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Archive for May, 2011

BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 11am – 1.15pm

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

11am – 1.30pm

Deans Road Bridge, Wyrley and Essington Canal to Birchills Junction

We’ve had a very relaxing lock-free cruise along the undulating Wyrley and Essington Canal – but where are all the boats? We’ve only met one boat on the challenge – nb Victorious, whose crew cheerfully waved at us with their beer cans – aah, so that would be the drinking element of the challenge then…

The only other boats that we’ve met have been from the Wolverhampton Boat Club, who have 16 boats of their own doing a little bobble around the BCN – quite separate from the BCN Challenge.

Otherwise we’re marvelling again at the rural character of the Wyrley and Essington canal – it’s so peaceful and the people we’ve met have mainly been fishermen, astonished that a boat is going past!

So far we’ve only been down the weed hatch once – nothing interesting, just a few plastic bags and, remarkably, some weed! We’ve had to do a prop clearance from time to time but we’re making good progress so far.The canal is shallow and we get the odd suspicious grinding beneath the counter as we travel over the gravel, or submerged trolley!

The weather has been relatively benign – mainly cloudy and mild, though we had a huge cloudburst at 12.15pm – uhmm, time for me to go inside and prepare the lunch then! The crew have declared themselves “totally stuffed” – let’s see how long that lasts once we start the serious locking later on this afternoon 🙂

The junction represented the next leg of our trip – though the cunning people at the BCN Society put a quiz question at Sneyd Junction. The answer? You’ll have to find it for yourself!

We’ve made up the time that we lost on the flight this morning and are now back on target, and the sun has come out – brilliant!

 

 

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 9am – 11am

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

10am – 11am

Lock 15 of the Wolverhampton 21 to Deans Road Bridge, Wyrley & Essington Canal

From Lock 15 onwards we suddenly got up some speed and the combined crews of Wanderin’ Bark, Indigo Dream and British Waterways ran some water down the flight. This meant smoother running between the locks as the pounds filled up.

Our progress was even faster when we picked up our relief crew at Lock 6 – Sarah, Andy and greyhounds Ranger, Henry and Archie. Archie is a new hound, rescued quite literally from the jaws of death when Sarah met his trainer/owner at the vet – he was there to be put down. Sarah persuaded the owner to let her rescue him, so now her pack is back up to seven. So we have a very appropriate crew for a greyhound rescue cruise!

This is Archie’s first time on a boat and he’s doing very well indeed – he’s curious but relaxed, and is currently lying on deck with the exceptionally laid-back Lynx and Ranger. Henry, of course, is far too excited to be lying down and is enjoying watching the world go by.

We got to the top of the Wolverhampton 21 at 10.35am so the first leg of our planned journey is done. Shortly afterwards turned onto the next leg – the long lock-free pound of the Wyrley and Essington Canal (aka the Curly Wurly!). So now we have time for coffee, doughnuts, pastries and all the other healthy foods that serious marathon cruisers need….

I must mention the reflective bridge (presumably pipe bridge) just past Dean’s Road Bridge – it’s as shiny now as it was 2 years ago, offering perfect reflections of the canal and of Indigo Dream and its crew passing beneath – magic!

We are taking lots of photos but we won’t be able to download them until a bit later……

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 8am – 9am

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

8am – 9am

Aldersley Junction to Lock 15 of the Wolverhampton 21

Miles: 1  Locks: 6

We finally got the boat to Aldersley Junction just before 10pm last night, proving that there is just about enough light for cruising at that time of day – important intelligence for the challenge to come!

We moored overnight at Aldersley junction just opposite nb Wanderin’ Bark, also taking part in the challenge. We were all up early – partly out of excitement and partly because Richard had to cycle back to get the camera, which he’d left in the car back in Compton.

By 7.45am nb Wanderin’ Bark and Indigo Dream were in position with both boat crews full of Indigo Dream’s coffee. But in the spirit of honesty – given that Captain A’s crew member is called “Mr Truth”  – they set off up the locks at 8am and we followed some 10 mintues later.

We set off with a great sense of team spirit – just as well, subsequent water shortages along the flight made team working essential!

Nb Sarah Jane, not taking part in the challenge, had set up the locks just before nb Wanderin’ Bark – by the time we were ready to set off, towpath walkers were reporting that nb Sarah Jane was stuck on the mud. There followed a great bit of collaborative boating, with the crews of the three boats working together to get enough water down the pounds to enable us to move forwards. Knowing we were on the challenge, nb Sarah Jane kindly let us pass.

So, the first hour has been a bit slow but the camaraderie has made up for it…

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Almost time for the BCN Marathon Challenge . . . . . .

Posted by indigodream on 26 May, 2011

The day is approaching fast …. We have a few miles and locks to do on Friday night and then we will be ready for an abnormally early start on Saturday morning.

Our sponsorship drive is going well. We are raising monies for Greyhoundhomer Essex – the branch of the Retired Greyhound Trust that kindly let us have Lou almost 5 years ago. Lynx and Ty are also Greyhoundhomer dogs.

The branch is run by unpaid volunteers and they rely very heavily on donations to cover kennel fees, food, vet bills etc. They are a small charity so even a £5 donation makes a difference to them, especially in the present climate.

At the time of writing we are up to £1550 in cash terms which with gift aid gets us to just over £1900. We are trying to get to £2000 so if you can spare a few pounds please click here.  Thank you.

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Dog Blog: Lynx’s Diary…

Posted by indigodream on 25 May, 2011

Wednesday 25th May

Cousin Wyn duzn't know how to behave - fancy puttin' his foot in my way - oh well, I spoze it'll do as a pillow...

I’s bin very bizzy since me last diary – not too tired, too bizzy, geddit? I duzn’t want me new lurcher babe Sally to fink I’s a wimp….

Anyhoo, mummy Sue sez I’s been the bestest dog ever coz I’s the only dog wot hazn’t bin to the vet – mummy Sue sez she’s hexhausted wif taking Lou then Ty then Lou then Ty…….

They is ok tho – Lou’s bin havin’ her blood pressure done – Blondie the vampire vet woz doin’ it – I woz qwite wurried – wot if she just sunk her fangs in and measured the pressure that way! But Lou sez she got to lay down on sum comfy fleece an’ Blondie held her paw, an Tracy the nurse stroked her tummy an’ mummy Sue stroked her ears – mummy Sue sed “no way can Lou have high blood pressure” and she woz right – Lou woz so relaxed her blood pressure went down an’ down!

I finks I should pretend to have high blood pressure coz I’d qwuite like to lie down wif Blondie givin’ me a big fuss…..

I’s been cruisin’ agen wif me best friends Ranger an’ Henry – I’s asked mummy Sue to get Beren to stay at home so’s I could have a chance to snuggle up to Miffy. But I’s not lucky there – Miffy dun cuddlin’ with Ty – she just duzn’t like fit action heroes like me. Never mind – I’s will just need to find anuvver babe…

I’s dun lots an’ lots of locks and, AND, there woz a paf on BOTH sides of the canal – we’s had to do hadvanced lookin’ – I’s needed me holympic lookin’ team – me an’ Lou is big champions. Then we’s had to be big guard dogs coz there woz hu-mens wot mummy didn’t like the look of by sum of the locks. Me an’ Lou lay on deck all feroshus and they’s didn’t jump on the boat and then they ranned away. No wonder we woz a bit hexhausted. Lucky for us that Mummy Sue had a birfday last week – it woz luvverly – we’s all spend the day in our jarmies – zzzzzzzzz. Becoz it woz her birfday she made us speshal treats – we’s had our own home-cooked chikkin – yum yum! But this week it wozn’t her birfday so she got us hot chikkins from Morrisons – well, me gourmet houndie friends, is reelly not good enuff – mummy Sue sez they woz a bargain so we had two chickkins, but they wozn’t suckulent at all. We finks that mummy Sue needs more birfdays – she sez “no fanks all the same”!

