Welcome to the story of Hale and Hearty travelling the canals of Great Britian

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The wanderers return

Our final week on board Hale and Hearty was an emotional time.  We rounded off our visit to Coventry with a trip up the
Foleshill Road
to buy good things and Sunday service at the cathedral. We left on Sunday and travelled out into the country. It was lovely to get away from the noise of traffic and the street lights. We had a few beautiful days cruising as the weather went into its brief Indian summer. We took the last few days easy and really enjoyed the sunshine, eating on deck and sitting in the sun. Our last night out we went to the pub and joined some fellow boaters for a scratch supper. When we awoke the boat was covered in leaves - autumn has certainly arrived.
Back at Whilton Marina, where we have ended up, we cleaned and sorted the boat, barely fitting all our belongings into the hire car. We sadly left the boat with a for sale sign and headed for home.

We have travelled 620 miles, through 473 locks and cruised for about 300 hours, visited 4 cities, travelled on the Grand Union, Stratford, Stourbridge, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, Shropshire Union, Llangollen, Trent and Mersey, Macclesfield, Upper Peak Forest, Caldon, Coventry, Ashby and Oxford canals. We have walked miles, met lots of lovely people and had a wonderful summer.

The End ?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Ashby Canal and Coventry

This week has been less adventurous but no less interesting. We have had a couple of beautiful, sunny days, when we have cruised to move us on south. One day we did the 11 locks up into Atherstone and then spent a happy afternoon at the market and looking at a most interesting exhibition of the history of the town, which grew very quickly due to the hat making industry and so development of housing was in ‘yards’ behind the houses – very cramped and poor quality. The interest particularly was in interviews with people who could remember living there before the programme of demolition took place. We have travelled to the current end of the Ashby canal; there are great plans for restoration of another 8 miles, about to start. On the way we spent some time beside the Battle of Bosworth site, where recent research has shown that Richard III wasn’t killed on the spot previously identified but 2 miles away – some changes to the location of commemorative stones needed there then! Lots to see and do with a steam railway, a glass artist, and on Sunday a dog show and bird of prey flying as well. The glass artist, Richard Golding, is astonishing. I watched breathless for 2 hours as he created a vase, layer upon layer of glass and flowers, and was able to see the finished item when it came out of the annealer the next day. We flew a Harris hawk and a barn owl, only 4 in the group so we were able to get up very close to the birds. Further along the canal we also walked the mile up to Market Bosworth, a lovely little town, beautiful architecture and where Henry VII, the victor at Bosworth, was crowned. The Ashby canal is beautiful, gentle, rural and hardly touching the small communities along the way. And so to Coventry, another city full of interest. The canal basin is just to the north of the ring road and a little haven of peace. Like excited children we have raced from museum to cathedral to art gallery. We have been moved by the spirit of reconciliation that embodies the new cathedral. We attended an evening service. The transport museum has us both enthralled for different reasons; we both especially liked the land speed record experience – sitting in the cockpit for the seven minutes of the drive in 1997 that went to over 700 mph! We have seen another Bollywood movie, just as much fun as the last one, we may be hooked.
The weather has been mixed and is starting to feel quite chilly in the mornings. One evening we had a thunderstorm, interesting experience from inside a metal box. We have lit our little stove and find the boat nice and warm in the evenings.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Curry and Cathedrals

