Thursday, December 13, 2007

England’s waterways may be in decline

The government is reducing financial support. Vital repair and maintenance is being reduced and allowing the system to collapse. Many old brick built bridges are cracked and damaged like this one at Ansty.

Already the Monmouth and Brecon Canal in Wales has suffered a catastrophic collapse. It was ‘cut in half’ when the bank gave way at Gilwern. That canal may remain closed next year. Many hire boat companies and businesses will suffer. British Waterways are wanting to increase the boat licence above inflation in an attempt to gain extra income from boaters. But we are not the only users of the waterways. Walkers, fishermen and even cyclists can come and enjoy the natural world of the waterways. It is a haven for wild life.

But the Oxford Canal Walk, 48 miles between Coventry and Oxford, has become impossible to walk as in many places it is overgrown or has collapsed into the canal as at All Oak Wood for example.

Half a mile of repair work has been carried out near Ansty which is a start and shows what the path could be like.

Icy days of winter
Ice formed on the cut over night as the temperature dropped below freezing for a couple of nights.

During breakfast a few swans were breaking the ice by trying to walk up on to it. We threw out some bread to encourage them. Then later a couple of boats came crunching by. We set off following the path of broken ice. Eventually the warm sunshine dispersed the majority of the ice sheets. Managed to get to our intended destination before the short day became cold again as the sun went down by mid afternoon. It is very important in these uncertain conditions to keep the water tank topped up. Had to pour warm water over the tap to un freeze the pipes. On our way under similar conditions next day we stopped to fill up with diesel. T. F. Yates was charging 63 p a litre which is less than Rose Narrowboats but more than the supply boat Gosty Hill. Seems that if you can get it for less than 60 p you are lucky these days. Mr Yates was thinking about packing up next year when diesel is set to jump up to ‘road prices’. Claiming that many boaters will get their fuel from the likes of Tesco in containers and pour it into their tanks. I do not want to think about the environmental damage that could occur when it spills into the waterways.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

BW Service Standard, Survey

British Waterways have issued a 'Customer Service Standard' document. A surprisingly high standard to achieve in a couple of years. NABO have setup a survey on their web site. Your chance to put your view to BW through the National Association of Boat Owners. Have a look by clicking on our link.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Problems on the ‘cut’

We are members of the National Association of Boat Owners which has just had its AGM. Sadly membership is not growing despite there being so much going wrong with our lovely waterways. They are there to represent us in this time of need. The chairman has been to a lot of meetings with BW and the new Waterways Minister. BW have been ‘going through the motions’ of consulting but are insulting. Their consultations over mooring fees and licence fees are really ‘Take it or leave it’ situations. We have written to our MP about the sad state of our waterway system which is falling apart due to lack of investment. BW, in their wisdom, have issued a ‘Customer Service Standards’ document. IF all that it contains is achieved we may be happier boaters but who is going to pay for it all? Not just us poor boaters. Do click on our link to NABO to see what is going on.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Events between Braunston & Rugby

We are now limited by winter stoppages. British Waterways planned maintenance. Down at Braunston we got the bus to Daventry. Nearly missed it because Geof Amos had changed the time table. Just happened to be market day so we got some fresh veg. Tried to get our flu jabs at the medical centre but they could not give us an appointment yet. Did some Christmas shopping though.

Then family came up to see us. Wonderful to see our grand children and their parents on the boat again. Felt the need to get out of Braunston but the only way was north with the nearest turning point proving to be a long 5 miles distant. Stopped a mile out for an enjoyable meal together. Then on a few miles more till it was getting cold. Josh & Ben are growing up fast as expected. We played football outside for a while then with their toys inside. They both drew some pictures for us before we put them to bed. Next day we had to travel up to the turn and back to a few miles out of Braunston for lunch. It was a horrible cold damp day. With the benefit of hindsight it would have been better to stay in Braunston. Never mind, it was an enjoyable visit and ‘family’ enjoyed the trip on board.

For us now, a return to Rugby next day. Stopped at Hillmorton to see Reg and Elaine on Relain who provided tea and chat. Got gas for £18 and diesel for 60p a litre at Clifton before stopping at the almost empty Brownsover moorings. Yobs were seen chucking a shopping trolley into the canal. A fellow boater and Ann managed to return it to Tesco. Felt happier to move over to the other side for the night but still got a tap on the roof as people passed by. Perhaps a reason for the lack of boats here this winter. Another is the closure of damaged facilities.

Next day Tim and Lisa came to fit our new folding ‘biminy’ cover. That is what Tim called it. The frame had been fitted a few weeks earlier. It was quite a challenge for them but the result was fine. Unusual to be on a ‘traditional’ stern. Now we can travel about in the winter without getting cold and wet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bus, train, bloger, shop and friends

And so we progress slowly south now on the Oxford canal. We stopped at Ansty where Ann got a bus, train, bus all the way back to Gnosall. She got there and back in one day with time to enjoy the visit. It took us all of 12 days to do the same by boat on the canals! Just had to go back to see No Problem’s latest crew member namely a puppy called Meg. Also of course to say hello to Sue, Vic and Lucy. Sue’s homemade soup was consumed on board.

Next day we moved on down to Clifton. When passing through All Oaks Wood we recognised the name painted on the bow of ‘Khayamanzi’ and exchanged greetings with Andy as the blogers passed. Stopped at Brownsover near Rugby where only one other boat was moored. Usually many boats occupy both sides of the canal here. Went to Tesco to stock up. A very busy store on a Saturday afternoon. Bit of a culture shock with so many people about.

Continuing south we noticed that T. F. Yates was closed. Just hope it was because it was the weekend. Clifton Cruisers was open for business but on enquiry not Sundays over the winter months. Our navigation is limited now that Hawkesbury Lock is closed in the north and the canal is drained down at Lower Shuckburgh. We got filled up with diesel from Gosty Hill, a supply boat operating on the Ashby, Coventry and Oxford canals. Iain and Alison have been operating for a few years and have now painted their boat. They loaded up at Hawkesbury with the diesel and coal and found it slow going in the shallow canal. So we were pleased to see them as our tank was getting quite low. Always try to use the supply boats if we can. They won’t be back for three weeks so expect to fill up from one of the boat yards, marinas or hire fleet operators. The diesel price is going up due to extra duty.

