At Norbury Junction1st January 2011
Hil and I called in to see Starcross at Norbury on our way home from spending New Year’s Eve at Kendal. We timed the journey from Lancaster and found that the 105 miles took 2 hours, which compares well with the hour-and-fifty-minutes for the 70 miles from Hereford. It was very cold with ice on the cut and we ran the engine and lit a fire to warm things up and air the bedding. Norbury Wharf’s cafe was closed so we had to improvise lunch from the stocks on board – which therefore turned out to be packet soup and dry crackers!
At Norbury Junction12th January 2011
Just me today – driving up for a day visit. The ice had gone from the cut and I put the bedding away and re-organised the storage boxes under the bed, saving considerable space in the process. After dropping off a couple of sacks of firewood from home I went over to the Junction Inn for lunch.
After lunch I took Starcross up to Grub Street and back to give the engine a run and top up the batteries. By mid-afternoon a heavy mist was descending and making navigation a little tricky.
I was back on the mooring just before dark at 16.20 little-knowing that I had just enjoyed one of the last ice-free days for several weeks as the cold snap set in.
To Penkridge and Back29th January to 5th February
Saturday, 29th January: Norbury Junction to Gnosall.
Hil and I drove up via Bridgnorth arriving at Norbury at 11.30. We untied and took the boat over to the water point to fill the tank that, along with the rest of the system had been drained for the winter. Last year we suffered a leak in a pipe under the bathroom sink. This year we had three! One was a cracked plastic connector, which Hil was able to replace with one from Norbury Wharf, but the other two were splits in copper pipes in inaccessible locations – which was why they hadn’t been lagged. Unfortunately Norbury Wharf were too busy to do the repairs for a while, so after arranging for them to be done after our return we topped up our drinking water containers and I set off at about 16.00 on a lovely clear winter’s afternoon while Hil walked along the towpath as far as Gnosall. We had planned to eat at the Boat Inn, but it was full even at 18.30 with some sort of birthday party, so we made our way up to the next bridge and the Navigation instead.
Sunday, 30th January: At Gnosall.
After breakfast we modified the side panelling on the bath so that it was easier to remove the next time we needed to check the water pipes underneath. We then drained the water from the system (again) and, after lunch, walked back to Norbury Junction to collect the car. Hil then drove me back to Gnosall before leaving for home as she had to work the rest of the week. I did some shopping in the village then polished the much-neglected brasses before tea.
Monday,31st January: Gnosall to Brewood.
Last night was very cold and I woke up to ice on the windows in the cabin. In fact, it was so cold I was up at 06.30 to light the fire and then found that the cut had iced over. It looked pretty thick so I decided to wiat a bit before setting off to see if it thawed. By 13.00 there was no sign of a thaw, but I set off anyway although the ice soon got worse. I had decided to stop at bridge 29 and was just starting to tie up when I heard an oncoming boat smashing through the ice on the other side of the bridge. In fact there were two boats thus clearing a channel south to Brewood, which I reached at dusk and where I stopped for the night.
Tuesday, 1st February: Brewood to Penkridge
It got much warmer overnight and with early morning rain all the ice had soon gone. I walked up into the village for a paper and then set off about 09.10. There were no other boats around on a dull, cloudy day. At Autherley Junction, which I reached at 10.40, the sun came out and at Coven Heath on the Staffs & Worcs the ice returned, thin at first then getting thicker all the way to the lunch stop at Hatherton Junction. During lunch, two boats passed and broke the ice ahead. I set off at 14.05, reaching Gailey Top Lock at 14.37. There was ice all down the flight and I had some trouble tying up at Otherton lock, having to push the ice away from the bank. Tied up in Penkridge at 17.05, above the bottom lock.
Wednesday, 2nd February: At Penkridge
Not very far today: Down to the water point, back to the winding-hole to turn and then tied up again. Today was market day in Penkridge so, after breakfast, I had a walk down to the town. The market is held just off the town centre and is a real old-fashioned country market with the usual collection of fruit and veg and cheap clothing stalls supplemented by a whole range of other stuff even including a poultry section. Here are a few shots:
Thursday, 3rd February: Penkridge to Coven.“The Glass Bead Boat” overtook me just as I was untying this morning, the steerer calling that he would open a few bottom paddles behind him as he went up the flight. Trouble was that at the second he only opened them a notch or two so, not realising he’d done so I tied up below the lock unnecessarily before going to empty what was already an empty lock. Then, when filling the lock I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get a level as water continued to trickle out of the still open bottom paddles! After I realised what he was doing things were a lot easier although the locks out of Penkridge can be tricky for a single-hander as once the lock is half full a stong current pulls your boat swiftly against the top gate. Although I often leave Starcross in gear against the top gate to prevent this the amount of water leaking through these gates makes this unwise.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle at Gailey Top Lock. When I stopped in the lock mouth to close the top gate behind me the wind blew the bow into the winding hole, which was mostly filled with Viking Afloat hire boats. Eventually I had to get the long shaft off the cabin roof to push it back out again, watched all the while by amused staff at the yard. I stopped at Hatherton Junction at 12.15 for lunch and a walk round, hoping to see if I could find “Wand’ring’ Bark” but it’s obviously kept in part of the marina that’s not visible from any public access. In the afternoon the wind got up so on reaching Coven at 15.00 I decided to tie up for the night. I ate in – the remains of last night’s lamb stew – but thought I give the two pubs here a try. I wasn’t impressed. The canalside Fox and Anchor is very food-orientated and expensive with snotty staff, whilst the Rainbow in the village had had a makeover since I was last here in 1990 and now resembles a cafe rather than the village local it once was and doesn’t have particularly good beer either.
Friday, 4th February: Coven to Gnosall
The brasses needed a quick polish this morning before I set off at 09.40 on a dull, but not unpleasant day. Autherley Junction was reached at 10.35 where I emptied the rubbish and got some drinking water (the main water tank being still drained for the winter). Just past Wolverhampton Boat Club I met an oncoming boat at a bridge hole. It was 50/50 who had right of way, but that’s not how the other steerer saw it – he obviously had no intention of stopping and didn’t even say thank you. Still, no harm done and on to Brewood for lunch, just taking an hour. I got into a bit of a mess passing moored boats opposite the winding hole at Wheaton Aston. I was going along at tick-over of course, but the wind took me and blew me across the cut bringing me into contact with one of them. Fortunately, I think the crew must have been in the pub as no heads emerged from hatches to complain! The wind got even heavier later on and at one stage I was “crabbing” along at an angle of 45 degrees to make any progress.
