The Longest Tunnel that we have never heard of

July 24, 2011

We thought that we would have a fairly long day and wanted to get started up the Tardebigge Locks early so we entered the first lock at 7.50. None of the other boaters were stirring and in fact we saw no boats until we reached the half way point. A boat had arrived the previous evening so the first few locks were in our favour, and as the gates seem well maintained the locks hadn’t filled overnight. (The top paddles are fairly hard work to get moving however). We made very good time, around ten locks an hour even when we had to empty locks. Whichever of us was working the locks would raise the top paddles and run to the next lock to open the gates or raise the paddles if it was full, then return to shut the top gate of the previous lock. The steerer would by then have dropped that lock’s paddles, opened the gate and taken the boat out. Once or twice Alan would have shut the gate as well by the time I started back. We are a little more cautious now after the boat sailed away on the Shroppie!

The scenery on the Tardebigge flight is very chocolate box pretty especially at the higher levels when there are views over to the distant hills. However Alan’s total attention was focussed on the aerial farms (that’s what he calls them) at two cottages mid way up the flight. One even had a vast aerial mounted on a crane. I had thought that the crane was a permanent fixture but Alan says it was probably being set up (I was going to say mid erection but didn’t know if that was appropriate for a family blog!)

In the end we passed four boats descending, one of which was crewed by a Dutch family. They got caught on the wood edging while they waited in the pound for us to pass and we had to let water down. Some of the higher pounds were quite low, whilst in the mid section water was pouring over the by washes. We completed the thirty locks in 3 hours and 20 minutes and it hadn’t seemed too much of an effort: it would have been a different matter if we had tried them the previous day.

We went straight on through the Tardebigge and Shortwood Tunnels and moored at Alvechurch to get some shopping and the all-important Saturday Guardian. How else can we mark the passing of one week to the next? Alvechurch is very red brick suburban as you walk down from the canal but the centre has some attractive older properties and a really good selection of shops. The Co-op had plenty of Guardians – I never know when there are none if that’s because no-one reads them or everyone does which is why they are sold out. We took a different route back because Alan was of the opinion that we had got lost on the way down and the real route would be shorter. It may indeed have been a tad shorter but it probably took longer as we stopped to squint at the very small map on his phone which neither of us can read without reading glasses on, and to ask various people the way.

On we went to the tunnel that no one knows about. Or at least no one on NB Lazydays. The Wast Hill Tunnel is 2726 yards long so an equivalent of the Braunston or Blisworth and took us 30 minute to go through but it took both of us by surprise. It was certainly very easy to travel through as it’s straight and wide enough for two boats to pass. We had a little day boat behind full of kids that screamed and bellowed as soon as they got inside the tunnel. Probably adds to the fun but might also be why we took 30 minutes to transit a tunnel that the BW notice says should average an hour.

By the time we reached King’s Norton Junction it had already been a long day but we didn’t fancy the moorings at all and kept going onto the Stratford. We were going to blog about the IWA action that had swing bridge 2 reinstated as a working bridge having watched the wonderful programme on BBC2 on Friday night but found that it is no longer there at all, just the former swing mechanism. In fact there wasn’t anywhere we fancied stopping for a very long way and we decided to head on all the way to the moorings by Bridge 19 and to eat at one of the pubs.

There is a lift bridge at Major’s Green next to the appropriately named Drawbridge Pub. When we reached it there were three BW boffins looking at the innards of the electric box and poking at things. We were asked to wait for a while till repairs were completed. Alan wandered along to have a look at the moorings on the other side and then stuck his head into the group in a solidarity with men working way. Actually I was hoping that as an electronic engineer he would say Eureka and complete instant repairs so we could go on but he came back and said they had lost a hexagonal nut. One of the men walked backwards and forwards across the bridge several times, they all looked down at the ground for ages and then the nut was found and a test run was made. Needless to say we decided that no test was complete without a boat going through and steamed through quickly before it broke down again and we were stuck.

