Tuesday 22 June 2021

Sad days

Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd June; Alvechurch, and home.

Cleaning, cleaning, packing and cleaning.  We did all the little jobs that have been waiting, touching up here and there, and cleaning the bits that don’t often get done such as the cupboard doors above the cooker.  We drove into Redditch to buy a set of bedding in Dunelm.  When we bought Chuffed, the previous owners had put new bedding on the bed and towels in the bathroom and galley.  It had looked so cared-for and welcoming that it was a no-brainer to do the same for our eventual buyers.  I just hope they approve of our taste!  We left it all in the car for the time being. 

I regard shopping and cleaning as tedious necessities, so I was delighted when there was activity to watch on the wharf.  Compton had been out of the water for blacking after being sold and I think it was she being returned to the water, though it may have been one of the other two out on the hard - I had to zoom in for the pictures, then crop them.  The area was fenced off from the public, of course.


Round a bit ...
A bit more ....

Straightening up.

Before the boat was lifted, the bow and stern ropes had been extended and held by two workers on the wharf as she was carefully manoeuvred and lowered.  You can see the stern rope in the picture, and a blue hard hat above the boat roofs.  I doubt the boat would have floated off, but it did have to be moved away and moored so that the next boat to be lifted out could be pulled into the slings.

And the next!

I had been shifting the bags of kitchen stuff and other packing into the car while Dave made the final checks down the engine hole.  It was very hot and we felt we deserved a little treat. 

No way was I going to cook and mess up my clean galley, so we drove down to the village to get fish and chips for tea.  Unusually, the chippie only takes cash, but luckily the Co-op over the road has a cash machine which Dave had to use, as did the person behind us in the queue.  We waited for our order in the alley that cuts between the buildings at the crossroads.

Formerly ....

The fish was good, the batter and chips ok, and the picked onions very poor.  We took the evening off and went for a walk along the towpath to the footpath that leads down into a field, then turns back on itself to pass under the canal beneath the aqueduct. 

We needed the torch on my phone to avoid wet feet, but Meg happily trip-trapped her way through the little stream which really was just a dribble.  On the other side was a path, apparently fairly well-beaten, running parallel to the canal.

The light was beginning to go, so the photo colour is a bit odd.  The path petered out in a tangle of collapsed wild rose and hedge at the field boundary, so we walked back again.

Wednesday 2nd June; home

What was there left to do but clearing up and packing?  We thought it was important to leave the boat as we would have liked to find her.  We had made various trips to the bins for rubbish disposal and recycling, and obviously there was the car to pack up.  Poor Meg was getting anxious, as she always does when we are preparing to go away or go home.  All I need to do is put on her red boater’s neckerchief and she calms down – she seems to realise she will soon be going either to her boat, or home again.  

First day in charge

I took this picture on her very first trip, while we were based at Caen Hill marina on the K&A; we hadn't yet been able to get back to the main canal network after the winter as the Kennet, in flood from Newbury to Reading, prevented our next move to Froud’s Bridge near Aldermaston, so we were on our way west to Bradford-on-Avon.

Dave performed a miracle of packing with all the extra bits and pieces; though Meg had less room than usual, she just went to sleep while we travelled as she normally does.  He couldn’t manage to fit a length of plastic water-pipe in, or the awkwardly-shaped bread-bin, but they found a home with another boater doing his own fit-out. 

We double-checked that we had retrieved our own windlasses before patting dear old Chuffed goodbye and handing in the keys.  We had a pause and a hug before we drove away.  Tears?  Yes.

We don't intend to give up boating.

Chuffed will be moved to a sales pontoon, but their Covid rules mean boats are left for 48 hours before someone goes in for the valuation.

Bye for now.


Monday 21 June 2021

Last cruise …..

Monday 31st May; Crown Arm to Alvechurch Marina

It was cloudy and still this morning, and surprisingly chilly outside.  Dave disappeared down the engine hole for a large part of the morning to make sure everything was clean and tidy.  I should have taken a picture; he always keeps it spick and span down there.  Meanwhile, Meg gloomed on the towpath.

So bored!

According to my handwritten boat diary, aka the Captain’s Log, I cleared out the well deck this morning.  I wonder what I did yesterday morning then?   It’s bound to have been some sort of cleaning though, possibly the grill compartment which I know I did before the oven, which the Captain’s log says I did this afternoon.  Oh well, that’s what comes of slacking in your duties as the blog writer.  After lunch we cruised slowly down to the marina in the sunshine.  I made jolly sure I shared the steering on our last day of cruising.  

