Friday, 20 April 2018

Not quite as planned

Thursday 19th April
Hopwood Visitor Moorings to just past B68, Hopwood
About 500 metres!

Chris had been worrying in the night about a leakage of anti freeze and was concerned it was a split hose in a place he was not able to get to.  RCR (River & Canal Rescue) were called and an engineer duly arrived and sorted us out.  A few years ago, before the onset of arthritic joints, Chris could probably have done it himself, but it is good to know there are knights in shining armour when they are required. 

The weather was wonderful and we decided not to head into Birmingham today, so we just moved a short way along the cut into more open country and a little bit further from the noise of the M42.

Such a lovely mooring in such fabulous weather made finding the chairs and creating a Pimms (you can just see mine on the back of the boat) absolutely essential.  Then it was what to have for dinner....

yes the first barbecue of the year.  Chris dug deep and out it came and thankfully worked without any problems

Monty supervised from a safe distance

The local swans paid us a visit.

A barbecue had not been planned so the fare was not that exciting - sausage and black pudding was all we found to go with a Waldorf salad and tomato and basil salad.

but being able to sit out and enjoy a meal on a warm evening was appreciated by us both even if the table was at a fairly extreme slant

Nicholson's (our guide books) to the rescue and it was a little more level.

An unplanned day, but a good one never the less.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Four to One and So Near and yet so Far!

Wednesday 18th April 2018
Tardebigge to Hopwood
5.5 miles, 1 lock, 2 tunnels

We actually moved up the top lock yesterday (Tuesday) to moor near Crafted Boats dry dock as we appeared to have a problem with our bow thruster.

The daffodils are looking lovely - it will all look very different when we return in October.

The sight of Tardebigge Church is one we love.

So through the lock and on to moor near the dry dock.  As you can see Monty has not forgotten where he spends his time on the back deck supervising what the boat does! We were able to stay overnight by the dry dock - not the most scenic of moorings, but the CRT moorings on the other side of the canal are very soft and pins pull out all too easily.  The bow thruster worked perfectly and all tests showed there was no problem.  The consensus of opinions was that the thruster must have ingested some debris and then got rid of it.

So we spent a couple of days getting some last minute jobs done and finally Wednesday dawned and it was going to be time to really get going.  First I walked Monty - the weather was a lot chillier than I had expected, but it started to warm up as we walked along.  Next I took the car to Morrisons for the paper and then to home where it will stay until we return.  I took a taxi back to Tardebigge Wharf where I found Chris on the water point filling up and emptying all necessary containers.  The last thing to do was to get the Tesco delivery which was due between 12 and 1.  At 11:30 I was about to get into the taxi when my phone went.  It was Tesco!  Just a bit too early.  He waited until I arrived and then delivered the shopping to the boat.  Just before we were ready to go along came an unexpected vehicle - the local fire brigade had arrived to test their hoses and pumps.  Thankfully they were happy to wait until we were on our way.

They lined up to wave us off - I was just too slow with the camera

and once we had gone they let rip.

As you can see the expected hot weather had arrived by the time we set off.  This route is so familiar to us know (sorry slip of the brain), but it never fails to delight, particularly when the sun is shining.

and no, this is not Monty - he does not approve of swimming, but this dog was having a great time, but got a serious 'telling off' from Monty.

We passed Morning Mist

The Alarum Theatre boat with those advertising boards I helped tie on when we were lock keeping.

 I have never noticed these sculptures just before Withybed Green.  There seem to be quite a few - somewhere we need to explore by car one day for a better look.

Then on to the new marina at Withybed Green - it looks as though it is nearly ready.  It has been a long time in the planning (2007) and building.

Maybe we will have to look at it to save 45 locks every time we set off and return!

What a perfect sight - hot enough for people to be sitting outside enjoying some sun.

Round the bend at Bittel and past the moored boats on the left and

the fishing lakes on the right.  When nb Oleana went past on Monday there was one lonely fisherman.  Today there were 16 at the top lake

2 at the lower lake

and one on the reservoir, presumably on a boat unless he is walking on water

So here we are moored at Hopwood with the sun so bright at 6pm that I did not get a good photo! The added bonus - the whirlygig washing line was deployed.

So why the title?  The Four to One was the layers of clothes that were removed over the course of the day.  I cannot remember the last time I was able to sit comfortably with just one light layer of clothes.  So near and yet so far - well we knew Oleana was near by, but we missed them!  They went past as Chris was reversing out from Crafted boats and I was at home waiting for a taxi to pick me up.  Chris believes they took a photo of us, but no such luck this end.  One day we will meet.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Family fun up a very long hill!