Turner’s Garage at Wheaton Aston sells the cheapest diesel on the canals, so I called in for a top up, getting 58 litres for £56 at 68p per litre on a 30/70 split – my usual “winter” level of self-declared taxation. On the way to Gnosall I passed a southbound boat – only the second one I’d seen on the move all day. I tied up at Gnosall and later took the bus into Stafford to find a pub showing the England – Wales rugby match, eventually watching it in the Lamb (Fuller’s London Pride) but Wales lost.
Saturday, 5th February: Gnosall to Norbury
A simple trip back to base this morning, even the wind had dropped a bit. Intending to catch the afternoon bus from Norbury I’d forgotten that it runs an hour earlier on Saturdays, so had to walk the two-and-a-half miles to Gnosall for another one!
To Market Drayton and back25th – 28th February 2011
Friday, 25th February: Norbury Jc to Goldstone Wharf
I had a frustrating journey to the boat. The booking office at Hereford station is being rebuilt and tickets are being sold at a hut in the car park. The resulting queue was so long that I missed the train! I was told at the barrier that I could go through without one if I wished, but then I’d have to pay a £20 penalty fare on the train!
The next train was an hour later and the bus that it connected with at Stafford was 10 minutes late so, after cycling from Gnosall it was 15.15 before I got to the boat.
Nevertheless, I managed to get away by 15.55 and had a trouble-free run to Goldstone, arriving at 18.15 just as it started to rain. It rained heavily all night – so heavily in fact that not even the attraction of the Wharf Tavern opposite could tempt me to leave the boat.
Saturday, 26th February: Goldstone to Market Drayton.
It was still raining in the morning but by 09.20 it had eased off enough to get under-way. The five locks at Tyrley, all against me, took me an hour-and-a-quarter during which time there were some more heavy showers. I winded in Market Drayton and tied up at 12.15, walking up into the town after lunch.
Market Drayton has seen better days. The much-vaunted new market hall was a great disappointment with not many stalls and fewer customers; by 14.00 those stalls that were trading were begining to pack up for the day. In most small towns suffering from supermarket competition the butchers are usually the last to go, but in Market Drayton they’ve already gone and if you want meat it’s a supermarket or nothing.
There were two games in the six-nations rugby today. I listened to Italy v. Wales on the radio on the boat (Wales won) and walked up to the Coach & Horses to watch France v. England before going back to the boat to eat and out again ending up in the Red Lion (Joule’s Brewery).
Sunday, 27th February: Market Drayton to Shebdon
More rain this morning but it had stopped by 10.30 and half-an-hour later I was away. The Tyrley locks were all in my favour this time and I tied up at the top at 12.40 for lunch. I gave too much room to an oncoming boat in Woodseaves Cutting and had to resort to the long shaft to get free; it’s a good job it wasn’t anywhere near the remains of the landslip that had closed the cutting – and the canal – a few weeks earlier.
The sun came out later in the day so, under no pressure to get back to Norbury, I stopped at Shebdon wharf at 15.30 and stayed there for the rest of the day.
Monday 28th February: Shebdon to Norbury
I was up early (07.00) away by 07.30 and back at Norbury and tied up by 09.00. I can’t remember how I got home!
At Norbury Again22nd-24th March
Tuesday, 22nd March
Came up from Hereford on the train via Birmingham as all Shrewsbury line trains were on stop following a massive power cut in Cardiff that had knocked out all the signalling. Got to the boat 14.00. The bottom had been blacked by Norbury Wharf since my last visit and the burst pipes repaired but I couldn’t get the water heater to light, so no hot water. I cycled back to Gnosall for some food shopping then had a quiet evening in.
Wednesday, 23rd March
I was up at 07.30 to find early morning mist on the cut until the sun came out. I washed and polished one side of the boat and chatted to a couple of the neighbours aboard “Albion” and “Shonalogo”. After lunch I listened to the budget speach on the radio (good news on the Ordsall curve and Kemble re-doubling). Afterwards I took Starcross up to Grub Street to wind and then washed and polished the other side. Then over to the waterpoint to try and flush some rust out of the tank – largely successful I think – before tying up for the night at 18.45.
Thursday, 24th March
Paid Norbury Wharf for the blacking, anodes and plumbing – came to £900! Spent the day cleaning up the interior of the boat but also opened up the 36 bolts on the floor of the well deck to find the water tank directly beneath; swiftly covered it up again!
To Wheaton Aston11th – 13th April 2011
Monday, 11th April: At Norbury
Came up by train via Birmingham and Stafford arriving about 13.00. The water heater had been repaired and was working again. I cycled back to Gnosall for some food shopping and then went over to the Junction Inn for a couple of early evening beers.
Tuesday 12th April: Norbury to Wheaton Aston
A hot, sunny day. Washed the boat windows and weeded the bit of towpath we use as a storage bay before sawing up the remains of the old armchair for firewood. set off early afternoon for Wheaton Aston arriving about 16.00. Winded with difficulty due to stiff breeze and tied up. Walked over to nearby Marston to try and find the pub but there was no sign of it – presumably its closed down. Some consolation at the Hartley Arms, which had Holt’s “Two Hoots” as a guest beer.
Wednesday 13th April: Wheaton Aston to Norbury
The strimming team arrived at 08.30 prompting a mass exodus from the moorings and I found myself in a convoy of northbound boats. The leading boat attempted, unwisely,to moor on Shelmore embankment and ended up with the centre rope round the prop!
II offered assistance, which was declined and so arrived at Norbury for mid-day. After the usual clearing-up I had lunch in the cafe and caught a train home via Crewe.
Springtime in Stourport20th April – 3rd May 2011
Wednesday, 20th April:Norbury Jc to Brewood
Came up from Hereford on the train via Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton and Stafford. Cycled from Gnosall and arrived at the boat at 13.45. I reversed to the water point, not without difficulty, winded, filled up and set off southwards around 15.20
There were a few other boats around and I arrived at Gnosall 16.05, Wheaton Aston 17.50 and, finally, Brewood at 19.05 where there was space on the visitor moorings. I walked up to the village for shopping then back to the boat for a meal with Jazz on the radio.
