Monday, 30 September 2013

A Dog Day (more or less!)

0 miles

We decided Monty needed to get out of the city centre so walked along the
 towpath through the centre and out along the Worcester and Birmingham
 canal - re-tracing yesterday's route.  

C&RT were busy – first at Cambrian Wharf with a party of primary school children
 – the volunteer in the boat was doing a great job of educating them in a really fun way.

Then at Bridge 62 (Birmingham University) some much needed dredging.  We had skidded along the bottom on our way in, so hopefully things will be better when we leave.
 Looking at you

Looking at me

The plan was to walk to the railway station at The University and get the train back to Birmingham New Street.  We have been saying for ages it was about time Monty experienced a ride on a train.  We felt sure that a Monday around lunchtime would be fairly quiet.  The railway follows the canal quite closely most of the way and we did think it was a bit odd that we did not see any trains…….

When we got to the station we were told there were no trains due to a fatality on the line.  We were about to give up and go and find a bus when a train to New Street came in.  We missed that one, but were told that now they had started one would show up which it did.  As to quiet - not a chance - due to no trains for some hours it was jam packed full.  I did find a seat by asking a lady to move her bags (that does annoy me when a train is standing room only – am I becoming a grumpy old lady?) and Monty, bless him, behaved very well.

The next experience was a very busy main line station with lots of echoing tannoy messages.  Chris left us to go and get his paper and then I left them to get some arnica cream.  He still came up trumps. 
 Waiting at New Street Station

 Then a long walk back to the canal through the Mail Box shopping centre and a ride in two different lifts with glass doors!  He then had to sit by Chris whilst we had a pub lunch.  Mind if you try hard enough you can just peek out under the fake hedge to check what is going on canal side. 

Then another long wander round and finally back to the boat.   A lot of new experiences for a young country dog in one day.

The flowers on the bridges in Birmingham are looking good – hard to believe it is October tomorrow.

The upshot of our extended walk meant we did not make it to the Library, but as we live close to Birmingham it is a visit we can make another time.

We rather like this touch
 & it seems to work as the area around the wharf is clean.

Tomorrow – well it all depends on our brother in law who is supposed to be joining us at some time, but that depends on a rather poorly relative in Wales, so watch this space.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Oooops Splash and a wonderful welcome to Birmingham

Earlswood to Cambrian Wharf, Birmingham
12 miles, 0 locks

Yet another glorious autumn day.  Today’s sky as we left this morning for our run to Birmingham. 

Now to the splash – no it was not either of us or anything belonging to us, but it certainly gave us both a big surprise.  We had stopped at bridge 5 on the Stratford Canal for water and our first experience of these new-fangled water taps.  
 The first one did not work at all, so onto the next with success.  Having filled the tank we were both by the tap with our backs to the canal when all we heard was a skid and a splash.  We turned around to see a youngish man standing there watching his bike disappear under the water!!  He said the bike skidded on the damp towpath and that he managed to jump clear before the bike hit the cut.  Out came our trusty magnet and the boat pole and I am glad to say we managed to retrieve it for him and he went on his way a little shocked and with a rather drippy bike, but none the worse for his ordeal.   Well we hope he wasn’t.  We would both to know what he said when he went home!

Before we knew it we were at Kings Norton Junction

and then the first signs that we were heading for a large city.

There was a short stop at Selly Oak – Monty and I stayed with the boat whilst Chris popped in to Sainsbury’s for the paper and a few essentials.   The access is by the railings well before the bridge.  

Then it was full steam ahead for Birmingham.  A restaurant boat was winding at bridge 84a and they kindly waited for us to pass behind before completing the manoeuvre. 

This was the first big building we spotted in central Birmingham – it is near the Mail Box and, we think, it is relatively new.  Certainly different.

The sky is unbelievable for mid afternoon at the end of September, but much appreciated.
Last time we came this way there were mooring bollards in the Mail Box – very convenient for Tesco Express, but they have now been removed.

Then as we rounded the corner heading towards Worcester Bar

We got a wonderful welcome from a man waving his arms and saying ‘do you remember me?  I hope you enjoyed your review?’.(We did!)  Yes it was none other than Andrew Denny from Waterways World on his boat
He was hurrying off one way and we continued on to Cambrian Wharf where we secured a good mooring for the night.  Safe and free!  We will probably stay here tomorrow, so who knows we may yet catch up with Andrew.  
We discovered when we arrived that they had the first ever floating market in Birmingham this weekend – the story of our lives – a day late and a dollar short!  This is one of the boats on it’s way home! We are wondering if the event is to be reported in WW?  Is that why Andrew is here??  We shall see.
This is the view from our bow of the new Birmingham Library – our daughter, son in law and two children visited today.  If we had arrived about an hour earlier we could have met up with them.  Hey ho!  The library is on the ‘to do’ list for tomorrow.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Off - On - Off !