When we woz all rested we’s had a surprize visit from Auntie Sarah, wif me best mate Henry and his mate Sidney. Sidney woz best friends wif Ty coz they’s both reelly luves their food and they’s qwite lazy; I likes Henry coz we can do mad chargin’ round the garden – wheeee. Lou luves us all coz she’s top dog an’ dun barking. We’s had a rummage, then a sleep, then we’s eaten pigs ears, then we’s had a rummage, then we’s had a sleep, then we’s had a little snackette, then we’s had a sleeps then we’s had anuver rummage and a mad greyhound charge round the field. I woz a bit sad wen me frends went home but we woz qwite tired by then so it woz hokay.

Ty’s got himself an hextra bed this week – wen he woz a bit pafetic after his hanasfetic last week,  mummy Sue put a fluffy blanket in the spare room for him, then he finks “wot about all these soft bags wot is in here?” – they woz all full of old clothes and stuff. Mummy Sue sed they woz for recyclin’ so Ty recycled all the bags into a dog bed – clever eh! He’s emptied all the bags all over the floor, then he’s scraped all the cloth into a big heap and then he laid on it – then he had to empty sum more bags – when all the bags woz empty he had the perfick houndie bed!

Oooh, what are they lookin' at...

We’s needed a rest coz I’s had to work over the weekend! Poor Nanny Renia’s garden is full of sqwirrels an’ foxes – she duzn’t have anyone to protect her – is terrible. She’s called in the A-team – that’s me, an’ Lou and Ty – well, mainly me an’ Lou but Ty duz the best cuddles so nanny Renia could feel all better. We’s had such a bizzy weekend…..

We’s mainly dun relaxin’ this week coz mummy Sue sez we’s doin’ a marathon next weekend. I’s had to give her one of me looks, a marathon, reelly, honestly? Uh, mummy Sue, isn’t you, well, too wobbly to be runnin’ a marathon? And I is not runnin’ any more than 26 metres – you’s can forget 26 miles – I’s retired!

“No no” sez mummy Sue, we’s doin’ a boatin’ marathon, on the boat, no runnin’ at all, but there will be lots of locks”

“Oooh” I sez “so’s you’s be needin’ me amazin’ supervisin’ skills then”

“Yes” she sez “but Ty is staying with nanny Renia because he’s a big wuss jelly boy and Lou is stayin’ wif nanny Renia because she doesn’t understand how to share her sofa with humans”

I woz so sad – I woz goin’ to be all by meself – how’s I gonna be a super-hero wifout me pals, but mummy Sue sez that Ranger an’ Henry an’ Miffy is comin’ – at last – I’s got Miffy all to meself – maybe she’ll be my babe this weekend….

Mummy Sue sez the marathon is raisin’ money for a lifetime supply of hot chikkins for me, Lou an’ Ty all them poor houndies wot duzn’t have hu-mums and hu-dads to look after them – if we gets lots of muney then they can go to nice houses wif duvets, an sheepskins, and pigs ears, an chikkins, and big cuddles…..

If you clicks on here you can gets to a place where you can gives muney – we’s will give you big houndie kisses if you duz…..

Me holeeday snaps…..

See, one looks one way an' one looks the uvver - is hadvnaced olympic lookin'...

Me best friend Ranger - just restin' his eyes....

See, he wozn't asleep reelly...

Loook Look, it's Ty doin' lookin' - he never duz lookin' - wheeee!!!!

Me an' Lou protectin' mummy Sue from the vandals....

Lou on lookout - she's a sassy lady...

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 15

Posted by indigodream on 18 May, 2011

Monday 16th May

Birmingham to Compton Locks

This weekend has been about moving the boat ready for the BCN Marathon Challenge at the end of May. Please click on the Greyhound in the top left corner for more information and our sponsorship page.

Looking back to our overnight mooring spot (on the right)..

We were up quite early today with the intention of getting to the bottom of the Wolverhampton 21 by the end of the day. Richard set off on his bike to catch a train from Birmingham Snowhill (Richard says that the back entrance is much more convenient than the main) to Shirley to collect the car. In the meantime I set off along the New Main Line towards Tipton locks.

I really enjoyed my cruise – I find the New Main Line fascinating – there’s always a lot to see and the canal was entirely deserted as far as Pudding Green Junction, where I saw my first boat of the day turning towards the Ryders Green Locks. I didn’t catch the boat’s name, but the helm gave me a cheerful wave, as did the fishermen at the junction.

As I got closer to the junction with the Netherton Tunnel Branch, I suddenly encountered four oncoming boats – nb Hakuna Matata, nb Syrus, nb Alison and nb Just – we met nb Just on the last BCN Challenge. I did wonder how many of these boats were moving into place for this year’s marathon challenge – we’ll find out in a fortnight’s time!

Once I passed Netherton Junction I was what for me are uncharted waters – unfortunately the next stretch was pretty trashy and the prop felt slightly sticky but it was good enough! I spoke to some more cheerful fishermen along here – it was a very friendly cruise. I did curse though, the camera’s memory card had filled up about half an hour before so I wasn’t able to capture the interesting scenes from the aqueduct at Dudley Port. But I wasn’t without the camera for long – Richard had parked in Tipton and cycled back to meet me. We had enough time for coffee and to sort the memory card before we reached the surprisingly neat and attractive Factory Locks at Tipton. There was a boat coming down the flight, giving us time to moor up, walk the dogs and clear the prop of a very good collection of plastic bags. The oncoming boat emerged from the lock just as we got sorted – the helm warned us that the bottom gate of the top lock wasn’t opening properly so we’d need to take our fenders up – too late, our side-fenders have long gone!

Interesting landscape - I love the buddleia at the top of the chimney...

I used a spring to get the bow off the lock moorings against the wind – all was going well, but then the prop stopped as if a blanket had been thrown over it. With no steer, the bow headed straight for the lock wall – what a bang. I have to admit that I didn’t have such a good day on the helm today, though I’ll plead mitigating circumstances! I was wondering how I’d get her into the lock when suddenly the prop cleared and she was in. We filled the lock and Richard checked the prop again – there was a twig and a small amount of weed around the prop – we suspect that I’d just picked up a mat of weed which had washed/floated off as the lock filled, or was possibly it was shaken off when I crashed!

Ty got off for a rummage here, as did all the dogs – all on-lead though as the road is very close to the locks.

By the time we’d come up the second lock, a BW team was already tackling what was blocking the gate at top lock – the conclusion was that it was probably a brick but they also moved some of those concrete bases that you get under ‘heras’ fencing. We had a brief wait while they cleared the obstruction – it was all very efficient. As Indigo Dream reached the top of top lock I suddenly realised that Richard was getting his bike ready for the next stage of the car shuffle – cue some frantic preparations in readiness for more single-handing – trip to the loo, stock the deck shelf with diet coke and chocolate, put raincoat and hat within easy reach, likewise camera. When we were all ready I headed off along the Old Main Line while Richard took the car to somewhere in Wolverhampton (he eventually left the car in the vicinity of Compton) .

