Wednesday 29 April 2009

How's this for a neat idea?

A day nursery buggy for 6 with seat belts and brakes.

Monday 27 April 2009

Happy Birthday Mary

Remember when Two sisters together. A big happy birthday from Spain.

Spring Fever

Great Haywood 011 It’s that time of year again

Sunday 26 April 2009


Upon our arrival here we were given the mooring of E8 which is in the farthest corner of the marina. This was fine with another boat on the opposite side of the pontoon on E7. When we initially moored up we noticed that this boat was on a bit of an angle with its stern about 5 feet from pontoon E6 which would have made it difficult for anybody to use that berth.

During the night we had been hearing some strange noises that we couldn’t find the cause. This morning while out for a constitutional stroll I noticed that that our neighbour was now touching E6. I went and reported this to the marina management and was told that they knew that the pontoon had moved and were waiting for the installers to come and rectify the problem. I told them that it more than moved, it was more like broken loose. With this they agreed to us moving onto another pontoon of which there were 2 options.

Back at the pontoon we found that the boat on E1 would be leaving after lunch so we opted to wait and move onto this pontoon as it was closer to the fixed pontoons and therefore more secure. It would appear that our strange noises had emanated from our hull rubbing on the hawser or chain anchoring the pontoon to the marina bottom which by this stage must have been quite an angle as the pontoon had shifted by a good 7 feet.

Yesterday I was busy replacing the MDF skirting boards which had got wet in places and swollen up with some proper timber versions. Another worthwhile modification completed.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Lest We Forget

Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp)


25th April is the observance day New Zealanders and Australians remember the fallen of the two World Wars.

I remember as a young girl getting up early in the morning to attend the annual Dawn Parade service with my Dad. Now in his 91st year he no longer makes that early service.

The many thousands who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom. May they rest in peace.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Faces to Names

0 Locks 1 Mile. Now moored in Great Haywood Marina.

Narrowboat Gypsy Rover in her temporary home for the next two weeks.

Today was the day for us to pull off the cut and tuck ourselves away in the marina. First task of the morning was to drop off our rubbish at the BW facilities and fill the water tank which was badly depleted after the week-end. While here we were approached by the Narrowboater who had called out “Pakeha” a couple of weeks ago at Hopwas. A scotsman who spent 6 months on his honeymoon touring New Zealand in a “Kea” campervan which he subsequently exported back to the UK on his return 12 months ago. Since returning he purchased a narrowboat and is now continuously cruising like us.

While pulling into the marina we were under the watchful eye of Eric and Patsy who are in the process of buying a narrow boat. They have an offer on a boat subject to survey, the latter was being carried out in Great Haywood Marina today. Once moored at the reception area Eric and Patsy came over and spoke to us. It was nice to put names to faces as our only previous communication has been by email.

Derek with Patsy and Eric the new owners of Nb Eezy Duzzit

Once we had been checked in and been given a berth, we moved the boat across to the back of the marina and got ourselves organised. I had already spoken to the 2 Johns in the work shop about getting a couple of jobs done, the first of which was the annual servicing of the Mikuni central heating unit. Luckily John had a genuine Mikuni box which he loaned me for the purpose of sending the unit away. After ringing Mikuni to book the heater in and arranging transport it was a case of down the engine hole and remove the unit which only takes about half an hour. The hardest part is trying to work doubled up in a confined space.

After this we walked over to the marina facilities to see what was what and buy an ice cream at the Farmshop. A short time later we found Eric and Patsy strolling along the towpath walking past another boat with a familiar name. N/b Seyella with Geoff and Mags aboard. This is another boat we have had non visual contact with so it was good to go and introduce ourselves to them and have a bit of a chin wag. Well between 6 of us discussing all sorts of topics an hour soon slipped by so we had to tear ourselves away and say au revoir all round for the time being, but I’m sure we will all meet again somewhere on the cut. Unfortunately for once Dot never had her camera with us so sorry we were unable to photograph the occasion. Never mind we will make it a longer meeting next time.

Back at the marina it was time for Eric and Patsy to find out if they were now the proud owners “Eezy Duzzit”. Happily they were given the green light with the survey coming up trumps. We left them being guided over the boat inch by inch by the surveyor and they joined us for coffee a short while later.

