All posts by Toby

Our last full day :(

Today was our last full day, before we handover to Mum and Dad for their holiday to begin tomorrow.

Before we start for today though, one photo from yesterday evening – this little fella flew into the boat, and couldn’t understand why it couldn’t get out through the window. I coaxed it onto my finger to get it out but it didn’t seem to want to fly off, so we got some close-up photos. Just a shame we didn’t get a more colourful specimen!

Our damsel fly guest

We didn’t have far to go today, just a few hours to the start of the Lapworth flight, the Stratford canal is very pretty along here. One thing we weren’t expecting, was a field of Christmas trees.

Christmas trees galore!

Sarah timed the first lift bridge to perfection, arriving just as another boat came the opposite way and opened it up for us! They very kindly let us through first – and probably regretted it when I then got stuck in the mud on the bend, so they had to wait a little longer until I could get clear!

One more lift bridge, which Sarah steered us through, and then just 4 locks for the day. At the bottom of one lock, there was a garden with some nice looking raspberries overhanging the canal. Oliver must have been hungry as he picked one (or maybe I got too close and brushed the edge, I’ll let you decide)

Two of the four locks we did today

We moored up at 11:40  on the the Lapworth flight; the plan was we’d then have time to do an oil change and clean the boat. We then had the pleasant surprise of seeing our friends Richard and Jane walking up the towpath – we’d arranged to meet them for dinner this evening, but weren’t expecting to see them quite so soon! We had a nice chat, and found they’d also seen my Mum and Dad down at the pub, so we ended up with my parents popping in for a quick visit before tomorrow too.

Well after all the chatter, what can I say… sorry but Oliver didn’t get the clean he was due, but the good news is I did get the oil change done and Sarah got all our stuff packed up ready for tomorrow.

Doing an oil change before tomorrow’s handover

There won’t be a blog entry for tomorrow as we’re doing the handover – but then Mum and Dad will be taking it on so look out for further updates from them over the next few weeks.

One last selfie to say farewell for now

Four Waterways in One Day

I’ve managed to escape most of the World Cup, but with the England match looming on Sunday, I had to agree to plans, so we would be moored up for tomorrow’s 1pm match.  That meant a longer day today, and an early start – well 7.30 cast off, that’s early for Toby!

Calm waters on The Severn
It was so early, even the swans were still sleeping

We turned on to the recently restored Droitwich Barge Canal, no lock keeper here, it was back to DIY.  A bird was sat on the first lock gate and wouldn’t move, I didn’t like it and sent Toby to open the gates. Picture below of the defendant – any ideas what it is? (he was a LOT bigger in real life!)

A new bird on the canals

We slowly worked our way through the various twists and turns, this canal felt quite different with the very high reed beds between the canal and the towpath.  Toby did a great job steering with oncoming boats, although had a near miss with a bend and bridge.

Getting used to the narrow canal after the wide river

Not that I knew it at the time, as it felt like the same canal, but we soon entered the Junction Canal

Just in case you needed help in where to aim!

I’d been having sleepless nights about the next tunnel which runs under the M5 and is low. We were advised to fill up with water so our bow sat low (water tank filled to the brim), and Toby removed the chimney. Luckily for us and all this dry weather, the water levels were low, and we passed through with inches to spare.

Height level board for the tunnel under the M5
Not much room to spare!
Toby wasn’t able to stand at the tiller, and had to sit on the locker and steer

A staircase lock, and then three final locks which were manned by volunteer lock-keepers…yey!  The lock paddles are different here, with side channels in the lock connected to side pounds.

Entering the staircase lock

After 16 locks, we turned on to the Worcester and Birmingham canal. We soon moored up and celebrated making such good progress with an ice pole.

Our mooring and home for the night

From Worcester Race Course moorings to Summerhill Farm Bridge No 38, a distance of 10 miles, 7 flg and 16 locks.

To Worcester we wend our way

We set off from the Lower Lode visitor moorings at about 8:45 – it was a beautiful sunny and calm morning, though with a bit of a chill in the air at that time. The Severn is very samey and a little dull, but it wasn’t too long before we were back to where the Avon meets the Severn at Tewkesbury. Another narrowboat pulled out from the junction just ahead of us, but they soon disappeared into the distance, clearly in more of a hurry than we were.

One of Telford’s, just North from Tewkesbury.

