Category Archives: Daily Trip Report

The Shroppie

So, we are on our way to Worcester to buy a guitar. However whether we will actually get there is far from certain.

One of the things I have grown to enjoy about boating is the lack of need to plan, and the fact that most of the enjoyment is the journey rather than the destination. 

In my early boating years I was the type of person who, on picking up the boat, would already have calculated that given the daylight available could do the 4 counties ring plus the Caldon canal (both branches) in a week without breaking a. Sweat!

This trip felt a bit like a return to those days, and I am not sure if I will be able to keep up the pace, but on the other hand, I do like a challenge!

So…. The Shroppie. Everyone loves the Shropshire union Canal, but me, I am not so sure. 

But before I get to that let me talk for a moment about the feature on the canal printed in the latest issue of Waterways World. Whilst I would never accuse them of lazy journalism, I do wonder how much time they spent researching this article. Rather I suspect, they dusted off some copy printed in a previous edition. As eveidence, I present the following:

Barbridge – “with a pint or 2 from the couple of pubs vying for attention! – In fact there is only one pub at Barbridge now, The Barbridge inn. The other – The Jolly Tar I believe – was knocked down a couple of years ago! – in their defense, they do only show one pub on the map!

The Anchor – It mentions the quaint use of “Enamel Jugs” to serve the beer. Unless they have gone back to them, they had a hand pump on the bar when I visited last year.

It does feel a little like  they have dusted off some old copy for a feature on the Shropshire Union to save some time, but I may be wrong!

Anyway back to our trip, and my view of the SU canal. In my eyes it’s a bit dull, yes it does have some epic cuttings, but it was built to get from A to B in a straight line as fast as possible, and today it definitely still has that air about it. 

In this instance, we did infact want to get from A to B as fast as possible and in that it serve its purpose!  And it does feature may favorite sign on the whole canal network!

Good Job Mr Telford. For the canal – not the sign!

A Trip with a Purpose

It is said that every trip must have a purpose. Whilst, when it comes to narrowboating I would not always agree, in this case, our current trip does infact have a purpose.

To begin my story we need to go back a couple of months when, for no particular reason I decided to learn to play the bass guitar.

Rather than dive in and buy one I decided to see if I could borrow a bass so that I could give it a go. And sure enough, someone was kind enough to oblige.

The only issue was that it had too many strings! All the lessons I can find on line, bass, tabs etc are all for a normal 4 sting instrument, but the one I borrowed had 5!

Not a problem I thought, a 5 string Bass is just a 4 with an extra string (B if you are interested), so I can just ignore the 5th sting and use it like a normal bass. This was fine, but the probelem was learning an instrument is hard enough without having to negotiate unused strings. My so, solution was to remove the offending string!

Problem solved.

“So what does all this have to do with the purpose of a narrowboat trip” I hear you ask. Well let me tell you.

We had decided that this years big trip would be to Worcester. I also thought that if I am serious about learning to play the bass, I should at least learn on one with the correct number of strings.

As Worcester has a number of music shops, I thought I would combine the two decisions, and head to Worcester to buy a Guitar.

Hence the trip with a purpose.

So watch this space, and I will keep you up to date with how the trip and the Guitar playing go!

 

Beer and Brasso – Broken Cross BC Closing Cruise

closing_cruise-21-of-24Boating in September is always a bit of a gamble where the weather is concerned, but in this instance it was defiantly an each way win as the day, whilst not sunny, dawned dry & bright.

With the fire stoked, the good ship Blue Rover set off from Anderton armed with 4 copies of the observation quiz and eight eyes set to take on what was touted as the fiendishly difficult task of getting a perfect score.

Things started well up to the Salt Barge with answers flowing freely, but the monk’s hoods at the salt works sent the crew into a wild debate as to what constructed a cowl, and by the time it was resolved we were a couple of clues down! As anyone who has been in a tricky maneuvering situation knows, it’s amazing how fast narrowboats travel when you need time to think.

The quiz gave this very familiar piece of canal a new interest and it is remarkable how many times, the exclamation “well, I have never noticed that before!” was heard on the trip.

3 1/2 hours later, and fully confident that we had scored well on the quiz we arrived a big lock to discover we were pretty much the last to arrive with boats moored 2 deep from big lock to the corner.