As we went on there was a lovely surprise when Alan was hailed by Halfie who had biked out to look for us and arrangements were made to meet up later. We finally moored at 7.45 after a twelve hour day and were out of the boat and over the bridge in record time. We had arranged to meet Halfie in the Bull’s Head which was fortunate as the Blue Bell stopped serving food at 6.00. There was a ten minute walk along a quiet country lane and then delicious smells from the Bull’s Head which turned out to be just the sort of pub we like. The food was wonderful, not fussy, just straightforward and well cooked with delicious flavour. Halfie arrived with his wife Jan, daughter Alison and son-in-law Ben and it was such a pleasure to have a good chat. A lovely end to the day.

At the bottom of the Tardebigge flight

Alan’s aspiration, but don’t tell Frances.

Today we did 18.30 Miles, 30 Locks and 4 Tunnels (plus 1 from yesterday)

Statistics so far:-

2877.88 Miles, 1848 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 56 Tunnels

A New Years drink

December 31, 2010

It’s a misty murky New Year’s Eve: at the same time it’s good to see flashes of colour and the River Gade rushing along laden with snow melt. You can have a bit too much of this snow business. We remain frozen in and wonder if we get down to the pound below by the time the boatyard opens again on Tuesday.

We started the day with our normal grandchild fix and then went for a walk through the park. We met up with our South African friend and his two Jack Russells and had a good chat. He hadn’t heard that the green fields next to his house were one of the possible sites for a new 1600 pupil school. Then we went across the Ironbridge and along to NB Blackbird. Carrie and Simon had left a bottle of blackberry wine, made by Carrie and the label illustrated with one of her drawings, in our cockpit a couple of days ago. A lovely surprise to come back to. They were “at home” and we had another happy couple of hours of good conversation in the cosy cabin drinking Carrie’s sloe gin. Alan always says that he prefers our diesel fire but the blazing solid fuel fire of Blackbird was throwing out a lot more heat than our diesel Bubble stove. We have what we have and won’t be changing but I was a bit envious, especially as our fire had been off since last night and we came back to a cold boat. Alan is cooking a stir fry and he just held up the nut oil that is frozen to a cold thickness.

There are just over five hours to go until the New Year but it has already been celebrated in New Zealand and Australia. (New Zealand is the first place in the world to see in each New Year.) My sister who lives in the Blue Mountains in Australia tells me that the huge firework display there cost $5 million this year which seems a rather scandalous amount!

We will watch Jools Holland Hootenanny, always a treat and we have often found new favourites like Betty Laverne from the show. Tomorrow will be a busy day with the other grandparents coming over to meet Maggie and a big family meal planned, so we wish all our friends through the blog a very Happy New Year and good health and happiness in 2011.

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels


November 25, 2010

As you can see from the stats we didn’t travel very far today, but it was very cold and felt far enough. In this weather we have to take it in turn to steer and walk to keep warm. Hemel Hempstead isn’t the most picturesque of towns viewed from the canal but the water meadows on either side soften the picture. Just past Fisheries Lock several of the trees on the tow path side were being felled. I wonder why? I imagine that these meadows are protected green land so I guess there will be a reason for it.

We were looking out for Carrie on NB Blackbird moored at Apsley. When we went past she jumped out to say hello along with Simon from Tortoise. After we had moored just below the first Apsley Lock they came along for a cuppa & chat. Very pleasant: these cold wintry days can be rather solitary for us intrepid constant cruisers.

Other than that it’s been a day to stay warm. After a somewhat tardy lunch we walked along to find the paper museum but we seemed to have lost our enthusiasm by the time we got there. I know that it would be heated inside but walking in the cold with frozen noses and hands just focusses our minds on getting back to the warm boat. So we continued to Sainsburys and then back to our cosy haven.

Old Bridgewater Wharf

Today we did 1.83 Miles and 4 Locks

Statistics so far:-

2135.31 Miles, 1196 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

A meeting of old friends

November 6, 2010

We woke to a lovely bright sunny day, and went off to catch the 9.30 bus into Rugby. As we climbed up from the towpath I was entranced by the beautiful views of the church and Braunston Manor in one direction and over the fields in the other. The light was just glorious. Alan had gone ahead as he is still walking slowly with his dodgy heel, though it seems to be nearly mended. I caught up to him to find that he had met up with Les from NB Valerie, moored a few boats ahead of us.

