Friday, 19 June 2015

Alrewas to Hopwas

Wed 17th June

Alrewas to King’s Orchard

We had a leisurely departure, with many other boats having left from the moorings around us.

We had to wait for one boat at Bagnall Lock as we left Alrewas.  After that it was one boat up, one boat down at all the locks.  We met BCF member Vic Mortimer on Connie’s Gift.

At the water point it was so slow that we had time for an ice cream from the café.  We would have had time for breakfast!

 Aylesbury Duck

Most of the locks had a C&RT volunteer to help boaters through.  We turned left onto the Coventry Canal at Fradley Junction, using the small swing bridge.

Fradley Junction

We wanted to get past the busy A38 road, which runs alongside the canal in places.  After Streethay Wharf we found a good mooring place just after King’s Orchard marina, before bridge 84. 

We put the hood up as rain was forecast. In the end it was only a light shower.

A boat went past at 10.15pm

5 locks, 6 miles, 1 swing bridge

Thu 18th June

Kings Orchard to Hopwas

A boat went past at 5.30am.

We got up somewhat later, and we had a phone call from Simon (nb Daedalus). “Hi, we’re at Fazeley, and I understand you are not far away” We told home where we were, and that we were heading for Hopwas, and he said they would walk up to meet us.  They are friends we first met on the Weaver in 2009, again on the Wey in 2012, and on the Severn and Gloucester and Sharpness Canal in 2013.

We set off 30 minutes later, and headed south past the Lichfield Cruising Club base at the Eastern end of the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Huddlesford Junction.

 Huddlesford Junction

We cruised through Whittington, where there are several houses with long moorings, and then past the polytunnels, where they were growing strawberries last time. This time the tunnels were on the ground rolled up, and the crop was asparagus.

We had just passed the badger setts at Hademore when the phone rang again. “We are in Whittington. Where are you?”  They were cycling, and had diverted off the towpath for a short distance, and we had missed each other.

We came upon a Canal Club hire boat moored opposite the winding hole by Tamhorn Farm Bridge. They were peering into the engine bay, and we asked if they were OK. No, they weren’t.  They had tried to turn in the winding hole by putting their stern in, and the engine had died.  They said they had checked in the weedhatch and couldn’t see anything.  We asked if they had checked the propeller, and they looked over the stern. We told them that the weedhatch was for checking the propeller, so they opened it again, and one of the guys reached in to feel the prop, and discovered a car tyre wrapped round it.

We tied up behind them, and lent them a bread knife, a hack saw, some bolt cutters, and Bargee Bill’s Prop Cleaner. Simon and Pat meanwhile arrived on their bikes, which we put in the bows. One of the hire boaters suggested taking a cup and bailing out the water from the weedhatch, so we could see more clearly. We had to point out that the water went right down to the bottom of the canal, so we would have to drain the whole length of canal.

After a lot of cutting, pulling, sawing and rope work, the tyre was finally off, and there were smiles all round.  The hire crew gave us a bottle of Kentish wine as a Thankyou for stopping.

Tyring work


Simon and Pat

After a cup of tea on board, we set off once again through the beautiful Hopwas Woods, and found Gospel Belle, Remus and Essence on the visitor moorings.

We went on a little further to the Tame Otter where we moored up. Simon and Pat left us (lovely to see them) and we had lunch in the pub as we didn’t want to eat later on as we were singing.

We had a snooze before Jubilee arrived at about 4pm, and we had a music practice on Gabriel.  We prepared four songs with one in reserve.

Moored by the Tame Otter

We walked the short distance back to the Social Club where the folk club was being held.  We had a warm welcome from the organisers, and were delighted to find Rosie’s Pig cider on tap, left over from a recent beer festival.

There were quite a few acts, and the lady organising it was also in the resident band, who were to start it off, so the kick off time of 8.30pm was delayed until after 9pm, while she got the acts in order.  There was a lot of variety, with traditional songs, morris tunes, and Americana as well as some home-written material.