The mronings are chilly and the days are noticable cooler, autumn is on its way.
We enjoyed Leek market, what a bustling little town it is, we notice that there seem to be fewer empty shops and more independent retailers in the towns we have visited recently than in Devon. We walked to a huge Victorian mental hospital, a community in its own right at its peak, now converted to prestigious housing, even the water tower making a family home. The return trip to Stoke was uneventful, stopping at Etruria to visit the museum and bone mill, once a very busy place grinding bone, flint and stone for the pottery industry, now a similar business is still functioning on the site and run by the same family but no longer using the canal for transport. Whilst going down the Stoke locks I was able to pop to the shops and return with curry, burfi and samosas for a special tea. This week all the locks have taken us down, away from the high land of the Peaks and on to the flatter land of the Midlands.
We cruised to Burslem, stopping to pay a brief visit to the Wedgwood factory – it is sad to hear that much of the china is now manufactured in the east (china from China?) with only some of the more prestigious and special items still produced on site as part of the tourist experience. The weather started to deteriorate and we found ourselves trying to ensure sheltered moorings and the canal surface agitated and rocking the boat – exciting stuff. We stopped overnight in Stone, again a bustling little town, attending Sunday service there before continuing. Steering the boat in these high winds is quite tiring so we travelled relatively short distances for a few days. At Great Haywood we almost crossed our own tracks and took another walk around the grounds of Shugborough and visited the museum of country life there, lots to see and enjoy. From there to Armitage was probably the hardest day weather-wise, the wind was very strong and we found it hard to moor due to the high wind. We spent the night overlooked by the Armitage Shanks factory!
So here we are at Whittington. We caught a bus into Lichfield, and found ourselves in a beautiful, historic town with a splendid cathedral, where we attended evening service, and lots of history, lovely architecture and civic pride – well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Sunday, after a surprising service at the little church in Higher Poynton, saw us retrace our steps towards Macclesfield where we collected the forgotten boat key and continued to an overnight stay near the top of Bosley Locks. We set of early on bank holiday Monday and were through the locks by 09.30 – helped along by a nice gentleman from the Macclesfield Canal Society who were doing a lock wind to raise funds for the excellent work they do in helping to maintain and restore the canal. Lunch in Congleton and on to an overnight stay back near Little Moreton Hall. The weather has been less than kind to us all week and we have had a couple of fires to warm up and dry out. After the excitement of using the launderette in Kidsgrove we had the even greater treat of the Harecastle Tunnel. This is 2950 yards long and you are booked in by an official who informs the other end that you are on your way. The tunnel has no ventilation so doors close the southern end and fans suck air through the tunnel. It is quite an adventure - no light at the end of the tunnel to follow, the arc of light from the entrance gradually diminishes behind you and darkness descends. It took us 38 minutes, we know because we were timed through, and as we reached the doors they swung open and admitted the light and warmth of the day. We never cease to be amazed by the feats of engineering achieved with no technology, just manpower. We stopped overnight at Hanley and took the opportunity to visit the museum which is excellent with lots of ceramic history and a Spitfire aeroplane. In the covered market we found a little café serving a Hungarian/Slovakian speciality, langos, a kind of flat deep fried bread served with sour cream, onions and cheese which was delicious. We turned at Etruria onto the Caldon canal and after a very urban bit, still interesting as there are bottle kilns still in evidence where potteries used to be, we were again out in the country. We joined the 21st century by hiring a car and driving to Kent for a wonderful wedding, sunshine all the way, and returned to re enter the 19th century by travelling to Froghall and through the tunnel at the end of the canal. To achieve this Martin had to remove the chimneys, tunnel light and all the plants from the roof. Because the tunnel is so low we had the lovely basin to ourselves. Briefly the sun shone and it was delightful. We left in the morning and are currently at the end of the other branch of the canal in Leek, again moored in a wonderfully rural and lovely setting.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A week in The Peaks

And so a week in The Peaks. After spending time with Martin’s uncle and aunt on Sunday Graham kindly drove us up the Snake Pass and dropped us at the top so that we could have a walk down to Old Glossop. It was a beautiful day, clear and dry, and the views were quite breathtaking. Ten minutes with our feet in the stream at Mossy Lea readied us for a tour of Howard’s Town micro brewery. Tuesday again dawned well, not as forecast, and Viv and Graham joined us for the ongoing journey. We stopped for lunch with their daughter and grandchild at New Mills and then on to Bugsworth Basin – a large and nicely restored transhipment basin for lime and stone from the hills. Saying that does not do justice to the massive amount of work that has been done to reclaim the canal and environs and make it a lovely mooring place. We were so lucky with the weather as the front that was hitting further south just about missed us so we had a few good days. Martin did a bit more walking and found the most wonderfully located cricket pitch, with hills all around. Before heading back down ‘The Macc’ we visited Whaley Bridge,  and had an overnight stop at New Mills where we found the Millennium Walkway, an amazing piece of engineering carrying a walk around a gorge, high above the river and leading to the Goyt Way taking in the mill history of the area. Goyt Mill at Marple still stands intact and massive and is where Martin’s great aunt worked for all her life. These huge edifices, where they have not been demolished, now stand as reminders of the important industrial past of the area and it is good to see where they have either been reopened as work units or flats, some never actually went out of use as for many the mill itself only used the top floor and the lower floors were always let out as individual businesses.
The weather finally hit on Friday and we travelled onward in heavy rain arriving wet and cold (we are at 518 feet above sea level here) so we lit our little stove to dry out – very effective.  Now we have stopped again at Higher Poynton and despite travelling in rain the day improved and we walked again up towards Lyme Park, remembering to take the binoculars this time!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Onwards and upwards

