Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Who needs a lock keeper when you can have an army?

Saturday 23rd April 2016

Stoke Pound to Netherwich Basin, Droitwich Spa
6 miles, 20 locks, 4 swing bridges

It was a lovely sunny morning, albeit a bit chilly, when we set off on today's trip which was planned to be to our berth in Droitwich Spa Marina. This is us approaching the first lock of the day.

It is here we get the first good view of the windmill at Avoncroft (local museum of buildings - see HERE if you want more information.

At the second lock we spied one of our local Canal and River Trust full time employees.  We have got to know Chris fairly well over our years of volunteering for the Trust. He stayed with us to give us a hand which is always appreciated, but who needs a C&RT helper when

you can have an Army?!  This extended family (Mum, Dad, two children and two sets of grandparents) were out for a good long walk before having a birthday lunch for Dad in the Queen's Head. They were delightful people and stayed with us and Chris making our journey down the locks a pleasure and also very easy.  Thank you all.

This 'Grandma' owned a boat for 23 years so she along with the children was delighted to open and close gates

As a thank you to Luke and Emily we gave them a lift (with parental agreement of course) from the 5th lock to the 6th (and last) in the flight.

They left us at the last lock and we saw them a short distance later when they stopped for a well deserved rest and mid morning snack.

The next flight is the six at Astwood - in the middle of nowhere. Mind you there were a lot of walkers - more than we have ever seen before.

Through lock 18 with my favourite cottage garden - the pots have been planted and are looking good.

It is something of a relief to find a bridge at lock 17 (the last one) - it saves a lot of walking round the lock to open and close the two bottom gates - that or leaping across the gap when one is open!

This is the view from the last lock - it is a very pretty canal and these locks are amongst our favourites.

As I said above our plan had been to stop at the marina and journey on to the centre of Droitwich on Sunday, however, the sun was still shining and the forecast was not so good for Sunday, so we decided to keep going.  My first job was to walk to the culvert that goes under the M5 - it is very low and we are high at the bow, so we always check the water level before we try to get under it.  It was very low, so all looked good - we do, however, always take the cratch down just to be sure.  As we left the marina (we called in for water, a gas bottle and coal) a boat left just ahead of us and when I got to the flight I found a boat coming up. I began to wonder if we had chosen the wrong time to go, especially when the boat coming up said there were another 6 behind them!!  This is number three in the group of 7.

There were fun and games as the boat ahead of us left the first two locks (a staircase where the locks share the middle gates) as they tried to pass the second boat in the flotilla.  It was all managed without any contact I am glad to say.

We made it through the three locks and sneaked through the culvert with a few inches to spare.

As we emerged we met number six with number seven right behind them. This is definitely a one way route and I am glad to say they realised that and held back until we emerged.  I stopped to talk to a man in the last boat to be told that the 7 boats were indeed travelling in convoy - they were out celebrating the company's (he did tell me the name, but it was not one I knew, so the information went in one ear and out the other!) 25th Anniversary.  They were on a long weekend doing the Droitwich Ring and were staying in Droitwich Spa Marina that night and going to Chateau Impney for dinner.  I hope they had a good one.

Once under the culvert there are two more locks to negotiate, the second has a swing bridge in the middle that has to be opened before you enter the lock.  There are then three more swing bridges to pass as you travel through Vine Park to the Basin.  We met the Harbour Master en route and we squeezed ourself into the only space left in the basin - not ideal, but we would have managed.  I then headed off to Waitrose and when I came back I found
 we had been shuffled round, so we were now, at least straight!  We thought this would be our home until next Tuesday (3rd May), however, some boats moved out on Sunday morning, so we moved to

the first pontoon by the water point. It has several advantages - we have an open aspect on one side (much nicer to wash up with a view rather than the side of someone else's boat), it is further from the trains and the very noisy gate and we don't have to move to get water!   So this is us until next week.  The Festival starts Friday evening and ends Monday around 4pm.  We will be helping both as Canal and River Trust volunteers and members of the Worcester, Birmingham and Droitwich Canal Society.  We might be a little limited as Chris fell in the bow when we were moving from mooring one to mooring two (see above) and has hurt his right knee (the non arthritic knee) and I am having some problems with my back, so we are a couple of old crocks at present.  On my 'to do' list for tomorrow (Wednesday as I write this) is to contact an Osteopath in Warwick that has been recommended by Jaq.

