Saturday, 29 September 2012

On the 29th of September

To be sung to the tune of “The Big Ship sails on the Alley, Alley Oh” ………………

Narrowboat “Ellen” on the Lapworth flight of locks, Lapworth flight of locks, Lapworth flight of locks,

Narrowboat “Ellen” on the Lapwoth flight of locks,

On the 29th of September.

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A Lift Bridge?   Well, there must be a better way, be a better way, be a better way

A Lift Bridge?   Well, there must be a better way

On the 29th of September.

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Come on Granddad – you’re good at winding up, good at winding up, good at winding up

Now come on Granddad you’re good at winding up

On the 29th of September.

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Now think about this Grandad, are we meant to push or pull?  Meant to push or pull?  Meant to push or pull?

Now, think about this Granddad, are we meant to push or pull?

On the 29th of September.

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The Captain said, “Now, don’t you crash my boat, Don’t you crash my boat, Don’t you crash my boat”.

The captain said, “Now, don’t you crash my boat”

On the 29th of September.

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The First Mate said, “Please let me get off here, Let me get off here,  Let me get off here”,

The First Mate said, “Please let me get off here”,

On the 29th of September.

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“Come on, Mum, don’t leave it all to me, Leave it all to me, Leave it all to me.

Come on mum, don’t leave it all to me”,

On the 29th of September.

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“That’s more than enough – we’re going home for tea, going home for tea, going home for tea.

That’s more than enough we’re going home for tea.”

On the 29th of September.


We have been waiting to meet these two little lads all their lives – what a lovely afternoon we had. Thank you for coming to see us boys and Maisie sends her love.  xxoo

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Black Country Museum

This is a place I’ve wanted to visit for several years and, yesterday, we made the detour from the Netherton tunnel and arrived to find that the only available mooring space was up against a high wall but ……. it was fine.

What an interesting site the museum is.  Back in the 70’s a Scotsman (can’t remember his name) had the vision to develop this then derelict wasteland into a place where important heritage of the Black Country could be preserved.  He set about salvaging and re-constructing old buildings – mostly Victorian – to create a living village.  There are now lots of old buildings here all retrieved from the local area.  For example, the school was moved from Dudley and the pub, The Bottle and Glass Inn, from by lock 4 of the Stourbridge 16.  There’s a chapel (the chapel was an enormously important part of my maternal grandmother’s life), lots of different shops, various houses and workshops demonstrating old skills.

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 museum 014 (800x600)            museum 010 (800x600)

There were several parties of school children out for the day – the primary school age children and their teachers all dressed up in Victorian garb!  Memories eh?!

We really enjoyed seeing the selection of old cars and motor bikes on display.  We sat in the 1930’s cinema and watched a silent movie in which Charlie Chaplin did what Charlie Chaplin did best – messed about!  My dad thought he was hilarious.

Back in South Wales in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s my maternal grandfather was a miner so I was keen to go on a guided tour of the coal mine.  It was really interesting and extremely well done.  The conditions those men, boys and pit ponies worked in were awful – no wonder so many of them didn’t make old bones.

Now, I apologise up-front for what I am about to write but ………….. the temptation is just too great!

Just by chance, we met Doug and James from n/b “Chance”!!

We had not met them before but they sent us a lovely message via our blog when Maggie died.  As we arrived at the museum we saw their boat moored up and I was determined to knock, introduce ourselves and say ‘thank you’ in person.  As it turned out we didn’t need to.  We ended up going on the same tour of the mine together!  John said he was 99% certain it was them so, as we exited the mine, I hung back ready to say ‘hello’.  Doug beat me to it!  ‘Hello’, he said.  ‘You’re Angela aren't you?  I’m Doug.’  Well that was it really!  We ended up going on board their beautiful boat for a drink and ended up having impromptu fish and chips.  We had a really nice evening guys and it was so good to meet you both.  Thank you for your hospitality – I will now cyber-stalk you with increased dedication!!  Safe travels.  xxoo

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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Day of Contrasts

What an interesting day of cruising we’ve had today.Dudley 008

Dudley 005

We began by leaving The Stourbridge Canal and climbing up the eight Delph Locks on The Dudley No 1 Canal.  As a result of all the rain we’ve had, cascading waterfalls were over-flowing the weirs that accompany each lock.  We haven’t seen anything like this elsewhere on the system.  I read that the stables between locks 2 & 3 have been refurbished and are now run as an information centre by the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society.  What a shame complete eejits have to scribble on every available surface!