I am very fond of the Old Main Line – I’ve always wondered about overnight moorings here – there is abundant green parkland along the towpath, perfect for hounds, and it seems so quiet. I particularly like the stretch surrounding the Coseley Tunnel – it’s positively rural. There is graffiti around, but one group had helpfully dated their daubs – 2003 – where are they now I wonder?

You can find wildflower meadows in the most unexpected places 🙂

I was musing on whether we should do a recce one day, with the appropriate precautions of course – mooring chains, mooring pins and electric fence fittings to give a deterrent shock to anyone interfering with the boat! Of course, we’d need some sort of metal grilles over the windows and maybe we’d need to borrow some more demonstrably ferocious dogs as guards. I’ll let you know if we ever undertake this important research 🙂

I had the canal to myself, though there were signs that boats had passed this way. In many places, the water was clear enough to see the fish flashing through the fronds of weed growing in abundance in the deep water. But for long stretches blanket weed covered the canal, apart from a clear channel that some obliging boater had carved through for me. I was determined not to go down the weed hatch so the minute I felt the slightest resistance I cleared the prop using the reliable burst of reverse – burst of forward – burst of reverse. I also used two other techniques – coasting through the worst of it in neutral so that the prop wasn’t turning to pick up debris, alternating with bursts of high revs to get the boat moving and to turn the prop quickly enough to chop up any weed. I don’t know whether these techniques worked or whether I just got lucky, but I didn’t need to clear the prop at all – unlike a narrowboat that I overtook later on – they’d stopped three times to clear the prop and when I passed they were busy removing yet more handfuls of weed. I was amused and alarmed to see that the man of the boat was wearing the sort of long rubber glove that I associate with vets and cow’s bottoms!

The one thing that won’t trouble you on the BCN is having to slow down past moored boats – there simply aren’t any! I was therefore surprised to see two hire boats – nb Much Ado and nb Cymbeline moored on the tidy rings outside a new development at Coseley/Ladymoor. I think they were just stopped for lunch, but I’d love to know whether they stayed the night. Soon after I met another two hire boats – one Viking boat and an Away2 boat – both at bridge holes of course. The wind was very unhelpful but Indigo Dream is very responsive to the helm so there was no drama, though the hirers looked worried!

There are signs of brush fires at regular intervals along the new main line - hard to tell whether deliberate or accidental...

I was approaching the outskirts of Wolverhampton when Richard turned up. With the crew on board we got some food and coffee underway and soon passed into more new territory as we cruised past  Horsley Fields Junction. We stopped briefly for lunch at the Broad Street moorings – we had no idea that there were great moorings and services here. We met an old friend at Broad Street – nb Felonious Mongoose – sadly the crew weren’t on board but it was good to see her – I wonder if they’re taking part in the challenge.

We had a quick lunch and set off down the Wolverhampton 21 – the flight was busy – we benefited from two locks set our way as one boat came up, for the next nine or so we followed a boat down, though as came down there were rumours that there were five boats coming down behind us. I was very impressed with the flight – it’s far greener than I imagined and very dog-friendly. The first three locks are flanked by the railway and the towpath is well-fenced so perfect rummaging territory. Further down, the flight is flanked by extensive parkland – more perfect rummaging, though with a little more supervision!

Richard met a fascinating lady at lock 6 – a wiry retired working boater walking her dog. She carries her own windlass with her and set a lock for us. She reminded us a little of John, the gentle man who often helps boaters down the Delph and Stourbridge flights. But this lady is made of tougher stuff – she walks the Wolverhampton flight every morning and logs any damage done by vandals overnight and corrects it where she can, hence carrying a windlass. She may walk the flight several times in a day, helping boaters along with her ex-asbo but now completely reformed rescue dog.

I was feeling very well-disposed towards the flight when we met some nuisances – two lads, probably in their early 20s, who seem to have finished their education and mental development aged 3. They started off genially enough but soon they were sitting on the lock gates as Richard pushed them open, one hopped onto the front deck (but did hop off when Richard told him to), rudely stared through the boat windows, pushed at the lock gates while I was trying to get the boat through and were a general pain in the arse. I felt very uncomfortable with them around – they didn’t seem to have any boundaries and, like all three year olds, I didn’t know whether a “NO” would result in a tantrum!

The Engine Arm aqueduct - sadly defaced by graffiti but a fine structure nonetheless...

I was afraid that they would accompany us down the whole flight and I have an unworthy thought to confess – we were following nb Spangle down the flight but they stopped at one of the locks and let us overtake because they were waiting for their friends, in a following boat, to catch up. We still had our unwelcome hangers-on at this point and I heartily wished they’d go and bother nb Spangle instead – sorry! But the lads finally scarpered a few locks down when Richard finally got fed up with them and told them they were taking the piss when they were asking about how to get hold of a windlass, anti-vandal key and how to operate the locks. Richard brilliantly told them that you were only allowed to buy windlasses (for £25) and keys if you showed the shop your boat licence! In the end they did no harm but they really took the shine off the afternoon. I got flustered and did some truly dreadful lock entries – not helped by the dual forces of the brisk wind and lively flow from the bywashes.

But once I’d convinced myself they were gone I started to relax and by the time we got to the last few locks the canal changed character, as if the spirit of the Staffs and Worcs were reaching up towards the city. The surroundings became green and wooded, and the neat suburbs were replaced by wild meadows – more perfect rummaging.

We had a magic moment at lock 18 (two locks above Dunstall Park Bridge) – Lou and Lynx had gone rummaging in the wilderness off the towpath – Lynx emerged, got confused, and ran towards the next lock looking for the boat. We yelled at him to come back and he ran full pelt up the towpath towards us; at the same moment, a group of horses thundered by on the offside – accompanied by smears of colour from the jockeys’ shirts as they flashed past. We’d been fortunate to arrive just as a race was taking part at the adjacent racecourse…….

We soon got to the bottom of the flight where we faced a decision. It’s a long story but I’d contacted the local moorings officer for advice on safe moorings – he didn’t ring me back as promised, so chinese whispers ensued as the office relayed messages between us. We were advised to moor above Compton Lock, but when we got there we found that they were only 5-day moorings and we need 14-days. We went down the lock and started looking at alternatives – we found a nice spot just below Compton Bridge (59), where the permanent moorers on the offside (by Limekiln Chandlers)  invited us to moor opposite them – they promised to keep an eye on the boat for us – perfect.

There's great scenery along this canal - the juxtaposition of the various bridges is tremendous...

We had some entertainment at the moorings – Richard talked to the crew of nb Oasis Too – we’ve seen her a few times in our travels though we’ve never chatted to the crew (apparently she’s a share boat so we may never get to the know the crews). Later on a hire boat came in to moor – they did such a neat manouevre onto the offside bank that I thought they had a mooring there, but no, they’d just missed the towpath, by the width of the canal! As they finally managed to get into the towpath one of their crew fell off the front deck – between the boat and the bank – eek! It seemed to take him a long time to twig that maybe it was a good idea to get out of the canal and out of danger – he was dawdling about in the water looking for his contact lenses and flip-flops! He eventually got out and seemed to be unhurt, though I’ve no doubt he’ll find a few bruises later.

Richard cycled back to get the car and I packed the boat up – we’d decided to drive home that night and spend a quiet day at home for my birthday on Tuesday. But we were weary and hungry – luckily Compton is surprisingly well equipped with a pub, restaurant, Spar shop and, most importantly, a unique Thai/chinese takeaway. The Tiger Wok 01902 743242 (cross over the canal and it’s on the right behind the permanent moorings) is an eccentric place with an enthusiastic owner – we had a bit of a wait (for which the owner gave us a complementary bottle of beer) but we had a very good takeaway. With a few calories on board, we finally felt equal to driving home.

