Summer Cruise#2 – Day 20 Audlem

 

Well stab me vitals, can it really be nearly 3 weeks away? It feels like 3 years. The Shroppie is very busy. An endless stream of boats! At 0805 this morning two heritage boats went by – the powered one towing t’other. Hmm, I bet we catch with those later – and we did! Taking these boats down narrow locks means 4x the time as the butty boat has to be pulled in and out of locks on its long bit of string.

Talking of etiquette – flying a white ensign – only for HM warships and members of the elite Royal Yacht Squadron but inland, it seems you can do what you like!

Viv bought a headscarf from Mudskipper – who make such things and repair canopies – we kept their card, as our cratch cover is wearing.

A rare sight – a turnover bridge (67) designed so the horse needn’t be untied, it can walk under the bridge on the right, up and over and down on the left!

These are planks to shut off the canal, should there be a breach or a need to drain it.

Five locks at Adderley (31 ft down) then we shift over into Cheshire.

Very bucolic – is that the right word? Nice wide canals and pleasant pastures.

Round the corner and it’s the first of the 15 Audlem locks. You can just see the back end of the heritage butty boat.

We got drenched in a big downpour, halfway down! But then the sun came back out once we’d moored up at the visitor moorings (inbetween locks 11 & 12).

Boats were still zooming past in both directions but we are staying put for a day or two.  Chance to explore Audlem. 103 miles and 136 locks done already!.

 

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Summer seems to have gone by as the forecast is for 40 mph winds and rain for days . . . So we decided to press on and away by 0830. Hoping to make Market Drayton before the rain set in. A blustery day and as luck woould have it, the boat moored in front of us, set off minutes before we did and then an old boat steamed up behind us. No waurez. We saw the hill The Wrekin in the distance and Viv informs me this is partly volcanic (ah, the joys of having a geophysicist on board). Lots more moored boats – I thought CRT was promising to move all these into marinas? But then charging em over a grand a year for these inline moorings must bring in a pretty penny. After a while we entered Woodseaves cutting.  This could have been used for Jurassic Park or one of the Rings films . . .deep, dark, overgrown and not much room to pass boats – very creepy! Soon we came to Tyrley and 5 locks. Leaky and with amazingly ferocious by-washes – the overflow bit that spurts out from after the lock, trying malevolently to pin you against the rocks! And round the corner, Market Drayton. Found a good spot before bridge 62, plus rings. Good. Doors to automatic. Crew to landing stations. Tie up. Finished with engines. Lunch!

I zoomed off on the ship’s landing craft (the folding bike) to post me Dad’s birthday card – for yes, the 25th is imminent! My Dad’s umpteenth birthday and our 36th wedding anniversary too!

We then bimbled into town, dog and bag-on-wheels in tow. Found Joules brewery & tap, nice. Shopped in Asda (rubbish – such a wee shop). Steve then cycled on to Morrison’s on his bike for essential vittels (i.e. Gin x 2, port, cheese etc).

Trying now to soure some grub for the dog! Haven’t run out yet but we will soon.

The Wrekin, in the distance, before the clouds engulfed it
Another snail inspired name
Deep Cuttings – Woodseaves
More tall arches but barely visible – is that a Hobbit up there?
A very we boat indeed
Tyrley Locks – Viv does the winding
Very pretty and probably quite nice on a sunny day!
Top lock – very leaky
An unusual welcome to Market Drayton

 We were moored almost on top of an aqueduct – over a road and the river Tern – so Toby got his swim, at last.

And Steven got his gin – one Morrison’s own (£15) and one Cotswold Gin (er, for a lot more).We stayed another day. Steve went off again on the “shuttle”, to Morrison’s, again, this time to buy some dog food. Yes, time’s hard. They stock Forthglade but in meal form (viz. duck plus veg rather than pure duck!) Toby gulped it all down anyway so that was good. We then strolled the mile or so down the back road into the town to try out the Joules Brewery Tap – a very nicely refurbished pub! And tonight was grill night – one ribeye steak and one pork steak – remarkable food and not too bad beer either!

Last pic shows the aqueduct – our boat was sitting on top of this!

 

 

 

Summer Cruise#2-Day 17

Gnosall to somewhere quiet – Flat Back bridge or No 47 seemed a good spot and it had rings too. And a bit like Hitchcock’s Birds, once we’d arrived several other boats arrived too, including a boat called “The Name’s Bond”. Owned and skippered by the delighful and very chatty, Neville Bond. And being a Welshman he had a rather odd thing on his bow (see pic later).  It was a very busy canal, with dredging boats and all manner of boats to’ing and fro’ing. Sometimes very straight and quite crowded with moored boats.

