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”
I reckon they mean 2000 metres
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.
Poppies through the trees
Masses of Poppies in field
We noticed it seems to be a good year for poppies and foxgloves.
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:
240v electricity available
Water tap next to boat
Car Parking easily accessible
Facilities such as washing machines & showers
Work Bay available (but found to have restrictions on use of power tools)
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.
View over the marina
Boat on hardstanding & trailer beyond
Mummy & Baby Duck
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.
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”.
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.
Blazing Fire at The Bell
Village Post Cart 1910
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.
Hopwas Wood Quarry
Coton Social Club
First duckling spotted
Sun on the cut
What’s this? A paddlewheel?
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!
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’.
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.
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.
A late start today and a short journey, up through Colwich Lock (heard pronounced ‘Colic’ today) we passed Shugborough Hall and moored at Essex Bridge. A short walk up to the village allowed me to post a parcel and after lunch we we continued up through Haywood Lock to Great Haywood Junction.
We filled up with water at the services then turned at the junction and returned back to the visitor moorings and shoehorned ourselves into a gap next to one of our neighbours from the marina.
As we were chilling out during the afternoon we heard a ‘hello’ and found it was Penny, a boater we have met many times on our travels, she had only time for a quick catch up but it was good to see her.
We spent a peaceful night here, despite the nearby railway line and we were in no hurry to get away as we only planned to return to Wolseley Bridge were we found a sunny spot again and spent some time sitting outside chatting to the guys from the adjacent boats.
Wednesday 27th February
Up a bit earlier this morning and we made our way back to Rugeley for lunch and shopping and then after enjoying a bit more sunshine made our way back to King’s Bromley concluding a nice break in the spring-like weather.
In the evening we met up with friends, Diane & Ellis, and took part in the pub quiz at The Chadwick Arms where we neither distinguished nor disgraced ourselves, but D & E both won prizes in the raffle which they kindly offered to share with us.
After a prolonged period of blog inactivity we are out boating for a few days, taking advantage of a window of nice weather.
Our inactivity has been occasioned by:
A stay in hospital for Joy
A dog bite on the hand for me.
We’re taking it in easy stages, yesterday the first hop was in bright sunshine down to Rugeley, where we visited Tescos and stayed overnight. We had a surprisingly peaceful night for a town centre and awoke to the sound of birdsong in the hedge alongside.
Today we had a late start, leaving about 12 and arriving at Wolseley Bridge in time for lunch.
As we passed Taft Bridge we were surprised to see fuel boat Dextra up on the bank, so I’m not sure what’s happening there as they were a good supplier of diesel & gas.
It was misty on our journey but now we are moored up in the sunshine with farmland to one side and the River Trent on the other. The only downside is the A51 just behind us but that will be convenient for our son & his girlfriend to visit us later.
Since my last report we’ve been holed up in the marina as
I have had some maintenance tasks to do.
Joy’s sciatica has been giving her trouble.
IN HOT WATER AGAIN!
Back in June when we spent some time at Sawley Marina I was looking forward to using the electricity supply to heat our water but as soon as I connected the immersion heater, it tripped the electricity supply to ALL the nearby boats on the same supply pillar. Fortunately someone quickly reset it and I discovered that the immersion heater element was faulty.
When we had our central heating system replaced back in December 2012, a new stainless steel ‘calorifier’ [hot water tank] had to be fitted to comply with the manufacturers requirements for preventing corrosion.
It came with am immersion heater element ready fitted but we have only used it a handful of times so I was disappointed that it had failed, not least because a replacement was £80!
The immersion element seems easily accessible under the black cover in the manufacturers picture BUT our one is mounted vertically with just 6 inches of clearance between the bottom of the tank and the floor. To gain access I had to remove the rear steps, the wardrobe and airing cupboard doors and the side of the airing cupboard.
To cut a long story short I cut a hole in the floor so I could drop the element out and found the the thermostat was set to the maximum of 85° C. No wonder the water was scalding when plugged into to the mains and it might explain the failure of the element.
We obtained a new element from Jannel Cruisers at Burton-on-Trent then had to buy a 55mm socket to remove it, but eventually the job was done and we now have a constant supply of hot water at 55° C. Luxury!
Part of our bedtime routine [it’s OK, no need to cover your eyes] is to listen to The Paul Miller Show on Radio Oxford via internet radio, but sometimes it does lose the signal from the router in the front room, so last week I decided to try and resolve it using an old ‘mini router’ I had in my ‘come-in-handy’ drawer.
After spending quite some hours faffing about I got it to work, ran an ‘ethernet’ cable to the bedroom and started to install it there. All went well until I plugged in an USB adaptor to power it, when smoke issued from the adaptor and neither that or the router would work any more [quelle suprise].
Some research on the ‘net suggested an old broadband router could be made to do the job, so being the old skinflint that I am we decided to look for one at a car boot sale.
We found a boot sale was on at Uttoxceter on Saturday and we located it in a corner of the racecourse, first impressions were that it was quite small and unlikely to yield anything useful.
