Tuesday, 27 June 2017

We've not blogged for a long time because we've not been boating, and because we are very poor bloggers, but in mitigation for such a long absence we put forth the following weak excuses.

We finally decided that instead of heating and cleaning unused rooms, tending plants that we'd never planted, and spending large sums on council tax and maintenance, we'd actually move house. This involved quite a lot of time spent taking items previously thought essential to the local tip, giving away expensive furniture bought to adorn pointless rooms, pressure washing paths never walked on and disposing of lofts full of stuff we knew we'd never use again but we considered too precious to dispose of.

In the end our efforts paid off and we very quickly (two days) found a nice young family eager to make the same mistakes as us, and we found a place in Oswestry approximately 60% smaller than the old place. It's in a small development of four flats and a bungalow converted from a large Victorian house, it's behind big gates and a nice man tends the garden on our behalf, I can take Millie to a selection of pubs within walking distance, we are free to do as we please; it's great.

Further mitigation for poor blogging, or more accurately no boating, is the time spent helping with my very old parents, both 96, who for years while we've been living away have been wreaking revenge on my siblings. Now we have no excuse for not helping so we've been using Melissa as a base while doing what we can, which always seems too little.

And last, we've been providing unwanted support to the youngest boy who is in the process of taking his A levels, and who we hope will be off to University in September. We've managed to fit in a bit of skiing, a trip to New York and back on the Queen Mary, and that's about it.

But today we set off for a ten day trip on Melissa, we are moving her  close to home for a couple of months, from Crick to Ellesmere, which is 150 miles and 107 locks. We got off later than planned, about 3:40 and in 3.5 hours traveled a pitiful 4 miles, through a tunnel just short of a mile and through 7 narrow locks at Watford with normal buffoonery by the lock keepers, it took two hours to get through 7 locks with only one boat in front of us. We are moored in the middle of nowhere, so no pub. No photos either due to a poor internet connection.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Wrong Turns

On our last day we set off early, as we passed a hire boat the skipper asked me how long it would take him to get to Warwick, I told him at least one long day, maybe more, thanks mate he said, in the parlance of the kids who work in our local co-op. An hour later he pulled up alongside us at the first double lock in Braunston, I asked him why he had changed his plan, he said he hadn't, "but you're heading to Leicester", "no I'm not|", |"yes you are, you should have turned right", "no, the book said to turn left", "yes, but the book is written assuming you're heading north, you were heading south", "shit!" Poor bloke had to go through 6 locks and a long tunnel before he could turn around and do it all again, he would have arrived back at his starting point about three hours later.

We arrived back at Crick Marina on Tuesday afternoon, we had been out for 28 nights, stopped at 26 different locations, traveled 330 miles and passed through 217 locks, it was a very good trip, and we've learned a lot about several canals, some we will visit again, others we will avoid, we will stay at the marina until Friday before returning back to Shropshire, no more boating until October.

Early Morning on the Last Day

He Should Have Turned Right

Lasso, cowboy Mick Style

The Last Turn of the Trip

Monday, 25 July 2016

A record Day on the North Oxford

A record day today for distance, 27 miles but only 4 locks. We left our peaceful mooring near bridge 34 just outside Hartshill at 7:20 expecting to travel until about 2PM, we finished at 6PM. The last few miles of the Coventry Canal are pleasant, Nuneaton compared favorably to its reputation and was quickly transited before leaving the Coventry and taking two very sharp turns immediately followed by a lock onto the North Oxford. We like the Coventry, but it's best to be well provisioned and stop at the wide range of rural moorings, because the towns and villages are not attractive.

The North Oxford Canal until Rugby is rural but sandwiched between railways and motorways, moorings are poor and few and there is practically no chance of unofficial mooring sites due to sloping stone banks, often very shallow. We eventually found somewhere rural to moor near to Bridge 80, quite nice but with the hum of the M45 in the background. In our opinion the North Oxford is a canal that should be used for transit only, and don't plan any stops north of Rugby unless you're feeling lucky. It was a bit nuts today, hire boats veering across the canal or traveling at 1mph, I've got lots of sympathy for people learning to boat, but not when they are swigging down beer while their kids have arms and legs hanging over the sides.

