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Autumn Colours on the Buckby Flight

Over last weekend we covered the final leg of our journey back to Kingfisher Marina. We arrived at Braunston on Friday lunchtime just in time to enjoy lunch at the Gongoozler's Rest. It was quite being half-term and with the imminent closure of  Long Buckby locks for maintenance. We went up the Braunston flight with a crew of two bearded men. I know that lots of male boaters are bearded but these two looked like brothers but who in fact weren't when Maggie questioned them.

Large & Small boats descending  Braunston Flight

Because plenty of boats were going down the flight we made good progress although this was somewhat marred at the fifth lock when it became clear that we had picked up something significant in the propeller. That significant object turned out to be a pipe fender and its lanyard. It took around 20 minutes to clear by which time our lock companions were well ahead in the tunnel. It was also beginning to get dark. We made good progress once the prop-fouling was cleared but found the tunnel full of smoke. As we made our way through the murk it appeared that there was boat in front coming towards us with and erratic light. Our assumption was wrong it was our companions from the Braunston flight who were making exceedingly slow progress in our direction; we ended up coasting in neutral until their boat suddenly accelerated and their exhaust magically became clear. We passed them in the gloom as they moored up just after the tunnel. They explained that their engine was struggling, presumably with something around the prop. We carried on in the dark using our navigation and tunnel lights until we moored up at Norton Junction. A trip to the New Inn followed.

The next day was misty to start with but the mist soon cleared and it was clear and bright. We travelled down the flight alone but made fair progress - the gates on the Buckby Flight are some of the heaviest we know.  A barge at Norton contained the gates ready for the work on Lock 12.

New lock gates ready for fitting

Lock 12 with its temporary gate repair
As we got to Brockhall we met the boat we had shared locks with on Friday - it was being towed. It appeared that their engine had expired after its earlier exertions. We passed them and then made for Weedon. At Dodford quite a plethora of interesting working boats has grown up over the last few years including Royalty Class boats, George, Mary and William. They had been joined temporarily by Mike Askins Victoria. Tim Carter popped his head of a boat to say hello. Their historic camping boat William looks very smart.

More historic boats

In glorious sunshine we finally made Stoke Bruerne in the late afternoon. It was too late to go down the flight so we moored up for the night. I was in  time to catch the Rugby World Cup Final in the public bar of The Boat. The resurgence of the Australia team in the second half made it thrilling and there was some good banter. That night we treated ourselves to an excellent take-away from the Spice of Bruerne.

On Sunday we took the short journey to Yardley Gobion. The weather was glorious and unseasonably warm. Going down the flight we met up with the crew of Silver Lady who were moving their boat from Fenny Compton to Kingfisher Marina. It turned out that their new mooring was just two boats away from ours. 

Its nice to have Albert back at her home moorings. We spent the rest of the day packing up, cleaning the boat, organising our power line and meeting the neighbours. It appears we are moored near a sociable group. We don't anticipate taking Albert for a summer break away next year.


On Sunday the rain had passed over and we had good weather for our short trip down to Braunston. Although it was quiet there was a volunteer lock keeper on duty at Hillmorton. The pounds were quite low so I let down an extra "lock-full".

Hillmorton Locks

As the day progressed the canal became more busy although relatively quiet compared with summer. I think a number of hire boats were out for the half-term week. We managed to find a good 14-day mooring in Braunston and tidied up Albert. Visits to the excellent Gongoozler's Rest for lunch and The Boat House for dinner followed. At the weekend we have to move Albert through Long Buckby Locks before the winter closure that starts next Monday so we can get to our home berth at Yardley Gobion.

Newbold on Avon

On Saturday it rained and rained. It was one of those days when, because we had to get south on a timetable, we just had to "grin and bear it". We left Atherstone under cloudy skies but no rain. However, it quickly degenerated and by the time we reached Nuneaton the rain had really set it for most of the day.

