Junction to find that the can dump facility is no longer available so we'll have to wait until Gailey now.

At the junction we turned left towards Stafford and have now moored up at a pub where we'll eat tonight for a treat.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The start of the “Wolverhampton 21” Aldersley Junction
Tuesday 5th October
Another fairly nice day to start with as we set off intending to get a start up The Shropshire Union today. We passed through several more locks, finishing with Compton Lock, which marks the end of the 31 lock climb from Stourport, a rise of 294 ft. We then passed Aldersely Junction where the BCN starts with a 21 lock climb to Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
The next junction is Autherley, where the Shropshire Union starts. Here we turn left through the stop lock, a rise or fall of next to nothing, it's just there to keep the two canal from stealing water from each other. Despite the lack of difference it is still very slow to fill/empty.
After stopping for a spot of lunch we continued along, passing under the M54 and have moored up just beyond bridge 7 in a nice spot with several other boats for company.
I thought that I'd get on and replace the broken hook for our cratch cover but after drilling out the rivets on the old plastic hook and drilling a new hole for the new hook (the mounting holes are in a different place on the new hook) the self tapping screw I was using sheared off and the hook dropped into the cut. End of project today!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Bratch Locks
Monday 4th October
A fabulous day! A bit of light mist this morning which soon cleared to give wall to wall sunshine, and by about 11.00 o'clock it was really warm as well.
We continued along this very pretty canal, this stretch has just enough locks to keep the interest but not too many to get a pain. I mentioned before that a lot of this canal is cut through sandstone which leaves one side of the canal as a cliff. At one place someone has put up a door in what looks like sheer cliff, but there must be some sort of cave behind it. The door had a well kept lock on it so it isn't abandoned.
Our day took us through Botherham Staircase Locks and we then stopped at Wombourne Bridge where there is a good sized Sainsburys to stock up. Continuing on we went through Bratch Locks, a flight of three which you treat as a staircase even though there are gates top and bottom of each lock and a very short pounds with side ponds. At this time of year there is a look keeper to assist which make life easy. The last time we were here it was winter and we had to do it alone.
We've moored up for the night at the top of the locks, in really beautiful surroundings.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sunday 3rd October
Woke up this morning to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. A quick decision not to move was made. Cath has been reading and cooking while made the most of a day off with a full day of bike racing, and great it was too!
It's now 4 o'clock and at last the sun has shown its face, tomorrow is meant to be a fine day so we'll push on, not sure how far yet so we'll just see what happens.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Saturday 2nd October

Not a good night last night! Kidderminster isn't a nice place to spend a weekend night. The place seemed to be teeming with noisy louts and we were disturbed several times with stuff thrown and youths knocking and running away. The last occurrence was about 3.30 am.

As we left this morning just outside of town another group of yobs was hiding in the canal-side trees throwing apples.

That's off my chest now. The weather has been much better today and as we plodded along we even got some glimpses of the sun. It wasn't too cold either.

We travelled as far as Stewponey (or Stewpony depending on which sign you read) before stopping for the night. There are some lovely moorings here in this quiet village setting.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Friday 1st October

The only thing one can say about today is WET. It has poured down all day just as the weatherman predicted. Luckily we took this to heart and have stayed put, done a bit of provisioning and generally relaxed in the warm and dry watching those poor souls who ventured out. Watching them standing soaking on the backs of their boats we felt sorry for those who for whatever reason had to travel.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

The first really autumn morning this year

Wednes day 29th & Thursday 30th September

Wednesday was certainly as advertised! Darn wet and dingy. I walked into town for a look around, it's a pleasant place with plenty of shopping and a good canal basin to moor your boat if you live near, plus access to the River Severn.


This morning was the first really autumn misty start to the day. With the weatherman promising a lot more rain tomorrow we decided to get going and then stop on Kidderminster all day on Friday, and maybe more if it doesn't improve.

After moving down into the basin to use the facilities we had a pleasant trip up the canal, through 3 locks to moor outside Tesco and a large retail park.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Staffs & Worcs cut through lovely red sandstone

Tuesday 28th September

The day dawned dull but at least warmer, and not raining. The forecast is for heavy rain tomorrow so we headed to Stourport, 14 lock/miles away.