Watch it!
Just chillin'

We moored at the wharf and went to hand over our proof of ownership and photo ID.  I still haven't got a photo driving licence (renewals for over-70s were suspended for a while because of Covid) but luckily they were happy with my bus pass!  We were directed to moor in one of the share boat berths, as they wouldn’t be back until Friday – it was Shenstone’s, next door to Debdale’s.  We used to have a share in Padworth, another ex-Ownerships boat, so we always look out for her ‘cousins’.  We were told we could use the hook-up too, though we will have to pay for it of course.

And then yet more cleaning.  Dave had the wonderful job of emptying, and then cleaning thoroughly, two cassettes.  He does it so well!

He had spotted a good rail connection to get back to Droitwich to collect the car, changing at University station instead of going all the way into Birmingham, so later in the afternoon we took Meg for a stroll down a footpath running from the main road to the far end of Alvechurch station car park, then after we had waved him off Meg and I walked along the towpath for a bit.

He was back before 9.  The evening was very warm and we would have enjoyed a cool beer at the Weighbridge pub next to the marina, but there were no free tables outside and we’re still choosing not to go inside pubs.

Less than one mile’s cruising.



Tuesday 15 June 2021

Cleaning, elsewhere

Sunday 30th May; Hopwood to the Crown Arm

That road was certainly a noisy one!  If we hadn’t needed the good edge and short grass this morning we would have stopped much further back and banged in pins if necessary.  Boats started leaving at 7 and by the time we were having breakfast we were almost on our own again.  When I let Meg out first thing, a black sack from the fly-tipping was gleaming in the sun.  Overnight it had floated close to the boat (there always seems to be a bit of a current from Wast Hills tunnel).  I hooked it and had a deal of trouble hauling it out – the contents (prunings) had pierced the plastic and it was half full of water.  In a few hours it would have been lurking just under the surface, waiting for someone’s prop.  Dave pulled another bag out during the morning, with plastic bottles in this one.  CRT have been notified so we left them there.

This morning my first job was to clean the oven.  It’s not exactly my favourite job, but it’s come up well.  Then I moved on to clear and clean the well deck.  I hauled the lockers and hosepipe out onto the towpath, lifted the matting and swept out all the bits of grit, leaf and grass that had accumulated since the last lockdown.  Dave had already cleared the  paint locker of old tins, or at least some of them, but I still had to sort out the locker where I keep useful things like the mooring hook, pins and chain for the bow end, and some cleaning equipment.  There were a few bits and pieces to come home – Meg's ball thrower which a neighbour gave us one year at Calcutt, for example.  I wish I’d taken a photo, the well deck looked wonderful when I’d done it!  By mid-morning we were alone again apart from the two liveaboards way back behind us.

We had lunch and then got going straight away – we needed to run the engine for the sake of the batteries, and it’s really too close to houses here for that, very antisocial on a sunny day when people would be out in their gardens.  There were no fishermen at Lower Bittell – instead there were circular patches of bubbles at regular intervals where the aeration system was in operation.  But someone was enjoying the reservoir on the offside – a lone fisherman in a boat on the far side.  And I haven't tweaked the photo to enhance the colour of the water, promise!

And yes, it was a real person, I saw him move!  Definitely not the ‘fishing’ mannequin that there used to be here.  We will go into Alvechurch marina tomorrow, but wanted to enjoy the canal for a bit longer today, so once we had passed under the M42 and gone round the bend we moored just before the non-navigable Crown Arm on the outskirts of the village.

In spite of working hard I had been feeling low all morning, and thought a walk would cheer me up.  Meg would appreciate it anyway!  We walked as far as the pub, where there was space to moor but it was rather noisy and busy with walkers.  Walking back to the arm, I realised we had actually got the nicest mooring between Hopwood and the marina – very little passing foot traffic, motorway noise muffled by trees, good wide towpath and the canal wide enough for boats to have a lot of room to pass (which turned out to be very useful as all the new hirers started passing later on!).  The cow parsley was in full fabulous bloom

And the May blossom foamed in the trees.

And oh look, what a lovely boat!

What also makes it a good mooring is that the woodland by the towpath has a footpath through it leading to the far end of the Crown Arm and back along it to the towpath.  On the other side of the arm is a lot of newish housing which extends along the canal and down towards the pub.  There are several access points through to the houses but it’s quiet where we are, and also litter-free unlike Hopwood – several plastic wrappers ended up in my empty coal bag yesterday.  Meg and I enjoyed the stroll back towards the canal, along the beautiful arm which is mostly shady, and in water, though closer to the canal it’s carpeted with duckweed.

Luckily Meg didn’t see the moorhen family or she would have had rather a surprise as she discovered it was wet under the weed!

I busied myself inside, sorting out the galley cupboards and packing up the tins and packets we would be taking home, while Dave washed and cleaned the cratch board and windows, then touched up the gangplank paintwork.  We hardly ever use it, but it does look nice sitting on the roof!