I noticed that at Mancetter, just out of Atherstone, there was an interpretation panel concerning the site Boudicca's last battle. As a resident of Northants I still go with the Dan Snow theory that it is more likely to be Cuttle Mill, near Towcester.

Hartshill Wharf

Passing along the section of canal between Atherstone and Nuneaton you are greeted by a site that once must have been familiar, a telegraph pole with a plethora of cross beams and conductors. I have photographed this item before, but passing by this time I wondered if this structure was actually worthy of listing. In a few years only a small proportion of the population will remember these iconic structures which lined railways, roads and canals. Is there (or should there be) a Society for the Preservation of Telegraph Poles?
Telegraph Pole nears Hartshill

We reached Hawksbury Junction (Sutton Stop) by lunch. Maggie optimistically suggested that the rain might be easing. Unfortunately within half an hour we had a deluge. With Albert's tradition stern the stern doors can be closed, the hatch drawn back. With the engine doors also closed warm air keeps your lower half cosy but the upper half is another matter!

Impending heavy rain near Ansty

Of course rain does eventually ease and by the time we reached Stretton Stop it was only drizzling. For some time I had noticed a boat in front with a steerer wearing a bright yellow fluorescent jacket. He stood out in the gloom as it got darker. By the time we got near to Cathiron we had caught him up and he was hailing us. His engine had quit in a cloud of smoke and he wanted a tow the moorings at Newbold; the other side of the tunnel. We obliged by hitching up his 60 ft Harborough Marine boat behind Albert on "short straps". It was getting dark as we approached the tunnel and for safety we waited until no boats were coming north. The tow was fine with Albert coping well at modest speed. Amazingly we managed find a mooring just south of the tunnel where both boats could moor so we avoided having to manhandle the disabled boat. 

Towing a broken-down boat near Newbold

That night we repaired to the Barley Mow in Newbold.  We both had a good meal of steak and chips. As we left for the night I decided to visit the gentleman's "facilities". I just had to take a photo of piano! I gather it does occasionally get played. The waitress moaned that the Ladies was quite boring with no musical instruments. Do the locals use "tinkling the ivories" as a euphemism for going to the lavatory. 

Urinals and Piano!

Atherstone and Yarn Bombing

A dull autumn day and locks - Glascote and Atherstone. A feature of autumn boating is leaves - lots of them. Over the last two days Maggie and I have given Albert a short burst of reverse to remove leaves around the prop on numerous occasions. No serious prop-fouling occurred but it felt like moving through soup and the engine began to work hard.

Grendon Wharf - Bradley Green

At Glascote Locks the bottom lock filled very slowly. The two locks were described by Mike Pearson as being like piggy banks - "slow to fill and quick to empty". However today I wondered if the bottom lock would actually fill at all. Unlike the incident we had at Sandon Lock when the bottom gates did no seat, there appeared to be no obvious reason for this. I suspect that the problem lay underwater in the cill.

The climb up Atherstone flight was straightforward, helped by a number of boats going down and a volunteer lock-keeper who helped us up the "thick". All locks up the flight had small heart-shaped knitted leaves attached to the lock beams. It appears that it is "yarn-bombing" and not unknown on canals - it is surprising what turns people on!

Yarn bombing - Atherstone Locks

We made the top lock around 5:00 PM and took on water. It took some time because the water pressure wasn't good.
A sign which could have several meanings!

We eventually moored up in the countryside just outside the town. A day of good progress.

