Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Cuttings & Embankments

Down through the lock and onto the wharf below the garage at bridge 19 where we put in 200 Ltrs. of diesel. £160 ish. Bargain. Should keep us warm for the rest of the autumn.
We cruised as far as the moorings on the Shebdon embankment on Monday, first passing over the great Shelmore embankment. A mile long, it took 5 1/2 years to complete and involved shifting millions of ton of earth. Soon after we entered the grub street cutting, with its much photographed bridge with a telegraph pole in the middle. I wonder if it has become a listed structure?
Tuesday saw more cuttings, the most impressive being Woodseaves, very narrow with rocky walls imposing on each side. It's staggering to think that all this along with the great embankments was all done by hand. No JCBs in those days.  Arriving at Market Drayton by early afternoon, the plan was to go out for lunch. First the Captain announced that he needed to go down the weed hatch as Oakapple didn't seem to be going to well. Half an hour later he had a pile of assorted rubbish on the towpath which included.plastic bags, assorted pieces of rope and a length of electric cable. Phew! No wonder she seemed sluggish. A relaxed afternoon in 'Spoons' saw the day out in fine style.
After a very wet night we set off this morning, quite cold but fine cruising. Aproaching Adderley locks we saw several cows that had strayed onto the towpath. Must have given the dog walkers a shock!
After working the five locks, it was less than a mile (just time to grab a coffee) before we started the descent of the Audlem flight. Warm work but very pretty with some very fierce bypass weirs. We moored up below the 11th lock early afternoon, leaving four more for the morning.
Strolled down to the 'Shroppie Fly' for a pint after a late lunch. The most interesting feature of this canalside pub is the bar which is built like a narrowboat.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

An unexpected Party.

We left Wightwick yesterday morning to make our way onto the 'Shroppie' at Autherley junction. Just as the Captain lined up Oakapple for the turn under the bridge and into the stop lock there appeared a coal boat coming out. After a bit of juggling we managed to exchange places and into the lock we went. It is only six inches deep but maintains the difference in levels between the two canals.
A mile up the canal is the home of the Wolverhampton Boat Club where we hoped to catch up with Kevin & Julie who we spent time with on the River Avon earlier in the year. We found Mystique 111 on her mooring but no signs of life. As we cruised past their club house we heard calling from the bank and saw frantic waving. Finding somewhere to stop we walked back and had a chat. Seems that there was a party in the offing, arranged for a friends 65th. birthday. We were lucky enough to be invited along, and, never ones to turn down a party, duly turned up at 7.30
It was a great party, with a 60s theme. Kev. provided the disco with music and film clips to maintain the atmosphere. We even managed to win a raffle prize, almost unknown for us. Thanks for including us. A great evening and a lovely surprise.
We only intended to travel as far as Wheaton Aston today as we intend to fill up with diesel at bridge 19, tomorrow. After getting our heads round the clock changes, we got here by lunch time and are ready for  a quiet afternoon. One of the features of the 'Shroppie' is the protective plates on the bridges, all showing the grooves made by the ropes of generations of horse boats.
I always jokingly refer to these as authenticity plates and claim they are only there for effect. The Captain, on the other hand, insists they are real. You will have to make up your own mind!!!

