Friday, September 30, 2016

3 months to Christmas day–get the sprouts on!

Sunday 25th September

We set off at 9am with the prospect of the Buckby flight ahaed. As we approached ‘Bee bra’ (top) lock another boats was waiting on the lock landing while the lock was prepared. For the second time in tow days we were able to share the flight with a crew who helped to make the task a light and pleasant one. The steerer was perplexed as yesterday he had offered to share Braunston flight with another boat. The offer had been refused quoting they we waiting for another boat. The thing was, it turned out there was no other boat. Our companion could not work out why they had turned down the offer to share.Sadly a reason occured to Graham, could it be that they we on a hire boat, newly out of the yard. He asked if the refusers were hirers or private, it turned out it was the latter. Oh well, it was their loss as the hire boat crew were experienced boaters and a pleasure to share Buckby with. We hope they enjoy their fortnight down through Milton Keynes and on to Aylesbury.

We have never seen Weedon so busy before. All of the usual boats were there, plus a long line moored up just short of the winding point at the old wharf. As we approached an onmcomer decided to wind at the wharf with no signals or indications to us to warn us to stop. Piccadilly circus or what?

Still no pics ;^)


Heading home–day #1

Saturday 24th September

A reasonable run to start our trip home. We were blown about a bit as we entered Calcutt locks. We only had a brief time to say Hello to Barbara and malcolm who hailed us from their mooring in the marina there. Luckily the wind moderated by the time we turned at Wigrams and continued on the Braunston where we stopped at the sani station for chores. Then onto the Braunston locks where we shared the flight with a brand new boat being delivered from Clifton Wharf to Crick Marina. The solo lad admitted that his boating knowledge was limited but he was agile and willing to take instruction so the ascent was easy. As we observed our ‘cake lock’ tradition at the top of the flight it was lovely to hear him praise his mum’s baking skills and tell us that his wife had learned from her and was also really good.

We enquired whether he’d done a tunnel before – only Crick so never a long one. He was a bit put off by the fact he couldn’t see the other end as he entered. Braunston tunnel, and missing the on-coming traffic, was a bit of an achievement for him. He was not phased by the bright headlights and having to push off from the magnetic sides.

As we moored for the night on the summit pound the sun came out and lit all the autumn ploughing furrows and the hawthorne berries. The grass lush again after rain and the trees bright green before the colour fades.

Sorry, no pictures as G left the camera at home.


Monday, September 12, 2016

That was a good rally - that was!

Monday 12th September

This year we had a three buffet rally. We had a communal lunch buffet on the Saturday lunchtime that was very well subscribed as can be seen in the picture. Our evening session includes a buffet supplied by Blue Lias which far more than we could eat. During Sunday evening’s quiz, most people brought what was left over from Saturday lunchtime so we had a third buffet then.

Below are some pictures from the weekend.


Saturday lunchtime buffet.


Assembled boats.


Saturday afternoon Liz taught us to Morris dance.

We were very lucky as the weather held for the whole weekend, just. Blackberries were picked and jam made to be auctioned off for charity. We played ‘shooting arcade’ and in the evening we were entertained by Bruce Peckett singing a selection of canal and sailing themed songs. We nattered with old friends and new but mostly we ate and drank. Another excellent Cutweb gathering.

Monday morning we travelled up Stockton flight, ably assisted by Brian and Diana fron nb Harnser, to leave Jannock at the top ready to visit my parents next weekend. We’ll continue back towards our mooring the weekend after that.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

And onto Blue Lias

Thursday 8th September

We left the Saltisford Arm following nb Uncle Mort. Between the two Cape locks there was a Willow Wren hireboat on very dodgy pins (they had not been banged in all the way and so the leverage action on the pins was not good for security) By the time U.M. had passed, nb Wagtail was fully adrift and floating across the canal. I managed to get onto the boat and grap the centre rope, I then pulled it back into the side but could not peg it back in as the pins had fallen into the canal. I pulled the boat onto the lock landing and tied it onto the bollards. We then left a note for the crew to expalin what had happened and continued on through the bottom lock. (when we met them again later they thanked us for rescuing their boat)

