About Me

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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.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Stoke Prior to Birmingham

15 July 2018.
We returned to the boat courtesy of a friend whose mother lives nearby. Soo-per crew is with us too. Just time for a drink in The Boat and Railway and a look at the World Cup Final before we let go and worked through the Stoke locks to moor below Tardebigge Bottom lock.

We will make our assault on the flight  in the morning.
          1.1/2 miles 6 locks 1.5 hours.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Lowesmoor, Worcester to Stoke Prior

Back on board in sweltering heat. Now looking for a place to eat and watch the World Cup semi. Come on England!

Well this morning we had a very quick recovery from England's defeat to Croatia with the best antidote: a 6.00am start on the journey toward Birmingham. Today's target: Stoke Prior Visitor Moorings.

The first fur locks were set in our favour and the next four were set against.The unthinkable happened at the next one: it started to rain. We settled on the lock mooring for a bacon and egg breakfast by which time the sun came out and we continued. By this time the canal world, particularly the hire boaters were stirring and we crossed with several boats in the short pounds of the five lock flights that feature on this canal. 
The canal is being reduced in width by reed beds in both sides in places and  is also quite shallow. SONFLOWER was stirring up quite a bit of silt from the bed at moderate speeds.

The countryside we pass through is lovely and peaceful. We only saw one heron today though but plenty of gulls with their brown speckled offspring.

We were soon at Dunhamptead Visitor Moorings where we though we would stop for a mid morning break. The hire boat we had been following for about half an hour had taken the only available mooring spot and were unloading bikes. The rest of the visitor moorings were taken up by CRT: two hoppers and a tug. They were resurfacing some of the towpath at the bridge with a concrete surface. Obviously a height of summer job! Who needs visitor moorings anyway? We carried on.

We arrived at Stoke Prior just at lunch time. We stopped at the water point and filled the tank. While filling I looked under the bridge at the Visitor mooring to see whether there was any possibility of a 14day mooring. There was no mooring at all!  The towpath was barricaded off and the footpath diverted. Where to I have no idea.

We backed up and moored on the waterpoint mooring rings, leaving ten rings for those who need water. I think that was reasonable. 

We packed up and went to the The Boat and Railway for a lunch and to catch the bus back to our car in Worcester. The pub is an old fashioned canalside hostelry with a good local clientele. The food was good value and very tasty.
                                                                      10miles, 18 locks, 7 hours


Monday, 9 July 2018

Up the Severn

5 July 2018


From Avon Lock, Tewkesbury to Lowesmoore Visitor Moorings, Worcester

We were ready at 0730 but the locks do not open til 0800. We watered while we waited. Chris the relief lock keeper was ready for us at 0755 and we were through Avon Lock by 0805 and heading for the Severn with clear instructions. "Don't turn right until you can see the whole of the bridge" Chris advised to avoid the sandbank at the confluence of the Severn and Avon.

Then we were heading north and all was good!  From there on we set the engine revs at 2200rpm and cruised steadily. There was little traffic and only three narrowboats came toward us during the trip.
Cruising the Severn

Diglis Bridge, a new footbridge over the Severn
We were surrounded by herons and saw one kingfisher during the four hours to Diglis lock.

Diglis lock is scary. A high wall to hold to while waiting and high walls around us in the lock. We had to be closed in while another boat locked down in the adjacent lock.Then the gates opened to allow a second narrowboat in. It was instructed to tie to us. We held on to ropes around the poles as the water entered but the flow and eddies were too much for us. We could not hold the two boats against the wall and the bow rope stuck below the water line dragging us down. I told my crew to release the rope and we slammed against the opposite wall. There seemed no other option.

A quarter of a mile further and we were back into the canals but two wide locks came first. Here was a volunteer who wanted to fill the empty lock and make is wait. My crew remonstrated and after that he lost interest! So I lost the advantage of being held to the side by the water coming in as he didn't open the paddle!

Through the second lock we backed onto visitor moorings in Diglis Basin and went for a lovely lunch at The Anchor Inn at a shady table in their lovely courtyard.

One lock further on we come to the Commandery. It was a headquarters for the Royalists before the Battle of Worcester in 1651and is commemorated by the pikes and helmets on the bridge.

We had to say goodbye to our Sue-per crew. She departed at Bridge 5 for the rail station.

