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Wednesday 30 September 2015

Happy in Hopwas.

Last night was quite cosy as we lit the fire and the sunset was beautiful with the Hints ITV mast in the distance. We didn't watch any TV though.

We set off at the usual time in beautiful weather, again. It is getting very monotonous now. Here is the Hints ITV mast in the day light.

I do like this stretch of the Coventry/Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and in the low yellow light everywhere looks lovely. In a week or two the colours will be stunning.

We pulled up outside the 'Tame Otter' pub as there was a vacant spot on the hard bank and I wanted to wash the side of the boat. It was looking decidedly mucky having scrubbed the roof yesterday. It took a little while and I painted the patches I had also painted yesterday. Helen got very busy with making little muslin bags to hold the chestnuts that we had picked up at Alvecote Priory. These will be hung at the windows and other choice places to deter the spiders colonising the boat over winter. I'm sure that it worked last year. We moved off after an hour or so.

The canal runs through the fringes of Hopwas Wood and next to the River Tame relief channel too. It is always a pleasant trip through the wood but there is little sun so we don't like to moor here.

We moored after Tamhorn Park Bridge and had some lunch before setting off into the woods for a walk.

We followed the edge of the wood after crossing Tamhorn Park Bridge and ended up going a completely different route to that that we have ever taken before. There is a mixed type of trees and the soil must be fantastic with the mulch that has descended each year.  Part of the wood was under threat until recently as an aggregates company wanted to exploit the sand and gravel that the wood is sitting upon. It has now been put off, until next time.

At the farthest point from the canal at the edge of the forest was a large free range pig unit. We didn't see any piglets so they must separate the farrowing pigs. There was a funny noise as we watched them snuffling about in the paddocks. It was a little like the sound of the balls clicking together on a snooker or pool table. We watched for a while and realised that the pigs were picking up stones and chewing on them for a while before spitting them out. They noise was them clicking together. You can see the surface of the paddock littered with stones. It seems that it is common and is thought to be because they lack stimulation. Somebody from Hull University has obtained a grant to study this behavior. A pig has been found with 1.2 kg of pebbels in it's stomach on slaughtering. If the stones are sharp it can damage the intestine etc. Free range is not always as good as you may think!

There are some lovelly galdes as we passed from deciduous to conifer parts of the forest. The paths we in good condition but it was a littler confusing with no way marked paths to follow.

As we approached Hopwas village there was a good view across the Tame valley and had a good view of Tamworth in the distance. We popped into the Red Lion for a drink and a sit in the sun for an hour. It was really warm and we are so lucky that the weather has held for our last days out this year. We walked back along the towpath.

It is 'Bake Off' day so I put the aerial up to check the picture. We must be just behind the hill as there is nothing at all despite being so close to the TV masts. Luckily the BBC 'I player' seems to be working well so Helen will still be speaking to me later in the evening.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Eking it out.

The mist was just burning off when I got to the kettle and never mind the blood moon being 7% bigger than normal, the sun looked double the normal size this morning.

The mellow autumnal mood was till there and we pottered on at just over tick over so as to make the time out on the boat last as long as possible. We met a few boats but only one at a bridge. We just  putted past Amington and then before Glascote Locks we stopped to go to get some milk from the Co-op that was a pub until last year. It is very handy for a quick dash for an item or two. 

As seems to be normal there was a slight queue at the Glascote Locks. There was a hire boat on the water point just by the top lock so Helen had to wait just by the roving bridge that leads in Hudson's Yard. This used to be a canal/railway interchange basin. The hire boat must have been empty of water as they were on the water a long time. One of the lads came to help us and was asking us where the nearest pump out place was. They have only had the boat since Saturday and there are five of them so heaven knows what they are doing on there!

As the canal passed over the River Tame it looked quite bucolic so close to the town. After it meets with the the River Anker that comes via Atherstone and Polesworth the River Tame then splits and it is actually a flood relief channel that passes close to Hopwas. The river and flood relief channel meet up just after Tamhorn Bridge.

The view of the Tolson's Mill is much better from this direction. This is the mill that was built by Sir Robert Peel, who was the father of the Prime Minister, in 1883. It was making webbing and tape. It was sold to a local Tolson in 1901 and the premises were used to make all sorts such as boots, clothing, haberdashery and even upholstery. It was in business until 2000 and now has a few units let out. Apparently it has planning to be converted to apartments in the future.