The same lock gear is found here as on the Stourbridge Canal, light, and easy to use. The locks are quite deep, usually around 9 – 10 ft, but with the decent paddle gear they fill quite quickly. Also here I've found they also use the split bridges we first came across on the Stratford on Avon Canal. I thought they were unique to that canal, but seems I was wrong.

On the way we stopped at a supermarket in Kidderminster. There you are spoiled for choice, two big stores, both with good moorings right outside.

We've moored up now, outside the main town and I've done an engine oil change and filled with fuel from my stock of drums. Only one left now.

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Red Cone

Stewpony Lock, Staffs & Worcs Canal

Monday 27th September

Apart from a lot of dog barking somewhere over the hedge, the mooring was very peaceful with good views over the local countryside.

This morning we awoke to drizzle and gloom, but the weather forecast said that the rain would stop but the day would stay gloomy. In a very fine mizzle we plodded off down towards Stourton Locks and the junction of the Stourbridge Canal and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. The rain soon stopped just as the weatherman had predicted.

One thing I forgot to mention the other day is the clarity of the canal water here on the Stourbridge Canal, it's unbelievable, along almost its entire length we have been able to see the bottom, just like on a river. The lock gear is also very good, the design is light and easy to use, and the locks fill quickly.

After dropping through the 4 Stourton Locks (32ft) we joined the Staffs & Worcs at Stourton Junction and turned south for Stourport. The 4 Stourton locks and Stewpony Lock are very nicely turned out and show a lot of care by someone.

As soon as we started down the Staffs & Worcs I remembered some of its features, it is very shallow in places which slows the boat down. In a lot of places the canal is bordered by red sandstone cliff where the canal has been cut through. We dropped through a further 4 locks (37ft) and have stopped for the night at Cookley.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

There should be a picture of The Red Cone here but it wouldn't upload so I'll try tomorrow!!

Sunday 26th September

We visited the museum at The Red Cone this morning. Very interesting, the audio tour is fairly good, but the glass blowing demonstration wasn't the full affair. There was a learner being taught how to do it, and not being very successful. The cone itself was the furnace and the factory, shaped like it is to feed the fire and keep the glass working area close to the heat. It's a striking building and one of only a very few still left standing.

After the visit we decided to push on a little bit and descended the last 4 locks of the flight, passed the junction which carries the canal into the heart of Stourbridge (we did visit this place on our last trip) and went about another mile before mooring up for the night out in the countryside.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Delph Locks
There are 4 bridges and an aqueduct in this view

Thursday 23rd September

We prepared to set off this morning but were immediately held up by the police. Someone had found a body in the canal and the police were dealing with the situation. They told us it would probably be about another hour.

It actually took a bit less and we were on our way again. Following the Birmingham Main Line, we decided to take a detour around Soho Loop, just because it is there. This is one of the remnants of the old Birmingham Main Line laid out by Brindley as a contour canal, and superseded by the more efficient New Main Line laid out by Telford. Several of these old loops are now used as mooring places for local boats. We were expecting the loop to be a bit dank and dirty but were pleasantly surprised to find there were many nice places on it, along with the usual derelict old industrial units. Rejoining the Main Line we continued along, passing under many bridges. At one point there are 5 bridges in quick succession, well 4 and one aqueduct, see pic. At Dudley Port Junction we turned right for the 3027 yds long Netherton Tunnel. I believe this was the last tunnel built on the canal network and was nearly shut permanently when BW said they couldn't afford to do repairs to keep it open. The boating community made a bit of a hue and cry and now I think it will stay open, but for how long no one knows. Our day finished at Merryhill where there are some very good moorings and we'll do some shopping tomorrow.

Saturday25th September

Yesterday we had a good relax, and a bit of retail therapy. The weather was poor anyway, so not moving was a good call.

This morning we had to reverse a bit in order to get to the facilities block. While manoeuvring our propeller picked up a right load of rubbish and I spent ½ an hour in the weed hatch cutting it all off.

