Monday, 25 February 2013



This week we are moored in Penkridge on the Staffordshire & Worcester canal.It’s been a couple of years since we last moored here and it’s nice to be back again,we like it here.The last time we were here was while we were on a hire boat from Norbury Wharf in January 2011,just after the big freeze and,having failed to get to Stourton Junction because of ice,we turned and came here.We stayed for a weekend and our family came out to see us and we enjoyed Sunday lunch in The Boat,a pub by the side of the canal.Penkridge isn’t a big place but it has a large market and a few pubs and it’s not far to walk into town from the canal.

Penkridge 001 Great Haywood 012

The front of Chyandour while I wait on the Lock Landing for Lisa to open the lock gates just under the bridge ahead as we go into Penkridge,The Boat pub is just off picture to the right.There’s Lisa,sampling the wine as she cooks dinner.Not sure if there was wine in the recipe or whether Lisa was just starting early. 

We’ve had a pleasant week since our last blog,having moved up the Trent & Mersey from Alrewas to Great Haywood Junction,where the T&M meets the S&W.On the way we stopped off for a few supplies at Rugeley.The murder here of Christina Collins,in 1839,was the inspiration for an Inspector Morse TV mystery called the Wench is Dead.From Rugeley we cruised up to Great Haywood,where we spent three days doing our usual activities of walking and looking at interesting features both on and off the canal.There are quite a few interesting things in the area around Great Haywood.There’s Shugborough Hall,which is closed for the winter until late March,but we still managed a walk round the grounds.We’ll save the hall for the next time we pass that way.There’s the stables and gatehouse that are all that’s left of Tixall Hall,sadly,these can only be seen from a distance,private property,I believe,the hall itself was demolished in 1927.Tixall Wide,a part of the S&W canal,is said to have been created by James Brindley in 1771 for the then owner of Tixall Hall,Thomas Clifford,who asked that the canal be made to look like a lake so as not to spoil his view.The things that money can buy.

Great Haywood 002 Great Haywood 003

Great Haywood 006 Great Haywood 007

An assortment of Photo’s from the grounds of Shugborough Hall.Top left is the hall itself,top right is the Triumphal Arch,bottom left is the Tower of the Winds and bottom right is Essex Bridge,a Packhorse Bridge built in 1550 to enable Queen Elizabeth 1st to go hunting when she visited the estate.

On Saturday night,while moored next to the towpath,we heard what we thought was running water,something we shouldn’t have been hearing,it can mean there’s a problem.At night you can get a few odd noises but usually they are nothing to worry about,just a small animal,or ducks or something,but this sounded a bit more serious.On looking out of the front I couldn’t see anything and,as usual,the noise stopped.I got back inside and the water started to run again,strange,I decided to creep up on it,so torch in hand,out I went and there it was,a mole,so close to the canal that the soil it was pushing out from it’s hole was falling straight into the canal and sounding just like running water.The noise stopped after a short while,but at about four o’clock in the morning it started again,this time outside the bedroom porthole,I was glad at this time that I knew what it was.

Great Haywood 010 Great Haywood 011

A couple of views from the canal after Great Haywood.On the left is the gate house to Tixall Hall,its now used for holiday flats I believe.On the right is Tixall Farm,with a dovecote above the centre arch.There’s an unusual two storey grey building on the extreme left of the red brick farmhouse,it’s called Bottle Lodge and was once used by a shepherd.

We left Great Haywood on Sunday and made our way up the S&W towards Penkridge but decided to stop a few miles out,in a remote location,just above Deptmore Lock,near Acton Trussell.It’s so quiet and peaceful in places like that and we had a very enjoyable and relaxing afternoon and evening.While there I got a message from Lee Shepherd of Hapton Valley Boats offering a 5% discount off their holidays for anyone reading our blog.Hapton Valley Boats are based at Reedley Marina on the Leeds & Liverpool canal and have excellent boats at very reasonable prices,probably the cheapest we experienced when we were hiring,and,with no hidden extras like fuel surcharges.The L&L is an excellent canal with wonderful views as it crosses the Penines and it’s one of the “must does” for us and Chyandour.Any Hire company that I would recommend,gives value for money as well as good boats,we did a lot of research before we hired ‘cos we aren’t rich.

OK folks,that’s all for this week,I’ve got to do the dishes while Lisa watches the TV.What a life hey ??? Since last weeks blog we have done 15 Locks and 20 Miles,giving us a grand total of 161 Locks and 179 Miles since we set off in October 2012.

Monday, 18 February 2013


This week we are moored on the outskirts of Alrewas,a place we didn’t expect to see again for a while.We’re only here for the one night so we’ve used our time to visit the National Memorial Arboretum.We were last here a few months after Her Majesty the Queen dedicated the Armed Forces Memorial in 2007.A lot has changed since then but it hasn’t lost any of the atmosphere and it’s still well worth the visit.

