Sunday 28 April 2019

Dodged a bullet and a trip to Kidderminster...

Oh dear - it's 6 days since I was here. Sorry. 

What can I say? -we've just been busy boating with and without guests.

To bring things up to speed, the short version is we hung around between Autherly Junction and Brewood for a few days - nipping back and forth to go to the Coop for supplies.  On Monday we arrived near Napton boat hire and collected our guests who were supposed to be travelling a 4 day route around the less nice parts of Wolverhampton/Birmingham lines.  Wired had been crossed somewhere along the line and as THEY didn't really want to spend their first afternoon on a boat going up the Wolverhampon 21, we looked at the guides and decided we'd try a trip down to Stourport instead .. terminating their trip in Wombourne.

WHAT a result that turned out to be... it's proper lovely down here - although there is a distinct lack of water taps between Autherly and the other side of Wombourne.

NOT making the turn up the locks, we all breathed a sigh of relief (not that we wouldn't have found it interesting) and chugged our way along in the sunshine enjoying a cuppa and a natter before the first lock

Upon arrival, Andy got straight into bossy  instructor mode and before long we were down and on our way once more.

We contemplated staying just above Bratch locks but as the sun was still shining (and the forecast for the rest of the week decidedly horrid) we continued.

The Bratch is quite a clever little staircase - it uses side pounds between the locks involving a "mini lock" (not big enough to get the boat in) to facilitate this...  it works well.  It's also "manned" until 6 Monday to Friday and until 8 at weekends.  

We stopped for the night at the Round Oak Pub in Wombourne.

Next morning the sky was beginning to look a bit threatening, but undeterred we chugged on .  There really are some lovely canal side gardens on this stretch - this one being owned by a garden cente owner so I Suppose it HAS to be good.... I'd imagine having a team of gardeners helps too ;-) 

I got chatting with a CRT chap at one of the locks and he warned we'd need to get through Debdale lock before 3 in order to get past the land slippage at Wolverley...  the locks either side only being open between 9 and 3 - this wasn't going to happen so when the heavens opened near  Kinver we called it a day and 4 peoples' soaking wet clobber went through the dryer.

The plan to get to Stourport was looking un-achievable -not because of the distance involved but the opening hours of past the land slip.  Undeterred, we set off... I forget the name of this tunnel, but I don't think I'd like to live on one of the houses up above.

As I waited for the crew to assist a boat up Debdale Lock, when the boat came into view I thought to myself  ' I recognise that boat'...  but the crew less so. 

Loosely tying up the boat, I wandered down to take a better look and it was Mike on Alchemy - he and his wife had stopped to say hello at Stanley Ferry the other year ...  it was lovely to shake his hand and KNOW when he asked "how are you doing?" that he really meant it... some people are just genuinely "good and sincere" !

As the crew buggered off on foot went on ahead, I chugged past the land slip and because I was busy taking photos, ended up briefly grounded on the towpath side just after - I hope you appreciate the photos as you missed OUT on the cursing!!!

A nice surprise awaited Andy at the next lock - quite by chance, his parents were driving by, saw a boat in the lock and came to have a gongoozle.  After a quick hello, they toddled off and we continued on our way.

On reaching Kidderminster, we stopped near Sainsburys, had some lunch and then agreed there'd not be time to get to Stourport and back  - as such, we turned the boat at the (restricted) winding hole just on the corner before the locks... BOY it was tight... 1 inch spare at the rear, with the front fender pushed into the widest point on the offside.
On our return journey, the skies were getting darker and darker and before long the heavens opened again big-style.

Back at Debdale lock, I took a look in the little cave thing... not sure why it's there, but it DID appear to be providing shelter to some poor soul.

We arrived in the outskirts of Wombourne about 3pm after Stopping off for a final (pub) lunch together with our guests who were picked up by one of their daughters and we said out goodbyes.  We'd had a lovely time with them - mucking in, truly "getting" us and even the rummikub didn't seem as bad this time around ... perhaps I'm getting used to it now!

We're now going to spend a few days around the area so Andy's family can visit before we set off to Nantwich where we're due a week tomorrow to collect some friends and begin our trip up to Llangollen... quite excited about that journey as once again (just like everything since we left Huddersfield has been) it's new territory for us.

Until next time!

Monday 22 April 2019

update part 2 - Etruria to Brewood...(pronounced Brood)

So then - I didn't make it back here to finish off the update... not cause I was having a crisis or anything - just because the weather has been SO nice, we've just been chugging for the sake of it...Sorry I keep coming back to "mum" - this place has become my 'go to' when I'm a bit emotional... folk generally don't want to talk about it and do their best to steer conversations away from it - which is no bloody use to me as I could really DO with talking about it... hey ho. 

