Saturday, 12 September 2020

Not The Nicest End to our Mini Cruise - 7th September 2020

 Monday 7th September 2020

Tibberton to Droitwich Spa Marina

4 miles, 3 locks, 1 tunnel

It was a dull and overcast day, but dry and not cold.  The journey along the Worcester Birmingham Canal was peaceful and uneventful.  I spent most of it inside packing and tidying up.  By the time we got to Hanbury Junction I was out and ready to lend a hand.

It is a very sharp left turn to get through the junction on to the Droitwich Canal.  Chris carefully lined us up and moved forward very slowly.  Monty and I always get off at the junction so we can walk on the to locks.  As we emerged there was a boat coming towards us.  As you can see there was plenty of room and all should have worked out just fine for us to pass safely port to port in the usual way.

Things went awry, which happens to the best of us at times and they ended up with the bow pointing at the off side.  All could still have worked - Chris shouted out (loud enough to be heard over the engines, but not in any way aggressively) that they should pass starboard to starboard, ie on the wrong side.  It would have worked perfectly and they would have then been lined up for the junction.  Unfortunately the man on the towpath was having none of that and the language that emanated from his mouth is unprintable.  It was not just foul language and it was aimed directly at Chris.  He said we should never have come through, but should have waited!  I am sure the picture above shows that was not the case.  

At this point, Chris stopped and Monty and I held back.  I am afraid there was absolutely no point in trying to approach and talk to him as he was incandescent with rage and would not listen to anyone.  If it had not been so unpleasant what then occurred would make a good comedy sketch.  He managed to pull the stern in to the side which of course sent the bow right across the cut. He ordered the lady on the helm to go to the bow and throw him the rope, which she did.  It was a really good throw, however it did not help as the rope was not attached to the boat!  He threw one end back and she attached it to the dolly and he eventually managed to pull the boat over to the tow path.  He then put the bow rope back on the boat carefully removing it from the dolly again - I wonder where he got the idea that that is what one should do?  As I said before there was no point it trying to talk to him.  Once the boat was safely against the towpath, Chris went past very slowly saying a very polite 'thank you' as he passed.

I was left on the towpath with Monty and started to walk towards the lock.  He had two dogs with him that he was vainly trying to control.  One of them had got onto the grey boat in the picture below and was wandering all over the bow and then the stern.  His other dog was equally deaf and our Monty was mightily confused when he stopped to do his business (with me beside him with a bag at the ready) as the man was shouting for his dog - also called Monty!! 

We proceeded on, but on looking back we saw they had got into another pickle.  There was a lot more shouting and

they eventually decided to pull over and moor up for a while

We arrived at the lock to find the VLK (Steve) is someone we know quite well - I mentioned to him about our altercation and he confirmed that he had had trouble with them all the way up the three locks.  It is always good to know it is not just you, but it did leave a very nasty taste in the mouth.  I know we were all new once and that things can go wrong even when you have been doing this boating lark for a long time, but the aggression and foul language was totally unnecessary - I think if I had been his crew I might well have mutinied! 

I prepared the top lock which was half full.  We entered and by the time I was ready to open the bottom gates to let Chris out, Steve had arrived to help and there was a boat waiting to leave the next lock.

We also swapped with another boat at the third and final lock, so a very easy run for us.

By the time we were in the bottom lock, Steve was back to help us and suggested I get back on board and he would lock us through.

Not that we have ever had any doubts about security at the marina (we are behind locked gates), but it is always comforting when you look across and see the car is still there!

We went across to the service point where we filled up with diesel, emptied the yellow water containers and got rid of the rubbish.  As we sailed back to our mooring we passed a boat that will be familiar to some of our blog readers.

Then it was back to our mooring to find that we do, indeed, have a new neighbour.  I have to say it does feel much safer when unloading the boat (we use the side hatch) to take everything to the car when there is not open water on the other side of the pontoon.

Before we could actually move the boat in we had to evict a local inhabitant.

Once safely moored we sat down for lunch at which the heavens opened!  Thankfully not for long and we were able to load up the car and get home in the dry. 

It was a funny old cruise - despite being so short we changed plans on numerous occasions, but it was good to get a little bit of normality back into our lives before we all hunker down for the winter.  We do have one more trip to do this year from the marina to the top of Tardebigge for blacking in mid October - just short of 7 miles, but 45 locks!  

Total Stats:
We were away for exactly one calendar month
127 miles, 127 locks, 3 swing bridges, 6 tunnels
Waterways travelled - Droitwich & Droitwich Barge Canal, The River Severn, The Staffs & Worcs Canal, Trent & Mersey Canal (admittedly only just!) and Birmingham Worcester Canal.


I took this picture on 1 August as we were loading up prior to leaving on the 7th - Mother duck and 10 tiny ducklings
She brought them back to see us once we were moored up and she still has 8.

