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.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Winter is a coming!

The second weekend in October brought cold winds and rain. SONFLOWER sheltered under Tom Rolt Bridge for Banbury Canal Day which was a washout. Not quite such a washout was the concurrent Banbury Folk Festival which took cover in General Foods club and provided lively folk performances with the advantages of dry surroundings and good beer.

Upstairs Fairport Convention was the star Act on Saturday night and they were very ably supported on Friday by Tradaarr and on Sunday by The Gerry Colvin band. There was also better beer with Hook Norton Brewery's "Old Hooky" on offer.

After removing the banner and bunting on Sunday evening the wind settled down a bit and the rain abated to a drizzle. So two hours of Monday morning were spent returning Sonflower to her home mooring via Calthorpe Winding Hole. I hope no-one was looking because I really fouled up the turn and stemmed SONFLOWER on the far side of the Winding hole. No damage done I returned to home mooring without incident.

Most of the boats from Canal Day were on the move including a volunteer crew on the CRT workboat that had dragged the town centre length of the canal and exhibited the bikes and trolleys pulled out this year. I did not have to operate the lift bridge in either direction and had help at the lock both ways too.

Now it is time for an engine service, Autumn touch up and winterisation.
                                                                                                 2miles, 2 locks, 2LB, 2 hours

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Fazeley to Home Mooring

It is only 5 days cruising to get from Fazeley Junction on the Coventry Canal to Marsh Footbridge 163 on the South Oxford Canal. But for us this season it took us 16 days!

Fazeley To Bedworth,

We left immediately after the Boaters Christian Fellowship Weekend at St Paul's Fazeley making a short detour to the Fazeley Mill Marina for a necessary pump out. We turned at the Junction. By emerging from the Watling Street bridge we totally confused a hire crew who were hoping to pull into the already occupied water point opposite the junction. I made the turn and they stemmed their boat under the  Junction Bridge 77. We managed to get behind them and disappear back into Watling Street bridge. Pump out was easy. The lady of the Marina helping with a token for the machine and with operating the equipment.

So off to Watling Street Bridge again and a simple turn at the junction and uneventful cruise to Polesworth where we got the last space on the visitor moorings. The Best Mate and SueperCrew knocked up a meal. We were still full from Sunday Carvery dinner at the Fazeley Inn so a small meal was in order.

The next day we started early and headed for Atherstone Locks. Here we met our BCF colleague Who volunteers there. He advised us to get in touch with another memebr who has a moring near Bulkington Lane Bridge 14 in Bedworth. We di call but he was away. I left the boat in the hands of the Best Mate at Nuneaton and got a buses back to Fazeley where we had left SueperCrew's car. I drove it to Bulkington Lane and met them just after they had moored up in a lovely spot, a quarter of a mile from the bridge.

                                          20 miles 13 locks 11.5 hours

(Over the previous weekend I had heard from my sister that my aunt was seriously ill in Liverpool. I made a trip up there on Tuesday so our cruise was interrupted.)

Bedworth to Newbold-on Avon (single handed as The Best Mate is not well)

We  had friends staying with us for a week. We have known them since 1980 so we can ask a favour every now and then. They were going up to Leicester for the day so as Bedworth and Newbold are "on the way". I schemed that this little cruise could be done while they were visiting! They dropped me in Bedworth at about 10.15. A short walk to the boat and then prepared her to go.

I had a lttle problem engaging forward drive so checked the ATF level in the gearbox and put a bit more in just in case. I dribbled sme doen into the engine bay so had to mop it up with a rag held in a litter picker. The litter picker broke and the rag dropped into the bilge. A repair of the litter picker was effected and I used iot to retrieve the rag, mop up the spill and try the drive again. A little more success and we were on our way!

The remainder of the cruise was uneventful. I had the help of a volunteer at Sutton Stop lock and just drove on from there.

I even had time for a pint of Purity Pale Ale in the Barley Mow before my friends arrived to take nme home

14 miles, 1 lock, 5 hours

Newbold-on Avon to Hillmorton Top Lock Visitor Mooring

Two friends came with me to Hillmorton in the car and then by Bus to Newbold. We bought fish and chips at Fishsmiths on the High Street. It was excellent. Mini fish and chips was plenty for us. Then we cruised for a little over three hours. One of my crew had never been on my boat when moving so that was a first and the other had never driven into a lock so I gave him his debut too!  There were two CRT volunteers at Hillmorton Locks so we had help here too.

