Tardebigge Top Lock to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham, BCN
Out in Vienna it was time to pack my bags. One thing left to do, visit the cheese shop on Langegasse that I’ve been walking past and inhaling for the last ten days.
Many cheeses in this shop are kept in cabinets for safety, our safety. Many of the cheeses in this shop look like given half a chance they would take over the world with only Dr Who capable of stopping them. With so much to choose from and a taxi booked I couldn’t sample too many, which maybe was a good thing.
I’m not too fond of Emmental or Gruyere so that immediately ruled out half of the shop. The chap helped me and gave me a couple of samples. I like goats cheese, but in Britain you don’t often get a hard goats cheese. So as I was in Austria I had to have one from the mountains, ‘High on a hill lived a lonely goatherd’. It was tasty, sold.
Then a softer cheese. No chance to taste this one as they are individual cheeses that have a whole culture of their own. Sold! The chap vacuum wrapped them for me so that my bag wouldn’t be making it’s own way back to the UK.
My taxi was early, the driver arriving just as I checked out and was asking where to wait. Soon I was whisked out to the airport to await a delayed first flight to Munich.
I’d booked a window seat, but at the gate I was issued with a new seat in the middle! This was a shame as there were fantastic views over the Austrian Alps, not much snow though!
Meanwhile back in Birmingham.
Mick and Tilly have been avoiding storm Brendon. On Monday once Chris had left to visit more boat builders Mick filled the water tank and headed northwards again. Passing NB Sola Gratia, under the M42 he chose a suitable place without trees to spend Monday night by Bridge 68.
Tuesday they decided to head into Birmingham setting off early to beat the weather. At 9am they reached the southern portal of Wast Hill Tunnel. The interior of Oleanna already in full tunnel mode, hoping that with all the lights being on this would keep Tilly from fretting. I suspect he just timed their passage well and she was busy having her morning snooze as he could hear no shouting at the back doors.
A mile and a half later they came back out into daylight. But what lay ahead?
There was a boat up against the towpath, pinned in my a fallen tree. Had the tree fallen onto the boat? Mick was about to try to nudge his way through when the owner came out. Last night he’d tried to do the same, but got stuck. Whether he was grounded or just held by the tree Mick didn’t know, but one thing was certain Mick was now stuck too!
The other boater had rung to report it to C&RT, another phone call wouldn’t hurt after all Mick had nowhere to go. He couldn’t get into the side so was just having to sit in the middle. Apparently C&RT staff were on route to access the situation.
Then the C&RT staff got held up by traffic so the contractors were called and sent anyway. They arrived with long handled chain saws and proceeded to climb onto the roof of the stuck boat. Helmets, high-vis but no life jackets! The roof of the boat was wet and had no grabrail or anything should they slip to stop them. They chopped and chopped away at the tree. Soon the trapped boat was free.
Mick offered the bow of Oleanna as a platform to carry on working from, then they moved to the stern to clear more. At last Mick and Oleanna could continue on their journey into Birmingham. The 8.5 miles had taken around 7.5 hours and Mick had got a touch wet in the process.
Location is always important. So I insisted on some greenery in the BUMingham outside. Tom obliged and tied up the one with short sideways trees. Thank goodness it wasn’t just bricks again!
So back in Munich.
I should have had an hour and a half waiting for my next flight. There were things to do, look at the shops and restaurants, then eat the quinoa salad I’d brought with me from Vienna. The new (well to me new) passport control had to be cleared, this I am now a dab hand at after being rejected on my outbound flight. Hold your passport down on the screen with your hand so that it can be read!
I headed to the gate, not quite at the furthest point of the airport, but almost. Staff arrived, then announced that there was a delay. This extended and we finally were allowed through the boarding gate as our plane should have been pushed back. There was no plane, just a bus to take us out to our Star Alliance A319-100, here we crossed the tarmac and climbed the steps to find our seats.
With everyone on board we taxied round to run up along the side of the runway. The pilot swung us round onto the tarmac, would this be a rolling start? We tootled along for a little while straightening, then the engines roared up and the wheels began to speed up. Time to say goodbye to Europe….