Total statistics since leaving Droitwich Spa Marina on 2nd April to travel to Netherwich Basin, Droitwich via Stratford:

84 miles, 202 locks, 9 swing/lift bridges and 9 tunnels!

Had we come direct it would have been:

1.25 miles, 5 locks and 4 swing bridges!!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Many Hands Really Do Make Light Work

Friday 22nd April 2016

Tardebigge to Stoke Pound
2.25 miles, 30 locks

We have done this flight of locks in all sorts of weather from hot sun to lashing rain - today was chilly and windy, but thankfully dry.  We also were expecting reinforcements in the shape of friends Dee and Steve with their son, David.  We last saw Dee and Steve in July 2015 when they came to help with the Caen Flight - I guess we did not scare them off or work them too hard as they came back for more!

First we moved across to the water point to fill the tank before they arrived.  Having done all that washing and polishing over the last couple of days we were not happy to find this when we got there!!

First things first when our trusty helpers arrived - tea and coffee all round with a biscuit or two just to ensure we had sufficient energy for the toil ahead of us!  Most of the day I was locking ahead -no rest for our guests I am afraid.

It was a chilly, but very pleasant trip down the flight completed in good time.  We passed a couple of boats and there was one behind us.  We did, however, break the habit of a lifetime - we stopped by the reservoir for lunch.  We needed to eat early as we were booked into the Queen's Head for dinner at 17:30 to allow our visitors a chance to get home at a reasonable time as David was going back to Uni for his final term the next day.

David took the helm for a while

I always dread going past this house - I have to remember to put Monty on his lead.

The reason - these two inhabitants who really have a go when any dog goes past. The one by the wall has on occasions been nose to nose with Monty as they shout at each other. No damage is done, but I hate the racket.

Steve also took the helm - this is him coming out of the last lock.  Just as we finished mooring the rain started!!  We had plenty of time for a cup of tea and lots of chance to chat and catch up before we headed out for a really excellent meal - I can thoroughly recommend the sea bass!

Thank you all for your help and company -you are welcome any time. Good luck to you David as you near the end of your studies.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Earlswood to Tardebigge

Tues 19th to Thursday 21st April 2016 

Tuesday 19th April 2016
Earlswood to Hopwood
10.75 miles, 0 locks, 1 lift bridge, 2 tunnels

We were back to spring again today, but with no locks, so Monty, Kiera and I headed off for a good walk with Chris following behind.  We made good time and walked the 2.75 miles to Shirley Drawbridge where we had to stop to raise the bridge for Chris to go through.

At one point on our walk Monty dashed off behind the hedge -probably after a squirrel and this is how he came back!  Thankfully he had dried out before he had to go back inside the boat.

We passed a contractor strimming the edges on the tow path - my thoughts were I was glad we were not the moored boat he had just passed (the grass goes everywhere), but little did I think about the strimming wire he might have left behind - yet another trip down the weed hatch for Chris.

There were very few boats around, but we did meet a few - this one was at Kings Norton Junction.  It must have been warm on the trip from Birmingham as this helmsman was in shorts and T-shirt, whereas Chris and all others we had seen were in coats and woolly hats!  Despite the sun the wind was cold.

So here we are moored at Hopwood visitor moorings - a beautiful evening

I took Monty and Kiera for another walk and saw our first ducklings of the season.

At the Bittel Reservoir the dummy on the fishing boat appears to have gone, however, when Chris went past on the boat the next day he said it was still there, but much closer to the wall and therefore not visible to me on the tow path.

My first photo through the side hatch for this year.  Hopwood was where Kiera's owners were due to meet us to take Kiera home, however, it was not to be.  They were due to travel home from Roscoff to Plymouth on Monday, but one of the two engines on the ferry was unserviceable, so at this stage they had no idea when they would actually make it.  Once again the best laid plans....

Wednesday 20th April 2016
Hopwood to Tardebigge
5.25 miles, 0 locks, 2 tunnels

Another wonderfully bright and sunny day, but still with a chilly wind.  I set off with the dogs and walked the first couple of miles.

I love these houses at Withybed Green.

It was here we saw a Mandarin Duck

It was just a short trip today and we pulled up at the water point in Tardebigge to empty and fill containers as appropriate.  Then it was time to wash and polish one side of the boat - there was a lot of mud to contend with despite such a short trip.  Monty and Kiera found it really hard work!