We followed the interval and raffle draw, so they could set up four mics and get the PA balanced. We sang Long Way Down, Waterloo Road, Well, Jesus was a man, and Banks of the Ohio.  We were able to give out the leaflets promoting the mission and explain what we were doing.  We were well received and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

In action at Chequemates Folk Club in Hopwas

0 Locks, 4 miles

Tomorrow the mission starts with visits to the boat by school children.  Singing in the Three Tuns, Fazeley on Saturday. Lots of events the following week.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Stenson to Alrewas

Sun 14th June

Stenson to Willington

After more than 24 hours of persistent rain, it was good to wake up to sunshine this morning.  We had planned for the Webasto to come on to heat some water, but the battery levels were evidently too low. We had to start the engine to enable the water heater to work so we could both have showers.

We cruised the short distance to Willington, and found a good mooring spot with rings, just past the winding hole. This was as close as we could get to the church we planned to visit, Willington Baptist Church.

 Moored in Willington

Today was very different to the usual as it was a Sunday School special, and we sang children’s songs, and were entertained by a magic man who did tricks with a gospel message.  It was good to see so many children in a small church, and they were very enthusiastic.  We were given a warm welcome.

Enthusiastic kids at Willington Baptist Church

We went to the Co-op for some milk, but found that it had apparently closed down. Looking at the website later, there was nothing to indicate that it had closed, so perhaps it was just a temporary staffing problem.

Thankfully the little post office opposite was open and they also sold milk, so we were soon back at the boat.

The facilities block was not being used, so we reversed the short distance to fill up with water and empty cassettes and rubbish.  A Canal Club hire boat was confused as to which side of us to pass. They ended up mooring on the winding hole, using mooring pins, despite there being several mooring rings available on the adjacent visitor moorings.

When our chores were complete, we moved on again, and moored up before bridge 25, a little further away from the railway, but also within the sound from the busy A38 road nearby.

The ground was very soft so we hoped the mooring pins would hold. A number of boats went past, but the spikes stayed put. On one boat was the lady who was a volunteer at Stenson when we gave them coffee.

Our mooring near bridge 25

Sadly we never saw the barn owl that we were told was somewhere near here. However we did spot an oyster catcher flying overhead. There was also one of the Trent and Mersey mileage markers that tells you how far you have travelled and how far there is still to go.

Mileage marker

0 locks, 3 miles

Mon 15th June

Willington to Burton upon Trent

We had a leisurely departure this morning, after seeing Eric and Sue go past on Remus.

We crossed seven aqueducts in just over a mile, the most important one being that of the River Dove, just before it joins the River Trent.

 Crossing the River Dove

Our first pause was at Horninglow where we emptied a cassette.  We moved on to Dallow Lock, the first narrow lock for us since Foxton. It lies under a railway bridge, and it seems it no longer requires a C&RT key.

Dallow Lock

We moored at Shobnall Fields, where we noticed that instead of closely mown grass, there is now a band of wild flowers and plants between the moorings and the playing fields.

Shobnall Fields

We walked to Shobnall Road where we hoped to catch a number 5 bus. There was no timetable displayed, so we took the first bus that came along which was a 310. It took us to Sainsburys, and we walked from there to the launderette in Uxbridge Street.  We needed to wash our carpet runners, which are too big for our washing machine.

While the washing was going round we found a pub for a drink and a kebab outlet for a meal.

Walking back to the centre of town we passed another launderette which would have been more convenient if we had known about it.  We caught a number 3 bus back to Shobnal Street, and walked back over the footbridge. A couple on the same bus were moored immediately behind us: John and Jeanette on Wellander.

We laid the carpets on the roof of the boat to dry. Andrew and Gail Spolton went past on Emmaus, heading for Sawley and Redhill. They paused briefly for a chat.

Andrew and Gail going by on Emmaus

The carpets weren’t quite dry, so we rolled them up and took them in again.

1 lock, 4 miles

Tue 16th June

Burton to Alrewas
 Leaving Shobnall Fields with its longer grass

A fairly early start to travel just over a mile to Branston, where we moored on the visitor mooring rings, and walked through the business park to get to Morrison’s. We first had a cooked breakfast in their café, and then filled a trolley with goodies. It may be a while before we have access again to a large supermarket.

It was blazing hot, so when we returned to the boat we put the damp carpets back on the roof, and set off again, past Branston Water Park and Barton Turn, alongside the noisy A38.

