Saturday, 27 May 2017

Gloucester and Beyond

After snapping a few shots of Worcester Cathedral on our way out of town we headed off for our lunchtime stopover, Upton upon Severn, just over two hours down river. It took a little maneuvering to get Chartwell moored on the jetty with the water a little shallow.

With Serafina tied Rachael and I headed off to find a nice pub on the riverside for lunch settling for The Swan Inn. A nice light lunch and we headed off to have a look around town. The most visible landmark around Upton is 'the pepperpot', a 14th century church bell tower. The church has long since been demolished.

Our walk around town didn't last too long, Upton being a nice town but not offering anything special so we were off for a few more hours on the boat. We passed the junction of the River Avon and Tewksbury, a few minutes up the Avon. Continuing on, we plan to visit Tewksbury on our return, finishing the day on CRT moorings at Lower Lode. It had been a warm day on the back of the boat and we were fortunate to catch the Lower Lode Inn just before closing for the afternoon.

Up early and a fast water fill on the jetty moorings meant we were ready for a three hour trip to Gloucester for a few days break. We moored on one of the finger jetty's in the docks.

The Gloucester Docks, once surrounded by warehouses, are now surrounded by apartments in those same renovated warehouses.

Once tied up we trekked into town to have a look around, we are moored very close to the centre of Gloucester. We headed through town to the Gloucester Cathedral where we were fortunate to get a guided tour by a local historian.

They were renovating the front grounds of the cathedral needing to be extremely careful with several graves within the surrounds.

The cathedral has one of the largest stained glass windows I've seen.

The tour took us over an hour and finished in the cloisters where some shots were taken and used in Harry Potter movies. This shot apparently used as part of Hogwarts School.

After dinner I took a walk around the docks. Preparations were well underway for the Tall Ships Festival over the Bank Holiday weekend with temporary fencing being erected, tents and amusements being dropped into place. I came across a large boat, Ambulant, in dry dock ready to be renovated, funded by the Lotteries. I like this idea in the UK where lotteries money is distributed to fund useful works rather than private companies and the government pocketing it.

A couple of nice days in Gloucester and we headed down the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal to Sharpness. This canal used to be quite busy as a commercial canal but those days are all but gone. Rachael enjoyed not having to operate any of the swing bridges along the way with Bridge Keepers on all of them.

We met several of the tall ships heading for Gloucester as we were heading the other way.

One of the ships moored just near us after coming off the ocean and through the lock at Sharpness at high tide, late in the evening.

Sharpness is rather quiet with only the docks there and no village to speak of.

Sharpness Dock

River Severn sand flats with the tide out

Serafina moored

Plenty of bird life
After an overnight stay at Sharpness we headed most of the way back to Gloucester mooring at Rea Bridge, hoping to see the Severn Bore tonight. It was due at 9:45pm and after a short hike down to the river and a half hour wait I managed to get a few shots albeit almost in the dark. The first photo at 9:30pm in twilight with the river, littered with debris, gently flowing towards the sea.

This photo a half hour later in virtual darkness with tide coming up the river (the bore), initially raising the water level of the Severn by what looked like approx 500mm and then only just a short time later the river level was up significantly; my guess, over a metre.

You could certainly hear the surge of water coming before you could see it, it was quite spectacular. Just a little further down the river we could hear cheers as runners were coming in after attempting to beat the bore. Some did but I'm not sure how far they had run.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Off to Worscester

A 9:30am start after a good nights sleep in the Stourport Basin. It was generally overcast with the possibility of some showers as we headed down through the two staircase locks and on to the R. Severn. A little tricky getting the boat around and into the second staircase, it was on a funny angle, so it took a little bit of maneuvering to get Serafina into the top chamber.

The moorings on the river had mostly been vacant last night and and even today, room enough for at least six, maybe eight 57 foot boats. We waited at the bottom lock landing while NB Chartwell negotiated the locks and with both boats through the locks we moved out into the centre of the river where the current is strongest and headed downstream for a three hour trip to Worcester. It was an uneventful trip, Rachael enjoying not having to leave the boat to do any lock work. Three locks on our trip today, Rachael popping her head out of the cratch to secure the bow of the boat in the locks. Coming out of Holt Lock there was a heavy shower that lasted about fifteen minutes but that was the only rain we saw although, it remained quite cool on the back of the boat for the whole trip, the river banks acting like a wind tunnel.

