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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 22

Posted by indigodream on 7 September, 2014

Sunday 3rd August

Droitwich to Stourport (but being posted from the west end of the Huddersfield Narrow)

Oh dear, I can’t find my notes from the day – never mind!

This is the most perfect spot for greyhound rummaging - Richard, Ty and Ollie are off in the wilderness to the right of the photo - the path is so overgrown that the next pick-up point is Bridge 3 :-)

This is the most perfect spot for greyhound rummaging – Richard, Ty and Ollie are off in the wilderness to the right of the photo – the path is so overgrown that the next pick-up point is Bridge 3 :-)

I do recall that we had a quiet night in Droitwich and that the towpath moorings at Vines Park are very civilised! I can’t remember what time we set off, I think it was very early by indigo Dream standards i.e.before 10am! I do recall that it was a very fine day!

It didn’t seem to take long to leave Droitwich town. We were soon back in the countryside, and what wonderful countryside it was – stunning views and deserted towpaths just perfect for rummaging. There was a particularly greyhound-perfect stretch leading from Mildenham Mill lock to Bridge 3 (apparently one of the few surviving Brindley originals) – Richard, Ty and Ollie had a good rummage there. It was a good walk for the hounds before we reached the relentless river.

Hawford bottom lock, which leads on to the mighty Severn, feels as if it should have a lock-keeper, but it’s straightforward enough. There is a traffic light which indicated the state of the river, and the lock itself is a standard manual lock – it’s just a bit awkward to see whether there’s any traffic coming up from the river. We waited for two boats to come up – a tad awkwardly, as a small launch was moored on one lock landing, making it difficult for two boats to wait for the double lock and for upcoming boats to exit the lock neatly.

We locked down with a hire boat and had a moment of confusion when we exited the lock – we hadn’t realised that there wasn’t a “lock cut”  as such – we mistakenly turned left then did a huge swing upstream when we realised we were on the main channel – oops!

The Severn was magnificent – deep and enticing – we opened the throttle and headed upstream. In my memory, the Severn upstream of Worcester is relentless with moorings few and far between, but on this trip I notice at least four pub restaurants offering moorings – we’ll have to explore them another time! We did wonder later whether we should turn back and stay the night at one of the pubs and travel home on the Monday. We got behind no fewer than four slow boats and were wondering how rude it would be to overtake then given that the river locks only take two boats at a time. We decided to be polite and hang back – this was a HUGE mistake as we got badly caught up in Stourport. The slow boats ahead joined a queue waiting to get off the river and we were behind them! Two hours later (I said they were slow) we finally got into the bottom staircase lock. I had a slight sense of humour failure while waiting – we’d been ahead of plan all day and were up for an early finish and drive home, but now it was getting late – sigh! Hence I was a tad louder than I intended when a hire boat came upriver and blithely approached the lock into Stourport – “OI, there’s a queue” I yelled nastily – they looked contrite and moved back into position!

Bridge 3 - a Brindley original!

Bridge 3 – a Brindley original!

There are two deep staircases into Stourport – the second being at an awkward angle to the first – with a 60′ boat there just isn’t enough room to get the angle right between them…unless you have Richard giving the centre rope a little tug to bring the front around just those few essential inches – smooth work.

There were LOTS of gongoozlers at Stourport – a whole family “helped” us through by opening and closing gates – the kids were transfixed!

It takes a lot of time to get into Stourport Basin and I was keen to get through and up York Street lock to the towpath moorings beyond. But we had a most lovely surprise – as we were moving through the basin we spotted Andrew and Frances from nb Doris Katia – we’d assumed that they were already in London with the St Pancras Cruising Club – as it happens, they were just setting off! We had a great catch-up – we’ve shared far too many Thames tideway adventures with them not to really! I felt a pang of nostalgia – we had some great experiences on SPCC convoys. But after two years in London, it was definitely time for use to get out onto the rest of the system.

Ty and Ollie got a bit bored on the river so they cuddled up in a rare gesture of solidarity - too cute :-)

Ty and Ollie got a bit bored on the river so they cuddled up in a rare gesture of solidarity – too cute :-)

We said a reluctant goodbye to them and set off up the lock – here we had yet more gongoozlers as the cafe garden is right on the lockside. Some admired my sun hat – I never know whether they’re being ironic because it is rather unique. But this time, someone wanted to know where they could buy one – ah, mine came from Zimbabwe, many years ago – it’s a wonderful place to visit but maybe a little too far just to buy a hat!

We met nb Muskrat above the lock – fellow BCN CHallengers and THE boat to beat before the length bonus rules were introduced. SO much for my theory that we didn’t know any boaters this far West :-)

The moorings just up from the lock were only 48-hours and rather full, so we pressed on past the Rising Sun pub, where Richard’s car was parked. There were a few potential 14-day towpath moorings. but the canal is a bit narrow there and, in the absence of other moored boats, we weren’t sure whether to stay or go. We had a chat with a passing community police officer – I’m always reassured by their presence. This one was a genial young man who was helpful and reassuring – it seems that there are very few towpath crimes hereabouts.

In the end, we decided to move out to the Bird in Hand pub – we’ve moored here before – there is particularly fine greyhound-walking over Mitton Chapel Bridge. I have poignant memories of walking Blue and Lou through the haunted old graveyard there – not a place to be taking scaredy Ty! At the Bird in Hand we had a choice of a 14-day mooring on the towpath a little way back, or a 5-day mooring right outside the pub. We chose the latter, though this caused us some pain the following weekend….

It was gone 5pm by the time we moored up, so we decided to eat in the pub; but that plan didn’t work, they were between lunch and dinner servings –  we had intended to wait for the chef to come back on duty, but we realised that it would just take too long. We headed off, we’d find somewhere to eat on the way, and, despite my grumpiness at the how late it was, we had a good drive home after a £9.99 special at a Harvester, Ollie had ice cream…

Photoblog:

This lock and cottage is immaculately groomed - all the more unexpected after the wilderness of the canal from Droitwich...

This lock and cottage is immaculately groomed – all the more unexpected after the wilderness of the canal from Droitwich…

The locks give great views over the surrounding countryside....

The locks give great views over the surrounding countryside….

I thought that the rope swing hanging from this tree looked a little sinister...

I thought that the rope swing hanging from this tree looked a little sinister…

This lock and cottage feel so isolated, but it has good road access. The approach to the lock landings is a little awkward on bothe sides but there's no denying that it's a lovely spot....

This lock and cottage feel so isolated, but it has good road access. The approach to the lock landings is a little awkward above and below, but there’s no denying that it’s a lovely spot….

Approaching Hawford bottom lock - gateway to the Severn...

Approaching Hawford bottom lock – gateway to the Severn…

There are more mooring (and drinking) opportunities on this stretch of the Severn than I remember...

There are more mooring (and drinking) opportunities on this stretch of the Severn than I remember – this is one of four or five pubs/restaurants – another time…

Bridges are few and far between on the Severn...

Bridges are few and far between on the Severn…

Off the river at last!

Off the river at last!

There's always a lot to see at Stourport...