We had a ridiculous drive home – we got sucked into satnav hell and spent ages meandering through Wolverhampton and Birmingham – how could we spend so much time on minor roads in two cities so surrounded by motorways? We actually cheered when we found the M42!

We got home at 11.30pm, totally exhausted. But the effort was worth it – I spent my birthday loafing around in my pyjamas, apart from when Richard took me out to lunch and when I went to the singing group in the evening. Richard and the dogs were equally catatonic so we had a blissful day of doing next to nothing…..

Happy Anniversary Indigo Dream…..

We’re not ones for anniversaries as a rule, but this was worth marking – Indigo Dream was launched (well, dropped into the water) on the 16th May 2006. By chance, I had my 2006 log book on me over the weekend, so I was able to read my very understated thoughts – I can guarantee that I’d have had a LOT more to say if I’d been blogging at the time 🙂

“Indigo Dream was finally launched this afternoon at Hilperton Marina in Trowbridge. It was great to see her in the water after such an anxious slog to get her built. When we went aboard we found a lot of work to be done and spent the evening diligently cleaning . Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get her to a habitable state so spent the  night in a B & B.”

A quiet start to what has been the most amazing five years of cruising – we’re so delighted that we took the big step to buying our own boat – here’s to the next 5 years!

Photoblog:

Interesting fittings on the bridge columns - I assume they're reinforcement of some sort - oh and it is an attractive bridge!...

What a view - to arched road bridges, an aqueduct and the giant legs of the M5 motorway bridge...

Can't resist another view - it's not only the canal branches that have become defunct - this bridge now goes to nowhere...

I love these information plaques - there's still a small basin here which is home to a surprising number of narrowboats...

View down the Factory Locks in Tipton....

Talking about brush fires... there's be more than a few scorched leaves if this lot went up!

The Broad Street moorings with nb Felonious Mongoose.....

Wolverhampton top lock - it won a national 'lock and bridge' championship in 1999 - the lockside flowers give the place an unexpectedly 'cottage garden' atmosphere...

The monumental Stour Valley viaduct - the view from the previous lock was even more impressive but I was too distracted by our unwanted hangers-on to take a photo - next time...

I loved this lock bridge - the railings are so ornate...

Showing its age - ancient rope cuts on this lock wall....

The canal changes its character towards the bottom of the flight...

Aldersley Junction is really beautiful with its elegant turnover bridge...

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 14

Posted by indigodream on 18 May, 2011

Sunday 15th May

Hockley Heath to Birmingham

Christina and Rhodri sensibly staying in the warm - Lou graciously let them have some sofa...

Denise and company turned up at 9.30am after having a BIG breakfast at the B & B – I reckon they’d earned it yesterday, but today was an altogether different day’s cruising – no locks at all – we were finally on the Birmingham plateau.

The menfolk started the day with a car shuffle – Wyn would leave his car in Birmingham so that they could have a quick getaway in the evening. Richard would then drive them both back to Shirley – apart from the convenient canalside pub and car park, there’s also a train station nearby which would make it easier to pick our car up on Monday.

The rest of us took Indigo Dream down the canal – the waterway was quiet but a bit slow with moored boats and shallow shoals offside. The sullen red light had come on the toilet tank in the morning – oh no, down to our last 50 flushes! Our mission was to find a pump-out – quick. Stephen Goldsborough’s services are closed on Sunday, but as their advertised price for a pump-out is £18 we weren’t too bothered; the cruising club further along has a water point but I couldn’t see a pump-out so we carried on.

The plan had been for the men to meet us at Shirley drawbridge – they could have a quick drink while waiting for us to arrive. Alas, the pub doesn’t open until 11.30am and were left dry so they wandered down the towpath to meet us. We picked them up at Bridge 10, having had a close encounter with an oncoming boat at Bridge 11 – when I saw the oncoming boat I headed for the extreme right hand side of the navigation (towpath side) in order to give them enough room and was surprised when they did too – I hadn’t realised they were coming in to moor briefly before the bridge. There followed a confused couple of minutes during which a head-on collision seemed to be a possibility, but then we all got sorted and it wasn’t a problem. They’d stopped to drop off the lady of the boat, who gave me the filthiest of looks from the towpath – luckily the man of the boat was a lot more friendly!

With our own boat men on board we headed for the excitement of the Shirley Drawbridge – electronically operated and guaranteed to stop a few cars – the whole family got off for the event!

Lunch with the crew of Wanderin' Bark....

We cruised on, slightly bored by the wooded embankments surrounding us – trees are a wonder of nature, but after the first mile we did run out of things to notice (I know I know, there’s plenty to see really). So on many levels we welcomed the sight of Lyons boatyard with it’s open services and shop selling ice-cream. We got a very thorough pump-out here for £15 and the couple who ran the yard were the most pleasant people. Rhodri was hardy enough to have an ice-cream (the wind was cold) but the rest of us had some chocolate instead!

While we were moored up at the service point a passing boater gave us the unwelcome news that there were kids at the next bridge throwing bricks at passing boats – lovely. We bundled the dogs and kids inside and cruised on somewhat anxiously – but the towpaths and bridges were deserted so we started to relax a little.

It was getting towards lunchtime by now, and we’d planned to eat ‘on the hoof’, but as I was getting the food sorted in the galley Richard shouted “It’s Wanderin’ Bark’ – one of our favourite boating bloggers. We’d hoped to meet them on the BCN Challenge but that would have just been a quick wave and move on. We started with a quick chat in passing then invited them on board for lunch. We both moored up and had a merry half hour of eating and drinking coffee. It’s always interesting to meet bloggers in person – will we have enough to talk about? Well, there was no problem – we had boats, canals and blogging in common, then we found out that Belle was a Nespresso geek (just like us…and Greygal!) so we were well away! I’m afraid that pseudonyms are very powerful, so I’ll always know Wanderin’ Bark’s crew as Captain Ahab and Belle – but while Belle is as charming as her pseudonym would suggest, Captain Ahab is not all dangerously obsessive – well, not in our company anyway 🙂

I was very impressed by Belle’s cooking skills – she’s been foraging for wild flowers and had been making wildflower syrup on board – she kindly gave me a bottle – it smells divine. She suggested pouring it over ice-cream, but I think it would also be the perfect flavouring for home-made ice-cream – there’s a good recipe here which I tried out at Easter – I don’t have an ice-cream maker so I hand-churned mine – well worth giving it a go. Update: I got an ice-cream maker for by birthday!

Brandwood Tunnel....

We’d moored for lunch in a deep tree-lined cutting in Kings Norton – it was largely deserted but the two walkers that did pass gave us dire warnings not to stay there too long – apparently local youths like to stand at the top of the embankment and throw stones and stuff down onto the boats. We found out from Captain A that the brick-throwing youths were at the far end of the Brandwood Tunnel but they’d scarpered when the crew pointed a camera at them – this seems to be the most effective deterrent.

We could have sat and chatted all day but we really needed to get Denise and family back to Birmingham ready for the long drive back to West Wales. We bid Wanderin’ Bark a reluctant farewell but cheered up when we realise that we’d see them again soon on the BCN Challenge. They’re starting at the same place as us – the bottom of the Wolverhampton 21 – if we set out at roughly the same time then we’ll be seeing a LOT more of them!

