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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 28

Posted by indigodream on 22 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 30th August & Sunday 31st August

Penkridge (Cross Keys pub to The Boat)

Hurrah – I have notes! Why? Because ths was the first day of a 2 week cruise on the boat and I was more organised!

Henry and Archie waiting on their travelling duvet (which never did turn into a magic carpet) - they were eager to get up to the boat :-)

Henry and Archie waiting on their travelling duvet (which never did turn into a magic carpet) – they were eager to get up to the boat :-)

However, I’m fitting two days into one post because we didn’t do any cruising on the Saturday. We just had a relaxing morning at home and delivered a load of jam to Greyhoundhomer in Essex – they are very appreciative and have regular customers for my preserves – makes it all worthwhile :-)

I’ve got a special pub post to come because Henry has been writing reviews, so I’ll focus on the boating (or lack of it) rather than the food.

We had a slow start to the day on Sunday, even though Ollie decided that he needed a walk at 7am! If Ollie was an old man (he is 80 in human years) then he’d be your grandad, shopping in Dorking High Street (which is full of quirky antique shops), when you were only popping in for a paper and have only paid for an hour’s parking – he absolutely won’t be rushed and insists looking at every thing on the towpath. However, pyjama walks are so commonplace on Indigo Dream that I think it’s become the new norm :-)

r_ID-0173-30Aug14Archie and Henry are experienced Indigo Dreamers and are exceptionally good company. Henry Beanz has a very phlegmatic nature and is no bother at all; Archie, on the other hand, is a more complex character, confident yet needy! We’ve had to work on his sleeping arrangements – he has to be close to us, but isn’t allowed on our bed (there’s not enough room). He could have the dog bed on the floor at the foot of the bed, but that’s Ollie’s place and the old boy takes precedence. So now we have to set up a decent bed in the narrow corridor at the head of our bed for Archie. Sadly, this is also where Henry Beanz likes to sleep. Oh dear, if you think our regular car shuffles are a logistical nightmare, it’s got nothing on sorting out the hounds’ sleeping arrangements :-D

We hadn’t planned a particularly busy day’s cruising on Sunday because we wanted to visit a supermarket to stock the boat up for our fortnight on board. We drove into Stafford to find a Tesco, noting in passing that Penkridge has some interesting buildings, while Stafford seemed a little run down.

At last, their car nest is ready and we're off!

At last, their car nest is ready and we’re off!

We didn’t set out until late morning, and as we moved from Filance Bridge, passing boats started the whisper that the canal was closed because of a boat stuck in a lock at Penkridge. We carried on down and the whispers started to get louder. We stopped at the services above Penkridge Lock and while I filled with water and got rid of the rubbish, Richard cycled to Longford Lock to find out what was going on.

He came back with the bad news that Longford Lock was blocked, nb Tilly was jammed and had been there for some hours. It seems that she’s suffering from a bit of middle-aged spread and was a few inches wider than the lock (which may also have narrowed a little in places). Of course, with narrow locks, there’s very little width to spare :-(

The singer at the Cross Keys failed to impress the houndie "Penkridge has talent" judges but she was up against three fine sausages!

The singer at the Cross Keys failed to impress the houndie “Penkridge has talent” judges but she was up against three large and very fine sausages!

We moored up below Penkridge Lock to await developments. We weren’t worried by the closure/delay – we were moored next to a pub, the boat was well-supplied after a trip to Tesco yesterday and the tank was full of water – can’t ask for more really! We settled down for a relaxing afternoon. I had a snooze with the hounds and Richard went down to see if a bit of muscle might help the situation in the lock below.

They managed to pull nb Tilly out of the lock late afternoon (a bit of common sense plus a new tirfor did the trick) and the resulting boat queues started to move. We thought about moving on but we couldn’t be bothered! We did move to a different mooring spot – although we were on mooring rings, well clear of the lock and the bend, we got clouted a few times by hire boats who just, oh I don’t know what they were doing….

