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

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

$!&*£@? Ryders Green

Tuesday 7th September 2021

After a peaceful night in Walsall basin we checked on t’interwebnet and it said that the market opened at 08:30 this morning -  wrong! We walked through the town to find that all the stalls were there but not one trader occupying them.

We were surprised by the number of shoppers in Walsall not bothering with masks or using the hand or basket sanitisers, and that included the staff in Sports Direct – not a mask in sight in that shop ( a big UP for Primark though)  We then just restocked with milk and cake and left.

At the end of the town arm, adjacent to the bottom lock we found the CaRT workboat that had been moored on the visitor moorings at arm end was now being aided up the locks by three volunteers. After all our huffing and puffing yesterday coming down we would have appreciated their help had they been there.


 

On the Walsall canal we battled with copious weed and rubbish which slowed progress quite a lot even though the water was clear enough to watch fish shoals where the weed thinned. We spotted that one local graffiti artist, with the tag Ghost, was doing a lot of anti-Covid work.

And then into Ryders Green lock flight. That was hard going in the sunshine. Even the NPAS helicopter hovering above the flight didn’t provide sufficient cooling draft to help. There were also walking plod on the mainline towpath and a police motorcycle crossing a bridge on Ryders Green flight so they were obviously searching for someone.


 

The locks were all in poor condition with the second lock from the bottom leaking so much water through the bottom gate that it wouldn’t stay full long enough to get out and so was draining the pound above. The hire boat crew ascending in front of us were doing their best running water down from the pound above to allow them to move from lock to lock but that just made the situation at the next lock worse.

They, with us following finally made it to the top of the flight where they moored up for a late but well deserved lunch – always eat before ascending a flight, as we did.


 

We turned sharp right onto the mainline and suddenly – a deep canal with no weed. Turning second left took us into the delightfully cool Netherton tunnel – bliss, bliss! When we exited the tunnel, the heat hit us so we moored up in the first shade we came to on the offside. First time we’ve ever moored at Park End. The Black Country boating festival was being set up in the meadow. We were advised that the mooring spot we were occupying was reserved from tomorrow but that didn’t matter as we were leaving anyway. When we looked on Google maps we were amazed to see the festival beer tent marked on the site – excellent!



 

Park End is a wonderful mooring with plenty of paths to walk for the evening constitutional – we walked up Bumble Hole as Graham was thinking of doing it in Jannock but having walked it we decided not to.

G&B

Monday, September 06, 2021

On to Walsall

Monday 6th September 2021

After a quiet night with no calls from hospitals for blood bike support, we set off in sunshine, a relief after a couple of weeks of grey gloom, with not a glimpse of sunshine through the unbroken cloud.

We cruised along doing ‘fish watch’ in the clear water of this little used canal, unless of course, it was bank to bank thick weed which was yet again problem of the day. It was continually clogging the propeller especially when it contained plastic bags. The weed could be thrown off by using a burst of reverse but the plastic bags need to be removed manually. Occasionally there were excellent beds of lillypads which were in bloom.

 


Back to Brownhills where we moored outside Tescos for a wander around town and a food shop. The adjacent shopping mall that was ‘closing down’ last time we came here was still there and dilapidated. It’s due to be pulled down but who knows when. Tesco were doing their bit for the wellness of the locals, with a Covid vaccination bus and a breast screening unit in the car park.


 

The canals here continue to be more convenient than the local council tip – after all, they charge for a lot of things now. At one point we kept seeing what looked like pigeon carcasses floating in the weed and then we came across a canal side garden with loads of pigeon sheds in the garden.

We continued on along the Wyrely and Essington canal to Birchills junction where we turned south onto our target of the week, the Walsall locks – a stretch of canal not marked on Jannock’s map so in need of doing. The visitor moorings at the top lock did not look inviting.



 

After passing through the top lock we met the only other boat of the day, a CaRT weed collecting boat that was destined for the Wyrely and Essington.

The operator asked what the weed had been like on our travels, we told him about Rushall. He did not understand his managers priorities as he had just completed the Perry Bar flight and so while he’s been sent to do the Wyrley & Ess, all the weed on the Rushall will be coming down onto Perry Bar. An own goal.


 

Out of the bottom of the locks and we just had time to admire the modernisation of the Victorian wharf buildings and the mechanical fish before we turned into Walsall basin and moored up for the night on the pontoons. CaRT have placed a large inflatable ball in the basin to warn idiots that the water was deep, it made us think we were extras in the Prisoner (only relevant to old people) The bars were relatively quiet and soon closed to allow us a very peaceful nights sleep.


