Monday, 30 September 2013

Nottingham to Gunthorpe Lock

Monday 30th September 2013
Off once more, heading through Nottingham, past the old BW and FMC buildings. I don't know what the BW building is now, but the FMC warehouse is now a popular waterside pub/restaurant. Through Castle Lock and round the sharp bend on the cut we pass Meadow Lane, home of Notts County FC.
At Meadow Lane Lock there are services, which we needed. What to we find? A pair of idiot/antisocial nits, in tupperware boats had moored on the service mooring and gone away. We managed to stop across the weir and get off the boat to reach the water and elsan points. How I would have loved to crush those plastic pigs. Rant over!
We dropped in Meadow Lane Lock onto the Trent and continued our cruise downstream. Holme Lock turned his green light on as we approached, so it was straight in and down. I'd forgotten over the summer, Trent locks carry radio, and so do we. I dug out our radio, and gave Stoke Lock a call as we came around Radcliffe corner, and the lockie had it ready for us as we arrived. Once again, straight through.
Our intended overnight stop was Gunthorpe Lock, and as we sailed up to the moorings I spotted Grace & Favour, a widebeam that had shared Clarence Dock with us earlier this year. They're heading towards Nottingham to visit the Goose Fair which is next weekend.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A nice day in Nottingham

Saturday 28th September 2013
We decided to spend the day having a look around the castle museum today.
They certainly make the most of the legend of Robin Hood here. There are references to him all over the place.
The museum features a whole gallery display on the story, a lot of seem to come straight from Disney, but what the heck, it brings in tourist dollars.
Unlike many places, the cafe seems reasonably priced and we didn't feel ripped off in there.
The castle itself - isn't. That is it's not a castle any longer. The original was demolished after The Civil War. Later the Duke of Newcastle built a new mansion on the site. This one was burned down in riots in 1831. It was later rebuilt and reopened as a museum.

Cath is still looking for her Robin Hood.

There was a living statue of a medieval knight.

The castle gardens are small, but nicely laid out for a stroll.

I took a couple of pictures from the castle wall over Nottingham.

Included in the entry price was a visit to The Brewhouse Museum. It seems set up for around the WW2 period.
You also get a chance to look around some of the caves which have been cut into the sandstone on which the castle was built.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Back in Nottingham

Saturday 28th September 2013
We arrived back in Nottingham yesterday afternoon. Let's hope that we can get away from here when we want to, unlike the last time when we broke down for a week.
After spending the night on Sawley Cut we awoke to another fine day, and prepared to lock down onto the Trent.
Sawley is a very busy with a large marina, boatyard, and also The Derby Motor Boat Club.

There are two (tandem) locks letting down onto the Trent from Sawley Cut. This is the view as we leave and cruise under the rail bridge.

A mile or so downstream there is Trent Lock, the junction of the Erewash Canal, and the River Soar with the Trent.
With the addition of the Soar, the Trent becomes the mighty river (in this small island's terms) that carries commercial traffic.
There is also another path you could take, but it isn't to be recommended, it ends on a large weir!

Here's the entrance to the Erewash Canal. We've never traveled it.

From there we carried on through Cranfleet and Beeston locks onto the Nottingham Canal.
Our propellor shaft seal had recently started dripping, and lately that drip has turned into a trickle. Lyra has what's know as a Vetus Seal instead of the traditional stern gland. The advantage of this is that under normal running there is no leakage at all, and maintenance is limited to a bit a greasing with silicon grease. The downside of this seal is that once it does start to leak it really needs replacement.
The recommended way to do it is to dry dock  the boat. However, I have been told that it is possible to do the job while still floating. The other consideration is that Vetus want a lot of money for the replacement seal. Another thing I've learned from talking to people is that the seal elements are simply ordinary shaft seals which can be bought from engineering stockists.
With this in mind I looked up bearing and seal stockists in Nottingham, and found one within a couple of hundred yards of a bridge which we wee due to pass on the canal. We found a place to tie up very near to it and a wandered along and bought the seals. The two cost me £5.00, so if the scheme works I'll save us a few hundred pounds. If it doesn't I've wasted a fiver.
The job itself I will leave until we get back to Leeds, in the meantime I've rigged up one of my barrel pumps permanently in the shaft sump to try and keep it clear.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

And so to the end of the Trent & Mersey

Thursday 26th September 2013
The last few miles of the T&M canal slipped by this morning. Four more of the heavy double locks.

 Shardlow is supposed to be one of the best remaining examples of a "canal village". There is still plenty of local work based on the canal.