  The same or similar eejits make honest, worthy citizens feel the need for this sort of thing too.

Dudley 012          Dudley 014          Dudley 038

                Why is it that when vast numbers of human beings live in close proximity to each other anti social behaviour increases?

Leaving Delph Locks we were very soon moored up over-looking a huge shopping complex called ‘Merry Hill’.  It was built on land once occupied by the Round Oak Steel Works.  We were amazed – you could even by a car in there and there was quite a selection to choose from!Dudley 016

A chap walking his dog told me that the beleaguered local men have re-named the centre ‘Merry Hell’ on account of the agony they suffer being dragged around all those shops by their wives and girlfriends!  John was having none of it!  We needed to go to two shops and two shops is where we went!

Leaving ‘Merry Hill’ we went through a superbly developed area called ‘The Waterfront’ – pubs, bars, nightclubs, hotels and restaurants.  All very classy.

Dudley 027            Dudley 023

From Blower’s Green Junction to Windmill End Junction on The Dudley No 2 Canal there is quite a rural feel.  It felt more like being on The Shroppie rather than on the outskirts of Britain’s 2nd largest city.  The moorings at Windmill End are set in a lovely public open space.  It’s hard to envisage that 100 years ago this area was known as ‘The Black Country’ and was full of collieries, claypits, furnaces, limekilns, iron works, chain-making factories, glass works, chimneys, slag heaps and smog!

In conclusion I would just like to express my deepest sympathy for all those poor people who have been so badly affected by the current floods.  What a nightmare to have to live through.  Just awful.

Monday, 24 September 2012

A Thorough Soaking

Rain, rain and more rain!  According to tonight’s regional news a month’s worth of rain has fallen in the West Midlands in the last 24 hours.

We have travelled from Stourton Junction on The Staffordshire & Worcester to Delph Locks on The Stourbridge canal – 20 locks and about 5 miles – and it rained heavily all the time!  We ‘did’ the Stourbridge 16 in 3 hours – just me locking and, with all but two locks against us,  I think that was pretty good going.  We were utterly soaked!
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Starting off in the rain.
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No, not a slalom course - just a fierce by-wash.
Some of the bottom lock gates in the flight were problematic in that they would not behave themselves and stay shut together.  We call these gates ‘swingers’.  Picture the scene:-  I close one of the bottom gates, hurry to cross via the single top gate and rush to close the second bottom gate only to find that the first gate has swung back open!  Try again …… and again ...... and so on and so forth!  Solution:- John reversed the boat back to the closed bottom gate and held it in place with the boat hook while I sorted the other one out.  Well, it worked and meant that he didn’t have to keep climbing up the ladder.
On the way we passed:-
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Redhouse Glassworks.
From 1881 Stuart Crystal produced lovely glass ware here.  Today the site, dominated by the 30 metre high brick kiln,  is a museum and visitor centre.
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Dadford Shed – an old timber warehouse.

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“The Dock” – a traditional general store/off licence.

At Black Delph Junction the Stourbridge canal ends and the Dudley No 1 Canal begins ………. but that’s for tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Nothing Out of the Ordinary

Since last weekend we have been steadily travelling along the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal to the lovely, busy little village of Kinver.  It’s been good to be reminded of just how nice this canal is.  There’s a steady supply of locks but what is really good about them is that there’s a walkway at the bottom gates of every one thus preserving some of the leather on the soles of my boots!

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The three locks known collectively as “The Bratch” are in a lovely area and have an interesting layout.  They look like staircase locks but they’re not!  In the cruising season a lock-keeper is always there to give guidance – in these days of austerity it’s a volunteer lock-keeper.

The old octagonal toll office is really attractive.

Whilst at Kinver we have been to see about ordering some new chairs.  Our friends, Gary and Joan are set to come and find us tomorrow.  We just hope that it stays dry long enough for us to go up on Kinver Edge for a walk with the dogs.  The forecast for the next few days is looking dire!

We are poised at the junction with the Stourbridge Canal ready to head off towards the centre of Birmingham.  Whether it be boating, walking or motoring I hate going back the same way as we’ve come!  So, ………….. we’ve taken this decision because we can and because we think we should!  It will be an interesting urban environment and something we’ve not done before.  In terms of miles it’s a shorter route back to Crick but there are LOTS of locks – John has estimated at least 112!  He’d better wipe that smile off his face or …… !!!!!  I need to check for myself!