I got loads of stuff done, packing and cleaning but keeping busy wasn’t lifting my mood.  So I thought, to hell with it all, and went for a run, twice round the footpaths in the woods and along the arm.  Not far, but it did the trick, or maybe it was the lovely shower afterwards! As there are no neighbours to annoy we had run the engine for a couple of hours when we stopped, so there was lots of hot water.  As I cooked tea I had the side hatch open and just leant on it, watching the world go by – several boats but mostly birds and this little flotilla.

We just chilled in the evening.  The car is going to be rammed when we go home, so we felt it best to reduce the number of beer cans (all low alcohol, I must point out) and wine bottles (erm, not). Before we went to bed we watched the bats from the side hatch, at least 2 kinds and not the tiny little pipistrelles either.

Less than two miles cruising, no locks, no tunnels.

Sunday 13 June 2021


Saturday 29th May; King’s Norton to Hopwood

First thing today of course, Meg expected a good run in the park.  Dave obliged while I popped up to the Co-op for some supplies and the Saturday paper.  Then it was down to work.  Dave tidied up the port gunwales and I gave the bow deck and gas locker lid a good wash.  During the morning we had a visit from the first goslings we have seen this year.

Then I spent a while under the well deck – not literally, but that is where we store the remaining coal and kindling during the summer, carefully splitting the coal into bags either side of the water pump so as not to affect the trim.  It is usually about a quarter of a sack on each side.  Once all that was sorted I had an empty coal sack which was going to prove very useful – the soot from the stove flue was waiting, safely wrapped up in newspaper, then Dave sorted out his paint locker and promptly half-filled the sack with old tins!

We had lunch, then after another play in the park for Meg we set off towards King’s Norton Junction, where we winded.

The lovely Stratford canal with its disused guillotine lock .... but not today

I don’t think we’ve ever turned here before.  On the offside on the very corner are some interesting looking footpaths  which we've not really noticed in spite of all the times we've come this way.

Then it was waterproofs on and back through the tunnel.  After the procession of hire boats and timeshares passing this morning (we guessed they had mostly moored at Hopwood last night), we met nobody.  We pulled in on the Hopwood 48 hour moorings, which were completely empty, as far from the main road as we could.  We had a cup of tea and carried on variously cleaning or sorting cupboards, getting the dried-on mud from the centre ropes and fenders off the roof and washing the port side, and some varnishing touch-ups inside.  During the afternoon and early evening the canal was very busy, and the moorings between the road bridge and the one behind us soon filled - I counted fifteen boats apart from us, bow fender to stern button all the way along.

I walked Meg up towards the tunnel in the evening.  Two live-aboards were moored further up, and starting to retrieve some of the 15 or so black dustbin bags floating along the canal – at least the ones they could reach.  Apparently someone had fly-tipped the lot from the road bridge before the tunnel.

Rings were shared all the way along, though we had to invite the new hirers to do so.  We had bagged the ones furthest from the road.  Boats on the water point overnight too.

  miles, Wast Hill tunnel


Saturday 12 June 2021

The decision is made

Friday 28th May; Tardebigge top pound to King’s Norton

It was a cloudy morning, but with three tunnels to go through perhaps it doesn’t matter much!  We went up the top lock and pulled in on the services to empty two cassettes and dispose of rubbish, glass bottles and the litter we had picked up along the way, to leave us space for a proper clean-up later on.  I went to take some photos of tug Birmingham, which I had noticed in a little garden area behind the car parking.  Stern first, then the bow end.

I couldn’t get far enough away for a picture of the entire thing!  It was powered, and was built to replace a steam tug of the same name to tow boats through the tunnels.  There is plenty of other info on the display board but it’s a poor photo and all I can remember is that there were two others, called I think Gloucester and Worcester, I can’t remember more but I’m sure it’s online if you want to know. 

I had noticed a large holly bush when I walked Meg round yesterday afternoon.  I needed some to clean the stove flue so I went armed with my secateurs, brought specially from home for the purpose.  I cut a suitable piece where it lolled on the ground, about to be driven over when the car parked there drove away so I felt I was performing a useful service!

We had just finished topping up the water tank when someone emerged from the tunnel to take our place.  Tardebigge and Shortwood tunnels are pretty dry, and we were through fairly quickly.  There is a mooring we have used before, a couple of hundred yards from the northern end of Shortwood tunnel, with a single ring if you know where to look, and we stopped for lunch.  It is not by the signs giving info about the tunnel, where you sometimes find an emergency mooring spot, but we were prepared to breast up if someone needed to tie up before entering the tunnel.