After that we started the descent of Delph Locks. There are 8 locks in the flight, but once upon a time there must have been 9 because the bridge at the beginning is called nine locks bridge and the pub at the bottom is called The Tenth Lock. Another 2 miles and we arrived at Leys Junction and turned onto the Stourbridge Canal. Straight into Stourbridge Locks, a flight of 16 locks and a drop of 145 ft. We have only come down 12 of them and are moored up outside Redhouse Cone a Stuart Crystal glass making oven and museum. We'll have a look at it tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Brindley Place at night

Tuesday 21st August

A lovely day! The weather has been really good and according to those people at the met office it's going to be nice tomorrow as well.

I took a walk into the heart of the city this morning to buy some aerial cable because the one fitted on the boat has failed. There is a break in the inner conductor and finding it would mean chopping it shorter and shorter so the best thing is to just buy some more. We still haven't tried out the new satellite dish as our mooring doesn't have site of the satellite. It'll probably be a couple of days before we try it.

This afternoon I went back into town with the camera and got a few pics of the place. They really do have some lovely buildings around here, and they are still put up huge municipal projects. However I hear on the news that the council is in financial straights, and looking around you can see why. But the results are wonderful.

Tonight we went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant called Strada. Very nice it was too. Later I took the camera out and got some pics of the area at night.

Wednesday 22nd September

Not a very good night! Could have been worse though. A couple of gangs of drunks ripped through the area around midnight leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. All we got were a few bangs on the side of the boat and our middle rope pulled out a thrown across a lamp post. Apparently they smashed a lot of ornaments around the area, and tried to set fire to one of the lock beams.

This morning we visited the museum where there is an exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard at present. Some of the articles are stunning. To say the work was carried out in “The Dark Ages” the workmanship is magnificent.

Later on we moved the boat, only a few hundred yards because our 48 hrs were up on that mooring. We've moved down to the 14 day moorings near Sheepcote Bridge. We were going to the pictures tonight but when I went to book tickets despite the fact that they advertise the film, Salt, it isn't playing, the other one we may have gone to see was The Expendables, but once again they advertise it, but it's not actually showing. Tomorrow will move on, probably to Merry Hill, where there is a huge shopping mall and good moorings.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The temporary new cut

Monday 20th September

After a leisurely breakfast we set off on the final leg into Birmingham. As we passed the University there was a lot of work being done and a new road being laid which necessitated the moving of the canal. They've put in a very tricky little chicane which moves the canal sideways about 40 yds while they do the work. I think they will re-instate the old line of the cut when the work is complete.

We've moored up near Cambrian Wharf and walked around to Sherborne Wharf where I had agreed to meet a bloke who could provide us with a new satellite dish to replace the one that got destroyed by a tree. This guy is magic. The company, called Travelsat, was set up to cater for the satellite needs of boaters and he goes out of his way to provide a great service.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Kings Norton Junction House and sign

Kings Norton Junction House and sign

Sunday 19th September

We awoke this morning to the sound of rain on the roof. A quick look at the weather forecast showed that it was due to slacken or stop by about 10.00 so we decided to use the services here at Tardebigge and move on.

The weatherman was nearly right, the rain did stop but showed itself on and off throughout the day.

Our travells today took us through 3 tunnels, Tardebigge, Shortwood, and then the long drag of Wast Hills tunnel, all 2726 yds of it. At least you can see the light at the end as you start in. The sign at the entrance states that the expected travel time is 1 hour, but without racing at all it took us only 30 minutes.

We then passed through Kings Norton Junction, where the Stratford on Avon canal joins.

Tonight we've moored up at Bournville, that place of chocolate fame. I'd like to visit, those who know me will confirm I haven't grown up yet, but unfortunately we have agreed to meet a chap in Birmingham who has a new satellite dish ready for us so we'll press on in the morning.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The one you're looking for on the way up!
Part way up and going well

Saturday 18th September

We're at the top of Tardebigge Flight! After a reasonably early start this morning we set off to do the 6 locks of Stoke Flight and then the 30 of the famous Tardebigge Flight. The total rise for these two flights is 259ft. The journey took us 6 hours and I don't think we broke any records but like doing Caen Hill Flight there is a sense achievement and relief when you're finished. The weather was gorgeous and although it started cold the sun soon got going.

There are some lovely views of the countryside while coming up and the one from the top is worth the climb.

