Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Stoppage at Atherstone

Wednesday 29th September 2021

The weather had cleared up so off we went. As we were leaving we met the same lady boater we had spoken to yesterday afternoon. She said that the pound where we were moored, between locks 5 and 6, had been emptied overnight which explains why Brenda thought that her vertigo had returned during her early morning visit to the loo.

We untied and set off into lock 5 where we were stopped by a volunteer lockie due to a lack of water in several pounds ahead. It would appear that something was partially jamming the towpath side ground paddle on lock 5 as well as problems with the ground paddle at lock 4.


 

He produced a drag fork and started trying to extract the obstruction from the paddle whilst Graham assisted by winding the paddle up and down as instructed. Finally the paddle would drop right down and so he must have moved it although we were not sure what it was. Meanwhile, the top gate would not fully open so while the lockie was notifying the rest of the team of his success, Graham used the drag fork to clear stones from behind the gate to enable it to open fully.


 

Finally, after a wait of 50 minutes, we were allowed to  continue our way up towards the top of the flight. Once again, volunteers had saved the day. Unfortunately Graham then found that Jannock’s lock wheeling bike had a front puncture so he had to abandon it in the front well and set all the locks on foot.

Out of the top lock we set off towards Nuneaton and the North Oxford canal. Although we mostly had bright sunshine it was interrupted occasionally by heavy showers. As we passed through Bedworth, we stopped for a very brief chat with our friends Terry and Christine although we didn’t leave Jannock as they were self isolating.

At Sutton’s, Graham performed the best turn he’s ever made around that junction without the use of reverse and straight into the open lock. It is possible when there are no other boats creating obstructions and no observers sat outside the pub watching. Practice (and favourable conditions) make perfect it would appear.


 

On past Aldermans Green where Graham was amused by the CaRT overstay notice flapping in the wind whilst attached to a burnt out shell of a boat. Obviously they have to follow their procedures  but it just seems silly. On through Ansty and Stretton Stop to Brinklow marina where we turned and moored on the service area to offload stuff into the car. We were rewarded that evening by a wonderful Brinklow sunset.


 

G&B

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Rain stopped play at Atherstone

Tuesday 28th September 2021

We set off from our very pleasant overnight mooring with the intention of cruising until the forecast rain stopped play. Down to Fazely junction where we turned right and headed towards Glascote locks where we ascended both without any delays, passing a descending boat between.

It was along the next section that we happened across nb Brenda-May, the owner of which does some fantastic sculptures all made from old tyres. Brenda loved the Dragon on the foredeck.



 

Through Alvecote where we spotted nb Kenelm looking magnificent with a recent splendid paint job. The poles, cans and brasswork were also excellent. Luckily the rain stayed away for the morning although a very blustery wind arrived just as we got to Atherstone bottom lock. In a couple of places it had no real direction and it felt like Jannock could have spun on the spot.


 

We chose to moor up after lock 6 so that we could go into town to replenish supplies before the rain arrived. A boat coming down from lock 5 pulled right forward to allow us to get into the bank behind him. We pulled Jannock right forward towards the next boat already moored there. The other boater then pulled his boat back to ensure he moored right in the middle of the available space. This preference for some boaters to moor as far away as possible from other moored boats in a popular spot really annoy us.

As we walked to town, a chat with a returning boater on the towpath highlighted where to get just the sandals that Graham wanted at a very good price – The Original Factory Shop. It was raining hard by the time we got back to Jannock and so we abandoned all hope of getting to the top of the flight today.

G&B

Monday, September 27, 2021

Farewell Brum.

Monday 27th September 2021

We set off at about 9:15 and reversed out of Oozels St loop. Unfortunately the wind coming down the mainline decided to interfere with this manoeuvre and so Jannock ended up reversing part-way round the roundabout outside the NIA before coming forwards back round into the Farmers Bridge entrance. Different!

Last night’s heavy rain has gone and been replaced by sunshine. Luckily the whole of the Farmers Bridge flight was set in our favour and so we fair flew down the ten locks. The wind didn’t cause too much hassle under the BT tower although Brenda did need to take corrective action when Jannock started going towards the concrete pillars.  As we left the bottom lock we could leave it open for the CaRT rubbish boat that was approaching from Aston.

Out the bottom and on to Aston flight where Graham had to fill all the locks bar the first two after we passed an ascending hire boat. While waiting for the first lock to be ready Brenda found that the wind combined with a strong pull towards the overflow weir created a whirlpool affect that tried to rotate Jannock. We left the flight at 1pm.