There’s always a lot to see at Stourport…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 21

Posted by indigodream on 6 September, 2014

Dunhampstead to Droitwich

Rewind to Friday 1st August

Joyo! Wyn's a natural on the helm ;-)

Joyo! Wyn’s a natural on the helm ;-)

We were so excited today as we both managed to escape early from work and had planned to get to the Fir Tree in time for supper with cousin Denise and husband Wyn. Denise reckons there is normal time and Surrey time, so, when we say “we’re leaving at 2pm” that’s 5pm in Surrey time! The Surrey clock was running fast today and we did manage to leave at 3.30pm but we bitterly regretted not getting away earlier. By the time we got onto the motorway, our segment of the M25 (6 o’clock to 10 o’clock) was gridlocked with a 2-hour delay. We diverted cross-country on the basis that we would at least keep moving, but that seemed to take equally long as we threaded our way through the narrow high streets of Surrey’s scenic villages. All very lovely, but after 2 hours I was starting to think that London has gravity, like a planet, and that we were never going to achieve escape velocity!

To cut a long journey short, we arrived at the pub some 4.5 hours after leaving home. Luckily Denise and Wyn had booked a table based on Surrey time!

We unpacked the car and had some welcome help with the hounds – nb Henry H was moored right next to us so Ty and Ollie went to stay with their houndie pals Rosie and Bertie; Sarah and Andy walked and fed them so we could get to the pub. It was a lovely arrangement – Ty and Ollie really appreciated the company while we were out and Ty is always a bit braver in a big pack.

We had a fine dinner with Denise and Wyn, the food at the pub probably deserved more appreciation, but we were so tired we could barely hold a fork! Luckily Denise and Wyn had arranged to stay over at The Vernon, in Hanbury, a short taxi ride away (we were all very thirsty after a hot day). We arranged to meet in the morning – fortunately they could stay for a bit of cruising so we’d have more time to talk when we were a bit more awake!

Hello, Fulbourne - great to see you again :-)

Hello, Fulbourne – great to see you again :-)

We reclaimed our hounds – Henry H is really a 2-hound boat for overnighting – especially when you have four hounds on board who’d want to sleep in the snug front cabin nest with Sarah and Andy!

Rewind to Saturday 2nd August

We had a lazy morning – partly prompted by the heavy rain that had moved in overnight. I got up when I heard the clink of Rosie and Bertie’s collar tags on the towpath – I quickly got dressed and caught up with them a little way down the towpath. This was in a gap between showers, so the four hounds had a lovely walk together. Bertie greeted Ty with a sweet little hop and a skip; Rosie is Ty’s half-sister and they walked shoulder to shoulder – Ty seemed much more confident with his (younger) sis looking after him. Ollie is Ollie – such a phlegmatic character!

As we got back from our walk, the rain started in earnest – time for a coffee and a slow breakfast. Denise and Wyn had planned to have a lie-in, so we weren’t expecting them before late morning. That was fine by us! Henry H moved on mid-morning, they were heading South to Worcester – never mind, I’m sure that Ollie and Ty will meet up with their pack-mates soon.

Denise and Wyn arrived around 11am, just as the rain stopped and the sun started to make a show. To start with, Richard and Wyn did the first car shuffle to Droitwich, while Denise and I caught up on family/South Wales gossip. When the men came back, we left them to the helm and carried on – great! Although the day was largely dry and sunny, we had the odd vicious thunderstorm/heavy shower  to contend with – another excuse for the men to be manly in their waterproofs and for me and Denise to carry on chatting indoors!

New territory - entering the Droitwich Canal (or the junction canal to be precise)..

New territory – entering the Droitwich Canal (or the junction canal to be precise)..

I’d just been telling them how we were seeing fewer boaty friends this side of the country (we barely moved along the Grand Union for chatting!) when we passed by nb Fulbourne with hardy crew member Elaine, who always wears beautifully crafted traditional bonnets when on board. We stopped briefly for a chat – it was lovely to see Fulbourne, we’ve shared many an adventure but we haven’t seen her for over a year.

Soon after we turned onto the Junction Canal towards Droitwich. It’s a lovely bit of water, though I confess that it’s even better past Droitwich. We pulled into Droitwich Marina shortly after the entrance to the canal – the red light on the loo was blinking – time for a pump out! We also remembered to to replace the empty gas cylinder so that we’d have a full spare on board – not that we use that much gas, but you can rely on a cylinder to run out at the most inconvenient moment (halfway through one of our charity cruises in Birmingham a month ago, while making lunch – of course!).

As we moored at the service point, an almighty thunderstorm broke overhead – it passed quickly, but the thunder really upset Ty. When it was dry, we took a little walk around the marina to prove to him that the sky wasn’t falling. Unfortunately this strategy worked a bit too well – he calmed down but didn’t want to get back onto the boat! We eventually persuaded him but he was not a happy boater.

We had wanted to fill with water at the marina, but the arrangement of the water taps on the service pontoon seemed a bit off. One tap was not drinking water, the drinking water tap had the pump-out rinse hose attached to it – the person on duty said it was fine to use the tap to fill the water tank provided we used our own clean hose; a third water tap was unlabelled. Hmmm, we decided we could manage on the water that we had!

Otherwise, we were very impressed by the marina and took a moorings brochure. What impressed me was that the basin was very roomy with plenty of manoeuvering space – unlike Limehouse, which has some tight turning circles – especially following the Olympic development.

Wyn taking great care of Indigo Dream at every lock....

Wyn taking great care of Indigo Dream at every lock….

With the boat in good shape, we set off towards Droitwich – the canal was lovely and there was just enough room for us to get through the culvert that takes the canal under the M5. We were grateful to the boat that had just come through though, who advised us to take the bikes off the roof – the headroom was tight. I guess it wouldn’t take much fresh water to make the passage unnavigable.

We soon arrived at Droitwich town – characterised by it’s many swing bridges – it took a while to get to the central mooring area! Of course, the navigation now becomes the Droitwich barge canal, with wide locks. It’s quite confusing as the first narrow stretch is apparently known as the junction canal and It took me a while to understand how there could be two locks with the same number on the one canal – except it’s two canals. It’s a juxtaposition worthy of the original canal builders :-)

One of the town locks is peculiar in that it has a weir that runs off to the right – there is a sign warning boaters to stay well to the left and to be aware of heavy flows. But there are no lock landings or even a bollard to hold your boat on the left hand side – very strange. With a lot of barely used bollards sprouting like mushrooms at other lock-sides, you’d think they could spare one for  mooring opposite a weir. Never mind, there wasn’t enough flow to bother us today so it wasn’t a problem.

Once you get through the various locks and bridges, there is pleasant mooring available on the towpath side adjacent to Vines Park. We took a towpath mooring, not realising that a little further on there is a secure basin with a mixture of permanent and 48-visitor moorings. It would have been a little quieter there for Ty, who was a bit spooked by the sheer numbers of passers by, though everyone was amiable and we had a quiet night on the moorings.

Wyn’s car was already in Droitwich, and he generously agreed to help with the next car shuffle – collect Richard’s car from Dunhampstead, take both cars to Stourport (our planned destination) then come back to Droitwich. We were immensely grateful, we hadn’t realised quite how far away Stourport was by road and they saved us hours of to-ing and fro-ing.

We said a reluctant goodbye to them late afternoon – they had a long drive back to South Wales ahead of them. In the meantime, we had a quiet evening on board – I was too tired to explore Droitwich (which is a shame as it sounds like a fascinating town). Instead, Richard went to explore the ready-meals at the local Waitrose (5 minutes walk from the boat) and we settled in with the DVD (more Game of Thrones – still gripping though some of the violence is inexplicable)….

Photoblog:

Surprisingly deep locks on this section - it must have been a real labour of love to restore this canal - so glad they did!

Surprisingly deep locks on this section – it must have been a real labour of love to restore this canal – so glad they did!

