Sunday, 6 June 2021

The Long Awaited Visit - Part 2 - 31st May - 1 June 2021

 Bank Holiday Monday 31st May 2021
Droitwich Spa Marina to Vines Park, Droitwich and back again
3 miles, 10 locks, 6 swing bridges

They say the sun shines on the virtuous and once again today was dry, sunny and hot, so maybe we have done something right in life!  This trip is our 'go to' day trip and makes a great family day out.  It also would be our first trip under the M5 culvert since having a new TV aerial fitted - would we fit?  There was only one way to find out.

We assembled at the marina and set off in glorious sunshine.  We were far from alone - there was a steady stream of boats leaving, but they were all turning left to head up the Hanbury flight.

Just as we arrived at the first lock (a staircase) we looked around and lo and behold there were two more behind us which we assume must have come from the marina or were travelling together and waiting after each lock/flight of locks for the other one to catch up.

With so many helpers we were soon down the first three locks

There were enough hands to allow us to take it in turns to just sit, relax and enjoy - a rare treat!

I was too busy looking to check all was well as we went under the M5 to take any photos, but we made it with room to spare.  We do usually remove the cratch to aid our passage through the culvert - today it also allowed for more room for socialisation.  

Before we knew it we were down the lock after the M5 and in the last lock at the entrance to Vines Park.

We had planned on stopping for a picnic opposite Waitrose after Chris had gone through the last swing bridge and winded in Netherwich Basin, however while the latter was taking place, someone else had the same idea!  In the end Chris decided to fill up the water tank as the water point was free and it is much easier there with the bow right by the tap than running the hose the length of the boat in the marina.

The locking/swing bridge crew waited patiently in the shade

We moored up just outside the basin for the next event - a very important one - lunch!  I think you can just make out Monty tucking into his lunch time carrot!

Time for a family line up in height order before we set off to return to the marina.  We are missing one person - our son in law who had to work.

Finally a fun one with the youngsters - I am not sure how happy the youngest member was though!

It was busier going back, but who cares about queues when the weather is perfect and the company even more so.

With a boat ahead of us at the lock after the M5 tunnel and another coming out of that lock there was some fun and games when the lady lock worker from the boat going down got left behind!  It is possible to walk round by the road to the next lock, but unless you know where you are going it is better to be on the boat.  They tried to reverse back to the lock landing, but kept going aground, so there was nothing else for it, but to let her access her boat via ours.  Probably not the wisest decision we have ever made due to covid, but I have to say that did not occur to me at the time.  I guess we were working on 'normal' rules when it is the done thing to help others out when they have got into a pickle.  So far, so good and we are all fit and healthy, so I hope we got away with it.

The only downside to this trip is that there is very little steering to be done that does not require careful manoeuvring, however our son and eldest grandson did manage to get control for a while - under canine "supervision" of course!

The day was rounded off with Pizzas all round courtesy of our son who had brought his pizza oven with him.

Tuesday saw all 11 of us heading to a local pub for lunch (two tables to abide by the rules) once again in glorious sunshine.  Our son and family headed home as he had to go to work on Wednesday.  Such is life!

It was a glorious few days that we will all remember for a very long time, made even better by perfect weather.

We hope to head off on our 'summer cruise' towards the end of this month.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

The Long Awaited Visit Part 1 - 29th-30th May 2021

 As has been the case for many people we had not seen our son, daughter-in-law their three children since March 2020.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.  They arrived on Saturday 29th May and we just had a very relaxed evening just revelling in all being together again.  It has certainly been a very odd year.

Sunday 30th May 2021
Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove

I am sure there will be some of you who have visited this wonderful Museum when down this way.  It is a bit of a hike from the canal, but well worth it.  It re-opened this year on Saturday 1st May.  That evening some people took it upon themselves to vandalise many of the buildings and some of the interior exhibits.  Windows were smashed and they left a trail of destruction behind them which, of course, meant the museum had to close losing the rest of the Bank Holiday bookings.  The vandals had done tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.  Volunteers and staff set to work clearing up all the glass and boarding up the windows so they could open the following weekend, albeit with some of the buildings shut.  An appeal was launched to help fund the repairs and it seems that it was so successful that they got money from all corners of the globe.  Why anyone would do this is beyond my comprehension.  The museum is out of town, not near any pubs and they are likely to have gone by car with the intent of doing what they did.  As far as I know they have not been apprehended.  

What is so special about this place?  It is a collection of old buildings from Worcestershire and beyond that have been rescued and re-built in what is England's first open air museum.  The Website can do a much better job than I can.  As a family we have visited it many times over the years - they put on a lot of activities for the youngsters on special occasions.  We find the whole site so welcoming and peaceful that we sometimes just pop in to take Monty for a walk (we are members).  We decided it would be very appropriate to go over there to show our support, especially as the Bromsgrove Town Leet were going to be in attendance.  To our shame we did not know that they even existed even though we have lived in the area for almost 10 years.  In our defence, I suspect that they are out and about mostly in the summer and we, of course, are usually away then.  