At the picturesque Tatenhill Lock there was an historic boat, and in the garden we spotted some boundary markers with MR on. People of Facebook think it meant Midland Region. Many canals were bought or taken over by railway companies.

Tatenhill Lock

MR boundary marker

We were following a single guy, and we were followed by Repose, a boat with a couple with two Dalmatians aboard.  After Wychnor Lock we spotted Ultreya moored up. We were tempted to join them, but the road was a bit too noisy for us, so we decided to moor as planned in Alrewas.

 St Leonard’s Church at Wychnor

We continued on through the section which crosses the River Trent, pleased to note that it had not been affected by the torrential rain on Saturday.

Boating across the Trent at Alrewas

On arrival at Alrewas Lock, we were beckoned in by the single guy so we did as we were told and jumped the queue.

We would have liked a shady mooring, but the only place available was in the sun, on a bend, so that’s where we went.

Hugo for some reason was very pleased with the place, and rolled around on the grass in delight.

Our hot mooring on a bend in Alrewas

Hugo having a wriggle in the sun

There was a beautiful garden opposite with an unusual purplish shrub with pink flowers. Does anyone know what this is?

The mysterious shrub. What is it please?

5 locks, 7 miles

Tomorrow: into the Coventry Canal at Fradley Junction, aiming for Hopwas by Thursday for the folk club, the day before the mission starts.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Cotmanhay to Stenson

Mon 8th June

When we got up this morning we found that Essence and Mistol had gone down already, and Remus had gone up.  Travellers Joy was still there, but we didn’t see anyone aboard.

We walked across the Erewash valley from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire to visit Ikea. It was a pleasant walk, with lots of wild flowers. We went under the railway, then over the River Erewash, around the side of a sewage works, and finally under the busy A610 dual carriageway.

Oxeye daisies

Under the main road

Railway viaduct

What flower is this?

 We followed a footpath parallel to the road, emerging through some bushes into some service roads on a business park. There was a man there having a cigarette, and we asked him which was the way into Ikea.  “Where did you come from?” he said, looking startled. The footpath was well hidden and it seemed not many people used it.

In Ikea we managed to buy a wine glass as a replacement for the one at the bottom of the canal south of Cropredy.  We also bought a small wooden shelf to keep them on.

We had lunch there, trying out their new veggie balls, which were very tasty.

On the path on the way back we found a robin with what looked like a broken wing. We guessed he had collided with a car windscreen. He probably didn’t last very long.

Back at the Bridge Inn, all had gone except Tumzul Cloud, Dilly Dally and Travellers Joy.  Margaret and Barry had walked up to Langley Mill and back and we suggested to them that they speak to Don and share locks on the way back to Trent Lock.

No boating today

Tue 9th June

Cotmanhay to Langley Mill

The temperature had dropped to single figures in the night and James had cold feet, so he got up at 4am.

Margaret and Barry had walked up to Langley Mill and back the day before and they had had tea there with Eric and Sue on Remus. We suggested to them that they speak to Don and share locks with Tumzul Cloud on the way back to Trent Lock.

There was some sunshine but it was cool in the shade as we made our way up the final three locks on our own to Langley Mill.

Guess what lock this is…

Langley Mill Lock

When we arrived we found Jubilee and Remus moored up on the visitor moorings, which also serve as facilities moorings and lock bollards.

We had hoped to cruise to the end of the basin this time, but there was a boat blocking access past the winding area.  We wanted diesel, and we rang the boatyard, several times, with no reply. In the end James walked round and found the owner, only to discover that he no longer sells diesel.

We had coffee on Jubilee before having a KFC lunch snack, and shopping in Lidl and Asda

The Nottingham Canal at Langley Mill

We had a much needed snooze in the afternoon, and joined John and Jan for a meal at the Great Northern.  Good Cider.  James had lasagne.

Good Cider in the Great Northern

This one had ginger and chilli

We had more coffee on Jubilee afterwards, and John lit a fire.

We thought we were seeing a UFO, as something with red and green lights was moving around in the dark sky over the basin.  It turned out to be a quad copter. These big boys toys seem to be very fashionable at present.

