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Tuesday 25 May 2021

On Holiday in Lichfield.

 We managed to get a few days away on the boat. I had every intention of getting on with a few jobs when we got there. We left home Monday and travelled the couple of hours down to Kings Bromley. The boat was dry and warm, which was saying more than the weather, which was wet and cold! I have lots of sanding and washing to do on the outside, but with the weather that wasn't possible. We had brought the vacuum cleaner to give the insides a good clean, but I couldn't get enthusiastic about anything to I lit the fire!!!! and flashed up the lap top as I have to construct a talk for a WI about the canals for next month. The TV came on later too.

Today the weather started cold and wet once more. And once more I didn't 'feel' the urge to crack on with jobs. I had decided this is a holiday, so the work camp is postponed. Instead Helen maneuvered the vacuum cleaner, I washed up and did other things until we set off for some sight seeing and shopping in Lichfield. It is only a 10 minute drive away and we found a good parking spot not too far from the centre.

As we wandered around the town there were,of course, some shops, and Helen disclosed that she was looking for a couple of items for her wardrobe. And lo and behold we found both of them, and at sale prices so happy days. It really did feel like a holiday as we had lunch inside a cafe, my first time for ages, and a cup of tea and slice of cake was had in the afternoon too!!!

The Cathedral opened at 13:00 and we entered soon after. When we hade been before the Cathedral was closed to visitors for a wedding or something, so we crossed the close and spent a couple of hours in the Erasmus Darwin house which was very interesting. This time the cathedral was open and at no cost too.

the main entrance to the Cathedral with its triple spires is very ornate, with plenty of statue niches that still have the statues in. The church is dedicated to St. Chad and St. Mary . St Chad was the Bishopof Mercia that moved the centre of the see to Lichfield from Repton. The first church was built here in 700 and mainly to house the remains of St. Chad.

The exterior is pretty ornate and it is so lucky that it has survived as during the civil war the Cathedral Close was under siege three times. The cathedral was desecrated by the troops, bombardment brought down the central tower. The exterior is the finest thing about the Cathedral as the interior is not that glamourous. We did spend a couple of hours looking round so it isn't barren. Maybe we have been spoiled.

Wandering around the town I noticed this new conversion. It is the old Regal Cinema that was opened in 1932 with an Art Deco/Egyptian styling. It was designed by a Birmingham architect and had seating for 1000 in the stalls and 300 in the circle It also housed a cafe. By the Sixties Bingo was offered on some days and by 1974 it showed its last film, Bruce Lee in 'The Big Boss'. From then it was bingo only. Further horrors were bestowed upon the building at the end of the 1970's when it was converted to a Kwik Save supermarket with a snooker hall above. In 2008 it was for sale and various plans were put forward, mainly to demolish the rear and keeping the facade. It finally happened in 2018 when this conversion started. It seems an ideal solution for a new use for a distinctive building in the city centre. 36 1 and 2 bedroom 'apartments' were made. There is no parking which seems a drawback, but I would have thought its location would be good for older folk as the centre of the city is on their doorstep and even commuters, as the train to Brum is only about 5 minutes walk away. They are costing between £138,000 and £272,500.

The Regal Cinema in its hey day.

Further up Tamworth Street is the betting shop of William Hill. Whilst obviously an older building it doesn't really stand out until you see.....

The cockerels by the entrance along with the date stone of 1865 

Looking into the building it seems that it has cockerels by the door as this was at one time a poulterer. The business belonged to Henry Welch who was born in 1825 in Rugeley, Staffs. It seems he was a servant to a banker and Magistrate in Lichfield in 1851, and was married to Elizabeth from Harefield in Middlesex By the next census he was a Cheese Factor in Market Street. It looks like his eldest son, also Henry, took over the running of the business in the middle 1870's.

This advert from 1888 shows that Henry Junior was not afraid of expanding the business, both the shop and range.

In this advert from 1899 he has once again expanded, having knocked down the building and rebuilt. All I can assume is that he returned the facade and built behind. The original building seems to have been built in 1865. There are addresses of 19 and 27 Tamworth Street. I think No.27 was where they lived. Henry junior in later life lived in Lombard Street just close by. The shop was well known for its fantastic Christmas window displays.

