We've had another lovely year’s boating, revisiting favourite areas as well as exploring new waters. We’ve had to spend a bit of money, as you can tell from the title, but I’m starting with a different grumble!
When we came up Offerton locks in October, CRT workboats were occupying both lock landings in one of the pounds. Not all that unusual you might say, but I was particularly annoyed this time because a friend of ours, an experienced hirer, had a bruising fall this summer while trying to get across a workboat which was occupying the only possible space for him to get off and operate the lock. So I wrote to CRT.
I sent them this photo and suggested the workers should use piling hooks and moor away from the lock landing.
I pointed out the plentiful mooring away from the lock landing, the irritation factor for single-handers and the potential safety issues of not being able to use the official lock landing. I finished by mentioning ‘…. the bad example it sets to hirers and other new boaters. If it's not OK to use a lock mooring for us, even just to have breakfast, why does CRT feel it can do so?’
I had naively assumed the recipient would be a boater and would know what I was talking about, but it would seem not! The customer service assistant replied, on behalf of her supervisor, telling me it was all to do with the work going on and that the men would be asked to moor one of their boats on the offside – totally unnecessary, of course, at this location. The supervisor, having missed the point completely, assured me that they ‘make every effort to assist the boaters through whilst we are working on the locks.’
Look, here’s another one – this time at Astwood locks in April.
So I wrote back describing the correct use of lock landings, risks to crew if they can’t get off their boat safely, and pointing out that boaters do not confine their cruising to CRT working hours. I gave a link to a well-known chandlery selling piling hooks and mooring chains, and suggested that CRT could conceivably be sued if a boater had an accident because a CRT craft prevented crew safely getting on or off at a lock. I probably should have looked out a photo of a lock landing with a badly overgrown towpath so they could see what I meant, but anyway … well, this is what the assistant replied. What does this mean, precisely?
Thanks for your reply. My colleague has confirmed that in future he will take all the issues raised by the customer and put in place measures to ensure all parties are aware of the working area. This will ensure the safe working environment for customers and staff alike.
I hope this means they won’t use those handy bollards any more, unless they are actually using or working on the lock, but I’m not holding my breath! And I wish they couldn’t call us customers, even if we do pay them lots of money.
Doing the brasses at Perdiswell Park, Worcester and Birmingham canal
Anyway, on to more shelling out – B.O.A.T, or ‘Bring Out Another Thousand’ in case you need reminding, though it was actually not quite that much. Dave had detected a vibration from the engine at certain revs; it had been going on for some months and was getting a bit concerning. He couldn’t find anything wrong himself, and when he asked Calcutt to look at it when they did the last service they suggested the fuel injectors might need replacing. We know from the car that this is a very expensive business! and as they weren't 100% sure that was the cause we didn’t follow up their suggestion. When we came into Droitwich Spa marina for the winter, Dave asked the engineer carrying out a service for a neighbouring boat to have a look at it, which he did before we left – and he diagnosed a worn engine mounting. Dave hadn’t been standing in quite the right place when he tested for it and clearly neither had the Calcutt mechanic. So Gordon came and replaced the mountings, which were very worn indeed, before Christmas.
And now for the stats.
We had seven trips this year, totalling 76 nights on board, travelling about 560 miles and passing through 450 locks. Nights on board and mileage are less than we are used to, but somehow our time aboard felt close to normal. Perhaps it was to do with travelling new waters, or maybe the fabulous weather we had with long days spent outside!
It was a slow start for us this year – after the snow and ice of March, our plans for river cruising had to be put on hold as the Severn (and even the little Salwarpe) were in flood for some time. Then as the weeks of sunshine began we were off to new waters – onto the Severn south of Tewkesbury for the first time and down to the Gloucester and Sharpness canal. We visited the Purton hulks, Slimbridge wetland reserve and Gloucester cathedral, and were amazed by the Severn Bore (even though it wasn’t the height to bring droves of sightseers or surfers, we were impressed!)
After a delightful trip up the Avon to Stratford, we left Chuffed at the new Hill Farm marina on the South Stratford for a few weeks, before taking the long way round to Calcutt and heading off towards Birmingham. There we went to see Dippy the Diplodocus, on holiday from London’s Natural History Museum.
Our 50th trip aboard Chuffed took us to Oxford and back, just before the beginning of the navigation restrictions caused by the drought. As well as new and some very familiar waters, we returned to the Welford Arm on the Leicester line, which we remembered fairly well, and the Staffs and Worcester from Alderley junction to Stourport, which we didn’t. We haven’t travelled the section between Alderley and Stourton junctions for many years and parts of it we didn’t remember at all.
We cruised 314½ miles on narrow canals with 331 narrow locks, and 62½ miles on broad canals. There were 111 broad locks, including those on the Avon, and over 183½ miles of rivers with 8 large locks, including Gloucester lock. The 30¾ miles on the Gloucester and Sharpness canal is classed as commercial waterway. All distances are approximate.
We travelled the following canals; Droitwich Junction, Droitwich Barge, Worcester and Birmingham, North and South Stratford, Staffs and Worcester, parts of the BCN, Birmingham and Fazeley, Coventry, North and South Oxford, Grand Union and the Grand Union Leicester line. We also cruised the rivers Severn and Avon, and the Gloucester and Sharpness canal.
Over the years I have been reading boating blogs, I have made notes on places we haven’t been to before. You do get brilliant stuff from other blogs don’t you? We might not have considered the Gloucester and Sharpness otherwise and may never have heard of the Purton Hulks, or realised you could walk to Slimbridge, without them.
Not seen on the canals!
For various reasons we haven’t been able to get up to the boat since October, but are hoping to very soon. And the coming year? Well, Dave has long hankered after visiting the Nene, and there are some good up-to-date blogs about what happens when you turn off the Grand Union at Gayton junction! We’ll wait and see.
We hope everyone had a joyful and peaceful Christmas, both here and in foreign parts, and wish you all a happy and healthy year to come, whether boating or not!