On to Wolverley

Well… so much for the forecast thunderstorm and rain! Just a few spots this morning, so we decided to travel a few more miles to find a brighter mooring as we were next to an enormous Leylandii hedge.

 

It was straight into Whittington Lock and onwards toward Austcliffe. Over the last couple of days the scenery has changed to wooded areas, with the canal winding around sandstone outcrops, hence “Rocky Lock” yesterday and today at Austcliffe the canal narrows to single width as it clings to the hillside with the sandstone cliff towering above.

 

There has been a landslide just around here , closing the road above, and naturally this was were we met an oncoming boat!

 

On through Cookley Tunnel with houses perched on the top.

At Debdale Lock there is a fair sized cavern carved out of the sandstone but my photography doesn’t really convey the size of it.

In just another 40 minutes we were at Wolverley Lock Visitor Moorings where we tied up and had lunch at The Old Smithy Tea Room which is run by The Lock Inn, just across the cut.

Being such a pleasant spot we will stay here to sit out the expected rain tomorrow, if things don’t change, actually we have now placed an order for a Morrisons grocery delivery, so we’ll have to stay.

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Swindon to Whittington

The header picture is one of those circular weirs I mentioned yesterday.

Last night we bottled some elderflower cordial which Joy had made.

So today we set off at about 10 am, through Hinksford Lock to Greenforge where we filled our tank at the waterpoint. I was puzzled for a few minutes as conventional taps were fitted AND the normal lever valve under the locked cover.

The Navigation Inn

Greenforge Lock is very near the waterpoint but the armco type barrier is in poor condition here and proceeded to scrape the side  of the boat as we moved along to the lock. The Navigation Inn is alongside the lock to provide refreshment for boaters past and present.

After Flatheridge Bridge we passed the beautiful private garden belonging to the owner of the adjacent Ashwood Nurseries, just as I was sneaking some photos a smiling face emerged from under the tree on the left where a lady was doing some pruning.

Passing through five more locks our journey took us past ‘The Devils Den’ which is a bit overgrown now (follow this link for a story back in 2008 and some history about it) and Dunsley Tunnel, which is carved through the rock, except for a brick portal one end,  and on to Kinver, where we had been forewarned the Vine Inn, by the lock, was now closed.

We stopped below the lock for lunch and as we wanted to have a couple of days off wondered whether we could stay on this 24 hour mooring but decided that it would be a bit naughty so we moved on to Whittington where  we are moored next to an attractive property adjacent to the next lock.

 

Eleven locks to Swindon

Another 9:30 start this morning, but not early enough to be away before our overnight neighbours and another boat who passed us just before casting off. The latter had a large crew and seemed in a hurry and soon disappeared out of sight.

The Staffs & Worcs (Staffordshire & Worcestershire) is a nice canal, pictureque, well maintained, with interestingly designed locks & circular overflow weirs like giant plugholes and we seemed to have it to ourselves for most of the day.

We completed the first three locks in under an hour and at Awbridge was pleased to see that the remaining original lock-tail bridge (for all the world like a couple of shelf brackets, with a gap for the horses tow-rope between them) had been stripped of its hideous Elf & Safety scaffolding hand rail which was present the last time we travelled this way and has been replaced with a more sympathetic design, but it still smacks of architectural vandalism to me.

Another hour’s gentle cruising took us to The Bratch, a set of three locks telescoped together with side ponds to economise on water usage and which still have a lock-keeper in attendance (to make sure boaters operate them without flooding the neighbouring garden!

Here we caught up with the ‘Boat in a Hurry’  who complained they had been waiting half an hour already. The lock-keeper explained that the procedure is three boats up then three boats down. Apparently, they, like us are headed for Gloucester and the Locky observed wryly that two days of rain were forecast and the Severn would probably be closed again by the time they reached it. “What shall we do then?” they asked,  “Well I suppose you could always catch a bus or a train.” he replied. We have already factored in a couple of ‘rest days’ to coincide with the forecast rain. [writes he, smugly]

Onwards to the curiously named Bumblehole Lock, then a stop at The Round Oak pub for a ‘2 for a Tenner’ lunch in their garden, good value although the Black Country Faggots were not entirely to Joy’s taste however my steak, ale & mushroom pie was fine.

