A late summer cruise

Well, it’s been a funny old week. There we were settling back at our mooring for winter, getting our ‘new’ car sorted out (but that’s another story) and catching up with the local news, when last Wednesday we had a tip-off about the possibility of a mooring which might suit us.

So, what to do, we need to go and see it of course and as it was a nice day we decided to untie the boat that afternoon and set off to go and see it straight away!

It turned out to be a good decision as we had a glorious few days travelling, making it as far as The Anchor at Coven the first night, a four-hour journey.

Thursday morning we departed bright and early and got through Autherley Narrows before many boats were about.
It’s single-width working here with passing places where the canal squeezes through a sandstone outcrop.

Autherley Junction where the Shropshire Union joins and  Aldersley Junction followed in short order.

At Compton, today’s locks began but before we could moor up a lady came running up saying their boat was stuck in the lock.
It transpired that a log had wedged between the lock ladder and their boat, her husband managed to free it by skilful bashing with the boat pole, but how to get the log out of the lock?

I suggested he reverse the boat out and refill the lock so the log could be removed more safely, this was successfully accomplished and we could all be on our way again.

Six more locks today and we made it to The Bratch Locks by 5 pm just in time to see the lock-keepers going home, so we moored there for the night next to nb Hakuna Matata (“no problems” in Swahili, but you all knew that!) who we know from Kings Bromley.

Friday morning we left before 9 and with the help of the lock-keepers we were down the three locks and passing another familiar boat, Fruit of the Vine but there was no signs of life, well it was early!

Through the curiously named Bumblehole Lock on on to the Botterham Staircase of two locks. All the locks here have tail bridges which makes for easy working.

We made it as far as Wolverley where we moored near The Lock Inn, we thought about going there for a meal, but as their website wasn’t working and they didn’t reply to a Facebook message we ate on board.

Nearly five hours travelling and a total of 12 locks today.

Saturday saw a 10 am start, five locks today, just the two Wolverley locks and we were soon at Kidderminster, then through to Falling Sands Viaduct, I don’t envy the guys using those cradles!

Just over another couple of miles and we were in Stourport, moored up outside The Black Star Inn before 2 pm where we enjoyed a drink and a a bowl of chips.

Being the weekend we couldn’t visit the mooring, but on Monday morning the call came and we dropped down York Street Lock and into Stouport Basin and onto our new mooring.

It’s nice here with all the services at hand, it’s a working boatyard too with a chandlery. There’s even a funfair here, oh and seagulls!

There’s plenty to see with traffic coming in and out to go down the locks to the river or visiting the wharf.

We have retreived our car from the garage at Cannock where it had been to have the injector seals replaced, it runs much better now and doesn’t smell of diesel!

Summer Cruise – Day 88

Friday 4th September – Day 88

So… We were away from Wolseley Bridge by 9 o’clock, through Colwich & Great Haywood locks. We planned to get water at Great Haywood but it was chock-a-block there so we turned onto the Staffs and Worcs canal and headed through Tixall Wide and on to Radford Bridge (Stafford) where we had a lunch appointment with Joy’s cousin Darrell who lives nearby.

The gatehouse of Tixall Hall is the top picture, that, and Tixall Farm Kennels are all that remain to see of the Tixall Estate from the canal.

The Hall itself was demolished in 1927, leaving only the Gatehouse standing, and the estate was broken up when sold off piecemeal in 1960. In 1968 the Landmark Trust bought the Gatehouse which, following restoration, is now available for holiday lets. According to Wikipedia

We all had carveries at The Radford Bank Inn which we enjoyed and half-price deserts to follow, marred only by a dodgy pint of St Austell Tribute which had a strange smell and taste, but they put things right with a complimentary bottle of Newcastle Brown.

After a two-hour lunch break, we said goodbye and set off for home. Six miles and six locks, but most locks were in our favour.

I was amused by the Illegal fishing signs which imply you mustn’t tuck fish under your arm, barbeque them and maybe fish mustn’t steal fishing rods or is it no spearfishing?