The Coventry Canal reached the junction with the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal in around 1790. I would reckon that this is an original bridge and so is over 200 years old. That is what I love about the canals, there is history everywhere. Mind you if you are American, Australian or a New Zealander it must be doubly impressive.

As we popped round the corner we stopped at the water point to top up but were quickly on our way again. There were several boats moored opposite Peel's Wharf but we carried on a little. The canal is nice and rural once we got away from the A5 and we soon found a spot with a view of the sun and the TV mast.

After lunch I decided to strip all the stuff off the roof and give it a good clean for the winter. I then oiled all the padlocks and hinges and greased the shackles and bottle screws on the fenders. Tomorrow I will hopefully wash one side and then the following day the other side and then that will be that.

Monday 28 September 2015

Mellowed out.

We set the alarm for 0330 and duly got up to see the lunar eclipse. What a beautiful sky there was the stars and constellations were easily visible and only the light pollution prevented us seeing the Milky Way disc. Venus was very bright indeed and looked like a hovering helicopter. It took me back to being at sea and taking star sights, before the days of GPS. Every day, morning and evening, I would take sights of about six or eight stars. It is surprising how many I have remembered and can recognise. I used the air tables which meant that you can pre-compute and set the sextant ready for each sight. The trick was waiting until the the stars were visible but the horizon was still visible as you have to line up the star with the horizon to obtain the altitude. Nautical twilight is actually when the sun is a diameter below the horizon. It was a matter of setting the sextant to the expected altitude and looking along the expected bearing. Once aligned with the horizon you had to count as you walked to the chronometer so as to get an exact time of the sight. It was extremely rewarding to have six or eight position lines, one from each sight, cross together in a small 'cocked hat'. There was a great satisfaction in crossing the great oceans and with nothing more than sun and star sights arrive exactly where you expected to.

Sadly not my photo but one from the Evening Standards site. Whilst we were star and moon gazing Macy the cat got out. She is grey and at night we take her collar off so she was out like a ghost. We wondered where the plantif cries were coming from at about 0530. Mind you we left out there until our normal hour to teach her a lesson!

What an absolutely brilliant morning. First thing there wasn't a cloud in the sky and sun was delicious on the back with not a breath of wind as we approached out first lock of the day. No.10 on the Athertone flight is even slower than the rest.

This time of year is by far my most favourite. The light is special as the sun is low and the leaves are changing. I love this weather when the air is still and the sun shines. There is a nip in the air when out of the sun or early morning/late evening, but when the sun is warming you it has a special feeling. I real sense of well being passes through the body and the oft used word 'mellow' seems to be appropriate. It is like the feeling when you have been gardening all day and then get into bed. The body relaxes and the warmth of the duvet just makes you want to purr like a cat. The spring is okay as there is a bursting of new life, but it gives you a feeling of hectic activity. Autumn has the feeling of a job well done and a well being before the harshness of the coming winter. This gives it a feeling of a slower pace and so a melancholy to it all. 

Even the close proximity of the main railway line did nothing to change my mood. The trains, especially the Pendalinos, give me a sense of power and a journey.

The leaves haven't started to fall yet but they are lacking the vibrant greens of the spring and are just about to change to the yellows and browns before falling. We pottered along not wanting to really arrive anywhere as the journey was the thing. We allowed this boat to pass so as not to disturb the feeling.

I like these canal building just by the bridge at Polesworth. Just past here we watched a sparrow hawk plucking a wood pigeon that it had just caught.

What bloke wouldn't love to have a little tug like this to play with. I'm sure somebody will have bagged a bargain. It is sat at Narrow Craft at Alvecote and I can't wait to see it when it is finished.

We tied up a little further past Alvecote Marina in the sunshine. After lunch I set to touching up some paint work and checking the batteries and measuring up jobs for the winter. Helen was very busy baking ginger biscuits and a victoria sponge and preparing a fruit loaf for tomorrow.

We then went for a walk to Alvecote Priory ruins just past the Marina towards Polesworth. The Priory was founded in 1159 but was always small with only about four monks living there. After Henry VIII did his thing with the establishment the ruins were incorporated into a country house in the early 18th Century. We went looking to see if the pears were ripe. We had picked loads last year but there were very few this year and were definitely not ripe. 

