Saturday, 30 June 2012

Looks like they're trying to hold up Spaghetti Junction

Salford Junction sign

Typical industrial canal scene
Saturday 30th June 2012
Once again we got up earlier than usual to get a good start for our run into Birmingham. After a couple of miles we came to the first locks of the day, Minworth Three Locks. The next section of canal becomes more and more industrial as it passes through Erdington and Gravelly Hill, finally reaching Salford Junction, in the shadow of the famous Spaghetti Junction. Here a very sharp left turn takes you onto the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal, which is now part of The Grand Union Canal, an easy left turn is a continuation of the Birmingham and Fazeley and straight on it becomes The Tame Valley Canal. We turned left to stay on the B&F, and after calling at the Cuckoo Wharf service area we continued to The Aston Locks, a flight of 11. The book says that there is mooring between locks 8 and 9 on the flight and that was our destination.
As we pulled in to the lock mooring for number 10, I got off to work the lock, but Cath seemed to be having trouble controlling the boat so I went back to see what was wrong. Luckily Lyra had swung and put her stern against the towpath side so I was able to get back on board to see what the trouble was. It turned out to be the gearbox control cable had broken, leaving Cath stuck in reverse.
By good fortune (and planning) I carry a spare, so it was out with the spanners. I've never done this job before so it was a learning exercise, but after about 30 minutes we were back business and we continued up the next 2 locks to find the mooring. As promised in the book there was a good mooring area, so we tied up for the night and I'm looking forward to a nice meal of steak and a bottle of wine tonight.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday 29th June 2012
A nice quiet night at Fazeley, this morning we cast off and moved across to the other side of the canal to use the service area, more rubbish and another can gone.
At the junction we turned right onto the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. The canal passes close to Drayton Manor Park, but the only clue to this is the unique footbridge over the cut.
Soon after that we started the long climb up to Birmingham. The first rise is the 11 lock Curdworth Flight. The weather was windy and kept threatening to rain, but only a few drops actually found us.
Just past the top of the flight we found a good looking pub with mooring at Minworth.
The map showed that there was a large Asda quite close by so I took the trolley and carried out a raid to replenish our larder.
Tonight we'll eat out at the pub, and tomorrow we're not sure how far we will get into Birmingham, but I hope to make it all the way.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Thursday 28th June 2012
This morning we awoke to hear light rain on the roof, but it soon stopped and by the time we'd finished breakfast it wasn't looking bad at all.
We chugged off through some lovely countryside, in places both banks of the canal are overgrown making a fine wildlife habitat, but a narrow channel for the boats. But dark clouds were gathering, as we were passing through an area marked as a firing range there was a brilliant flash of lightning followed by an almighty bang, a sound which I can only describe as the nearest thing I've heard to the main armament of one of the tanks I used to crew. Then the rain started. Luckily we weren't too far from a mooring, so we pulled in and waited it out. After about 30 minutes the sun again showed itself so we ventured out once more.
It didn't last long, and again it started to tip down. Luck once again played its part as a lovely wide bridge appeared across the cut. We hid under it until the the downpour abated.
Not long after this, as we approached Fazeley Junction the rain started again so we decided to call it a day and moor up for the night. Good decision! No sooner were we tied up than another storm blew through.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday 27th June 2012
A fine day today, we chugged up two more locks to Fradley where we took on water and dumped a can. The water point here is very slow, so while we waited we decided to call in at the cafe for a morning treat. Cath had a Corneto and being the greedy sod that I am I had an ice cream sunday.
When the tank was finally full we set off up the one remaining lock to the junction and turned left onto The Coventry Canal.
At Streethay Wharf we stopped for fuel, taking on nearly 270 ltrs, which should see us for another month, hopefully more. After that we continued as far as Whittington, a small village near Lichfield. I ambled into the village get a few essentials and an MCN. On the way back I had a good chat with a chap who single hands a 70 foot boat. He tells me that he used to have a working pair on The Grand Union before he retired.
The weather has been improving throughout the day and it's now bright sunshine and lovely and warm.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tuesday 26th June 2012
On Sunday we moved on as far as Shobnall, Burton on Trent. We got a lovely mooring alongside Shobnall Fields open parkland, with a footbridge across the cut to get into town.
We spent Monday at Burton on Trent, the town centre is not close to the canal, about a 15-20 minute walk. I went exploring, but decided not to do the brewery tour as I've done it before.
On the opposite side of the canal from the park there is a short nature trail, called Kingfisher Walk. Cath and I took a stroll along it, but didn't see any kingfishers.
Today we've travelled on as far as Alrewas, a lovely little town, with limited shopping, but we don't need anything anyway. It's a very popular spot and finding a mooring was difficult. We finally fetched up right at the end of the allotted area for mooring. Too many trees here, can't get the satellite, so Cath is having to live without Wimbledon tennis.

