Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fine weather and travelling with friends.

We moved down into Fradley Junction on Tuesday, turning right and mooring up on the Coventry Canal.

Past Kings Bromley Wharf.
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Rhododendrons in Ravenshaw Wood.
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A boat was ahead of us so we had to turn Woodend Lock, but it’s not deep so didn’t take long.

Mags coming out of Woodend Lock.
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The iron straps on the capping stones of the bridge are to protect the masonry from horse-boat ropes. You can see the grooves worn into the metal. Rollers were also used. The towpath doesn’t run through these narrow lock-tail bridges, so the rope would have to be detached from the boat as it drifted into the chamber.

Shade House Lock was next, and we timed it right with a boat just leaving as we arrived.IMG_4673

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There were volunteers on Middle and Junction Locks, we had help on the former and didn’t need the latter, turning onto the Coventry just above.

We filled with water then got ourselves moored up.

Dave and Barbara on NB Liberty Bell were a day late getting away from their marina in Burton on Trent, so didn’t arrive until yesterday. I walked down to Hunts Lock to meet them and help them up the last three locks to join us after the junction.

Dave and Barbara in Hunts Lock
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By Keepers Lock, this mum and young brood were unconcerned by me working right alongside.
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Dave bringing Liberty Bell through the little swing bridge at the junction. The Swan is the white building across the junction.
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We had a good afternoon and evening, catching up over drinks and food.

This morning we set off in convoy, and it was already hot when we moved off at 10:00.

Heading off up the Coventry Canal.
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As easy as falling off sitting on a log…
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…until Dave came along – he’s behind you!
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Yes, they did get out of the way but had to abandon the log!

The shady bits were a relief from the sun.IMG_4687
Reminded me of a long-ago Maltese holiday. After a fraught day avoiding seemingly fearless local drivers in our hired Mini, I asked the rep which side of the road are you supposed to drive on? His answer – why, the shady side, of course!

There’s some serious maintenance needed on this stretch, both below and above the water…IMG_4688  

Little-uns -
Moorhens…
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…and swans
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A little history…
The Enabling Act for the Coventry Canal was passed in 1768, and work began immediately, starting at Coventry Basin. The following year construction had reached Atherstone but the money had run out. The shareholders probably weren’t that bothered, the canal had linked the Warwickshire coalfields and quarries with Coventry and points south via the Oxford Canal, so I’m sure they were looking forward to some return on their investments. Construction of the 11 locks at Atherstone would have put a considerable dent in any profits that were generated.
But the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was under construction, intending to connect Birmingham with the Coventry Canal at Fazeley.
And the Trent and Mersey Canal Company was also looking forward to a lucrative link to Birmingham and the south from Fradley, via the Coventry Canal. So pressure was applied to get the CCC to finish the line as far as Fazeley, while the B&F would follow the route surveyed for the Coventry Canal, heading north, and the T&M would construct the section from Fradley southwards. The link was finally completed in 1789, the two sections joining end-to-end at Whittington Brook.

Just here, in fact
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The T&M-constructed bit was later bought and operated by the Coventry Canal, but the 5½ mile B&F bit never was, so the northern 5½ miles from Whittington to Fradley Junction remains an isolated section of the Coventry Canal.




Had they not put their collective hands into their collective pockets, this section could have been known as the Whittington Branch of the Trent and Mersey.

One of the B&F’s idiosyncrasies was their habit of naming bridges rather than numbering them. So from Whittington southwards…IMG_4697

Hopwas Hays Wood rises up the valley side as the canal picks up the course of the River Tame
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LB coming under Hopwas School Bridge
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It was busy with moored boats at Sutton Road Bridge.IMG_4702
LB is now in front, we having run aground avoiding a Kate Boats hirer who obviously had places to be – yesterday. Rather than have Dave wait while I unstuck us I waved him past.

We finally moored just shy of Peels Wharf in Fazeley, just off the 48 hour moorings. IMG_4704

There’s a canal traders market on the moorings over the Bank Holiday weekend, so they are unavailable anyway for a few days.

We’ll stay here tomorrow, it’s been a long, hot one today, so we need a day off! Moving on again on Saturday – probably.

Since Monday – Locks 3, miles 13½

Monday, May 22, 2017

Manic Monday!

Wow, it’s been crazy today! At just about every blind bend, bridge hole or narrows we met at least one, often several, oncoming boats.

It started well, a gentle 15 minute chug to fill with diesel at NB Dexta at Taft Wharf, aka the pig farm. A very reasonable 67p/litre.
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Then another 35 minutes and we were tied up near Bridge 66 so I could make a quick visit to Tesco’s.

Over the Trent, it’s getting bigger now…
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A splendid little duck house, fit for an MP’s garden!IMG_4639

In front of us when I got back was NB City of Durham, belonging to Nick and Anne. It appears that Nick is a long-term blog reader, though how he puts up with this drivel is beyond me…
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They’re on their way to take part in this year’s BCN Challenge, hoping to better their ranking from last year.
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Good luck with that, guys.

