Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To the Edge

This week we have done …. Merry Hill Birmingham; down the 8 Delph locks onto Stourbridge Canal; down the 16 Stourbridge locks to Stourbridge Junction; turned left onto the Staffs and Worcs canal;  Kinver; Kidderminster and now moored at Stourport-on-Severn.      Only 16 miles this week as we spent 2 days at Kinver and 2 days at Stourport-on-Severn.

Had a lot of glorious weather again  this week - sunny and hot most of the time.

Moored at Kinver Friday afternoon and stayed the weekend, leaving on Monday morning.   Lovely place where the village seems to be in duplicate - 2 butchers (and most of the time we never see even one!); 2 little supermarkets (Co-op and a Spar); 2 chippies and then there was a greengrocer, PO, the inevitable hairdressers, teashops, Indian takeaway, chemist, couple of gift shops and (I think) 4 pubs.   The reason apparently it is a bit of a tourist place is because of Kinver Edge (National Trust) and the rock houses at Holy Austin Rock.   We took a walk up to the Edge through woods and over heathland and were rewarded with tremendous views of the Cotswold and Malvern Hills, then we walked round to Holy Austin Rock where    the NT has restored one of the rock houses but it is only open at certain times and not when we were there.   The rock houses hewn out of the sandstone Holy Austin Rock, Kinver Edge were occupied from the 1600s through to the 1960s. At one time up to 11 families occupied a warren of rooms over three levels. The lower rock house has been painstakingly restored by the National Trust with a recreated 1900's bedroom and parlour. The houses were very comfortable, being cool in summer and warm in winter.   Take a look at some photos on the site link below
Glyn (Dai’s brother) and his wife Linda joined us in Kinver for a meal at The Vine.     Good beer, fantastic food but the service was very iffy … but we weren’t in a rush so that didn’t really matter.

We got to Stourport-on-Severn yesterday afternoon - what a funny town!    As its name implies it is on the River Severn and seems like a seaside town without the sand and sea!    There is a permanent funfair; a beautifully kept kiddies paddling pool; playgrounds and even crazy golf !   The High Street is quite quaint - not because of its buildings but rather because there are lots of individual type shops and this time, 4 butchers - yes, four !  I think it is a really nice place.

This morning we went a long walk by the River and managed to find two places where Foxxie could get down to have a dip - lucky her!    It was so hot I would have loved to have plunged in but the Severn is notorious for its deep currents.  We were a bit cautious at first letting Foxxie go in but she was fine as we kept calling her back once she was actually swimming rather than paddling.

We plan to start moving on tomorrow back up the Staffs and Worcs,  making our way next to the Shropshire Union Canal.

Since last blog we have done …  16 miles and 37 locks.
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 538 miles and  600 locks.

The Toll House at Stewponey Lock on the Staffs and Worcs Canal just before Kinver

Catch the Pigeon !!!    Dai-Teaser acting oh-so-cool

Staffs and Worcs Canal cut through sandstone

some outstanding Canalside Art under a bridge in Kidderminster - there were about 6 different faces

Here a better photo of the sandstone through which some of the Staffs and Worcs is cut

Reckon these two are brothers?

Linda, Dai and Glyn enjoying a pint .... or two !

Janice and Foxxie working the Delph Locks on the Dudley Number Two Canal 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chocolate Feast and Aladdin’s Cave

This week we have done …. back up the Birmingham & Worcester canal from Worcester itself  and carried straight on at Kings Norton to Gas Street in Birmingham, then onto Merry Hill “Waterside Complex” where we are moored today.   Of course we had to go up the 30 locks at Tardebigge this week !  

Had a lot of glorious weather this week - sunny and hot most of the time..... so Foxxie decided to take a dip while we were slugging up Tardebigge - I think she must have been trying to get a piece of wood out of the canal and toppled over - plop!    I was raising the paddle on the other side which was really really stiff and because it was only a couple of rachets up it wouldn't drop - so there I was, trying to drop the paddle to then get over the gate to pull her out.    Dai balling at me to rescue her - but I needed to drop the paddle as there was the danger of Foxxie being sucked under the gate sluice with the paddle open.    Foxxie was trying her upmost to heave herself out but with her coat heavy with water and the side being blue brick, was struggling.  Anyway,  she had just managed it when I got over the gate.    Obviously next thing to happen is she shakes ... and shakes .... all over me and then started barking furiously and jumping up at me as though it was me who had pushed her in !     Drama over for the day.    Foxxie none the worse for her dunking and, yes, she carried on working the rest of Tardebigge locks with me.

I enjoyed a wander round Worcester which is a lovely town with lots of pedestrianised shopping streets.    Big blow though was that the Italian restaurant we ate at when last in Worcester (on a hireboat in May 2006) is currently closed for renovation.    The food was some of the best Italian we have had.   Nevermind, we can go there next time we are in Worcester.