Crossing the River Dove

Moored up in Shobnall

The Kingfisher Trail

A nod towards Burton's heritage

Large family of swans
It must be something in the water

Cath with kingfisher
Approaching Tatenhill Lock
Rising in Tatenhill Lock

Alrewas wier

Alrewas wier

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Saturday 23rd June 2012
Off again this morning. We've decided not to brave the river for the time being, so we turned west out of the marina and headed for Willington. Just ahead of us we spotted a boat heading for the lock and thought, wonderful we have a pair. It wasn't to be, there was already a boat waiting. We went through that one alone and continued along to the next. On the way we passed Roger and Maureen Yorke in Ramyshome, we've met them several times now over the years but we couldn't stop because the wind was too strong to make it a good idea. At the next lock we did manage to pick up a pairing, and for the rest of the journey we shared the locks.
Arriving at Willington we found the moorings full, but have managed a place on the tow path, still close to town. 
After a short walk into town for some provisions I hadn't long returned to the boat when the rain started, great timing.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Thursday 21st June 2012
We've just returned from a few days in Leeds visiting Damon, Liz and Daniel. Enjoyable time, and we got a few things done. The two most important of which were picking up new prescriptions to keep these decrepit old frames going a little longer, and to confirm our mooring slot at Clarence Dock.
Our journey back down the motorway was not pleasant, the rain just hammered down for a lot of it, but at least we didn't get caught up in any traffic jams.
We're now using the shore power to get a few wash loads out of the way, and we really should get on and do some boat cleaning, but I'm feeling far too lazy at the moment.
The present weather looks like it may force us to change our plans for the immediate future. The River Soar is not looking a good prospect at the moment, so we may turn around, head back to Fradley and turn south from there.
Finally, our grandson Daniel is taking part in a sponsored stroll today, with a super heros theme.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tuesday 19th June 2012
Monday morning we moved into Chapel Farm Marina where the owner had very kindly allowed us a powered mooring for 4-5 nights while we visit Leeds.
Very nice marina here and if we wanted to live in this area it would make a lovely base.
As usual Enterprise Rentacar came up trumps and was able to pick us up early afternoon to arrange our car for the trip. We got a Hyundi I20 which seems quite a fair car, it had 29 miles on it when I got it.
The trip to Leeds was uneventful and it was great to see Daniel again.
This morning we went around to Clarence Dock to visit the BW office to try to finalise the mooring agreement with them. All seem fine on that front and we now await a confirming email.
Off to the quack tomorrow, which was the reason we had to come to Leeds and then we are free to return to the boat at any time, but will probably leave it until Friday.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Sunday 17th June 2012
Another early start today as we intended to get to Shardlow in one go.
Casting off we headed for the service area where there was already a queue developing. As we manoeuvred waiting for our turn on the mooring who should come along, but Sanity Again. After a few shouted greetings they managed to clear their way through melange and we breasted up to a boat already tied up there. They were doing a pump out and would be about 20 minutes while all we had to do was chuck a can and some rubbish so we could both get on and do what was needed without interfering woth each other.
As we pulled off the services another boat came along going the same way as us, which was very handy because all the locks from now on are wide, so we had someone to share with.
The next 6 locks to Shardlow went very well, apart from us picking up some c**p on our prop in lock 5 which held us up for a few minutes.
When we arrived at Shardlow mooring was at a premium, at it soon became clear why. The river lock had a red light on it due to all the rain lately, so the boats are backing up. We managed to squeeze into a spot and I wandered off down the towpath looking for a marina, hoping to get a spot for the next few days while we visit Leeds. We had a bit of luck on that front and tomorrow we'll move on down and into the marina.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Saturday 16th June
We did stay put today. Although the Met Office had changed the forecast to be a bit better we decided not to move. It was a good decision.
This morning I strolled onto town to get Cath a newspaper and bumped into Bruce, off Sanity Again. We spent the very cold winter of 2010/11 as neighbours at Great Haywood Marina, and he was very helpful when I was ill, lifting a gas bottle into our locker when I was too weak to do it myself. Good to see him again, looking fit and well.
It's been blustery all day so we're quite glad we didn't move. I went back to town later to do a bit of shopping, later we moved the boat by pulling it about 30 yards so that we could receive satellite tele and Cath is now settled down with tennis.
Tomorrow we'll try to get to Shardlow, which is the end of the T&M canal. We've decided that trying to get to Leeds in the next week is not a runner so we hope to put the boat in Sawley Marina, hire a car and go to Leeds that way.
On a completely different topic, our much vaunted Hurricane heater has started to get noisy again (a new compressor was fitted under guarantee 5 moths ago). When I contacted Calcutt Boats about it they admitted that there is a known problem with the later design of compressor on this model so it remains to be seen what they intend to do about it.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Friday 15th June 2012
Taking a look at the sky this morning we could see no hint of the high winds and rain or showers that had been foretold.