After the Aston bottom lock Brenda went inside to prepare both lunch and tonight’s supper just as a heavy rain storm started. Lunch was served to the Cap’n while we drifted very slowly under the large warehouse that covers the B&F Canal. Ten minutes later, with lunch eaten, we emerged out of the other end to find the rain had subdued a lot. By the time we were at Minworth top lock it had stopped and there were blue skies but still a biting wind.


 

It’s been a lock heavy day but we were making good time so decided to go down the Curdworth flight as well because the weather tomorrow does not look too good. The HS2 works are still alongside locks 2 to 6 but the seismic monitoring stations have been removed. The damsons in the tree alongside lock 6 were riper and sweeter than when we picked some on the way up the flight 3 weeks ago. Graham picked some more and they are lovely.

Out of Curdworth bottom lock and we wanted to moor on the visitor moorings but nb Hampshire Rose was plonked mid way between two other boats which made about 20m of mooring un-useable unless you were in a small plastic cruiser. We went on about 100m further on and moored against the grass bank with pins.



 

Before supper (and the light went) we took a walk around the nature reserve alongside the bottom lock, a thing that Brenda has wanted to do every time we’ve passed this way previously. We were rewarded with a nice sunset and then back to Jannock for the best goat stew we’ve ever had – the quality of the goat meat we got at Birmingham market was excellent.

G&B

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The best sani-station on the system

Sunday 26th September 2021

Several of our party were up and away before the ‘official’ start time of 9:30am as they wanted to get away early for personal reasons. Harnser and Jannock then set off ahead of Joanna and butty.

Just after ‘Uncle Ben’s bridge’ Harnser picked up a blade full of rubbish and ground to a halt. This made life difficult for the early risers who were trying to return from Titford Pools but had to go into the thick sludge to get past. Once they had managed to circumvent Harnser, Jannock went past with little difficulty due to our shallow draught and led the way into Titford Pools. At the entrance of the pools is this scupture.



We managed to visit both pools, upsetting all the fishermen in the first pool before moving on to the pool that goes under the M5 motorway. It is a surprisingly lovely wild place in a city by a motorway which is now fully navigable thanks to being dredged last year. It’s industrial heritage can still be seen but nature is gradually taking over.



 

Lots of pictures taken and all expected craft accounted for we headed back down the Oldbury branch to the top of the locks for a cup of tea. We were then helped down all of the flight by Brian, Diana and several BCNS members, they have all been so helpful – thanks folks!


 

Turning right after the bottom lock, we travelled beneath the M5 motorway and through the summit tunnel to Smethwick locks where we desc3nded to the BCN Main Line. 


 


 

We travelled along to Winson Green where we turned left onto the Soho loop, up through a fishing match and then turned left again into Hockley Port.


 

At the bottom of these permanent live-aboard moorings is a sani-station which rates as the best we have ever visited. Brenda emptied the rubbish and then had a shower whilst Graham filled Jannock’s water tank, all the time chatting to a resident boater who imparted all sorts of interesting local information. We then said farewell and made our way back out to the Soho loop and onto the mainline again.

As we neared the mainline junction, the familiar graffiti reminded us of our last visit here where a classical flautist was practicing on the towpath. On queue, we heard someone on a flute! The different skill levels were immediately obvious. It would appear that there is more to being a good flautist than blowing and blocking a few random holes.

Into Birmingham and we turned right into Oozels St loop to find our favourite Birmingham overnight mooring was vacant – hooray! Graham is on blood bike control duty tonight so needs good mobile coverage.

G&B

Saturday, September 25, 2021

BCNS cruise to Bradley Workshops

Saturday 25th September 2021

After a surprisingly peaceful night alongside a road in Tipton, we were up and at-em for the official cruise start time of 9:30am. 



 

The tug boat Joanna took two butties into tow and led the procession down onto the main line, through Coseley tunnel and right onto the Wednesbury loop arm to Bradley workshops.


 

A combination of being led by a tug towing two butties and various boats having to remove all sorts of rubbish from their propellers meant that we had a slow and frustrating journey as ‘tail end charlie’ of this trip.


 

After a very slow crawl, with frequent stops, along the arm we arrived at the workshops at the end where approximately twenty boats moored up for lunch. Some in a side basin but as the last arrival we ended up with our stern in a tree at the muddy end of the arm.


 

Lunch over and we set off back to the BCNS HQ at Oldbury Pumphouse. This time we were mid cruise albeit following a very slow boat.  Many people – walkers, cyclist and house holders etc stopped to watch the procession. It was clear that few boats come down this arm. Most expressed their delight at seeing the boats.


