Thursday, 24 February 2011

We were sat quietly reading yesterday afternoon when a knock on the window interrupted the peace, it was a couple of the BW crew that were trimming trees & shrubs. They had just taken a large dead oak branch down & did we want some of it? Err yes please!

So this morning we moved the few hundred yards along the canal & got about 2/3rds of this lot on the roof, should keep us warm for a while :)
We carried on for a couple of hours & are now moored in Hockley Heath for the next few days. After mooring up we had a walk up into the village to see what's what & collected some post from the very helpful lady at the post office. I then got busy in the sunshine & washed the side of the boat, we'd got mud everywhere whilst loading the wood. 
Tomorrow I'm off to Manchester for the weekend & leaving Mark to his own devices, he's found a TV signal & the village stores will supply the daily papers & choccy biscuits so I think he'll be fine....

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dickens Heath

 It has been so cold, grey & damp for the last couple of days we have had  little exercise apart from strolling up to the Tesco express in the 'village' to get the papers & fresh bread.

 I put village in ' ' as Dickens Heath is an odd place, a 21st century village centre according to Parkridge the developers so it's basically a new village with shops, a library, a village hall & green etc etc . Except that most villages I know aren't made up of large apartment blocks & huge water features with sculptures, a lot of the shops are empty, a lot of properties still for sale & apart from a few bods shopping  in Tescos there is no one to be seen. Weird, it reminds me a bit of The Prisoner  & I half expected to run into number 6!  But it's a ghost town, it looks like the recession has hit it hard. 

 Anyway after a weekend of sloth today is not so cold & damp so I thought I should get some exercise & took myself off down the towpath towards Hockley Heath. The towpath is a bit muddy so I donned my wellies & it was just as well I did.....

as 'a bit muddy' turned into this... the browny bits are where the BW chaps who are busy trimming back tree branches have  put some of the 'shreddings' to try to make it less muddy.
 Spotted this pile that they have left for us boaters,
 hope it's still there when we pass on Thursday !
 I only managed 3 miles as I gave up at bridge 19, the mud just seemed to get worse.
 Home was a welcome sight...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Birmingham to Dickens Heath

Our mooring on  the Oozells Street Loop was only for 48hours so we had moved up to the 14 day moorings in Cambrian Wharf at the top of the Farmers Bridge Locks. It was a pleasant enough spot the services are nearby & it's handy for town. We had a couple of nights of loud music from the Flapper & Firkin opposite but it stopped at 11ish so didn't disturb us unduly.

But 7 days in Birmingham was long enough, so yesterday, with a dry day forecast  (why move in the rain if you don't have to ;) )  was cruising day. I haven't really resolved the situation with my wrist but did have an x ray which showed no fracture or arthritis ( which is good!) so maybe it's just one of those annoying things that will take it's time to heal.

 We might have gone the wrong way round the roundabout.....

 Passing through the 'Worcester Bar', originally there was a barrier here between the Worcs & Birmingham Canal & the Birmingham Canal, there was no junction & for several years goods had to be transhipped from one canal to the other. 
Common sense finally prevailed & a stoplock was inserted to connect the two canals. 

Looking back towards the basin, 
the Canalside Cafe is just on the left where we had a very nice lunch one day.

The very new Selly Oak Aqueduct  over a major new road development, it looks quite smart.

 Passing Cadbury World  in Bournville, the nearby railway station is painted in Cadbury purple, Mark commented that maybe it should be yellow as Cadbury is now owned by Kraft....
 We were looking forward to seeing the back of this.....

Now on the Stratford -on-Avon canal.
 The imposing entrance to Brandwood Tunnel, the plaque is William  Shakespeare.

 A welcome sign of spring on a grey, bitterly cold day

Emerging from a long cutting we were looking for a spot to moor for the weekend that had a sight line to the satellite for the television . Tonight it's the excellent 'The Killing' & Sunday sees the start of the new series of 'South Riding'. 
Finding a likely spot just outside Dickens Heath  we moored up at 2.30pm, very cold & glad to get warmed up by the fire. The TV signal is fine so we're sorted for a few days, Mark went off in the rain this morning, he had spotted a Tesco Express on Google Earth ( very handy tool for us travellers) & returned with the weekend Guardian. :)

Meanwhile Soona did what she does best...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A wet Sunday in Birmingham

After a peaceful night moored outside the Merry Hill Shopping Centre we were up early on Wednesday morning & it was still dark when we left at 7am. We anticipated a long & busy day if we were to reach Birmingham by dusk & we weren't disappointed!

 Blowers Green Pump house  & lock, just round the corner to the much needed water point
  Graceful cast iron bridge at the Boshboil Arm, they are a common sight on the BCN

Looking back to the Netherton tunnel, at 3027yds it seemed to go on forever,
 it actually takes about an hour to go through. 

