Monday 31 December 2018

Ice Cream

The morning was spent getting up (late), reading and then shopping.

After lunch we went out for a walk but first called at Churchfields Ice Cream Farm, near to Salwarpe - one of the places to visit that the marina office had recommended. They have around 36 different varieties and we were definitely spoilt for choice. Alice was quickest off the mark, followed by Jess. We all chose two different flavours - one of Mike's was Tonka Bean. We had not heard of this flavour before but it was definitely delicious - somewhere between coconut cream and vanilla, although in truth it is a flavour on its own. Altogether a place to recommend.

After a quick diversion to some climbing equipment we set off across the fields to Salwarpe village.

We crossed the bridge over the canal (which is being extensively repaired)- by water it is rather a challenge as it is on a tight bend and it is only possible to see an oncoming boat when you have committed to the bend. If there is something there it is a rather sharp reverse to avoid a collision. You can tell that we know!

We turned into the churchyard but could not look inside as it was, alas, locked. However, outside the gate was an early bunch of snowdrops.

Although there are but a few buildings in the village around the church, several have an interesting history.

What is now called Lychgate Cottage and Church Cottage has a plaque on it saying that it was once a school.

The large Salwarpe House and Grange (altogether was originally the Rectory) is hardly visible from the road.

The towpath was regained after a short distance and we continued along to the top lock  at Ladywood. A workboat just above the lock has sadly sunk - it looks as if some protection has been put around it to avoid pollution until it can be raised. Perhaps it was because they ignored the No Mooring sign!

The bridge below the lock took us onto the road back towards the farm where we had left the car. Part way we spotted several ponies in a field - they trotted over to greet us as soon as we stopped. They were happy to be fed with some wisps of hay that had been dropped just out of their range outside the gate,

A little later we arrived at the entrance to the farm and thus back to the car and then the boat. By then it was close to sunset.

Sunday 30 December 2018

Lido Park and Ice Skating

Slow start to the day and it was after 10.30 when we set off for Lido Park on the opposite side of town. The lido is still operational but, unsurprisingly, only in the warmer months! But it is set in a large park area and is popular with local people wanting to take some exercise.

Whilst Christine, Alice and Jess went to explore the park, finding a small play area, Mike visited the churchyard of the adjacent St Peter's Church. He made a useful start on photographing the memorials in an older part of the churchyard but it is quite extensive and will take some time and perhaps future visits to the boat to get anywhere near completing it! The older stones are sometimes now illegible - it is a shame if the record of individuals is lost forever, so sites like Find A Grave, so long as the data is preserved, offer an important opportunity to ensure the information is recorded before it finally disappears.

Back to the boat for lunch but we had to be off again by 2 o'clock as Christine last night booked online for the girls to have a session on the ice rink at Webbs Garden Centre starting at 3. We arrived early so were able to see the previous session in full swing.

We passed the time with a bit of a look around the extensive shopping in the garden centre before it was time to return and be fitted out with skates. And then it was onto the rink.

Round and round - it looked to Mike and Christine to be altogether exhausting so they adjourned to the cafe for a cup of tea!

Eventually the session came to an end and the staff began the task of ushering everyone off the ice - easier said than done it seemed. Alice and Jess retrieved their shoes and we returned to the car for the short trip back to the boat. By now it was past sunset and a roast dinner needed to be prepared!

Saturday 29 December 2018

Windsor and Back

Not a long blog although it was a 'busy' day. We had to put the alarm on this morning to make sure that we could be away by 9 so that we could expect to be in Windsor for 11 as promised. We arrived 11:01, so not too bad timing-wise. The journey was as uninteresting as it was uneventful - the traffic was generally quite modest and no delays, although it is clear that, as far as possible, road works have been tidied away for the holiday break.

After a mug of coffee, a slice of the festive Christmas Cake and a dip into a box of chocolates it was time to load up Alice and Jess, along with their luggage and set off back.

Again, their was nothing of note as we returned along the same route as we came down. Luckily the only significant delays that we saw were on the opposite carriageway. (They had not been there earlier, fortunately)

Back at the boat it was well past the time for lunch which was quickly assembled. We had to make a visit to a shop, mainly to sort out Alice's breakfast menu which Mike had failed to find yesterday.

As we arrived, Jess spotted a small play area just outside the marina so she and Alice set off ahead to give it a test run. Christine decreed that exercise was needed and that we should walk into town - it is just over a mile with the better route alongside the canal rather than the main road.

The nearest supermarket is Waitrose but we quickly established that they did not have any copies of our newspaper left - even though there was an enormous supply of unsold Telegraph's, not sure what that means! So, leaving the other three to pick up what they could find in Waitrose, Mike was dispatched to track down a paper which he found in WHSmiths.

