All posts by Chris

Ten Years Afloat

Ten years ago we moved onto Wrens-Nest, three days after buying her. Well no actually…  we moved onto Lady Penelope as she was then, we had help from good friends and started the journey back to Heyford Wharf where the new name was sign-written.

I don’t think it ever occurred to us that we wouldn’t take to the life, having had a couple of canal holidays when the kids were young, owned several camper-vans, and lived in a caravan for a year whilst selling our house. All of these had far less living space than our boat.

We’ve travelled around the country,  from London to Liverpool and Lechlade to Llangollen and enjoyed every lock and mile travelled.

We’ve done work on the boat over the years, often little modifications which we wondered why we hadn’t done before. When the boat was new the kitchen was featured in a book, but that didn’t stop us re-vamping it!

There are always some jobs to be done, just this week I installed an external aerial for the mobile WiFi and fitted a new regulator to the LPG gas system, it seems I can still fit myself into the gas bottle locker (in the pointy end of the boat) although getting out is a bit more of a challenge than it was!

We occupy our minds with art (watercolour), music (guitar & accordion), jigsaw puzzles and quizzes.

Over these ten years we have made many friends, some we see
often and others just shout Hi! when we pass, but all of them have a special place in our hearts.

Our boat is very much our home, and we think it reflects our personality, it’s a place to entertain friends, it’s our refuge and our holiday place because we can move it wherever the mood takes us.

People say “How long will you continue to live aboard? ”
and the answer is “As long as health and strength allow, God willing!”

 

Lockdown Lowdown

You may have been wondering what has been happening with us for the last eight months, since we arrived back at our mooring.
In light of what has happened in that time we couldn’t have been in a better place.

The credit for the header photo goes to Lorie who has a boat here. She took the photo today flying over the marina with her partner Kim in his light aircraft!

Through the mild winter we had all the facilities we needed on hand and took the opportunity to do some jobs on  the boat, including fitting LED striplights in the cratch & various cupboards. This enabled Joy to do jigsaws in the darkening evenings and to find stuff in  the recesses of cupboards without hunting for a torch.

Chris celebrated a ‘significant’ birthday in February and we boated up to The Anchor at Coven, about 15 minutes away by car but three and a half hours and 5 locks by boat. We had company as we travelled in convoy with Leigh & Malc on their boat and the weather wasn’t too bad. We were joined, on the day by a group of about 12 for a meal, and our son, Jeremy, his fiancée Louise and his two children joined us on the Sunday.
It was a good weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

No sooner we were back, the Coronavirus came along and we were under lock-down!  We managed to get one Tesco delivery at the beginning but none since from any supermarket, but we’ve managed OK and neighbours have been good, asking if we needed anything.

A group of us from the marina had regularly been going to a pub quiz but Covid-19 put paid to that, so Chris embarked on a rapid learning curve by Live-Streaming a quiz to our fellow boaters, with a few friends further afield joining in.

The technology hasn’t been limited to quizzing, Joy has been very pleased to re-join her Banbury art class at The Artery by means of on-line classes, we have been taking part in our church’s prayer meeting via Zoom, and joining some of our previous churches Sunday Services by YouTube.

The marina has been closed to all but those who live-aboard and the owners have taken the opportunity to re-lay the driveway with concrete which meant cars were unable to go in or out for 10 days until the concrete was ‘cured’. It’s still being landscaped but it is a vast improvement over the previous pot-holed track.

The ducks have had a brood of ducklings but only a couple survived, now the swans have four cygnets who are delighting all who see them.

 

 

Over Easter & the VE Day celebrations some of the family history sites have offered free access so we took advantage. Chris found a distant relative  (fourth cousin) with a Hollywood pedigree!
Sam Wren who with his actress wife Virginia Sale & their twin children even had a TV series, called The Wren’s Nest in the 40s & 50s..

Sam was not only an actor, studio executive but a great publicist. This article was written by him.
Joy’s Dad’s Tracer Card

We discovered a bit about Joy’s dad’s military service, he enlisted in 1942 and served in North Africa, his battalion 3rd Regt Royal Horse Artillery supporting the Desert Rats in Tunisia and Italy.

We have grown some tomatoes from seed and they have now been potted out. Some lettuce, coriander & everlasting spinach are sprouting and we just hope we can keep them alive!

The Canal & River Trust have just allowed leisure boaters to visit their boats, do a short cruise, but not stay aboard overnight. They hope that normal navigation can be restored by June, but we shall wait and see.