Except the engine soon powered down! There had only been a short blast of throttle, now we were trundling along the runway. An air hostess quickly came on the tannoy and said that an announcement would be made shortly by the captain as to why we hadn’t taken off. They don’t use the term abandoned as this might cause alarm!
Once we’d turned off the runway the Captain spoke to us, something about the engines not being in sink, I’m not sure what he was saying as a group of English men were too busy joking with each other about finding the nearest underware shop! One thing we did all hear though was that he was going to go round and try to take off again.
This time we headed further up the runway, turned to face the tarmac and stopped. The engines roared and we set off, so far so good, we’d made it further than last time. Bye Europe… as the wheels lifted off the ground this time. Phew!! I had wondered if we’d have to change planes, be diverted to another UK airport, but thankfully we were on our way.
The sun soon set on the horizon turning the sky orange. After an hour and something the coast of main land Europe showed, lights twinkling below. Clouds covered the English coast, just the occasional glimpse confirmed we were over land again.
With half an hour to go we started to descend, the lower we got the bumpier it got. Bumpier and bumpier. The bumpyness kept on coming. We seemed to be getting lower, but would we be sent round again by air traffic control. There were a lot of houses getting closer, surely we must be about at the end of the run way!
As the runway lights came into view the plane crabbed it’s way towards the ground, was this still Storm Brendan? One wheel down, then the other, both now on the tarmac going slightly diagonally. As soon as the engines stopped their furious noise a round of aplause filled the plane, followed by more comments about underwear shops.
Only about half an hour late, I sailed through biometric passport control, my bag was about the tenth to appear on the conveyor. The cheese in my bag kept quiet so I exited arrivals through the green customes doors to see Mick stood holding his phone with my name flashing away in red, just in case I’d forgotten what he looked like!
0 locks, 14.16 miles, 1 wind, 2 much wind, 1 tree, 1 wet boater, 2 chain saws, £20 on cheese, 2 vacuum bags for safety, 1 taxi, 2 planes, 2 trains, 3 shuttles, 1 walk, 271 head nudges with Tilly, 16 very posh first night chocolates.
Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.
Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.
The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.
Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.
During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.
Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.
Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.
Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.
Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.
At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.
With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.
Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.
Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.
On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.
During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.
A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/
We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!
A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.
A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.
Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.
Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.
We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.
Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.
With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.
On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.
The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.
Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.
The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.
As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.
On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!
An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.
Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.
With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.
At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.
Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!
The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.
Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.
Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.
Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.
At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.
Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.
With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.
Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.
We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.
Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.
In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.
The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.
Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019
According to Canalplan
Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.
This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.
838.2 engine hours
That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.
1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.
Earlswood Motor Club to Birmingham City Centre, BCN
Mick checked the weedhatch using his new pair of pond gloves. His original pair (now five years old) had sprung a few too many leaks to do their job properly. Despite being able to have a good feel around the prop there was nothing there. Our slow progress must be more to do with our depth and the canals depth.
Not that much later than normal we pushed off to make our way into Birmingham, well we tend not to be early risers. Estimates reckoned we’d reach our chosen destination in around 4 and a half hours, a longer cruise than normal at this time of year. We wanted to make the centre of Birmingham today so had to push on.
The club house at Earlswood is having major building work, extensions on both sides. What looks like a new Pump out machine and new blue pipes stick up out of the ground along the cut.
The mooring round the corner was occupied, the view not as good as we’d had last night, so we’d stopped in the right place. Dickens Heath looked as it always does, incongruous. The water feature no longer flowing and just turning green instead. Here the number of towpath walkers increased.
Washing was on our minds, the drawer overflowing. A good long cruise into Birmingham would be useful to charge the batteries as we washed two loads and ran the dishwasher.
Shirley Drawbridge was our first obstacle. The control pedestal is hidden behind the barrier box, so took some finding, even though I’ve had this problem before. Once the bridge was clear I pressed the open button wondering how many vehicles I’d get to hold up. Only 1! Two others turned away just at the last minute. Oh well.
