Thursday 16 December 2021

Another quick visit

Both of us this time made a short visit to the boat on a day trip. There were two main purposes: one for Mike to use some information from the internal door lock supplier (which had taken a while to track down but were then very helpful). The latch on one of the doors had started to become rather unwilling to close properly as if the internal spring was not right. It would close if given positive encouragement but Mike was also concerned that it was a sign of an impending full failure. As this door is one of those to the walk-through bathroom we did not want a failure, did we!

The instructions helped to remove the latch, somewhat different from all those others we have dealt with before. The spring seemed to be intact but we did take the opportunity to give everything internal a good lubrication after which it seemed to be a little more willing to do its job when re-fitted into the door. What did take a time was that the bolts that hold the lock in the door have a slightly poor design and were uncooperative when being removed. They depend on a modest 'tight' fit into the plastic part to prevent the bolt spinning around. This was not adequate when first removing one of them and it took a while to find the best bodge to extract. We gave them a good clean so that they screw in OK but whether the problem will re-surface if there is another need to remove the lock, who knows?

As we still have hopes of being able to stay on board at New Year for a few days (we still await what lockdown might be imposed to control Omicron) Christine was keen to set up our bed so that it will be ready for us if and when we arrive to stay over.

It was also useful to be able to turn on the heating - the last two Springs have been marked with an issue with the heater which took some effort (and a call at the boatyard in Worcester) to get going after the winter. It was with some relief that it started first time.

Mike also did the usual re-waxing of the wood internal window surrounds which suffer at the hands of condensation each year. The Bar Keeper's Friend did not really give much visual improvement but at least they are better protected for the next season.

It was not weather to tackle any of the external paintwork which needs more touching up - we started it at the end of the season but it will take a visit with no excuses to get us back into action!

We left soon after three so that we would make most of the journey home in some sort of daylight.

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Maintenance Visit

Mike drove across to the marina to undertake one or two maintenance tasks. For once there was no delay at all at the Air Balloon junction - can sometimes be rather slow through here.

The most important task was to remove a lot of water from the bund underneath the engine. When we had the burst pipe in Birmingham, a lot of water filled each of the sections in the engine bay. The bilge pump and the two side bays were as clean as they ever are so it was possible to empty them out into the canal at the time. Even though there was not much engine oil spilt, Mike felt that it was enough to make it not sensible to try and dispose of the contents in an urban area. With a nearby hedge in the middle of nowhere we might have been tempted but it is not good practice as pollution can easily get into watercourses. so it was left.

However, the RCR engineer reported, after doing the annual service a week or so back, that the engine wiring harness was dipping into the water and needed dealing with as a priority. If we had still been in Cornwall it might have had to wait until a Christmas visit (supposing no lockdown again!) but it is now possible to do the round trip in a day.

Mike had already contacted the marina and the household waste tip nearby. The marina offered to lend us a couple of old 20 litre drums which was most helpful. (Actually one was 25 l - my, it was heavy to lift when full!)

Our small extra 12V pump was deployed and soon reduced the level to a centimetre of so - it then, as bilge pumps do, sucks in air leaving the last amount to be removed by other means.

We have, over the years, developed a slow but effective technique with an old mop and a squeezing bucket and this removed the final spillage. There was just a little too much for the two drums so a half bucketful had to be secured alongside the drums in the back of the car for the two minute drive to the tip where everything was tipped into the engine oil tank. In total perhaps around 50 l.

By now it was well into the afternoon and so no other larger tasks could be tackled but there was time to try out Bar Keeper's Friend (as widely recommended!) to remove water stains from the cabin window frames. Whilst it made some improvement it was not the total success that we had hoped for. No miracle sure today, alas.

Mike wanted to get away by 3 pm so as to do most of the return trip in the light. Hence it was not possible to do anything substantial but the other items were not urgent. It would have been nice to do a bit more to the paintwork but the weather was not suitable anyway - initially too cold and then becoming a bit damp in the air.

