Tuesday, 28 October 2008
The good news is that Jacquie is feeling much better and when I tied up at bridge 58 in Rugby, she trotted off to the very convenient nearby Tesco Extra for some essential stores. Just three locks at Hillmorton and Jacquie was happy to take the boat in to them as I operated the locks. We finally arrival at Wigrams Turn at 4.30 and the sun had shone for almost all of the way. A tiring but invigorating return journey.
We don’t expect to be doing much cruising over the next few months, but if and when we do, I will again post our adventures on the blog.
Another early start, through Nuneaton and passed the junction with the Ashby Canal where we spent some time back in May. I left the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction for the Oxford Canal, with Rugby as tonight’s target. Nineteen miles but only one lock and I tied up the boat at seven pm. At Newbold on Avon, just short of target, but it was getting really dark. Nearly home.
The forecast good, and a early start was planned, but not before a quick visit to the local stores and the chemist for some more jollop for Jacquie, who was beginning to feel a little better, but was still confined to the cabin.
It was a long day, twelve miles and sixteen locks, the sky was clear blue and so many people helped me through locks that I just whizzed through Tamworth, Polesworth and Atherstone, to eventually stop by the delightful BW Hartshill Yard. When we came this way last May, I didn’t stop, but this time I was able to take some photos of this atmospheric working yard.
An extremely wet morning with a forecast for better weather after midday persuaded me to delay departure until that weather arrived. It did eventually, but only left me a couple of hours to reach Fazeley Junction. We had been through this junction before, on our way back from Birmingham, but coming in from another direction it looked quite different. It provided a quiet, attractive mooring, right in the centre of the town opposite Peel’s Wharf, named after Robert Peel, who transformed this area and was the father of the Prime Minister. Another point of interest is that Cash’s name tapes were and are still made in the canal side mill, I am sure that we have all had those tapes sewn inside our PE kits in the past.
Jacquie woke feeling decidedly unwell, so I said I would press on single handed to get back to Napton as fast as possible so that Jacquie could visit her own doctor.
My first time working the boat single handed and I was overwhelmed by the help that was given by other boaters as well gongoozlers. The first time was through the last lock immediately before the junction and the very nice lady also opened and closed the little swing bridge for me, many thanks.
The wind and rain hit hard by early afternoon so I stopped just before the Wryley and Essington Canal. A main railway line passes over the canal here on a brand new bridge, in fact the whole line and other visible bridges all looked brand new. There was a yellow contraption on the track which stopped every few yards and made strange noises before moving on and repeating the process. I assume that this is a new high speed track but has anybody got any ideas where it might be going to and from.
Apologises for the long delay in starting to get the blog underway, but there has been a lot going on, but here’s hoping I can remember what we got up to each day, here goes.
First of all, thank you Martin for your comments, I now know what drinks to avoid in my little protest at Coors decision to close the visitor Centre.
Our destination for today was Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal leaves the Trent & Mersey and heads back down south. We passed on route, Branston, where the famous pickle comes from and we also realized that Marmite, that ‘Love It or Hate It’ spread, is made in Burton from the left over brewer’s yeast, of which there must be plenty. In fact we have only just seen on the TV program ‘How Do They Do That’ how in fact they do, do that.
We stopped off at the very smart Barton Turns Marina for the usual services and although it was extremely windy, we entered and left the marina without disgracing ourselves.
The final approach to Fradley Junction is rather strange as the lock gates are immediately behind a very narrow bridge and gives the appearance of the canal coming to a complete end. The junction is very attractive with a BW yard with crane and the popular pub The Swan. A good place to stop for the night.
Sunday, 12 October 2008
Another sad farewell as K & J’s taxi picked them up, to whisk them back to Barrow-upon-Soar, before their onward car journey back home. At least they left some chocolate behind!!!
We walked back into Burton town to buy me some PJ’s this time, and paid more attention to the buildings, which are universally related to the brewing industry, which was started by some clever old monks way back in the thirteen hundreds, because of the suitability of the well water, which has a high gypsum content.
A very well placed Lidl store enabled us to shelter from a sudden squall as we wandered back to our now empty boat, but at least there was still chocolate to comfort us in our loneliness.
