Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Still here…. Now we have snow.

It’s warmed up a little over the last 24 hours, so the ice seems to be thinning a bit. The forecasted snow has arrived today, large fluffy flakes coming in on the NE wind.
I might try to reverse back to the services tomorrow, it’ll make it so much easier to load the coal delivery when it arrives. If I lash the tiller straight ahead, engage reverse on tickover and break the ice with the pole as we go…..

A friend of ours, John, left a comment the other day. The offer of company on Bruno’s last walk I may well accept.
As far as the rest of the comment goes – I was under John’s parent’s kitchen sink, adapting the plumbing to fit a new tap. For better access the waste was removed. I’d caught some errant water in a dish and passed it up to John for disposal. I think you can guess where he poured it…… Yep, straight down the plug hole!
Ealing Comedies would have been proud of it, though they’d have had to dub the subsequent conversation…
And John, good luck with this year's Pickle Fest!

Mag’s grand-daughter, Melanie, still has three of the litter of labradors that her dog, Bess, had earlier in the autumn. All three are black dogs, KC registered and of gundog parents.
They’re up in Yorkshire. If anyone out there is interested, drop me a line or a comment and I’ll pass on your details.

Wot’s this white stuff, Bro’?
Totally unrelated, the Staffordshire Roaches near Leek are for sale. Part of the Peak District National Park, the gritstone outcrop was bought in an unusual move to protect access and the environment. The NP are now looking for a buyer, so that responsibility for maintenance is no longer a burden. The prospective purchaser will have to meet certain criteria, however, relating to access and conservation. It will still be part of the National Park.
We used to climb there a lot, during my younger days, and often went Wallaby spotting. Apparently they’ve all but died out now, though. They were released from a private zoo way back in the 30’s

Locks 0, Miles 0

Monday, November 29, 2010

Organising for a longish stay.

I’ve been on the phone today, setting us up for staying till after next weekend. I reckon it’s going to be that long before the canal is sensibly navigable.

First off was a call to BW to tell them where we are and that we’ll be staying put for a while. We’re on 48 hour moorings, you see, and have already been here 72! We don’t like overstaying, but in this case it’s unavoidable, and BW accept that.

Two unsuccessful calls followed, both in an attempt to get some solid fuel. The first supplier I spoke to was apologetic, but with demand as it is couldn’t fit me in till next week. We’ll be icicles by then! The second just rang, so I left a message.

Then I toddled off into the village, to arrange for the mail to be delivered to the Post Office here. Although they’re obliged to offer this service, as a matter of courtesy I always ask first.
My phone rang while I was waiting in the queue, so I busied it then rang back when I got outside. It was Allens Fuels from Cannock replying to the message I left earlier. He’ll be able to deliver to the wharf on Wednesday, so that’s a weight off my mind. Ten bags of Taybrite, not my preferred product, but beggars can’t be choosers.
I’ll have to be careful getting them to the boat, each bag has to be carried across the upper lock gate before I can barrow it to the boat. I wouldn’t want to fall in at the moment.

We had a visitor this afternoon as I was oiling my wheels ready for Wednesday. A bit nearer the lock is another boat, NB Festina Lente. Rita was on her way to the shops and stopped for a chat on her way past. I’m sure we’ll see more of her and husband “Scooby” during the next few days….

Here’s an example of the unofficial support structure that operates within the boating community. Ray and Jayne on NB Travelling in No Direction left a message after yesterday’s post regarding finding some coal. They offered to bring some across to us by car if we’re stuck. Bear in mind that we’ve never actually met…. But that will be rectified in the future.
Thanks, both.

Locks 0, miles 0

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ice-bound at Penkridge

Well, in common with just about everyone else on the water, we’re not going anywhere. We’re on the 48 hour moorings at Penkridge, but I don’t think we’re going to be penalised for overstaying. We’ve not had much snow yet, just an inch on Friday night, but the temperatures have been well below freezing.