We had a boat following us today flying the Boaters' Christian Federation flag and emblazoned with Christian symbols, there are 3 locks at Hilmorton, all side-by-side single locks. The first two locks were set against them, Elaine set the locks for them and opened the gates, she even helped with the paddles when they were in the lock, all this involved quite a lot of running about and crossing lock gates. Not a word of thanks, not a flicker of recognition, no nod, wave or smile. At the third lock, which was already set for them, I remarked to the lady how lucky they had been with all the locks set for them, yes she said. I can only assume that they thought there had been some divine intervention at the Hilmorton locks, a parting of the gates, a miraculous rising of the paddles maybe, we don't want to wait for our reward in heaven, we'd prefer a bit of decency on earth.

A Bit Tight

Apostrophes extra

We will try the Ashby another time

Tight Turn onto the North Oxford

Traffic Jam

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Last minute dot com

On Friday evening we hastily arranged for our friends Jane & Andy to meet us at Fradley junction to spend the weekend boating with us. These are Motorhome people, Andy wanted to level the boat up every time we moored, thought we should collect all the waste water in a tank and empty it in a grid over the canal and wander off in the morning with a towel under his arm for a shower in a nice block in the corner of a field. They were amazed that we were not at all concerned about our maximum technically permitted laden mass and that shore power was not available at every mooring, I stopped him leaving £20 for a nights mooring at Polesworth. We traveled 16 miles with 2 locks.

The Coventry Canal is excellent, fairly wide and deep, and yesterday very quiet, the rural sections are as beautiful while the urban sections are industrial and very unattractive, we stopped briefly at Fazely Junction; but not briefly enough, before carrying on and spending the night at Polesworth, not many dining options, pubs not very attractive except the Bulls Head right on the canal, no food but good beer and very traditional. We ordered far too much Chinese takeaway, this would have pushed us over the weight limit if we were in a Motorhome, strange that the remnants, which we left bagged up on the roof overnight, weighed more than the original meal.

Today we did the 11 Atherstone locks, taking advantage of our extra crew, it was a bit slow with most boats heading in the same direction. These are generous people who brought much and consumed little, they quickly declined Elaine's treacherous offer to take home the left over beer, unable to find a mooring in Atherstone for a dignified goodbye we chucked Jane off at a bridgehole, she toddled down the tow path to find Andy, laden with all their stuff in an Aldi bag; we know how to show friends a good time.

They spent some time looking for seat belts for the travelling seats

Millie Training Andy

Jane in Action

Posing, Gates are Open and Paddles Down!

Jane at Rest

Chinese Junk?

Friday, 22 July 2016

Old Problem, Old Ground, Old Original

After a day off yesterday doing not very much we reversed onto the water point in Great Haywood, carefully avoiding a boat whose skipper decided to spend the night there. This got me thinking that there should be special terms for such people, so I've come up with two, the first is someone who moors (let's say anchor for convenience) at a water point, the combination of water and anchor must surely make these people Wanchors, so that's the term from now on. As for those that moor at lock landings, or hog them all to themsleves, the Germans already have a perfect word arschloch, so we'll just adjust that to Arselock, and there we have another appropriate term.

We have now turned off the magnificent Trent and Mersey Canal, we've covered about ninety percent of it on this trip, we cannot recommend it highly enough, it's mainly wide and deep, rural and peaceful with a good sprinkling of attractive towns and villages, easy mooring in the wilds or the towns and plenty of CRT facilities.

After a 12 mile trip with 5 locks, retracing our steps from a couple of weeks ago, we are now moored at Fradley Junction having left the Trent and Mersey to join the Coventry Canal, we had a quick stop in Rugeley for some DIY stuff. As from tomorrow we will be heading south for home, it should take us four days.

We decided to try the famous Swan pub at Fradley, I was wrong to suppose that its fame would make it expensive, £3.20 for a pint of Old Original, and a very authentic place without a TV, dog treats £1 (dogs must only consume treats bought on the premises).