You'll recall, our latest guests left us at Etruria to get their train home... I say home, they were off home briefly and THEN to catch a plane to Majorca for some sunshine... ahem, it appears WE'VE had more than them lol.

Whilst filling with water on the Caldon arm near the Etruria Industrial Museum, I was watching a boat coming up the lock and went to close the gate - getting chatting (as you do) they were wondering if they'd left it too late in the day to begin the Caldon...IE to get past the grottier bits and on to nicer places to stop.  I reassured  them that we'd started it later in the day then they, and to keep on going until after the 2nd lift bridge... 

Taking my advice, they turned up the arm and went passed us - still on the water point.  I noticed the boat stopping and thought they'd chickened out...  HOWEVER, it was actually a stop so the bloke on the boat could come and say hello - he natters on Thunderboat (the forum) like I do and has been keeping an eye on our travels.

After they'd gone and we were full, we began our descent of Stoke locks. 

At lock 37, a train was being held so WE actually made better progress than they.

by the next lock we'd caught up with a hire boat and spent much of the day just behind them...

On the subject of Hire boaters...  I have to say, that apart from the occasional "drunken party" most of them are far more considerate than boat OWNERS.  This was evidenced a bit later on before we arrived in Stone, when a boat OWNER, 'stole a lock' from aforementioned hirers in front of us - a boat had just come up and our hirers were getting into position to drop off their crew when "Mr Angry" started shouting at them for buggering about and began to empty the lock.

On seeing me walking down to see what the fuss was about, "Mr Angry" became "Mr apologetic" and helped them through the lock... AND apologised for all his swearing... most odd but I have to admit, HAD we not have been there, I doubt he'd have had a change of heart. 

The Hirers accepted his apology and continued on their way a little ahead of us until they offered to let us pass.  This was helpful as we needed to top with water at Stone bottom lock and whilst the tank was filling, I nipped into M & S to get a ready meal for tea.

When I returned, the water wasn't far off full so we called it a day and then carried on and got about an hour away from Great Haywood before stopping for the night. By now it was about 8pm and getting cold so it turned out to be a good move.

The next morning, bright and early we departed - hoping to beat some of the bank holiday traffic - a lovely misty start to the day but before long  the sun burned it away nicely.

Before long we were at Great Hayward where we chucked a right turn onto the Staffs & Worcestor Canal.

Such a nice canal - with the lovely Tixell Wide  - WHERE whilst we chugged passed (on tickover as always) a chap shouted from his boat that he reads the blog AND didn't have anything nasty to add so I took that as a bonus!

We ended the day at Penkridge - just above the Cross keys pub...  

Penkridge is another "nice" town... not a lot to it but very pretty and friendly... the down side being the Coop didn't have air-conditioning so it was unbearably hot - I'd hate to be in there in the height of summer!

As we left the following morning - a little later than intended due to the crew insisting on a lay in, queues were already forming at the first lock and by the time we'd gotten through (about 10am) there were another 4 boats behind us waiting to come up...

We chugged on for a few hours and then Andy got a call from his dad to suggest meeting for lunch "somewhere" - The Anchor pub was agreed on so we stopped off there ... His folks brought with them the new front fender I'd ordered the other week and after lunch, we continued towards Wolverhampton.

There is a "really thin bit" that is mentioned in the guide not far from Autherley Junction... and of course we met 2 boats going through it - luckily, they both got out of our way and before long we turned on to the Shroppie.

We chugged as far as Brewood and tied up for the night on the visitor moorings.. I must admit, we WERE a bit close to the bridge but no one hit us as it was late when we arrived...  

We've had a lovely run down here and given the "Easter Break" not made bad progress... it's a good job we departed on the Thursday though and got the bit between Stoke and Great Haywood under our belts as I'd imagine that would have been queue city.

The last couple of days, we've been up to Wheaton Aston (for water) and then back to Brewood (for supplies)... today finds us moored between bridge  7 & 8 - about an hour or so away from Autherley Junction where we'll head back to in the morning to collect our next guests for our exploration of the Wolverhampton area - this time tomorrow, we'll be puffing our bellies out working our way through the Wolverhampton 21

Until next time....

Saturday 20 April 2019

'Mum Moments' and a partial update...

Forgive the relapse here but I feel the need to share again...

The thing is about grief, your brain (or at least mine does at any rate) seems to feel the need to obsess about the person who's gone.  There is no logic in it at all - when mum was alive, I could go days - sometimes weeks without really thinking of her or my dad.  Writing that down actually makes me feel even more guilty... many a time  "Wogan" used to be waffling on (nicely like he did) on the radio and he'd say the phrase "you'll never miss your mother 'till she's beneath the clay" ... I'm paraphrasing here I suspect but the SENTIMENT is true.

