Friday, December 30, 2011

What’s in a name….

With the imminent changeover from government control to charitable status, and the change of name from British Waterways to The Canal and River Trust, I’ve been thinking about what shorthand to use.
The new name is a bit of a mouthful, so I think I’ll refer to it as Crust. By extension this makes employees of the new charity Crustys, and us clients will be known as Crustomers.
Out with the old….

…..and in with the new.image

I think I preferred the old one…

It’s been pretty wet these last couple of days, with more on the way it seems. Unfortunately the towpath alongside is now turning a bit muddy. Still, it is winter.

Looking forward to next year, we sent off for a Gold Licence on Wednesday. This will allow us to cruise on the Fens without having to pay for an Environment Agency licence. It does, of course, cost more than the standard one, about £300 more, but the break even point is about 5½ weeks. If we bought a short term EA licence it would cost about the same for 40 days, then we would be paying more than the £300 to stay longer. And it does also give us the opportunity to go down onto the Thames for nowt later in the year.

We had visitors for breakfast today… Mr and Mrs Swan and the kids.

This is Dad, a fine upstanding figure of a …..cob.SAM_0004

And this is Mum and the kids giving our hull a weeding.SAM_0005

I guess the young ‘uns will be leaving home soon.

Locks 0, miles 0

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just a Quickie….

To say that we’re still around!

We had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas, each of the 3 boats taking it in turns to host the evening party. By Boxing Day (our turn) we were having to scratch our heads a bit to think up some game ideas, but I reckon we managed.

Meg got all dressed up for Christmas Night….SAM_0001
…but she didn’t stay that way for long. The 2 Mollys laughed at her, but Meg reckons they were just a bit jealous…

By Tuesday water tanks were looking empty and loo tanks were looking full, so we upped sticks and cruised through town, stopping off at the sanitary station on the way.

A bit of a queue to empty the loo!
It’s OK, NB Rock’n’Roll has just pulled out leaving room for us just before the bridge. NB Moore2Life is still filling, as is NB African Star in front.

We didn’t get so far, pulling in just past the bypass bridge.

The good weather has finally fled, leaving us with wind and rain. Ah well, the rain will be appreciated by Sue and Vic on NB No Problem, still stuck in drought conditions down on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

There’s a bit of boat traffic about, 3 or 4 boats daily. We had a bit of an incident yesterday. I’d got my nose in a book and am pretty much out of it as far as the rest of the world is concerned when I’m reading. But I did hear Mags say “That boat’s going a bit fast, and so is that one!” I replied with a grunt. It was only when I got up to put the kettle on 15 minutes later that I realised we’d a different view out of the cabin window. We were now diagonally across the canal, bow still tied up but stern on the far bank.
With a bit of a struggle against the wind I got us back against the bank, and double pegged the stern rope. M2L’s bow rope had also pulled it’s pins but not completely out, so I repositioned them and made sure that they were firm, too. The spot where we’d put the pins in was particularly soft.

That’s probably it till after the New Year, so have a good one and I’ll see you all in 2012.

Locks 0, miles ½ 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tomorrow's the shortest day….

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It's usually on the 21st, today, but this year it's tomorrow. Sunrise is at 08:19, setting at 15:56. That’s just 7 hours 37 minutes of daylight. Then we can look forward to the nights drawing out again, but it will be a while before we see much difference. And we’ve still a winter to come!

We all toddled off into town today to have a look round the market and pick up some bits and pieces. Drayton was awarded it’s market charter in 1245 by Henry III, acquiring it’s “Market” prefix soon afterwards. There’s been a settlement on the spot since around the 10c.
As you’d expect at this time of year the market was well attended, with stalls selling produce as well as clothing, toys electricals and phones. There also seems to be a good selection of shops on the High Street. We had a good look round and Mags was glad to put her feet up with a cup of tea when we got back. We’d been out for nearly 3½ hours!

We had a phone call from Mags' grand-daughter Zoe, up in the frozen wastes of Middlesborough. She's received the chocolate pizza we'd had sent from our friend Carol who makes them in Wales. She's delighted, but having to fight off the rest of the family!

I had a look at our battery installation when we got back, before it got dark. We’ve been running short of power in the morning, after my customary 2½ to 3 hours per day charging routine. I think (in fact I’m almost convinced) that we’ve got a dying battery. It’s reading  ½ a volt lower than the other 3 when they’re all discharged, I’ll give them a charge in the morning, isolate them all and check for voltage differences again. But I think I know what I’ll find. The annoying thing is that the dodgy one is one of two that I replaced last January. The other two are over 2 years old and still going strong.

Seyella’s battery bankSAM_0002
The problematic one is on the left, next to the green starter battery. The  Sterling A to B charge controller is at the top of the picture, and there’s a Mastervolt 2000/100 inverter/charger on the right. Eat your heart out Bruce, I can get at my batteries!

