About Me

My photo
The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hatton Flight

Today, with Alex as crew, and with the BEST MATE On nonagenarian mother-in-law duties we returned to the Top Lock LT moorings and took SONFLOWER down.

Getting there meant a car journey and a two mile walk up the locks from the layby. On the walk up we saw a CRT volunteer lock keeper and pointed out to him that the pound between locks 29 and 30 was about two feet lower than usual. He was not at that time letting water down but assisting a boat going up. He said he would have a look.

 We set off and filled and emptied two locks before the volunteer popped his head over a gate beam and told me that he had let some water down and we would be fine now. He was on his own today. There were two other volunteers in the "Welcome Centre" but I could not see anyone for them to welcome at this point of the day.

At the start of the steep flight where the locks are close together and dead in line I noticed that the tower of the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick is straight ahead.  You have to zoom in quite a bit to see it so I have done it for you:

I wondered whether the engineer had deliberately made it a focal point. The church has been there since 1128. We had done about 10 locks with Alex on the bank and me on the tiller when we came across nb Lilly May who was moored in a very short pound between Lock 37 and 36. The crew said that they were having a half time cuppa. They declined to join us in lock 36. Alex and I changed roles. We waited at the next lock for them. There was a boat coming up the next lock so we had nowhere to go anyway. By now they had taken on board more crew including two tiny children, one toddling and one babe in arms. I looked the other way when the toddler was toddling along the top beams of the gates and helping with paddle gear and gate opening! Alex was boating at age 3.1/2 but never without a life jacket.

They shared locks with us for five locks and then moored on a longer pound between Lock 31 and Lock 30 that has a length of armco in the centre. We continued down alone but had the assistance of two boats that came up.

We moored just short of Budbrooke Junction.

                                                         2. 1/4 miles, 21 locks, 4 hours

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Shrewley to Hatton

As we were at a meeting in Hatton Yard CRT offices this afternoon we asked another member of the meeting to drop us at Shrewley Post Office so that we could move SONFLOWER nearer Hatton Top Lock. We are very grateful for the lift.

We were on 48 hour moorings and had come to the end of our concessionary 7 day overstay period.

The plan was to move to 14 day moorings.

But in nearing Hatton top lock we found that there are no 14day moorings between St John's Bridge 55 and the waterpoint at the top lock. What to do?

It was now after half past four and a minimum of four hours can be anticipated for the passage through the 21 lock flight. Not an option!

There was a gap of 12 ring spaces (approx 10m apart) on the tow-path designated "Long Term Moorings, permit holders only", then two small boats and a gap of 3 rings, approximately 90ft, then a single boat before the water point.

We put SONFLOWER in the 90ft gap.

At Hatton Top Long Term Moorings
So another email to CRT Enforcement has been sent. I hope that they agree that I had no choice.

I have arranged crew for Saturday Morning to make passage down the flight. The Best Mate has volunteered to take on the nonagenarian care duties.

Shrewley Tunnel SW Portal 48 hour mooring to Hatton Top L T Mooring, 1.5miles, 0.5 hour

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Out of Birmingham

 This is the view from Cambrian Wharf at the top of Farmers Bridge Flight yesterday morning just before sunrise. We were up early because we had 11.1/2 to 12 hours boating ahead of us and only 11.1/2 hours of daylight to do it in.  We knew that around the corner was a barrier with blue flashing lights and this sign!
No-one was there when we arrived a fraction past 7AM. There are no rings so The Best Mate held the boat on the centre rope while I looked for the police. So although not technically "out of hours" (10PM to 7AM) I called the number. The police respondent said "I'll be with you in 10-15 minutes". He did arrive at the path beside The Malt Shovel to tell us that he could not find the "water team": they had not arrived yet. We had a visit from a lovely little spaniel search dog at about 8.30 and, with two policemen and the dog aboard as escorts we were cleared to make passage to Worcester Bar at 0837h.

It was one of those wonderfully crisp and sunny mornings as we headed south past the University hall and campus where I was an undergrad so many years ago. Over a new aqueduct over a new dual carriageway road past Selly Oak and Bourneville, once a proud centre for chocolate manufacture, now a theme park. Gliding easily across an ebony marble surface. Why the water here has a blackened glassy look to it I do not really know. We used to call it a "smelly ditch" but now, with a re-furbished cycleway on the towpath it is a delightful cruising waterway.

So to the tightest of turns under the King's Norton junction footbridge to join the Stratford canal with its guillotine gated stop lock that would no longer stop anything judging by the gaps between the planks of the guillotines. After Brandwood Tunnel we had a brief stop to pump out, fill with diesel and buy a pair of cornettos. After Lyons Boatyard the canal is a winding delight. Often wooded on both sides and overhead the sunlight splashes through the leafy arch to dapple the mirror surface of the canal and the path beside it. An occasional leaf fell to make wavy circles in the way ahead. Three herons and two kingfishers were seen here too. There are many new waterside developments to accommodate an expanding population on the leafy edge of the Birmingham Solihull conurbation. One has a stairway waterfall which stops just short of the canalside on a mock wharfe. No boats would be allowed to moor there.

