Sunday, 22 April 2018

Shallow Lock, Deep Lock

It was a very stuffy night and the weather has indeed turned today, though it's sunny and warm again at the moment. There was an intense band of rain due to arrive at around 11.00, so we got going in good time for the trip round Stafford.

Sheila steered and I did both locks, one at the start, the shallow Tixall Lock, and one at the end, the very deep Deptmore. In between, it was a pleasant chug over the Sow aqueduct, past Stafford and Hazelstrine, home to Stafford Boat Club, and so up onto the pound that passes Acton Trussell.

We used to stop just outside Acton but it was always a pain trying to get decently close to the towpath, so now we go just round the first bend after the lock. The mobile signals are still good here and it's very quiet – further on, the M6 makes its presence felt.

The towels got washed on the way and we tied just after half ten. The rain duly arrived but blew through by one o'clock. Some boat work was done after lunch, basic sweeping, rug brushing and dusting. I've also touched in the bruise in the cabin side paint work since the starboard side is now next to the towpath again and will remain so all the way to Stourport.

As well as raising the matter of Swivel Bridge on here, I started a topic on CWDF's History and Heritage Forum. A contributor there quoted the same document that Jo found and commented on yesterday, basically arguing from the name that it must have been a swing bridge originally and have been subsequently rebuilt.

The design of the current bridge is subtly different to many of the originals, something to do with the absence of a string course, that is a slightly protruding row of stone just above the arch. So it looks like that must be the answer, but it would be interesting to find a more authoritative account, perhaps in the Charles Hadfield book covering the Staffs and Worcs.

I must do a bit more online research myself.

Tomorrow, we'll carry on up the cut, aiming for Penkridge.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

That's another fine day you've got me in

What with all this fine weather and drinking to match, we used the last of the Gold Hobgoblin I'd laid in last night, so a trip to the Farm Shop was indicated. We'd run out of bread and tomatoes too. Walking was a little painful at first until joints stiffened by yesterday's unaccustomed exercise eased up. We took along the collected recycling of the last few days and dumped it in the skips by Anglo-Welsh as we passed.

I always spend more than I mean to in that shop. We bought interesting Scotch eggs (mine based on a duck egg), some nice bread, still warm, and some meat to keep us going. The butcher there is nearly as good as Betty's Farm. We also acquired two bottles of Titanic Brewery's Iceberg, their American style beer, though I'm not sure the joke is in good taste.

Just hope the beer is.

We staggered back to the boat with this lot and have been taking it fairly easy since, doing pottering type jobs. It was very pleasant to sit out on the bow after lunch, though it's clouded over now with just a spatter of rain. Sheila's started work on replacement porthole doilies as a change from knitting Guernseys.

Question of the day: why is the bridge just before the Wide called Swivel Bridge? It doesn't look like it's ever been a swing bridge, so maybe it's the local farm name or something.

Tomorrow, on round Stafford and up Deptmore Lock.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Lovely Lapwings

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday is that another sign of spring here at Tixall is a bunch of lapwings performing all around us. We've seen five at a time tumbling about in the air, showing off and emitting their strange calls which sound like nothing so much as a handheld game console bleeping and chirping.

At one point I was convinced there must be a kid hanging around on the towpath playing one, but no, it was the lapwings going "peewit".

In another sign of the remarkable weather, we slept with the bedroom Houdini propped open last night. We slept well, whether for that reason or some other, so were woken for the first time at half five by the dawn chorus. This was mainly very musical, except for one sad pheasant going SQUAWK!, poor chap, no doubt the best he can manage.

After wrestling with a recalcitrant Killer Sudoku, we got up for a leisurely breakfast. Having decided to leave walking to the village until tomorrow, I started the engine so that Sheila could take advantage of the sun (once it had burnt off some serious mist) and run and dry a washload.

After coffee, we turned to and washed one side of the cratch cover which was looking very green after the damp winter and spring. We used Fabsil but I can't say it's come out very well. It's better than it was but there are still green stains on it and some other mucky patches. I suspect that we need to find somewhere where we can take it right off and lay it on a hard surface like a picnic bench to really scrub it.

After lunch we set out for a gentle amble to collect sticks to use as kindling, heading towards Tixall Lock. However, it was such a nice day, we decided to carry on and try the walk Steve and Denise had described to us yesterday. You carry on past the lock to the bridge beyond that superb house and garden.

Climb up onto the road and walk towards Milford village – there's a map on an interpretation board to make sure you go the right way. After crossing the River Sow and then the railway, you come to a junction with the A518, Milford village being down on your right. On the left, there's the back entrance to Shugborough estate and this is the way you should go. Mind you, there's the UK's first ever Wimpy still trading in the village, as far as I know.

