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.

 

 

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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!

A pre-season cruise

With it being April (Spring and all that ) we thought we would escape from the marina and have a little outing.

Wednesday 3rd April

Not wanting to rush we left about 10 am and tackled the 3 locks down to Fradley Junction and made the turn through the little swing-bridge towards Fradley. We found a mooring just past the waterpoint, filled up and decided to stay there for the night.

Thursday 4th April

Just another short pootle today down to The Plough Inn at Huddlesford. About 4 miles.

Friday 5th April

All the way into Fradley today, nearly 7 miles in 3 hours, mooring opposite Peels Wharf and our friends Peter & Chris’ flat which overlooks the unused basin.

While I went to Tescos for some shopping, Peter walked around to say hello and offered to ferry us back to the marina to collect our car as we would need it for the weekend.

Saturday 6th April

As promised Peter arrived to retrieve our car in the morning and after lunch we nipped down to Tamworth to get some shopping.

Sunday 7th April

This morning we went to Tamworth Baptist Church and surprised our friends there; after lunch we drove to Birmingham to visit our son and his family for a Sunday roast. We returned to Fradley having hi-jacked our granddaughter for a couple of days.

Monday 8th April

Today we visited Tamworth again and went bike riding in the Castle Grounds. Iona took some photos of ducks & geese for a school project. There was an unusual black and white duck (Iona named it the Penguin Duck) which was very photo-shy and kept it’s back to us.

Tuesday 9th April

We met up with the gang again and Iona went back with them to visit The Seaworld Centre in Birmingham, while we recovered. In the evening we went round to Chris & Peter’s for a Chinese takeaway.

Wednesday 10th April

In the afternoon, Joy & Iona went to Joy’s art class in Witherley, while Jer & Chris took our car back to the marina.

Thursday 11th April

We started our journey back today and travelled as far as Whittington where we strolled down to the village visiting the Co-op and the Bell Inn which is a cosy old pub dating back to the 1800s.

After we returned from the village we travelled a little further and moored outside King’s Orchard Marina, away from the railway line which as well as being a bit noisy seemed to interfere with the TV signal.

Friday 12th April

We were away before 10 am this morning arriving back at Fradley Junction just after 11 where we had arranged to meet friends, David & Joy for lunch. When we got their call we wandered over to the Kingfisher Café for lunch, the café is under new management but Russell who we knew from our mooring at Grendon is still cheffing there and we enjoyed a good lunch.

Thus fortified David and Joy boated back to the marina with us, helping with the three locks and David took the helm for most of the way back.

Here are some photos taken on our trip.

Tuesday 16th April

So, now happy that this trip has been successfully undertaken we can now look forward to our next adventure after Easter.

Yesterday I serviced the engine, and found nothing amiss save a chafed fuel return pipe. I chased off to Rugeley to buy a replacement length but despite phoning beforehand, not only  was it was the wrong size, it was not compliant with boat safety regulations. On the way back I remembered that I had a piece already from the last time it was replaced…. Doh! So job now done!

More technology: Mobile Internet

Another techy alert!!!

Back in February my mobile broadband contract with EE expired, it had been costing £27.00 per month for 64GB but I had found that we never used anywhere near that amount.

So I found a ‘Triple Data’ deal with Virgin with 30GB data, 2500 minutes of calls & unlimited texts for £16.00 per month. [The deals  change regularly] This works just fine and unused data rolls over to the next month. The only problem was that as the SIM card is in a router I couldn’t make use of my 2500 minutes of calls, which was disappointing (OK I’m just tight!)

I was reading Canalworld Forum when I came across a discussion which put an idea into my head.  The information was this:

If you get a Huawei 4G router NOT supplied by Three you can connect a domestic phone using a BT to RJ11 adaptor and make use of the unlimited calls, texts can be made and received via the routers set up webpage. I use the Huawei B525.

After a false start with one router which had ‘crippled’ firmware which didn’t allow phone connections. I ended up with a Huawei E5186s-22a which seems to do what I want and when connected to a cordless phone I’m now able to access my ‘free minutes’.

Phones – the march of progress or maybe not!

Honor 9 Lite

So… The phone signal here at King’s Bromley Marina isn’t great, but Joy has always had a better signal than me, so when she was in hospital before Christmas I thought I should upgrade my phone so we could, reliably, stay in contact.

We favour dual SIM phones, as while out boating we can have two networks to chose from in poor signal areas, so while visiting Tesco I was shown the Honor 9 Lite. It’s an attractive dual SIM phone in Sapphire Blue made by the Chinese giant Huawei, with quad cameras (2 lenses forward facing and 2 for selfies) and the latest Android 8.0 Oreo operating system.

I made a decision to buy it, but then they found they didn’t actually have one in stock!

On getting home a spot of Googling showed that Argos stocked them at £40 less than Tesco so the next morning off I went to Rugeley and bought one. Back on the boat it was un-boxed and set up to my satisfaction, however I was disappointed to find that the signal strength seemed little better than my old phone.

I soldiered on with it but when Joy came out of hospital we found  that her 2½ year old Motorola still performed much better than my new Honor, she can make phone calls from the comfort of the settee while I had to have my nose pressed against the window to make a call.

Needless to say I lost patience with this performance and took the phone back to Argos where they arranged to have it checked out by the Huawei service centre. So after being without my phone for 4 days (not too bad) it arrived back with no improvement.

Another trip to Argos where I demonstrated to the manager the difference in signal strength between the Motorola & the Honor and I had my money refunded.

Nokia 6310i

I can’t say that The Honor 9 Lite is a bad piece of kit but they seem to have lost sight that it’s primary function is a phone, if you are always in a good signal area it would be fine, but on the canals often we are not! To be honest I could get a better signal on my old Nokia 6310i (years ahead of it’s time).  Another gripe is that while it will accept a second SIM card it is at the expense of being able to insert a memory card (it’s one or the other)

The upshot of this saga is that I have bought a Motorola 4g (like Joy’s) and a pretty red case from eBay and now I can sit in comfort to make my phone calls.

Life as Liveaboards