Rendezvous at Norton Junction

We stayed at Braunston puddlebanks till Wednesday. On Monday we walked into Braunston town with Izzy, and I bought some beef steak to do a stew sometime as the weather is getting chillier and is definately becoming stew weather! We also bought some kindling wood in the local convenience store. Walked Izzy back to the boat, then set off again for our promised Gongoozler’s breakfast, as by this time it was nearing midday. The cafe is situated outside Braunston marina, and is actually on a narrowboat. I think since we last had a breakfast here it has changed hands, but is certainly very busy. We just got a seat, and it seats 14 I believe. We ordered the large breakfast with a mug of tea as we hadn’t had anything to eat in preparation. Enjoyed by all double sausage,bacon and eggs with beans and tomatoes and bread. Certainly filled a hole. Whilst on board we got chatting to a couple sitting next to us, and it transpired that they came from Lostwithiel, worked in Braunston marina and kept their  boat at Crick marina (where we have booked in December). A lady sitting at another table had answered a remark I had made on FB regarding repairs she needed to her sofa. How funny, we got chatting about where we were heading and what she had done this year. We popped into the fender makers shop at Braunston marina and bought some new elastic straps for our covers.

 

an early morning moon

an early morning moon

Tuesday we had a walk to Midland Chandlers to get a few items, some of which they didn’t have, but Charlie bought a new clip (that had got broken in Tewkesbury), some fuses, and pot rivets! very exciting stuff. Their elastic straps for the covers were double the price we had paid the day before so we were glad we had bought them in the fender shop.
Wednesday we were moving to Norton junction. We set off at our usual steady pace, and filled up with water etc before arriving at Braunston locks.
Braunston junction turning right

Braunston junction turning right

different view of Braunston church

different view of Braunston church with tractor in the foreground

Gongoozler's rest cafe

Gongoozler’s rest cafe

passing Braunston marina

passing Braunston marina

We now had the 6 Braunston locks to do, and there was a hire boat already in the first lock, so we doubled up with them for the first two locks. At the third lock we ended up with a different hire boat. They had multiple crew which made it easier to go ahead and get the next lock ready; although the two boats ahead of us were certainly taking their time. One of the hireboat crew noticed our Cornish flag, and asked if we lived there. I said we lived mostly on the boat, but went back to Roche, Cornwall for appointments when required. They came from Charlestown funnily enough. Second lot of Cornish folk in one week! After the locks there was Braunston tunnel to negotiate; although two way working we didn’t meet anyone this time coming the other way.
Braunston tunnel

Braunston tunnel it took approx 30 minutes to get through. It is 2042yds long, built in 1796. A mistake when building it has given it a slight S bend

Once through the tunnel we had a gentle cruise along to Norton junction. I was steering at one point, when I saw a boat ahead coming toward a bridge. It looked like a working boat so I slowed to let them pass first. They were grateful I had given way, and they were towing as well.
working boat towing another working boat

working boat towing another working boat

We arrived at Norton junction around 2pm to find all the moorings were taken where we needed to be. A chap painting his boats gunwales said he was moving within the hour and we could moor in his private space temporarily until he was finished. This we did and had some lunch whilst waiting. But another boat decided to move first, so we slotted into that space instead. The cratch repair man Allan visited us Thursday and Friday taking various bits of our covers that needed repair, and returning them in the evening. Luckily the weather was dry with bow and stern being exposed over those two days. Allan had done a grand job of the repairs, so I managed to get them washed over and dubbin applied, which helps with the waterproofing. I also did an Asda delivery, and made use of the pub’s postcode.
Sunday we reversed back to the junction with the Leicester line, as this was the direction we were going in. We hadn’t planned to do any locks, although Watford locks were ahead. I’d just got the washing machine going when the locks appeared, so we decided that we would go through.
GU Leicester line

GU Leicester line

M1 motorway with Watford Gap services closeby

M1 motorway with Watford Gap services closeby

Watford bottom lock

Watford bottom lock

Now these locks are very close together and include a staircase of 4, so you have to seek out the lock keeper who then tells you when to go; as once a boat starts from either end, another cannot go in the opposite direction, as there are only two tight passing places. Charlie went up and arranged our passage. We had to wait for two boats to exit before doing the first two locks. Then we went through to wait in the first pound and allow another boat coming down to get through. Charlie worked the first two locks and I did the rest as poor old soul gets weary. I think it’s just an excuse.
Watford staircase locks.

Watford staircase locks.

