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Archive for June 27th, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 19

Posted by indigodream on 27 June, 2011

Fazeley Mill Marina to Hopwas

Oh yes, an epic cruise – a whole hour and a half – that’s four miles and no locks!!!!

Saturday 25th June

View over Fazeley Mill Marina - we liked it here...

We had a busy Friday, with a whirl of social activities – Sarah and three hounds came for lunch (Lynx will tell you all about that!), then we went to a friend’s golden anniversary party then we went out for a meal with cousin Denise and husband Wyn – they were up in London for Denise’s big birthday treat – a visit to Wimbledon combined with a long weekend exploring the city. We ate at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in London – phew, we’re still reeling at the price – it was good food and charming service but not THAT good. Wyn and Denise are good company though, so we consoled ourselves in the classy (NOT!) Bavarian beer cellar opposite where Richard could wonder how the Fraulein’s underwear worked then drowned our sorrows in a pub close to Old Street tube station. It was a late night, all the more so as the poor dogs hadn’t been left alone for long (they had been let out between out afternoon and evening engagements – honest!), but they’re not used to us being out that late – they probably thought they’d been abandoned!

Anyway, we were a little weary on Saturday morning and slow to get going – we didn’t leave Surrey ’til late morning and the motorways were busy. Given Ty’s experience in the car last week we were a bit concerned when an overpowering smell spread through the car. We hastily turned into the Oxford services on the M40 – we parked in a quiet-ish corner and took the hounds for a walk. There is an extensive dog-walking area here as the services are surrounded by overgrown embankments – perfect – though no off-lead areas, even for Lou and Lynx. Ty was fine – no accidents in the car and he wasn’t too terrified of the services (by Ty standards). The hounds seemed quite settled, and the weather cool, so we got coffee and lunch here before moving on.

We got to the boat late afternoon – the folk at Fazeley Mill Marina are really very friendly, it is a very nice place to moor  – they’d moved the boat nearer to the entrance – mainly because the person whose berth we were occupying had come back; but it was a move in our favour with two curious hounds and one scaredy wuss boy to get on board via a narrow pontoon!. We needed to move the car out of the marina car park – I found a useful free parking on the main road – turn right out of the marina entrance and there are bays just outside the church. While I was sorting the car out, Richard filled our tank with water and got ready for cruising. It’s only a short walk from the marina so I was soon back and we were off – well almost – we had a brief stop at the marina office to hand in our gate key and collect the £5 deposit.

Imposing mill building (and 7-day moorings) at Fazeley Junction...

Note: the car was safe at the parking space but the overhanging trees anointed it with sticky resin!

We were impressed with the stretch leading to the junction – once again, we had no memory of it, even with the great mill building casting its shadow over the surroundings at Fazeley Junction itself. In passing we noticed that there are decent 7-day moorings on the towpath outside the mill – there was plenty of space there too.

We turned left at Fazeley  junction – heading for Fradley Junction – a trip that we’ve done twice before but in the other direction. We weren’t bored though – the canal is inexplicably altered when seen from a different  perspective so it all seemed fresh and new to us.

The short stretch from Fazeley Junction to Hopwas seemed to get lovelier with each passing mile (it’s only 3 miles). There seemed to be ample dog walking on and adjacent to the towpath on the right. To the left, the extensive modern housing developments surrounding the junction were replaced by fields of crops – golden cornfields and dark green seas of potato plants tipped with white flowers – yum, they’ll be ready for picking soon!

There were also ample mooring spots – many occupied, but with plenty of space for passing visitors. We passed by nb Tailwind and associated workshop ‘butty’ – they make chimneys. We need a new chimney for one of our wood burners at home – this water-based business seemed like the ideal solution. Unfortunately we didn’t have the dimensions with us but at least we know that we can get a chimney made – I don’t think it’s a common trade!

Richard got off and took the hounds for a bobble up to Dunstall Farm Bridge – Ty is afraid of the engine noise so we turned the engine off as we approached the first bridge – this encouraged him to venture on deck and onto the towpath; we did the same to get him back on board – it seemed to work so there’s a technique to remember. The hounds enjoyed their bobble – they don’t rummage as actively without our old boy Blue, who was a champion rummager!

