- Mac & Jacquie Court
- 70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.
Friday, 30 May 2008
A leisurely start took us back to bridge 17 where the bikes were unloaded and another trip to Morrisons was undertaken. Ashley, Jacquie’s son, was going to join us at Coventry so we needed to stock up. Jacquie’s biking fitness was demonstrable improved with only one very short stop each way to get her breath back.
The intention was to stop for the night just before the end of the canal, but we found this stretch were a previously moorer had trimmed the vegetation back and it seemed such a perfect place to stop before venturing into the unknown waters of Coventry.
In need of exercise on Saturday we walked to Stoke Golding, arriving in time for the little corner shop to be closed for lunch, only one thing for it, but to drop in to one of the pubs for a little refreshment.
The church, which is one of Leicester’s finest, was locked, but a sign says that the key is available from a nearby house. A magnificent key allowed us entry into this charming church that has been built in to halves, with ornate supporting columns running down the centre of the church. The wind was now very strong and helped us on our way back to the boat.
Sunday was as forecast, extremely wet and windy and we stayed hunkered down, reading Saturday’s papers and watching DVD’s, eventually escaping for a walk to the village of Sutton Cheney. This must have once been an important stage coach route, as this tiny village boasted two large coaching inns. Looking at the map I can only think that this must have been linking Leicester to Birmingham.
By Monday only Skyy and one other boat, CAPRICORNS DULCITUDO, were stilled moored up and Tony kindly gave me an excess BOG OF tub of soft cheese. It was very interesting and pleasant to have met up with Tony and Sylvia, who have been living on board for 17 years. The day was surprisingly dry, but the winds were even stronger, whilst walking through Ambion Woods we had to divert around two trees that had fallen over the footpath. We were so glad that we decided to stay put over the bank holiday, cruising would not have been pleasurable.
Thursday, 29 May 2008
We got back to Sutton Wharf at midday and again said sad farewells to Stanley, who had stolen our hearts and of course to Phil and Lynne. The rest of the day felt rather empty. We decided to stay put here over the bank holiday weekend. The forecast said a dry but windy Saturday, but rain for Sunday and Monday, sounds just a repetition of last year for the Crick Show.
Lynne was up and out at 5am with Stanley to make sure that there were no little ‘accidents’ on board and after a much later breakfast we headed off. We stopped for a towpath lunchtime picnic at Shackerstone. We looked for the entrance to the railway museum, but couldn’t find it, academic as it would have been closed.
Determined to reach the end of the canal, we pushed on to Snarestone via the tunnel which rather disturbingly gets lower and lower as you proceed to the Northern Portal, but we emerged safely. The end was, just the end, no razzmatazz, but a shed to buy momentos, from which I did buy a smart black and brass plaque. After turning we retraced our bow wave to Shackerstone to stay the night. The canal is very shallow and the banks cannot be reached before running aground, which we did on a couple of occasions whilst putting little Stanley ashore for exercise etc.
On Tuesday we returned to Sutton Wharf as there was plenty of parking for Phil & Lynne and on Wednesday impatiently awaited their arrival, well actually only the arrival of Stanley the three months old Border Terrier puppy. Worth the wait, he is adorable, The rest of the day was spent fighting over whose turn it was to cuddle him.
Monday, 26 May 2008
We needed to get the loo tank pumped out, but unfortunately we were facing the wrong way for Trinity Marina, the only way, was to cruise the four or five miles back to the junction of the Ashby and Coventry canals, turn round and come all the way back again. Fortunately just beyond bridge 8 there is a 90 degree turn and I was able to swing the boat there, so saving about 5 miles. We pumped out and refueled and moved onto bridge 17a ,which is right beside the Triumph Motorcycle Factory, I will be tempted to see if there is time to visit.
As the wind had dropped and the day was warm, I decided to try out one of the SKYY templates on the bow, so masked off and sprayed. We left it to dry whilst we got back on the bikes and pedaled off to Morrisons. Jacquie was certain that we wouldn’t get it all packed into the panniers, but we did.
On return I excitedly removed the masking tape and newspaper, to find that some spay had managed to seep under the tape, but with cotton buds and white spirit I cleaned up the edges and it looks OK, not perfect, but OK.
We did indeed walk into Market Bosworth, and a very attractive little town it is. A mixture of old timber framed thatched and Georgian architecture and to complete this idyllic scene, the church bells were ringing. Very wittily there was a smart fish & chip shop called the ‘Batter of Bosworth’
We returned with Sunday papers and tub of ice cream to compliment Jacquie’s superb apple cake.