We continued apace with no time to stop at Wedge's Bakery and only a following timeshare nb Steelaway for company. They were not in quite sight when we had to close the Shirley Swing bridge to let the traffic flow again but we held the next lift bridge open for them. The Best Mate dawdled on to make sure they could not pass while I lowered it again as we did not want to lose any benefit of any locks that were set for us!  We needn't have worried as they winded before the second and last lift bridge before the locks.

And anyway locks 2 and 3 were set against us so had to be filled. However, locks 4 and 5 were full and from then on we were on a good road. How that happened we were not sure but next to the Lapworth cricket field we saw three CRT blue shirts get into their lorry and scoot away. maybe they had been playing with the levels:we will never know.
Shadows lengthen as sun sinks
A couple of boats came up the other way to interrupt our lonely routine and we had the company of a few walkers and dog walkers in the sunshine.

We left the 20 locks behind as the sun dipped below the hedgerows and we headed out into the Birmingham and Warwick canal, turning south toward Warwick. It got darker and darker until we entered Shrewley Tunnel. When I left it the light didn't get much brighter so I pulled over and we moored on the rings. We were short of our target and a long way short of Warwick Parkway station. We had moored here before and we knew the way up over the tunnel to Shrewley Common where there is a Post Office. I did not notice the 48hour restriction until I lit up the post with my torch. Oops! Near the PO, a kind gentleman suggested that we walk to the Durham Ox to ask after a taxi. This we did and were soon provided with the taxi company's number and a cab was in its way.

The driver suggested that he could take us home for not much more than the train fare so we accepted his offer and were home, exhausted but glad to get home before the train would have left Warwick Parkway.

Now all we need to do is find a time to move the boat the remaining distance to the top of Hatton locks.

Cambrian Wharf to Shrewley Tunnel SE portal:
                                            22.5 miles, 20 locks. 3 moveable bridges, 3 tunnels 12.1/2 hours

Monday, 3 October 2016

Banbury Canal Day

This was the first year since 2004 that SONFLOWER has not been moored where the blue boat with the gold roof in the picture or tucked under Tom Rolt Bridge, from which this picture was taken.

This is the stand of BCF, one of two Christian groups that had stands amongst over a 100 of charities, interest groups and organisations that come to enjoy the first Sunday in October together with about 10,000 folk. We spoke to day trippers from the Isle of Wight, Lincoln and Chester. Such is the renown of the day.

Amongst the craft moored for this event were  nb Livien G, supporting an orphanage in Tanzania; nb Norfolk Belle,selling eco-fiendly products; nb Shammah wrapped up in bubble wrap and with a crew of bubbles; nb Scyeffe with a musical saw artiste; nb Trimstone assisting with safe boarding of trip boats. All very different but with the common purpose of being at the heart of the festival.

WIth our Waterways Chaplaincy gillets on we also walked the towpath and talked with CRT staff and volunteers, boaters and traders.

We are grateful to our friends from Jubilee Church and other fellowships who supported us throughout the day and at our service in the afternoon.

nb Sonflower was missed and some asked where she was and whether we will be back for next year. I am sure that we will be.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Birmingham in the Rain

Thanks to the Best Mate who was undertook nonagenarian caring duties Alex and I went to take the boat to Birmingham City Centre.

This was how we found her tied up. Obviously we had been untied at the stern and someone had retied her with both my stern lines and as many knots as they could tie around the bollard and the swan neck as well as the tee posts! Thank you to the kind hearted soul who pulled her in.

A retired vicar conversed with us for a few minutes, prompted by the WWC  labels in the windows. He told us there was a lot of traffic coming out if Birmingham.  "Good, I replied, that will help us"

We left in rain. I had Alex on board as crew and enjoyed his company. About a half hour into the cruise we came across steaming narrowboat tug Laplander. Murphy's Law applies and she was under the factory over the canal when we passed so I could not get a pretty picture
 Thence to Salford Junction, the spaghetti junction of the waterways. I always have to ask myself which way we need to turn.
The real "spaghetti junction" (A38(M) and M6 intersection) is about half a mile further on but that is the M6 above us. Passing Cookoo Wharf we said "hello" to the crew of nb Norfolk Belle who we expect to see at Banbury Canal Day next weekend. Aston locks were all set for us and we met a couple of boats coming out of Birmingham. The rain persisted.