However in 1902 I have found an entry for the business being in court over debts. It seems that they owed £1525 and had assets of only £465, but had secured payments of £900. It seems that they survived as they were still in business in 1916. Henry died in 1917, aged 66. He had been in the choir at the Cathedral for 55 years. In fact his younger brother, George, sang professionally. Henry junior's eldest son also Henry was running the Board of Trade Employment office in Herefordshire. The second son, John, was running the business and the two younger sons were on active service, William was a Sergeant in the Lichfield Territorials and had been at the front for two years. The youngest, Leonard was a radio operator in the Royal Navy.

The only disappointment of the day was that I didn't get a pint of Joule's Pale as although supposed to open at 4 pm the Angel didn't! All locked up at ten past! There is another Joule's pub in Lichfield, the Duke of York, but this didn't open at all today.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Moor of the same?

 Whilst we were away on our list trip I started to notice how boats were moored up. When we first came away on the canals we would moor anywhere that we fancied, and was not obstructing other users. We would cut down the vegetation on the edge of tow path to facilitate getting on and off the boat. So long as I was able to leap off with the centre rope it was a good moorings. I would then hammer in the pins and moor up. We often used our gang plank. We had an especially long one that was very useful on the Kennet and Avon as many of the moorings are taken up seemingly permanently, so a rougher mooring was required much more often.

Quite an overgrown mooring on the Kennet and Avon
Over the years we have used the gangplank less and less, and the mooring pins hardly at all. I'm unsure as to whether this is due to laziness or old age,and wanting a berth where we can just hook into, or that over the years the length of towpath that have been shuttered has increased to the level that you don't have to travel too far to find a stretch of Armco to tie up against. It does seem to be the favoured method of repair of the canal banks, and on many tow paths you can see that its width has been increased by the provision of a new length of shuttering and then infilled with dredgings, so killing two birds with one stone. The extent of this is often revealed when the original banks steel work is revealed as the towpath is worn down by use and it shows that the width has increased.

New Armco extending the width of the tow path, but reducing the available canal.

A boat adrift as its moorings had failed.

The fact that people seem reticent to moor to a none hard edge bank now a days seems proved, and another reason for this fact is that there seems to be a perception that boats are speeding past moored boats more than they used to, and more likely to pull the pins out, setting the boat adrift. I'm not sure whether this is true, and even if it is it may also be exaggerated by the fact that it seems there is a commensurate increase in the number of people that don't seem to know how to tie up their boats securely.

Armco is a trade mark and was first used as a crash barrier in American motor racing tracks. It was 'invented' by the Sheffield Steel Corp. of Kansas in 1933 and has largely remained unchanged since then. The adopted the name Armco in 1948. I'm not sure that the shuttering used on the canals is the same but that it what it seems to be widely called. 
There also seems to be a difference in what method people use to time up to Armco. During our last trip out I was quite surprised at the number of boats that were moored using 'nappy pins', or safety pins. These are the ones that hook behind the horizontal length of Armco that ties in the verticals above the water line and below the level of the tow path. They hook in and when the mooring rope is passed through the enclosed end and tightened ensures that the hooked end remains engaged behind that metal brace. The other method of securing to Armco is to use a mooring chain that has a ring in each end, one larger than the other such that the smaller on can pass through the other. These are secured by passing the smaller chain down behind the same horizontal brace used with the 'nappy pins' this is then brought up on the outside, passed through the larger ring and then pulled tight so the chain fits snugly around the brace. The mooring rope is then passed through the small ring and the boat moored up. My surprise was the fact that many more boats seemed to be using the nappy pins than mooring chains!

Mooring or piling hook, and in situ.
In my experience the chains are much more reliable than the hooks. Hooks maybe easier to locate quickly behind the metal when mooring up, as you do not need to kneel on the towpath to drop them down and then bring them up again on the outside. However they are only secure so long as the mooring rope stays tight. As soon as the their is slack the hook can move up and down and eventually it may have enough freedom to twist and drop so that it call leave the piling. I have often come across boats where this has happened and have had to re moor boats for absent owners.  I suppose this is a failure of the securing of the mooring rope rather than that of the 'nappy pin'. The chain can only come adrift if something fails, the rope of the chain. In my ad hoc survey it looked like there was 80% to 20% ration of nappy pin uses to chains.