Down at Barby we met up with Terry & Myra on Juno. Spent a few days in their company and walked up to Barby and back on a warm sunny morning.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New pictures of the Llangollen Canal

I have up loaded a new set of pictures. Please see our web site by clicking the link and go to the Canals page.

Atherstone Locks

After our visit we moved up two locks of the Atherstone flight of locks and stopped for the weekend, not normally recommended because the water level goes up and down as boats go through the locks. In the evening a boat came up in the dark. Next day the lock keeper found that the gates and paddles had all been left open. All the water had drained out over night. Luckily we were OK being near the bottom lock. In the morning the lock keeper reset the paddles and shut the gates so it was not long before the entire flight was navigable again. We eventually got to the top ourselves where the keeper lives in the lock cottage.
He is a real asset to the system making sure that the flight of eleven locks are kept in working order. He also cuts the grass and keeps the flight neat and tidy. The top lock is treated as an extension to his garden with flower beds and boxes making a pleasant sight even at this time of year. He has a sense of humour as there is a well head in the corner with what appears to be people looking in and climbing out!

It must be said that the canal system would benefit greatly if there were more lock keepers and length men employed. They would be able to spot potential problems before becoming dangerous and threaten the navigation.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alvercote Pools and Pooley Field

We are now travelling on the Coventry canal. 36 miles from Fradley in the north to Coventry in the south. It is half term and many boats are still 'out and about' this late in the season. So we decided to rush through Tamworth. In the event there was no problems, passing many colourful canalside gardens. Eventually stopping at Pooley Fields past Alvecote marina. Alvecote Pools and Pooley Fields contain many lakes surrounded by trees and laid out with paths to walk round.
Back in the 1960's Alvercote and Pooley collieries were very busy digging out tons of coal every day from below the surface. The only evidence of the mining activity are the pools and lakes caused by subsidence. There is a Heritage Centre built by one of the 'pit heads' by the canal. There are some new moorings near the centre from where you can walk up to it. Worth a visit for it houses a mining museum upstairs.
"The shafts of Alvecote Colliery, which was first mined in 1848, were relatively shallow and beset with problems of water seepage from the river Anker. Mining stopped in 1965 when it became uneconomical to keep pumping the water out." Both Alvecote and Pooley Collieries were built near the canal so that boats could transport the coal to Birmingham.
After our visit we moved up two locks of the Atherstone flight of locks. The resident Lock keeper keeps the bushes and grass cut so it all looks neat and tidy. So we stopped here for the weekend, not normally recommended because the water level goes up and down as boats go through the locks.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nature is encroaching

The autumn boaters are out and respect is returning to the waterways. Quiet and peaceful with misty mornings and sunny days. It is a weekend and the smart painted boats are venturing out from the marinas. All bright and shiny. I wonder what the owners think when the paint can get scratched on the overhanging trees and bushes and when they run aground as they try to pass a boat.
We have travelled about many canals this year. Our overriding impression is that the canals are becoming restricted by nature. The canals have two sides, that is obvious, but British Waterways only own one side! The result is that nature is reaching out to restrict the width and the ground is falling in to reduce the depth. We have seen many large trees that are leaning over the canal ready to fall in. Just waiting for an excuse to close the navigation. It is surprising how much farm land is has been lost to the canal. When the canal is above the surrounding ground level it is increasingly in danger of breaching. This not only causes an instant closure of navigation but also floods the land and property. Causing discontent among the local community. There must also be discontent amongst the boaters.
The waterways don’t need discontent, they need public and government support to survive.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Computer failing

For some reason my computer is suddenly switching off with no warning. The battery slowly discharges even when plugged into the mains. It will only charge when off or 'hibernating.' It does not run without the battery even on the mains. I dare not do any more creative work in case I cannot save it on CD ROM's.
So I may not be able to do a Blog for a while. Do not take things for granted. You only realise what you had when it is gone. Contact with the world beyond the local area of the boat is possible. Blogers, emails, writing, banking, pictures etc will have to be on hold for a while.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Heading south

The 'Shroppie' is like a motorway being wide and strait but with less traffic than seen on the Llangollen. British Waterways 'stoppages' start in November. The lock at Hawkesbury, down near Coventry, will be closed as the gates are being replaced. So we need to get through before that. We are moving after breakfast, stopping for a rest and a bite to eat at midday, then moving on some more in the afternoons. Ten lock miles a day will be our average trip.
We got Tesco to deliver goodies when we got to Audlem. Once again placing our order on the internet the day before. Then moved on doing a lot of locks to get to Market Drayton. Up 11 at Audlem and another group of 5 at Adderley. That’s our quota for the day but with some help with boats coming down we made good progress.
Met John and Sue at Market Drayton who kindly offered to take us to the shops in their car. All the way across country towards Shrewsbury stopping short at the 'out of town' centre. Back at our friends house I was able to introduce them to our web site and blog on their computer.
Got water and used the facilities at Market Drayton then proceeded up the locks at Tyrley. A cheap paper notice from BW telling us that the facilities at Tyrley and Wheaton Aston were 'out of order'. We do hope that these facilities are not suffering from the lack of maintenance due to shortage of funds.
While proceeding up the 5 locks we were lucky to have 5 boats coming down so that the next lock was ready for us. Stopped for lunch near the old Cadbury's milk works at Knighton before continuing on to Anchor Bridge. On the way we passed Shebdon Embankment. About a mile of raised canal above the surrounding land hidden by trees. BW are in fact spending some money here reinforcing the bank with long steel piling. Two floating pontoons being used to carry all the heavy equipment. Just enough room to get by.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Back to Ellesmere

We all travelled back to Trevor and filled our tanks with diesel while watching the boat traffic coming across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. When it was our turn both boats went one behind the other across the Dee valley. It was when we got to the other side that we parted company with our friends on No Problem. "Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow". But for us it will be next year. We have to get to Ellesmere where, sadly, it was confirmed that Tara is indeed suffering from an overactive thyroid. A bit of an emotional 'double whammy' for us.