We approached the Brandwood Tunnel with some trepidation – I had wondered whether to call the police to alert them to the fact that there were stone-throwing youths around, but the consensus was that the authorities wouldn’t be interested and wouldn’t take action. That made me very sad – if we don’t tell the authorities, then how will they know when/where to take action. Mind you, how many times have the police been called and found no-one there? Despite inching our way carefully out of the tunnel with camera at the ready, there was no sign of trouble – indeed we didn’t have a hint of trouble on the whole cruise into Birmingham.

Christina is studying English at university so she was interested in the bust of Shakespeare carved on Brandwood Tunnel’s portal – she’d increased the boat’s literary quotient by bringing a copy of Othello on board!

View from the new aqueduct - looks like a big road being bult down there....

I do like the next bit of canal – it’s got an interesting mix of old and new industry and we were gobsmacked to pass over what seemed to be a brand new aqueduct. There have been enormous works here as a new road has been carved beneath the canal and a giant railway bridge built alongside. Suddenly there are wider vistas across the landscape. The works are ongoing – it’s a major new piece of infrastructure and I can only imagine what an effort it must have been to build it all without disrupting the 250 year old canal above.

We got to Gas Street Basin and marvelled at the whole Mailbox complex – I don’t think it was all finished the last time we were here. We cruised through Brindley Place and stopped at the water point at Cambrian Wharf. The menfolk got a bit disorientated here – they had thought that Wyn’s car was parked nearby but they couldn’t work out where the street was! In the end, Richard cycled off to find the car – it was actually parked back near Gas Street – we’d taken the boat a little too far. Denise and family set off on foot – they’d have still got there by 6pm so it wasn’t too late…..

In the meantime, I’d started filling the water tank – it takes ages here because the water pressure is very poor, however that suited us this evening as it gave Richard time to hoover out the bilges. We’ve got a mysterious amount of water in the two ‘bays’ flanking the central engine compartment. It was clean water so we suspect that it’s rainwater from the channels holding the deck plates – another thing to add to the to-do list!

Our favourite moorings on Cambrian Wharf were full so we thought we’d try a spot recommended by Sarah – the 14-day moorings just beyond Sheepcote Street Bridge bridge. There are mooring bollards all along here on both sides of the canal. We elected to moor on the left-hand side (on the island created by the Oozells Street loop). This seemed a little quieter with less foot traffic to disturb Ty.

By the time we’d moored it was time to eat – we decided not to take the hounds as it was just too cold for sitting outside. We had so many choices of eateries, but in the end we went to our favourite Handmade Burger Co canalside on Brindley Place and once again enjoyed an excellent meal.

It wasn’t late when we got back, but after a day’s locking yesterday, and an abundance of fresh air today we were ready for our beds. Predictably poor Ty wasn’t happy in Birmingham so we gave him his evening dose of valium and I stayed up to wait for it to take effect. About an hour later Ty was feeling confident enough to go out for a walk and have a wee – great! I went off to bed with fingers crossed for a quiet night but Ty was raring to go again at 1.30am – by then the mooring was silent – even the traffic noise had died down. We felt very safe here – the mooring was covered by CCTV – oh dear, now there’s photographic evidence of me walking the towpath in frilly pink pyjama bloomers, Richard’s oversized fleece and my walking boots!

Photoblog:

Great name....

The wonderful old guillotine lock on the Stratford Canal - shame its been defaced by graffiti - why do they do it?

Wine boat - wouldn't it be nice if this was part of the BCN challenge 'first aid' services 🙂

Major works ahead......

And the new railway bridge - it's all happening here.....

There's a new footbridge going in by the University as well....

The Mailbox - lots of potential restaurants to explore....

The amazing frontage of "The Cube" - described on its website as a "visually enchanting jewellery box" - http://www.thecube.co.uk/about

I hadn't realised that the "Away2" group was so extensive...

And they've got pole position on the waterfront at Brindley Place.....

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 13

Posted by indigodream on 17 May, 2011

Warwick to Hockley Heath

Friday 13th May

Happy?

Despite the inauspicious date, we headed off to the boat for a very auspicious meeting – during the week I had a surprise email from cousin Denise who was in need of an urgent stress-relieving cruise. After a little family negotiation they decided to come up on Friday night and work off their stress through physical effort on the Hatton and Lapworth flights 🙂

We had a good journey up to the boat – despite the usual queues on the M25 – apparently talking about traffic/travel is one of the top British traits – talking (or should that be complaining) about the weather it THE top trait, but I’ll come back to that later….

As you might expect, Indigo Dream had been fine on her moorings at the boatyard – we’re very grateful for the help that we were offered at Kate Boats. They’d given us a gate key so we could take the car into the yard for offloading Richard  then moved the car onto the street and we moved the boat onto the mooring rings on the towpath opposite. We’d managed to arrive before the Welsh contingent – giving me just enough time to stick a fluffy rug to the floor in order to protect Ty’s elbows. Cousin Denise and family turned up just after 8pm so plenty of time for chatting and eating. We were trying something a bit different this weekend – Wyn and Rhodri would stay at a local B & B, while Denise and Christina would stay on board. But food first – we wandered into Warwick to eat, and, as you might expect, there was plenty of choice. Now, to get to the local eateries from where we were moored – walk onto Coventry Road (Bridge 49) and walk towards town (opposite direction to the filling station you can see from the bridge). Follow the road down the hill and you’ll eventually get to a parade of takeaways of all sorts – from there, the road ahead forks – take the left-hand fork and there’s a street of restaurants. For the most part the restaurants were heaving, and quite pricey, so we plumped for an all-you-can-eat chinese restaurant – the meal was delicious and the service was admirable.

Our new greyhound!

Replete, the boat crew headed back to Indigo Dream while Wyn and Rhodri set off for the B & B. It took some time to set up the boat for guests – Lou and Lynx were very unhappy to be ousted from their sofa (which unfolds into a bed) – Lynx kept jumping back on at every opportunity. There followed a very disturbed night’s sleep. Ty was terrified by all the guests but by 2.30am, with his dose of valium working, he suddenly woke up all confident and decided it was time to eat, drink and go out. This commotion woke everyone up and it was my turn to go out onto the towpath in my pyjamas to walk him. I can report that the mooring was very quiet and the towpath was deserted. With all the dogs awake, there followed a noisy dog-bed shuffle – peace reigned for an hour or so, then the hounds were up and complaining about their beds again. Needless to say, Denise and Christina elected to stay in a B & B with Wyn and Rhodri on Saturday night!

Note: Back in 2009 we acquired a great greyhound tiller pin – we loved it, but sadly the pin came loose and the dog flew into the Stort last year so we’ve been bereft. It’s been very difficult to replace it – in the end we had to buy a brass greyhound statue from America (we actually bought two from http://www.k-9designs.com so we have a spare) then we had a pin attached (firmly) and then we had it chromed to match the tiller. We finally fitted our new tiller pin tonight – it looks magnificent and is twice as big as our old greyhound pin – this means that it’s so heavy it doesn’t swivel around. So now we will always have at least one greyhound on board….

Saturday 14th May

Despite our restless night, everyone was up and about early – we had a long day’s locking in front of us, so our target was to leave the mooring by 9.30am. We’d carried enough milk with us for our morning coffees but otherwise the cupboard was pretty bare so I headed off for Tesco while the crew took the boat up towards Hatton – Sarah and hounds would be joining us there. It all worked reasonably smoothly – Sarah was waiting for Indigo Dream at the bottom of the Hatton (she’s parked in the useful Warwick Park ‘n Ride station at the bottom of the locks); then they found a locking partner in nb Phoenix, and I met them one lock up at the BW car park (free but it is locked at 4pm) just by Hatton Bottom. The timing was a little bit off, but luckily nb Phoenix were glad to have a locking partner and seemed happy to wait for us at the next lock.