We went on for a couple more locks and visited Lowesmoor Basin for Gas, Pump out and diesel. The staff and service were delightful. Leaving there we went on to tie up in sweltering sunlight at Lowesmoor. The visitor moorings are 48 hour. There was no-one there but as I  did not know how long we would be there we moored on the last ring and a piling clip on "14 days".

                                                                       18 miles, 6 locks, 8.1/2 hours

Down the Avon


Monday 2 July. 2018 Stratford on Avon to Evesham.

We set off down the Avon early in the morning.
Waiting at the first Avon lock

Cruising the Avon





We tried to rendezvous with fellow Chaplains John and Gill but as we got to Luffington lock early and locked through with another boat.  J & G misunderstood my message that we were now through the lock and  thought we were going on without them. The other boat had left us behind.  We lost phone signal and contact with J and G and eventually by text agreed to meet on Bidford on Avon. All the locks were inaccessible by car/foot before then.

We spied them on a moored boat and came alongside to pick them up. Once aboard, they set to taking the strain and helped us achieve Evesham. We moored up, showered and waiting for them to pick us up by car and take us to dinner. Great to be with friends. The helpwas greatly appreciated.
                                                                                   17miles 11 locks  9.3/4 hours
After a dinner out at Thai Emerald in the High Street we were joined by our friend Sue-per crew.
Sue-per crew food

Tuesday 3 July 2018  Evesham to Pershore

Exiting Wyre Lock

We attempted an early start and made excellent progress to stop at Pershore recreation ground moorings late in the morning.  We moored and made a visit to the beautiful Abbey church and then found the heritage centre closed! Never mind, we stocked up at Asda and returned in sweltering heat to rest on the boat. Sue went for a walk to the confetti fields and told us they were beautiful. After a lovely home made vegetable chilli we retired.
                                                                 11 miles, 3 locks, 2 hours

Wednesday 4 July 2018  Pershore to Tewkesbury 

We spent the morning in the market and charity shops of Pershore. Well you have to don't you? No Pershore plums available yet but beautiful cherries from Kent were just too plump and inviting to resist.

We let go in the late morning sun and traveled steadily toward Tewkesbury.
Some of the locks were interesting. One is diamond shaped. At another the turn to the lock landing is very sharp. At others it is hard to see where the lock is at all until one is right on top of it.We were glad to have the Avon Navigation Trust's guide with us. We came across some "hire boat fun" at Nafford lock. Here there is a sunken narrowboat on the wrong side of the weir barrage to act as a warning. Butit is not visible to a boater coming up. But the hire boaters, in spite of our exhortations to turn quickly away from the weir managed to get stuck against the barrier. The second hire boat, having seen the difficulties the first got into, unbelievably followed in its wake and did exactly the same thing! Luckily flows are at what is probably their lowest ever! No harm was done. A couple of walkers, one of whom had been a boater in the past, were really amused. They had been watching the lock passage for about an hour and could not believe the lack of boatmanship on display.

After the motorway M5 was passed under we stopped on the mooring by The Fleet Inn just past the ferry and went in to have a drink in their lovely riverside garden. As the day cooled we set off again to moor for the night at Avon Lock (£3.00 per night payable to the lock keeper).

We had an evening stroll round Tewkesbury but this time the abbey was closed. The town was decked out for its medieval festival later in the month. There is a path beside the river for some of the way but many properties at the water's edge prevent a continuous walk on the bank side.

                                                                                                  14.3 miles, 4 locks, 4.3/4 hours

Monday, 2 July 2018

Stratford River Festival


27 June 2018 We returned to the boat on Wednesday by car with my sister. After dinner with her at The Navigation Inn she left us at the mooring in Wooton Wowen.

28 June 2018 . Wootton Wowen to Stratford. An uneventful cruise into the environs of Stratford upon Avon. We pumped out at Valley Cruisers and moored near One Elm lock. We spent a lovely evening at the One Elm pub, even if England lost.

Friday 29 June. Sweltering heat and a slow cruise to Bancroft Basin where we recorded our arrival with the harbour master at about 9.30am. We were left on the basin til 5 pm before being "called through" to our mooring. It was lovely and near the church and fireworks, we were told. We had to moor on pins but that was no real hardship as the river flow was very slight. We also provided pins for the boat next to ours who had none with him!

Saturday 30th June. Festival time. In Waterways chaplains uniform we chatted to many festival goers.

