Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Hartshill, Polesworth and Hopwas

Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th March

When we were woken early by the Hartshill quarry we turned the central heating on then went straight back to sleep – not in the plan!  After a later than normal start we pulled in at the old BW Hartshill yard for water, in case the point at Atherstone was occupied.  Courses are now being run here.

1 new course at hartshill

At Atherstone we emptied a cassette, then went down the first five locks assisted by a volunteer.  They had just helped one boat down and are still only averaging five or six boats a day.  That seems to be about the number we are seeing too. I love the way some of the lock surrounds are cared for by the people in the lock cottages – this is at number five.  A bit of weeding is needed (though not as much as my garden) but a welcome splash of colour nevertheless.

2 lock 5 atherstone

And we liked their weathervane too.

3 lock 5 cottage

We moored below the road bridge for lunch and a trip into town.  After lunch every lock was against us, and the previous boat had failed to close the gates on four of the remaining six locks.  The gates may of course have have swung open as they sometimes do, but they stayed put when I closed them…..   Three of the paddles were also not quite closed, so we had quite a slow journey down.  We waited above the bottom lock for Lady in Red to come up. 

4 passing lady in red atherstone bottom lock

They were hot-footing it up to Springwood Haven to get their inverter sorted.  They had just bought the boat and were plagued with teething problems – used as a liveaboard, it had hardly ever left its mooring.  The fridge and freezer are 230v models so when the inverter failed it made life more than a little inconvenient!

The cloud came over as we approached Polesworth and it got very cold.  We were just debating which side of the village to stop when a loud clanking and banging from under the boat made the decision for us and we pulled in before bridge 51.  I left Dave head down in the weed hatch and took Meg off for a run. He found nothing at all there, and nothing untoward in the engine hole either.  As it was getting dark, and we had seen several bits and pieces of branch floating around, we hoped that the noise was just a chunk of wood that would work its way free by morning ….

6 miles 11 locks

It was raining when we got up so we didn’t rush off on Wednesday morning.  Around 10 o’clock the weather was clearing, so we had a look around and pulled out three chunks of log that had appeared between the bow and the bank.  I stacked them in the hedge to dry out for someone to harvest later, and Dave tentatively started the engine.  Fortunately those logs seem to have been the source of that alarming noise yesterday.  Apart from a bit of drizzle it stayed dry but was very grey. This decorated pit wheel at Pooley Hall Heritage Centre brightened the gloom somewhat.

1 pooley hall heritage centre

The road bridge nearby has been decorated with these images of Support Structures.

3 support structures 1  4 support structures 2

Fortunately out of reach of the taggers.

3 support structures 1

One day we will visit the centre but today was just a bit too cold and damp.  We didn’t fancy cleaning up the dog after she’d been running along the paths either.  These pictures are from the towpath side of the canal.

5 coal spoil pooley area   6 coal spoil pooley

We assume that the black colouration comes from dust and fragments of coal from the spoil heaps.  This would explain the ban on camp fires and barbecues!  The birch trunks looked lovely in the sun though.

7 birch trunks in the sun

We had a lot of luck at Glascote Locks, where we usually find ourselves in a queue.  The first hire boat we have spotted this year had come up a few minutes before we arrived, and the top lock had only dropped by a few inches, so we were soon on our way down.  There was already a boat coming up the bottom lock and one waiting below, so it couldn’t have been much quicker.  No time to reread the Leaky Lock poem!  I also got details of where to moor for Sainsbury’s further on.  We spotted a swan by her nest at Alvecote Marina.  I hope Lady D’s owners can get onto their boat when they return!

8 swan nest alvecote marina

The wind was getting stronger and was extremely cold.  Men have a distinct advantage in this weather.

9 a beard for the cold wind

Our lunch stop was just past the Tame aqueduct, where we were surprised to be sheltered from the icy blast.10 tame aqueduct

We paused at Fazeley junction to dispose of rubbish and the remains of a football we retrieved along with the logs this morning.  At Sutton Road Bridge we got detailed directions to Sainsbury’s from another moorer, and were away again by 3.  It was a bit of a battle trying to keep the boat straight in the wind but we were hoping that Hopwas would be sheltered by the hill and woods.  So it proved, and we moored in sunshine just north of Hopwas School Bridge.  We took Meg for a super walk in the woods, which had large patches of wood anemones nodding in the breeze.