Now, as we're chugging along on a beautiful day with the sun shining, birds singing and flowers blooming EVERYTHING reminds me at some level of mum and is stopping me from being in the moment... it's really brassing me off to be honest.... even things that are so tenuously related to her keep needling me to the point of being on the verge of tears... tears which are never really THAT far away at the best of times. Luckily I have a really dark pair of 'chugging' sun-glasses which hide them well so most folk are oblivious... and those that are not... well, I suppose I don't REALLY worry about them anyway.

Recently, it's been the spring flowers triggering memories - the other day we happened across a hillside absolutely carpeted with wild primroses and within seconds my brain had wandered off to childhood memories - one in particular... Where we lived, there were loads of them around and  mum used to pick some, tie them up with cotton and place a tiny bouquet in an egg cup and then take them to an old lady called Jean (who was in a wheel chair and lived next door to where my nan lived) when she used to call in to "set her hair" - I'd be bored watching said hair being put into rollers with setting lotion (the smell of that is coming back to me even now) and even when she'd finished it really din't make much of a difference to her appearance ... BUT to Jean, she felt like someone had made an effort to make her look more pretty and it made her happy - therefore it made mum happy too .... as a kid, I was just very bored sitting in this woman's kitchen watching her hair being "done"... This went on for years after my nan died but it was mum's way of keeping a connection with HER mother...  I understand this now.

It's not just primroses - Aubretia is another one...  yesterday we chugged passed SO many gardens with canal-side walls with masses of the stuff tumbling down  - Mum could never grow it... I think it needs lime-soil to prosper and ours was very clay like...just seeing it and my brain thinking "Joyce'd love that" interrupts the moment again.

I DO hope this is temporary and I can chug past something without my subconscious prodding me to point out I've not been upset for 30 seconds so it's time to remember again.

It's a similar thing when I talk with my dad on the phone. It's a necessary thing for us both but we both end up upsetting each other - with stifled sobs as we try and compose ourselves enough to make conversation about something else - ANYTHING else to convince ourselves life moves on and things are gonna be fine... the reality being that Joyce was the "common ground" between us and without her presence, we realise she was the hub so to speak.

Even in the darkness however there are some comedy moments with him - yesterday he told me he'd bought himself a chainsaw... "your mother would never let me have one and I've always wanted one" ... he then went on to say how savage it is and having "cut a chunk out of something I shouldn't' have done , I've used a hand saw" lol.

Apparently he's been helping some other oldies do some fencing  - no, not sword fighting... erecting barriers in their gardens.  This is the man with most of his stomach muscles missing since his operation last year - it's nearly 12 months now since he was on deaths door in a coma... he's now filling his waking hours with "jobs" to make him tired and stifle the loneliness.  Loneliness he at least feels comfortable enough to be able to admit to feeling ... AND to try and do something about.  NOT that folk have abandoned him... far from it... from the sounds of things, he's barely a moment to himself.

This somewhat new-found celebrity status has it's negatives too though - some of the people who are now making an effort to spend time with him out of kindness, didn't necessarily extend the same kindness towards mother when she was alive and immobile ... at a time when her world had become SO small.  He's sad that some folk hadn't been able to tolerate (for want of a better word) her towards the end as it'd have meant more to HIM for her to have been happier if you follow...he's always been (and contines to be) a kind man who puts everyone one ELSE before him.

People are SO complicated.

NOT me however... I'm pretty much WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) - wear my heart on my sleeve.

ANYWAY - enough of that until the next time it erupts....

  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . 

WHAT'S been going on then? - well, we said goodbye to our first couple, did a mass wash and clean and then new guests joined us on Monday lunchtime in Marple.

We'd just sneaked in on the end of the 2 day moorings that those 3 boats seem to be living on - STILL cross about that - not at crt but them... they KNOW they are taking a liberty and spoiling things for visiting boaters who then have to try find somewhere else to tie up - perhaps further out of town... perhaps far enough out NOT to walk back in and spend any money there...  grrr...

Their arrival was fortuitous as I'd been "stuck" with a chatty man who wasn't taking the hint to bugger off so when then trolled up on the towpath, I could brush him a side and get us moving.

You'll remember the Closure of Bosley locks had been looming over us so we raced - (as fast as you can at 2-3 miles an hour) in that direction as soon as they stepped on board.