 

Neville’s boat

 

With his bovine figurehead

 

Deep cuttings means high and even double arches

 

Long straight Telford canal

 

At Knighton, Cadbury’s old yard – they now make Bird’s custard

 

Cadburys

 A quiet spot but it had its downside – a ledge – which kept bumping, freaking out the dog. Oh, such a brave bold doggie! Poor Toby. He went for a walk and refused to get back on!! Time to watch some Hyperdrive, the bed.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

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Rain was threatened but in the end we saw none. Off by 0920 and our chance to study this lovely canal – the Shroppie. Under the M54 the over the A5 (Watling St)

A fairly straight canal with lots of either embankments or cuttings

Steve tries to sit on top of the boat to steer (and pose)

Only one lock for days at Wheaton Aston, where we stopped for water and fuel at the marvellous Turner’s garage – thanks to Hodmadod for the recommendation and at 56.9 p/litre a very good price. Why do we pay 76 in Yelvertoft (et al)???

Unfortunately, our Boggle jumped off the boat and dropped his ball in the canal!

We couldn’t get to it as we were refuelling!! But afterwards we tracked it down and the ball retrieval team deployed the special kit reserved for this operation.

We often take piccies of wildlife and here were two llamas!

Only one tunnel on the whole canal and ere tis, Cowley Tunnel, 81 yds

We got to another weird-to-pronounce town, Gnosall (Nossal) and walked the mile into town to find the much acclaimed, nay, pub of the year for Staffordshire, the George & Dragon. It was an off-licence for 20 odd years run by George & Lynn, they converted it to a pub a few years ago – a lovely, homely place with lots of real ale, good ciders and a good price (£2.90 a pint for beer!), here’s Lyn:

Interesting furniture

And even more interesting, the beers . . .

Steve tried a few then went on to the ciders . . . .

 

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Met a nice family on a hire boat from Mercia, they were off thru Wolverhampton and then on to Brum! They left their mooring at 0647! We were still horizontal!

A quiet day – no more locks – aiming for Brewood (pron. Brood) – meeting up with a colleague of Viv’s from her work days (remember them??)

A lot of landowners required slightly more elaborate bridge work, if the wretched canal were to go thru their land! (Chillington)

Just 3 odd hours and we’re here. Brewood.

Lovely village – the railway never came this way and so the village retains it’s old world characteristics. Marvellous butchers (Maidens) and this odd building (Speedwell Castle – named after the horse the won!)

 

Summer Cruise#2-Day 14

 

Off at 0840. Two hours to Wolverhampton – longer if you have to dive down the weed hatch every 10 minutes! Still very weedy and full of plastic too. Then it’s the 21 locks – most set against us but we do four or five each and swap over.  The day got hotter and hotter. Poor Toby. Lunch on the go (Steve admits to squirrelling off to Macdonalds for a cheese quarter pounder meal!! At lock 15). Turn right then turn left and we’re on the Shroppie! Hurrah. Back to a more rural setting.

Yes, very weedy – shoals of fish though!

Down the hatch – to be renamed the Plastic hatch – nice and clear, though.

 

Ah yes, approaching the industrial bit

The other end of the Wyrley & Essington Canal (or Curly Wurly as it’s known)

 

It says Wolverhampton Tunnel . . . . . .And here it is . . .

And round the corner . . . the start of the 21 locks!!

Viv starts . . .

The incinerator

Not far to go now . . .

Nearing the end – two knackered old guys here . . . .

Viv does the very last lock, No 21.

For a bit of fun we recorded some of the flight and used a trial bit of software to speed it all up, here it is – just for a laugh!

And here’s Steve asking that all important question, Are we there yet?

No, but only a mile or so to go (now on the Staffs & Worcs.)

Left turn and onto the Shroppie, after a very silly lock (6 inches indeed!)

Here’s the lock . .

We went on to Bridge No 4 and moored at the VM. Seven and a half hours – more than enough for us. Some gentler days ahead methinks.