We have had a few tart remarks about how this is the slowest Odyssey ever! Hmm, I can’t deny it, but it’s been quite nice :-)

Poor old nb Tilly was stuck for most of the day and had gathered quite a crowd of helpers...

Poor old nb Tilly was stuck for most of the day and had gathered quite a crowd of helpers…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 27

Posted by indigodream on 21 October, 2014

Sunday 24th August

Wightwick to Penkridge (Cross Keys Pub)

Still no notes, never mind!

Oh, apart from a mention that the moorings just beyond Filance Bridge are well populated with rats! The greyhounds found this highly entertaining :-)

Reflections...

Reflections…

Low bridge...

Low bridge…

You see all sorts on the canal - this was a photo shoot with the girl pouting in hot pants - though I was a bit shy to take an obious photo of the photographer!

You see all sorts on the canal – this was a photo shoot with the girl pouting in hot pants – I was a bit shy to take an obvious photo of the photographer hence this retospective view!

A more familiar towpath feature - a serious fishing competition :-)

A more familiar towpath feature – a serious fishing competition :-)

The siren call of Wolverhampton at Aldersley Junction

The siren call of Wolverhampton at Aldersley Junction

Bridges....

Bridges….

Spoilt for choice at Autherley Junction - aren't we lucky to have such a wonderful network of inland waterways :-)

Spoilt for choice at Autherley Junction – aren’t we lucky to have such a wonderful network of inland waterways :-)

Richard was off doing the car shuffle at the point when I had this nagging recollection that there were narrows ahead - hmm, I'd forgotten that they were THAT narrow! I passed two boats coming the other way - both at passing points - I felt so lucky I almost bought a lottery ticket :-)

Richard was off doing the car shuffle at the point when I had this nagging recollection that there were narrows ahead – hmm, I’d forgotten that they were THAT narrow! I passed two boats coming the other way – both at passing points – I felt so lucky I almost bought a lottery ticket :-)

We stopped for lunch at this every so slightly illicit offside mooring - it was too perfect a houndie rummaging spot to miss :-)

We stopped for lunch at this every so slightly illicit offside mooring – it was too perfect a houndie rummaging spot to miss :-)

Despite having lots of time to spare, the hounds only rummaged for around 10 minutes before going back to their beds. Though I was making bacon sandwiches and, as the greyhounds say, a bacon sandwich in the mouth is worth two squirrels in the bush!

Despite having lots of time to spare, the hounds only rummaged for around 10 minutes before going back to their beds. Though I was making bacon sandwiches and, as the greyhounds say, a bacon sandwich in the mouth is worth two squirrels in the bush!

Yet another junction - this time it's a canal to nowhere - the Hatherton Branch used to connect to the BCN but it's only a stub now...

Yet another junction – this time it’s a canal to nowhere – the Hatherton Branch used to connect to the BCN but it’s only a stub now…

One man and his dog - Archie is the only hound fit (daft) enough to want to run with the bike :-)

One man and his dog – Archie is the only hound fit (daft) enough to want to run with the bike :-)

The M6 is just beyond that red car - I don't think any of the drivers noticed us, though the lock is perfectly visible from the motorway :-)

The M6 is just beyond that red car – I don’t think any of the drivers noticed us, though the lock is perfectly visible from the motorway :-)

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 26

Posted by indigodream on 20 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 23rd August

Wombourne to Wightwick

I was mega-efficient because at the end of every cruising weekend I put in a new blog post template which recorded the date and location of the day’s cruise. Just as well, otherwise I’d really be struggling now! Sadly I neglected to record anything else so here’s another photoblog.