Thursday, 21st April:Brewood to Compton
I was away from Brewood by 08.35 following a hire boat on a hot, suuny day that was more like Summer than Spring. Autherley Junction at 10.07 where there was a bit of a wait for the lock as a northbound boat made a hash of the turn from the Staffs & Worcs and had to have another go. It was therefore 11.25 before I got to Compton, tying up below the lock.
Good Friday, 22nd April: Compton to Bridge 55
I waited at Compton all day until Hil joined me from Hereford at 15.30. Plans to stay at Compton were changed when an Anglo-Welsh hireboat carrying a large, noisy group arrived and we moved down to Bridge 55 arriving with the first drops of rain at 17.45
Saturday, 23rd April: Bridge 55 to Hinksford
We were off and away just after 09.00 behind a very slow and noisy boat. After speaking to them at a lock we found out that the lady steerer had recently lost her husband and was trying to gain confidence in steering and handling the boat without him. There were queues at the locks and I was worrying about potential delays at the Bratch – a sequence of three locks close together in which boats cannot pass.
Easter Sunday, 24th April: At Hinksforge
A full day’s cycle ride with Hil on her best bike and me on the folder! Route via Swindon, Halfpenny Green, Seisdon, Pattingham, Albrighton, Badger, Worfield, Claverley, Enville and Kinver, where we called in at The Vine for a pint – a large pub canalside at Kinver Lock with lots of “rules” about how you may or may not behave! Then back to the boat, where we found we had neighbours who looked as if they might be noisy so we moved along the towpath a bit.
Easter Monday, 25th April: Hinksford to Kinver
Away just after 09.00 but only as far as the water point at Greensforge. A Countrywide Cruisers hire boat came past as we were getting ready to leave and we followed them down the lock.
We were held up at Stewpony lock when a trip boat got in front of us, having winded at Stourton Junction just as we arrived. After we’d got through we tied up for lunch just north of Hyde Lock.
After lunch we moved on down to Kinver, arriving at 15.00 I went up to the village for some shopping (there is a Spar and a Co-op) while Hil cycled back to Greensforge to retrieve the car. We had a short evening walk up to the church, which sits high above the village before Hil had to leave for home and work in the morning.
Tuesday, 26th April: Kinver to Caunsall
Walked up to the Holy Austin Rock to see the former cave houses, now a museum. The museum itself was closed but there is a footpath that gives access to the site.
From the cave-dwellings I walked up on to Kinver Edge, from where there are views over Worcestershire, Staffordshire and the Black Country, then down through Kingsford Country Park and back to Kinver village along the road. I had lunch back on the boat and then set off at around 14.30 to Caunsall, arriving an hour later having negotiated just one lock and that had its gates left open for me by a boat just leaving. There is space for just two boats on the visitor moorings at Caunsall but I had them to myself. I walked up into the village for an aperitif only to find both pubs closed, one of them permanently so. Returning later in the evening I found that the Anchor is a great unspoiled pub with a wide range of ales.
Wednesday, 28th April: Caunsall to Stourport
Away this morning at 08.30, stopping for breakfast an hour later above Wolverley lock. The next lock, Wolverley Court, was being operated by a self-appointed volunteer lock-keeper, which was helpful. These people seem to spring up at various points around the system, often on long lock-flights being, as one said to me once, people who have a windlass, but no boat of their own.
I reached Kidderminster at 12 noon and got chatting to a long-distance cyclist, who turned out to be doing the end-to-end (John O’ Groats to Land’s End). As he’d told me he’d set off 5 days ago I assumed he was riding south-to-north, but no; he’d come from the far north of Scotland in that time and now considered be was “nearly home”.
The canal suddenly became very busy with hire boats, but not to the extent of causing queues at the locks. I became a bit too fussy about where to stop for lunch so ended up on the outskirts of Stourport where there are some five-day moorings. After lunch I carried on to York Street – in the town centre – and spent the rest of the afternoon looking round the town, which seems to have retained a surprising number of food shops in the High Street despite the presence of the usual supermarkets on the outskirts.
Thursday, 28th April: At Stourport
A full day in Stourport. To begin with I washed all the boat and even gave it a polish! Then I polished the brasses (well, it is Royal Wedding Day tomorrow!). In the afternoon I had a walk around the extensive basins where the canal meets the River Severn. Once a busy inland port it is now of course given over completely to the leisure-boating trade even to the extent of re-opening one of the basins closed when commercial traffic finished.
Stourport is an inland resort, known as the “Brummie Seaside” but the sea-front style fairground sits uneasily with the charm of the canal basins – and must make for unpleasant moorings at times.
That evening I took a walk round some of the town’s pubs of which one of the best is the Angel, on the banks of the river.
Friday, 29th April: At Stourport
After breakfast I locked down into the basin from York Street to fill up with water and empty the toilet cassette, carefully timing the latter to co-incide with the royal wedding which was being broadcast wall-to-wall on all radio channels. There are two visitor moorings here and I tied up in one of them.
I spent the rest of the day lazing about on board but in the evening my lack of interest in the royal wedding didn’t stop me from going out to celebrate it with a pint or two!
Saturday, 30th April: Stourport to Wolverley
Hil arrived about 09.30, just in time for a joint second breakfast. We topped up the food supplies and got away about 11.00 with Hil steering. Waiting for Kidderminster lock in the road tunnel below the downhill boat that had just left the lock came past so quickly in the restricted channel that Hil, who has holding the boat on the centre line, was pulled off her feet! We reached Wolverley lock at 15.30 and tied up, later cycling back along the towpath to Stourport to pick up the car as we would need it tomorrow.
Sunday, 1st May: Wolverley to Kinver
Today was a special day as we were welcoming Starcross’ previous owners, Mark and Mandy (and their daughter Mika) for a few days’ stay during their visit to the UK from their new home in Australia.
I met them off the train at Kidderminster and drove them to the boat at Wolverley. After a quick cup of tea we set off for Kinver, with Mark enjoying himself greatly steering “his” boat again.
