Friday 20 November 2015

Stats for 2015; highest, longest, deepest ….

We have been out seven times this year, with trips of between 11 miles (our last trip this year) and 108 miles (Anderton to Swanley via Llangollen) and lasting between 6 and 20 days (South Pennine ring). We’ve spent 4 fewer days on board than last year and travelled fewer miles with fewer locks, but have been on more new waterways.     

Huddersfield Narrow canal, near Marsden, June13 rising up 40E

We’ve had too much water …… Todmorden lock, Rochdale canal, June

19 top gates lock 19

and too little.  Clayton top lock, Ashton canal, May

19 low top pound clayton

We have experienced the deepest narrow lock in the UK (Vinegar lock on the Ashton), deepest broad lock (Tuel Lane on the Rochdale), and traversed the highest summits in England and Wales; the Rochdale is the highest broad canal (600’) and the Huddersfield Narrow the highest narrow canal (645’).

1 highest lock in england

We have been through three tunnels over a mile and a half long, including Standedge, the highest, deepest and longest tunnel in the UK.  Other firsts for us were guillotine lock gates, chain-operated lock gates, the Anderton Boat Lift and the Calder and Hebble Spike!

Anderton boat lift, July

27 boat lift

  Using the Calder and Hebble spike, Salterhebble locks, June17d spike

Miles (approx): 513

Narrow locks: 378, broad locks: 126, large (river) locks: 8

Moveable bridges: 48 including those fixed open

Major aqueducts: Pontcysyllte and Chirk

Tunnels; 33 including Harecastle (2919 yards), Preston Brook (1239 yards), Standedge (5698 yards), Wast Hills (2726 yards).

Days on board: 94


Grand Union, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham and Fazeley, Trent and Mersey. Bridgewater*, Rochdale*, Ashton*, Calder and Hebble Navigation*, Huddersfield Broad*, Huddersfield Narrow*, River Weaver*, Shropshire Union, Middlewich Branch, Llangollen, Worcester and Birmingham, Droitwich Junction.  Birmingham Canal Navigations; Main Line, Wolverhampton Level, Wyrley and Essington* (part), Walsall*.

* indicates new waterways for us.

Moored at Devil’s Garden near Big Wood, River Weaver, July

devils garden

Marinas stayed at

Calcutt, Aston, Droylsden, Anderton, Swanley, Droitwich Spa.

Next year - north, south, east …?

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Droitwich Spa marina

Sunday 15th and Monday 16th November

1 and a half miles, 3 locks

After a wild night (the weather, not us ……)  the wind was still blowing hard.  This morning it was coming up the canal towards us, so it wasn’t a problem cruising down to the visitor moorings at Hanbury Junction.  Lots of leaves and other floating debris about though.  Dave had read that you don’t necessarily have to put the engine into reverse to remove leaves from the prop – just put the engine in neutral and they drop off.  It works!  Doesn't do anything for weeds though, and if you have reeds caught round the rudder you (I) still have to lie down on the deck to reach them without overbalancing.  Dave cycled into town to get the paper while I took Meg for a run back to Astwood locks.  It was lovely on the way out, but unfortunately into the teeth of the wind coming back!  Not very nice for Dave on the bike either.  Just time for a lovely hot shower before repairing to the Eagle and Sun for a carvery lunch – very nice.

After a cup of tea and a read of the paper, and hoping the wind would have dropped a bit, we finished our journey down the locks and into the marina.  The river level board still showed the Severn in the yellow, stream decreasing.  There is a plaque at the top lock commemorating Neil Pitts, whose legacy helped with the restoration of the flight.

1 plaque at hanbury top lock

This is the hole which has appeared by the side pond at the bottom lock.  It looks quite deep.

2 hole by side pond bottom lock

A boat had just gone down ahead of us on its way to Droitwich Spa, so I had to turn all three locks, giving Dave plenty of time to think about how to get across the marina in the wind, which was strong and blustery.  He slid Chuffed alongside our pontoon without trouble, having perfectly judged the approach.  This was lucky, as we are the last-but-one berth before the rocks at the edge and there is no room to manoeuvre if you overshoot!