Hopwas Woods

Tonight we are moored up close by Hopwas Woods looking out over the valley of the River Tame. Today the weather was an improvement over yesterday's with good periods of sunshine. The wind was fresh and waiting at locks required a bit more effort.
Autumn Colours at Woodend Lock, Trent & Mersey Canal

We left our mooring near Rugley and had a quiet journey through the town. We didn't meet another boat moving until we reached the narrows just after the "toilet" factory (Armitage Shanks). We caught up with two other boats just short of Woodend Lock. The boat immediately in front of us was powered by a Lister JP2 and we managed to have an in depth discussion of propeller design whilst waiting for the lock because their boat appeared to be "over-propped" despite just having a new prop fitted as specified by Crowther. At Shed House Lock we met Sue and Vic on No Problem coming up the flight and on leaving the sane lock we met Maffi  - three bloggers at one lock at the same time!
NB Dove at Fradley

Fradley Junction in Autumn Sunshine
We turned off the T&M at Fradley Junction and headed down the Coventry Canal (and the bit of the Birmingham & Fazeley which it incorporates) but paused at Streethay Wharf to buy some engine oil. In setting sunlight we made it to just before Hopwas Wood. A good days autumn boating.

Asparagus Crop near Hademore 

Wind Turbine and Setting Sun, near Hopwas

Homeward Bound

After a period at home, which has been quite challenging, we are moving Albert back to base in Yardley Gobion. Our period in Aston Marina has been very worthwhile and enjoyable but it is time to get Albert back to near our home for the winter.

A genuine T&M milepost

We got Aston late yesterday by train and taxi and it rained all night - very autumnal. This morning it was misty and wet. We picked up diesel and headed south. There was not much boating traffic until we got beyond Weston.

Having moored up for a late lunch on visitor moorings near Ingestre, a Steve Hudson boat arrived in front of us. It turned out to be our next door neighbour's brother and sister-in-law who we had been altered to look out for. No sooner than we had started a conversation with them than NB William from High House Marina, who is very familiar to us, passed by! Waterways can be a good sociable network.

The weather improved as we got closer to Great Haywood and the autumn colours began to brighten the day.

Autumn Colours at Hoo Mill Lock

At Hoo Mill lock we had a small incident when Albert got firmly stuck on an underwater obstacle right by the newly refurbished lock moorings. No amount of pushing, shoving and polling would move her. I have no idea what the obstacle was but judging by the boats behaviour it was not very long (the bows pivoted easily) and not very wide (the boat rocked), but it was firm! After around 15 mins the water levels in the pound rose sufficiently for Albert to just get off. We will probably never know what it was.

We continued south along the Trent & Mersey until we finally called it a day just south of Wolesley Bridge. I had trouble locating satellites for Freesat tonight because the App on my phone was playing up. Tried a new one but it strangely gave two results for the same satellite - the map was more to the south than the compass heading and both were wrong! These wonderful aids to modern life are still not reliable - particularly in rural areas.

Tomorrow morning we head for Fradley Junction and beyond.

Trentham Gardens and Great Haywood: A Family Weekend

Last weekend we spent time with part of our family around Stone. Our grandson Hugh, and his  parents Andy & Emily, came north to Stone and we had a weekend visiting local attractions and boating. Hugh has been on Albert before but is now he is of an age (3 years) where he can begin to really appreciate it and we could actually cruise.
Boating with Grandad

 On Saturday afternoon we visited Trentham Gardens. With the fine weather  the gardens and  boutique shops near the entrance were busy. A steady stream of fans carrying chairs and tables were making their way towards the concert area where a Red Hot Chilli Peppers & Foo Fighters tribute bands were due to play. By coincidence the "real" Foo Fighters were appearing on the same night back home in Milton Keynes Bowl.

Carriage Riding at Trentham

We thought the planting in the Italian Garden was very imaginative, particularly the use of grasses and the Fairy statues were stunning. 

Trentham Gardens Fairies

We took a horse carriage around the gardens. It was drawn by Paddy who Hugh found fascinating. He loved it when Paddy suddenly stopped to have a wee halfway along a path. I think little boys can relate to it!
The Slide - it requires a climb up a wall!