Sunday 15th April 2018
Stoke Pound to Tardebigge
2.25 miles, 29 locks

The only downside to mooring in Droitwich is the long haul uphill before we can go anywhere.  Thankfully we are usually able to enlist help and today was no exception.  Our daughter, son in law and two grandsons  rolled up for a good work out!

Going from the first to the second lock Jamie (6.5) was running all the way - that did not last for long! For the most part the pictures speak for themselves.  Both boys (and Mum and Dad) worked really hard and were very proficient.  I do wonder when the novelty will wear off and they will expect remuneration for a day's labour?

George at nearly 10 is more than able to work without close supervision.

 Jamie still needs a helping hand

It takes a lot of concentration when you are 6 to wind a paddle down even when Mummy has her hand ready to stop the paddle dropping if his windlass comes off the end of the spindle.  In fact, he managed really well with no slippages.

What with all the winding up and down, pushing and pulling

a rest is called for every now and then.

 Mum and Dad did their bit as well

Most of the locks were sporting ' wool art'?  Our daughter thinks they are something to do with mental health awareness?

 The boys worked really hard, but about three quarters of the way up the locks they retreated to keep Grandpa company.

This lady jogger used to live next door to us and she and her collie, Will, are a common sight running the length of Tardebigge.  Will stopped for a quick hello to Monty before

catching up with 'Mum' for the rest of their run.

Three locks near the reservoir underwent extensive work over the winter which included new lock moorings as below - it is all looking very smart.

We made really good time and were moored up just below the top lock in around 3 hours.  They were suitably rewarded for all their sterling efforts with some lunch before I took them back to their car at the bottom of the locks.  It was not farewell though as we all met up for supper at Pizza Express.

And the weather - well I am sorry to say not as good as yesterday - it was back to four layers this morning, which did become three after a couple of locks, but then became four again when the rain started.  Thankfully only light rain.  The afternoon, however, was a different story - real 'boating weather' with rivers running down the windows.  We were glad we were safely moored unlike a hire boat crew who must have been tackling locks for over an hour in torrential rain.  We had met them yesterday (Saturday) - Mum, Dad and two children, probably about 11 and 8.  They had hired a boat from Alvechurch for the weekend and went from Alvechurch to Hanbury yesterday and back up again today - a total of 84 locks just because you can!!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

We are off!

Saturday 14th April 2018
Droitwich Spa Marina to Queen's Head, Stoke Pound
4.5 miles, 15 locks

At last everything was on board and it was time to begin our escape for the next six months.  We all know what a miserable winter and spring we have endured, but this morning dawned dry and bright with a clear blue sky

With a strange shining ball in the sky

We certainly chose the right day to set off, but not quite the right start time.  As we wanted to end up with the car at home, I set off first, parked up and walked down to the three locks at Hanbury.  As I arrived I could see Chris approaching the bottom lock with a boat (lock operator in red) just coming up that lock ahead of us!  A chat ensued and yes, they were going all the way to Stoke Pound!  So lots of locks to empty before we could enter. They were a very efficient crew, so all was well,

We ended up moored in front of them that evening and discovered they were taking the boat (nb Araf) north as they had just sold her. 

Into the first lock and it became obvious that the centre rope should have been left inside the boat over winter rather than neatly 'cheesed' on the roof!  A job to do once we moored.

Once out of Hanbury Monty and I headed to Astwood by car, parked at lock 18 and walked down to meet Chris at 17 - we beat him to it - he is a speck in the far distance!

As I arrived at that lock a group of ladies were having a quick coffee break before heading off again - they were walking from Worcester to Birmingham in aid of Breast Cancer.

Lock 18 and one of my favourites.  With the weather so wonderful both occupants of the house were out.  The gentleman used to be the lock keeper along this stretch for many years and he was out painting the fence round the cottage (he is at the far end)

and his wife was sat outside enjoying the sun busy with her knitting.

Monty nearly got taken off with the 'collie running club'!

I left Chris at the top of Astwood to collect the car and drive to the bottom of the Stoke Prior flight.  We knew there were going to be 2 volunteer lock keepers on and lo and behold we found 5!  Two (Viv and Roger) were returning VLKs mentoring 3 newbies.  It is all our fault that Viv and Roger ever got involved - we met them when they were out walking some years ago whilst we were either lock keeping or litter picking, talked to them about the opportunities available and the rest, as they say, is history.  Anyway they kindly volunteered to see Chris through the locks (goof training opportunity) whilst I moved the car to the top of the flight and walked down to meet them.  We were very grateful to them all and wish all five a very good summer.

Safely moored just below the bottom Tardebigge lock Viv and Roger came to call when they finished their stint and we then went across to the pub for a swift drink and a catch up.  The end of a really good first day.