Friday, 29 May 2015

It's Oakapple Day!

Yes folks, May 29th is Oakapple Day. Until mid Victorian times it was a national holliday and celebrates the restoration of the monarchy. It is so called because King Charles 11 is alleged to have hidden up an Oak tree in Boscobel wood after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. It is still celebrated in parts of Worcestershire, traditionally by wearing a sprig of Oak leaves.
It is also the anniversary of our boat 'Oakapple' winning the best boat award at the Crick Show in 2010.
We have just spent a couple of days in Stourport before turning in the basin this morning and heading back up the Staffs, & Worc. Canal. It was there that our boat was first put in the water after being built near Worcester. The boat has many connections with the area so it is great to have been there on this day.
Unfortunately the weather has not been so auspicious. The rain started as soon as I went to set the lock and as the Captain turned the boat in the basin it just got heavier. This continued all the way through Kidderminster, turning to torrential showers with some hail mixed in. By 1.30 we had had enough and were pleased to find a quiet mooring in the countryside just before we reached Kinver.
All that's left is to have a hot shower, ( better than the cold rainy ones this morning), and celebrate Oakapple Day in an apropriate manner!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Best Laid Plans etc.

After leaving WightWick we had planed to turn at Dimmingsdale lock and make our way back up towards Great Haywood. On attempting to turn below the lock it was clear that the winding hole was so silted up that to continue would be to court disaster, so, as often happens, our plans changed and we decided to go on to Stourport.
The Bratch locks can be a bit of a hold up but on this occasion we were ushered through almost straight away by the lock keeper. These locks are confusing in that they look like a staircase, but are in fact three separate locks with impossibly short pounds in between. (About six feet). They work because of the side ponds hidden behind the hedges alongside. It was a warm days cruising and we moored for the night at Swindon.
Yesterday there was an early start and we went on as far as Wolverley. This village was once an important part of the Black Country nail making industry. Some of the cottages are built up against the rock faces, with their back rooms carved out of the rock, rather like the rock houses back at Kinver which are owned by the National Trust.
Today, after a visit to Sainsbury's in Kidderminster we found the C& RT people working on a jammed gate at the lock which held us up for nearly an hour, however, once on our way it was quite a pleasant cruise down to Stourport, apart for some kids throwing water bombs from one of the bridges. Sadly, that is the downside of travelling during the school holidays. Fortunately it wasn't bricks they were throwing.
One of the attractions of the town is the fair, which, for anyone like me, growing up on the south coast, brings back memories of younger days. We couldn't resist a walk round, soaking up the atmosphere of the music and the sound of the seagulls.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Steaming off to the Severn Valley

Not literally of course, you can't do that on a narrowboat. No, we have spent the day on the Severn Valley Railway.
Since we last blogged from Audlem we have spent a leisurely few days making our way down the 'Shropie' to arrive at Wightwick on the Staffs. & Worc. Canal, mooring near to Wightwick Manor which we visited last year, but was well worth another look, especially since out NT membership got us in for free.
 As we passed the Wolverhampton Boat Club the other day we spotted Kev. on board Mystique111 and arranged to meet up yesterday in 'The Mermaid' for a pint. It was good to catch up with Kev & Julie again and exchange boating news.
Today was our chance to do the Severn Railway at last. Catching the bus to Bridgnorth we made our way to the station and purchased our tickets. Missing out the first train (diesel) we boarded the steam train and settled into the first carriage behind the engine. This location is the optimum for the sounds of the whistle and the engine as well as the unique smell of a steam locomotive.
The scenery on the line is superb, following the river as it does and crossing the canal on a high viaduct. There were several trains on the line and we passed two or three at various halts on the journey to Kidderminster, 17 miles away. The size of the stations and the number of trains gives it more of the atmosphere that railways used to have.
The weather was perfect, we even had a G & T from the refreshment trolley on the train, and we arrived back at the bus stop just in time to catch the bus back to our mooring.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Hopping to Audlem

the weather has not been very kind to us. Rain showers and squally winds have made cruising rather uncomfortable. So, on sunday we moved on from Nantwich, but only about four miles, to find a lovely mooring spot in wide open countryside. One of the things about the Shropshire Union Canal is the abundance of good moorings with rings and picnic benches, usually including barbecues for alfresco dining. If only the weather would oblige ! They are provided by the Shropshire Union Canal Society who do a splendid job making this navigation a joy to cruise.
Heavy rain in the night, continuing into Monday morning encouraged us to stay put, but, seeing some brightening in the sky, we made a dash for it and got as far as Audlem. There is a flight of 15 locks here but we ascended the first four to find a mooring just as the showers started again.
Whilst at the water point we were hailed from the far bank, the voice belonging to the chap who sold us Oakapple. He was quite complimentary about her appearance, good, since she has had four years hard cruising since then. We are hoping to make an early start in the morning up the remaining 11 locks, however, the forecast is not promising with thunder, lightning and heavy showers promised!!!!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Off to Nantwich