In a few weeks’ time the slopes will be awash with bluebells.

13 this will all be bluebells

Hi Ron, we haven’t seen Tim ‘n Pru yet – we’ll catch up tonight after the football!  The Canal du Midi holiday is all rather hazy in the mists of time, so we’ll have to see if the pictures jog any memories!

8 and a half miles, 2 locks

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Banksy at Hawkesbury junction?

Tuesday 24th March

Although it was cold in the wind, the sun shone most of the day and we missed the heavy showers forecast.  It was quiet as we dropped the few inches to leave the Oxford Canal.

 1 entering stop lock H junction

As we joined the Coventry, we spotted this lovely little artwork under the bridge – how long has that been there?  Not really Banksy’s style though.

2 on pier of bridge 1 at jct

When we passed the moorings to the north of the junction we were glad we had moored on the Oxford side – heaps of ash, piles of dog poo and further up the brambles were full of rubbish.  Horrible.  We were glad to get past Bedworth, where the trees kept us in the chilly shade.  We were glared at by this chap in a garden on the edge of Bedworth. 

4 oi you bedworth

At Charity Dock most of the figures were tucked away somewhere for the winter – just the disembodied legs and the petrol pump figure to be seen.  Before we reached Marston Junction we were astonished to see a group of four workers in high-viz on the towpath.  Three were strimming grass that looked as though it had just been mown.  If you think that is a waste of our money, what about this – the fourth guy had a leaf-blower so the narrow earth path, out in the country as it was, wouldn’t be sullied by the few grass cuttings generated by the strimmers.  I think we will write and grumble about the waste of money. (Writing on Thursday – we spoke to a CC-er today who said CRT are prevented by law from letting grass cuttings go in the canal.  But a leaf blower?)

6 a leaf blower too

We passed Marston junction and just round the bend was moored Scrumpy Jack with a most unusual tiller arm.  Well, we are approaching the Land of Allotments, so I suppose it’s appropriate!

8 scrumpy jack

As we approached the outskirts of Nuneaton we had our exciting moment for the day – Diane and Raymond on NB Ferndale passed us and shouted that they read our blog!  Nice to see you – I will add you to our blog list!  We had to stop at Nuneaton as we had no bread for lunch. There were plenty of shoppers but still no decent baker.  I won’t add more to what Maffi and NB Ferndale have said in the last few days about the general grim scruffiness of the canal here, except to ask – if the Carling drinkers can take so much trouble to thread their cans onto railings and branches, why can’t they take them home or bin them?  Louts.  On the way out we actually saw two guys litter-picking.  It must be a thankless task round here.

9 rubbish collecting in nuneaton

We arrived at the moorings before Anchor Bridge mid-afternoon, and once more could pick our spot.  We prefer to be a couple of hundred yards before the old railway bridge, to avoid the worst of the noise from the road.  Doesn’t help with the quarry noise though.

10 usual mooring at anchor bridge

We went straight off for our usual walk here, down to Springwood Haven and off to the left to go down under the railway, past the riding stables and into the fields, where we were joined by a local terrier who kept us company over the river bridge, over the railway and almost back to the boat before she thought perhaps it was nearly tea-time and trotted off back home.  Meg totally ignored her.

8 miles and the stop lock.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

On to Hawkesbury Junction

Monday 23rd March

Oops, it’s Wednesday evening and I’m getting behind again ….  How do other bloggers manage to keep up-to-date?

There was a gleam of sun when we got up though it soon clouded over.  It’s a good spot here below Hillmorton Locks and we had the sun till quite late yesterday.  In spite of the proximity of the railway it was pretty quiet too.  We got going pretty early as we wanted to get to Hawkesbury Junction this afternoon.  The first thing of interest was three hedgerows which appeared to have been netted, just the 25 yards or so closest to the canal.  Why?

