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Sunday, 2 October 2016

Left all alone.

We set off on Saturday in rather dull weather but it wasn't cold as there was no wind.

This is the external part of our new flue. The proud lining will fit into the new stainless steel chimney that Kym is providing soon. They are so busy that they are a little behind but as we wont be on the boat there is no rush for it. We lit the fire to 'cook' the new flue. It didn't make much smoke at all and I was able to black it whilst we were waiting to go home. It has all been done to try and prevent the tar that can be seen on the collar and roof doing the same once we have been repainted.

It was a heavy heart that we set off and we went along almost at tick over to prolong the agony as much as possible. The dull weather was matching our gloomy moods at having to 'abandon ship'.

There is little autumn clour in the hedges and trees but the farmers have been converting green and gold fields to brown ones so that the cycle can restart.

Approaching Streethay it appears to be a very busy yard. So it proved  as there was lots of work going on on boats, engines etc.

It was great to 'Starling' and butty 'Ethel' moored up looking really tiddley in Cowburn and Cowpar colours. 

We went alongside and filled up with fuel so as to minimise the air in the tank so hoping to prevent the diesel bug taking hold by allowing water from condensation occurring over the winter. It was 59p/litre too. We were directed to the berth we were to occupy for now. No sooner had we lashed her to the pontoon than the rain started and it didn't relent until we left, further adding to our dour mood. Our son and his partner finally arrived and we were able to fill up the space left in the car once four people, a budgie and a cat and accompanying paraphernalia were loaded.

We arrived home and had to go for fish and chips as there was nothing else in the house. Helen has a bit of a rule that we don't have fish and chips, well fish at least, south of Stoke, as we have had some horrendous experiences. She will also not buy them from anywhere that also sells pizzas, kebabs etc. 

We will not have much time to feel sad as we have a very busy few months coming up and I need to get into the habit of making a weekly and daily lists so that I don't waste time and get through the long lists. As we will be busy I got up early'ish and went to get the paper and then jumped in the car and headed back to the boat. I filled it up with everything else we were bringing home, which was most as the boat will be having the windows etc taken out when it goes for it's repaint. I also had a few little jobs to do before leaving her.

We will be going back nearer the time and take down the curtains etc but for now the dust sheets are up.

I brought everything off the roof inside and covered the pullman with a n old blanket

I pulled all the soft furnishings away from the bulkheads and set a couple of green house heaters to come on at 2C just in case there is a cold snap.

I cleared the roof but looking at the photo I have remembered that I didn't take the rope tails of the plank rack.

We will be going down to the yard prior to the job to finalise the colours we want etc. I thought I would take a picture of the sign writing as we want something similar to this when the new writing is completed. When we told some people we were coming to this yard Streethay ( as in a road and cut grass) they looked at us puzzled and then came up with 'Oh, you mean Stre th ay', with a 'th'in the middle. How on earth they managed to be convinced that that was the pronunciation is beyond me. Then again I am a PATH, BATH bloke rather that PAFF and BAFF type. By the way the Streethay is pronounced as the road and mown grass way.

There will be occasional blogs from now on so keep looking out for them.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Nice and bright last day.

The day started cold but the sun was nice and bright. I am pleased to say the Hurricane worked extremely well and he got up toasty warm. Minimum temp outside last night was 8.3C. We were soon ready for the off putting fenders away and got everything else ready.

We popped over to see Tracey and Kym of the Little Chimney Co. moored ahead of us to thank them for their service and had another great chat about this and that. We will see them before too long I'm sure. They were on the move later today too.

The buttery yellow autumnal light was filtering through the still green leaves. You get the impression though that as soon as the first frost comes it will be a veritable blizzard of leaves. Maybe it wont only be the railways that are brought to a stand still due to leaves!

I'm afraid my photo doesn't do credit to the lovely scene as we passed through the wood.