It was to be a morning of bloggers as we were going into Rugby to meet Lynne and Paul from NB Piston Broke for a coffee. We had missed them when we went to have a look at the stretched boat a couple of weeks ago and didn’t want to go on without a catch up. It was lovely to see them and hear their news: the scope of the work they have undertaken is quite exhausting to contemplate. We are looking forward to seeing the finished boat when we come back this way in the new year.

After we went our separate ways we spent a couple of hours wandering around Rugby town centre and the streets around the school, famous of course for its creation of the game of rugby. It was a fitting day to be visiting the source as my compatriots, the All Blacks, beat England at Twickenham. Perversely Alan refused to be dragged into a pub to watch it as it wasn’t to be shown on BBC.

There was a Saturday market with some excellent food stalls and I was regretting the large food shop we did yesterday. We had bought lamb for a Moroccan dish and it seemed expensive at the supermarket: the meat stall was doing 3 roast cuts plus chops for £20. I would have snapped it up if we had a freezer!

The Stagecoach bus took us back through the villages and more beautiful views. We will be travelling on tomorrow having rediscovered Braunston.

Statistics so far:-

2069.40 Miles, 1132 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 34 Tunnels

Hawkesbury Junction

October 11, 2010

The journey from Hartshill to Nuneaton was very picturesque and green. There were some beautiful views and we spotted some lovely places to moor in the future. Just as we reached the town outskirts we went past another of the pyramid shaped spoil heaps from the old quarry workings. They really are amazing sights on the skyline, at one point it almost looked like a glimpse of South American temple through the vegetation.

Nuneaton has more allotments bordering the canal than I have ever seen in any one place before. People hereabouts must be very green fingered and ecologically conscious. We moored just after Bridge 20 and walked along the busy 444 to Sainburys. There were some very busy roads to cross at first. Near the supermarket there is a very enticing park with the river running through, we would have explored but were somewhat encumbered by a full shopping trolley with wobbly wheels (Alan) and a back pack with cartons of chopped tomatoes digging into my back. Life without a car boot!

We sped past Marston Junction with a sideways look along the Ashton – don’t new canals look enticing! We’ll go back there tomorrow. We were going on to Hawkesbury Junction to meet Dot and Derek, ex Gypsy Rover for the first time. The Junction moorings were pretty full by the time we got there late afternoon, and we turned at the junction itself and returned to moor quite a way along. It wasn’t an easy business, there was very heavy traffic in a very narrow section between moored boats and the sun was shining straight into the eyes of anyone coming in from the Nuneaton end.

As we walked to the start of the Oxford around 5.00 we wondered if we would recognise Dot & Derek if they were away from Granny Buttons. We passed a couple just before we reached Granny Buttons and I thought I caught a Kiwi accent. We turned to see that they were eyeing us in a similarly speculative fashion so snap! Off we went to The Greyhound (a splendid pub) and talked non top until we realised that it was nearly nine and maybe we were getting hungry. It was so wonderful to talk to fellow New Zealanders and Derek grew up in Watford where we have lived in or near for 30 years. Maybe we’ll see them again in New Zealand one day. What a lovely evening!

We meet at last!

Stop Lock – Oxford Canal

Today we did 8.92 Miles

Statistics so far:-

1996.24 Miles, 1128 Locks, 118 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 32 Tunnels


January 12, 2010

We had our 34th Wedding anniversary on Sunday so went out for a meal, we dithered between a Chinese and an Italian and it being a Sunday night the town centre was very quiet and ditto the Restaurants but the coin eventually fell for an Italian and off we went to Romazzino where we had a most enjoyable meal it couldn’t have been better and we would certainly eat there again.

That reminds me, last year we were in Thrupp for our anniversary and had a drink with Bones and Maffi, coincidentally we were also iced in at that time and left just as our 14 day stay was up. Anyone who knows the warden there well know that he would have been around asking us to move on regardless of the ice, it takes all sorts.

I was aching a bit after the diesel top up and was dreading having to do the same again with the water, the chap on the boat next to us said that we could borrow his large water containers, but as the thaw begins we are hoping to last long enough to get to the water point by boat. It is very convenient having showers and toilets nearby.

Statistics so far:-

1106.38 Miles, 754 Locks, 74 Swing Bridges, 48 Lift Bridges, 10 Tunnels

Near Adderley

December 9, 2009

We eventually got to the market and had a good old look around stocking up on veggies and I even bought a woolly hat and some socks. It was quite pleasant having a day without rain. We said our good byes to ‘No Problem’ hope to catch up with them again.