IMG_2714We continued on through Leamington to Radford Bottom lock where we started the ascent with a solo hire boat following us all the way to the Blue Lias. At Bascote locks, with both Uncle Mort and Jannock in a short pound and the next lock emptying, there were two tupperware moored on the lock landing. Brenda attempted to keep Jannock in the small space available but as the water flow moved her backwards she could not help but touch the back of one of them. A head appeared from within one of them muttering “sorry, I broke down!” She asked whether both boats had broken down “Yes, I am towing one and now both are broken!” came the reply – what a co-incidence, but looking at the state of both boats, it could be predicted. Both were light enough to be pulled into the longer and safer pound below the lower lock. That would have been better for all canal users.

We arrived at Blue Lias to find that we were the first Cutweb boats to arrive – this is a Jannock first as we usually arrive after most other boats. We pgged Jannock to the bank lust off the end of the mooring and then tied U.M. outside. I then went back to Alvecote on the Di Blasi to fetch our car before we went home to fetch all the rally things that we had left prepared at home.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Hatton today

Wednesday 7th September 2016

No pictures today – I tried several times to get a picture of the Kingfishers we saw fleetingly above Hatton and then got a bit busy for photographs.

After a good night’s sleep G was looking forward to the challenge of Hatton – 21 locks – today. My thoughts are with first-time-locks lady from yesterday as she has to complete the descent at Lapworth before starting to go back up again – so ten more locks than yesterday. She’ll hurt! Fingers crossed we get a share for Hatton.

Five minutes after loosing off from our lovely mooring we came across some hirers all stood around their open engine hatches looking concerned. Problem? How do you know how much diesel you have got left? Don’t worry we replied, hire bases usually ensure you’ve got enough. How long have you been out for? “Only two days” came the answer. No worries. (and where were they thinking of filling up, the next boat yard is their own hire base ;^)

They agreed to share Hatton with us and so started pulling pins. After two locks it was mooted that they would stop at the Cafe for breakfast. I said that they could not do that in the small pounds between locks and got a ‘bossy busybody’ look. I explained, but not as well as the confusion in the fsce of their steerer when he realised that another boat coming out of the lock would need somewhere to go in order for our boats to move locks. I asked him to consider how little room there would be if people stopped for breakfast at the cafe.

The three lads had hired for 4 days to see if they liked living aboard as one was considering buying a boat and living on the canal. So, four days in the summer with no washing to do, no loo to empty and enough engine hours/solar for a phone charger – is this a representative sample? They were bound for the Cape at Warwick – “good pub” said I, “We’d prefer a cocktail bar” came the retort, “is there one?” I admitted the nearest one we knew of was in Birmingham.

They left us after lock 37 as they moored up and walked back up to the cafe for breakfast. The solo boat we had been following had also stopped at the same place so we continued on down the flight on our own meeting several boats coming up. We then went into Saltisford basin where we had booked an overnight mooring in order to be close the nb Uncle Mort as we are sharing the ascent to Blue Lias with them tomorrow.

Once tied up, Graham went of on the Di Blasi for the marathon (30+ miles) rfun back to Alvecote to fetch the car and deliver it to Long Itchington ready for a run home tomorrow to fetch stuff for Cutweb Rally next weekend.

Onto Hirates – I have invented this name for hirers that insist on dressing up as Pirates – there have never been any pirates on the canal that I am aware of.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A long day

6th September 2016

Graham was up and off at ten to eight whilst Brenda remained in bed. Just beforeTightSqueeze Bourneville there are bank securing works going on which made a tight squeeze getting under the bridge. There is a new cafe set up bankside since we last passed down this way, the signs placed 100m either side on the canal bank advertise it as a ‘Barge Through Cafe’ although you’d have to seriously go aground to get that high up the bank.

BargeCafeBrenda’s favourite graffiti up until today was “Welcome to ‘wherever’, wear a stab vest!” but today she saw “You’ll have to clean this wall before I waste paint!” Councils take note! There was skilled art on the walls but unless it was Banksy . . . .