SmileyCentral.comBest wishes to all our readers, have a great Christmas and an extremely prosperous New Year. And to the boaters among you, we wish you all ”a good road”!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A half decent day and a bit of windlass exercise.

As expected yesterday was very wet. It finally eased a bit mid-afternoon, and Ann and I took Molly and Meg for a walk around Knighton Woods.The forecast also said it was going to be mild, I’m not sure I agree. It still felt cold to me…

After a frost-free night (so it must have been warmer) we were ready for the off soon after 10 o’clock.

M2L ready to go, R’n’R disappearing into the distance.SAM_0003 Ready to go

Open countryside with wide views from the embankments  took us steadily north and west under grey skies, but at least it was dry.

Finally leaving The Wrekin behindSAM_0006 The Wrekin

New Brighton Farm with dovecote and collie.SAM_0007 New Brighton Farm

There are more extensive linear moorings around Goldstone with an unusual modification to be seen on NB Panacea. I guess he needed more  space on the counter.

NB Panacea with modified sternSAM_0009 Modification

Soon after Goldstone Wharf is another of those impressive constructions that the Shroppie is known for. This time it’s a cutting, the deep and narrow Woodseaves. It’s amazing to think that all these earthworks were completed without the benefit of machinery.

Entering Woodseaves Cutting at Cheswardine BridgeSAM_0010 Into Woodseaves

Like Grub Street, Woodseaves also has a High Bridge. No telegraph pole in this one.SAM_0015 High Br, Woodseaves

Landslips on the steep sides are common, the cutting was closed for a while a couple of years ago after the channel was partially blocked by fallen debris.

LandslipSAM_0013 Landslip, Woodseaves

Rowan berries give a bit of colour to a grey-green winter scene.SAM_0020 Rowan Berries

Leaving the cutting it’s only a short distance to Tyreley Wharf and the top of the flight of five locks.

Tyreley WharfSAM_0023 Tyreley Wharf

We caught up with the Rockers and the Lifers here. The drinking water supply here has been out of action for a couple of years, but they’ve got it working again now. Pity about the water pressure, though. It took over an hour to fill all 3 boats, and we didn’t need that much. A point to remember for the summer.

We were tail-end-charlie again, following the other 2 down the locks but Ann was opening a top paddle for us as M2L left each lock.

Mags seems to be happy to be in Lock 1SAM_0025 Tyreley Lock 1

The flight starts in open fields…..SAM_0026 Lock 2

….and finishes in a steep rock cutting. Lock 5 in the distance.SAM_0027 L5 from L4

We were helped by a chap called Andy, who was out taking his windlass for a walk on the off-chance there were some boats about. If it hadn’t been for us he’d have been disappointed!

Andy and sculptured tree roots at lock 4.SAM_0029 Andy helper and tree roots

From the bottom lock it was only 15 minutes to the first lot of moorings at Market Drayton.

Market DraytonSAM_0032 MD Moorings

We pulled in behind Rock’n’Roll and Moore2Life, then Carol, George, Ann, Chas and the pair of Mollys joined us for  homemade soup and hot rolls. Market day in the town tomorrow.

Locks 5, miles 6½

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Busy day after a couple of lazy ones…

We spent the last two days just pottering really, nothing specific to do, just bits and pieces.  We had cold nights but reasonably bright days, although yesterday was a bit damp with a bit of snow and sleet.
First thing on Friday was very pleasant…..

Norbury Junction and Wharf.SAM_0013 Norbury Junction

Looking down the Shrewsbury BranchSAM_0011 Shrewsbury Branch
A thin skim of ice on the water down there…

Smoky ChimneysSAM_0002 Smokey Chimneys

SAM_0001 Half Moon

We intend to be at Market Drayton on Tuesday, find a spot on the 14 day moorings and spend Christmas there. At this time of year it’s 2 day’s travelling, after 3 hours it starts to get a bit cold on the tiller. So we decided to set off today, take tomorrow off (the forecast is a bit grim), then finish off the trip on Tuesday.
But first there was a bit of “housekeeping” to do. Both Seyella and Moore2Life had to go back through the bridge to take on water, and Charles decided to top up M2L’s diesel tank as well. The Rockers had got a Tesco delivery due, and they also wanted to top up the tanks, so we had a bit of a staggered start.
We were off first, but I’d planned a stop just a short distance on in Grub Street Cutting. There was the remains of a beech tree with my name on it….

I’m a lumberjack and I’m all right….SAM_0022 Lumberjack
I got five good rings off the stump, that’ll keep us going for a few days.

High Bridge with it’s curious telegraph pole in the middle is in Grub Street Cutting.....SAM_0025 High Bridge is Double Culvert Bridge, carrying a footpath and a stream.SAM_0027 Double Culvert Br

Out of the cutting the popular moorings at The Anchor Inn are next. In the summer it’s difficult to find a spot here.