Below lock 14 Lapworth flight to Earlswood
5.25 miles, 13 locks, 2 swing bridge

A lovely sunny morning for our trip up the rest of the Lapworth flight.

There was a bit of a queue at the first lock – a boat ahead of us, two to come down and then a hire boat behind us.  We were lucky with the crew behind us were four very efficient adults and they were happy to shut the top gates behind us each time, so I could lock ahead.  I guess it made things quicker for them as well, but we were grateful.

Whilst I was waiting for lock 6 to empty I saw a lot of activity on the tow path ahead

Then a whistle went and they were all off – simultaneous worm dangling!!  There were 8 in total – competition day.
 When we arrived at lock 2 the local volunteer lock keeper appeared out of his cottage.  This is the man from Massachusetts as reported in Boatwifs blog on 26th June from nb Cleddau, once again not officially on duty – just helping out.  His name is Jeremy Scanlon and he has written a couple of books.  Both have one review on Amazon - Innocents Afloat  has 5 stars and Hotel Boat Innkeeper has just 2 stars and a rather scathing write up.

We stopped at Swallow Cruisers for diesel, coal, and rubbish and at last Chris was able to get a new fuse for the bow thruster. After 2 weeks of "OFF" it was fitted before we set off and seemed to work as it was supposed to - "ON"! Then after 15 mins of gentle cruising and then following an urgent need to avoid a boat that appeared from nowhere and a 5 second burst of thrust it had blown again - "OFF"!  Another thing for Pinder’s snag list.  It has to be a problem with the bow thruster – it certainly was not over use!  Swallow Cruisers has a great little chandlery with very helpful and cheerful staff and you can self-declare your diesel use.  Off to report to Retirement no Problem!

Onwards and a quick ‘hover’ at Hockley Heath whilst Chris went to get the paper.
Oh how smug are we when we watched the traffic thundering by on the M42!
Now when you get to bridge 20
And see this sign
You need to stop
You have to follow it up the steps, turn right, across the bridge, up the road (about 100 yards) until you see this sign
And go in!  It is so much more than a bakery.  Lots of fresh vege, milk, meat, cheese, cakes, bread, pies and so much more.  They do hot and cold sandwiches.  I came away with a goodly selection and went back to get more!  We have indulged ourselves and got a chocolate ├ęclair (Chris) and cream slice (me) for dinner tonight! Hot off the press - they were very naughty, but oh so nice!

We have moored at Earlswood tonight
This is our view – can’t be bad!
At bridge 19 there is a sort of boat yard –well it is marked as a boatyard in Nicholson’s, but we did not see anyone there when we came past on our way to Stratford nor again today.  They charge £1 for water and another £1 to use the elsan – our advice – go to Swallow Cruisers at bridge 27.

Compared to most of you Chris and I are beginners at this boating lark.  Today sees us on board for 2 whole weeks which have sped past.  To say we are enjoying ourselves would be an understatement!  I am afraid you are stuck with us for a few years yet, albeit spring, summer and autumn cruises.

Tomorrow up to Birmingham.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Crash, bang, wallop

 Oh dear I really must keep up!  With bigger pictures as requested by Les and Jaq!

Tues 24 Sep 2013
Wootton Wawen to above bridge 53 to Lowsonford
4 miles 8 locks

Today we started the long climb back up the locks towards Birmingham that start at Preston Bagot, but we are going to do it really slowly – I think we are getting the hang of short days with time to relax, go for a walk and do the necessary domestic chores that have to be done. 

We met up with a boat called nb Daisy – they have a Border Collie called Beau – his exploits after rolling in something unsavoury had Chris and I in stitches!  Worth a read if you are a dog owner.
At one lock we had a group of ‘supervisors’ to ensure we did things correctly!
Once we were moored at Lowsonford the mist rolled in along with a red sky, so not sure what tomorrow will hold.

We went to the Fleur de Lys to have dinner and had one of their ‘famous pies’.  I am afraid we were not that impressed!  The pub is nice and is dog friendly and we have eaten other things here that have been fine.