Narrow locks - narrow canal!

Narrow locks – narrow canal!

Ty supervising at the locks - it's better than being on the boat, but only if there aren't too many strange people around - not a problem here :-)

Ty supervising at the locks – it’s better than being on the boat, but only if there aren’t too many strange people around – not a problem here :-)

They really mean it.....

They really mean it…..

Just enough room for us - we work on a rough air draft of 2.1m

Just enough room for us – we work on a rough air draft of 2.1m

Room for the boat but not for the crew - duck!

Room for the boat but not for the crew – duck!

Broad locks and swingbridges - now we're in Droitwich :-)

Broad locks and swingbridges – now we’re in Droitwich :-)

 

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 Day 20

Posted by indigodream on 5 September, 2014

Rewind to Sunday 27th July (posted from Congleton)

Stoke Pound (Tardebigge Bottom Lock) to Dunhampstead Bridge

Wonderful views..

Wonderful views..

Thanks to my cold, I had a rotten night’s sleep. However, I had a treat in the morning, Richard cycled off to get the car (parked at Alvechurch) and I got into bed for a few hours with Ollie. In fact I had some extra time – Richard had trouble navigating over the tunnels! My lie-in was refreshing and so, by late morning, I was somewhere near a fit state for cruising.

Our plans to go along the Droitwich had now changed to a vague ambition to get to Worcester. As I got comfy on the helm, a winged seed from an nearby sycamore tree drifted down to my land on my lap before the wind picked it up for the next stage of its own odyssey. That’s about as focussed as our plans are at the moment – blown by the wind of chance – hard to believe that we were ever focused enough to come third in the BCN Challenge!

But the wind of chance blowing us towards Worcester was particularly sweet. Cousin Denise and husband Wyn, both experienced Indigo Dreamers, were coming up to the Cotswolds for a mini-break on Thursday 31st. She got in touch to find out whether the boat was in the Cotswolds – result! We move down to Worcester, they’d book an extra night at a local B & B and we’d have a catch-up cruise together next Saturday.

Several boats went past us in the morning but after the early rush to tackle the Tardebigge, we had the canal largely to ourselves. Despite the mighty fall down the Tardebigge, there were still a LOT of locks between us and Worcester. We didn’t get into the same routine as yesterday, but we still did well, first down the Stoke flight then the Astwood locks. We passed the narrow entrance to the Droitwich and carried on south.

Where does that path go to....?

Where does that path go to….?

But by the time we got to Hanbury Wharf it was gone 2pm, with several hours cruising and the long drive home in front of us. I got a bit daunted and looked with longing at the visitor moorings at Dunhampstead. We cruised past, undecided, and were thinking of looking for moorings at Tibberton, when we came to a winding hole and decided to turn back. By now, the cold that had beset me overnight had settled into my ears, so I was feeling very peculiar. We hastened back to Dunhampstead. On the way down, I’d seen the sign for the visitor moorings but there didn’t seem to be a restriction. When we moored up, we walked the moorings and found that they were only 48 hour – b$%%^&. But I was done for, the moorings were empty and we decided to moor there anyway and contact CRT for an extension on Monday.

Richard once again got on his bike and cycled back to Stoke Pound for the car. I packed the boat ready for a quick getaway and had another welcome snooze.

This weekend was the hottest cruising weekend of the year for us (we’ve lounged at home during the previous hot weekends) so it had to be the time that our fridge broke down. We removed the controller unit, which we suspect is the problem, for return to the manufacturers, Shoreline. Luckily we didn’t have much food that needed refrigeration, but we did miss cold drinks and ice!

Although I was desperate to get home, we set ourselves up for the drive by having a proper long, cold drink at the Fir Tree Inn. We’d have eaten there too, but they don’t serve food on Sunday afternoon/evening. Still, our drinks refreshed us enough and I drove us home in reasonable time.

Today’s Trivia

You’ll see below a photograph of a blue brick embossed with the name “Joseph Hamblet” dated 1894. I though I’d find out whether they were original and they are – 120 year old bricks looking brand new! Joseph Hamblet founded the Piercy brickworks in West Bromwich where they were renowned for making blue bricks. There’s a fascinating article in the Black Country Bugle which gives more on his history. The blue bricks were very strong – apparently they were crush tested by the Institutiion of Civil Engineers in 1886 – they reported that “Hamblet’s bricks proved the superior, requiring, on average, a force of over 16,000 lbs / sq. in. to completely crush them.”. Now in modern money that is 110 N/mm², most really good blue engineering bricks nowadays struggle to achieve 75 N/mm². Hardly surprising that they became the building material of choice for major infrastructure projects – like canals!

Photoblog:

Love these embossed bricks - were they really made in 1894?

Love these embossed bricks – they can tell us so much about the history of the canal…

I had less luck finding out about P W Bennitt - presumable another local brickmaker...

I had less luck finding out about P W Bennitt – presumable another local brickmaker…

Windmill - never noticed that before....

Windmill – never noticed that before….

Witty!

Witty!

It's a long fall to the Severn, then another long fall to sea level...

It’s a long fall to the Severn, then another long fall to sea level…

Such a pretty lock cottage - the garden was immaculate...

Such a pretty lock cottage – the garden was immaculate…

Rural idyll...

Rural idyll…

The entrance to the Droitwich canal - looks enticing - but not today... :-)

The entrance to the Droitwich canal – looks enticing – but not today… :-)

More wit :-D

More wit :-D

Pretty as a picture...

Pretty as a picture…

Wonder what's lurking under this towpath??

Wonder what’s lurking under this towpath??

This is exactly as I remember it from our trip here in nb Dragonfly

This is exactly as I remember it from our trip here in nb Dragonfly

And so it was in Septmber 2005, when Indigo Dream was named :-)

And so it was in September 2005, when Indigo Dream was named :-)

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 Day 19

Posted by indigodream on 3 September, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 26th July (but being posted on 3rd September in Great Heywood)

Alvechurch Marina to Stoke Pound (Tardebigge Bottom Lock)

Looking back to Alvechurch Marina - it was a friendly place to stop :-)

Looking back to Alvechurch Marina – it was a friendly place to stop :-)

We couldn’t travel to the boat on Friday night as we needed to arrive when the marina gates and office were open. This gave us a relaxed start to the weekend, without our usual tussle with the Friday traffic.

We also took our time on Saturday morning and didn’t get to Alverchurch until lunchtime. Indigo Dream had been fine on the mooring and the people in the office were very helpful – especially when they allowed Ty into the shop while we were paying and gave him lots of fuss. Ty would happily have stayed with them all weekend rather than go on the boat! Our current hounds are very different to our previous Indigo Dreamers – Ollie is not interested in being on deck (just as well – it was far too hot!) and Ty just cowers on his “safe” bed. After recent episodes where Ty has panicked and tried to jump off while we’re cruising (only succeeding once and we managed to catch him quickly) we’ve started him on conventional anti-anxiety medicines again. These help to keep his panic down but he’s still miserable on board and I now have to keep the deck door shut while locking so he can’t run up and do himself a mischief trying to escape :-(

We had a few chores to do before setting out, the most important of which were getting the boat open and ventilated, putting the fan on for the hounds and filling our fresh water bottles. The air in the boat felt baked and it was great to get moving and allow some fresh air to circulate; fresh, but not cool – it was a yet another scorching afternoon, despite the promise of a cool spell in the weather forecast.