We arrived back at our mooring around 7:00pm, in time to meet our new neighbour, Parker who was born just a week ago and naturally his proud mum & dad too.

So, we’ve been away for just under three months, and I’m not going to even think about how many miles and locks!

Summer Cruise – Day 87

Thursday 3rd September – Day 87

A series of short hops today, from Handsacre to the Ash Tree Inn took just about an hour and we were able to tag along behind two other boats through The Armitage Tunnel saving Joy from walking ahead to make sure it was clear.

We had booked lunch at the Ash Tree to meet up with our friends Linda and Cookie, who moor their boat nearby, to celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary. We were able to moor right alongside the pub and had a decent enough meal with them and enjoyed hearing their news.

We bade them goodbye at 1:30, the sun came out and we travelled on to Rugeley and found a mooring which couldn’t be nearer the town centre. Joy settled down to her on-line art class while I trekked off to do some shopping.

We set off again just after 4:00 and found ourselves a nice mooring for the night at Wolseley Bridge with the River Trent just through the trees.

Only 6 miles & no locks

Summer Cruise – Day 86

Wednesday 1st September – Day 86

Peel’s Wharf

We had a great time with Peter last night with a Chinese takeaway and lots of chat with stories being swapped back and forth.
This is a view, from our boat, towards Peter’s home.

This morning we were up and off before 9:00 am, by 10:00 am we were at Hopwas and there were moorings available by The Tame Otter & The Red Lion, too bad we didn’t want to stop yet.

Huddlesford Junction

The water beyond here was really shallow and it was like ploughing through mud, however things improved and we were soon at Huddleford Junction (home to the Lichfield Cruising Club) and The Plough Inn.

Past  Kings Orchard Marina Entrance and Streethay Wharf. Half-past one and we were at Fradley and a few drops of rain started to fall, our original plan was to moor here, but everybody else had the same idea, so there was nothing for it but to turn left and ascend the locks. Fortunately, the volunteer lock-keepers were on duty and soon had us up the first two.

Joy retreated into the boat until the next lock then returned inside while I donned the Big Yellow Coat and with a waterproof picnic blanket over my knees travelled the next hour and a half thus!

No more photos for this afternoon, I wonder why?

Passing Kings Bromley Marina on the way we tied up at Handsacre, the stove is on, toasty warm and damp clothes drying out so I doubt we’ll be visiting The Crown tonight.

Today’s Route – :14.76 miles -6½hrs -3 Locks


Summer Cruise – Day 85

Monday 31st August – Day 84

A quiet morning, doing housework, although not so quiet for anyone passing as we had our generator running to power the washing machine and vacuum cleaner!

We lit the fire (not for the first time this week) about lunchtime & put up a line to dry the washing on as we were invited out to lunch.

David came and picked us up by car and took us to their place where we were given lunch and spent an enjoyable afternoon with him & Pam. This is the first time we have been in a house since February!

Tuesday 1st September – Day 85

Goodness! September already and summer seems to have made an appearance again.

After a cooked breakfast we pushed over to the water-point to fill up again and retrieved a sack of coal from the locker on that side, hopefully, that will ensure we don’t need to light the fire again for a week or two!


We pootled off through Polesworth and at Pooley Hall Park where we saw Penny on her boat, we had a brief shouted conversation then Joy rang her to see if she & Ray could join us for a swift half at The Samuel Barlow, sadly they couldn’t so we pressed on into Ammington and moored at The Gate where we had a drink and a bowl of scrummy chips.

Somehow our GPS tracker got turned off here but assuredly we made it to Glascote where I popped into the Co-op before dropping down the two locks, helping a single-hander too.

We passed Tamworth Cruising Club and crossed the River Tame aqueduct, and then took a right at Fazeley Junction and just before 4pm we were mooring at Peel’s Wharf and chatting to our friend Peter who lives across the canal with his wife Chris.

We planned to meet them for a Chinese tonight but (his) Chris wasn’t feeling too good so it will be just Peter.