I must mention the charming moorings by Wombourne Bridge. There’s a stretch of mooring rings (fortunately 5 day) flanked by a towpath and and a lushly planted area full of colorful garden flowers and a few vegetables. Apparently the houses that back onto the towpath have CRT’s permission to cultivate the area between their back fences and the towpath, to the benefit of all. There are paths which meander through the plantings so it feels very inclusive :-)

Despite my lack of notes for these few weekends, I will remember enough to update the “rough guide to moorings”, once I’ve found a way round the formatting, which is not behaving itself in the current version of WordPress :-(

Waiting the bottom of the Bratch - not quite a staircase! There were two boats coming down so I was there a while :-)

Waiting the bottom of the Bratch – not quite a staircase! There were two boats coming down so I was there a while :-)

Long way up....

Long way up….

The paddles have a particular sequence at the Bratch - the hounds went out to supervise - can't be too careful...:-)

The paddles have a particular sequence at the Bratch – the hounds went out to supervise – can’t be too careful…:-)

The Bratch paddles produce the most dramatic whirlpools...

The Bratch paddles produce the most dramatic whirlpools… (look we are in the northern hemisphere . . )

The oh so photogenic Archie suffering a slight ear malfunction :-)

The oh so photogenic Archie suffering a slight ear malfunction :-)

Not on our boat :-)

Not on our boat :-)

Not storm chasers but storm runners - a narrowboat is not the best vehice for outrunning a storm though :-)

Not storm chasers but storm runners – a narrowboat is not the best vehicle for outrunning a storm though :-)

Another scenic stretch of canal...

Another scenic stretch of canal…

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 25

Posted by indigodream on 17 October, 2014

Rewind to Sunday 17th August

Kinver to Wombourne

This will have to be a photoblog – I have no notes and I can’t remember the day either. I really MUST keep up with this blog – it’s my recollection of our cruising days and it’s obvious that I remember nothing without it – poo!

OK, so Richard has a better momory than me…….”Knowing how busy Kinver would be, we decided, obviously with great regret, to have a lie in. Loads of boats went past in the morning and we manfully/womanfully got going at around 10:30am. You’d think it would be quiet after the morning rush hour but there was a queue for the lock and then an even bigger queue for the waterpoint! Having said the boats in front of us all stopped at the waterpoint so up we headed for the next lock only to catch up with another boat. The first photo shows the queue behind us as the waterpointers moved up!

After that we did make steady progress, but it was amazing how many people were out, we did not manage to take on water till the third waterpoint!!!”

 

Looking back towards the moorings at Kinver. Looks as if mid-morning is THE time to arrive to get the prime spaces by the pub!

Queue – luckily behind us!

 

Love this colourful decoration at the CRT base at Stewponey

Love this colourful decoration at the CRT base at Stewponey

It was so tempting to turn back towards Birmingham at Stourton Junction - it's a ovely cruise up to the Dudley Canals...

It was so tempting to turn back towards Birmingham at Stourton Junction – it’s a lovely cruise up to the Dudley Canals…

View from the aqueduct over the River Stour - a nice reminder of our trip down the adjacent canal back in 2008..

View from the aqueduct over the River Stour – a nice reminder of our trip down the adjacent canal back in 2008..

Henry and Archie enjoying a rummage at Rocky Lock - the canal has some wonderfully remote locks where the hounds can run free :-)

Henry and Archie enjoying a rummage at Rocky Lock – the canal has some wonderfully remote locks where the hounds can run free :-)

Henry Beanz absolutely refuse to pose with Archie - he wanted to be back in his bed on board!

Henry Beanz absolutely refuse to pose with Archie – he wanted to be back in his bed on board!

There are such picturesque lock bridges along this canal - useful too :-)

There are such picturesque lock bridges along this canal – useful too :-)

I have such happy memories of cruising this way - especially of Blue and Lou rummaging in these wonderful landscapes :-)

I have such happy memories of cruising this way – especially of Blue and Lou rummaging in these wonderful landscapes :-)

Botterham Staircase locks - the "middle" gates of staircase locks always look so imposing....

Botterham Staircase locks – the “middle” gates of staircase locks always look so imposing….