 

Summer Cruise#2-Day13 Back to 1940

 

Spots of rain and the feeling of needing more rest days (someone gets his Teacher’s pension this year!), we put off the delights of Wolverhampton, it’s environs and those 21 locks until another day. It’s still 1940 next door in the museum and Steve is threatening to dress up and become an “enactor” . . . “It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow”

The thing is, most of the folk here are enacting – I’m not, I really am a boater! And despite the no smoking policy, I found another “enactor” smoking his pipe too – so we chatted together and soon we had collected dozens of grockles with their huge telephoto lenses taking photos of the two of us, weird. One chap from the States was keen to take a 3D photo. I met some lovely people who do this as their main hobby, travelling all over the country – I particularly liked the Spiv, complete with watches, nylons etc. A policeman (enactor) came and “felt his collar”, as they used to say.

There was Monty again and a real pub (with real £3.80 a pint, prices too)

Dozens of old shops – this tobacconist had my Falcon pipes, wish I could get them for 25 shillings. Note the taped windows.

I only had time to explore a small section but found my way to a dance hall:

The band sounded really good too:

God save the King! He really did look authentic (what do you think Mum? Dad?), I kept shouting out “God save the King” and “He’s one of us, gawd bless yer!”

I did do some leaning on a boat, honest.

They had Air Raid drills throughout the day. These were announced by a very loud audio system with recordings of approaching aircraft, bombs dropping and sirens. They also had hand driven sirens here plus smoke pouring from a first floor window! It all had a chilling effect on me – I just hope we never have to experience anything like this again. The visitors all thought it was a huge laugh and it was comical watching the firemen running down with pails of water & spraying the house lamely with stirrup pumps. A woman threw her baby from the window, stretchers were called for and all it really needed was for someone to say “Mr Mainwaring, is that wise?”. I was impressed by how much trouble these “enactors” had gone to and even some visitors had got into the spirit with big colourful dresses, lipstick, stockings with seams etc It was all “Goodnight Sweetheart” as it was a weird mixture of old & new.

To round it all off, a Lancaster bomber was scheduled to fly by at 1500 and it did:

(Apologies for squeaky toy sound midway in video – Toby was waiting for a walk and let us know he was waiting!!)

A very memorable day . . . . Wolverhampton beckons . . .

 

Summer Cruise#2-Day 12 Time Warp

 

Twas raining, Twas Birmingham after all. But it stopped and around 10 ish we pushed off. Another few herberts in the wee hours to wake us up, so we decided to push off for somewhere new. A rather curious day as we cruise along the old route – the original route that Brindley made, a bit twisty with many loops. So they invited Mr Telford to make a new line – dead straight and lower down.

Here’s some snaps of the guide books to illustrate the point:

We’re going right to left, turning right at Smethwick Jn, up 3 locks

Crossing over the new canal, fork right at Oldbury and on . .

Turning left at Tipton, down to the Black Country Living Museum

Once clear of the gentrified centre, things seem to return to post-industrial desolation or re-establishment of greenery. This photo is looking back along the long, wide and deep canal

One of the many ornate entrances to the many loops

The Soho (of foundry not London, fame)

Remnants of a bridge crossing

The Soho foundry itself

Smethwick junction – quick, right turn and into the three rather shabby locks.

I did see a rat spring across the top gate and then I saw a second rat scutter away. Hmm, not over keen on this bit . . . lots of litter too . .

Wolverhampton, the long way round but more interesting?

Maybe time for one of those B&W photos . .  the area deserves it

Viv does the locks but comes back on board to wash her hands afterwards (not needed to do that before).

A burnt out toll house and an air of desolation

Plus more than the usual flotsam – oil, bottle, plastic bags and always, just one shoe

After the Smethwick locks – the canal to the “Engine Arm”, carried over the new canal by an aqueduct.

Then it all got a bit rural, quite a change – we are now at the highest point and going through the Summit Tunnel.

And round the corner to say Hello to the M5. In fact four hellos were needed as we threaded our way underneath.

Lots of scaffolding in place with signs saying do not moor to the scaffolding – who, in their right mind would?

And out into the air and immediately over the new canal on the Stewart aqueduct:

Just spotted another narrowboat on the new canal below!

You can tell this route is not traversed much – encroaching weed! Starting to get the African Queen feeling. Will I have to get out and pull us along? Leeches?

We pass over on another aqueduct (we’ve seen 4 in one morning!) with the new canal going down the Netherton branch to the Netherton tunnel (3027 yds!)

I stopped – to clear the prop yet again and to take some pix . . . hmm 56 minute transit time. How lovely.

