Thursday, 31 December 2009

And RED means ……..

Well, I’ll start with the end of the day, and then go back.

I’d met a boat at King’s Sutton lock, and passed a couple of boats mooring up not far from Nell Bridge lock, and none of them had mentioned anything about conditions on the river section. Arriving at Nell Bridge lock I looked for the indicator to see what conditions were, but it wasn’t there. I crossed the road to have a look at the other side of the bridge and it wasn’t there either. Looking down towards the weir lock I saw a boat that must have just descended and was preparing to go through. Other boats had left Banbury this morning and must have gone down. Added to all this there is a headroom gauge as Nell Bridge is quite low and the water level was well down on the scale.

From all of this I assumed that the river section was ok to use though, given the flooded fields I had passed on the way, not in the green. So I dropped down the lock and headed downstream.

Whilst preparing the weir lock I noticed the level indicator at that end.

31122009724-001 Well into the red section. I was pretty much committed by that point, the alternative to proceeding would be to reverse (or more likely haul) back to the lock and ascend backwards. On this section the flow only crosses the navigation rather than boats joining the river for a longer period, so it was only a matter of keeping control for a short period and I got into the lock although a bit untidily.

Had I actually checked the conditions rather than assuming all was ok because other boats had been through I wouldn’t have come down but moored above the lock and waited for conditions to improve. There is another river section further along the canal, but one where you join the flow, and I’ll definitely make sure that is safe to use.

Up until that excitement it had been an uneventful day. I had planned to stop just before bridge 168 to do some shopping, but when I arrived I saw that this section is in the process of being improved, which is good as it use to be a matter of mooring on pins somewhere near the edge.

31122009714 31122009715 At the moment it wouldn’t be easy to get off the boat, but luckily the section just after the bridge has already been completed, but is still a bit muddy.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Improving conditions

It hadn’t been too cold overnight when I woke yesterday and I was still moored in clear water which was a pleasant surprise. As I was feeding Lyra the hire boat that had been icebreaking the day before passed heading back towards base. This prompted me to make an earlier than usual start as I expected to have to do my own icebreaking all day which would make for slower progress.

Conditions were much better than expected with mainly clear water with only patches of ice that had reformed and nothing that impeded progress significantly. As Lyra hadn’t had a good run first thing, as it was a bit busy to let her off  her lead, I pulled in above the Claydon flight. Whilst moored a couple of boats passed so I was no longer clearing the path, but now all the locks were against me. With so much broken ice above each lock I had to do a lot of clearing both to be able to open the top gates fully and to avoid getting hung up, which made for quite slow progress through the locks.

The weather wasn’t particularly pleasant with a constant drizzle throughout the day but I wanted to make progress, partly as the batteries needed a good charge after days of being moored. It got cold as I was working through Slat Mill lock so I moored just  below the lock. This is quite a nice spot as there  is an easily accessible field for Lyra to play in. Luckily she didn’t remember that the river runs through it otherwise she’d have been off for a swim.

It had been quite along day but I resisted the urge to got to bed really early and settled down to watch a DVD as the TV offerings were pretty uninspiring. It was sleeting a bit when I took Lyra for her last walk so went to bed hoping for the forecast heavy snow.

It was grey and drizzly this morning, with no snow at all. I wanted to move on a bit despite the weather. The patches of ice were even less frequent than yesterday and it hadn’t been cold enough to refreeze so progress was easy. There was still enough ice at the entrance to the locks to mean that I needed to clear between the boat and the walls but conditions had definitely improved a lot.

Moored alongside the park in Banbury as I had an important task to perform. Lyra only had about another weeks supply of food and Banbury is the last convenient place that I could get some. She is now supplied for another month or so, I was slightly concerned when we were iced in, and should have made sure I had more food with me.

As it was cold and wet today, I couldn’t be bothered to move any further, but will have to move tomorrow whatever the weather as I want to be somewhere fairly remote tomorrow night.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Onto the summit

A boat came down through the lock last night after dark. It seemed to take a long time but I just put that down to it being cold and dark and the crew taking extra care.

On Lyra’s first walk I realised that they had encountered a problem that Keith of nb Hadar had warned me about on Facebook a few days ago. Locks tend to be narrower at the bottom compared with the top. In narrow locks this means that if there is ice between the boat and the walls of the lock it is possible to get the boat hung up, so clearing any ice from alongside is necessary.

I had woken to the sound of the boat rubbing against ice, in what had been a completely clear bit of canal the day before, so was concerned that I had swapped being stuck within easy reach of facilities, I was now stuck somewhere remote. Luckily the new ice was very thin.

I had been joined by another hire boat the evening before which set off before I was ready to move, my roof, which I tend to walk on a lot when locking, still having a thick layer of frost on it. So they rebroke the ice for me. I did walk up to the top lock to have a look at conditions, and was able to work the hire boat through the top lock, so I didn’t feel quite so guilty at letting them do all the hard work.

28122009713 The ice on the summit was slightly less thick than it had been lower down, and the further along we went the thinner it got, with clear patches becoming more frequent as we approached Fenny Compton, where I stopped for a very late lunch and decided to stop for the night.

The Wharf Inn now has a small shop with a range of groceries, so I now have some milk again. Of course I had to have a pint whilst I was in there. They also now have a Laundrette which I’m sure I’ll find useful sometime in the future.

The canal looks fairly clear after the marina, so the “tunnel” which was somewhere that I was concerned about should be passable.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Escape from Napton

It’s not dropped below freezing for the past few days, but the ice was still thick around the boat. As most of Lyra’s walks were up the flight, it was clear that the ice was receding a bit as the clear water below each lock was slowly expanding.

It was still too thick for me to want to move today but as we made our way up the flight we met a couple setting locks for an ascending boat. They were not on their boat as they couldn’t get out of their marina up on the summit but were meeting friends on a hire boat that was making it’s way towards Napton. It took a while to appear, and was clearly not making easy progress, having to take run ups to break the ice, but eventually it did pass me, freeing me to follow up the flight.

Before starting I refilled the water tank as it was getting very low. My plan was then to do the first few locks and then visit the village shop for supplies. It all went well until I got to the shop to find that it had been open today as I thought, but had closed some 5 minutes before I got there. Not a huge problem really, lack of milk just means black coffee, I can survive without fresh fruit and I don’t really need wine.

Moved up through another couple of locks and am now moored below Adkins. Will check the weather guesses forecast in the morning, and have a walk up to the summit and then decide whether to carry on or retreat.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

8 Months

That’s not a prediction of how long I’ll be iced in.

Lyra came to live with me 8 months ago today, it’s a significant length of time as it means she has now lived with me for over half of her life. I knew from the moment I first saw her at the Dog’s Trust kennel that she was the right dog for me and she has lived up to my expectations.

DSCN1898As a present for today she got a new toy, which wasn’t over successful, the squeak was gone within five minutes, by the end of the first walk with it the ball part is virtually detached from the tail and the stitching between sections of the tail is giving way. She has always been quite rough with her toys and I wasn’t expecting this one to last too long but she picked it out at the shop so I got it for her.