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Emergency! Chop, Chop

If the Canal & River Trust want to implement a universal remedy for all the problems of our canal network I think I have the answer. It is free, does not involve the removal of nuisances such as the unlicensed, over-stayers, vegetation, silt, no capital or manpower are required. My solution turns dank and gloomy cuttings into welcoming shady havens, if you're slowed down by silt, narrow bridges, bends, boaters hogging lock landings then you have more time to enjoy the day, if the tow paths are thick with mud then surely they'll be dry before we know it. The answer is sunshine, and its benefits last after the sun has gone too, after a couple of sunny days we start hoping for rain and when it does rain we cheerfully tell one another how much it was needed, how we couldn't sleep when it was so hot, and this lasts until a few days of rain have prevailed and then we start to regret buying the boat wishing instead that we had bought a little flat in Spain.

Today we traveled 11 miles with 8 locks, all this took 6 hours, but that included a water fill and a delay while we rescued a drowning lamb, the pitiful thing looked exhausted and had no chance of climbing the steep bank, after a bit of messing about I manged to pull it out; not a word of thanks from its mother, I don't think I'll bother again.

We are now back at Great Haywood and we will retrace our steps for a couple of days.

I visited the Clifford Arms, they sell several excellent beers, and had a nice chat with another couple of Aqualine owners, I didn't take the dog but I'm sure she would have been welcome.

We revisited the excellent canalside farm shop and I felt justified in buying four lamb chops  based on my earlier services to the species.

Pitiful Lamb

Rescued Lamb

Not a word of thanks from the mother

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A Joke, Stoke and a Lazy Bloke

Once again the plan did not go smoothly, the nutter in the boat next door ran his very noisy, smelly engine all night, so we collected E's medicine and left Macclesfield in the pouring rain. We ended up in the middle of nowhere in a beautiful mooring with a nice concrete path, a dog friendly pub and a small canalside cafe. The cafe was closed because there was a private party in the evening, scores of orange people turned up for a wedding feast, then the disco started, it turned out alright in the end, we were so tired we slept through the disco and we awoke in peace, the orange people not having left even a smear of themselves.

The plan for Sunday was to stop in Marple, the moorings were poor so we decided to miss Marple (sorry), instead we turned onto the Peak Forest Canal, fantastic canal with magnificent views, but shallow and very slow going. The canal terminates in either at Whaley Bridge or Buxworth Basin, we opted for Buxworth Basin by reason of reputation, which turned out to be the better choice due to few and poor mooring at Whaley. Buxworth is an old industrial site, plenty of moorings, a pub that sells only golden and pale ales, and it is spectacularly noisy from the A6 which passes within fee of the mooringst. If anyone tells you this is a great place they've either not been there or are deaf, it couldn't be more noisy if you were moored on the central reservation of the M1. There are a few nice moorings before the basin, a couple of miles before, I suggest you stop there and walk to Buxworth for a pint of Golden ale at £3.70, if you like to go out without your shirt, no problem, this is an important part of their clientele.

On Monday morning we turned around and retraced our steps, after a very long day we ended up at the bottom of Bosley locks. Today we turned off of the Maccy and back onto the Trent and Mersey, through the 1.6 mile Harecastle Tunnel, where health and safety runs rampant, seemingly unaware that it is a 12' wide, one way tunnel, in other words it's really wide and there's no chance of meeting another boat.

We are now just outside Stone, having passed through Stoke where they have made a very nice job of the canalside, we've had a 12 hour day so tomorrow we will stop in Stone to resupply and clean the outside of the boat a bit. 

We met an interesting couple in front of us at the locks in Stoke today, on the first encounter he refused to move up the lock landing to allow us to tie up safely rather than being blown about all over the canal, in the end we breasted against a moored boat, its kind skipper helping us to do so. The lock paddles were very difficult to turn, the lady was really struggling but the man refused to get off the boat to help her, I suggested that he might want to get off and help rather than relying us to help her, he looked at his shoes, we opened gates for him and he sailed through without a thank you, at one point he whistled at Elaine and his wife to open the gates, which in his opinion they had unnecessarily delayed. We last saw them moored between a train line and a building site, we assumed that after his wife had moored up, taken off the tiller arm and checked the oil he demanded his dinner and quick about it.