Mooring chain which is looped around the horizontal piling

Having slack mooring ropes in either system, and a speeding boat will cause great stress on that horizontal galvanized brace when the boat is brought up short. It can be often seen on lengths of Armco where this brace has been pulled away from the rest of the mooring. It is only bolted together  every few metres. If this happens it presents a very dangerous sharp edge to damage boats, and render the length of mooring unusable. To try and combat this I would recommend, which ever method you use, to locate the chain of hook just the other side of where it is bolted. This will minimise the chance of shook loads on the Armco.

When an extra long gang plank comes in handy.

If you are looking for a less crowded mooring, away from other moorers etc, I would recommend having a pair of hedge shears, a long'ish gangplank with no slip treads, and maybe a rope attached to one end so that you can tie it off to the boat so that it doesn't float off. Obviously you will need good length mooring pins and a lump hammer to place them. You should be fine if you ensure there is little slack in your ropes, and check the pins are well located, doubling up if required. The more we use more of the tow path the more the towpath will be kept clear and the less chance of the towpath side getting silted up stopping boats getting alongside. Good luck in finding that perfect mooring that you don't have to share with other boats.

Friday 14 May 2021

'Til the Next Time.

 Back home there is time to reflect on the trip, and the new style of cruising we are doing this year. New to us that is as I think the majority of people already do it this way. We have taken an annual mooring in a marina for the first time, before we had moved marinas every time we went home and only remained in one place over winter. Over the last eight years we have covered the entire canal and river system, plus some, (bar one or two short sections that we will remedy over time), and we are looking to go more slowly and spend time looking around the countryside by the canal. Helen has now got a FIT BIT and is been bullied by it to get her steps in etc. It is a good way to get us to get out and about on walks from the boat. This last three weeks we have had some great walks and seen some lovely countryside. I enjoy looking at maps and picking and planning routes so we are both enjoying it. I do go on the walks too, in case you wondered!

A lovely walk up on Cannock Chase.

There is a good advantage of having the car at the end of the trip to just load up and depart, but a draw back could be that you have to cover a section of the canal repeatedly to get to 'new' ground. However if needed we can transit this area in as short or long a period as we want, putting in long days just to get through it, and as I just like standing on the after deck and steering it is not too much of a problem to me

We were a way 20 days and covered 96 and a half miles and passed through 74 locks. 

Another result of Helen having a Fit Bit now means that she seems to want to do all the locks now. Some people have all the fun!

The engine hours were 59.1 hours so that was just under 3 hours a day. We topped up with fuel when we got back to the marina and took on 96.9 litres so that is 1.64 litres per hour. However to come off that is the fuel used by the Hurricane heater, and I forgot to take the end reading of that. At a minimum it will have been on for an hour a day to heat the water so if I say 20 hours, and the given consumption is 0.84 litres per hour or 16.8 ltrs. Take that away from the total consumption gives 80 litres so the average is 1.35 litres per hour which doesn't sound too bad.

It is only when you get back on the Trent and Mersey proper that you appreciate just how shallow the Caldon Canal is, and that must affect the diesel usage too.

All system seemed to work satisfactorily. There was a smell of gas in the gas locker  and rubber hoses fitted and add in a Bubble Tester at the same time. The oven grill hadn't been working for a while so we had that fixed with a new thermo couple too. I failed to treat any paintwork, wash the boat or polish it at all, although I did do several little jobs that needed doing. I'm afraid that when cruising I lack motivation to do paintwork repairs etc. I have decided that with the boat in a marina I will head down there for a few days and get that sort of work do, so as not to detract from the enjoyment when we are out and about, although I don't mind washing the boat every now and then.

The new regulator and bubble tester in place.

It had been quite a while since we had been up the Caldon Canal and were pleased to be reacquainted with it as it is a lovely trip. I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet the canals still were after folk were allowed out on their boats. We found some lovely sights on our walks that is encouraging as that was the plan, to see more of what is beside the canal now we have seen the canals themselves.