At Kinver we called in at the Vine Inn, adjacent the lock for a pre-dinner drink. The pub garden is notable for a huge number of “do this, don’t to that” notices although when it was my round I was pleased to be offered a proper glass, rather than a plastic one for drinking in the garden because “you seem respectable”!! Afterwards, Hil and I had to cycle back to Wolverley to collect the car. Hil needed it to get to and from the boat but a car really is a nuisance on a boat trip.
Monday, 2nd May: Kinver to Compton
Mika woke up with a headache, so we did not get away from Kinver until Hil and Mandy had been up to the village to find a chemist. We stopped for a lunch break at Hinksford and got to the Bratch locks about 16.00
Once again we were waved straight into the bottom lock by the friendly lockie for a swift passage of the flight. At the top, Hil set off yet again to retrieve the car then to return home whilst the rest of us carried on to Compton where we arrived at 19.15 and headed straight for the Oddfellows a large chain (Banks’) pub which at least had decent food at an acceptable price.
Tuesday, 3rd May: Compton to Norbury Junction
Mika wasn’t well again this morning and Mark and Mandy were sufficiently concerned to ring NHS Direct, who basically told them to sort it out themselves! A nearby pharmacist advised them to see a doctor and a local couple, who just happened to be in the pharmacy at the time offered to take them. Meanwhile I was trying, without much success to get through to Nationwide Building Society to transfer the funds that would allow us to complete the purchase of our Lancaster house, due at 12 noon that day. Hilary had been told this could be done by phone, but the call centre was adamant – I would have to find a branch! I assumed this would mean getting a bus into Wolverhampton and returned to the boat to tell Mark and Mandy. I got there just as Mandy and Mika were getting into the Good Samaritans’ car. The couple told me of a local branch much nearer than Wolverhampton and even offered to drop me off on the way to the doctor’s. I made the transaction with an hour to spare!
Mandy and Mika returned with some antibiotics about 11.30 and we set off for an uneventful run up the Shroppie apart from the excitement caused by a speeding hire boat coming rapidly up behind completely “losing it” and ramming both banks between bridges 9 and 10. We were on a tight schedule as our guests needed to catch a bus at Gnosall to get to Stafford for a train and arrived with 30 minutes to spare. After seeing them off I carried on to Norbury and tying up at 18.50, which was too late to get home that night (the last practical bus from Gnosall being 19.10) so I ate in the Junction Inn, accompanying my meal with two pints of Mild – of which they only charged me for one!
A Short Trip to Shebdon26th – 27th May 2011
Thursday 26th May: Getting to Norbury
Having recently acquired a bus pass I thought I’d use it to get to Norbury by bus. Unfortunately I forgot to take it with me, but fortunately most of the journey was made on Arriva buses and I could use one of their good value Day Saver tickets. The journey took eight hours (its two by car!) but that did include a two-hour lunch stop in Bridgnorth.
It was cold and wet at Norbury and work had started on the refurbishment of the moorings leaving everything in a sea of mud.
The start of this work had meant the loss of our unofficial storage area that a previous moorer had cut into the bank. Our wood store and an old armchair frame we kept it in had been put on Starcross’ counter so I had to cut the frame up and store in in the bow locker with the rest of the wood as there was nowhere else to put it.
Friday, 27th May: Norbury to Shebdon and back
It was still cold and wet so I had a lazy morning not setting off anywhere until 11.50. I went up to Shebdon wharf, passing David and Gill on Endeavour on the way and arrived just as the sun came out at 13.20. I spent the rest of the afternoon chopping up the remains of the chair and talking to a boater moored nearby then returned to Norbury arriving at 18.45. Everyone was moaning about the state of the towpath works!
To the Braunston Working Boat Gathering
7th June – 12th July (in stages)Stage One: Norbury to Braunston 7th – 12th June
Tuesday 7th June: Norbury to Autherley Junction
I arrived at the boat at 12.05 having come via Crewe and Stafford. The work on the towpath was still progressing (I didn’t realise it then but it would carry on for the rest of the year – and beyond). I filled up with diesel, paying £90 for 88 litres at a 60/40 split and set off to pick up Bernard at Gnosall. Bernard was waiting for me, having made his way from Leicester by bus and train. I cycled up to the Co-Op for some food shopping and we got underway at 15.10 just behind another boat. We had to wait at Wheaton Aston for two uphill and two downhill boats before we could go through the lock. Although there was plenty of room on the visitor moorings at both Wheaton Aston and Brewood we wanted an early start up the Wolverhampton locks in the morning so pressed on to Autherley Junction arriving at 22.00
Wednesday, 8th June: Autherley Junction to Hockley Heath
Today was probably one of the longest day’s boating I’ve ever done on Starcross – over 14 hours – but Bernard could only be with me for a limited time. We’d agreed an early start, but got away even earlier than planned at 05.45, but not before Bernard had found a £5 note on the towpath! About three locks into the Wolverhampton flight we surprised the skipper of Solstice Bell, which had moored there overnight but was not quite ready to start. He could only watch as we moved into the empty lock! A BW employee walking up the flight opened some gates for us and we were at the top by 08.50 a relatively slow time of 2h 54m due to opening some bottom paddles for Solstice Bell coming along behind and a couple of low pounds. We didn’t stop at the top but carried on along the New Main Line to Birmingham, arriving about 14.00 having eaten breakfast on the move. We took a late lunch and short break at Birmingham, getting away shortly after three.
Passing through Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin we set off along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal towards Kings Norton Junction
There we made the tight turn on to the Stratford Canal. I didn’t think Bernard was going to get round at one stage, but he actually made a very good job of what is a difficult manoeuvre. Although it was already early evening we carried on, making the most of the light eating our evening meal in relays to arrive at Hockley Heath at 20.50 then off to the pub for a well-earned pint.
Thursday, 9th June: Hockley Heath to the Cape
Another long day, but a later start at 06.50. Passing through the two lift bridges at Hockley Heath, where Starcross came to grief in 2005, we arrived at the top of Lapworth locks at 07.25.
