Tuesday, 7 July 2015

On to the Bratch

We did well to sit tight yesterday, as the weather continued to be pretty wild at times. Boats kept arriving and mooring for a bit and then leaving again, though the unconverted working boat we'd tied behind stayed put. Later on, hireboats, mostly Napton Narrowboats, would turn up and keep going, presumably heading for pubs further down the cut. Finally, an ABC boat, crewed by Norwegians according to their flag, arrived and tied ahead of us, said crew later going off to the pub.

We carried on lurking indoors and making our own entertainment without benefit of the internet. A prompt start this morning in chilly but otherwise pleasant conditions saw us working down Wightwick Mill, Wightwick, Dimmingsdale, Ebstree and Awbridge Locks. Dimmingsdale is one of the most pleasant locks situated on this or any other canal, always a pleasure to visit even if, like several of the others, the gates badly need some attention.

There's a coal yard at Awbridge right by the cut and a whole gaggle of working boats were waiting there. John Jackson's Roach was already loaded and floating well down – about 25 tons and a foot of side, I'd guess. It's a pleasure to see a carrying craft like that, ready to do the job it's meant to do, once you've persuaded yourself it's not sunk, that is...

Sheila had managed to get a washload going between locks and it was just finishing off as we arrived at the top of the Bratch. I stopped early, expecting the scanty visitor moorings still to be busy as it was barely ten, so chose a spot opposite the nets of the cricket club. This meant an encounter with some ferocious nettles to get the chains through the Armco. Sheila, who'd been a bit sceptical about the need to stop so soon, walked on after we were tied and came back to report no boats at all on the moorings above the locks.

Heigh ho, serves me right for being rude about her mooring choices last time we stopped here :(

After coffee we took a stroll to the locks to see what was going on. Not only were the visitor moorings empty, they'd been extended to include the former long term ones, so there's a huge choice now. Mind you, a lot of the length lacks rings and has a hard edge, so you'd have to be a bit desperate to use them.

The weather has continued very unsettled, so it's been another afternoon inside. Sheila had a load of stuff to do now that we had access to the outside world once more, some financial and some to do with the early arrangements for the Braidbar Owners' Weekend, whilst I had a session adding entries to the Pub Guide. I'm about halfway through the seventeen that I've got to do.

I've also been making bread again; it's good to get back into the swing of doing that. Wholemeal and six seeds this time.

On to Compton

I'm typing this post on the right day, but won't be able to post it until tomorrow, as Compton remains a "not-spot" with virtually no mobile signals at all. Looking back on my entry for the last time we were here in 2008, I discover that it was the same then. More of this later.

The forecast being for early sunshine and later rain, we made a prompt start from Coven and Sheila had a good run in pleasant if cool weather whilst I did look out in the bow, there being a goodly collection of blind bridgeholes. We were followed by a boat which had set off just after we passed them, with the lady of the crew riding ahead accompanied by the ship's dog.

This was very handy as she rode right through the Pendeford Rockin' and came back to tell us that no boat was approaching from the other side. Autherley Junction came and went as did Oxley Marine. There's work on a pipe bridge going on just beyond, with the canal reduced to a bare seven foot. An occasional boat passed us in the opposite direction as the morning grew older.

Finally Compton Lock showed up – the short visitor moorings above were occupied so we locked down. There are a couple more moorings between the lock tail bridge and the road bridge but the only space left there was about ten foot short. Fortunately, Compton is well provided with visitor moorings and we had no trouble getting one beyond the road bridge. The first rain shower occurred as we were tying.

After coffee, we took a walk into the village to discover the welcome sight of a Sainsbury's Local handily by the first road junction. Various bits of shopping were undertaken, though the stock of beer and wine was very limited. Back at the boat it came on to rain in earnest, confining us inside the cabin until after lunch.

A subsequent trip found the old Spar to be still there as is a well stocked off licence where we could get some beer and a few bottles of wine for the cellar.

Compton is a handy stop, it's just a shame that the inhabitants don't get better service from the mobile phone providers. Even in the main street, the phones only found a whisper of signal, just enough to check email on the iPhone. We'll head off towards the Bratch tomorrow, planning to tie above the locks again.


