Monday, 25 May 2015

Early Bath and Brass Plaques–Monday 25th May

We had an easy run back to the marina this morning passing just a few boats on the move, mainly hire boats returning to Clifton Wharf and Rugby Wharf.

Whilst June busied herself with the inside of the boat I did a little maintenance on the outside and whilst adjusting the offside fenders slipped into the marina. Now Brinklow is at least 10 foot deep and I went right under but fortunately did not loose my glasses; so it was a quick swim to the shore passing June looking out through the galley window thinking “my word that’s a big fish!” I went into the shower and my clothes into the washing machine in double quick time.IMG_6598

On completion of the BCNS cruise we were presented with this delightful brass plaque of the canals we had explored.


At the Titford Rally those boats who made it to the Titford Pools were presented with this round plaque. In future anyone who navigates the pools on their own can apply to the BCNS for a similar plaque


Spring Cruise Stats: we have travelled 194 miles

                                  Negotiated 166 Locks

                                                        5 Tunnels

                                                        3 Swing bridges

                                                      53 Small Aqueducts

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Camera Shy Dog and Last Locks - Sunday 24th May

Ecco made a friend of the 5 yr. old spaniel on the next boat called Buttons but he was a little camera shy or perhaps besotted with her.IMG_6583

It was as a lovely morning so we set off at 6.30am heading for Braunston. It was slow going to complete the 2.5 miles as there were boats moored almost along the total length. Still it is perhaps the busiest weekend of the year. The picture shows the boats moored between bridge 100 and 101.2

Spotted, the 35 ft long Tug Beeston, which is a replica of a tug built by Yarwoods of Northwich in the 1930`s. It was built by David Harris.IMG_6587

As we neared Braunston the familiar sight of the church and windmill on the hill came into view and then we were turning left under the Horseley Iron Works Bridge onto the North Oxford. We had not seen a boat on the move and everything was still quiet in the village.3

We moored up just outside and had breakfast and waited for Midland Chandlers to open at 10.00am as there were a few things I wanted and there is 15% off this weekend. Ecco and I walked back to get them and as soon as we got back to the boat we were off. Everybody must have woken up at the same time as the canal was just like the M1 with boats going in all directions. When we reached Hillmorton Wharf we stopped for diesel and who shoukld turn up but Nb Lady Hester and Nb. No Can Do from Brinklow Marina. A short chat whilst we hovered in the centre of the canal and we were off to the locks. Boats were coming up at each lock so we had an easy ride down although June thought that the paddles and gates were heavy despite them being the most used locks in the country.


We moored up for the day a short way from the locks and who should pass us but Nb Annie who moor next to us in the marina. Later I took Ecco for a walk up to Clifton upon Dunsmore where there are fine views over Rugby and Brownsover.


Saturday, 23 May 2015

145 Mile Run and even more - Saturday 23rd May

It was a lovely warm morning when we left the mooring and started the Long Itchington Locks and our luck was in, they were set for us. The old narrow locks can be seen on the left, now used as an overflow weir. Just before the locks are the Two Boats Inn and on the opposite bank the Cuttle Inn.1

The Warwickshire Fly Boat Company has its base at the top lock and down the Kayes Arm. The Company has a long history of specialising in the repair and refurbishment of working narrow boats. Latterly a number of new boats have been constructed incorporating the shape,character and good swimming and handling characteristics of the originals. Needless to say that the majority of the boats on their moorings reflect this.2

At the bottom of Stockton Locks is the Blue Lias Inn. The inn was originally an 18th century farmhouse. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of a red-haired farm labourer who was killed by the enraged farmer who returned from market one day to find his wife in bed with the red haired farmhand. It first became an inn when the early canal travellers stopped for evening refreshment and overnight stabling for their horses. The Blue Lias Inn is named after the limestone/clay which is quarried locally and used in the production of cement. These rocks date from the early Jurassic period (just over 200 million years ago) and stretch in a band from Dorset on the South coast of England (where the blue lias cliffs are famous among fossil hunters), to the Cleveland hills in the north east. As well as canal side moorings the Inn has a nice caravan site with small lake.3

We were again lucky with the Stockton flight being in our favour and we passed a couple of boats coming down.4

At the top lock is a bench with a doorway in the backrest made to look like the stern of a narrow boat and inside is a dedication to Charles Pearson Brownlee of Nb Auld Areakie who went through his last lock on 7.2. 94 aged 62 years.