Monday, 7 September 2020

An Impromptu Treat - 5th - 6th September 2020

 Saturday 5th September 2020

Perdiswell to Tibberton Visitor Moorings

2.75 miles, 8 locks

We woke to another dry and fairly warm day with a little bit of blue in the sky

We seem to be getting better at this timing thing - we set off when we were ready with Monty and I walking ahead.  As we arrived at the first lock a boat came up behind us - it is always easier to be in the lead!  To make things even better there was a boat coming down as well, so we had high hopes that most locks would be in our favour, which they were.

We met one other boat coming down, so it was a pretty easy run for us

It was above the fourth lock that things started to get a bit tricky through lack of water

The next pound was even worse

Chris was definitely bumping along the bottom!

The pounds were quite short, so when we finally made it to the top we did stop and run some water down - the pound at the top stretches for several miles, so would not miss a few lock fulls.  Hopefully it made it easier for those following.

Just after the top lock we were back under the M5 - a sure sign to us (but not necessarily a welcome one) that we are nearly home.

Our original plan was to go to Dunhampstead to moor up, but the moorings by The Bridge Inn at Tibberton were so sunny we decided to stop there.

Early evening we popped up to the pub for a swift drink - only our third pub visit since lock down.  We inquired about Sunday lunch and whether we could book a table outside for 6 of us.  I gather it is not something they usually do, but when I explained that Chris was considered vulnerable they agreed.  A phone call to our daughter and family who only live about 20 minutes away and they were delighted to be offered Sunday lunch!

Sunday 6th September 2020

We have an extended family Team meeting on the first Sunday of each month.  Five in Derby, four in Bromsgrove, one near Woking, four on the Isle of Wight and us on the boat.  The New Zealand contingent were missing.  With 7 children and 4 teachers it was interesting to hear how things are going back at school.  Three of the children have yet to start - next week will be the real test.

After than I took Monty for a good long walk.  I came across two C&RT operatives at the top lock letting water down - I gather it is a regular occurrence on this flight.  Once that job was complete they were moving down the canal to do another all too regular job - painting out graffiti.  

On my way back up there were two boats heading up the locks and at the top a queue of three waiting to go down.

Once back at the boat we got ready to go out for lunch.

On arrival in the pub garden by the canal (they have two gardens) we found our table all ready for us

The family arrived followed by the food which was excellent.  They cooked a burger especially for one of the boys as he is not keen on a roast meal.  The children's roast was almost as big as ours and they only charged £6 for each child.  I cannot fault the food or the service and I am sure we will go back.  Even inside I felt safe and found the tables are well spaced, so maybe we will be able to go out occasionally once we are home.  This was our first full meal out and first meal shared with others since lock down.  It was an impromptu event and one to remember.  

We got back to the boat after a couple of hours in the sun and within 20 minutes we had a short but very heavy shower!  Timing is everything.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Heading North - 4th September 2020

 Friday 4th September 2020

Diglis to B16, Perdiswell

2.5 miles, 6 locks

After our long day yesterday we made a very leisurely start and both enjoyed a well deserved shower before Chris reversed back through the bridge to the sanitary station to find another elsan with a sign saying 'do not use'! It is a good job we were not in dire need of said facility. 

We filled with water and disposed of rubbish before pushing off at just the right moment - a boat was coming towards us having just come down the first lock (Sidbury) of the day for us.

Sidbury Lock is just before The Commandary which is an historic building that was opened up as a museum in 1977.  At one time it was the only museum in the UK dedicated purely to the English Civil War. 

It was good to see that the coffee shop is open and busy.

What we were not expecting was to find no boats moored on the visitor moorings above the lock - where has everyone gone?

In 2015 we attended the 200th Anniversary of the Worcester Birmingham canal which took place at Lowesmoor sports ground between bridges 11 and 12.  The 'poster' has worn well over the years and

it was also good to see that the wonderful mural by the play park is still unscathed five years on.

Yet more artwork that has, thankfully, escaped the attention of graffiti vandals

We made a brief stop to have lunch before we tackled the last four locks of the day.

How many of these signs are left around the system?  Has it really been there since C&RT took over, or are C&RT using up old stocks?

Always a welcome sight as we approached the last lock of the day

A new mooring for us as recommended by Debby and Dave on nb Chuffed - just before B16 at Perdiswell.  We will certainly use it again.

It is opposite a large sports ground 

To end the day we had the first semi decent sunset, so hopefully tomorrow will be another good day.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Pootling along the River Severn - 3rd September 2020

 Thursday 3rd September 2020

B49, Bullocks Lane, Staffs & Worcs to B2, Diglis, Worcester, Birmingham & Worcester

14.75 miles, 10 locks

Years ago when we used to hire boats we would regularly do 7 to 8 hour days, but we were younger, fitter and had a schedule to keep to.  These days we take our time when we can.  Today was to be an exception.

I had a really bad night - all I could hear was rain beating down on the roof which led to anxiety about what state the River Severn would be in.  It is less than a week since it was on red boards, so closed to navigation.  Would it rise again?  Our original plan had been to just go down onto the river and stop on the pontoons below Stourport on Severn.  The next day we were just going to head to Worcester and moor on the river and go up onto the canal on the third day (ie 5th September).  However, we decided to go for it and get on and off the river whilst we could.