The tree-lined banks of the Severn are covered in Willow, with a dash of beech, chestnut and others. The odd other boat, bird or lock makes a welcome distraction!

Sunbathing? Drying his wings? Preening to his mate? You decide!
Couldn’t resist yet another heron shot!

Another couple of narrowboats overtook us later on – are we going really slowly or are they all fast?!

Later in the day we met this rather large barge coming from the opposite direction; he tooted his horn and I counted the blasts to try to work out what he was up to. 4 short blasts, a gap, then one more. Well. 1 is going left. 2 is going right. 3 is going backwards. 5 or more signals danger.  I’m not sure what he was trying to tell me, but he then proceeded to turn across the river in front of us so we kept well clear!

These barges are all the same size – but the near one is full of aggregate so sitting very low in the water.
We got to watch them tie up and start unloading – very quick and efficient!
Further up river we met Pike, Perch’s sister ship. Note the crew sunbathing!

The sun really came out later in the day and drove off any remaining chill. By the time we reached Worcester it was T-shirt and shorts weather.

Worcester cathedral from the river.

We’d hoped to moor just after Diglis lock on the pontoon, but it was full even at 1430. We rejected the next spot as it was inundated with swans and seagulls, and we didn’t want to have to clear yet more muck off the roof, so we ended up just past the rowing club, next to the racecourse.

I enjoyed a long glass of pimms, and we both had some strawberries as we tried to keep cool and relax at the end of today’s journey. Tomorrow we leave the river and head on to the Droitwich Barge and Junction Canals for our first time.

From Tewkesbury Lower Lode to Worcester Race Course moorings, A total distance of 18 miles, 4 flg and 2 locks.

Toby and Sarah Went to Gloucester

There was a little shower of rain, but nobody stepped in any puddles (or marina basins) on this particular visit.

We set off from Sharpness to return to Gloucester, but this time we’re going to stop off in Gloucester to see the sights before moving back on to the Severn.

Just outside Sharpness are the remains of an incredible bridge. Completed in 1879 it used to have 21 spans, and crossed both the Severn and the canal. The span across the canal was a steam-powered swing-bridge, 200 feet long.  Sadly it was destroyed in an accident involving two oil tankers in 1960 most of the remains dismantled later – you can read more about it here.

The original Severn (railway) bridge

From one wreck to another – next stop was at the ‘Purton Hulks‘. These were new to Sarah and I, but my Dad being a keen photographer had heard a lot about them, so we thought we should at least have a look and see what we could make of it. I think Dad would love it here – we expect him to visit before too long!

Purton Hulks

Sarah did a quick top-up of our water supplies whilst I took a few very amateur photographs, and then it was back on towards Gloucester, through the various swing bridges. We played around a bit with the new camera, and tried to get a timed selfie going through a swing bridge – the timing failed, but the photo wasn’t too bad. Sarah’s looking up to keep an eye on the bridge – hence the facial expressions!

This swing bridge is high enough that it doesn’t need to open for us, but Sarah’s keeping a close eye on it just in case!

We stopped off for a pump-out, which seemed to take forever, and then it was another couple of hours before we started to enter the outskirts of Gloucester. If anyone fancies their very own light-ship, this one is up for sale!

The lightship ‘Sula’

We took our more modest boat up to the modern looking pontoons opposite some new restaurants and bars. The docks area around Gloucester is the scene of a lot of redevelopment at the moment and they’re doing a good job of keeping the feel of the old warehouses alive whilst still modernising everything.

Oilver safe and sound in the moorings at Gloucester

They also have their own waterways museum, so we had a little meander around there, and took the obligatory selfie shot…

Toby and Sarah, circa 1830

Tomorrow we head back on to the Severn towards Worcester.

 

 

Farewell friends

We awoke to a lovely morning, if a little chilly, and Sarah took this fine shot of Oliver still on our pub mooring courtesy of the Fish & Anchor. It was a great place to stop overnight and the food and beer was good too!

We had some breakfast on board and then set off through the Offenham lock, where we met our companions from the day before on ‘About Time’ just heading in as we arrived. It later transpired they’d been waiting ready at the lock for someone else to come along to help.

A lighthouse on the river system?!