Slow and shallow
The mooring spaces filled up during the afternoon. A small community of boaters showing their concern about our cat Tara. She now has to take two pills a day. Crushed up in a delicious jellied chicken which goes down well.
We left the next day following a hire boat which was in no hurry to get back to Whitchurch. So after an hour we stopped for lunch near Wixhall. The canal is very shallow on the bends and edges and every boat that passed put us on a sand bank! Much of the canal banks are badly eroded making the waterway look much wider than it is for clear navigation. It is surprising that the land owners are happy to loose 5 or 10 feet to the canal along its length. Despite the canal's popularity regular maintenance is not happening. There are still many boats on the move in October due to the warm dry days. The lock keepers at Krindly Brook will remain on duty all this month at least.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Among the mountains of Wales

The final 6 or 7 miles of the Llangollen are among the mountains of north Wales. A sharp left turn at Irish Bridge and we travel in a concrete channel along the edge of the Dee valley, but cannot see across because of the abundant trees. Passing the village of Froncysyllte and the lift bridge. A glimpse of the amazing structure can be seen through a gap in the trees but it is still in the distance. The canal turns right to approach the aqueduct along a finger of land. The going slows as the canal gets narrower and the boat is pushing against the flow. Then suddenly the land drops away as the boat enters the iron aqueduct. On the left there is nothing but a thin wall and the view down is above the trees and a football field far below. I prefer to look the other way at the tow path and railings for a feeling of security. Ann walking on across to take a few pictures of the boat and river Dee flowing along its rocky path below. As we approach the Trevor end a boat is coming out from the Llangollen channel crossing in front and waiting for us and No Problem to clear the Aqueduct.

The channel to Llangollen was only built as a narrow but navigable concrete course to fetch water from the river Dee. Originally the Ellesmere canal was intended to continue north to Chester. It is however one of the most scenic and beautiful sections of waterway to be seen anywhere in the UK. Cut into the rocky sides of the Dee valley with grand views of the Ruabon Mountain above and the river below. Ann and Sue walked ahead with a walky talky to check if the way was clear as we waited before the narrow section. Both Moore 2 Life and No Problem then continued slowly round the mountain side once we knew the way was clear.
BW have now built a marina for about 40 boats which was about half full when we arrived. For £10 we could stay for two nights and use an electric land line. So no need to use the engine while we were there. Next day we all walked along to Horseshoe Falls where the river feeds into the canal. Then got the train at Berwyn to Carrog and back to Llangollen. A chance to travel a bit further into Wales.

Back to Ellesmere

We all travelled back to Trevor and filled our tanks with diesel while watching the boat traffic coming across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. When it was our turn both boats went one behind the other across the Dee valley. It was when we got to the other side that we parted company with our friends on No Problem. "Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow". But for us it will be next year. We have to get to Ellesmere where, sadly, it was confirmed that Tara is indeed suffering from an overactive thyroid. A bit of an emotional 'double whammy' for us.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


This is where the Llangollen canal heads into Wales. The Ellesmere and Llangollen canals were operated by Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Company. General carriers to Chester, Liverpool, Manchester, North & South Staffordshire and North Wales. Its building now left derelict.

It was here that we found a vet to check on Tara's health. Our cat had been sick most mornings for a while and a possible cause may be an overactive thyroid gland. A blood test would confirm this.
Meanwhile our friends have moved to Chirk on the boarder of Wales. We set off next day to cover the 12 miles and up two locks. The canal is quite shallow near the edges and we often ran aground when passing boats. Passed two marinas full of boats before travelling along a narrow concrete channel on the approach to Chirk.

At one point we looked across the valley over the tops of houses. Then suddenly turned right to cross the valley which was spectacular with the railway viaduct alongside the canal aqueduct both made entirely of stone.

Then through Chirk tunnel, crossing into Wales and eventually stopped opposite yet another marina having caught up with No Problem.

It seems that the canal is suffering badly from its 'popularity'. There have been major breaches in 2004 and 2006 and it was sad to see several damaged bridges where they have been hit by boats. At one visitor mooring a concrete edge has fallen in.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Our first time here was back in May 2003 when we pent three weeks getting to Llangollen and back which included exploring the Montgomery as well. At the Hurleston locks there were more boats coming down than up so the canal, hopefully, is becoming less crowded now.

The lock keeper told us that 2000 boats have visited this canal so far this year! He is there to help and advise but nobody from the waiting boats came to help. The canal is now a feeder taking water from the river Dee at Llangollen to keep the Hurleston reservoir full. That is over 40 miles of canal and the significant flow is evident at each lock as the water passes through the by weir.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Salt towns

From Market Drayton we dropped down through a group of locks at Adderley and two at the flight down to Audlem where we stopped. Mo and Vanessa on Balmaha came by and stopped for a drink and chat. Last seen back at Braunston they were returning from Bugsworth. Next day we continued on down to Hack Green. It was here that we caught up with No Problem and arranged a Supermarket delivery using the internet.
The stretch of canal between Audlem and Nantwich being mainly through open countryside with undulating hills. The canal staying level on concrete lined embankments flying across the lower levels. The water was quite shallow forcing us to travel in the centre, passing boats made difficult by running aground and being exposed to the wind. No Problem and Moore 2 Life once again travelling together and arriving at Nantwich. The first available space being just past the aqueduct after passing a mile of moored boats. Telford, the Engineer, was forced to build the canal round Dorfold Park, preferring to follow the high ground and join up with the existing Chester Canal. This was not to be and the resulting long curved embankment and iron aqueduct proved difficult and expensive to build.

