Wednesday 27 April 2022

Woman rescued after falling in at Braunston

In the five miles/two hours of the combined Grand Union and Oxford Canals between Napton Junction and Braunston Turn we must have seen as many moving boats as in the whole of the previous seven days from Market Drayton. It was busy! At the turn where we turned right there was a boat turning right from the North Oxford and a boat turning left from the Braunston direction. Not that you can see them in my photo.
The towpath bridge over the entrance to Braunston Marina has sprouted ducks.
As we approached Braunston Bottom Lock we found ourselves behind a pair waiting to go up. But then an unfortunate episode took place.
The steerer of the butty was apparently trying to breast up to the motor when she fell in, still holding her stern line, between the two boats.
I pulled in to the bank for Jan to leap off with a buoyancy aid and run towards the boats. Before she got there a life ring had been found for the woman, who was a non-swimmer. She was not making any progress in her efforts to climb out of the water. Before I could get our rope ladder near, an aluminium ladder had been fetched from the boatyard and the woman was able to climb out.
She walked, bedraggled but apparently unhurt, to the boatyard to recover while the motor and butty were secured to the lock landing. When we were sure that we had done all we could to help, we went up the locks with another boat, Senior Moments, which had joined us during the half-hour or so of action.

Tuesday 26 April 2022

You wouldn't want this in your back tyre

We had a bit of time before the first locks today, so I tackled the puncture. It didn't take long to find. This must be the longest foreign object I've had in a tyre: a two-inch nail. No wonder the tyre deflated so rapidly. Two patches later - over the entry and exit holes - the repair seems to be holding up. It lasted throughout the Stockton flight, anyway.
At a Boaters' Christian Fellowship event last year a member was disposing of a number of boating bits and pieces. I came away with a Dunton Double aluminium windlass. I usually eschew ally windlasses owing to the difficulty of retrieving them if they get dropped in the cut, but the addition of some hose clips should give me at least a fighting chance. 

The Dunton Double is a cunning combination of a large eye and a small eye windlass: when using on a small spindle - the more common type - the head of the windlass goes right over the spindle until it engages with the small eye. On a large, square-ended spindle such as on the paddle gear on the locks of the Grand Union between Calcutt and Birmingham, just the first part of the head fits over the spindle. It worked really well on all of yesterday's and today's locks, but I shall probably revert to my iron single small eye windlass from tomorrow for the Braunston locks etc.
I was surprised to see another CRT man checking lock gates today. He didn't seem to know the person I saw yesterday.
Ah - the HS2 crossing just west of Welsh Road Lock. It's like a small town is created wherever the new railway goes.
This temporary bridge over the canal looks like a conveyor bridge.
It ends oddly in an uplift.
At quite a few of today's locks I saw that the chains which usually dangle down the lock sides had been pulled up and left on the coping stones. I asked CRT about this (there was a maintenance team about) and they said that people do it to avoid the chains scratching their boats. It shouldn't be done, though. The chains should be left dangling in the lock as hauling them up creates a trip hazard.
At Lock 6, near the top of the Stockton flight, we came across the first non-working paddle of the whole trip so far. Not bad going, considering we have done something like 90 locks, with each lock having usually four paddles.
The house at Wigram's Turn (Napton Junction) still has its strange clouds on the wall.
And now some very poor photos of lapwings.
We know they were lapwings as Jan's Birdnet app on her phone identified them as such from their calls.
They make a most unusual electronic gadget-type sound of bleeping and whistling.
Apparently lapwings are the same as peewits.
We saw and heard the lapwings where we tied up betweren Lower Shuckburgh and Flecknoe on the Grand Union/Oxford Canal.

