Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Dredging on the Stratford Canal

We moved from our Yardley Wood mooring to empty the elsan. The nearest facilities, as far as I could work out, were back at Kingswood Junction (a day's cruise away) or at Holliday Wharf in Birmingham city centre, there and back in a day. Neither option what you might call convenient, given that we wanted to return to our mooring. A third choice was to investigate Lyons Boatyard, half a mile from here. Yes, we could empty the elsan for £2.50, or for nothing if we filled up with diesel. We needed diesel anyway, so that is what we did.

At the boatyard Land and Water were emptying dredgings into a lorry.

We came across the actual dredging operation between the boatyard and Brandwood Tunnel on our way to King's Norton Junction to wind. I should have just reversed back to Bridge 5 - it would have been quicker. Not that the dredging held us up - despite the notice warning of delays of up to 30 minutes, in practice as soon as the operator saw us coming he moved the hopper out of the way.

Brother David arrived just as we were tying up back at Bridge 5. He's come to help me with some fencing.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A funny thing happened on the way to King's Heath

It's been another hot day today. Despite the insulation the walls of the boat have felt very warm where the sun has been beating down on the outside.

I did a bit of cosmetic repair work to the ceiling of a house we let near here; tomorrow I think we'll be hedge trimming before the rain comes.

We went to church this morning - the Baptist Church in Yardley Wood Road where our friend and waterways chaplain Richard Alford goes - and to our favourite curry house this evening, the Sweet Chillies, also in Yardley Wood Road.

After the meal, very good as always, we went for a walk along the Chinn Brook to Trittiford Mill pool where I took a rare photo with my telephone camera.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was an interesting thing which happened as I cycled up a gentle incline towards a roundabout in King's Heath. I was overtaken ... by a hand-powered wheelchair. Not the sort where the chair is propelled by a handrail just inside the wheels, but the type driven by a bicycle-like device with handles instead of pedals. I know these days I'm not as fast as I used to be on a bike, especially on the cheap folding machine I use when boating, but it (over)took me by surprise. I'll know to hang up my bike helmet when I get passed by a tortoise.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Narrowboat passes with 23 on board

We could hardly believe our eyes as a narrowboat passed us at Yardley Wood with people and a lit barbecue on the roof.

The steerer proudly told me that there were 23 people on board. I couldn't find my camera immediately.

The boat happened to be passing under a shaft of sunlight, thus heightening the drama of the smoke.

A worse drama would be when the weight of the crowd on top causes the boat to topple. I wonder how many it would take. Of course everyone was having a whale of a time.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Is this a fox?

We moved from Hockley Heath to the Birmingham suburbs today, tying up at Bridge 5 on the Stratford Canal. On the way we spotted on the towpath what looks like a fox, but with a less than bushy tail.

What do you think? A cub?

Earlier today we passed a recently burnt out canalside cottage.

Perhaps it had been derelict before the fire, but it's sad to see. Nothing on the scale of Grenfell Tower in London, of course, with its shocking death toll.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

"Just normal stuff for hire boats"

It was all so quiet on the Grand Union. Then, this morning, we joined the Stratford Canal at Kingswood Junction and, suddenly, there were hire boats everywhere. Mostly going in our direction and mostly in front of us. The first few locks of the Lapworth flight had queues, but it all sorted itself out eventually.

At what is probably the trickiest pound for passing in, between locks 9 and 8, we had to pass a long hire boat coming down.

The hire boat did the right thing by going into the 'dead' area to the right of the lock so we could squeeze past hugging the bank, then, once we were clear, it reversed and headed into the lock.

We tied up at Hockley Heath, and I cycled back to Warwick to get the car. Had I cycled on the towpath it would have been downhill all the way, but I chose to use the B-road. This avoided villages, by and large, and was rather hillier than I was expecting. Still, I got to the car and brought it back OK.

As Jan steered under Bridge 25 I took a few photos, this being the best of them. The strong contrast between the sunlight and the shade of the bridge made getting the balance between under- and overexposing tricky.

We ate at the Wharf Inn - two meals for £10.49 was good value. (Jan had the beef and ale pie; I went for the hunter's chicken. We gave each other half of our meals - Jan's pie was very good.)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Hatton in the heat

We left Leamington Spa this morning and stopped by Budbrooke Junction so I could cycle back to Radford Semele to retrieve the car. The car bit of the journey took twice as long as the cycling as I found myself on the A46 dual carriageway heading out of Warwick. It's all been rebuilt since my OS map and the satnav so they weren't much good. I parked eventually in Hampton Magna. What I should have done is parked at the top of the Hatton flight so I could freewheel down the hill to the boat.