We have spent 10 days in Gloucestershire, where we spent lots of nice time with Martin’s mum and dad and also had outings to south Wales, visiting a lovely nature reserve and a Roman town, where a villager was selling excess produce, which included figs, grown perhaps on a descendant from Roman times, Newark Park NT property and looked for fossils at Aust Cliff, on the Severn, where they abound in the layers of rock that are gradually eroding. We caught up with old friends and found living in a house tiring, so much walking about and the kettle more than five paces away!
Now we are back aboard our lovely boat, safe and sound and continuing our adventures. We revictualled in Macclesfield where there is a cracking fish shop, long may it last, and headed off into the Peaks. Towns and villages now have the distinctive stone build look of the Peak district and the canal passes by many huge textile mills, now used to house other businesses. The canal is 518 feet above sea level and one of the highest in the country. As we go further into the undulations of the land the views become ever more extensive, wonderful. To maintain the contour the canal is carried along on embankments and over aqueducts, feats of engineering hard to envisage the scale of manpower needed. At Higher Poynton Martin visited the Anson Engine Museum, which provides a complete history of the internal combustion engine with working examples going back to the 1880’s. We walked to Lyme Park (alias Pemberly in Pride and Prejudice), a long but rewarding climb to over 800 feet with fantastic views en route over the Cheshire plain, Manchester and the Pennines beyond. The house is a magnificent pile with lovely grounds and parkland, but regrettably no sign of Mr Darcy and his wet shirt! We shared our mooring place with flocks of geese which arrived at dusk with a great show. And so we find ourselves in Marple, moored on the Peak Forest Canal, having travelled the full length of the Macclesfield, and looking across the valley to the high Peaks. Martin’s uncle and aunt live close by and we have been able to meet up with them. We are still excited and awed to find ourselves moored amongst so much natural beauty and magnificent history.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Just a couple of photos

Salt to silk

Martin decided to use the peaceful mooring as an opportunity to repack the stern gland – some kind of operation to stop the boat sinking I hope. The Swan was very interested, much to his consternation as they were eye to eye for a while. We headed back to Middlewich where Monday lunchtime was lock chaos and then on down the Trent and Mersey, passing by the sites of the old salt workings and the current salt factory, stopping overnight at Kidsgrove, after the 21 locks of ‘Heartbreak Hill’ and before turning up the Macclesfield canal. This route is lovely and rural and similar to the Llangollen canal in its beauty and situation as one cruises gently into the Peak District. We visited Little Moreton Hall (NT) a pleasant and sunny walk from the canal and a lovely place. This was followed by Congleton – pie and peas and a haircut for Martin. After an overnight stop where we saw no one  but had a lovely view of The Cloud, a Peak, we set off up the Boseley flight, 12 locks in one mile which we completed in one and a half hours, and arrived Macclesfield just after lunch. Another nice Cheshire town with a very interesting museum of the silk industry that once made the town prosperous. Here we have left the boat and are now in Gloucestershire staying at Martin’s sister’s house to spend some time with his parents. But the adventure has not stopped – yesterday we had an exciting trip to Newport and went on the transporter bridge,

