Monday, 9 October 2017

Trip Summary

I thought I would write a summary of our 5 week trip, as much for our own use as anything else, to add some context I think it's fair to state our preferences. We prefer rural, isolated mooring spots or small villages where there are other boaters around, we tend to avoid large urban areas, we are not influenced by pubs or restaurants when we choose our mooring location. The moorings mentioned are generally spots where you stand a very good chance of getting a place, there may be better moorings which are very popular that I've not mentioned.

In total we covered 262 miles through 327 locks and 16 tunnels, we were running for 153 hours, that's less than 2 miles per hour, but this is the total time from mooring to mooring and includes stops for water and all the delays that are part of daily life on the canals, we never stop for lunch.

Llangollen Canal - entire canal travelled

General Excellent canal, ample moorings, very rural with little transport noise.
Best Stop Ellesmere
Avoid / Transit Quickly Entire section from Chirk to Llangollen
Navigational Very slow west of Chirk, shallow, narrow dangerous sections if you don't have a lookout.

Middlewich Branch - entire canal travelled

General Excellent canal, ample moorings, very rural with little transport noise.
Best Stop Church Minshull west of Bridge 14
Avoid / Transit Quickly Nowhere really

Trent & Mersey Canal - Middlewich to Great Haywood

General Excellent canal, mix of rural and urban landscapes.
Best Stop Great Haywood
Avoid / Transit Quickly Entire section from Middlewich to Wheelock no feasible moorings before Wheelock. Moor at Church Lawton before tunnel going south and Westport lakes going North
Navigational The section through Stoke is best done in one day, preferably not at the weekend.

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal - Great Haywood to Autherley Junction

General  Good canal but a lot of transport noise, ample moorings, mix of rural and urban landscapes.
Best Stop Penkridge
Avoid / Transit Quickly Nowhere
Navigational A few locks don't have landings, must be very difficult for single handers. Very narrow cutting between bridges 67/68, you'll need to send someone ahead.

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal - Autherley Junction to Stourport on Severn

General  Magnificent canal north of Kidderminster, ample moorings, mainly rural
Best Stop Kinver and Stourport (Bird in Hand Pub) and just north of Bratch Locks
Avoid / Transit Quickly Kidderminster
Navigational Dangerous narrow section with overhanging rocks going North between bridge 19 /21. No water points between Kinver and Stourport Basin

River Severn - Stourport on Severn to Worcester

General  Not much to see, few moorings.
Best Stop Worcester on the pontoons just before Diglis Lock. Racecourse moorings very noisy during our stay.
Avoid / Transit Quickly Entire section
Navigational Lock landings can be a bit short, locks operated by lock keeper, very gentle but you'll need to rope to cables. If turning onto Worcester and Birmingham Canal  from Stourport you must go past the lock entrance and turn just before Diglis River Lock, don't turn opposite the weir.

Worcester and Birmingham Canal - Worcester to King's Norton

General  Gets better after Offerton locks, quite a bit of transport noise
Best Stop Hanbury, Stoke Pound, Alvechurch
Avoid / Transit Quickly Kings Norton
Navigational There is nowhere to stop once you have entered the Tardebigge Locks so either stop at stoke pound going north or between bridge 55/56 heading south.

Stratford Upon Avon Canal - entire canal travelled

General  The most peerless piece of earth, I think, that e' er the sun shone bright on.
Best Stop Stratford Basin - superb, Wootton Wowen
Avoid / Transit Quickly King's Norton to Hockley Heath
Navigational Can be shallow in places, very narrow bridges.


Grand Union Canal - Kingswood to Crick

General  A bit of everything, nice lock mechanisms
Best Stop Saltisford arm, wonderful rural section between bridges 103/100, Braunstone, Crick
Avoid / Transit Quickly Warwick and Leamington don't have very attractive moorings
Navigational A slow slog between Braunstone and Crick, allow at least a full day.

In summary of the summary all I can say is that everyone should take the time to travel the Stratford Upon Avon Canal, we've not found anywhere better.



Sunday, 8 October 2017

Journey's End

We had a very noisy night at the Tom of the Wood moorings, a lot of road, air and train noise all night, but I don't think that there are many better options on this stretch of the canal, which is flanked by the M40 and a main rail line for miles. We set off early early Thursday morning for a busy day with 21 wide locks ahead of us, including the Hatton Flight. We did a couple of locks on our own until we were joined by the the elderly, but very agile crew of Mad Hatter, we were going well but we slowed down by a single hander in front who complained to Elaine that she should have run down five locks to tell him to wait for us because he found it hard on his own, she slapped a C-Sticker on his forehead and carried on. After about 6 hours we reached the Saltisford Arm marina, which is a stretch of canal run as a charitable trust and is a safe place if you want to be close to Warwick, there is a bit of messing about turning round and we were unable to get any TV signal or internet, but it's a good place if you want to be close to Warwick, but it too suffers from transport and city noise. Good alternative moorings can be found between locks 19/20. We had a walk around Warwick which we were impressed with, we declined the £32 each entrance fee for Warwick Castle and walked round Sainsbury's instead.