“May his happy spirit speed you on to a peaceful mooring, to a bright a morning and to many years of companionship of the Cut”

Erected by his friends and family with fond memories and love.5

At Stockton marina Andy and Rose stopped for a pump out whilst we had a coffee and waited for them. We then motored on passed Willow Wren’s new Training Centre at Nelson’s Wharf, looks very smart indeed, and then passed the old working boats and the ex BW Tug Ruislip which has a Lister HR3 and can be seen in a battle with a similar tug, Slough, to see which boat is better at the Braunston Show.6

On reaching Calcutt Locks we followed a single boat up and waited for two coming down the second lock. Two more boats behind us decided to come up so at one stage there were 6 boats in the first pound making for interesting navigating. The second pound was very low and a mud island could be seen between the main channel and some moored boats just waiting to catch the unwary boater.7

At the top lock we said our goodbyes to Andy and Rose and we turned left towards Braunston as they went into Wigrams Turn Marina. Thanks for a lovely couple of days in your company.8

All the way from Stockton we had seen runners on the towpath and support groups at the road bridges and it turned out that they were doing  a Birmingham to London Run along the Grand Union Canal all 145 miles of it in a maximum time of 45 hours with many doing it in around 30 hours or so. Supporters would run with them at night to keep them company and out of danger.9

I met a couple on Bridge 102 who were a support crew and they were going to do the running at night but Stuart with a partner was going to do an even more dramatic run in Scotland which will cover 680 Miles and 44 Munros over 34 days starting on the 13th July in aid of “Funding Neuro” and can be viewed on their website at where their is a link to a just giving site to help support the charity.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Long Itchington – Friday 22nd May

This morning we set off with Nb. Isander so that we could share the double locks up to Long Itchington. here June and Rose are striding ahead to set the locks for us. Ecco and Tilly sharing the towpath as good friends.


We passed Nb. Monarch which is registered with C & RT with number 67821 as a powered craft (Lister JP2). F.M.C Josher Steamer Monarch with a metal hull by Fellows Moreton and Clayton 1908. Length 62 feet (18.9m); Beam 6 feet 9 inches (2.07m); Draft 3 feet (0.91m).
Monarch was as a steamer until January 1925 when she was fitted with a Bolinder 15NE. Sold to Ada Gopsall and then on to various others working the Cannock Coal fields where she would have been seen pulling at least 5 joeys behind her. In the late 1950′s Monarch was bought by the Lycett family and used as a pleasure craft.
She was restored in the 1970s to a working boat and fitted with a Gardner 2L2 at the Ellesmere Boat Museum.


The Lock Cottage at the old Roman Road “The Fosse Way”. Soon followed by the Bascote 4 locks the last two of which are a Staircase lock.

The locks are on a section of canal which was originally part of the Warwick and Napton Canal. When authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1794, it was intended to be a 17.8-mile canal from a junction with the Warwick and Birmingham Canal at Warwick to the Grand Junction Canal at Braunston, and was called the Warwick and Braunston Canal. Construction began in 1795, but in August a yeoman from Barford called Charles Handley suggested that £50,000 could be saved if the canal terminated at Napton on the Oxford Canal instead of Braunston. A second act was obtained in 1796, authorising a new route from near Offchurch, where the canal crossed the Fosse Way Roman road, and the company became the Warwick and Napton Canal company. Bascote Locks are on this revised route, and would not have been built had the original route been followed.

The Grand Junction Canal were building their route from London to Braunston as a broad canal, and tried to persuade the Warwick and Napton Canal to do the same, but they were convinced that most traffic would come from the Birmingham system and so built the locks suitable for 7-foot boats. The canal opened on 19 March 1800, and the Grand Junction opened to Braunston later that year. The Warwick and Napton Canal and the Birmingham and Warwick Canal both faced stiff competition from the railways, and declared themselves bankrupt in the early 1850s. The companies were reconstituted by the receiver, and continued to trade. From 1917, they were managed jointly, and on 1 January 1929, were sold to the Regent's Canal, and with the Grand Junction Canal, became part of the Grand Union Canal. In order to effectively compete, the new company wanted to upgrade the canals so that wide barges could be used between London and Birmingham. Their aim was to accommodate barges 12.5 feet wide immediately, and ultimately to make the route suitable for 14-foot barges. 52 locks on the two Warwick canals were converted into weirs, and 51 new locks, each 83.5 by 15 feet were built. There was one less because the flight of six at Knowle was replaced by five. In order to give a depth of 5.5 feet, the height of weirs were raised or lock sills were lowered. As part of the work, the top two locks at Bascote were made into a staircase pair.


Just after lunch our Guide Dogs Supervisors, Mark and Rachel, called in to see how Ecco was doing and gave her the all clear so now we feel much happier.

Ecco and I went a walk up into the village in the afternoon. Long Itchington is mostly made up of 20th century developments, but includes several historic buildings, including the half-timbered "Tudor House" on the main road. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have stayed there in 1572 and 1575. The old "Manor House" in the Square dates from the 15th century. It is also the home of Colecraft Narrow Boats.