Beautiful walk from a Sandon mooring.

Si I am looking forward to our next trip, but haven't decided where to go yet.

Thursday 13 May 2021

Back in Kings Bromley.

 I was woken in the night about 0430. The noise was something like the chain on the chimney, that was tow path side, dragging across the roof. I was convinced that somebody was stealing our chimney. Up I shot and went to the stern door to find.... nothing and nobody, but the chimney still in place. I lingered for about 15 minuets as there was a beautiful morning sky with the stars still bright. In the past this would be when I would have been getting ready to take morning star sights. Nautical twilight is when the suns disc is still about a semi diameter below the horizon. This means that it is dark enough to see the stars but light enough to sea the horizon and use the sextant. Astronomical twilight is too dark for the horizon and is when the sun is still a full diameter below the horizon. Civil twilight is when the suns disc just peeps above the horizon. I went straight back to sleep, and Helen didn't even know I had been up. I don't know what I would have done if I had found somebody making away with my stainless steel, double skinned chimney as I was starkers!!

Just up from our overnight mooring is an apprentice Charity Dock. Every time we pass there seem to be more models on display. It has a name too, 'Naomi'sl landing' and a Facebook page of the same name. There is no room for the junk though, although a little further out of town, towards the aqueduct somebody seems to be having a go at the aspect of Charity Dock too!

Whilst not a lot of repair seems to have occurred to this building in Rugeley it seems to be occupied now. When I look at old maps it is called the Trent and Mersey Flour Mill in 1882.

By the 1921 map is is known as the Foward Works and is noted as a cork sock works! It seems that around that time Fowell and Jones took on the old mill and they made cork linings for shoes. They also used wool, horsehair and even swans down for the linings, or socks. In 1935 they were taken over by a an American company based in London doing much the same. When WWII broke out the turned to makeing gas masks and bomb and gas proof shelters and seem to have gone out of business by the end of the war.. I expect there have been a variety of uses since then and it is so good that it is still standing.

As we approached Armitage an hire boat came up behind us. It was obvious our tick over was a lot less than theirs as there were long lines of moored boats to pass. He didn't want to overtake before the tunnel. There was a woman seemed to be lingering at the far end of the tunnel so discretion being the better part of valour Helen jumped off to see if there was anything coming. You can see up the tunnel coming this way, but not the other. The woman was having a crafty fag, so we sped through. After we had passed the long line of boats at Spode Hall I pulled over before the Armitage Shanks Factory to let them pass.

The gorse is just coming into bloom and we could cathc a faint whiff of the coconut smell of the flower. Although there doesn't seem to be as much rape round here as back home we also had faint whiffs on the breeze of the rape bloom too. Helen has come down with a little hay fever she thinks and it must be tree pollen I think.

This stretch seems to take ages so it was just as well the weather was fine too. I think physiologically I tend to go much slower on the last day before we go home to make the last day seem to last longer. 

There were a few boats moving but we were back at Kings Bromley before lunch. We backed into the fuel jetty and topped up with fuel before pulling out and round to our berth again. It does seem strange to be reurning to the same place we left. We have never done that before, but it does make it much quicker to just load the car up without having to catch a bus and trains back home to get the car to come back and get Helen and Macy Cat. Then again, I did quite like the rail journeys and catching connections etc. I have been missing train travel We were moored up by 1230 and leaving before 1500, and back home just after 1700.

The grass wasn't too long so it can't have had much rain whilst we have been away. No1. daughter had been in and watered the plants so they were all alive, and there was nothing too bad in the post. All in all it was nice to be back home, for a while.

Wednesday 12 May 2021

Diary Day and Natural Wonders.

Today is Diary Day and the Mass Observation are looking for the days diary entries. Mass observation started in 1937 and they are collected and all available to inspect. If you look at the link below it will tell you all about it.

I wonder if they will take the days blog as they will take all media, poems etc.


Helen popped to M&S to see if here were any bargains to be had and then we were off.