Instead of keeping it simple & staying on the 'new' Main Line which would have been fairly straightforward & involved no locks we needed to take a rather more convoluted route because, as I hadn't managed to sort a new supply of coal from Corbetts  I had arranged to pick up some coal from Charlton Whitehouse in Oldbury.  Anyway the 'old' canal route looked more interesting....
Once the fresh supply of coal was safely stashed ( not on the roof!) we made our way to the 3 Smethwick locks,  1st lock went smoothly enough & as the gates on the 2nd lock were already open Mark cruised neatly in & I went to close the gate behind him. Some gates are really heavy & stiff but this one would not budge & we soon realised that something was in the water, after trying & failing  to shift whatever it was we decided to cut our losses, Mark managed to reverse into the pound & wind with just an inch or two to spare & we headed for Spon Lane locks instead.  
As we cruised away  I rang BW  to inform them of the lock situation & let them know that we weren't hanging around waiting for them & had gone the Spon route.
 Now we hadn't seen another boat all day &  would you believe it a few minutes later a boat coming towards us heading for the locks, we did the best we could to let them know the situation as we passed each other, not sure that they heard us properly & we never saw them again so I hope they managed okay. It was a green nb, looked quite new, called 'Isis'.

By the time we reached Spon Lane it was late afternoon, we were getting tired & looking forward to getting through the locks & onto the final stretch.   Ha! fat chance..
... the locks were full of rubbish & despite clearing as much as we could we still managed to get jammed in the middle lock by
this ... 
much banging & bashing before it was shifted  then 2 trips down the weed hatch  before we finally got back onto the main Line. 
The elegant aqueduct on the  Engine Arm

 The old line & new run side by side here & the offending Smethwick lock is just over the hill. 
No further problems & we finally got moored up on the Oozells Street Loop at 5pm, shattered!
We're quite impressed by the waterfront here, it's very smart & we've just been pottering about enjoying it though not today as it has rained all day so good excuse to be idle. 
I have a Doctors appointment tomorrow as I'm still having problems with my wrist & whether we go or stay is dependant on the outcome of that visit.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A busy day on the BCN

Mark was raring to go at 7.30am as daylight broke on a cold, frosty & sunny morning with no wind. I  was a bit slower off the mark so had only just dressed & breakfasted when we got to the first lock of the day. We soon got into a rhythm & worked like a well oiled machine  ;)  reaching the top lock of the Stourbridge locks at 11am.

Looking back towards Dadford's Shed

 Double Lock cottage & the Red House Glass Cone in the background
I made us a coffee & just had time to drink it when it was time for the Delph locks.

 Mark lets 'Poppy' go into the lock on her own as he goes up the steps to assist me with the lock

 Date on lock side
 Old stables looking very well kept

 The greater spotted scroat leaves it's mark.

Inscription on a brick lock side, I think it says ' Doulton and Co'

We moored up outside the Merry Hill Shopping Centre at 1pm so not bad going really,  only 5 miles but that included 22 locks.  A quick wash & brush up & we were in Costa Coffee having lunch by 1.30pm.  Sainsbury's  was next to do a grocery shop so the cupboards are now restocked.
The water tank is very low so tomorrow it'll be the services then the Netherton Tunnel, all 3027 yds of it  & we shall probably be heading for Gas Street or thereabouts. It would  be nice if we had the sunshine we've had today but I doubt it.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Well we did move to just outside Stourbridge & ended up having 5 bags of coal stolen off the roof last night!! Not happy :(
But to back track, on Wednesday we moved from Kinver just a short hop to The Beeches above Hyde lock & just as I was finishing my lunch we were joined by Seyella & Rock n Roll . It was nice to meet face to face at last :)

Being in need of coal I rang a local coal merchants & arranged for a delivery at Newtown bridge on the Stourbridge for Thursday. So Thursday am  we moved up near the bridge to await the coal man, we were hoping he wasn't too late as we didn't really want to stay there overnight. 
He turned up at 3pm so after stashing the coal we upped pins & moved another short hop to moor in what looked like a nice quiet spot about a mile from the Stourbridge Arm. 

We realised we'd probably be there for the weekend as the wind had really got up & according to the weather forecast was due to last a few days. Not too bad we thought, only a mile or so to a Tesco express & Lidl  for supplies & nice views of New Wood across the fields. 

Not so quiet we found as somewhere in the valley  at a property hidden in the trees were some dogs who barked & barked then occasionally  just for a change, howled. It was like the Hound of the Baskervilles! Still the howling wind deadened it somewhat....

But we dug in & waited for some abatement in the wind, then this morning Mark went out to chop some wood whilst I did some washing & changed the bed. He'd been chopping a while when he realised we were missing 5 bags of coal. Scroats !!  So despite the wind it was time to move.

 Mark did a sterling  job of steering us up to the junction to wind ( literally!) then took us back up to the winding hole at Stewponey where we winded again & moored up in a hopefully better spot, at least there is no barking dogs! So tomorrow I shall ring the coal man  ( W.Corbett & Son Prestwood  01384-877350  - excellent service )  for another delivery,  our loss will be his gain!

I've calmed down now after ranting most of the morning  but Mark's still seething.

Hopefully we will be on the move again by Tuesday as tomorrow looks windy again.