On the return walk we walked back thorough Vines Park, including a brief chat with St Richard.

Still trying to trace some of the more obscure parts of the original line of the Droitwich Junction Canal, Mike took a look at what he thought was Impney Way bridge, over the canal at the end of the motorway tunnel. In fact, a small sign indicated that this was the parapet of the original canal bridge and the new line passes under where the metal railings are, just beyond in the photo, following along Body Brook still at this point - the River Salwarpe joins a few metres later. When the original canal was in operation, the road to the right of the photo was just a narrow track to a nearby farmhouse, now underneath a large new housing estate.

We managed to reach the boat as darkness was really falling - but just enough to see to do the chores of emptying the ash pan and elsan as well as filling the water tank, all of which needed doing.

Friday 28 December 2018

Quiet Day

Andrew left for home this morning so we did not do too much until nearly lunch time! We were so laid back that we forgot to get another bag of smokeless fuel from the marina office until after they time they closed (12 o'clock over the holiday season)

It was also time to do a bit of housework - empty the elsan and clean through ready for the arrival of Alice and Jess tomorrow.

After lunch, Mike, leaving Christine free to complete her cleaning operation, went to Hadzor to complete the photography of the gravestones. On the process he learned something new - traditionally clergy are buried facing west whilst everyone else is supposed to face east.

Also, this burial ground has an example of a recognised but less usual arrangement - family members laid out around a central memorial.

Having finished here, Mike then went into town - he had a couple of items to track down but he first called at St Nicholas' church, near the station. Whilst the church is no longer used for regular worship, the churchyard is very much active and probably the principal burial place for the town.

He picked up one bag of the smokeless fuel from B&M - if it works out then we can get some more. It comes in 10 kg bags rather than the more usual 20 kg from the marina. The smaller bags may prove to be easier to move and to stow away - we shall see, but first they must prove themselves as a 'good burn'.

Before returning to the boat he filled up the car with fuel, ready for our somewhat early start (9 am) tomorrow to collect our visitors. He did however fail in one task, to pick up a pack of Coco Rocks - only Pops where he called!

Thursday 27 December 2018

Redditch and New Phone

After successfully setting up the streaming services last night and discovering that Mike's was already out of contract, but that he was till being charged a high monthly amount, we opted to go to the nearest Three Store today to make a change.

This meant a drive to Redditch - not a shopping centre that we have been to before (at least as we recall) - it looks as if the entire original town centre has been replaced by a modern style shopping mall, complete with a ring of at least 7 car parks.

It did not take long to locate the Three Store and to engage in a debate with a very friendly and helpful salesman. Having researched the likely options before hand we were able to home in speedily to the main choices and eventually opted to replace the S7 with a S9+, the currently latest model. The only change from our initial assumptions was based on the salesman's analysis of our usage levels and that a 30 GB data limit would be sufficient, now that we have unlimited streaming in addition. Even on our busiest boat months we have not exceeded 17 GB. And the new contract was around £13 less than we had been paying!

After a coffee and cake in the shopping center and a quick purchase of a cheap and cheerful phone case, we returned to the car and back towards the boat. (Drinking our lattes gave a chance to take a quick start on setting up the phone and s;potting the differences from its predecessor) It turned out later thta the phone case is incompatible with wireless charging but at least it will meet a need until we can track down a better one - again Andrew's experience with the same device should make it more reliable to track down. For the benefit of others who might make the same mistake - the case is formed of two parts. A strong cradle that protects the back and edges but not the screen and a surrounding case. A feature that had seemed a benefit is that the cradle is held in place magnetically but it it is just that mechanism that interferes with the wireless charging!

Having had a very late morning cake we bypassed lunch and visited Hanbury Hall - Andrew now has a National Trust membership and is keen to make good use of it! We had a good wander around the gardens and found a few parts that we missed on our guided tour earlier in the year.

One of the trees in the orchard has a mistletoe plant - these were traditionally grown on apple trees.

The mushroom house is currently being used to store apples from the orchard.

One new feature was the Ice House, perhaps the largest one we have even seen (they are not that common) This one was especially used as part of the annual summer entertaining that the original owner had as the main purpose for building the house at the start of the 18th century - he was a successful lawyer in London.

The short tunnel leads to a large brick lined pit where the ice is stored, with a substantial insulating mound of earth above. The ice is not drinkable so it was put into special holders that cooled the summer drinks. The ice could, however, be carved into the intricate shapes that were once an important centre piece to elaborate dinners.

The walk around was also an opportunity to try out the camera features on the new phone although, as it did not come fully charged, we soon reached the point when it was complaining about needing an urgent feed!

Each of the small conical trees in the box garden has been decorated by the staff with a tiny shiny bauble!