                                                     4 miles, 3 locks, 3.5 hours

Hillmorton to Spice Ball Park Moorings, S Oxford Canal 

Our friends left on Sunday after lunch. The Best Mate was still feeling unwell and we needed teh boat back to Banbury for Canal Day next weekend!

I took the difficult decision to go and do it alone. I drove to Hillmorton and stocked up with steak pie and beer at the Co-op. Single handing can be difficult for eating and sustenance that is easily consumed at the tiller is essential.

I cruised until dark on Sunday evening almist getting to Bridge 80 on the North Oxford. The next morning (Monday) I left at 0600 as first light showed in order to get to Napton when the licks opened. I thought that was 0900h. Wrong! 10.00am and there was a boat already ahead of me when I got to the Sanitary station. I cut some kindling while I waited.   The later start up Napton locks meant that achieving Claydon locks the same day was impossible as they closed at 3pm. Another delay occurred when my centre rope flipped a windlass into the cut just before lock 10. 20 minutes of magnet fishing later I had lost my place to another boat. There was no hurry so I stopped at the top lock moorings and had lunch and re-filled the stern gland greaser.

I achieved Fenny Compton Wharf moorings to find a shiny 50 foot boat in the middle of a 120ft mooring. They were just starting to eat dinner so I told them not to bother moving and backed through Bridges 137 and 137A to a mooring a couple of boats back on the 14 days. Steak and Ale pie and Otter Pale Ale called from the Wharf Inn. 

There was also some good conversation with the crew of Corinthian  heading for Cropredy Marina. They were interested in where I moored "on-line" as this was a cheaper option that they had not considered.

Early in the morning I filled with water beside the Inn and then cruised very slowly to Claydon Locks. Here I was second in the queue again. The first boat up Napton the previous day had missed the closure by 15 minutes. To do that he must have been motoring! Nick says it should take 6.5 hours so they made up an hour on that time! The boat name was Sloe Roaming! Nothing Slow there. He had a reason for his haste. His crew was a teacher due in class in Basingstoke the next morning. They needed to get her to a station. Banbury was the target. I edged past the boat and nestled against the lock entry to repair my button chain. A shackle had sheared apart. I then returned to my olkace in the queue. There was a boat moored on the lock landing. No evidence of life apart from empty wine and spirit bottles. I guess he was "sleeping it off."

So onward and downward filling the first two locks but having a boat come up the third. The fourth Claydon lock was set against me with the bottim gates left open for an approaching craft. However, the craft was not approaching! It was Dusty the coal boat who was filling a boat with diesel between locks. I phoned them to ask if they would be long. "That depends on whether he has an hole in his tank" came the reply. I closed the gates, filled the lock, worked down and was in time to moor behind the now replenished craft for my turn to be filled! 136 litres of diesel and two bags of coal later I was on my way again.

Just after Broadmoor lock I was waved down by a good friend who came aboard to help me through Criopredy lock. She was heading for Banbury Library to do some research and had asked if she could use a parking space at our place. No problem as I was out boating. So she came to give me a helping hand.

I passed Sloe Roaming again on Cropredy 14 day moorings. They stopped for lunch! Such luxury.  They caught me up at Bourton Lock and then came past me as I moored up at Home Mooring.

All that I needed to do was get two buses (or as it turned out a bus and a taxi) back to Hillmorton to collect my car.

33.5 miles,  21 locks 17 hours

Monday, 10 September 2018

Birmingham to Fazeley

We actually traveled the length of the Birmingham and Fazeley canal over two days last week. We went up to Fazeley by car and into Birmingham by bus on Thursday evening. Getting off in Broad Street at dinner time meant an almost obligatory visit to Barajee, our favorite Brum curry house. We finished the meal this time!  We then had an evening chat with our next door neighbours on NB Sola Gratia.

On Thursday morning we set off early, well before 10 o'clock! The Farmers Bridge Locks were the first flight we ever navigated back in 1999 and we have a special attraction to them. At lock 4 we were joined by a CRT Volunteer. He was helpful and gave me the opportunity of going ahead to open the next lock top gate. A CRT tug and hopper came up lock 6 and from then on all was set fair.

