It has been a while since I last posted about our narrowboat travels! A busy few months indeed! We travelled from the bottom of the flight near Stourbridge to Wolverhampton and then on to Birmingham. Due to the fact that we rarely plan anything properly we came across a few stumbling blocks. During winter there are closures all over the canal system to allow the Canal and river trust to make repairs to the locks , canal and towpath. This often involves draining a stretch of water and can last months. Everyone is given fair warning and there is a map with planned winter closures. We just assumed that as it was nearly the end of the winter period that everything would be done and back to normal. How wrong could we be?
Upon entering the first lock we were advised by a member of the public that a few locks up it was under repair and not likely to be open for another few weeks. This meant that we could not take our chosen route and would have to wait or go the long way round. We dragged the boat back out of the lock and decided to go the alternative route via Wolverhampton. This is not my favourite place, I lived there for a while as a child and can’t say I have fond memories.
We got to the bottom of the Wolverhampton flight, a nice spot by Napton Narrowboats and moored up only to find that it too was closed. Yes we really are that disorganised!
It wasn’t too much of a problem we just had a 2 week wait for it to open and we could head on into Birmingham City centre.
Spring was in the air and a beautiful Cherry blossom tree at the entrance to the Shropshire Canal welcomed us as we filled with water and set up for the duration.
The sound of owls filed the nights and we were fortunate enough to have one sail over our head and land in the tree in front of us. Matt calls to them and they usually appear next to us hoping their luck is in with another fruity owl, only to be sadly disappointed by our ugly mugs.
While waiting to carry on our journey it was the perfect time to finish a beautiful blanket design by Janie Crow. The Lily Pond Blanket in cherry blossom colourway, I was determined to get a photo by the cherry tree. I’m always looking for great photo opportunities and that was one I didn’t want to miss!
We eventually carried on through up the flight only to find that one of the pounds had drained and we had to then flood water back down to fill it back up. This was more complicated than it sounds. Some pounds were over filling onto the towpath and some were not filling fast enough. There were quite a few gangs of youths hanging about smoking weed and looking bored so I managed to enlist some of them to help with closing and opening gates. My quite small and dainty friend Paula shouted for help to a Polish man , muttering away to himself under the bridge. He tried to say something about not speaking English so she just shouted HELP louder, as we do! He then came to help her close the gate. We were cold wet , covered in mud and totally exhausted by the end of this 7 hour ordeal but we made it and had a really delicious Chinese meal and bottle of wine, or was it 2?,to soothe the pain.
We eventually arrived in Birmingham after coming across yet more closures and having to reroute. It was the filthiest stretch of canal I have ever seen. The fly tipping in the areas around Birmingham is the worst I have ever seen in my history of travelling around the world. Fridges rolling down embankments, literally thousands of plastic bottles, bags of rubbish, broken glass on the towpath ( a pristine cycle path I might add) Sofas in the canal and the scariest thing I saw was a child’s padded romper suit floating face down in the canal. We both stopped the boats to check that it was empty, it made my blood run cold. I did email The Canal and River Trust who replied that they clean up the rubbish and needles as fast as they can but it is an overwhelming task with more appearing faster than they can clear it.
A few years ago we travelled through Minworth lock which used to be kept in pristine condition by the lock keeper. Matt spoke to the lockkeeper and he showed him the plaque proudly displayed above the door. It is now surrounded by piles of rubbish. It really is a shame that we humans have to create so much filth and dispose of it so carelessly.
We spent a lovely few days in the heart of Birmingham, where the canal is kept beautifully and the surrounding cafes and bars are a welcome sight .
We moved away from the city and carried on to the Coventry canal passing through Kingsbury , Atherstone , Hartshill and Nuneaton. This is the area where both of us went to school and know many people. Not the best areas regarding reputation but there are some beautiful spots to moor, some great pubs to eat in and of course lots of our friends and family.
If you do happen to pass that way don’t miss out on the huge portions of quality food at The Malt shovel in Hartshill ( the mixed grill is legendary) or the, slightly more expensive ,Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury junction ( my favourite being the pies!)
We had to wait to get in to Charity Dock to do our hull blacking so we decided to spend a couple of weeks up at Hawkesbury Junction, otherwise known as Sutton Stop or if you tend to go by pubs The Greyhound just outside of Coventry.
I was unsure about mooring here but how wrong could I be? We met so many great people. Here the cyclists, fishermen, local house dwellers, tow path drinkers, pub visitors, marina dwellers, hire boaters and continuous cruisers all happily mingle together and the atmosphere is wonderful. Such a fantastic friendly spot in my experience. we made friends and had so many visitors it has made me question my recent hermit lifestyle. I really did enjoy the company and friendship, it does get quite lonely when you are on the move and it made a welcome change.
I spent my time not just relaxing but also varnishing the wood cabin on NB Recalcitrant. She needs a bit of maintenance every year to keep her beautiful pallet wood surround in tip top condition.
We also had a few knocks on the door and passing people comment that they had seen us mentioned on the last vlogger @cruisingthecut video blog. ” Leaving The Ashby Canal …” Fame at last ! Check us out about half way through. Here
We travelled a short distance to Charity Dock, a treasure trove owned by Pete Gilbert once featured on the TV programme Salvage Hunters. Now safely inside the dry dock we have started blacking the 70 ft boat. This involves navigating into the dry dock where the water is let out and you are left standing on wooden blocks so you can reach the hull to scrub and paint it with several layers of bitumen . We have opted to do the work ourselves as many hardy, enthusiastic boaters do!
It took us a while to get in as there was a lot of silt on the canal entrance and were heavily laden with huge tubs of bitumen, tools, welding machine etc at the back plus our steering was not very good after the rudder got caught in a lock near Stourbridge and had pulled and bent everything out of shape. We caused a 10 minute or so traffic jam for a few boats who were really impatient . I struggle to understand what the hurry is. One couple decided to have a row on the towpath instead of just waiting and enjoying the show.
3 days in we have jet washed and scrubbed one boat and applied 3 coats of bitumen. It is a dirty , hard job but needs to be done every 2 or 3 years so you just get on with it. We will start the 36 ft boat tomorrow and I can’t say I am jumping at the prospect! Looking forward to getting back into the sun and relaxing my weary bones! We are yet to decide what the next step is , continue travelling onto maybe York or staying local to get the smaller boat renovated. Decisions , decisions!