There's no charge for walking through the park, though you'd need to buy tickets or show your National Trust card to get into the house. It's a bit of a trek through the park, but eventually you walk across the front of the mansion and on to cross the Trent by the Essex Bridge and so rejoin the towpath by Haywood Lock.

We were now pretty weary but somehow found the energy to stagger on to the Farm Shop to buy ice cream and sit and eat it in the sun. On the way back to the boat, we even picked up some sticks... Sheila's pedometer estimated the total distance including the Farm Shop diversion at just over five miles, so a solid bit of exercise.

We're going to sit tight here tomorrow again, then head off on Sunday because we want to rendezvous with Sue and Peter on Piper Reese at Coven on Wednesday. The plan is to get above Deptmore on Sunday, Penkridge Monday, Gailey Tuesday, Coven Wednesday.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Tixall for the weekend

First off, thanks to Martin on Ice Breaker for his suggestion about the ecohorn as an alternative to the ordinary gas horn. It sounds a good idea if I can track one down, as you don't have to buy gas cylinders to use it, it is pressurised with a bicycle pump.

We got going in good time again this morning and had a brilliant run past Taft Wharf and Wolverley Bridge to Colwich. Sheila managed to get another washload on before we got there, so that it was just nicely finished by the time we got to Tixall. The cut is generally very quiet this week, though I suspect it will get busier by the weekend with this scorching weather.

That'll be the sign for thunderstorms, then. Let's just hope this isn't the whole of the summer...

We found Riverside tied above Haywood Lock and had a brief exchange with Steve and Denise as we passed. They later walked past where we were tied on the Wide and we had a better discussion about the joys of owning a brand new boat. Just don't say the word "snagging".


Further on, Sebeq was winding and reversing back from the junction, so we were able to say hi to Mike and Allyson as well.

We've been able to tie on our preferred spot just at the start of the Wide, where there's a gap in the trees to let the sun through onto the solar panel and the mobile signals are good. We're one of only four boats here at the moment – the soggy spring has clearly discouraged folk from getting going this year.

After lunch we turned to and washed the port side of the cabin. It was hard graft, though, the sun drying it off almost before I could get the synthetic chamois onto it, and I think it will need doing again before we can polish it, worse luck. We've managed to scrub the algae off the gunwale, but that too is still looking quite dirty.

Since then, we've been lurking inside, it being too hot to sit out comfortably. With any luck, it will be just right at six beer o'clock to have a drink in the well deck. I got some Gold Hobgoblin at Tesco yesterday and I've just popped a can of it in the fridge...

We'll sit tight here for the weekend, I think, then amble on to Deptmore on Monday.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Ra Ra Rugeley

No, it's not quite what Kate Bush was on about, I know, but ever since I thought of that title above, I've had "Rasputin" going on and on in my head as an earworm. Oh well, if all else fails, there's always Elanor's trick for dealing with such mental irritations... "Rupert the Bear"

Oh, no, what have I done? "Rupert, Rupert the Bear, everyone knows your name..."


Must be the heat. That's right, it's been very warm today. I'd be tempted to leave my vest off tomorrow, if it wasn't for that wise old saw about ne'er cast a clout 'til may be out. Note the lower case 'm'. I firmly believe that the saying refers to the hawthorn blossom, not the month, since it appears when the weather has warmed up properly.

Any road, what about today? We made an early start having decided to top up the tank at Spode House after all. The cold weather meant wearing lots of layers which leads to lots of laundry and lots of water use, so we were down to half a tank already. Sheila steered and I did look out on a very pleasant morning, setting off as soon as we'd eaten breakfast and drinking coffee on the way.

Spode House and Hawksyard Priory were in fine Gothic form and we were soon tied on the water point which turned out to have a decent pressure today. Once filled to the brim, off we went again, meeting not many boats until we got to the shopping mooring at Bridge 66. It was now ten o'clock, so after another coffee, we made an initial trip to Smiths and Wilko, followed by an excursion to Tesco.

Here we surpassed ourselves. We don't often use a deep trolley, but the list was quite long, virtually Ocado standard, so there was nothing else for it. We did find almost everything we wanted and as a result filled the new wheelie bag, two day sacks and two folding bags. It was just as well that we'd been able to tie at the ideal spot, just through the bridge and right by the path to Tesco.

By the time we'd got it all put away, it was twelve and time for lunch. Once fed, we boated round to the visitor moorings at Brindley Bank where there were a couple of spaces.

I've done a bit of boat fettling this afternoon. The rev counter had started playing up again, so I took the engine panel off and found, sure enough, that the same earth leads as last time had come loose in their terminal. I've refixed them but the crimped sleeve of the female spade connector is getting pretty shaky. It will hopefully keep going until we're at Braidbar in September where they can do a better job than I can, having more potent crimping tools.