We set off from Alvechurch at 2pm – hmm, a late start considering we had the Tardebigge flight ahead of us! Tardebigge is an “all or nothing” flight – once you’ve started, the locks are so close together you really have to soldier on right to the bottom, all of 36 locks away!

The view from the top of Tardebigge - you have to take a deep breath here - once you start you've got to finish :-)

The view from the top of Tardebigge – you have to take a deep breath here – once you start you’ve got to finish :-)

But first we had the charming stretch from Alvechurch to the top of the flight. I had completely forgotten how lovely the Worcester and Birmingham Canal is. The canal meandered between opulent hedgerows, replete with wild flowers and heavy with the scent of meadowsweet. There was other wildlife in the form of abundant flies equipped with a fearsome array of biting equipment. How we welcomed the cool of the Shortwood tunnel. I tried to be positive about drips falling from the tunnel roof, but they were shockingly cold on my overheated skin!

There were fewer flies on the other side of the tunnel, but the countryside was still a riot of colour and textures. We had the water to ourselves – no-one is mad enough to start down the flight that late in the day, and I guess the boats coming up had done their cruising in the cool of the morning.

We enjoyed the shaded wooded cutting beyond the tunnel, but we were soon at the top of the flight. We too a deep breath and set off. We were soon into a good locking rhythm – the locks are conveniently close together so Richard could get a lock open, I’d drive in, shut the back gates and open a paddle while he was cycling down to prepare the next. Then he’d cycle back to let me out and finish off behind me. Nonetheless, it was hot work and, despite a floppy sun hat, I started to loathe the relentless sun. By the time we’d done 10 locks I was hot beyond modesty – I rolled my top up as I used to when I was teenager and exposed some midriff. I’ll admit, it was a style too young for my weight but it meant I could enjoy the damp cool of the lock chambers as Indigo Dream descended. Ty and Ollie just sniggered – they were on their favourite beds, shaded from the sun and with a cooling breeze from the tower fan which I’d carefully angled to best effect.

We’ve only been Tardebigge once before, and I’d forgotten just how deep the locks are. But there was a innate rightness and ease to working a narrowboat through narrow locks.

Not only are there a LOT of locks, but they're deep as well!

Not only are there a LOT of locks, but they’re deep as well!

I don’t know whether the photos will capture the sheer beauty of this flight. The scenery is chocolate-box perfect – but as I thought that, I wondered how many people would understand the allusion. How long is it since we had boxes of chocolates or fancy biscuits with padded silk lined lids with pictures of lavish landscape (or kittens in baskets)? Ok, picture postcard perfect then, oh no, who sends postcards these days? Ok, I give up, it is just a very beautiful flight with new and more lovely landscapes at each lock.

We met a few boats coming up – one was lockwheeling, just like us, but they were working a little too far forward, so we had a tedious wait for them to catch up with the lock that they’d turned in front of us – bah! The others were hire boats and a bit tentative when crossing in the short pounds. It’s hard to explain to an oncoming boat that if they don’t actually vacate the lock they’re in then I can’t actually get past them :-P

Nonetheless, we flew down the flight, and were mooring up in Stoke Pound by 6pm. The “proper” visitor moorings were full, but we found a bit of towpath beyond the bridge which was still an easy walk from the pub. Having stopped so early, we had time to take the hounds for a little bimble before we showered, changed and set off for the pub.

The Queen’s Head was jam-packed – it’s obviously THE place to go on a hot evening. We were lucky enough to get a table in the garden with the hounds. Ty is not too bad in the pub, but then one of the waitresses decided that the only way to get rid of some decorative balloons in the pub’s huge garden teepee (don’t ask) was by bursting them with the fingernails – gross. Ty and Ollie weren’t the only dogs frightened by the noise – surely they could have left the balloons alone until the morning!

Hurrah!

Hurrah!

We were sitting at a table for four, and were soon joined by another couple who were looking for a seat. We were happy to share and soon got chatting about dogs – they have a rescue collie. Although we didn’t get their names, we had a very convivial evening with them. The pub food was pretty good, if a little pricey, and the service was a bit slow – I think because of the sheer numbers of diners they had in. I had a glass of cider – after a hot afternoon’s locking, nothing else would quench my thirst. It was risky, because of all the trouble I’ve had with my ears (seeing a specialist in August!), I hadn’t had a drink for several months – I have to confess it was marvellous!

We rolled back to the boat by 10pm and we were all very ready for our respective beds. But in the wee small hours I woke up with a raging sore throat and stuffy nose – a summer cold – WHAT! How on earth could a virus possibly survive today’s baking. I spent the rest of the night on the sofa, where I could prop myself upright – Ollie hound was delighted – he soon hopped up and took up my place on the bed next to Richard – heartless hound!

Photoblog:

A lot of the lock mooring coping bricks were date/organisation stamped - I like this feature - like the dating of the locks on the Grand Union...

A lot of the lock mooring coping bricks were date/organisation stamped – I like this feature – like the dating of the locks on the Grand Union…

A view up the flight - well. part of the flight...

A view up the flight – well. part of the flight…

And more locks ahead....

And more locks ahead….

This is such a pretty flight - so nice to be back here after so many years...

This is such a pretty flight – so nice to be back here after so many years…

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 18

Posted by indigodream on 1 September, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 5th July (but post being published in Penkridge)

Central Birmingham – Alvechurch

I’ve not had a good week – I’ve been in bed for most of the week with a severe ear infection and really wasn’t well enough to cruise. Nevertheless, Indigo Dream needed to move, we’d had our 14 days in Central Birmingham….

We have finally made a decision about which route to take out of town – Indigo Dream has been into/out of Birmingham via every route apart from the drop down the Tardebigge flight. However, we have been down the flight, on our last cruise on share boat nb Dragonfly in September 2005. It was a memorable trip – it had been a brutally hot day and after a hard day’s locking some refreshment was needed at the nearby pub (I forget the pub’s name). On the walk back, the cider behind our eyes made a crystalline perfection of the inky deep dusk sky – thus, full of goodwill, Indigo Dream was named :-)

So this cruise was to be a Richard solo cruise to Alvechurch -a quick trip up on the train and then a boating afternoon and a trip back from Alvechurch station before it shut for track renewal work.

Not being a man of many words this is all he wrote……!

We had left the boat just outside the normal visitor mooring stretch so I was really pleased to see that she was safe though with one pin pulled out. Yet again we discover that your boat won’t get destroyed in Birmingham.

Whilst getting the boat ready I marvelled at the runners coming past looking on their last legs then as they went past a volunteer steward under the bridge she gave them a little clap and some encouragement and every one got an extra spring in their step. Birmingham was busy, runners at one end, loads of boats in the middle and even a goose convoy. It is marvellous to see a city centre waterway so well used, the trip boats were all running and all looked pretty full.

I will let photos describe the rest of the trip apart from mooring up, now that was a problem. All the moorings in Alvechurch have become 48 hour moorings, yes I know the reasoning behind it but 5 or 7 day would allow people how cruise and work to find somewhere to moor. It was late on a Sunday so I popped the boat into Alvechurch Marina, just as well as we were not to cruise the next 2 weekends.

 

r_W-and-B-05Jul14-001

Pin pulled out, just as well we used 4!

 

water not looking very clever, film of some hydrocarbon or other?

water not looking very clever, film of some hydrocarbon or other?