Rhodri getting into the swing of locking...

We set off along the Hatton flight in good spirits – between the two boats, we had enough crew to prepare a lock ahead, work us through the current lock and close it behind us – the flight took 2 hrs 15 mins – below nb Phoenix’s record, apparently, but pretty seamless nonetheless. Wyn took the helm for the start of the flight with me supervising – the rest of the crew, including Sarah and the hounds, elected to work the locks, though the crew, especially canine, had the odd rest break on board as we went along!

The wind was very gusty and at first Wyn got the hang of compensating for it – the longer pounds at the bottom gave time for Pheonix to get roped up and steady in the lock by the time Wyn arrived. However, as the pounds became shorter, the timing became a bit tighter, and the wind stronger, so as we got up into the flight proper so I took the helm. Once we got into the short pounds I suggested to nb Phoenix’s skipper that we try moving together – he was game and the process of getting into the locks speeded up considerably. I was surprised to find that the two boats together seemed much less susceptible to the effects of the wind – even though we weren’t roped up. It helped that nb Phoenix is the same length as Indigo Dream.

The flight was very quiet – we were the only boats moving up the locks and we only met one boat coming down. However there were plenty of walkers towards the top of the flight, but far fewer than I’d expect on a spring morning. Having said that, the wind was blustery and cold so that may have put people off.

I must congratulate our locking crews – they worked tirelessly and efficiently through the flight – I can only hope that Denise and family had some time to stop and enjoy the view…

We stopped for lunch at the top of the locks, then Richard cycled back to the bottom to get his car and leave it at the top of the Lapworth flight ready for the evening car shuffle. We moved off with Sarah at the helm, though Wyn soon had another go. We had a slow trip along the long pound – there were a few moored boats and it was very shallow on the offside so anything above 1000 rpm created a wash. We inched along, enjoying the features of the Shrewley tunnel then the high embankment through Rowington. Rhodri had a go at steering but unfortunately crashed into the bank which put him off; it must be hereditary – Denise did exactly the same when she took the helm 🙂 It’s a shame  as the crashes dented their confidence (but not the boat!) and they didn’t have a go again.

The Hatton flight always looks so impressive...

We picked Richard up a little while before Tom o’ the Woods, but we soon stopped to clear the prop and give the dogs a bobble (by co-incidence in the exact spot where we moored three years ago). Ty’s doings are still the subject of much scrutiny – we gauge how scared he is by how many wees he’ll have during the daylight hours – how sad are we! He’s actually doing very well but is a dog and half away from his alter ego ‘Ty the brave’ who lives with us in Surrey…

We eventually got to Kingswood Junction by mid-afternoon and turned onto the Stratford Canal – now this is one of my favourite spots – the ‘Lapworth 19’ is a beautiful flight and perfect for the hounds. This was another of Blue’s favourite rummaging spots and the hounds had a great time.

Note: There is a little car park just above the first of the Lapworth 19.

It was so nice to be back on narrow locks; then we remembered that it’s actually over a year since we’ve done any narrow locks so we needed to get back into practice. But really, locking up a narrow flight is great. Wyn and I took turns at the helm while our trusty crew did all the hard work. The one big advantage of having spare crew was that there were always enough hands to spare for dog handling so even Ty could have a little bobble. The flight was predictably quiet until we got to the short pounds – why is that? Sods law dictates that in miles of empty canal you will only meet oncoming boats at bends, bridge holes and short pounds 🙂

Richard had cycled ahead and we were a bit concerned when he said he’d spotted hotel boats Oak and Ash working their way down the flight with one doing a spectacularly bad lock entry. We’ve met them before and the man in charge has a reputation – we  certainly remember our previous encounters. But our luck was in – they had moored up by the time we came to them – whether it was necessary for them to moor brested up between a bridge hole and a bend on a narrow canal was another thing….

Wyn punching the air - and that's top lock....

We were making good time up the flight but then we caught up with a hire boat – the crew was dressed in roman togas – this did not bode well! They merrily meandered along the canal in haphazard fashion and their lock entries were painful to behold, they struggled with the paddles, tried to fill one lock with a bottom paddle open so our journey slowed…. By now, of course, the ever present wind had really freshened making us meander a little ourselves as our slow pace made us vulnerable to the gusts. We were almost at the top of the flight when we had one of those moments – I was waiting for the crew to set the lock and decided to hover – big mistake – the wind (and current from the emptying lock) pushed my bow across the canal; all attempts to correct this failed, leading to my bow being parked in the canalside cottage’s garden while my stern was nicely placed on the towpath. There followed an expletive-filled 5-minutes while I tried to extricate myself from this situation – but Sarah had to rescue me! She’d come on board for a rest, but ended up agilely hopping off onto the towpath and hauling Indigo Dream back to the middle of the canal using the centre rope. When the lock opened, Richard complimented me  on my fast and smooth entry – my shennanigans in the pound had been obscured by the bridge over the lock!

When we got to Lapworth top lock in 2 hours 20 minutes, Richard, Wyn and Sarah went off to do the car shuffle while the rest of us carried on along the canal – our mission was to find a mooring near a pub – either at the Wharf Inn at Hockley Heath or the Cider House a little further on. I took the helm in the increasingly cold wind and Denise bravely joined me on the back deck – Rhodri and Christina sensibly stayed inside. I thought the crew had done its work, but I’d totally forgotten (again!) about the two lift bridges! They’re both ones where the moorings are on the opposite side to the mechanism so I pressed the crew into action – Denise and Christina drew the short straw as the first bridge was apparently very heavy; Rhodri was drafted in to do the second bridge and turned the windlass with no apparent effort.

It was almost dark by the time we reached the Wharf Inn so we decided to stop there. The moorings beyond bridge 25 looked full, so we quickly stopped before the bridge – I’d spotted a mooring ring there; in fact, there are a whole line of mooring rings. It wasn’t the best spot for the hounds because there is a busy road on top of the embankment, but other than that it was quiet and had easy access to the pub. We moored up and I fed the hounds. Within minutes the rest of the crew had turned up – Sarah had a late pass so we went off to the pub (food served until 8.30pm) and had a good pub meal. We toasted Indigo Dream’s fifth anniversary – she was actually launched on the 16th May but we’d be by ourselves then and it seemed better to have a mini-celebration while we had a larger complement of Indigo Dreamers.

Mother and son....

Denise had researched B & B’s during the last hour or so of our cruise and found two rooms at Rose Cottage, Hockley Heath (B94 5NH – 01564 782936) – they had a bit of trouble finding it at first, but once they’d got their bearings, the cottage turned out to be within half a mile of the mooring!

The road became quiet overnight and the mooring was silent – we had to keep the dogs on lead on the towpath but Lou and Lynx could be let off on the path across the lift bridge which flanks some open fields. Ty, of course, was not to be trusted off- lead here. We had the usual dog commotion at 2am – that’s when Ty decided that it was dark and quiet enough for him to go out and wee. I decided it was Richard’s turn to walk down the towpath in his pyjamas and nudged him awake. We had a better night’s sleep tonight though – Lou had her usual spot on the sofa so we were spared that particular angst!

Photoblog:

This weekends photos and a few missing snaps from last weekend….

Be-calmed - moored below the weir!

View from Lapworth bottom - such a scenic flight....

Rural scene from the Rowington Embankment...

Wyn getting the hang of narrow locks...

