Wednesday, 23 August 2017

A conspiracy?

Our plan today was to make sufficient progress along the Bridgewater Canal to get us through Wigan tomorrow. As some stretches of the Bridgewater Canal can be quite boring M agreed to take a turn on the tiller in one hour shifts.

Towards the end of her first shift this obstruction necessitated a stop and then a squeeze past.

Once past, she could not get under  way again as there was no response from the throttle.  All we could do was drift until we managed to reach the bank where we bow-hauled Gecko into a safe mooring position.
Once again our itinerary went out of the window as we sought an engineer who could come out and fit a new cable.
In less time than I expected we had an offer from the engineer at Clyamore Navigation at Preston Brook. First on the scene, however, was Ken Wheeler who had us up and running again in less than an hour.  Our demeanor passed from desolation to elation in 60 minutes as we resumed our journey.
Events like this reinforce my preference for canals over rivers. Had this happened on the Thames the outcome might have been quite different.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Tegu or Not Tegu

Quite an eventful day. We set off from Middlewich  at 7am in order to descend the five locks before other boats were on the move.. In fact this worked well as we passed through the fourth narrow lock at 7.30  and then picked up another boat to share the Big Lock with.  Our aim was to make as much distance as possible which we hoped would get us onto the Bridgewater Canal.  Two attempts were made to prevent us achieving our target.
As we approached Lion Salt Works  and realised we would have to forego a visit to this site which we first visited 30 years ago when it was derelict, a boat pulled out ahead of us heading in the same direction. It then proceeded as such a slow pace we could not keep our engine in gear but had to keep idling it. This went on for over two miles by which time we had decided to hail him to let us pass.
We also met a novice boater who was (apparently) trying to turn her boat around. We only know that because she told us. Her maneuvering gave no clue to that intention.  Her technique, which remained unsuccessful for the time we were around, involved getting off and on the boat  and then steering the stern into the centre of the canal before returning to the bank and repeating the whole process. All this was being carried out ten yards past a winding hole.
Eleven years ago, on our very first trip down the Grand Union to our old stamping grounds in the Chilterns we were looking for a mooring in Bulborne. By the time we reached the Wendover Arm we realised there were no spaces long enough for our 58ft.  As we debated what to do a guy with a Gecko tattoo on his shaved pate emerged from a small boat having guessed our problem. He and I then moved the boat moored in front of him and made a suitable mooring for Gecko. 
During our  week there we had a number of conversations with Martin, who was a master baker. His boat was named Tegu which is a rather large gecko from South America. Over the past ten years we have seen him from time to time around the country in various boats as he has changed them. We have also seen Tegu with its new owner. We last saw Martin on the Macclesfield canal when we were diverted from Middlewich to Manchester when the breach occurred at Dutton a few years back.
This morning as we pottered along behind the snail boat we were accosted by  a guy carrying his shopping. He doffed his cap to reveal the gecko tattoo and we caught up with our life histories in the few minutes available. This is feeling more like a farewell tour each day.

22 miles / 6 locks / 3 tunnels / 2 obstacles

Monday, 21 August 2017

Name Check

We have been dogged with communication problems this trip. When we have cellular coverage we have been too busy with other activities to write on the blog and when we have a free evening we seem to be in the cellular wilderness. Cellular operators claim to cover 97% of the population but they seem capable of achieving this in 65% of the land mass. Where do you suppose the canals are?
As this is likely to be our last trip in Gecko it seems appropriate that we have seen so many boats we know.
The sister boat to Hampshire Rose, which we saw twice on the Oxford Canal,  is Autumn Venture and we passed them on the Coventry Canal. Neither has their original owners.
Inanda, which used to belong to Carole and Robin in Cosgrove we saw at Fradley. This is another Severn Valley boat and was originally named John Barleycorn.
A few years ago we shared some locks  at Stoke Bruerne with The Antidote.  That we passed at Fradle, too, but was not occupied so we could not say hello to Paul and Julia
Early the same morning we passed Brian and Brenda asleep on Colehurst at Whittington.
At Fazeley where we had a new mattress and seat cushions made we met and chatted to  Tony and Pauline on Iberia. They, too, are considering selling their boat and retiring from the canals. Whilst we were mooring up there the newest member of Cutweb - Cousin Jack passed us.
It doesn't make leaving the canals any easier to see all these boats knowing we may never see them again.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Postman stole our stamp