Wednesday 27 October 2021


 Whilst it was not the best of days for it, the day kept sufficiently dry to allow Mike to make more progress with patching up the paintwork. The worst section that he has been tackling was the front deck locker, together with part of one of the stern lockers. A few of t4he other small defects were also included but there is much more that could be done. Inevitably the greatest wear will be in the two deck areas as they get a lot of traffic and the unseemly dumping of mooring chains, windlasses etc.

Christine worked solidly on a thorough clean from front to back doors. Now, a keen reader of this blog, might be wondering why she did this so soon after a similar exercise was noted last Friday. It was only somewhat later that she drew attention to the fact that she did very little cleaning that morning as most of the time was taking up with sorting out a shortfall in Mike's medication, which he ought to have spotted rather earlier. It was also not resolved by accessing the remainder of his stock back at home - the main item missing was also missing there. At least, GPs and Pharmacies are much better connected these days and it is as easy for the GP to send the prescription to a different pharmacy as it is to the default one listed on their database.

We might have taken time out to pop into town for one or two shopping items but this week there is a complete closure of the road from the marina. Repairs to the road where it passes under the M5 seem to make it not possible to do one side at a time. The best diversion is still about 15-20 minutes extra! We knew in advance that this was happening so we stocked up in Worcester on that basis. Nevertheless, our stores are now well depleted which at least means less to load into the car for the return trip!

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Back to the Marina

Today's Canals - Worcester and Birmingham, Droitwich

Last night Mike spotted a milestone that he has missed before, just the other side of the bridge where we moored. So he walked back before we left to take a picture for his database.

As well as the usual distance inscription it had a dedication on the top which is somewhat enigmatic! What is the story, we wonder?

The bridge too is unusual in that it has at some time been covered in a cement rendering. Then, more recently, a protective mesh has been fixed, seemingly to stop bits falling off into the water or people. Look closely and we can see that the mesh has indeed had to fulfil this role as quite a bit has been collected in several places. If it were not for the render and mesh, it would be tempting to think that the damage was the result of impact but clearly it is some inherent defect in the brickwork itself.

It was rather raw - more a combination of a fresh breeze and dampness in the air than actual temperature - as we set off.

We only had just under three miles to go which we took at a steady pace, reluctant to bring this year's cruising to a probable end. We called at Bridge 35, just before Hanbury Junction as we aw that their price for diesel w\as, in today's market, very reasonable. We take the view that we should keep the tank full over the winter. Yes, we know that there are alternative views! It also gave us a chance to see what range of chandlery they have.

As we turned the corner at the junction we could ahead that there was a volunteer lock keeper on duty! Because of the number of hire boats out on short trips and also that the three locks have functioning side ponds, there are volunteers here comparatively frequently. Toady there were three who happily worked us down in smooth succession. Alas, that lock may well be the last for this year so enjoy it whilst you can!

We turned into the marina and made for our mooring. Mike made his turn to reverse back into the allotted space and allowed for the effect of wind - at that stage there was none. Just as we were aligned with the pontoon - and sideways to the wind - a sudden gust blew us further down the marina so there was no choice but to turn and try again. This time, expecting to drift sideways with the prevailing wind, a complete change in its trisection meant that we had to make a third attempt which, much to Mike's relief, was successful and this time we glided into our space seemingly effortlessly. That is, unless you had witnessed the previous hopeless attempts!

Mike had hoped to resume the paintwork and. after lunch he indeed did that only to be thwarted by the arrival of  fine drizzle in the air which meant that he was only able to do a fraction of what he had planned. Well, that is his excuse and he is definitely sticking by it! Maybe tomorrow - who knows!

3.2 Miles - 3 Locks

Monday 25 October 2021


Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

It was till not fully light as we awoke and it took some time for the weather to show its proper colours for the day.

We had moored opposite the sports centre. Two walls are painted a bright yellow. Whilst this does make the building stand out, it is perhaps a pity that a shade as chosen that just does not fit the palette of its surroundings.

After about 20 minutes we arrived at the first of today's locks - Blackpole. A boat which had passed us a little before we set off was still completing its ascent. We could see that they tied up on the top lock landing to shut the gate - they also came back to draw a paddle for us and cheerily waved.

