Saturday 2 December 2023

Car Shuffle and Home

We arrived in the marina last night so no cruising today, but we did still have the car to retrieve from Alvechurch. Today was one of several train driver strike days but schedules were supposed to be published by yesterday - with some indicated that way. Mike found that the last trip of the morning using the 3 train route (in reverse) that he used when unexpectedly collecting the car from the marina just after the slippage at Shortwood was still due to depart just after 10 am. He booked etickets. (Droitwich->Bromsgrove->Barnt Green ->Alvechurch in 45 minutes) and a taxi from the marina to the station at 9.30.

We awoke to find a very different day, weather-wise, from the previous two days. There was a significant fog/mist with freezing temperatures. Just the conditions for chilling the lungs when doing anything energetic outside. At least we had made the right call on days to come down all those locks.

The taxi arrived on time but when Mike was dropped at the station he immediately saw that his train was CANCELLED! The schedule on the display was sparse and the next after the 10:03 only showed the destination, not the route. The further complication was that Three, the provider for Mike's phone, still did not have any data service - the outage had started some time yesterday, Fortunately Christine's is on a different network so we could book the tickets. The ticket office at the station was not manned this morning, either! Luckily a lady sitting next to Mike on the platform thought to look up his route and showed that the recommended option was to take the next train (actually a little earlier) into Birmingham Moor Street, walk to New Street and thence down to Alvechurch, 

Of course, all trains today were extremely busy with limited standing room at times. As the phone network still had data outage, Mike was not able to display the QR code of his ticket but the train manager accepted the email. 

This train was actually going to Stratford-on-Avon, on a long loop through Kidderminster, around Birmingham and  then southwards. Just before we arrived at Smethwick Galton Bridge there was an announcement that suggested passengers for New Street could change here. A lot did! And there was a train ready and waiting at platform 4 on the lower level.

At last this meant not having to do the walk from Moor Street to New Street (which always seems to take longer than the five minutes officially allowed) and so there was time to pick up a warming cup of coffee.

The train to Alvechurch, the stop before the end of the line at Redditch, was on time and arrived as scheduled, just an hour later than the original plan. It could have been a lot worse.

Mike then drove back to the marina - the motorway was not busy, luckily as by the M5 the fog was thickening and the overhead signs warned drivers to slow down. Christine, meanwhile, had done a good job in making sure that what we needed to load into the car was ready for immediate collection. This was soon transferred before lunch. Then time to empty the last few drops of water in the tank (we had not taken on a full tank to avoid wasting more than we needed), empty the elsan and go through our pre-departure checklist.

We were away just a few minutes after 2, which is what we had hoped so that we could reach home whilst there was still daylight - sunset was just after 4. Again, traffic was moderate and not too much fog until we were about two miles from home. The fog bank, with a sharp 'edge' to it , was rather impressive.

When we left home on  Wednesday we were still expecting not to be back until Sunday with at least one day of rain  forecast. Since we had set the heating to Holiday and to come back on on Sunday, the house was really, really cold and it warmed up very slowly. We were very glad that our menu plan was to collect fish 'n chips from a local chippie - and boy, was it good!

We will need to return to the boat for some maintenance before the start of next season's cruising but w do not yet have a plan - just a growing list of things to attend to! The next fixed point on the agenda will be the boat painting, starting at the end of May 2024. 

Friday 1 December 2023

Back to the Marina - at last!

Today's Canal : Worcester and Birmingham, Droitwich

After the coldest night yet - although tonight is forecast even colder - we awoke to find that the canal was covered with ice! What was this going to do to our plans - we hoped to be back on our marina mooring by sundown.

A quick poke with a stick revealed that although it was extensive, the ice was only about 10 mm thick which we hoped would allow us to proceed.

By the time that we were ready to leave, one of the boats that came down after us last night and moored a short distance ahead, had already left, so we assumed that progress was possible (unless it turned out to be a narrowboat shaped Tardis!) Casting off was interesting as the mooring ropes were frozen solid. Eventually we were on our way, accompanied by a gentle crunching of ice.

It was only a short distance around the corner to the start of the Stoke Locks - with a very wintry look. We knew that we would have to be especially vigilant working around the locks, to avoid slipping. As another boat was just ahead of us, finding all them empty and set against us was a no-brainer.

At this time of the year, with the sun low in the sky, parts of the landscape in sunshine are brilliant bit strong shadows are cast elsewhere.

Another wintry landscape. really quite picturesque.

Just above one lock, the ice was right across as these ducks discovered. However, there were enough of them that they soon started to sink and they found a gap where they could paddle away.

At the last Astwood lock we caught up with the boat ahead and discovered that they too were heading for the same marina.

The pound below the Atwood flight was long enough to serve up mugs of soup and chunks of bread to eat 'on the go'. It was already 2 o'clock where we turned onto the Droitwich canal at Hanbury so we needed to press on if we were to be tied up in daylight.

Just after we arrived at hanbury Top Lock another boat arrived, having come up from Worcester after yesterday an 'interesting' run up the Severn from Tewkesbury. They too were heading for the marina.

The marina did not have much ice - we called at the service wharf first to fill up with fuel and to buy an electricity card. Then, with the sun setting fast, we cruised across the marina to our berth - no wind so it was somewhat easier than it can be to reverse into our slot.

We hooked up to the electric and stoked up the fire to ward off what promises to be a very cold night. Mike booked train tickers and a taxi for the morning so that he an collect the car. Despite the strikes, some trains are still running - we hope!

It has certainly been an eventful year of boating and it is rather later than 'normal' that we return to a winter mooring in December. Despite the cold, we have enjoyed these last three days with some quite special views.

4.7 Miles - 15 Locks