Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday July 20th 2012
This morning we started down the 7 locks of  the Buckby flight. All but one of them was in our favour so although the gates and some of the paddle gear were very heavy we had soon cleared them. That was all the locks for today.
The canal then winds through some pleasant wooded countryside, only spoiled by the constant roar of traffic from the nearby M1 on our left hand side and sudden rush of noise from the frequent trains on the busy line to our right.
On the east side the trees give way to farmland as the motorway veers off leaving only the trains to disturb the peace and quiet.
The weather was very changeable, with sunshine interspersed with sharp showers and the accompanying gusts of wind.
We're now tied up in Weedon Bec, and when the rain ceases I'll take a wander to look for some shopping.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Saturday 28th July 2012
Saturday evening, and all's well.
We decided to spend the day here in Braunston, so after a lovely lazy lie in I did a very quick wipe down of the side of Lyra facing the tow path and then, when a space became available we moved across the cut to moor outside The Boat, a fine pub, with its own mooring. We've eaten here before and enjoyed it.
Once tied up we took a walk up the hill into the village. The tea shop provides a fine ice cream dish and we both sampled the wares before crossing the road and shopping in the local store.
The village church was preparing for a wedding, and in the main street we saw cars being decked out with ribbon, so it was obviously a big local do.
This afternoon I cleaned the other side of the boat, then took a wander to the local chandlers for a browse around the toy shop, but didn't buy anything.
This evening we went to the pub for a meal, and weren't disappointed. 
Tomorrow we'll head off through Braunston Tunnel and probably go as far as Norton Junction.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday 27th July 2012
A bit of a lie in this morning. With only about 6 miles to go to Braunston we decided to wait a bit before setting off to allow anyone mooring there who wanted to move on a bit of time to get going, and give us a better chance of finding somewhere to tie up.
At Napton Junction the Oxford Canal and Grand Union join for a short period, they continue along to BraunstonTurn. Just past the junction we came across a boat which had pulled its front mooring pin and had floated across the canal, blocking passage. We pulled in, and with the help of another boat we managed to get it pulled back to the bank and, hopefully, safely tied up again.
On reaching Braunston the canals divide, the Oxford heading north towards The Coventry Canal and we turned right, continuing our journey along The Grand Union.
We've stopped here in Braunston, a well known and popular place on the canal system. There's a fine pub, a couple of chandlers, and a steep walk up the hill brings you to Braunston Village which boasts a very good, well stocked local shop, a butcher and a tea shop. We may decide to stay another day and sample the pub fare tomorrow night.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wednesday - Thursday 25/26th July 2012
Once again we decided to try to get away before the day got too hot. By 8.00 o'clock we were on our way with the sun already heating things up.
Cath started wheeling the first lock of the day and we cycled through with no problems. At the next lock it quickly became apparent that not all was right. On nosing in through the bottom gates I saw that the top gates were also cracked open. Sure enough, the next pound was drained.
I walked up to the next lock, which is a staircase of two, and found it all empty as well. The pound above was, thankfully full though.
It took us quite a while to fill the drained section, and by the time we had gotten going again it was scorching hot.
At the next lock there were two boats already paired up in front of us, and while we waited for our turn another already paired couple turned up behind us, leaving us to operate alone.
We continued along and through the next lock where we spotted an ice cream sign. The sun was already very hot, and if we started the next lock we wouldn't be able to stop for another 8 locks, so, with a fine looking pub right across from where we had moored we decided to call it day and retire for ice cream and then a lunch at the aforesaid hostelry.
It all went swimmingly today. Last night we got a pairing with a small hire boat, and at 8.00 this morning we set off to do the 8 remaining Stockton Locks, and probably the 3 Calcutt Locks if all was well.
We virtually flew up Stockton Locks, and by 9.00 o'clock were on the level heading for Calcutt. Once there we stopped to pick up water, and I went to the boatyard to get more information on our Hurricane heater.
I must say that I got the answer I was looking for at Calcutt Boats. The manufacturer has noted that there is a problem with some of the compressors in these heaters, and even when out of guarantee it will be replaced if it fails. This is as good a deal as you could expect, and I'm satisfied and happier now that I know it isn't going to cost and arm and a leg when/if this one packs in.
We're now tied up just above Calcutt Top Lock for the day, Braunston tomorrow, maybe further, but that's up in the air at present.