After passing through Tolladine Lock - another separated out about 20 mins - we reached the bottom of the six lock Offerton Flight where the locks are all close together.

We could now see that the boat ahead of us was stuck on the bottom of a rather low pound. After bringing the boat into the lock, Christine went ahead to let some water down from the next pound. 

Mike held off filling the lock as this would only make it harder for the other boat. They seemed rather lost as to what to do so Mike went up to see if he could help. With some direction and a bit of a lever from Mike with their boat pole, they eventually were re-floated and on their way.

There was then another rather inexperienced crew on a boat coming down so Mike had to hover rather gingerly to avoid the same fate and become stuck on the mud.

After that we had a straight forward run through the rest of the flight - the boat ahead by now was making much better progress as the upper pounds were gradually closer to be full - the long pound above the flight was fine.

We stopped for lunch on the signed moorings just away from the worst of the motorway noise even though we only had a short distance to our planned overnight stop.

Following our lunch break we completed our schedule and moored in a familiar spot, opposite the charming hamlet of Oddingley with its distinctive church.

Mike spent the rest of the afternoon making a start of some of the paint touching up that is needed. We may not be able to hide all of the chips and a few of the rust patches but at least it will perhaps extend the life of the cabin paintwork for another season. 

4.0 Miles - 8 Locks

Sunday 24 October 2021


 Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

One of the reasons for mooring alongside the Commandery was that it is close to the Cathedral. As the service was not until 10:30 we could have had a slow start - except that Mike wanted to take the opportunity to catch up with the blogs for the last three days.

There was dampness in the air as we set off but fortunately it did not come to rain. We entered through the large gatehouse that guards College green. From there we could the south entrance - we were very early so people were just beginning to gather.

By the time the service started there was a good congregation that included the family and friends of a couple whose baby daughter was to be baptised during the service. What made a difference was the the baby was the Dean's grand daughter!

Whilst it was a conventional service with the music sung by a visiting choir from Exeter Cathedral using a setting by Palestrina and the anthem was by Andrew Millington, until 2015 the Organist and Choirmaster at Exeter Cathedral. The anthem was composed for the the visit of the Queen during her 2002 Jubilee Tour.

The sermon was given by the Dean and was one of the best we have heard in a long time and was an especially well crafted piece of writing with a clear arc from beginning to end. He focussed very much on the significance of being given a name and not just being a number.

Close to where we sat we saw the Wylde Tomb. You may remember that we noted yesterday the importance of this family in the history of the Commandery. It was Thomas, the father of Robert and Margaret, who purchased the Commandery in 1544. The family wealth came from being clothiers but Robert trained as a lawyer and joined the Inner Temple in London.  He returned to Worcester later in life and lived from rents and farming. He and his wife were the only members of the family to be buried in the cathedral - most were interred in a nearby church. Since that church has not survived, perhaps Robert's choice was a wise one!

After the service ended we walked back to the boat where we had coffee and later lunch.

We cast off the boat a little after 2 o'clock - we only planned a short cruise today as going any further would have taken us into a longish flight of locks which w would not be able to complete before dark.

The first lock was again Blockhouse Lock which we mentioned in a previous blog. Here is a different shot which shows how the cellar had been given light through additional windows.

We also spoke of the dubious state of the lower gates - here is another angle that demonstrates the ingenuity that CaRT engineers will use to eke out the life of gates towards the end of their usable life and thus stretch the scarce resources as far as possible.

Some boaters would critically use this as evidence of CaRT's lack of maintenance but it seems clear to us that, in a situation where income inevitably falls short of  the need, such keenness to 'keep the show on the road' is much to be commended. The only alternative, sadly, would be extended closures when such situations arise and repairs or replacements have to be left until money becomes available.

Both before and after Worcester Marina we saw numerous hire boats from various fleets returning to their base before dark. In the short cruise we saw more moving boats than for many a day.

