Friday, 7 May 2021

Retirement - best job I've ever had.

Before I retired I was offered a farewell meeting with my boss's boss - the second in command at the University. As an aside he was someone I had no respect for, in my world respect is earned and not decreed by status, anyhow I digress. One thing he could not understand was why at 55 I was retiring ( he lived for work and had no hobbies it transpired in my cross examination of him!) I put him right on the very long bucket list I had and despite my reservations I held about him I was a little sad for him as unlike me he had little outside of work and no reason to retire and explore life.

That was a long winded introduction to my last week - after we returned from Percy I had agreed to meet friends for an outside coffee and bacon catch up  - 150 miles into north Yorkshire. They were coming from Ayr, Middlesborough and Lincolnshire. 

A great ride on a great bike, I've got to consider it the pinnacle of my biking career ( to date as there is still that DCT Goldwing to consider !) 

I've a year ( hopefully) of biking adventures lined up on this bike and my other bike a Royal Enfield  Himalayan. That bike is just about set up now for my LEJOG ( Lands End to John O'Groats) all by side roads over 11 days. I'm doing that on my own and I finished packing one full pannier with all the 'stuff' I hopefully will not need. I've some extra front rack panniers being delivered this week and I'm hopefully set ! 

We are on the big bike just after I get back from LEJOG for a few days with friends so I rode one of the routes I have planned that was again glorious until I pulled into the Cat and Fiddle where it started to snow ! 3c at the pub and 10c off the Buxton plateau ! 

More to follow ..... hopefully. 

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Boating but not on Percy ...?

When we were out the other week we were doing that boating thing of leap frogging another boat and that boat was Jubilee Halfie and Jan's boat. Whilst we were winding and heading back they were heading off on the four counties with a trip up the Caldon. As we live above the Caldon on the stretch between Consall lock and Froghall tunnel we agreed to meet up and take them some post they had forwarded to our place.

So yesterday we walked down and met them as they were on their way to the 48 hour visitor moorings. John initially moored up and put the kettle on then a decision was taken to cruise on and with little encouragement we hopped onto the foredeck and enjoyed seeing our bit of canal from a boat rather than walking (which we do a lot) 

With the extra weight (!) and a willing pair of guiding hands a quick risk assessment was taken and the intrepid couple decided to go for the basin - through the very low Froghall tunnel....

My all time favourite canal bridge - Cherry Eye Bridge

John turned the engine off and with him on the stern and me on the bow we handed Jubilee through  - it got very tight at one point with literally an inch each side at the front .... but we got through 

(Pictures by Jan  -  pinched from NB Jubilees site  - here for another perspective )

Success !

John then expertly reversed into a pontoon in the basin and joined an elite club of boaters who have taken their boat into the basin.

Sadly there are some that cannot respect the countryside  - I speared it and took it home 

Skip forward the next day and we returned to help 'hand' Jubilee back through the tunnel. John had been proactive and found more wood and cut it and stacked it on the bow. He'd also topped the watertank back up and added a bucket of water and a bottle of water on the bow and some paving slaps he found dumped on the stern - that's proactive.

Success, seemed easier no doubt in part due to the few steps John took.

Yes we also met another boat on the narrows  - great to see boats coming up our canal. They reversed and we cruised on.

We live up there ...

We even met our neighbour Margaret and her family at Consall lock. We brought Jubilee up ( despite the boat we passed in the narrows leaving one of the paddles two click up  - John spotted it as we hovered close to the top ! 

Off they cruised to hopefully get past the river section before the predicted heavy rains that'll bring the Churnet up for sure. 

It was lovely to meet them again on home turf and help them get into and out of the basin. It also reminded me how much we miss Percy and what we could and maybe should be doing more of.  We walked back home up through he woods for some gardening ( Rachel) and some motorbike fettling (Nev).

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Well we called that about right

Today I listened to the weather forecast on Radio 4 and the weather person was making the comment it was the first time this month she had been able to say unsettled and showers ! I was of course listening in bed in our cottage rather than Percy. I had a twinge of guilt thinking of Percy waiting again clean ready to go for another adventure.... and I was lazing in bed !

The summary of our trip (thanks to the excellent CanalplanAC) was as follows....

  • Trip length 77 miles 6 and a half furlongs
  • 28 locks 
  • 36 hours and 43 minutes
  • 22 small aqueducts and two tunnel passages ( Cowley tunnel there and back) 
  • Interestingly it does not list the number of bridges .... ( that I can find) 
We should have turned right at the junction as we will be doing this same route when we bring Percy to Stone for Blacking in October. At least it gives us a reason for a cruise and I do fancy 'bagging' another canal full length by going to Stourport ..... a plan is forming.

Monday, 26 April 2021

The last day - it didn't start well

Well the boating bit  - A bit dramatic as it was a lovely morning so I walked up to the aquaduct and watched the A5 traffic going on its ever increasingly normal way. 