It was then time to tackle the Botterham Staircase, just two locks joined together, Marsh Lock & Swindon Lock after which we found a sunny mooring.

Later I made a start on washing one side of the boat & the roof, now it’s bound to rain, isn’t it?

Cross green to dimmingsdale

We managed to get up and away before 10 am, through Autherley Narrows where we met a C&RT workboat at one of the passing places.

Soon we were at Autherley Junction where the Shropshire Union connects, then Aldersley Junction where the climb up to Birmingham starts with the Wolverhampton 21 locks.

Not for us however, as we headed on to Compton where we stopped about mid-day for shopping and fish and chips at Peps Plaice who serve the traditional ‘Black Country’ orange coloured chips.

Here we spotted our ideal retirement home when we win the lottery, canal-side apartments with moorings!

At 2 o’clock we were on our way again, continuing in beautiful sunshine, through the two Wightwick Locks and moored at Dimmingsdale for the night opposite the short arm which has moorings in it.

 

 

The summer cruise begins

After a little ‘shake-down’ cruise yesterday with Joy’s cousin Darrell and her grandson Alfie, just down to Penkridge and back with lunch at the Cross Keys we started our summer cruise in earnest this morning.

We had an easy run through the five locks  (Otherton, Rodbaston, Bogg’s, Brick Kiln and Gailey Top)  meeting other boats at most locks which always helps things along.

We were soon passing through the chemical works whose warning notices always make me a bit nervous “No Mooring or Stopping for 200 metres even if you hear an alarm”

 

 

  1. I reckon they mean 2000 metres
  2. If I heard an alarm the last thing I would do is stop!

 

Running up to Hatherton Marina we spotted this cute little car on the towpath (possibly a French Axiam – ‘strewth you can drive them at 14 in France!!!) [edit: A bit more research suggests it’s a Reva G-Wiz, an electric ‘quadricycle’ which Top Gear lambasted naming it the Worst Car of 2007!]

We stopped just opposite Hatherton Marina and cooked lunch of halloumi and spam fritters, trying to replicate the beer batter we enjoyed in Greece.

Suitably refreshed we completed the next few miles in about an hour and a half finding a spot to moor right outside the Anchor Inn at Cross Green where we felt obliged to sample a pint of Doom Bar and an ice cold Coke.

We noticed it seems to be a good year for poppies and foxgloves.

 

Our New Mooring

So… Why have you moved again? I hear you ask.

Well, not having experienced marina living before we didn’t quite know what to expect but thought we would give it a go over last winter and this is what we found:

 

 

Pros

  • 240v electricity available
  • Water tap next to boat
  • Postal address
  • Car Parking easily accessible
  • Facilities such as washing machines & showers
  • Work Bay available (but found to have restrictions on use of power tools)

 

 

 

Cons

  • Water turned off for the winter months leaving one (heated) tap per set of pontoons necessitating purchasing a 50 metre hosepipe.
  • Lack of natural light & view from windows when boats moored either side.
  • Less social contact than expected
  • Restrictive rules & regulations 

 

What we really missed was neighbours passing the time of day,  boats passing us and generally watching the world go by, so when we found that a ‘linear mooring’ (along the canal bank outside the marina) was becoming available at Otherton Boat Haven, with water and electricity giving us the best of both worlds, we grabbed it with both hands.

Otherton may not have so many facilities as King’s Bromley but it has all the basics and a friendly vibe.

We’re not yet sure if this will be our permanent spot on the moorings but so far we are enjoying it it very much. It’s nice to see birds feeding right outside our windows and have boats passing by on the canal again and we can park our car even nearer than at King’s Bromley.

Penkridge has, as mentioned in our last epistle, its twice weekly market, it also has a good range of small shops and an excellent bakery, Jaspers, where there always seems to be a queue for their products.
Just out of town (but nearer us) is a small shopping centre with a decent sized Co-op, two charity shops and a selection of takeaways covering Fish & Chips, Indian, Chinese and Kebabs, we shall never starve!