After filling up with water we moved on the short distance to Adderley we had only just moored up when darkness fell, one of the problems of cruising in the winter is the short days. We met one boat coming through the locks which meant that the locks were mainly set in our favour. There has been a decidedly dramatic drop in the amount of canal traffic over the last few weeks, we only saw three other boats on the move today.

Sorry about the lack of pictures I seem to have caught a doze of lethargy, at least on that front. But as they say tomorrow is another day and I will get the camera out. Audlem here we come.

Today we did 3.71 Miles and 5 Locks

Statistics so far:-

1094.05 Miles, 737 Locks, 74 Swing Bridges, 48 Lift Bridges, 10 Tunnels

A Great Sunday Lunch

December 6, 2009

Well there I was again lying on the floor with my head under the sink removing the water pump using the touchy feely method as varifocals, light and location all conspire to prevent optical contact with the relevant screw heads. However it didn’t take long to remove the pump, depositing the customary pool of water that invariably accompanies such activities. The reason for this sudden urge to deprive us of our water, well I needed to apply the instant gasket (as identified by Paul on Piston Broke), yes the joint was leaking again.

Well I dismantled the pump and after drying it out applied the gasket leaving it to cure. Reassembled the pump fitted it back in place and then had a shower, yes that is correct it all went smoothly and only time will tell whether it has done the trick, but it certainly looked the business, thanks Paul.

We then decided to head off to the Talbot for Sunday lunch and a pint. I have to say that without a shadow of a doubt (that’s done it) it is the best Sunday Lunch that we have ever had, mind you we haven’t had that many but still it was very very good. We both had pork and the plates arrived with half a pork joint and a huge Yorkshire swiftly followed by a family sized serving dish of the most scrumptious home cooked veggies. This was not a meal for two. The cost for this Feast was £5.95 each.

We had to go into town to get some provisions and we also needed to walk off the meal, on the way we bumped into Sue and Vic on No Problem filling up with water so we had a very pleasant chat with them, it is great to meet up after all this time.

Statistics so far:-

1090.34 Miles, 732 Locks, 74 Swing Bridges, 48 Lift Bridges, 10 Tunnels

The Anchor near bridge 42

December 2, 2009

Up bright and early, not us the sun. We thought that we would motor along to the Anchor today and hopefully catch Adam on Debdale before he left for work after his and Adrian’s 5 day outing. We did catch them and had a very brief hovering chat as we went by.

The day started off with amazing light which unfortunately deteriorated as the day wore on. We usually see lots of Kingfishers along this section of canal but today we only saw one but we did see five birds of prey, three buzzards and two Kestrels all more or less equally spaced as we came along. The first Kestrel/Merlin (hard to tell as it flashed by so quickly) was quite spectacular as it flew down the towpath at about a metre up in hot pursuit of a little unidentifiable bird fleeing for its life, we never did see the final outcome of that encounter.

An early start

What a difference a day makes

Cowley Tunnel

The Boat at Gnosall

Today we did 10.0 Miles and 1 Tunnel

Statistics so far:-

1081.53 Miles, 727 Locks, 74 Swing Bridges, 48 Lift Bridges, 10 Tunnel

Another Bike Ride

October 13, 2009

Yes there is no stopping us, we did another bike ride today, well we are having some glorious weather, unlike in the summer. We are now surrounded by a fair few other narrowboats (sorry I put that in for Granny Buttons), that’s because we have very good moorings and the location is idyllic. I suppose with the good weather we are having it is not surprising that there are lots of boats moving around, although I have to say that it is much quieter than the Oxford. In some ways it is similar to the Oxford in that it plays a merry dance with a river, the Oxford has the Cherwell and the Staffs and Worcs has the Stour. Sometimes we have the river on the left and at other times it is on the right, the canal is above the river and so aquaducts over the river now and again.

As usual we incorporated a couple of Geocaches in our trip out.

River Stour

River Stour

Our current location

Our current location

Statistics so far:-

983.97 Miles, 676 Locks, 74 Swing Bridges, 48 Lift Bridges, 7 Tunnels.