We spent the rest of the afternoon and the following morning on the multifarious little tasks involved in preparing for winter.  Oven and galley cupboards cleaned, perishables packed up, weed hatch inspected (and cleared of some weed), anti-freeze topped up, etc, etc.

When we drove home, we had an unexpected diversion past Black Prince at Stoke Prior to get to the motorway – road works prevented access to Droitwich Spa. 

Home now.  Where to go next year?

1b stepping stones with meg

Meg on the stepping stones at Uppermill, Huddersfield Narrow canal.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Weed, mud and wind

Saturday 14th November

We were anticipating a late start, as heavy rain was forecast; but it didn’t materialise, so after a while we set off up Astwood locks to turn round at the winding hole above the second lock.  It was quite chilly this morning, windy and dry, though rain was threatening.  The winding hole was narrow but also very overgrown and there was a lot of stuff under the water which Dave discovered when the wind blew him further over than he wanted to be.

1 turning in astwood winding hole

We will email CRT and hope they have time to clear it over winter.  We had toyed with the idea of going further and turning round at Stoke Wharf, where Black Prince has a hire base.  We decided against it as with all the hire boats in for the winter there may not have been enough room to turn.  As we came back down the lock, we were surprised to see a boat waiting below – like us, they were turning above the lock.  We carried on down to the bottom lock, which was full of floating debris.  So by the time we moored – just a hundred yards or so past the lock moorings, not far – we had picked up a considerable moustache, about 6” thick.  It floated off as we moored and you could see quite how much there was.

  3 moustache  4 moustache

Another boat passed us as we moored, saying they had seen no boats moving since leaving Birmingham – now they’d passed two in less than an hour!  The rain started and continued on and off as we had lunch and got on with some of the jobs on the list, but eased off mid-afternoon so we got togged up in our wet weathers and took Meg off to follow footpaths on a circular route.  We started at the bottom lock, where a footpath crosses the canal.  The lock must have had some repair work done in 2012.

5 in concrete slab at astwood bottom lock

‘Peace Convoy’ is a term that was used to describe New Age travellers (peace and love, man) who lived in old ambulances, buses etc and moved around the country in groups, causing trouble/being harassed by the police, depending on your point of view.  But I couldn’t find anything specific about a convoy passing this way in 2012, or at all.

Our walk took us towards Droitwich Spa marina along muddy tracks and through wet fields (what a surprise).  Some fields had been sown with winter cereals and others with some kind of brassica.  We thought it might be a fodder crop, used for strip grazing at some point in the winter.  However, there was an awful lot of it so it’s more likely to be overwintering oilseed rape.  If we see Nick, the farmer who owns the marina, before we leave we’ll ask him.  Meg did a lot of belting back and forth;

6 flying through forage brassica

The lights on the horizon are the floodlights at Droitwich Spa Rugby Club the far side of the marina.  You can see from the poor exposure that the light was already going at 4 o’clock.  By the time we got to Westfields Farm, just behind the marina, it was almost twilight.  We had just squished through the liquid mud in a gateway (they have cattle) and somewhere had missed the turning we wanted, so we ended up at Hanbury Junction.  We arrived back at Chuffed in the dark – at least we knew where we were going along the towpath!

Dave continued varnishing the porthole frames and I lit the fire.  During the evening the wind got up and we were buffeted and rocked back and forth till well after midnight – it kept me awake for quite a while.

4 locks (2 repeated), about a mile and a half distance.

Saturday 14 November 2015

The sun was warm on our backs ……. for a while

Friday 13th November; Dunhampstead to Astwood Locks 

It rained overnight and was pouring at daybreak so we took our tea back to bed.  By 9.30 the sun was out and after a quick loo at Nicholson’s we decided to go down past Oddingley before turning back.  But the clouds were looming and soon it was waterproofs on as the first sharp shower blasted in.  The rain wasn’t too heavy but the wind was very strong.  In between the showers the sun was out and there was a splendid rainbow over Dunhampstead.  Soon afterwards we saw a kingfisher too.

2 and a rainbow

Oddingley still has a signal box, though it is now occupied by a crossing keeper who operates the manual level crossing.  The box is scheduled for demolition as it will become redundant when the crossing is fitted with automated barriers.  This was supposed to have happened this summer but it is still there, with its keeper in attendance.  A quick search didn’t find out the latest news, but it appears a ‘suitable recipient’ for the signal box was being sought.  Anyway it’s still there at the moment.