On Saturday we moored up at Stoke Works on the Birm & Worcs, then started hearing gunshots and country music ….. yes, there was a Country & Western Weekend happening in the field next to the canal so before I could even count the number of Confederate Flags, Dai had upsticks and off we suddenly were!   He didn’t want to play cowboys or jig around to the music !    So we ended up for the evening at the bottom of Tardebigge flight and went to the Queens Head again for dinner.    I only had a starter so thought - yes, I can have dessert.    “The Chocolate Plate” came and, oh boy - 12 different chocolate delights!    Heavenly choc feast !    Dai had to help me out though after he’d eaten his summer pudding !  

I have finished my first crochet project this week - a different sized squares blanket to go as a cover for our bed.     I am quite proud of it - Dai says he will look out for American tourists strolling down the towpath  and see how many dollars he can get for it !!

We arrived in Gas Street, Birmingham on Monday and stayed there until this morning.    I went on a mission to find more wool for all the projects now lined up.    So I went to the Rag Market expecting an Aladdin’s Cave of goodies.    But no - only one stall selling wool and that was the “cheap and nasty”.    So much for the Rag Market living up to my expectations.    The fruit/veg/meat/fish market is excellent though.
Luckily I spotted a House of Fraser whilst wandering and they had loads of wool in a 50% off sale.    I had found my Aladdin’s Cave afterall.     Four shopping bags later I thought I’d better head back to the boat.   I then had to find holes in cupboards and under the bed to stash it all !!  

I think Gas Street is a great place but Dai prefers the area before it was all re-developed, when (in his words) it was all dark and dingy with the blue brick walls.   In his eyes they have robbed a big piece of canal history.     Now it’s a hugely popular place with lots of life with all the bars and restaurants.

Tuesday evening we had a private guided tour of Birmingham City Centre by Glyn (Dai’s brother) and Linda who are very proud of their city.    It IS a lovely city with so much going for it these days.    I have a list of places I must visit next time we are in Gas Street.  We had a lovely evening with Glyn and Linda and it was great to see them again.

As I am writing this, I can hear all the drama of the England v Slovenia World Cup match from the Wetherspoons pub on the other side of Merry Hill basin!    Dai has gone on a hunt for boatie things like distilled water, polish and T-cut.    Football is the wrong shaped ball as far as he is concerned (being a Welsh rugby fan !)

Since last blog we have done …  41 miles and 59 locks. 
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 522 miles and  563 locks.

night sky on June 20 at mooring just above Tardebigge Top Lock

canal diversion while new aqueduct being built near Birmingham on Birm & Worcs Canal

This one's especially for Mandie !

Yes Mandie - you could smell the chocolate !

just in case you can't read it, the sign in Gas Street, Birmingham says "Welcome to the Heart of Britain's Canal Network"

Gas Street, Birmingham

we've seen loads of honeysuckle around the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigation)

M5 motorway from the canal - no, don't want to swap our mode of transport thank you !

fancy bridge in middle of Birmingham

one of the "toll islands" on the BCN - where the tolls were collected for use of the Birmingham Main Line on the BCN

oh no !   which way mum?  which way dad?  Oh no!   Don't squash us !

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

where have all the kingfishers gone ?

enjoying your ride?
Foxxie mega-depressed after Amy left !

OK, your wait is over impatient cars at Shirley liftbridge

well, we just had to sample some of their wares!

in Tardebigge tunnel looking backwards

another shot in Tardebigge Tunnel looking forwards

someday my prince will come  (if only I could see the frog !)

What's that big top hole for in Bridge 10 by Lowesmoor Basin in Worcester ?

This week we have done …. back up to Kingswood Junction and carried on the Stratford to Norton Junction and took the Birmingham & Worcester Canal pointing towards Worcester where we arrived this afternoon and are currently moored close to the city centre. Zillions of locks this week - in fact, number of locks down now exceeds number of miles done! This is mainly because we came down the Tardebigge Flight of 30 locks on Monday.

oh, and I must praise British Waterways this week ---- at lock 33 on the Tardebigge Flight a narrowboat got stuck in as a piece of the metalwork on the bottom gate had fallen off and wedged the gate so it wouldn’t open fully. Along came the BW chaps and soon flushed the boat out and then stayed to help other boats through (including us) until they closed the lock to go down and sort it out which they did in record time as we moored at bottom of flight and they came down very soon after with mission accomplished.

Saw our first kingfisher since Setting Off ---- this last winter must have really decimated their numbers which is a huge shame as they are such beautiful birds you associate with canals.

Called at a super bakery about 50 yards from bridge 20 on the Stratford (see picture below) where we indulged in a sourdough loaf (and no, we didn’t pay £21 for it !!! - see this, pork pie, ham and a fruit pie.

Can anyone beat holding up 15 vehicles at a lift bridge? Well, that is a new record for us when we went through Shirley Liftbridge last Saturday.

Good thing this week was having a video call with our friends Ethan and Nancy who live near Boston in the USA. Used Skype for the first time ever and it was brilliant. We could talk and see each other live - what a brilliant free bit of internet magic.

Going to say in Worcester tomorrow as I want to wander round the shops without Dai nagging me to hurry up and why do I want to look in that shop and also take a look around Worcester Cathedral and hopefully the sun will shine all day just like it has today!