As we arrived there was a ceremony taking place - the local baker had made some scones and they had to be passed fit for consumption.  The Town Bailiff asked two member of the Town Leet to test them.  There was a lot of discussion about how you pronounce 'scone' and whether you put the jam or cream on first!  They were passed as fit for the people of Bromsgrove to consume and the baker was presented with a certificate and a sprig of evergreen, so that those who were unable to read would know they had been approved.  All very well done.  They must have all been rather warm in all their regalia.

The three grandchildren (17, 13 and 12) insisted that they must have a ride on the little train just for old times sake.  Their Mum and Dad joined them!

After that we just went for a wander around in the sunshine.  It was very sad to see so many windows boarded up and the buildings closed.  

The staff and volunteers have done an amazing job to get things to the stage they are now.  I suspect it may be years before they are back to normal.  All the glass has to be authentic to the age of the building, so not easy or cheap to source.

The old 'loo' has always been a favourite for the children!

Even the playground was visited

The windmill is one of my favourites and has appeared in my blog on many occasions as it is visible from a few parts of the canal.  I always know we are nearly home when I see it in the distance.

This poor lady was wrapped up in many yards of pure wool!  

It was a very gentle and fun way to spend an afternoon.  Once we were home our daughter, son in law and their two boys came round for a BBQ.

I will never take for granted all 11 of us being all together in the same place again.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Now that was more like it - 28th May 2021

Friday 28th May 2021
Crafted Boats to Droitwich Spa Marina
3.5 miles, 9 locks

We returned home from Staffordshire on Thursday having had a fantastic time with our friends which included a walk along the Audlem flight, a visit to The 'Secret' Bunker at Hack Green and lunch out in a pub as well as many hours just relaxing and enjoying each others company.

Friday we were up and out early - Chris had pre-positioned the car back at the marina on Thursday evening and our lift arrived promptly at 08:30 to transport us to Crafted Boats.  On our arrival we found Tentatrice in one of the paint tunnels. 

Photos were taken of the packing round the batteries

and we were off with no wind or rain - as I said in the title 'that was more like it!'

Now we did not need it there was plenty of mooring space just above the Astwood locks.

Round the bend and we were all ready to head down the flight of six.  Lo and behold there was a boat just exiting the first lock going down ahead of us!

just after we had started our descent another boat came round the corner which had a 

large very efficient crew and it meant that at every lock I had an assistant on the bottom gates, so no walking round the locks for me today.  Always a bonus.  

With boats coming up as well, it was a social trip, something in the past we possibly all took for granted.  I had managed to chat to the lady on the boat ahead of us at the second lock and asked (as you do) 'where are you heading today?'  Her answer was 'Gloucester as the boat is due back tomorrow'.  I was somewhat alarmed at her reply as I was aware that this was a very long journey to be done in one day - I felt it was probably impossible.  I was right as I discovered when I checked canal planner on our return home -  this is a journey of around 42 miles and 24 locks which includes around 29 miles on the River Severn which was on amber boards (for non boaters this is due to a strong stream after all the rain and means you can proceed with caution, however, I am not sure whether hire boats are supposed to do so).  The canal planner I use suggest you need 16 hours minimum to do this trip.  I advised her to ring the hire boat company before they descended onto the River Severn.  I worried all the way down the flight about how on earth they were going to manage!

It was a busy old day

A young family out enjoying themselves

Lock 18

Not a breath of wind

It was not long before we were down at the bottom lock and I met up again with the lady going to Gloucester.  I wished her luck and a safe journey and that is when she told me she had got it wrong - they were going to Worcester!  A much better option - just another 7 hours or so rather than 15.  I was so glad I found out as it meant I could relax and stop worrying about them.  

Once through those six locks, there is time to put the kettle on and have a cuppa before one arrives at Hanbury Junction where we turned right to head down the three locks at Hanbury. As we approached we could see a VLK busy getting the top lock ready, but we also spotted a boat at the back of the lock landing.  I was walking by this time and could see they were tightly moored up with the engine off, so we proceeded past them.  The VLK told us he had been getting the lock ready for the other boat, but they had decided to have a cuppa!  Their loss, our gain.

Once again with help at all the locks

and a boat coming up 

we were soon down

and at the junction into our marina.

We swiftly moored up and made sure everything was as it should be and we were off to Waitrose for a few bits - as I emerged from the store, the rain came down.  It was a very pleasant and easy trip.  All that remained to be done was to send the photos of the batteries all packed in to the BSS examiner and wait with baited breath to see if he would pass us this time.

We didn't!  Apparently they need a strap as well.  Back to the drawing board, but this time one of the engineers will drive to us which is a lot quicker than us going back by boat.