We all walked the half mile into Nantwich. 'A fine old town, prosperous since Roman times because of its salt springs, which made it the countries main salt mining centre until the 19th century. The town was devastated by fire in 1583 but rebuilt in fine Tudor style'. There are many of these buildings with their chunky black wood structure to be seen, distorted by subsidence but still standing. We enjoyed sitting out in sunshine to drink, eat and admire the view. Northwich, Nantwich and Middlewich are all salt towns in this Cheshire Cat county and have canals passing by them.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Through the cuttings

Filled up with diesel at Norbury Wharf and continued our journey along the Shroppy. Through Grub Street Cutting, past 'the Anchor' and along the Shebdon Embankment. This is how the canal is. Cuttings and embankments with no locks for mile upon mile.

Past Knighton where Cadbury's once produced chocolate and transported it to Bournville by canal. Then through Woodseaves Cutting before stopping at Tyrley Wharf. Woodseaves is very narrow and passing is difficult with so much vegetation leaning out to scratch the paint if it could.

Ahead are 5 locks which bring the canal down to Market Drayton. Down through another sand stone cutting covered with trees which somehow cling to the steep sides, their old roots now exposed. Makes you think about all the hard manual labour required to dig it all out.

Went down with a boat coming up at each lock making it an easy trip for us. Sue n Vic on No Problem followed behind and Ann went back to help. We eventually stopped after filling with water opposite the new 'Challenger' share boat centre.

Market Drayton
Just past Betton Bridge the visitor moorings are opposite a range of new houses with brightly coloured front doors. The owners with their boats by the door! On our own again, Sue n Vic move on to Nantwich as John and Sue came to visit. Ann baked a cake and we chatted over a cup of tea. We have known them since owning a boat back at Newbury many years ago. They have recently got back from a trip on their boat down to London.
We have been able to reserve a mooring back at Culcutt Marina, where we plan to leave the boat for Christmas. Enterprise at Daventry will be able to collect and deliver us with a car.
Very much now enjoying the September sunshine and quieter times on the canal. August definitely the holiday month. Now moved on down more locks at Adderly in open countryside with those black and white cows in green fields. Once out away from the towns there are also fields of corn soaking up the sunshine.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Future government support?

The government now realises that the inland waterways need looking after as an environmental heritage. A Commons Committee of M P's had to call in the National Audit Office to understand the true state of British Waterways finances. The canals are already suffering from lack of investment and maintenance due to DEFRA's lack of interest.
It is clear now that there are many other groups, apart from boaters, that benefit from the waterways. The majority of users are in fact local people walking or jogging along the tow path, fishermen and cyclists a fact not recognised in BW funding. BW cannot achieve 'self sufficiency' by charging boaters, running pubs and marinas. The cost to boaters for moorings and licences would become prohibitive.
It has been suggested that other departments should provide support. The department of Culture should consider free entry to the few Museums that BW struggle to keep open. There may be some benefit in getting the Transport department involved to encourage 'greener' freight movement on the waterways. I wonder which department would help with the cutting back of all the large bushes and trees that are reducing the navigation. Then there is the lack of depth. Originally the canals were 4 feet deep, now only 2 or 3 feet in many places. Mean while the waterways are being used more now by holiday makers and explorers enjoying the countryside than ever before and may it continue.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Keeping warm safely

Burning wood, coal , gas or diesel keeps the boat dry warm and cosy in the cool winter months. But a fire can be unhealthy or downright dangerous. All these carbon fuels produce carbon monoxide if there is not enough air or oxygen getting to the fire. Even cooking can be hazardous.
Sadly there have been several deaths already this year caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Caused variously by unventilated boats with windows shut or fire doors actually open. In one case a burning pan was left on the cooker. One victim was found to have alcohol above the legal limit and was incapable of escaping. It is not the fire or flames that kill, it is the un seen gas carbon monoxide that is the killer. The boats were not fitted with smoke detectors and fire investigators are urging all boaters to fit one. We do have one that can even warn us when the toast is over done!

While at Norton Junction we asked the boat yard to check over our diesel fire now approaching our 4th winter. Mick came and took the unit apart expertly and gave it a thorough de coke. Checked the oil filter and flow control system finding them clean and in good order. When the fire was lit we were reassurance that it was ok.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Poste Restante

We have been caught out recently by the closing of some Post Offices. Should have checked that it was still operating before having our post sent on. Usually I like to get there to check first. Best idea is to ring the post office and ask them to accept your 'Poste Restante' which they will keep till you collect. In this case another Post Office was operating a mile away so the other one was closed. Our post should be returned to sender eventually.
It is possible to search on the internet for Post Office addresses and phone numbers but some sites are not up to date. We have compiled our own list of Post Offices that are near the canals. See our own web site for the list which has just been updated.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Harry Potter

Yes I got the last book written by J K Rowling, 'The Deathly Hallows'. I had read most of the previous stories. It has proved once again to be a book that I had to keep on reading to the end. I felt that I had been possessed by the story - nothing else mattered. A book of fiction, yet I, a factual person, have read it. But I have always been interested in 'Science Fiction', concepts and ideas that in time could affect our daily lives. Think of many inventions around today that may have been conceived in fiction. The laser beam has found many helpful uses since it was discovered. Used in hospitals and night clubs. The 'ray' gun in fictional stories. To me it seems magical that a device can point a beam at an engine and measure its temperature, or a distant object and measure how far away it is. No doubt it can be a weapon of destruction as well. Just like the wand in those magical stories.

