Friday 24 July 2020

Goodbye for now playmates

Come the morning we had planned to have coffee with Lesley and Joe prior to us departing, I had secured tickets online for the gardens only at the National Trust property Wightwick Manor, HERE      its about a three minute walk from the canal there, although the Manor itself is a big draw for crowds, the gardens are pretty and I love gardens.  
Wightwick was not too far away but mid morning coffee had to be had very early so we could get there at the strict admittance times.

We said goodbye and had big socially distanced hugs (not) Joe and Lesley are going south and are out for weeks.  We are returning to base.   HERE
We left first or I waould have got a shot of the lovely, gleaming NB Steadfast in action.

Borrowed by kind permission of Lesley for that one.

We went off, it was a delightful morning and a joy to be out. The gardens were lovely, modest but lovely.  The social distancing thing worked fine, but I felt there could have been more people allowed in at similar times, plenty of space for all.  Good luck to the NT on getting some money in.  I wanted to make a cash donation to Wightwick, not an online donation to the NT in general.  This proved tricky as there are no tills open, bar the vegetable honesty box.  But the general manager passed by and I was able to put my cash into the parking donation box which is currently in a closed office.
What times we live in. 

Lace cap Hydrangea I liked. 

Wightwick Manor. Not Tudor but Arts and Crafts Late C19th.

Thought we should get under this tree very quick lest it fell on us.

We went on, stopping at Oxley Marine again to fill up with diesel at a good price.  
Over the last couple of days onboard we stopped at Coven and then Penkridge, this time stopping right outside another garden that was full of Sweet Peas.  Every now and then the perfume wafted into the cratch where I was relaxing with a great book, The Dry by Jane Harper.  
Supper that night was tremendous, David had wanted steak for his delayed Birthday Supper, we generally follow a veggie diet these days, unusual for a farmer, don't tell anyone but we also eat a bit of Vegan food too!!   but we had brought fillet steak which melted in the mouth from M&S in Kidderminster, 
plus real chips that were roasted in the oven and frankly were absolutely delicious.
Dessert was strawberries and cream.  

The M6, I always feel super smug looking at motorways from WaL, so glad not to be on there.

Next time we'll moor opposite here to gaze right down this pretty valley

A bit late in the season me thinks to get these grown before winter.

We had our last night on Tixall Wide, as did over eleven boats when I lost count.  David scrubbed the green cratch cover (Its now black again) and I packed our bags.  Next to the boat was this large planty shrub, looking much like thistles but the leaves were not.  It was absolutely buzzing with insects, bees and butterflies.  I was tempted to dig a bit up to bring home for the garden.   

Peacock butterfly?

Unknown butterfly

I would hazard a guess at a Red Admiral 

No idea.

We are home again now, WaL was delivered into the careful hands of our "Boat Sharers" Amanda and David.  They have her for a week so they could easily do the Llangollen canal and get to Braunston, possible down to London.  If you see them say hello.

We'll be back later.

Forgot to say another visitor at Tixall, it stayed quite a while too.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

A long day but worth it

So we left Kidderminster after I had returned three pairs of jeans to M&S and brought a quite different fourth pair.  David's 85th birthday fast approaches and we had brought all sorts of edible goodies for his "Birthday Week", I had a birthday week last year and now he wants one.  I shall be extending mine to a Birthday Month next March (Its a WHOPPER!).

It was finally a really lovely day, we did retrieve the sun cream too.  Below is a most attractive lock that I have certainly photographed before, is it Falling Sands Lock or the other one? Either way its pretty impressive.
The sun shone, hardly another boat anywhere and everything in the garden is rosy.

WaL coming into the lock, is that faded red paint I can see?  Maybe we should have her repainted....

Looks like the paving stones have been replaced but I hope these are protected, I love these echo's of former lives spent on the canals, by folk with a lot harder lives than we have.

I was hopping on and off here, trying to get a shot of WaL coming through the viaduct, its not a bad shot I guess but then walking on a bit I realised that I had missed out the original canal bridge out so here's another.