The cut is an amazing place to make friends, meet like minded people and generally enjoy the camaraderie which is akin to the caravan and motorhome fraternity we enjoy in New Zealand. Long may it last.

1610 locks, 3435 ½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 45 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday 22 April 2009


Victoria Park Stafford on a spring morning April 2009.

It was rubber on tarmac rather than steel on water that got us to Stafford this morning. Just a 20 minute trip and we were there. One reason for visiting was to time the journey from Great Haywood to Stafford and then how long to find the railway station, (12 minutes actually). Instead of Tracey coming and staying with us we thought that we would turn the tables and go and visit her for a change as well a weeks holiday in Spain and perhaps get some work done on the boat at the same time. Because Dot’s camera ran out of power we will have to pay a return visit to Stafford when we return from Spain and also find some of the other hidden treasures we missed out on today.

The Victoria Gardens were an absolute delight with the river Sow running through the centre along with the floral arrangements, the bowling green, the thatched grand stand and facilities block and most of all NO RUBBISH.It is how all city parks and gardens should be and top marks to the borough council workmen for their efforts.

The River Sow runs through Victoria Park Stafford

While paying a visit to the St Mary’s Collegiate Church the Vicar came and spoke to us and gave us the history of the church which was most intriguing because although a church has stood there since the 8th century and the present church was started around 1190 it was in actual fact 2 churches that have become amalgamated into one. The Collegiate church was for monks and the city fathers and the other was the parish church for all and sundry. Apparently 10 monks spent all day in the Collegiate church praying for the soul of King John to reduce his time in purgatory. Another amazing fact is that the font is believed to be Byzantium and the oldest part of the church which may have come from the Holy lands but there is very little known about it. Izaac Walton the author, biographer and renowned angler was christened in the very same font. Did you know that christening water, once used is returned to the ground never to be used again?

St Mary's Collegiate Church Stafford which was originally 2 churches, 1 for the parish and 1 for the heirarchy, now all one.

Another, what I suppose you could call a memorial was a pair of water wheels used in a mill which is believed to have stood on the site for nearly 900 years. We also found some Almshouses dating back to 1660 and what was I suppose comical was the height of the door frames. People in those days must have been only about 5 foot tall or shorter on average.

The town mill Stafford stood here for nearly 900 years.

Sir Martin Noels Almhouses Stafford dated 1660. Judging by the height of the doors they must have been small people in those days.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

What a scorcher!

2 Locks, 5 ½ Miles, Now moored above Haywood lock.

After safely getting Tracey away on the train to Birmingham we did a bit of last minute shopping before heading off to the winding hole just past the railway over bridge. After winding we set off back to Great Haywood. It started out as a lovely spring morning but as the day wore on it just got hotter and hotter. No need for any thermals or jackets today. There was the inevitable delays at the locks but nobody was too worried with it being such a beautiful day.

By the time we moored up it was nearly 2pm and it was too hot to do anything except chill out with a cold drink, we’re not used to this sudden increase in temperatures. By 7pm the temperature was just starting to drop sufficiently to consider having something to eat.

Before dinner we decided that maybe the time had come to swap our wardrobe over from winter to summer. Out came the suitcases and after a good sort out we should now be all set for the warmer weather.

1610 locks, 3434 ½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 45 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday 20 April 2009

Oh what a Beautiful Day!

2 Locks, 5 Miles. Now moored back at Rugeley.

What a cracker of a day it’s been, good cruising weather. We started off by moving up to the water point for a fill up. Next task was to reverse back round into the Anglo Welsh basin for diesel (62p per Lt) and a pump out ( £14 no blue).

Tracey on the roof - Excuse me how can I see where we're going?

After all this activity we pulled back around to where we had been moored previously for a cuppa and a bite to eat. The girls went and bought some cheese from the cheese boat and were rather a long time in returning. It turned out Michael broke out a new bottle of Sloe Brandy purely for tasting purposes ( yeah right) and gave Dot the recipe. They went to buy cheese and came back a bit tiddley.

Colwich Lock

After lunch we decided it was time to head back to Rugeley as Tracey wanted to go to Morrison’s supermarket to buy her lunch for tomorrow before they closed at 4pm. There were a few other boats around but not as busy as yesterday. There were plenty of walkers and hikers around and as we looked back at Shugborough Hall we could see a fun fair in full swing with what appeared to be a good crowd in attendance.