We had an easy passage down the flight, with no other boats around until we were nearly at the bottom. Bernard was keen to push on as he anticipated delays at Hatton flight if it were to be busy so we had breakfast on the move. In the event Hatton was quiet and we teamed up with “Namur” from Sharpness which had a crew of four and were at the bottom in 2hr 45m including a delay whilst BW dealt with a boater who had fallen in off her boat half way down. Because their staff were involved it was being treated as an “incident” and traffic was unnecessarily delayed whilst it was “investigated” (result: she fell in)
Bernard was still keen to continue, but I’d had enough and insisted we stop at the above the Cape of Good Hope, where Kris came to collect him later on after we’d eaten a very average meal in the pub there (not recommended). I’d recovered enough by evening to set off to walk into Warwick, but a bus came along so I rode instead.
Friday 10th June: Cape to Stockton Top
I set off at 08.00 and shared the Cape Locks with a timeshare boat from Gayton Junction. I stopped at Warwick town moorings for breakfast and was going to do some shopping until I saw the size of the enormous Tesco there. I concluded it would be quicker – and more ethical – to go on to Leamington and walk over to the Co-op. The timeshare boat had also stopped so we were together for all the locks up to the Bascote staircase. Here we met a downhill boat and I was able to explain to both crews how one downhill boat could pass two up hill ones in one locking.
I was too fussy about where to stop for lunch with the result that it was 14.35 before I did so at Long Itchington. The rest of the afternoon was spent getting water at the Blue Lias and proceeding slowly but steadily through the Stockton Brook locks to reach the top at 19.00
Saturday 11th June: Stockton Top to Braunston
After two pretty strenuous days I treated myself to a lie in, even so I had time after breakfast to polish the brasses up a bit before setting off at 10.00. Forty-five minutes later I arrived at Calcutt locks to find two boats just entering the bottom lock and a third waiting, with which I could team up for a fairly easy passage. I had a very slow boat in front of me most of the way from Napton Junction but it was no hardship on a beautiful, warm sunny summer’s day.
With a fortnight to go before the working boat show I hoped to find a 14-day mooring at Braunston. There were none available just after Braunston Turn, but I was able to stop on the water point and walk forward to see if there were any after the A45 bridge. I wanted to check, because once committed to going past the bridge it would be a long way to a winding hole if there were to be no room – and I didn’t want to be stuck out in the country as I had been last year. Fortunately there was just one space so I made haste and grabbed it before anyone else did.
Sunday 12th June: At Braunston
After yesterday, today was a total contrast: wet, cold and miserable! I walked up to the shop, but otherwise stayed on board and tidied up. In late afternoon, three working boats – a single motor followed by a pair – came through heading north and I was just able to get this shot of butty, Fazeley.
Stage 2: At Braunston Historic Working Boat Gathering 23rd – 25th June
Thursday, 23rd June: At Braunston
I made the journey from Hereford by train to Worcester, then by bus via Pershore, Evesham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Banbury and Daventry arriving at the boat at 18.10 – a very pleasant journey through pleasant south-Midlands countryside. A largely uneventful trip enlivened only by the comment of a passenger alighting from the Stagecoach double-decker from Evesham after a particularly lively run “Oh, that was quite scary, driver” to which he gave the traditional reply: “You should have been sitting where I was, love”
Friday 24th June: The day before the show
I spent most of the day on board, cleaning, brass polishing etc but later in the afternoon went for a walk around the village and took a few photos:
Saturday, 25th June: At the Gathering
Highlight of the show is the twice-daily parade. Boats follow a figure-of-eight route from the marina to Braunston Turn and back. It invariably results in chaos as the lead boats meet the backmarkers in the narrow sections of route. This year seemed worse than ever with so many boats – over 100 – that the canal became totally blocked and the “morning” parade didn’t end until well after the afternoon run was due to start.
As well as the parade there was plenty of interest during the day
Stage 3: Braunston back to Base 26th June – 30th July
Sunday, 26th June: Braunston to Hartshill
With an impending house-move looming I thought I had better miss the second day of the show and start the process of getting Starcross back to Norbury Junction. I was away for 08.50 and arrived at Hillmorton locks at 11.00, stopping for coffee at the top before tackling the three-lock flight. This took 45 minutes, including waiting time for slower boats in front. I stopped at a shady spot in Newbold for lunch before carrying on through a long, hot, sunny afternoon to Hawkesbury Junction, where I arrived at 17.50. Despite their being room to stay, at this stage I was focussed on getting back to base as quickly as possible so carried on into the evening. At Marston Junction (where the Ashby Canal joins the Coventry) I came up behind a very slow boat the steerer of which seemed oblivious to my presence – in fact she didn’t even acknowledge me when I eventually managed to get past after several miles. The evening sun was very low, but still strong enough to blind me as I headed towards Hartshill – at one point I couldn’t see a thing and just had to carry on and hope for the best! I reached Hartshill at 20.30 and stopped on the seven-day moorings.
I now had to return to Hereford for a few days, but before leaving I had a word with one of the permanent moorers opposite to let him know I’d be back at the end of the week. Although I was on an official mooring, he pointed out to me that if I stayed where I was I would obstruct the local canoe club’s launch area and advised me to move back a length or two. This put me on a length marked “reserved for disabled anglers” I wanted to know if any were likely to turn up whilst I was away but was assured he had “never seen any” For the first time I used the “Catch Your Bus” app on my phone to check the bus times from Hartshill Wharf and its link to Street View to identify the bus stop! A very useful tool.
Friday 1st July: Hartshill
Starcross was in danger of overstaying on the five-day moorings at Hartshill and although I suspect these are not well-policed I do like to stay within the rules so Hil and I took advantage of a shuttle trip between our rented house in Hereford and new home in Lancaster to call in on the way to keep her legal.
We moved her all of 200 metres, onto some 14-day moorings, had a cup of tea and were on our way! This trip had previously included some of our largest daily mileage and locking totals; today was one of the shortest!
Monday 10th July: Hartshill to Atherstone
Our house move was booked for mid-July but I needed to move Starcross on again beforehand to keep within the rules. By now I was living as much in Lancaster as in Hereford and it was from the former that I caught a train to Crewe, another to Atherstone and a “48″ bus to Hartshill wharf arriving at 13.15. I didn’t plan to go any further than Atherstone so had time to polish the brasses, to keep them looking their best, and have a cup of tea before setting off at 16.00. By 17.15 I was at Atherstone top lock where I could take on water and empty the toilet cassette at the rather basic outdoor facilities. There is a wharf here which on my last visit was still used as a coal depot. The coal has gone, but the atmospheric buildings remain and you can easily imagine a working pair or two tied up alongside.
