Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Tardebigge - Locks! Locks! and More Locks!

Another nice cruising day as we set off from Worcester to continue the steady climb up to Birmingham. Today we were heading for the moorings at Tibberton, a small village along the way. The locks seem to come in pairs and by the time we had moored we had done 14 locks, not a bad days work. When we arrived on the moorings we were the only boat there, other boats passed but that's the way it stayed for the night. We had a walk around Tibberton which didn't take us too long and finished up back at the Bridge Inn, right next to our mooring.

Just the overnight stop at Tibberton, we set off on another fine day heading for the moorings next to the Queen's Head Pub. We caught up with the boat ahead of us, the pic below shows the canal a little overgrown with reeds in places, as we push on.

Some pretty old hump bridges along the way that look like the brick has been rendered with a concrete mix that must be feeling its age. The whole bridge was covered in a plastic netting, I'm guessing more for safety reasons than anything else. Unfortunately, you can also see the graffiti on the bridge: what sort of person says to themselves 'today I'm going go and graffiti a 200 year old (approx) bridge'.

Netting close up
We lost the leading boat at Hanbury Wharf as they pulled over for fuel, cruising past the junction with the Droitwich Canal we moored up around 11:00am just before Lock 17 so we could make our way across to Hanbury Hall (National Trust) for a look see. I couldn't see the house from the canal, only a stile and a public footpath heading across the paddocks. So, after checking for bulls, off we went crossing about three paddocks and five stiles; Rachael wasn't impressed!

The walk wasn't too long, only 10 minutes or so and this was in the garden of one of the outer houses.

The beautiful gardens of the main house.

The front gates leading to the house. The house was of course beautiful inside, the feature were the murals in the main entrance over the staircase and the ceilings throughout. It was well worth a visit!

Back to the boat and we continued our journey to the Queen's Head Moorings. A stop over for water at Stoke Works, the tap was nice and fast, another half a dozen locks and we arrived with one other boat around 4pm. There were a few boats moored just below the last lock and once we moored I could understand why, it was a little rowdy at the Queen's head with a 21st party, fortunately it was Sunday so it closed down reasonably quickly.

No matter which way you take your boat to Birmingham there are plenty of locks and in the case of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal you get them in the form of the Tardebigge Flight, the longest flight on the system with 30 locks. We were up early for breakfast and ready for a busy day's work, we were also hoping to catch as many locks set our way as we could get. We had to start somewhere so 200 metres from our overnight mooring at the Queen's Head Moorings was the Tardebigge Bottom Lock.

Plenty of locks ahead!

And more locks ahead.

All the locks were close so I could get the lock Serafina was in going and head up to the next lock to get the gates open.

The lock gear was in reasonably good condition, some were a bit tough to get going but you get that. I liked the gear locking mechanism which was balanced to fall back out of the way once you started winding.

A stop along the flight to check out the books and we were flush with eggs so it was only a short stop.

Nearing the top of the thirty lock flight now and the reservoir supplying the flight appeared. This was at Lock 50, apparently the water is pumped up to the pound above the top lock (Lock 58). It was at this point we met our first boat going down the flight, it was a single hander, he only had 24 locks to go! At least they were all set for him!

We made it to the top lock of the Tardebigge Flight in just short of four hours and had covered around three miles.

The day wasn't quite over, we continued on for another hour including the 580 yard Tardebigge Tunnel before mooring up at the town of Alverchurch.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Let's Head to Birmingham, Cruising the Worcester and Birmingham Canal

It poured rain overnight in Tewkesbury but the next morning was bright and sunny as we dragged the boat on to the water point for a fill before turning into Tewkesbury Lock. We dropped down the lock and out into the channel, heading out to the River Severn where we turned into the current and off upstream to Worcester. It took us about three and half hours to get to Worcester, as this sign at Lock 1 of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal says, 16 miles.

An unassuming brick opening off the River Severn and not far from the centre of Worcester marks the start of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. We moored up against the jetty and set the first lock, a double lock.