We left the pears but picked up far too many horse chestnuts to act as spider deterrents over the winter. The oils form last years nuts will have waned so to try to keep spiders out during the lay up we will replenish them with new. Just the other side of this building is the canal. It could be mistaken for a pill box. But no, it was built in 1291 and is a dove cote for the original Priory and is a listed building.

The dove cote still have about 300 nest holes so it must have been very big when in use. To try to save it for the future the roof has been remade of concrete which was what made me think it may have been a pill box. It is amazing to think the a 700 year old building is just next to the canal, with not even a sign to explain what it is! These old derelict buildings added to me feeling of something coming to an end, and the fact that we are almost at the end of our shortened cruise this year, gives me a some glum outlook today.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Fun in the sun.

There is nothing to say about the rugby last night so we will move swiftly on to leaving this morning basking in the sunshine as we trundled on to Atherstone.

This was close to our mooring last night. We were just round the corner from Springwood Marina and the autumn light on the trees was beautiful.

There were a few boats moving but not as many as I had imagined on a day like this. If we were going to meet a boat this is where you would expect to, a bridge hole on a blind bend. The only thing we met in this situation today was a canoeist who obligingly stopped for us.

As we approached Hartshill these swans seemed to be on a mission as they didn't want to move over for us at all. They have done well to keep six cygnets.

We were going to stop at Hartshill services to take water and dump the rubbish but somebody was already in the process so we carried on. If the Hartshill yard was in a city there would be all sorts of little businesses working from here plus food and a pub I would say. It seems a little wasted here as it is a complete package. 

Around Mancetter these alpacas were enjoying the sun and there were some baby ones too. What do you call them, foals?

We stopped on the straight before the Atherstone top lock to go and get a paper and do a little bit of shopping at the Aldis. I like Atherstone, a good honest place with a lovely selection of buildings and shops. This sign reveals why it is here. It was built on the Roman road Watling Street and this sign shows how the road maintained its importance on the Thomas Telford A5 joining London to the the ferry for Ireland on Holyhead. On the main street there are some nice coaching inns still surviving. The traffic is now diverted on a bypass and the main street, or Long Street as it is called has a good few different shops, cafes, and other services.

St Mary's Church stands on a slight hill at the top of the Market Place that is a little of Long Street. There is a nice atmosphere there and the stone church with the octagonal tower sets the whole off. There are plenty of pubs in the town so it would have been rude not to visit a couple. We chose the relatively new Angel Ale House. They had a good bear selection and I picked Citra from Oakham Brewery. It is nice and hoppy and tastes of grapefruit juice. There you are Marilyn, keep your eyes out for it and try a half! We then popped over the square to the Market Tavern which is owned by the Warwickshire Brewery so it would have been rude not to try one of their beers I picked Golden Bear and it was thick and rich and malty. 

We walked back to the boat and had some lunch and sat and read the paper for a bit before we decided that we had better move on a little. We got to the top lock and as a volunteer Lock keeper was looking after Helen I dumped our rubbish and then moved on to the next lock.

Helen approaching No.4 lock.

We stopped by No.5 to fill up with water and I got a little depressed thinking that could well be the last time this year. The lock cottage makes a nice photograph in the sun.

I love this round spill weir. How much easier it would have been perhaps to build a normal one but it certainly locks a treat despite the guard rails.

I think that this is the wall that was built by out of work hatters in the 1800's. It was built to keep poachers out of the grounds of Merevale Hall and had a look out tower at one place. There were several hat factories in the town. The last one closed in 1998 and is the damaged building above the top lock. The hatters were out of work as slavery had been abolished. Every slave on many plantations were given a woolen felt hat made in Atherstone! Who can see the many ramifications of a single action.

We continued down a few more locks and parked between 9 and 10. We have a clear view for the solar panels and so we have the best chance of seeing the Super Blood Moon between 0300 and 0400. That is if I can drag Helen out of bed.

Saturday 26 September 2015

moving on in the sun.

We had a very late start as after breakfast we popped round to see David, Marilyn and Lesley on 'Waka Huai'. There was general chat and scotch pancakes or pikelets as the NZ contingent called them. We discussed damp bilges and general chit chat before we decided to swap venues so that David could solve my IT problems in the form of my camera not working! David very quickly traced the source of the problem, a broken camera, so thanks for that diagnoses! In the end we set off after lunch following farewells for the year and possible plans for next year.

We were soon at Charity Dock near Bedworth and I think the new tableaux along the moorings have improved. I think the whole place looks neater these days, but there is still lots of room for improvement..

