Monday, 3 February 2020

And a Jump - 3rd February 2020

Monday 3rd February 2020
Astwood to Crafted Boats 
1.5 miles, 2 locks

We had done the hop and skip, so today it was the final jump - mind you we have 'skipped' a day in between!  Yesterday we stayed put at Astwood whilst our daughter collected Chris so he could position our car at Stoke Wharf in readiness for us today.  My job for the day was some very very deep cleaning in the galley!  It feels good to have it done ready for the off in April.

Considering the rain we have had of recent months we certainly chose the right few days to do this trip as we certainly saw more sun than we have done in months.  Today was no exception and we had a smooth run to the bottom lock at Stoke Prior which we entered and went up.  The first job was to get rid of the rubbish and empty the wee pots before Chris winded and re-entered the lock.  By now the side hatch was opposite the car, so we were able to unload the boat with ease.


 The last job (or so we thought) was to remove the chimney and put the cap on

I opened the paddles and emptied the lock, and opened the gate on the towpath side.  Round I went to open the other gate, but it was not to be.  This big stick was firmly wedged.  I tried wriggling the gate to see if it would shift, but it wouldn't.

Plan B - Chris nudged the boat forward and came to the bow with his trusty book hook

He managed to move it out the way

 and we escaped taking the stick with us

I then drove to Crafted Boats whilst Chris travelled the couple of hundred yards or so to moor up outside their office.  We are now facing the right way to go back to Droitwich on (we hope) 4th March once the jobs have been done.

A successful few days.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Skip..... 1st February 2020

Saturday 1st February 2020
Hanbury Junction to B41 Astwood
2 miles, 6 locks

I did say we were taking it slowly!  We woke to sun and blue skies - such a rare commodity of late.


Naturally we have the fire going and we usually put the short chimney on when we are on the move.  Today we decided to see if we could manage without swapping - we thought the bridges were all high enough.  Would we fit?

Yes - room to spare.

The sky just got bluer and bluer - there was just a very strong wind to contend with.


Chris waiting at the bottom lock.  A boat had gone past us yesterday afternoon, so it was no surprise to find it full to the brim.

The view from the first lock

and there in the distance a canoeist

who turned out to be two and a lot quicker round the lock than we were.

There it is - the boat that past us yesterday just below the second lock.  The helmsman had just got the lock ready and was heading in - bad timing on our part.  I went and lent a hand.

The second lock (No 18) is the one with lock cottage and the wonderful garden on the offside.  We have never seen it in winter - all trimmed back and ready for spring growth,

 but still with some colourful pots outside the front door.

The helmsman on the boat ahead of us reckoned a crew of two would be quicker than he was on his own and when we got to the next lock, he had got it ready for us and let us go ahead.  There really are some wonderful boaters around.

I am not sure that we were much, if any, quicker than he was, but we were grateful for his consideration and kindness, especially as he was going further than we were today (up the 6 Stoke locks to Stoke Pound ready to do Tardebigge tomorrow).  I did open a paddle for him on the bottom gates, which I hope helped him a bit.  Once we got to the top lock I left Chris waiting and went back to the fifth lock to our kindly boater up the last two.

We went ahead and moored up and


waved as he went past on his way.

The sky was certainly darker when we moored at around 12:15, but as I type at nearly 17:00 the sun only left us about half an hour ago.  Thankfully the wind is blowing us onto the towpath and even that has abated a bit. 

Friday, 31 January 2020

A Hop.... 31st January 2020

Friday 31st January 2020
Droitwich Spa Marina to Hanbury Junction
0.4 miles, 3 locks

We are taking things very slowly!  First stop this morning was by car to Droitwich to walk Monty round the park (tarmac paths and a lot less mud than the towpath!) and to pop into Waitrose for our 'Friday fish' and the paper.

The boat engine was a little reluctant to start, but once it had caught, all was well and we were off

out of the marina, turn left and there in front of us was the bottom lock at Hanbury with a bottom gate open.  It was our lucky day as there was one bottom gate open on all three locks.  They were not blown open - the top one needs a wooden wedge to keep it open and that was in place.  Whilst doing ranger duties at Tardebigge recently we came across a lot of locks with one bottom gate open - we reckon someone has been down and just shut one gate to save walking round!

The side ponds were all empty, so we were draining the pounds which were looking rather low by the time we had been through.

Either one of the lock keepers nips up to the top lock regularly or maybe someone who does a ranger patrol tops up the bird feeders.  Either way I am sure the birds are very grateful.