When I'd put it all back, I tested all the switches on the panel, just in case, and sure enough, the horn had stopped working. Pulling the leads off the back of the klaxon and sticking the multi meter test leads in the connectors showed that there was plenty of voltage getting through. After brooding on it for a bit, I tried scraping the connectors clean, especially the male spades, and got the thing working again.

It's in a pretty exposed position in the middle of the roof and is showing the results of our wet winter and spring. I think I might play safe and buy a backup, a handheld gas powered horn from Midland Chandlers as we pass on the way to Penkridge. With Harecastle, Barnton, Saltisford and Preston Brook tunnels on the schedule this summer, I don't want us to find ourselves with a dumb boat.

Tomorrow, on to Great Haywood and Tixall Wide, which should be just idyllic in this mini heatwave.

"We're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave..."

Oh strewth, not another Ohrwurm!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Blown along to Handsacre

I had some concerns about the amount of wind in the forecast and it was indeed pretty breezy by the time we'd got up and eaten breakfast. Since if anything it was scheduled to deteriorate as the day went on, we didn't linger but set off by half eight.

The exOwnerShips boat tied in front of us had a bit of a struggle to get off the towpath, the bow blowing back in before the steerer could get back to the stern, but with a little help from Sheila he got going eventually and then it was our turn.

In the event, we didn't have much trouble. Sanity Again is pretty well behaved in moderate to breezy winds, a function of her deeper draught and greater lateral stability. Sheila walked up to Junction Lock and turned it for me. By the time we were rising in the lock the volocky had turned up and saw us out.

Sheila had to work Middle Lock on her own, but a volocky set Shade House ready so we made good time up the flight overall.

The washing machine was loaded and ready to go, so Sheila filled it with hot water and started it as I ambled along the pound towards the 90ยบ bend where the canal swings round from heading south west to north west. The wind was a bit more troublesome once out of the shelter of the woods, so we were pleased to see someone working a boat down Woodend. I managed to hover in a sheltered patch until they were clear, then went straight in, Sheila hopping lightly off as the bow reached the bridge over the tail of the lock.

There's a goodly stretch of woods alongside the next pound, pretty well all the way to Kings Bromley marina, one of the finest stretches of canal in these parts. With any luck we won't be around by the time HS2 reaches here, assuming there's any money left to build it by then, of course.

There wasn't much sign of activity at either the Phoenix Wharf or the marina itself. The towpath mooring further on was well occupied by liveaboard boats, though.

With no further obstructions, I could open the throttle up a bit and make good time to the towpath moorings just beyond the Handsacre winding hole. Plenty of room here, though it's filled up a bit since. As we tied, the washing machine finished its cycle and it came on to rain a bit.

Good timing all round then. I got the fire lit as it's still pretty cool and damp today. Sheila's put a couple of items to dry in the cratch, leaving the bow doors open so that warm air rises from the Squirrel to do the job.

We've had a quiet afternoon catching up with bits and pieces. Tomorrow, on through Rugeley and a largish Tesco shop to tie probably on the Brindley Bank VMs.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Pottering at Fradley

As planned, we've been staying put here at Fradley today. Sheila ran a washload, it being Monday, which also meant giving the engine a decent run and getting a goodly amount of charge into the batteries. I try to charge them to a tail current of at least 2% of their capacity, 8 amps or less, every day. It's good too to get them really well charged as often as possible, that is down to a tail current of 2 amps or less, but it takes a long time to get those last few ergs into the bank.

As we're not doing any long days at the moment, it's not going to happen any time soon. On the other hand, we're now seeing a decent amount of sun, so the solar panel carries on adding charge through the day.

While Sheila was looking after the laundry, I turned out the desk drawer which was full of various kinds of cable. It was the most amazing collection of stuff that's accumulated over the last 14 years of living aboard. Some of it looks like it belongs in a museum of IT and there are a lot of charging cables, many for phones we don't have any more.

Then there were the USB cables of various kinds and miscellaneous other stuff, audio, video, FireWire, iPod related and so on. I've sorted out the ones that are likely to be used routinely and bundled the rest up in a set of poly bags and stowed them away under the side berth.

As usual, the problem is you don't dare throw any of them in case you find yourself holding a piece of kit that needs a cable you've just dumped. OK, so maybe not some of the mains cables, those can be offloaded at a recycling tip in due course.

After lunch, we washed and dried the starboard side of the boat. We found a bruise in the cabin paintwork which looks, I fear, as though another boat has clipped it with a bow rubbing strake. There was a bit of bare metal starting to rust, so I've plopped a bit of RustKonverter on it. It will need touching in before we polish that side.

Having done all this work, we treated ourselves to an ice cream at the cafe and then took a leg stretch up to Shade House lock. The actual Shade House is not for sale for once – last time they were asking £750,000 for it, probably a fair reflection of the size of the accommodation, the area of accompanying land and the pleasant location.

It's just a shame about HS2 being routed across the back somewhere nearby...