A quick trip through big lock to the winding hole and back, and by 5 we were securely moored up just around the corner from the other boats. Ample time to finalise the last few quiz answers before setting off for the pub at 7:30.

We had been warned about BCBC time and that 7:30 for 8 meant be there by 7:15, and sure enough we were the last to arrive (well almost) when we turned up at 7:30.

I say we were the last to arrive, this is if you don’t include one member ( I will let you guess who!) who having just purchased a new headlamp for his boat, decided to wait until after dark to arrive so that he could test it out. I guess that could explain the reports of bright lights drifting slowly over the Cheshire countryside, that came in that night!

Having visited the London Camera exchange on a recent cruise to Chester, I was keen to try out my new toy, and thus being in possession of what looked like a proper camera, was quickly volunteered as scribbler & official photographer for the event (That will teach me!).

Throughout the meal, an excellent rendition of traditional British pub fayre, the wine (other beverages were available) and conversation flowed freely, and soon came the highlight of the evening – the results of the quiz!

Whilst some of the answers did spark some family lively debate; “was that REALLY a gold finger?” 20 minutes later the results were in – And the winner was – (obligatory 20 second pause) –  Peter & Judy Jones – a fitting result following Daeve Hook having triumphed in the last observation quiz – set by – yes you guessed it Peter Jones. All in all, a fitting result for the rematch.

With an uneventful and, without the stress of the quiz, enjoyably relaxed trip back the following morning, it was all in all a great end to the season.

New Ebay delivery service

When we decided it was time for an upgrade to Blue Rover’s hot water system, little did we know what we were starting!

We replaced the existing vertical calorifier located in the engine room with a new horizontal version which we could fit under the bed (toasty!) But what to do with the old and perfectly servicable calorifier? Ebay seemed the perfect solution.

Seven days later and the calorifier was sold to it new owner. We just needed to get it to him.

Loading on to Blue Rover ready for the delivery trip
Loading on to Blue Rover ready for the delivery trip

With Blue Rover based at Anderton on the T&M and the new owner at Preston Brook Marina at the bottom of the Runcorn  Arm, the answer seemed obvious. Delivery by narrowboat wasn’t an option on the Ebay menu but what the heck! Arrangements were made and the calorifer was shipped aboard Blur Rover for the journey to Preston Brook. 3 hours, 3 tunnels and 1 lock later, delivery was made to the new owner on their project boat, a 70ft x 12ft ex trip boat with an interesting feature – propellors and rudders at both ends – no need to wind. I know a few people who would benefit from this addition!

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Safe arrival and handover at Preston Brook Marina

Good luck to Mick in his project. I hope his new calorifier provides many years of hot water. Maybe our experience will open up a whole new option for Ebay deliveries?

Homeward Bound – Days 5 & 6

Stowaways – 1

Wales – 0 (Portugal 2)

Swan attacks -1

Flesh eating horse fly attacks – 1

Day 5 dawned bright and sunny (this is getting monotonous) and we set off at 8 am on what would prove to be a long day’s cruise. Overnight I had been informed that ‘the toilet appears to be overflowing‘ it didn’t appear to be overflowing, it WAS overflowing – and guess who had to deal with it!

Inevitably my focus was on reaching the CRT services at Great Heywood and normalising the toilet situation. As we passed through Rugeley we suddenly realised we needed a provisions restock (actually I think my crew needed to visit the toilet at Tesco) so they were both despatched as I cruised on alone. I don’t think they appreciated that typical cruising speed is pretty similar to typical walking speed so it could take HOURS for them to catch up. Eventually I relented I slowed to wait for them.

The swan attack took place in the afternoon as a (perfectly reasonable) swan took offence to crew member Neil being in the vicinity and decide to lash out. Neil cranked the throttle and left the neighbourhood. Peace returned as we headed for Stone.

Good thing we hadn’t planned to stop in Stone. There was NO space. This seems to be pretty common in the area (in my experience). As we ascended Stone locks we passed the birthplace of my favourite narrowboat (Strathspey – if anyone knows the owner and can convince them to sell for a fair price, give me a call!)