At 1445, after lunch, we started on the Hatton locks.

It was hot work and there was very little traffic. We passed just one boat and were not aware of anyone going in our direction. We had a good road: all but two locks were in our favour.

The pound below the top lock was a good two feet down, so I ran some water in from the long pound above the lock.

Tomorrow we'll be joining the Stratford Canal, heading north, and we'll be back to narrow locks, the first since Watford two weeks ago.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Under the moon

This is where we are tonight, under the moon.

Oh, wait, it's not the moon. It's Lidl's big round sign. We're in Leamington Spa, sorry, Royal Leamington Spa. Possibly the most convenient place on the system for supermarkets, with Lidl as close as it's possible to be; Morrisons a short walk along the towpath and across one road, and Aldi hardly any further. There's also a Sainsbury's just beyond Aldi. Just half a mile or so nearer Warwick is a canalside Tesco.

Yesterday we saw Savoy Hill; this morning it tied up in front of us, giving us a chance to talk to Mike and Jenny (?), and Mike's parents. Savoy Hill is the BBC Club's narrowboat, an earlier iteration of which we enjoyed a few holidays on back in the 1980s.

I love the tiller pin, a representation of an AXBT ribbon microphone, the BBC's studio mic for 30 years from the 1930s.

No sooner had Savoy Hill gone than Hadar turned up to use the same Lidl mooring. It was good to see Jo and Keith, who came aboard for coffee/tea.

In the afternoon we walked into the town, the first time we'd visited. And what a fine place it turned out to be, with a parade of grand buildings in the Parade (that's the name of the main street) and plenty of interest. For example, the Royal Pump Room and Baths, now a museum and art gallery; and the Glasshouse, a modern glass building housing tropical plants. There are parks a-plenty and people. The place was populous with pedestrians parading along Parade (OK, that's enough - Ed.)

In the art gallery I saw an early forerunner to Mike Smith's Blogshank. Not as witty, though.

And here's an evening sunshine shot of the canal from our mooring.

I shall try to get back into the swing of blogging again, family events allowing.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Crick Ness Monster

Have you seen the Crick Ness Monster? We haven't seen it, but we have heard it. It woke us up one morning a couple of weeks ago in Crick Marina, thrashing about between our boat and a neighbouring one, making a frightful racket.

Later in the morning I heard it again as I was walking along the jetty. I looked, but all I saw was a few ripples on the water.

What was it? All will be revealed - possibly - later.

We were at Crick making use of our month's free mooring won as a third prize at last year's Boat Show. Our stay conveniently coincided with this year's show, so we claimed our moorers' wristbands and helped out at the Boaters' Christian Fellowship stand.

I don't think there were as many visiting boats this year. This was the view looking north from the temporary bridge.

The headline act for Saturday's evening entertainment was the tribute band T-Rextasy. I stuck it out for their first three numbers but that was enough for me.

I didn't even bother going to the next night's gig, Fleetwood Bac. I could hear enough from the boat.

Back at the BCF stand, here Jan (seated, dark green T-shirt) is signing up a new member.

During our stay at Crick we made good use of our proximity to the M1, driving to Sheffield to see Andrew a few times. Now we are on the move again, heading towards Birmingham. We tied up just along from Norton Junction in surprisingly shallow water on the GU main line.

Back to the Crick Ness Monster. A few days ago a fellow marina dweller told us that it could have been a large carp which visits at this time of year to spawn. I was not totally surprised, but part of me felt slightly sad that the mystery had been blown out of the water, so to speak.

There is lots more news, and I shall try to get back into more regular blogging after a regrettable lapse.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Mooning about

In Norwich last Friday it looked as if the Moon had come in to land.

As part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival a large inflatable moon, perhaps 20 feet diameter, was suspended between the Forum and St. Peter Mancroft church. It didn't stay there long. An hour later it was in a collapsed heap on the floor of the Forum.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Where we are for a while

In my list of good things about Crick Marina a couple of days ago I forgot: free wifi! (if rather sporadic) and dry dock!

This is where we are, in a newer part of the marina. Jubilee is the third from the left.
We'll be returning home and to Essex for Jan's mum's funeral shortly, so we're grateful we can leave the boat here.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

B.O.A.T. (and the rest)

We are on board again, at last. Various family events have forced us to change our original plans; we now find ourselves at Crick Marina for a while.

We went to pick up the boat from the boatyard after having the work done, and then decided to get them to do another little job, that of fixing a tiny leak from the area of the fresh water tank. I was rather taken aback when I got the bill - apparently it had taken 13 hours to sort out the problem! Yes, it included a plate being welded to the well deck for the water filler neck to be reattached, but at £40 an hour, plus VAT, this was almost the same cost as the earlier work. That was the removal and refitting of two windows and a mushroom vent, replacement of a gearbox oil seal and the engine coolant, and a small weld repair to a pigeon box flap.