Among the pics today I've included a shot of one of the huge paddles that are fitted to the “modern” Grand Union locks. These locks really do fill and empty quickly.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Welch Road Lock. the older narrow lock is now an overflow
Tuesday 24th July 2012
Another beautiful day dawned, and after breakfast I took a trip up to the local Co-op to buy some razors which I forgot yesterday.
About 9 we set off again reckoning to get a about 3 hours of travel in.
The sun beat down relentlessly, I love it, but Cath isn't quite so keen. At the first 3 locks Cath took lock wheeling duties while I lazed about driving the boat. The next lock had a crew waiting for us and told us not to bother getting off the boat. Lovely! The final one today was Welch Road Lock where we have moored up for the day after going through.
We've stopped here before, when we came up from Oxford 2 years ago.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday 23rd July 2012
We've had a few super sunshiny days at last. We spent Saturday and Sunday moored up in Warwick. Caught the bus into town and had a good nose around. It was market day so there was plenty to see.
On Sunday I was feeling a bit unwell, so we spent the day doing nothing while I rested. I think it was something I eat, but I'm getting better now.
This morning we cast off and went down the final 2 locks to the lowest level of the canal around here. The canal crosses the River Avon here, and then reaches Leamington Spa. We've stopped here for the night.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday 20th July 2012
Here we are, moored up near Warwick. With a lot of double width locks to do we got up early and were on our way by just gone 8.00.
After about an hour's running we reached the top of Hatton Flight. There was no-one waiting at the top to go down so I decided to walk down to the cafe to see if they sold milk, and get a bit of cake for morning coffee.
When I got to the cafe, which is only one lock down from the top, there was a boat crew who had just finished breakfast, and they seemed happy to wait for us to cycle the top lock and then pair up for rest. I went back to the boat and started to fill the lock ready for us. Just as I was opening it a chap ran up from the other boat and said they'd decided not to wait and would carry on by themselves. I was flabbergasted! It's not only unusual to refuse a pairing, it's bad manners and wasteful of water.
Anyway, we waited in the lock, and after about 10 minuets another boat came along and we paired up for the slog ahead of us.
All went very well, "Bwthyn Dŵr" the other boat had 4 on board, which gave us enough crew to get ahead and prepare locks if there wasn't anyone coming up. We met a few boats climbing the flight, but not many. The pairing lasted until the bottom lock where there was a singleton waiting so we took that slot and said goodbye to "Bwthyn Dŵr",which is Welsh for Water Cottage.
At the bottom there is an arm of canal, Saltisford Arm, which boasts mooring and facilities. We decided to give it try, but were very disappointed, the mooring is very limited, and the facilities are difficult to get to. So we turned around and are now moored outside the main area and I'll have a look around later to see if we can get closer or we'll just stay here.
Hatton Flight, near Warwick

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Thursday 19th July 2012
We set off about 8.30 this morning, heading for Lapworth flight. The canal wound through beautiful dappled sunlight coming through the trees lining the edges.
At the top lock we arrived just as a boat was coming out, which left the lock ready for us. Great start! All the subsequent locks were either in our favour, or there was someone in it coming up, which is just as good. What luck that was. Sometimes you just catch it right.
Several of the boats coming up told us tales of chaos down below the junction caused by a damaged lock gate We had visions of the junction being over crowded but when we reached there it was quiet, and we got to the service area without any problem.
We've now crossed over onto the Grand Union Canal and are moored up at Turner's Green. The rain has kept off all day, and if tomorrow is as good we should make it down the 21 locks of the notorious Hatton Flight and be in Warwick.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

First of all to any who viewed the video from last night's post, my apologies for the quality. I don't know why, but Blogger won't upload a better quality version, unlike Google+ which has taken it properly. If you're interested it is there, open for public viewing.
Last night we discovered that the mooring we chose was a bad one for being rocked around by passing boats, and there were a lot of them, right up until after dark. Many didn't bother slowing down and even those who did seemed to rock us badly. I don't know why it happened but it did.
Because of that we decided to move today even though it was raining, and the forecast wasn't too brilliant either. In constant drizzle we trudged along what should be a lovely part of the canal system, but the weather takes all the beauty out of it.
We're moored up near Waring's Green, about 3 miles from the top of Lapworth Locks. We'll probably wait for better weather before descending to Kingswood Junction.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tuesday 17th July 2012
At last we're on the move again. With our friends at the Met Office promising us a better day we decided to make a run for it.