We changed to our winter quilt!  It’s midsummer in less than two weeks!

3 locks, 2 miles

Wed 10th June

Langley Mill to Hallam Fields

Eric and Sue were going on a railway excursion today

Everything got very noisy as they were using machinery on a building site nearby, the traffic was loud on the road, and a team of contract gardeners appeared with mowing machines and strimmers.

We opened the lock gates, Jubilee went into the lock, and then we turned the boat and joined them in the lock.  There was a couple watching, so we gave them “How do Locks work?”
Langley Mill lock with Jubilee

Farewell to the Bridge Inn

All the other locks were against us.  We found a BCF boat Charis although there are two and we are not sure which is which.  Dilly Dally was still at the Bridge Inn. No one aboard.

Patricia May was still there on the bollards at Bridge 20. They display a BCF sticker, but they are not listed in the BCF directory. The lady on board is Julia Atkins, and her mother Christine Atkins, is a good friend of Tessa Taylor, a friend since about 1962 from James’ Cobham days.  Another circular connection.

We moored at Hallam Fields – as far from the railway as we could, and then had lunch on Jubilee.  A few hours later we all had dinner on Gabriel – a very nice lasagne.

Moored on Hallam Fields

John and Jan

We walked to Hallam Fields Lock and up a hill to the rugby club, where a weekly folk club is held.  They were very friendly with a lot of banter going on. It was predominantly men with guitars. Electric, acoustic, semi-acoustic, steel, acoustic bass.  There was very little audience participation, and no traditional songs. It was mostly Americana or elderly pop. They had a PA system, and everyone had 10 minute, two song slots. We sang Long Way Down and Waterloo Road, ably accompanied once more by John and Jan.  The music finished promptly at 11pm.

Thu 11th June

Hallam Fields to Aston Lock

After a leisurely departure, we made good progress with Jubilee, with most of the locks in our favour.  

Church Farm

Jubilee at bridge 12

We paused in Sandiacre for John and Jan to see the place, and for Hazel to visit a charity shop.

James took the vacuum to the willow fluff that was descending everywhere, and took advantage of the clean water to wash the boat.  The canal was very clear, with quite large fish visible in the sunlight.

Sandiacre Lock

Mill at Long Eaton

We discovered that Saturday was forecast to be wet, so we set off once more towards Trent Lock, where we emptied our cassette. Jubilee took on water.  James had a good look at the prop shaft and propeller in the clear water and was able to cut away some fishing line that had been there a while.

While we were in the lock there, Rob and Trish from Mistol appeared on bikes. Their boat was moored on the floating pontoon nearby on the Trent.  We gave out three copies of “How do locks work?” to couples watching the boats in the lock.

Jubilee leaving the Erewash

The River Trent

We left the Erewash and at the waterways crossroads we turned right against the flow on the Trent and into the left of the two locks at Sawley. Although at first glance it seems as though a windlass would be required, it is all done hydraulically at the turn of a key and the press of a few buttons.

We needed fuel, so we reversed onto the pontoon bollards. We then discovered that the fuel pipe would not reach the diesel intake at the stern, so we had to move the boat forward, tying to trees.  We then had great difficulty removing the filler cap. We are thinking of replacing our lockable filler cap with a normal one, as we always seem to have difficulty.  After ten minutes of trying it one way, then another, banging the lock with a piece of wood using a windlass as a hammer, we finally managed to unscrew the cap, and put diesel in. For some reason the machine would not allow us to put in more than £90 worth. It was 71p per litre, which was OK.

We saw Tumzul Cloud moored up opposite. Don has had to travel overseas for a few days between the two missions.

We set off again onto the second short stretch of the River Trent, before coming to another crossroads at Derwent Mouth, where we continued straight on to the Trent and Mersey Canal.

 Waterway crossroads

Jubilee was waiting for us at Derwent Mouth Lock, and he had been unsuccessfully fishing for windlasses with a magnet.  We shared the lock, and went slowly through Shardlow, looking for mooring places.  There was just one available, which we left for Jubilee as they had relatives coming. We carried on through Shardlow Lock, and under the noisy A50 road.