Aston locks were not such a smooth operation. At the first lock two CRT men were helping another boat up. It was in lock 2 so we had a bit of a wait. They were real black country folk. One had been an "Oss Boatman" and the other I describe as a black country comic. He had great wit. He quipped that we should have a fair flight until lock 9. Levels were a bit low there. Low!?! Sonflower bottomed in the lock. I refilled and floated her up again and rang CRT. The pound was long and water too low for navigation. I was not going to take responsibility for emptying the pound above to fill the pound below. The team who had been at lock 1 came down quite quickly and one went back up the flight to open paddles and one monitored what was happening below as they fed water through. It took about 90 minutes before he was satisfied that we had enough to get to lock 10. We had a great time with his black country conversation.

At lock 10 we found the problem! The top gate would not shut and the lock would not empty. I tried fishing with a boat hook but to no avail. I phoned CRT again and our comical friend appeared again, this time armed with a long rake. A lot of raking found the problem: a car silencer jammed against the seal. With this removed, normal operation was restored.

We had lost over two hours of boating. It was a nice day and we made good progress to the start of Minworth Locks. After this the canal cleans up a bit and we started to look for somewhere to moor for the night and to have dinner. We passed a few pubs on the waterside that looked as if they had seen better days. Traditional Inn means that no money has been spent on it for quite a few years in this part of the country.

On approaching the Cuttle Bridge (Wiggins Hill Bridge) we noticed that the Old Kingsley pub had been totally re-vamped and was now the Cuttle Inn and Hotel, with a nice looking outdoor seating and dining area. Why were there no other moorers here at 6pm on a Friday? I can't tell you. We had a very nice meal and good wine too. We also noted that they serve a buffet breakfast for £6.50 so we returned in the morning for that. The only downside is that the moorings are floodlit all night. Good for security and for reducing load on the leisure batteries. But next time I might move away for a bit of darkness.

So on Saturday morning we gently completed our passage of Curdworth locks. A sign here tells boaters that there is no longer rubbish disposal at the locks but at Bodymoor Heath. A sign at Bodymoor Heath yard says there is no longer rubbish disposal there but at Fazeley Junction.  At Fazeley Mill Marina we stopped for water and here there was a sign telling us that there was no longer rubbish disposal at the Peel's Wharf but it was in the marina (on behalf of CRT). We disposed of our rubbish. We would have been miffed of we had gone on to the junction and found no rubbish disposal there either. No wonder the inhabitants of Birmingham use the canal rather than a bin.

So to Tolson's footbridge where we moored on piling clips.

                                                                      15miles 38 locks   14hours

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Black Country Living Museum

We had a grandson on board for the trip from Cambrian Basin to the Black Country Living Museum. We chose to go along the Old Main Line from Brades Hall Junction which meant navigating the Gower Branch and Brades Locks which is new to us. It was our first experience of these locks which are a single lock and a staircase. We had no problems at all and gave our grandson his first experience of pushing and pulling lock gates and winding paddle gear.

The Old Main line is weedy. It is lined with water lillies and has blanket weed floating in clumps in the channel. Regular reversing of the prop kept it clear.

We moored for lunch above the Netherton tunnel branch on the Tividale Aqueduct. A boat was already moored there bit thy moved up a couple of bollards to let us in. They were very apologetic and told us they dod not expect to see anyone else as they had seen only one boat all morning.

After lunch we were soon at the BCLM and moored on 24hr mooring.

                                                                           8.1/2 miles, 3 locks, 8 hours (including lunch).

After a nice time in the museum including a visit down the mine and to the sweetshop we settled down for the night. The museum food outlets close at 5pm so we made use of the local takeway chinese "Chopsticks". I ordered the sort of meal we would have had in  Banbury but the size of the portions here was really OTT. The pancake rolls were the size of a pringle tube and the chicken balls the size of full size billiard balls. And there were loads of them. We decided to keep the barbque spare ribs, 1.1/2 spring rolls and the chow mein for lunch the next day. In fact we had more than that left over including half the chicken balls and king prawns in batter.

We went on the Dudley Canal  Tunnel Trusts tunnel trip int he morning. What a pleasure. The limestone caverns,including a light show and video presentations were wonderful. Our grandson got to leg us in the tunnel and we really enjoyed the experience. After this we went back to the BCLM for a bit more history and a pint of mild ale at the Bottle and Glass Inn.