We continued up the next four locks, all close together, and the flow of oncoming traffic meant that we had rather less work to do than usual.

The afternoon was generally damp, with light rain for short periods, so photos were not easy to take. We moored where we have in the past, opposite the sports centre playing fields.

2.2 Miles - 5 Locks

Saturday 23 October 2021


  Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

Our plan for today was in two parts - this morning we would go to the nearby Asda to re-stock enough until the end of this trip and then this afternoon visit the Commandery, alongside Sidbury Lock. One of the complications at the end of this trip is that there are road works for nine days, completely blocking the road between the marina and the town centre. The alternative is about half an hour detour as far as we can see (perhaps when we get there some local knowledge will identify a route that does not show up in the maps!) Hence we will not want to have to 'pop to' the supermarket for a top up. We will not even have a chance to stop off on the canal as we are heading back via Hanbury rather than Hawford.

We completed the shopping just before noon and as we were in need of the usual services we cruised up to the nearest winding hole outside Worcester Marina where we turned around and went back down the two locks to Diglis Basin. We passed a boat coming up a little before the first lock so we were most surprised to arrive and find it quite empty. Both of these locks are in need of replacements to their bottom gates. The main problem is that the paddles do not easily close fully and boat crews, especially those hiring from the nearby base at Worcester Marina, do not spot those paddles that need an unobvious extra turn or two to close as well as they can. Even so, we noticed later that the back pumps run quite a long time even when there is no traffic, a sure sign that something is leaking!

After turning again, this time in the basin, we moored temporarily at the service block. We filled with water and completed the usual disposals.

We saw on the way down that the moorings above Sidbury Lock were entirely free (earlier in the week we had seen them fully occupied!) so we went back up there for an overnight mooring. A further part of our plan was also to be close to the cathedral so that we can add that to our list that we have managed to visit this year. However, being close meant that for several hours we could listen to the bells being rung - it sounded as if there was a special ringing event. On the other hand we were not so close that it became oppressive and offered a welcome distraction from screaming emergency vehicles that regularly come along the nearby main road!

After lunch we walked the 25 m to the Commandery. This is now a museum that tells the story of the buildings that have stood here since early medieval times, perhaps as early as 1085. The first purpose was as a hospital - not only as an almshouse but also welcoming pilgrims and other travellers. The order was that of St John of Jerusalem and they have used the term Commandery for their administrative bases, often just, as here, outside city walls.

The ire of Henry VIII meant that the order had to close in 1540 but the property was not destroyed but sold to the Wylde family who owned the site for the next few centuries.

At the time of the Civil War, the Wylde family were staunch Royalists, so much so that they offered their house to the army as the main command post for the final Battle of Worcester in 1651. This conflict saw the total defeat of Charles (later the Second) who was still fighting his father's cause against Cromwell and the Parliamentarian.

In 1866 the building was sold to become a school for the blind children of wealthy parents. By 1887 it had our grown this site and moved elsewhere in the city. The school, now called, New College Worcester still exists today but in modern premises built over the past 50 years during which it merged with the Chorleywood school for Girls with Little or No Sight.

Before becoming a museum the building was used by a printing firm that lasted from 1905 to 1973 - reports suggest that it was seen as a particularly good employer - the Littlebury Press.

It was bought in 1977 by the City Council and converted into a museum dedicated to the history of the Civil War, the only specialist one in England. But then, in 2007, it was extensively refurbished and reopened to tell the whole history of this site.

The property as it remains today is an amazing rambling series of rooms with many reminders of each of its phases of use. At one time it was divided into three homes, each of which was suitable for a wealthy merchant! 

The story is really fascinating and we enjoyed a good couple of hours wandering through the maze (although the route is well signposted!) The volunteer on duty, who is a keen and trained buildings historian, was very helpful and informative but, of course, can only be in one part of the building at a time, mostly the entrance desk. However, the whole museum is looking a little dated and clearly could de with yet another re-think to bring it up to modern expectations. It still shows a little confusion about whether it is focussed on the Civil War or on the history of the building.