Back onto rural waters as we turned at Kings Norton Junction onto the Northern Stratford canal. As we cleared the lift bridge and approached Lapworth top lock a hireboat pulled out in front of us. As we joined them at the lock they explained what was patently obvious, it was their first lock ever. The steerer was nervous that the boat would not fit and that he might damage the gates as his boat was too long. Aged parents were inside, ‘he’ steered quite well but ‘she’ was having difficulty with the paddles and gates. I ended up helping them a bit as it made our passage smoother. She would go ahead and set her next lock while I let their boat out of the current one and turned it for Jannock. She would work her boat through the next one and then walk on down once the bottom gates were open leaving me to close andLapworthHouse turn. The system worked very well allowing a reasonable passage down to Lapworth junction.

It seemed that their plan was to descend to Lapworth to eat out and then return back up the flight tomorrow as they needed to be back at Alvechurch by next Saturday. Towpath telegraph (the crew of a broken down hire baot at the top of the flight – awaiting a new gearbox) that the Navigation was fully booked for tonight so I hope they chose to visit the other pub in Lapworth.

pikeToday we experienced another FIRST! It is the first time that we have knowingly shared a lock with a pike! Quite a large one that hang around the paddle recess until the gates were opened when he dissapeared into the lower side pond. Possibly he’d cleared out the pond above and was in search of new food. We’ve shared with ducks and swans before but never a Pike that we are aware of.

Finally out of the link lock (20) and onto the G.U. where we passed by the Tom O The Wood  as the M40 and train noise is too high there. We continued on to the cutting just before Rowington Hill Bridge where the background noise level is very much lower – just how we like it. Brenda prepared and excellent stir fry to round off a good day.


Monday, September 05, 2016

We awoke to drizzle–not predicted by anyone.

Monday 5th September 2016

As it had been raining for most of the night, Graham decided to wask Jannock’s DirtyRoof  CleanRooffilthy roof while I went into Walsall in search of bread and milk. If you want fabric or gorgeous ethnic clothing then the Monday market is for you. A couple of stalls sold fruit and veg in pre-determined quantities, all very well if you have a hotel boat but we didn’t need that much. I managed to get all the supplies I needed in Poundland, about 30 secs from the pontoon. The pictures above show before and after. I didn’t get any fruit because weApples remembered a good looking apple tree that we would pass again today.

Recipe – when you have half a tin of haggis left over.  Mix it with a pack of stuffing mix you find in the cupboard, spread into a pyrex dish lid and cook in the oven (cooling from yesterday roast dinner) until firm. If you then add cold potatoes and mushrooms it makes an excellent toasted sandwich filling.

Back down the Walsall canal until we arrived at the apple tree we spotted yesterday. Graham then pulled the bows in close to the tree whilst I harvested apples from the front well deck. Then on to Ockers Hill junction where we went straight ahead instead of turning back onto the Tame valley again. We managed to get lunch eaten just before we arrived at the bottom of Rydres Green lock flight.

Once again this is new territory for us inRydersGreenLocks Jannock – not sure we’ll ever return again. The pound above the bottom lock was very low but we managed to get through OK. At lock 7, the road bridge seems to be a gathering point for all the local drunks, luckily they were relatively pleasant as we passed and were even using a large plastic bag, rather than the canal, as a repository for their empty cans. The White Lightening Award goes to one amiable drunk who told me how ‘they’ should empty all the dirty water out of the canal, filter it and then put it back so that it was better for swimming. I suggested that would cost more than ‘They’ have, how would it be done? After all, a lot of the pollution has laid on the canal bed since the 18 somethings, and added to that there would be autumns detritus to be dealt with every year. He pondered this and then said “why would people swim in LockoftheBeastthe canal when it only costs £1.10p up the baths!  I replied “at least you would know what would kill you up there – drowning!” We hope he didn’t chuck his can in the cut.

We continued up through the lock of the devil and made our way up to the junction at the top of the flight. Now we were back onto familiar territory again as we’d done the Ridgeacre Branch several years ago.