Two double locks lead up to the marina, from that point on the locks become narrow.

Our mooring in Worcester for the next few days.

This monument on top of the bridge just ahead of our mooring, commemorates the last battle of the civil war fought here in 1651. It's a series of shields, lances and helmets.

Just an interesting old pub we found as we roamed around Worcester, the ground floor external walls are completely covered with glossy ceramic tiles and old advertising.

A pic of the Worcester Cathedral, building began in 1084, it's a beautiful cathedral. Apparently, this site has had a place of worship here long before the cathedral was built. If you want to see more pictures and information about Worcester you can go here.

A tour of the National Trust managed Greyfriars. Besides being a beautiful old classified building, our tour guide tells us it was of no particular significance. This is a pic across the lovely rear gardens back to Greyfriars.

Worcester had a comprehensive shopping precinct that kept Rachael amused for a couple of days. We also made enquiries about the manufacture of Worcestershire Sauce at the Visitor's Centre. It seems that now they make the minimum amount in Worcester required to maintain the Royal Seal, the balance is made under licence.

Cruising on the River Avon

After our first day out cruising on the Avon we couldn't find a mooring in Bidford, there are only three visitor moorings for narrowboats, even the pub moorings were full. It was a case of continuing on a little further where we landed in this great mooring next to Harvington Lock. While I was taking this shot in the morning there were six large fish out in the middle of the pound sunning themselves, just below the surface.

While at Evesham, our next stop, we headed over with our friends to the Pershore Plum Festival. Pershore is about a four hour cruise from Evesham but with the festival on there was no mooring space. This was the case still, when we cruised through three days later. This pic shows part of the huge car show.

Part of the festival was in the church yard where we were moving around the graves and headstones. Lots of food tents with lots of samples; I didn't need a big lunch.

Saw this deer feeding as we cruised past, not something you see everyday.

A lovely cruising day out on the Avon.

Cruising through Wyre Piddle (great name!) we passed this boat, the owner seems to have a sense of humour about his town's name.

We finished our day at Wyre Piddle, mooring at the visitor moorings at the lock. THis is a diamond lock and confuses the hire boaters somewhat, it's the first lock they do by themselves when they set out. Kept me busy, I had to help two boats through over a couple of hours. Across from our mooring was a two storey wide beam, great until you get to a bridge! Although, I don't think it moves very far.

Rachael with Serafina waiting for me to set the lock. The blue tipped poles signify 24hr Visitor Moorings. In fact, we moored here in 2017, picturesque and quiet!

This narrowboat wreck has been here for quite a while, my information is that it was dumped there by a flood.

A couple of pics from around Tewkesbury, a very old place, in fact mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1066. Lots of old buildings and plenty of little lane ways like this one.

And, The Royal Hop Pole is a JD Wetherspoons pub and part of the building dates back to the 15th century. There were plenty of these old buildings but I chose this one as it was mentioned in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. It became the 'Royal' Hop Pole after the visit of Princess Mary (later Queen Mary) in 1891 and thus displays the Royal Coat of Arms over the entrance portico.

No photos of the Abbey, but if you want to see some pics from our last trip here in 2017 go here.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Cruising on the Stratford Canal

The fine weather of the previous afternoon as we finished the Hatton Flight continued into the next morning. About half an hour from our mooring we found a nice fast water point at Turner's Green for a fill, then we continued on to Kingswood Junction where the Grand Union and Stratford Canals are joined by a 400m (approx) linking canal.

Cruising along the link towards the Stratford Canal

Seats and a picnic table along the linking canal
Turning left out of the link and into our first lock heading towards Stratford Upon Avon, the pic has  the pound in the background. It was quite busy when we arrived with a boat going out of the lock and another coming up and very quickly there was a queue behind us. It was nice to be in a narrow lock again after three months on the Grand Union Canal, they empty and fill rather quickly comparatively.

