Thursday, 3 October 2019

That's it for 2019! 3rd October

Thursday 3rd October 2019
South of Bridge 41, Astwood to Droitwich Spa Marina
2.5 miles, 9 locks

Our lovely mooring remained ours overnight with very little passing boat traffic.  An idyllic last mooring of the year.  One boat came past early this morning beating us to the locks at Astwood.  The locks tend to leak overnight, so would probably have needed to be filled before we could enter, so we think we lost very little time by not being first. 

Monty alert as usual looking for the boat as it heads towards Astwood top lock

 The weather was dry, but chilly with a lot of clouds around.

The sun was hiding behind the clouds, but it was not coming out to play today.

 Having had an abundance of water yesterday, today the canal was definitely a little down

with no water running into the by-washes

We made good progress and were fairly quickly at the penultimate lock of the flight with the lovely lock cottage

 The garden is definitely entering its winter phase. 

Once we were down the last lock there was time for a cuppa before we arrived at Hanbury for the final three locks of this year.

What is that up there?  Yes a little bit of blue sky, but not enough for a sailor's suit.

When we arrived at Hanbury there was a boat coming up and two volunteer lock keepers on duty, so an easy passage for us was ensured

 and there at the bottom is the marina.

All that was left to do was call in for diesel, a bag of coal and an electric card before returning to our berth where we are likely to stay until next March/April.

Our statistics for this short autumn cruise are as follows:

46.25 miles, 100 locks, 6 swing bridges, 10 tunnels, 18 aqueducts and we travelled under motorways on 4 occasions.

For 2019 they are as follows:

555 miles, 457 locks, 47 swing bridges, 27 tunnels, 152 aqueducts and we travelled under motorways on 31 occasions - definitely better than being on them!

Of the 122 nights we spent on board we had 31 days of wet cruising and a further 28 days when it rained after we had moored up.  It would seem that our perception of a very wet season was not imagined.  Let's hope for a better 2020 cruising season.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

We Flew Down! 2nd October 2019

Wednesday 2nd October 2019
Tardebigge to north of B42, Astwood
4.25 miles, 35 locks!!

We made it up the Tardebigge flight with the help of our daughter and her family on our way to Birmingham, but they were all at work and school today, so we would be on our own which is something we just don't feel able to do anymore for this number of locks, even going down.  I sent a request to C&RT to see if we could 'book' a voluntary lock keeper (VLK).  Contact from them was swift and we were assured of at least one, which was all we really needed as long as they could work the bottom double gates.

There was a boat moored ahead of us which we knew planned on going down today as well, but we had no idea what time.

When I went out with Monty at first thing in the morning it was chilly - the temperature gauge (thanks Ken!) was reading 2.1c and it usually over reads!

There was a mist on the water, but it was dry and bright which is all we were concerned about.

As we untied just before 09:00 the first  VLK walked towards us with the news that two more were on their way.  The boat ahead of us untied just after we did.  She was a single hander and I am sure she was initially disappointed to be behind us, but it was her lucky day as we ended up with 5 VLKs!  Another boat followed behind, so they were in luck as well.

Once all five were in place we had two to ourselves - Lester and Kevin.  To start with I was locking ahead - the boat never had to wait for any lock all the way down.  Chris provided Lester and Kevin with tea/coffee and then Lester and I swapped places and he did a sterling job of locking ahead.

Kevin and Lester hard at work

The last two arrive and head up to help the boats following us

When we were at the reservoir there was excitement from Monty as he spotted a friend (Tilly) with her owner. They were up on the edge of the reservoir, so no chance to say hello.

It was not long before they were heading back home, so he hadn't completely missed greeting his friend

There was a lot more water around - more than we and the VLKs have ever seen

No one was rushing to cross this lock gate!

We only passed two boats going up - they must at looked at envy at all the VLKs going down!

The excess of water stayed with us until the penultimate lock

Our progress had been swift - many hands really do make light work.  The weather was kind - there was a few minutes of light rain, but it was mostly dry with some sun.  From entering the first lock to leaving the 29th and last lock it had taken just 2.75 hours.  A record for us. 

Our original plan had been to stop at The Queen's Head and then move to our current mooring tomorrow and finally go to the marina on Friday, however we checked the forecast and decided we had to make the most of the good weather today.  I felt if we stopped for a break after the Tardebigge flight we might not get going again, so we made the decision to just keep going and head down the 6 locks at Stoke Prior.  Kevin very gallantly offered to come and help us down the first two.  I don't think the offer of coffee and fruit cake had anything to do with his decision! 

At 11:50 on a chilly Wednesday the Queen's Head garden was understandably empty

Kevin watered and fed, and working lock 28 for us (Stoke top lock)

and hitching a lift to lock 27 where we said our thanks and bade him farewell

We really appreciated all the help we got, especially as it enabled us to do more locks in one day than  we have ever attempted before.

We stopped briefly at Stoke bottom lock to deposit rubbish and the yellow water.  There are general waste, mixed recycling and glass bins

Surely the signage is clear enough, so why oh why when I opened the top did I find this mess?

Enough said!

Above Stoke bottom lock there was canal spoil being unloaded onto a road lorry for disposal elsewhere, so we guessed we would come across dredging a little further along

 As we progressed a fully laden lighter approached - how much further before we came across the dredger and would we be held up?

We stopped to fill up at the water point opposite the Boat and Railway - it was tempting to stop for a pint, however the moorings where we are now are much nicer, so on we went.

Not far away the sign we were expecting to see

We were lucky - there was no delay as the operator moved over and let us past.

These were the moorings we were aiming for - we had full benefit of the sunny afternoon with no trees to keep us in the shade.

With good views across the cut from the side hatch.

Once again our very grateful thanks to Kevin and Lester for their help and to Tom (who we never actually saw as he was working behind us) who organised it all. 

Including our service stops we were moored up after the 4.25 miles and 35 locks inside 5 hours.  A good day and definitely worth going on.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Back to Tardebigge - 28 Sep - 01 October 2019

28th September 2019
Alvechurch to Tardebigge
3.25 miles, 0 locks

We woke to a much better morning.

Now it was dry we had a proper look at the C&RT notice to find out that the mooring prohibition is from 14th October to 15th November, so we could have saved ourselves a soaking if we had read it properly in the first place!

 Everything is in place for when the work starts.

It was a swift hours journey with two tunnels - Shortwood and then Tardebigge

En route Chris spotted this row of trees that were neatly trimmed at the bottom third giving them the look of a 'Peaky Blinders haircut'.

As we emerged to a very windy Tardebigge New Wharf we found Cecelia (our canal society's trip boat) on the water point waiting for their passengers to alight for a trip to Hopwood and back.

We breasted up until the passengers were safely on board.

and they then headed off

We had a right royal tussle getting back onto the service point - the wind was determined to blow us back across the cut.  We made it eventually and emptied and filled as required before heading off down the top lock where we moored after the first bridge.

Sunday 29th September to Tuesday 1st October

Our daughter re-united us with our car on Sunday which gave us the freedom to come and go between boat and home.  We made good use of the washing machine, tumble dryer and shower at the latter.  Monday we collected our grandson (G) from the school bus and took him to his own home.  Tuesday we collected his younger brother from his school, then G from the school bus again.  They had tea with us and their Dad delivered us back to the boat, so we can resume our journey tomorrow (Wednesday 2nd October)