Today’s Journey (with the gap joined up!)

Summer Cruise – Day 83

Sunday 30th August – Day 83

Hawkesbury Junction Layout

We left last night’s mooring at 9:00 this morning, through the stop lock and swung through the bridge making the 360° turn onto the Coventry Canal perfectly, if there had been a crowd outside the Greyhound Pub I would have messed it up for sure!

The weird layout is an improvement on the original route where due to a disagreement over tolls both canals were built parallel to one another for some distance.

Rick on Auriga

From here on, the canal is, again, lock-free until Atherstone. We had just seen Fuelboat Auriga again and gone into the countryside when a hire boat approached, there was an overhanging tree on their side, so I tried to keep as near the towpath as I could but went aground on a large rock which tipped us at a crazy angle, instead of stopping the hire boat went straight into the tree and I was seriously worried that the steerer was going to be knocked off the back by a hefty branch.

That drama over it was past Charity Dock, Marston Junction where the Ashby Canal joins and through Nuneaton. We had just been saying how there had not seen any boats coming toward us recently when we met three at the congested section at Boot Wharf.

See what you can spot in the background at the incredible Charity Dock

We considered stopping for lunch near Springwood Haven but decided to have lunch on the move and press on for Atherstone. We passed another hire boat aground near one of the bridges, I asked if they needed a tow off but they said they would be fine.

We thought we might do the first five of the Atherstone locks and the volunteer lock-keepers were on duty and we did them easily, so we decided to carry on. The hire boat had caught us up and one of their crew who was ‘setting ahead’ (walking ahead to prepare the locks) helped us down all the remaining locks (bless her).

On the way we saw a boat I recognised from Banbury and met the owner walking back up the towpath, he obviously recognised our boat too and said he had just called on his sister who had a mooring at the bottom of the locks. Yes, we knew her as we used to moor there too!

We called it a day and moored opposite the service area, or Sanity (Sanitary) Station as some of the old boaters called them!

I thought we had done rather well today so had a rather disappointing Indian Takeaway delivered, I think I’ll take a break from Lamb Pasander for a while but Joy enjoyed her Stuffed Peppers.

We have been invited to lunch by one of Joy’s friends tomorrow, so maybe a short journey tomorrow, or none at all.

Today’s Totals

  • Total distance:13.23 miles
  • Time:6h38m
  • Locks:11
  • Bridges:46
  • Average speed:1.99 mph (3.65 lock/mph)



Summer Cruise – Day 82

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Saturday 29th August – Day 82

Another 8:00 am start this morning for me as we had a lunchtime rendezvous to keep.

It was a fine but chilly morning and though I started off in shorts & a jumper, I soon donned a coat, followed later by hat and gloves.

Our first feature en route today was Newbold Tunnel which I negotiated without meeting anyone, in fact, I met almost no one for the first couple of hours.

I noted that Lime Farm Marina, who I tried to contact on Thursday display a mobile phone number outside, but it was too late now to be of use.

On we went and at All Oaks Moorings picked up something on the propellor.

The cutting between All Oaks & Stretton Stop has suffered a landslip and a little floating footpath has been installed around it.
I removed the prop-foul at Stretton Stop, just after the little swing bridge, it turned out to be a short loop of packing tape entangled with a pot scourer!

The canal follows the railway line here and I could actually feel the vibration from a passing goods train. This section is pretty straight and deep and good progress was made. On through Ansty, judging from all the no mooring signs through the village they don’t like looking at visiting boaters (although there are moorings outside the village). I’m always tempted to make an anagram from the village’s name.

While travelling I was served hot drinks, cornflakes and cake by Joy while Iona baked a sponge cake, and sausages were cooked for lunch.

We arrived at Hawkesbury about half-past twelve where Iona was reunited with her daddy who was waiting for us at The Greyhound.

We lunched on sausage sandwiches and sponge cake before saying goodbye to the pair of them leaving us to relax (sleep) for a bit.

We had a good mooring and there was a lot of traffic passing through the lock, so we decided to go no further today.
Another early start tomorrow?