There is always a Tupperware party going on at the dry dock end of the dock. I don't pass often enough to know whether they ever change! The pile of scrap behind the boats must have some good stuff on it as there is the bow of a Morris Minor sat on top!

In the middle of a field was this very sparse tree. I reckon that the living bit will soon break off the rest of the dead tree. I wonder how it got in that state?

Between Hawkesbury Junction and Nuneaton there were several arms off. The first is the Newdigate Arm that went to a  colliery wharf.

The canal serviced the colliery but the canal carrying stopped before the mine closed in the end. The entrance to the arm from the Coventry Canal is still easily visible.

The second arm off was the Arbury Canal system. These were built on the Arbury Estate between 1764 and 1795. In all there were six individual canals linked together and entering the Coventry Canal.  The estate was owned by the Newdigate family and they discoverd coal and clay on their land. Along with the canals plateways interconnected the pits and wharfs too. Above can be seen one of the locks on the system. They had there own water supply on the estate so it could all be self running. The canals became unused around 1812 after the death of the son of the creator.

The last of the arms was the Griff Arm. This was also run by the Asbury Estate but was not connected with the other six canals. It serviced another of the family mines. The canal closed in about 1960. This is a picture of empty boats going under Coventry Road bridge on the way to load at the colliery wharf.

This is all that can be seen of the entrance from the Coventry Canal today.

I noticed this adorned tree on the way down and tried to capture it's sparkles. Unfortunately I failed.

Just before Nuneaton, at Chilvers Coton is Starline boats and the old wharf warehouse building. Three years ago we passed her and there was a burned out narrow boat opposite on the tow path side. We did laught when we saw it's name was 'Warm Glow'! I spotted it on the hard standing with no work seemingly to have been undertaken on it. It just shows you should think very carefully before naming your boat!

As we neared the fringes of Nuneaton we got our best view of Judkin's Mountain. or Mount Jud. It is the spoil heap from the granite quarry that was here. The quarry is no more as the whole hole has been filled in with domestic waste. It amazes me that this high tor can only be glimpsed from a distance when on the canals.

We were going to stop at Nuneaton and go to the large market there but as we were so late we thought better of it and continued a little way further and moored up in a nice quiet spot, except for the Trent Valley trains that is. I checked that there was internet and TV and settled down. As I tuned in the television I saw that last weeks bake off had just started so as Helen had missed it she got caught up. We will see what happens with the rugby latter on.

Friday 25 September 2015

Back again and moving out.

I've had a quick dash back home for a meeting and to see my Mum who is a bit crook at the moment. The trips there and back by train went very smoothly indeed. Two changes each way and all on time. The only fly in the ointment was that the air conditioning in the Cross Country train from Doncaster to Birmingham wasn't working and it got quite warm.

Helen meet me at the station and we walked back via a shop for milk. Who as ever heard of James Starley as the Father of the bicycle as he perfected the chain drive and invented the differential gear. It was his son and nephew that continued the business. They it was that invented the safety bicycle that had a diamond shaped frame, a chain drive and 26" wheels that were much safer than a penny farthing. It was called the Rover. 26" is still the standard wheel size. They became so popular that in Polish and other languages the word for bicycle is Rover, as hoover is to vacuum cleaner. The company eventually morphed into the Rover Group of vehicle manufacturers.

As we had over stayed out welcome as soon as I was changed and the kettle on we set off, but only as far as the services to do the needful. Following that we went through the little bridge and moored up outside to take water.

Along the Coventry Arm is a trail of sculptures. This one is near the bridge and is called 'Journeyman'. We left the water point at 1750 so it was going to bv pretty dark when we got to the junction.

Near the basin there has been some development that tidies up the area. There are many more houses going up that will only help. The towpath and cut is much tidier than the last town we were down this way. In fact when we met a boat at a bridge and having to go astern I was sure that we would pick up some rubbish but we were all clear. The only thing that is a sour note that on the journeys in and out we saw several rats brazenly running about the tow path. I would think a bit of a campaign to erradicate them should be undertaken.

The eveing light was lovely as we approached Longford.

We passed the Rioch Stadium that now hosts rugby union matches for Wasps. I'm not sure if Coventry FC play there still but I think not.

We arrived at the junction at 1930 and it was getting quite dark. there were no moorings for quite a way up the Coventry Canal but we were all done and dusted by 1950 and by then it was pretty dark.