Having stopped at Bollington Wharf to fill with diesel and have a pump out, we chugged on to about half an hour away from the locks before stopping for the night.  Not too bad a spot but as usual of late, the Geese decided it was time for us to get up before it was light... I really hate geese these days.

At the top of Bosley we filled with water (2 other boats were queuing at the water point so we nipped into the pump-out arm.

THIS meant that accidentally, we queue jumped and ended up going down the locks ahead of a boat that would otherwise have been in front... ahem...  Guilt pricked away at our conscience and our crew then helped them follow us down so as to re-balance the Karma.

When we got to lock 3, we saw the platform crt had built to cover the void...  it tuned out that we'd made it on just the right day as "we're closing it again tomorrow to fill it with clay"... said one of the chaps I got talking to.

Once through Bosley, we carried on to Congleton where a quick stop (in search of bread and milk) was in order... going up the steps at the pub seemed a good idea...  and I'd imagine many a boater has fallen back DOWN them after a few libations! - we were OK and carried on with our journey.

When we tied up for the night (near the Rising Sun at Heritage Wharf) as one of our guests wasn't in the mood to play rummikub, they beggered off to the pub, leaving ME to keep Andy happy... which meant 3 rounds of said game and me LOSING 3 rounds... I don't mind...  I've always been a joiner-inner so losing comes naturally lol.

Next morning we went through Harecastle Tunnel again - this time it took us about 40 mins which is odd because it felt longer - the water level was a good 9 inches lower than previously.   Stopping for lunch at Westport Lakes, we decided to linger while whilst our guests went off exploring - it really was a lovely afternoon.... when they returned, we chugged on to Etruria to spend the night.  In typical boating style, we bumped (NEARLY literally) into another boat as we went round a corner/through a bridge into a lady I follow/who follows us, on Twitter... and she joked we'd both be tweeting about the encounter later... the closeness of the incident WAS however my fault was we'd all been looking at an old building and discussing what it could be used  for and I'd taken my eye off the bridge for a moment too long...  

At Etruria, we tied up, had dinner and then went off to the pub with our guests - quite a gem of a pub called "The holy inadequate" in stoke.

We'll be going back there again... rather good beers.

Next morning our guests departed after breakfast and we began the laundry task again - this time on the water point at Etruria before we set off to Wolverhampton.

I'll come back later and finish this as we need to be setting off again now...  the sun is out, the first "yellow peril" has gone past and it's gonna get busier.

Until next time...

Friday 19 April 2019

We ARE still here...

Just a bit short of time as we've got a fair few miles to cover from dropping our guests off in Stoke before we collect the next ones in Wolverhampton...

I promise to come back asap and update on the journey...  SUFFICE to say, It's "Good Friday" and I suspect there are going to be a lot of boats in our way to share the space with...

until next time... HOPEFULLY soon!

Sunday 14 April 2019

Saying goodbyes...

Just a quick one as I'm about to cook a full English as a departing breakfast for our first guests this season...

We'll arrive back in Marple this morning (once said breakfast has been eaten and washing up has been done) to say goodbye to our first guests of this year...  we couldn't have had easier or amusing folk to kick us off with .. .they really have been a blast.

We've very lucky - you see, the thing about folk who've opted to come along with us is that most of the time, they've already "got" us  and what we're about...  what that means is that we can enjoy THEM - without having to be on our best behavior or disingenuously gracious ... I get the odd (as in occasional) look from Andy (well sometimes they're "odd" looks too I suppose) to suggest I need to modify my natural fabulous demeanor behave, but MOST of the time, we develop a mutual friendship, understanding and respect.

It's rather good.

THIS trip, whilst only short, has been a lovely re-introduction to sharing our lives with folk... kind of dipping our foot back into the pool and it's worked perfectly.

Of course, THEY may be thinking otherwise but we'll never know and that's the beauty of  lol.

ANYWAY - today is our first goodbye of many... we hope it will be more of a Bon-Voyage.

So then Mags & Phil, safe travels and 'hope to see you agin.

Until Next time..,

Friday 12 April 2019

Disaster averted... for now.

I'm beginning to get a feeling we're on a crt blacklist  and it's not just me who's noticed this... wherever we plan on going/or are, Crt send a man in and close something down.


We've got a reputation for it now on twitter too...

The day before yesterday, CRT posted an emergency stoppage notice "closing Bosley Locks until Further Notice"....

and where are we? - the WRONG side of said closure and thus potential to kill our 2nd season before it begins!

The blog even had a couple of comments mentioning it in case I'd missed it...  Didn't dare post them until I'd worked out a plan...