We were soon at Aston Lock and the sun was glinting on the ripples on the water. When we had lowered down I saw a boat leave the exit of Aston Marina in the distance. It turned towards the lock so we left the gates open. Just as we were clearing the lock landing he swung back into the entrance of the marina. I wish he had indicated he was going to do that. Full astern and back to the landing to run back and close the gates.

I really enjoy this stretch of canal between Aston and Sandon Locks. There is plenty of mooring, no offside moorers, but bends and bridges and views and enough to keep you alert.

It is nice and quiet too at the moment Just peaceful and quiet.

There were eleven goslings in this brood. I don't think I have seen so many, and they are not newly hatched either. They obviously do a good job in cutting the grass for C&RT. Has anybody seen a Fountain's crew out this year? I haven't as yet.

These guys were also well impressed with the gosling numbers too.

I wonder if HS2 went through the land of some Earl or Marquis would they agree to make it more attractive. Maybe they would shield it from view or plant trees etc. Mind you by the looks of it they are trying to do the same where ever there are houses about. Cutting the canal  must have made a massive scar on the land, as did the railway lines. However we all love the canals now and disused railway lines have been purloined as roads, cycle routes or walking routes or reclaimed as well as making green corridors for the wildlife. HS" will make a real mess of the landscape where it goes, but eventually it will become accepted and in a generation it will be just normal!

On this stretch of canal there are these signs, mainly on the offside, that seem to enumerate cloughs, sluices and weirs. Obviously they are to identifier them, but I would love to know why are they numbered north to south when the bridge and locks are numbered south to North? Or is that the reason so that the numbers of these does not coincide with the bridges??

At Hoomill Lock the newly burst leaves on the trees were golden green, and very bright in the gloom before a shower. The colours of the trees are so vibrant when they just come out.

Great Haywood was extremely quiet, as we approached the bridge from the north I saw two boats turn down the Staffs. and Worcs, but otherwise nothing. There were notices on the tow path saying the moorings were temporarily closed. I couldn't read why but I expect there will be a floating market of something coming along soon.

The sun really came out at Great Haywood after a shower and once moor the green in the sun were a joy to behold.

We were going to moor near Taft Farm but there was no room, then there was no room before the Trent Aqueduct and so we went across and found some where to moor before the middle of Rugeley. We were secure and kettle on when the thunder and lightning struck. I then heard what I thought was a train on the line nearby. However it became obvious that it was hailstones. As the time went on it got louder as the size of the stones got larger. I was wondering if there would be any paint left on the roof!

These were the size of them at the end. They have been up and down in the thunder cloud to get that size. I remember when I was very young that we had hail stones that were like golf balls!!

Once I had a cup of tea and a biscuit in me I got on blacking the stove and now I think I am going to light it too!

Tuesday 11 May 2021

It's a Gas.

 Today we were off a little early as we were only going to Canal Cruises yard as were having some work done/

They has asked us to arrive between 10 and 1030 as Monday is the day they change over n the dry docks so there was a lot of boat shifting to do. We edged our way past  Fullers yard and to Limekiln Lock and then down Newcastle Road Lock.

I was trying to catch the drips from the weed that were glinting in the sunlight, but still it looks okay.

We moored up at 1015 and reported in to be told that the gas engineer was off at an appointment. He got back at 1215 and started on the work.

The gas regulator was not functioning correctly apparently and I had asked to have fitted a bubble tester. To be honest I only went in in the first place as I smelled gas in the gas locker. Everything was cropped out

The new regulator was fitted in the seat locker and the bubble tester too. The other job was to fit a new thermocouple for the grill.

Once all was installed he tested it all and found it was leaking. So everything was taken out again and it was found the olive on the bubble tester had got damaged! It was 18:30 when we left and alot of money lighter. Hey ho!!

I was able to have a good look at the new Joule's Brewery tap. You can see the finials that are the same as on the old brewery as well as the initials in the peaks and even the Joules cross in the veranda supports.

The sheds and dry docks are old and make a great ensemble for the yard. a little like that at Braunston.

We managed to spring off into the strong wind and get round to head into yard lock after 1830. We then went down Star lock and took some water before carrying on to find a mooring for the night. Near the end of the moorings was a space that we just fitted in and settled in.