Goose convoy

Goose convoy

And another view

And another view

Edgbaston looking good

Edgbaston looking good

and to think this was just a huge hole only 3 years ago

and to think this was just a huge hole only 3 years ago

Stag party in two boats, presumably the groom in the dress? Told him that he should get his legs waxed.

Stag party in two boats, presumably the groom in the dress? Told him that he should get his legs waxed.

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2914 – Day 17

Posted by indigodream on 24 July, 2014

Rewind to Sunday 29th June

Cambrian Wharf to Brades Locks and return

Indigo Dream's front deck is bigger than we planned (it's a saga - don't ask!), but it is a nice place for a big group to relax...

Indigo Dream’s front deck is bigger than we planned (it’s a saga – don’t ask!), but it is a nice place for a big group to relax…

Today we did the third of our charity cruises – this time with a group of six people but no hounds.

Although we cruised the same route as yesterday, today’s cruise couldn’t have been more different in character – that’s the random nature of hosting unknown groups :-)

But I’m ahead of myself, we started the day with winding at the nearest stub and cruising back up to Cambrian Wharf, where we turned again and topped up the water tank while waiting for our guests. They were spot on time, and, like yesterday’s group, decided against the lock-heavy trip along Farmer’s Bridge. We did our obligatory safety briefing – I hope we didn’t scare them, because the first thing they did was jump ship! They decided to take a walk along the floating market and we arranged to pick them up at our overnight mooring spot. As we cruised along, we were delighted to see our party shopping at the Jam Butty – result!

We took our party on board and cruised along the New Mainline – the party went to sit on the front deck, Richard took the helm and I looked after the galley. So it stayed more or less all day – which is absolutely fine, honestly! Yet we were surprised that no-one was interested in taking a turn at the helm or doing the locks. Some of the party were a bit under-dressed for the Birmingham climate and rigours of the towpath, so we were soon supplying them with blankets, then running the heating so they could divide their time between the chilly front deck and the toasty cabin.

Ollie hound was very tired after his adventures with young Tinker greyhound yesterday, so he was happy to snooze the day away in his warm bed. However, he did enjoy a lot of fuss from our guests, who do have dogs of their own, just not with them today.

Unusually, we didn’t have the canal to ourselves today. Initially there was a hire boat in front of us, but they turned in the stub and headed back to the centre; but a little further along there was another hire boat! They seemed hesitant at the various junctions that we passed, and we assumed that they would carry on to Dudley Port Junction. But they surprised us by turning onto the Gower Branch – we were impressed – it’s great to see more hire boat exploring the wider reaches of the BCN. Of course, they might be hopelessly lost and have since passed into legend as the feral wandering boaters of the BCN :-D

Rather than chasing the hire boat up the Brades flight, we decided to stop for lunch in the Gower Branch. This proved to be a wise decision – as the party came inside to eat, the heavens opened with the only shower of the day! The sun came out to greet us as we set out again, and although it was cold in the shade, the occasional shaft of sunshine gave some welcome warmth.

Our guests gonqoozling at the Brades Locks...

Our guests gonqoozling at the Brades Locks…

We were soon doing the return trip around the Old Mainline and heading down the Smethwick Locks. Our guests were keen to see the rest of the Floating Market, so we gave the Soho and Icknield Port Loops a miss and headed back to the centre. We dropped our guests off at Sheepcote Bridge – this time on the other towpath so they could explore the market traders on the opposite side of the canal. To this day, we have absolutely no idea whether they’d enjoyed the cruise (the other parties have been in touch since with their sincere intention to buy a narrowboat!).

Having dropped them off, we headed into the centre and turned round the “roundabout” where I dropped Richard off with the rubbish and the car keys – he’d dump the rubbish at the service point then recover the car. In the meantime I cruised the boat along to the grassy moorings beyond St Vincent Street Bridge, which was the nearest unoccupied spot past the market traders. I got the boat semi-secure, but the first grassy section was too dry and hard to retain pins; the first trip boat past took a pin out, so when Richard came back, we moved her down a boatlength to a softer bit of towpath. Nonetheless, we secured her with four pins and packed up as quickly as we could for the long slog home.

The traffic was much better on the way home, though it still took a couple of hours to get to Berkhamstead to collect Ty. As always, Roger and Margaret were delightful and interesting company, so we whiled away another hour there, drinking tea and chatting about canals and greyhounds. Ty, of course, didn’t want to leave, but we persuaded him to come home – it is still his favourite place in the whole world :-)

 Photoblog:

The Jam Butty - after a busy day's trading at the Floating Market :-)

The Jam Butty – after a busy day’s trading at the Floating Market :-)

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 16

Posted by indigodream on 9 July, 2014

Friday 27th June

Brindly Place was buzzing with the floating market, trip boats and the crews assembling for the Dragon Boat racing - we left it all behind for the peace of the most rural urban canals around :-)

Brindly Place was buzzing with the floating market, trip boats and the crews assembling for the Dragon Boat racing – we left it all behind for the peace of the most rural urban canals around :-)

I managed to get the afternoon off and, after some kerfuffle with Ty’s vaccination certificate, we set off towards the boat mid-afternoon. We had a madly complicated dog-care arrangement in place, even  by Indigo Dream standards. Ty was going to stay with good friends Margaret and Roger with their greyhound Bess and Shari (experienced Indigo Dreamers) but they were away on Friday night so Ty would join Bess and Shari at their kennels in Tring for the night – Margaret and Roger would liberate all three hounds on Saturday lunchtime (Ollie would be cruising with us). On paper, it doesn’t look like that much of a detour, but it took over 2 hours to get from home to Tring, then, after dropping Ty off, we have another almost three hour trip to Birmingham. It is a long way to start off with, but the traffic was appallingly tedious. By the time we got to the boat I was beyond exhaustion and suffering from a major sense of humour failure – especially when we found that Indigo Dream wasn’t where we’d left her. Belatedly, CRT had put some mooring restriction signs up, reserving the spaces for the floating market boats and apologising for the short notice. Hah! When we moored there just 5 days ago there were NO signs. I don’t know who moved the boat, but we were now brested up to another boat that was obviously unoccupied and  had also been moored up before the signs went up. We hate being brested up as it makes access with the dogs difficult, plus someone had moved our boat without our permission. I reached the end of my tether – I went to bed and pulled the duvet over my head!

In the meantime, Richard made a heroic dash to Tesco to shop for tomorrow’s charity cruise – I did get up at 10pm to help him to put the shopping away but I was glad to get back to bed, as was Ollie, who’d been enjoying some beddy cuddles in Richard’s absence!

Saturday 28th June

Cambrian Wharf to Brades Locks and return

The fine "Jam Butty" full of exciting home-made preserves - shame the photos out of focus :-(

The fine “Jam Butty” full of exciting home-made preserves – shame the photos out of focus :-(

As so often happens, things looked better in the morning! We were brested up to a boat with a cruiser stern so Ollie was able to walk across in safety and Indigo Dream had been fastened securely – just as well, the local restaurant/party boats take no prisoners! A trading boat later fessed up to having moved Indigo Dream.

We had an early start – we were due to pick up today’s charity party at 10am at Cambrian Wharf, but we were now moored down by St Vincent Street Bridge and pointing the wrong way. We had to go down the cut to the nearest stub, turn round and head back to the wharf. There weren’t any moorings there but we did need to refresh the water tank so we filled up while waiting for our guests. The floating market was a strange mix of traders – needless to say, the Jam Butty was the smartest boat in the market and it was great to catch up with Andy and Helen in passing.