After lunch we went back via the New Main Line. At Factory locks we had to wait for a D of E Award party to bring their butty up the locks. The last boat in the queue that built up behind them were in no mood to wait for locks which resulted in too many boats than would fit between locks 2 and 3. This boat emptied down and worked up lock 2 trapping Sonflower in the top lock with another boat waiting in the pound. Once they were up the jiggling and maneuvering about could commence to leave them in the short pound between the locks. I don't think they noticed the trouble their impatience had caused.

The rest of the cruise back to Cambrian Basin was uneventful. We were glad to get back. The best mate made a delicious chilli with the chicken that remained in the centre of the left over Chinese chicken balls.

                                                                       9 miles, 3 locks, 4 hours

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Walsall to Wolverhampton to Birmingham

We left Walsall Town Basin at 10.15 on Friday. The passage up the Walsall locks was weedy and the shallow canal gave us problems with prop fouling again. We could not enter directly into lock 4 as the boat stopped on something. We pulled the boat to the side and bow hauled her round the obstruction.

The services building at the top lock is closed and there was no water available. Local boatyard staff and a boater told us the nearest on our route was at Snyde Wharf.

The Canal Museum, signposted at the bottom of the flight,is boarded up and up for development.

The Wyrley and Essington Canal is full of blanket weed. Apart from that and the impediment to progress it is very peaceful and pleasant. Of course the local population keep it topped up with plastic bottles, drinks cans and bags of rubbish.

The Sneyd Wharf services were clean and cared for and a refreshing highlight of the cruise.

We got to Wolverhampton, winded in the basin and backed to the Wolverhampton Top Lock moorings to find they are 24 hour!
Pretty Wolverhampton Mooring

                                                 11miles, 8 locks, 8 hours

Hopper on lock landing, Factory Bottom Lock, BCN
So this morning we boated to Birmingham. It was good to be back in deeper water and reasonably rubbish free.

Arriving at Factory Bottom Lock, BCN
Factory locks had a reasonable variety of items including a "road closed" sign but it was not obstructing the workings and we could not get it out. As we were descending the locks we did not need to use the lock landing at the bottom lock: this was occupied by a moored hopper.

We did a tour of Oozle's loop to find the pump out services of Sherborne Wharf are on the main line at The Distillery. So we winded at Old Turn and again at another basin to the west of centre and the returned to The Distillery to pump out. A trip boat were not amused that we were on "their" stopping place. Apparently our pump out should have been timed between their need to use the stop! There appears to be a continual conflict if interest at this point as the discharge point is one bollard from the stop sign.By the time we were finished, unconnected and ready to leave there were two trip boats vying for the same stopping point.We left them to fight it out.

All services completed we moved on to Cambrian Wharf and returned SONFLOWER to her accustomed position.
                                               13 miles, 3 locks, 5hours

Monday, 30 July 2018

Titford to Walsall

Today we leave the Langley Green area of Oldbury and the tempting Titford Pools to navigate to Walsall. New to us and exciting.

I, the skipper, have decided that we will not attempt to navigate the pools on our own. BCNS have strong advice not to do so and having read some blogs, including our intrepid exploring friends  Halfie who made the same decision, we took the BCNS advice.

I do thank the BCNS for taking their work boat Phoenix through the route on Friday last and clearing the way but what has tipped my decision is the wind that has arisen and the unknown way it will behave around the motorway viaduct. I understand that the mud in the pools is too deep to pole ourselves off and there is every chance that a gust or two could take the boat into the shallows.

We will return in company.

Moored in Walsall Town Basin
We have arrived!

The getting here was interesting! The first job was depositing three bags of rubbish at the pump house skip. Thank you BCNS. Most was collected from above the Oldbury Top Lock.

Between the Oldbury Bottom Lock and Oldbury Junction there were in excess of 50 silver fish floating dead. I contacted CRT to alert them to an environmental catastrophe. Then just round onto the Old Main Line was a 30" koy carp! Negotiating the turn to Spon Top Lock took time in the wind under the motorway!