1.4 Miles - 3 Locks

Friday 22 October 2021


 Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

Mike had to set the alarm so as not to miss his somewhat early appointment at 8:30. We are still not sure about when the town centre becomes traffic bound - sometimes is clear but occasionally there is a queue almost as soon as we leave our estate. Today there was nothing around so he was in good time at the dentist. She was a little late in starting her list (Mike was the first patient) but still managed to complete this phase of some very expensive treatment within the allotted 45 minute slot. This is the first time in our lives that we have failed to be able to sign up to an NHS dentist but none are available in the own and for some distance around. It is still a shock to the system to have make a private arrangement!

After filling up with very much more expensive fuel than two weeks ago and also popping in to a bed specialist to pick up some information of interest to Christine, he set off on the return trip. This time he was no quite so fortunate as the Air Balloon roundabout was causing a particularly long tail back, adding perhaps a quarter of an hour to the time. Apart from that he was back at the marina around noon and as he again had not been able to be confident enough of the timing to book a taxi, walked back to the station, this time doing the first part along the canal towpath. It is nit a shorter route but much the more interesting!

Fortunately the next train due after he reached the station was still running - again there seemed to be a lot of cancellations. After the short walk from Foregate to the boat he was in time for only a slightly late lunch!

Meanwhile, Christine had been doing a serious amount of cleaning and was ready for an alternative! She had seen yesterday some reduced-price gilets of the type currently favoured by Mike (both for boat and home life) in a shop called Trespass. Mike only took a little persuasion and, in the ended, opted for both of the items that Christine had identified, one for the boat and one for home.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Shrub Hill

 Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

We wanted to be nearer to the station and also somewhere a bit more convenient for a visitor by car so we started the day by moving a short distance, up through Sidbury and Blockhouse locks to a 2 day mooring close to Bridge 5. There is a pay-for car park right alongside the canal and it is a walk of perhaps 10 minute to Foregate Street Station.

The former Lock Cottage at Blockhouse has an estate agent's board outside. The details confirm, as is so often the case, that the accommodation is not spacious but in this case has a cellar which has been converted into bedroom space, although it is not clear how they claim four bedrooms. The guide price is £250,000. No use getting enthusiastic as the web site also indicates that it has already been sold subject to contract!

A slightly better mooring is about 100 m away but it was fully occupied by three boats taking advantage of the fact that there appear to be no time restrictions (other than the default 15 days) here. The disadvantage of the marked mooring (2 day limit) where we did stay is that we know from previous visits that there is a lot of underwater debris close to the edge and the boat will end up being about 300 mm from it.

Our visitor arrived just after 11 and we had coffee and chat on the boat until she and Christine went off to find somewhere for a bit to eat. We had checked out the tea room at the Commandery and, although their service is at the moment quite limited, it did look as though it would be good quality and so it proved and also warm enough when sitting outside. Our visitor used to be a neighbour in Wadebridge and moved away a couple of years ago having lost her husband (whom Mike knew well) very suddenly four years back. She and Christine had a good opportunity to catch up and share news.

Meanwhile Mike had a quick lunch on the boat before setting off to walk to the station. He has an appointment in Devizes with our dentist at 8:30 tomorrow morning so will go home and stay there for the night.

A short train ride of nine minutes took him to Droitwich station. It is over a mile and a half to the marina and he normally books a taxi when doing a car shuffle as time is usually important. There is no taxi rank at the station and the local companies that take telephone bookings usually have quite a waiting time. When travelling from a distance it is usually OK to book when on the train but tat was not helpful today. Mike also was not sure which train he would arrive on as there were numerous cancellations of mid day trains as a result of train crew shortages (or so the notices say!)

It was also a pleasant sunny day so Mike opted for a walk - it takes about 38 minutes. There car was already there as we could not leave it at Sherbourne Wharf in Birmingham where we started this trip.

The journey back home was uneventful and the house was warm from the day's sunshine.