Later I set off down the locks. I was fortunate to have nothing in front of me and a fair number of boats coming up, which meant fewer gates to open and close – always a boon for the single-hander. One of the locks still has its side-pond (a water saving device) working (most of the flight have them fitted) which gave me a rare opportunity to use it.
Not wishing to get too far away from the town for the evening I stopped below lock 5 which I reached at 18.15. In the past I’ve struggled to find a decent pub in Atherstone, so I was determined to try to locate one. This involved quite intensive research, but was well rewarded.
Tuesday is market-day in Atherstone but the market is small and, I would imagine, a shadow of its former self. Still, the town does have some useful shops, including food shops, despite the presence of the usual edge-of-centre supermarkets and the market included a fish-van from which I got a nice piece of haddock for tea. Located on the old Holyhead Road – and once upon a time the A5 ran down the High Street – Atherstone is exactly 100 miles from London – if this milestone is to be believed.
In the afternoon I moved Starcross down a few locks to Bridge 45, where I’d previously identified a suitable spot to leave her unattended for a couple of days whilst I returned to Lancaster to help sort out our new home, which I did the following day.
Monday, 25th July: Atherstone to Whittington
Hilary had to go down to Hereford so we set off by car at 06.15 to Crewe, where she dropped me at the station. I had time for a quick (second) breakfast before catching the 08.33 to Atherstone. First call was at the Co-op for food supplies and after sorting a few things out – and trying unsuccessfully to get the fridge to work I was away by 12.00 on a warm, sunny day. I took on water at Bradley Green and soon passed Alvecote where there was a small fleet of ex-working boats gathered, possibly on their way to the Inland Waterways Association National Festival at Burton-on-Trent.
In mid-summer it’s not unusual to have to queue for locks and those at Goscote are notoriously slow to operate so I wasn’t unduly surprised to have to wait an hour to get through.
Even so, I was at Fazeley Junction at 17.15 and tying up at Whittington near Bridge 80 where there are some mooring rings by 19.35. Of the three pubs in the village the Swan was closed (permanently I fear) the Dog was “so-so” and the Bell by far the best.
Tuesday, 26th July: Whittington to Colwich
The race was now on to get back to Norbury so that I could return to Lancaster and all the work awaiting on the new house. I was away by 06.45, but that still put me behind another boat. Fortunately on this lock-free stretch it didn’t matter and I was at Fradley Jc two hours later. Although there were plenty of boats on the move there were no delays but also, after the top lock, nowhere much to easily stop so it was after Kings Bromley and 09.50 before I got my breakfast!
I had a shock coming into Rugeley when I heard a loud banging noise coming from under the counter – but it was only a stick which became dislodged as soon as I shut off power. I tied up at Bridge 66 for a rest, some lunch and a bit of shopping – most of it in Morrison’s as there didn’t seem to be many other sources of food. When I did set off I soon found myself behind a very slow hire boat. The steerer waved me past and then promptly got stuck on the sharp bend leading to the aqueduct on the edge of the town. I carried on to Colwich lock, stopping just above next to two railway lines. In the evening I had a walk up to the site of Colwich Junction and came across this memorial to a train driver killed in a head-on smash some years ago.
Wednesday: 27th July: Colwich to Penkridge
After yesterday’s delayed breakfast I decided to eat before setting off and by the time I’d walked up to the village for a paper it was 10.00 before I got away. Soon after setting off I met steam narrowboat “President” and its butty “Kildare” in a narrow section shortly before Great Haywood lock. President has a 3ft propeller and consequently travels in mid-channel. It is considered prudent to give way – and doing so at least allowed me to get a photo.
The passage of a pair combined with a large number of boats on the move had caused quite a tailback at the next lock and it took over an hour to get through. Still, it is mid-summer! I stopped at Milford, on the Staffs & Worcs, for lunch, called in at Midland
Thursday, 28th July: Penkridge to Brewood
After a quiet night in I was up at 06.30 and breakfasted and ready for the off at 08.30. There were boats in front and behind all the way up the locks towards Gailey but apart from forgetting to close the bottom gates before starting to fill Filance Lock all went well and I was at Gailey Top for 10.30. After Calf Heath I felt like a cup of coffee, but didn’t feel like stopping so as the bank was well piled I just shut off and let Starcross drift along the edge of the cut whilst I went below and made it. I passed Hatherton Junction at 11.10 but then came up behind two very slow boats all the way to Coven, where I stopped for a break.
Setting off again at 15.00 I was at a deserted Autherley Juction an hour and ten minutes later and made the turn under the bridge and onto the Shropshire Union
Just beyond the narrows under the bridge is a stop lock and it’s not uncommon to find yourself face-to-face with a boat just coming out of the lock towards you, but today there was nothing about and it didn’t take long to pen through the 6″ drop onto the Shropshire Union.
After a long trip Autherley Junction can feel like “home” even though it’s the best part of a day to Norbury. Still, it was a lovely warm sunny afternoon with great views of Cannock Chase to the east and with the boat going very well. There was room at Brewood visitor moorings so I tied up there at 17.30. The Lion Hotel in the village has been refurbished after a lengthy closure so I gave it a try. It’s very food orientated but there is still a drinking area and what’s more there was Joule’s Pale Ale on the bar.
Friday, 29th July: Brewood to Gnosall
Walked into Brewood for some milk and a paper before breakfast then, trying to delay the end of the trip, washed and polished one side of the boat! I even had an early lunch before finally setting off! There was nothing in front at Wheaton Aston lock, but a convoy of four uphill boats waiting. I stopped at Turner’s Garage for 97 litres of diesel (74p a litre plus tax of which I declared 30%) I stopped at Gnosall at 16.10 and as it would be too late to get back to Lancaster if I’d carried on to Norbury decided to stop for the night and to give the other side of the boat a wash and polish.
Saturday, 30th July: Gnosall to Norbury Jc.