 As we expected the flood gates at Shardlow were open. The last lock then dropping us down to Derwent Mouth, where the waters of the rivers Trent and Derwent meet to become one big river

Sawley Flood Lock was also open so we cruised onto Sawley Cut with no delays.
here we will stay tonight.
Here we are tonight

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

It's Wednesday already!

Wednesday 25th September 2013
We've had a steady few days since Fradley. On Monday we set off with the idea of getting to Burton on Trent. The canal was fairly busy, and we met boats at every lock.
The short river section between Alrewas and Wychnor Bridges was taken easily, there hasn't been a lot of rain and the river is very low and slow. A couple of the boats that we passed this morning warned us to be careful because it was quite shallow in places.
There were no dramas on the passage, and we dropped back onto the canal at Wychnor.
For about 2 miles the canal and the A38 run together, and you get a taste of the rush in the outside world as they zoom past you.
One of the options we had considered was to see if there was a mooring to the north of Branston, where the A38 crosses the canal. If there was, and access could be gained there is a Morrison's supermarket not too far away. In the event we didn't see anything that looked likely to fulfill our needs, so we trundled on to Shobnall Fields. We know that there is good mooring here. It's park land, there is a pedestrian bridge across the cut, and within about 100 yds. you can catch a bus into town.
Once we were tied up I took myself off to just confirm that my memory of the buses was correct. It was, and while in town I found a Wilkinson's and bought some more engine oil. With all the running that we do in summer I seem to be constantly doing oil changes.
On Tuesday we set off to carry out a raid on the Sainsbury's, which is conveniently right on a bus stop, the same bus which goes past the mooring. Once again we overloaded our trolley, (too much wine!), but the wheel stayed on this time. We really must get a new one soon.
In the afternoon I decided to go for a walk and ended up at the National Brewery Centre, a museum of brewing in Burton on Trent. I've been before, but it was probably around 15 years ago. One thing I did learn was that Burton on Trent was never bombed in the 2nd World War. It seems that brewing wasn't important enough.
I didn't take a lot of pictures. Below are the big steam engine which drove some of the machinery. Its is still a runner, and does get into steam some weekends.
 This little locomotive was designed 'in house' for use around the brewery.

Today we resumed our travels eastwards. We dropped through Dallow Lock, the last of the narrow locks on the canal. From now until we reach the end at Shardlow all the locks are wide, they're also deep and the gates are heavy.
Luckily we managed to pair up with an American couple, who were over here on holiday from Missouri, for the 2 wide locks we had planned to do today. All went smoothly, and we reached our planned place of stopping just before 2pm. Tomorrow we plan to get to Sawley cut for the night.
This is our country estate tonight

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fradley Junction again

Sunday 22nd September 2013
Wow! What a glorious day it's been.
We set off from Hopwas at about 8.30, the sky was a bit overcast but it felt fairly warm. After cruising for a few miles we passed a boat going the other way, the steerer yelled to us "Good luck at Huddlesford, it's a really tight crush!"
Didn't know what he meant, but oh well we'll find out when we get there. We did! There was a canal festival going on, and it looked interesting. The boats were moored three deep, leaving just enough channel for a boat to get through if all on board breathed in. Bends were very interesting, and required a bit of 'fending off'. I decided I wanted to see what it was all about, so we luckily found a very rare mooring slot and tied up.
The canal banks, both sides, were lined with boats, several of them trading in everything from cheese to jewelry to fancy ropework.

There was even a dog trial course.

A gypsy caravan display.

A spinning display.

After wandering the trade stands, I managed to resist buying all sorts of things, except a rhubarb pie for our tea tonight.
Later we set off again and arrived at Fradley Junction. Here there were the usual crowd of gongoozlers, watching the boats passing through the locks.
We stopped just before the swing bridge to take on water, and then after passing through the lock (note the gongoozlers) we aimed to stop at the services and then find somewhere for the night.

We were really in luck! As we pulled up to the service mooring, just on the other side was moored Ramyshome. We haven't seen Ray and Maureen for a couple of years now, we first met them in Wigan, some 6 or so years ago, and have passed them in several places since.
After yelled greetings across the cut, they told us that they were just casting off. Would we like their spot? Too right we would!. We arranged a quick swap to ensure that no-one jumped in, and off they went.
Later on, there was a knock on the boat and Ray and Maureen showed up for a cuppa and chat. They had just moved up the cut a bit and decided to come back for a proper chat as we haven't see each other properly for a few years now. We've passed and waved a few times, but never had a chance to stop.
Fradley is a very popular spot on the system, there's a fine pub, well known in biking (not cycling) circles. There is a steady stream of big bikes cruising up and down the road alongside the canal, which leads to the pub. Great sight and sound.
Here we are tonight

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Through Fazeley Junction to Hopwas

Saturday 21st September 2013
It's supposed to be the best day weather wise today.
We set off about 8.30 this morning to complete the last 6 Atherstone locks. Cath has been doing all the locks recently, so I insisted that it was my turn, before I forgot how to do it. The descent went very smoothly, most of the locks were in our favour, and several actually had the gates open ready for us.
After that it was a fairly long pound before the last two locks for the day, which are close to Tamworth.
Despite the grand weather forecast, it did actually rain a bit this morning, but not a lot.