1 netted hedge

We stopped at Brownsover, which was deserted, to empty a cassette.  NB Peregrine moored while we were there and the owner came over for a chat – he has only recently moved aboard and is on a steep learning curve!  but seems to be enjoying himself.  We gave him directions to Tesco.  On our way out of Rugby we passed under this bridge – the slogan always makes us smile.  To the left is painted the names of two late ‘old gits’.

2 bridge n of rugby

It was jolly cold once the cloud came over.  Meg likes to be outside with us but doesn’t have a thick coat like her collie parent, so she has a little fleece coat and a bit of old sleeping bag to keep her warm – but she still ends up going inside.

3 only way to keep warm

We stopped at the super moorings at All Oaks Wood for lunch.  Near Rose Narrowboats Meg was greeted/warned off by these woolly characters – not just hair the owners have to deal with by the slobbery looks of them!  

4 woolly barkers at rose narrowboats4 woolly barkers at rose narrowboats

The towpath in the cuttings after the M6 was pretty wet and boggy; though some stretches have been built up you couldn’t keep your feet dry in between them!

7 muddy towpath

It was cold in the cuttings but out in the open the pussy willows are lovely.

8 pussy willow

We moored at the end of the Oxford, just two boats away from the stop lock.  So far this trip we have been able to moor where we want with no trouble at all.  To celebrate, we went to the Greyhound for a meal.  The last time we managed to both moor here and get a table, the children were with us – twenty years ago!  Even then we only just managed to get a table and have wanted to return ever since.  Well worth the wait.

14 miles, no locks, 1 swing bridge at Rose Narrowboats

Monday, 23 March 2015

Bye bye Calcutt!

Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March

We arrived at Calcutt in the last of the sunshine on Saturday, car crammed to the gunwales with all the stuff we’d taken home after our last cruise,such as the bedding and most of the kitchen contents.  We wanted to get going rather than hang about in the marina, so it was a quick ‘bye’ to our cosy winter berth and the marina -

1 leaving calcutt  2 leaving calcutt

and straight up the locks, all in our favour!  A bit of a mad hair day for me today as I use my lovely new windlass for the first time.

3 whizzy new toy at calcutt

We rounded the junction into the caress of the lazy wind – the sort that goes right through you because it can’t be bothered to go round you.  We pulled in near Flecknoe, chilled to the bone as we hadn’t bothered to put our thermals on for ‘just an hour or so’!  but the fire soon was soon lit for a cosy first night aboard.

3 miles 3 locks

On Sunday we were woken at 6 by a flight of geese, then again at 7.30 by two boats passing, in opposite directions.  So we were up early, and when I took Meg for a short walk I discovered first our old share boat nb Padworth – curtains firmly closed so I didn’t call!

2 padworth

and then a patch of violets.  Not a fantastic photo on my camera but good enough to see them.

1 violets bridge 101

We were away soon after 9 as we wanted to stop at Braunston.  It was cold but there was enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers (as my grandma used to say), so we knew the sun would soon be out.

3 sailors trousers

Bridge 102, which was surrounded by scaffolding and crawling with workmen when we came through in the autumn, is now finished with a new parapet on the south side.

4 new parapet at 102

We passed the permanent moorings on the way to the Puddle Banks and noticed the sinking boat getting ever lower in the water, although a smart pair of new batteries was sitting on the bank by the bow (hidden here by the grass), so perhaps someone is going to have a go at renovation? 

6 sinking boat has new batteries

We moored just past the junction and I peeled off my thermals before hot-footing it up to the church to join the bellringers for the Sunday service while Dave took a more leisurely stroll with Meg to get the paper and some Braunston Bangers before coming back to read the paper in the sunshine.  We had lunch as soon as I got back from church and by 1.30 were shuffling across to the facilities to dump some rubbish before setting off for Hillmorton.  One of the water points has an ‘Out of Order’ notice on it and is fenced off, along with the quagmire around it, while the other has a bit of old pallet to keep users’ feet out of the mud.  But we didn’t need water, so off we went.8 braunston water points

We had an easy descent at Hillmorton, with two families eager to help with the gates, and moored in the sunshine just round the bend past the bottom lock.  I left Dave investigating a leak from one of the radiators and took Meg off towards Rugby for a run.  All went well till she vanished through a gap in the hedge onto the golf course.  She had found a stick and a golfer willing to throw it.  She is deaf to all calls once she has a stick or ball and I had to run over to get her back.  He thought it was hilarious but I was rather embarrassed – we don’t throw sticks for her, because she has cut her mouth before and we know of two dogs which needed surgery after chasing sticks.