 

Luckily the slow boat pulled over to allow two of us to pass him. Onto the mainline again and we found we were in a procession following the tug boat Caggy towing a butty.

Back through Tipton and we found ourselves alone as all of the boats in front of us had pulled over for various reasons including one boat that went down Factory locks onto the new mainline. We continued through Dudley Port and Brades to Oldbury junction where we turned right and ascended the six locks to the pumphouse. We were helped up the flight by members of BCNS and after mooring up on the rings adjacent to the pumphouse we returned and assisted others up through the top lock.


 

It was Graham’s first experience of manually working a butty up a lock flight. We also loved this bench in the BCNS HQ garden – excellent bit of metalwork. All bar one cruise boat accounted for, we returned to Jannock as it became dark for a late meal and an early night.

G&B

Friday, September 24, 2021

A trip to the market

Friday 24th September 2021

We started the day with a trip to the Bullring covered market to restock the larder, and for the fun of it. The Harnser crew came along too and can now see why we enjoy going there so much. We stocked up on fresh fruit and veg, bread, cheese, pies and best of all – some goat. Inside the rag market we found things that we didn’t know that we needed – as always.

Then into the market cafe for a brew and some roast pork baps – meat, gravy, apple sauce, stuffing and some crackling all in a bun – to take back to the boat for lunch. That cafe always leaves you with a smile, the friendliness and service with a joke.



 

After lunch we set off with a smile, and full tummies, towards Tipton. We detoured via the Ickield loop to see how the new housing was coming along. They reminded me of the song ‘little boxes’. We are not sure why they have a teepee there. One of the houses had an inflatable boat complete with cushions in the lounge, maybe they are saving for a sofa.


 

Back onto the new main line and then up the three Smethwick locks onto the old main line (Graham’s favourite of the two choices). The toll house here was burnt out last time we passed here, now it is resplendent in a new roof. I hope that was paid for by an insurance claim or a donation. 


 

Along here between the top lock and the tunnel, two new wood sculptures have appeared, one of an owl and one of a fox.



 

On the old main line, once you’ve passed beneath the M5 motorway, the water gradually changes from a thick black sludge to water so clear that you can fish-watch whilst going along.

We arrived at Tipton and moored up along with all the other boats gathering there for the BCNS cruise to Bradley Workshops. A trip down to the local co-op (permanently closing next month) was made and an order was placed in the Indian restaurant for a take-out. We were well fed for less than £10 per head and a curry was ‘banked’ for later on this trip.

Most of the shops in Tipton Green appear to be closing down or empty but the many take-aways were extremely busy. Fried food rules!

G&B

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Up Farmers Bridge flight

Thursday 23rd September 2021

We set off from our overnight mooring outside the University Advanced Transport and Infrastructure College building in slight drizzle. Luckily it soon stopped and the sun came out, however the wind was fierce.

At the end of the Digbeth arm we turned left and headed for the Farmers bridge lock flight. These locks are mostly subterranean, passing beneath the BT tower and other office buildings and some very interesting cross winds on the canal are created by the high rise buildings.


 

At the third lock up, the pound with least room for boats to pass, we met a descending single hander being assisted by a CaRT vo-lockie. His boat was 58ft and Jannock is 62 foot. There is room for a 50ft boat in the layby between the locks and so Graham got the 58ft boat bows in and then moved Jannock passed whilst the other boat was shifted slightly forward so that his bows came out after Jannock had passed to allow his stern into the layby to let Jannock enter the next lock. The single hander didn’t seem to have much boating nowse and the volunteer had just had a fall on the slimy shiny engineering brick path. First aid was offered to assist the lockie.


 

Next boat down was nb Pyrton, Graham had sold him a Di Blasi motorbike a few years ago and he remembered him well. Small world.


 

We moored in our favourite spot opposite the NIA after filling up the water tank at the top of Farmers Bridge locks. Shortly afterwards we were joined there by nb Harnser so it was tea and cakes all round.

After dinner we decided to take a little ‘off canal’ stroll to see a bit more of Birmingham, we ended up watching the fountains in Centenary Square outside symphony hall in the dark – excellent! Over the other side a chap had set up a full drumkit and was drumming along to backing tracks. I suppose it reduces the chance of him offending the neighbours at home practicing.

G&B

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Up through Knowle and Solihull

Wednesday 21st September 2021

Wildlife of the day - the most resplendent kingfisher.