We avoided a fisherman just after Bridge 5 who had plonked himself on the bollards for the waterpoint. But there was still plenty of space for us so we topped up the tank as a second load of washing went through the machine.
Cups of tea in our thermos mugs and snacks taken out the back we continued onwards, through Brandwood Tunnel and Kings Norton guillotine lock. Here much of the graffiti has been cleaned away. A homeless man had made himself and his dog comfortable under the bridge, a good place to keep dry.
Kings Norton Junction Toll House is swathed in scaffolding. Back in February last year ( it’s odd saying that) the building was set alight, arson was suspected. Fire crews had limited access so had to carry much of their equipment to the scene with them. Hopefully the building will be restored.
Here we turned right up towards Birmingham. Shortly before Lifford Lane Bridge, Oleanna reared up, listed and eventually rode over a submerged obstacle. Looking behind us into the murky depths I thought I could see a wing mirror of a red car. Up ahead there was a wide enough opening and ramp down onto the towpath for someone to have brought a car for disposal. Were we the first to come this way this year? I sent a facebook message to Canal and River Trust, but so far have heard nothing back, well it is New Years day.
On we pootled in the chilly grey afternoon air. At Bournville there was a space we could have pulled into, but we decided to carry on. The new Sainsburys at Selly Oak is right by the canal and looks huge. Wonder if mooring rings will be put in for passing boaters?
At Edgbaston Tunnel the handrail and lighting reminded me of my panto design.
By now it was dusk, so our lights on the roof stood out twinkling in the gloom, we got lots of smiles and comments from those on the towpath.
We turned left at The Mailbox and carried on to Worcester Bar. Should we moor on the visitor mooring there or carry on to a more familiar mooring? We carried on under the buildings into the big lights of the city.
Mick waved at a familiar boat down the Ouzels Loop, but the occupants were a touch busy to notice, hopefully we’ll catch up with them whilst we are in the area.
Once moored up there was the matter of what to do with the ash from the stove? MIck lifted the ash pan out and left it on the towpath, hoping that it would cool down enough before we headed to bed to be able to go into a bag, sadly this wasn’t the case. Tomorrow we’ll be hunting round for an ash can.
With our loyalty card in hand we made our way to The Handmade Burger Company, just around the corner. Today we’d get a free drink. Well that’s what we thought until we got to the doors to see a sign saying that they were closing at 5pm!
What to eat instead? We’d both really fancied a burger. Other places seemed quite empty, many had no lights on at all. Pizza Express however was open so we opted for the usual in there. Gluten free dough balls and Pollo Ad Astra each. Mick’s pizza being nearly twice the size of mine!
Returning to the boat we sat down to watch the first episode of the new series of Dr Who. Verdict, we think it’s got potential to be better than the last series. The monsters might just be worth pulling the sofa out for!
In January boat owners will be asked to vote for candidates they want to represent them on the Canal and River Trust National Council. The council is made up of representatives from all sides of the waterways, business, fishing, volunteers, friends and private boaters, amongst others. This year there are four vacancies on the council representing Private Boaters.
The Council has an important role in helping to shape policy, raising and debating issues, providing guidance and perspective and acting as a sounding board for Trustees who are responsible for determining policy and strategy.
Four years ago, at the last election we glanced through the list of nominees, maybe one name familiar on the list, but we’d certainly not met them. Four years later I’ve just read through all 34 candidates, a few stand out as we now know them, others we have shared locks with, two are bloggers who we follow, others we have yet to meet.
Each candidate has a short 200 word manifesto which can be found on-line on the page about the elections link.
If you want to know more about the Council I can recommend watching Andy Tidy’s video on the subject. Andy has sat on the council for the last four years representing Business Boaters as he is a roving trader. However his seat representing Roving Traders no longer exists as their needs are seen to have more in common with Private Boaters than Businesses. In the forth coming elections he is standing as a candidate for Private Boaters.
Andy also writes a blog and over the last four years has published his CRT Jottings after Council meetings. These I have always found to be an interesting read. Link to the latest jottings. Good to hear what is discussed at these meetings. Thank you Andy.