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Jewel of the Severn

Yesterday we caught the bus to Bridgnorth which is apparently known as the jewel of the Severn, a description which is justly deserved.
The town is divided into two parts. Low town, which is the bit along the riverside, and, of course, high town which stands on the hills above the river. The two are connected by all sorts of winding passages and steps, which creep around the old buildings and cottages. There is also a cliff railway which operates between the two parts of the town, which we had to try, just for the hell of it.
There is a very steep road which rises from the bridge over the river to reach high town called the cartway. This used to be the only route for carts to reach the top and, as well as stabling for all the extra horses needed for the climb, used to be home to more than twenty ale houses.
At the top is the remains of a castle which was destroyed by parliamentary forces after the civil war. The remains of the keep stand at a drunken angle, seemingly defying gravity. From the top you can look across at the terminus of the Severn Valley Railway but, as there were no steam trains running midweek, we had to leave that experience for another time. All in all it was a great day out and after a curry in 'Spoons' we reluctantly caught the bus back.
Today we had to turn Oakapple for the return to Autherley Junction, the gateway to the 'Shroppie'.
This involved a couple of miles each way, to turn in the entrance to a small arm just above the lock at Dimmingsdale. (Sounds like somewhere out of 'The Lord of the Rings'). Part way through the manoeuvre the captain spotted a sign buried in the bushes saying 'NO TURNING'.  Why do they do that? Warlocks to that he  commented. Well I think that's what he said. Two hours after we set off we were back on the same mooring, this time facing the other way ready to head north in the morning.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Wild Nights & Scrabble Days

With the remains of a hurricane forecast to cross the UK Monday night into Tuesday we decided to stay put on our mooring near the 'Fox and Anchor' at Coven. A bit apprehensive as there were a lot of trees close by, still we were sheltered from the worst of the wind. It certainly howled in the night and increased even more through Tuesday. Days like that there is only one thing to do. We get out the scrabble game. Invariably the Captain wins. For someone who is totaly rubbish with anagrams, I don't know how he does it. Still, I only lost by about 30 points. By our standards that is almost a victory. Afternoon came and we popped into the Fox & Anchor for a pint while the storm blew itself out.
This morning dawned fine and clear as we unmoored and set off towards Wolverhampton. Towards autherley junction there is a narrow cutting with laybys for passing. Of course we met our first boat on the move right in the middle. By lunch time we had arrived at Wightwick. A slight detour from our plaaned route since we wanted to visit Wightwick Manor, a NT property.
It turned out to be a splendid Victorian/Edwardian house, decorated in William Morris wallpapers and fabrics. It was a fascinating visit, an afternoon well spent.
Thinking about a bus trip to Bridgnorth tomorrow before turning to head up the Shroppie past the Wolverhampton boat club at the weekend. If Kev. & Julie are still following the blog we will look out for you. It would be good to meet up again.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Trouble at the locks.

After our brief interlude in Stafford we decided to move out into the countryside for the weekend. At the second lock of the day there seemed to be a lot of head scratching going on at the paddle gear. With boats waiting to go up as well as down, it seemed that the ground paddle would not go down. One of the floating weed islands had gone down the sluice and jammed the whole caboodle. Eventually, with the help of a rake from one of the waiting boats, it was cleared enough to allow the boats to move on. Needless to say, we didn't risk using that paddle.
We moored up just after Lynhill Bridge behind NB Swamp Frogs who we have been 'leapfrogging' all the way from Braunston since the beginning of October. We invited Susie & Robbie on board Saturday evening for drinks. Great company. Thanks guys.
Sunday was a lazy day. Walked down to the Cross Keys for a pint before cooking Sunday lunch and waiting to see who got voted off  the dancing. Poor old Tim. Great Passo though!!

Today we got as far as Boggs lock before finding yet another queue. A boat that passed us about 9.00 ish last night had left the paddles up and drained the pound. The C&RT boys were on the case but it was over two hours before the level was back up enough to start moving. Amongst the boats waiting to come down the locks was NB Festina Lente. I have been following their blog for some time so it was good to meet at last, if only briefly. After using the services at Gailey we arrived at Coven about four o clock. A long day for so few miles.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Lunch at the Cinema?