This free festival is a real joy. The music is good but loud.  The boater who we had lent pins to provided us with a bottle of wine as a "thankyou" and we shared it with our colleagues over supper.
As darkness fell the fireworks started. They were very loud but amazing. The show lasted about 25 minutes and was superb.

Sunday 1st July Festival day 2 but starting with a breakfast and informal service at Holy Trinity. We enjoyed it immensely and the Vicar was keen to get something going on the festival site next year. The remainder of the day was relaxing and chatting to people who were relaxed too. Apart from a foray into the main stage area late in the afternoon and enjoying a pint of real ale from the One Elm bar, we stayed around our boat in the shade of the chestnut and ash trees.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Outward Bound - Car, Boat, Buses, Car

11 June 2018 We drove to Cape of Good Hope and parked in the side road there. There was now only one lonely boat on the Cape Visitor Moorings and at 1530ish we  reversed it to the water point to wash the "other" side of the boat. I was hoping that someone would ascend Cape locks and partner us up Hatton Flight. No such luck and we started the flight with hope in our hearts as the bottom lock was empty set for us. Sonflower eagerly entered and ascended. The second was full;  the third was empty and the fourth was full! How does that happen? After that the only assistance we had was crossing with an American hire crew from North Carolina with a baby in a pushchair. They wanted to leave two gates open as they were using the full width of the wide locks for their narrowboat! "Which gate do you want left open?" a crew member called across to me. "The one I'm standing beside", I said. Beside another lock an Australian grandfather was explaining to his granddaughter how the locks work. "How many turns of the windlass do you think we do on this flight?" I asked. She looked puzzled. I told her each paddle needed 21 or 22 turns to open and close it. That is over 1,800 turns on the flight. No wonder some boaters let the paddles drop on their own! Why are the last four locks of Hatton Flight so much harder than the others?

After the top lock the Best Mate was released from the tiller to get a meal prepared and I sought a mooring. We moored on pins, on the wrong sort of piling after White Bridge 61. Some hirers were enjoying a barbeque down the towpath and I tucked into a plate of Indian snacks  with Cumberland Pale Ale.    6 miles, 21 locks, 5.3/4hrs


12 June 2018 We pulled pins at 0630 after a good and peaceful night. No-one else was on the move but we saw a couple of dog walkers as we approached the Lapworth Junction.  Turning left toward Stratford was a completely new experience for us. We have passed Lapworth Junction numerous times and for various reasons refused the offer of  34 locks in 13miles. 


Now we were looking forward to it. A greyhound walker with much local knowledge told me about bottom gates that lean back and are hard to open, "like this one". I had no difficulty which left me full of confidence for the rest of the day.  With many locks close together and others not more than half a mile apart the biggest decision was whether to walk to the next one or get back on the boat. I walked most of the way and the Best Mate poodled along until we got to lock 33. Here a single handed continuously cruising journeyman was leaving the lock. He warned us that the pound after the akkiduck was very low and he with 24 inch draft was bumping along the bottom.

Sonflower stuck in the exit of the lock first and we let water down to flush her through. Then she stuck in the pound. No panic from the Best Mate. I let more water down until the pound above was about 6 inches below cill level on the bywash. I dare go no further as the akkiduck would have limited depth. We entered lock 35.

The next little problem was veg again.This time an uncleared fallen tree that blocked the towpath. Again, dog walkers to the rescue dragging it aside to allow some access to the next lock.


The real fun started at Lock 36 where there was a narrowboat stuck in the lock exit.

Here flushing through made no difference. Checking the bywash cill levels revealed plenty of water in the lower pound. The boat was a Tyler Wilson with a known 24inch draft. So what was the problem? We ummed and arhed and the following boat crew who are members of our cruising club joined in too.  Then it was decided that as the navigation was closed CRT should be informed.We were told a team was on its way and another was adjusting the levels I had reported amiss at lock 34/35! I got out the beer, glasses and waited.  Keith and two heavies arrived and they leaned knowledgeably on the gate and asked the skipper to reverse as we pulled the gate in the opposite direction. NB Escapologist immediately released. Keith then part closed the gate and went in with a large scoop on a long handle, scooping up shells and fresh water mussels. These accumulate behind the gate and prevent the bottom opening enough to let the boat through. The pinch was well below the water line and invisible to us.