Now thats an interesting way to have a canal holiday!

An early start in the morning for Tracey to catch a train to Birmingham to work tomorrow before heading home to London tomorrow evening.

1608 locks, 3429 miles, 59 Tunnels, 45 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday 19 April 2009

Great Haywood.

2 Locks, 5 Miles. Now moored at Great Haywood.

With Tracey aboard we decided to take her on a cruise up to Great Haywood today and back to Rugeley tomorrow so she can return to Birmingham on Monday. The morning was quite cold as we set off and didn’t improve until mid afternoon.

There was a small queue of boats at Colwich lock with many hands making light work enabling us a speedy passage. At Haywood lock we timed it just right as a boat was just exiting upon our arrival. We had been told that there were no boats moored above the lock but this turned out to be incorrect, still we did find one spot right behind the cheese boat which was rather handy. We won’t have to carry our cheese very far when we buy some more.

Dot spoke to Michael on the cheese boat and found out that they will stay here until Monday before heading off to Norbury Junction where they will be for the May Day festival, May 2nd – 4th. Tracey hadn’t tasted this Welsh cheese before but is now hooked and planning on buying some for herself.

1606 locks, 3424 miles, 59 Tunnels, 45 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday 18 April 2009

Lichfield’s link with New Zealand.

lichfield 020 Another bus trip was the order of the day, this time to Lichfield to view the Cathedral that is unique to the UK in that it has 3 spires.The cathedral contains the shrine of St Chad who was the bishop from 669 – 672 and became the focus of many pilgrims. He bought Christianity to Mercia, a roman settlement in Britain. The first cathedral was dedicated in December 700.

lichfield 018 Parts of the original moat around the Cathedral still remain

A second cathedral was built between 1085 –1140 and over the decades further additions were made. In 1541 St Chad's shrine was destroyed and the building suffered destruction of the central spire and central roof in heavy bombardment during the Civil War of 1643 – 1653.

Restoration was again started in 1660 which took another decade. which survived until 1856 when another restoration period took place. This wasn’t completed until 1908. Over the next century restoration work has been done on the central spire, the roof and the organ rebuilt.

lichfield 028 Last year saw the beginning of another 8 year project of restoration including the restoration of the Herkenrode windows which were installed in 1804.

Among the plaques of high ranking people buried at the cathedral were Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin and George Augustus Selwyn. The latter was born in London and trained at Eton and Cambridge,after a spell at Windsor he went out to the colony of New Zealand and set up the first Anglican ministry where he became Bishop in 1841. He later returned to England where he became bishop of Lichfield in 1868 and died in office in 1878. His name is found in many places throughout New Zealand.

lichfield 031 Maori Mural around Bishop Selwyn’s Tomb in Lichfield Cathedral

It never ceases to amaze us, when you consider the period in which these places were built, how they were constructed without the labour saving devices we take for granted today and the skill of the craftsmen in both wood and stone. Its mind boggling when you consider that there are 766 stone carvings within the cathedral and 113 statues on the West entrance wall. How many thousand or even million man hours went into carving all that with just muscle and brawn?

After spending a couple of hours within this magnificent edifice we wandered back into town for lunch at what we thought looked like a nice bakery/cafe. How wrong we were, the service was so sloooooow we could have faded away with hunger. Eventually we walked back to the bus station where there was quite a queue due to the fact that the last 3 buses had not turned up in either direction, to or from Stafford. When a bus finally arrived the service was 2 hours behind schedule so by the time everybody was aboard it was standing room only. Passengers that were picked up along the route were all complaining but no explanation was forth coming. The driver tried his best and by the time we reached Rugeley he was just about back on time but which schedule, who knows?

Friday 17 April 2009

NB 'Eezy Duzzit!

Good luck Eric and Patsy, we have our fingers crossed that all goes well.

Cannock Chase.

Cannock Chase 002

Time to dust of the trusty old bus passes with a trip to Hednesford, just a short 4 mile journey away. When we got on the bus we explained to the driver that we had no idea where to alight from the bus and he said “I’ll drop ya at gate”. Well this he did as he had passed the official bus stop by several hundred yards. A short walk up the hill and we were there.