The thaw didn’t materialise, Tuesday night was again very cold, –5 when I woke on Wednesday, which meant that new ice was firmly holding all the broken ice. It was thick enough that I was unable  to break the ice next to the boat. Last night was less cold but the canal is still impassable, but at least the boat rocks when I move about rather than being held solidly by the ice.

Hopefully it won’t be too much longer until I can move again.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Little progress

Sunday morning was again cold, but the Ecofan had lived up to it’s promise and had kept the back end of the boat at a much better temperature. I delayed moving again in the hope that someone would break the ice up and it wasn’t until 1.30 that anyone moved along the Oxford. There was time to move for a while and heating the water would be useful so I set off. By 3pm it was getting really cold so I moored just before Napton Junction.

After another really cold night the canal was completely frozen again, even in places that had been totally clear the previous day so moving didn’t seem to be a priority. Eventually a few boats did pass me and having realised that I was likely to run out of coal at the end of the week, when everywhere is likely to be closed, I considered making the epic voyage of about 100 yards to the marina. Just as I was about to get ready to move, Gosty Hill appeared, which meant that I could stock up with coal and not have to move.

Last night was much less cold than of late so the new ice was only very thin, and there had been a light dusting of snow. In the comparatively balmy conditions, it was actually above freezing, I set off again and moved on to the moorings below Napton Locks. A boat came down the locks, which meant that there would be a clear path, but, having walked up as far as the old arm, decided it wasn’t worth going up as the lock sides were so slippery and there’s no point in risking an accident.

The weather forecast I looked at earlier suggests that the thaw will come soon which will make boating easier.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Icy weather

It was a very cold night, my outdoor temperature sensor was saying –9 when I got up, so I was glad that I had wrapped up warmly for the night. With the canal iced over completely I decided to put off moving until later in the day, in the hope that someone else would go through first as I don’t really want to remove all of the blacking I put on too soon.

Being in Braunston meant that it would be easy to go and spend money on things for the boat. I’ve been considering ways to distribute heat from the stove more evenly through the boat and noticed just how bad it was yesterday evening. I’ve seen Ecofans spinning away on boats but haven’t bought one before simply because my stove isn’t really suitable for one. Looking at them again I decided that I would probably get away with it.

19122009702

Yes it does sit precariously over the edge, that’s the problem I knew I would have. I’ve got a safety wire to catch it when it inevitably falls off, and now there is another thing to remember to do before moving.

It’s only been there for a while but it does seem to be making a difference with the back end of the boat being warmer and the living room being more comfortable even with the fire lower than usual.

I could do with finding a way of making a platform for it to sit on so that it’s more stable, funnily enough a Sea Searcher magnet would be there right size and wouldn’t need to be attached to the stove, but I don’t know how a magnet would cope with high temperatures so haven’t risked it.

It wasn’t until mid afternoon that any boats came along the Oxford when a convoy of 3 arrived, the first pulling in at the first opportunity, with the following two doing the same. As this was behind me I was still surrounded by ice. It was getting dark when a boat did pass me, which was too late for me to consider moving.

The rest of the day was spent walking Lyra and being amused by the antics of the ducks on the ice.

Friday, 18 December 2009

A rude awakening

The weather forecast I saw before I went to bed promised snow showers through the night so I was hoping for some snow this morning as I went to sleep.

At about midnight, my smoke alarm decided that I should wake up again, which was a bit of a shock. Checking the stove, nothing seemed to be any different from normal,and there were no other possible sources of smoke. I am at a bit of a loss as to the reason for the alarm, the only thing I can think is that with the strong wind blowing across the cut, smoke was concentrated in the space between my boat and the hedge and then found it’s way in through the open window. All a bit frightening but I suppose it’s better to have a slightly overcautious alarm, and at least I know it will wake me.

I looked outside whilst I was awake and rather than snow, the sky was full of stars. It took a while to get back off to sleep, probably worrying about whether there really was a problem. I woke again at about 4 as the temperature inside the boat had dropped so much. A bit of extra insulation and I was soon off to sleep again.

There wasn’t any snow when I got up, but by the time I had had a coffee there had been a brief snow shower so there was a dusting for Lyra to play in. The skies were much clearer by the time I was ready to do the locks, so it appeared that the forecast of sunny periods would come true. By the time I was in the middle lock it was snowing pretty heavily.

18122009688With the locksides slippery due to the snow, extra care was needed when working the locks so stepping across an open lower gate wasn’t a good idea today.

Stopped to warm up at the top of the locks which meant Lyra could have a play in the snow. She does seem to like it.

18122009691

It isn’t that often that it’s possible to cruise when it’s snowing so I made my way down to Braunston though further showers.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Flying South for Winter

Well, not actually flying, that is a mode of transport that has become increasingly unpleasant over the years to the point that it would need to be something very special for me to consider subjecting myself to it. I am heading southwards though, but at the gentle pace of the canal. I’m not sure why, but I feel that another winter visit to Oxford is called for.

The weather this morning was quite pleasant, clear skies though a little chilly so leaving seemed like a good idea. By the time I had reached Brownsover I realised that it was more than just a little chilly but I needed to stop for provisions, and yet more toys for Lyra, so managed to thaw out a little. Moved on a little further to moor for the night below Hillmorton Locks. There have been a few flurries of snow but nothing significant. Lyra’s first reaction to falling snow was to disappear inside, but she was soon back out with me. She must have experienced snow earlier this year but I didn’t know her then so I’m wondering how she will react if her world does turn white. Hopefully the forecast of heavy snow is more than scaremongering.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Kingfisher

The trip home was fairly unremarkable. I did spend Thursday at the top of Hillmorton Locks as the weather was particularly unpleasant.

On Friday, approaching Newbold, I saw the unmistakable flash of blue that usually means that I have just missed being able to try to get a photograph of a Kingfisher. This one was a particularly accommodating little chap and kept waiting for me to catch up and so I did actually manage a few pictures. I wish that I’d had a different lens on the camera though.

kingfisher1 kingfisher2 kingfisher3 Back at the marina for a few days and then I should be heading off for a proper winter cruise.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Slow boat to Braunston

An epic journey of 10 miles and 3 locks that I managed to make last for 3 days.

I had to move over to the pump out on Sunday, up until then the wind blowing across the marina put me off. Once suitably empty, I headed to the south end of Newbold tunnel for the night as I wanted to do some shopping on the way through Rugby which meant waiting until Monday. Shortly after dark Gosty Hill passed me and Ian stopped to see if I needed any coal. I have enough, and as they were trying to catch up as they have been delayed by engine trouble, I didn’t want to delay them.

It went a bit wrong when I was mooring up at Browsover on Monday morning as I didn’t spot the dog mess by the ring and got one of my ropes smeared in it, I wasn’t happy about that. One thing I needed to get was a replacement “Tuggy” for Lyra as her birthday present one was looking very tired. 3 months for a toy isn’t bad for her.  “Tuggy” is an outdoor toy so is only played with on walks, she had several rope toys for chewing when inside.