3 oddingley signal box

We turned in the winding hole between Oddingley and Tibberton.  The wind made it hard to start with, then easy as it caught the front of the boat and pushed it in the right direction.  The showers had blown away by now and we could feel the sun warm on our backs as we retraced our steps route.  The wind was strong enough for us to look askance at the angle of these trees as we passed beneath them.

4 leaning in the wind

As we returned towards Dunhampstead we noticed the large amount of mistletoe in the trees.  Some was high up, such as behind the church;

5 oddingley church and mistletoe

and some low down in hedgerow trees such as this lot in a hawthorn.  At least I think it was a hawthorn – it was hard to tell.

6 mistletoe in the sun

It was getting on for lunchtime as we passed Hanbury Junction and we went on towards Astwood locks where we moored in a patch of sunlight a few hundred yards short of the bottom of the flight.  The weather deteriorated quite quickly and by mid-afternoon it was cold, grey and windy, with occasional showers.  We soon lit the fire and had a cosy evening.

I had an interesting comment today on a blog post from July, when we were moored at Moore on the Bridgewater canal.  I had gone for a run to have a look at the Manchester Ship canal and came across an interesting pair of gateposts with horse heads atop.  They looked a bit grand for what seemed to be a long drive to not a lot. 

from the Moore Community Activities Forum12 November 2015 at 05:43

Just thought you might like to know that the Horse heads in Moore are at the gates of what used to be a Royal Artillery Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery Camp during WW2. Former Prime Minister Ted Heath confirms in his memoirs that he was stationed at Moore Lane Camp during his time in the Armed Forces.


Five and a half miles, no locks, Dunhampstead tunnel.

Friday 13 November 2015

Just a few days’ pottering

Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th November; Droitwich Spa marina to Dunhampstead

We're going to have a few days aboard before winterising.  We drove up to Droitwich Spa marina on Wednesday, leaving rainy Devon behind, and even saw a few gleams of sun before it got dark.  I left Dave in the engine hole and took Meg off to stretch her legs.  She is very good in the car when she knows we are coming up to the boat – if she has her bandana on and the back seat is packed in a certain way she just lies down and goes straight to sleep.  But she does need a good walk when we arrive!  At the top of Hanbury locks the indicator board showed that the Severn water level is in the yellow.

5 severn on amber

Our original plan was to do the Droitwich Ring, but there are stoppages on the locks coming up from Worcester.  We then wondered about going down to Worcester and mooring at the racecourse but having been a bit scared on the Avon a few years ago we don’t do rivers in the yellow.  The board says the Severn is going down but rain is forecast, so we’ll just potter about on the canal.

We stayed in the marina overnight.  After a trip into town for some shopping, and topping up the water tank, we started up Hanbury locks in the sunshine.  At the top lock I took a photo of the drained side pond.  There is a large hole in the ground by the bottom one but I didn’t have the camera at the time.

2 drained side pond hanbury 1

There is a warning notice on the bottom gate of the top lock.  My mental conversion program isn’t that accurate so I wasn’t sure whether it meant the lock was wider or narrower than normal. 

1 not seen this before hanbury 1

Google tells me it’s barely over 7 feet.  So yes, it’s a bit tight – in which case why not say so?  How many boaters will know straight away 2.14m is a bit narrow?

The electronic board was still showing the Severn in the yellow.  We made the tight turn to go south on the Worcester and Birmingham as the sun disappeared and thick cloud came over.  I took the photo of the bridge at the end of the Droitwich Junction canal as we were about to go under the bridge by the Eagle and Sun.

4 tight turn hanbury junction

We moored a couple of miles on at Dunhampstead visitor moorings, which are now a designated winter mooring spot.  I found out when researching stoppages that only 50% of a VM can be thus used, and anyone can moor if there is space.  No problem today - just one boat there, and two more on the permanent moorings at the far end.  We saw no moving boats, though the one moored yesterday near the junction had gone on his way to Stoke Works.

It became very windy during the afternoon and evening.  Glad we are tucked up nice and warm.

2 and a half miles, 3 locks