The Cannock Chase museum is in the Corn store building of the old Valley Colliery where the pit pony provisions were stored. Down stairs is the main exhibit about the area, the mining, the personalities of the region and how the whole mine, canal, railway scenario transpired over the years. The upstairs gallery changes during the year and is at present a Spring Art exhibition by artists Eleanor and John Cathcart who have travelled extensively as some of their work was done while in New Zealand and Australia. All their work was for sale ranging from £40 for prints up to £180 for originals in watercolours, oils or acrylics. I could have been tempted by one or two.

In its last years before closure the Valley Colliery was used as a training centre for young miners about to set out on a career as a miner. A one stage there were plenty of mines around the district but most are now closed.

It’s a shame that it wasn’t a fine day because there is a 10 mile heritage trail from Cannock through Hednesford to Rugeley. We were over halfway along the trail but we could have done the section from Hednesford to Rugeley. As forecast though the heavens opened up after lunch and we had to wait a while before the rain eased and we could walk to the bus stop without getting soaked.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Dodgem Cars, I think not!

The day started with a bang, literally, thunder and lightening woke us up and must have gone on for the best part of an hour. Other than this we have had a quiet day here doing odd jobs and a bit of shopping. The temperature didn’t quite reach the predicted high of 18deg but got close.

This evening just as we were about to have our dinner an old private owner boat came through with an even older skipper at the helm. He wasn’t exactly going slow as he passed us and the next thing I knew was when Dot yelled out “He must be drunk, he has just slammed into the bank and rammed the moored boat ahead of us” I then went up front to see him revving the hell out of the engine trying to reverse back away from the boat he hit.

The next thing was when an elderly lady poked her head out of the cabin of the old boat and was obviously remonstrating with the skipper who appeared to be taking no notice. The skipper of the rammed boat appeared on deck and also had words with no result. The old skipper then carried on and again careered into the bank between the next 2 moored boats. We are not sure if he hit the second boat but he obviously was in no fit state to be in control of a boat. Unfortunately we didn’t see a boat name or his registration number. We have no wish to meet this character again thank you very much.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Tons of Coal.

0 Locks, 6½ Miles. Now moored below bridge 66 Rugeley.

With the weather forecast for later in the week looking bleak we decided to move on up to Rugeley today. The boat traffic had died down a wee bit but there were still plenty of boats on the move. Other than a stop at bridge 62 for water it was a pretty uneventful cruise.

Upon arrival at Rugeley we spotted the Cheese Boat and Khayamanzi moored just ahead of us. Both crews were away at the supermarket restocking their provisions. Andy and his father were the first to return and we had a chat with them before they set off for Hopwas. Andy was hoping to buy some of his favourite cheese from the Cheese Boat but that crew still had not returned by the time he left.

rugeley 004

The’re not talking about me are they?

When the Cheese Boat crew did finally re-appear we were told “Sorry, we sold out over the week-end at Fradley junction” Apparently they had under estimated the demand and sold the lot so they are now on their way to Great Haywood to re-stock. There you go Andy you didn’t miss out after all.

rugeley 008

Signal box controlling the sidings to the Rugeley power station.

We are moored half way between bridge 66 and the railway bridge and it has been interesting watching the rail traffic which consists of London Midland class 170 DMU’s with an occasional class 153 attached and the “Freightliner”merry go round coal trains servicing the Rugeley Power Station. Each coal train delivers about 1400 tonnes to the power station which consumes 1.6 million tonnes a year. These trains,and I saw 2 or possibly 3 of them never stop even when they are loading and unloading albeit at a snails pace during these procedures.

rugeley 007

Class 170 arriving Rugeley Town station.

This particular line (Chase Line) was one that fell foul of Dr Beeching and was kept open only as a freight line until 1997 when passenger services were reintroduced from Birmingham New Street via Walsall.

1604 locks, 3419 miles, 59 Tunnels, 45 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Sounds of the Countryside.

Fradley 017The view from our dinette window. Note the bird feeders in the tree.

This morning I was up early to try my luck with a hook and line which turned out to be a non event as the fish were not biting. The upside to the exercise was sitting out on the stern just listening to the birds. No man made noise of any kind broke the peace and solitude until about 8am. Later on in the morning silence was really shattered when the noise of motorcycles being raced around a trail bike track broke through and the farmers bird scaring machines fired up.  This was to be our background noise until late.afternoon.