Sunday, 31 July 2011

City walls and deadly hallows

At last, a place where I have been able to get a signal to log on.
And so, Chester, wow, what a lovely city. We were able to moor below the city walls and just a few steps took us onto the wall and the opportunity to walk all around, which we did, but not all in one go. We arrived early enough on Sunday to attend choral evensong at the cathedral, which was a real treat. We also had a rather surreal experience, having found an oriental buffet with no one at all in it we had just sat down when two parties, one from Malaysia and one from China, arrived and suddenly the whole place was full. We took it as an endorsement of the food!
We so enjoyed all the good things Chester has to offer,  the pleasure of browsing in the ‘Rows’ where the medieval merchants buildings provided two levels of shops (if I could only work out how to put photos on here I could illustrate this!), the riverside, the museum and castle and of course the wall walk. We decided that this was a good opportunity to go and see the last Harry Potter film and asked advice from firstly a bin man and then in the tourist information. And the lesson learned is to listen to the bloke who works there! We walked, as the location illustrated by the tourist office was close-ish to the centre but turned out to be a good half mile wrong. We enjoyed the film very much and caught a bus back, oh my poor, sore feet on their little slip-ons, I gave them a nice soak.
We had coffee in the cathedral refectory, where a most beautiful window, showing the creation, had been commissioned to commemorate the millennium. After buying a little hat, to go with the dress I got in Nantwich, we left on Wednesday and headed south again. So the evening saw us moor with a fabulous view of Beeston Castle, old, in ruins and spectacular and in the morning we walked to the top and enjoyed fantastic views, even though a bit hazy, to Liverpool and beyond and similar in all directions.
Somewhere along the way I had hurt my back and by Friday morning it was so painful that I was struggling to get out of bed. Martin filled a drinks bottle with hot water, which was very effective and we decided that a hot water bottle was needed and Martin headed off to find out about buses. Lo and behold he returned with the said hot water bottle, given to him by a kindly gentleman from another boat. That is what the canal community is like, we could not repay him, so left a jar of homemade jam in his cockpit and hope we can be as helpful to someone else. I have worn it inside my clothes for 3 days and it has been very effective.
We turned up the Middlewich branch of the Shroppie and found it to be a rural delight. So on to Middlewich, a bit of a disappointment really, the old church locked, even on a Saturday morning and rather down at heel, suffering hard from the recession. Here we ran out of diesel, what twits we are, just thought it would last forever I suppose, but the nice people at the boatyard were very helpful. And onto the Grand Union, where we have been as far as the Anderton Lift, a huge contraption for raising and lowering boats onto the river Weaver and now we sit on a part of the canal that is very wide due to subsistence caused by salt mining and watch the swans, herons and other wildlife in peaceful solitude.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Two go to Wales (and back)

Well, what an exciting time we have been having. We have not been able to get a good enough signal on the dongle for a while so we have a long gap to fill.
We couldn't leave Nantwich without going back fcor some more of the lovely brownies at the Cheshire Cat, but that also allowed me to find the most lovely shop Doll, where the owner made a point of trying to fulfil the needs of ladies of a more shapely disposition and I bought some new clothes (weddings ahead).
We filled up with water and set off for the LLangollen canal. We had been warned that it might be busy, with long waits for the locks, but we were very lucky and sailed through with little delay. Suddenly we were on a narrow rural canal again, and passing through lovely countryside. We visited Whixall Moss, a place where old peat workings have made a valuable wildlife habitiat, and the little town of Ellesmere where we reprovisioned the boat. After that we had the excitement of passing through two tunnels and the two famous aquaducts at Chirk, where it is not too scarey as there is a path on both sides, and the Pontcysyllte, the one you see all the pictures of, which is quite terrifying! Martin sailed across, looking down into the valley with great aplomb, I clung on for dear life!
After that we turned up the last bit of the canal, never intended to be navigable, fast flowing from the river Dee feed and narrow and shallow. It was gloroius and there in the distance were the hills of Snowdonia. The canal basin is a beautiful setting (running out of superlatives!). It is really hard to believe that we had not gone up very far, as by the time we reached the town of Llangollen it was in a valley below us and there were hills all around. Llangollen is a lovely town, with all a boy could need, a lovey fishing river, the canal, mountains and a steam railway! Martin had a days walking and I locked myself out of the boat. We had a day going up and down the railway with both steam and deisel locos and a picnic with our toes in the Dee at Carrog. It must have been a nice day, we have not had many.
We could only stay 48 hrs in the town so moved off and went back over the aquaducts - I walked and looked at my feet and sang, what a wuzz. We visited the National Trust Chirk Castle, a good mile and a half walk from the canal (we are getting plenty of exercise) and then on the Montgomery canal. Only 7 miles have been re opened but it is even more remote and lovely. It was here that we met a couple from Taunton and shared a beer or two. On the way back passed Ellesmere we stopped a night beside the Blake Mere, with a mereside mooring where we could set up our table and enjoy outdoor eating with a view of the birdlife. Here we heard again from Ali and Stu and arranged to meet up with them on another little arm, only a mile long and share a few more beers before they returned their hired boat.
There followed 2 busy days, one when we cruised for 10 hours against a strong wind which was rather tiring, back onto the wide waterway of the Shropshire Union main canal, which feels like a motorway, travelling towards Chester, where we arrived on Sunday and are now moored below the city walls - what a spot.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Further adventures of the 'Terrific Two'