From Offenham the next lock is at Evesham. We’d been told very clearly by the lady at the Avon Trust boat in Stratford to moor up on the landing stage to the left by the weir, and open both gates as there’s a strong current. We did as instructed and all went well, but apparently quite a few people insist on doing their own thing and make a mess of it.

Evesham lock, in the floods of 2007, the river levels reached the bottom windows of the lock house

Everyone had a go at steering, Joel and Simon even had a go through some of the locks too. We had a few little bumps but that comes with the territory!

Anne-Marie on the helm
Joel, Simon, Anne-Marie and Toby – and ‘About Time’ still sticking close behind!

The scenery on the Avon is really something else, full of picturesque scenes. We tooted the horn as we approached Hampton Rope Ferry, and after both boats had passed got to see the old rope-ferry in action; the boat is winched across by the ferryman on the shore via a rope that normally sits under the water. Sadly they were too far off to make a good photo.

The mill and weir at Fladbury; a popular scene with photographers but we weren’t hanging around for the perfect shot.

A few more locks and we arrived at Pershore, just in time to see ‘About Time’ attempting to turn around, but actually managing to T-bone the bank of the Avon at quarter-speed. We heard the thump from 200 meters back. We then got ourselves moored up, only to hear a cry of ‘Help me!’ – I looked up to see the lady on ‘About Time’ desperately trying to pull the boat in against the wind and clearly losing the battle as the centre rope slowly slipped through her hands. Luckily I was able to get there in time and lend a hand (with the help of a  couple of turns around a mooring post) and soon all parties were safely secure.

We then had more entertainment, this time from the local swans. One of the cygnets had hitched a ride with mummy, something I’ve  not seen before. It looked very comfy!

You’ll struggle to find anything cuter than this on the river!

It wasn’t long before Esmee texted to let us know she was on the way, so we lit the Cobb (a kind of BBQ) and got some burgers going. All too soon dinner was done and it was time to say farewell to our friends; we’ll miss their camaraderie, not to mention their help steering and opening locks! The boat feels a bit empty now without them.

Apologies to Joel for my big head getting in the way!

Perhaps the next time we’re on the water together it might be in a dragon boat!?

Guest post by Joel

Today’s post is courtesy of our new helmsman for the weekend, Joel…

Today tells the story of how fishing lines were cut by props, the scoffing of an entire pringles can (that was me) and a perfect demonstration of separation anxiety.

As soon as we exited the lock out of the Stratord-upon-Avon basin we stumbled upon a regatta that was taking place all day, we were originally told that it would be completely fine to waltz straight through… upon second though the shouty man on the safety boat for the regatta decided we would need to faff about a little more before we could leave.

Pictured above is my dad and I helming, I liked it rather a lot and ended up doing I most of the rest of the day (except for locks).

One other exception to my helmsman-ship was a tricky bridge that had been damaged by a lorry and repaired, nevertheless there were still bricks and debris in the water meaning that there was only one safe arch through the bridge.

Here are some welcome sweeping s-bends through the reeds as the river meanders it course through the British countryside.

As we edged closer to our final destination at a blistering 4 mph, we entered yet another lock with our unscheduled boat-buddy for the day the lock ended up being so large that their was space for a yoghurt pot to squeeze in.

Moored up for the night, all that needs to happen now is for the duck outside to stop yelling!

You can leave your Hatton

We made an early-ish start to the day, with the aim to get as far as we could through the Hatton flight of locks before the sun got too hot. With that in mind we got dressed and set off straight away, with teas and coffees on the go, followed by some cereal for breakfast.

A morning cuppa to help Rosemary and Sarah wake up first thing
The morning commuters and school run

We soon hit the outskirts of Leamington Spa, and it felt good watching people commute to work and knowing we were on holiday!

Heron shots are something of a tradition on this blog… the new camera’s zoom lens makes it a lot easier!

There are a few “warm-up” locks before the main flight proper begins

The daunting Hatton flight

We hit the locks just after another pair of boats had started going up too, so unfortunately we had to reset each lock before we could go in. We easily kept pace with the boats in front though – one was clearly a learner driver, and the other liked to take things at his own pace shall we say.

Fortunately our luck turned for the better when another hire boat caught us up – two parents, two grown up children and their partners, who hire a boat every year so knew exactly what they were doing and helped run ahead and get the locks ready for not just us but the boats in front too.