Rose and Andy came in for a glass of wine and a chat in the evening.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Hatton Flight in the sun - Thursday 21st May

This morning we awoke to glorious sunshine and no cold wind, a real treat. We left our mooring with its lovely views over Warwickshire, passing the Old Cock Horse pub which is now being turned into a house. This was where in days gone by, June’s father and grandfather would stop for a beer and hitch on the cock horse to their wagon to take them up the Rowington hill when they took produce from Barford to the markets in Birmingham.1

All along the south bank the fields have been devoted to Christmas Tree growing and they stretch as far as the eye can see. A couple of old wooden working boats are moored around the corner and now the one is aground and full of water, such a shame as last time we passed by I thought that they were being restored. Shrewley Tunnel soon came into view with is separate tunnel for the horses to negotiate slightly higher up the hill.2

As we neared Hatton Top Lock a couple were just about to leave their mooring on Nb. Copredy and asked if they could join us down the flight, great they were the same length as us and a nice boat so we tackled the flight together and made it down in just under 3 hours. Several single and paired boats were coming up so it was nice to have a chat with them. Copredy left us at Saltisford Arm as they wanted to explore Warwick.3

We carried on and did the 2 locks at the Cape of Good Hope Pub and moored up for lunch opposite Kate Boats. A Moorhen had built a nest on the counter of one of the boats next to the rudder and looked very cosy.Later we crossed over the River Avon just before we passed by Guide Dogs Leamington Centre.4

After lunch we motored on but could not stop at Tesco as all available space was taken up so went on to Lidl and then at Morrisons for a few essentials. As we went through Leamington we saw Nb. Isander moored up but nobody was home and so we carried on to moor at a nice spot overlooked by the church at Radford Semele. Later Andy and Rose  moored up behind us and we had a nice evening chatting over a glass of wine.IMG_6550

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

On Familiar Territory and Anthony Gormley Statute - Wednesday 20th May

This morning we made an early start from our mooring at Catherine de Barnes and headed for Knowle Locks.IMG_6484

On route we passed by Kixley Lane Bridge and cottages where June’s father once lived when he was a young lad. Its a bit different today.IMG_6486

We are now travelling through lovely countryside and there is evidence that C & RT have been dredging and cutting back the offside trees.1

At Knowle Top lock we stopped opposite the old Stephen Goldsbrough Yard to fill with water. IMG_6490

Everybody had told us that Knowle Locks were the hardest on the system and we discovered that they were right, June could not wind the hydraulic paddles up but the gates were really easy. So June took the boat through the locks and I did the hard work for a change. There are lovely views from the lock over the Warwickshire countryside.2

This length of canal is very familiar to us from the towpath as we regularly walk the dogs along it and we soon came to the Black Buoy Cruising Club and the Kings Arms pub. A little further on is their Club House and the Black Boy Pub During the summer months the club moors its boats on both sides of the canal.3

Just after bridge 69 can be seen the ground works for a new marina which was advertising moorings in the local press before they had got planning permission and in the end it was refused.IMG_6511

One of the interesting cottages along the Grand Union Canal.IMG_6514

Swans with their 8 Signets just before Kngswood Junction.IMG_6516

The Navigation Pub which is now a bit more up market and always seems to be full after years of neglect, is followed by the Junction with the Stratford Canal at Kingswood. We moored up at the Tom of the Wood Moorings where we had arranged to be picked up by Jean and Graham. The house at the side of the bridge seems to have had work being done on it for at least the last 18 months and they are still at it now.4

Graham drove us the short distance across to Lowsonford on the Stratford Canal to have lunch with Peter and Carol at the Fleur de Lys pub. We all had a great meal and this is down to the new managers who took over about 9 months ago. After lunch we visited the recently installed sculpture by the artist and sculptor Sir Antony Gormley. It is one of five commissioned around the UK by The Landmark Trust, to mark the charity's 50th birthday (they own the barrel cottage in the background). The iron sculpture weighs 1,543lbs (700kg) and is the only one that has been placed in a village, the other four have been positioned by the coast. It is said to be  most impressive when "you look up at it against the sky".6

Whilst we were at the lock a hire boat came under the bridge and crashed into the lock gate. It transpired that the hire company had not shown them how to work a lock merely how to go forwards and in reverse. So with a little bit of diplomacy we took them through how to negotiate a lock for which they were very appreciative.

We all went back to the boat for coffee and then we bid our farewells and we headed off to the Rowington Embankment where there are some lovely views over the countryside. Later we were able to listen to Rowington Church bells being rung by my brother in law and the team, a great sound on a nice evening.


Visitors and Home work–Tuesday 19th May


As we had the car we went home and mowed the lawns and checked all the post. We left Ecco safely at home whilst we went and did a supermarket shop and then returned to the boat for a visit from our Guide Dog Supervisor.