So faded......

We carried on to Stourport, the chandler shop has still got stock in it but not open, so you call them and go find them in a warehouse away a bit.  Evidently the lease is up on the shop and they are not renewing.  The business will go all online.  

We filled with water and departed the way we came.  Back through Kidderminster, quite a few boats there now.

The iconic church view here.

Around the corner at Sainsbury's was a very recognisable boat, NB Chuffed, home to Dave and Debby,    HERE
I look upon Debby as my Wild Flower consultant identifier, she has commented many times on this blog to help me out, Debby I was sorry that we couldn't stop and meet properly but next time!

NB Chuffed and Debby.

Below this is James, he works all week he told me but he does not want to sit in a pub all weekend so he bikes out to help with locking, today he was here at Debdale Lock but sometimes he cycles over to the Delph Flight or the Stourbridge Flight to help any boater.  Lovely chap, broad Yorkshire accent and he wants to retire to Scarborough.
Say hello if you meet him.

James, Lock helper.

We have friends in Kinver and we were delighted to receive them onboard for dwinks and even more delighted to be invited for supper at their cottage too.  Sarah and Chris, a very interesting pair, Sarah also has blogged about their time afloat  HERE , she is currently working on her blog and will update it soon.

Lovely to have caught with you both, next time we are down the supper will be on us.

The next morning very early at about 8am, we were up and at 'um, as we pulled away a boat moored just in front of us had its captain on deck preparing also to pull away, we had come up behind them yesterday and they weren't fast, so we were delighted to have the lock advantage this morning.
The Vine pub was closed last year, its had a chequered recent past, but today it has new umbrellas and a lick of paint too, looking very much smarter.  Good luck to it.

The Vine at Kinver.

So looking at the boat below, its moored on the CART line moorings, I object to the paint which is totally flaking off into the canal and later into the sea from an environmental position, I had thought as we passed it on the way down it was deserted but no, its someone's home, but how long till it sinks and becomes a major environmental problem? 
Who's problem then? 

Glorious sunny views across open meadows, a few boats here today.  

He's listening to the cricket!

He always copies my ideas and beats me to Instagram to post them....

There's something about how the canal disappears around the hill here just north of Swindon that I love.

I absolutely believe in free will but I still was surprised that this man was washing the outside of his fence.... Nice garden and all but the outside of his fence...? 
Strange I call that. 

Now if someone can tell me if this below is Japanese Knotweed, that introduced and highly invasive weed that cannot be pulled out or destroyed by any known means to man, then we do have a big problem as its all though this patch of woodland growing unchecked....

We pushed on, a five hour cruise, unheard of for us but we did it for them....
Joe and Lesley of now NB Steadfast.  HERE  We have had a bucket full of adventures with them in the past with them on their other boat NB Yarwood  HERE this was when we crossed the Wash back a few years....

NB Steadfast looking totally glistening David after their repaint!

Supper was a great feast together with much giggling again after a long while.

Risking life and limb in Kidderminster

We had enjoyed an easy run down to Swindon last night, but it had suddenly got cold 13 mins before we moored up, the heating had gone on and not at my behest but David's! 

Anyway today was bright-ish and steadily got better, I tell you this Reader because I am receiving photos of babies in summer romper suits & sun hats and having their meals in the garden, I have low level MOI (Missy Out Itus) say it out loud if you don't get.
Our sun cream stayed in the drawer.

Gorgeous wooded hills as a back drop to WaL

NOTE this wide gravel towpath here, more about the consequences of that later.

It really is lovely down here, the scenery is delightful, the people in general are chatty and friendly and the fishermen are the jolliest in the country I think, they smile and greet you, almost unheard of on other canals where scowling and muttered curses are the order of most days. 

Spectacular scenery to goggle at. 

Cookley, I think this is pretty amazing and worthy of the Dordogne.  Some of these houses shown below have "Gardens" which come right down to the canal itself, paths suitable for all breeds of goats.  Frankly I would be twitchy putting the washing out but all the houses were occupied when we cycled past them last year.