Out onto the mainline and we stayed on this rather than dallying onto the old mainline. Into Birmingham and we stopped at the Fiddle and Bone to explore whatIMG_2706 services are available there now – just anything that Sherbourne wharf can sell you – diesel, gas, ice creams etc. We continued on through Gas St to find the services opposite the Mailbox – these are for everything toilet plus a shower, no rubbish disposal there. A sign did point out that the only rubbish disposal is at Cambrian wharf but we’ll have to wait until Lapworth now.

BrumFlowersBirmingham was pretty damn full and the only mooring we could find was past the mailbox, just after bridge 88. Nice and quiet here even though we are opposite the University College of Birmingham accomodation block. Then into China town for some shopping and an excellent Malay meal. As we walked back to Jannock, the sun finally came out for the first time today.


Sunday, September 04, 2016

Dredging and weed clearance a speciality

Sunday 4th September 2016

Good deed for the day – we recovered a fishing pole from the canal.

Wildlife of the day – herons and kingfishers abound in the quieter bits.

It was nice to drive forwards from Star City Repairsdown to Salford junction although I must admit that my line through the dis-used lock was better going in reverse. As you travel beneath Spagetti junction it is amazing the amount of sheering up that has been done to the concrete structure holding the roads up, they have drilled and installed hundreds of bolts to stop the horizontal beams spreading – scary!

On arrival at Perry Bar bottom lock, I found the pound above completely empty EmptyPoundof water and so let Brenda into the bottom lock while I wandered up and ran water down through the second. With both sets of paddles open it only took about 10 kinutes to get enough water into the pound so I could start filling the bottom lock. Once through both we then had a mile long battle with ever increasing amounts of weed and rubbish to get through.

Into the main section of the flight and the weed was worse, Brenda had a difficult jobWeedPile keeping the prop clear for long enough to transit between locks. The higher up the flight we went, the worse it got. Finally we made it out of the top lock by 1pm and so pulled over to the sani-station. There is a lovely collection of weed here that has been removed from above the top lock. The last time we were here on the 2009 BCNC Explorer cruise, Brenda had an incident with the shower that is related just after the 13th August entry on This time the shower worked fine and we both took advantage of plenty of space to get clean. We also had lunch, I did a weedhatch visit and filled Jannock’s water tank whilst we were there.

M5Then onto Rushall Junction where we had to continue on as the Rushall lock flight is closed for urgent gate maintenance. Once we had crossed the M5 we were in new territory as we have never been further than the aquaduct before. Verdict – the Tame Valley canal is boring, dead straight for most of the way with very little to see. Luckily we were soon at Ocker Hill junction where we turned right onto the Walsall canal. This is a much more interesting canal with lots of dis-used arms going off both sides into tree linedOckerHillJnctn ditches or bricked up factory entrances. We passed under the M6 and then at Pagetts Bridge, a couple of Sikh gents stood on the bridge enquired where we were from. Once told they invited us into the adjacent Gurdwara for a drink but unfortunately we didn’t have time to join them.

At Walsall junction we turned into the town arm and made our way to the basin at the bottom. It has pontoon moorings that are right next door to the High St and so a wide variety of shops are very close by. Of course, they were closed by the time we arrived on a Sunday evening but that didn’t stop us having a wander around the town centre to admire some of the old architechture that still remains amongst all the modern development. The railway station is very close to the basin as well although you cannot hear the trains due to the tall buildings that surround the moorings.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

A really eventful day

Saturday 3rd September 2016

It was up and at ‘em this morning – Brrrr!  yup it’s Autumn. An early start wasIMG_2670 required to get through the lock flight before the rain that was expected to arrive approx midday. Consequently, two very soggy boaters had completed the locks and were happy to pull over to get out of the rain at 11:30. We passed this old lock keepers refuge near the Dog and Doublett. Our progress had been very slow as we were following a single hander – accident – waiting – to – happen. A 73 year old New Zealander who has been out for two weeks IMG_2675in his newly aquired boat having decided to live the boating lifestyle. Are Timothy, Pru and John Sergeant shown in the antipides? The chap admitted being deaf and having eyesight problems; he was certainly of bent back and hobbling gait, but that could have been brought on by two weeks of solo locking. If NZ doesn’t have a reciprocal health agreement with the NHS I hope he’s got good health insurance.