Himalayan Balsam  - a foreign intruder.  This plant is prolific along the banks of this canal and the accompanying River Stour.  The perfume can be very over-bearing.  It’s a rampant coloniser and can eradicate all other plants in it’s path if not kept under control.  The bees seem to like it though.

Staffs & Worcester 012 (800x600)            Staffs & Worcester 014 (800x600)

Lastly – John has been dodging the rain in order to re-paint the boat hook and pole.  The plank is beyond salvation – we definitely need a new one.  He has also tried his hand at cross-stitch.  Where the hotel boat ripped our cratch cover needed repairing.

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Pretty neat eh?

Probably, like other domestic-type things, it’s all down to scout training!!

I expect there was a badge involved!


Monday, 17 September 2012

Never Ask a Lady Her Age!!

Despite the big number …………… we have just had a really nice weekend with our friends, Rosa and Richard. (I’ve been sulking about these increasing totals for the last 19 years!!)  However, I was presented with a singing cake bearing only one candle!  How kind!  How sensitive! How utterly loyal!  Next year’s reading books are now also safely on board – thanks, Rosa.

On Sunday we all piled into the car and went to The Wreakin – a Shropshire ‘hump’ 1,334 feet above sea level with 360 degree panoramic views.  It was a steep climb to the top along a very well-trodden path and HUNDREDS of other people were doing the same as us.  That did spoil it to some degree but the views from the top were phenomenal despite the misty weather.

Rosa & Richard weekend 002 (600x800)          Rosa & Richard weekend 006 (800x600)

From there we went to Ironbridge to see the world’s first iron bridge which was built across the River Severn in 1777-79.  There are lots of different museums to go to if you choose to and the little town of Coalbrookdale where the bridge was forged is touristy but ……… very nice. 

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Back at Wheaton Aston, I can recommend The Hartley Arms for good meals at reasonable prices.

AND ……… since leaving the marina back in March this is the first kingfisher we have seen on the canals ……………… at last!  We have been very concerned about them.

King fisher Brewood 003

Thank you everyone for your birthday wishes – those who forgot completely were my two children!  Both of them!!  Hey, Ho!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Creatures of Habit

Since last weekend we have had our habitual stop-over in Penkridge, treated ourselves to the habitual Chinese take-away and had an habitual visit to the market.

We stopped off at Gailey which we habitually do whenever on the Staffs & Worcester and are now on the Shroppie at ‘Ken’s’ mooring just outside of Brewood – he and ‘Our Lucy’ know all the best spots!

As we were preparing to turn into Autherley Junction we witnessed a major collision.  A hire boat was just joining the Staffs & Worcester off the Shroppie and was hit broadside by a big old working boat whose reverse gear chose that moment to pack up!  To be fair there wasn’t much the skipper could do but the result was that there is now a ‘Yellow Peril’ (Viking Afloat Hire Boat) on the canal minus a side window!  I’m just glad it wasn’t us – ‘All Right Jack’ and all that stuff…………..

Dodging the showers, John has managed to do a bit more to the roof of the boat.  He can’t try any harder.  This roller?  That roller?  Brush?  How much matting agent? Thinners?  Conditioner? Lengthways strokes?  Widthways strokes?  Decisions!  Decisions!  He’s hoping to get another coat on before we move off today  - behind us the sky is ‘as black as your hat’ but in front of us it’s blue and the sun appears to be heading this way!

We have two major tasks to achieve this weekend:- 1) to fill up with diesel  and 2) to find a mooring spot that has road access and good TV reception.  My best pal from college days and her hubbie are coming to find us on Saturday.  She is my very own Personal Travelling Library Service and each year collects ‘old’ books and delivers ‘new’ recommended reads.  No matter how long I have them, I never have to pay a fine either!  

AND:- Strictly starts again on Saturday and Downton on Sunday – I am a BIG fan of both and will, therefore, consider it to be a special birthday present to me from the BBC.   My present from ‘himself’ can be the amps!!

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Maisie and I have found it quite emotionally tough walking along the tow-path on our own this week – big void and lots of memories and all that stuff.

Maisie has, however, quickly recognised the benefits of having the galley window all to herself!

Something positive - Megan has initiated a re-assessment for my brother so, hopefully, he will soon be in receipt of better after-care. 

There are still plenty of boats out and about.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Elliott Weather

How do they do it?!  It’s a long-standing joke but, whenever our good friends Anne and John go away anywhere, they have good weather!  They have just spent the weekend with us and we all know how lovely it’s been!  This morning the weather is ……. a bit grim again!  How do they do it?!