After an early start I was back at Norbury for 08.45 but found another boat on my moorings. Simon suggested I might like to try out the new moorings, which I did even though they were right at the far end. After tying Starcross up I cycled to Stafford – just quicker than waiting for the bus – and made my home to Lancaster on a very overcrowded train from Crewe arriving at 13.15
Visitors at Norbury11th – 12th August
Friday, 11th August: At Norbury Jc
David Morris and John Jones of DRM Bus had been asking for some time for a visit to Starcross and I was happy to oblige. I travelled down by train and bus to Norbury arriving at 15.30 and took her up to Grub Street, winded, back down to the wharf for water, winded again and tied up facing north ready for the morning.
Saturday, 12th August: Norbury to Shebdon and back
|David and John - on Starcross for the first time|
Nantwich and Back3rd – 13th September 2011
Saturday, 3rd September: Norbury Junction
Hil and I drove down from Lancaster, calling in at the Co-op in Eccleshall for shopping and arrived at 17.15. We ate on board and stayed in for the evening.
Sunday 4th September: At Norbury Junction
The morning was cloudy and very humid. We chatted to Cal and Ira who live on their boat “Albion” and then set off for a walk to Doleywood Common and Ranton Abbey coming back via Knightley Hall. The afternoon was sunny and clearer and we picked plums, damsons and blackberries from the hedgerows. It was warm enough to sit in the well with a cup of tea when we got back, but later it rained.
Monday, 5th September: Norbury Jc to Market Drayton
Hil left for work in Hereford at 07.30 and, after breakfast, I untied at 09.00. The “new” prop, which had been “singing” on and off ever since it was fitted was completely silent and I began to think that the “newness” had finally worn off! I stopped at Tyrley for lunch and noted that all the anti-EU propaganda had disappeared from the wharf house. I always used to wonder what the many European visitors passing-by on hire boats must have thought!
It took me over to make a very slow passage of the five locks below Tyrley and it was 15.30 before I tied up at Market Drayton. I went shopping, but the last non-supermarket food shop in the town “T. O. Williams of Wem” had closed down leaving only Morrison’s and Asda – what a choice!
Tuesday, 6th September: Market Drayton to Nantwich
Wind and rain in the night, very heavy at times -but it had stopped by morning. I was away by 08.00 and reached Adderley an hour and ten minutes later for a breakfast break. The five-day moorings above the locks are well-equipped with mooring rings, but the presence of the underwater shelf here, as on so much of this canal, means you can’t get within 9″ of the bank.
I was just getting ready to set off when two boats came past and beat me to the locks. The five Adderley locks are quickly followed by 15 more at Audlem. These were about 50/50 in my favour and from the top to the wharf, 12 locks down, took two-and-three-quarter hours – about 14 minutes per lock. After a late lunch I was just getting ready to untie when Ray and Jayne appeared on “No Direction”.
While Jayne was taking photos, Ray helped me down the final three locks of the flight. I’ve always wanted to spend a night at Bridge 90, where the Crewe to Cardiff railway crosses the cut. I’ve seen the boats from the train many times and thought it would be interesting to be on a boat, looking at the trains. But it was not to be. I got tied up, went to have a shower and promptly found I’d run out of water! So I had to untie and carry on into Nantwich to fill up at the water point, being lucky enough to find a spot to tie up on the embankment just as it got dark. On the way I passed Kris and Bernard’s “Sunshine” moored at Bridge 91, a spot I’d recommended to them as a good place to leave her while they were away.
Wednesday 7th September: At Nantwich
Today I got a train to Leominster, where Hil picked me up and we went to Pembrey for Mum’s birthday the following day.
Friday, 9th September: Nantwich to Henhull and back
I got back to the boat about 16.00 and with my 48-hours almost up went straight up to Henhull to wind returning to the separate 48-hour moorings south of the aqueduct for the evening. I had a walk into town but the pubs seemed very quiet for a Friday evening.
Saturday, 10th September: At Nantwich
I spent the morning in Nantwich, seeing the sights:
After lunch I took the bus over to Chester for the afternoon and evening, which proved to be very lively due to the races being on.
Sunday, 11th September: Nantwich to Adderley
I set off just after eight on a fine, breezy, Sunday morning stopping for breakfast above Hack Green locks. The Audlem flight is sheltered from the wind and was very quiet boatwise. After lunch at the wharf outside the “Shroppie Fly” pub I did the remaining 12 locks in three-and-a-quarter hours (about 16 minutes per lock). I tied up at the bottom of Adderley locks at 17.00
Monday, 12th September: Adderley to Market Drayton
Yesterday’s breeze became today’s gale-force wind. A fierce westerly was pinning me – and everyone else – to the bank and no-one was able to move. Eventually a few hire-boats started to come through so I gave some of them a hand up or down the flight. By 15.45 I felt that I ought to start to make a move. This involved pushing the bow out with the long shaft then running back to the counter to get some revs on before the wind pushed me back. After three attempts I got away only to have the same trouble at the first lock, where i had to resort to pulling Starcross into the chamber with the bow rope. After that things got better and I was able to reach Market Drayton for the evening without any difficulty.
Tuesday, 13th September: Market Drayton to Norbury Junction
The wind had dropped and I was away about ten-past-eight, stopping for breakfast after climbing the five locks at Tyrley. Here I missed my footing getting off the boat from the front well and went sprawling on the towpath, bruising a toe-nail which I eventually lost. I was still OK to carry on as far as Shebdon where I stopped for lunch and reaching Norbury by 15.15. Once again there was a boat in my mooring space so after telling Simon at the boatyard I put Starcross into my neighbour Holly’s place. Hilary was driving up from Hereford and after a meal on board we carried on back to Lancaster.
Birthday Trip to Brewood15th – 19th October 2011
Saturday, 15th October: At Norbury
Arrived at the boat at lunchtime to find a note from Holly’s owners suggesting that it would be a good thing if they could have their mooring back! So we swapped the boats round which perhaps was something they could have done? Then took Starcross down to the wharf for coal and on to the embankment moorings and went for a walk around “New Guild” and Norbury Village before returning to Starcross for the evening.