As an aside I was looking at maps as I'm inclined to do and plotted the walking distance between our starting point the day before at the visitor moorings above Gailey lock and our last nights mooring at Stretton aquaduct - just under three miles. So we could have walked between the two in an hour but it took us 6 hours ! 

I heard barn owls last night and Tawny owls above Gailey lock the night before. I watched a Tawny owl hopping between trees and making its call. 

So this morning  - a lovely cutting cruise to Wheaton Aston. 

There was a boat approaching the lock but the lock was full so I moored up opened the top gate and got back on Percy. The crew member from the boat below the lock walked up and closed the gate..! I sounded my air horn and she kept on closing. It was only when I got off the boat and started walking towards her she realised what she was doing  and was very apologetic. It was clear she did not have a clue what she was doing. I got Percy into the lock and she asked if I wanted her to lift the paddle but she did so without the pawl on the ratchet.... I alerted her to this and explained the risks. Then walking to check the boat and the cill I fell over a load of the 'high vis' hazard mesh CRT has layered over a damaged bollard  - felt a twit and hurt my hand as I was carrying my windlass... I was more concerned I could have fallen onto the lock! As I get older I try and be more aware of what I'm doing and how.... I don't bounce or mend as well now.

As we exited the lock the crew on the boat apologised again saying it was their crew members first ever lock - No problem every day is a learning day. 

Then it was a lovely cruise to Pat Norbury where we stopped for lunch just after high bridge.

Getting back onto our mooring was a pig as it is badly silted up so we had to saw our way back on - not helped by a new neighbour so our mooring is tight. Its a cruiser and has a sticky out outboard so I took a photo of our tight springs and tight back line in case ....

..... and the engine counter at the end 

826 when I changed the oil so a 40 hour 11 day cruise  - spot on.

Back home now .... a lovely cruise with great weather and quiet canals. We never followed a boat or were followed. We never queued for a lock and had plenty of choices for moorings. A quick boat clean inside and back in a few days to clean the outside. 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Just so few boats.....then

Today’s signature thought has been so few boats during such beautiful cruising weather. I was feeling very confident entering the narrows before Autherly junction as I’d not seen a boat moving for maybe an hour so how surprised I was to see a tunnel light pop on as I entered. Not an issue a blast of reverse and we edged back out.

Autherly junction was a lot sunnier this time 

Going back to my initial thoughts we did not see a hire boat all day until we had moored up. Lots of walkers on the towpath on a sunny Sunday. 

We left Gailey visitor moorings above the lock at the end of the row ( a lovely mooring) at 10.05 am and moored up just past Stretton Aquaduct at 3.50 pm so a cruise of just short of 6 hours. Checking  tomorrow’s last hop from CanalplanAC .....

This is a trip of 12 miles, 7¼ furlongs and 1 lock from Stretton Aqueduct to Shebdon Visitor Moorings travelling northwest on the Shropshire Union Canal (Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal - Main Line).

This will take 5 hours and 22 minutes.

Looks like another day of sunshine 

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Just sublime boating

 Not much to blog about other than we set off at 8.30am from just before Tixall lock and ended the day on the visitor moorings above Gailey lock at 4.30pm . We serviced the boat at the Penkridge services that took the best part of an hour we ate lunch while we filled from nearly empty. The two tanks on Percy are linked and take a slow dribble to balance towards the end of the fill. 

Another day of few boats moving, one hire boat misjudged the speed of approach as we were readying to exit Deepmore lock resulting in them across the canal and then having to be pulled in. The lady on the back obviously thought we should have come out of the lock like a greyhound out of the traps .... Percy does not do that. She did not return our good day. 

Tomorrow back onto the Shroppie .... not sure where exactly, I think we will just play it by the day.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Look who we met again and stinky canal

Today was always a rest day and a test of  Percy’s limited battery capacity. Can we run a full 24 hours without charge.... seems so. Good to know

We needed supplies so took a walk to the farm shop at Great Haywood via Shugborough. It was a long walk as the Natural Trust had closed the Great Haywood entrance ( Pedestrian) making pedestrians walk all the way to the car park the all the way back. Suffice to say we found a gap in the fence on the way out.

Supplies sourced ( it’s an expensive shop) we met our first boat NB Comet, looking resplendent and talking to her owner sporting a new bottom ! 

 A few more random pics ....

On getting back to the boat the fuel boat came past and was hailed by the boat a little further down the canal. They took diesel then 10 minutes later a proper diesel slick came down the canal. it cost me a full bottle of washing up liquid to disperse it and the smell was horrible. Spin forward 10 minutes and a boat winds behind us and back up. Then lights a portable bbq so we have stink from the cut and stink from the air .... I’m a moaning git.

One boat that did pass earlier was NB Jubilee Halfie offered a towpath drink later which I really enjoyed. John  has been blogging a long time and we have met a few times and I recall we shared a Curry in Alrewas when I was living aboard. Hopefully we can catch up again when they do the Caldon and Leek arm and we will be back home then.