30112009668 Old & New

Then it was on to Clifton Cruisers to get Lyra some more Arden Grange food. By the time I had tied the boat, I had ordered and had delivered the food I wanted, so only had to go into pay. Lyra enjoyed meeting up with Ben & Heidi again, and behaved very well, staying onboard even though there were two big Shepherds there that she would have liked to play with. We then moved on to the top of Hillmorton Locks.

When my alarm went off this morning, I was very tempted to stay in bed as it was quite chilly. I hadn’t expected it to get quite so cold overnight. Waited a while for it to warm up slightly but was still ready for a stop by the time we got to bridge 80, where we happened on a boater and his Shepherd who we had met in the summer at Branston Water Park, so Lyra was happy.

Now moored on the outskirts of Braunston as I want to do a bit of shopping for boat bits tomorrow.

Will probably then head back to the marina again as I have a vague plan for a winter cruise but can’t do it just yet due to stoppages.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Not a lot to report

I did eventually get back from the last trip, it took a couple of days as it suddenly got very cold about an hour away from the marina so I decided to stop. It was pleasant but uneventful. Since then I was just at the marina which pleased Lyra as she could play with all her friends and have plenty of swims in her ponds.

On Tuesday I had to move the boat, a pump out was necessary which meant that I had to come out again. Stopped off at Sutton Stop on Tuesday and then went down the 5½ into Coventry yesterday. I do really like the trip down into the city, but it seems to be changing every time I go down there with another building having been demolished, or a new one having sprung up. As usual there was very little rubbish evident, possibly due to the City Council now using the work boat “Fazeley” in addition to the regular clean ups that the Coventry Canal Society do.

Had a friend, and one of her Shepherds, over to visit us in the basin, so Lyra and Ben had a good run on the towpath, although Lyra was a bit confused when Ben launched himself into the canal, it being too deep for her.

After two days of lovely boating weather, this morning was a bit of a disappointment as it was cold and drizzly, but it did seem to be clearing up. That was just to trick me and as soon as I cast off it started raining, lightly but persistently. Made a quick stop at Tesco, using the piling on the towpath side for a change. It seemed to be as good as the old wharf as it wasn’t much further to walk and it’s deep enough to get to the side easily.

Have moored just past the junction, still on the Coventry, so I’m not sure where I will be headed next. It’s very much dependant on the weather, but a trip up the Ashby may be in order. if I decide against that it’s not far to the winding hole to allow a return up the Oxford.

Took Lyra round to the wide grassy area on the Oxford side for her evening walk, to find Eric from the marina moored there. This meant that Lyra and Rocky could have a good run together and tire themselves out.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Summer’s over

I did end up moving on Saturday morning as it would have been a very long day of doing very little if I hadn’t. Moored for the rest of the weekend just above Lock 10 of the Atherstone flight. As usual the race on Sunday was pretty unexciting, I’m beginning to wonder why I bother to arrange my weekends round the races.

Woke very  late this morning so by the time I had done the next 4 locks it was time to stop for lunch. This had the advantage that, as a boat came down whilst I was stopped, the last 5 locks were all in my favour. Continued for a while after getting to the top and am moored close to Nuneaton.

It felt a bit chilly as the sun set this evening so I have lit the fire, so I suppose that that means that summer is now officially over.

Friday, 25 September 2009

back in familiar territory

Stopped off at Peel’s Wharf to dispose of some rubbish, and more importantly the significant amount of recycling that has built up whilst I’ve been out. Once past the junction I was very much back on the water that I know best.

It took a while to get through the Glascote locks as there were a few boats already waiting and the locks aren’t the fastest in the world. The top gate of the top lock is also very difficult to close so I stopped to help close it for the boat about to descend before moving on a bit and stopping for lunch.

I intended getting a bit further along the canal, but as my normal spot at Pooley Fields was empty I decided to stop. Couldn’t get in to the edge due to the level being a bit low at the moment so am moored slightly further along.

It’s another GP this weekend so I might end up staying here, but it can get a bit busy at the weekend so maybe it will be better to move to somewhere quieter.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The day started well…….

It was a lovely morning, it had been a bit overcast and chilly first thing for the last few days, but today it was warm and sunny. Being right next to the nature reserve meant that there was somewhere good to take Lyra for her morning walks, and tucked away behind the pool is this wonderful sculpture of a heron.

PICT0094 I was about ready to leave but I looked back along the canal and saw a working boat approaching the bottom lock, so had another coffee and waited for it to come up and pass me. It turned out to be nb Hadley.

Once she had continued on her way I left and that’s when it all started to go wrong. I have avoided ranting about the actions of other boaters on this blog as I’d rather not have the reminder of the less good parts of my trips when I look back, but today’s idiot needs a mention. I left my mooring and headed towards Junction Lock. There was a boat that had been using the water point and I could see him untying the boat, nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s the right thing to do as it would have meant that if I was planning to use the water point he could move off easily. He then got back onto the boat and seemed to be waiting for me to pass. Once I was virtually on top of him he decided to put his boat in gear and move into my path, without a single glance behind him. I had to put the boat in reverse at full revs to avoid a collision. Eventually he managed to get his boat alongside the lock mooring, but managed to be in a position that meant that there was no room for me to pull in behind him despite there being plenty of space for two boats, so I had to wait mid channel until the lock was prepared for him. He seemed to be totally oblivious to what he had done when I got to the lockside, I’m sure that he had no clue that I was there rather than wanting to beat me to the lock, and I couldn’t face having an argument so I just let them work the lock alone.

I wonder what the outcome would have been if he had tried the same thing in front of Hadley, with much more momentum, traditional engine controls and limited visibility over the bow of an unladen Large Woolwich.

Thankfully they headed on up the T&M so hopefully I won’t come across them again. I got through the lock and swing bridge and headed down the Coventry, deciding to stop fairly soon after. A play with Lyra meant things didn’t seem too bad.

The day improved after that, and I had a pleasant run and am now moored on the outskirts of Fazeley.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Fradley again

Yesterday was another pretty short day. Not a lot happened except at Willington where there was much excitement, with a fuel boat breasted up doing trade and boats crossing between the visitor moorings and the water point. This all meant that I needed to try to keep my boat still in the middle of the cut in the stiff breeze that was blowing. Moored at Branston again as Lyra loves the pool so much.

it would have been wrong to have travelled through Burton without sampling it’s produce and as I am definitely in the “Hate It” camp an alternative had to be sought. This was found in the Bridge Inn in the form of a pint of Pedigree. It was so nice that it just had to be followed by another. This had it’s usual effect and I felt too sleepy to do anything once I got back to the boat. Lyra also seems to have great taste as she really enjoyed the small amount that she was allowed.