We met nb Kew at the foot of Farmers Bridge locks and took our lunch on board. They were returning from Parkhead Festival and had a milk bottle of bitter real ale on board, bought at discount from the closing bar. It refreshed me. The WWC for central Birmingham was their lock wheeling crew down Farmers Bridge flight and we took him with us to re-tread his steps as he needed to get to an appointment elsewhere later in the day. After the first of the FB locks I felt guilty having so many hands and sent Alex back to nb Kew to replace him. The rain stopped once we were under the shelter of the buildings that cover the secretive flight of 13 locks that form the staircase to the highly developed central Birmingham exhibition quarter.

This is the iconic view to remember Farmers Bridge by with the  Telecoms tower in the background.
My crew had to leave me to do the last three locks on my own but as they were set ready by Kew's descent he opened the bottom gates of the last two for me as he passed. I arrived at the top and backed into a mooring in Cambrian Wharf at about 5pm.
This is the first time I have had every lock on Aston and Farmers Bridge Flights (24 locks) in our favour. Indeed a good road today.

Now I had to consult Traveline and check out buses. I followed their map and route to Bus Stop CS1 on Corporation Street and got a 63 bus to Erdington where the car was parked. Under and hour later I was ready to rendezvous again with nb Kew and Alex.
Here Kew positions herself across the canal to moor near the Tyburn pub where we enjoyed a dinner together with her crew before we left to return to Banbury.

                                                                          5.1/4miles, 24 locks   6 hours

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Fazeley to Erdington

We have to admit it. 21 minus 4 equals 17 so we have been, prima facie, overstaying!  My sister did not arrive until Saturday and with other commitments, including a son's birthday and another's time to return to uni, we had no earlier window to make this move. I consider this reasonable under the terms of  SXVII 3 c (iii) of British Waterways Act 1995.

We said fare well to our friends' garden mooring early this morning (Sorry to disturb you!) and plied our way past the maturing Kingsbury Water Park with their varied habitats for various species of bird and mammal. We could see goose pond and swan lake. We heard the raucous alarm calling of coots on their preferred patch of water and saw the little isles that terns colonize in the spring and early summer. The Summer visitors that probably inhabited the reed and brush have gone now, leaving the willow and hawthorn to perhaps a wintering shrike or hawfinches. The sand has been taken and one conveyor bridge has gone too. I could not see any remaining sand cliff to attract sand martins but who knows what is out there. Most pits are water filled now.

After the sands of the Thame valley we come to the rise out of it up Curdworth Locks, 11 in all. We didn't have to empty any of them! The first boat to meet us was nb Mad Hatter, who are members of our fellowship. They are doing the Warwick ring to finish off their summer cruising, as you do.

We have been this way before: in the opposite direction on our very first waterways holiday in 1999 and several other times too. I love the peace on the water and in the fields when only a couple of hundred yards from the morning madness of the M42.
Peace and calm, Curdworth Locks

There will be more noisy interruptions to the peace of the waterway when HS2 roars over lock 8!
zoom in to see the sign "HS2 bridge starts here"
We had a slight delay at one lock where CRT had a work team sprucing it up a bit.

They soon gave way to us and moved on to the next lock. Waiting for them to clear the way gave an ideal time for a bacon roll and a cup of coffee. We followed the work boat through Curdworth Tunnel and they pulled over to let us pass.

Minworth locks are protected by antivandal devices which sent us scurrying into the boat for a "handcuff key". I am not sure that these are effective but certainly inconvenienced us! The top lock at Minworth also had workmen in attendance. This time a contractor sealing behind the brickwork to stop sidewall leakage. After the bottom lock we looked for a mooring. The towpath refurb has provided lovely concrete coping stones and all weather surface but it is not suitable for driving a mooring pin into . Not boat friendly as they say! So we had to continue to the black and white bollards just south of Butler's Bridge (A38 Kingsbury Road).

From there a long walk to the 110 bus for the ride back to Fazeley and the car! Home to a take away tandoori!

                                                               9 miles, 14 locks, 6 hours

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Short Moves

If you have been checking up on the location of SONFOWER on Water Explorer you will have noticed that on Friday afternoon she moved from the 7-day Fazeley Visitor Moorings on the Coventry Canal to the 7-day Fazeley Visitor Moorings on the BCN Birmingham to Fazeley Canal. A distance of about 1/4 mile.

This was to be closer to Tolson's Footbridge which gives access to St Paul's Church, Fazeley where the Boaters Christian Fellowship were holding a short weekend gathering. It included a session to examine one of the Fellowship's main aims: fellowship!  One would have thought we would have had that one sorted out but we gained a lot of insight into what different members might want in the way of meeting together and enjoying all that we have in common. Our weekend included sharing food together in various ways: a great way to experience fellowship. We had a picnic lunch, a barbeque supper, a communion service and Sunday Roast lunch in the Three Tuns. With a do-it-yourself entertainment in the evening when The Best Mate sang to my guitar accompaniment, it was a good weekend.

And this afternoon we crossed to the canal to moor on a garden mooring. Approximately 50 yards!