Before we pulled the pins, a full Monty brunch was partaken of, but we saved the cake and ice cream for later.
When we did get around to pulling pins, we also pulled the boat back to the water point which was conveniently situated by the winding hole (a turning point) and when filled with H2O I asked Brian to give the front of the boat a little push to initiate the 180 degree turn. Brian was very keen and despite my suggestions that enough was enough, he continued to push until he was lying horizontally over the water, the outcome was inevitable. No hurt but to dignity and as the day was warm, shoes and trousers dried out by the time we arrived back at the Lime Kiln pub
We said a reluctant goodbye to Marilyn & Brian after putting a date in the diary for a return visit.
Sunday, 25 May 2008
The weather was supposed to be sunny intervals, but was more than slightly damp, but this didn’t spoil our friends enjoyment of this, for them, totally new experience and delightful canal.
We moored at Sutton Wharf, just passed the winding hole and water point, there is a staging big enough for four boats, which was made entirely out of plastic square uprights and planking, probably made from recycled plastic bottles, it looked good and should last along time, just a pity that it hadn’t been screwed together a little more accurately.
A walk around the Bosworth battlefield revealed that what has for such a long time been considered to be the actual site, could not have been and the search to find the real site continues, rather a disappointment really, but an enjoyable walk through the wood nevertheless.
We spent the evening just above bridge 42, one mile from Market Bosworth, with the intention of walking into the town on Sunday morning.
Sad I know, but the boat had to be cleaned and polished ready for inspection by our chums, after that done we relaxed and waited for them to arrive.
In the meantime Mum & Dad swan presented us with their new family. We were beginning to see many more duckling, goslings and cygnets.
Fortunately Marilyn & Brian had a good trip up the M1 and arrived in good time for a fish supper in the Lime Kiln pub.
Marilyn and Brian would be joining us on Friday evening, but as they would be driving directly from Surrey after work, we were concerned that traffic delays might make their arrival too later to eat at the pub, so we needed to have a meal ready to go, just in case. With this in mind we set of along the towpath on the bikes in the rain to bridge 16, then up Nuttts Lane, must buy a softer saddle and onto Lidl’s supermarket. We wobbled back the one and a half mile with panniers bursting with food and booze.
Friday, 23 May 2008
I had been quietly working away on the stencils to enable me to spray SKYY and diamonds onto the bow panels, now I needed to buy paint. How great is the Onboard Mobile Web and computer? Yelldotcom provided the answer. A Halfords store about a mile from bridge 23 on the North West outskirts of Nuneaten.
We laboured up the remaining seven Atherstone locks and on route to Nuneaten passed the wonderful British Waterways Hartshill boatyard, all red and blue bricks topped of with a grand clock tower, splendid and if I hadn’t been so keen to get to Halfords, I would have stopped to take some pictures.
We moored just beyond bridge 23, it wasn’t ideal, but we wouldn’t be there long. The road over the bridge was very congested with traffic and Jacquie suggested that we walk it rather than bike it. A sensible suggestion as it took no time at all to reach Halfords. On route we passed a great water feature in the centre of the roundabout, as we approached it we commented on this metal globe, when it suddenly burst into life, spraying a glistening orb of water, seemingly just for our pleasure. We were able to get a good match in both blue and red spray paints, a couple of new paint brushes and we were done.
We moved the boat on through the residential area of Nuneaton, admiring many of the gardens that come right down to the waters edge. Canals rarely if ever flood seriously and many home owners had made the most of, what is now considered to be, an attractive location.
A mile and a bit later, we turned into the Ashby Canal and what a change. All signs of industry and housing had gone to be replaced by a completely rural scene. Small stone arched bridges crossed over the water, which now looked more like a river, the towpath disappearing behind vegetation.
The evening was beautiful, the air cold but clear as we continued up to the Lime Kilns Inn. Unlike most canals, the towpath side of the canal was not always accessible and the guide indicates where moorings are available and at bridge 15 there were good moorings and a water point here and a pub with a car park, which after a pint and a glass of cider for Jacquie, the friendly landlady said it would be fine for our chums to leave their car in overnight. Another plan coming together!
When we started off on the boat, Tuesday morning, we realized how far we had actually cycled along the towpath, way passed where the M42 passes overhead, this practice ride would be very useful later on.