We set off early Friday, my birthday, for a mammoth day of 14 miles and 25 wide locks, the first thing we encountered was a hire boat moored in the middle of a large mooring space intended to be used as a water point and a lock landing, we stuck a C-Sticker on every window and gave the crew a wake up call with the engine on high revs. We were soon joined joined by a very nice single handed lady who made going through a dozen or so locks utterly excruciating, I'm going to write a special blog dedicated to the topic of single handers, she was too nice for a sticker . Our luck was in when we got to Long Itchington as she moored up and we teamed up with the crew of Jamieson's Irish Whiskey and we flew through the Stockton locks with all four of us working hard. We settled for a poor mooring near bridge 108, we were very tired after 9 hours, we should have gone a bit further, there are superb rural moorings between bridges 103/100, the Grand Union is a very pleasant canal, deep and wide and easy compared to many of the narrow canals that we have travelled on this trip.

Just before Napton we hit a hire boat who was speeding through a bridge sideways, no problem for us because we hit him with our fender, but he heeled over so far that everything in the boat must have crashed to the floor, he apologised profusely and set off looking as though he wished he was enjoying  an all inclusive week in Benidorm.

Saturday we set off early again for an another day of the obstacle course including 6 wide locks in Braunston, the Watford flight of 7 locks and two long tunnels, including one with a kink in it. We were accompanied by the crew of Polestar, another fit elderly couple, we all agreed to issue a C-Sticker to the hireboat company that moored their boats on the first lock landing leaving us flapping about in the wind for 10 minutes. We met another boat exactly at the kink in Braunston tunnel, and I can reassure other boaters who are worried about such an event that it all went fine so long as we proceeded very slowly. The Watford flight was soon over and we were back at the marina mid afternoon, after a quick pint with our neighbour we settled down marvelling at the wonders of having unlimited electricity and a water point for our sole use and clean clothes. Tomorrow I will write a summary of our journey and muse on a few things that we've learned.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The grand Grand Union

The moorings in Stratford are 48 hours,but by arrangement we were allowed to stay an extra night, so after two days rest we set off Tuesday morning on the start of our journey to Crick where we will finish this trip. Tuesday night we moored again at Wootton Wowen, a journey of 7 miles and 17 locks which took nearly 6 hours, I had a chance to take a better look around the village. It has quite a bit to offer, a small train station with regular services to Stratford and Birmingham, a second pub, social club and a country club in Wootten Hall, the park home development in the grounds of the hall looks very neat and tidy, there is also a post office on site as well as a well stocked shop in the village.

Today we left the Stratford canal, definitely one of our favourites and turned onto the Grand Union, A wide canal with 21 heavy locks to do tomorrow, let's hope we can team up with another boat, we are moored in a spot with a lot of traffic noise, but it's next to a pub.





Monday, 2 October 2017

Stratford-Upon-Heaven

I remember reading a book as a boy about a group of adventurers that set out to locate a legendary utopian land beneath the earth's surface, they left with a few coils of rope and some basic tools and weapons. They entered through a pothole and overcame various obstacles and threats as they descended, after some days the sides closed in and the chasm came to an abrupt end at the shore of a lake. The heroes dived down and defeated serpents and giant squid that were trying to prevent their passage, and with only a second of air left the portal was located and the the magical land unfolded.

Travelling to Startford Upon Avon by narrowboat is a very similar experience, descending down many locks with heavy gates and stiff paddles, battling very low water levels, and then entering the town that displays its ugliest side making you wonder why you came. After the last lock an extremely long, low, narrow bridge is cleared and you enter Bancroft Basin and suddenly you are in a new world, the Royal Shakespeare  Theatre is before you along with all sorts statues, wonderful old buildings and colourful shops and stalls, and plenty of mooring, a lock onto the River Avon. Bancroft Basin must be one of the finest spots on the canal network.

It keeps getting better once you start to explore the town, the old buildings are superb, everywhere is clean and tidy, restaurants seem to have sensible prices and are very varied, tourist attractions abound. If you don't want to spend any money you can just walk around the town, the parks, along the river, stroll round the Sunday market. There are plenty of seats, more public toilets than anywhere we've ever been, litter bins every few steps. Early in the morning teams of workers arrive before dawn to clean the town and empty the bins, Stratford does everything right.

Last night we went to a couple of pubs, the Encore which is right on the basin and is a soulless sort of place, we then went on to the Queen's Head  further into the town, a far more down to earth place  (fish finger sandwich £4), I congratulated the landlord on his range of beers and he told me that his customers didn't like blondes. You might not want to go in with your kids late on a Sunday afternoon, the friendly locals at the bar were at the stage in their session where the beer had deprived them of every third word and replaced it with fuck, we'll go again tonight.

