31st May 2015
A rainy start to the day and the fact that nothing opened until 10am meant that we left Oliver fairly late. Our first visit was to the Jesse Shirley’s Bone and Flint Mill, the last remaining steam driven potters’ mill in the world. It was a most interesting visit and quite educational. Not everyone knows that 50% of a bone china dinner plate is actually due to ground up bones.
We also had a great time watching twin brothers man handling the Butty Ilford and turning it by hand at the junction with the Caldon Canal.
We did some shopping, including the purchase of a pair of new walkie-talkies, that involved a tour of Hanley, and had a late lunch – about 4pm. The weather had improved a lot so we decided to spend 45 minutes taking Oliver up two locks to get ourselves in a better position for heading off early the following morning for the Harecastle Tunnel.
The Butty Ilford
30th May 2015
We left our overnight mooring at just after 9am and soon cleared 2 locks. We then stopped to pick up diesel and leave behind unwanted waste products at Stone’s Chandlery opposite the old Joule’s Brewery. We met up again with single hander on Elk a 72 ft boat which had apparently been underwater for some years before being refloated but is still in need of a lot of TLC. It took some time to reach the last of the Meaford Locks by which time we had climbed a total of eight. We had by then covered 2.8 miles at an average speed of 0.8 mph.
We met quite a lot of boats approaching the locks before Etruria and learned that there was an “unofficial” festival so we moored up early between locks 38 and 39. Our average was by then up to 1.3 mph and we had covered a total of 9.7 miles. In the evening we walked around some of the traditional and not so traditional boats at the festival.
Is this the narrow boaters’ dream house? A dock of your own in the garden.
Elizabeth and Victoria. Elizabeth, we were told, was one of the first narrow boats to ever be converted into a pleasure boat in 1937. Not the two layered superstructure.
Friday 29th May was a decidedly moody day. We awoke to the patter of raindrops and decided to stay where we were at Shugborough until it had passed. The passing was however not permanent. During the day we had bursts of rain, one including hail, patches of sunlight, ominous dark clouds, strong winds, cold winds and at the end of the day lots of sunshine.One amusing sight was that of three lonely sheep contentedly sitting on the towpath keeping the grass under control.
Only 9.9 miles today at an average speed of 1.8 mph. We were not quite so lucky with the locks and there were plenty of moored boats to slow us down.
How’s this for moody?
26-27-28 May. Over the last three days we have travelled some 45 miles between Hawkesbury Junction and Haywood Junction. We have been very lucky with the weather, virtually no rain but variable temperatures and changeable wind levels. We have been VERY lucky with the locks, almost impeccable timing and have both done a bit of steering and a bit of the hard graft. We have met several very friendly people and only two grumps.
We have made copious notes on the way and could probably write a detailed guide to this section of the canal.
Thursday’s highlight was seeing a Gatso (speed) camera sited in someones back garden and pointing across the canal with a Trent and Mersey Canal sign below it. Or perhaps it was visiting Shugborough Hall the residence of the late Lord (Partick) Lichfield.
We have seen a few industrial eyesores but far more beautiful countryside.
Photography and steering do not go too well together but a few shots will hopefully give a feel for our journey.
26th May Coventry Canal. Out in the countryside, between bridges 50 and 50B, just before Polesworth.
27th May Trent and Mersey Canal. Romy enters Shade House Lock.
28th May Trent and Mersey Canal, Ravenswood
28th May. Trent and Mersey Canal. Beautiful scenery with trees blowing in the wind.
25th May 2015. Oxford and Coventry Canals
It’s been a chilly day – all day. We wrapped up in fleeces and Paramos and succumbed to a hot water bottle at one point.There were some “moments of interest” today.
Traffic chaos at Roses Boat Yard.
We had our first experience of being walked over by cows – at bridge 11.
The Hawkesbury Junction turn – failed to manage it in one (turned a little too late) but disappointed the Gongoozlers by making it easily after only reversing once!
24th May 2015. Grand Union and Oxford Canals
Oliver is feeling quite proud today as he managed to carry two rather elderly and inexperienced passengers from the top of Buckby Locks all the way to the fringes of Rugby. He took them through the darkness of Braunston Tunnel, down Braunston Locks, through the busy junction and on to the Oxford Canal.
Peter and Romy were most appreciative of his assistance.
We met up with “Ben” and had company down the flight of double locks at Braunston which helped to speed up our progress. Ben is, we believe, also a Heyford Fields resident.
23 rd May 2015.
We have completed our training and are looking forward to our three week adventure aboard Oliver as we head for Llangollen.
Our trainers are helpfully staying aboard to make sure we can manage the rather heavy Buckby Locks
23rd May 2015 Ready for the start Grand Union Canal, Heyford Field Marina.
Sarah and I joined up with Mum and Dad to give them a send off and a helping hand through Buckby locks as their grand adventure on Oliver began.
Dad’s come well equipped with lots of new gadgets and gizmos, including the mighty Hercules windlass, a super light-weight barge pole, the WiggleSnapper rope bollard hooking device and the longest selfie-stick known to mankind!
Mum’s been baking and cooking to ensure the larder is well filled and tummies likewise will be kept full and satisfied. We had a lovely beef bourguignon for dinner, before Sarah and I headed back home and left them to a lovely canal side evening.
Thanks to Barry and Sarah we now have some lovely new shelves, ready for stashing lots of goodies away on our trip up to Langollen and back!
Mum and Dad came up for the weekend to have a run out with Oliver in preparation for their epic adventure to Langollen in a few weeks time. Hire companies might do their boat briefings in 10 minutes and send you packing, but they’re only ever an hour or two away with engineers on hand to sort out any problems you run into!
Watch out, learners about!
Mum did a great job steering
but let Dad takeover for the advanced task of winding the boat
whilst Sarah enjoyed the chance to chill out and put her feet up
After lunch we did a spot of route-planning – who knew there were so many ways to get around Birmingham?!