DSCF2354After we had sat out the rain, doing jobs like re-installing all the double glazing panels, G decided to set off again as it had finally stopped raining by 2pm. As we approached the Cuttle Bridge Inn, which had been dis-used and closed when we did the Explorer cruise 7 years ago, we could see wedding photos being taken on top of the bridge next to the Inn. A waitress rushed along the towpath towards us, tasked with asking us if we DSCF2358would mind stopping to be part of the background for the wedding pictures. After an engagement aboard at Tring reservoir, how could we refuse. We pulled in and the Bride and Groom stepped aboard for their photos to be taken. The bridesmaids all stood alongside. The smiles were because the rain had finally stopped.

It turns out that the groom is an airman based at RAF Benson. When we mentioned visiting there last week for families day he said that they had missed it because they were moving into their married quarter that day. That must have beenDSCF2356 the removals lorry we saw as we made our way to the car park then. Mega coincidence then, we have the Groom’s permission to publish photos on the internet. We hope he returns from his tour of Afghanistan safely. We were waved off with a bottle of vin du Nuptuals in our hands and continued our journey towards Salford Junction.

At Troutpool bridge, just after the big warehouse that straddles the canal, we did another thing that we could never have predicted would happen. Hop Picking! G spotted a whole hedge of hops so we pulled IMG_2677over and tested them – Yes they were proper hops with a flavour similar to Fuggles.We then harvested loads. (700gms wet) so should be enough for a couple of brews. They will be dried in a pillow case in the engine bay until we get home when they’ll be finished in the airing cupboard. He says he’ll call the beer Troutpool.

On to Salford junction where he thenIMG_2681 reversed Jannock back up the Grand Union to the mooring pontoons at Star City. This location has been recommended by Brian and Diana on Harnser so we thought we’d try it. G also remembered that they had mentioned an Indian street food establishment inside Star City so we went and tried that as well. It may all be vegetarian food but we had enough to bloat us with drinks as well for £22. What an excellent find. Thanks B&D!


An omen for the start of our holiday.

Friday 2nd September 2016

As Graham did a day and night shift yesterday, finishing at 02:00 this morning, he knocked off work early and we were able to be aboard Jannock by 13:00.

We knew things were not going to go right as we spotted three snow ploughsheading South on the M40 sign written “Mission Christmas” - be warned!

IMG_2665As I was stocking the fridge with all the stuff we brought from home I realised that tonight’s supper, a whole chicken I had cooked last night and then quartered ready for our trip, was AWOL. Panic – we didn’t want to get home in 10 days time to find it walking around the kitchen. Thank goodness for good neighbours – crisis avoided. I had been top of the class in food hygene and had stored it in the fridge ready for packing. We hope Gladys enjoys it.

Instead I opened a tin of delicous haggis, procured while we were McBoating. We set off from Alvecote and were immediately overtaken by another boat that didn’t like our idea of slowing down to pass moored boats. This meant we were behind them inIMG_2667 the queue for Glascote top lock. Through them and onto Fazely where we turned left onto the Birmingham and Fazely canal. We last came this way in 2009 prior to joining the nBCNS Explorer cruise but I didn’t recognise a lot of the places we passed.

Much of the journey was through Middleton Lakes, an RSPB site on old gravle pits. A lovely place to walk, watch birds and general wildlife. They say they charge ‘for facilities’ so carpark, loos, the IMG_2669hides? Maybe a walk is free.

We moored for the night at Bodymoor Heath opposite the wharf. After our haggis dinner we wandered up to the Dog and Doublet. It’s a good old fashioned pub. The specials on the menu board were faggots, chips and mushy peas etc. The beer was good too and the bar was full of chaps who’d been harvesting and had come in to quench their thirst.