Anchor InnSAM_0029 Anchor Inn

There’s a long line of linear moorings between here and Shebdon, keeping boat speed down to tickover. But it gave me a chance to admire the fantastic skies as heavy clouds blew over.

Wow!SAM_0031 Skies 

SAM_0034 Skies 

SAM_0039 Skies 
Although it looked as though someone was getting a dousing we almost got away with it. Just a few minutes spattering of hail.

Beady eye….

Shebdon Embankment is another huge earthwork, around the same length as Shelmore but not quite as high.

Shebdon EmbankmentSAM_0041 Shebdon Embankment

At the end of the embankment is the Knighton Creamery. Originally built produce chocolate crumb, a basic ingredient of milk chocolate, it was ideally placed to take advantage of the dairy farms in the area and the canal for transport of the product to Cadbury’s at Bournville.  Now operated by Premier Foods it still produces dried milk based products, including Drinking Chocolate and custard powder. In fact I’m sure I detected a faint aroma of chocolate in the air as we passed by….

Knighton CreamerySAM_0044 Knighton Dairy
There’s usually one or two historic boats under the preserved loading canopy.

We pulled in a little further on, just past Black Flats Bridge. We had to shuffle about a bit to find a deep enough spot to get in.

Moored near Bridge 47SAM_0047 Moored near B47

We were joined later by both Moore2Life and Rock’n’Roll. While I’d got the chain saw out I sliced up the logs I’d acquired near Gnosall a few days ago, then split up a fair amount ready for the stove. I was ready for a sit down with a mug of tea and one of Ann’s mince pies when we were joined by the Rockers and the Lifers at around 3 o’clock. Then Meg got a quick walk as it got dark so I’m going to have to stack the cut logs back onto the roof tomorrow. That’s if no-one purloins them in the night….
It’s handy that both Rock’n’Roll and Moore2Life have diesel fired heating. Any wood we spot while cruising together is all mine!

Locks 0, miles 5

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Norbury again

We had an uneventful trip back to Norbury today. There was rain in the early hours, and more forecast for later, so after a trip to the shops we got away around 10:30.

Converted warehouse near Gnosall BridgeSAM_0001 Warehouse in Gnosall

It was a lovely day in the sunshine, warmer than yesterday, but you noticed the difference when the sun went in.

Fine day, but grey clouds ahead.SAM_0006

A bright splash of gorse.SAM_0012

We filled and emptied the tanks at the junction, then motored through the bridge and moored just beyond, behind NB Moore2Life.

We met up with the rest of the convoy, then I sat down to lunch, a large chunk of very tasty pork pie from the butcher’s in Gnosall.

Yummy, pie……SAM_0015

Locks 0, miles 2½

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mail run….

First off - Happy Birthday Carol!

Back to Gnosall today, to collect the rest of the mail waiting for us at the Post Office.
It was another cold night, frozen puddles again on the towpath but no ice on the canal. Pushing my luck now, aren’t I! We left NBs Rock’n’Roll and Moore2Life at Norbury we’ll catch up with them on the way back.

Leaving Norbury on a fine, sunny morningSAM_0001 Norbury Moorings   
 Heading onto the Shelmore Embankment, sun in the eyes.SAM_0002 Norbury Moorings

Towards lunchtime the sky got a bit hazier, so at least I could see where we were going!
It was very pleasant on the embankments, but by heck it was cold in the cuttings where the sun didn’t penetrate.

Back into the sunshine at Castle CuttingSAM_0007 Warmer in the sun

The 48 hour moorings at Gnosall seem to be occupied by the same boats as when we left….SAM_0003 Gnosall Moorings

We had another 1½ miles to go before we could turn around at High Onn. We used to have the same problem when we (frequently) got lost towing a caravan…

Winding at High Onn WharfSAM_0009 Winding at High Onn
We’ve now got the sun behind us, but of course it’s turned dull now. We retraced our route, tried unsuccessfully to get a decent picture of the resident kingfisher in Cowley Cutting, and moored just above Boat Inn Bridge.

Sunshine and shadows in Castle Cutting.SAM_0012 Sunshine and shadows, Castle Cutting

Could this be the remains of a Norman Motte and Bailey? The cutting must have been named for something….
SAM_0016 Castle Mound

Back at Gnosall. We moored this side of the bridge this time, the towpath is cleaner.SAM_0036 Back at Gnosall

I did my good deed for the day on the way up to the Post Office. A taxi driver was having trouble with his car, it wouldn’t start after he left it with the lights on. So we pushed it back up a shallow slope and bump started it on the way down. In return he saved me 10 minutes walk by dropping me in the village. Pity he wasn’t still around when I came out of the Co-op with a rucksack full of provisions….

Looking at the map it would have been quicker to walk to the P.O. from Norbury. The  6½ mile round trip would have taken me about 2½ hours, and it would certainly have been warmer. But I’d still have had to run the engine to charge the batteries, so we may as well cruise.

Locks 0, miles 7