0.5 Miles - 2 Locks

Wednesday 20 October 2021


 Today's Navigations - River Severn, Worcester and Birmingham Canal

It was still raining when we awoke - it had been rather wet during the night - but by the time we were up and about it was dry and some blue sky started to emerge,

The volunteer lock keeper arrived in good time and offered to let us through even earlier than the official start time. As a result we were able to cast off by 9:20. Just we came into the lock rain arrived and before we dropped down to the river Mike donned wet weather protection.

The very cheerful and welcoming lock keeper then worked the gates and paddles - here they are mechanised - and we were ready to leaver the Avon behind us. As we did so a double rainbow appeared ahead of us. Equally quickly sunshine reappeared.

Mythe Bridge carries the A428 from Tewkesbury across the river in a single cast iron span. It was designed by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826, only three years after Telford was appointed.

The sun shone and bright blue sky made a great backdrop to the views. Alas, unlike the Avon, this river has high banks and there are only a few glimpses of places much beyond the immediate bank.

Ripple Quarry Wharf looked abandoned and we began to wonder if the gravel trade along the river had come to an end. This wharf  was quite busy when we passed on previous occasions.

We encountered a small group of paddlers in the middle of nowhere and wondered where they had set off and where they were headed.

This cable crossing is sited where a former railway crossed on its way towards Malvern. We have always wondered what it was for and only very recently discovered an explanation. It allows a flow meter to be pulled out across the river to take measurements about hopw fast the river is flowing.

We already knew that these timbers were the remains of a former oil terminal but the same reference also tells us that they were used during WW2 along with a similar terminal just south of Worcester.

When we saw this gravel wharf with two barges tied up and little sign of activity our fears about the gravel trade were increased.

This is the place at which water is extracted from the river and taken across to the treatment works at Strensham and then via the pipelines we saw earlier in our trip and then on its way to Coventry.

Just as we were passing Upton we met a gravel barge, very much loaded and (we think) taking its load down to the last wharf we passed. However, where was it coming from? We have now passed all the wharfs we have seen in the past. At least our fears for the demise of the trade were not fulfilled.

Pool House is a typically Georgian country house that, until recently, has provided select holiday accommodation for its guests. However, we note that in September it was put on the market at just over £1 million.

Our earlier question about where the gravel came from was answered when we arrived at what seems to be a new loading point with another full barge just setting off downstream.

And then, very suddenly, the sky darkened and very - very - heavy rain poured down. Mike had fortunately kept his waterproof layer on as he would have had no time to change before getting very wet. We saw one very bright flash of lightning but only that one. The downpour continued for perhaps twenty minutes before easing off and being replaced yet again by bright blue skies. Distant views were now very clear indeed. Alas, Mike's camera battery ran out at that point so there are no photos until a little later when Christine took some with her phone!

The bridge carrying the southern link road signalled our final run into Worcester and time to contact the lock keeper to let them know we were coming.

The handsome footbridge meant that we were now just two minutes away from Diglis Locks. Would the lock be ready and the gates open? They are hidden by a slight bend and a lot of foliage until the last minute.

Of course they were and the friendly lock keeper came out to welcome us and to direct us to the better side to make fast.

After leaving the lock we were able to find a pontoon mooring just before the exit from the river where we could tie up and have a much awaited lunch!

It was almost mid afternoon before we moved on and Christine went to set the first of the Diglis canal locks. As Mike waited a boat arrived, that we had passed just after Upton (a hire boat that, we think, has its maximum speed deliberately restricted). We waved it forward and when the lock was set we were both able to go through together.

After the second lock we stopped at the water point. A residential boater on the opposite side cheerfully told us that the elsan at the same place  was operational again. It has been out of action for some time and we were all for going around the long way to the alternate facility in the marina.

It was a relief to be able to stow away the river cruising safety gear (anchor etc) which has been cluttering the fore deck for the past week. We moored for the night just after the next bridge. We will go a little further, up two locks, first thing tomorrow to be nearer to the railway station as Mike has to make a quick dash back home for a dental appointment on Friday morning. At least he can collect the car from our marina - Droitwich is just one stop up the line.

16.8 Miles - 4 Locks