Sunday, 5 July 2015

On to Coven

It's reckoned that the best bits of the Staffs and Worcs are south of Autherley Junction, but the bit from Gailey to Coven is pretty good too, once you are past Four Ashes chemical works. They've obviously had another health and safety assessment since we were last through (I think they've been taken over, in fact) as there are now signs saying "No Mooring, No Stopping" on that stretch. They aren't CRT signs, so probably have no validity – in fact they are a bloody cheek – but who would want to stop there in the reek of cooking phenols anyway?

Mind you, if my engine alarm went off as I was passing, I would stop anyway, and be blowed to the signs.

As I say, once past there the canal becomes very rural for the most part and very curvaceous as well, making it an interesting challenge for the steerer. We made it to Coven just after ten. Boats were still leaving the visitor moorings by the Fox and Anchor but we had no problem getting a nice position on the end, before the tree cover becomes too intrusive.

Having tied, we walked into the village, crossing the A449 on the way, and did some top up shopping in the little Co-op there. Since then, we've been lurking on the boat, pottering about on a mixed day of sunshine and showers. I'm making some more tomato and garlic bread for tomorrow and the next day and we've been reminding ourselves of the route to Stourport with the invaluable aid of the Pearson's guide to the Stourport Ring.

Tomorrow, on to Compton, then probably to just above the Bratch on Tuesday.


Saturday, 4 July 2015

Step we Gailey

Sorry. After feeling a bit under the weather yesterday, what with the heat and humidity, I'm a lot better today and so a bit even more pathetic humourwise. I forgot to give the answer to the day before's question last time: There's No Business Like Show Business first occurs in the earlier musical Annie Get Your Gun and White Christmas was first sung by Bing in the musical Holiday Inn, so in each case a successful number spawned a completely new film.

We thought at first we weren't going to get away today. I woke still feeling a bit dopey and dizzy and the boat was leaning over, well aground. At five o'clock I threw some clothes on and walked down to Longford Lock, expecting to find a paddle up or a gate left open, but all was well. The pound, however, was a good foot to eighteen inches down and all the moored boats aground. It might be that a paddle had been left up and another boater had sorted it before I got there. Either that, or that pound leaks atrociously.

The walk did me some good, so after a cup of tea we had breakfast and considered our options. It was possible to push Sanity Again away from the towpath back into deep water and the weather didn't seem too bad, so we set out, working up Penkridge Lock and stopping to water above. Crafty Foxes from Mercia came by as we were doing this and then preceded us up the remaining locks to Gailey.

In turn, we worked up Filance, Otherton, Rodbaston, Boggs and Brick Kiln to tie just in front of Crafty Foxes below Gailey. It's nicer down here than above the lock, much more open and with a better width of channel outside us. Once we'd tied and the washing machine had finished its stuff, we had a walk up there.

There are just a few boats on the long term moorings and only one on the visitor provision. Meantime, these moorings have filled up – all right, another boat arrived. Traffic continues to be steady rather than heavy, with a few hirers setting off from the yard.

We went up to the Round House after lunch to indulge in ice creams but otherwise have largely been loafing, though Sheila has done the month end financial chores. Tomorrow, another easy day, up the final lock onto the summit and then on to Coven Heath.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Warm again at Penkridge

We had a nice cool night at Deepmore and weren't in a rush to get going this morning, with only a short run to Penkridge in prospect. It was a classic summer's morn:

Setting off at eight, we made short work of the run through Acton Trussell, up Shutt Hill, Park Gate and Longford locks to our usual mooring on the towpath a bit below Penkridge lock. There was just a nice amount of traffic about once more and no trouble finding a mooring here at ten, though they've filled up a bit since. After a pause for much needed coffee, we walked down into the village and did a bit of shopping in the Co-op. It's not as well stocked as some, but still perfectly adequate to our needs for perishables. Not much choice of tomatoes, though.

Back at the boat we've lurked inside for most of the day, both before and after lunch. It's turned very warm again, quite debilitating, with heavy rain forecast for overnight so it looks as if we shall have to endure being all shut in. We've got all the hatches and slides open to try and keep the temperature as low as we can.

Tomorrow, on to Gailey having first topped up the water tank above the lock here.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Cooler but still dramatic

The answers to yesterday's questions were 1) Irving Berlin and 2) Cole Porter. Heatwave was originally written for the musical As Thousands Cheer but became a standard and used in a number of films, notably There's No Business Like Showbusiness where it's sung by Marilyn Monroe. A snippet even appears at the start of White Christmas, sung by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Too Darn Hot comes from Kiss Me Kate.