We turned north onto the Wednesbury Old Canal and were slowed down by the shallow depth of the narrow channel between the reed beds. It was very pretty. But pretty was not how you would describe the canal as we made our way north. The gates of some of the Ryders Green locks didn't fully open because of the rubbish behind them. The reedy and water lily lined canal was littered with rubbish and flotsam. We had to clear the prop of poly and other rubbish about ten times, often stopping the engine in mid channel. Mainly polythene sheeting and bags today but a draw string gym bag and a rope added to the mix. Some was obviously industrial waste.

The canal could be so beautiful. Walkers commented "Enjoy your trip" with a knowing grin. Fishermen cast over flotillas of plastic bottles; there are cascades of rubbish at every bridge; we stopped counting shopping trolleys when we hit double figures; there are settees and armchairs, fire extinguishers, a gas bottle, empty beer kegs, doors, wood, and board among the flotsam. The fittings of a moored small cruiser seemed to be floating away from it.

How do people put up with it and live with it? This could be a six mile long navigable lily pond! there are red, yellow and white water lilies growing in various stretches. Wildlife exists: muscovy duck, ruddy duck, coot, moorhen, swans with signets, canada geese, farmyard ducks , grey heron and cormorant were all spotted today along with ubiquitous gulls and mallards.

But in Walsall Town Basin it looks ok! I cleared a sackfull of plastic bottles and litter this morning.

                                     10miles and 17 locks:  8.1/2 hrs

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

BCN Anthem

"I've had miles and miles of poly round the prop..." Sings the chorus of a boating folk song about the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigation). And now we have experienced it.

We set off this morning to do the loops. That is Oozell Loop, Icknield Loop, and Soho Loop which are rarely navigated parts of the BCN Main Line. All went well and we exited Soho Loop onto the Main Line and stopped for breakfast at Smethwick New Pumping Station. Here CRT had an awareness promotion. Except the volunteers were not wearing uniform or badges, didn't realise there were two parallel canals where they were; could not answer simple questions about boating but did recommend a visit to Titford pools.

Just as we pulled away the poly struck. I could not get to the side but shut down the engine mid canal and opened the weed hatch. With craft knife and brute force we filled a carrier bag with poly including braided tape saying "security sealed" It  was not tearable.

We turned the tight right hander into the entry to Spon Lane Bottom lock. Here only one antivandal mechanism worked so I reported the defective one and we worked up on one paddle. All sorts of rubbish were successfully navigated through the looks but we came to a halt making the tight right-hander after the top lock. I poled to the side here and secured the boat on the lock mooring. The offending item was a tent. I pulled much of it off and cut it away but had to open the weed hatch again for the last fragments and some fishing nylon.

We stopped for lunch at Oldbury Bottom Lock. No problems here except more rubbish and a reed bed that we had to push into a lock with us. We got to the top and debated where we needed to turn and how far we could go. In the event the decision was made for us. We grounded entering Uncle Ben's Bridge and during a turn in the Uncle Ben winding hole, avoiding a coot's nest, we grounded again and picked up something else on the prop. I went to the weed hatch for a third time. This time it was a long length of cotton cloth.

We decided it would be fool hardy to try to get to the pools and went back a little way to mooring rings.

We walked to Titford Bridge in the evening passing two shopping trolleys and other debris in the canal. The water is too dark to tell whether the actual depth of the channel was shallow too.

We have not seen the pools yet.

7 miles, 9 locks, 7 hours

Sunday, 22 July 2018


Partial rebranding has hit mooring just north of Banbury. Obviously the £60k does not reach signs that actually effect what boats need to do.

This is on Banbury lock,so right in the middle of the re-branding target. But should we have bright blue on a item that has been black and white for 200 years? Where is tradition and heritage in this?

This is half a mile south of Banbury town centre so out of range of the £60k too.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Stoke Prior to Birmingham

15 July 2018.
We returned to the boat courtesy of a friend whose mother lives nearby. Sue-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.

16 July 2018
0530 and Sonflower sits on her mooring  opposite The Queens Arms where there was a 40th birthday party last night. The crew needed an early night and a good night's sleep.
Add caption
Approaching Targebigge Bottom Lock
Sunrise as Sonflower rises

 The Best Mate demonstrating the accuracy that she learned on entering the locks. They have a by-wash to throw the boat to the right as it goes in.