Summer Cruise – Day 81

Wednesday 26th August – Day 79

Having moored two locks down the flight I figured that as soon as I saw the first boats coming up we would leave, as this would ensure the locks were set right for us, but the best-laid plans of mice & men were thwarted when a boat went down the locks far too early.

We waited for the expected convoy to start appearing, but then I got impatient and dropped down Adkins Lock as there is a gap before the next lock. This strategy paid off as a boat was just leaving the next lock as we arrived, this happened all the way down the flight and with Iona’s help too we were at the bottom by 10:20. We topped up with water and carried on safe in the knowledge that there were no more locks today.

We soon reached Wigrams Turn (aka Napton Junction) and spotted a boat named Jenny Wren (not that uncommon, in fact, there are at least 63 of them listed here) but when someone called “Chris” I realised it was our friends Graham & Judy who we met on the Grand Union canal back in 2010 details here. A stop and a chat were obviously in order as we hadn’t seen them since August 2010 but had kept in touch with Christmas cards and knew that they had been boatless for a while, but now own Jenny Wren!

A trip down the weed-hatch revealed a length of orange rope around the prop shaft, progress was much smoother with that removed!

We followed them for a while until they moored near Bridge 102, then blow me we hadn’t gone another mile when a familiar boat appeared from behind a clump of reeds, it was nb Celendine with Barry & Ruth from Upper Heyford on board, so another stop was called for. Tea & cake were shared and I cleaned out our Fuel Guard water trap/sedimenter and removed some gunge.

We left them about 3:30 and motored on to Braunston where we turned left and found a mooring just after London Road Bridge.

Thursday 27th August – Day 80

I made an early start today at 7:30, with Joy & Iona still in bed as we wanted to be moored in Rugby by lunchtime so that the girls could do the regular Thursday on-line art lesson.

We reached Hilmorton Top Lock by 10:00 and at length my crew emerged but a kind gent who was walking his dog opened to top gate for me and we exchanged locks with oncoming boats through all the locks.

These are ‘paired’ locks but one of each pair was out of action but work had begun replacing a broken paddle on the bottom lock and repairs on the others planned to follow.

Onwards through the building works of the new town of Houlton & it’s ugly new bridge, past Clifton Cruisers and just after 11:00 we were in Rugby.

We were getting low on diesel and gas so I phoned around to check where I could get some and was amazed at the responses:

  • Willow Wren: “We only keep stock for our hire fleet.”
  • Rose Narrowboats: “We haven’t found a way to make sales Covid secure.”
  • Lime Farm Marina: Didn’t answer the phone or respond to my message left on voicemail.

The only positive response was Armada Boat Hire, but they were only open until 1:00 pm on Saturday when we would be passing.

Then I had a brainwave where was Fuelboat Auriga? A quick check on Facebook showed he was at Sutton Stop and would be at Newbold tomorrow. Result!

Friday 28th August – Day 81

A dash down to Tesco between the showers and we were away, a short hop to Newbold to meet up with Rick on fuel boat Auriga this afternoon.

We had been moored an hour or so when nb Katherine moored behind us which used to be Graham & Judy’s boat. Then nb Keeping Up went past who we bought a fridge from a few years ago, what coincidences.

Now all fueled up ready to head for home.

Summer Cruise – Day 78

Friday 21st August – Day 74

Still here at Fenny Compton, it was a rest day today excepting a trip to the Co-op as my morning cuppa was spoilt by sour milk, I couldn’t survive without my tea, could I?

Random selection of photos

Saturday 22nd August – Day 75

Joy made a malt loaf today, its an easy recipe which includes Shreddies, and here it is, courtesy of our friend Lis.

¾ Cup of Shreddies
¾ Cup of Sugar
¾ Cup of Sultanas
1 Cup of Milk
1 Cup of S R Flour

Put oven on to 150° C

Crush the shreddies with a potato masher. Mix in the sugar Mix in the Shreddies Add the Milk. It suggests leaving overnight, but I don’t. Gradually mix in the flour. Add into prepared loaf tin – greased to prevent sticking. When loaf’s beginning to brown up nicely, it’s ready, that’s it.