The Bratch, The Anchor & Gailey we go home

Thursday 19th September

The route of our travels this summer

It was up and away at 9:35 am, but everybody else on the moorings had left earlier, so we expected all the locks to be against us… and they were, Awbridge, Ebstree, Dimmingsdale and Wightwick!

At Wightwick Mill Lock our luck changed as a boat was just exiting, and after another 20 minutes we were in Compton where we stopped for lunch.

 

We sauntered down to the Sainsburys Local for some provisions and  on the way back to the boat, picked up fish, chips & scallops at Pep’s Plaice;  when we were suitably refreshed we set off again.

Tettenhall former railway Bridge which now  carries the Wolverhampton Railway Walk

Just Compton Lock next & we were done with locks for the day, it was under the ‘Meccano Bridge‘ at Tettenhall and on to Aldersley Junction where the 21 locks up to Wolverhampton begin.

… but not for us though, onwards past Autherley Junction and through The Autherley Narrows where the canal cuts through a sandstone ridge and becomes a single track road canal with passing places.  We just got through in time as a boat with another in tow was waiting at the other end.

Another half an hour or so and we were tying up outside the Anchor Inn, we didn’t dine there as previous research showed that their fish and chips were £12.50 whilst Pep’s Plaice offered a lunchtime special at £4.00 which couldn’t be beaten.

Friday 20th September

Last night’s mooring was noisier than I remembered with the murmur of the M54 and distant trains. This morning they started cutting the grass outside the pub at about twenty to eight, no doubt to spite us for not patronising their restaurant.

So after a little bike ride down to Coven Co-op to buy some vinegar and oranges (unsuccessful on the orange front) we set off before 10 to cover 5 lock-free miles to Gailey and moored below Gailey Lock for the night.

This afternoon Joy made Green Bean Chutney hoping to emulate her late Auntie Avice’s recipe (Squashed Frog Chutney as our kids used to call it)

Saturday 21st September

… and they’re on the home straight! Just the four locks this morning our journey taking an hour and forty minutes to our home mooring.

It was a turnaround day for hire boats at Gailey Wharf and several passed us returning to base before we left.

Passing under Littleton Colliery Railway Bridge I was interested to find out more about it as when driving to the marina from Cannock the gates of a level crossing remain on the road belonging to the same line.

I was surprised to find that Littleton Colliery only closed 25 years ago as the track bed has all but disappeared.

Culture 24 reports: At the end of 1992, Littleton Colliery in Cannock, Staffordshire was designated as a ‘core’ pit by the Conservative government of the time, sparing the site from the fate of hundreds of other doomed mines across the country.

A year later, in December 1993, Littleton was closed, and 800 workers lost their jobs.

Arriving at the marina we got a pump-out, collected our post from  the office before slotting back into our space and being welcomed back by our neighbours.

This afternoon Jer, Louise & Iona brought our car back to us and stayed have a chilli with us. (It was’t hot enough for Jer & Iona so they added extra chilli powder… crazy people!

 

Kinver to The Bratch

Tuesday 17th September, 2019

We slept in a bit today and didn’t leave Kinver until 10:30 ish. So it was up Kinver Lock past The Vine Inn which has reopened but with no food, pending an allegedly much needed kitchen refurbishment.

After the services and long stretch of linear moorings we were at Hyde Lock followed by the diminutive Dunsley Tunnel, just 25 yards long.

Then it was onward to Greenforge Lock, resisting the attraction of The Navigation Inn, and avoiding the C&RT team who were cutting back the trees on the offside. We stopped at the services to top up with water & dispose of rubbish, and recycling bins were available too! We were going to have lunch here but someone else beat us to the single mooring place so we went on a bit further and found  spot near a ‘Mobile Home Park’

Ashwood Nurseries soon appeared on our right with the owner’s magnificent gardens to admire, see header photo too.

Just another hour and we were moored at Swindon (No, not the Wiltshire one where I spent much of my youth and met Maz & Marie whom I mentioned last week)

Wednesday 18th September, 2019

We departed from Swindon just on 10:00 am and found the lock set for us although a boat had gone up before us and logically it should have been against us??

At Marsh Lock we met a boat coming down as we did at Botterham Staircase Locks which is always a help.

We pottered along for a bit and found ourselves outside The Round Oak just before noon so we moored up and prepared ourselves some lunch on board which we washed down with some very pleasant Friel’s Cider  once the pub was open.