Coming into Worcester, I spied the moorings near the racecourse, marked in our Pearson's Guide. I wouldn't recommend these unless you are desperate, they looked rather dilapidated. As we passed the racecourse there was another fair going on, must be the season! There were huge dragon kites flying over the fair.

A few hundred metres on an we ran into the middle of the Saturday rowing competition. We were asked to stop while the marshal tried to organise the rowers but after 10 minutes of 'fluffing' around and the rowers no further advanced we continued on to our mooring, right near the finishing line.

After tying up we headed into the city centre to have a look around. The streets were full of historical cars, street performers and tent stalls as well as street after street of the usual shops. This was only a sortie for the a more organised shopping trip on Sunday but with all the extra entertainment there was plenty to see.

We stumbled across the older part of Worcester, Friar Street in particular with houses and shops dating back over 700 years, there weren't too many straight beams among them.

We stumbled across Greyfriars, a National Trust house on Friar Street so being Australian National Trust members we took a look inside. This house was lived in until the 1980's when the National Trust took it over. The previous occupants had restored it to a reasonable state after many years of neglect.

Greyfriars rear
We finished our expedition with a coffee as the heavens opened up again, rain gone for the time being we made our way back to the boat. I managed to get a shot of the medieval Worcester Cathedral from the river, burial place of King John (Magna Carta).

On Sunday Rachael and Silvie took off around ten o'clock for their shopping fix. Michael and I headed in a different direction, we were heading on a four mile (6.4 km) round trip over to Halfords (car spares retailer) to pick up a drill pump. At the start of last cruising season I organised for diesel in Serafina to be cleaned or polished at a cost £325. (See Getting Serafina Ready to Cruise) I thought that was a good investment and the diesel was pristine on completion. By the end of the 2016 season the diesel was murky again with water sitting at the bottom of the tank, no diesel bug though! How was my £325 investment looking now! After doing some research I took the do-it-yourself 95% solution to rectify the problem, a £12 pump.

After drawing 5 litres of murky, watery diesel from the bottom of the tank I re-dipped my trusty clear tube and 'presto', gone! Well I'm guessing around 95% or at least enough that the diesel filtering system on the engine can manage.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Arriving at the End of the Staffs and Worcs Canal

Wednesday turned out to be a great day to stay put where we were. It rained most of the night and continued on throughout the day. Several hire boats had headed off in the morning, making the most of their hire period with no boats replacing them. We spent most of the day inside the boat and there were only two boats that passed us throughout the day. Rachael and I were getting a bit of cabin fever so we donned our rain coats and umbrella and headed to The Vine Inn for lunch.

It was around 7pm that the rain had cleared enough for me to take a walk so I headed up to St Mary's Church on the hill overlooking Kinver. Two or three kilometres from the boat, up the hill to the church for a shot over Kinver and beyond.

I continued on with my walk back down the hill, on through town and then up towards Kinver Edge, another 2 - 3 kilometres walking to reach the Kinver Rock Houses, a National Trust site. The Rock Houses have normal house facades but the bulk of the house is built into the rock.  I couldn't go in as they are only open from Thursday to Sunday.

Kinver is a nice little village with nowhere near the population needed to support the half a dozen nice restaurants in town in addition to two fish and chip shops. The main street had several interesting buildings seeming to my untrained eye to be mainly of Georgian and Tudor design.

We are spending a lot of time dodging rain but the weather on Thursday started off with bright sunshine. A long day ahead lead to an earlier start than usual as we headed towards Woverly to have a wander around on the recommendation of a 'pleasant little village' from several other boaters. It was exactly that but no photo opportunities that 'grabbed' me apart from the Gosander and her ducklings, only because you don't see too many Gosanders around.