Sunday 23rd August – Day 76

A visitor for elevenses today, as Joy’s niece, Chris, paid us another visit, she left before lunch and we spent the rest of the day doing not very much at all.

Monday 24th August – Day 77

This morning we moved up to a 48-hour mooring next to the pub as we have a Sainsburys delivery later, the boat moored in front of us moved off after a while and we quickly moved into their place to take advantage of the sunshine. That achieved, I biked down to the Co-op for some things for lunch and on returning I enjoyed a pint of Hereford Pale Ale with my lunch. This is a Wye Valley Brewery product, whose Butty Bach I have previously enjoyed, but I had erroneously assumed from the name it was a Welsh brewery, but of course, the Wye extends into Herefordshire which is where they are actually based.

This evening we had a visit from Jer & Louise to deliver Iona to us for a few days boating, we took advantage of being next to The Wharf Inn for an evening meal (including The Boris Bonus discount) and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meals (even our fussy son who likes his steak ‘blue’ Eugh!) They were very busy and it was almost on hour after our booked time before we got our meals, this however allowed us to deal with the Sainsburys delivery while we were waiting.

Tuesday 25th August – Day 78

The majority of this morning was spent studying the weather forecast, umming & ahhing, trying to decide whether or not we should move today. Eventually, a window of opportunity presented itself between 11 & 12 so we cast off vowing to stop for lunch when the torrential rain started. As it happened the rain didn’t come to anything because as soon as it started I put on my coat and the sun immediately came out!

The wind was gusting at up to 45 mph, apparently, which presented a few challenges negotiating the wiggly course of the canal. Lunch was taken on the move and we made it to Marston Doles by 2:30 pm which was just the normal 3 hours.

A boat was coming out of the Top Lock and had got pinned by the wind against the old wharf, they left the gate open for us, so when they extricated themselves we were able to go straight in.

Iona helped me with the top two locks and we found a mooring near Old Engine Arm in the shelter of a hedge but away from any trees that might fall on us.

The strong winds continue to rage but we are safe and sound inside, Joy & Iona have been doing some watercolour artwork while I’m typing this.

Summer Cruise – Day 73

Wednesday 19th August – Day 72

Yes, the weather forecasters were right, it did rain all day and we didn’t venture out, save to visit Cropredy Stores for bread, fresh fruit & black pudding.

Thursday 20th August – Day 73

With Storm Ellen on the way, we decided to make a dash for Fenny Compton today. We cast off at 7:30 (yes a.m.) and watered up at Cropredy Services, then it was onwards and (literally) upwards as we climbed the nine locks to the summit level of the canal.

We had been warned to expect delays at the flight of five locks at Claydon which have restricted opening hours of between 9.30am to 4pm. Having had a good run up the other locks, we were surprised not to find a queue at Claydon, apparently, C&RT bank-staff had been out ‘running water down’ and unlocked the flight at 8:00 am, good news for us!

With two volunteer lock keepers on duty and a constant stream of boats coming down we cleared the flight in 40 minutes.

Top Lock Cottage has gained an electricity supply since our last trip this way, somewhat spoiling the view by an unsympathetically sited transformer, which dominates the cottage, and I do miss the wind generator whizzing round even if it has been replaced by a vintage tractor.

By 11 am we were at Claydon Moorings where we paused to speak to Ian & Ali and get some runner beans & a courgette from their garden.

With no more locks, we covered the next three miles without any bother and tied up on the first 48-hour mooring at Fenny which was a bit dark & shady. We had just finished lunch and were setting up Joy’s ‘Art Studio’ ready for her lesson, when a boat came past which had been moored three boats back, so it was a quick reverse into their space which was much sunnier and a 14-day mooring.

This was useful as we intend to stay here for the weekend to sit out Storm Ellen and to receive visitors, but more of that in the next instalment.

Life as Liveaboards