As it was a fine day and a suitable mooring I made a start on staining and varnishing the new skirting boards which will replace the water damaged MDF boards fitted by the builder. That’s the easy part done now all I have to do is remove the damaged rubbish and fit the new boards.

Fradley 013One down five to go. Oh my poor back.

As we had suspected, the traffic on the canal was very heavy today with a boat passing by about every 10 – 15 minutes. Surprisingly there wasn’t that many hire boats.

Fradley 014 I deserve a beer after a hard days work.

Monday 13 April 2009

Easter Congestion.

3 Locks, 6 Miles. 1 Swingbridge. Now moored at Ravenshaw Wood, T & M Canal.

It was a very stop start sort of a day with us having to stop on both sides of bridge 79 due to oncoming boats. We eventually cleared this narrow neck between bridges 79 and 80 but progress was slow due to moored boats and many more on the move.

We spotted our first ducklings at Streethay wharf and a swan sitting on her nest by a bridge hole which wasn’t more than 10 feet from the back door of a house. The cob was strutting around the garden and the lady of the house came out and spoke to him. He didn’t seem to worried about her presence at all so perhaps he gets fed regularly by her.

Fradley 001

Later we spotted a second brood of ducklings and a pair of Moorhen chicks which appeared to be about 2 or 3 weeks old. There still seems to be a lot of female ducks around who are not making any attempt to raise a brood yet.

Fradley 003

Reaching Fradley Junction we pulled onto the water point and I went and disposed of the rubbish while Dot filled the tank. The junction was abuzz with boats and there was a traffic jam with 4 or 5 boats waiting to access the locks in both directions. The cheese boat was moored just through the swing bridge and was doing a steady trade. He had signs all round the junction so no matter which way you came from you were aware of his presence.

From the water point to where we are now moored took us the best part of 3 hours as we had to queue for all 3 locks. At lock 18 there is only room for 1 boat on the lock mooring so we all had to breast up against moored boats. I heard on the TV last night that hire boat companies are reporting a 15% increase in bookings already this year due to the drop in the value of the Euro so it could be a busy summer all round.

1604 locks, 3412½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 45 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday 12 April 2009

Dot's not an Easter Egg Fan

But she does love Ferrero Rocher so she had to treat herself!


0 Locks, 3 Miles. Now moored at Whittington Bridge 79.

This morning we waited for a few passing showers to clear before heading away. We didn’t have a very good start because where we were moored was narrow with the moored boats and we had the misfortune to meet a gentleman, I use that term very loosely, who wanted to sit mid channel as he didn’t want to scratch his paintwork in the overhanging trees. Needless to say we had to come very, very close to the moored boats and while trying to manoeuvre we unfortunately came in contact with another boat that was following behind.

After this we had a clear run through to our present position but since then there has been a constant flow of boats through here. This has been tricky at times because the stretch between bridges 79 and 80 has boats moored both sides and is very narrow. There is no way 2 boats can pass in this section.

Between Whittington bridge and bridge 78 we stopped to photograph the marker post where the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and the Coventry canal meet. I think I mentioned it in an earlier blog about the Coventry canal being slip into 2 sections due to the company running out of money and the Birmingham & Fazeley contractors couldn’t wait for its completion so they completed the job.

The junction of the Coventry and Birmingham and Fazeley Canal's.

Along this section of the canal there are many poly tunnels that were being set up for the forthcoming strawberry season and 6 monstrous irrigation systems that were awaiting their time to irrigate other parts of the farm come summertime. These machine can be set up on one side of a paddock and they slowly work their own way to the other side without the farmer having to touch them.

Poly tunnel frames over miles of Strawberry beds. The black plastic rolls over the top.

Huge self propelling irrigation machines at Whittington.

Once moored up we walked up into the village where we found the CO-OP store for some basic essentials and had a quick peek at the St Giles church. The church was locked at the inner glass doors but we were able see into the church and the magnificent floral displays put in for Easter.

Walking back to the boat this beautifully restored horse drawn gypsy caravan was spotted in the back yard of a house. The art work would have complemented the best of any narrowboat afloat.

Horse drawn gypsy caravan and trailer.

1601 locks, 3406½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 44 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday 11 April 2009

Rude Awakenings!