So, that decision.  A couple of years ago we toyed with the idea of selling Chuffed but in the end we couldn’t bear to, so didn’t follow up our enquiries. We revisited the idea on and off last year, but were so desperate to get on the water after lockdown we put it off again.  But now, after some heartfelt discussions, we feel it is time to move on - partly because we live a long way from the main network but there are other factors too, not to mention we are neither of us in the first flush of youth!  We don’t want to give up boating but it is time Chuffed found some new owners who will love her as much as we have. (My eyes seem to be leaking as I type … do you see why there has been such a long gap between posts?)   We moored on the wharf at Alvechurch and Dave went in to get their brokerage information, before we cruised on in subdued mood, in appropriately drizzly weather.

At the fishing lake opposite the Lower Bittell reservoir, there were plenty of fishermen hunched over their rods, but my attention was taken by the figures in hi-vis standing around behind them at intervals around the perimeter fence.  Covid wardens?  It seems a bit extreme.

You are being watched

Not entirely sure what they were for, there were no notices that we could see - perhaps just to remind people about social distancing.  Then it was waterproofs on in preparation for the rather wet Wast Hills tunnel, with Meg safely shut inside; we made excellent time through of 30 minutes in spite of meeting five boats!  No touching of steelwork and just a nudge of brickwork when one boat drifted out a little bit.

Dave was obliged to take Meg for a good play in King’s Norton park as soon as we had moored, leaving me to give the flue a good brush with my holly with her out of the way. 


We took the chimney home after our last trip, and Dave had cleaned it inside and out, treating a little bit of rust and touching up the paint so it's all nice and ready for next winter.

There was a constant stream of boats passing, mostly ABCs on their way back to base at Alvechurch.

9 miles, 1 lock, 3 tunnels.

Friday 11 June 2021

The Early Birds

Thursday 27th May; Tardebigge

I have got terribly behind with the blog, but ther's a good reason which will become clear over the next few posts.

Well, two weeks ago now the sun woke us at 6, so up we got, had breakfast and were casting off just after 7.  The weather was fabulous, unbroken sunshine and no wind, though it was still a bit nippy at that hour and the dew was heavy.  My windlass was so cold it hurt my fingers, so it was definitely gloves on for the first hour.  The remnants of a little overnight mist were still wisping at the wood edges and the contrast between strong sunlight and deep dark woods was striking.

There’s a bright golden haze on the … broad beans

I locked ahead and we slipped at once into our lock flight routine.  Dave brings Chuffed into the empty lock, I close my bottom gate while he climbs the steps and looks after his side.  I slowly open my ground paddle at the top, then leave him to fill the lock and open the gate while I go up to the next lock, then back I go to close up.  


We knew that most of the locks would be empty, at least at the bottom of the flight, as boats had come down the afternoon before and the locks mostly drain overnight anyway.  So by the time Dave had opened his top gate, I was already walking back from opening the next bottom gates.  We cracked along at a fair old pace even though we weren’t hurrying.  A few locks later there were a couple of workboats where they had been renovating the towpath edge with some Armco, but it was far too early for any activity.

About half an hour later I was surprised to see what looked like a heavy frost or light snow on the ramp up to a lock.  Mornings are certainly still a little chilly, but surely not that cold?

Willow fluff

On we went, with not even a dog walker or early runner going by in the lovely sunshine.  Just before 8, we passed under the bridge with the car park, where the workmen (all men) were sitting in their hut just having their morning conference/cup of tea before starting work.


Some of the fields along the flight had a strip planted for wildlife around the edge of the crop.  I recently read an article saying that not only does this benefit pollinators and other wildlife, it also seems to result in a healthier crop and the same yield as if the strip had been cultivated.  This is proper university research, so let’s hope it’s true as that means winners all round.

Quire early on we saw the CRT man on duty as he pedalled down the flight, then back up again, checking the water levels.  We met one boat who had started down early, but they hadn’t spotted us coming up as they locked ahead because we were hidden by a bridge.  So I walked up to ask them to leave the bottom gates open, and went back to change into dry socks and trainers as the grass had been so wet earlier on. Shorts too for the first time this year!  We even managed a welcome cup of tea while we waited.  We were nearly at the reservoir before the volunteers came on duty and were lucky enough to have three for a while, then two, then one as the others went off to help other boats.  We were all glad to see that the reservoir was properly full, unlike last year.  We crossed with a couple more boats who were just starting down, and were moored up in plenty of time for elevenses.  Pretty slick I thought with that little wait in the middle, though we had started five locks up!  It felt good though, we are very fond of this flight.

Someone else after their elevenses!

Should we go further?  Nah, let’s relax for a while.  There were a few things to do and some thinking and planning too.  So Dave got on with a couple of jobs while I washed the starboard side and cleaned the windows, including toothbrush work to clear the winter’s growth of algae from the frames, before we decided we'd done enough for one day and chilled.

2 miles 24 locks