Our guests arrived in good time – we’d had advance warning that there would be four adults, two children (9 and 13) and our youngest ever Indigo Dreamer – baby Max, 5 months old! There was also Tinker – our 40th greyhound guest and whippet Ronnie. The baby was part of the reason why we had to leave Ty with friends – he hates boating anyway and when he’d met a baby for the first time last week, he was very disturbed, not nasty, but confused and uncertain. I thought it was best not to take any risks. Ollie, of course, took it all in his stride, I’m very proud of him as he gets on with people and hounds with equal aplomb – usually by plonking himself in his bed and letting fuss come to him!

We had originally planned a big locking day down then back up the Farmer’s Bridge flight but we realised during the week that there was another option, a loop along the New Main Line to the Gower Branch, up the Brades Locks then back along the Old Main Line returning to the New Main Line via the Smethwick locks. We gave the party both options and the loop trip won! This was a wise choice – as it turns out, central Birmingham had heavy rain all day – if we’d done the Farmer’s Bridge trip we’d have been in the middle of it. But by moving just a few miles out, we managed to miss the rain all day – we had a dry and sunny cruise, much to the envy of the trading boats!

Group photo on the Engine Arm aqueduct...

Group photo on the Engine Arm aqueduct…

We were blessed with another delightful group of guests. Mum had told the kids that they were allowed to bring a book each but absolutely no technology – they took this restriction with good grace and took a genuine interest in the boat, the canal and the dogs. Antonia, the 13-year old, likes sci-fi/fantasy so we were instantly on the same page! Everyone, apart from 9 year old Nicky, had a go at driving and Antonia was jubilant at having driven the boat without killing anyone :-D

We had lunch just above the Brades Locks – it was a tranquil spot undisturbed by traffic of any sort – we had the canal and towpath to ourselves. The hounds had a particularly good time – they all have good recall and enjoyed off-lead rummages along the towpath. Ollie, who doesn’t know he’s 11, had a game of chase with 3-year old Tinker and had a great time putting Ronnie in his place! Tinker and Ronnie also enjoyed running from one end of the boat to the other – by the afternoon they were worn out and finally ready to take advantage of the extra-large dog-snoozing deck. We did have one unfortunate incident where Tinker had an unexpected swim in the Engine Arm aqueduct – she wasn’t impressed and was less keen to get on the boat once she’d learn to associate it with water! She enjoyed being towelled down though and soon recovered her confidence while running down the towpath alongside the Smethwick Locks :-). On the way back we had a meander around the Soho Loop then Icknield Port loop. We haven’t been along the loops for years – it was interesting to note the changes, especially around Icknield Port.

Our guests seemed genuinely fascinated by the canal infrastructure, quickly became excellent drivers and really got what is about narrowboating. We have been so lucky, this is the second charity party we have had in two weekends and like the first they were a great group.

We got back to Cambrian Wharf late afternoon, marvelling at how soaked the towpaths were – we got the weather report from the traders – we couldn’t believe the rain they’d had when we’d been basking in sunshine all day! We dropped our guests off then moved back to our mooring brested up against the other narrowboat. It was a good spot for loading the next lot of shopping and the next mooring was a good half-mile down the towpath where we’d have had to rely on pins in hard ground (this was where all the other visitors had moved during the week). By now, Indigo Dream was causing some comment – we’d passed the traders twice this morning, then twice this afternoon – they were very curious to know what we were up to!

With the boat moored it was time to think about tomorrow’s charity cruise. We left Ollie on board, he was so very tired and starting to feel his muscles after running with the youngsters, and headed off for a Tesco Extra, around half an hour’s drive away. By the time we’d sorted Sunday’s catering, it was gone 8pm – where does the time go? I made us a quick pasta supper then we joined the Jam Butty for her launch party. Although the company was lovely, we were exhausted, so we left early and were in bed by 10pm. Ollie absolutely refused to leave his bed for a last wee walk and slept through until 6am – amazing how long your tanks can last when you’re too comfortable to move :-)

Photoblog:

Tinker was another natural Indigo Dreamer :-)

Tinker was another natural Indigo Dreamer :-)

Learning to drive takes some concentration :-)

Learning to drive takes some concentration :-)

The titanic pose! No icebergs in Birmingham, though it's worth looking out for the narrows around the "toll" islands :-)

The titanic pose! No icebergs in Birmingham, though it’s worth looking out for the narrows around the “toll” islands :-)

You can't have too many hound photos - and Tinker is the 40th greyhound Indigo Dreamer!

You can’t have too many hound photos – and Tinker is the 40th greyhound Indigo Dreamer!

And here's the youngest Indigo Dreamer - 5-month old baby Max and his mum :-)

And here’s the youngest Indigo Dreamer – 5-month old baby Max and his mum :-)

13 year old Antonia was a natural on the helm :-)

13 year old Antonia was a natural on the helm :-)

Sleepy hound :-)

Sleepy hound :-)

Even the super-active Ronnie whippet was ready for an afternoon snooze...

Even the super-active Ronnie whippet was ready for an afternoon snooze…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 15

Posted by indigodream on 3 July, 2014

Sunday 22nd June

Hawne Basin to Sheepcote Bridge (Central Birmingham)

Gosty Hill tunnel is a tight squeeze at either end..

Gosty Hill tunnel is a tight squeeze at either end..

We had a rare cruise by ourselves today with no guests – hound or human. This gave us a relatively restful start to the day, with little pressure on time – we’re still adapting to Birmingham at normal i.e. not BCN Challenge, pace :-)

We’d moored overnight just outside the basin so no long goodbye, except for the local dog-walkers, who had become familiar in passing. Leaving was a poignant experience – we’ve had a good time here, yet I doubt whether we’ll be back for a couple of years.

Richard took us out and we managed to avoid any major prop-fouls apart from one sticky moment just before the Gosty Hill Tunnel. As Richard turned the prop in reverse then forwards, the smell of heavy hydrocarbons rose out of the black water. I’ve always wondered about the levels of pollution hereabouts – forget fracking, just dredge out the bottom of the canal here and at Spon Lane bottom, extract the oil and fuel Birmingham for a year :-)

Also just before you enter the tunnel are the impressive remains of the old Stewarts and Lloyds works. This was the company that pioneered the manufacture of steel tubes but is sadly no more. There is great photograph of what the works used to look like here.

Gosty Hill is quite obviously 1-way working and it’s straight enough to see it there’s boat in there but it can be hard to work out which direction they’re travelling in. This time, I remembered that someone had left the basin earlier so it was a boat going through ahead of us. We followed them in and before long we were catching up. As we neared the end of the tunnel, we realised that the boat in front was on stop – you’ve guessed it, they had a fouled prop in the narrows by where the tunnel tug boat used to live! They got clear and moved away just as we came up behind them. It was one of the Coombeswood Canal Trust’s trip boats and they courteously let us pass as soon as we were out of the narrows.

But Gosty Hill has a suprisingly high ceiling in the central section..

But Gosty Hill has a suprisingly high ceiling in the central section..

I don’t like helming through long tunnels – I get all disorientated, so Richard did the bulk of the driving in the morning – first through Gosty Hill then Netherton  – though I can manage Netherton – it has the propotions of a cathedral so it’s not so challenging for my senses! But first we had a typical Indigo Dream moment; as we came up to Netherton Tunnel, Richard spotted some cyclists dismounting to walk through the tunnel – they didn’t have any lights and faced a 2 mile walk in the pitch darkness. Richard offered them a lift, which they gratefully accepted! Our unexpected guests were a young couple who were very interested in hiring a narrowboat for a holiday but had never been on board before. I gave them a walk-through of the boat and had a happy half-hour talking over what they might look for in a hire boat. They were very impressed with the Indigo Dream, but I had to point out that a hire boat would only be half as nice (I didn’t tell them that it would also be twice as clean!).