Moving on from Middlewich,  we made the turn onto the link to the Shropie, canal. It was a bright day, although a bit windy, eventually mooring at a lovely spot with picnic tables and BBQ,s.
That night we heard owls hooting in the trees all around, a splendid place to moor.
We expected to fill up the diesel tank at Venetian Marina, however, the hose was not long enough to reach the filler on the offside, so, we reluctantly moved on hoping to get some at Nantwich. An inspection of the map at the entrance to the basin showed a diesel pump at the far end, but, after reaching the end we found that the pump was actually on the canal outside, meaning that we had to reverse all the way out of the basin again to get onto the dock.. Purely by chance we spotted a  company that makes covers. As our cratch cover needed some atention we arranged to have it done on Saturday morning.
A chance to catch up on some maintenance jobs, the captain painted the back cabin stove and cleaned the brass fire accessories. While the cover was being repaired we set to and sorted out the cratch, cleaning the deck under the matting and generally tidying up.
Cratch covers & canopies did a fine job and the cover was soon back in place, good as new.
While in Nantwich we caught up with Rob & Susie from NB Swamp Frog who we found moored oposite the diesel dock, and also Rolly & Bev who we spent the winter with in Stone.
There is a fine church in Nantwich, dating back to the 14th Century with some excellent carved choir stalls and a superb stone vaulted roof. We spotted an old building with a stone mounting block outside. The steps are incredibly worn. It makes you wonder how many people have got on and off horses there to create that wonderful sculptured effect.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

An Entertaining Weekend

After leaving the river Weaver we planned to meet up with our friends, Dot & Gordon from
 NB Ewn Ha Col, who are taking our place on the river.
After spending a night moored at Anderton, we headed for Billinge Green Flash for the weekend. It started as a fine sunny morning, but as the day progressed the clouds built up and the rain started just as we moored in our chosen spot. Our friends arrived next day around lunch time, by then the sun was once more shining, which encouraged the Captain to polish some of the outside brasswork.
We all got together Sat. Evening for a meal and drinks, catching up with tales of our travels since we last saw them on the Macclesfield Canal.
Sunday saw us on board Ewn Ha Col for a traditional lunch. It was a great day, with a good deal of merriment.
The thing about this narrowboating lark is the  meeting up with friends, which sometimes are planned, but often happen by pure chance. A classic example happened yesterday, when, after both of us returning to Middlewich, we bumped into Lyn. & Phil. On their way to Liverpool. They live in Stone, and were occasional members of our Friday Gang during the winter. We just had to make our way to the 'Big Lock' (yes, it's a pub), for a pint and a meal from their lunch time menu, good value for a fiver.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Impresions of the River Weaver

Today we went back up onto the Trent & Mersey canal on the Anderton Boat lift after spending nearly two weeks on the river.
We were, at first, not sure about it, but as we saw more of the scenery we became enthralled by the contrasts between what was once a working river, with it's industries, and the beauty of it's landscape.
The locks are huge but gentle with friendly lock keepers to do the work for you. The pockets of industry do not intrude to much and the towns and villages along the way have a charm of their own.
Northwich did not impress us on the first visit, but, after becoming more familiar with the place, we could see there was something which we missed the first time around. Some of the building are very interesting, the local Wetherspoons being in the largest of the 'liftable' buildings in the town, with a very elaborate timber framed facade.
If we had to choose a favourite mooring I think we would say the remote spot by Marsh Lock, overlooking the Mersey Estuary which for sheer atmosphere would be hard to beat.
Would we go back again? Most definitely!

Friday, 1 May 2015

What does it all do?

after a quick visit into Northwich for some last minute supplies we left the town moorings and made our way down river as far as Barnton cut, passing on our way, the Anderton boat lift. By far the best view of the structure is from the river, showing the true scale  of this marvel of Victorian ingenuity.
After a quiet night on the mooring we set off for the first of the two locks left to negotiate. With the keepers doing all the work and phoning ahead so that the next one is ready, they are really easy, despite the huge scale of them.
We moored up at a very lovely spot known as 'Devils Garden', a few miles short of Runcorn.
This morning the weather looked a bit kinder, with less of the cold wind and some good sunshine. Setting off, we were soon through the last of the huge swing bridges at Sutton, where the rural character of the river abruptly dissapeared. From here on one bank is lined with a vast chemical works. The pipe work, the tanks, and the supporting steel work look like some mad scientists nightmare! What does it all do? I'm sure someone knows, at least I hope so.
After a couple of hours cruising we arrived at Weston Marsh Lock, which connects the river to the Manchester Ship Canal. We moored on the floating pontoon close by and ventured ashore. From the lock there are fine views of the ship canal, and in the distance, the River Mersey and Liverpool. Despite the proximity to the chemical works, it is a very tranquil spot. Only disturbed by the birds on the estuary and the occasional popping of a pressure valve in the works, oh and the planes flying out of liverpool airport in the far distance.