Traveling along the Stratford Canal you need to quickly become accustomed to the tight bridges, sometimes not even inches to spare. Note the split in the centre of the bridge for the rope to pass through from the days of horse drawn boats.

It wasn't only a few hours cruising on the Stratford before we reached our first stop, the moorings at Lowsonford near the Fleur De Lys Inn. Once moored up we were straight over to the pub for a late-ish lunch. This pub is famous for their magnificent pies made on site.

Not the first time we have cruised down this way, off the top of my head I think it's the fourth but I am certain the lock gear is getting tougher to use. We also ran into several locks that we struggled to get out of due to the gates not opening fully. We were warned about these! Nonetheless we carried on, meeting this nosy fellow along the way. At one stage I thought we were going to have an extra passenger.

Another common site along the Stratford is these rounded top lock keepers cottages.

As we continued on you can see by the photos that the weather was becoming less predictable and quite blowy too. It was especially noticeable once we headed out on to the 475ft long Edstone Aquaduct where it was difficult to get off the side of the iron tub because of the wind.

Looking back along the aquaduct
The aquaduct passes over the train line and a road, 28ft below and is suspended by thirteen brick peers.

The view down from the aquaduct
Showers continued off and on throughout the day but we were determined to finish the eleven lock Wilmcote Flight. When we did it was around four o'clock that we moored at the bottom of the flight with several other boats.

The next morning the sun was ablaze for our final thrust into Stratford. We knocked over the final five locks including this one (below). One of the most hated locks on the system, with its stumpy balance beam that does nothing to balance the 1400kg gate and its right angled pipe setup, it's a very difficult gate to open and close.

We finished our day nice and early mooring in the seven day moorings right outside The Red Lion pub. It was two days before our visitors were due so plenty of time to renew our friendship with one of our favourite places. Once our visitors arrived we spent another night next to the Red Lion before moving into Bancroft Basin for a few days. We wanted to give our visitors a new experience, being in the basin is like being in a fishbowl. Stratford is a very popular place and there are people everywhere including walking along the finger jetties peering into the windows of the boats or jumping onto the stern for photos. It can be disconcerting at times!

One thing we hadn't done before was take a ride on the Big Wheel where I managed to capture a couple of shots looking over Stratford and our mooring in Bancroft Basin and also the River Avon.

Bancroft Basin Stratford
Our last day with our visitors onboard I went and purchased a licence for the River Avon (£50/week or £60/fortnight), we purchased a fortnights licence in preparation for our trip down the Avon to Tewksbury starting tomorrow. The River Avon is managed by The Avon Navigation Trust, separate from the Canal and River Trust, so our standard boat licence doesn't cover this river. We headed out onto the river for a short run before mooring up on the river next to the open fields.

If you would like to read more about our trips to Stratford Upon Avon you can read about our 2017 trip here.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Getting Soaked on the Hatton Flight

As I said in the previous blog, Rachael's cousin mentioned he would like to come down and visit us for a few days, we thought Stratford would be a great place to meet. We didn't leave ourselves a lot of flexibility with the weather and so when we got to the first lock on the Hatton Flight near Warwick we thought we'd be fine, right until we cruised into the second lock. First some light rain but that didn't last long before giving way to consistent heavy rain for most of the way.

Enjoying the wet trip up the flight of locks with us was Nigel, Pat and Mike on NB Grey Ghost. Rachael spent most of her time on the boat and learnt a few new tricks operating with two boats in broad locks.

Not far to go and the sun finally came out.

Looking back down the hill, note the mechanical screw (worm drive) paddle gear.

Always a good sight coming up the flight is the cafe next to the top lock. The food smells coming out of there were fantastic.

Once we were moored up, showered and changed it was time for a late lunch at the Hatton Arms Hotel with the Grey Ghost crew. I guess you would call the Hatton Arms a gastro pub.

Just a little exhibit that CRT have set up in the park near the top of the flight demonstrating the progression of canal building. This is an old piling boat and in front, the old wooden pilings driven in by a steam driven ram.