This poor boat was once someone's pride and joy.

A lovely autumn scene.

Another express thunders through on this busy line.

Lovely, typically English canal scene. imagine having this at the bottom of your garden.

Someones garden shed?

The canal crosses the River Tame, near Tamworth.

Water meadows around The Tame at Hopwas.

It looks like The Tame once had a wire ferry here. That shed has several wire ropes from it going across the river.

After passing Fazeley Junction we have continued along the Coventry Canal as far as Hopwas where there are some lovely moorings, and a choice of 2 pubs. they both look good, but we're eating in tonight. I've been out for a wander with the camera, and got the pics of the Tame here.
The weather has really perked up, and it got quite hot this afternoon.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Two days to Atherstone

Friday 10th September 2013
Yesterday we decided to move despite the  forecast, it hasn't been too accurate recently. The sky didn't look very bad as we set off, but we were always aware that it might all turn nasty.
We managed to get as far as Nuneaton before things got nasty, so we found a nice looking piece of the towpath and tied up.
Later the weather improved slightly and I took a wander into town for a nosey around. I managed to get a couple of piccys of local buildings that caught my eye.
The town hall has, what I think is a rather incongruous entrance to the rest of the building.

This United Reformed Church looks quite Gothic to me.

This morning, with the weather set to be dry all day, we set off to see how far we would get. I had already checked out Springwood Haven, the home of Valley Cruisers, for their price on fuel. It sounded quite reasonable so we planned to stop and fill up.
When we arrived there were two boats ahead of us waiting for service so I took a look around their shop. It turns out that they are a main dealer for Victron. We've got a Victron inverter, and I've always fancied having the interface lead that connects a PC/laptop to the inverter. It was in stock, and has come down in price to a point where I had to have it. This allows me to check and change the settings of the inverter/charger without having to mess around with the DIP switches inside. It also monitors the performance of the unit. I've had a go with it tonight and have already found one of the settings needed improvement.
Finally we got onto the fuel point, and we took on just over 300 ltrs of fuel. Lyra is now very heavy at the stern.
We continued cruising along the Coventry Canal to Atherstone Locks. There were volunteer lock keepers on duty here, and they were doing a great job assisting boats through the flight. It was fairly busy, and we only came down 5 locks, but we passed boats at all of them. We've stopped just below lock 5 for the night, and have already raided the local Co Op for some milk and fruit.
Small rant before signing off: This thoughtless boater has moored a breasted up pair on a corner, with a bridge hole. Later I think I found an excuse - he's also a fisherman, say no more!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The end of the Oxford

Wednesday 18th September 2013
We did sit still at Rugby yesterday, but I didn't go into town for a look at the museum.
Once again the weather forecast was a bit off. Several times on television, and on the web they were certain that by 10.00 o'clock it would be throwing it down. Well, it didn't! It was dry up until gone 2.00pm, but finally it did rain quite hard.
This morning we set off just before 9.00, the weather was set to be reasonable all day. The jokers got it wrong again. It rained a fair bit throughout the morning, but finally dried out around midday.
Our trip took us though some lovely leafy cuttings, where the new, straightened, canal was pushed through. Occasionally we pass bridges for the towpath where the old, wiggly, Oxford joins or crosses the new line.

We finally arrived at Hawkesbury Junction or Sutton Stop as it is known, because of the name of the first lock keeper. The lock itself is typical of the 'stop lock' type, that is it's very shallow, and only really there to stop one canal company from taking the water from another.
After using the services here we turned onto the Coventry Canal towards Fazeley Junction and have moored up for the night about 200yds from the turn.
Tonight we'll treat ourselves to a pub dinner at The Greyhound pub, which is right on the junction.
Now that we've finished the Oxford we look back at it fondly. This has been the busiest canal we have encountered all year. Right from its start in Oxford we have seen many boats moving. At most of the locks we have met people on the go, and it's been a pleasure. Sure, there have been queues, but that's what the life is about. A chance to talk and help.
The difference between the north and south parts of the Oxford are stark. The south is still an old fashioned contour canal, winding its way through the countryside. The north Oxford is an altogether different animal. Here the pressure of the commercial world forced the owners to modernize it. Out went the old wiggly contour canal. New cuttings were driven through the countryside, straightening and shortening the route. As I've said earlier, there are signs of the old canal, but this newer incarnation was more in keeping with the needs of the age. Luckily for us it hasn't ruined the route for the pleasure boater. There are still things to see, and the straights aren't so long that they become boring.