Also, annoyingly, as we'd had to leave the boat at the yard for so long, the paintwork on one side has been splattered with old bitumen from a boat being pressure washed. I made a start on polishing it off - ordinary washing wouldn't touch it - but it is extremely laborious. I've had to resort to T-cut. And the roof in the area of the pigeon box welding is covered in tiny rust specks. Grr.

On the plus side it's making me polish the boat. And, making use of our third prize of a month's free mooring won at last year's Crick boat show, we're in the splendid Crick Marina. With facilities! We are not used to such luxury, having moored at Thrupp Wharf Marina for the last three winters. Here there is an Elsan point! An office! Loos, laundry facilities and a shower! Book swap! Somewhere to get post forwarded to! Diesel, coal and gas! Village with shops and post office within walking distance! And the cost of a mooring here is the same as what we were paying at Thrupp Wharf. We like it here.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Book worm?

Seen in Sheffield above Rare and Racy, a second-hand shop:

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Volvo 240 windscreen trim

Spotted in Sheffield recently was this Volvo 240 (SE?) near Devonshire Green. It looks in nice condition ...

... but what's happening to the windscreen trim?

The trim doesn't affect the security or watertightness of the car, as I discovered when I had our windscreen replaced last year, but has someone tried to pull it off thinking they'd be able to get into the car?

On the boating front we have asked the boatyard to sort out the slight leak from the fresh water tank.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Requiescat in pace

Various things have been keeping us very busy over the last week or so, and will continue to do so for a while longer.

Yesterday Jan's mum died at home, aged 91.

We shall miss her but are comforted in the knowledge that she is now with Jesus.

We are currently at the bungalow in Writtle with Jan's dad.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Triple parapet bridge

Someone a while ago wondered whether there were any more examples of a turnover bridge with attached roadway besides Bridge 95 on Braunston Puddle Banks. Last year I found one on the BCN (Spon Lane Bridge on the Old Main Line).

And here's another. Bridge 47 just north of Gayton Junction on the GU.

Not a good photo, but Milton Road crosses the canal on the same structure, meaning that between the two parapets is a third wall separating the road from the towpath as it is taken over the canal.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Any entomologists out there?

I found this insect while I was chopping logs this afternoon.

I tried to find out what it was, but it appears that there are a million known species of insect and a further five million species waiting to be discovered. It's probably something common, but my cursory glance at some pictures didn't help.

Here's another shot with my finger for scale.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Those Wilderness boats at Stoke Bruerne

A few people have mentioned seeing the little convoy of Wilderness boats heading south on the Grand Union. We saw them at Stoke Bruerne, tied up below the bottom lock, just over two weeks ago.

That's it, really. We should be back on the boat soon, so I'll be able to start posting more up-to-date fare. Until then I'll have to rake over old photos ...

Friday, 14 April 2017

Carrying the cross

Today, Good Friday, is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, when we remember the death of Jesus on the cross. In our Norfolk village we carry a large wooden cross through the streets between the parish church and the Methodist church, alternating the direction each year. The walk is done at a slow pace and takes about half an hour.

We walk in silence - well, that's the idea, anyway. This year we ended at the Methodist church where we had a service followed by hot cross buns.

This is the first time we've been at home for Easter for a while. Over the last few years we've been at Tamworth/Polesworth, Nantwich and Market Harborough, all by boat.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Seeing Nutfield reminds me ...

As we passed through Blisworth two weeks ago there was Nutfield tied up. I was saddened recently to read of the death of someone closely associated with Raymond, the butty usually seen with Nutfield.

I first met Steve Miles at a book signing at a boat festival a few years ago, although I knew him only as Geoffrey Lewis, his pen name. Since then we exchanged greetings whenever our paths crossed, usually on the cut somewhere. He was always cheerful, friendly and ready to chat. Steve Miles made a big contribution to the waterways through the Northampton Branch of the IWA, the Friends of Raymond and the Buckingham Canal Society, being a past chairman of the last two organisations. He wrote detective stories and children's fiction, weaving in tales of the canals. Steve died on 9th November 2016, aged 69.

Mike Freeman has written an appreciation of Steve Miles on the Friends of Raymond website.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Lock against you with exit gates open? It's not always a lazy boater's fault

As we climbed Stoke Bruerne Locks a couple of weeks ago nearly every lock was against us, as I think I said at the time. Some locks' top gates are balanced such that they swing open when the lock is full. Lock 19 is one example.