Later David and Barbara came for afternoon tea and a catch up. We decide to eat in the Boat pub  and had a good meal. On returning to our boat we met two chaps from Australia who had parked their campervan at the pub and were on their way to the British Super Bike Championships at Donnington.

Later Nick, Gaynor, John and Liz joined us for the evening and a glass of wine.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Long Day in the Rain - Monday 18th May

This morning the forecast was for heavy rain showers but it was only light so we decided to don our waterproofs and head for the Farmers  Bridge Locks which would be reasonably sheltered as they go under and between tall buildings. All the locks were against us but we made good progress and then half way down a Volunteer Lockie , Tony, joined us and we were down the 13 locks in 1.5 hours and on our way to Aston Junction where we turned right on the Digbeth Branch.6 farmers-bridge-600

The 6 Ashted Locks were ok but the Ashted Tunnel was very tight and low at the edges so I caught the hand rail on a spot where it looked as though everybody else had scrapped by.7 ashted tun nel

Just before Typhoo Basin we turned left and headed for Bordesley Junction and the Camp Hill flight of locks. Here we met a hire boat who had just come up from Salford Junction and they told us that they could not go any further as the canal was empty of water. The pounds were indeed empty as somebody had left all the top gates open and the pounds were all empty or just a trickle of water. I went up to the top lock and let water down so that we could fill all the pounds and then set the hire boat on its way and we followed on after them.8 -Bordesley_Junction,_Birmingham

At the top of the flight is an excellent C&RT Facilities block next to a warehouse, where we filled with water.


As we came to Tyseley we passed the Ackers Trust Climbing Wall and Canoe Centre where we had tried dry slope skiing many years ago.2

Despite passing through some industrial areas the canal is surprisingly rural in appearance.3

At Olton we passed the Car Wash where I have my car cleaned for the excellent price of £2.50 and then as we entered Solihull we passed the playing field onto which my parents house used to back. Somebody has now built a shed on the Canal Overflow where I used to launch my canoe when I was a young child and  wait for a passing workboat to ride his stern wave. Gaynor and Nick came out to wave to us as wetrav ed under Dovehouse Lane bridge and then joined us for coffee later that evening.4

A  little further on is the pedestrian bridge which used to be for British Gas personnel to enter the offices from the local housing estate and also the remains of the old swimming pool which fronted onto the canal and which we used at lunch times. The offices are long gone and replaced with a new housing estate.


As June had predicted the sun came out as we reached the last lock and we had a nice cruise to Catherine de Barnes where the Boat Pub provides good meals or on the opposite side of the road is Longfellows an excellent family run restaurant and the village shop all of which we have used for many years.9b

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Under and Over Today – Sunday 17th May

This morning we made an early start and crept passed the sleeping boaters and assisted by the ever cheerful Brian we descended the Oldbury Locks and onto the Old Main Line travelling underneath the M5 Motorway until we reached Stewart Aqueduct where we went over the New Main Line with the motorway supports actually in the canal bed.1 M5 Main Line

A short distance on is the Spon Lane Junction with 3 locks leading off to the left to take boats down to the New Main in the direction of Wolverhampton. There is a magic electronic Advertising Hoarding which services both the motorway and canal.2 Spon Lane Jnc

Once out from under the motorway it appears that you have entered the countryside with reeds and lovely tree decked banks, it is hard to believe that you are in a major conurbation as you proceed through the Summit Tunnel.3 Summit Tunnel

We continued side by side with Telford’s New main line but some 40ft higher until we reached the Smethwick Locks where the Engine Branch goes off and crosses the lower canal on a single span cast iron structure. A Boulton and Watt steam pumping engine used to feed the 491ft summit level for 120 years.

5 smetghic locks engine branch

In 1892, a replacement engine was built in a new pumping house, now Grade II listed, next to Brasshouse Lane, as the original Smethwick Engine was considered uneconomic to repair. The original Smethwick Engine was then removed to British Waterways Ocker Hill depot where it remained until acquired by Birmingham City Council. It is now part of the collection of Birmingham Museums and is on display at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum at Millennium Point. It is the oldest working engine in the world.4 Pump House

Down the last 3 locks brought us to Smethwick Junction where we left Brindley’s high level and continued on the Main Line where there are several Toll Islands, the Toll Houses having been long gone; and many junctions with the old route now just loops like the Soho Loop, Icknield Port Loop and the Oozell Street Loop.

6 Smehtic Junc

We now entered Birmingham passing Sherborne Wharf Moorings and the recently opened Bone and Fiddle with its pump out and fuel facilities. The NIA, now renamed the Barclaycard Arena, has taken on a new facade and looks much better.

7 Oozell St Loop