Penkridge mooring
We’re in a good situation here, far better than last January! We’re only 200 yards from the sani-station, and the village centre is less than 10 minutes away. I went up and had a look around the market on Saturday. It’s well worth a visit if you’re here, lots of stalls.
The locals are friendly, used to boaters I guess. Meg’s already made several new chums, both human and canine.
The only concern now is solid fuel. We used the last of the wood this morning, and are now down to 5 days worth of smokeless. I’ll be ringing round the coal merchants in the morning….
One boat arrived yesterday from the south, reporting variable thicknesses of ice up to Gailey. He moored a little nearer the lock and hasn’t moved on today. Nor has anyone else.

Locks 0, miles 0

Friday, November 26, 2010

Brrr… Chilly, init!

-5° last night left us with a frozen canal. The bright sunshine soon cleared the frost off the grass but didn’t make a lot of impression on the ¼” of ice on the water.

Cold outside, roaring fire inside.
Meg and I had a walk up to have a look at Teddesley Park, a little way up the canal.

Across Teddesley Park
The hall is no more having been demolished in the 50’s, but the stables and service blocks, once wings of the main structure, are still in use, just visible to the right of the picture.
Teddesley Hall was built in the 18C, and was the home of the Littleton family until 1930 when the death of the then heir left it empty. It was taken over by the army during WWII, and was a POW camp for German officers, then reverted back to the family, before being sold along with the remaining 2,796 acres of parkland in 1953.

Teddesley Hall, courtesy of Matthew Beckett, ‘Lost Heritage - Demolished Country Houses of England'

It wasn’t known for it’s visual beauty, in 1789 it was described as 'rather deficient in the usual graces of architecture'.

We made the short cruise into Penkridge at around midday, taking it gently through the ice.

Up Penkridge Lock, a visit to the sani-station for water and the usual “offices”, then we pulled in on the visitor moorings in the middle of the village.

Meg and I kept our appointment with the local vet, then had a walk along the towpath and back before stoking up the fire and sitting down to beef casserole and jacket potatoes.
It’s supposed to be very cold again tonight, the open water we made on arrival has already frozen over.

Locks 1, miles ¾

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Resupplied and a short cruise.

Nigel the Tescoman arrived at 11:00, but it was 12:15 by the time everything was stowed and we were ready to move on.
A couple of boats had dropped down Park Gate Lock, leaving it empty and ready for us, but as soon as I started to get ready to go, a boat came up from behind. I could have pulled out and got into the lock before they arrived, but get annoyed if someone does that to me, so opened the gates and waved them in.
As they were going up I pulled Seyella up onto the lock landing, then went and closed up for them as they left, before emptying the lock for us.

We decided not to go into Penkridge tonight, so pulled over just after going up Longford Lock.

Under the M6.

Heron, sheep stampede and M6.
It’s 4 years ago yesterday since our last dog, Bruno, died. He’d only had just over 3 months with us on the boat when he started to have fits, followed by a massive stroke. The vet diagnosed a brain tumour, and couldn’t do anything for him.

Most weekends we’d be up on the 3 Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales, and I’ve an abiding memory of him trotting along happily on the ridge up to Whernside, a blizzard blowing in from the right sheathing his fur in ice. It didn’t bother him at all.

But he also liked his home comforts….

We’ve still got his ashes on board. I think when we’re in the Dales again we’ll have a last walk together up Whernside, and I’ll leave him up there.
Of all the dogs you have, one always stands out. I love Meg to bits, and would miss her terribly if anything happened to her, but there was only one Bruno…

Less of this maudlin sentimentality.

Locks 2, miles 1

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Colder

Last night we had the sharpest frost so far, everything was white when I got up around 8 this morning, and there was even a skin of ice on the canal in places.
But it was a clear morning, the bright sun soon burning the frost off.

Reflections at Hazelstrine Bridge, No 96
I’ve tried to find out the origin of “strine”. Most bridges were named for local landmarks or places, and I was wondering if strine was Celtic or Saxon for copse or wood.
Unfortunately, the only reference I can find is for a comic Australian English where the words are spoken with a strong western Australian accent and run together. Eg 'Eye-level arch play devoisters ...' ("I'll have a large plate of oysters"). If you want a laugh have a look at these…

Another short trip today, just up to Park Gate. We’ve got a Tesco delivery coming in the morning, and you can moor almost next to a layby below the lock. It’s also a handy stop for Midland Chandlers, although I’ve resisted the temptation so far - although we do need some loo blue…. And there’s probably something else we need once I get in there.