As we moored opposite Shugborough Hall at Great Haywood the Captain announced that we had a problem. It seems the batteries weren't charging properly. After some poking around with a meter he decided we needed some advice, so we strolled up to the Anglo Welsh boatyard at the junction. A very helpful chap said "bring her up and we'll have a look" No sooner said than done, and we were soon moored in the yard, plugged in. By this time they were about to pack up for the day so yesterday morning they were back on board to investigate the problem. It seems that new parts are needed which could not be obtained but the chap worked out a 'Wizard Wheeze' involving a wire and crocodile clips which should see us through to our winter mooring in November when we can get it sorted properly.
All praise to the Guys at Anglo Welsh for their help and the overnight mooring, for which they charged us nothing.
We were on our way by lunchtime, but only as far as Tixal Wide for the night. It is a lovely spot, just like a lake with oodles of wildlife.

This morning we set off as far as Radford bridge which we read is the nearest access to Stafford. A mile and a half walk took us to the town centre. It is a lovely town with a fine museum in an old Tudor house which had royal connections during the civil war.
After some exploring we found ourselves in Spoons for some lunch. This one is also an ex. Cinema but unlike the one in Rugeley, this is still called The Picture House. Nothing much has changed inside except for tables instead of rows of seats. As I used to work in cinema's for several years i found it strangely nostalgic. The bar is under the screen, where they still show films onWednesdays  and Sundays. We think this is now our favourite Spoons but this will obviously need more research!!!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Murders most Foul!

Tuesday we managed to move on as far as Rugeley in time to visit the local 'Spoons'. This one is in an old cinema. We have tried several of the ex. cinema Wetherspoons but this one retains all the feel of its origins. It was opened in 1934 as the Picture House and was in use for over fifty years.

You are really spoiled for choice when stocking up the boat, with Aldi, Morrisons and now, our choice, the new canalside Tesco's.
Heading out of Rugeley you pass two sites with connections to some of the gruesome history of the town. First alongside one of the bridges stands the birthplace of  William Palmer, the Rugeley poisoner. Palmer, a doctor, was hanged at Stafford Gaol for the murder of his friend, John Cook in 1856. He was also suspected of killing his brother, mother in law and his four children with Strychnine poison.

As we headed for the open country at the aqueduct over the Trent at Brindley Bank we passed the 'Bloody Steps'. It was here that the body of Christina Collins was found floating in the canal in 1839. Her body was carried up the steps to an Inn. Legend has it that her blood left permanent stains on the steps. Two boatmen were subsequently hanged for the murder and a third deported. This story was used as the basis for the Morse episode, 'The Wench is Dead'. The canal here takes a sharp right hand turn before crossing the aqueduct. The Captain was so engrossed looking for the Bloody Steps, he nearly missed the bloody bend!!!
Another hour or so took us as far as Great Heywood before the rain started again.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Three Junctions

Early Saturday was very foggy but by the time we were ready for off it had cleared to a fine morning. After catching the fellow unlocking the diesel pump at Alvecote we took the opportunity to put
50 Ltrs in the tank before heading towards the first of the junctions at Fazeley. It's good to see that work is being done to tidy up the area at last. It is a great improvement. The sun continued as we headed for the next of the three junctions at Huddlesford. This is where the Litchfield canal branched off to join the BCN at Ogley junction. Although currently used as boat club moorings, this canal is under active restoration, one of its leading supporters being David Suchet of Poirot fame. We eventually stopped just short of Streehay near the new marina, the intention being to have a quiet Sunday and catch up with a few jobs.
The mist lasted well towards lunch time but the sun eventually peeped through and it was a fine afternoon. Just opposite our mooring there is a flying field. The last time we stopped here we were treated to the spectacle of a replica WW1 biplane circling round. The Captain, who knows about these things, tells me it was an SE5 fighter. He was hoping for a repeat performance but, not this time. He had to make do with watching Guy Martin on the TV helping to restore a MK1 Spitfire.
Weather deteriorated overnight and today has been windy with spells of rain. Only made it to Fradley Junction where we have been all afternoon listening to the rain and the wind in the trees. Hoping for better tomorrow but the forecast is not promising.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Hats off to Atherstone

Thursday morning and the weather was still threatning rain and wind. We set off towards Atherstone with our fingers crossed but it did no good. The showers continued all the way until we moored above the locks, when, like a miracle, the sun came out.
Atherstone is an important shopping stop and we took advantage of the Aldi store to restock Oakapple after letting things run down ready for our visit home.
It was sad to see the state of the old hat factory  with its broken windows. When we first started boating we used to hire from Valley Cruises, which were based in Atherstone. It was great to see the factory in operation, with the women workers waving out of the windows at the passing boats. A shame to see the demise of an industry which had been there since Victorian times.

