Saturday, July 22, 2017

Onto the Trent and Mersey and up to Rugeley

On Thursday we moved on to Fradley, stopping just short of the junction. It was a fine morning, with scattered cloud and spells of sunshine, but clouds built up later.

Passing Streethay Wharf

On the boatyard moorings lie the restored pair Starling and Ethel.DSCF0498

Starling has been restored to her original 70’ length after being shortened to 40’ in the 1960’s. This was fairly common with boats being made redundant as canal carrying dwindled and the fleets sold off for little money. Often a motor would be cut in half, the back end having a new bow section welded on and the fore-end a new counter and engine room. These shortened boats initially formed the basis of the holiday hire fleets that started up in the late 60’s and early 70’s. In this case the middle was cut out, the ends reunited and the middle hull section formed the basis of another craft.
The style of the bow indicates that both Starling and Ethel were built by Yarwoods in Northwich.

We pulled in on the end of the moorings at just before 1 o’clock after a late start.

Friday wasn’t as damp as predicted, in fact we didn’t see any rain till mid afternoon. We still stayed put, though. Last night made up for it. Two really heavy showers woke us up, the water running off the roof through the drainage gaps in the handrail sounding like a waterfall. It washed all the little bits of tree off, though.

Once again the forecast said rain by mid-afternoon, so we were on the move at about half-nine, topping up with water before going through the little swing bridge and out onto the junction.DSCF0504


Volunteers were manning the locks up from the junction, although strictly speaking Woodend Lock was “womanned” (is that even a word??), so we made good progress up to the long Rugeley pound.

Heading for Middle Lock, just being opened for us.DSCF0507

Mags waiting patiently as a boat comes down Woodend Lock

Clear of the locks we had a steady run to Rugeley.

Through Ravenshaw Wood.

A glimpse of Rugeley Power Station of the fields.DSCF0513
No smoke from the stack, nor steam from the cooling towers. The coal-fired facility was closed last year partially due to the government’s commitment to reduce the country’s energy production from fossil fuels.
One company that still seems to be doing well in Armitage…DSCF0514
You know – Armitage-Shanks? No drop in the demand for sanitary ware, then.

We caught up with another boat at Armitage and had to slow a little. But it wasn’t a problem; we were able to follow them through Armitage “tunnel”. The tunnel here was notoriously unstable and was finally de-roofed. Since then, though, the Rugeley Road has been significantly widened and now covers a good half of the resulting narrows.DSCF0516

It’s one-way through here and blind too, so it’s recommended that someone goes ahead to check for oncoming traffic. But with a boat ahead we let them do that!

Passing the long length of permanent moorings and under the main road at the Ash Tree pub the canal comes into the urban landscape of Rugeley. It seems quite a long potter past the back gardens to the moorings near Bridge 66, where we pulled in. I went up to Tesco’s for something for tea, and got back just as the rain started, on time at 3 o’clock.

We’ll probably stay here tomorrow, I’ve a long run in the morning and might not feel like doing much afterwards. We’ll see.

Locks 3, miles 11

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Just plodding along…

Well, we have. I can’t say the same for others, though. Lots of boats about, especially yesterday. I had to chuckle at one chap coming the other way. He was in such a hurry to beat us to Hademore House Bridge that he overshot the bend immediately after and went hard aground in the shallows. The irony was that I’d already backed off and was just about to wave him through anyway. And when we moored up just north of Wittington the greeting from a boater moored in front was “Welcome to Silverstone…”

Anyway, we left our mooring near the Tame aqueduct yesterday morning, and stopped after 5 minutes to take on water at Fazeley Junction.

Topping up the tank at Fazeley

There’s another tap around the corner at Peel’s Wharf, where the local CRT offices used to be. Now they’ve moved out the bins have too, although you can still empty cassette loo tanks here.

We had a steady run north out of the built up area around Tamworth, with the extensive Hopwas Hayes Wood on the horizon.DSCF0476
Part of it used used by the MOD as a firing range.

Hopwas is a good refreshment stop, with moorings right outside The Tame Otter…DSCF0478

…and opposite the Red Lion

Through Hopwas Hayes Wood

Did I mention that it’s a firing range?

From Fazeley Junction to Wittington the navigation was built by the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Company, and, as was their preference, the bridges have names rather than numbers. Bridge name

The end-to-end connection with the Coventry Canal (built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company, but that’s another story…) occurs in Wittington, and has a marker stone at the spot.