It was unplanned. We were in the right place at the right time to see the Mikron Theatre. Made our way north and reached Norbury Junction and were told that the performance was tonight at 'The Anchor' about 2 miles further on. During a cool dry evening we watched the play outside in the pub garden. A story about Thomas Telford, son of a Scottish Shepard who became a Civil Engineer and designed many roads, bridges and canals. It was he who surveyed the very canal we are travelling on! The point was made that he was a well known Engineer and that these days in this country the architects are better known.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A new front canopy

We arranged to meet Tim and Lisa at Worsley Bridge on the Trent and Mersey Canal just north of Rugeley. They are 'Staffordshire Canopies' and came to do a survey. Luckily the sun was shining and it was not too windy. They set about measuring the boat and making patterns using brown paper and sticky tape. It was a work of art with a red marker pen used to draw where the zips and windows are to go. Clouds appeared and started sprinkling the damp stuff. The paper patterns were quickly removed and rolled up. As they rushed off we were told that the canopy will be ready in a couple of weeks.

Tim came to fit it at Gnosall when we had turned on to the Shropshire Union.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Blogers ahead

A number of days later we turned right on the Shropshire Union. This canal is quite different to most in that it does not follow the contours. It digs deep into cuttings then high on embankments. Much of it through open countryside and small villages. It managed to stay level for 8 miles where one lock dropped 7 feet. We had already got a Tesco delivery and eventually found Sue n Vic near Gnosall Heath and stopped. Rugby and the Oxford Canal now a very long way back where we last saw S & V 5 weeks ago. Yes we have been separated for that long!
Vic had got the kettle on and we all had a cup of tea together again. Sue and Ann then went off on a walk with all 4 dogs which included the two belonging to Wendy. They got back just in time before the heavens opened again with more heavy rain. Now feeling cosy inside the boat fully stocked with food and looking forward to a few days in one place for a change.

One boat went by and the owners called out that they read the blog. Then Bendigedig with Elsie and Eric stopped for a chat. We had been looking at their blog and realised that they were not far away. We all enjoyed a long chat on board No Problem over a cup of tea once again made by Vic. We had often wondered how to pronounce Bendigedig. Elsie said it like this - Bendi gedig, in a lovely soft welsh voice. It means well being. There is usually a story behind many boat names.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rugeley & Cannock Chase

We get here almost every year. Seems ages because we went to East Anglia last year. Turned left on to the Trent & Mersey canal and joined a queue of 6 boats waiting just over an hour to go up the locks. Up past Fradley and Ravenshaw woods, through the 'narrows' of Armitage and eventually stopping at Rugeley. Its claim to fame, apparently, is the Donkey Jacket. Anyway a little town with all you need. Some well kept gardens to be seen on the way through. I sat on a bench with Molly after getting some lovely veg on Sunday. While Ann shopped in the supermarket I watched people and cars pass by. Seems quite affluent here with their expensive foreign cars. We are of course just north of Birmingham, the engineering capital of England, but should I be sad not to see an English car?
After our usual one night stay we continued on past more of those canal side gardens before turning to cross over the river Trent which was calmer than expected. Approached Colwich lock and joined a queue of three boats. Then stopped for lunch surrounded by trees just before Haywood lock.

Not so many boats here as in previous visits in the summer. Up through the 'gongoozled' lock at Great Haywood. People watching your every move and taking pictures of the boat. A popular place with Shugborough Hall and park nearby. "So where are all those boats?".
We turned left off the Trent and Mersey on to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal under the towpath bridge. Wanting to get on a bit we passed by Tixall Wide, through Tixall lock and eventually stopped past Tixall bridge 106. High hedges here to protect us from the expected wind and rain. It was not that bad next day so we moved on a few miles to near Stafford and stopped. It had been raining off and on but turned into that fine stuff that just gets you damp. Nothing like the storm we were expecting.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Moving on to the Coventry canal

As we approached Newbold there was 'Valerie'. Les was enjoying the sunshine with friends as we passed and exchanged greetings. Was not expecting to see him there. We bloggers tend not to disclose our whereabouts on the same day. On through the illuminated tunnel with the pretty coloured lights. Then a seemingly long journey north to stop near Hawkesbury Junction with the tow path still in very poor shape. Within a mile of the Coventry canal we found a mooring with cut grass.
Next day we got water at the junction with the Coventry canal. Of the two water taps one was damaged and unusable and the other was OK but with a permanent pipe attached to supply water to the 'permanent' moorings. Had to turn off their supply in order to get our tank filled. At least the grass was cut along this canal so it made a change to be able to walk some of the ten lock free miles to Atherstone.

August is a busy time for the canal system. Several boats coming up the Atherstone flight of locks were running aground even in the locks because they were all coming up to the same lock and taking the water! The 'system' is self regulating with the water supply determining the speed at which you can go.

Once down those locks you have seven lock free miles to just two locks at Tamworth then twenty two miles to Fradley junction with the Trent & Mersey canal. The tow path still in excellent condition. This canal remains our most favourite of all with plenty of open country side to explore with some towns and villages to travel through. Also enough facilities to keep you comfortable.

Moving on

It was in 2006 that we last ventured north of Rugby. Almost forgotten what the north Oxford canal was like. In fact we hardly recognised it with all that vegetation growing out of it's sides and threatening our paintwork. A product of all that rain and perhaps the fact that previously we passed this way in the spring. The tow paths are just as bad here as on the southern section. No point getting off the boat to walk with Molly. British Waterways and it's contractors would have a hard job themselves getting to it without a boat if only they had the money to get on with it. The occasional walker seen stuck between bridges unable to proceed without the use of a hedge trimmer! Found a space at Brownsover near Rugby with boats moored both sides of the canal.