The remainder of the cruise was uneventful and we arrived at a lovely mooring above Wootton Wowen Bridge to have a relaxing afternoon. I went for a short walk to the local farm shop while the Best Mate rested  her leg on the daybed and read a book.

We went to the  Navigation Inn on the recommendation of a local long term moorer. This is a really good value for money pub. Only 200 years of experience. I had a pint of Old Goat Ale, a CAMRA champion ale for 2017. It was nice and fruity. Other ales on offer were Eagle (available at my home local) and the ubiquitous Old Speckled Hen which is a bit strong for an evening meal accompaniment.

After a good nights sleep we walked to the Parish Church of St Peter and enjoyed a visit there before we boarded the bus to Stratford on Avon, then another bus to Warwick bus station where our third bus was waiting to take us to the Cape. We then drove back to Banbury well in time for our regular Wednesday lunch date with our ASD son.  7.5 miles, 17 locks, 8 hours                                          


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Outward Bound- Living Life on the Veg

4 June 2018 Cropredy to get us started. No photos and nothing much to report about this leg of our outward journey for the Summer. This was an afternoon trip. We set off at about 4pm. The sun shone most of the way and we finished with a nice meal in the Brazenose Arms before heading back to Banbury for domestic duties.       4.1 miles 3 locks, 2.25 hours.

6 June 2018  This was getting serious. We  got up early and drove to Cropredy where we left the car. Then slipped the mooring at 0615 and cruised in beautiful dry conditions to Fenny Compton Wharf. Getting into Cropredy lock was almost impossible in a 57 ft boat. One needs to line up and drive through a very overgrown thorn tree on entry. We went to the Wharf Inn and passed some time with the bar staff over a refillable Americano with milk. The boating had been uneventful, except for a need to give way at the "tunnel" where the veg has really taken over but we needed to make some progress and fulfill some responsibilities in Banbury. So we phone our favorite car company for a ride to get back to Cropredy. "There in 5 minutes!" the dispatcher informed us. How could this be? We are at least 20minutes form Banbury. But lo and behold the car came an disgorged two ladies who had just come form Banbury A & E> One was all plastered up having broken her wrist. We switched in Water chaplain mode, listened to the tale of woe that has shortened their holiday and prayed for complete healing. Then we got int he taxi and heard another tale of woe about the rigors of fasting during Ramadan in Summer from the driver.                                         6miles; 9 locks; 3.75hours

7 June 2018  Now we went for it. Most of you know that cars and boats do not mix bit sometimes it is necessary  to put a car ahead so that one can get somewhere else. This morning we drove to Fenny Compton and we boarded Sonflower to find that  the water pump was running and the water tank was empty. No particular problem, there is a very handy water point (or two) outside the Wharf Inn. So we mived a couple of boat lengths forward and the Best Mate stepped off the bowdeck of the boat, slipped on slimy wet towpath from the leaky tap and seriously cut and bruised her left shin.
Fenny Compton shin
I moored and examined the damage with thoughts of us making the journey to Banbury A & E. "No, I am alright" she insisted and sent me off in the car to Long Itchington. You see it was Thursday and we had discovered that there is a bus from Long Itchington to Banbury via Fenny Compton on Thursdays. It leaves the Long Itch Diner at 0910.     I duly parked the car out of the way and waited for the bus.  It was a very interesting journey. everybody seemed to know everyone else on the bis and one old chap passed toffees round to everybody including the driver.   It was a real lesson in community! Almost back to the village and the Best Mate Called. The water tank was full and there was a 70 ft boat wanting to use the water point and the winding hole. "I've only got a 20 minute walk, don't stress." I said.  When I got back the boat had decided to move on to the marina and all was calm. The Best Mate had dressed her leg and we were ready to go to Napton.  We lunched at Marston Doles and mused about the loveliness of the top level of this really rurally managed canal. The irises were out, dog roses of pink and white were a glory; the bull rushes were wearing their fluffy covers and the wild flowers were a picture when you could see them past the waist high grass, nettles, cow parsley and thistles. The off side veg is expected to be a little overgrown but the tow paths and lock- sides have had no attention at all. Maybe CRT have made a lucrative deal for the hay.

After lunch we descended the flight.There was a volunteer at  Marston Doles Lock No 16 clearing ivy from a shed wall. He  donned his life saving necklace and operated the off side bottom gate fro which I was grateful as a boat was coming up. We worked down all the other licks with them set against us, following a slow hire boat with four elderly boaters. At lock 9 we were caught in a heavy rain shower and were drenched to the skin before we knew it. When the rain stopped as quickly as it started a volunteer came and did the same for lock 8 as the one at the top lock. After all there was another boat coming in!

