Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Red Paddle, Blue Paddle

No, we didn’t go up the Wolverhampton Flight - we are still on the Staffs & Worcester Canal making our way to Stourport.   We are now moored at Swinton having passed through  Compton, Wightwick and Wombourne.   Last Monday was like the “olden days”!   We only did about 2.5 miles but went through 8 locks!!   Including the 3 at The Bratch and the 2-lock staircase at Botterham.   

Stopped for a supplies replenish at the Sainsburys in Wombourne which is right by the canal so very handy.    There was a lock-keeper at The Bratch to help boaters as it could be quite daunting for first timers as you have to be careful about opening paddles although there is plenty of info how to work them with blue and red paintings on each set as there are side pounds in use here.  According to Nicholsons ---- with their octagonal toll office, attractive situation and unusual layout, these three locks are well known among students of canal engineering and architecture.   At first sight they appear curiously illogical, with an impossibly short pound between the bottom of one lock and the top gate of the next; but the secret of their operation is the side ponds hidden behind the towpath hedge, and the culverts that connect these to the intermediate pounds.”

Hurray - first ducklings sighted --- we must be the last boaters to find them as they were a good 3 weeks later than our first 2 years on Jandai !

It’s quite a nice mooring here - 3 pubs, little supermarket, bakery and a chippie.   We’ve been spoilt for this delicacy lately as we had a fish ‘n’ chip supper when moored at Compton last Thursday night.   Good width of towpath with a proper path although not had much opportunity to take advantage as, like everywhere else, we have had lots of April showers and a huge amount of the wet stuff today.

Since last blog we have done … 10 miles and  15 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1722 miles and  1339 locks  

unusual bridge at Awbridge Lock 

Awbridge Lock where BW have erected
temporary scaffolding as a safety barrier.
Noticed this on most locks coming down
Staff and Worcs from Autherley Junction.
Last year a youngster rode his bike over the
admittedly very very narrow bridge and fell into the canal.
BW were not blamed by the subsequent inquest but
have obviously felt it morally right to put up
the barriers.   We understand they will be putting up more
permanent barriers but they have to be
"in keeping" with the rest of the lock

Warning notice near The Bratch top lock moorings

The Bratch Top Lock ----
look at the sky!!   Moments before a hail storm!

Blue paddle

Red paddles

What a wonderful step structure at The Bratch Locks

Side pounds at The Bratch

The octagonal toll office at The Bratch Locks

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oh, where oh where are the peanuts?

------ someone/thing was obviously VERY hungry as they weren’t content with just a nibble at the peanuts, they took the holder too!   Left the fatballs behind - now how strange is that?    So the poor old birds where we are now only have fatballs until we reach a shop to replace the peanut holder.

Funny old weather this last week - sun, cloud, rain, drizzle, wind and hail storms ---- perhaps next week will see something better!

Much boatie chaos at Wheaton Aston ---- boats, boats, boats everywhere.    There are 4 water points by the services there and boat moored overnights at all of them and at two of them boats were double breasted.    And we thought it was naughty at Gnosall the week before!

First sighting of (no, not ducklings!) grass cutters on Monday.    Yes, the towpaths do have to be kept neat and tidy (ha ha) but I wish they wouldn’t turn up when it’s wet.   Clumps of cut grass inside the boat are such a nuisance !   And you have to brush the side of the boat after the cutting or else it just sticks there.   Last year we had one set of grass cutters who came afterwards and brushed down the boat!    Only happened the once though!

Today we are moored between bridges 5 and 6 about 3 miles from Brewood (pronounced Brood so we are told) in the middle of nowhere.   When we move again we will be off the Shropshire Union canal and probably turning right to go down to Stour port (although the Captain may well yet change his mind and we’ll go up the Wolverhampton Flight, who knows?).

Since last blog we have done … 6 miles and  1 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1712 miles and  1324 locks 

lots of fields of golden rape now

oh no, wet grass cuttings everywhere now

how many boats need water today?
Glad we didn't !
Boatie chaos at Wheaton Aston

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thunderbolts of lightening

…. As I sit here writing this!   And we think this is the first thunder/lightening storm that we have experienced on Jandai!   We’ll be ok though because a steel narrow boat acts as a Faraday Cage.   Foxxie isn’t bothered at all - she’s snoring in her bed!!

Not moved a lot since last blog - just up to Wheaton Aston where we were surprised to get a mooring between Turners Garage and the lock as there are soooo many boats about.

We had a nice meal at The Navigation at Gnosall - Dai surprised himself by polishing off all his 20oz meat pie followed by apple pie (no, I won’t ask “who ate all the pies”!!).  They still have Rev. James ale so Dai was in seventh heaven!  Pies and Rev James, oh my.

I did get an Easter Egg this year from Dai - a Thorntons one no less.    Only trouble was that for the first time since living on Jandai, I must have picked up some weird bug that put me off chocolate for a couple of days.   We even postponed our Easter Sunday dinner to Monday when the Gnosall butcher did us proud with a beef joint which was delicious.