We dropped our guests off at the far end of the tunnel and carried on towards the new mainline. It’s so tranquil along here – I wonder what it would be like to stop overnight here – it’s hard to believe that there would be trouble – it’s deserted. It would certainly be a fine place for the greyhounds.

I took over the helming after the tunnel so that Richard could get on with chores inside the boat – including a thorough clean ready for next weekend’s cruising.

I enjoyed my time on the helm – it gave me the chance to “join the dots” and cruise some of the sections that we missed during the BCN Challege. The new mainline is straight and deep, I can only imagine how the old boatmen must have greeted this canal equivalent of the M1. These days, it’s industrial surroundings are largely covered with drifts of wild flowers – so beautiful at this time of year.

My spirits lifted as we cruised along – it was a fine day and I LOVE every magnificent inch of the BCN – it’s a real joy to be back here.

Reflections in the ivy-clad X tunnel -

Reflections in the ivy-clad Galton tunnel -

As we got into central Birmingham, it was obvious that other boaters were enjoying the BCN too. The moorings were jam-packed – there were some traders who’d arrived early for the floating market the following weekend but most were visitors. While we were glad to see Birmingham so loved, we were dismayed to find that Cambrian Wharf and all the visitor moorings down as far as Sheepcote Bridge were full, with the exception of the 48-hour moorings close to the waterpoint.

We turned at Cambrian Wharf and moved back out past Sheepcote Bridge to find a miraculous space on the visitor moorings leading to St Vincent Street Bridge. They are 14 day moorings and we checked, then checked again, for mooring restrictions for the floating market but there were none. We moored up, grateful for the space, and quickly packed up for the long drive home – slightly complicated by a detour to Hawne Basin to pick up Richard’s car and an al fresco lunch at Starbucks. It had to be alfresco – it was far too hot to leave the dogs in the car while we ate!

Once we break through the 2-hour drive barrier, Sunday evenings have become a bit of a slog, but we’d had a great weekend’s cruising and added £100 to Perry Barr RGt’s coffers, so all very worthwhile.

Photoblog:

 

The new Mainline - magnificent!

The new Mainline – magnificent!

Spon Lane bottom lock - but we're going straight ahead today :-)

Spon Lane bottom lock – but we’re going straight ahead today :-)

A day of reflections - as if the M5 didn't make it's presence felt enough!

A day of reflections – as if the M5 didn’t make it’s presence felt enough!

The Engine Arm Aqueduct

The Engine Arm Aqueduct

You don't see many wild foxgloves around these days - I love seeing them here :-)

You don’t see many wild foxgloves around these days – I love seeing them here :-)

Ivy watch - see those factory buildings on the right? When we first came here the ivy was up to the roof, then they the next time they'c cut it down and I was sad, but now it's back! Nature wins - hurrah :-)

Ivy watch – see those factory buildings on the right? When we first came here the ivy was up to the roof, then the next time they’d cut it down and I was sad, but now it’s back! Nature wins – hurrah :-)

More drifts of wild flowers, or maybe a remnant of someone's garden carried in a load of topsoil - beautiful either way.

More drifts of wild flowers, or maybe the remains of someone’s garden carried in a load of topsoil – beautiful either way.

There are many remnants of the old canal infrastructure here - it's a fascinating landscape...

There are many remnants of the old canal infrastructure here – it’s a fascinating landscape…

Another remnant which loomed over the boat as we passed through the narrows...

Another remnant which loomed over the boat as we passed through the narrows…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 14

Posted by indigodream on 1 July, 2014

Friday 20th June

Hawne Basin at sunset - it is a lovely place to moor and we were made very welcome...

Hawne Basin at sunset – it is a lovely place to moor and we were made very welcome…

Richard went up on Friday afternoon to get the boat ready for Saturday’s cruise – after almost a month of idleness (a good rest after the BCN Challenge!), the water tank needed refreshing and the toilet tank needed a pump-out. There was also food shopping to be done and Richard polished the boat – part of our strategy to put off having her repainted for yet another year.The good folk at Hawne Basin were very helpful and kindly let us moor the night on the water point which would allow easy access for the hounds.

I had to work, so I followed on with the hounds in the evening. It was the night before midsummer, so it was still just about light when I arrived at 10.30pm. Hawne Basin looked magnificent – perfect reflections in the  treacle-smooth water; earlier Richard had witnessed the brilliant sunset over the water (I’d seen it over the motorway!).

Ty was not thrilled to get to the boat, despite the fact that we had initiated “campaign Ty” a few days ago with conventional anti-anxiety therapy. Nontheless, we were all tired and soon went off to bed – busy day tomorrow.

Saturday 21st June

Hawne Basin to Parkhead Junction and back

We had an exciting day today – a few weeks ago, we offered Perry Barr Retired Greyhound Trust a couple of charity cruises. They decided to run two online auctions and today’s winning bidders were a groups of six greyhound lovers with their four greyhounds (King, Charlie, Daisy and Eddie)!

Group photo with all greyhounds facing the camera - regular readers will know that this is a photographic achievement!

Group photo with all greyhounds facing the camera – regular readers will know that this is a photographic achievement!

They were due at 10am, so we had time to move the boat out of the basin to the towpath, for easier loading. As we moved the boat we realised that we’d had a bit of a misunderstanding – I thought that Richard had paid for our mooring yesterday; Richard thought I’d paid for the mooring back in May – oops! I had to run back to office to pay – they apologised for charging me £80 odd – I laughed, it would cost almost that much for one night at Limehouse!

With all our bills paid, we found our guests and set off along the canal. Our plan was to go along the Dudley Canals as far as the Dudley Tunnel South Portal where we’d have a lunch and a dog-walk. Sadly, we didn’t make it that far – in fact, it took us so long to get from Hawne Basin to Windmill End that we had lunch by the Bumble Hole visitor centre! The problem was trash – we’ve rarely had to clear the prop so often and the crowning glory of the day was a car tyre, which took half an hour or more to cut off. It was the first properly hot day of the season and we suspect that a lot of the trash was “churn” – stuff that comes up from the bottom when the water warms up because we didn’t pick up anything on the last leg of the BCN Challenge.

Luckily our guests were a genial crowd and the menfolk were fascinated by the prop clearance – all part of boating life! We ladies just talked greyhounds – all day long! Charlie hound was a natural Indigo Dreamer and contender for the “Olympic Looking” squad; King’s take on boating was “wow, there’s a sofa” – that was it as far as he was concerned! Daisy and Eddie weren’t too sure about the whole thing – they seemed to take their cue from Ty, who was a complete jellyboy, despite being medicated to the eyeballs :-( Ollie, of course, took it all in his stride!

We had a lengthy lunch, with hounds and humans enjoying the green oasis of the Bumble Hole – we might have spent the rest of the day there but we really were keen for our guests to have the full Dudley Canal experience. This included a run-in with some exceptionally grumpy fishermen – that’s boating for you!

The canal is surprisingly elevated and gives great views down towards Merryhill, many lock miles below. Sadly, we had to turn back at Parkhead Junction – there wasn’t enough time for us to get up and down the locks – though our return journey was much faster – maybe we’d picked up all the trash on the way out!