Just before 6am I was awoken from a deep slumber by an enormous amount of splashing and noises over, under and against the side of the hull. Thinking perhaps someone had fallen in I jumped out of bed to investigate. There were a number of mallards of the male variety deciding to have a fight over the attentions of the sole female watching the proceedings from the sidelines. After some banging on the window they retreated and silence reigned again.

I tottled off back to bed and less than an hour later was awoken again by an early boat heading north. As he drew abreast of the back of our boat there was a cry of “Pākehā”. Now for those of you who do not know, this is the New Zealand Māori word meaning “white man” I did not recognise the boat but he obviously knew more about New Zealand culture than most of the english we meet in our travels. Perhaps he was trying to tell us something!

Friday 10 April 2009

Good Friday

easter eeyore

Early Birds.

0 Locks, 2 Miles. Now moored at Hopwas School Bridge.

Hopwas 001 Our current mooring at Hopwas.

It was an early start this morning at 8am to reach Hopwas before the forecasted rain arrived. Just a short cruise of about 40 minutes with only 2 other boats on the move. Since mooring up though, there has been constant stream of boats heading off for the Easter break in both directions. We will probably stay here until Saturday if the forecasted heavy rain arrives

Hopwas 002View over the River Tame from our mooring.

1601 locks, 3403½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 44 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday 9 April 2009

Unusual Patterns in Masonry at Tamworth Castle

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see the beautiful herringboning in the brickwork under the castle as commented on by Greywolf.

Tamworth Castle

The beautiful gardens below the castle walls.

Pathway up to the castle entrance.

Smell the fragrance?

0 Locks,1 Mile, Now moored at Sutton Rd Bridge.

After manoeuvring across the canal to the water point opposite we took a short cruise up to Sutton Road bridge which appears to be the closest point on the canal to reach Tamworth Castle.

Inside the castle grounds looking back at the main entrance.

The band rotunda which is still used for concerts in front of Tamworth Castle.

Having been through here a couple of times without so much as a sideways glance Dot had found out about Tamworth castle and had put it on the must see list. Another glorious but breezy day made it very enjoyable. We could see the castle as we walked towards the town and it looked quite strange with the high rise apartment blocks towering above the castle.

River Anker below Tamworth Castle. St Editha's Church behind the band rotunda.

As we entered the gardens below the castle they were a blaze of colour. As we got closer the fragrance from the Hyacinths which had been planted among Tulips, Daffodils,Pansies and many other flowers reached our noses it was a reminder that Spring had arrived. It’s just a pity we don’t have smelly vision for you to enjoy the fragrance as well.

Hyacinths and Polyanthus.

The lady's bed chamber which is supposedly haunted by the Black Lady.

We timed our arrival well as the castle only opens at midday. From the outside the castle doesn’t appear that big but it took us a couple of hours to work our way through the various rooms and floors and even went out onto the roof to take in the 360deg view which stretched for miles.

St Editha's Church towering over the town centre.

Out to one side the view over the old town and beyond was great but unfortunately the view on the opposite side was totally marred by all the unattractive barn shape buildings that have gone up housing all the hypermarkets in the Ventura park area. Still I suppose that’s progress for you or is it?

1601 locks, 3401½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 44 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Passing Bloggers!

This morning we decided that we would walk into town for some supplies. We had established that the old shopping centre to the west of us only had a Tesco Express but if we walked the other way there was a huge ASDA and Sainsbury’s supermarkets amongst other stores at Ventura Retail Centre. It was a good 20 minutes walk to ASDA and the store is enormous covering 2 floors.

The stores are actually in a retail park with parking for hundreds of cars, no where near the town. It’s no wonder that the High Street’s up and down the country are feeling the pinch. These retail parks are set up purely for the motor car and the convenience of customers.

Yesterday we passed Nb Sanity with Sheila at the helm and today amongst many other boats passing by was Andy and his father on Nb Khayamanzi heading up to the Shroppie. As we are sort of heading that way we will cross paths with them again within the next week. It was good to see you again Andy.

Tamworth 005

View from our galley window this evening

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Easter rush begins.

4 Locks, 9 Miles. Now moored by Peels Wharf, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

There was a touch of urgency as we set off this morning, we desperately needed a pump out and the closest facility was Fazeley Mill Marina on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. Our Nicholsons guide showed facilities at Narrowcraft at Grendon Dock but there was no sign of any such facilities. Alvecote Marina was another option but guess what? Closed on Mondays,damn! Here we saw Nb Pania moored up with kiwis Baden and Rosamund who were obviously out at work.  Sorry we missed you guys will catch you again sometime.