Since last blog we have done … 34 miles and 80 locks.
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 481 miles and 504 locks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pink Hair, Wet Ewe and Nettled Legs

Highlight of week has been that Amy came to stay one night with us and brought her boyfriend Hayan who we had not met before…. and yes, he is a lovely boyfriend - mum approves !!!    They came on Monday and we gave them the Baptism of  Fire by doing 16 locks over 5 miles down into Stratford upon Avon from the Edstone Aqueduct.    Neither had done locks before but they picked it up quickly even though Amy is a bit lacking in the muscle department !    We visited a couple of pubs Mon evening including The Garrick which is said to be the oldest pub in Stratford - and we were suitably impressed.     Then Tuesday - the 16 locks over 5 miles back up to the Aqueduct so they could pick up the car to drive back to Nottingham.  It was great to see them and I made sure I got my quota of hugs which I have been missing for the last 10 weeks and enough to keep me going for a bit !   Foxxie was overjoyed to see her Amy again - and after they had gone was mooching around - she was even sitting on the towpath this morning looking in the direction  where they disppeared from view.

This last week has been the first time that we have been stationary for 2 whole days …. It was a great spot  in the middle of nowhere just before Edstone Aqueduct (which at 200 yards is the longest aqueduct in England).    We even had to go without television cos  no reception !   Dai did have a bit of excitement  when an ewe decided she wanted a swim and so jumped into the canal shouting for her 2 lambs to follow !!    Thank goodness they were very sensible lambs and just stood on the bank bleating while Dai and a fellow he-man boater grappled with mum to rescue her.     Mission accomplished with sheep no worse for wear and Dai with nettled legs (no, I didn’t laugh …. much)

This week we have done Stratford upon Avon and now turned around to go back northwards on the Stratford Canal and are currently moored opposite the Fleur-de-Lys pub in Lowsonford whose food we sampled on the way down last week.  The Fleur-de-Lys celebrates the meat pie and offers about 10 different pies (plus lots of other food) and the veg they come with are cooked right - still got some bite, not at all soggy like so many veg in eateries ......   “No, we can’t eat there tonight”  I have just been told when I reminded Dai how much he enjoyed his lamb pie with chips and veg last Thursday night, “we have salad stuff we have to finish up or else it’ll be no good except as duck food …. but we might just pop over for a pint or two later.”.  

Not sure yet which way we will go once we hit Kingswood Junction tomorrow ….. either (a) carry on the Stratford to Kings Norton (and then another decision - Worcester or Birminghm) or (b) back onto the GU in the Birmingham direction.

Since last blog we have done …  23 miles and 55 locks.
This makes total since Setting Off 10 weeks ago ….. 447 miles and  424 locks.

Amy of the Pink Hair sharing a Special Moment with mum !

Dai avoiding a lock wall
(No, that's not his jug of beer by his feet - nothing so exciting!   it's just water)

cast iron split bridge .... these bridges were built in two halves separated by a one inch gap so that the towing line between a horse and a boat could be dropped through the gap without having to disconnect the horse.

Edstone Aqueduct

detail from the information board about Edstone Aqueduct

Pull Hayan, Pull

OK, Hayan's got it, let's leave him to it !

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Clicking Bat

….. it was so still and quiet the other night that for the first time ever for both of us ---- we heard a bat “clicking” as he kept flying back and forth along the towpath where we were moored for the night.   I was mesmerised.

Two rest days this week cos of rain --- we aren’t working to a timetable so why get wet through ??

This week we have done …. Braunston Tunnel …. Napton Junction …. Long Itchingham … Leamington Spa … Warwick …. Hatton 21.

Sorry any Leamington Spa-ites but we weren’t impressed with your town.    It seems to have gone by its sell-by date.    I especially wanted to stop and look round the town but it only took us 30 mins and we were back on the boat ready to leave … but I did like your public park, the Jephson Gardens  - named after Dr. Jephson (1798-1878) the local practitioner who was largely responsible for the spa’s high medical reputation

Warwick - well, that is a lovely town.    Of course there is the Castle (but we didn’t look round it at £16 a head - we are now pensioners after all and both of us had been years previously).   We did spend quite some town in St.Marys Church which is beautiful.   The highlight for me was the altar cloth in the Lady Chapel which is from the coronation gown of Queen Elizabeth 1st.    

Today we went up the Hatton 21 ….. 21 broad locks within about 1.5 miles.    We did them all with another boat and took us 4 hours as we were following two boats and immediately in front of us one single boat.    I think we met about 4 locks worth of boats coming down !   Weather was perfect with cloud/sun/cloud/sun and warm but not hot.

Since last blog we have done …  40 miles and 53 locks.
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 424 miles and  369 locks.

                                                                     Greenhouse Boat

the night we heard the bat on the GU just after Bridge 95 after making the turn after Braunston towards Naption Junction  (unfortunately the bat was flying too fast to show up on the photo !)

                                                         St.Marys Church in Warwick

St. Marys Church, Warwick - altar cloth in Lady Chapel from Queen Elizabeth First Coronation gown.   Elizabeth First was crowned in 1559.

                                                              Part of Hatton 21 Flight

                                                   Love this dragonfly on Hatton Locks