We soon got into a rhythm. One of the crew went ahead to set the next lock while the other closed the last after the boat. In this fashion we alternated and the load was totally shared. The locks were set for us until lock 40.We then had to empty six locks before they were set for us again. 
Nick's Canal Planner says it is 2.1/4 miles and 30locks from bottom to top. The mobile phone walking app in Sue-per crew's pocket recorded 4.1/2 miles!

We were at through the Top lock and tucking into breakfast at 9.30am.

We decided to move straight off toward  Birmingham. The tunnels were mainly dry and our only problem was a "shiny boat" with a very bright headlamp that sat 50 yards inside Targdebigge tunnel all the time we made our passage. The light was blinding as we approached him. Obviously the helmsman did not trust himself to keep off the wall or our boat as he passed! Our light entering the tunnel brought him to a complete halt. We did brush the side in Shortwood tunnel and Sonflower's gate made an amplified rattling din as we did so. Water level was a little lower that usual and the gunwhale was just below the rubbing wooden rail on the side so the gate rubbed against the wood.

There was dredging on the stretch through Edgbaston and we had to wait for a tug pushed hopper to pass through the railway bridge narrows. The dredging has made things a lot easier through the bridge narrows which used to almost bring the boat to a standstill because of the lack of water under her. I have never been through them quicker that this time. 

We entered Birmingham and took on water at Cambrian House. There was space in Cambrian Basin so after checking in the office we moored on a pontoon in accordance with Mooring Agreement Terms and Conditions 4.10. The prior written consent is displayed in our window!

                             17.1/4 miles, 30 locks 10hrs

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

Saturday, 21 April 2018


Today was a lovely day and so I re-connected the water system and we went on our famous water run. We have done it so many times but it is never boring. This was the first time we have done it since I had my second knee replacement. There are a few things that I found different. Firstly, it was a bit more awkward than it used to be to step down into the engine bay to check the oil, water and greaser before we set off. But I managed it.

We met lots of boaters. Some we knew and jested about us actually being on the move! Others we had seen "somewhere before" but of course neither us or they could remember exactly when or where! Some were locals about local business. Even one delivering a spinning wheel to Tooley's boatyard. No idea what for!

There were non boaters too. The two lively boys with her mother beside herself and the lock. As I came into the lock one told me "You're going to disappear".
"What, miss the pier!"
"Piff! paff! pooF! I'm still here!"
As I went down with the boat I told them that it was only 6 feet down so they would still see my head above the parapet. They laughed.  Back at the mooring where we passed a nice few minutes with a father and daughter who had just moved to the area. She was "doing the canal" at school. She watched me as I lengthened a chain to make mooring easier. With two prosthetic knees now I cannot kneel to reach below the pile cap level to thread a rope through the loop on my mooring chain. I have now added another length of chain.

2miles, 2 locks, 2 lift bridges, 2 hours

Monday, 19 February 2018


After two full trickle charges and drop tests, and a further full charge the batteries have been given a clean bill of health.

A connecting cable between two of the leisure batteries and the third was found to be of inadequate cross-section and replaced.

The battery selector/isolator switch was found to be incorrectly wired and not isolating anything!

All systems have been checked and SONFLOWER has been returned to her mooring for the remainder of the winter.

Thank you again John and  Tooley's Boatyard

Monday, 29 January 2018

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Dead in the Water

SONFLOWER lies on her mooring forlorn and cold. We visited her today but there isn't a glimmer of life, not a sense of purpose, no heart, no soul. She is cold in the wintry breeze, the sky blackening with oncoming rain. Her cratch cover is taught with the tension of the bungee ties. She will withstand anything that the weather sends against her.

Inside she is dry. The de-humidifier is doing its job and the catchment tray has been emptied. The bilge is ventilated and, for the first winter I can remember, is dry too. There is no gas to supply for the fridge but who needs a fridge when the temperatures are below 5 degrees?

There are no blinking lights on the PV charging panel: there is nothing to charge! That is the central reason why she is dead in the water: The batteries have been removed.

So we could not run the engine.

We could not heat any water.

We could not light the fridge.

We could get my painting bag, though, and I am going to be busy doing some artwork in the next week.

We loved seeing her. Being in her. Feeling the rock and balance. She will survive. Spring will come and the engine will roar. Batteries will charge and lights will shine.

But, for now, SONFLOWER is dead in the water.