We headed back to the boat and had lunch while we were on the move, we still had shopping in Kidderminster to go and then we planned to move on through the last two locks and head to a rural mooring. Arriving at the first set of moorings, there were 6 - 7 boats already tied up but plenty of room for a couple of more boats, we tied Serafina up right in front of the Sainsbury's Supermarket, locked up and headed in to town. Rachael had already planned her shopping, all the shops were in the Weaver's Wharf shopping complex, a short walk from our mooring. A couple of hours in Weaver's Wharf, another hour back at Sainsbury's and we slipped off our mooring. Surprisingly we left behind only a couple of boats, the other boats had already departed. Only 400 metres to the Kidderminster Lock with St Mary's All Saints Church, a 15th and 16th century church, in the background.

We cruised through Kidderminster passing completely vacant moorings in front Weaver's Wharf, enough room for conservatively 15 boats. It seems Kidderminster is not a terribly popular overnight stop. Out of town we queued in a group of five boats at both of the last two locks for the day. In light rain we tied up just off the lock landing of Falling Sands Lock on yet another rural mooring.

Rain overnight and light rain on our Friday morning departure for our short cruise to Stourport. The rain cleared after about ten minutes, arriving after an hour at Stourport in nice sunshine. One lock today, York Street Lock, dropped Serafina down into Stourport Upper Basin where we stopped for diesel (71p) and a pump out then water at the CRT Services. We moored in the 24 hour moorings next to the CRT Services for the night.

 A fair over the back of the docks, far enough away from us to not be too noisy.

The wide-beam route out of the docks and down on to the River Severn, narrowboats take an alternative narrow beam route.

The soccerball count has grown to eight.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Staircases and Flights

Sunday was lovely and sunny as we cruised off our moorings just after 9am. We caught up with a hire boat in a narrow part of the canal just before Autherley Junction, the turn off towards Nantwich on the Shropshire Union Canal. I didn't think much of it until we continued at tick-over for quite sometime before I heard the deafening sound of Chartwell's horn and Silvie on the bow asking the hire boater (nicely) to move over so we could pass. He moved to the side and we passed, for some reason he didn't seem best pleased, must have enjoyed leading a very slow convoy!

Needing a few odds and ends from the supermarket we completed Compton lock and moored in town, it was only a short walk to the Sainsbury's Local. While we were operating Compton Lock I took a closer look at the round weir, I had seen several from a distance. Apparently they are unique to this canal, have to believe the book since I can't remember ever seeing them before.

The ladies discussing the finer points of lock keeping.
The weather closed in rather quickly after lunch, another hour cruising and we were tying up on yet another rural mooring.

Overcast again on Monday, we donned our wet weather gear and headed off with fingers crossed. It never rains when you put all your wet weather gear on! It was only a short cruise to Bratch Locks. These locks are interesting because they are three complete locks (they each have their own front and rear doors) but so close together that they can only be used one way at a time (normally only the case with staircase locks). And sure enough there is only a few metres between each lock so nowhere for boats traveling in opposite directions to pass. Also of interest is the toll house beside the top lock for collecting tolls from boats as they passed. The toll was usually calculated according to weight. Lock operation was a little more tricky than usual and there were two volunteer lock keepers on hand to help us through the locks.

Bratch Locks
Toll House

Brath Locks, Lock Keepers Cottage
Continuing on with the rain still holding off, we passed through Botherham Locks, a two chamber staircase lock. This time the front gate of chamber 1 becomes the back gate of chamber 2. These gates were well over 3 metres high and then another metre of cill underneath to the water.

The weather finally closed in around lunch time but not before we took the chance to visit the chippy at Swindon for some fish (cod) and chips for lunch. It rained most of the afternoon and some of the night.

Today (Tuesday) I was instructed to start the engine at 8am and switch the Travel Power Generator on. Rachael put a load of washing on, we were hoping to get through most of two loads before we stopped at the water point at Greensforge Lock. Load two was well underway when the tap was turned on to fill a very thirsty boat. These (two) water points were quite quick and twenty minutes later we were away again. We cruised through some beautiful country.