The chaos started soon after we left the moorings. First I had to run into the offside shallows to let two boats through Bridge 64, then we met another under Bridge 62, the one with the awkward S bend under the main road. There was a queue for the water point just beyond, then, at the end of the long length of moorings there was a boat emerging from the narrows where Armitage Tunnel used to be.
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I held back to let him get clear before we went through ourselves.IMG_4647
By this time we were at the head of a three-boat convoy.

Coming past The Plum Pudding we met another two, I think the following pair may have cleared the narrows by then though, then got through the next restriction, below the church and around the corner, unopposed.
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It’s the next narrow bit, I hate. Beyond the railway bridge there’s a left bend before Bridge 59, leaving you unsighted through the overgrown channel.
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Of course, a boat was just coming through the bridge as we rounded the curve…IMG_4655
We’ve some scratches on the cabin side from where I had to dive into the shrubbery. They should polish out, though.

My nerves were getting a little frazzled by now, I think we’d seen more boats this morning than through the entire winter!

For the next 10 minutes the canal was empty, then another three boats arrived at Bridge 58, just as we did.
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I held back to let the first one through, drifting into the offside shallows for my trouble, so decided to stay there while the second, hard on his leader’s heels, came through too. He dithered and dallied while I got more and more frustrated waiting for him to make a move.
It’s not easy holding a narrowboat in one place while there’s a breeze, shallow water and a passing boat. Finally my frantic gesticulating got through and he very gingerly crept past. I wasn’t waiting for number three, pulling out and going for it while he got out of my way! IMG_4657

The last mile or so to our overnight stop near Bridge 55 passed without incident, what few boats we saw were met on wider bits of the canal.

We pulled in, allowing past the hire boat that had been chasing us since Handsacre, at around 2 o’clock.IMG_4658

Aah, summer cruising on the Trent and Mersey, don’t you just love it… Maybe we should join Nick and Anne on the nether regions of the BCN!

Tomorrow to Fradley Junction.

Locks 0, miles 8

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A long day and a brief encounter

With a fine day in the offing we decided to make up a bit of the time lost yesterday, getting off at around a quarter to ten.

Clearing skies last evening
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A good start to the day
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Our first lock was a half-mile away, at Sandon.IMG_4607

Old lock paddle in the garden of the keeper’s cottageIMG_4608

Ornate brickwork on Salt Bridge
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Not far from Salt Bridge, just after passing a length of permanent moorings on the offside, a familiar boat came into sight around the corner.
It was NB Pilgrim with Malcolm and Barbara. We’d not seen them for a year or two, and I think then it was ships boats passing in the night day.

We first met up on the Wirral Line of the Ellesmere Canal, now the stretch of the Shropshire Union north of Chester. We’d moored up against a stretch of piling, struggling to find a deep enough spot. Pilgrim came along hoping that the one spot deep enough for their 30” draught was free, which of course it wasn’t. We were on it!
I did feel a little guilty as they had to tie up with the stern stuck out in the channel, but not guilty enough to move!
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We spent 15 minutes floating stern to stern in the middle of the cut chatting, before an oncoming boat made us go our opposite ways. We may see them later in the year though.

Goose creche near Weston.
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I think there were three families here. One pair of adults were on guard duty, another was grazing and the third couple were splashing about in the canal. They can be a right nuisance, but you can’t fault their parenting skills.

The development to the south of Weston has now completely surrounded the old wharf.IMG_4616

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I wonder how long it’ll be before the new residents start to complain about the old boats at the end of the garden…

Waiting for a boat coming up Weston LockIMG_4618
Lovely spot, this. Quiet moorings above and below the lock.

Three-quarters of an hour later we were waiting for another upcoming boat, this time at Hoo Mill.

Mother swan keeps her youngsters close while Dad makes threatening gestures at the large noisy thing invading their space.IMG_4620

Hoo Mill Lock
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It took a while, this one. The couple had only just bought the boat, setting off from Great Haywood Marina just a quarter-hour before. The lady doing the paddles was taking it very, very slowly. No rush though. Better to be slow and safe than over-confident and careless.

Great Haywood Junction, busy as usual
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I had help with the gates at Haywood Lock, a couple of small boys were keen to add their weight to the balance beam. 

Not just boats and would-be lock-keepers either, plenty of walkers about enjoying the day.IMG_4624

IMG_4626Colwich Lock was next, after cruising past Little Haywood. There’s often morning queues here, it being the first lock south of the popular Great Haywood moorings. But it must be even worse at the moment, with only one top paddle operational it takes ages to fill the chamber.



There was one boat ahead of us when we arrived, and another behind by the time we’d refilled the lock.

We pulled in just before Wolseley Bridge, with the Trent running a couple of hundred yards to the right and the ancient hunting grounds of Cannock Chase rising beyond.
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It’s been a good day, a bit breezy, but warm when the sun appeared from behind the clouds.

Tomorrow we’ll fill with diesel at Taft Wharf then toddle into Rugeley for a bit of shopping. We’ll not stay in the town though, we’ll carry on towards Fradley.

Locks 5, miles 8½