Friday, 24 August 2012

Wow. Just wow.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

We were blown away by this last year, just after we took possession of Honey. But it was hard work. We spent more time aground than afloat on the Diggle Flight, and more time refilling pounds than using them on the Marsden Flight.

But BW (as it was then) did a lot of work over the winter, and the Eastern, Diggle side of the tunnel was a delight to navigate.

Still dredging to be done on the West side, though.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Lots of 'em.

I'm not sure why the flight climbing Eastwards out of Cheshire is called "Heartbreak Hill." 24 easy locks, with a nice cafe & a pub? No problem - especially after two very entertaining evenings with old friends.

Perhaps it is because each lock takes you closer to Stoke-on-Trent? Except we turned left back into Cheshire.

The Macclesfield Canal is a little gem, beginning with the gentle beauty of Mow Cop, then Bosley Cloud introduces the wilder peaks. We then spend a day close enough to Manchester to get a good broadband signal and find shops selling fresh food, but still not in the fleshpots.

Tomorrow we're having another day off to enjoy the scenery, and on Friday we go underground.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Deary, deary me.

For 25 years I have suppressed my memories of a traumatic experience. At Norbury Junction I accidentally triggered recollection.

I drank a pint of Banks's bitter.

What made it worse was the narrowboat traffic on the Shroppie North of the junction: not the quantity, but the behaviour. Just one (or two) is all it takes to cause trouble for countless other boaters and waterways staff.

I'm not sure I believe the rumours of the drained pound, but joining the queue of boats backing up behind a Tickover Trawler who then slams locks shut in the face of oncoming boaters places you in the middle of a world of disgruntled holidaymakers. It's a shame people have to behave so badly, but the only sensible response is to rise above it and ensure that it doesn't ruin your day, too.

The only cure for exposure to this sort of bad behaviour is provided by the excellent staff of the Shroppie Fly at Audlem. A few pints of Pedigree, good food, ice-cream and a thrashing at chess later, and all was well again.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

That desolate wilderness again.

To be fair, the Staffs & Worcs is a very pretty waterway, and the Shropshire Union is famous for its many charms.

3G signal isn't one of them.

We made a slight detour to Dadford's Wharf along the way to arrange a repaint for Honey, and booked it for September 2013 - it was a choice between a quick repaint or a wait for a quality job, and everyone knows Honey is worth it.

It's been a combination of absolutely delightful boaters who we have seen several times a day, and the occasional encounter that an only accurately be described as a run-in. Literally. Boating reflects life in general - every now and then you will meet someone and wish you hadn't.

If we see one particular boat again, we're pulling over, getting all the fenders out, and standing on dry land until they are on a different waterway.

We're in Shropshire now, looking forward to a Chinese takeaway with old friends. Perfect.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Nobody has ever told me about the River Severn

Well, I said I like rivers, so I was looking forward to the Severn. I wasn't disappointed.

We had a fantastic couple of days in Tewkesbury with Anna and Mina and their lovely children, but when the time came to move on we finally joined the Severn at Avon Lock. It really is a gorgeous waterway.

Pearson gets a bit excited about the waterway, and his similes are a bit wild, but it's still a stunner.

We reached Worcester in time for a late lunch with Tim & Angela, and a cruise up & down the lower reaches of the Birmingham & Worcester Canal, with good food and wine.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Got a boat? Get on the Avon!

It was the River Avon that started it for us, and even with scattered showers the Avon has seduced us again.

It's always a wrench to leave Stratford-upon-Avon, but leaving downstream by boat helps. We've dawdled (as you should!) and adored one of the most beautiful waterways on the network.

We stopped at Evesham Marina to give Honey some TLC and were delighted by their service. We turned up unannounced and were met at their landing by staff offering help. Two hours of laughter later, we left with a freshly repacked stern tube, a new set of domestic batteries and a tank of diesel.

They couldn't have been nicer or better - even down to showing us what they were doing (which gives me an opportunity to growl and snarl about a certain boatyard on the S&K which packed only 350° of my stern tube last year...)

Tonight: feet up on a sunny riverbank while the kids play with a boomerang. Tomorrow we're going to explore Pershore.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Nuts & Bolts & Swans

We've had a long weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon - and it has been wonderful. Not just the R&R, but also the culture & social time.

First, what can I say about our mooring? When we arrived in Bancroft Basin, the best spot in England was free - you simply cannot find a place to put your kitchen window that is better. A sixty second stroll across a park, past a fountain, to the front door of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

And Twelfth Night was wonderful. (We should have followed our friend's example and bought tickets to see Troilus & Cressida and Much Ado About Nothing as well, but maybe next time...)

Second, Mic & I have always loved this town. We both visited regularly as teenagers, and one of our first dates was here (to our delight, the restaurant cruiser 'Countess of Evesham' still operates from the basin and the crew complimented me on my sausage casserole!)

We met old friends and made new friends (waves at NB Copperkins) - sitting on a boat next to the RST, people stop and chat!

After two weeks, though, housekeeping has pushed its way tithe top of the agenda.

First, a hundred hours travel time in two weeks means the stern tube packing is starting to demand more attention than before. Second, the domestic battery bank has called the priest and asked for Last Rites. And third (because these things always come in threes) the new throttle cable appears to have upset the link on the engine - which duly threw a strop and demanded some "Me Time" in the shape of TLC with spanners, screwdrivers and swearwords.

And then there is the satellite dish. Please imagine as many swearwords as you can - and then add these hints if you want satellite television on your narrowboat:
1. Buy a satellite finder. Every other penny you spend is wasted without one.
2. Do not rely on smartphone compasses. Homeopathy is more reliable.
3. "Free to air" receivers will give you hundreds of channels. How's your German? No good? Buy a freesat receiver.

Friday, 3 August 2012


We're not budging. It's too nice.

(We'll have to leave tomorrow.

1. It's a 48 hour mooring and
2. We're running low on water.

But until then, we're saying.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

How's Your Vertigo?

The Stratford Canal is beautiful. Hard work - 55 locks of hard work - but well worth it. Especially the aqueduct!

But it also raises a question of narrow canal etiquette.

Everyone knows that you should not "steal" locks when they are prepared against you and for oncoming boats; but while penning through the Stratford's 55 narrow locks we saw a variation on this.

When approaching the top of the Lapworth Flight another boater saw us approaching and visibly raced to start his engine, attach his tiller, untie and set off - pulling out just in front of us to take the flight that was set for a descending boat, thereby leaving it set against us. Sharing being impossible in narrow locks, it took us twice as long to pen through each lock as him.

This happened three times, and only once did the boater ahead of us set the locks for us by refilling them after penning through.

You can see why a boater would rush to get onto a narrow flight first: having to fill each lock before penning through doubles your transit time.

It doesn't win you any friends, though.