Hugh inspecting flowers

Planting with grasses

We finished the day with an early dinner at the Bistro at Aston Marina. Hugh was on his best behaviour so we didn't upset the other diners. The meal was up to their usual high standard. Emily and Andy shared a chateaubriand steak.
Travelling South near Aston

Sunday found us taking our familiar trip south from Aston to Great Haywood. The weather was fine and sunny and we had fun. Hugh, equipped with his life-jacket, joined in helping at the locks and travelled for a while on the cabin slide - a traditional location in the days of commercial carrying.

Negotiating Sandon Lock

There were queues at some of the locks but this gave Hugh the opportunity to explore (under supervision).

Hugh and Victoria

Emily steering near Hoo Mill Lock - waiting for the lock

We moored in the early afternoon just beyond the junction at Great Haywood and took a stroll into Shugborough Estate to have tea in the National Trust tea rooms. The weather was sunny and relatively warm, despite the northerly winds, and Hugh enjoyed scooting around the garden paths investigating the "hidden doors" that lead to secret places - it was the last day of this summer event.

Hugh scooting at Shugborough

Shugborough Hall

River Sow and swans

That night Maggie and I stayed on board Albert and the rest of the family returned home. Monday saw us reversing back to the junction, winding and then returning North to Aston. The weather was warm and sunny and the journey was delightful. A steady stream of boats was coming south but going in our direction we only came across one boat. We moored up for a leisurely lunch at Burston finally reaching Aston in the late afternoon. It was a memorable weekend.

Cattle standing on a bridge waiting for the gate to open

Unspoilt by Progress: Update

Today the October edition of Waterways World landed on my mat and, as usual, I immediately dipped into it. My attention was drawn to an item about the epic trip taken twenty years ago by two narrowboats (motor and butty) across The Channel and along the European waterways to the Black Sea. The WW article is an interview of Nick Sanders who took the journey and had the boats built.

I remember the trip being well reported at the time and marvelling at the feat. The boats were named after the Banks's Brewery slogan - Unspoilt by Progress (I and II). This along with their slogan "From the Black Country to the Black Sea" stuck firmly in my mind. I think I recall seeing both boats in the late 90s in the Birmingham area. The new article explains that the motor is still owned by Nick Sanders and is obviously at a marina in the Midlands, but recently that I discovered where the butty is located.

Passing through Stone over the last couple of years, I noticed that the butty owned by boat painter Tina Paramore, and usually moored at Roger Fuller's yard, is named Star but it was Unspoilt by Progress II. This information is proudly displayed on the forecabin but I don't suppose many passing will realise that this well cared for butty has travelled through a war zone and survived a sinking in the River Danube.

Butty Star: Formerly Unspoilt by Progress II at Stone

Steam at Thrupp

Not directly waterways related, in fact you would be hard pressed to find a connection, but I thought some readers might appreciate this image taken today not far from Thrupp Wharf on the Grand Union (Cosgrove). The Duchess of Sutherland, one of Stanier's Coronation class was hauling a Cathederal Express excursion from Rugby to London. I stood on the footbridge at the old Castlethorpe station (closed in 1964) and manage to peek over the parapet to get my shots - modern safety requirements make watching trains difficult.

Stanier Pacific 46233 going south through Castlethorpe, September 3rd, 2015

She arrived spot on time and was certainly showing a good head of steam on a downhill gradient.

Durham and the River Wear

Durham and its Cathedral

Durham is a wonderful city to visit with its historic cathedral, castle and river. We recently had a family wedding at Durham Castle and had a long weekend there. The wedding was a great family event and the venue couldn't have been better. We stayed in some riverside apartments and, having responsibility for our two-year-old grandson Hugh for a couple of days, we took the opportunity for some river trips. One day we took a rowing boat out and the next we took the trip boat, the Prince Bishop river cruiser.

Hugh walking alongside the River Wear with our holiday apartment in the background

Rowing on the River Wear with Durham Cathedral and Castle

Prince Bishop Trip Boat

Passing Durham Cathedral onboard Prince Bishop