Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Misty sunbeams and spiders' webs

We got going earlier than usual this morning, in time to cruise through the mist as the sun burnt it off. Before the sun warmed up the vegetation on the offside, the millions of cobwebs were on display.

It's easy to forget that these spiders' webs must always be covering absolutely everything - it's only when dew or frost settles on them that we can see them.


As we travelled south from Stretton Stop the sun's rays broke through the mist lighting up patches of water.

The best time to be boating.


After stops at Brownsover and Hillmorton we tied up three miles north of Braunston; we should get to the bottom of Buckby Locks tomorrow. The end of our summer cruise is looming ...

Monday, 15 September 2014

What are these birds?

We moved on from Coventry Basin this morning and turned onto the Oxford Canal at Sutton Stop. On the way to Stretton Stop, where we tied up for the night, we saw some birds we can't remember having seen before.

They flew like kingfishers ...

... but are obviously not kingfishers. Two other boaters independently expressed their mystification.

They called out as they flew, making a sound a bit like a woodpecker's call. They wagged their tails when on the ground.

Can someone identify them for me from my poor photos? (Irene?)

As we passed under the M6 there was a bit of a queue heading towards Birmingham. These lorries were stationary.

Oslo, a R. W. Davies boat, looked resplendent in the afternoon light. We even had a little sunshine, interspersed with some light showers of rain.

We walked into Brinklow to check out the White Lion and its curry house. But it is no longer a curry house. (Grr.) They now do pizzas, but we didn't fancy that so we returned to the boat for Plan B: lamb chops.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Crumhorns in Coventry

We liked Coventry so much we stayed an extra day. When we got up it was slightly disconcerting having Mr. Brindley right outside the galley porthole.

After going to Holy Trinity church for the "informal" 9.30 service - very good - we went to have a proper look round the Museum of Transport, much of which celebrates Coventry's long association with the motor industry.

There were several Morris 1000s lined up outside ...

... in front of a row of Jaguars.

Following a light lunch back on board we went to the Guildhall, open as part of the Heritage Open Days. In the courtyard a musician was demonstrating her wondrous collection of ancient woodwind instruments. Here she is playing the crumhorn.

We then went to Choral Evensong in Holy Trinity, also very good, and retired to the boat.

We'll move on in the morning, heading up the Oxford. Does the pub/Indian restaurant combo in Brinklow still exist? I want to find out - and I want the answer to be "yes".

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Two old boats in a bridge hole

We'd not been up long before we heard the unmistakeable sound of a Bolinder engine. It didn't seem to be getting nearer, so I looked out of the bow doors and saw this.

Spey, towing Betelgeuse, had stopped in the bridge hole for a crew member to clear the blades - at least, that's what it looked like.

When they came through I saw that it was James of MB Willow steering the motor. (Amy was in the hold of the butty.) An unexpected and very brief sighting, and I'm sorry if our mooring position made it tricky for you.

These short days we're doing give us more time for looking at places. We tied up in Coventry Basin and had a brief look at the Transport Museum before moving on to the cathedral. Here Choral Evensong had just started, so we stayed for the rest of the service. (We'll return to the Transport Museum tomorrow.)

There are lots of old buildings, many of which were rebuilt after the war. Here's one shot of Coventry Almshouses.

Here is our mooring for the night, next to the statue of James Brindley. I might move the boat into one of the "fingers" of the basin in the morning to give more space to any boats needing to wind.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Slow canoeists

Somehow it just doesn't feel right, doing only fours hours' boating a day. Today the engine clocked up 3.8 hours as we moved from Atherstone to Bedworth. Before we left Atherstone we had another walk into the town, and this time the church was open.

Back on the high street, would you take your worn footwear to Snob's Shoe Repairs?

On the canal we passed a Morris 1000 undergoing repairs to its underside. Presumably no pit was available. Not one that was dry, anyway.

At Bridge 32, just before the Hartshill Yard, a sign warned of slow canoeists.

And round the corner, guess what? Three slow canoeists. Only they weren't particularly slow, nor, I believe, were they canoeists. Are not one-person craft like these called kayaks?

There's a lovely old telegraph pole surviving on this stretch.

Perched on top was a bird of prey, which took off just as I took the closer photo.

Identification, someone?