Our competent crew....

Scenery on the Lapworth...

Scenes from the Lapworth (1)

Scenes from the Lapworth (2)

Scenes from the Lapworth (3)

Scene from Day 10....

Scene from Day 11 - cheeky duck!

Scene from Day 11 - busy at the winding hole, especially with that sunken boat in the way!

Scenes from Day 11 - happy on Henry H....

Scene from Day 12 - hill/mound overlooking the Fosse locks....

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Dog Blog: Lynx’s diary

Posted by indigodream on 16 May, 2011

Wednesday 11th May

The A team - from the front - Beren, Ranger, me an' Henry...

Ooh, mummy Sue sez our whole life is just a soap opera – yuck, I duzn’t like soap and if opera is wot mummy Sue keeps warblin’ then I duzn’t like that eifer.

I’s fancy bein’ more of an hadventure, superhero type fing -a bit like the fantastic four, ‘cept we’s three – you knows, me as the clever quiet handsum one – me superpower is me hypno-stare wot makes humans do me bidding; Lou’s gotta be the kick-ass girlie hero type – her superpower is bein’ sassy, and there’s Ty, the fick one wot is comic relief, like scooby-doo. Then, oh course, we’s got our friends wot visits – ‘specially my babes – Miffy, Sharry and Bess – mmmmm…..

I woz thinkin’ that David could ‘Rooooo” the tune wots at the beginnin’ so that everyone would know when to watch….

Mummy Sue sez we’s more like Enid Blyton heroes coz we always likes to be home for tea….

Hepisode one…..

Where I shows my sensitive side an’ reminds mummy Sue of her grand-daddy.

Himagine a boat, wif greyhounds, and green stuff an’ locks…..

I’s been lurnin’ about mummy Sue’s grandaddy – he used to say that if you goes somewhere, then you has to come back a diff’rent way if you can. Soo, I woz bein’ a good boy an’ followin’ daddy Richard’s bike up an’ down the locks – I’s got to make sure he’s doin’ them prop’ly. Well, he goes up to one lock and I follows him then he goes down again so I’s spotted a new paf – across the road. I goes up to the road and I looks left, then right, then I just crossed over coz I’s the handsum hero, and cars always stops for handsum heroes! Well, wot a commotion – I gots to the uvver side and there woz daddy Richard – he woz a funny colour – I fink he woz havin’ a heart attack – he thought I’d be run over. He bundled me back on the boat.

I sez to mummy Sue

“I’s a good boy, why’s I back on the boat”

She sez “coz you gave us the biggest fright of our lives – we luves you too much for you to be squashed by a car”

“humph” I sez “I woz just doin’ wot your grandaddy did – is herediterary – I’s got his jeans”

But mummy Sue sez you can’t get jeans by adoption….

So you duzn't believe that we have hypno-powers.....

Wot, I’s adopted, I though you woz my mummy…..

Hepisode Two….

The one where sassy Lou gets to show her superpowers

Himagine a pub garden by a canal wif lots of doggies just sittin’ nice an’ quiet….

We’s all happy hounds coz mummy Sue promised to get us sum sosidges so we’s bein’ hextra good and quiet. But then this mad Staffie squiggles outta his collar an charges up to Lou and attacks her wif his teef – eek! Mummy Sue woz very useless coz she put her hand out to stop him but the staffie bit her – huh, so much for her leadership superpowers. But Lou duzn’t put up wif this sorta thing, so when the staffie went for her froat she just got stuck in and flipped him over and went for his froat – ha ha, I bet he weren’t hexpecting that Mr Staffie! Anyhoo, the staffie’s mu-mum took him away and Lou, bein’ a super-hound, didn’t have a single scratch – yay! Mummy Sue woz bleedin all over the place so I’s cuddled up to her and I gives her my best hypno-stare – “what you need is to give me a big fuss – that’ll make you feel loads better” – she forgot her hurty bite straight away and stroked my ears and fed me sosidges – I is so fantastic!

Oh course, I can sees you finking “if you’s so fantastic why didn’t you defend mummy Sue” but that’s Lou’s superpower – she duz the physical stuff and I do the mind fings – d’oh!

ps. Lou woz vankwished by two vampire vets wot took her blood, so we’s need anuvver sassy lady greyhound wif vampire slayer sooper-powers; any nice lady greys called buffy out there?

pps. We’s can provide good-ish home wot is better than kennels…..

ppps. apply to me direct – mummy Sue duzn’t need to know…..

Hepisode Three

Where Ty’s bein pafetic – as per spec…..

Sassy lady Lou...

Ty’s bin very helpful this week – mummy Sue’s always letting the wind perm her hair so is always a bit of a mess – not worthy of a boatful of super-hounds. So Ty grabbed her hairbrush and helped her to get the brush strokes right – she wozn’t very happreciative but Ty persevered – is a hard life. Then Ty borrowed mummy Sue’s hairbrush, coz he sed it needed less bristles and more tooth marks for fine combing – he got yelled at big time – hu-mums are soooo ungrateful…..

Then he had lots of scaredy wuss boy sort of hadeventures – he cut his foot, then he fell in the canal – hee hee hee! But then he cut his leg big time – too much bro – you wants little cuts for sympafy not big bandages. Then the vet sed he is poor hound wot duzn’t have enuff soft beds. Well, it’s obvious innit, we’s totally neglected – I mean mummy Sue gives us dog food and sumtimes we only gets one hot chikkin between us in a whole week – and now the vet sez we hazn’t got enuff duvets – see! So, here’s mummy Sue’s skool report – B minus – must try harder…..

Hepisode Four

Where I loses the luv of my life…..

I luves Miffy – shes reeelly dainty and pretty and she duzn’t wear me out wif leanin’ on me back – she’s a proper babe to share all me hadventures wif. But, BUT, she prefers Beren – he is more like her age and he’s a loverly brindle – they’s went off and had hadventrues all down the locks at Stockton – I’s had to have hadventures all by meself. Huh, babes are so flighty…..

Stills from me hadventure movie…..

Beren the brave....

See, I's the clever, dignified, handsum one....

Me and Miffy - oh Miffy.....

Lou and Beren makes a much better pair...

Two boys an' a girl - gotta be the newer Avengers!

Ty pretendin' to be brave....

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 12

Posted by indigodream on 15 May, 2011

Monday 9th May

Long Itchington to Warwick

The Two Boats pub at Long Itchington - nice atmosphere here...

Note: we are a week behind with the blog – will try to catch up soon! (Apologies Celtic Kiwi!)

We had a very quiet night on the mooring and the nearest thing to a good night’s sleep that we’ve had so far this weekend. So it was that we were up and about quite early, by our standards. This was a nice mooring spot – good dog-walking, good pubs and convenient road access for the car shuffle. The pub had kindly given us permission to leave the car in their car park, so we set off without any delay.

We didn’t have any guests on board today so we had quiet bobble along, taking the day’s 8 locks in our stride. Bascote locks were as lovely as ever – the hounds had a little rummage here and we had poignant memories of Blue – this flight was among his favourites as he’d get off a the top, rummage in the adjacent woods and meet us at the bottom sometime later.

We met a boat coming up the staircase at Bascote – good timing – they were a single boat in the bottom of the staircase and had just filled the top lock – ideal for us to get in. The ground crew duly emptied the top lock into the bottom lock enabling us to do a swap as soon as they were equalised. It was a good manouevre, thank you and saved us quite a wait.