Monday, 16 September 2013

On to Rugby

Sunday 15th September 2013
We didn't do much moving today.
After a nice lie in we struggled out of bed close to 9 o'clock. About 9.30 or so we decided that the weather didn't look too bad so we moved off, keeping an eye out for possible mooring places if it all turned nasty.
We hadn't been running more that about 30 minutes when the sky darkened and the wind got up. The first rain drops weren't far behind.
We were passing a good looking spot for a mooring so pulled in and tied up. The wind made it interesting, but it didn't cause too much trouble.
We then set about a bit of boat cleaning, the floors needed a bit of a birthday after having dirty boots through over the last few wet days.
This afternoon it was Davis Cup for Cath on tele, and Superbike and motoGP for me.
I've had word from a fellow Leeds moorer who is presently in Manchester and may be heading our way before returning to Leeds. It's possible we meet up and travel the Trent together.
I'll not bother with a position link here, we haven't moved much.

Monday 16th September 2013
Out of the blocks like a sprinter this morning. Once again 7.30 saw us chugging along towards Hillmorton Locks. This is the only flight of locks on the North Oxford, and apart from some on the Trent and Mersey Canal, the only dual flight we've aver come across.
The North Oxford is, in canal terms, fairly modern. It was updated in the 1920s. It was straightened using, banking and cutting, and the locks at Hillmorton were doubled up, that is two narrow locks side by side, so that there could be two boats, one going up and one coming down at the same time.
Vestiges of the old, winding route can still be found, some are in use as moorings, and even marinas.

Some of the new lock gates have sprouted wording. Seems a bit daft to me. I must be a grumpy old git.

At the locks we stopped to chuck a can. After a bit of a look around I couldn't see the elsan point anywhere, so I asked another boater. They told me where it was, and that the lack of signage was down to the local bistro, in who's car park it seems to be. Apparently they take the signs down, trying to hide it.  How true this is I don't know. The water point is below the bottom lock, so we called there last. A very slow tap! After about an hour we gave up, the tank was nearly full.
Next, to Rugby. All the official visitor mooring was full, so we moved slowly along looking far a likely spot. At the very last chance there was a hire boat who had just finished a shopping trip and was preparing to leave. We quickly slotted in as he was vacating.
After a raid on the fairly close Tesco I left Cath to sort it out and started to walk into town. It's a good hike, over a high footbridge which crosses the railway line. If by chance I get into town tomorrow I'll visit the Rugby Museum.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

And so to the Northern Oxford

14th September 2013
With the weather once again forecast to be wet, we decided to get a another early start.
Consequently, at 7.30 we slipped the mooring and headed for Napton Top Lock. As expected (hoped anyway) we were the first down. The first 4 locks went quite smoothly, at the 5th we met a single hander lady coming up. She was two locks down, but the pounds were very low so she was letting water down from above. After about 10 minutes of washing through from the pound above the level was sufficient for her to continue and allow us to pass in the next pound.
After that we met boats at the rest of the locks, and there wasn't too much of a problem with the water level.
We chucked a can at the bottom lock services before continuing onto The Grand Union as far as Braunston. Here we stopped while I visited the chandlery to get a few things and then we set of up the Northern Oxford, but only for about a mile before mooring up for the night.
The expected rain didn't happen (surprise surprise)! Now, tomorrow it's supposed to be absolutely foul, that is according to those jokers at the Met Office. so we plan to sit still. We'll see just how it turns out, if they're wrong again we'll move. All alone, right here

Friday, 13 September 2013

A soggy summit

Friday 13th September 2013
Just note the date. Nothing really went wrong, other than the weather that is.
This morning we set off at about 8.30, with the intention of completing the summit pound, and then dropping through the 9 locks of the Napton Flight before stopping.
Once again the weatherman got it wrong. Not long ago we spent a day moored up because the Met Office predicted torrential rain all day, and all we got was a couple of moderate showers. This time they told us that there was 20% chance of light rain, and guess what, it p*****d down all morning. We trudged along the top of the canal, stopping at Fenny Compton Wharf to throw a bag of rubbish before continuing through the downpour. The trees on the hills around here were disappearing into cloud cover.
After about 4 hours we reached the top of Napton Flight. By now the rain had ceased and we were considering tackling the flight. As the lock mooring hove into view we saw a queue of 4 boats waiting to go down, with boats coming up. After a short pause for thought we decided not to bother, and have pegged out for the night.
No piccys again today, its been too wet for the camera.
here we are

