Monday, 15 October 2018

What’s up?

I’ve had a couple of queries from followers as to what we’ve been up to since getting back to Mercia in July, so I thought I should do a quick catch up. The drought meant that it wasn’t possible to get to the Owners’ Weekend by boat as the Bosley Lock flight was closed. So Elanor gave us a lift there on the Thursday and we stayed in the Adlington Travelodge for the weekend, relying on the kindness of fellow owners for getting to and fro.

Despite the rain, the weekend went well. We had seven boats to show off and the weather meant that virtually all the visitors were serious about potentially buying a boat. Orders taken since the event means that the next available build slot is a start in 2021, not earlier than March (though that slot may be gone by now).

Since then, we’ve been living in the lodge and doing various bits of maintenance of both the boat and the lodge. We’ve a programme of work to do on Sanity Again, running repairs and cleaning, mostly.

Thinking ahead, we may well take a trip down the South Oxford next Spring, going on from there to Crick for the Show, then back to Mercia for health stuff. After that, we might go down the Trent to Torksey and so to Lincoln and Boston again.

Possibly, depending on the weather and our mood...

Sunday, 22 July 2018

A bit of excitement on the way home

We had a couple of interesting experiences on the way home yesterday. First off, there was the body on the towpath above Tatenhill lock. Lying on the waterside edge of the towpath, this old dear was curled up on her side with some belongings nearby. I couldn't get the boat in before the lock landing, so Elanor had a bit of a walk back to her, wondering what she was going to find.

In fact she was just asleep with her glasses neatly on the ground beside her and her head resting on her handbag. Later on, as we were entering the lock, I saw her stand up, turn round and lie down again.

Just seemed an odd place for a kip, that's all.

Secondly, we've previously had bother persuading Sanity Again to leave Dallow lock when working downhill, but this time she was firmly aground and flatly refused to move. In the end, I had to draw a top paddle and flush her out. Once she was moving, I dropped the paddle and she promptly stopped again. I had to leave the paddle up until she was clear of the lock.

The pound was a bit down, but not that much. There's just too much silt in the bottom of that lock. I've emailed CRT via the website about it – they don't seem to publish email addresses for individual waterway offices any more, so I've bunged another email off to Damian Kemp at head office about that, too.

We're now back in the lodge, hiding from the sun and catching up with the laundry. Next trip will be towards the end of this month, on our way to Poynton for the Braidbar Owners' Weekend. If there's any water to boat in by then, of course...

Friday, 20 July 2018

Alright in Alrewas

A pleasant if routine run has brought us to Alrewas, leaving Kings Orchard just on half seven and arriving at a bit after ten. It was my turn to steer and for once I made the turn off the Coventry and into Junction Lock in one smooth sweep despite the audience of one volocky.

We had a straightforward trip down the locks, Sheila, Elanor and Sally lockwheeling. There was a moderate amount of traffic, so I had to hold back above Common for a while, no problem on an airless day. We've tied above Bagnall as usual.

After coffee, Sheila and I walked into the village to get a last batch of supplies including pasties for lunch from Coates. It's actually been raining a bit this afternoon, but the main shower is scheduled for six o'clock, just when I'm due to fetch the fish and chips.

We'll return to Mercia tomorrow – I won't blog about that unless there's something unusual to report.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Retracing our steps

We're getting into a routine with Elanor and Sally on board. Sheila and I get our breakfasts, walk Sally and give her her breakfast, then start boating. This lets Elanor have a lie in, being on her hols, but if she wants to get some steering, she has to get going before we finish for the day...

We've come all the way back to Kings Orchard, it being a very pleasant morning for boating, so Whittington was too soon and we decided we'd rather have a bit of road noise here rather than a lot of train noise at Huddlesford.

Elanor did a good chunk of steering, including the tricky stuff through Huddlesford with a fair bit of traffic the other way. It's a good mooring here and we've had only one untoward incident when a rather scruffy Serenity (one of the many) scraped all down the side of Sanity Again. When I remonstrated (quite calmly) the steerer said "It wasn't that bad"!!!

Must have been watching a TV programme featuring a pair of ageing actors...