The Severn is shown as water falling, proceed with caution - thankfully we are not going that way.

 After our mammoth journey (all 45 minutes of it!) we moored up with two other boats.  They are both Star Line hire boats from Stourport that are unoccupied  - our guess is that the last hirers got caught out by rising water on the Salwarpe and the Severn and had to be rescued by road.  We guess they will be here until the hire company need them again in the Spring.


Just as we got inside it started to rain - not much, but we certainly timed it right.


Thursday, 30 January 2020

Does this bode well? 30th January 2020

Thursday 30th January 2020
Droitwich Spa Marina

If I had taken my camera out when Monty and I went for a walk I would have got some much better photos of the sunset.  It was getting a bit dark by the time we got home. 

I am hoping the red sky might mean a dry day to start our trip back to Crafted Boats (the home of Tentatrice's birth).  We are booked in for a few jobs to be done.



The weather forecast seems to agree with the sky, so we may be in luck.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

A Blogger Snapped! 18th January 2020

Saturday 18th January 2020
Birmingham

I was up in Birmingham yesterday evening on a very special mission, but before that got started look who I spotted.

Sadly I did not have time to go and say hello as I was on a mission with our youngest granddaughter.

Back in October our son in law bought tickets for the Strictly Tour as a birthday present for our daughter.  Sadly he had not checked the calendar before he did so - it was probably the only weekend that was booked up with something impossible to change - a house had been booked for a Uni get together along with children.  I think there was around 17 of them going.  I took the tickets off them which is why E an I ended up in Birmingham last night - with just my phone camera which I am not as proficient with as I am with the real thing, so please excuse the quality.

After dinner at Wagamamma's we headed to the NIA to see




It is a venue I have never been to before - it is huge.  Although we were high up and at one end we had a good view.

The far end is prime position as most dances were done facing that way.

Despite the venue's size I never felt crowded, there were many staff in attendance to ensure all went smoothly.  The dancing and the music were great, Craig (a judge for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about!) did not disappoint and generated as many boos as usual.  It was great family entertainment which we both enjoyed.

I had pre booked and pre paid for a taxi to take us home as the last train home on a Saturday is 22:20. Utter madness in my book.  It meant we would have no hope of catching it. The taxi was a  very cold 25 minutes late. One of the contestants (a CBBC presenter and a very good dancer) walked past whilst we were waiting.  E said hello and he made her evening as he stopped to ask if she had enjoyed the show.  All in all a very successful evening.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

A Welsh Week - 18th - 25th October 2019

Friday 18th October - Friday 25th October 2019
Furnace, near Machynlleth, Powys

Our autumn week in Wales is becoming a rather good habit.  Chris has family around Machynlleth, so it is a chance to catch up with them whilst we enjoy some 'holiday' time.

We stayed at almost the same place that we were in last two years, but at their slightly smaller property which is perfect for just the two of us and a dog.  It is ideally placed for family visits and close to Monty's favourite beach at Ynyslas.

We were slightly earlier this year and benefited from warmer and drier weather - we definitely chose the right week to go.

So what did we get up to apart from catching up with 15 family members aged from 2 months to 86!

As they say - first secure your base, so the cottage.  The owners are really friendly and welcoming and apart from the loo seat upstairs (very flimsy and if you lifted one seat, both moved - not ideal in the middle of the night!) it is very well fitted out and equipped.

I could get used to the view.

Downstairs is open plan kitchen, diner and sitting room, but it has most things you need for a week's holiday.  There is a good shower room downstairs with a utility area with a washing  machine and microwave plus a myriad of bins for recycling.  The bedroom upstairs has a small en suite loo and sink - an essential for us these days I am afraid.  A bonus is a selection of tempting goodies on arrival.

There were three (possibly four - I lost track!) visits to Ynyslas, so Monty was a happy lad.  It is a wonderful beach that is so huge that despite the number of cars it still felt empty.



Does Monty go for a paddle - no chance!  Water is bad enough, but stuff that moves is a real 'no no'!

 This was the closest he got

 One afternoon the tide was so far out it almost felt as if you could walk across to Aberdovey

Back to the cottage and there is a reasonable walk just along the road,


As the woodland opens up the views are wonderful





 At the end of the lane is the entrance to this - a Michelin Starred Restaurant.  The meals are very expensive and places have to be booked a long time in advance, such is the demand.  It is presumably so well known that no more information is required at the entrance!  A little further up the road is the RSPB reserve at Ynsyhir - not somewhere we can take Monty.