This morning the locks worked out pretty well, meeting boats at each one, and got to Alrewas, where there was plenty of space to moor,  in time for lunch. I was expecting to meet nb Hadar sometime today, and thought that it would possibly be at Alrewas, sure enough they were moored further into the village so we stopped for another chat. Lyra was intrigued by Marmite as she hasn’t met cats before.

I almost stayed where I was as it was trying to rain, but decided to press on. I got into Common Lock, but the bottom gates wouldn’t close behind me. Flushing water through wouldn’t dislodge the “something” so I moved the boat back and had a poke around the cill with my boathook. Whatever was there obliged by moving out of the way and I was soon on my way. There do seem to be more “somethings” lurking in the depths this year as I haven’t encountered any before but that is now 3 this year.

Tied up below Junction lock tonight. Had to pay a quick visit to the Swan, but haven’t fallen asleep yet. Should be back on much more familiar waters tomorrow.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Heading for home

We couldn’t leave this morning until Lyra had had another swim, she made that clear on her first walk, which is just a short one she had before breakfast to do what little dogs need to do, when she headed straight for the swimming point. She came away when called which was very good. She did get her swim on her proper walk after breakfast so she was happy. Just as we were getting ready to leave the boat moored in front of me was also getting ready so we ended up following it to Branston Lock. I really like this little lock with it’s position out in the middle of nowhere. Once through we had a pleasant run into Burton.

Ended up behind another boat, which I think had just winded, at Snobnall so followed them to Dallow lock, which today was where the wonderful smell of hops appeared. Carried on until we got to bridge 29A where we moored outside the pub for lunch.

It’s perhaps not the most scenic point in Burton, with a modern pub building, a modern bridge and an industrial estate on the offside, but it was where I stopped on the first night after I had bought the boat and was moving it my mooring. As it was also where Katy spent her fist night on the boat, I couldn’t help get a bit upset as I still miss her terribly.

Once out of Burton, the canal is lovely but never far away from major roads or the railway. Approaching Stenson I saw the temporary bridge that is providing a crossing due to the proper bridge having suffered from a tractor crossing it. I didn’t want to go down the wide lock at Stenson, so winded in the marina entrance and have moored near to the damaged bridge for the night.

The damage is pretty severe, with about half the width missing.

PICT0080 There is a notice on site saying that the bridge is going to be rebuilt as original, and the work is scheduled to start during this winters stoppages so it should be back to it’s former glory by the time I next come this way. On our walk, we crossed over the temporary bridge and followed the canal back down to the railway bridge which has a pedestrian arch on the offside. There is a small area, Stanhope wood, here which had been cut off by the canal, railway and new road from the rest of the farm and has been planted with native trees, with a wildflower meadow.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Day off

Woke fairly late on Friday morning, but it was still pretty cool, cool enough for Lyra to not want to have a swim on her morning walk. Had a short run into Rugeley where we stopped so that I could pick up a few things that I had forgotten when I last went shopping, which merged into an early lunch break. Passing through the town I witnessed a first for me, in the 6 or so years and however many miles I cruising I have passed countless fisherpersons, but Friday was the first time that I have actually witnessed one of them catching a fish.

Armitage “tunnel” is one of the few places that I find does cause me a problem as a singlehanded boater, but I came up with a cunning plan. I needed water anyway so stopped at the water point on the straight before the “tunnel”. Just as the tank filled a boat passed me so I could pack my hose away and follow the other boat through. Once through I held back to create a decent gap between us. Once out of the towns, the next section of canal seems very remote, at times the only buildings visible being the cooling towers at Rugeley. I caught the boat I had followed just as we were arriving at the lock but they moored for the night so I again had a quick passage.

I expected the moorings above Fradley locks to be full,it being about 4pm by the time I arrived, and they were. I didn’t want to go through so had a feel for depth just before the VM. It was pretty shallow but I could get the front of the boat to the edge if I left the stern quite a way out in deeper water. I could probably have moored parallel but then would have needed to use the plank which Lyra is scared of. 

I walked down to the junction, and had to have a pint outside the Swan, only one boat passing in the time it took to drink it, and noticed that there was a space on the moorings at the junction and a bit of space below Junction lock.

As I was firmly on the bottom I didn’t feel boats passing, but they must have made bow the boat creep forward and the stern inwards as by the morning it had moved quite a bit.

IMG_8986 This did cause me a bit of a problem as I couldn’t pole the stern off the mud, Seeing a boat approaching I ran back to ask them to pass quickly in the hope that it would float me off the mud. It worked enough to make poling off possible.

Despite it being Saturday morning, getting though Fradley locks was quite quick, with only a couple of boats waiting at Junction lock when I got there. There was a space just above Bagnall lock when I got there, and as it was about lunch time by then I moored up expecting it to be busy in Alrewas, but walking Lyra down the towpath revealed that there were only a few boats moored.

The river was well down, it wasn’t even in the green at Wychnor lock being at least an inch below the bottom of the indicator board. Once through the lock the next section of the canal would be wonderful it it wasn’t spoiled by the constant traffic noise from the A38 running alongside, but soon the canal veers away and peace is restored. Soon after we arrived at my planned destination at Branston. We ware moored next to the water park entrance which is very convenient.

I was feeling pretty tired when I got here so decided to do as little as possible today so have stayed here. Lyra has loved it as it means she has had lots of walks and swims. The dog swimming area being just a few yards from the boat.

IMG_9020 IMG_9031

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A short day

Lyra had another good play in the Trent this morning, it’s a lovely bit of river for her at Great Haywood as it’s quite shallow for much of it’s width and at the moment doesn’t have much of a current. She hasn’t quite worked out that if I throw a stick into the moving water it won’t be where it landed, so kept searching in the same area rather than looking downstream.

IMG_8977 When we passed the lock on the way back from her walk, there were a few boats waiting to drop down so there didn’t seem to be much point in leaving for a while. After doing very little for a while we had another walk and swim, and a chat with Jo on the way back, by which time the queue had cleared so we did finally get moving. Went straight into the lock, and by the time it was empty a boat had arrived to come up. As it is starting to get a bit chilly in the evenings I tied up just behind nb Hadar in order to buy some coal.

Once I had bought the coal, a boat was just coming down the lock so waited until it passed before leaving so I wouldn’t be taking their lock when we reached Colwich. A boat was going down as we arrived, and we both had to turn the lock as there was nothing waiting to ascend. As it had been a late start, it was lunchtime by the time I was out of the lock.

I didn’t feel like getting through Rugeley today so decided to head for Wolseley Bridge again as it’s a nice mooring and Lyra can have a swim in the river here as well. As I arrived I spotted nb Sanity moored, I had wondered whether I would pass her today. I almost moored next to Sanity, but the spot right at the end was free so I moored here again as it means that I don’t have to pass moored boats to take Lyra out.

Having been here for a while, I was outside when I saw nb President and Kildare approaching.