We managed to get the roof, bow deck and well deck washed before lunch and have been taking it easy this afternoon. Tomorrow, on to Alrewas.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

A curious pub and heading back

We walked the mile back up to the Dog and Doublet for dinner last night. I'm left with mixed impressions of it. The food was very good – two excellent pieces of pie and a sirloin steak, all with chips – and I had a decent pint of Abbot Ale. But Sheila's Kipling was newly tapped and a bit cloudy and the only dark beer available was Guinness.

It's very much a locals' pub and the smallish bar was full of large men and their dogs. In days of yore, no respectable woman would go in a pub by herself and even when accompanied would expect her companion to enter first. Those days are long gone, and quite right too, but it felt as if the old rules applied in the Dog. I didn't feel that much at home myself.

So we ate outside, with Sally quite on edge with so many other dogs around, and didn't stay for a second drink. I doubt if we'll go back.

We had a straightforward run back to Fazeley and have tied on the exact same rings we used two nights ago. A bit more shopping has been done in much more comfortable weather. In fact, as Sheila and I came out of Sainsbury's, some wet stuff started falling out of the sky.

There's a name for that, can't quite remember it...

Tomorrow, back to Whittington or Huddlesford or Kings Orchard. Somewhere, anyway.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Kingsbury Water Park

We reckoned two and a half to three hours from Sutton Road Bridge to the foot of the Curdworth flight and Kingsbury Water Park, so left just after eight. We expected the short moorings to be pretty busy here, though when we arrived a bit before half ten, there was only one other boat tied.

Before that, we'd stopped at Peel's Wharf to water. That's the only service available there now, since the much lamented loss of the CRT office. Before, there was the full range of customer services except pump out there. A rather tatty notice cable-tied to a fence indicated that services were available in Fazeley Mill marina, so having made it round the junction with Sheila on the helm, we stopped on the towpath outside the marina.

The services consist of a) the water point on the towpath and b) access through a gate to a couple of skips in the marina. There's no recycling and I suppose there must be an Elsan sluice somewhere, but if the gate is locked out of hours, you're stuffed, basically. In general, I'm a supporter of CRT, but this is a disgraceful reduction in amenities for the licence paying boater.

It's even worse if you are staying on the Coventry, as the next rubbish point will be at Grendon, at the foot of Atherstone. That's a long, long way from Fradley, CRT.

Rant over.

Arriving at Kingsbury, I took the tiller to make a complete hot malted drink of winding. In my defence, the winding hole cannot be seen from the stern of the boat even when the bow is level with it, and it's very square and narrow. It took me two goes to get Sanity Again round and even then I had to have a lot of help from the traditional bow thruster, i.e. Sheila and 14 foot of ash pole.

Having got turned, we reversed onto the moorings, tying 60' from the other boat. There's room for four average boats here – if full, you can either lock up and tie in the long pound above the bottom lock, or head back towards Fazeley, past the huge length of soft edge now becoming overgrown with reeds and tie beyond.

We've had a walk up to lock 9 to check out the Dog and Doublet and have put in some solid work this afternoon cleaning the boat inside and out to remove all the straw dust from yesterday.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Exciting times at Tamworth

We've had a steady morning's boating to Sutton Road Bridge, just under three hours of very pleasant cruising along the Coventry. The stretch just after Whittington is greatly in need of dredging – Sheila happened to be steering whilst I made some coffee and had an African Queen experience with a bare boats width between the reed beds.

Elanor took over for the run through Hopwas Woods and on through the village nearly to Tamworth. Her steering skills have not deserted her and she coped well with an encounter at Hopwas School Bridge made more tricky than necessary by a GRP cruiser tied, in breach of the no mooring signs, far too close to the bridge.

I took the boat back for the final bit to a deserted mooring at Sutton Road Bridge. Sheila and I did some food shopping before lunch, then Elanor and Sheila went off in search of tops afterwards. Not long after they'd gone, a combine harvester showed up in the field opposite, as a result of which the boat has been well dusted over with minute bits of chaff.

After a while, billows of smoke started pouring up from the corner of the field nearest the boat. I was just pondering whether I could move the boat only assisted by Sally when the shopping party returned, alarmed at the sight of smoke right where the boat was tied.

Whilst we were bow hauling her out of the way, blues and twos could be heard and seen and a fire appliance parked just by the bridge. They didn't in fact need to pump water out of the cut, the use of a spray from the on board tank was enough to deal with the blaze.

Combining is once more occurring as I type this. We've been joined by at least one more boat now. Tomorrow, on to Kingsbury Water Park.