Monday, May 27, 2013

Carlsberg don't do Bank Holidays...but if they did....

The Bank Holiday weekend certainly came up trumps again with the weather. We have had three lovely days in perfect cruising conditions. Let's just hope that's not it for the summer.

We had a run down to Fradley on Saturday morning having spent the night aboard in the marina. We were lucky to find a mooring just as we turned onto the Coventry Canal and we stopped for a late breakfast. We then went for a walk around and ended up watching the free entertainment outside the Swan (pint in hand of course). It is an education watching steerers negotiate (or not) the junction. Several near misses and cries of 'hit reverse' rang out from the watching audience. It would have been good to have scorecards to award steerers points for entertainment value and helmsmanship.

This boat brought a smile to our faces as it passed us. The chap at the helm said his boat was named after his wife...a little harsh to say the least.

We left Fradley early afternoon and headed towards Huddlesford. A property that we have often admired is Brookhay Cottage next to Bridge 88. The owners have been very clever and begun advertising it for sale in 2014. The notice on the bow of their boat and another on the towpath is sure to generate considerable interest for this idyllic property. 

Brookhay Cottage
We moored for the night at Hademore, surprisingly in almost total isolation in what is usually a popular spot. Lots of boats passed us on Sunday morning towards Fazeley as we enjoyed breakfast. We headed down through Hopwas and onto Fazeley Junction before turning onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. We travelled as far as the bottom of Curdworth Locks before winding and then moored up for a break by Kingsbury Water Park. The locals were certainly making use of the facilities with hoards of walkers, bird watchers and cyclists about.
Nice spot for a break at Kingsbury Water Park
Having refreshed, we headed back to Fazeley Junction and back through Hopwas and eventually moored close to where we had left that morning. Today we have enjoyed the run back to Kings Bromley, although the wind has got stronger, but the sun and blue skies stayed with us all the way.
Heading home through Whittington
Fradley was quite busy with boats, the majority heading in the same direction as us. One chap described the scene as chaos as we approached the junction...he's obviously not been there on a busy day !!! There were three boats ahead of us and plenty of folks wanting to chat and volunteer lock keepers at each lock, so the time soon passed by. We were soon back at base and tied up having had just the sort of weekend we have the boat for...perfect.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What weekends are for

We had a super weekend afloat. Good weather and good company always help things along and we had lots of both.

Saturday saw us back in Ravenshaw Wood, only five minutes out of the marina. Very peaceful and relaxing and definitely one of our favourite spots to moor. Later in the afternoon nb Elizabeth moored behind us. What an interesting boat and lovely owners. Full of history as originally an FMC butty and has had various engines since, including paraffin powered. We chatted with Jim and his wife Annie whilst Jasper had a great run with their dog Tilly. Unfortunately I've had to 'borrow' a photo as I inexplicably forgot to take my own picture of Elizabeth !!

nb Elizabeth
During the evening we arranged to meet friends at Fradley on Sunday. Kev and Sally are old school friends of John and their Sunday usually consists of a good walk, so when they were offered the chance of a days boating, they jumped at the chance. 

Sunday morning was lovely. Elizabeth had beaten us to the off at about 7am. We were already awake (Jasper had seen to that at about 5.15am...bless him !!) and we eventually sauntered down to Fradley where we had breakfast before Kev and Sally descended on us. We had a lovely run down to Huddlesford. Kev was very reluctant to take the helm. He doesn't even drive a car, and never has, which, in this day and age is very unusual so the prospect of a narrowboat was a bit daunting.
Our new crew members
We had a fabulous Sunday dinner at The Plough. Very reasonably priced and an extremely tasty lamb shank followed by homemade bread and butter pudding certainly did the trick. The sun stayed with us on the return journey, as did Kev and Sally who didn't hesitate when we offered to take them all the way back to the marina and then drop them off for their car later.

Fradley was busy with gongoozlers as usual, but not that many boats. We briefly met Sarah on nb Chertsey as we exited Middle Lock. Chertsey looked great and they are on their way to Langley Mill.
nb Chertsey
Kev did his fair share of locking with a huge grin and all too soon we were back at Kings Bromley at the end of a lovely day. We will do it all again sometime soon.
Louise & Kev...The Green Team

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lunching with the Lancaster.

I'm sure most folks have seen the pictures on TV of the Lancaster and Spitfire flying over Derwent Dam today marking the 70th Anniversary of the World War II Dambusters raid.

I was fortunate enough to be able to coincide my lunch break with joining the thousands of people who visited North Derbyshire and see the magnificent sight for myself and what a wonderful sight and sound it was. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and very proud to be British.

Three passes by the Lancaster and Spitfire and also two Tornado GR4s from the current 617 Squadron. Here are a couple of my videos which I shall cherish.

Both videos can also be viewed here if the above will not play.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another week ticked off the list

Blimey, where does the time go ? We didn't get chance to post at the end of the Bank Holiday trip and have been rushing about and working all week. There just aren't enough hours in the day. 

We had a pleasant trip back to the marina last Monday in some glorious weather. We are glad we didn't plan to be out this weekend as we are back to the wet and windy theme again. We seemed to have the same idea as most of the boats moored around us and set off quite early to beat the expected congestion at Colwich Lock, but after a slow run down we were straight through and our locking for the day was done. 