Sunday, 16th October: At Norbury
As Hil couldn’t be with me on my actual birthday tomorrow we celebrated an “official” version today. I spent a lazy morning polishing brasses whilst Hil worked. We’d planned a cycle ride after lunch but Hil stumbled on the cabin steps and hurt her ankle. As we needed some shopping I went on my own to Eccleshall going via High Offley and coming back via the main road, which for the first time I realised is uphill almost all the way. By the time I got back there was another boat on our home mooring!
In the evening Hil cooked a birthday meal of Tagiine with cake from the Wharf shop to follow.
Monday, 17th October: Norbury to Brewood
My actual birthday. Hil left for work at 7.30 and I was away by 9.45 as far as Gnosall where I stopped for breakfast and shopping. It was a dull and cloudy autumnal day as far as Wheaton Aston, where the wind got up and we had some light rain. I had a lunch break at Wheaton Aston then carried on down to Brewood. There are possible moorings on the approach to Brewood with open views towards Cannock Chase which are more pleasant than the official visitor moorings in the cutting, but due to the undderwater shelf you can’t always find a suitable spot and eventually I gave up and move down into the cutting. I’d been hoping for some Joule’s beer in the Lion but although they claim to specialise in local produce that must only apply to the food as the beers were from far and wide. I settled for some Holden’s, which is reasonably local, being from the Black Country, and then went across to the Swan for some distinctively non-local Theakston’s!
Tuesday, 18th October: Brewood to Gnosall
It was after 11.30 by the time I got away after a walk into the village for a paper. As the visitor moorings are some distance beyond the winding hole I had to go down to Chillington Wharf to turn which added another 50 minutes to the journey. There was a queue for Wheaton Aston lock but I used the time to make sandwiches for lunch which I ate on the way to Gnosall, this part of the trip being notable for the “leaves on the line” phenomenon whereby fallen leaves collect in a ball around the propeller requiring frequent bursts of reverse (“chucking back”) to clear it.
Wednesday, 19th October: Gnosall to Norbury Junction
I was back at Norbury by 11.00. Our mooring was still occupied but Simon agreed to get it moved and I was able to slot Starcross into its regular spot. Hil arrived about 16.00 and after arranging for Norbury Wharf to do an engine service in the near future we went home.
Goldstone and Back13th-16th November 2011
Sunday, 13th November: Norbury
Drove to Norbury with Hil arriving late afternoon.
Monday, 14th November: Norbury to Goldstone
Hil left for Hereford early in the morning. After breakfast I called in at the Wharf to pay for the engine service and then set off about 10.00 for Goldstone – a trouble-free trip arriving about 12.30. At least it was trouble-free for me; I only passed three boats on the move but one of them ran aground as I did so! (Not my fault!). I had a lazy afternoon on board and then had a walk up to the Fox and Hounds before tea.
A dull, cold morning. To pass the time I gave both sides of the boat a wash as well as the canopy. The sun came out at lunchtime so I set off down to Shebdon arriving about 15.00. I had another lazy afternoon and then a couple of pre-dinner pints in the Wharf Tavern (Six Bells Brewery’s Cloud Nine Bitter).
Wednesday, 16th November: Goldstone to Norbury.
Away early and back to base before coming home by bus and train.
Last Trip of the Year – to Compton11th – 17th December 2011
Sunday, 11th December: Norbury
Followed the standard pattern of driving down with Hil arriving at 14.00. Hil went for a walk around while I lit the fire and had a sleep! We ate in and spent the evening on board.
Monday, 12th December: Norbury to Bridge 8
Hil left for work in Hereford at 07.30. I took Starcross down to the wharf to pick up a bag of coal and then down to Gnosall for some shopping eventually tying up on the visitor moorings beyond Brewood in the afternoon when the wind started to get up. Overnight gales blew down a tree in the cutting at Brewood where I might have stopped for the night!
Tuesday, 13th December: Bridge 8 to Compton
Still windy this morning. Set off about 09.30 down to Compton passing only two moving boats on the way. A slight misunderstanding at Compton lock as I thought the chap with the windlass who opened the gate as I approached was doing me a favour, but he was off the boat moored way back on the visitor moorings and was doing it for himself! So instead I helped him through before penning down myself. I followed him down to the winding hole above Wightwick lock and then came back to tie up on the 48-hour moorings at Compton.
Wednesday, 14th December: Bus Tour of the Black Country
I caught a 62 into Wolverhampton rather than the direct 510 and then went on to Bilston, Darlaston (where I had a look around), Wednesbury (lunch stop), Walsall and then Birmingham, where the Christmas market was in full swing.
I tried a pint of German beer from a street stall which cost £3.50, then a pint of English beer in the “Old Joint Stock” (a converted bank) that was £3.55! When I’d had enough I caught a 126 back to Wolverhampton where I just made a connection that took me back to Compton.
Thursday, 15th December: Compton to Brewood
Polished the brasses this morning before going back to Brewood. I paused at Aldersley Junction to take advantage of new moring bollards that have been put in, presumably intended for someone working through the bottom lock of the Birmingham Canal opposite although as it’s on the other side of the cut I can’t see many people using them.
Back at Brewood I could see where the tree had come down in the middle of the moorings. I helped myself to as much of the loose wood as I could – which wasn’t very much. After tea I went over to the Bridge Inn. They advertise free wi-fi, but it’s such a convoluted business to log into it that I gave up after an hour! It took me that long to drink the indifferent pint of Pedigree I’d paid £3.05 for so not the most successful visit.
Friday, 16th December: Brewood to Gnosall
I tidies the inside of the boat up this morning before heading off to Wheaton Aston to meet Hugh, who was coming down from Knaresborough. He’d been invited for as much of the week as he could make, but that turned out to be just the final two half-days. On the way there I opened the water taps and drained the last remaining water from the tank as a cold-weather precaution.
Hugh’s bus arrived, 20 minutes late, in a downpour so we waited a while in the hope it would ease off, but eventually we had to set off. Even so it was after dark when we arrived at Gnosall. That evening we took a bus into Stafford so I could show Hugh some of the pubs I’ve discovered over the last few years, which is what he’d really come for, I suspect!
Saturday, 17th December: Gnosall to Norbury.
We were back in Norbury by lunchtime to find that the moorings refurbishment had at last reached our berth. After completing the tidy-up we walked over to Norbury village in heavy rain for the bus to Stoke and trains home.