As we were about to leave nb Caspar came up behind us.  They kindly waved us on, but we let them go first as I was going to be walking Monty, so Chris would be going slowly.

This rather nice canal side property with moorings is for sale at £435,000 -  Details here

There was a very short hold up just as we approached Stourport - I am not sure what they were up to, but when I walked back again about 20 minutes later there was no sign of anyone.

We were astounded as we approached York lock to find no one moored - it is usually nose to tail all the way along.  We stopped just prior to the lock landing so Chris could sort out the anchor, life jackets etc whilst I took Monty for another walk.  We were aware he would be stuck on board for around 3 hours whilst we were on the river.

Entering York Lock, Stourport - we were on our way again.

We had a very brief stop at the services to off load some rubbish - we had received notification that the water point and elsan were out of order.  Parked by the sanitary station was a van with a very appropriate name for a plumber in this part of the world.

We wondered if the plumber owns this boat moored in Stourport Basin

We arrived at the top of the staircase locks to find a boat on the lock landing preparing to go down.  There was a small amount of space behind it and a kindly boater took a rope from us and helped to secure us.  I went off to see if I could be of assistance - it appeared that it was the first lock for the crew of the boat ahead.  Interestingly, although these are a pair of staircase locks you do not need to ensure the bottom lock is empty before proceeding to empty the top lock.

I went ahead and prepared the top of the second staircase locks - it is much easier to have this ready.  It can be quite windy up there and it is not the best place to have to hover, especially for a novice crew.  They did get it done.  Quite a challenge for your first ever locks.

That was the challenge we had to face in 1974.  We had a funny little boat which we took from Stourport to Evesham and back again.  Unfortunately, the hirers before us failed to arrive back in time.  They weren't even just a bit late - they were very, very late!  I think our pick up time was around 2pm and they were still on their way!!  By the time they did arrive, unload and the boatyard turned the boat round ready for us it was probably about 6pm.  The boatyard staff did help us down the 4 locks onto the river, but by the time we were down the river locks were closed.  All they said to us was 'oh you will find somewhere to moor'!!  Looking back and with the benefit of hindsight and knowledge we should have insisted on staying in the boatyard for the night.  Now there are mooring pontoons below the four locks - then there was nothing.  I remember that we found a tree to tie to and managed to get a gangplank ashore  so the dog could get on and off.  We would not be up to the gymnastics involved these days!  When we did get in the first river lock the next day I can distinctly remember being shouted at by the lock keeper as I was in danger of falling in as I tried to get a rope round the slider!  I am glad to say we are a bit more proficient these days!

We were down on the river at midday - just in time for the intermittent rain to stop and the sun to think about coming out

and the river was well into the green.

Chris moved round to the pontoons that were not there in 1974.  I went off down expecting Monty to follow.  I am afraid he is a nervous soul and there are some things he will not do - he came down the slope

but was having none of the pontoon that creaked and moved!  He high tailed it back to the top and waited for me to go back and collect him.  With his lead on he is happy to follow!

It turned into pleasant afternoon and we enjoyed out trip along the river.  The Holt Inn has built outdoor pods that you can book - not quite inside/outside, but they do protect from the wind and light rain.

We shared the first two locks with nb Nutcracker.  As we arrived at our last river lock (Bevere) there was a boat moored up on a very high wall.  We pulled in behind.  A man appeared and took a rope from us and explained that there was a small skiff in the lock as they were doing some work on the lock ladder and that there may be a 40 minute delay.  

It turned out to be around 15 minutes when the skiff was pulled round

the corner

and was tied up securely until they could resume once the (now) three boats had gone through the lock.

Worcester Rowing club was busy

Then our first view of Worcester Cathedral

Then through Worcester Bridge which is notorious for collecting flotsam and jetsam

There is no shortage of swans in the Worcester Swannery

It is hard to miss the stunning Kings School Michael Baker Boathouse.  It was built in 2012.  Michael Baker is an ex- pupil from the school and donated £2.5 million towards the project.

Chris turned the boat to off load Monty and I on the pontoons by the locks at Diglis to get onto the Worcester Birmingham Canal.  Remember Monty's reluctance to use the pontoon in Stourport - no such reticence here - he was straight up to find the grass!  

There is a new sculpture/planter overlooking the first lock and the river.

Turning in to the first lock
The two locks are large broad locks with very heavy gates.  It was my lucky day - a young man and young lady were walking past and offered to help.  Something I never refuse.  They stayed around to get us up the lock before they had to leave to head back to school.  They are just starting their final year.  I asked them how it was back at school ' weird' was the reply - 'a lot of tents have popped up all over the place'.  If they see this, I wish you all the best in your A-levels and thank you again for your help.  It was very much appreciated.

Then another couple stopped to lend a hand - I rest my case about them being very big gates.

Much to our amazement the moorings above Diglis Basin were almost empty - or so we thought.  On closer inspection most of the moorings all the way along there are 30 minute water point moorings.

We moved through the next bridge and were once again amazed to find it empty

We were spoilt for choice, but chose to stay this end as we would need to reverse back to the sanitary station in the morning.  It was a quiet evening!