IMG_8981 Wondering where they were heading to, I checked the website to find that it’s the Huddlesford gathering this weekend. I was planning to turn back down the Coventry, but this weekend might not be the best time to try to get through so maybe I’ll head further along the T&M.

I dropped in on Bruce & Sheila this evening, leaving Lyra outside as she was still wet and muddy from her swim earlier. Has a nice chat, but after a while I did wonder what all the scratching noises outside were all about. Lyra had decided to remodel the towpath a bit, but the hole is filled in now.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Great Haywood

Had a fairly early start yesterday in order to get to the locks before the first batch of boats came through the tunnel. This meant that I had a very good run down the Stoke flight. Once out the boat felt so much happier with the greater depth of water so speedy progress was made. After a coffee stop just before Trentham, we arrived at the lock to find the boat wanting to come up was having trouble closing a gate. Opening it and flushing a bit of water through dislodged the “something” that was lurking in the depths and we were soon through.

Stopped for lunch at Barlaston and did a bit of shopping. I did consider having a short  day but being so close to the railway didn’t really appeal. Had a good run through the Meaford locks and eventually stopped at the visitor moorings above Stone locks. These moorings have a solar powered cats eye adjacent to each mooring ring which isn’t something I have encountered before. In my opinion this is a far better use for these things than putting them on roads where I find them irritating as you can see them in the rear view mirror.

I would have tried to get a photo of them illuminating the towpath as the effect was quite nice, but this and blogging last night suffered from my getting distracted by an Iceberg. When shopping I decided that having no beer on the boat was a bad situation, I almost corrected this with a stock of Marston’s Old Empire as it’s my favourite bottled beer, but there on the shelf was some Titanic Brewery Iceberg, which I don’t recall having tried before. It seemed right as I had just left Etruria, to go for a local brew. Maybe I should have done things before opening the bottles, but I did enjoy the beer and wish I had bought more.

Another early start today, but only down three of the Stone locks before I tied up in order to do a proper shop. Lyra needed some more food and the pet shop in Stone was convenient for this, and I now have a full fridge for a while. Got back and put the food away and then left, just a boat came through the lock so I could go straight in. After this I arrived at each lock as a boat was about to go down, with another one already waiting, so it was a bit slower than I have been used to but there were no really long queues either way.

Moored above Haywood lock. Took Lyra for a walk down past the lock, as we approached the river she was off, unusual for her but I knew where to find her. She had a good play in the river, but was a little confused by the current at first. Stopped  to say hello to Jo as we passed Hadar on the way back to the boat.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Still on the Caldon

On Friday I moved back up to do the washing, and then took another trip up to Leek, where there were quite a few boats moored this time. Moved back to the junction in the hope of getting a reasonable TV signal for the weekend. Didn’t get one so moved back to Endon where I knew that I could get a reasonable signal. As usual I was disappointed at the amount of action that occurred on the circuit, maybe it will be better next year without refuelling.

Had a very pleasant run down the canal today, but did have to turn every single lock as I must have been following another boat. The two  manual lift bridges  were passed using ropes to move the boat through and I was again lucky with the automated bridge with willing assistants on a break.

Stopped for lunch in Hanley Park. I arrived at the staircase to find a boat waiting and one descending. Part of one of the paddle mechanisms had failed earlier so these boats had been delayed whilst BW removed the broken part and took it away for attention. Draining the top chamber with only one paddle took a while but I was in no hurry.

Now moored back at Etruria, so will be off this lovely canal and back on the T&M tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Pointing the wrong way

Have ended up pointing back towards Froghall/Leek this evening, but there is a reason for that.

Didn’t get round to visiting the flint mill today, just didn’t feel like it. Spent a long time just hanging around on the boat and taking Lyra for walks, and eventually set off after lunch. Made my way back onto the summit and stopped off at the services near Endon to see what card I would need to use  the washing machines. I then needed to get hold of the cards which meant coming further down the canal and winding at bridge 27.

Will be making my way back up to do the washing tomorrow, and then perhaps a little further.

I think I’m going to find a spot to spend the weekend up here as it’s another grand prix weekend.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Back to Cheddleton

I was tempted to stay for another day in the basin as it is such a peaceful spot, but decided to start my return along the canal. Having ascended the lock I decided to hog it whilst I topped up my water tank, fairly confident that I wouldn’t be preventing anyone else from using it. I hadn’t used much water overnight but it seemed sensible to have as much clearance as possible.

PICT0065 I didn’t bother to visit the wharf arm through bridge 50 as it would have been difficult to reverse past the trip boat and there isn’t a lot of it.

DSCN1879 Pushed the boat through the tunnel from the well deck again as it seemed to work well coming through yesterday.

Met a few boats heading towards Froghall as I made my way back down the canal, having to reverse once to let a boat through one of the narrow sections. Approaching Oakmeadowford lock I was hailed from the towpath by the crew of a boat that having descended the lock had got stuck on the sandbank formed where the river and canal join. When I got there I tied the front of their boat to mine and the combination of full reverse from me and full power from the other boat soon shifted it.

Arrived at Cheddleton and realised that I had a potentially serious shortage of coffee, so set off with Lyra to find a shop. It’s not that far up the road from the flint mill, but the traffic seemed to be really rushing past, quite disconcerting really. I didn’t have time to have a look around the flint mill today, but will probably do so in the morning.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

We made it through

A short but satisfying day.

The first highlight of the day was passing the station at Consall Forge.

DSCN1845 Having read up on the tunnel, I had resigned myself to not being able to make it but coming out of Flint Mill Lock there was still the feeling of “will she or won’t she”. It looked vaguely promising when approaching the gauge below the lock.

DSCN1847 The front edge of the roof didn’t clear the gauge with it looking as if the handrails were going to be a problem.

DSCN1849 There was plenty of clearance for the back edge of the roof, about an inch. This did mean that getting through the tunnel was a possibility as the gauge is supposed to be a bit pessimistic.

Continued down the canal, which is quite narrow in places.

DSCN1855 When I arrived at the tunnel I decided to move a bit of ballast around as the front was a couple of inches higher than the back. I don’t know if it really made much of a difference, but my approximate measurements seemed to change. Despite concentrating on taking a picture I just managed to miss the edge of the tunnel as I entered, it seems that this edge does get hit quite often.

DSCN1856 It certainly is low in the tunnel, and I couldn’t see what was happening up front.

DSCN1858 As I felt that knowing what was happening up front was the most important thing, I decided to go to the front and push the boat along with my hands. This worked pretty well although I did manage to scrape one of the handrails once, but they need painting anyway.

I think that the lowest point of the tunnel is fairly near the start as there looked to be more room looking back along the roof of the boat. There seemed to be plenty of clearance and with a bit more care I wouldn’t have touched the roof at all.

DSCN1860 Once through the tunnel it was down the first lock of the Uttoxeter arm and onto the pontoon moorings in the basin, which I had all to myself.