First thing was a trip around the Oozells  Street Loop to visit Sherborne Wharf where we needed to buy a fresh gas bottle and dump some used oil from 3 engine oil changes. The other day I called round to them and asked if they would accept waste oil. The chap said no problem, the tank is round the back. This morning we went around and while a new gas bottle was sorted for us I took our oil and put it into their tank. When I came to pay I thought the price of gas was a bit steep, but it turned out they charge £4.50 for the privilege of dumping the oil. The trouble is there are so few opportunities to recycle oil on the canals.
After that we travelled through the Gas Street area, the heart of the BCN. Past the ICC, and lot of the pubs and eateries around Brindley Square. Under Broad Street, past Gas Street Basin and on to The Mailbox. 
After that we continued along the Birmingham and Worcester Canal as far as Kings Norton Junction where we turned left onto The Stratford on Avon Canal.
Almost immediately the surroundings change to rural. While there are houses around, they're mostly hidden by the trees.
We've now moored up near Shirely for the night, and are keeping a close eye on the weather again. Tomorrow isn't looking good at present, but we'll wait and see.
I had another go at a video using my phone. This time of our trip though the gas street area. Hope it works.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sunday 15th July 2012
Another day dawned bright but cold. We decided to go and do some provisioning at the large Tesco near Five Ways. While we were having a cup of coffee in the in store Costa, who should turn up but the chap who wanted the interview us. We had another long chat, and if we're still around later this week he wants to come again.
It keeps threatening to rain every now and then, but it's come to nothing so far. We just hope it isn't holding off until this evening as we've booked a table at a Thai restaurant and don't want to get soaked on the way there.
This afternoon I took a wander up to Gas Street and found a boat showing some lovely framed photos. It must be great to know how to use photo shop properly. In Brindley Square there was live music provided by a singer and saxophonist, very good it was too.
A boat just pulled in in front of us, and it turned out to be Ramyshome, we've crossed ways with Raymond and Maureen several times over the years, so it's good to have a natter and catch up.
I've added an effect to the two pics below. It's called HDR, I don't know what it is, but I like it.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Saturday 14th July 2012
After breakfast this morning I took a wander up into Brindley Square where there is a chilli fest taking place. It was very quiet, maybe a bit too early. A few interesting stalls laid out with, of course, mostly chilli based goodies. There was one Greek stall with some lovely looking olives, with all sorts of fillings. A must try for an appetizer tonight.
This afternoon we were visited by an interesting young chap who is making a film doc about boat people and wanted to film and talk a bit about our lifestyle. Reckon we'll end up on the cutting room floor, but it was interesting.
This afternoon I again went up to the square and watched some of the chlli eating competition. Those people are mad.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday 13th July 2012
A nice lazy lie in this morning. When we finally got up, guess what? it was raining. It was only light so we decided to go into town anyway.
We walked up to Broad Street and got the bus to the centre and then walked to The Bull Ring.
We had a fine day shopping, Cath replaced some of her boating clothes and I splashed out on another pair of shoes.
We got our first official email from the new C&RT, that's Canal & River Trust. It contained a lot of hype about what the new trust can and hopefully will do, if only they have the cash. There are a lot of high profile people backing it so we're keeping our fingers crossed that the new trust can do better than BW without government interference. We've joined as friends to do our bit, and if anyone out there reading this would like to help as well they can join on the C&RT website.
Tonight we've booked a table at Strada in the ICC.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The improvements to the weather alluded to on the Met Office website yesterday morning had, by the evening changed to glorious nearly all day.
This morning we awoke to clear blue sky, and although it was quite cool what a spur that was to the spirits. It's amazing what a bit of the old current bun will do.
We cast off fairly early this morning in order to get to Birmingham as early as possible and bag a mooring. We fairly flew along the Wolverhampton level, and on reaching Factory Locks, which let you down onto The Birmingham Level, the new Main Line, we were greeted by two C&RT workmen who very kindly set the locks for us  (for those who don't know this is the new name for British Waterways and stands for Canal and River Trust).
It was a magic carpet ride down the three locks, then just an 8 mile blast to the moorings outside Oozells Street Loop.
We're now neatly tied up and hopefully will spend a few lazy days here.

Bromford Junction, up to the old main line

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wednesday 11th July 2012
Yet again, the best laid plans...... A look at the forecast this morning and a change was called for. The weatherman was now saying yellow warning all day today, with improvements tomorrow morning. So, time for another plan. While we considered our options there was a break in the torrential rain, so knowing the accuracy of our Met Men I decided to make a run for it, not the way we had planned yesterday, but take the longer, easier route back to Wolverhampton for the night, and on to Birmingham tomorrow.