The last bridge before Fazeley Junction is number 77, and from the Wittington marker they just picked up where they left off, Bridges 78, 79 and 80 crossing the canal in the village.

We pulled in on a pleasant spot just before Cheadles Bridge, number 81. Ha, just realised. Classic one-upmanship. Number and a name!

So yesterday was bright and warm, but clouded up later with the forecast threatening thundery showers. They didn’t materialise, but today has been overcast and sultry. We weren’t sure whether to stay or go, but I had to run the engine to put a bit of charge into the batteries so we toddled on for about 40 minutes, stopping just past Kings Orchard Marina.

We passed Huddlesford Junction on the way, where the Lichfield Canal once headed west to meet the eastern edge of the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Ogley Junction.


Lichfield Canal Map
You’ll probably have to click on the map to enlarge it… it’s an extract from Paul Balmer’s excellent series of canal maps -

If there is one particular restoration project that is worthy of support, it’s got to be this one. The reopened canal would provide access to Birmingham from the east, and could be a part of several new cruising rings.

We pulled in just past the marina entrance, surprisingly on our own. It’s a pleasant spot. DSCF0491 

Another butterfly picture, this one’s a Comma, so named because of the comma-shaped marking on the underside of the wing.DSCF0493
I tried to get a closer view but spooked him… Looks a bit tatty, doesn’t he, but that’s what they’re like apparently.

Fradley tomorrow, I reckon, then a day inside watching boats going past in the rain on Friday.

Locks 0, miles 7¾ (2 days)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Polesworth then Fazeley.

On Friday we moved on down to the moorings on the south side of Polesworth, to spend the weekend there. Just a gentle half-hour, and I didn’t even take any photos!

We had a pleasant surprise on Saturday lunchtime, friends Peter and Jennifer pulled in behind us and came aboard for a brew and a chat before carrying on towards Atherstone.

Peter and Jennifer, NB Mactra’s Filia
We may see them later in the year further north after they’ve been down to Braunston then back up the Leicester line.

We moved off this morning, passing the motor boat Snipe that we’d been moored behind.DSCF0442 
The powered half of the hotel pair Snipe and Taurus, she’s currently internally stripped, though I’m not sure whether for a refit or conversion. No sign of the butty Taurus. Anyone know if they’re still in business?

It’s been a very warm day today after a cool night, with almost unbroken blue skies. It’s difficult to believe now, but the canal down to Amington ran through the workings of Pooley Hall Colliery, with the shafts on the left and the spoil heaps on the right. DSCF0443

Now-removed bridges spanned the canal at regular intervals, carrying tramways that moved the spoil from the shafts.

The coal wharf is now used for moorings…DSCF0453

…and the large spoil heap near the motorway bridge has greened over and now supports a monument to those who once toiled underground here.DSCF0457
You can just catch a glimpse of it through the gap in the trees… I went up there in 2014, I wasn’t sure then what the pillar represented, but Julie posted a comment on that blog post -

Gold Leaf – Buried Sunlight
Artists Mathew and Louise Scullion

The Golden Tower of Leaves, Pooley Country Park, Polesworth Warwickshire
The 40ft tower was erected in 2011. It is a stack of aluminium strips formed in the shape of a birch leaf. The outer surface is covered in gold leaf.
The colonisation of the mound of colliery waste by birch trees provides a symbol of regeneration, represented by the motif of the birch leaf. The coal was formed over millions of years from fossilised trees (although not birch).
The gold finish is a reference to the wealth that was created by and for those who exploited the coal. The gold tower, which forms the focal point of the park, is a marriage of sculptural form and rich symbolism.
It was paid for through a Government programme designed to 'breathe new life into coalfield communities' at a cool £100,000
In the daytime it looks quite plain but in the eveniing it is really beautiful and gives off a rich golden glow which can be seen from many points around the village.
One of my favourite things is driving towards Polesworth along the M42, glancing over you can see the golden tower above the trees. Looks beautiful and I know in 5 minutes I will be home.
Such a shame no-one gets to see the top but the link below is a birds eye view of the monument, well worth a look and probably the only way any of us will see what it actually is.

Thanks again, Julie.