 

G&B

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Rushall canal, a misnomer

Sunday 5th September 2021

We awoke to  . . . . .  sunshine and blue skies. We’ve not had that phenomenon (think muppets) for a couple of weeks or more. We were warned yesterday that there were some empty pounds in the lock flight so Cap’n and trusty lock wheeling bike set off first thing to investigate and refill pounds.

Meanwhile, back at Jannock, bathed, washing and slow cooker primed ready to go. We set off up the flight. The going was slow and hard. in some locks and pounds the water levels were very low. Jannock dragged herself along hampered by weed up to 6 inches deep, prop tangling litter and strings of water plants.


 

Going very slowly with frequent reverses to clear the prop got us the the top of the flight (lock 3) above which there is a fair run to the last two locks. Here we met a volunteer lockie, it was all in the timing – to us he appeared to be more of a lengthsman than lockie. He told us that yesterday a boat had got stuck in a lock because it was too wide and it had taken hours to free it. They freed it at 9pm. Just as well we had decided to moor for the night below the flight.


 

On to the top lock adjacent to Longwood Boat club, where we struggled to moor against the side to take on water and dispose of rubbish. A great lump of rubbish, weed and general tangleness was removed from the prop before the next leg of our journey.

Navigation became easier as we continued on the Daw End branch, where the weed thinned out we were able to do fish watching in the clear water that meant we were also able to see the canal bottom and all the associated junk that has been deposited there.


 

At Catshill Junction we turned right and made our way to Anglesey basin adjacent to Chasewater reservoir. Graham had hoped to moor here but the banks and rushes were not mooring friendly. We turned and headed back towards the entrance and found a mooring against a brick wall. It was at this point that Graham found that the GiffGaff coverage within the boat was not good and as he was due to be controlling bloodbikes tonight, we needed to move. Back towards Brownhills we stopped just after the winding hole, opposite some maisonettes, and moored for the night with good coverage on Vodafone, GiffGaff and 3.


 

What a shame CaRT have not provided any sensible visitor moorings, apart from the old wharf walls near the entrance, at Anglesey basin as it’s a great place to stop for a walk around the reservoir.

G&B

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Onto the Rushall Canal

Saturday 4th September 2021

Brenda is blaming her current medication. Within 5 minutes of setting off this morning, what did she see? No, not a posse of kids zooming along the towpath on their electric scooters destined for an early bath if a black cat should cross their path – that was yesterday.

Today we saw a jester belting down the towpath in a Sinclair C5 with a trailer on the back. Beware the deaf, hard of hearing or those with ‘buds’ growing out of their ears. They are out to get you! Always move towards landside and let them risk getting a ducking.


 

As Jannock ascended the middle of the 3 Minworth locks, Brenda’s attention was drawn to a lady on her Juliet style canalside balcony. A romantic picture – No! There she stood in her baggy PJ bottoms, fag in hand struggling to get her well endowed puppies into her bra between puffs. Romeo Romeo!

Then onto Troutpool bridge, just after the big car warehouse over the canal, to inspect this years hop crop. Not a lot there and we’ll be out for too long to ensure they get home in prime condition s we didn’t stop to harvest any.

It has been a lock filled day and we have only seen one other boat moving during 6 hours cruising. Alongside the Perry Bar locks the new Alexander stadium is being constructed ready for the 2022 Commonwealth games – we wondered why it has been named that.



 

There is evidence that the lock immediately alongside the stadium had been tidied up with weeds removed and the canal’s weed blanket had been removed as well. The services at Perry Bar top lock were blocked by 6 CaRT working boats all moored on the services meaning any-one wanting water would need to work across double width workboats with their hose.

We have been successful water wombles this trip, having gained a length of foam pipe lagging, a length of lorry webbing and a new barge pole from within the weed cover. Add these items to the tennis racket bag and a plastic wash bowl we recovered yesterday and we’ll definitely be taking more home then we came with.


 

Having moored for the night between Biddlestone and Hill Farm bridges on the Rushall canal we went for a nice evening stroll around the open spaces here in the centre of the M6 and M5 motorway junction triangle. There was a Heron on the bank when we arrived who was not afraid of boats or people and allowed Brenda to get her best Heron picture ever.

G&B

Friday, September 03, 2021

Meeting the Wandering Snails in Fazely

Friday 3rd September

We saw sunshine today, the first time in about a week. There was the first picking of Damsons too. We were told, before we left Brinklow, that a boat had been in the marina and asked after us while we were at home. Turns out it was Anne and Olly on Wandering Snail who spent a while in Brinklow selling their wares.

From Polesworth we passed Alvecote and then down through the locks at Glascote and then who should we meet, just after bridge 74 but the Wandering Snails. We pulled over and tied up behind them and then went for a cuppa and a long catch-up chat as it’s years since we last saw them. We’ll catch up more in a few weeks as they are signed up for the same BCNS weekend cruise as we are.