Wed 25 Sep 2013
Lowsonford to just north of B65 on the Grand Union Canal
2.5 miles 9 locks

Today we started the Lapworth flight of locks.  There are not quite as many (27) as there are in the Tardebigge flight (30), but we think we both prefer the latter.  The Lapworth locks top gate has to be climbed onto to get from one side to the other – much easier at Tardebigge. 

The paddles are easier to wind here, but the gates are so heavy that is is a real struggle at times.  The bottom gate at 27 is a two person job and we had to go back to the top gate at 25 as I just could not shut it on my own.  Thankfully we had already decided to moor there for a while for lunch and a shower before continuing for the last mile and 3 locks before we stopped on the Grand Union just passed Kingswood Junction.

Kingswood Junction
Where we met this family of four
Move along there please
We emerge
Looking back and the other two have caught up
The view from our very peaceful mooring

Thurs 26 Sep 2013
just north of B65 on the Grand Union Canal to the link from the Grand Union Canal to the Stratford Canal at Kingswood Junction almost under a railway bridge via the bottom of Knowle locks and back
7 miles, 0 locks

We have decided to loiter and not make our way to Birmingham until Sunday, so as it was a nice day we just pottered up to Knowle locks for water and back again. .   We met that family again en route to Knowle – well just one of the parents this time and not looking too happy.
Now there are two conundrums at bridge 70 which is called Kings Arms Bridge:
 1 Why is only half the bridge painted white?

2 We expected the pub to be called The Kings Arms
But no it is:
I walked up to the top of the flight with rubbish, so was able to admire the view.
There appeared to be two VLK’s on duty – always a welcome sight even if we did not need their services today.  Then it was back to Kingswood Junction, but round the corner in the link between the two canals.  There is a lovely picnic site,
but we are almost under a railway bridge, so it is not the quietest of spots, but I did not hear anything in the night, so not a complete disaster.

And now to the 'Crash, Bang, Wallop'!!

The almost disaster of the day happened much earlier – I slipped whilst getting on at the bow and have a very large bruise on a place only Chris & the mirror will ever see!  I think arnica might be called for when we reach Birmingham. 

 We had already decided to go back to Birmingham via the Worcester and Birmingham canal rather than the Grand Union and having read this account of nb Waiouru 's trip we are happy we have made the right decision.  Time will tell!

A very relaxing day with a walk to a local shop (very basic needs), a quick look in the canal shop at lock 14 (definitely canal stuff, not basic supplies!) and we discovered that the local shop mentioned in Nicholson’s near bridge 34 now appears to be a hairdressers – hot off the press news as it is still being fitted out.  Our last stop was for a swift drink at The Boot, Lapworth which we discovered was part of the Lovely Pub chain that re-opened the Queens Head at Stoke Pound in July.  A roaring fire was welcome, if a little warm!  They are very dog friendly and even brought Monty a dish of water. There is a lot of information along the tow path including boxes with handles to turn that give a commentary bringing history to life.  This one was about a brickie called John Cobb and how the barrel roofed cottages came into beingGreat for children of all ages! 
Sadly someone has broken the handle off this one so it is now defunct.

Fri 27th September 2013
Kingswood Junction to between locks 15 and 14 on the Lapworth Flight
Half a mile, 6 locks

An easy day – originally so we could eat in The Boot in Lapworth (more on this later), but also to give my back a bit of a rest after yesterday’s fall.  The bruise – we are not talking yellow and brown, oh no, I have made a proper job of it – it is about 8 inches long,  2 to 3 inches wide and livid purple, red and pink!  I rather suspect I will have it for months.

A quick walk with Monty, then up to the junction for water and finally up 6 locks to moor between locks 15 and 14.  It was enough.

After lunch we went for a longer walk along a small part of the Heart of England Way towards Baddesley Clinton which is a National Trust property.  We did not actually get to see it even in the distance, but it was a good walk.   
 We went past Kingswood Park, home of ’Castle Eventing’.  
 This is a very serious set up with several very large vans
This one is sporting a lot of rosettes
And horses everywhere we looked

Then to The Boot to see if we could have a table for tonight – no chance!  The earliest was 9pm which is much too late for us, so it was back to the boat for a cheese omelette!!

ps – imagine my surprise when I took my boots off this afternoon to find this:
The socks are not that old – an email to Brasher has been sent, so I will wait to see what they say.  I guess it is testament to how good my boots are that I did not notice until I took them off.

Tomorrow off up the rest of the Lapworth locks to Earlswood ready for the push to Birmingham on Sunday.