The sun stayed out all day, just a bit of high cloud knocking about. It was warm in the sun, but the temperature dropped alarmingly as soon as you ran into shade.

Back gardens of Acton Trussell.
After stowing all the food we’ll toddle on and find somewhere to moor in Penkridge. Meg is booked in with the doggy-doctor for her annual check-up and boosters on Friday afternoon.

Locks 1, miles 4

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California Dreamin’ – on Cannock Chase.

“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray”, the first line of the iconic 1965 song by the Mamas & the Papas kept drifting through my mind as Meg and I climbed up onto Cannock Chase this morning.

Not Central Park New York, though.
We only had a look at the north western end of the 26 square mile Chase, climbing a couple of hundred feet up from the river valley.

Looking NW from the top of Spring Hill
Then we swung back west, dropping down off the high ground onto the arable fields to Walton-on-the-Hill, before picking up the canal again at Walton Bridge.

St. Thomas’s, Walton.
The pretty brick roving bridge at Milford.The towpath swaps sides here, and the ramp curves round from under the arch to carry the towpath over the canal. This allows the boat horse to cross over without unhitching the tow rope.

Stone built aqueduct carrying the canal over the River Sow.
The sun came out as we set off at around 11:00, the canal heading NW around Baswich Hill before turning decisively south towards Wolverhampton.

Thrush at lunch
I hadn’t realised, but there was a short link constructed from the canal near Baswich, joining the River Sow, and terminating in the centre of Strafford.

Plans are afoot to reinstate the 1½ mile Stafford Branch Canal, but there’s a bit of work to do.

The link left here, the brick abutments of the towpath bridge can be seen either end of the weir.
Then there was a basin…..Before the canal crossed a stream on an aqueduct……

Looking back to the “main line”, some brickwork from the aqueduct is still visible poking through the ground.Then dropped down a lock to the river.
None of the original structures survive, and the river will have to be deepened (again). The terminal basin is now a car park, but it could be a worthwhile project…. If funding can be found.

A couple of miles on we went up the 10’ deep Deptmore Lock, before mooring up for the night.

Deptmore Lock.The lock house is being renovated.

It’s not been a bad day, bright but cold.

Locks 1, miles 4½

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moving on….

After spending a pleasant weekend at Great Haywood, it was time to move on this morning. Well, it was nearer mid-day before we actually got going, with shopping and a second visit to the Post Office for mail. This second package contained a new phone, one of those new-fangled touch screen smart phones. Just got to work out how to use it, now. I think the major problem is going to be finding it. It’s not much bigger than a box of Swan matches!

Xperia X10 Mini

We needed a fill of diesel, so pulled over onto Anglo-Welsh’s wharf alongside the junction, then, filled and emptied, we backed up and ducked under the bridge onto the Staffs and Worcs again.

Back onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.
Most of the hire fleet seem to be here at the moment.

And over the River Trent for the last time for a while.
Still burning wood, then…..
Smokey, but it does smell good.

We’d decided to moor just above Tixall Lock, a good place to access footpaths leading up onto Cannock Chase. That’s mine and Meg’s exercise sorted for tomorrow.

Up Tixall Lock
The lock cottage here is beautifully kept.

We’ve had a few bright spells today, but the sky darkened later and we had a couple of showers. The weather is due to change, according to the forecast. The relatively mild, damp conditions we’ve got now are going to be replaced by clear cold weather, driven by a north-easterly. Snow is expected on the east coast, but we’ll probably get away with it here in the Midlands.

Locks 1, miles 1½

Friday, November 19, 2010

Still at Great Haywood

All being well we’ll be away over the weekend, but for now we’re stuck here waiting for a mail delivery.
After Wednesday’s appalling weather, with strong winds and rain all day, there’s been a bit of an improvement. Yesterday was bright at times but showery, today is one of those typical autumn days, misty and cool. Often after a start like this the sun breaks through later, but today it looks like it’s not going to manage it.

View from the side hatchYou can tell I’ve just opened the hatch, the beggars are heading this way!