Another Red Admiral enjoying a lift in the sunshineDSCF0460

The Samual Barlow pub and Alvecote MarinaDSCF0464

We pulled in above Glascote Locks for lunch and a shopping trip to the adjacent Co-op, then moved down to the locks. I helped a single-hander up the top lock, then we dropped down ourselves.

We pulled in a mile below the locks, on the embankment leading to the aqueduct over the River Tame.
We could have gone around the corner onto the official moorings, but it’s quieter here.

Locks 2, miles 5½ 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An excellent boat for sale.

Our good friends, Pam and Terry, are selling their much-loved boat The Rooster’s Rest.SAM_4625 Terry and Pam, Roosters Rest
Well looked after and beautifully fitted-out, it’s down on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal at the moment, and so is advertised with a local agent – click here. Well worth a look.
If you want more info, Terry is happy for you to call him direct on  07445362848. Probably better than talking to the agent...

And on the same subject, I see that Doug and James have sold Chance, another lovely boat that is a credit to them and I’m sure will be much enjoyed by the new owners.

Where did all the water go?

Although we’ve had rain, it hasn’t helped the lower half of the Atherstone locks. The pounds were low yesterday on the upper five, but two pounds on the lower six were maybe 18” down this morning, making them impassable.

DSCF0419We’d set off just after half-ten, optimistically expecting to be mooring up near Polesworth by 1 o’clock. But it was not to be. As we approached Lock 6 a boat was waiting in the lock and the crew told us what the problem was.
Below Lock 7 three boats were grounded, one in the lock and two on the pound below. Of course, the rumour was that a hire boat had left a paddle up… The poor old hirers always get blamed for incidents like this. Often unfairly.

Still waiting above Lock 7, the boat below has managed to get up the pound from Lock 8, but has run aground just below Lock 7.DSCF0420   
CRT had been informed, several times it seems, and they were running water down the flight, so we were able to gradually bring the water levels up.
We finally got moving at around midday, dropping down Lock 7 and picking our way carefully along the still low pound below.DSCF0421

But we were moving, and steadily too, as boats started to come up. DSCF0423

We had to hover above L9 as a boat was coming up and the pound was still too low to risk going in to the side, but we were entertained by the swallows skimming the water taking insects. Mags pointed out three taking a break, but they’d flown off by the time I got the camera aimed. So I waited, and was rewarded…


We finally left the bottom lock at half-one, stopping at the services at Bradley Green Bridge then toddling out across the pleasant Warwickshire countryside.

We were all feeling hungry, so decided to pull over a little early, on a very nice bit of piling just past Bridge 50.

The weather has threatened rain a couple of times, but has held off apart from a flurry of heavy drops further up the flight. Warm and breezy, too.

Locks 6, miles 2½

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back to Atherstone after avoiding the rain.

Well, we were all ready to go on Monday morning, donk running, everything put away, just the tiller to attach and we could go. Then the rain started… so we didn’t!
It actually wasn’t too bad but we’re in no hurry so why get wet when you don’t need to…

Yesterday was always going to be a write-off, with rain predicted all day we’d already decided that we wouldn’t be going anywhere. So wasn’t until this morning that we finally slipped the ropes through the mooring rings and left Hartshill.

A fine morning after yesterday’s rain

The sharp bend just south of Bridge 35 caught out the steerer of the hire boat ahead. he took it too wide, forcing an oncoming boat into the reeds alongside the old quarry wharf.
We held off till they sorted themselves out. The steerer coming this way said that, on seeing a boat approaching, the other guy panicked and just let go of everything! He’s going to have to get out of that habit…

Alpacas near Harvey’s Boatbuilders…

…and a hitch-hiking Red Admiral enjoying the sunDSCF0413

We arrived at the top of Athersone Locks at around 10:45, waited for the panicky hirer and crew to start down, then followed them.DSCF0416
Atherstone Lock 1, our first for nearly 6 weeks.

With volunteers on the first five locks they had instruction and help to get them on their way.

This was the only lock we had to refill; all the others till below Lock 5 had boats coming up and at least one other waiting below.DSCF0417

Just over an hour later saw us pull in below Lock 5, handy for the town centre. I think a lot of other people saw the same forecast as us, there were an awful lot of boats around today.

Tomorrow we’ll drop down the last six and head for Polesworth.

Locks 5, miles