Still the weather was holding out for us so it wasn’t a worry. At the locks we found a constant stream of boats so it was virtually 1 up, 1 down the whole way. No wastage of water today. As we queued at Glascote top lock alongside S. M. Hudson’s boatyard I noticed that he had about 10 hulls scattered around the place in various stages of completion so perhaps the recession hasn’t affected his business too much.

At Fazeley junction we turned left to travel the short distance to Fazeley Mill marina for diesel (74 litres @ 54p) and a pump out. We had a bit of a delay here as the manageress was away at the bank so we had to wait for her return. After this we returned to the junction and headed North again where we were lucky enough to find a mooring opposite BW’s Peel Wharf.

As we moored up Bob and Barbara on Nb Chi Cheemaun came out to talk to us as they follow our blog. The name Chi Cheemaun comes from the “Big Canoe” in the book Hiawatha. While chatting, Andrew on Nb Granny Buttons came cruising by. We had passed him earlier but he was still having a late breakfast. He hove to for another quick chat but he has to get his boat to Streethay Wharf for blacking so he was soon under way again.

1601 locks, 3400½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 44 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday 6 April 2009

Granny Came a Calling.

This morning saw us sitting out on the towpath again lapping up the sunshine, it’s a hard life this boating lark. The forecasted rain never eventuated which was great. While enjoying the peace and quiet we spotted the 5 Buzzard’s that we had seen 2 days ago. They came circling above us with their plaintive cries but still not low enough to photograph. After about 10 minutes we did a recount and found that they had brought a friend along with them as there were now 6 birds.

Being a fine day and the kids now enjoying another school holiday there were plenty of boats on the move. While having an afternoon cuppa we became aware of a boat alongside us moving very slowly. Upon investigation it turned out to be Andrew Denny on Nb Granny Buttons (at last). We have been following Andrews blog for quite some time so it was nice to finally meet the man behind the pen so to speak. Andrew moored up for a quick visit and a chat which went on for about an hour. Eventually Andrew had to tear himself away so that he could reach Polesworth before nightfall. It was nice to meet you after all this time Andrew, hopefully we may meet again some day.

Sunday 5 April 2009

A Pie Like No Other.

During one of our morning tea sessions with Mike and Denise on Nb Densie last week we were told to look out for Nightingales Pie shop when we visited Atherstone.

Yesterday while in Atherstone we kept a look out for this establishment and actually walked straight past it because the name over the door said 19 Gales, a play on words (or numbers) if ever there was one. Well we found that it was more like a farmers market with all farm fresh meat, vegetables,eggs, and of course farm house baking of all sorts. As the fridge is fairly full at present we only bought a Steak and Kidney pie for £3.50.

Last night the pie was on the menu with fresh vegetables. Neither of us had ever tasted a pie quite like it. Nice steak, not grisly cheap cuts that most pie makers seem to use and lots of kidney, not just the odd bit here or there. After this, a unanimous decision was made to walk the mile or so back to town to buy some more of these gourmet delights.

This morning the weather forecast was for rain but was far from it as we set off into town. We were uncertain as to whether the 19 Gales shop would be open on Saturday or not but we needn’t have worried because it was and we purchased another Steak and Kidney pie as well as a Chicken and Mushroom pie, hot cross buns and 2 Blueberry and Apple turnovers. That’s the menu sorted for the next couple of days, MMMMM.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Break Out the Windlass’s.

9 Locks, 1½ Miles. Now moored near bridge 47.

We're back to locking after the winter break.

The day started with a couple of shopping errands, Dot into town and me just up past the coal yard where there is a small car accessory shop where I was hoping to get some filters for the engine. I finished up with only the oil filter but I did get some cross reference numbers for future reference.

It was mid-morning before we eventually got under way and of course we had some locks ahead of us. For the last 4 months we have only had to contend with the stop lock at Hawkesbury junction which only has a drop of a foot so it was time to break out the windlass for some serious lock work.

We encountered a few boats today and a BW work boat that was on its way to Hartshill. We got into discussion with one of the BW guys and mentioned the 2 couch’s in the canal at bridge 30 and Nuneaton. He was aware of them but they had not got around to retrieving them from the water yet.