How wrong I was, we found a lovely guy who not only had a router, but also an ‘extender’ which did exactly what I needed and also practically gave me two ip cameras to play with (they had been used as security cameras) charging me £4 for the lot.
The extender is now working fine and I’ve even hidden the cable in trunking, which Joy has promised to paint to match the woodwork. Why didn’t I buy brown? Because Screwfix don’t stock it and at Homebase it was seven times more expensive!
One of the cameras is set up so we can be nosey and look around outside via a phone app, even being able to control which direction it points.
We have had some visitors, Linda & Cookie, from our old mooring have been to see us (twice!) and our old friends Gill & Trevor from Gloucestershire, whom we have known since we were all newly-weds in our twenties, made the trek up the motorway to see us.
I’m pleased to report that Joy is much improved after a combination of rest, heat patches, Voltarol and massages with baby oil, she isn’t quite right and is frustrated by not being able to do all that she would like.
THE NEXT JOBS
Tacking the rust spots on the roof is next on the agenda, but despite a work-bay being available in our marina, the use of angle grinders and powered wire-brushes is banned so we will have to take the boat out on the cut where we won’t annoy anyone, to do that work.
Another big catch up I’m afraid as I’ve been busy installing Linux Mint on my laptop after deciding I’ve had enough of Windows with it’s constant automatic updates which caused me some considerable data loss a few months ago. It’s been a steep learning curve but I’m fairly happy with it now, I now have a ‘Dual Boot’ system which means I can still use Windows for the one program for which there isn’t a Linux version, my favourite genealogy program, My Family Tree!
Saturday 4th August
Today we met up with our fellow boater friends, Jane & Gordon and walked down to Penkridge Market where we spent an hour or so then stopped at The Star Inn on the way back for a very reasonably priced lunch.
Sunday 5th August
Having spent our allotted 2 days on the Visitor Moorings we moved up through Filance Lock & tied up near The Cross Keys, a friendly ‘locals’ pub which although it doesn’t serve cask ales does a decent pint of Banks’ Mild and serves proper home cooked food.
We enjoyed a Sunday Roast which included a pudding for £9 each. Take note that it’s cash only as they don’t take this new fangled card payment.
Monday 6th August
We had a bit of a ‘rest day’ today as Joy’s sciatica was giving her gyp, I ventured out and found Rana’s Convenience Store nearby in Filance Road, which was well stocked.
Tuesday 7th August
We pottered on up to Otherton Boat Haven today and moored opposite Jane & Gordon’ boat Moon & Sixpence.
Wednesday 8th August
We got a pump out and water at the Otherton Marina today and enquired about a visitor mooring overnight but they only do a minimum of a week (quite reasonable at £45) but kindly said we could moor without charge next to Jane & Gordon for the afternoon so we could see the work Gordon is doing on the boat.
Thursday 9th August
We moved back down to The Cross Keys today as they had a quiz night on which we entered, it was fiendishly difficult and of course we came last, but it was an enjoyable evening with much banter between the teams and the quiz-master.
Friday 10th August
Time to move again, and we intended to go back to Radford Bank (Stafford) but when we reached Park Gate lock the heavens opened and got soaked to the skin so tied up and lit the fire to dry out our clothes. We decided that we would stay here overnight.
Saturday 11th August
Joy’s sciatica was bad again today, but she valiantly decided we would move on buoyed up by a stiff lemonade (well OK it may have had some ouzo in it!). The result was by the time we reached Deptmore Lock she had fallen asleep but fortunately a boat was coming up and helped us through. We reached Radford Bank by 11am and she had the rest of the day to recover.
Sunday 13th August
We ventured over the road to Aldi for some provisions, whilst Mr Google says it’s only 2 minutes away he doesn’t factor in the traffic on the A34 as it must have taken 15 minutes to get back across the road.
Monday 13th August
We caught a bus into Stafford this morning and explored the town, meeting a kind lady at the bus stop who made sure we knew where to catch the bus back.
Stafford is a nice town with a mix of old and new architecture, although suffering from quite a few closed shops.
We found the Mad Hatters Tea Emporium for a drink and a teacake, they do a good selection of Vegan/Dairy free options which we have filed away for future reference.
This evening we had a visitor, Joy had traced her second cousin, Darrell, who she hadn’t seen for nearly 60 years through Facebook and they spent a great evening together, catching up with what’s been happening in their lives in the intervening period.
Time flew by, we had a meal at the pub and before we knew it, it was 9 pm and we had to say our good-byes.
Tuesday 14th August
It was onward & upwards today as we were getting low on water and it was back through Tixall Wide to Great Haywood Junction where we filled up.
The dry summer and various canal closures have put paid to our plans to visit The Macclesfield & Caldon Canals so we decided to head back to our marina and do some maintenance, so we moored below Haywood Lock for lunch and decided we may as well stay there for the night.
Wednesday 15th August
Today’s journey had only one lock ( Colwich Lock) and after a shopping stop and lunch at Rugeley we pressed on back to King’s Bromley a little anxious about the stiffening breeze as I thought it might make reversing onto our mooring difficult but in the end it was OK as the wind was coming from behind us.