 

Turning left at Fazely put us on the Birmingham and Fazely canal heading for Curdworth locks. Part way up the flight, where HS2 is due to cross the canal, the HS2 contractors have installed equipment to monitor for any changes to the locks either side of the crossing. I loved the way the enclosures had been labelled.



 

Out the top of the flight and we moored at Minworth to get dinner at the Hare and Hounds. Brexit/Covid – we find out who the key workers WERE and are! No draught cask beer in tonight’s food pub and a restricted menu due to shortage of supplies. Never mind, the meal we had was fine.

Lovely quiet mooring apart from the aircraft coming into Birmingham which ceased at midnight and started at 6am, and the lorries in the yard opposite who also started early as well.

G&B

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Atherstone and Polesworth

Thursday 2nd September 2021

Brenda’s early morning shower was brilliant apparently, so all of Graham’s ackling to get the output temperature of the hot water tank to a level that the shower mixer can cope with was worth while – another job ticked off. Perfick!


 

A routine day under very grey skies. Atherstone flight was busy with many more boats descending that ascending. Folks were even back setting so we got on our way fairly quickly. A stop after lock 5 with a visit to Aldi for provisions and the requisite engineering thingy from the centre aisle for himself.


 

Then lunch and down the last 6 locks to Grendon services where we stopped for water and rubbish disposal. Onto Polesworth where we moored for the night opposite the Catering Equipment warehouse before bridge 52.


 

A late afternoon constitutional was taken around Polesworth, starting at Abbey park alongside the canal. Then on to the Abbey Church across the river where we wandered around the graveyard looking at names and dates. Then into the village centre where we found this wonderful sign outside a pub. We wondered if the opposition were really Hungry?


 

Back to the boat via the other side of Abbey park where we found the best kids roundabout ever. It consists of four cycles attached in a circle and you site astride one and pedal to make it go round. Brenda loved it although she soon started suffering from motion sickness. There is a video of Brenda riding it which I'm happy to forward for the right price ;^) Time to go back to the boat for dinner.


 

G&B

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Birmingham, here we come

Wednesday 1st September 2021

Having arrived at Jannock yesterday afternoon and got things sorted out before parking the car, we left the marina this morning via the service area where we filled with diesel, replaced two empty gas cylinders and emptied the loo tank.

Out of the marina and hard left towards Hawkesbury Junction in another grey, dampish and cold day. Just like last September it seems. An un-eventful days cruising to Springwood Haven except for navigating the (aka Sutton’s stop) junction.

As we approached the lock it was being prepared for some-one coming up, across the grass we spied a working boat and butty just starting the turn into the Oxford. Quick, where’s the camera? It was Nuneaton and Brighton who are off to Braunston to load up before doing the usual South Oxford and Thames coal run. 


 

As Nuneaton came out of the lock, it was turned to allow Brighton to follow through whilst we waited patiently above. In the meantime three other boats that had been following them down the Coventry canal also turned into the area outside the Greyhound which meant that getting Jannock around the turn after we have passed through the lock was going to be fun.


 

Brenda managed to warn another boat who was thinking of passing under the bridge that it would be unwise to do so until at least one of the ascending boats had passed through the lock, luckily they took her advice and waited on the Coventry side of the junction.


 

Once through the lock Graham manged to get Jannock around the turn in one go avoiding all the floating obstacles in the way. We continued on to Springwood Haven where we moored for the night just past the marina.

Graham managed to wash Jannock’s very mucky starboard side using his new battery operated pressure washer taking water from the canal.

G&B

Thursday, July 15, 2021

and home again

Thursday 15th July 2021

After a quiet night with no calls from hospitals after midnight, we set off at 9:30 and made our way to the dual Hillmorton lock flight. We had an easy passage down with plenty of boats coming up so didn’t have to turn any locks. Unfortunately there were a lot of newby hirers about so lock passage took much longer than it needed to.


 

Then past Clifton wharf where we were pleased to see lots of green plums growing on the bankside trees, we’ll be back later! Through Rugby and Newbold complete with dark but short tunnel. As we passed Falls Bridge wharf we noticed that the boat lift has been re-painted. We love it as a Tonka Toy!


 

Into Brinklow marina and straight to our berth. Then we packed up, cleaned up and loaded all the stuff for home into the car. Jannock has been away from here since the 12th of May during which time we have had 38 days boating in total. Many things at the marina have changed and from what we’ve seen, all for the better.

A timelapse video of this journey is at https://youtu.be/cTlj61-r4Lk

G&B