The top of this flight is actually the Birmingham Level so no more locks from here to the heart of Birmingham, Gas Street Basin.

Not long after we moored up it got very cloudy and is now raining, so once again we've beated the weatherman!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Canal-side view
Cute little fellow in the garden of The Commandery

Wednesday 15th September

An interesting day in Worcester. We visited Grey Friars, which is a 16th century house close to the centre of the city. The name doesn't denote that it was once monastic, but because it was once erroneously thought to be part of the local Grey Friars Monastery. The building had been owned for many years by a brother and sister who rescued it from demolition and then restored it. Later they donated it to The National Trust.

I have been out taking photos, but couldn't get the one I wanted of the Cathedral because the best view is from the river.

We still haven't decided whether to move on tomorrow or stay another day and see a building called The Commandery, another place with lots of history.

Thursday16th September

This morning we did go to see The Commandery. This is a fascinating place and has been many things through the ages. The site was first a hospital, founded in the 11th century by St. Wulfstan and seems to have had a very varied career since then. It was a headquarters for the royalists in the final battle of the civil war and was last used as a print works up until the 1970s. The tour of the place is very well organised. Using audio devices you can choose from any of 6 different period tours with several choices within each of those 6.

When we had finished our look around we returned to the boat and set off to continue up the Worcester and Birmingham. We have been told that we made a good choice not to go up the Severn because it was shut again due to too high a flow rate.

Our afternoon trip was a short one, only as far as Blackpole Lock where we moored up and I took the bicycle and want shopping at the big supermarket about ½ a mole away. It looks as if this may be the last chance for a reasonable bet of provisioning until we get to Birmingham because the route of the canal doesn't go near any large towns.

Friday 17th September

A lovely if slightly cold day today. When the sun shone it was very warm on your back, but without it the temperature seemed to drop considerably. It wasn't all good during the day, a duck flew over the boat this morning and decided to dump all over the back of the boat, getting Cath in the process. Later on I was manoeuvring to avoid a grounded boat and got tangled in a low hanging tree which wiped out our Sky dish. I don't know when we are going to be able to replace it.

Our route through the Worcestershire countryside was very picturesque with lovely fields and beautiful villages. We climbed 98 ft. through 13 locks today and tomorrow will tackle Tarrdebigge Locks. First are Stoke Locks, a flight of 6, then only about 200 yd. and your into the flight proper, 30 locks, climbing 217ft. in under 2 miles. We did these locks with a hire boat about10 or 11 years ago, I suppose it won't be any easier this time!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Monday 13th September

We spent the day in Upton and visited the very interesting local museum. It's small but has a lot on show detailing life around the area from about 1800 to the 1960s. There is also a small visitors centre housed in the tower, called The Pepper Pot, which is all that remains of the old church. Here you can learn about life in the area from Medieval times right up to the present day.

Interestingly Upton is flooded occasionally by the River Severn, which has a huge up rise and fall with the rain. The local council wants to put in flood defences but we have been told that many of the local people don't want them because they will spoil the view and change the character of the place. It will be interesting to see the outcome of a meeting to sort this out.

During the morning when some boats had left we moved our boat to the outside of the mooring pontoon so that we could get a TV signal. Very shortly several boats came along and soon we were moored 3 deep on the short pontoon. Upton is a popular place and really should have more visitor moorings.

Tuesday 14th September

Despite the rain we decided to move on today. As I've said, so far we have been fairly lucky with the weather so a bit of light drizzle isn't too much to bear.

Lyra plodded her way north passing occasional villages set back from the river, none offering the casual passer by a chance to stop. After a few hours we reached Digliss Locks, a side by side pair of large Severn Locks, which we shared with a hire boat who was having all sorts of trouble controlling the craft. Soon after this we came upon Worcester and turned into Digliss Bottom Lock, the beginning of the Worcester-Birmingham Canal. There are two locks here and it was a bit of a shock after so long on the Severn to have to work the locks ourselves. This lock and the next were particularly difficult to operate. Even the BW man who looks after the area agreed that they were ***** difficult and told me that BW had been saying for years that they would do something about it, but nothing ever happens. These locks took us up 18' to the Basin level.