A new modem
Our system with Orange, an Office Card, was designed to use GPRS or 3G and was becoming unreliable. Their latest magazine not even featuring the system. Sue on 'No Problem' had been using the T-Mobile data card and reported that the connection was good ,fast and reliable. Mike on 'Snecklifter' showed me his T-Mobile USB modem telling me that it was free on a monthly contract. It even worked well in Braunston a known mobile black spot. So that is what we got in Rugby. Could not have been easier. Back at the boat the modem loaded it's software and we were on line with a similar speed to Broadband and almost unlimited data.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Family visit

They arrived on Saturday and left the car in the marina. Our plan is to travel down to Calcutt and back the next day. Just a couple of hours travelling in the afternoon after refreshments. No locks but plenty of boat activity on the way through open countryside. The grand children sitting on the roof up front with parents. All trying to touch the bridges as we passed under. Met boats at almost every one so usually stopped to let them through. The bridge holes are often narrowed by overgrown bushes. Napton Junction is where the southern section of the Oxford canal joins the Grand Union. Referred to as Wigrams Turn now that marina is full of boats. A cross roads where we turned right under the bridge. A short while later we were lucky to find a space near the locks. Josh called them 'water gates'. A hard edge to safely step off on to and a wide cut grass patch to sit out on. A bright hot sunny day encouraging the BBQ use. Chris made beef burgers from minced beef and an egg. Back inside we watched 'Chicken Run' before bath and bed for the boys.

Next day grand parents entertained their grand children to allow parents a moment of peace. Ann and Tracy went off to the shop to get delicious ice creams. Then we set off back stopping short of Braunston to consume the pork casserole which Ann had made earlier. Back past those old boats on the way into Braunston, turning right at the two bridges and slowly on to the water point near the marina. By by family till next time as they packed the car and left, while we refilled our water tank.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Drifting to Calcutt

Moved just for a change of scenery. Met NB 'Snecklifter' as we turned a corner so stopped for a chat with Mike & Liz. Not seen them since this time two years ago. We knew they were near because we occasionally read their blog. Then continued on to Calcutt locks. A space for us among the other boats. Best to get here early due to its popularity. Not a place for peace and tranquillity but good for watching boats on the move.

On a sunny day we both walked down past the locks. Watching several boats going up and down one at a time through these double locks. Such is the independent attitude of summer boaters. Carried on walking along this recently cut tow path. There are several marinas here and two of them below the locks have expanded and are already filling with boats.

Then we saw NB 'Liberty Belle'. Angela was about to write her blog after being away for a while.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Moved back in and found a space vacated by a 'long term' moorer. Their notice inviting others to use the space till August. Thank you 'Calipso Rose'. Other boaters are not so welcoming. Several have been here occupying the 48 hour moorings for much longer than that. We know this because each time we come back in we see the same boats in the same place. Terry n Myra met us up at the Admiral Nelson for lunch. They had been able, earlier, to get their boat through the tunnel when it reopened after a land slide had closed it. We are drifting about slowly on the Oxford canal in and out of Braunston. An unexpected sunny weekend spent near Flecknoe on a grass covered towpath. So overgrown that we are not disturbed by passing walkers or cyclists. While sitting out we watch the boats go by and wave to those we know. We are staying south waiting for a family visit.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flooding rivers

We are looking at reports on the TV news. The Thames through Oxford near Osney lock almost burst its banks. The water level is so high that boats cannot get under the low A420 bridge. That road became flooded in places. We came down this way in October 2006, describing the river as being restricted with a lot of water flowing over the weir. To the west of the 'navigation' the Thames and various other streams are expected to pass the built up areas of Botley and Osney. Further down, the river Cherwell joins the Thames having come down the east side of Oxford past the colleges. It is just like Tewkesbury with its two rivers either side.
The rivers Nene and Ouse in East Anglia are also in flood. The Environment Agency have 'reversed' many locks. This procedure opens the lock at both ends which allows the water to flow through. Obviously no 'navigation' by boat is possible under these conditions. These conditions are expected in the winter months so it is quite unusual to find so many flood restrictions now.
Some are blaming 'global warming' and a shift south of the 'gulf stream'. What ever the cause we are suffering from more extreme weather conditions. This is a wakeup call for our government to seriously consider the country's infrastructure. Water and electricity supplies have been compromised where flooding has occurred. Drainage systems must be improved and maintained. It is no good treating them as rubbish dumps and then wondering why the water level rises so quickly. We have seen shopping trolleys thrown into streams. These are very effective at building up a dam.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Rain,Rain, Rain

These last few months have just been WET. Sadly many places near rivers have been flooded many times as the rivers burst over their banks. You may remember our protests, as boaters, over the swinging cuts in government finance to British Waterways. The same financial cuts have also affected the Environment Agency. Now they are responsible for the environment and flood defences! With the change of Prime Minister heads have rolled but it is too late to save those flooded houses. Why do they allow houses to be built on flood plains?
Canals are relatively safe with weirs and locks to control the water level. Some water comes from lakes and reservoirs but also from rivers fed directly into the canal. After a particularly very heavy down pour all day we found our ropes had got tight. The water level went up by 11 inches by the end of the afternoon. We had to slacken the ropes as the boat started leaning over! British Waterways have actually issued flood notices. They closed Braunston Tunnel. So much water rushed into the tunnel that it took in a lot of silt, rubble and debris with it. Some say that it may have to be dredged out and the tunnel inspected before opening it to navigation. Also the canal is closed going south from Napton to Oxford! But by the next day it was open down to Banbury but not beyond where the river Cherwell joins the canal.

Have just seen this picture of a lock at Stourport which is under water.
The Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal joins the river Severn here. It was back in 2003 that we came this way in our boat. I cannot imagine what it must be like going down that swollen river past Worcester and off at Tewkesbury where the lower Avon joins the Severn. Tewkesbury has been turned into an island!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Passing friends

Phil n Deborah from '4Miles On' have come up from the Kennet & Avon. Just got off the Thames as the red boards, indicating no boat movement due to high water flow, were put up. Phil and Deborah are friends made when we were boating on the K n A many years ago. Tis a very rare occasion to see them out and about on their boat. Pleased for them being able to have a few weeks up north.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Friends come and go

Laying the new floor using those oak planks from B & Q is a job well done. Now we have a couple of colourful mats. Bathroom and galley is work in progress using 'Floormaster' panels.
A very welcome break from those proceedings is meeting up with Terry & Myra. They had got through Braunston tunnel and found us up the north Oxford canal. We have known them since life began on the canals having shared ownership of our first narrowboat 'Nomad of Erehwon' on the Kennet & Avon canal.
While travelling with 'No Problem' we once again enjoyed a Sunday lunch at the Bistro, this time with Sue, Vic and John. If you are ever near or passing the Hillmorton Locks have lunch at the Bistro.
Continued on to Rugby and stopped at Brownsover where out of town shopping is nearby. Unfortunately we part company here with Sue n Vic. Dental appointments back at Daventry for us while our friends continue north.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Braunston Boats

Approached from the south past those old work boats near the 'Puddle banks'. Some looking like floating sheds and some burnt out and sunk. At that distinctive double bridge we turned right just as several other boats were negotiating this junction.

