Thursday, 30 October 2008

Another new canal and part of Elizabeth in the water

Well, we finished the Birminham and Fazely canal today, having done 11 locks from Minworth and turned onto the Coventry Canal. Another new one!! And at each such junction, Pete is at the tiller and Elizabeth is in the bows, keeping watch for potential boats coming our direction and therefore keeping us both from hitting each other. Today, as Elizabeth jaunted back down the gunnels from fore to aft (feet too wet to do the trip inside), she and Pete were chatting about whether she had asked him to sound the horn or move to port (left). So intense was the conversation that neither noticed her left foot step onto the canal rather than the aft deck. One foot, one boot, one leg of thermals, one sock and one trouser leg all canal damp. As she held on, Pete the hero lifted her by the armpits back into the safe of Bella. First fall!!

But here we are now, just east of Tamworth at Glascote locks. 5 3/4 hours travelling and 22 clicks - 13 of them locks. We DO enjoy this! This pic is of a footbrigde near Drayton Manor Park. What a hoot. Looking forward to tomorrow's anniversary. We moved out of Heyford Wharf to live aboard 12 months ago, Halloween. For us, not All Souls Eve, but the night before All Saints day. Full of promise and hope. And here we are. Watch out for tomorrow's blog (Dave and Sandy - thanks for the champers in the fridge waiting the celebration!).

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Moving out of Brum

We're on another new canal now, after having moored in Birmingham, Gas Street Station on Monday and Tuesday nights. Tuesday, Pete went to Oxford and Elizabeth stayed home (!) and worked at Bella's office and watched the snow. Wonderfully our colleague and friend, Al, happened to be in Brum the same day, so popped by for strategic chats.

Today, we set out at 8:50 and moored up at 3:30. In that time, we moved from the Worcester and Birmingham Canal to the Birmingham and Fasely canal, covered 8 miles and 23 locks (which dropped us nearly 100 feet from the centre of Brum)- a total of 31 clicks in just over 6 1/2 hours. Our best record yet!

On the journey, we saw the fascinating mix of industrial architecture through over 250 years, some of the old buildings still in original use. We travelled under new buildings and under old ones, saw the openings (now closed) to old industrial locations and saw Spaghetti junction from an entirely new vista! Under Spaghetti junction was a junction of canals - parallel sections of the Birmingham and Fasely, the Teme Valley Canal and the Grand Union; all of these with various aquaducts over the rivers Teme and Rea. We were in a lock which was also a tunnel and we had a complete mix of lock styles, gates and paddles. One hardly opened without a mighty push and though one boating family told us of being stuck in it, we just squeezed through. One bridge, near Tyburn House, we recognised as having driven on only just this past September as we drove to Sutton Coldfield. A hugely ecclectic canal day! Absolutely terrific.

And finally, a delightful KIngfisher flitted our welcome to Minworth, where we are moored now. The good news is that we have broken the back of the journey to take us to Atherstone before the 10th of November, when those locks will close for repair and could hinder our way back to Hilmorton. But now we are only 40+ clicks away and have over a week to make it. With today's 31 clicks in one day, we feel we can relax a little on the rest of the Warwickshire Ring!

Monday, 27 October 2008

A split bridge and scenes

The scene of the buildings and canal is the Turn o' the wood moorings from a few days ago. The pic with the bridge on the left and the lock gates on the right is Kingswood Junction; to the left is the Stratford Upon Avon Canal south branch, to the right the north branch which is what we took from the Grand Union/Stratford link canal we were travelling. The final pic is from a traditional canal bridge, some 200 years old. There is a gap in the middle. This is to take the rope of the boat from one side of the bridge to the other. If you enlarge the photo, you'll see the bits on the right hand upright where ropes have worn through the iron in the last centuries. It is amazing to still travel in real time in this environment worn with much time.

Another new canal!

The serene wooded view was this morning, the urban scene 5pm this afternoon. We woke to a glorious Autumn morning, put on the engine to have enough umph to have toast with breakfast, then set out from Warings Green at 9:45. After stopping at a hoot of a Wharf for fuel and water (hoot - garden shed as the office, Wharf warden appearing with Lab and slipper), It was SLOW going to Brum; the Stratford Upon Avon canal is so shallow that we kept thinking that something was around the propeller. Pete stopped us a few times to throw the engine in reverse (turn the propeller the opposite direction) just to check. All OK, but frustrating. We did an electric drawbridge today and two tunnels! Both tiny, but hey. Then we joined the Worcester to Birmingham Canal to end up in Gas Street Basin, right in the middle of Birmingham. We are a short walk away from New Street station (good for Pete as he's off to Oxford tomorrow). We were both a bit surprised that the Birmingham canals we've been on have been much more lovely than anticipated with grafitti only under bridges and much beautiful building. Where we are moored is clearly urban regeneration, but it works! We are delighted that we can live in the countryside one day and in the middle of urban chic the next. What fun!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

19 Locks, a draw bridge, clear weed hatch and we're on the Stratford

We're on a new canal for us again! What fun. We're on the Stratford upon Avon Canal, entered at its midsection at Kingswood Junction. It was so quaint and beautiful. A small link canal from the Grand Union took us to the narrow locks of this canal opened in the late 1790s with much fundraising. As soon as we entered, we had locks as immediate welcome! 19 of them took us up to beautiful landscape.