There are two paddles to operate. The first being the red one (which can be seen in the picture), followed by a white one which allows water to flow into or out from the side pounds.
side pounds

side pounds

inside one of the staircase locks

inside one of the staircase locks

looking back down the flight

looking back down the flight

We were glad we had negotiated these as now we had a few miles of lock free cruising along this line. We have found a nice quiet spot overlooking a field of sheep. Well away from civilisation as it is half term. A few boats moving but generally it is quiet. In the last week I have arranged a hire car for December, for our trip back to Cornwall, and also arranged a couple of appointments (well my friend Amanda arranged one of them for me). Our next stop about a mile and a half away will be Crick, so we can pop into the marina and make ourselves known to them and find out our mooring spot for December. We also plan a little jaunt into Crick village. But for now enjoying the peace and tranquility of where we are. I hope this blog publishes ok as I have had a spot of bother with the computer today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hatton to Braunston

Monday morning mist at Rowington

Monday morning mist at Rowington

I was up first on Monday morning and made the tea and started stripping down the pram hood as this was the day we tackled the Hatton flight of 21 locks. I managed to take a very atmospheric picture first thing of the view from our mooring (above). I had made a flask of coffee and had cake on standby incase of hunger along the way; but we had a hearty breakfast of porridge to set us up. Off we went and followed another boat to the locks, thinking we may be able to share with them, but a boat was already in the lock so they went with them. We filled up with water and whilst doing so a share boat came along (we have seen in to-ing and fro-ing all summer), so we shared the locks with them. As I said before the last time we did this section was on a hire boat, and both of us remarked we couldn’t always remember the route (it was 5 years ago). We had such a routine going through the Hatton locks that there was no time to take any pictures, but I am sure we have some from before somewhere in our collection. We did share the load with me doing the first half of the locks and Charlie doing the other half. It took 5 hours to get through (only 2 volunteer lock keepers that morning), from when we left, to mooring up, at a distance of 5 miles. We parted company from the share boat, and moored up just before Cape Locks. There is a pub there called The Cape Of Good Hope, and because we were both tired, and I couldn’t be bothered to cook, Charlie went to the pub and picked up a menu. One of the items on the menu caught our eye; a London style pie and mash. Well we had to try that didn’t we? So we did, but although tasty (we were very hungry), it was nothing like the pie and mash we know and love. We followed this with fruit crumble (with custard), Charlie having a couple of local beers, and me a glass of red. We decided not to visit Warwick this time as on a bit of a schedule. From here we left on Tuesday (2 locks) and headed for Leamington Spa and Lidl (which is right on canalside just outside Leamington).
outside Lidl

outside Lidl

We again decided to leave visiting Leamington for another time, but wanted to stop at Lidl to top up with milk and our favourite red wine, with some other bits of shopping thrown in. Wednesday morning before we departed I walked over and bought some fresh croissants! So tempting as so close. I had to take a picture of the towpath sign as there has been many a time we have nearly been knocked over by speeding cyclists. The sign was quite small, maybe needs enlarging so people can see it.
shame not all the cyclists take note

shame not all the cyclists take note

We moored up at Radford Semele by a country park and a popular mooring site as quite a few boats there. I have been walking Izzy along these short stretches with no locks, whilst Charlie steers the boat along, but just lately Izzy doesn’t want to walk and keeps a beady eye on the boat following us, and she ends up being dragged along! She likes her creature comforts. Thursday we did 10 locks ending up with Bascote Locks which includes a staircase pair. We started off sharing with another boat but we stopped for water and sanitary business so they went on. Although we were gradually catching them up we were doing the locks on our own; which we found easier once we got into the swing of things.
Bascote locks

Bascote locks

in the lock with leaky gates

in the lock with leaky gates

looking back at what we have done

looking back at what we have done

working the locks

working the locks

at the top

at the top

Friday we were off again and another 10 locks to do in the Stockton flight. We met up with the same boat as before, but again only managed 2 locks with them as we needed coal supplies. We stopped in the lock as there was very little traffic, and bought 4 bags of smokeless fuel from the Warwickshire fly boat co. shop. A very good price as well I hasten to add. They also had an extensive book exchange so I handed in a book and picked up another. We came through the rest of the flight and meandered along past Willow Wren training and many moored boats, finally stopping at a rural spot surrounded by sheep fields. Friday off again and through 3 more locks at Calcutt, turning left at Napton junction onto the Oxford/Grand Union section, until finally stopping at Braunston Puddlebanks. And it’s a good job we did stop as the moorings nearer to Braunston town are full to the brim.
Braunston church with remains of a former windmill in view

Braunston church with remains of a former windmill in view

Today (Sunday) we have awoken to rain, the first time in a while, although we do need it. A few jobs done onboard, we just wish passing boats would slow down a bit as many going too fast. Tomorrow should be better weather, and we have decided to stay a couple of days and visit the town and chandlery here, oh and partake of a Gongoozlers breakfast. The last one we had 5 years ago, and is on the narrowboat cafe outside the marina. The strangest spooky thing is that we pulled up here on the same date last year too. Not planned just coincidence!