Meanwhile the surly crew try to jump ship – get back!

On past the delightfully named but swamp infested Tividale Quays – could any boat actually get in there??

Almost missed the turn at Tipton junction – prop full of weed, bowthruster full of weed . . . we limped on through the narrows and on to the Black Country Living Museum moorings – full services here plus a winding hole – bit tricky to wind when your two means of propulsion are slightly hampered but we swing and we park up, for a day or two.  Ahead is the portal of the Dudley Tunnel.  I think you can pass through but it has to be pre-booked and you get pulled through by an electric tug – no diesel fumes here, as there’s no ventilation. Lots of side caverns and trip boats.

The bridge allows views into the museum which covers 26 acres and this weekend is 1940’s weekend – see https://www.bclm.co.uk/media/events/library/1940s_sun_daytime_prog_2017_1.pdf

Talking of portals – I really did think I had entered a time warp as I peeped in the door of the museum just as the royal car went by with our King & Queen, hotly followed by our amazing general – Monty!

Must go back tomorrow!

 

Summer Cruise#2 – Day 11 Rest

 

Had a wander around the city last night – visited the Wellington, famous real ale place with 16 beers on but NO DOGS! So, sat out in the alley with the cancer patients having our beer, then went back for slow cooked gammon and a pile of mash! Had a few Herbets loudly passing the boat at 0230 but otherwise a good mooring.

Today I went out for a cycle on the bike – just to see some of the canal arms. Then after lunch we took the Boggle out for a walk and a look around the Cathedral side of town (and yes, with a new pub in mind).

Busy place! Lots of school kids in crocodiles visiting Sea Life – kind of appropriate. The cathedral had some marvellous stained glass windows and bears – yes, every city seems to have these things – Bath had lions one year, pigs the next. Bristol had Wallace & Gromits everywhere:

Cute? But very little in the way of green spaces to walk our dog.

One of my secret aims was to visit the Western Arcade – a magnificent Victorian shopping arcade, with a very rare tobacconist! Time to stock up!

And, oh look, a bar! The Post Office Vaults. About 8 beers and around a dozen ciders too. A very good range of beers too.

We tried Hip Hop (Briggs) = excellent, Dark Drake (Dancing Duck)= v. good, Shaky Stevens American stout and the IPA – all good stuff AND they let Toby in too.

So this is what the outside of the infamous Birmingham New Street station looks like – shed loads of Baco Foil??!

And just around the corner was a BrewDog pub – all fizzy, keg beer but with amazing flavours and eye-wateringly high prices – I had Hop Kills at £7.25 a pint, so we tried halves – the price board is deceptive as it is in odd quantities, like 2/3 pint. No, the Vaults gets the thumbs up here.

Very dog friendly though.

 

Summer Cruise#2-Day 10

 

Despite feeling a tad tired we really did want to get to Birmingham today. Oddly, it’s safer right in the centre rather than stopping short and mooring up. So we plodded on – no locks or bridges (the big Shirley drawbridge was bust & left open). So a 14 mile cruise along the North Stratford – twisty and windy, first hour enclosed by trees. Often shallow too. Into King’s Norton junction through Lock No 1 , a huge guillotine stop lock , turn right and on the Worcester & Birmingham canal. Past familiar sites – the Cadbury Bourneville HQ, Selly Oak, Edgbaston and then into Gas Street basin . . . pick up plastic around the prop . . . stop boat on the grockle boat pontoon to remove . . . . then find us a spare mooring near Sheepcote bridge! A long (for us) day of 5.8 engine hours but all tied up by 3 ish.

The original design for this canal was to be a wide beam – hence the large bridges – sadly this was never meant to be!

Very rural for ages and then a big urbanisation – Waterside.

Most of the first hour was almost enclosed by trees

And the magnificent entrance to the tunnel

Nearly at King’s Norton junction when we ran into (almost) some work boats engaged in dredging!

I did wonder why the last lock we did was numbered No2 – the huge stop lock here is No1. They did go to some lengths to separate the canals.

Very narrow and ominous with the huge gate overhead – did Steve flinch then?

Up ahead – the junction:

We turn right for Brum

Between the hedges we spot Cabury’s at Bournville!

Through Edgbaston tunnel – creepy

Not far to go now – edge round the corner, into Gas Street Basin

Past Sea Life and the entrance to the Birmingham & Fazely canal

Moorings are filling up but we find a good one – that’ll do for a few days!