There was a chill in the air as we set off this morning, bidding farewell to Brian and Diana who we’ll likely meet again tomorrow night.  The sky was blue and the sun shone so it highlighted the autumnal shades creeping into the countryside as the day warmed up.


 

Past The Black Bouy cruising club and we approached Knowle locks remembering the tales Brian had told us last night of the eddys in the intermediate pounds – however we had eight Volunteer Lockkeepers on duty as we arrived and so we fair flew up the flight with only one slight mishap caused by a cross wind. A hire boat descending the flight remained in the lock as Brenda moved Jannock in beside her and the wind caused a little bump. It was only when Jannock was in the lock beside her that the hire boat steerer told her crew to cast off the ropes and start making for the lock Jannock had vacated.


 

Onto Catherine De Barnes where we stopped and Brenda went for milk. The shop there stocks ‘takeaway curries’ including one called Khatlama – never heard of it, had to buy it – it’s in the freezer for later. We set off again and had our lunch on the move. 



 

Just North of Catherine  De Barnes, CaRT contractors are dredging the canal. They had some unusual aerators just upstream of the dredging area to ensure the oxygen levels are maintained in the water.


 

We spotted what we thought was a D of E hike coming along the towpath. As they neared we realised that it was a time warped hike. There were wenches, knaves and more doublet and hose than you could shake a jousting pole at. The chap all in black was probably the Sherriff of Nottingham. Modern rucksacks though.

Further on there was an umbrella hanging from a wire across the canal, we wondered whether Mary Poppins had made an emergency landing in the water.


 

Down through the six narrow Camp Hill locks to Bordesley junction where we went left to hopefully find a mooring space in Typhoo basin. However the basin was deserted of boats and mooring rings but we appeared to have disturbed a possible drugs deal under the entrance bridge so we winded and left again to head up the Digbeth branch and it’s seven locks and one tunnel to moor outside the university for the night and celebrated with a cup of PG Tips instead.

G&B

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A trip out to Packwood House

Tuesday 21st September 2021

Brenda wanted to go and see Packwood House, a local National Trust property about 2 miles from Jannock’s mooring at Lapworth. We knew that Brian and Diana on nb Harnser were heading down this way and that they would like to come to so Graham rang them and arranged to pick them up from the nearest bridge to their overnight mooring.


 

Packwood House is a fantastic old building that started as a farmhouse and was then improved with additions as well as being fitted with a lot of architectural features purchased from other houses and estates in the area. It’s definitely worth the visit just to view the house but the gardens were excellent too. Graham liked the ‘little grey fergy’ in the children’s play area.


 

House visited, tea drunk and garden walked we dropped Brian and Diana back at their bridge and returned to Jannock, After a spot of lunch I set off in the car to take it to Brinklow marina for safe keeping while we are away. Returning to Lapworth on the Di Blasi I arrived just before nb Harnser did.

In the evening we went to the Navigation pub for an excellent meal.

G&B

Monday, September 20, 2021

Back to the boat

Monday 20th September 2021

Graham went to Oxford to give a pint of blood this morning. On his return we had lunch and then set off back to Lapworth to find Jannock. Luckily she was in good shape and exactly where we had left her ten days ago.

Once all our stuff was moved aboard using Brenda’s trolley for the long walk from the car park, we then moved her up the Grand Union canal to just beyond the Navigation inn to get away from the trains for a quieter night.

After dinner we went for a walk down the Southern Stratford canal to the first barrel roofed lock cottage before returning to the boat just as it got dark at 8pm.

In the Lapworth Sani-station magazine pile Brenda found a copy of Witch magazine, no not Which but Witch – really!

G&B

Friday, September 10, 2021

Onto the Grand Union

Friday 10th September 2021

Last night we ate in the Wharf Tavern at Hockley Heath, a short walk from our overnight mooring. The sirloin steaks were the best that we’ve had for years and the clotted cream ice-cream was 5*. An excellent evening meal for two for £35 all in including drinks. – highly recommended by the Jannock crew.

This morning we set off in the gloom but it soon brightened up, we’d imagined having to do the Lapworth flight in the rain but it stayed dry and sunny.

Passing through the isolated locks at the top of the flight Graham spotted some plum trees loaded with fruit and so more than 2kg of fruit was harvested very quickly.


 

At the top of the flight of 9 close together locks we met a mother and son volockie team who aided us down them in a very quick time due to the son setting ahead whilst Mum and Grahame worked Jannock through the lock. Only at the last lock was the rhythm disrupted by someone coming up. There was so much water coming down the flight with us that it was great to be able to move Jannock out of one lock and straight into the next with no hanging around.