We stopped after the first four of the Atherstone locks. we had plenty of time to get to the Ashby Canal to meet chums, Marilyn & Brian on Friday evening, so there was no need to push on too hard. However we took a stroll up the rest of the locks and eventually turned left into the town. The main road was called Long Street, which was very appropriate as it is part of Watling Street. The town was a hat manufacturing centre and although it had many attractive original buildings and features, the top end of the town looked very depressed.
Things improved considerable at the bottom of the town when we found as Aldi store, although totally unprepared, no ‘bags for life’ or our fold up M&S trolleys. We came away loaded up with some of their great value specials. Fingers were nearly falling off by the time we got back to the boat.
A leisurely start through the last two Curdworth locks and then a long, almost straight secton of canal, flanked on the right by flooded gravel pits, which now form the Kingsbury Water Park.
As we approached Fazeley, the most amazing footbridge appeared, two small white painted castle turrets with an interconnecting footbridge between. When we got level with the bridge, we saw that there was a circular staircase inside each turret leading up to the bridge. This wonderful folly replaced an old swing bridge, I doubt that anyone would get planning permission nowadays to build such a thing.
Fazeley, as the Nicholson’s guide says, is more interesting from the canal, than from the road. Old satanic, red brick, mills snuggle up to the water, confirming what the canals were originally for. The small town was unattractive, but we did get essential supplies in the local store.
The Fazeley Junction is entered immediately under a bridge and excited via another bridge, a tight turn onto the Coventry Canal. Over the River Tame on an aqueduct and straight away around the perimeter of Tamworth, notable that all the moored boats had boards or netting over their windows, indicative that one of the local sports must be glass breaking.
We stopped for the night at Alvecote, which was very pleasantly rural. We unshipped the bikes and had had a long ride along the towpath, passing the remains of Alvecote Priory, just visible on the far side of the cut. On our return we visited The Samuel Barlow pub, which is built over the workshop/offices of the local boatyard, This is a smart newish building, in keeping with its location, but sadly the pub lacked warmth, maybe that was because we were the only customers.
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
On leaving Cuckoo Wharf, we straight away arrived at Salford Junction. This junction is right under the eastern end of the M6 Spaghetti motorway junction, also to add to the confusion the River Tame flows under the canal, the Tame Valley Canal departs to the left of the junction, and the Birmingham & Fazely continues to the right, almost immediately another canal departed to the right, this is The Grand Union Canal heading back to Birmingham and London.
Our plan was to head down passed Nuneaton and then onto the Ashby Canal, before heading back to our own marina at Napton.
The industry and housing gradually dropped away until we were into open field, mostly bright yellow with Rape. We moored between two locks, very peaceful except for the roar from the M42, out of sight but not out of hearing, but as it was still very hot and we had worked our way through nine locks and we didn’t want to do anymore.
In response to comments received from previous blog.
Thanks Andrew from Granny Buttons re. The explanation for the 4am indicated timing for uploading my blog. When work out how to change the time from Google time to GMT I will do it.
Martin says, “That the Newer Post Link at the bottom of each blog doesn’t work”. I regret that in these matters I am so un-technical, that I don’t know what this means, Please comment again and explain.
Thanks Swampy for your good wishes, and although your Father referred to the part of the B & F that you found me fishing, as “Deepest Darkest Aston” fortunately with the sun shining so brightly it didn’t look so bad. Good luck with your boating plans.
Still can’t get a good enough speed to upload pictures, I will do so as soon as possible.
Sunday, 11 May 2008
The descent from Birmingham centre via the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal couldn’t have been more different to our arrival on the Worcester and Birmingham. Almost immediately we delved beneath the guts of the City. In fact the grotto scenes of Phantom of the Opera could have been made here, the rubbish in the water was upsetting, most of it seemed to be empty bottles of ‘White Storm’ which I assume is a cheap cider. Not a place to be at night!
However the highlight was when I caught my first fish. Jacquie had given me one of those fishing rods that telescope down into a very large pen and when we stopped for lunch in this quite urban area Johnny and John came along and started to fish just behind where we had moored. Jacquie said I should ask them to get me started, but I said size does matter and mine in comparison to their rods was a bit insignificant. To my surprise they said that they had seen these little rods advertised but hadn’t been able to buy one They were really keen to convert me to be a fisherman and expertly wound my line onto the reel, fitted float, weight, and a barbless hook and baited my hook with a couple of wiggle maggots and what do you know I reeled in a fish.