Today was a great improvement with bright sunshine for our trip down the eleven locks. There were quite a few passing boats and we managed to exchange greetings with several fellow bloggers and readers. Amongst them NB swamp Frogs and NB Waiouru, whose trials and tribulations we have followed  from the begining.
The sunshine continued through Polesworth and we moored oposite the Samual Barlow pub at Alvecote. Taking advantage of the continuing sunshine we explored the ruins of Alvecote Priory, which was founded by William Burdett as a penance for stabbing his wife for being unfaithful while he was away on a crusade in 1159. We then continued our walk through the woods which are slowly reclaiming the site of Pooley Hall Colliery. Climbing to the top of the old spoil heap we were rewarded with some stunning views over the surounding countryside. We just managed to return to Oakapple before the showers arrived, giving us some quite startling rainbows.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Your Carriage awaits.

It was a wet start on Saturday morning, but, as we were on a schedule we set off anyway. By the time we reached Hillmorton and had lunch the rain had stopped and we stayed dry into Brinklow.
Sunday morning dawned fine and foggy with a hint of frost on the grass, first frost of the autumn.

It was a good drive south to deliver our guests home and we all had a great family gathering before preparing to return to Oakapple to continue our cruise.
I know that to most readers travelling by rail is 'old hat' but we have not done it for years. It was quite an adventure. Tickets online, numbered seats, things have certainly changed. Into Waterloo, a short hop on the underground and we were at Euston station looking for our Virgin train to Rugby.

Ten minuits after settling into our seats we were off, racing through the countryside. In a little over half an hour we spotted the Grand Union Canal at Weedon and soon after we were passing Whilton Marina, it's the fastest we have ever travelled up Buckby locks.
Less than an hour after leaving London we were getting off in Rugby, (who needs the HS 2 ? )
After walking into town and lunch in 'spoons' we found the bus to Brinklow, and we were soon back on board Oakapple.
Today, at last, we started our lourney north. Weather has been rubbish! Very heavy showers all day.Eventually  moored up just after Bedworth, before the latest shower caught us. Good move, this one came with thunder and lightning along with the rain. Hope for better tomorrow.

Friday, 3 October 2014

There and Back

We have been joined by our Grandaughter and her boyfriend for a trip up to Norton junction and back. It has made a change to have a surplus of crew, very welcome for the six Braunston locks. They were brought up to us by our Daughter, who joined us for the first leg to the tunnel mouth. We had a good run up the flight yesterday in warm sunshine, and stopped above the top lock. After some lunch we all walked back down to Braunston to say farewell to our Daughter who had to return home.
Just above the second lock we spotted a Dove which had got into the canal and was clearly in trouble. Luckily it was near the bank and we soon effected a rescue. Emma, being a vetinary nurse, knew what to do and popped the bird into her pocket to recover. By the time we had walked to the bottom lock it was showing signs of recovery and we deposited the bird in the hedgerow to hopefully fly away.

After walking back to Oakapple. Via the Admiral Nelson, we set off through Braunston tunnel and were soon at Norton Junction where we found a mooring just under the bridge in the Leicester Branch.
Our visitors have to be home on Sunday, so, reluctantly, we reversed Oakapple back through the bridge this morning and turned again for the trip through the tunnel and down Braunston locks. Pairing up in the locks made it an easy run down and, although moorings were in short supply, we just fitted into the last space at the Boathouse, where, since it's the pub mooring, we may be forced to go in later this afternoon.