Whilst we were there Kiera's owners made it to us - we did not need any encouragement to stop for a cup of tea.  They had a great holiday apart from the ferry journey out (very rough) and the delays on the way home.  Monty hopped into their car as they were leaving, but was persuaded to stay with us. He will be going to them when we go to France in June and July.  The two dogs get on really well and it was a pleasure to have Kiera as an extra crew member.  She will be back for a couple of weeks in September.

Once we had moved across to the tow path I headed off with Monty for a walk and came across this 'crowd' of youngsters at the reservoir.  I have never seen so many people here at the same time.  I could hear them long before I could see them.

Thursday 20th April 2016

Another lovely sunny day and it was across to the other side of the cut again this morning having winded (turned around) so we could clean the other side of the boat.  Our daughter and youngest grandson came for lunch and we then, winded again and moved back across to the tow path.  We do not make a habit of 'hogging' water points, but this one is not used a great deal and we always keep our hose out ready for anyone to use if they need to breast up with us to take on water.  No one came along on either day, so we timed it all to perfection.

Once we had moved across Monty and I went off with a litter picker to do one of the stretches we clean up for Canal and River Trust when we are in the area.  The bank above the top lock at Tardebigge is very soft and we have had pins pulled out before now, so we always use cross pins, but the reason for this photo is to thank the blogger (and I am afraid I cannot remember who it was, sorry) who recommended buying reflective tape to adhere to the pins to save using tennis balls, bags etc to make them visible day and night.  It only cost a very small amount of money and works a treat.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Back to winter again!

Monday 18th April 2016

Lapworth to Earlswood
5.25 miles, 14 locks, 2 lift bridges

Yesterday was a very long day - this was the dogs this morning and all they had done was go out to do what good dogs have to do first thing and had breakfast.  And no, Monty is not allowed on the furniture at home, but the boat is such a small space we find he is less in the way up there.  Well that is his excuse and he is sticking to it!!

It really is a very hard life.

As I walked back to deposit some rubbish this morning I met a VLK working another boat up the flight - he did tell me it was a long walk to the rubbish bins which I knew, but these are the last bins until Tardebigge a couple of days away, so needs must.  He said that he would come back and give us a hand once he had the current boat to the top.  Well sure enough we did meet up with him at lock 9 (we started at 14), but by that time he was helping a Canaltime boat down and said if it was all right with us he would stay with them as he felt we were more 'well versed' than they were!!

As you can see Chris is working this lock and as you have probably gathered that is not that common as I do most of the locks - mainly due to Chris' arthritic knee and dodgy shoulders.  However, I was so tired at the end of yesterday, Chris did give me a lot of help today which was much appreciated.  It of course meant I was left on the boat with Chris on the side and we found that Monty just stood and barked at me whereas he rarely does that to Chris.  At the next lock I took Monty back on board and he was as quiet as a mouse.  Now when I am on the tow path and he is on the boat with Chris he 'sings' for all he is worth.  We have to assume that he sees his place is with me.  Now does he think I cannot manage alone or is it a protection thing?

This is a 'spindle' on a 'turnover' bridge (one where the tow path swaps from one side of the canal to the other).  I am not entirely sure how it worked, but I gather the rope from the horse to the boat went round this to stop it getting tangled as they crossed over.  I am happy to be corrected if anyone knows the exact usage.

There was a road at this lock so they were told to 'sit and stay' on the non road side.  Only one sat, but they did both stay.

This is the first of the two lift bridges and Chris offered to give it a go - I was not going to argue as I know how hard this one is!  40 or so very hard turns. I somehow doubt he will offer again!

It was bad timing for this farmer who arrived and had a fairly long wait for the bridge to go up, me to drive through and the bridge to lower before

he could make his way across.

We had two more stops before we moored at Earlswood - the first at Hockley Heath for me to pop up to the shop for basic supplies and a paper.  There was a party of school children helping a C&RT employee repair the path.  It certainly needs some attention as it is very muddy round there.

These are waiting their turn to 'have a go'

The second stop was for me to pop up to Wedges for a few vege (the local shop in Hockley Heath has a very limited supply of vege) and a chocolate éclair for Chris.

And yes it really is as big as it looks!