In other breaking news, after the first few locks Sarah decided to have a go at helming us through the locks. This was very brave as Sarah doesn’t normally like to steer in locks, let alone with an audience. Naturally she did it all with aplomb – a magic bean to Sarah for such an excellent job!

Proof I’m not making it up – Sarah at the helm
The sun was on our backs, so we left our hatton

Once we were through the locks we moored up to have a late lunch, and then walked up to the train station to say farewell to Rosemary, and thanks for all her help – it was very much appreciated, along with the chocolate cake too!

Farewell Rosemary!

Three is the magic number

Today our next adventure begins! Sadly there were no cooked breakfasts at the marina, but we soon made up for that with some bacon butties once we were under way. Rosemary is with us for the first few days; having 3 people is the magic number for doing locks as we have one to helm and one for each side of the locks.

There were 3 happy faces this morning as we set off on our next Big Adventure.

We’re aiming to do the Avon ring, with a little detour down to Gloucester docks if we feel we’ll have the time (we should have plenty!)

We’re headed for Gloucester later…

The first locks on our journey are at Buckby, starting at Whilton marina. As we approached we saw someone opening up the gates, so perfect timing and we went up the locks with them. It turned out that he’d just bought the boat from the marina just an hour or so before, and this was his first trip. He had his brother-in-law with him, to help as he had a little more experience and could show him the ropes.

Rosemary wasn’t too impressed with Buckby’s lock gates

We had a brief stop for lunch at the top of the Buckby flight (sausage rolls and some salad, yummy!) and then headed onward to Braunston Tunnel.

Accelerating to Warp Speed
Two boats Incoming! The second one had a really blinding headlamp

We’d made good progress, so decided to crack on through Braunston locks. We met a lovely couple on Interlock who clearly had bags of experience so we got through those in good time too.

One for the flower lovers
Plenty time for an ice cream

We found a nice mooring spot in Braunston so settled in ready for dinner and a nice hot shower. The forecast’s looking great for tomorrow so looking forward to enjoying the countryside.

Autumn Bliss

Today is our last full day of the honeymoon period…we had another somewhat lazy start but got going a little earlier than yesterday to try to beat the rain and get a mooring at Stoke Bruerne.

We had to pass Kingfisher marina nice and slowly in case of any ducks crossing

Sarah commented that we don’t normally get to see haystacks when we’re on the canals in the summer time, but they make a lovely sight all stacked up neatly.

Autumnal scenes

About an hour away from the locks at Stoke Bruerne and we had another boat on our tail. Sarah was determined to not let them pass, in case moorings were in short supply, so I pushed the revs up a bit and we stayed in front.

As we reached the bottom lock, we caught up with another boat that was just going in, so we slipped in next to them and went up the locks as a pair. I’m sure the boat behind was somewhat disappointed to now have to wait for us to go up, and then have to go through themselves on their own. I was just glad I’d followed Sarah’s orders and not let them past, or I’d have had an earful!

Moored up just below Stoke Bruerne, where there was plenty of space. Up top was a lot busier.
On the way to dinner we spotted a butterfly resting on the lock gate beam, so here’s the obligatory wildlife photo for the day.

We went out for a very pleasant curry at the Spice of Bruerne before returning to Oliver for our last night out on the cut.

Mr and Mrs

We came aboard Oliver for our honeymoon, to the wonderful sight of the whole boat bedecked in balloons! (thanks to Lorraine and Sarah’s mum)

It took a while to unload the car, and once done we opened the remaining wedding cards and investigated a couple of wonderful hampers we’d been given – one Yorkshire themed and the other Welsh. Let’s just say we won’t be going hungry this trip!

 

We stayed put in the marina on Monday night – both of us were too tired to go anywhere, and we also wanted to take Lorraine, Brian and Matt out for dinner to say thank you for all they’d done. The table flowers and canal boat silhouettes were amazing!

Tuesday morning we woke up to lovely sunshine, so we started the engine and set off

We moored up after a few hours in Stoke Bruerne; there’s some strong winds forecast overnight so we wanted to be somewhere secure and it was also perfect for visiting the canal museum there, which we’ve always meant to visit but never quite got around to.

We also enjoyed a wee snack in the cafe there, and a short walk up to the blacksmith’s and along a woodland trail with some sculptures.

A quiet afternoon on board and then we’ll batten down the hatches for overnight – by tomorrow morning all should be calm again, we hope!