We’d considered and rejected many plans along the way – moor overnight in Fradley, beyond Fradley, before Fradley – our only vague desire was to moor somewhere quiet so that Ty could relax overnight. In the end we

Golden cornfields....

decided to moor at Hopwas – the fact that the village has two canalside pubs may have been a factor!.There were many quiet moorings on the outskirts just beyond Balls Bridge. The spot we chose is fine 14-day towpath mooring a short walk from the pubs and quiet enough for Ty to settle. There were two other bloggers moored at the same spot – nb Piston Broke and nb Gypsy Rover – now owned by an Australian couple – having been passed the mantle by New Zealanders Dot and Derek. I went and had a chat with Ray from Gypsy Rover – he’s a genial fellow, enraptured by the British canals, and looking forward to being joined by his wife and dog – both currently in Australia tying up a few loose ends. Sadly I didn’t chat with the crew of Piston Broke – I’ve hailed Paul in passing some time ago and he seemed a little ‘distant’ so I was shy to try again. It was a shame as I had brief but entertaining chat with the lady of the boat the following day.

Note: There were several mooring spots available on this stretch, though there are moorings directly outside the Tame Otter pub as well.

We’d moored up by 5.30pm so we set to work polishing the side of the boat that we’d missed last week, well all year in fact. The paint was looking particularly tired but I have to say that she looked fantastic when we were done. Satisfied, we set off to the pub – neither pub is dog -friendly but both have gardens which allow dogs. We went on a scouting mission, without the hounds, and plumped for the nearest – the Tame Otter – it’s part of the ‘Vintage Inn’ chain with reasonably priced gastro-pub type food. The pub had a notably good selection of beers on tap. It was threatening to rain so we found a spot outside under a huge garden umbrella and Richard went back for the hounds. I’d suggested just bringing Lou and Lynx, but Ty insisted on coming too! We laid out their beds and we all got comfortably settled for the evening. I did build a little barricade of chairs around Lou – there were six young children running wild around the garden and as Lou sometimes has severe pain in her back the best way to avoid an accident was to make sure that they couldn’t touch her in passing. The kids were noisy – the only respite being when their ice-cream arrived at the table – I was delighted when they sat down to eat but couldn’t help but think “oh no, don’t give them fuel!”.

The gunwhales - before (note the shiny cabin above!)

Of course, the hounds were impeccably behaved – even Ty lay down eventually and seemed quite calm – I haven’t given him any valium this weekend, though I had some with me just in case, and he wasn’t too much of a jelly boy. The pub filled up a little as the evening wore on – Lynx enjoyed a huge fuss from the woman at the next table, who instantly fell in love with him. The woman was so dog-friendly that even Ty went up to her for a fuss – that’s extreme courage for him!

I’d taken the Nicholson’s guide to the pub so that we could discuss Sunday’s strategy and we came to a surprising conclusion – let’s stay here and come back to the boat next week! Well, that probably makes it the shortest odyssey  weekend EVER!

Knowing that we weren’t cruising in the morning, we sat back and relaxed, enjoying a few cool lagers. Unfortunately Ty got spooked by some noise or other in the car park and turned into jelly boy so we went back to boat and had an early night.

Sunday 26th June

Our mooring spot was totally silent overnight – I should know – I had to walk the towpath twice with Ty, who had the dire rear again – probably stress related. I also had to get up at 4am but at least I didn’t have to go outside – it was just Lou, who needed a fuss!