Monday 25 April 2022

Greasy Hatton

We left Kingswood Junction at around 1000 having made use of the Elsan disposal facility. I didn't mention yesterday that we saw a steam train cross the bridge over the Lapworth Link. It was about 1640 and comprised four old coaches pulled by a black locomotive heading north. No photo, sadly.
Just before Shrewley Tunnel was the first widebeam we've seen for a while.
About three locks down the Hatton flight we caught up with Passing Shot. They waited for us and we progressed efficiently down the locks. Our passage was made even quicker by a volunteer lockie on a bicycle setting ahead for us. Result!
We immediately got into a routine: the boats would usually leave a lock side-by-side, move along the pound and enter the next lock still together. I would cycle between the locks and work the offside gates.
One paddle mechanism my side had been rather over-enthusiastically greased.
With three locks to go there was a loud bang underneath me as I cycled along. It was my back tyre getting a puncture. Oh well - better there than at the top of the flight. Time to complete the flight: 2 hours 45 minutes.
Our locking partners stopped at the bottom of the flight; we carried on down Cape Locks and to Leamington Spa. At Cape Bottom Lock a CRT man was checking the condition of the gates, making notes on an electronic device.
We tied up outside Lidl having stopped briefly at Tesco. We had a few drops of rain at about 1630: the first rain (such as it was) of the trip.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Hireboaters get a helping hand

I lit the fire this morning to keep us toasty while we engaged in Zoom church; before the service started, though, we boated another couple of miles. We got under way again at about midday, eating lunch in shifts. The canal goes through a lot of trees round here, making it often rather gloomy. Today, however, the sun shone through.
Once I had spotted one tar drip diverter I was bound to see more. This is example number two on this trip.
I could hear the appeals of "Howzat?" as we approached Lapworth Cricket Club right by Lock 4.
Here we caught up with a novice crew on a hire boat; fortunately, a couple of slow locks later, a volunteer lockie appeared and helped them down the rest of the flight. I think it's between Lock 7 and Lock 8 that there's a tricky bend, made more interesting when boats going in different directions need to pass. Here the lockie directed the hire boat to the right of the lock.
In the end we made good time down the flight. We went straight on into Lock 21 so we could dispose of rubbish, then made the 90 degree left turn into the Lapworth Link where we tied up. We had invited my former colleague Ian Winter for tea and the F1 race highlights. The tea worked but the TV signal was not stable enough to watch, so we abandoned that side of things (I caught up later on the laptop). It was good to see you, Ian.

Saturday 23 April 2022

Don't call me Shirley

We had some things to attend to in the Yardley Wood area this morning so it wasn't until almost 1730 that we left Bridge 5 to continue down the Stratford Canal. Before leaving Ann from Bramble came on board for a cup of tea. She is a fellow BCF member whom we hadn't met before. Ann and her husband are taking their four-year-old Aqualine boat to Worcester for a full repaint - under warranty - to rectify what seems to have been a poor batch of paint which affected 17 Aqualine boats. 

We picked a good time to arrive at Shirley Drawbridge with no vehicles in sight when I pressed the Open button to start the procedure of red lights, barriers dropping and bridge lifting. When the barriers raised again I was surprised to see a stream of perhaps ten cars cross the bridge from the right before I could rejoin Jubilee.
A few minutes later we tied up just beyond the railway bridge, had tea and watched the F1 Sprint race highlights (John).

Friday 22 April 2022

A strong cross wind in Selly Oak

I took only two photos today, so I'd better share them. We walked the short distance from Cambrian Wharf into Birmingham's main shopping area looking - unsuccessfully - for trousers for me. After coffee back on board, I went back to sort out some business at a building society and returned to find Jan had got a fry-up under way. Yum! 

After this early lunch we battled the wind as we left the basin, turned and headed for the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. People on the bank seemed to be in a jolly mood: we got smiles and waves all the way today. 

At the Bournbrook Aqueduct at Selly Oak the wind blew strongly broadside; a couple of hundred yards further on, with Sainsbury's on our right and Selly Oak Station on our left, the wind was stronger still. Our chimney hat blew off; fortunately the safety wire attaching it held. Here we met up with Chris and Sally on Kairos and had a nice cup of tea and a chat on their boat.
In Sainsbury's my trousers quest was accomplished. Even better, we walked along the eastern end of the proposed new route of the Dudley (Lapal) Canal. We didn't have time to explore beyond Sainsbury's - perhaps next time we pass.