A decision was taken to move and we duly cast off and plodded east past Burton Upon Trent. This world famous brewing town is skirted by the canal, and you don't see much of it apart from boards advertising brewery tours, the smell of brewing, and the sight of a few silos.
We stopped only momentarily to empty a can before continuing on our way. the wind was starting to rise by about 11.00 o'clock and we had decided to try and get to Willington for the night.
As we pulled into the mooring at Willington it was just gone 12.00 o'clock and the first drops of rain were just starting. What timing was that!
The rain didn't last long, but since then there have been several showers, some quite sharp. I wonder if the dire predictions for tomorrow will have changed by the morning?
We've just learned that we have won the auction of a mooring at Clarence Dock, Leeds, so Lyra now has a home mooring.
PS I don't know if there's something in the water around here but we've seen several large families of both swans and ducks. Maybe it's the breweries!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Thursday 14th June 2012
A fine day's motoring was had. As we got up today the sun was beaming through the windows with the promise of some warmth at last.
Cath walked ahead from our mooring to start the first lock of the day. The two remaining locks at Fradley were quickly dispatched and we chugged through the flat countryside of the Trent valley with hills visible a few miles off to our left.
The sun continued to shine, and all the people we met looked happy to be out of the November weather, if only for a day.
Just after Alrewas the canal drops onto the Trent for a short river section. The indicators were well into the green and the river was as quite as a pussy cat. We haven't been on this section of canal for about 5 years so couldn't remember much of surroundings. We were surprised to see a lot of private mooring here on the river section, where the boats were tied to fixed moorings, with no concession, it seems, to changes in water level.
At the next lock the river is once again left to its own devices and we continue on the canal as far as Branston, of pickle fame. We've moored up for the night near Branston Water Park, a lake where wildlife and water sports mix happily. I took a wander into the village, but it's quite small with little shopping.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is foul, the wind is already rising, and if it turns out to be true we'll stay put.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Wednesday 13th June 2012
We had a fine night at The Clifford Arms with John, as usual the food was excellent.
Tuesday morning we set off again heading for Rugeley where there is a another good Morrison's and a Wilkinson's where I bought some more engine oil. The service intervals on this engine are very short, 100 hrs. between oil changes, so I don't bother feeding it expensive top of the range oils.
Mooring at Rugeley was tight, but we managed to find a good spot close to the bridge, which some kind soul just vacated as we approached.
This morning we got up early again as we had hoped to make it to Alrewas. The weather forecast is fair for the next 2 days so we decided to crack on before the rain comes again for the weekend.
At Wood End Lock, as we were leaving it our prop picked something up so badly it nearly stalled the engine. Manoeuvring was impossible so we just drifted in cut while I dived into the weed hatch to see what the problem was.
It was a large piece of reinforced plastic sheet, and it took a lot of getting off. By the time the prop was clear we'd drifted onto mud bank and were stuck fast. Luckily the boat that followed us down the lock came to our rescue and towed us off the bank.
At Fradley Junction we pulled in at the services. The water supply here is notoriously slow, and while we waited for it fill our tank the rain started. So far it had been a good day, well, a lot better than it has been anyway, but this looked like it could be in for a while. It was still raining when we finished taking water so we moored up and decided to stay here tonight.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monday 11th June 2012
Back to Great Haywood. After doing a bit of shopping in the Morrison's at Stone we set off heading to Great Haywood. It was here that we over-wintered 2010/11. The trip here was quite easy, all the traffic seemed to be going the other way, and at all but one of the locks we met boats coming up. The weather was a bit dank, it didn't actually rain, but it was cold.
Once we reached Haywood we stopped at the service mooring for the usual reasons and then slowly plodded down the line of moored boats looking for a spot to spend tonight. I'd just given up thoughts getting without going down Haywood Lock when Cath spotted a place where I thought one didn't exist. Sure enough, we just fitted in. It's the perfect place, only a few yards from the bridge and then a short walk to The Clifford Arms where we will be joined by John (our son's father in law) for a meal.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sunday 10th June
An early start this morning because we were intending to get to Stone, about 20 lock/miles.
As we dropped down through the 5 Stoke Locks the sky was already clearing, giving a hint of a better day than we've had for a while.
Once past Stoke bottom lock there are signs of industry, and in one spot there is a housing development where a pair of bottle ovens has been left standing as a reminder of the history of the area.
Soon we are back out into leafy suburbs and then countryside again. The canal is once more flanked by those two standard features, the railway on one side and the River Trent has now joined us on the other and will be a constant companion from now on, until we finally leave it at Keadby.
At Trentham Lock we meet several boats coming the other way, which makes the lock easy. Talking to the people waiting there it seems that the canal is extremely busy from here to Stone. We met queues of boats coming up at all the locks right into Stone. We appeared to be the only ones heading south until we actually got into Stone. Here we were surprised to find the locks manned by BW volunteers. They tell me that it's a new idea for the new Waterways Trust. A great idea it is too.