The swans are so tame you can feed them by hand.
There’s not a lot to report, walks with Ann and the dogs, chats over cups of tea, just taking it easy.

This morning NB Moore2Life set off up the Staffs and Worcester towards Penkridge.

Charles and Ann head off into the murk.
We moved off a little later, but in the opposite direction, back down to Great Haywood Junction. Pulling on to the services we filled with water, got a couple of bags of solid fuel to keep us going (we’ve still plenty of wood on the roof, but this time of year you never know….) and filters and oil for the next engine service, due in a couple of weeks.
Then we reversed back across the junction and moored on the 48 hour visitor moorings above the lock.
I say 48 hour, but to my personal knowledge there have been 3 boats moored here at least a week….

Not able to get any sort of TV picture using the aerial, I’ve had to dust off the satellite dish and set that up for the first time in ages.
Since most areas have “gone digital”, mooring spots with notoriously poor TV reception are often much better, and we’ve been able to use the aerial much more. But, although we’ve only moved about ¾ mile East as the crow flies, the good signal we enjoyed on the Wide is non-existent here.

Hopefully the mail will arrive tomorrow, and we can set if in M2L’s wake, up the Staffs and Worcs. They’re intending to head down to Stourport, but we’ll turn off at Autherley Junction, and head north again up the Shroppie.

Christmas must be coming, this from BW :-

River Severn - Stourport Pontoons
Friday 19 November 2010 until further notice

River pontoon between the broad and narrow locks at Stourport will be closed until further notice,due to the presents of dangerous trees.

Enquiries: 01452 318000

(The italics are mine)

I wonder what they’re getting…

One of this winter’s stoppages is at Anderton, and it’s being promoted as an alternative visitor attraction. No boats, but you can look at a muddy ditch….

Locks 0, miles ¾

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tixall Wide and Shugborough

We moved around the corner on Sunday, onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to Tixall wide. We moored just along from Charles and Ann on NB Moore2Life, and Del and Al on NB Derwent 6 are just a bit further the other way.

Sunset over Cannock Chase
Busy as usual at Great Haywood Junction
Arriving at the wide
We’ve had some fine weather these last couple of days, clear and frosty nights, calm and sunny days.

Frosty morning across Tixall Wide.

The mail is coming to the handy Post office in Great Haywood, so I guess we’ll be here for a few more days. It’s a good place to lay over for a while, plenty of good walking and the shops in the village are only 20 minutes away.

Shugborough Park is close by, and there’s an enjoyable 4 mile circular walk along the towpath, through the park to Great Haywood, then back along the canal.

Shugborough Park
Triumphal Arch, built to commemorate George Anson’s circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740’s.
It was on this voyage that he captured a Spanish treasure galleon, the cargo of which ensured financial stability for the family for the next 300 years.

Shugborough Hall
The park is linked to the village across Essex bridge, allegedly built in 1550 by the Earl of Essex so that Queen Elizabeth I, visiting the house, could ride to hunt in the woods along the river.

Essex BridgeUnfortunately now surfaced with 20th century tarmac!

Another bridge, wide enough for horse and carriage, was constructed a little further downstream, followed by an iron bridge crossing the canal.

Carriage road, leading to the river crossing.
Only the abutments of the river bridge now remain,
But the iron canal bridge is still intact.
Today I set to and got all the logs we’d collected recently sawn to length, I’ll split them into stove sized bits as we go.
Charles and Ann went off into Stafford so we dogsat Molly. She and Meg get on tolerably well, in fact they spent most of the afternoon asleep. Molly was glad to see Mum and Dad back, though.

Locks 1, miles 1½

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friends at Great Haywood

We waited out the weather again yesterday. The wind was very strong, blowing across spells of rain, not good boating conditions.

We often cross aqueducts on our way around the network, but don’t often have the chance to see what holds up the trough of water. So I had a walk back to Brindley Bank to have a look at the aqueduct there. There’s no actual path down to the banks of the Trent here, so Meg and I had to push through the undergrowth to get a view of the structure. A bit disappointed.
Four blue brick arches carry the canal over the river. Not the most elegant, but practical.