Around the Bournville area this man took a break from serenading his dog to talk to a towpath walker. The sun was in his eyes.
We made the sharp left turn onto the Stratford Canal and stopped at Bridge 5. This evening we had another fabulous curry at The Sweet Chillies in Yardley Wood Road.

Thursday 21 April 2022

Misleading canal sign?

We were the first boat up the Wolverhampton 21 locks today, as evidenced by the fresh black paint someone had carefully applied to the spindles of the lock gear The spindles!
We had a fairly uneventful trip up the locks, most of which were in our favour. I did my usual lockwheeling, setting a lock ahead each time. In the two and a half hours or so we took to get to the top, I therefore cycled three times the distance Jan covered in the boat. One lockside was adorned with cowslips.
At Factory Junction we turned right to keep on the Old Main Line. We passed some interesting creatures beyond Tipton.
There were plenty of moorhens on their floating nests. There were a few families of moorchicks about too.
At Tividale an aqueduct carries the Old Main Line over the Netherton Tunnel Branch. There is a canal junction sign ...
... but you can't simply turn right here. Yes, Netherton Tunnel is in the direction indicated, but to get there you'd have to turn left, left and left again, having gone down Brades Locks in the process.
High Bridge, which we passed under, is a bridge, certainly, but not what I would call high.
One more photo from today: a goose watches as Jan approaches Smethwick Locks. The Engine Arm goes off to the left under the towpath bridge (even though the bank looks continuous).
We tied up at Cambrian Wharf in central Birmingham, where I removed a large quantity of plastic from the blades.

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Log? More like a tree trunk!

Shortly after we set off from Gnosall this morning a man on the towpath warned us about an obstruction in the water. Some kids, he said, had pushed in a large log. This was what I call potential logs, in that it had not yet been cut up. The piece of tree - thankfully trimmed of all sticking out bits - was about 15 feet long and stretched almost from the moored boats on one side of the canal to the other.
We carefully nudged it out of the way, conveniently into a space between moored boats. Not, unfortunately, to the offside where our towpath walker was hoping to pull it into his garden. At High Onn (I think) we passed a boat with a device to catch and dispel the tar dribbling down the chimney.
A tray fixed around the base of the chimney collects the tar and feeds it into a hose pipe from where it drips into the canal. I think I have seen this arrangement before - or was it this same boat some time ago?
At Wheaton Aston we pulled in to stop for lunch just as Brian and Diana were winding in order to present the correct side of the boat to the pumpout. After the operation was complete Brian winded again to continue their journey north.
It was good to chat, albeit briefly.
The last of my photos today is of a peaceful scene south of Avenue Bridge.
We have stopped for the night at Autherley Junction ready for the Wolverhampton 21 tomorrow, and then on to Brum via the Old Main Line. That's the plan.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Curious flue arrangement

 I'm back!  That is, this blog is back - and I am going to try to keep it updated from now on.  I blame the pandemic.  Normal life stopped, very little boating was done in 2020 and I just got out of the habit of blogging.  Last year we boated more, but I found I had got far too far behind to write up the trips.

So here we are, on the Shropshire Union Canal in spring. We left our mooring in Market Drayton at 1045 and headed south.
Just below Tyrley Locks the tree man was keeping an eye on things, as usual.
For miles we were in sight of a distinctive hill to the west. It is, I believe, the Wrekin. Correct me if I'm wrong.
I had planned to get to Wheaton Aston in order to sample a curry at the Momtaj Spice, but it appears they are closed on Tuesdays. The phone number was "not able to connect". We stopped a little earlier, therefore, at Gnosall. On the way we encountered a tiny cruiser tied to the piling.
Its air draught must be no more than three feet, yet it has an enclosed cabin.
An unusual bird flew into a tree above us as we travelled along. It looks like a bird of prey - a hawk of some kind? This was the best photo I could get.
After tea we walked into Gnosall village. One house had a strikingly colourful display of flowers.
And the curious flue? This was attached to the side of a boat in a very sticky-out way. I wonder what it's for.
Autherley Junction tomorrow, but we might just nip up the Wolverhampton 21 as well to get slightly ahead.