We passed a couple of interesting boats soon afterwards. The first is instantly recognizeable to many I'm sure and the subject of much interest and debate on forums. 'Whitefield' is certainly bespoke and you either love it or hate it. 
Soon after we met Nb Percy travelling towards us. Owned by Nev and Rachel, we had hoped to finally meet up for a proper chat, but unfortunately we met at a really inconvenient spot and had to exchange brief 'hellos' as we passed. They were heading towards Norbury to have Percy blacked. 
Nev with Percy. 
We moored up for breakfast opposite a smallholding with lots of piglets. Louise felt a bit guilty putting the pan on for a good old cooked breakfast, but needs must !! I wonder whether they realised what the smell was wafting across the cut ? We enjoyed a couple of hours sat in deck chairs on the towpath watching the world go by before we headed off back to Kings Bromley in the sunshine. A steady flow of boats and nearly everyone smiling and cheery in the good weather...there's always the odd grumpy one. 

So no actual boating for us this weekend, but then again the weather has been pretty miserable. This morning we did manage an early morning dog walk down to Stenson Lock Coffee Shop for breakfast before the forecast rain. A lovely spot to sit and gongoozle and nice to see it has had a makeover, having been reprinted and a new cover outside. It really does look smart.
New look Stenson Lock Coffee Shop
On another note, I have been following a thread this week on CWDF regarding a stolen narrowboat from Kegworth. 'Samshiba' was taken from a secure mooring at East Midland Boat Services on the River Soar overnight on 6/7 May and hadn't been sighted since. Today it has been found on the Fossdyke Navigation, with windows removed and an obvious attempt to hide its identity by removing  the name. You have to feel so sorry for the owners who had recently had her repainted and clearly spent some hard earned cash on their pride and joy. I can't imagine how I would feel if that was Blue Moon. It serves as a reminder that although this type of crime is relatively rare on the waterways, it could happen to any of us. 

A minor milestone passed this week as John now has less than 100 weeks until retirement. How sad that he could tell you how many sleeps he has left. We have sorted the first retirement task though and booked Blue Moon in for a repaint and exciting !! More on that another time.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lovely weekend but some deep breaths required.

We've had a relaxing couple of days out and about and are now heading back towards Kings Bromley. The weather has gradually improved and this afternoon has been just perfect. 

Yesterday morning we fell foul of some torrential showers (or at least John did) as we headed through Rugeley. It was a slow journey up to Great Haywood as the boat two ahead of us travelled at no more than tick over. We don't have a problem with that at all, but when boats are clearly travelling quicker and queueing up behind, why not just pull over and let them by. In fact, the boat infront of us got so tired of the pace, he actually forced his way past without being beckoned through. At least it meant that the expected queue at Colwich Lock was non existent when we finally arrived there. 

Unfortunately we were not so lucky at Hoo Mill Lock as we arrived at #7 in the queue. Oh we'll it's a Bank Holiday after all, so we should expect it I guess. Having got through the lock we moored up mid afternoon at Ingestre and watched the world go by from the comfort of the cratch. We went for a walk to Ingestre village in the evening....a real jewel in Staffordshires crown. Some fabulous properties and tucked so far out of the way. We encountered some unusual sheep in a field that turned out to be Balwen welsh mountain sheep - what an easy life they have by the River Trent. 

Today we had a run up as far as Aston Marina. We had intended to wind above Sandon Lock, but the queue to come down would have left us #7 in the queue again - there's a pattern forming here !! So we decided to keep moving rather than stand holding a rope and had a really pleasant run. By the time we arrived back at Sandon there were just two boats ahead of us and we were soon through. We have seen plenty of ducklings, goslings and a pair of swans with eight cygnets which was a lovely sight. 

Back at Hoo Mill Lock we witnessed a severe breach of Health & Safety. Why would you enter a lock with young children standing on the roof of the boat and allow them to try and grab the footbridge over the lock and an overhanging willow tree. They remained there as the boat came up in the lock. A surge of water could have thrown the boat onto the top gate and them into the lock. Of course life jackets were not worn. I just don't understand the mentality of the parents. At the end of the day the kids don't know any better, but it could be a hard lesson to learn.

We found a mooring above Haywood Lock and had another terrific meal at the Clifford Arms. For a quality value for money meal it's hard to beat with a cracking selection of ales too. The area was busy with folks this evening. As we walked to the pub there were folks having a barbecue by the river. On our way back we wandered down to the river with the dogs. It is a lovely spot. The 'Essex Bridge' over the river is an ancient packhorse bridge built in 1550, is grade one listed and is the longest remaining packhorse bridge in England. Why then would you choose to go there and having had your enjoyment in lovely surroundings, leave all your litter strewn all over the place. Bottles, cans, plastic bags and even raw sausages left lying around the place. We did our good deed for the day and tidied it all up and placed it in a nearby bin....Maffi would be proud of us !!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Joining the mad rush.

Well the Bank Holiday weekend has finally arrived after a frantic week at work. We have both spent the week passing by the canals in various locations, envious of those enjoying this spell of half decent weather. Louise had today off work to gather supplies and having finished work myself at 4pm, we were in the car and away by 4.45pm. Travelling the half hour to Kings Bromley, we couldn't help but notice the amount of 'shed draggers' (you may know them as caravaners) on the road. No doubt there will be just as many folks heading for their boats too in the rush to get out for a few days.

We quickly loaded up Blue Moon and filled with water. On leaving the marina one of our neighbours thought we were mad heading out on a Bank Holiday. Yes,it will probably be very busy, but it sure beats sitting in a marina. We moored for the night where we stayed last weekend near to bridge 56. Tomorrow we will head off towards Great Haywood and just see where we end up.