Charlie - another Indigo Dreaming star :-)

Charlie – another Indigo Dreaming star :-)

The charity cruises are an interesting experience – essentially we are inviting groups of strangers to share our boat for the day with no ideas of what’s ahead. We do make the assumption that anyone involved with greyhounds will be good people! Our guests were a particularly delightful group of greyhound owners and I hope we’ll keep in touch – with Facebook we’re already friends and I hope that we meet again :-)

We got back to Hawne Basin by 5.30pm-ish though Charlie Greyhound didn’t leave until nearer 6pm – he loved the boat and didn’t want to leave – such a contrast with Ty, who’d have happily got into anyone’s car on the promise of never having to cruise again!

When our guests had gone, we sorted the first of the weekend’s car shuffles – we had both cars in Hawne Basin so we took both to our favourite car park in Brindley Drive (convenient for Cambrian Wharf) then brought Richard’s car back to Hawne Basin. The hounds came with us and we’d hoped to find a dog-friendly pub or pub garden where we could find some supper. We did try a TGI Friday, which had an outside terrace – we asked whether we could bring dogs onto the terrace – this was obviously not a question they’d had before! The answer was a long time coming, we could bring them on the terrace provided we didn’t actually sit on or near the tables, just in case someone was allergic to the dogs. This set my red lights flashing as “allergy” is such a spurious argument – there were pots planted with flowers and hanging baskets on the terrace – allergies to them will be far more common but no-one bothers with that; and don’t even get me started on the use of air fresheners in hotel bedrooms (I’m very allergic to so many of these)… Anyway, I stomped off in a huff and we went to plan B – a takeaway from a local chinese takeaway and the next episode of “Game of Thrones” Series 3. This lifted my spirits – the 3rd series is every bit as gripping as the first two, maybe more so, because I haven’t read the books this far so I don’t know what’s coming!

Photoblog:

Just a few more images from a lovely day’s cruise..

We had a very civilised lunch at the Bumble Hole moorings..

We had a very civilised lunch at the Bumble Hole moorings..

You can't have too many houndie photos - here's Charlie again - he really loved boating! He's wearing a cool coat which is a bit like a chamoiz leather - retains water without being heavy or dripping - clever!

You can’t have too many houndie photos – here’s Charlie again – he really loved boating! He’s wearing a cool coat which is a bit like a chamois leather – retains water without being heavy or dripping – clever!

Happy menfolk too :-)

Happy menfolk too :-)

Are we in Greece? Lovely Mediterranean scene of "wild" goats lazing in the sunshine - in Dudley! :-)

Are we in Greece? Lovely Mediterranean scene of “wild” goats lazing in the sunshine – in Dudley! :-)

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 0 Day 13

Posted by indigodream on 19 June, 2014

Rewind a LONG WAY back to Friday 23rd May

Knowle (above the locks) to Typhoo Basin

Henry and Archie limbering up for the BCN Challenge :-)

Henry and Archie limbering up for the BCN Challenge :-)

In the excitement of the BCN Challenge, I’d forgotten to record how we actually got to the start point from the top of the Knowle flight! It’s worth recording, because I think this is an under-used route which has some unexpectedly charming stretches – who could believe that Solihull would look so good :-)

We arrived at the boat Friday lunchtime, having rejected the option of the late-night drive on Thursday. It wasn’t a long cruise to Typhoo Basin and largely lock-free so we had plenty of time for a restful morning at home, followed by a leisurely drive up. Indigo Dream had been fine – I’d had some misgivings about the integrity of our pins in soft ground, but it’s quite possible that no-one had been past, let alone at speed. We loaded the hounds on and reversed back to the end of the lane that leads down to the locks – I got the car to the side of the canal and we loaded on the essential supplies that we’d need to fuel the BCN Challenge (mainly carbohydrates!).

We set off at noon and enjoyed the pastoral run up to Catherine De Barnes and beyond. It’s lock-free and quiet – it was cool and overcast at first, yet the towpath was deserted and we even saw a Kingfisher. At one time, Archie hound had an urgent need – we pulled over and let the three hounds have an off-lead bimble – even Herbie! It was peaceful  and lovely – a perfect mooring for hounds. I had to check the map to realise that we were, in fact, passing through the heart of Solihull and not far from the kennels used by Perry Barr RGT, one of the beneficiaries of the BCN Challenge money.

We were approaching the Camp Hill Locks when the rain started in earnest – oh my, it was a real rehearsal for the Challenge itself! We stopped at the excellent services offside at Camp Hill – neat, clean and secure, this was a great place to stock up with water before our descent into Birmingham. As we got to the top of the flight, we found the first of our crew. Sarah, Andy and greyhound Rosie had been visiting Henry H and they joined us just in time to assist us down the flight. Rosie’s still very excited by boating, so I had to lock all of the hounds indoors for the locking – I was practising my narrow lock entries (at speed) and couldn’t supervise deck hounds as well. Besides, the rain was now torrential and they were better off inside!

Excellent service at Camp Hill top lock...

Excellent service at Camp Hill top lock…

As I entered the first lock, it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually been in a narrow lock since 2011 – oh well, a good time to get my tiller-hand calibrated then!

We got to the last but one lock of the Camp Hill flight, near to where Sarah’s car was parked. We left the men to it and went off to do a car shuffle. Sarah drove me back to Knowle, then we dropped my car off near to Hawne Basin (canalside parking on Chancel Way) and took Sarah’s back to her pre-booked space in Brindley Place.

The last part of the day got a bit complicated – we knew that the boat was moored just outside Typhoo Basin and we knew that the final member of the crew, Christine, had found the boat. Sarah and I were in charge of finding a takeaway for supper but we had no idea how difficult it would be to find a decent chinese in the vicinity of the boat. We caught a cab down to the Bullring (within walking distance of the boat) and eventually ended up in Pizza Hut – we walked to the boat laden with five HUGE pizza boxes. Luckily it had stopped raining by then or they’d have been very soggy pizzas! There was the added complication that both of our phones had run out of charge so we couldn’t liaise with the boat crew, but we got there in the end.

The towpath to Typhoo Basin is locked at dusk, making it a very secure mooring spot, once we got the crew on board. We had our dinner on the towpath just outside, walked the hounds, then reversed into the basin for the night. I’m sure the towpath just outside would have been fine, it seemed very quiet, but why take the risk – we definitely needed our rest ready for the big challenge in the morning :-)

Note: I’m not that woefully behind on the blog – for complicated dog-sitting reasons we’re having a few weekends off boating after the Challenge – Indigo Dream is safely tucked up with the good folk of the Coombeswood Cruising Club in Hawne Basin. Our next odyssey cruises will put a bit more money into our favourite charity’s coffers :-)

Photoblog:

Here’s a selection of canalscapes from Knowle to Camp Hill – who knew that Solihull could be so rural :-)

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Sad blot on the canalscape - a ruined boat well out in the navigation - looked totally burned out :-(

Sad blot on the canalscape – a ruined boat well out in the navigation – looked totally burned out :-(

Annoying blot on the landscape - why oh why do people have to fly-tip lots of black bags and other rubbish down here - where do they think it will go? Grrrr.....

Annoying blot on the landscape – why oh why do people have to fly-tip lots of black bags and other rubbish down here – where do they think it will go? Grrrr…..

That looks like an interesting mooring spot - now where is this??

That looks like an interesting mooring spot – now where is this??

 

 

 

 

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