At lock 7 I spotted a Buzzard slowly circling around on the breeze and stood watching it for a while. It wasn’t until I had been observing it for about 10 minutes when I realised he wasn’t alone, in fact it turned out that there were 5 of them. They were a beautiful sight all circling around at different altitudes within a small area occasionally all coming together so that a good camera would have been able to snap them in one picture. All this against a clear blue sky, fantastic.

By the time we got moored up the temperature had climbed to somewhere around 15deg and what a glorious afternoon it is.

1597 locks, 3391½ miles, 59 Tunnels, 44 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday 3 April 2009

Careless Chemist!

0 Locks, 2 miles. Now moored near Atherstone Top Lock.

The morning started out quite misty but very slowly improved as the day wore on. It wasn’t until about 3pm that the sun finally broke through the cloud cover but the day was not a patch on yesterday’s glorious weather.

After we had morning tea with Chas and Ann it was time to say our farewells as they head South and we head North. We only intended to reach Atherstone where we had organised our next prescription pick up. After lunch we wandered into town and found the chemist who shall remain nameless only to find that the prescription had only just arrived in the morning mail and had not been dealt with. No problem, we just went for a wander around town and called back later.

Back on the boat we were sorting out the shopping and the prescriptions when we noticed that one of my drugs was in a different coloured box, nothing unusual about that as chemists change their supply source and different suppliers have different packaging. On closer examination they were found to be double the prescribed dose so I then had to walk back into town to get this rectified. Basically it was just an inconvenience as it wasn’t too far to walk.

Back at the chemists I asked to see the Manager or Pharmacist and pointed out the error which had supposedly been checked by 2 members of staff. They were told in no uncertain terms that it was careless and not good enough. How many people just collect their prescriptions and just take it for granted that they have been given the right dosage or drug etc?

Something like this could have fatal consequences to a child or the elderly. After some consultations with another member of staff I eventually received the correct dosage with the explanation that the manufacturer had changed the colour of the packaging and they had been placed in the wrong bin. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. They are supposed to be trained professionals and for 1 of them to make a mistake and then have another member of staff confirm the same mistake, TOTAL CARELESSNESS.

1588 locks, 3390 miles, 59 Tunnels, 44 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday 2 April 2009

It’s Picnic Time.

0 Locks, ½ Mile. Now moored North of Clock bridge (32).

Early this morning Chas,Ann and Molly from Nb Moore 2 Life came calling on their morning walk. Dot went with them but I had a more pressing engagement with another leak under the bed. No, not the calorifier thank goodness but the recently installed shower pump. One of the fittings had decided to work loose and was leaking. As I didn’t have a big enough spanner or multi grips I had to use the grip tool for getting lids off jars etc: This worked a treat but I then had to check to see to what extent the leakage extended under all the suitcases etc; stored under the bed. Luckily only one case was affected but I decided to pull everything out for a better chance of drying it all out.

Due to this unfortunate incident our plans for the day got revised, so instead of going to Atherstone we just moved up to the water point for a top up and then carried on a short distance to where Chas and Ann are moored between bridges 32 & 33. By the time we got moored up the sun was blazing down on us so an executive decision was made to break out the picnic table and chairs with morning, afternoon tea’s and lunch all being held out on the towpath. Hurrah for summer, bring it on.

The day turned out not to be a total disaster as I got a few jobs done and our winter boots were cleaned and stowed away until next winter.

1588 locks, 3388 miles, 59 Tunnels, 44 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Allotments make a come back.

In the 29 months we have been travelling around on the Cut we have past many allotments which up until now have been looking a bit sad and unkempt. Just the odd plot here and there being cultivated but recently we have have gone past the same allotments and there seems to be a resurgence in their use. A lot more of these plots have been cleared of weeds and brambles, ploughed or dug over and even a couple of truck loads of manure delivered on site.

Perhaps today’s government need to look at the actions of the government that was in power prior to WW I who encouraged the populace to take on the allotments with grants of seeds and fertiliser to help the country through the war effort. Lets face it, this recession is not much different to the situation back in the early 1900’s and something like this could be a small way to getting the country back on its feet. Some how I don’t think the forth coming G20 talks are going to have the answers that Gordon Brown is looking for.