On with full rain gear, and off we went. The clear patch didn't last long, and soon it was pelting down again. Then, suddenly the engine struggled and practically came to a stop. Something on the propeller, A quick dive into the weed hatch and a handful of plastic later we were off again.
Over the next 5 hours I took eight excursions into the hatch, fetching out, as well as the usual plastic, a complete jumper, and a considerable part of a sari. In all it nearly filled a black bin bag.
Just after we arrived at Wolverhampton and moored up, the clouds parted and we've had a great, sunshiny afternoon.
Tomorrow we'll go back to Birmingham and see what develops.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Tuesday 10th July 2012
Once again with the weather forecast showing dire warnings of heavy rain we decided to do a short day and if the predictions turned out wrong we could continue on to the end of the line.
As we travelled the continual light rain increased and we decided to stop on a good looking mooring outside a Tesco supermarket, shop, and then see if the rain would let up.
It didn't, so we sat tight. A look at the next few day's weather gave us to rethink our plans. Tomorrow still looks wet, but it's due to get worse after that so we are now going to head straight back into Birmingham. This will take two long (for us) days of travel, down the Daw End Canal, The Rushall Canal, The Tame Valley Canal, and finally onto The Walsall Canal. It's a case of get the wet gear on and just travel. We both wanted to stop at Chasewater but in this weather we don't feel it would be worth the effort.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Monday 9th July 2012
Setting off again this morning we reversed out of the little 'dock' we were in and headed east.
The countryside around here is, at first, mostly suburban. Many of the gardens backing onto the canal are well kept, it's just a shame that the canal is very weed strewn and I spent a fair bit of time diving into the weed hatch to retrieve an assortment of plastic bags and the dreaded plastic banding. This stuff is unbreakable and if you can't find an end to pull, the only resort is to cut it off.
After Birchills Junction, where we turned left (a right turn takes you to Walsall), the canal becomes more rural, with farm and parkland.
We've now moored up is lovely open countryside.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Saturday 7th July 2012
It was raining again this morning, but there was promise of better to come so we set off heading for the Wyrley & Essington.
As we passed the yard where we tried to moor last night there were lots of people setting off in groups on the Birmingham Half Marathon.
Turning left into the Wyrley the first thing seen is an old gauging  station, then despite the sight of tower blocks around, the canal seems quite rural and New Heath town Park looks fine.
The weather was supposed to deteriorate this afternoon so we didn't plan on going too far. We pulled in at the entrance to the old Bentley Canal, which is now just a very short arm with visitor mooring, on the edge of a large retail park. We then raided Sainsbury's before settling down to watch the Ladies Singles Final.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday 6th July 2012
We did get to go to O'Rourkes Pie factory last night. The place was just as we remembered it. It looks down at heel, but that is the image they wish to portray. The food is very good, excellent value and the Mick's Grill is still served on a shovel. Different ain't it? By the way, loved the sign outside: Accommodation - nearly en suit!
As we had feared, the mooring did turn out to be a bit noisy, but thankfully no more than that. A bunch of kids stayed in the park drinking and discussing loudly until about 2.00 am. They weren't rowdy, but sleep is difficult when you're unsure.
Cath was quite unnerved by the noise and with tonight being Friday we felt that it could be worse. So, despite the heavy rain we decided to move on to Wolverhampton and hope to get a place in the basin there.
It poured it down all the way, as I suppose most people in England will be aware. The basin did have room, and despite the fact that it is only meant to be a facilities mooring (one hour only) I've decided to stay unless we get shooed off as we know it to be safe and quiet.
As I wrote the forgoing a man from the BW office came calling. Although he didn't try to move us on, he did point out that the old warehouse on the site is now a night club and noisy music would start about midnight. After that, the morning would bring crowds and the place would be fenced off because of the Birmingham Half Marathon. So we decided to move and are now at the mooring just above the Wolverhampton 21 flight of locks. I got good and soaked in the move because I didn't bother to get fully kitted out.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thursday 5th July 2012
We didn't get to go out last night as planned. It was tipping it down so we stayed in and had burgers instead.
On the strength of yesterday's forecast for today we planned to move up to the start of the Wyrley and Essington. This morning the forecast had changed to showers with warnings they could be very heavy.