We were soon passing Fisherwick and the asparagus farm. I noticed that there were more distant fields planted up and ferns showing nice and busy but a a large part of the field near the canal appeared to have been dug up. This photo was from the first day of our cruise this year. It seems the asparagus farm is part of the New Farm at Elmhurst, north of Lichfield. They grow soft fruit and have been supplying Sainsbury's with strawberries and raspberries since 1987 after doing pick your own from 1970's. There are 50 acres put to asparagus largely at Fisherwick and this was started in 1985. The normal season is from the end of April, beginning of May to 21st June as the asparagus will only grow when the soil temperature at 15 to 20cm is 20 to 22C. They invested in poly tunnels that they erect in January, also covering the soil with extra plastic. They have also invested in underground heating by running water pipes under the poly tunnels through which they pump water that is heated by an air sourced heat pump. This means that they can extend the season by six to eight weeks. They supply around 80 tonnes to Sainsbury's and about 300 are employed to process it all at the height of the season. Maybe they have grubbed up some of the ferns to lay more underground pipes?

I noticed this well maintained weather vane on the farm just past the asparagus. Not much wind today, so far!

We went past fields with cattle grazing and this one taking advantage of the canal. Do the farmers get charged for the use of the canal? I also noticed that the animals had 'brands' on their rumps as well as ear tags. I wondered how they did it these days. Apparently it is now done by freeze branding where the branding iron is cooled to -160C to -200C. When applied to the cow it changes the pigmentation of the hair so it grows back white. On white animals they leave it on a little longer and the hair drops out and doesn't grow back.

Just in case you don't know what a cows backside looks like here is one supplied by Wikipedia. It is apparently less painful that hot branding with a slight inflammation going down in a few days, it is clearly visible at any time of the year and the figures are usually much clearer. It does take more specialized equipment and takes a few days to show properly. Who would have thought!!

I love these windows in the club house of the Lichfield Cruising Club at Huddlesford Junction.

Looking on the Lichfield Canal restoration website they aim to have the canal open from Huddlesford to Ogley by 2026. With a little luck I'll still be able to go and take a look on a boat. My own worry is that it will open up the W&E and Walsall Canals and they wont be the lovely quite and secret place they are at the moment.

We moored up not far from the Plough at the junction as we are going to treat ourselves tonight to 'celebrate', commiserate, our last day this year. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The day flue by.

We haven't moved today as we are having our chimney flue replaced. We are moored in Hopwas Wood close to The Little Chimney Company boat and butty 'Molly'. Yesterday Kym came over to measure up and see what was required and see if he could get the materials. The outcome was that he was able to collect the required pipe and this morning he had it cut and tacked welded. He was then round to check that it all fitted in situ before fully welding it up. By 1600 he was back to fit it up. It didn't take long to get it roped in top and bottom and then siliconed on top too and it was completed by 1700. I must say that we think that it does look better with a bend in the flue rather than the straight run. However the main reason for the new flue is so that we can have a new double skinned chimney to keep the new paint job pristine next year. Unfortunately the chimney is not yet available. Kym has had a major run on chimneys and is waiting for the next lot of plate to come. We are not in a hurry as we wont need a fire until after Christmas. We will arrange to pick it up at a later date.

The original flue was a straight pipe that was wedged in the collar on top of the stove and poked out of the roof, cut flush. At the stove top being wedged in meant that it wasn't easy to get a good seal round the flue as the gap is uneven round the collar. At the top the angle of the flue means that there can not be a seal between the flue and the double skinned chimney. Therefore any tar that condenses in the chimney drips down the side of the chimney and onto the roof of the boat.

The new flue has the 'kink' in it. This means that at the stove top the pipe sits right in the centre of the collar vertically, and does not rest , jammed in, to the collar. When jammed the differential expansion could mean that a crack could be caused in the top plate of the stove or the flue wouldn't seal. At the roof line the second bend ensures that the flue pokes out of the roof line vertically through the collar on the roof so that the chimney sits over the collar and the internal double skin also locates properly over the flue so that firstly been double skinned the tar remains in the smoke and not condensed so easily as it is insulated. Any tar that does condense will be inside the double skin that will then drop down the inner skin into the flue and reburned. We have to let the silicone dry so we will light the fire tomorrow as we have to burn off any grease/oil of the pipework and bed everything in. I am looking forward to seeing it lit and with the posh new chimney on.

