Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Halfway up the Atherstone Locks

You know I said yesterday seemed to be quiet? Well, all those boats we didn’t see then must have been out today! The first one went past us at 07:15, and from then till we untied ourselves there seemed to be a constant stream in both directions.

We got away at around 10:30, leaving a 10 minute gap to the last one to pass, but unwittingly pulling out in front of another just hidden around the bend…

There’s a derelict swing bridge amongst that mass of vegetation.DSC_0010
I don’t think it’s been used for a long, long time.

Flat countryside around here, till the rising ground of Ward’s Hill and Hartshill is encountered.DSC_0012

The Atherstone Locks climb about 80 feet along the flank of the hillside. And it’s these hills, or at least the granite that they’re made of, which was part of the reason for the canal. Quarries had produced high quality stone here for a long time, and the best transport for the bulk loads was by boat.

Grendon Dock


We pulled in for water and rubbish disposal at Grendon Bridge, then followed on, expecting a queue at the bottom of the locks….

…we weren’t disappointed, but it wasn’t quite as long as we’d expected.DSC_0016
Only two boats waiting and one in the lock on the way up.

It was only 30 minutes later that we were on our way up ourselves.DSC_0017

The first six locks are spaced in pairs, with longish pounds between each pair.DSC_0018

At first we were having to turn each lock as we were following other boats, but then we started meeting traffic on the way down so could swap locks.

Our last lock for the day was No 6, and a boat was waiting to come down. It was the fine-looking Sonoma, with the proud new owners now moving it from the Crick Boat Show to home moorings in Cheshire. It was built by Finesse Boats in Sheffield.DSC_0022

It was a longer day than expected, with the queues at the locks, but we were still tied up before 2 o’clock.

Up the remaining five tomorrow.

Locks 6, miles 3¼

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A tight squeeze at Glascote Locks.

We moved on today, after a night of heavy rain showers. Meg’s morning walk around the nature reserve alongside the River Tame ended up with a wet dog, pretty well all over, and me with wet feet.

It’s been cloudy and breezy, with rain threatening but never actually materialising.

Not rare, but not exactly common on the canals, a pair of goldeneyes cruised past this morning

Over the Tame Aqueduct.

A little further along is the Tamworth Cruising Club’s headquarters.IMG_4731


Approaching Glascote Locks, with no-one waiting to go up…IMG_4733
…but with a boat in the bottom lock, and going nowhere.

The reason was a boat stuck in the top lock, wanting to come down but also going nowhere with the top gate stuck open.

We had about an hour’s wait till things started moving again, but the fix was temporary at best, involving a jack and brute force. Even then we had to scrape our way out of the chamber. The crew reckon that they’ll have to have a stoppage on Thursday.

After this little bit of excitement we had an uneventful cruise out of the suburbs of Tamworth.


It’s hard to believe, looking at the lush vegetation alongside the canal between Alvecote and Polesworth, that this is the site of the extensive Pooley Hall Colliery.

Even the spoil heaps have been adopted by scrub birch and gorse.IMG_4751

Pooley Hall, just visible through the foliage at this time of year, is a 16th century manor house, built by one of Henry VII’s favourites.IMG_4755

The moorings at the north end of Polesworth village were surprisingly quiet, only one boat on there.

We don’t use these anymore, preferring those past Bridge 52. It’s further to the shops but there’s wide open spaces for Meg.

This working boat (Alcor, I think) was suffering a bit of engine trouble in an inconvenient spot just through Bridge 53.

The moorings I mentioned were busy, so we cruised around the corner to another pleasant spot we’ve used before.
It’s been quite a bit quieter on the water today. I guess the Bank Holiday weekenders are back in their marinas.

Locks 2, miles 6

Monday, May 29, 2017

Still at Fazeley, watching the boats go by.

Last Saturday we moved around the corner, onto the embankment leading to the Tame Aqueduct. It’s open and sunny here. Of course, since we moved we haven’t seen a lot of sun…

Dave and Barbara set off as well, but they’re on their way “dahn sarf”, so went considerably further than we did!
They pulled onto the services at Peels Wharf, we followed a few minutes later but went around the corner to take on water opposite the junction.

Looking back at the Canal Traders market.IMG_4709

We were still filling when Liberty Bell came past us again.IMG_4712
A lovely couple, we don’t get to see them often enough.

One of my little projects recently has been to replace the fenders that run around the counter. They’ve been on for a few years now and are looking a little worse for wear.

Also they are mounted a bit to far forward, using the aft-most fender eye, so they tend to catch against steel piling and in locks. As a trial I’ve bought some 32mm Hempex, artificial hemp, and spliced tails into either end of a pair of four foot lengths. With new fixings fitted towards the stern they sit where they’re supposed to, to protect the counter paintwork.IMG_4714
I‘m quite pleased with how they look, I just hope they perform as well.

Today we chose not to move again; the forecast was for rain on and off all day. But in between showers I managed to get the right side fender installed too, by pushing across the canal and mooring outside the CRT maintenance yard for an hour. Nobody there today, of course. I also got that side of the boat washed down. I’d scrubbed the roof and washed the right side yesterday. So we’re looking quite smart again, for a bit.

We’ll toddle on tomorrow, Polesworth I reckon. There’s a problem with the top of the two Glascote Locks, a boat has damaged the top gate so you can only go up with CRT assistance. There was a rumour that they were closing it for draining and inspection tomorrow, so I cycled up to have a chat with the lockie helping boats today. Turns out tomorrow it’ll be in operation, but it’s likely they’ll have a look at it on Wednesday. So if you’re heading this way take a look at the stoppages list… We’ll be well past by then.

There’s a moorhen nest opposite us, only one chick though and apparently only one parent. So we’ve kept them fed…

Only a mother could love them


More, please!

Locks 0, miles about a ¼, maybe.    

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.

Rhododendrons in Ravenshaw Wood.

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.
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


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

By Keepers Lock, this mum and young brood were unconcerned by me working right alongside.

Dave bringing Liberty Bell through the little swing bridge at the junction. The Swan is the white building across the junction.
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.

As easy as falling off sitting on a log…

…until Dave came along – he’s behind you!
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 -

…and swans

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
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

LB coming under Hopwas School Bridge
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