Brindley Bank Aqueduct
Just down from the aqueduct is where the body of Christina Collins was discovered, in June 1839. She was travelling as a passenger on a narrowboat to London to meet her husband. Two boatmen were convicted and hung for her rape and murder. A third was transported to Australia.
The unfortunate Christina was carried up the steps and along the path to what is now the A51. Alongside this path was built a water pumping station by the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company. The pump was steam driven, built in Leeds in 1903.

Brindley Bank Pumping Station

I watched the online debate about the future of BW, hosted by Waterways World, last evening. Some interesting points raised, but a bit tamer than I expected.

We toddled off just a couple of miles up to Great Haywood today. It was a bright morning, but the wind that has been a major feature of the weather recently is still with us. Not so bad, though.
A short stop at Wolseley Bridge netted us some beech logs trimmed off a tree overhanging the canal, then as the railway swings in towards the canal, reached Colwich Lock.

Colwich Lock
On the summer mornings this lock is always a bottleneck. Great Haywood is a popular overnight stop, and boats leaving the following morning tend to catch each other up at the lock. In the past we’ve been part of a seven boat queue, heading south.

Another mile and we pulled over near the iron bridge which linked the Shugborough Hall to the village.

Meg and I had a walk up towards the junction and met Charles and Ann on NB Moore2Life, moored above Haywood Lock. It’s been a while since we saw them last, and they came back to ours for a brew and a catch-up.
They’re intending to move around the corner onto Tixall Wide tomorrow, we’ll join them, either tomorrow or Sunday.

Here’s a story to warm the cockles of BW’s new charity heart; a request for funding for dredging a canal and they’re not being asked, not directly. Of course, the Cromford isn’t reconnected to the main network, at least not yet.

Locks 1, miles 2¾

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Through Rugeley

Today was better than yesterday, and on a different planet to Monday, so we decided to move on a bit.
I’ve not been idle these last three days. Not far from where we moored on Saturday was a felled tree, just down the bank from the towpath. So we moved up to moor alongside, and the chainsaw was deployed to good effect.
I got a fair bit cut on Sunday, then some more yesterday between showers. My saw is electric, a 14” Ryobi, and I had to make up an extension lead to reach the most distant bits. I won’t have petrol on board, gas is enough of a potential risk.
So we’ve now got quite a bit of wood on the roof, should last us a couple of weeks.
I got some other minor jobs done inside while the rain lashed down all day Monday.

This morning we pulled pins soon after 9 o’clock, into our only lock of the day, Woodend, after 5 minutes.

Meg had hopped off the bow as I was sorting out the mooring lines, and couldn’t get back on at the stern before we moved off. So she had to follow us to the lock.
Unlike a lot of boat dogs (Lucy and Meg on No Problem spring immediately to mind) our Meg isn’t too happy with this arrangement.

Come on, Dad.
Woodend, as the name implies, is at the end of Ravenshaw Wood, which seems to have dumped it’s full complement of leaves into the canal over the last few days.

Leafy in Woodend Lock
For nearly a mile, while the canal skirted the wood on the left bank, we had to clear the prop with a burst of reverse every couple of minutes.

Near Kings Bromley Wharf there’s a new mini marina appeared on the offside, with a useful dry dock under a poly-tunnel at the back.

New Moorings
The Trent valley is well known for it’s power stations, using the ready supply of water. Further downstream they come thick and fast, here they’re a bit rarer, but there’s one at Rugeley.

Rugeley Power Station in the sun.
We stopped in the town for a visit to the handy Morrisons near Bridge 66, then chugged on, now heading more north-westerly, crossing the Trent on Brindley’s Aqueduct.

Over the Trent.
The river is a bit swollen up here, but further downstream the floodgates at Sawley and Cranfleet were closed yesterday.

Just after the new by-pass bridge we were caught up and overtaken by a guy who must have had somewhere to be…..

Man on a mission.
There’ve been a few boats about today, but now the holidays are over there’s a swing towards private boats. Only one hire boat spotted today, NB Patricia from Stone.

We pulled over about a ¼ mile short of Taft Bridge.

After a fine but cold day, I reckon we’re going to have a crispy night.

Here’s something I didn’t know. The owners and developers of Mercia Marina near Willington are from the Thorntons Chocolate family. Sweet.

Locks 1, miles 8