All the mooring in Stone was taken so we had to continue out of town for a good 1/2 mile before we could tie up. 
Cath has now settled in to watching the French Open Tennis Final, I may go for a walk.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Saturday 9th June 2012
At last we're on the move again. This morning we climbed the final lock to the summit and moved along to the tunnel entrance to wait for permission to enter. This is the first time we've travelled from north to south in Harecastle Tunnel, and the last time we came through was before I fitted the top boxes. The tunnel keeper asked me to remove my bicycle from the top and then eyed up the boxes. His opinion was that they'd be OK, but the tunnel gauge at the entrance would say yea or nay.
There were 3 boats on their way through from the southern end and our wait would be about 40 minutes. The tunnel keeper did give me one piece of advice which I've never heard before, "keep your speed up in the tunnel, and it will help you to keep straight", I've always gone through at a normal throttle opening, which in a tunnel makes it a bit slow because of the limited area for the water to flow past the boat. This time I tried to go much faster and it seemed to work, the boat stayed straighter than normal and didn't require so much fighting with the tiller.
Our transit time was just about 35 minutes and we're now moored up at Etruria for the night, lovely surroundings, with a statue of Brindley for company.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday 8th June 2012
Another day drowned! 
This morning necessity spoke, telling me I had to empty a can, or else. There are two service blocks quite near, Red Bull, which had been off line when we passed,  and tunnel entrance. A look at the map showed that even if the Red Bull services were back on line, the walk to either of them was 50/50, except Red Bull was down hill with the full can. I rang BW to see if they were working yet, and the answer was no.
With the decision made for me, I set off with the trolley to look for the tunnel entrance. It wasn't actually raining, so I didn't bother with any rain gear. Half way there the heavens opened and although there were bridges to hide under, with no idea how long the downpour would last I didn't bother.
After returning to the boat we decided to run the engine and start a wash load so that the batteries could get a good charge, yesterday's use of the slow cooker had left them a bit low.
Shopping was next on the list so I grabbed the wheelie bag, wet gear, a brolly and set off.
Having completed the list and paid the cashier I headed for the exit. One look outside and I decided to stay put! It was chucking it down! I cowered in the entrance porch until it slacked off to a steady rain and then made good my escape.
The rest of the day we've spent in the warm and dry while the rain tipped down outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be a bit better, and unless it's a biblical flood we'll try to make it at least as far as Etruria, and if it's dry we may continue a bit further.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Thursday 7th June 2012
Just try to remember, this is June!
We spent today still tied up in Kidsgrove. The forecast was just so specific about the wind and rain that we decided to take another day out from travelling. Once again the the Met Office got it right, it hasn't stopped raining all day and the wind is pretty high too.
Despite the foul weather there are still boats which do have to move, this is half term and there are quite a few hire boats out there. It's been quite a sight watching those poor dripping wet people passing us on their way to the lock.
To honour this unseasonable weather we decided to have unseasonable food so Cath made a lovely stew and added some chilli flakes, boy was that warming.
From the look of tomorrow's forecast we may well spend another day here, but after that we'll have to move to empty our can.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wednesday 6th June 2012
After looking at the weather forecast for today we decided to get another early start. It's been a bit of a lock-fest, there's lots of traffic on the cut this week so we've had to queue for most of the locks, but at least there has been plenty of help, and conversation. As I've already stated, some of the locks here are tandem, when they're both in use its great, but after a couple of fully working pairs the whole thing comes to a halt where one of the pair is out of use. However, steady progress was made, in lovely sunshine for most of the time. The boat following us was a hirer, with a couple of teenage kids who really got on with the work, making life easy for us.
After 14 locks and only 4 miles we've moored up at Kidsgrove, just one lock down from Harecastle Tunnel. Our timing was pretty good, we'd only been here about 30 minutes when the rain started.
There's a handy Tesco here, and from the look of the weather forecast we may stay here tomorrow.
One small fly in the ointment is that Red Bull services is shut, all facilities were unavailable, and we will need a can dump in a day or so.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Tuesday 5th June 2012
We decided to try and get an early start this morning and with that in mind I leapt (?) out of bed at 7.00 and by 8.00 we were on our way.
The locks on this section are tandem chambers, a solution to traffic jams back in the working days, but now quite a few are filled in of derelict leaving only single chambers.
Cath and I took turns at lock wheeling as we continued the climb towards the summit. Our goal for today was Hassle Green where there is a nice cafe and small shop aimed at canal traffic. There used to be a pub here called The Romping Donkey, but it closed some time ago and is now looking like a building site, I don't know what its future is. There is good mooring here so after lunch we decided to stay here and continue to the summit, Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove tomorrow. There is a handy Tesco in town and we'll tackle the tunnel the day after that.
Here's some pics of our day, by the way it's started raining now, hope it lets off tomorrow.