Then ensued our daily debate of what to do for the evening – pub or countryside. The pub on offer was the Plume of Feathers at Barlaston and, as regular readers of this stuff will know, we aren’t impressed. The earlier correspondent from May tried to convince that it was really OK despite their rant here.

We weren’t swayed and my home made macaroni cheese at a mooring as far from the railway line as possible was order of the day.

Question: Has anyone visited Lakeside Tavern? It is marked in Pearson but there is no reference in the text. Last TripAdvisor report was in 2014 but there were cars parked outside this morning?

Having listened to Andy Murray’s Quarter Final Wimbledon victory on the radio, we eventually fired up the TV to watch the second half of Wales-Portugal. The deed was done and what we saw wasn’t great.

Rain overnight had cleared by this morning and as we stopped to queue at Trentham Lock the stowaway boarded. I noticed a Robin standing on the edge of the cratch he/she then hopped down onto the cratch floor to feast on the detritus from yesterday’s crisps. All fine but I was taken aback when said robin the flew into the saloon. I dread to think what happened over the next minutes but when I returned to take the boat into the lock, the interloper was nowhere to be seen and, as far as I could tell, all valuables were in place.

On the way towards Stoke, the horseflies got hungry. Fortunately for Neil and I, Steve was the tastiest.

Pounds were low through the Stoke flight but we got up the locks with no problems. Between Stoke and Harecastle it started to rain! Not a lot but enough to make me put my coat on. We arrived at the tunnel just as as southbound convoy started – and with one of them taking 50 mins to get through (leaving clouds of exhaust in their wake).

Since Blue Rover went south in May, new profile boards had been fitted at the Harecastle entrance. Our topbox squeezed through with about an inch to spare. The tunnel keeper was happy and we were off.

35 minutes and we were through – out into sunshine and on to Heartbreak hill. Very easy passage down to Rode Heath and the Broughton Arms for tea. (We visited the Royal Oak but weren’t convinced)

On the way, my pic of the day which wins my award for most unnecessary waste of money on a CRT sign:

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I don’t think any but the most naive to day-boat hirer would try to use this lock.

Last full day tomorrow. 🙁

 

Homeward Bound 2 – Days 3 & 4

Rain showers – 0

Sunburn – 2

Music – none.

Left our ‘M69’ mooring at 8.30 heading to meet the 12.23 Birmingham to Leicester train at Nuneaton to collect our 3rd crew member. ‘Found’ the missing Lock 1 at Hawksbury junction but the rest of the trip to Nuneaton was uneventful. Canal and station are on opposite sides of the town so our walk across gave a chance to see the sights. Nuneaton is pleasant enough but unremarkable.

Station meet-up went on time and according to plan. We were back on the boat with full complement by 1.15.

I have to say that IMHO the Coventry isn’t the most inspiring of canals. My highlights were Hartshill Yard and learning what a Laccolith is (Rawn Hill Bridge 37). Having worked down Atherstone Locks we arrived in Polesworth to find (a theme is starting here) it was shut. We had been recommended an indian restaurant but it transpired all restaurants in Polesworth are shut on Mondays. The Monday entertainment was a travelling fairgound which accounted for the large number of yoofs wandering around some of whom were (according to Neil) unnecessarily foul-mouthed. I blame the parents!

Getting hungry, we opted for the Indian takeaway which (we subsequently discovered) was the same place frequented by the ‘Down Trip’ crew back in May. We agree it was very tasty.

Day 4 dawned cloudy but dry and as we set off things seemed to be going very slowly. I don’t know whether it was a shallow bit of canal but for a good 30 mins progress was certainly laboured. Things then improved for a while until the ‘travelling through treacle‘ returned. This time the answer was obvious when we looked. Somehow a plank had wedged itself across the bow acting as a very effective brake for half an hour. Our vague plan to reach Fradley for a late lunch was well and truly sent west.

The upside was a very pleasant late lunch at The Plough in Huddlesford. Fradley came and went. We stopped for the night here:

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Not sure where it is but somewhere near Handsacre and a lovely sunny end to the day.