And onto the Grand Union.

We had a stopover at Alvechurch and had a wander into the village on Monday.

Alvechurch

Alvechurch

DSC02697the picture above is of the local Dr’s surgery! advertising their flu jabs.

Another midlands town of timber tudor buildingsDSC02698

I bought a few items in the local greengrocer’s, and bought a piece of black pudding in the butchers. I hadn’t any room in the freezer otherwise I may have bought their home made faggots. None of it condusive with low fat eating!

Off again on Tuesday, and we were heading for  Kings Norton junction. This is where we are turning again to be on the North Stratford canal; we were last here at the end of June, so in theory have done a big loop in the past 3 months. We had an uneventful journey until we went through Wast Hill tunnel (the sixth longest navigable tunnel on the canal system); it takes about 30 minutes to get through.

in the tunnel. The light ahead is another boat coming in the opposite direction

in the tunnel. The light ahead is another boat coming in the opposite direction

It is two way working, and we managed to pass 2 boats without touching. The third boat however had other plans and was going to fast; despite the tunnel light and cabin lights on it is still hard to see, we were running along the tunnels rubbing strip when the boat suddenly bumped our bow. He had the cheek to smile and say good morning with no apology.

Exiting Wast Hill tunnel

Exiting Wast Hill tunnel

As we got through a work boat passed us, as they are working on gravelling the towpaths along this route, which makes it better for cyclists and walkers (as long as the cyclists slow down that is). Now back on the outskirts of Birmingham I wanted to visit the Cadbury World attraction, but we had been put off doing this by another boater who had been shot at with an air rifle apparently. I was going to walk the mile to go alone, but local news reported a woman had been mugged on a Birmingham towpath, and also the cadbury tour didnt start till 12.30pm, which would have made it late to move. So we have decided to visit it if we ever pass in a car. I was also going to catch up with Elaine and Ivan whom we met in July (an ex student nurse with me), but they had too much going on, and we decided to give it a miss this time and catch up again when we are around the area in the future.

Wednesday and moving again along the Stratford canal. A mad day as many boats moving in the opposite direction at such a pace that 2 of them pushed us aground! The only one passing sensibly was a hire boat. We made it to Warings green opposite the private moorings there and stayed a couple of nights. We walked on Thursday to Wedges bakery, as our guide map book recommended it. The smell was eminating from the bakery way before we arrived there. I bought a couple of black pudding Scotch eggs, 2 Eccles cakes, and 6 of their signature sausages. These we enjoyed on Friday for dinner (not all the sausages though)., as we were going to have another cruise along negotiating 4 locks and 2 lift bridges, and ending up between locks 5-6 on the Lapworth flight. On the way we got chatting to a couple who we have passed a couple of times; they have a rather smart dutch barge style boat that they have fitted out themselves over the past year. We tell Breakaway to cover her ears when we say we want one like it! Anyway it transpires that she used to live in Welling, Kent a couple of streets away from where we used to live many years ago. Her children were born in West Hill hospital Dartford (I was too), and her parents still live in Orpington. How strange and what a small world it is.

Lapworth locks

Lapworth locks

We set off early on Saturday to negotiate the rest of the locks we needed to do (15 in total). Charlie did the first 9 locks; then we stopped for breakfast; then I did the next 7.,now we are meeting boats coming up the locks. Stopping at the sanitary station for the emptying bit, and finally turning onto the Grand Union canal and closer to our goal.

a hitchhiker

a hitchhiker

at the junction

at the junction

a smart holiday cottage with rounded roof

a smart holiday cottage with rounded roof

onto the Grand Union

onto the Grand Union

DSC02719

We filled up with water after the junction as had been warned that the tap was slow flowing there. And a recommended mooring at Rowington on an embankment is where we have ended up. Ofv again tomorrow with the prospect of the Hatton flight of locks (21 if I remember). We last came along this way 5 years ago on our first ever hire boat holiday, at least this time we can take a more leisurely pace.

Gradually along the Worcester and Birmingham canal

Tuesday we carried along the canal through the 6 locks of the Astwood flight; a journey of 1.77 miles that took 2hours!

one of the Astwood locks

one of the Astwood locks

Charlie worked the locks,

resting on the job

resting on the job

hard at work

hard at work

whilst I handled the boat. It’s a pretty stretch of canal and one of the lock cottages has a very pretty garden and veggie patch.