Until I went to close up after Jan had steered Jubilee through I had thought that we were following a boater who couldn't be bothered to close the gates after leaving the lock. Then I shut one gate only to see the opposite one open by itself.

To empty the lock in this scenario you might think you need three crew - one on each top gate to hold it shut and one to raise paddles the other end. But all you have to do is crack open a bottom paddle a little and then walk to the errant top gate and close it. The slight flow of water out of the lock will tend to pull the gates to. Then the lock can be emptied as normal.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Picture perfect?

At the end of March we left our mooring at Thrupp Wharf Marina, saying goodbye to our neighbours Paul and Pam on Intrigue and to marina owners Roy and Val. The weather was breezy but sunny and warm for spring.

Few other boats were about and we were enjoying being on the move. Do you like my picture? No, of course it's not perfect, but I'm quite pleased with it.

We didn't chase this heron for long.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Insurance quandary

Jubilee's boat insurance is due for renewal in a few days and I am unsure of the best thing to do. We have been with EIS (Euromarine) for the last five years and have been very happy with them, but we have had a quote from a rival for considerably less. The difference is probably because EIS is insuring the boat on an "agreed value" basis, whereas the competitor is quoting on a "market value" cover. EIS is able to insure the boat for the price we paid for it as we haven't had it valued since then. As I understand it, this becomes relevant only in the event of a total loss, through fire or sinking, for example.

Is it worth paying an extra 30% to be "sure"* of getting the full payout in this very unlikely scenario? We're talking £40 per year. I have to decide by the end of the week.

I suppose all insurance is like this.

*Reading through the list of exclusions in the policy I don't think you can be sure of anything. The list of get-out clauses is vast.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Wyming Brook walk, Sheffield

A couple of weeks ago, on 28th March, we drove up to Sheffield to visit Andrew. He took us to Wyming Brook, a tributary of the River Rivelin to the west of the city.

Andrew led us on an excellent walk through the trees, down to the Rivelin Dams reservoir and back up along the brook itself.

As we set off from the car park the sunlight was filtering through the trees. Andrew also filtered through the trees.

What looked at first glance like dandelion is actually, I believe, coltsfoot.

When we climbed up by the brook it had started to rain, but the trees sheltered us to some extent and we didn't get too wet. The rain didn't last long.

It was a delightful walk. Andrew appreciates having countryside such as this on his doorstep.

On to today, and what amazing summer-like weather we've been enjoying! As we walked in shirtsleeve order to church this evening for a Palm Sunday service of music and readings the aroma of a barbecue wafted tantalisingly over us. I think we'll be down with a bump tomorrow as temperatures ten degrees lower are forecast.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

It's a daffodil, all white?

Jan says it's common, but perhaps I have a short memory. Whatever, I was surprised to see this daffodil in our garden amongst the usual yellow (and yellow/orange) ones.

Despite the development of gardens nearby for housing we still get some wildlife. Today I managed to photograph this visitor.

As far as I can tell from the internet it's a speckled wood butterfly.

In other news, our boat is being worked on at the Grand Junction Boat Co. A mushroom vent has been resealed and two windows are receiving the same treatment. A small gearbox oil leak will be investigated, and the engine coolant will be replaced with a fresh mix of antifreeze. All should be ready for us after Easter.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Holland at Gayton

FMC boat Holland motored past us at Gayton Junction four days ago, looking splendid in the sunshine.

I must phone the boatyard tomorrow to see if they've done anything to Jubilee ...

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Curious hump bridge over old railway near Stoke Bruerne

On the road between Stoke Bruerne and Blisworth - that's the road for wheeled traffic I mean - there is a hump bridge.

Not that surprising, you might say. After all, there is a canal in the vicinity. But the canal here is in Blisworth Tunnel. I stopped to investigate.

Underneath the bridge, quite a long way down, is the bed of a dismantled railway.

I was surprised to see a flat underside to the bridge; I had been expecting a canal-style arch. On the OS map - image below from streetmap.co.uk - you can see the line of the former railway where the road crosses it, just above Stoke Plain.

The tunnel is a very short distance to the east. The railway is in a cutting here; its builders must have had to be careful not to break through into the roof of the tunnel.

The building marked on the map immediately to the west of the bridge is now a private house, but there is what looks like an old platform alongside. Was it Stoke Bruerne Station? I didn't take a photo, sorry.

Update: Consulting Wikipedia reveals that this was indeed a station, although it was misspelt "Stoke Bruern", without the final "e". The line was the Stratford-upon-Avon, Towcester and Midland Junction Railway; the station opened on 1st December 1892. It closed for passengers just four months later, 20 passengers per week not being enough to justify the cost.