 

Homeward Bound – the first day and a half

Crew members converted to drowned rat – 1

Convoys joined – 1

Rabbits saved – 1

Classic album of the day – Fuzzy, Grant Lee Buffalo

The trip back started well, Gayton  Marina and it wasn’t raining! In fact it was sunny. Within 5 minutes we passed 2 boats I recognised leading my newly acquired crew member Neil thinking we knew pretty much every boater in the Midlands. Unfortunately the stats have headed steadily downhill since..

The trip up to Norton Junction reversed the trip down. Locks in the dry followed by 4 hours in the rain was swapped for 4 hours dry followed by locks in showers,  some of which were INTENSE. It was at lock 11 that crew member Neil was converted to drowned rat. He was stoic and allowed the warm July sunshine that appeared 10 minutes later dry him out.

Braunston locks were shared with Keith and his family from Edinburgh They were on their first ever canal trip, and loving it. Unfortunately Brauntston was shut. Why doesn’t the Wheatsheaf do food? Ended up at Marstons 2 for 1 family friendly theme pub The Boathouse. It was very average but cheap.

Next morning and not long out of Braunston, we joined ‘The Convoy’. 4 boats travelling VERY slowly. Eventually arrived at Hillmorton where I raised things with the lead boat. The following conversation ensued:

Me: Would you mind letting people behind you come past if they wish.

Him: The speed limit on the canal is 4mph.

Me: I know but you were doing much less than that. (I’d clocked him at 1.7mph)

Him: I don’t think this boat will go much faster.

Me: I’m not asking you to speed up, just be aware of people around you.

Him: Shrug

Anyway, after some discussion and slick lockwork we managed to get out of the Convoy and never saw any of them again. Such is life on the canals.

It was at Hillmorton locks 5/4 that we made the rabbit-rescue. A young rabbit was stuck in a lock by- wash and clearly not happy. I managed to grab it’s ears and lift it out, shocked but alive. It made it into the hedge so fingers crossed it survived the ordeal.

BTW where is Hillmorton lock 1?

Rest of the trip down the Oxford (so Far! ) pretty uneventful though my attempts to identify any of the loops marking the original route of Brindley’s were pathetic failures.

Finally a reflection on modern life: a plot of canal bank with 90ft mooring space. Mains water but no electricity. Offers over £90,000.

You used to be able to buy a narrowboat for that!

So we are up to date moored somewhere about half a mile from the M69 but you’d never think it:

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Last Weekend Daan Saarf

  • Trips through the Blisworth Tunnel – 4
  • New music systems installed on the boat – 1
  • Miserable blacksmiths met – 1
  • Continuous Cruisers with engine trouble – 1

Since our epic trip to Crick at the end of May, Blue Rover has been based at Gayton, allowing us a few trips to do a bit of southern boating, before the boat heads back Oop Naarth next weekend.

imageDuring our time down here it has been great to meet up with old friends and make a new one – the Blisworth Tunnel – 3rd longest on the network ( beaten by Stanage and Dudley) and in my opinion – the most boring- it’s wide, and straight, and for the most part concrete! At least the Harecastle has the jeopardy of hitting your head on the roof in the middle!

It seems to be the case that wherever you go from Gayton (South at least) you go through the Blisworth Tunnel – my record so far is 31 mins – I plan to beat that tomorrow on my 4th trip this month! I’m sure I will miss it when we head home.

Friday was an epic evening as we met up with Alpha – a boat belonging to a friend on which we had our first experience of non hireboat boating – it was the first time Blue Rover had met Alpha, but they spent a wonderful evening breasted up in Blisworth &  I am sure they will be the best of buddies. We were planning a cruise together but when we arrived I was shown Alpha’s engine, and could see the pistons – I’m not that mechanical, but I’m pretty sure that is not good – so we had to cruise alone. it made me think that continuous cruising must be bad for engines, as it is amazing how many CCers have “engine trouble”. Alpha having been as reliable as clockwork for 20 years, has major engine trouble within 12 months of being a CC.  Though the lack of a cylinder head definitely removes the “” in this case! – If you want my full opinion on the CC debate, you will find it on the letters page of the latest issue of Waterways world!