Henry Beanz enjoying the sofa - cruising is soooo exhausting :-)

Henry Beanz enjoying the sofa – cruising is soooo exhausting :-)

Archie Beanz is still showing some signs of life though - it takes more than two days' cruising to wear him out :-)

Archie Beanz is still showing some signs of life though – it takes more than two days’ cruising to wear him out :-)

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 24

Posted by indigodream on 16 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 16th August

Kidderminster to Kinver

Travelling in style - with the boat a distance away from home, the car boot has now been converted into a duvet-lined nest...

Travelling in style – with the boat a distance away from home, the car boot has now been converted into a duvet-lined nest…

It was Richard’s birthday today, so it seemed appropriate to have a reasonably relaxed start to the day, though we didn’t want to be too late to join the queue on the M25 (the notion that there might NOT be a queue never entered our heads!).

A couple of weekends ago I invested in an electrical coolbox – an interim measure while our boat fridge was being fixed (we needed a new control unit). It’s been a godsend – both for transporting supplies from home and for keeping things cool on the boat. It’s not a substitute for the fridge, but it will be useful additional cold storage when we have parties on board. Today, though, it had a slightly different job – transporting frozen fruit to Helen and Andy of nb Wandering Bark, and, latterly, the Jam Butty. Helen has a wonderful business, Wildside, where she sells amazing home-made preserves, more often than not made from ingredients foraged from the towpath. I have an excess of fruit in the garden this year, so I offered to share some wild plums and a pile of apple extract. Arrangements were made and we agreed to meet up for food, drink and fruit swap at the very welcoming Vine pub in Kinver.

We had a pretty good trip up to the boat, by recent standards, and were soon parked up at Sainsbury’s. The boat had been fine, though I already knew that via some boating Facebook friends who’d passed her during the week and reported back :-)

Ollie joined the Olympic looking team - having some young company has perked him up...

Ollie joined the Olympic looking team – having some young company has perked him up…

We’d had a dog swap during the week – I took Ty for a vet checkup last Monday where the vet thought that a thickening of Ty’s hocks (back legs) was probably because of chronic inflammation, caused by rubbing, as he had a few pressure sore developing as well. I already knew about the two little pressure sores that were developing on his bottom, all the result of his trying to bury himself under the sofa while boating; he also had a raw elbow – again from rubbing, possiby on wet bedding where he dribbles in his anxiety. I decided enough was enough – he’s gone off to Sarah’s for a holiday to recover. In the meantime, we have Archie and Henry – the original Beanz boys and enthusiastic Indigo Dreamers; we also had our beloved little Ollie, who is still up for an adventure, despite being an old boy.

Richard loaded the boat and walked the hounds while I did a basic shop in Sainsbury. Their car park only allows 2 hours parking, we had to hoped to get an extension, we even offered to pay(!), but the car park is not managed by the store so that wasn’t an option.

This meant that we started the cruising afternoon with a car shuffle. Richard took car and bike up to the pub in Kinver then cycled back. I gave him a brief head start then started cruising up to meet him. This arrangement works well, though it means that there will be some sections of canal that Richard doesn’t get to see.

Ollie and Archie again - Ollie spent an unusual amount of time on deck today. Henry Beanz prefers the peace and quiet of the front cabin...

Ollie and Archie again – Ollie spent an unusual amount of time on deck today. Henry Beanz prefers the peace and quiet of the front cabin…

Without notes, my memories of the canal are just fleeting impressions – the ongoing beauty of the red sandstone landscape and the meanders. Kinver is a famous beauty spot and the whole waterway seems to build up to that point. Small wonder, then, that the canal was quite busy and that the moorings at Kinver were full! We just managed to squeeze on to the last space, with the back barely within reach of the bank – this is important as Ollie’s not as mobile as the youngsters and can’t manage a big step off the boat.

We had just enough time to feed the hounds before setting off for the pub. Helen and Andy had booked a table for four people and three hounds, but the pub had mistakenly reserved us a place in the non-dog area. There was a bit of a shuffle, but we managed to find a table in the bar where hounds could lie down in comfort (on their sheepskins – now as much of a feature as the greyhounds themselves).