And - we were on a roll. We followed our wide lock plan of when Bella is in the lower lock as it is filling, the lock worker goes up and gets the next one up ready. But these narrow locks have an annoying feature - there are two gates to open on the way in the bottom lock. On wide locks, there are two gates, but we only have to open one of them, so the lock worker only really has to operate one side of a lock, not both. Not so on these narrows. SO (!) we have created a new routine, including Bella in lock operation. Lock worker opens one gate, Bella gently nudges open the other gate. Lock worker closes one gate, the driver points the tiller into the corner behind the open gate, puts the throttle ahead hard and sends water into the corner behind the still open gate. Hey presto, gate closes! One side worked, not two :-) Then Bella gently pushes forward against the upper gate, driver steps off and both Pete and Elizabeth work the paddles. When Bella is ready, she gently nudges open the upper gate (single), lock worker waits to close the gate and driver steps onboard Bella while she continues out the lock to the next one (now empty thanks to the lock worker making it ready). Ah. We love this.

However, the Stratford canal is very shallow, making us think we had weeds around the propeller, Bella was going so slowly. So we stopped TWICE to check. Poor Pete the weed hatch handler - pics above. A fun moment was using a draw bridge - we've never done that before! Pic above.

We stopped just before Bridge 19 and moored up by a read cider pub. Oh well. Someone must! It was a great welcome to a wonderful autumn day and a new canal. Tomorrow we're off to Brum.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Turn o the Wood moorings and a returned Reg

Today's journey is mostly told by Elizabeth, who took Reg back to Blue Haven to rest a bit while everyone else travels. We took Bella three more miles, lock free, to Turn o the Wood moorings, just east of Kingswood Junction when Elizabeth returned. But before that, here's her journey:
10:41 Train from Hatton to Warwick Parkway arriving 10:50, walk to Saltisford Marina (8mins?), drive Reg to Rugby Hilmorton Co-op by 11.25, drive to Blue Haven, collect post and talk to Dom, cadge lift from Barry (Country Dreams) to bus stop at Watts lane, take bus to Rugby centre, get coffee, take 12:40 No 63 bus to Leamington Spa (nightmare bus driver), take 1:54 train from Leamington to Hatton, arriving on foot 2:07. Set out in Bella 2:15 :-) as Pete had already done all the pre-sailing checks.

And we were back out again. Heavenly Autumn day! One of the pictures is from a few days ago - the lock handles on this section of the Grand Union. They replaced all the old locks in the 1930s when the whole of this section was expanded from single locks to double. The old single locks are still present; used as weirs. The 'new engineering' of the first part of the 20th century has resulted in lock gate paddles operated by hydrolic means. So these odd round white 'sticks' with what appear to be even tinier sticks coming out of them replace what we are used to seeing as cogs winding the steel paddle holder. It takes 20 - 23 revolutions per stick (yes, E counted) with a windlass to open them, but to close them, it takes no windlass at all! We just knock the keep off and watch them lower. A hoot!

The other two pics are today. One is the Shrewley Tunnel, where you can just see the upper tunnel opening for horses, back in the days before Izuzu engines. The other is just the lovely day!!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Hatton Flight and out on the cut again

Well, here we are at the top of Hatton Flight; 21 locks lifting us from the beautiful Warwick pound in Saltisford Canal Centre through the Warwickshire hills to Hatton. We did it in 3 1/2 hours(!), making a staggering personal best of an average of 6 locks an hour. It helped that they were all at our level, boats either having come down before us, or on their way down to meet us.