It got cold very quickly after five o’clock and we were soon tucked up inside by the fire.  There was a beautiful sunset after a lovely sunny day.

7 and a half miles, 3 locks

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Exeter Ship Canal and a cool video for bridge construction fans

The last non-leisure use of the Exeter Ship Canal that I know of was in 2013, when it was used during the construction of Clyst Bridge on the Exe Estuary Cycleway.  This atmospheric picture, showing a bridge section being transported down the canal, was taken by Hugh Griffith for Devon County Council (permission obtained).

floating clyst bridge section down ship canal

The cycleway, part of national cycle route number 2, runs from Exmouth along the eastern side of the estuary to Topsham, where the River Clyst, a tributary of the Exe, causes a detour along several roads to Countess Wear, where the route joins the west side of the canal and turns back towards the sea as I described in my last post.  It is a shared use trail, popular with walkers, runners, birdwatchers, mobility scooter users – oh, and rather a lot of cyclists too.  I took my pictures on a cold March Thursday morning, and there was plenty of traffic.

 cyclists 1

Clyst Bridge (above), which cost £2.6m to build, enables walkers and cyclists to get to Topsham and beyond avoiding the busy road along the Clyst valley.  It is approached from the Topsham end by 225 metres of elevated ramp and boardwalk across the reserve, and has a 120 metre span across the river.  As shown in the photo above, the sides of the boardwalk and bridge have high fences on the left (upstream) side because the bridge crosses the RSPB Goosemoor wetland reserve, a very important area for wintering birds. The construction work was severely constrained by its location and work had to cease between September and April in 2012 and 2013 to minimise disturbance. 

viewing slots in wall

There are plenty of slots cut into the sides for birdwatchers and those who want to see the view as you can see above.  I took the picture below through one of them; the white dot just below the centre is a little egret.  I’ve already cropped the picture and it’s the best my little camera can do!marshes from clyst bridge with little egret

On the section over the water the fence has narrow gaps between the uprights, and if you cycle you can’t see much.  But if you park your bike, you can see upriver towards Odham’s Wharf, where there are several businesses including Tremlett Powerboats.


from bridge to Odhams wharfupstream through bridge fence

There were complaints that cyclists couldn’t see the view as they crossed, but we can’t let them have everything their own way, can we? Winking smile 


cyclist 2

There isn’t much of a view downstream either, as the railway is in the way, either above the trail or crossing on its own bridge!

train  railway bridge blocks the view

The canal interest involves the bridge sections, which were manufactured in Nottingham and transported in 6 parts down the M5 to the canal basin in Exeter.  They were then bolted into three sections, lifted onto pontoons and taken down the canal to Turf Lock.  At high tide they were taken down the lock to the Exe and downstream to the confluence with the Clyst before being pushed along the Clyst to the construction site.  The sections, each weighing 33 tonnes, were lifted into place by a specially-designed hydraulic lifter, as shown in this time-lapse video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fNACdTGoOeI

As the Clyst is navigable at high tide, the bridge piers have to be resistant to boat impact.  There are some large vessels moored upstream.  This is Pieter, looking rather smart;

pieter upstream from bridge

but I’m not sure this one has been out to sea for a few years ….  The bridge can be seen in the distance.

moored boat 1

The website where I found the video is https://www.cycledevon.info/cycle-routes/cycling-infrastructure/, which has more information about cycle path construction in Devon.  Another video shows how a smaller bridge was built further up the valley, using cranes this time, to enable pedestrians and cyclists to avoid a dangerously narrow road bridge.  The video was taken from the excellent Bridge pub, the first pub ever to have been visited (in 1998) by the Queen.