We have visited Stafford but before we could explore the town centre the heavens opened so we decamped to the Boundary Mill store in Walsall where Chris bought a pair of new slip on shoes for the summer.

Yesterday we visited Cannock and it seems a nice town with extensive pedestrianised area with lots of the major stores represented and we found a good independent greengrocers too.

As our electricity connection is across the access road we have had to protect the cable by sliding it through a piece of hosepipe, which was not the easiest of jobs, needing both our efforts to achieve it.

They also have the facility here to haul your boat out of the water for blacking etc. with a hi-tech hydraulic trailer pulled by a massive tractor.

Pastures New

Thursday 18 April 2019

We hadn’t planned to leave the marina again until after the Easter break but the weather forecast for the weekend was so glorious and the following week showery we decided to bring our plans forward.

So, after doing a few jobs, we left just after mid-day and made the lock-less 5 mile trip into Rugeley, through the Armitage Tunnel (which isn’t really a tunnel any more, just a very narrow bit with a bridge over it) and tied up near Tescos where we did some shopping  before spending a quiet night there.

Friday 19 April 2019

We had arranged to take our friends, Pam & David, for a short trip today so we had a quiet morning and met them in the afternoon and went up to the winding hole past Taft Wharf and back again.

We just found a slot again to moor in then finished the day off with a Chinese takeaway from Peter’s Kitchen (a traditional Cantonese name?).

Saturday 20 April 2019

Today we set off at 10:40 and at Great Haywood there was a ‘Floating Market’ with traders selling their wares from boats, we weren’t tempted to stop, even if we could have found a space to moor.

So we continued through Haywood lock and turned onto the Staffs & Worcs canal at the junction stopping for lunch on Tixall Wide, a stretch of canal made to look like a lake to appease the local landowner.

After lunch we pressed on to Radford Bank (near Stafford) where we found tonight’s mooring and took some refreshment at the eponymous pub.

Sunday 21 April 2019

This morning we treated ourselves to breakfast at the Radford Bank Inn before leaving. Can’t say ‘carvery style’ works well for breakfasts as the fried bread was positively curly under the heat lamps, but a new batch of fried eggs were brought out just in time for us, however we thought the cost was very reasonable at £4.49 for ‘all you can eat’ but a bit cheeky to offer mushrooms, then charge 89p extra and £1.99 for a cup of tea.

With no washing up to delay us we set off to tackle the 5 miles and 5 locks to Penkridge. We met boats at every lock which was helpful and encountered two fishing competitions on the way.

We were able to tie up in the sunshine on Penkridge visitor moorings. Being Easter Sunday, Joy cooked us a roast lamb roast dinner and we spent the night here with the murmur of the M6 in the background.

Monday 22 April 2019

An early start this morning  as Jane and Gordon (who moor nearby) had offered to take us to Penkridge Market & Car Boot Sale so they picked us up in their car at 8:30 am and we spent a few hours looking for bargains then all came back to our boat for a lunch of pies & pasties purchased from ‘The Cheshire Pie Co.’ who had a stall there.

With such an early start we were confused (time-wise) for the rest of the day as the afternoon seemed endless, however just as we decided to watch a film on TV someone opposite decided to do some hammering in their new shed and the TV signal kept dropping out so we decided to go through Filance Lock and moor by the Cross Keys pub. No we didn’t go in but Chris walked to the Balti Palace to get a takeaway in the evening, on the way a passing car tooted and two young women waved frantically at him. He says he has no idea who they were and it must be his film star-like good looks…. or a case of mistaken identity.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Today was Saint George’s Day, or was it? According to The Church of England, Saint George’s Day can’t fall in Easter Week so it should be transferred to the following Monday but nobody told the politicians! (ITV News Report)

This morning we pottered up to Otherton Boat Haven where Jane and Gordon have their mooring as we are going to join them there. We saw Jacqui, the owner, and were given a spot which may or may not be permanent and told “let’s leave it until tomorrow  to sort things out”.

Duckings, herons and lambs snapped on the way!

Life as Liveaboards