Whilst I was trying my luck with the fish, a chap walked passed and said to Jacquie that he was following our blog exploits and that he was a boater in waiting, I wish you good fortune and hope that wait isn't too long.
The weather had been very warm and sultry and we had just stopped in the last lock of the Aston flight, to see if we could help a couple of guys who had a rope around there prop, when the air was filled with the crash of thunder and then an immediate torrent of rain crashed down. My large diving knife was of some help, but after half an hour they decided they handed it back as they thought it was going to take several more hours of sawing to get it off and they didn’t want to delay us any longer.
The air was now comfortable and we moored at Cuckoo Wharf, just before the Salford junction. This was actually a BW residential mooring, on the opposite side to the towpath, but there was a place by the water point and at 7 pm we thought it unlikely that anyone else would come passed, this was fortunate as there was no other place that we would have willingly moored on this stretch.
The original canal serving Birmingham was a contour canal, in other words it followed level land. This avoided the cost and time of having to build embankments or cutting or locks, but this meant that it very ofter meandered, just like a river. In the mid 1820 a new cut was started, straight as an arrow, lopping of many miles, but the old loops were still left connected, as they obviously still served the factories and warehouses.
We decided to investigate a couple of these old loops. They were as you can imagine surrounded by the derelict remains of these old factories and warehouses, but there was a tranquility about them. The water was clean and many Canada Geese had made their homes there.
On the second loop, The Soho, there was more housing and eventually a lovely old house came into view, close to Asylum Bridge, we asked a fisherman if it had been an asylum, and he confirmed, but added that it was now one of the Queen's Hotels, in other words Winson Green Prison. Around the next bend this became very evident, even with its own entrance from the canal, looking much like Traitors Gate at The Tower of London.
Jacquie and I had visited Birmingham twice a year for many years, but spent all the day at the NEC at a childrenswear trade exhibition and only got into the City centre in the evenings looking for somewhere to eat. We were really surprised at the space and grandeur of the centre. There was no traffic, the old buildings could have been lifted from Athens and Italy and the new buildings competed competently for space and the fascinating statuary completed the picture. We enjoyed the museum off Victoria Square and returned to the boat having left so much more to return to Birmingham for.
Nothing left to do, but gird up our loins and head for Birmingham City Centre. We were both a bit nervous about leaving behind the lush countryside for the smoke, but it was fine.
First thing to pass through was the Wast Hill Tunnel, all two and a half kilometers. The otrher end couldn’t be seen when we entered and it was cold with lots of water dripping from the tunnel roof. Not far from the exit, thirty five minutes later we met another boat coming towards us. He had come to a standstill and we crept passed him with just inches to spare. The sun was shining brightly on finally leaving the tunnel and the remainder of the way into Birmingham was surprising. Apart from the railway following alongside most of the way, we were surrounded by a green canopy of trees and could neither see housing or industry. The only exception was the Chamberlain Camponile tower, built 1900, and the domes of Birmingham University.
There were no other boats moored alongside us in Gas Street Basin and we felt a bit exposed, after a short walk we found several boats moored just into the Oozells Street Loop. There was no pedestrian traffic and another boat owner said that they had had two undisturbed nights, there were CCTV cameras and regular security patrols. We moved the boat up to there and can confirm that this was indeed a good place to stay.
Oh well, best laid plans!! We had a call from P & L, on Tuesday to say, that they had to wait another week after Stanley’s last injection before they could expose him to the world. Another date for late May has been set aside for their visit and we spent the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday doing boaty things, like, enabling the engine hatch to be locked down. I keep all my tools down in the engine bay, which would be a considerable cost to replace if they got stolen, also I had heard that boats batteries have been known to disappear. It seemed prudent to be able to secure the engine bay if having to leave the boat in a less salubrious area.
Paul from WaterWay Routes suggested that we should have the name of the boat in the two empty panels on the bow, we had been considering putting some diamonds and circles patterns in these panels, so I set about mocking up a combination of SKYY and diamonds, not quite Diamonds in the Sky, but I think it works. We will leave it taped on he the left side panel for a few days to see if we still like it.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
We were having a late breakfast, as again it was raining hard. Still moored opposite the Crown Inn, and there was Waterway Routes cruising back down towards us, so Paul came alongside and we had a lovely chat with him and family. They have a permanent mooring in the Birmingham area, so naturally knows where the no go areas are and said not to hesitate to email him if we needed some advice. We checked his website and found that he had posted several pictures of Skyy on his blog. Paul did note that my most recent blog had been posted at 4am, I don’t know how that could of have happened, I can assure all interested parties, that both I and Jacquie were well tucked in at that time. Thanks for your interest Paul.