Below the Bascote flight, the canal meanders through an ancient landscape, bisected by the Fosse Way, a typical roman road. We had the locks to ourselves for a while but we stopped for water just below bridge 32 (Fosse Way) – the water point is on the offside just after the bridge – there are prominent signs reminding boaters that there is no rubbish disposal here, though there is an elsan point.

The tank filled very quickly, just in time for a hire boat that we’d overtaken earlier (at the previous water point) to catch up with us. We shared the rest of the Fosse and Radford locks with them – they were a genial pair, over from the southern Hemisphere (wasn’t too sure whether Australia or New Zealand) – they’d hired a boat for 6 weeks – this was the start of their final week. They were interesting locking partners, with just enough experience to get themselves out of trouble but alas, not quite enough to keep out of it in the first place. The wind was very awakward and the lock moorings here are on the offside, which is a bit confusing. This meant that the lady of the boat often dropped her crew off on the towpath side and was promptly pinned there by the ferocious wind. The geography of the locks meant that to get from the towpath to the lock she had to cross the canal, against an adverse wind, while missing the ‘side pounds’ which used to be single locks alongsiide the big double locks in times gone by. We offered advice and help where we could, but communication was not our partner’s strongest skill – especially between each other! I had a chat with the lady of the boat and she said that they were much happier now than at the start of the holiday because they’d had a chance to practice manouevering the boat. I mused, silently, on what my singing teacher’s been telling me – “for a while, at the beginning, you just practice your mistakes – that’s where lessons can help!”.

Nifty manouevres at Bascote staircase locks....

When we last passed this way, there was thriving colony of boaters above Radford Lock – they’d set up a bonfire/picnic area in the woods adjacent to the towpath. We’d thought it might just be a coven meeting or whatever, but no, it seems to be a permanent little enclave as the clearing in the woods seems to have been set up as a garden/playground for the boaters moored there. We mused on whether you’d feel welcome mooring there – I doubted it – I think you’d feel like an intruder, but as far as we can tell, these are public towpath moorings.

We dropped our rubbish off at the service point below Radford lock – we had another Ty incident here as our own communication went awry. I took a second lot of rubbish to the bins leaving Richard in charge of the boat; he got off to give Ty a walk but I hadn’t realised that he’d left the boat untied. I looked back and there was the boat drifting away from the bank and quickly got on board at the bow (which was still touching the bank). In the meantime, he’d let Ty off the lead (conversations were had about this as we were close to a road here) and had control of the situation when he, too, spotted the boat drifting off, without realising that I’d got back on board and was working my way to the stern to get things under control. While he was distracted Ty did a runner but luckily only around the compound and Richard caught him before any harm could be done.

We regretfully cruised away from Radford – it is a beautfiul spot and I can quiet understand why boaters would want to establish a colony there.

Sadly, Leamington Spa was a little less inspiring – the water suddenly became trashy and the place had a run down air, though the towpath is in magnificent condition and there are ample mooring rings for visiting boats, though there are few boats actually using them. We’d had a good day’s cruising so we actually got to Leamington around lunchtime and as we munched our ‘gubbins from the fridge’ pasta we started looking at the logistics of the car shuffle. There weren’t any useful trains from Leamingon, so I dropped Richard off and he cycled back towards Long Itchington while I pressed on towards the Cape Locks. Sadly I wasn’t to get that far.

View from Bascote bottom lock - lovely....

I cruised on through a lacklustre Warwick, or maybe it was me that was lacklustre – I was little weary and fed up with cruising in the wind. As I was passing the two boatyards between bridges 48 and 49, I had an unexpected phonecall – Richard’s bike had a puncture, in the middle of nowhere around Radford Semele. Luckily we know where the village is in relation to the canal, having walked there on a previous odyssey. His call was well timed as I was just passing the last of the mooring rings opposite Kate Boats and was able to moor relatively easily – I’d been afraid that I’d have trouble holding the boat steady against the wind if I’d had to fiddle around with mooring pins. I left the hounds on board and went up to the road to ring for a taxi. By chance, I rang the first cab firm that directory enquiries listed – Fareway Shire – 01926 497777. I mention them because the driver they sent was tremendously helpful – he turned up quickly and took me to meet Richard at the White Lion in Radford. When I explained the situation to him, he offered to put Richard’s bike in the back of his car (it was a big volvo estate) and take us to Richard car at Long Itchington. This was exactly the service that we needed and the whole trip cost less than £20 – bargain!

We took Richard’s car back to the boat and started making plans – we needed to leave Indigo Dream somewhere safe for the week. I didn’t fancy the mooring rings where I’d left her but we thought we’d get some local knowledge from the Kate Boats office. They were very obliging – they usefully told us that the mooring rings opposite were safe, but they were only 48-hours. Then, without our prompting, the lady in the office checked with her guys and they offered us a mooring at their yard for £5 a night – brilliant! The only proviso is that we have to be away i.e. back on the towpath, by Friday night because their hire fleet is due back in on the Saturday. I moved the boat over to the boatyard and we very quickly unpacked and got on our way. It’s day 12 of the odyssey and we’re starting to feel the distance now, though we’re well compensated for our efforts – what a beautiful country we live in.

We had a smooth journey back and we all collapsed onto our various chairs and duvets – home-sweet-home indeed!

But our dramas were far from over – on his last run round the garden before bed-time, Ty crashed into the garden wall and cut his leg very badly – I’ve never seen so much blood! Cue a trip to the emergency vet – well two actually – one to drop him off for stitching and another to pick him up later and pay the bill – I’m not sure who was in more pain – Ty or Richard, as his credit card took the hit! The following day I had to take Ty back to his regular vet for a check-up – there I was made to feel like a very unfit mother indeed – the wound on his toe (acquired on Saturday) was nastily infected and he’d developed sore elbows – “pressuse sores” said the vet “caused by inadequate bedding – what sort of bedding does he have?”. I convinced her that we had adequate bedding  – well, if a proper padded dog bed, a duvet, a pillow and a sheepskin can be considered adequate. The trouble is that when he’s scared on the boat, Ty has a tendency to burrow under his bedding, resulting in his exposing his elbows to the timber floor. She said we’d have to watch out because pressure sores are very hard to treat if they’s allowed to ulcerate. So the rest of my day was spent in the DIY store looking for stuff to stick a soft rug onto the floor so that he can’t squiggle off it.

I can honestly say that this weekend, and subsequent week, has been a little too frantic for my taste, especially on the vet visits – I’ve had to take either Lou or Ty to vet every day this week and am finishing with a flourish as they both have to go on Friday! Ty is recovering well though – even his elbows! Lou is having a bit of a crisis with her kidneys – she’s well in herself but her urine/blood tests suggest that things are amiss so that’s an added anxiety.

Photoblog:

The welsh at Welsh Road lock!

Unusual craft....

Little playground in the woods above Radford lock...

We liked this yellow boat - the mooring ropes were yellow and the wheelbarrow - shame about the orange canoe really!

The outskirts of Leamington Spa - doesn't look too bad, maybe it was just my mood on the day...

Plentiful, but empty, mooring rings in Leamington Spa...

Is that graffiti on the boat? Never a good sign.....

Aqueduct over the railway in Warwick...

The aqueduct over the Avon - we're still hoping for a boat lift between the canal and the river....

Sad to see the perspex over this cottage's windows - we talked to the owners a few years ago when we had trouble on the mooring opposite - they have trouble with youths throwing stones across the canal - isn't that dreadful...

No doubt what this is boat is about - http://maidoffibre.com - a "sanctuary for knitters" according to their website - not for me then 🙂

Look at those flags - bit windy eh??

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