The good news is that (for now) the flight is re-open again... and WE need it to stay open until after Tuesday - when, we plan on having passed through it with our 2nd set of guests on route to Etruria...  Please, please, please, please PLEASE keep it open until then other wise plan (f I think we're on to now) involves 2 large cranes and a lorry  - along with thousands of pounds we don't have spare!

Plan f of course is perfectly "dooable" just not "palatable"...


and breathe.....

MEANWHILE - here is our  morning view...  there are worse places to potentially be stuck I suppose.

Until next time.....

Thursday 11 April 2019

Bugsworth Basin, Barmy Women and Beer...

Quite a tenuous post title I'll grant you but they are all, vaguely related!

Those of you paying attention will recall on Tuesday we had to have a bit of an early clean and tidy of the boat, in honour of a visiting guest... a Lovely (but bonkers so we got along wonderfully) lady who is booked on a trip with us later in the year.  She lives local to Marple so she'd suggested a few weeks ago we might try and meet up for a drink when we got here.  The plan HAD been to go to the pub for a crafty lunchtime  bottle (or 2) but in the end we got nattering and as I'd just made some bread, we soaked up the wine with some of that - followed by the aforementioned chocolate stodgy cake brownie I'd made... LUCKILY she'd read my ramblings and brought some cream with her - Very fortuitous lol.

Anyway - time flies when you are in good company (and we still needed to fill with water before leaving ) so it was after 4 when we eventually got going ... and that wasn't even WITH the water tank full as the tap is SO slow... THAT and the fact another boater was hogging the space - EVEN though he'd long since finished filling up.  I'm getting much braver now - ONCE I've checked there is no sign of a hose in sight, I pull along side and shout if it's ok to breast up and board them to fill with water...  at which point, said boater decided "I'm just about to move off"...  so we hovered along side(in the wind) whilst he did just that....  SHARE the space please Mister - and that INCLUDES services!

Whilst I'm on about Sharing spaces, Whilst on the water point, I snapped this boat - apparently (and this came from talking to a CRT Volunteer) he's been in the 2 day mooring opposite the water point for 7 months now... citing Marple flight closure as a reason for not moving...

There are also another 2 boats in the same moorings - WITH Crt overstay notices pinned to them ... also with no intention of moving.

I don't mean to harp on about it but it's really is time that the rest of us STOPPED tolerating such greedy, antisocial behavior and pull them up on it - self moderate if you like but they make life so much harder for those that DO follow the some cases, it encourages MORE bad behavior from others and before long it's anarchy.... you mark my words.

ANYWAY - moving away from that soap box irritants, we began our 'Official chug' along the Peak Forest Canal... in quite a wind!

WHAT a gem of a canal!

OK, it's rather shallow in most places... and there are very few places you can actually get to the side to moor up - including lift bridge/swing bridges where other boaters seem to think it's OK to leave their boats tied up and go off... 

The views are spectacular and we're really pleased to have come up here.  We didn't get too far but had a lovely peaceful mooring  in what felt like the middle of nowhere...  when I say peaceful, that's not withstanding the ruddy geese who once again were having "turf wars" in the middle of the night!

Next morning the views continued as we chugged along to the terminus - CRT using hoppers to re-surface the towpath in places.

WE also spotted this rather bonkers eccentric boat and I sent a photo of it to my dad - he's always been a fan of 'Only Fools and Horses' ... I never quite got it.

Writing of dad, it's good to be in communication with him via text more now - when mum was alive, it was her who first adopted 'texting' as a form or regular communication and there was a brief period since she died, when I discovered I didn't have dad's correct phone number... now that is resolved, it's nice to be able to send him a photo or a few words in between phone calls - phone calls that remain hard for both of us trying NOT to upset each other.  Everyone keeps saying how time heals but so far, there it's barely a "Mr Bump" plaster on top...  

At the Junction, we first explored up to Bugsworth Basin - where we actually FILLED the water tank, had a natter to the folk there who were really friendly and enthusiastic about "their Basin" and then chugged back to  explore the bit to Whaley Bridge

FYI - whilst there are services down the Whaley arm, that's about all it has going for it...  As someone commented the other day, it's dark, close to the road and dreary (I'm paraphrasing)... they omitted to mention it's also nigh on impossible to get moored up without scraping on a ledge.  

We abandoned our attempt - we HAD planned on going to a pub for a pint and chugged back down the arm, stopping off at Tescos (just on the junction ) and then back to Bugsworth where I reversed into the lower basin - at the same time a chap was trying to reverse out.  I wasn't pretty!

Neither of us spotted each other - so intent was our concentration lol.

NO touching of boats and a friendly show of poor reversing for all nearby.

And here we are... safe and sound

Until next time....