As we couldn't really leave the boat as Kym may have had to pop in at any time to offer up the work or double check measurements etc, we were unable to go for a walk round Hopwas Wood. We therefore started packing stuff and sorting cupboards etc. I got to grips with the gas and battery lockers as we have a BSS to pass in October. We also sorted the planters out and tidied up around the boat. Whilst I was doing this a noticed that there were several ducks making quite a noise diving down to the bottom of the canal by the boat. Eventually I saw that they were bringing up acorns! I didn't know that they ate acorns. I have seen them eating rose hips and blackberries on the way up here.

Hopwas Wood is actually bigger now than it was in the past, and that can't be true of many forests in England. In 1086 when the Domesday book was compiled there were around 180 acres. In 1834 it had grown to 375 acres. Many things seem to have happened in the Wood. There was a big fire in 1976. There have been escaped cattle in the trees and large black cats, and lion like animals have been spotted. In 1984 a police raid captured 16 naked people taking part in an occult ceremony. They were the Silver Star Society and £2000 in fines for possession of cannabis followed. Many occult objects have been uncovered in the area. There was a threat to a large amount of the wood when Tarmac wanted to excavate for a sand quarry. Eventually planning permission was denied and the wood has been saved for longer.

Hopwas Hayes Woodhouse was built around 1775 in the centre of the wood. From the tower you could see all round the horizon and so was a good spot for fire watching. There were five bedrooms and three AGA's in a huge kitchen etc, but there were no real mod cons. It was finally demolished in 2010 as it had been very badly vandalised.

I would really recommend Kym and Tracey of the Little Chimney Company as they are such nice and friendly folk and very accommodating. Their work is first class and not off the shelf but entirely made to measure so you can be sure of a good fit. Over the winter they are round and about somewhere on the Coventry Canal so stop by for a chat when you pass them.
Last day of freedom tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Last lock.

We set off about 0930 and were enjoying the sunshine, but cool breeze. It seemed quite quiet but we were trickling along.

As we passed through Amington we saw this little area that seems to make good use of a corner by the bridge, and was a good place to place stuff that nobody else wants.

We stopped at bridge 73 where there used to be a pub but is now a Co-op. It was a good little spot with moorings just through the bridge. A little further on is the old canal/railway interchange basin and was the base of Hudsons.

As we passed the arm I saw 'Futurest' on the moorings in the sun. It used to be owned by another blogger who died last winter. It seems strange to see it here rather than down near Banbury. The sun makes for a lovely colourful picture.

This is looking back at the bottom Glascote lock which is more than likely to be the last one we will do this year. Mind you that is the 558th of the year.

We seemed to meet boats at every bridge thereafter on the way to Fazeley. It was our turn to go first over the aqueduct over the Tame.

At Fazeley Junction we popped out after having spoken to a lady down the arm to Glascote who was feeding the ducks. It seems there is a turf war here abouts as she was quite scathing about the lady feeding those pesky geese! She only wanted to feed duck so had come down away from them. This is the lady feeding the geese that seemed to be coming from far and wide. There was nobody on the water point just past the junction house so we pulled over and topped up before heading off again.

As it happened there was nobody on the Peel's Wharf services so we pulled over and dropped off the rubbish before setting off again. This is the TV mast at Hints which used to be the ITV mast. Further west is the BBC mast. I have my fingers crossed that we will be able to get a signal, BBC, as it is 'Bake-off' tonight and I need to keep Helen sweet so that she will try out some of the recipes on me.

This mountain ash or rowan tree looked great on the outskirts of Hopwas. We were rendezvousing with Kym and Tracy on the Little Chimney Boat oot the other side of the village in the wood.

Kym had soon been to measure up and quote. All was agreed and he was soon removing the old flue so thought I had better get a picture for the before and after shots.

Flue gone and a hole in the roof. I thought that we would need a double skinned chimney as I didn't want tar from the chimney ruining our new paint work next year. The flue was a straight run so couldn't be to fit into the base of the chimney. Plus it would be a better and easier to seal join on top of the stove itself if it was perpendicular to it. Steel work ordered and with luck all should be completed for Friday.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Arriving at Atherston, Alvecote and Amington.