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A long day

Thursday 12th September
We set off from Banbury this morning with the intention of reaching the summit level at Claydon Top Lock. That's 20 lock-miles. It's more than we would normally do, but we wanted to get the locks out of the way, and the weather is a bit unpredictable these days.
Our first stop was Cropredy for services. This place is a nightmare for mooring. The service area is right on a winding hole, very close to a bridge. The canal is busy, of course.
We arrived to find a boat already on the one, and only mooring spot. As we approached a Black Prince boat came from the other direction, obviously hoping to fill with water. He stopped and reversed onto the side opposite the services. We decided to breast up to the boat already there, then offer the hire boat first take at the water when the one already there had finished. We would just chuck a can and rubbish and leave the water until the next opportunity. They declined our offer and decided to go on to Banbury.
Finally we got our turn on the water point, but by now there were 3 boats in the queue, and meanwhile a 65' hire boat came up looking to wind. Now, we're 60', and necessarily over hang the service mooring into the mouth of the winding hole, making life very difficult for anyone who wants to turn around. Fair play to the steerer. He made a very good job of it. I never believed he could do it, but he did.
With boats lining up waiting we decided to take only 30 mins. on the tap and pass it on.
At Cropredy the locks start coming regularly, 9 more to the top. As I've already said, the canal is busy, so we're straight into a queue.
By now the weather had improved a lot from earlier when it had looked and felt ready to rain. Soon the clouds thinned and there was even some blue sky.
We climbed onward for a further 4 locks before stopping for lunch. Afterwards we again joined the still queuing boats and climbed the last 5 locks up to the summit, and we're now moored up not far from the top lock.
Here we are tonight.,-1.321937&spn=0.001787,0.005284&t=h&z=18

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


Wednesday 11th September 2013
Once again it's that american date again, back to front. 9-11, that date which will live in infamy for a long time to come.
Yesterday the weather was kind to us. The Oxford meandered its way north.
We spotted another 'famous' boat, Bones, is featured every month in Canal Boat magazine as the owner wrestles with DIY dilemmas aboard her craft.

The canal once again utilizes the River Cherwell with a short river section. Another of the unusual hexagonal lock chambers is used here at Ayhno Wier Lock

 All along this section of the canal we have encountered the lift bridges which the Oxford is well known for. Most of them have been fixed to remain open unless in use, which is a boon for the canal traveler. A great number of them have been renewed since we were last along this way. This one is dated 2009.

All day we have been in queues for the locks, a real change for us. Even in holiday time we haven't come across that many moving boats. It may be because this is a popular canal, and it is narrow, meaning that the boats can only go through the locks on at a time, so naturally things slow down. We do love the narrow canals, that's why we have a narrow boat. You get a chance to talk with other crews, and usually there is help to operate the gates and paddles. At one lock yesterday we waited an hour for our turn.
This is Grant's Lock, just south of Banbury.

As a consequence of the slow progress we didn't get into Banbury until about 3.00 o'clock and the only mooring on the main area had a damaged bollard so we couldn't moor as tightly as I would like. Luckily at about 4.30 a boat on the other side of the canal from us decided to move off, so I quickly untied us and nipped across to take his mooring. It's on the right side of the water to get into town easily, and all the bollards are sound.
Today, we're staying here in Banbury to do some provisioning. A look at the map shows that it will be a few days before we can shop again, so it was down to Morrisons for a mammoth raid. The shopping trolley that we use was groaning under the strain and finally succumbed to the load. A wheel came off. I managed to re-attach it, and it got us home. The 6 ltrs of water, 6 bottles of wine, 4 pints of milk, and various vegetables and meats may have contributed to its demise. I fear the time may have come to get a new one.
Later I nipped back into town to try and get some engine oil at Wilkinson's, but they had run out. The local boatyard also couldn't come up with the bungee hooks we need for the cratch cover where some have broken off over the summer.
The weather report promised us rain this afternoon, and they were right, so getting the provisioning done this morning was good. Cath went clothes shopping in M&S this afternoon, while I tried to use the rain to give the roof a bit of a birthday.
We're currently moored in the same place as the boat in this satellite picture.