We passed by Stourton Junction, the turn on to the Stourbridge Canal to head for Stourbridge and Birmingham.

We finished our cruise in light rain at Kinver where, after tying up, it was time for a pint at The Vine Inn. We plan to spend a bit of time in Kinver tomorrow visiting the Rock Cottages.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Reaching the Summit of the Staffs & Worcs

Our rural mooring was nice and quiet with plenty of open paddocks although being on the Four Counties Ring makes for quite a few boat movements usually from early in the morning to later a night. The last boat passed us around 9pm although it was still light...just.

Friday wasn't a difficult day with only four locks to do on our four hour trip to Penkridge. We stopped en-route at Midland Chandlers to do a little shopping for the boat, maintaining the paintwork is always a priority. Our traveling companions, Michael and Silvie also had some boat shopping to do, paint for them as well. Rachael gravitated to the new appliances section, I can feel a kitchen renovation coming on!

Two locks and one hours travel and we were mooring in the small town of Penkridge around 3pm. We had passed The Boat Inn only 100 metres down the canal so once moored up it was back to the pub for a pint or two. It began pouring rain while we were at the pub so we made a point of waiting until it had eased!

Today (Saturday) has been overcast all the way but the rain has stayed away for our six lock trek to Gailey Wharf. Once again there was an abundance of boats coming down the canal, we seemed to be the only two boats going up which made for a reasonably quick trip through the locks with extra hands to operate the locks. It was a two and half hour trip, stopping at Gailey for lunch at midday. Gailey Lock is the summit of the Staffs & Worcs Canal so no locks for a while from here.

Ready to move into Gailey Lock
Upon reaching Gailey the most significant feature is 'The Round House' previously a toll clerk's office.

The Round House in the background
We cruised on after lunch for a short while, once again opting for a rural mooring just beyond Bridge 76.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Tixall Wides Meeting

A cool start to Wednesday as we moved off our Stone mooring around 9:30 heading towards Great Haywood Junction. The sun was nice and warm when it was out but a beanie and jacket were the order of the day. It was a pleasant cruise, only four locks to do and in early spring there is plenty to see. The Canadian Geese seem to have bred very well this season we passed quite a few large broods.

We queued at three of the four locks today, I thought this was unusual so early in the season but it has been great weather to be boating. Colwich Lock was the last lock of the day, from there it was tick-over most of the way with the large number of moored boats. We cruised into the junction and turned off the Trent and Mersey Canal onto the Staffs and Worcs still moving at tick-over as we passed yet more moored boats, arriving at Tixall Wides, a ten minute cruise from the junction. The canal widens considerably here at Tixall and the bird life is abundant. I couldn't get a photo but there were three Heron busily scanning the water from a tree at the edge, looking for their next meal.

Canadian friends Silvie and Michael from NB Chartwell greeted us as we arrived, over the winter break we had organised to meet here as we plan to cruise down to Gloucester together.

Thursday was going to be a rest day because of rain but the reports changed overnight so it became a shopping and sightseeing day in Stafford. Only a short cruise from our mooring we came across Tixall Gatehouse, a 16th-century building and is all that remains of Tixall Hall which was demolished in 1927. The gatehouse is a Grade I listed building and was used as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots for two weeks in 1586. 

After again queuing at both the locks prior to Stafford we moored both the boats on new CRT  moorings just after St Thomas Bridge (101) and trekked the mile into town. The first shop we came across was a large ASDA supermarket so it was a quick grocery shop for some essentials and a bite to eat in the cafe before heading further into town.

The Elizabethan townhouse in the centre of Stafford, built in 1594, is very impressive.

We visited the local Collegiate Church of St Mary in the centre of Stafford to view the ornate 12th century font, much older than the church itself. A couple of hours wandering the centre of Stafford and it was unanimous, we took a cab back to the canal side pub, the Radford Bank Inn for a pint.

Michael and I were sent up the tow path to pick up the boats, cruising back to the pub to pick-up the ladies at the Radford Bridge and moving on for another half hour to a rural mooring just before the village of Acton Trussell.