I haven't written much for a while as that nasty word 'work' got in the way! We pottered about around Brewood and Wheaton Aston for a couple of days before I had to go to Birmingham for the day, an adventure in itself, a bus to Wolverhampton and then train to New Street. Martin accommpanied me to Wolverhampton where he breakfasted at the Wolves supporters club cafe and visited St Peter's church on St Peters' day, finding packed with the staff and pulips of St Peter's school. At the art gallery there was a celebration of the Black Country origins of heavy metal music featuring interviews and some stunning pencil drawings of working in a steel works, as some of the artists did. The work trip went off without a hitch, and being very cool I stepped aboard in my business clothes as Hale and Hearty passed under the bridge and off we went into the country. Martin had also had a lovely evening with the Brewood bellringers practising and enjoying the excellent ale at The Swan.
We travelled up to Market Drayton over two days, with an overnight stop out in the country, where we woke to a perfect misty morning with still water and clear reflections. Arranged more library internet support and car hire and so for a few days we were both back to the land of work. I went to Hampshire and Martin worked 'from home'. I was kindly taken in by dear generous friends, as I had completely failed to organise accommodation for myself and Martin got to enjoy the delights of Market Drayton, a rather lovely old town with a big market that reminded him of Lymington.
I got back on thursday evening and we made a final trip to drop off the car - a relief to return it undamaged, but it gave very good service and it took me no longer to get to Hampshire from the Midlands than from Devon. We also visited Market Drayton's charming little museum, full of interesting objects that visitors can handle and discuss. Martin had vittled up, emptied the loo and filled up with water, so all ready for the next voyage!
Off we set, in rain as ever, it has an uncanny way of starting just as we cast off, and cruised gently to Audlem, through 16 locks and a total distance of 6 miles. Audlem is a delightful little place, with a large and lovely sandstone church. It was here that we met the most interesting and charming Edward Wilkins, an ordinary chap who served on HMS Colombine, a Corvette build in Bristol, during WW2 and has written a book about his experiences.
And so on to Nantwich, where we managed to do laundry and attend St Mary's Church today, a lovely service and again a most welcoming place. We found a wonderful eaterie, 'The Chrshire Cat', on the road to town from the canal and had one of the best Sunday lunches we have ever had. What made is so good? Tender and perfectly cooked meat, lovely fresh vegetables, all seasoned exactly right, crisp Yorkshire, apple fritters with the pork and the most sublime brownie ever tasted. If you are ever in Nantwich they do a great Sunday menu. Now need to sit a while, as carrying a big tummy back to the boat has tired me out!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The end of our first month