We had a lovely weekend.  They came to find us at Little Hayward on Friday night.  Saturday morning we went for a walk up on The Chase and then, rather optimistically, moved on to Tixall which was chock-a-block as always.  One space remained – two swans had accommodated the bank and I guess that had put people off.  They took little notice of us and the one outside the galley window stayed put all night!

What do you do when you turn up at Tixall Wide wanting to moor and it’s full up?  Drop anchor!  Not seen this before.  It worked really well!

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Anne had requested a sunset:-

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On Sunday we moved on to Wheaton Aston from where they could get a taxi back to their car.  Anne always likes to have a steer and does it very well.

Elliott weather 018 (600x800)            Elliott weather 019 (800x600)

Lovely weekend.  Thanks for coming to find us u 2.  xxoo

Bit of ‘family stuff’ –

Brother Graham is still in a bad way.  He just can’t seem to get rid of a throat infection.  The doctor prescribed some different medicine a few days ago so let’s hope this works as he’s having such a miserable time.

Megan has moved back into her house, handed in her resignation in London and got herself a local job – totally different from anything she has done before!  She certainly doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

On Pole at Fradley

Monday morning saw us moored at the bottom of the Fradley flight of locks.  Boat movement began early – as in 7am early!  One boat after another were all heading towards Fradley.  Where had they all come from?  Sawley, Mercia and Barton …… the ‘fifty-somethings’ have emerged for their two week cruises on mass!  The schools are back, the sun is shining so it was poised to happen.  So, ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ – we joined the queues at the locks.  Fortunately for us very few stopped at Fradley and we got pole position by the Nature Reserve.

We had arranged to meet Lynn and Paul n/b ‘Piston Broke’ as they make their way back up the Coventry.  By the time they reached the junction,  mooring on the Coventry there was at a premium.  Fortunately one boat left as they were on the water point so …. they grabbed it quick!!  We went up to The Swan for a drink and then again for a meal in the evening.  The shop there now has an upstairs gallery where paintings and other crafty bits and pieces done by local artists are on display and, of course, for sale.  Lovely things.   Tuesday afternoon we took the dogs for a good walk and Tuesday evening Morris Dancers were performing outside the pub.  Like it or loathe it, I think that it’s a really good thing that these old traditions are maintained.  I really like it!

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Nice time and good to catch up with what’s been going on!  The major topic of  argument, debate,contention, dispute, argy-bargy, ding-dong,  no, ……. discussion, ……… is no longer battery power but solar panels!  Keeps them occupied!

Take care guys and if we end up coming back via the Coventry we’ll seek you out at Atherstone!

Sunday, 2 September 2012


At last!

My latest cross-stitch cushion cover.  art festival 011 (800x600) (2)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Keeping Occupied

Alrewas Arts Festival has been going on all week.  Local people told us that it takes two years each time to organise these festivals and I’m not surprised because such a lot is on offer.  The art of knitting is certainly thriving in Alrewas as all around the village there are various novelties on display!

A few examples:-

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There’s been an exhibition of paintings and sculptures and another of photographs.  Various workshops have been on offer – apparently the local butcher was there teaching people how to carve meat and, one morning, we were visited by the leader of the photographic class asking if his pupils could click away!  If that doesn’t get us featured somewhere nothing will!  Film show on Friday night and free firework display tonight!  Legal graffiti painting under a very unattractive road bridge – the youngsters (and those not-so-young!) were having a great time! 

National Memorial Arboretum:-  I got there at last!  I left John working on the roof of the boat and got the bus.  What an amazing place!  There’s SO much more there than I was expecting.  I knew about The Armed Forces Memorial because I had seen it on the TV but I had little idea of all the hundreds of other memorials, memorial gardens and the 50,000 trees!  I am ashamed to say that I also had little idea of just how many conflicts the U. K. Armed Forces have been involved in since World War 2.

arboretum & roof 018 (800x600)                    arboretum & roof 015

Truly a place of humbling reflection!

Thank you, Ian for all the support you gave us last weekend and for lending John that electrical sander!  The roof of the boat is finally under serious attack and John reckons that the use of that machine will save him hours and hours of rubbing down!  We’ve moved to a busy ‘secluded’ spot (you wouldn’t believe how many walkers and cyclists have gone by!!) where we thought we could run the generator, make a noise and make a mess without upsetting anyone else.  The chimney has been swept ………….. and now the sun’s out again!  Perhaps it will be a nice September!!

Belgium Grand Prix to look forward to tomorrow.  All the Henry boys are there in person – lucky chaps!