Last Saturday we posted  a birthday card to our ten year old grandson. 
We handed it in to the post office near Barleston Station at 7am. as there is no pillar box thee.
When it arrived at the destination in Lancashire the stamp had been removed. 
The envelope was franked on the back where it could not cancel the stamp.
Why does this matter?
The stamp we used was very special: it was one of the fruit and veg range to which we could add facial features and clothes.  
This one was an orange with beady eyes, a bow tie,  a moustache and a viking hat. 
Our grandson was looking forward to receiving it.
But some unmentionable person in the postal network stole it 
How despicable can people get?

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Nuneaton to Fazeley

More activity by C&RT today.

Above Atherstone locks dredging is taking place and the spoil used to broaden the towpath (and  consequently narrow the navigation)

Several of our friends have sold their boats in the last few years and we were commenting to Ali & Elaine on Ellie Mae last night at dinner that we had not seen any of these boats around with their new owners, except Hampshire Rose
So we were pleased this morning when we passed the sister boat - Autumn Venture which had previously belonged to Jeanette & Nigel until his untimely death.

We have always encountered a queue at the Atherstone Locks (11) so were surprised to find no boats but three volunteers to assist us on the top two locks.  There were very few boats during our passage which afforded us time to pick the golden plums on the off-side near lock ten. These will follow on nicely from the blackberries we picked in Hillmorton and the gooseberries from Maggi's freezer clearout which came to us in Hillmorton courtesy of some German visitors.

After refueling at Alvecote we pushed on to Fazeley as we need some time here to get the mattress replaced.

On the aqueduct over the River Tamar (not that one!) we discovered this pillbox which we must have passed on numerous occasions but not noticed.
Another for the collection

15 miles  /  13 locks

Monday, 7 August 2017

Rugby to Nuneaton

Using the weather forecast again we decided to make a long day cruising  but could not set off until we had returned the hire car we had used over the weekend. We had moored at Hillmorton because we knew where we could leave Gecko for a few days whilst we fulfilled some commitments   up in Lancashire. When we set off we soon passed through Brownsover where we have moored many times in the past. This location is very popular, partly because of the proximity to a large Tesco store.  However, the moorings are not good and the narrow channel with boats moored both sides some boaters find difficult to negotiate. But today we found  about 100 yards of new mooring rings.
The water point has been moved but fortunately we will be ok for a while.
Last time we passed through Newbold Tunnel it was illuminated with coloured lights. I never discovered the reason and now they are gone. Only 250 yards long and two-way, it is not much more than a long bridge.
When the Oxford canal was built it provided a route from Birmingham to London via the River Thames  from Oxford. The construction of the broader and straighter Grand Junction canal cut journey times between the two cities jeopardised its survival.
In response to this threat the Oxford Canal Company undertook a programme of straightening their canal. Cutting Newbold Tunnel was part of that programme.

They also dug cuttings to eliminate the original twists and turns as evidenced by many bridges like this across the resulting  redundant loops.

Throughout our cruise today we have encountered contractors and C&RT teams working on bank improvement.

These coir rolls are the current method of  planting vegetation.

I guess this balances out the mooring improvements in Rugby.

It always takes a time to get  through Rose Narrowboats, with their swing bridge linking the site.

But today the passage is even more involved than usual.

At Ansty  bridge 15 which had been looking very precarious for many years has now had the span removed leaving just the abutments.

The U-turn at Sutton Stop where we joined the Coventry Canal was executed expertly as you would expect.

As we headed up towards Nuneaton we admired the gardens backing onto the canal and  contrasting them in our minds with thirty years ago when all we used to see was broken fridges and bedsteads

22 miles  /  1 lock  / 1 tunnel