 

Thanks to all the CaRT volunteers – to be honest, without the volunteer sector this country would grind to a halt! From listening to kiddies read in school, running youth organisations and day centres to delivering out-of-hours emergency blood supplies – we couldn’t afford to pay all our volunteers.

We moored up on the 48 hour mooring above lock 13 and Graham went on the Di Blasi to fetch the car from Brinklow. Then we moved down a further three locks to stop next to the carpark to offload all our stuff than needs to go home, before descending the last lock onto the Lapworth link. At the junction with the G U we turned left and then reversed to a 14 day mooring spot below the junction to leave Jannock for about 10 days.

G&B

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Farewell Brum, see you in a couple of weeks.

Thursday 9th September 2021

We knew we needed water, but didn’t expect rain first thing. We untied from Oozels Street loop and reversed to the junction, then down through Gas street basin hoping to stop for water around the corner at Holiday wharf, however another boats just beat us there and the mess they were making pulling into the side led us to believe they would be some time. We decided to head to the next water point which was near bridge 5 on the North Stratford.


 

Brenda spotted this monkey up a pole in someone’s garden just past the university.


 

As we approached Bourneville, a boat pulled out in front of us and then pulled into the other bank of the canal. The steerer explained that she had been moored on the two day moorings opposite for two days so was moving across onto the 24 hour moorings opposite. In the spirit of the rules but hardly the letter just going bank to bank.

We passed Vulcan going the other way after we had filled with water, and then stopped for lunch before Shirley lift bridge as it had started raining hard.


 

The new CaRT sign at the Shirley drawbridge had Brenda confused. “Moor ahead” – well the only mooring is the other side of the bridge. Better to wait in the narrows, no mooring needed. “Don’t use your boat to push the bridge open”  - pushing isn’t going to help opening a lift bridge, so who’s going to do that. We hope that sign isn’t a reflection of what boaters have done.

On our way towards Hockley heath we met several hire boats, usually in awkward bridge holes or on tight bends, with no dramas ensuing. We moored up just before the road bridge with the intention of eating out tonight.

G&B

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Into Birmingham

Wednesday 8th September 2021

We winded at Park End and returned through to tunnel after a very peaceful night. Brenda’s concern that the Police were after us was heightened by a cycling policeman coming through the tunnel and ringing his bell at us as he passed, blue light flashing on the back of his helmet.  Ssssh! don’t tell CaRT but we saw bats in the tunnel!


 

There is a lot of graffiti by the canals in Birmingham area! Less is sexual or racist than a few years ago but our favourites were ‘pro NHS and Covid jab items as well as ‘ask your Mum, she’ll tell you’ alongside ‘stop mucking about!’ Strange times indeed.


 

Having met ‘the Cheese boat’ in the tunnel we then had a pleasant journey along the new main line into Birmingham where we met a traders ‘pair’ obviously heading towards Park End for a weekend at the festival.


 

We stopped opposite the NIA and Brenda held Jannock on the centre rope while Graham went to see if there was any space in the adjacent loop – it’ll be shadier there this afternoon. While she was waiting two chaps approached her to tell her that there was a boat selling cheese in that spot yesterday.


 

Seven minutes after we moored, NPAS was overhead again. Is this police harassment?

We had no particular plans for today and it was too hot to do anything too taxing so we set off on a circular walk around central Birmingham, hugging the shade where we could. The best entertainment was had at Centenary square, watching the children and their parents in the water splash fountains. We sat in the shade watching for a good 20 minutes, then into the library (aka the wedding cake) for tourist information – don’t bother!


 

Then onto the Mailbox to see the exhibition at the BBC – closed. Covid we presume, so we just plodded on making a circular route via the peace gardens and a Tesco Metro that didn’t sell individual ice creams despite crowds of school children who had just come out of school opposite. Back onto the towpath and under Black Sabbath bridge and past the ‘poshed up’ Tap and Spile.

For a sit down and a cool drink we went to the Sommar Brewery Tap (next to Lego at the NIA). The aircon was on, the music suited our taste and the beers were a diverse selection with many Sommar beers being brewed on site. We’d have stayed for food but burgers are not our thing. We’ll go back after dinner on Jannock.


 

We did and Brenda was presented with tasters and asked what flavours she found, and whether she liked the beers. They then moved on to what desserts and Xmas fare the beers would go well with. Meanwhile Graham was having lots of technical brewing discussions about hops and stuff. Worth a visit folks!

G&B