We have reached the end of our first month. Things have settled down, we don't seem to be trying to do quite so much and we have covered fewer miles and locks and enjoyed more of the restful countryside and taken time to visit places, the purpose of our trip. We enjoyed a delightful few days travelling the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal to Great Haywood - stopping overnight at Coven and attending church there, reached by walking across a field. Near Great Haywood is Tixall Wide, where the canal is more like a lake, overlooked by the wonderfully Gothic Tixall Gatehouse (Landmark Trust property), with lovely scenery and bird life. We went to yet another National Trust property, Shugborough Hall, which we found strangely cold and lifeless and also felt very odd being shown around the late Lord Lichfield's private appartments. The exhibition relating to his photography, however, was very good.
We enjoyed a bus trip into Stafford, which is lovely, and did some shopping (relacing specs lost overboard)and loved to see the beautiful collegiate church full of youngsters doing crafts like brass rubbing and pyrography during their open week. At Penkridge, by contrast, the church, also collegiate, was locked. But the village was nice and very friendly people. Our journey then took us back to the juction with the Shropshire Union canal where the huge signpost was topped by a heron - I think they get quite annoyed with the boaters disturbing their fishing! Telford's canal is wide and straight with very few locks, he used civil engineering to level the route so there are deep cuttings and high embankments. Saturday bought us to Brewood (pronounced Brood) where we have been made very welcome by the library, from where I write. We met up with sisters Diana and Juliet on Sunday after attending the morning service, again we have been made very welcome and Martin is 'in' with the bell ringers and rang for evensong and has been invited to attend practice tonight. The weather has been very mixed - it's hard to acclimatise to 28C from 13 and back again in such a short time. Weekends tend to be busy on the canals and it is fun to moor up and then watch the other boats arrive and settle in. We have met lots of lovely dogs and their owners and enjoyed conversations with experienced canal travellers. Sometimes we moor out in the country although until now we have been able to hear the hum of motorways even in what seem to be the remotest places. So onward and northward for the next adventure.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Birmingham to Stafford week 3

Birmingham continued to reveal its delights to us, we could so easily have spent a week there, who would have thought it? It was lovely to see our friends every day and to go to choral evensong at the cathederal together on Sunday, a very welcoming service. On monday we did some more of the lovely museum, and now have a better understanding of the Pre Raphaelite artists. We had lunch at our favourite oriental buffet and then had a brief exploration of the jewellery quarter and the wonderful Pen Room. Birmingham was the centre of the pen and nib making industry before fountain pens and then biros took over. The little museum, run by volunteers, is just a delight.
We decided that we would leave on Tuesday and had a very long and heavy day going all the way out via the Netherton tunnel, 3027 yards about 1.75 miles, long and dark, quite an adventure, then 25 locks to get into the countryside over another 12 miles. I managed to give myself a severe smack in the face with the windlass and nearly lost both front teeth so poor Martin had to do all the hard work whilst I nursed my shock. Since then the damage has mostly healed and we have continued in some delightful countryside. On Friday we visited Wightwick Manor, (National Trust) the home of a fellow who was a great fan of William Morris and had a son who loved Pre-Raphaelite art so a real arts and crafts haven and a great visit.
We have also savoured the delights of a laundrette as the weather has been rather drippy and we have not been able to use our little washing machine as we could not get stuff dry. In total this week we have done 33 miles and 46 locks, we have seen ducks, geese, swans, moorhens and coots all with their young and passed by fishing herons within 15 feet. At times the water has been so clear that we have been able to see the bottom, canals aren't very deep, and at times teeming with fish - which explains why there are so many fishermen (and a few women). In urban areas it is good to see how the canals provide a recreation place and the towpaths are well used by walkers, runners, cyclists and meanderers.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Week 2, the excitement continues!

This week we have travelled just 33 miles and gone through 30 locks, but don't think that means we are not getting any exercise. We left Stratford on Sunday and met up with Martin's sister and family, who bought a picnic and labour force for some of the locks,  we had a lovely day. Stopped overnight near Preston Baggot. On Monday we went through Kingswood Junction and on up the Stratford canal and the Lapworth Locks, stopping near the top for two nights wo enable a visit to Packwood House, National Trust property, a sensible walk from the canal. Clearly here is an area of high property prices. We collected firewood and more quilting and china painting took place in the bits of sunshine. The weather all week has been variable with some lovely sun and some cold rain, if we don't like what it is like one minute we only have to wait to see what it will do next.
Wednesday took us on up to Earlswood, where we again stayed 2 nights to enjoy a lovely day walking around the lakes and birdwatching; lots of little terns and black headed gulls, crested grebes and many ducks and geese. A peaceful haven yet very close to the city. The people in the boat moored next to us were from Bude!
Friday saw our approach to Birmingham, filling up with water and diesel at a great little boat yard, Lyons, where we were able to replace missing and broken handles on the engine covers. We were going great guns when we heard a great crunch and hit a submerged log that caused the drive shaft coupling to break. So there we were stuck in the middle of the canal with no power. We were helped to the side by a friendly boater and Martin set off to see what he could get from the not too distand boatyard. He effected a temporary, as it turned out VERY temporary, repair and we continued only to stop again near Kings Norton Junction. A very nice man, with a striking resemblance to Freddie Flintoff, came from Alvechurch Marina and fitted a new one. A costly mistake but we were able to progress on into Birmingham and moor at Brindley Place.
Saturday saw Martin try to go to Tyseley Railway museum, but it was closed. The markets were great and we also enjoyed the museum and art gallery. Later we took in a Bollywood Movie - brilliant fun! Have met up with my old nursing friend, moored close by on her live aboard, much smarter than ours, and caught up on the many years that have passed since we last spoke. Everywhere along the way are duck and geese with young, and even here in the middle of the city we have been visited by a family of Canada Geese with 2 goslings, lovely.
Now sitting in the rain with a fire to keep out the wet.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