Nonetheless we got up early (by Indigo Dream standards) – it was already hot on board – especially with the heating going to warm up the water for our showers! But we had a mission – to paint the gunwhales on one side before the temperature climbed to the forecast 30 degrees! Richard put a top coat of sealant on the polished side of the boat while I made the coffee then we were ready for work. Richard sanded down the existing paint and got me a jar of paint, thinned to the appropriate consistency with owatrol oil. To be honest, the metal was already too hot when we started painting – by the time we got to the end the sides of the boat were too hot to touch in sunlight so the umbrella came out! Nonetheless we carried on – it’s a rough job but “gwell clwt na thwll”** as they say in Wales! When we’d finished, the gunwhales were shiny blue and matched the gleaming sides that we’d polished – we were so pleased that we’d taken the time to do it. Now we just need to find a suitable bit of towpath so that we can do the other side.

The gunwhales - after! I can't recommend a close-up but doesn't she look fine? The rubbing strake will be blacked later...

While we toiled, the hounds seemed happy to relax – Ty in his nest under the sofa, Lou in her nest on the sofa and Lynx, predictably, moved between shady patches of soft grass on the towpath. I had a wry thought – we’d colonised the towpath with our bits ‘n pieces and leaving our dog loose on the side so we were turning into proper water gypsies; but with out efforts to polish and paint the boat we were definitely in the shiny boat brigade – hard to put people into boxes sometimes!

The canal here really is Clapham Junction on the water – there was an endless procession of boats going past – we haven’t seen any canal this busy all year, apart from the planned gatherings at Walsall and Pelsall of course. There was sort of ‘sods law’ thing going on – the boats almost invariably came in pairs, approaching the bend from opposite directions. Watching the various dodging manoeuvres was entertainment in itself – especially when the boats involved seemed to think that the correct way to approach a bend in the canal was on the wrong side! It was all very good natured though and there weren’t any collisions. The towpath was also busy with walkers and cyclists – many of the walkers stopped to admire Lynx and to offer welcome words of encouragement – one family passed the boat several times – pre and post polishing then pre and post painting so they were able to offer an objective view of the improvement in Indigo Dream’s appearance!

We’d finished our DIY by midday and Richard cycled back to get the car – I admired his stamina – the heat was overwhelming. In the meantime I had a little rest in the shade with Lynx – a lady from the boat moored behind us had given me their sunday paper (I’m cursing because I didn’t write the boat’s name down and they were really nice people). After I’d cooled down a little I got on with packing the boat – we were determined to get home early today. Richard was back by 1.30pm-ish, we had lunch then set off. I think Ty appreciated a quiet morning on the boat with no engine running, though he wasn’t anywhere near as relaxed as the other two. When we decamped, Ty didn’t want to leave the boat!

We had a slow trip back – we got snarled in the usual congestion around London but we got home before 6pm – just in time for some more domestic duties!

We have a grand plan now – we are heading for the Chesterfield Canal, and maybe a bit further, but first we’re having Indigo Dream’s bottom blacked – she’s booked into Sawley Marina a week Monday. We’ll cruise her there next weekend then stay on to see her pulled out of the water – we haven’t seen her bottom for over 5 years! We’ve got two chaps from Colorado coming across to do  the blacking – they’re the same company as applied the original Zinga and 2-pack blacking almost 6 years ago when Indigo Dream was being built.

It’s made a nice change to have a less intense weekend of cruising – it was especially appreciated by Ty, who was much calmer this weekend. But we’re a weary distance from home now, so once the bottom’s blacked, we’re planning to take a couple of whole weeks off to cruise the ‘northern reaches’ of this year’s odyssey. We’re so far from home now that weekend-ing may soon become a chore rather than a pleasure so time to take some time off…..

**”Better a patch than a hole”


The view back to the marina entrance...

View up to Fazeley Junction...

View across Fazeley Junction....

The turn towards Atherstone....

Alas not Adam and Adrian's Briar Rose - we'd missed them by a couple of days - maybe we'll bump into them on our way back south in August...

New developments at Fazeley Junction...

Smart BW facilities at Fazeley Junction - there's a lot to see around here! (shame about the bad subsidence, that poor building really has a bit of lean)

Close-up of the little 'doors' in the bridges hereabouts - one of our readers told us that these niches are used for storing stop planks...

On a day like today why go abroad - look at that scenery.....


More lovely countryside...

Our mooring spot on the outskirts of Hopwas...

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