Mo and Vanessa on Balmaha had told us there was some space and were waiting to catch our ropes. No Problem arrived soon after and we all enjoyed a 'blogger' gathering. Not seen Mo & Vanessa since last year.

We celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary with Sue n Vic up at 'The Old Plough'. It was very popular and were pleased that Sue had booked a table for us. A good menu was slightly spoilt by some lack of food.

Many working boats, gathered the previous weekend, were still in Braunston. Over 70 according to Tim Coglan who organises the event every year. This time it was featured on Country File, BBC1 Sunday. So good to see them restored and actually transporting goods and providing services on the waterways.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Carp story

Back down at Cropredy Ann & Sue went fishing. The water was alive with big fish as pieces of bread was thrown in. Just fine lines, small barb less hooks and bread did the trick. Within minutes after some fish exercise caught with that hook n line in its mouth, it was netted. And what a huge mouth it was, big enough for several fingers !

First Sue got one

then it was Ann's turn.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New boats and places to go

Despite all the problems going on in 'canal politics' there does seem to be a popular demand for new boats on the waterways. When you look in the canal magazines there is always a new boat described with quality features. There are many more marinas being planned and built.
Being back on the Oxford canal we have seen much more activity with boaters moving up and down. Even the occasional work boat with diesel and coal for sale. On up the Claydon flight to the summit pound. Many boats on the move on a dry day after so much rain. Join the queue at the bottom lock with three in front and others arriving behind. Much talk about being on a canal and thankful that we don't need to travel on a river, because they are all in extreme flood conditions. Several boats were coming down through the locks so it was good to pass each other leaving and entering.

Finally reaching the top but finding it very shallow despite there being plenty of water. It is brown with churned up sediment and in dire need of a good dredging. 15 miles of lock free canal to Marston Doles and the Napton locks.

Slow going with the boat dragging along the bottom especially on the many bends.

We stopped for the night three miles past Fenny Compton where we found the first firm deep edge to moor up to.

Sadly the tow path is in a sorry state. Not really walk able with so much uncut vegetation. I got the shears out and cut down the tall grass and nettles to establish a clear patch where we can get on and off the boat.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The summer rushes

It is now midsummer - the longest day. Boaters, holiday hirers and owners alike, are moving their boats about on the canals. They seem to get away early and stop late. Just wish they could slow down to 'tick over' when passing moored boats. We have given up shouting "slow down please". We just thank those that that do go slowly by, respecting the canal and not making a wash.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Moving with three boats

Seems we have a reputation. Our 'Blogging' friends on the internet have been making comments about seeing 'these two boats together', Moore 2 Life and No Problem. Currently joined by Tara, the new name for Sue n Vic's first boat. Each lock takes about an hour to get them all through one at a time, helped occasionally by the crew of other boats going in the opposite direction. Despite this delay at locks we seem to make up time between them. We have used 'Alex Ratchet' when in locks near Cropredy. Alex made this prototype and gave it to Sue. Then started making several to sell. Once mentioned on Sue's blog the demand for them grew! The ratchet does make the stiff paddles easier to lift.

Wooden floors
We want a wooden floor rather than carpet. Our two animals produce a lot of loose fur and inevitably the towpath grit and dirt get in the boat so the carpet tiles have suffered. Despite a good hard brushing they still looked grubby. All the carpet tiles have gone exposing the wooden floor beneath. "That is not good enough" says Ann, "I want a 'real' floor made from oak planks". We got some at B & Q in Banbury. The store was near the canal so we were able to deliver it ourselves 'door to boat' with the help of our friend Vic. A large quantity of heavy planks to be spread around the boat preventing it from leaning over. Now it has become an obstacle course inside the boat. Spent a productive few days laying and gluing them together at the aft end of the boat. This will be 'work in progress' for a while yet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Vegetation / financial cut back ?

We are moving north on the Oxford Canal. Sunshine and showers are encouraging the rapid growth of vegetation. Trying to moor up is difficult and can be dangerous where the firm edge cannot be seen. Trees have fallen down and some are in the canal but not blocking our path yet. This tree behind us between bridge 207 and 208 will close the navigation when it does fall. Sadly it is one of many trying to stay up with the weight of ivy crawling all over it.

There has been some attempt by BW to cut back the vegetation along the towpath. But we fear that the financial cut backs will reduce the amount of vegetation cut backs.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Two day Thames

Day one. Left Reading at 9 to go through Blakes Lock which has no lock keeper. So we let ourselves down on to the river with Jan & Roy on 'Slicer'. A lovely hot sunshine day to enjoy the wonderful Thames. Much calmer now compared to our trip down in October. Already seeing river birds like grebe and cormorants. We plan to make for Days Lock which is about half way to Oxford.
On the way to Goring at lunchtime a cruiser passed us by to get into the lock first. We both entered behind. The lock keeper was away for his lunch and the crew of the cruiser was about to have theirs! "Not in the lock" we said and proceeded to operate the lock. Thankfully Cleve Lock was not far away so we all stopped on the river bank for lunch.