Dai was hoping for a set to when we were at Gnosall.   There are 2 water points and every night we were there, boats were moored blocking access.   OK, if there is nowhere else and you get there as daylight is fading fast and are off again in the morning by say 8am, then nobody really complains too much.   These were there well before sunset and not off the next day until at least 10 or 11 am.   Anyway, came the time for us to leave and we needed water, it was about 9.30.    It was a hireboat.   I asked them if the hire company had told them not to moor at water points ---- “no” was the answer (not totally unexpected); “but I know now”.   They then proceeded to water up so we had to wait because the second water point was out of order I discovered when I tried to open it!   In the end, no harsh words were exchanged, we just had to be patient which isn’t a problem to us as we aren’t on any timetable!

Inbetween the rain showers this weekend, we did manage to plant out some pansies - at least they got well watered in!   I have 3 containers on the roof and hope they do as well as they did last year.

Since last blog we have done … 16 miles and  12 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1698 miles and  1323 locks

At Wheaton Aston we are moored almost opposite the winding hole you can see in the old photo below.   There are some permanent moorings opposite which have obviously appeared since 1952! 

Wheaton Aston 1952: both pix taken from
When you look at the Francis Frith site, you are invited to comment on the photos and two comments by the canal picture say:
I Have a picture of my grandfather, Harry Evans, who managed the warehouse building in the background which was known as the coal wharf. He is unloading coal with the father of the schoolteacher, Sue Brereton. He initially lived with his uncle at the pub whose family name was Bowdler after he was orphaned when he was 9/10 years old (they died of TB). His parents came from Albrighton. In those days the Bowdlers also owned the garage. Eventually with my grandmother they bought Mileford Cottage on Wenlocks Bank and she (Gladys) lived there until the mid 1970s. 
       During the school holidays the canal and it's towpath became a playground for many of the village children. Several of us caught the fishing bug and used the canal many times throughout the holiday. We always looked out for a barge called the MENDIP. The bargee was a gentleman called Charlie Atkins. His route was from the CADBURY factory at Knighton to Bournville in Birmingham. This was the origin of his nickname (Chocolate Charlie). We always asked him for a bit of chocolate but it was the raw chocolate crumb before it had been milled and was all but uneatable. If he was in a good mood we were alowed a ride up the canal for about 2 bridges then it was Get off home to your mother. Can you see that happening today?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter

What a mix of the elements this last week and now we are plunged back into “winter” with sleet, snow, frosts and gale force winds !  Good job we have plenty of coal and wood.

We have ‘done’ Market Drayton, Goldstone Wharf, Norbury and today are moored at Gnosall.    This stretch of canal is, for us, a blackspot for both internet and phone - hence the late posting of blog this week.   We have a 3 dongle which is brilliant 95% of the time and Vodaphone phones which is brilliant about 90% of the time - it just seems to be this stretch of water although here at Gnosall, internet access is back on.

Must say that we don’t like staying in Market Drayton - it seems to be such a sad place, rundown and it is the only place we have ever had any trouble.   Once we were moored here and were untied in the early hours of the morning. Well, almost because Foxxie suddenly went loopy about 3 in the morning and obviously woke us up.   Dai looked out of the window straight into the face of a young scrout who had untied the front rope and then proceeded to jump on the back to untie that rope.   Dai let Foxxie out and this waster legged it down the towpath at a great rate of knots!    This time we were there, Dai had his fishing rod pinched off the roof.   Ok, he really shouldn’t have left it there but it had been so for about a year.   Luckily it was a really cheap one he had bought - his ‘proper’ ones are safely stored indoors.   The canal is about 15 mins walk from the town with a big Morrisons supermarket about another 10 minutes away.   There is now an Asda but it is very small and not good enough for a Big Shop.    They have re-done the indoor market but, to be honest, it looks good but is now half empty (must be that they have upped the rent since revamping).  Talking to other boaters about Market Drayton, most seem to tie up for shopping and then go.    

We are noticing now a real upsurge in boat movement which, we predict, will only get more so on the canals north of about Birmingham due to the water shortages anywhere further south and then too is the Olympics this summer so a lot of boaters will be clogging up the canals we prefer!   Ah well, such is life - will have to cruise early and look for a mooring earlier before all the hire boaters want to stop!   Seriously, we do think there could well be a bit of the old argey-bargey this summer with more boats on fewer canals, more queues at locks and hire boaters struggling to find moorings in the more popular spots.    I am already counselling Dai to keep calm, breathe and keep his mouth clamped!!

No ducklings spotted yet - in our first year of cruising it was April 2 and last year April 4.  We did however have first sighting of a blackbird on our hanging fatball feeder yesterday!  It’s different types of tits 99% of the time.

Have a lovely Easter everyone and let’s hope the sun shines!

Since last blog we have done … 16 miles and  12 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1698 miles and  1323 locks  

owners of this boat don't have any
problems keeping indoor plants alive!