Almost immediately we were at the curiously named Bumblehole Lock and another half hour we were at The Bratch Locks (which look like a staircase, but aren’t!)

According to Wikipedia: The Bratch Locks are a noted feature of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, planned by James Brindley, and opened in 1772 as a three lock staircase. They were later re-engineered as three separate locks. They are served by two bridges, a toll house, and a keeper’s cottage. The whole forms a well-preserved example of vernacular Georgian architecture and design, built of mellow local brick.

There were three volunteer lock-keepers on duty and once one boat had descended the lockies assisted us up in short order.

Although it was only 2:00 pm we decided to call it a day and found ourselves a sunny spot opposite fields.

We have spent the afternoon chilling out, Joy finishing a jigsaw puzzle of Venice and I have been practising my new (old) accordion after taking it apart to free a duff note!

Stourport to Kinver

So, what have we been doing for the last few days?

Saturday 14th September

Today was a non-boating day, we walked down the Stourport High Street and caught a bus into Kidderminster and after searching for a suitable eating place we settled for a Thai takeaway from a market stall.

After our meal we went to the ‘Reel Cinema’, an odd little cinema which seemed to be housed in warehouse type of building.

We saw the new Downton Abbey film and thoroughly enjoyed it. After the film we caught the bus back to Stourport.

Sunday 15th September

This morning we first went to The Dolly Tub launderette and then set off for Kidderminster, we found a mooring outside the Watermill pub. We ordered two Sunday roasts which arrived very quickly, unfortunately they were very poor quality, tough meat, burnt and soggy roast potatoes and cold vegetables. To give them their due they did replace the meals and we ended up with fish & chips and a burger. Another plus was a nice pint of Brakspear’s Oxford Gold.

Falling Sands Bridge & Viaduct

The access to Kidderminster Lock is from under a modern road-bridge which is a bit dark and dismal, some murals try to brighten up the place, but emerging from the gloom to see  St Mary and All Saints’ Church makes up for it.

We also stopped to do a big shop in Sainsburys before continuing on to Wolverley Bridge passing our friend Penny on her boat at Wolverley Court Lock.

Monday 16th September

This morning we set off just after 11am and travelled on through Wolverley, Debdale & Whittington Locks.

Are these Guinea Fowl at Whittington?

The landslip at Wolverley has still not been rectified since March.

We cooked jacket potatoes on the way and had them topped with some chilli-con-carne for lunch after mooring at Kinver Visitor Moorings at 13:40.

Worcester to Stourport

We left Worcester just before 10 am and were at Bevere Lock with in the hour.

We spotted a herd of cows paddling and were overtaken by a C&RT launch (which we think was inspecting licences) just before Holt Lock.

The scenery was a bit more interesting today with a number of nice riverside properties.

Our last Severn lock was Lincomb which we passed through at 1:30 and then it was straight through to Stourport.

We passed Aston Manor‘s fruit processing and pressing facility and I reckon you could have got drunk on just the smell of cider if you hung about!

Soon we were leaving the Severn and ascending the staircase locks beside the fun-fair.

Through the basin and after Yorke Street Lock we found a sunny mooring by 3 o’clock.

Later a familiar boat arrived, it was John & Mel from our home mooring and we had a good chat and admired their new paint job & sign-writing.

 

 

Upton to Worcester

Last night I walked up the steep ramp from the pontoons into the town to get some chips, Upton is a pleasant little town and I love looking at the old recovery vehicles at  the Regal Garage (Panes).

The town clock was misbehaving striking the half hour at quarter past and the hour at quarter to, moreover the chimes were 3¼ hours fast so it struck 12 at quarter to 9, most confusing!

This morning the gravel barges started shuttling up and down river at 7 am but despite their size didn’t move us about much even when fully loaded (and I mean fully loaded). We soon passed their loading point which is an old barge modified to make a pontoon and a movable loading conveyor mounted on tracks.

We plodded on for another hour or so and then encountered ‘The Edward Elgar‘ hotel boat and we arrived at Diglis Lock just before 2 pm.

We were then in Worcester proper and Joy videoed the huge number of swans here before finding a mooring between the road and rail bridges before 2:30 pm.

 

 

Night view of bridge

Later we wandered up to the shops and Joy bought some new tops in Primark.

The TV reception was poor here so some recordings were watched before spending a peaceful night.

Despite our location between the two bridges, I guess we must have been tired because we didn’t hear the trains or they stopped running after we went to bed!