So, what do There's No Business Like Showbusiness and White Christmas have in common?

And now for the rest of the news...

We had a good morning's boating despite the shallow state of the Staffs and Worcs at the moment. There was one incident of inconsiderate behaviour, though we didn't allow it to spoil the day for us. Just short of Stafford BC, we got stemmed up trying to pass a boat coming the other way. A drainage outfall had left a bar of silt across the channel and both boats ran aground. As Sheila was grappling with getting us off, the boat which had been following for some time, catching up past moored boats but falling behind on the clear stretches (it's called having a one position throttle), decided he was too important to be held up and pushed through between the two stranded boats.

This naturally made the situation that much worse as we were pushed further towards the towpath and hence more firmly aground. The crew genuinely didn't seem to understand why we were narked with them. As another boat was approaching from in front, both stranded boats just sat tight until the traffic had passed and then extricated themselves.

We took care not to rush on afterwards, so that there was no risk of having to help Mr and Mrs Stroppy Chops up Deepmore Lock. We got there at about 11 and have tied just above on one of our favourite out of town spots, very peaceful but with a good 3 signal. The Voda one isn't so hot, but it's only for one night.

It's been a quiet afternoon with rain from time to time but it's been much cooler in general all day. A certain amount of siesta has been taken and I've started work on a load of entries for the BOG Pub Guide that have recently come in. We've just had a fairly fierce squall and have had to close up, making it a bit stuffy again, but I'm still hopeful of a better night's sleep tonight.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015


"The temperatures rising, it isn't surprising, she certainly can can-can". Or, "It's too darn hot, it's too darn hot, it's too-oo da-arn HOT!" (Identification of composers and lyricists is left as an exercise for the reader.)

I'm tempted to leave it at that for today, but will struggle on a bit longer, stopping occasionally to dry the drips of sweat from the keyboard. It's now 32ºC (90ºF) in the cabin and there's no wind outside. Occasionally, a few drops of warm rain fall down. It feels like I'm in a remake of the old Tales from the Raj BBC series in which Joss Ackland was frequently seen at the typewriter with big sweat stains in his armpits.

We made it to Tixall before it got this ridiculous and managed to get to the Farm Shop for Scotch Eggs and some bread, it being too hot to think of baking. There are a number of working boats about – we followed Towcester and Bideford all the way to the foot of Haywood. Apparently they are all on their way from the Braunston Historic Boat Show to a similar event in Wolverhampton.

Braidbars seen: Bessie Surtees tied in the shade at Wolseley Bridge and Shield Maiden going the other way at the same location.

That's enough, I'm off to trim my beard and have a very cool shower.


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Getting hotter

It's a good job we got everything done that we needed to do this morning, because this afternoon it's been a case of staying as still as possible in the shade. We timed our start exactly right for once, setting off at half eight and getting to the shopping mooring in Rugeley just after ten. It was a very pleasant morning's boating with a bit of traffic about but not enough to cause problems through the various bottle necks around Armitage.

Spode House was looking grand as ever and has lost the horrible advertising banner that used to disfigure its frontage. There are a lot of gaps in the long term moorings there; hopefully CRT will rationalise those one day to close them up a bit. Between those and the Ash Tree moorings just through the bridge you spend a lot of time in tickover.

A visit to Tesco replenished our supplies of perishables and we got one or two other bits and bobs at the same time, including another pair of pyjamas for yours truly, short sleeved and short legged ones for these hot nights. Whilst I put stuff away, Sheila went into the town to get a puzzle book from WH Smith and some lens cleaner from SpecSavers. We don't use their glasses any more, but the cleaner is the best value around.

We'd planned to go on to Bridge 69 as I said yesterday, but have decided to stop on the new visitor moorings just beyond the Brindley Bank aqueduct. It's a bit noisier here with the ring road bridge just beyond, but distinctly less smelly in this heat. Braidbars spotted today: Bessie Surtees again as we leapfrog with them towards Great Haywood and Martin and Anna on One Day heading the other way through Rugeley.

Tomorrow, on to Tixall Wide, probably. It's 30º in the shade here now, so not a lot more is going to get done. All the doors and hatches are open and mostly fly screened and we've put the porthole bungs in down the sunny side. Definitely another night for salad, methinks.