But you should have seen us! On the tightly placed stretch, one of us as lock-handler would open the gates and one of us as driver would move Bella in. Having closed the lower gate, the lock-handler went to the top gate and started to open the paddles. While the lock filled, the lock-handler walked ahead to the next lock, let out whatever water accumulated, opened the lower gate of that lock, then returned to the lower lock to open its upper gate and let the paddles down. Then the driver swaped tiller for windlass, the lock-handler became driver, and we switched lock for lock and just carried on up hill. What fun! We loved it. It also helped that it was such a stunning clear and beautiful Autumn day :-)

We moored up half an hour west of the locks in Hatton itself, in preparation for using the train to collect Reg tomorrow morning and return him to Rugby. Our mooring is wonderful and opposite a farm. Spot the cows!! Apparently they like canal water better than their water trough - so says the farmer who had them out for a walk.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A happy dinner in Warwick

We're still in Warwick, but move out to the Hatton flight tomorrow morning. This is us, sitting opposite Sandy and Dave who whizzed in to see us on their way back from Amsterdam and their way to Sarah and Andrew. We had a great time and so enjoyed their stay. Again - all are welcome!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Warwick is Bella's home for a little while now

Oxford and Warwick today; Elizabeth at the GKG office and Pete in the Bella office. On the weekend we were in Muswell Hill, London, where Pete was photographing a weekend on worship and art, led by Elizabeth and colleague John. Bella is happily moored in Saltisford Canal Centre, Warwick. If you visit, you'll see our mooring. The bottom photograph shows a building with green shutters and we are just there. We arrived in Warwick on Wednesday night, the 8th of October, having stopped for a spot of shopping at Leamington Spa on the way. The mooring is just lovely and we had a wonderful visit around Warwick. The castle beckons tomorrow!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Near Leamington Spa now

Yesterday we car/bike/boat hopped. It started with Elizabeth and Blossom leaving Bella to meet Reg in the car park of the Two Boats in Long Itchington, then drive to Welsh Road Lock about 2 1/2 miles ahead, park Reg, unfold Blossom and cycle back to Bella. All of us then travelled 15 clicks, 10 of them locks, to Radford Semele just east of Leamington Spa. Pete and Blossom went back to collect Reg, do a bit of shopping and come home. While they were away, Elizabeth finished her crab apple jelly (tow path forage again) and put up some blackberry jam, the berries fresh picked on arrival at the mooring. This morning, Elizabeth took the train to Oxford for early meetings and Pete drove for late ones.

It may sound confusing, but we LOVE this life!!!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

October finds us out on the Cut again

Today finds us on the Grand Union canal in Long Itchington, Warwickshire on October 5th. We went back to Blue Haven for a week while Elizabeth and Pete went to Sutton Coldfield twice, then Elizabeth hopped off to Edinburgh, Chester and Liverpool. We set out again on the 2nd of October.

It was good to be in Blue Haven long enough to use the shore power and wash anything we could, including curtains, dog towels, etc, to catch up with marina friends and to talk with Blue Haven's Barry about a Cratch. For the uninitiated, this means a cover over the bow - a triangle window at the front rising from the bow, a small hard roof linking the top of the triangle window to the body of the boat over the bow doors, then a soft tent like cover with zips to open its side doors. This will be our equivalent of the garden shed, holding the coal, waste cassettes, Blossom and more. We already keep such things in the bow, but it will be more secure and dry with a cover. Hopefully he can fit it in November. Which meant we could move out now!

We set out late Thursday afternoon, the 2nd of October, and moored just an hour south, but OUT. These images are just a few things we like along the way. Elizabeth loves geese; they have such soft eyes, so unlike the bolshy swans. The morning light was clear and bright. The bicycles show you that there is trade on the canals. The basket is more foraging.

We went south to Braunston again where took the Oxford canal south at Braunston junction. Just before Wigrams Turn, where we moved off the Oxford and on to a section of the Grand, we moored up for more crab apples and blackberries from the tow path. The crab apple mush is releasing juice for jelly through the jelly bag as we write. A few clicks later (14 in total on the 3rd), we moored up near The Boat, a pub on the A426 just north of Southam. We have SO often seen this pub on our journeys to and from Oxford. It was such a hoot to be there by boat! Friends Simon and Jane (with new pup Indy) met us for dinner at the pub; great. (message - so can anyone!!)

Saturday saw us move a massive 9 clicks (!), 8 of them locks, down the Stockton Flight to the Blue Lias Pub. Blue Lias, as that is the name of the clay in the local quarry which contributed to the cement used to build the Thames Embankment, quarried from the lowest level of the Jurassic period clay. Hence the dinosaur on the pub sign :-). We still have Reg with us, so it was not too hard for Pete to walk a mile to collect him. Today we moved a huge 3 clicks (3!!) to the Two Boats pub at Long Itchington. Again, only one mile, so Pete walked back for Reg while Elizabeth cut crab apples for said jelly.

Yes, we are pub hopping our way to Warwick. We have scheduled a stop at Warwick's Saltisford Canal Centre where we expect Bella to be safe while Josie goes to kennels and Elizabeth and Pete go to a working weekend in London. We'll let you know if all goes according to plan!!