We moved into the Hop House area, to await the arrival of Phil, Lynne and Stanley the puppie and on route, Jacquie got too loads through the washing machine, the sun was now shining and both loads were dry by 7pm., courtesy of the whirligig dryer, set up on the stern deck. We filled with water, turned at the winding hole and moored up a few boat lengths up from the tap so that we can fill up again on Wednesday morning. What planning!!!!
Our chums Phil & Lynne phoned to say that their new Border Collie puppy, would have it’s last jab on Tuesday and they would then be able to bring him to meet up with us on Wednesday. Rather than travelling on into Birmingham, we decided to stay in the area of Alvechurch, as it was so attractive and we walked in the rain up a very muddy towpath towards the Hop House Pub to check if it would be OK for Phil & Lynne to park there for a couple of nights, “no prob” said the young barman and as it is only about half a mile from junction 2 on the M42 it would be perfect.
Did get a picture of a heron, but missed him actually plucking a fish out of the cut.
As we were mud plugging who should we see coming towards us but Waterway Routes with Paul at the helm, we checked with him that the Hop House pub was not too far ahead and he was quite upset that he couldn’t offer us a lift as he was going in the opposite direction. Paul who makes DVD’s of canal journeys from his silent and vibration free, electric driven boat had previously added our blog as a link from his website, WWW.waterwayroutes.com Good to meet up with Paul and wife Christine and Susan their lovely daughter.
Sunday, 4 May 2008
This morning we cycled back in for supplies and returned with our panniers adorned with Busy Lizzies, much to the amusement of passing residents.
Angela a school friend of Jacquie’s and her husband John, who live close by, joined us in the afternoon. As the weather was so good we were able to enjoy a glass or two on the towpath before setting of for a very nice supper at the Red Lion in Alvechurch.
We eased our way through the last lock with the intention of tying at the BW workshops just after the lock for water, but the Fire Brigade got there first and a huge jet of water was arching across the canal, we slowed down and asked if it was OK to pull in there, so they pulled out their suction pipe and helped us to tie up. They were doing a bi-annual check of their pumps and a training session for the newest recruit.
I told one of the crew that our smoke alarm kept going off for no apparent reason and he went and got a new one, complete with battery for us. Nice Guys and Gal. I nearly lost Jacquie to one them. What is it about firemen?
Alvechurch was our destination, 3 miles and no locks. We found a lovely mooring right opposite the Crown Inn, just before the railway bridge, The trains travelled this stretch quite slowly and didn’t disturb us.
We walked all the way around the town before we eventually found the centre, which was a very pleasant surprise. On returning to our mooring we popped into the Crown Inn and although it had a good atmosphere the eating area was very crowded.
I just thought that I should mention that we had a problem getting the computer to recognise the T -Mobile Web & Walk modem, Keith from Quidditch said that he has burnt out two connecting cables, and we had previously smelt hot plastic, but couldn't identify where the smell could be coming from. Ashley had been watching TV via the internet and it seems possible that with high transfer rates the cable could overheat. I tried the same cable with the camera and sure enough the computer didn't recognise it. A new cable resolved the problem.
Ha !! 35 locks!! Nothing, a doddle!! Wednesday, as forecasted, was very wet, so it was a good decision to stay put. However we got off to an early start for us, on Thursday, at 8am and by the time we stopped for lunch we had done about twenty of them.
We got into a good rhythm eventually, as soon as the top paddles were raised to fill the lock that Skyy was in, one of us walked up to the next lock and began to empty that, and as soon as the bottom gates could be opened, whoever was on Skyy opened the top gate and cruised out of the lock, straight into the awaiting next lock, in the meantime, the lock person walked back to the vacated lock and closed the gate, before walking back to close the gates behind Skyy and start the process all over again, does that sound complicated? Not really in reality, but the person operating the locks does walk the same piece of towpath 3 times, but good for the muscles.
The sceanery all the way up was delightful, with little cottages siding on to the canal at locks and bridges and a tranquil reservoir just before the summit.
We stopped at about 5 pm just before the top lock, thought that we should leave something for tomorrow and celebrated with beer and wine and sun shone all the while.