Sad to see that this particular lock is now un manned and some boaters are struggling to operate the locks correctly. Then we travelled 10 more miles passing Wallingford, through Benson Lock and on to Days. It seemed ages in the afternoon sun hoping to find somewhere to stop before the lock. But we knew there was a place just after the lock. During the day we observed that 12 narrowboats and 20 cruisers were on the move.
Day two. Another hot sunny day. Didcot power station was busy creating clouds. The boat is covered in little dead white fly's. Set off at 9 again, 4 miles to the next lock seems like for ever. Once again being passed by that same cruiser wanting to get in front. As we approached one lock it looked like one boat was moored well back so we went in front. "Wot do you think I'm 'ere for, me health you know?'', said Mr. Angry. He went to open the lock as the keeper was having his lunch. Then moved in and stopped half way, so we went in on the other side one behind the other as the keeper arrived.
Later we all entered Iffley Lock and were told about the Oxford Regatta. "Wait here till the race is over then you can proceed slowly down the centre". As we went through several 'eights' were passing us on both sides and in both directions, practicing for the next race. As we passed the rowing club houses they were crossing in front.

A seemly chaotic scene on the Thames in Oxford.
Osney Lock let us in but there was no room for our friends on 'Slicer'. We left first with Mr. Angry following and he turned off on to the Oxford canal at Isis Lock. Then we slowed down to let 'Slicer' catch up. By the time we had reached the next lock it was not long before they joined us. Two more locks on the Thames was far better than going up the dead end bit of the canal. Turned off along Dukes Cut to join the canal then on passed all those 'rubbish' boats moored for about a mile or so. Eventually finding somewhere pleasant to stop for the night. During our second day on the Thames we observed that 14 narrowboats and 11 cruisers were on the move. We had been moving for over 7 hours on each of those days.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

On a Mission

We arrived at Devizes Marina to find 'Moore 2 Life' out of the water, blacked and about to be re launched. Brod saw it all happen. Once on board all the boat systems were re activated so we could make a cup of tea after loading all our stuff. The boiler switched on to warm up the boat as it had just started to rain.

So back on our boat and moving east on the Kennet & Avon canal. A desire to catch up with our friends Sue n Vic on 'No Problem'. But later that evening found that the diesel fire failed to light up due to lack of fuel flow. It is fed via a long pipe from the back and a combination of being bow high when out of the water for three days and half a tank of diesel was the cause. All was well after a few days level in the water and a full tank.
A week away from Reading if we move every day. Ten to twenty lock miles a day is our intention. Travelling with another boat, 'Slicer', to Great Bedwyn. I have a strange fascination seeing the trains arriving at Great Bedwyn station. They stop here, move over to the other track and return to Reading. Used to look like green caterpillars, but now they are blue. Somehow getting off the main line to let the First Great Western express through. After three days we arrived at Hungerford to stock up. Passing this pirate ship on the way.

Some days seem harder than others. More locks per mile ? Or was it waiting for two boats at Coblers Lock ? It was empty like all the others on the way down and we had to fill them all. But here a boat was waiting to go up. We had to tell them it was their lock. They both got on the boat and drove in. A long pause waiting for another boat. Eventually they arrived and also drove in. Ann shut the gate and I opened the paddle. I said "If you open the other paddle on your side it will rise quicker". We walked away and left them to get off their boats.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Old memories reawakened

Back at our 'landlubber' bungalow not occupied by us since 2000. A gap in the tenancy allowing us to revisit and redecorate. Our agent suggested that it is easier to re let unfurnished. Packed most of our furniture in our hired White Van and took it all to the local council recycling tip.

Very busy even mid week with cars and vans driving in and out all the time. Some help offered to lift it all into the huge bins. "Household over there, wood there and metal in that one" the man told us. Some of our furniture was taken for sale while most was just 'wood'.
We have set ourselves a target to strip wall paper, clean and paint the entire bungalow in about 4 weeks. Weary after only two days having already removed more furniture outside under the carport. The shed and attic providing even more stuff for disposal. Our neighbour paid us for a settee and the side board with glazed top but a 'yard sale' notice did not attract many callers. So another trip in the van with even more stuff to clear the yard. We got the van at Winchester and are able to return it to 'Enterprise' in Southampton. Then they took us home. All we have left now is a bed, a small settee and a rocking chair! We also want to tidy up the garden if we have time.
It does seem strange living in our old home that we lived in for about two years before moving on to our boat. Our friends Terry & Myra happened to be off their boat and paid us a visit. They helped with the painting and took us to the shops where we ordered carpets and got some food. Been a bit hasty clearing out the place because we had thrown all the baking trays and a measuring jug. Next day our cupboards were restocked from Tesco.Com which delivered to our door.
After the first week we have managed to finish two rooms with work in progress in the other four. The carpet man came to see us and remarked that he thought he would never see another foam back carpet! 'Mind you most of the foam had turned to dust'. 'Feels like we have been on holiday while on the boat'. Took some time out to walk round the local woods which we discovered all those years ago.
Latest update: Only the hall to do now. Two new carpets laid and we have mowed the lawn!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Caen Hill flight

We arrived to find the bottom pound full of boats waiting to go on down to Foxhangers but they were having their lunch. The lock keeper arrived to inform us that he was lowering the water level to investigate a leak. When the other boats moved on we tied up at the visitor mooring with slack ropes. Went down at least a foot over night but it was still deep enough to be floating!

Next day started misty which cleared as the sun came up. Set off together at about 10, Ann & Vic having got the first lock ready. Paul Balmer of 'Waterway Routes' seen walking down the flight to help. Another glorious day for travelling up through this famous flight of 16 closely spaced locks. Surprising being Easter that no other boats were passed on the way up and not many people watching our progress.


It was when we were at the top that the first pair of boats were seen coming out of a lock in front. We passed and watched them struggling to get in the lock almost one behind the other! Far easier to go in as a pair together. We had taken just over two hours from bottom to top of the flight. Stopped after doing a few more locks and thanked Paul for his help. Then we all enjoyed home made vegetable soup which Ann had made earlier.