Monday, 4 June 2012

\Monday 4th June 2012
Much better today. We awoke to sunshine and the sound of lots of boats on the move.
Expecting long queues at the locks we cast off at about 8.30. Cath decided to have a go at lock wheeling so I got a chance to relax and watch. At the first lock there was no one waiting, but one had just gone up so Cath emptied the lock and in I went.
Now we had caught up with someone, but with traffic going both ways at least there were plenty of people to do the work. After 4 locks we had about a mile of level cruising before the next one. No point in hurrying with lots of boats around so we just plodded on slowly. At the next we waited for the one ahead of us to clear and there was no one waiting to come down so it was straight in after emptying it. Another mile and we were in a queue again for the last 3 locks we were going to do today, but, there was once again plenty of help.
We reached Wheelock at about 1.00 pm where we used the facilities  before moving on to the mooring area. While waiting for the water tank to fill we were joined by an unusual sight, a steam driven narrow boat. It was the brainchild of a retired electrical engineer, who had built the engine from scratch as a retirement project.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Saturday 2nd June 2012
Once again the weatherman seems to have got it wrong. Casting off from Anderton this morning it very soon started to rain and didn't let off all the time we travelled.
The canal winds its way though the countryside as only a contour canal can. The outlook is predominantly rural but there are some huge industrial sites. The one at Northwich is easily the largest, and dominates the canal when you pass through. As we passed the site of The Lion Salt Works it was heartening to see that finally there seem to be some serious work going on to turn it into an industrial heritage site. It seems to have been on the wish list for years now and every time we passed it there didn't seem to be any movement, but now things are happening.
After Northwich the canal spends a fair bit of time travelling through wooded areas, and just before Middlewich there is a picnic and BBQ area set on the off side. Shame about the weather!
At Middlewich there is a flight of 4 locks and the bottom one is another of those anomalies on the system, a wide lock capable of taking a full size wide beam boat, no other locks around here will accommodate this size, so why?

Friday, 1 June 2012

Friday 1st June 2012
Under cloudy sky we set off this morning. It wasn't cold, and there was a hope that the sum would show itself later. 
Soon we arrived at the junction with The Tent & Mersey Canal. Here there's a branch of Midland Chandlers and despite getting a few things yesterday i just had to have a browse in the toy shop.
We ended up getting new wind up torch to replace the one stolen in Sheffield last year, and a different oil change pump. I've now tried 2 types of electric pumps which failed very quickly so this time I'm trying a vacuum job. Time will tell if it's OK.
Just of the junction there is the stop lock. Just about 2 inches difference in level. But is ensured that one canal didn't "steal" water from the other. This lock is a strange one, this is a narrow canal, but the stop lock is 10 ft wide, too narrow for a wide beam or two narrow boats, so why the width? It fells good to back in Lyra's natural habitat, the narrow canals, where the locks are small and (generally) easy.
We've now moored up just passed The Anderton Boat Lift.