DSCN1873  As I made it here I decided to stay the night. There are some waymarked walks, and I headed off long one of these with Lyra after lunch. We followed the route of one of the old tramways that brought the limestone down to the canal, then turned across a field, then turned again, so were heading roughly towards the canal again. Then I lost the waymarks but followed a path that was headed in roughly the right direction. It then wandered it’s way through the woods and I was beginning to wonder where we were heading. I wasn’t lost, but only on the basis that you’re not lost if you know where you came from, and I was close to retracing my steps. Eventually we reached a road and I could see a tall chimney in the distance which I assumed was the same one I had seen at the other side of the tunnel, so headed in that direction. This proved to be the right way and eventually we go back to the wharf. At some point when unsure of my location I must have crossed the tramway that I followed up the hill, but somehow managed to miss it. It was a very nice walk though.

Up until this evening it had been a wonderful day, how could it possibly get better? I was sitting outside having a cup of coffee when I heard the wonderful sound of a Bolinder approaching. I now have a neighbour in the basin, the Thomas Clayton tar boat Spey.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Through Cheddleton to Consall Forge

Hazlehurst locks were as delightful as they looked, and not even the horrible hydraulic paddles could spoil the experience of descending them. The highlight was that the bottom lock has go a working side pond. Even though both the lock and the side pond were already full a small amount of the water could be drained into the side pond even if it did go straight over the overflow. Hopefully I’ll be able to use it properly when I get back there.

PICT0057 After descending the locks I was soon passing under the aqueduct, roughly an hour after I had set off 26’ higher. It really is a beautiful canal and it didn’t matter that the lack of depth means that you have to travel pretty slowly. Stopped for lunch at Cheddleton, and again found a lovely spot on this canal. The flint mill buildings and Bridge House are a wonderful sight.

DSCN1825 DSCN1821 Carried on after lunch, but I intend stopping at the flint mill on the way back to visit it properly. Dropped down onto the river which is well in the green on the gauge at the lock. With very little flow it seems little different from the canal above, just a little more winding. The depth was noticeable as the boat felt much happier than on the shallow canal. I couldn’t pass Consall Forge without stopping so moored up for the day. Took Lyra for a walk down to the station to get the obligatory picture of the waiting room. I also had to drop in to the Black Lion for a pint.

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Sunday, 6 September 2009

To Leek, and back a bit

A late start as I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere today. Stopped briefly to refill the water tank and get rid of rubbish, and get my licence checked, it seems that the name change hasn’t got into the system yet.

This canal just gets better and better and soon I arrived at the delightful looking Hazlehurst Junction. I turned right onto the Leek Arm as doing a bit of shopping was called for again today.

DSCN1779 The Leek arm is beautiful with nice wooded sections and the short tunnel.

DSCN1784DSCN1792All too soon the end is reached, with the instruction to wind just after the bridge if your boat is over 45’. I tied near the winding hole and had a look at the end of the navigation. As there were mooring rings there, and as there was no one around to witness my masterclass in how not to reverse a narrowboat, I made my way to the very end of the canal.

DSCN1800Lyra needed a walk, and as I knew that it is possible to follow the feeder up to the reservoir that seemed like a suitable destination. The Leek Arm was originally only intended to be a feeder but the locals convinced the canal company to make it navigable to the town. It was a very pleasant walk through woodland and then out into open fields across the floodplain. Unfortunately we didn’t make it all the way as we got to one stile where “609” didn’t seem to want a little dog in her field. There have been quite a few incidents with cows recently and I didn’t want to risk it. It does give me a reason to return though, maybe the field will be empty next time.

DSCN1807 On the way back down we found a spot where Lyra could get into the feeder for a paddle, so I had a happy wet dog for the rest of the walk. There haven’t been too many opportunities for her to paddle recently.

DSCN1810 I left Lyra to look after the boat whilst I wandered off to the supermarket. It’s a bit of a shame that the original end of the canal is now occupied by an industrial estate, with as far as I could see no traces apart from Wharf House.

Came back down the arm to moor at Hazlehurst aqueduct this evening, there were plenty of other spots that looked as if they would be suitable places to stay the night but I wanted to get back to here.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Up the Caldon to Endon

The moorings at Etruria proved to be peaceful overnight, but I did need to add an extra layer to my thin curtains to block out the light. Some of the locals were unfriendly but that isn’t unusual. Why they approach the boat and then start having a go at my poor little do I don’t understand.

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The staircase locks were the first obstacle of the day, and things started off badly as I was concentrating on getting (and failing) a good photo of the locks as I approached and ended up allowing the boat to get into the substantial flow coming down the overflow. It was a bit of a struggle to haul the boat out of the flow and get it properly tied so I could set the locks, but at least it was early in the day so there were no witnesses to my incompetence.

DSCN1743Approaching the staircase before it all went wrong

The lower chamber is missing it’s buffer plate and so there was a good chance of getting the boat caught up again so I ended up having to use one of the lock bollards. These have been discussed a great deal and most of the time I have no use of them, but on occasions they are invaluable.

With all the locks of recent days having been relatively deep, Planet Lock seemed out of place with it’s 3’ 10” fall, looking on Wikipedia explained that it had to be added as the whole of Etruria had subsided. there are nice looking moorings at Hanley Park, and new looking ones all the way from bridge 8 to the lift bridge, but there wasn’t a single boat moored on them. The bridge was likely to have been the first real obstacle of the day and sure enough the control panel is on the offside with the only convenient mooring points being on the towpath. Luckily there were some convenient passers by to rope in to operate the bridge for me. I stopped for lunch and dog walking just below Engine Lock, the canal now passing through countryside again. The water flowing down past the lock could caused problems if I had needed to moor below the lock but as a boat had come down shortly before I got there I knew it would be empty and so could leave the boat in the mouth of the lock whilst I opened the gates.

PICT0029I was again lucky with the next lift  bridge, as I approached it a young girl asked if she could work it for me, a request that I was happy to agree to. I finally had to do the work myself at the next bridge and taking my long bow line across with me to haul the boat through worked well.

The final locks of the day were the Stockton Brook flight which I really liked as they are in a wonderful setting and really well maintained, the sun even put in a brief appearance part way up the flight. I had been wondering whether the flow down the locks was usual or due to the wet weather we have been having, but at the top lock it became clear that it is due to water being run down to The T&M summit level, presumably due to the extra traffic caused by problems elsewhere. Onto the summit I soon arrived at what is mentioned only as “Obstruction in centre of canal” in my Nicholson’s guide. Just round the corner looked like a good spot to moor which meant that I was close to the obstruction to go back for a better look, on the offside there are other archaeological artefacts and it turns out that the obstruction was the pivot point of a swing bridge that carried a railway across the canal at this point. There is more history of this bridge and the mill it served on the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust website.

I seem to have ended up having a day off again today as just as I was about to get moving earlier today the wind picked up again and it looked as if it was about to rain, although it has cleared up again.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The weak links worked

It was still raining this morning so there was no point in moving until it finally stopped. Still not great boating weather as the wind was again very strong. Stopping where I did last night was a good move as I didn’t spot anywhere else that would have been suitable until I got to Barlaston, and there were loads of boats moored all the way from there to Trentham Lock.