So come to Stratford Upon Avon, it's Britain showing itself at its very best.

Bancroft Basin by night





Friday, 29 September 2017

Wootton Wawen signs of life

Tonight we have a nice mooring in Wootton Wawen, which apart from sounding as though it was named by a child in the early stages of learning to speak has a few interesting features. There is the magnificent St Peter's Church with origins dating back 1300 years, no drones to be piloted on church grounds, toilets for church users only, dogs must not be allowed to foul the grounds, door must be kept closed to stop birds from entering. There is Wooton Hall a beautiful palladian style stately home, incongruously attached to a park home site, private property keep out. There are also a some old farm buildings that have been developed into some crafty type of shops and a very small farm shop, bags of logs not for sale until the end of November. Just past the moorings, no fishing without a permit, there is a very interesting aquaduct. Then there are the signs, every resident who owns a scrap of land has a sign warning you to keep off, not park, private land, keep your dog on a lead. We didn't go to the Navigation Inn, fearing a ban on muddy boots, dogs and the consumption of food and drink not purchased on the premises.

It was a short four mile cruise today with 6 locks through glorious countryside, tomorrow we will head to Stratford Upon Avon, which must not be called " Stratford On Avon". No photo's in this blog because of very poor vodaphone signal, and all other servers are private, keep off. I'll try and add them tomorrow.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

Sixty Locks in Three Days

On Sunday we had a walk along the Droitwich Barge Canal into Droitwich Spa, which we give a big thumbs up, one of the finest small towns that we have visited on our canal travels, it's about a 20 minute walk, and has everything you could possibly want all packed within a fine old town.

Monday was a wet start so we did nothing in the morning, got some diesel from the chandler's opposite, mainly so we could get water and chuck our rubbish in his bins, and set off at noon for a four hour cruise to the bottom of the Tardebigge flight, 30 locks making it longest flight on the system. We stopped outside the Queen's Head Pub, Millie and I went in for a pint, excellent place that has been upgraded inside and out at great expense. The food looked very good and a pint of Doombar was £2.70, one thing that we can't do is give restaurant recommendations, we almost never eat out as a couple, it's something that we only do to socialise with friends.

Tuesday was a transit day where you must travel through places you'd rather not go to get to the next wonderful section, we went around the southern outskirts of Birmingham through shallow cuttings with the water awash with debris, but after six hours and no locks we stopped for the night at a super rural spot just south of Hockley Heath.

Another busy day today through 30 locks, including the Lapworth flight of 19 which I've issued with a C-sticker due to crazy angles, we encountered very low water levels soon after, but with a bit of teamwork from all the boaters we managed to keep everyone afloat, we are now moored for the night in a spot so remote that we don't expect to see anyone.

We have been on the Stratford Canal since King's Norton which is five miles from Birmingham city centre, the early section is grim, but it's turned into a really magnificent canal and we'll continue on till it terminates in Stratford Upon Avon, another couple of days.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Back to where it all started

We had a very noisy night at the race course moorings, a constant stream of intoxicated people wandered by all night shouting, screaming and whistling and sitting on the bench above the moorings talking loudly, this went on until 5am, nobody approached the boat. Next time, we'll stay of the visitor moorings on the river.

Having turned to moor upstream on the river, in accordance with best practice, on Friday we  had to turn around to get going on Saturday, but to access the Birmingham and Worcester Canal you have to go past the lock and turn again, so it was a bit of a caper. The two locks from the river to the canal are very large with heavy gates. After that it was on through Worcester, which doesn't give a good account of itself from the canal, there are loads of moorings about which couldn't be any worse than the race course. Then on through the Offerton flight of six locks, which are very nice but there's a lot of noise from the M5. We went past good moorings at Tibberton south of bridge 25 and then we moored up at Hanbury Wharf, where three years ago, almost to the day, Melissa was launched and the adventure began. It's nice here, with a sunny aspect and a pub that we rejected due to hand written notices informing potential customers with dogs and muddy that they were not welcome. There's nothing around here so they must rely on people driving here in carpet slippers. Today we'll walk a couple of miles into Droitwich for a few supplies.

We had a very loose alternator belt which needed tightening the manual said "loosen all appropriate bolts and move the alternator with an appropriate bar to tighten", not very helpful. As always You Tube came to the rescue in the form of a guy in the Caribbean who had the same engine on his yacht and knew which of the numerous bolts to loosen, the type of bar to use and where to lever it safely.

Leaving the Severn


Locking into the Birmingham and Worcester Canal

Diglis Basin

Worcester

Worcester
Hanbury Wharf

Please fuck off thank you