We pulled over onto the long term moorings as I had a small job to do for a boater we are assisting that needed a stilson. Unfortunately, my stilson was too small and my inquiries from the CRT Volunteer, who had not yet left because his keyless ignition did not recognise his non-key and the AA were making alternative arrangements in consultation with the manufacturer, informed me that there are no tools of any use about these days.

So all we could do was change our clothes and go to The Folly Inn for the best steak dinner available on the canal.   

After Dinner we toodled along the canal a bit and moored  in the beautiful evening light a little short of Napton Junction                                                                                     11miles, 9 locks , 10 hours

8 June 2018 Not such an early start today. We knew our target so no real pressure. We left our mooring at 0715and dawdled to Calcutt Locks passed the moored boats alongside the reservoir. An early starting hire crew on the "Warwick Ring in a Week" ticket had already worked the licks so we started with "a good road".

                                                         
Sonflower at Calcutt Lock 2
.
Wild Flowers Stockton Flight












 It did not last long as all the boats going our way were docking at Stockton Top Marina for change-over day.


Starting Stockton Lock Flight
We descended Stockton locks on our own until we crossed with at lock 9.
No help after that either as we were following two pairs of working boats! The wild flowers
were really nice and we met dog walkers and other local boaters enjoying the tow-paths.  But we achieved our aim.                                                                              4 miles, 13 locks, 3.3/4 hours


09 June 2018  Back to Long Itchington in the early morning. With some bricks to try to rectify a slight list to port. Today we wanted to get to Warwick to be ready to attack Hatton Flight next week. The veg situation did not improve and we were forced to enter a thicket of willow scrub to pass an oncoming boat. "Worse after the next lock" we were informed by the helmsman. Not after the next ine but a couple further in we could not actually ascertain whether any boats were wanting to come in as the sighting of the canal is totally blocked.
Canal "view" from Fosse Middle lock
I saw what he meant.

The tow path had been mown though!

A mid-day lunch break at The Moorings one of our favorite canal-side lunch venues was in sight.  We both enjoyed the fare and the pale ale from Wye Valley brewery was a delight. The Best Mate calmed herself with a Bombay Sapphire and Fevertree Mediterranean tonic.

That's what boating is about.

We topped off the day with a good mooring at Cape Visitor moorings and seamless bus journey back to Long Itchington and the car. The only drawback was that the Best Mate had forgotten her bus pass. A small price to pay for the wonders of a few days on the canal.       9.5 miles, 13 locks, 6.25 hours

Back in Banbury we had another G & T, put together a "what's in the fridge" curry and retired early.           




Saturday, 5 May 2018

Cropredy and Back

Not again. I know we have done it many times before but on a sunny spring morning, with only the one day open to us, a day trip was very necessary. We needed to blow the cobwebs off: quite literally.

We had a weather window of 10am to 4pm without rain. We used it all.

The cruise to Cropredy was uneventful save to say that we had a good road. At Cropredy a boat had just left the water point so we winded and pulled up to wash the boat. The boat washing rotating brush attachment blew off the hose and soaked me to the mirth of the Best Mate. We soon had it back under control and washed the roof and one side of the boat before another boat came and plead water tank desperation. We backed off the water point under the Cropredy Wharf Bridge 153 and moored to go for lunch. A nice boater had left a loop of rope for us to moor on as the rings have never fitted our length!

A short walk up to the Brazenose Arms was rewarded by Hooky Mild Ale and a spritzer followed by "Scampi Salad" and "Sausages and Mash". All scrumptious.

The back to make the return. This time the Best Mate tried out her day bed. We had a bad road and I was single handing Slat Mill Lock when a hire boat crew came up. I asked for assistance with the off side gate and leapt for the disappearing boat which was almost too far down for me to jump with my prosthetic knees. I made it!

At Boughton Lock the Best Mate appeared, having heard me call to the hire boat crew at Slat Mill and didn't want me to single hand again!

Uneventfully we returned and moored up just before 4pm. The boat is a little cleaner and a lot tidier.

But it didn't rain until 7!                                                                        7.3/4 miles, 6 locks, 4.1/2hrs