We moved up as far as the visitor moorings and have stopped for the night. We were going to continue on the river to Stourport tomorrow, but have now decided to stay here for a day and then continue up the canal to Birmingham.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Moored at Upton on Severn

Friday 10th September

We had a good time last night. Paul and Jacqui turned up with some more fuel and we're now stuffed to the gunnals. After the transfer we all went into Frampton on Severn and had a meal in The Bell. It was great; Thursday was steak night and the meals were very good. We can recommend that place to all.

This morning we continued on our way to Gloucester, arriving about 12.30 our first call was at Sainsbury's for the rest of the stuff to make the blackberry jam. Cath soon got stuck into making it, and it's now cooling in the jars.

While the jam was being made I had a walk out and ended up wandering around Sainsbury's browsing the magazines etc. By shear luck I came across Chris, the partner of Nigel Horley, one of my old bosses and a friend. As soon as he heard we were in Gloucester they invited us out for a meal on Saturday night. We had a lovely time, ate too much of course, and then Chris gave us a bucket of fresh garden produce. Thanks a lot for everything to you both.

Sunday 12th September

Woke up to a glorious morning and decided to head for Upton on Severn. It's a long trip but the batteries needed a good charge and we had two loads of laundry so we could do with running the engine for a long day.

As we passed out of Gloucester lock the keeper asked 'Where are you going? Tewkesbury?' No, Upton we said. OK says he, but there's a big tide at midday so watch out, but you should be OK if you get a move on. Well, this should teach me to do my homework. I hadn't reckoned on the tide. Because of the high tide last night the river had been high and was now draining down ready for the next one so the flow was fairly brisk and progress was slow as we made our way out towards what's called The Upper Parting, this is where the river splits and some of it goes to the dock entrance and some goes around the city. Our pace picked up a bit as the river was wider so the flow was a bit slower. As the morning wore on and the tide came up our speed increased so that when we reached Lower Lode Lock we were up to 5.5 mph. The lock keeper asked us if it had been a difficult passage because the tide was very high, but we hadn't had any real problems at all.

After the lock, and the junction with The Avon, we continued north in much calmer waters. Along the way Cath spotted a kingfisher and I whipped out the camera for another try at that elusive picture. I got one, but it's still too far away and a bit fuzzy, but they're getting better.

On arrival at Upton we found the small mooring very full,but luckily there was one willing to let us moor alongside.

While we have been travelling Cath has been busy turning the tomatoes we were given yesterday into a lovely spicy sauce to go with our sausages tonight.

Friday, 10 September 2010

A swan flew over us

Friday 10th September

We had a good time last night. Paul and Jacqui turned up with some more fuel and we're now stuffed to the gunnals. After the transfer we all went into Frampton on Severn and had a meal in The Bell. It was great; Thursday was steak night and the meals were very good. We can recommend that place to all.

This morning we continued on our way to Gloucester, arriving about 12.30 our first call was at Sainsbury's for the reat of the stuff to make the blackberry jam. Cath soon got stuck into making it, and it's now cooling in the jars.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

She seems stuck

Bridge keepers cottage with Doric columns

Before leaving sharpness this morning we decided to take a walk along the edge of the marina to the bank of the Severn. To our amazement we found The Balmoral moored up alongside the old quay wall near to the disused original lock into the docks. She was taking on passengers for a day trip.

The fun started as she set off. The tide was running quite strongly as she let here stern rope go, but instead of reversing hard out into the stream it looked as if the bow rope was either too tight to undo or they were just a little slow in letting it go. The tide flow took the stern and started to swing it quickly and she seemed unable to reverse off the quay wall and was carried along until she dropped an anchor to stop her bow from moving any closer to what looked like rocky shoreline. Finally she was brought to halt, it looked like she might be beached with the tide running out quickly. The anchor was raised and the captain asked all the passengers to move to the back of the boat allowing the front to get a bit higher. Full reverse then managed to pull here clear with a tremendous cheer and clapping from the passengers on board and from all of us watching from the shore.

With that little drama over we returned to the boat and set off along the canal intending to stop around Saul junction for the night. On the way we stopped to pick blackberries from bushes on the off side where most people can't get at them. The pickings were great and in not too much time I got about 1 and ½ lbs. We'll start making jam soon!