The short run to Burton wa s in bright sunshine, but as we crossed over the River Trent on an aqueduct, alongside an old road bridge, the wind was getting up and on the way we came across a strange object in the cut, which turned out to be a large parasol floating stem up, my attempts to recover it, were to no avail, as the wind kept blowing it further across the cut.
By the time we got to Burton, the North wind was really strong and when I jumped off the boat at Shobnall Fields to moor up I was losing the struggle to hold the boat against the bank and it needed John’s additional strength to get us moored up securely. This is a lovely mooring, alongside open playing fields with oak trees lining the canal side; fortunately they looked sufficiently robust not to be blown onto SKYY.
We set of to visit the Burton Brewery Visitor centre and museum. Strangely the whole of the landscape was dominated with red ‘COORS’ signs, atop of the hundreds of brewing vats and again when we arrived at the Visitor Centre and Museum, the COORS logo was very evident. It was closed!!! The adjoining Tourist information Centre was open and the helpful lady said that Coors had decided, 3 months previously, to close the centre and museum as they weren’t prepared to fund it. There is no other industry at Burton apart from brewing beer, what a mean spirited and short sighted decision, as I for one will be making a substantial dent in their profits by boycotting all of their products.
Instead we headed into the town centre, which has nothing much to commend it, except a Primark store where fleecy PJ’s were bought by Jacquie in readiness for cold nights ahead.
Russell, another of Jacquie’s cousins, but from her Dad’s side of the family, popped over for coffee, he lives at Sawley, just five minutes away. I had spoken to him on the phone, but had never met and Jacquie hadn’t seen him for six years, but it was understood that when we reached this area, we would meet up.
We moved on about midday and compared to the excitement of yesterday, today was without major event, we were back to single locks, which are much easier to operate. Our destination was Burton, but we stopped for the night a little way before Burton, at Willington and another fine, onboard dinner.
We entered the first of the canals double locks and waited whilst a CanalBoat Hire boat struggled to come in alongside us. It was skippered by a relatively capable older lady, but her elderly husband didn’t have much of a clue. She said that this was their first full day of their holiday and their son, who had been reluctantly persuaded to come on a canal holiday, had already fallen in the cut and had confined himself to the cabin, saying, “I want to go home”. This lock was leaking a lot of water through the top gate and as their boat had gone to far forward; water was cascading into the front well, until John shouted for her to move the boat back. Her husband was rather ineffectually pulling on the mid rope from the top of the lock and then I saw that the boat was canted over as he had got the rope locked around the central bollard, as the boat continued to rise it tilted further and further. I jumped over onto their boat and tried to release the rope, but it was locked tight around the bollard. I shouted out for the top paddles to be shut and then I grabbed a windlass and reopened the bottom paddles and eventually as the water dropped, the boat leveled and the rope was released and we proceeded to lock up. I suggested that they left the lock first so that we could keep an eye on them, but the lady said that they had caused us enough of a nuisance and I guessed they decided to tie up and reconsider their options. It really is a worry that such inexperienced people can take out sixteen tons of canal boat with so little tuition and get themselves into so many dangerous situations so quickly.
We continued to the delightful community of Shardlow, this was a very important wharf and warehouse centre in the past and we moored up right along side the road with a choice of two pubs within twenty yards. Brian and Anne joined the party in the afternoon, they live near Nottingham, and so had no excuse not to come over. They visited us in March last year and have had canal holidays themselves, but have also owned a proper sailing boat and have seriously sailed the oceans.
We went to the Navigation Inn for our dinner, a little further away than the two local ones, and had seriously great service and food. For John and me, it was Pie Night; the steak pie was superb, followed by equally yummier apple pie. However it has to be said that John had bought and cooked the previous evening, fillet steak and that was the best steak, Jacquie and I had eaten in a long time.