First week's excitement!

Well, what a first week it has turned out to be, so full of experiences. Seen off by Juliet and her friend Angela, we did 49 locks in the first three days, including the Hatton flight of 21. Big, heavy locks on the Grand Union, we were beginning to wonder what we had let ourselves in for. But we also managed to have a lovely walk into Leamington Spa, where we visited the gallery in the old Pump Rooms, which is really good, very friendly and with several Cornwall schools paintings, and a very good mix of other. On Monday it rained, a fine time to discover that the waxed hat is no longer waterproof, but we lit our little stove and were dry in no time. On Tuesday we visited Baddesley Clinton, a medieval National Trust house, with priests holes, about a mile from the junction with the Stratford canal. From there things began to feel more as we expected. The Stratford canal is a pure delight, rural, narrow, single gate locks and those lovely bridges that I remember from childhood with a gap in them for the rope to go through. Tested the little washing machine that we got at Maplins and topped up with water at Lowsenford. We met up with friends and sister at Wilmcote and then on into Stratford. (Via a loo pump out and a walk to the  lovely old church at Wootton Wawen, where I was bought up, and over the aquaduct at Bearley - scarey). A big treat of lunch at Jimmy Spices international buffet and then, oh joy, the canal basin in Stratford. What a tourist attraction we turn out to be! But the excitement continued, with late tickets (restricted view so cheaper) for the Merchant of Venice, with Patrick Stewart. It was brilliant, set in modern Las Vegas, but still in the old language, funny, clever and very dramatic, it even had Elvis. For the first time we were up after 10pm!
So, a first week to remember, don't think we can keep this pace up!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Since February, when we realised our dream and bought our lovely narrowboat Hale and Hearty for our big adventure ambling the canals, we have had all the pleasure of setting her up. We were really surprised by the incredible feeling of freedom on the day of purchase, sitting in the February sun, drinking coffee, perched on the stern and listening to the M1 and mainline railway, a far cry from our rural home! We slept aboard that night and two weekends later, when the temperature was minus 9, thank heaven for an effective little multifuel stove and the foresight to pop a bag of logs in the car, and high tog duvets. As the bed is only 4 feet wide we also had to snuggle up, another aid to keeping cosy.
We have had two or three lovely trips out, to test the newly serviced engine and better bed design, it now extends to a massive six feet square and as neither of us are tall we can sleep across the boat and have lots of room. As we had such a lovely spring these trips have really whetted out appetite for the rest of the adventure. We have seen the Grand Union change gently into its spring adornment, with lots of blossom, bright new leaves and ducklings aplenty. Why is it such bliss to wake up early to the sound of ducks quacking and the gently rocking motion of the boat I wonder? On the first trip we had a bottle of champagne, kindly provided by my sister and poured the first glass over the bow by way of a new launch and to toast times to come. (I then drank all the rest and slept rather well!) We have also been delighted to discover the 'corner shop' and a great curry house in Weedon Bec.
Each visit we have put more useful things aboard, you would think that we were going into the wilderness, but I do like to be prepared. We found two perfect little arm chairs, space is pretty limited in the living area, second hand from a charity shop, ex hotel bedroom I think, so very neat. And I have been growing herbs and salads in troughs to take on the voyage - we want to avoid scurvy after all.
A really lovely result of our purchase is that I am now back in touch with an old friend from nurse training who also has a boat and we hope to meet up in Birmingham where she is moored.
So, now we continue to prepare for the off. Watch this space.