We were off by 0930 but it was a bit dull but not too cold really. Mind you all the other boaters coming in the opposite direction were well togged up as they had the wind in their faces.

I quite like this stretch of the Coventry. It is nice countryside and the canal provides a good test of helmsmanship. There are plenty of bling bridge holes and sharpish bends.

Hartshill yard is very photogenic and it is not easy to ignore it with the camera. I was a little worried as we approached as there was a very slow boat in front of us. Luckily they pulled in for water so we could make our own time.

This is the wharf near Mancetter. The quarry is actually to the northeast of the canal and was brought down by a tramway to the canal for loading. The product was, and still is diorite that is a granite style rock and very good for road building. Theses days the quarry is run by Tarmac and it is transported by trucks. You can see there is also a railway bridge that also used to take the graded material away.

The top of the Atherstone Flight was quite busy, also with C&RT repairing the brick facing in the winding hole by the water point, as a boat had gone at high speed into it and caused lots of damage. It was one up one down at the locks with lockies at the first five locks.

There was a boat behind us in abig rush so we stopped for water at No.5 lock and let them go past. Mind you when we got to the bottom of the flight we were coming to the top as they were leaving so didn't get too far ahead. I like this flight as you have the close locks down to the Kings Head and then out into the country. We like to moor in the long pound between Locks 9 and 10, but not today. The only trouble with these locks is that the top gates down want to stay closed which takes a bit of running about. Helen and I swapped over half way down. She is looking at Nicholson's rather than a normal book as I have caught her doing in the past.

Grendon Wharf dry dock has had a new corrugated roof put on and was busy with three boats in. It is a shame the cottage hasn't had a make-over.

Just past the Polesworth (Stiper's Hill) Motocross track the canal once again crosses with the West Coast mainline. I may have said it before but I do admire the design of the Pendalino trains used by Virgin. They give a real impression of power and always seem well turned out and business like.

This freight train made much more noise as it came past hauling a load of vehicles. I thought that EWS stood for English, Scottish and Welsh but checked just in case. It seems to have a fascinating story too. When some of the British Rail freight division was put up for privatisation in 1995 it was bought by a consortium that traded under the name North and South Railways for £225 million. This was soon changed to English Scottish and Welsh in 1996 and they had 1231 locos plus much much more rolling stock. They carried 6% of the freight in the UK, rather than road/canal/air that is. In 2007 Deutsche Bahn bought EWS for £309 million and they later have become DB Schenker and now DB Cargo UK. I'm not sure why, the locos haven't had livery changes, or if they will. That is the very short version. You can wake up now though!

After Polesworth the canal passes through an ex mining area which must have seen the canal extremely busy in it's day. This style of bridge gives a good clue to mining areas as it was simply constructed so that if, or rather when, subsidence occurred it was a simple job of lifting the girders and adding a few more bricks to compensate

There are several other clues as the canal passes Pooley Hall Collier such as this head gear wheel and the spoil tip close to the M42 bridge.

As we passed Alvecote Marina we saw steamboat 'Laplander'. She is looking as though she has had a long summer. As always there seems to be many free berths in the main marina, but maybe it is due to them not having electricity on the narrow pontoons.

Over on the other side, by the bridge into the little basin stands proudly a lovely little Bantam Tug. I haven't managed to find out yet which one this is, but I just love these little working tugs. Mind you nothing seems to have been done since last year. Just next door is the yard of the Heritage Narrow Boat Foundation that has one of it's aims is to have apprentices so that the skills can be passed on to them for the future. I couldn't see if they have a project boat in at the moment.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Wet and wonderful.

We got back from the pub and we succumbed and I lit the fire. It burned beautifully. I am using the last of the coke retrieved from my Mum's house just before it was sold so a sort of 'scattering the ashes'.

The fire stayed in all night with just one loading and was still nice and warm this morning. I don't know how expensive coke is but it burned well and there is very little ash.