This lily was in a pot in the cottage garden. Such a lovely colour.

This lily was in a pot in the cottage garden. Such a lovely colour.

at the top

at the top

We stopped for the night, and planned to do the next 6 locks of the Stoke flight on Wednesday. The sky that evening was stunning. Once again Charlie worked the locks. I’m getting used to this easier life of boat handling.

The evening sky at Stoke Prior

The evening sky at Stoke Prior

made it to the top.A distance of 1.97 miles again taking 2 hours.

made it to the top.A distance of 1.97 miles again taking 2 hours.

We stopped at The Queens Head pub as there were moorings opposite. The pub has had a recent makeover and has al fresco dining as well as a teepee to hire at £100. We gave it a miss as was a little expensive; but was a popular venue as it was very busy.

moored opposite the Queens head with teepee in view

moored opposite the Queens head with teepee in view

We are now in place to do the Tardebigge flight of locks, but first on Thursday we visited the Avoncroft museum of historic buildings; which was a mile walk from the canal, but along a fairly busy road, so a bit of traffic dodging was in order. We are now on the outskirts of Bromsgrove, and I must admit neither of us had heard of this museum. But we weren’t disappointed. Another great collection of buildings that have either been rescued by, or donated to the Avoncroft foundation, and re-erected as near as possible to the original buildings as they can. Sometimes only small portions of the buildings remained and modern materials have had to be used. This museum was founded in the late 1960’s and is continually growing with buildings mainly from the West Midlands area, that otherwise would have been demolished and lost forever.

you know who

you know who

originally a pub, but then a co-op

originally a pub, but then a co-op

the medieval Guesten hall roof saved from Worcester cathedral

the medieval Guesten hall roof saved from Worcester cathedral

a mission hall. Flat packed so could be erected anywhere that a place of worship was needed

a mission hall. Flat packed so could be erected anywhere that a place of worship was needed

a privy

a privy

a barn

a barn

a windmill typical of the area apparently. The whole top spins around so the sails can catch the wind

a windmill typical of the area apparently. The whole top spins around so the sails can catch the wind

another barn

another barn

cottage

cottage

Tudor house. The oldest building in the museum at 400 years old

Tudor house. The oldest building in the museum at 400 years old

a prefab

a prefab

ice house

ice house

church spire made of grp

church spire made of grp

and back to the co-op

and back to the co-op which is now a tea room

We were up early on Friday to to the Tardebigge flight of locks. I had made coffee, cake and squash, and we had a good breakfast waiting, as it was a bit early to eat by the time we left at 7.30am. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy journey, as there are 30 locks in the flight over a distance of just over 2 miles, with no stopping points in between; the longest lock flight in the UK apparently.

ready steady go

ready steady go

a rather impressive bull in a passing field. He had a big harem of cows as well

a rather impressive bull in a passing field. He had a big harem of cows as well

Charlie worked the first 12 locks before caving in. The paddles are very stiff, and not even my super ratchet windlass is of any help. All the locks were in our favour luckily, which made life easier, and we managed to have breakfast in one of the locks along the way; washed down with lots of coffee and juice. Thirsty work. I then swapped over and did the next lot of locks (wishing I was steering the boat).

leaky lock

leaky lock

as soon as one lock is done another is waiting

as soon as one lock is done another is waiting

more locks

more locks

We did 29 locks on Friday between us. Met 4 boats coming down as we were nearing the end, and stopped at the visitor moorings before the top lock. A bottle of red was waiting and was much appreciated with dinner, after all our hard work. In the afternoon though we had a visit from Jehovah’s Witness’s, thats a first. I was very polite and after a little chat about boating they accepted I didn’t want their leaflet.Saturday was forecast rain so we decided to stay put. I prepared dinner in readiness for Sunday. Again in the afternoon we had more visitors knocking. This time some young girls from the local stables selling cakes left over from their horse show. I purchased a few cupcakes. They must have had a wet show as the rain was quite heavy in the afternoon. We do have the fire lit now as the evenings are definately cooler.

Today we have moved again. Through 1 lock this time, filled up with water and the usual sanitary stuff at Tardebigge Wharf; got the washing machine going as the sun was shining; and 2 tunnels later we are at Alvechurch. We do have a plan now though; to get to see the cratch cover repair man before the end of October, to get our minor repairs done. He is currently on the Grand Union so we are heading that way now to Norton junction. Then it will be checking the stoppages to make sure we don’t get stuck anywhere we don’t want to be!

It seems strange that we are climbing upwards back toward Birmingham and the phone and 3G signal is getting worse!! It’s like being back in Cornwall!

Finally a picture that sums up autumn.

beautiful colours of autumn

beautiful colours of autumn