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.