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!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A view across the Severn estuary from the canal

Our trip down the Gloucester-Sharpness canal was a bit of a revelation. I must admit I expected it to be pretty dreary, with little in the way of views or beauty. How wrong one can be! The canal is very interesting with lots of manned swing bridges, and some lovely views over the River Severn estuary. The old bridge keepers cottages are interesting, tiny places but with Doric columns at the front door.

We've moored up on the outskirts of the docks and have no intention of venturing further as that appears to be only if you intend to go out of the locks onto the Severn.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lyra passing through Llanthony Lift Bridge

Tuesday 7th September

After doing some shopping in Gloucester city centre we moved off down the docks, under Llanthony Bridge, which was lifted for us (see pic). Gloucester traffic must love us.

Just past the bridge are some more moorings, with all facilities, and only a short walk from a large Sainsbury's. We've tied up for the night and been for a raid on the aforementioned supermarket.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Monday 6th September

Under a very threatening sky we set off through Avon Lock for our trip to Gloucester. The weather forecast said that the rain would hold off until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. As with anything put out by the Met Office we took this with more hope than expectation. Carrying on through Lower Lode Lock we felt a splash of rain, but it came to nothing. Soon we could actually see where the sun was, but only briefly before the clouds returned. Continuing down stream we passed Haw Bridge, where Glavon TR's held 2 of its famous (or is that notorious?) weekenders. Wainlode's and The Red Lion pub was next, this is where Cath and I had our first experience of camping together complete with a totally mad dalmatian dog called Hector, who nearly had the tent down more than once. Never again!

The rain held off and we were still dry as we spied the lock at Gloucester. Entering Gloucester docks through the lock we were raised to the main basin level. Here there is ample free mooring at this time of year. We'll stay here a day or two before heading off for Sharpness.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Sunday 5th September

Today our luck with the weather ran out. We had to vacate the marina this morning and after using all the facilities they could offer, water, rubbish disposal etc. we set off just as the rain started. Boy oh boy did it come down hard. Our intention was only to get to a mooring nearer town (a free one of course) which took only about 10 minutes but by the time we had tied up we were both soaked, despite wet weather gear. Just after that the rain eased off and stopped for a couple of hours. Ah well you can't win them all. We went into town for a spot of lunch and a look around,but the rain started again so we're now huddling in the boat and will probably move down to Gloucester tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

In Lower Lode Lock, it's a big one!

Saturday 4th September

Last night the much needed fuel duly arrived along with Paul and Jacqui. Some of the fuel had spilled in the car so they now have a lovely smell to put up with for a while. Sorry Jacqui!

One of the local chinese takeaways provided a wonderful repast last night after all the work Paul and I put in lugging fuel cans about and dumping 5 of them into our fuel tank, the rest into our storage (the engine compartment).

Today we took a little trip downstream to the lock out onto the Severn, then turned left to Upper Lode lock for a short jaunt down to a pub called The Lower Lode. When we got there the mooring were stuffed full of cruisers so we went further down river hoping that the next one, Called The Yew Tree, hoping it would be less populated. It was, and after negotiating several flotillas of small sailing boats chasing each other around buoys in the river we moored up and sampled their menu. Very nice it was too.

Later we started back upstream and arrived back in the marina at about 4.30. Paul is working tomorrow so they had to pack up and go home leaving us to our own devices.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Had a fair trip down river today as far as Tewkesbury Marina where we will stop tonight. Paul and Jacqui are visiting us, bringing some much needed fuel with them.
Our run today was in dry but mostly overcast conditions, only marred by our inability to find any of the facilities stations marked on the map! In the end we decided to come here to Tewkesbury Marina and moor overnight using their facilities. Here we get everything including an electric hookup.
The pictures above are 1. A lovely little bridge we came under today and 2. A sight we saw last night, a dragon boat crew out practising. The girl at the front banging the drum has the best job!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Thursday 2nd September

Still moored up in Pershore. Another wonderful day of wall to wall sunshine. The weatherman said that in meteorological terms summer was over. They got it wrong again!

Cath and I spent the day looking around town and of course some provisioning.

Another lazy day.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

We went shopping in Evesham this morning, or at least tried to. The shopping centre was a great disappointment, many charity type shops, which we feel is indicative of a town not doing well.

Moving off down river, in wall to wall sunshine, we passsed through several locks, all with associated pretty weirs. The last lock we passed through today was Wyre Lock, near the village of Wyre Piddle. The river front here was lovely, with some very good looking houses backing down to the river. The lock was special as well, a diamond shape. Can't find any reason for this but it's different.

We are now at Pershore, and what a difference this place is from Evesham. A thriving little town with lots of excellent shops. The mooring is in parkland and looks glorious. Tomorrow we'll explore more.