It was raining early on, but we set of anyway in very light mizzel. I hadn't made up my mind as to our route, would we take the New Birmingham Level Main Line (new being in canal terms, not recent) or turn off through Smethwick locks and rise onto the Old Main Line/Wolverhampton Level. When we got to Smethwick Junction, the rain had stopped and the sun even tried to come out, so I turned for the locks deciding to take the old line, which is more curly, and interesting.
The view from the canal is quite rural, with very little sign of the industry around here. The canal spends a fair bit of time weaving under the M5 elevated section, and at one point we were cruising through a place where there are 4 levels of transport crossing. The motorway over a railway, over us on the Old Main Line, which in turn is on an aqueduct over the New Main Line.
The canal then moves back into green, country looking mode. It doesn't seem to be heavily travelled as witnessed by the amount of lilys and other weed around. The propeller was clogged up many times, but luckily I managed to clear it by using reverse instead of having to dive into the weed hatch. We did come across a work boat doing some dredging, so it should improve.
Although the weather stayed fairly bright I decided not to push and get to Wolverhampton but stop at Tipton for the night, hoping to make it to Mad O'Rourke's Pie Factory for a meal. We've been before, and it was great.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Wednesday 4th July 2012
Yesterday was a total washout. We had to move to fill the water tank so we chugged on down to Cambrian Wharf and got in line for the water point. It's only a trickle here so it takes a long time. The whole process took about 2 hours with the travel and waiting.
It rained most of day and while Cath watched tennis I took a wander into town and around the Bull Ring.
Today isn't much better, with the weather supposed to be better early we set off the shop at the big Tesco. We hadn't gone far before it rained. It didn't stop all morning. By about midday it dried up a bit so I took another walk around. There was a small street market in town and I couldn't resist some lovely looking steak on one of the stands. There's a music for youth event going on this week and I got a photo of some of the players by the fountain in Brindley Square. there's also a picture of the new Central Library building going up here and view of Queens Square.
Hopefully tomorrow we'll set off again as long as the weather is as promised.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Monday 2nd July 2012
It's been a very disappointing day. The rain has hardly stopped all day, and with the look of the forecast we may be staying here for a while.
The only bright spot of the day was when I decided to try and get our TV to receive terrestrial signals. There seems to be very few places around the Gas Street area where we can get a line on the Sky satellite. It's Wimbledon, and Cath loves it, so I decided to see if I could get an aerial and try out the DTV function on our tele. Success, I bought an aerial made for lorry drivers or campers and it works a treat, so Cath is happy.
We had intended to go off again tomorrow, exploring the Wyrley & Essington Canal which is said to have some very pretty parts, but as I said earlier, not if this rain keeps up. There's no fun trogging around in conditions more akin to February.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sunday 1st July 2012
Last night's mooring turn out not to be as good as it first looked. Late afternoon a security guard came around and asked us if we were aware that the building we had moored outside of was a night club and tonight was going to be a very noisy party, with music until about 4.00am.
By eight o'clock there was still no sign of anyone around the building, and the signs on the front gave no hint that it was a club. At about 8.30 I took another look around and came across a West Indian chap starting up one of those 45 gallon drum barbecues, so I asked him about the party. He told me that, yes there was one, it wouldn't start until about 10.00pm and it would go on until about 4.00am. So we decided to move as far away as we could on the dock. Good move!! Although it was raining and we got very wet moving the boat, when the music??? started, boy was it loud. Maybe I'm getting old, but the noise was horrendous, it sounded like rap, I think.
This morning we set off to complete the climb to Brindley Place and The NIA. 21 locks, the 8 remaining of The Aston Flight and then the 13 of Farmer's Bridge flight.
After just 2 locks a woman on a bike stopped and asked us if we knew that just ahead of us there was a dry section on the flight. Panic! was there something wrong? Would we have to turn around and go back? I took a walk up for a look and found it was just one pound that had drained, so I went to the top of the flight opening paddles as I went to start letting water down.
It didn't take long for the dry section to fill so I went back to the top, shut off the flow and we were on our way again.
A few minutes later a chap appeared walking down the flight carrying a windlass, so I asked him if he was on a boat coming down? No, he just enjoyed helping boats through the locks, it was how he got his exercise.
And what a help he was. At the top of Aston he offered to continue through the Farmer's Bridge with us. This was very welcome, and he duly came all the way up with us, I don't know how much time we saved, but it was certainly significant. Thanks a lot Jim Shead, may you continue your good work.
We're now moored up opposite the end of the Oozells Street Branch, Ladywood Junction.