On our own at Shardlow Lock

Just before Aston Lock, we passed some CRT workboats. The final one was a wide beam, and there was very little room between it and the opposite bank. As we passed, the bows moved across even further, and appeared to be untied.

A boat was coming down in the lock, and as the water left the lock, the workboat was pushed further into the opposite bank, leaving the canal impassable. We were able to move on up through the lock, and we moored just above on some piling. C&RT had to be called to sort out their boat.

Workboat loose

Moored above Aston Lock

We had a blazing hot evening, and we had a very tasty left over lasagne from the previous day. The third day in a row for James. It is a good job he likes the stuff.

11 locks, 11 miles

Fri 12th June

Aston Lock to Stenson Lock

As we left Aston Lock we spotted a large medieval tent on a hill to the south.  We worked out from the maps that it must be Castle Donington, where the rock festival “Download” is taking place this weekend.

We passed a Canal Club boat moored near Cow Pasture Bridge (No 7), and noticed that they pulled out to follow us, but they were going very slowly.  At Weston Lock we needed to empty the lock, and by the time we had the gates open, the boat had caught up, so they came into the lock with us.  No one got off the boat with a windlass, and as it was a deep lock, James said he would operate it, rather than have the guy climb a long ladder out of the lock chamber.

This was their second day, having left Sawley yesterday. They had never done it before. They came from Brisbane, and we said we had been there, and James’ hat came from there.  His name was Brian. We told them we were filling up with water at the tap above the lock, and to carry on without us.  We thought that as they were going so slowly, we might even catch them up by the next lock three miles away. 

Weston Lock water tap
When the water tank was full ten minutes later, we set off again, and had not gone very far when we found them at the side of the canal, feeding a family of swans. When we came in sight they set off again, and went very slowly in front of us for the next two miles. 

 Following the slow boater from Brisbane

At Swarkestone Lock we suggested that one of them got off with a windlass, but the lady, still wearing slippers, said that was man’s work. Although she said she steered that boat they have at home in Brisbane, she said she wouldn’t steer this one.  So he steered the boat into the lock, tried to climb the ladder on the starboard side, but couldn’t reach it. The boat moved to port, so amidst a flurry of getting windlasses and ropes ready he got onto the ladder and proceeded to climb up with the centre rope. At the top he remembered he had left behind his windlass.  While James was closing both the gates, he tied the rope onto the bollard nearest to the top gates, which doesn’t stop the boat going forward at all.

James asked him about the boat they have in Australia. It is a powered catamaran, which takes 50 passengers, and they take parties out to an island off the Gold Coast!

James operated the ground paddles and opened the gate paddles a small amount until the boats had risen enough for him to retrieve his windlass.  We then finished doing the lock together.

We left first, and just round the corner we came upon Peter and Pam Ekins on March Mole, so we tied up for a chat.

Peter and Pam Ekins

Brian chugged slowly past.  When we set off again an hour later, we saw their boat moored at the Ragley Boat Stop where presumably they were having lunch.

We carried on to Stenson Lock, where there was a team of three volunteers helping the boats through.

We moored up just beyond the lock bollards, opposite the Midland Canal Centre, where we planned to stay for two nights, to sit out the rain that was forecast for tomorrow.

James made coffee for the volunteers. Brian came past three hours later.

We could hear the music from Download, 5 miles away, although it was the bass that was predominant, sounding a bit like thunder. The rain started at about 7pm, becoming very heavy at times. We thought about the campers at Download, including Clare McDougall.

3 locks, 7 miles

Sat 13th June

Staying put at Stenson

Steady drizzle continued throughout the night.  Hugo had somehow managed to catch a mouse despite the rain.

We had a cooked breakfast as a treat, and then didn’t need to bother with lunch. We had a cream tea in the late afternoon.

We took the opportunity to catch up on some chores. James caught up a lot with the blog. Hazel took up some jeans with her sewing machine. James put up a shelf that we bought in Ikea to store our wine glasses.

The new wine glass rack

A wet day at Stenson

Not a lot else happened.  No boating today

Tomorrow: an early cruise to Willington for the Baptist Church, then a short cruise out again to get away from the trains. We are aiming for Hopwas by Thursday for the folk club there.