I would like to say hello to the owners of NB City of Durham, which has a big Pink Panther painted on it, the captain reads this blog,  I'm so sorry we didn't get to exchange names but hello anyway, did we met before?  David thought he recognised the boat.

Frequent Flyers to this blog will remember that we were here in Wolverley for a few days whilst we had our TERRIFIC solar panels fitted by Pete the Electrician ( He was terrific too email me for his details), but there was a kerfuffle here about a landslip, the lane involved is an old one, today used as a Rat Run by locals, the slip was caused by Severn Water's pipe leak and by golly a whole year later nothing has changed, the arguments continue behind the scenes of liability we are told.  If you look carefully at the photos you will see that the fallen trees are now sprouting covering up the Danger and Go Slow signs.


New growth coming along nicely, the road is closed to car access but bikes can pass by.  A local resident told us that he thinks the road, unstable in other places will not be repaired for cars, just access to the houses.

We had a big discussion about should we stop and enjoy a burger here at The Lock Pub in Wolverley, these are tremendous, but looking at the place, there didn't appear to be any Take Away signs, the clientele were not socially distanced in anyway and given that it was close to closing anyway we pushed on.  
We rocked up in Kidderminster, moored up right outside the supermarkets and went shopping in our masks and gloves and sanitiser.   The new norm.
We managed to get some kit for the boat in Tesco!  Seeing as the chandlers are thin on the ground you have to make do.

The sole moorers again for the third or fourth night I think in a row, no problems at all here in the town centre, well except the uncomfortably high levels of poo from the loathed Canadian Geese.

Supper was chicken bacon and avocado salad with coffee mousse surprise! 

Coffee mousse, very similar to blackberry surprise.

Monday 20 July 2020

So where are all these boats?

We had been alone moored here at Wightwick I don't know what it is about these moorings,  (Its pronounced Whittick, remember we are in The Black Country here and they speak different), but close to the moorings is a shortish stretch with several bends and motorbikes must come from miles around to drive as fast as they can and as noisily as they can.  I hope they all carry Organ Donation Cards......

I had wanted to visit the gardens here, but they were sold out for the online tickets that is all they have due to Covid19.  We will try to go another time.

But after a wet night we set off about mid morning.  This below is the second lock you come to after the first one. 


This is Ebstree Lock.

One great feature of this Canal, is that on virtually all locks there is a wee bridge to make locking so much quicker and to preserve energy in middle aged Lock wheelers (me).
But this one has a trick up its sleeve in that you have to be a waif to get past the lock gate arms.  Were canal folk so underfed back in the 1760's one asks oneself? 

Its a gorgeous run through here and along to the Bratch Locks.  Though this gap in the hedge you get an idea of the rolling hills and dense woodland that makes the West Midlands so very very very attractive.  But please don't tell anyone, let the masses hike off to the South of France.

Bratch Locks, today the Lock Keeper said they had been busy but we hadn't seen a single boat moving.

Soon after Bratch Locks is the Botterham Staircase flight.  These were a bit tough to open so David and I swapped over and he did some work.  Obviously I had to supervise him.

Three pretty deep locks in a row, this is the first one.

With a Staircase Flight, its a wee bit different to operate, first thing you do is read the instruction board, the second thing is to read it again because you think they have made a 
mistake.....  But you need to fill the top lock to go into, then empty the second, so the first lockful of water goes down with you and you don't flood the surrounding areas...  It was muddy in places so someone had done exactly that. 

My view as I exited the first chamber.  He's doing alright so far.

So this was David, being checked by me as he emptied the second chamber, anyway, he emptied it and that was correct.  He is not keen on being supervised.

Todays Pretties

Pretty fluffy white stuff with bee.

I do prefer the pink flowers on brambles.

As a child I think this was what my grandmother called Tansey.

Comfrey thank you Debby, purple, anyone know?

It was a bit longer day than I would have chosen and we finally stopped at Swindon.  The only boat on the often full visitor moorings.  A sunny end to the day but chilly.

Supper was wild salmon with broccoli and peas.