This morning boats started moving pretty early, even before it started spitting about 0700. My razor fell to bits as I was cleaning it which meant that we were late finishing breakfast and starting off. It worked out okay because although there were three waiting to go through the stop lock on our side the one on the water point left and past us. We slipped on after them and fixed up the hose for a top up. By the time we had finished it was clear for us to go through the lock. Above is the stop lock. The boat leaving wasn't happy with the hire boat as he had originally gone to the right side in the photo. Perfectly okay I would have thought. There was a lot of meaningless gesticulating to go this way and that and, as always, everything went fine.

I'm not sure who they were but there was a group of folk sat out by the utilities and they looked as thought they were scoring boaters coming in and out of the Oxford Canal. I didn't see any actual scores like on 'Strictly' but that is what it looked like. Luckily we made it round in one movement.

This is the old engine house on the Coventry Canal that used to house the 'Lady Godiva' atmospheric steam engine. It was built around the 1720's and worked at the Griff Colliery a little to the north. It was moved to this engine house in 1821 and worked there pumping water up from a well to keep the canal topped up until 1931. It can still be seen at the Dartmouth Museum.

Although the leavers haven't really turned to their autumnal hues yet the colours look just on the cusp and one frost makes you think there will be a blaze of colour. There are loads of hips and haws for the birds too.

I believe Charity Dock has a very good dry dock and that the owner is very helpful. They also seem to sell diesel etc but it seems that there is every obstacle to putting any business there way. How do they make their money? If it is scrap, the pile never seems to be smaller and the number of boats only seems to increase. What do the neighbours think? I heard that it is called Charity Dock as the land belongs to the Church Commissioners, or something like that. However I find that there were two Charity Colliers in the area that were built on land owned by the Rev. Nicholas Camberlaine charity in 1776

Showiung my age a bit here but this did make me think of the film 'Emmanuel'  of the 1970's. If you have seen them you will know why.

As we approached Nuneaton we were encountering boats at every bridge hole. They were a bit exasperated as appeared that there were five of six boats ahead of us in a queue help up by a boat towing another, causing help ups in both directions. We caught up with the back end of this to find one boat between us and the tow. Tick over was the order of the day. We had out fingers crossed that they would stop at Boot Wharf and Starline Boats, but no such luck, it was tick over all the way. We got to Wash Lane Bridge and there was a complete halt. It seems the tug and tow were jammed in the winding hole after a failed attempt. It had been made more difficult by a boat being moored just between the bridge and the winding hole. I moored up and helped to get the stern of the tow round and clear, and the boat between us sped off. The towing boat was stuck in the mud though. He didn't look as though he was going anywhere. I came through the bridge hole and went to the bow to lash up bow to bow. Helen then went astern and we pulled the pair of them off and we could get under way again. The old warehouse looks a lovely building. I'm not sure whether the wharf was named after the Boot Inn or vice versa! The allotments next to the wharf are under threat it seems as there is planning permission for building 54 houses on it but maintaining the wharf and the canal frontage. It seems a shame as all the plots seemed in great productivity and some massive pumpkins too.

The best view you get of Mount Judd, in fact the only view you get, from the canal is just before No. 22 Vernon's Lane Bridge. After this it mysteriously disappears. It is the spoil heap of the Judkins Quarry.

Just round the corner was the rail bridge that spanned the canal to the Tuttle Hill Granite Quarry. This was opened up in 1804 by William Cropper and was bought Judkins in 1903. The bridge later became the conveyor system that took the stone across the canal to a crusher and sorter for transport onward. I was fascinated by the little brick built hovel under the bridge. I wondered if it was from where the canal may have been controlled from.

I'm not sure if this picture is the wharf that would have been just through the bridge but it is interesting none the less. It is a scene from around 1911 and you can see that there is a horse drawn tramway and that the stone is divided into different sizes for different uses. The boat is owned by Chas. Mayer who was a director of the quarry company.

We moored up before getting to Springwood Haven Marina and were able to watch and listen to large hawk moving about the area before getting in and lighting the fire again in the drizzle.