When we got to Bedworth we stopped and explored the town. From photographs helpfully reproduced on a display board you could see how the town centre had been redeveloped in the 1960s/70s. I prefer how it used to look. Yes, it's a bigger place than Atherstone, but Atherstone, with traffic still allowed along its high street, had much more life than Bedworth with its dull, pedestrianised concrete areas.

The almshouses looked nice, though.

As it's a Heritage Open Day tomorrow we'll be able to get a proper look in the morning.

In the evening we had a great meal as guests of Terry and Chris in their lovely canalside house. Thank you!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mending paddle gear on the Atherstone flight

Another day of not many hours. After half of one of them we stopped at Polesworth for a look round the town (village?). Spotting the church at the end of an inviting footpath we went to visit. The church is on the site of Polesworth Abbey, not much of which remains now. Or is the church, St. Editha's, the abbey? I don't know. There is a garden, enclosed on three sides, which was warm in the sun and very peaceful. Two artists were sketching there.

Interestingly we saw no charity shops in Polesworth.

We stopped again below the Atherstone locks for lunch. When we got going we found that the noise we'd been hearing during lunch was a dredging operation at the side pond of the bottom lock.

Oh good, I thought. A side pond being restored. But no. It won't be operational, according to the workers. What they were doing was to "improve the flow", apparently.

So it's just the side pond at Lock 6 which works as built, then. (Except that it seems to leak back into the tail of the lock.) As we were following a boat up the flight I had to drain the lock so we could enter. First, I raised the paddle to let water flow from the lock into the side pond.

When the levels had equalised - or near enough - I closed the paddle and went to raise the bottom gate paddles. One worked fine; on the other, winding the spindle failed to raise the paddle. The whole shaft, with the end made into the tapered square-ended spindle, had moved out such that the key was not engaging with the gear which lifts the rack.

As a temporary measure I used a hammer to persuade the shaft back into position, after which it worked. I took the photos after I'd done this; you can see where the shaft has been rotating where it shouldn't have been.

The key, visible in the centre of the upper photo, needs properly knocking in - I'll e-mail CRT.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Why do people not wait at the nearest point on the lock landing to the lock?

It's a pet hate of mine. No, "hate" is too strong. It irritates me that when approaching a lock with a queue there is often room for a whole narrowboat between the boat next to go in and the lock itself. When there are a few boats waiting, this usually means that there are no bollards or rings for those at the back of the queue, who have to hang on to ropes.

Glascote bottom lock today was a prime example, although at least there was piling to secure a centre rope to.

Look at that! Yes, a boat has just moved off the bollards to enter the lock, but the new first-in-queue is hanging on to the furthest bollard.

Jubilee is fourth here, and there is another boat behind us. Needless to say, when there are no other boats in the way, I always move to the front!

Before this we stopped at Fazeley to see David and Mary. They came on board for a coffee; I remembered to take a photo this time.

The queue at Glascote took about an hour. We had originally intended to stop at Polesworth; in the end we tied up just beyond Alvecote Basin.

Before that, though, we stopped briefly at Canal Crafts, an end-of-garden shed-based enterprise at Amington. The old boy who runs it seems to be still going strong. He and his grandson (and the dog) gave us a cheery wave as we left.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Narcissistic bovine

We did some locks today - hooray! I'm sure I've mentioned that locks are probably my favourite part of boating. I love steering in and out of them; I love operating them. Just three: Woodend, Shade House and Middle Locks on the Trent and Mersey. We set off from Handsacre at 1030. By the time we'd tied up beyond the swing footbridge on the Coventry Canal having turned right at Fradley Junction - and emptied the Elsan - it was lunchtime. The Mucky Duck, aka The Swan, was conveniently at hand, and the sun was shining. It didn't take much thought to decide to eat there at an outside table. Jan had the pork stroganoff; I had the Thai beef curry. Jan's was better. It was lovely to eat in the warm outdoors right by the junction.

Back to the morning though: After a chilly start the sun shone almost continuously, warming things to T-shirt and shorts conditions. This is near King's Bromley.

On the Coventry Canal a bovine (I don't think it's a cow ... a heiffer?) fancied a change from grass.

Looking to the right as we passed under a bridge in Whittington we were surprised to see a large collection of gnomes.

As the sun's strength began to wane we tied up just past Tamhorn House Bridge, went for a walk to Hopwas Wood Bridge, and had tea back on board.

To Fazeley tomorrow to visit David and Mary, then on towards Atherstone.