Andrew and Christine took a look around the house - they were amused to find that it had been given a festive makeover circa 1970! Another younger visitor was having to ask what a fondue set was for . . .

Andrew walked back whilst we drove back and, after putting some charge into the phone, were able to continue with setting up. In parallel, Mike put together a chilli for tonight's meal.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Boxing Day

Any thoughts of going out on a short cruise were quickly dropped - a slow start meant that the cruising day was already not very long! Instead, we thought about visiting Hanbury Hall. However, conversation quickly turned to thinking about improving the television facility so that we can better access downloaded videos as well as access streaming services such as Netflix.

Andrew popped into town to seek some elements including a Roku streaming box, an HDMI switch and various leads. Strangely he was asked to look for sale bargain tinsel but, instead, found some very cheap led lights (enough to go right around the main cabin) as a few bargain baubles!

The rest of the morning was devoted to setting up the various devices and testing them out with different devices, phones, tablets and laptop. Before lunch time we had abandoned the idea of Hanbury Hall.

Lunch over we instead went for a walk along part of the Hadzor Circle footpath trail - in the end we heavily adapted the route in the guide leaflet.

We began by walking a short distance along the road to the footpath alongside a farm track slightly uphill towards Hadzor Hall. The track led to Home Farm which we could see close up as almost derelict, even the farm buildings appear to have been abandoned.

We continued to the ridge and came as close to the hall and former church as it is possible - now everything is very much private land and here is no access. However, we spotted a recreational ground and, on the other side, a small graveyard. Mike took photos of some of the memorials in order to see whether they have been uploaded to FindAGrave.

Although there was no sign to indicate what graveyard this is, we later discovered that it belongs to the nearby Catholic Church.

This church was built by a former owner of Hadzor Hall in 1877 who had recently, along with his wife, converted to Catholicism. (see)

From there we walked downhill along the narrow lane to come out at the roundabout underneath the motorway at the edge of town. We then crossed over to the canal towpath and re-traced the footpath we looked at yesterday. However as we looked more closely at various aspects of the track and bridges we could not reach an agreed firm conclusion about what we were seeing!

Later research took us to a very interesting record of the restoration works - see. The track, it seems, was created mainly to facilitate long term maintenance of the locks whilst the newly planted earthworks are noise bunds constructed from earth that had to be excavated in order to build the lock just below the motorway tunnel and also the new confluence of the canal and the River Salwarpe.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

Christmas Day

Last night we watched television until it was time to make our way to St Peter's Church on the other side of town for their midnight communion service. This was well attended - the church is not large but almost all seats were taken and it was a very friendly atmosphere, led by the vicar.

On return to the boat we had to maintain the tradition of leaving a glass of whisky for Santa - and then making sure that an empty glass was left to be found in the morning by the true believers. We did, however, check on Santa's progress via the Norad website. It did seem that that a very large number of presents had already been successfully delivered - austerity and Brexit not withstanding!

We did not attempt an early rise today but Mike was on to the veg prep before long. With almost all of the elements of the Christmas dinner ready we could relax until much later when Andrew was due to join us after driving up from Devizes. However, just in case he reached us early and we wanted to cruise out of the marina, we also filled with water and made various waste disposals.

In the end it was around 1 o'clock when Christine received a text from Andrew saying that he was just about to set off. With an estimated hour and 40 minutes, we had time to walk off some of our lunch (another of Christine's soups)  and went down the first part of the canal to the motorway tunnel, passing the staircase locks on the way.

Coming back we found a path whose start point we have seen several times before but not followed - it was less obvious at the other end. However, it did seem that this was once a well made track with a good base of hardcore.

Alongside was a plantation of young trees - a somewhat odd collection of sometimes non-native species.

The track crosses the brook by a couple of bridges which looked part of the canal restoration works. The track then went up to the staircase locks from the single below, to cross over the canal to the farm field on the offside.

We do not have any specific information but it looks very much as if this was constructed as an access route for the heavy machinery and materials needed top restore this section where the locks had to be created from bare land, rather than re-build the originals. This was necessitated by the intervening arrival of the motorway which otherwise blocked the route.

This conjecture does answer the question why was the bridge at the tail of the lower staircase lock so wide and substantial. Today the bridge serves no active purpose although there is a gate into the field but firmly marked to indicate that it is private land!

We returned to the marina entrance and continued along the towpath to the top of the three original locks that drop down from Hanbury Junction with the main Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

The automated river warning system told us unambiguously what we already knew, that the River Severn is currently closed with high water levels following recent rains.

Time then to return to the boat and just a couple of minutes later Andrew pulled up, with both our walk and his drive taking the estimated times!

This blog is being written as the meal is starting to cook so reports of whether it all worked or not will have to wait for a further update!