3 things I will not miss whe we head home are:

  • Floating caravans – Sorry wide beam boats – we did see one moving though, so the rumours that they don’t have engines are not true!
  • Wide locks – narrow locks always have a queue of boats waiting, so why, when you go through wide locks, where company makes life so much easier, is there never another boat in sight!
  • The lack of village shops – S of the Blisworth Tunnel, non of the villages seem to have shops! – makes catering V difficult. You have to plan, and I hate planning.

Which brings me on to the music system – nothing to do with planning, just seemed a good time to bring it up:

Ever since owning a boat, we have been looking for the perfect sound system – the norm being a very unsatisfactory car stereo with Bluetooth phone connection. I now think I have come up with the ultimate solution. In addition to an inverter (my solution requires 240v) To implement this you will need:

  • 2 – Sonos Play 1s – though on a budget, 1 will do.
  • 1 Raspberry pi
  • USB hard disc

Together this gives a fantastic solution allowing you to play music from a library stored on the USB disc as mp3s, all controllable from your phone or tablet and removing the streaming issues we had previously. – If you are interested in the details leave a comment to the effect, and if there is enough interest I will post more details – I will probably do it anyway at some point, cos I think it is a brilliant solution.

Which only leaves the miserable Blacksmith – the fact is he was so miserable I don’t want to drag you down with the details – so I won’t. But rest assured it was a sorry story.

I can’t finish a blog written during these interesting times when we have decided as a nation to leave the EU without mentioning it. So I thought I would leave you with the up and down sides of the decision as far as I see it:

Downside – It’s  crazy decision made by people who have been conned by the politicians into thinking the grass is greener – A decision that I am sure we will live to regret

Upside – Us boaters  should get cheaper fuel as the tax on propulsion diesel imposed by the EU will be removed – number 1 priority in the discussions from here, I am absolutely sure!

All in all its the reason why referenda are a bad Idea, as they reduce complex issues that few people understand to a simple yes no decisions. In reality, life is never that black & white. That’s why we elect a parliament.

Let’s face it, asking the nation for an opinion never ends well – Did they learn nothing from Boaty McBoatface!

Crick to Norton Junction

Hours cruised – 4

Sofa beds delivered – 1

Sofa beds disposed of -1

Reverse only boats – 1

Crick show is over for another year and the weather-gods continued to smile. Not a drop of rain over all 3 days. Statistically this can’t bode well for next year.

This morning saw delivery of our new sofa bed – a definite improvement. Also very convenient as we stopped for water at Crick Wharf and the bed delivery van pulled up right next to the boat – unfortunately the van door opened onto a large patch of mud. Needless to say quantities were delivered in to the boat along with the sofa. Handy they could take away the old one at the same time though.

Crick Wharf also saw the departure of 50% of the crew (60% if you count the dog) leaving 2 of us to head off to Gayton Marina.

The trip to Norton Junction was uneventful except for a couple of things either end of Watford Locks.

First, at the top, the CRT toilets, while clean and functional,  did remind me of a typical US jail cell. All stainless steel, no seat and everything bolted down. Imagine my surprise to discover an electrically operated no-touch foamy handwash dispenser next to the sink (cold tap only). Do check it out if you are in the area. Second, at the bottom of the locks was the reverse-only boat. Called Hullabaloo, it had decided that forwards was reverse and reverse was non-existant. I hope the engineer turned up to rescue the family on board.

We decided to stick with the Leicester line for one more night and moored just before Norton Junction. I’m glad we did because the moorings on the main line round the corner are somewhat utilitarian.

Next stop Gayton.

Crick 2016 Day 2

Hours cruised 0

IDIOTS 0 but depends, could be 2 (probably is)

Classic album Power in the Darkness  TRB (Much of it live from the man himself this evening)

A great day and Crick starting the day late with a visit to the Danish  van and the toilet!

We now own a new sofa bed, hopefully more comfortable than the old one   Afternoon  tea in the VIP lounge (despite no WW goody bag) and a small afternoon snooze  for those left behind,  Boo can snore when she chooses.

An evening in the beer tent watching the brilliant  Tom Robinson who at 66 is fabulous.  Idiot of the day was asking us to sit down! When told it was a gig got a bit sniffy so we moved to the mosh Pit!  For those over 50!

A fantastic concert helped on by the great beer tent.

New bed delivered tomorrow. Can’t wait. Full report to come