Back near the start of the lane in the car park are some information boards relating to how Furnace got its name - the mill opposite the lane was used to make pig iron.

One board in the car park starts you on a trail to find the pigs across the road at the mill!  I am sure it is designed to keep children amused, but I am never one to pass up a challenge!

So over the road we went to Furnace Mill to follow the trail!

which we did until at number 7 we found...

the pigs!  The reason they were called pigs was because the shapes the molten metal was poured into looked like piglets when they are feeding from their mother,

Apart from satisfying my curiousity it allowed us to explore the site.  You cannot actually get inside the mill, but it is definitely worth stopping to look round.

The first time I went round I was on my own, but had to go back as the board in this picture was

 inaccessible wearing trainers!

What an elegant bench to sit and admire the view

 Looking down to the bench from near

the source of the water


 View from the top looking the other way - our cottage is tucked in below the red arrow

 There is a working model to show how the bellows worked

The wheel is still in remarkably good condition


It is the sort of place that I am sure most people drive past without stopping.  This is the third year we have stayed in Furnace and the first time we have explored the mill - it was definitely worth it.

We paid our first visit for very many years to Aberystwyth and we will go back.  I had forgotten how nice it is.  Coloured houses seem to be a feature around this part of Wales.

 What did surprise us was how hard it was to find a parking space even though it was definitely out of season.  We ended up in a pay and display car park by the marina/harbour. 


It was towards the end of the day and we did not fancy paying the minimum fee of £2.40 when we were only planning on a fairly brief stay, so Monty and I headed off to read the information boards

and then to explore the remains of the castle whilst Chris kept his eye open for the traffic warden!

At first I thought these were two churches

however I am fairly sure that this was (or maybe still is?) part of the University


Looking out to sea past the WW2 Memorial

Our small explore was worth it for the views alone



We then walked along the promenade to the pier where Chris picked us up.  The view from the pier towards the cliff railway prompted us to drive along for a closer look.

We visited the Camera Obscura many many years ago - somewhere to go back to we feel.

Another day we drove to Aberaeron - another town with many delightfully painted houses
Taken from the car, so not the best picture!
 There is no sandy beach, but there is a good walk along behind the beach which we all enjoyed

Next stop that day was the National Trust property at Llanerchaeron.  It started life as a small farmhouse, but in the 1790's John Nash was employed as the architect to transform it into the elegant house it is today. 

It is not particularly visually stunning from the outside, but don't let that put you off going in - it is well worth a visit.

Nash had a great need for symmetry, so some rooms have false doors just to balance things out from the inside.  The door in the far corner goes nowhere!  When the NT took over the property some of the ceilings were in a dire state with a lot of damp.  I think they have made a really good job of restoring them.

 Another Nash feature are the ceiling frescoes - he loved them and every room is different

There are a couple of rooms upstairs that have a curved arch in each corner

and curved doors

On the upstairs landing is this - beautifully restored by the NT

This picture is not that remarkable until .....

you read the information about the artist

His and

hers bedrooms

There is a lot more to see including a very large kitchen, scullery and many outbuildings and for the children - well instead of pigs we were looking for mice!

What we did not see was the working farm - there is only so much you can do in a day, so we will go back again next time we are in the area.  If you are interested in the history have a look HERE.

After lunch (we can recommend the Welsh Rarebit) we took Monty for a walk across the bridge by the shop and cafe and into the woods




Still not going in for a paddle!

He did, however, find a squirrel!

On the way back to the cottage that day we drove to Ynyslas (for another beach run) by the coast road from Abersystwyth via Borth - the view is worth the narrow steep road.

The market town is Machynlleth and I suspect the part we visit most is never seen by most visitors.  At the back of the main car park is the rugby club - walk through to get behind it and you will not be disappointed.  It is a reasonable dog walk particularly in bad weather as it is tarmac walking for the humans with pretty good views as an added bonus. 

What I find most fascinating, however, is what started as a few pots of herbs a few years ago designed for people to help themselves, has flourished into mini allotments.





I don't know who nurtures all the plants, but they are certainly thriving.

When we were here last year the children's playground was being refurbished - they have made a good job of it.

Just on the off chance that any of you do decide to visit Mach and don't want to pay to park in the main car park, there is free car parking off the roundabout as you leave Mach on the main road heading towards Aberystwyth.

That pretty much sums up our week in Mid Wales.  As you will have seen from a lot of the photos we did have some bright, sunny, blue sky days.  There was some rain, of course - well it would not be the green and pleasant land it is without it now would it?