We staggered back to the boat and said goodbye to Brian & Anne and we collapsed into our beds.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
The weather was indifferent, but I noticed in my canal guide that Loughborough boasted a steam railway museum with eight miles of Main Line to steam up and down, so off we headed. I have to say, arriving in Loughborough by canal was not inspiring, but having moored up, at what appeared, to be the closest point to the Great Central Railway Museum (WWW.gcrailway.co.uk) museum, John and I set of, not expecting too much, the girls headed for the shops. As we approached the Loughborough Central Station we could hear and then see a band playing, on the platform, this looked promising and I called Jacquie and said maybe they would like to join us, as they hadn’t found any shops yet, this seemed like the best offer they were going to get.
The station was trapped in a 1950 time warp and could have been the setting for ‘Brief Encounter’, old luggage and milk churns etc. we were all entranced. The real ale beer tent made the situation complete as far as John was concerned. The real magic was, that today, was the inaugural passenger journey of the Tornado steam train, John knew all about this, but it was news to me. Apparently this was the first, absolutely, brand new steam locomotive to have been built since 1961, in England, sadly the boiler had to made in Germany, as there is now no ability in the UK to manufacture a boiler of this size. Whilst we were querying the cost of a return ticket, the train chuffed into the station. The band played and elegantly attired people queued for the Pullman restaurant car. We purchased four return tickets and ensconced ourselves in one of the first class carriages. The only downside was that not one of us had brought a proper camera; fortunately out mobile phones were up to the job of capturing this great moment. However I was set up for the last of the photos shown here, 'Mac Letting off Steam' or 'A Right Geyser' Ho Ho!!
Our journey to Leicester North stopped of at little stations on the way, all of which gave the authentic feel of the 50’s, fabulous. Along the track there were photographers capturing this momentous occasion. On our return to Central Station we wandered down to the loco sheds and marveled at the stripped down engines and the beautifully restored Oliver Cromwell that was in for a service. Health and Safety would have a field day with unprotected pits under the huge engines, but let’s hope they never get their hands on this great experience.
Having congratulated ourselves, for the fortunate timing of our arrival in Loughborough, we returned to SKYY and cruised onto Zouch where we stayed the night.
Jacquie went to the butchers and I changed the oil and filter, having purchased the correct filter yesterday. Whilst I was down the engine hole, I decided to lift the weed hatch and check the propeller as I thought that there was unusual vibration at low revs. I was right; a substantial length of blue mooring line was tightly wound around the prop shaft. My trusty diving knife made short work of hacking through the many twists of the rope and apart from a cold wet arm, job done, that was the first real work that my diving knife had ever encountered, never having been attacked by a shark.
A beautiful day, and after we cleaned the boat we went for a walk along the river bank, filling in the time before K & J arrived. We just hoped that the good weather would stay for their visit. They arrived in good time, just before it got dark and we spent the evening with the customary excess of food, booze and chocolate.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
We decided that Barrow-Upon-Soar would be a good place to meet up with K & J and as Anne & Tony where also expecting friends for the weekend, we again enjoyed the companionship of travelling together for a while. We stopped to take on fuel etc at the boatyard just beyond Sileby lock. As we would be venturing out onto the wide, River Trent, Jacquie thought we should buy an anchor. Father & Son who ran the yard were extremely helpful, and spliced up loops to the ends of the rope to attach it to the anchor chain and the boat, Life jackets were taken out of the lockers and the lifebuoy put on the roof, just in case.
First thing in the morning, after several cups of coffee, we visited the massive covered market, Jacquie stocked up on some excellent value fruit and veg and I thought I could be Colonel Pickering, from ‘My Fair Lady’ as I listened to the rich sounds of the market traders calls.
Anne & Tony from England’s Dreaming agreed to accompany us out of Leicester. We very soon came across a, just floating, settee, but that didn’t stop us reaching our destination for the evening which was just before Junction Lock, some seven miles and five locks away. As we left the warehouses behind we passed some splendid riverside houses and gardens on the way, a few were a little over the top, but top marks for effort.
At Birstall, just North of Leicester, there is a large Somerfield supermarket, a few minutes walk from the canal and we filled our cupboards in readiness for Kim & John joining us.
We caught up with Anne & Tony, who had selected a superb location for the evening. A gentle weir bubbled away, leaving the river right opposite our mooring, it looked like a Constable painting, so very beautiful.