We had a wonderful evening – the men talked about, whatever it is that men talk about, while Helen and I talked about JAM! She’s a professional jam-maker, I’m an enthusiastic amateur, though I make and donate at least 500 jars a year to charity! You wouldn’t believe how much there is to talk about – and we never got to the end of the jammy subject :-)

Photoblog:

What are you after Henry and Archie? You know that's not the way onto the boat....

What are you after Henry and Archie? You know that’s not the way onto the boat….

What's so interesting?

What’s so interesting?

Aha, clever boys, that hatch IS the fastest route to the hot chicken :-)

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 23

Posted by indigodream on 15 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 9th August

Stourport (Bird in Hand) to Kidderminster

I mentioned that the 5-day mooring restriction was to cause us some pain……

As soon as we got home last Sunday, Richard remembered that he had family commitments on the following Sunday, leaving us with only one cruising day. Now, if we’d left the boat on a 14-day mooring we could have spent the entire weekend at home but, as it was, we needed to move the boat today…

It became a tiring day – the M25 was revolting and it took over three and a half hours to get to the boat. On the bright side though, we did arrive in time to have lunch at the pub – old-fashioned pub grub – faggots – lush! The hounds approved :-)

As always, the hounds attracted a lot of attention, though I was VERY peeved at an ignorant pub denizen who said that Ollie was fat. OLLIE! The boy we’ve rehabilitated from starvation and whose weight we watch closely, mainly because he doesn’t eat unless he’s coaxed. I was cross – you can insult me as much as you want, but say a word against my hounds – grrrr!

We set off after lunch with the vague aim of cruising until no later than 5pm and seeing where that took us.

Once again, I didn’t take any notes AND we’d forgotten the camera AND I accidentally deleted the photos I took on my phone – d’oh! However I DO remember enjoying the cruise. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire is a delightful canal – the landscape is interesting, the scenery is beautiful – you can’t ask for more. The canal cuts its way through strata of red sandstone, ancient and weathered to the point where I’m amazed that some of the cliffs and overhangs are still standing. Where the local stone has been used to build locks, the edges are moth-eaten – yet these structures have been there for centuries. I personally favour the more durable blue brick copings that we found on the Worcester and Birmingham canal!

This is a canal replete with memories of Blue and Lou – they did a LOT of rummaging around here – as they did on every canal with rural locks.

We soon arrived at Kidderminster. Now, I’ve never fancied mooring overnight outside Tesco, though I’m sure it would be fine. I’ve also worried about mooring anywhere below town lock. This feeling was reinforced by the defacement of the beautiful murals under the bridge by brainless graffiti tags.

Yet, as we came up the lock, we noticed a boat moored right outside the church – it looked perfectly secure. Heartened by this, we moved on a little further and spotted the 5-day moorings outside Sainsbury. There were several boats moored there, so we decided to moor there too – it has excellent road access and parking, and, of course, a handy superstore for when we need to stock up with goodies next week.

This proved to be a wise decision – the day had mainly been overcast but dry. However, as came up Kidderminster Lock, we had the most extraordinary rain – there were very few drops, but each one seemed as large as a bantam’s egg (ok a quail’s egg if you’re posh!), leaving 2″ sploshes where they landed on the boat’s roof. Just as we finished tying up, the thunderstorm proper arrived – the rain was apocalyptic and driven by a horizontal wind. We battened down the hatches!

The storm didn’t last long, and once it had passed, Richard got on his bike and cycled back to the car. In the meantime I packed up, not that there was much to go after just one day’s cruise!

It took a while for Richard to navigate his way back through Kidderminster’s traffic but we were soon on our way. We had a much better drive home – nearer to the expected two and a bit hours. Yes, if you do the maths we did spend slightly longer in the car than we did on the boat, but it was still a good cruise :-)

 

 

 

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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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