I keep the bow of my boat at the front of the lock when ascending as I can see what is happening with it, but there is a protruding bolt on this lock which I could see was likely to catch the front fender. Sure enough it did and the upper weak links duly broke allowing the fender to drop out of the way and the boat to continue up the lock with the stem rubbing up the gate. I decided to wait until out of the other end of the town before stopping to refix the fender, but there was nowhere that would have been easy to moor as it was all a concrete edge so I would have needed to use pins whilst trying to keep hold of the boat in the wind.

Arriving at Stoke bottom lock there were already a couple of boats waiting so I had plenty of time to refit the fender using some more cable ties. When it was my turn, there were so many people about that the lock was worked for me, and one of the crew of another boat went ahead and prepared the next lock for me so the first two were very easy. I arrived at the middle lock just as another boat was leaving so had yet another easy lock. The next lock I had to turn and work myself.

Then came the top lock. Once the descending boat left I drove the boat in and suddenly realised how deep it is. There wasn’t a boat waiting to come down so I had to climb the ladder. Now I don’t do heights, I feel sick if I’m watching the TV and there’s a shot over a drop. The position of the ladder also meant that I was climbing from the counter rather than the roof. It wasn’t nice but I was soon at the lockside. After leaving the lock I winded in the junction with the Caldon and moored up as it was lunchtime.

It was still threatening rain so having had a look at the moorings at the start of the Caldon and deciding they looked nicer, and deciding that I wouldn’t go any further today, I moved the boat onto this mooring. Will be heading off up the Caldon in the morning so have staircase locks and lift bridges to look forward to.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Through Stone

The first lock of the day was Aston Lock, where a new marina is in the process of being dug out, which was empty so I could go straight in. There is a box at the lock with leaflets about the town, which was a good sign as to how the canal is viewed.

DSCN1735Aston Lock 

The line of moored boats on the way into Stone started well before the formal visitor moorings but I was lucky as a boat was just pulling away as I approached. Took Lyra for a walk up the locks and I really liked this bit of the canal. The boatyard half way up the flight is really nice looking and I really should have remembered to take my camera with me*. Once back at the boat I left Lyra whilst I did a bit of shopping.

There had been little in the way of boat traffic when I was walking along the canal, so I didn’t expect to find so much of a queue when I got to the bottom lock, but I’m in no rush and its good to meet other boaters. I also took the opportunity to use the water point whilst waiting.

As the boat was coming up the top lock I gave Jo Lodge of nb Hadar a call to see if she and Keith were around a it’s good to be able to meet people whose lives you look into through their blog/facebook.  Hadar is currently back at her birthplace for some work before heading off for a winter of supplying coal on the GU Leicester section. Rather naughtily I tied the boat onto the end bollard of the lock landing whilst I had a pleasant chat with Jo and Keith, and Lyra had a good play, next to the lock.

Once on the move again I made my way up the next four locks. By this time it was late for me to still be moving and that ever present feature of this summer put in an appearance again. Not wanting to get totally soaked again I chose the first spot that I could get tied easily and called it a day. Not the greatest mooring as the railway is a bit close but I think I’ll be able to sleep though anything tonight.

* I need to remember to carry a camera as my N95 has curled it toes up, it has turned itself off and refuses to turn back on, not for the first time and it’s had to go back to Nokia once before. Luckily I have my trusty old 6310 to use, but it’s failing is probably also it’s strength – it’s just a phone rather than an all singing and dancing box of electronics.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

I knew it couldn’t last

Finally found myself a lock queue today!

I was tempted to stay where I was as it was such a nice spot with the river and some wonderful trees, including many mature beeches. Beech trees are very much my favourite. I did leave though, I can go back there whenever I want. Colwich lock was the first of the day, I’m getting to really like these T&M locks with their bridges over the tail of the lock. Colwich has a comedy bottom gate, one of those that waits until you get to the top gates and then swings back open, half a paddle before returning to close it again dealt with it. It was still quiet when I got to Haywood lock, having to turn it as there was no one wanting to descend, and then plenty of space to moor up for coffee.

Last time I was there I turned off down the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, but today carried straight on at the junction so am now in new territory. My lock queue put in it’s appearance at Hoo Mill Lock, with 5 boats already there. This meant that I had a choice of hovering in the channel for 10 minutes or so until there was space on the end of the lock landing or making a leap of faith into the vegetation to be able to hold the boat in. Leaping won out and I did land on solid ground rather than canal. As it took a good while to get through the lock it was time to stop for lunch once through and I soon found a suitable looking spot which turned out to be a 48hr mooring in the middle of nowhere. There was some thunder about and a few light showers, but it didn’t seem to be amounting to much so we carried on for a while. As I tied up at Weston lock it started to rain so I put on my wet weather gear, by the time I had walked up to the lock I was drenched as it had got heavier. There was no point taking shelter so I worked through in the downpour. Once through Sandon lock I decided that it was time to call it a day and have found a lovely spot midway between bridges 84 and 85.

One of my favourite things about the waterways is that each canal has it’s own character, with different paddle gear on the locks and their own design of mileposts. The T&M ones are really nice and I just happen to have one of the originals just by the boat.

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Monday, 31 August 2009

Weekend off and no delay at Fradley

Friday was windy, very windy. As it was blowing onto the towpath I had a bit of fun getting off the side at the start of the day. At times it was getting close to being a bit too much to continue but as I could still manage to steer a straight course at tickover past moored boats I carried on. Stopping at Pooley Fields for an early lunch proved to be a good move as it meant I was indoors when the heaviest  rain of the day appeared. Glascote locks tend to have queues of boats waiting, but apart from the ones coming through each of the locks there was no one about. The rain reappeared after Fazeley and continued until I found a mooring on the way out of Hopwas.

There was good dog walking at Hopwas, but a lousy TV signal and I wanted to watch the F1 so moved on a bit on Saturday morning. There was already someone moored at the spot I was thinking of using so eventually ended up outside Whittington. I stayed where I was for Sunday as I didn’t want to find myself committed to getting through Fradley and missing the Grand Prix. Staying in one place meant I had plenty of time to look around but Whittington didn’t really have much to offer, mainly fairly uninteresting modern housing, but the Co-Op was useful. it is also the location of what must be one of the most unassuming junctions on the whole canal system, no bridge, no stop lock, not even any gauging narrows, just a marker stone that is a recent addition.

29082009636 Junction of the Birmingham & Fazeley and Coventry Canals.

Left this morning prepared for the inevitable queues and general chaos that can be expected at Fradley at this time of year. It was a pretty slow trip up as there seemed to be a moored boat round every bend and the packed visitor moorings on my arrival suggested that it would be as busy as expected. As I approached the swing bridge a boater using the water point very kindly offered to work it for me so I went straight through to the junction and could turn left onto the Trent & Mersey without having to negotiate other boats making their way trough the junction. The boat leaving Junction Lock even turned down the Coventry after I was through so I didn’t even have a boat following me. No other boats were waiting to go up so I had a good run up the two locks and there was even space to moor up above the locks.

After the obligatory dog walking and early lunch I set off again. I’d slotted in after an ascending boat, which was waiting it’s turn to go into Woodend Lock, so didn’t even have a queue there. Not so the boats coming the other way as there were about 6 of them waiting.

I don’t know this bit of the network as I’ve only been this way once before which means I don’t know what’s coming up. The run through Handsacre, Armitage and Rugeley was a bit tedious, again seemingly at tickover the whole way. Luckily there was a boat waiting it’s turn to go through the old tunnel as I don’t think that sending my crew ahead to warn oncoming boats, as suggested by the sign, would be much use.

Moored near bridge 70 this evening, and Lyra has been able to find spots that she is happy to use to get into the river for a paddle.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Down (most of) Atherstone

Mush more pleasant weather today, almost summery at times. I actually remembered to check how much diesel I had left and found that it was getting a bit low so refuelled at Springwood Haven on my way past and then continued to Atherstone for lunch.

I was able to hover for a short while at the top lock until the ascending boat came out, and then could leave the gates for the boat waiting below when I was done. Didn’t meet another boat at any of the next four locks and they were all against me. I was hoping that Lock 6 would be similarly deserted as I want to have a go at using the only working side pond  on the flight, but would prefer to do it without an audience, but the gate was open for me with the crew of a hire boat waiting. Perhaps next time. Met boats at the next three locks, with the GUCC Royalty Class boat “George” being the most interesting.

Moored just below Lock 9 which is one of my usual spots. I’ve always liked this flight of locks and used to sometimes have a trip out just to do the flight. Part of the appeal is the way it starts in the town and with little warning emerges into the countryside.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Lyra’s Birthday, and other excitement

Maybe it was me that was excited about today being Lyra’s birthday as I slept really badly last night, she as usual slept like a log. The rain subsided for a while at the right time for her first walk, so she got her first birthday present which is a soft floating ring which she really enjoyed playing with on the towpath. I don’t think that it will last too long as she’s already split some of the stitching. Finding good hard wearing and buoyant toys isn’t that easy.

IMG_8764 As the weather was still undecided as to how much rain it was planning to provide today I kept putting off leaving, which proved quite useful mid morning. The towpath where we were moored was being cut today. After the first guy, with the large powered mower, went past Lyra wanted to see what all the noise was about so I let her out onto the well deck. Moments later the mower slipped into one of the washouts that this bit of towpath suffers from. The second grass cutter was some way behind and concentrating on the trimming, so I quickly put Lyra back inside the boat and rushed down to help stop the mower making it’s way further into the canal and to drag it back onto dry land. Nothing more serious than a wet leg was suffered but when he came back up the towpath later he was far more cautious.

Eventually we did leave and nothing much happened until we got to Sutton Stop where one of the boats on the long term moorings was across the canal as it’s mooring rope was no longer attached to the bank. There was room for me to pass and by the time I had tied on the lock mooring someone was retying the boat so I didn’t need to go back as I had intended. There were a few boats coming the other way at the junction but even with the strong wind it all worked, probably because there wasn’t a huge crowd at the pub.

As I passed under the bridge at Marston Junction a couple of young lads on bicycles warned me that there were a couple of loose boats just after the junction. I was expecting more of the same and passing would be easy but one of the boats, a short cruiser, was completely free and broadside across the cut alongside a moored boat with no room to get past. I had to stop next to it and make my way to the front of my boat to direct the errant craft across to a couple of people who had stationed themselves on the moored boat. I then had to move forwards to allow a waiting hire boat to vacate the logical space to remoor the escapee, which didn’t pass without problems as I managed to go aground just to add to the fun. Meanwhile an oncoming private boat had stopped to secure the other loose boat. I stopped to make sure that the cruiser was tied up properly, which was fortunate as one of it’s lines had been snapped, which suggests that the problems were caused by someone who interprets the term slow fairly loosely, and a bit of my blue string was needed to make it secure. Once all was sorted the two rescuers continued on their way, I had assumed that they were boaters but they must have just been out for a walk.

I’ve been wondering  recently whether it is me becoming more intolerant or if fewer boaters are slowing down for moored boats. I haven’t come across situations like today before so am tending more towards thinking that it is inconsiderate behaviour.

We moved on a bit further and moored just before bridge 17 for a late lunch just as the weather got really bad, with Lyra getting her other new toy, which is a soft, but fairly tough tug toy for her afternoon walk in a break in the rain.

26082009602 Again she really enjoyed her new toy, but I can’t claim any credit for making good choices as she had joined me in the shop yesterday and had chosen her presents. I find it better to let her choose as I had got a selection of toys for her before she arrived and although they all seemed fine to me, a couple of them haven’t been touched at all.

The weather showed no sign of improving so we didn’t move any further today.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I hope that they do it sympathetically

We did end up turning round, below Hillmorton locks, this morning. We stopped to do some shopping at Tesco, plus some more important stuff that I needed to get for tomorrow. Lyra also now has a new tag with the boat’s new details on, I think that identifying which boat she belongs to is more important than having my postal address (although she has a second disc with that as required by law). We eventually passed the marina entrance at about 1.30, which kind of means that it took a full 24 hours to go and buy dog food.

Met loads of boats coming towards me, usually in little groups close together with huge gaps between the groups. I can’t really understand the attraction of following another boat only a couple of lengths in front, and if I do end up in a queue I tend to find somewhere to let following boats pass as soon as possible so that I can get back to cruising at my own pace.

After passing through Ansty, the weather looked as if it was going to break with those large drops of rain that tend to proceed a downpour. The sound of thunder suggested an early stop just as I reached the bit of piling that I moored at a while back so I decided to call it a day. In the end the rain didn’t appear. Lyra had a good play on the towpath but eventually we lost her ball as she had chewed too many holes in it and it sank when it bounced into the canal. Luckily she has plenty of other toys.

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I got this stoppage email today:

“All Oaks Wood Bank

Monday 21 September 2009 - Tuesday 24 November 2009

All Oaks Wood Bank protection and towpath works – North Oxford Canal

From the 21st September the towpath and car park at All Oaks Wood will be closed to facilitate extensive bank protection and towpath repair works.  The works will last approximately 10 weeks with a towpath diversion in place, unfortunately there will be no alternative car parking available.  Navigation will not be affected by these works.”

It is definitely necessary as in places the towpath is nonexistent and walking down it can be interesting.

25082009588 Although I accept that something needs to be done, I like this section as it is at the moment and hope that the repair doesn’t spoil the character of this section of the canal, which is my favourite bit of the North Oxford. The overhanging trees (which aren’t all oaks) and the “natural” edge makes it such a pretty place. I like piling for the ease of mooring, but this is one place that I’d prefer not to see it.

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