Before we arrived here in Alrewas,we had a few days moored at Fradley Junction,having got there last Tuesday after a longish day of cruising from Tixall.Thankfully,unlike the previous couple of days,we didn’t have any rain or snow,though it was still cold.We decided to stay at Fradley because,as we expected,the River Trent at Alrewas was in flood again and,as well as having good boating services,Fradley Junction has one of the best pubs on the network,The Swan. Fradley Junction is where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal,it was completed in 1790 and became one of the major junctions on the network.The Swan and what were once warehouses and cottages alongside it,were built in the 1790’s.

Fradley Junction 003 Fradley Junction 004

The Swan at Fradley with the cottages and warehouses either side of it.A view of the River Trent in flood at Alrewas.This time we could walk to the off side and get up closer than when we were here in December.The canal is to the other side of the boom.

Fradley Junction 001 Lisa's Fradley 010

How’s this for a Dragonfly? It’s a seat in the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve which was adjacent to our mooring at Fradley.It’s a great place for walking your dog and there’s a hide for watching the birds as well as various sculptures in wood that are dotted around the site.There’s Foxxie Dog and me as we walked down to see the Trent in flood.We took Foxxie for a walk to have a look at the Trent and to see how high the water was again.Lisa and I had done much the same thing between Christmas and New Year,while on the other side of the river waiting to get to Birmingham.

As you know we have been helping to escort our friends,Janice and Foxxie Dog and their boat Jandai,to a safe mooring but we decided that Fradley should be where we parted company.Other friends,Paul and Kait,would continuing where Paul and Archie had left off on Tuesday and take them on the last couple of legs of their journey from Birmingham.It had been almost six weeks since we had met up with Jandai and,along with the heartache after the first week,we did have some good times,so we parted with no little sadness.We are thankful that we had been able to count Dai as a friend and now we would like to say the same for Janice and Foxxie Dog,we look forward to meeting up with you again in the future.There will always be room on Chyandour for you both.

We didn’t do a great deal during our stay at Fradley,most of our time was spent cleaning and tidying our boats and doing the laundry in the machines provided by the Swan.Though we have our own machine it’s a bonus to have facilities where we can get things washed and dried at a reasonable price,the laundry here fits the bill to a tee,saves the batteries too.On Saturday night,one of the final things we did together was to go for a meal in the Swan and it was excellent,so good in fact,that after Jandai had gone,some of our family joined us for the Sunday Carvery and that too was very good.

Finally,here in Alrewas,I’ve had to go through the periodic humility of having my hair cut.I have a rough idea that it needs cutting when I get the remarks about plaiting from some of my so called friends.You know who you are so no revenge,this time Winking smile ,but any future references to coloured ribbons could result in a fatality.The thing is,I hate having my hair cut and always have,Dentists I can cope with,Barbers are creatures from hell. Devil I’ve had Barbers threaten to throw me out halfway through cutting ‘cos it had to be done their way and I didn’t agree.They always made me look like I was wearing a cycle helmet before cycle helmets were invented!!! I’m quite attached to  both my ears too and there have been some close calls there,I can tell you.Lisa would say they no longer work,but that’s not an excuse for disfiguring me and they still look ok.She has cut my hair since we met but it’s not helped any,I still feel I will lose bits I’m still using,as well as “all” my hair.The trauma was even worse today because it hurts to see the local wildlife building nests with your hair when you could still be using it,winter isn’t over yet you know.

Anyway,that’s all for this week.Since our last blog we have done 12 Locks and 16 Miles,giving us the grand total of 146 Locks and 159 Miles.Please take care everyone,bye for now.    

Monday, 11 February 2013

Jandai’s Journey.


We’re now on the move again.We left Birmingham on Friday on the first leg of our journey escorting our friends boat,Jandai,to a safe mooring.Friday night was spent at the Black Country Living Museum,a familiar place to Lisa and I ,having visited a couple of times with hire boats and we know there are nice quiet moorings with good services.

Lisa's Birmingham 06.02.13 033 Jandai's Journey 017

Jandai on the left assisting another friends boat into the moorings at the Black Country Museum and on the right the three of us safely moored.

Saturday night we spent above the top lock of the 21,or the Wolverhampton Flight,to give it it’s name,and surprisingly,it’s a flight of 21 locks.We hadn’t moored there before because it has a bit of a reputation but I felt that we would be safe and so it turned out.OK,it’s a bit noisy as there’s a night club close by,but I was the only one to hear anything,everyone else slept soundly.On Sunday morning some more friends arrived,they are the ones who are going to be taking Jandai to her safe mooring,and together we went down the 21.The journey from the top to the bottom of the flight generally takes about four hours,we did it in two and I still find it hard to believe.There were two boats and eight crew in total and we set off at just before 10 and we were at Aldersley Junction on the Staffs & Worcs at about ten to twelve.A world record?? probably not,but we can hope.It rained every inch of the way down and I think it’s safe to say we were all glad when we got to our intended destination for the night,even though we were a couple of hours earlier than expected.It was lovely to sit in front of a hot stove with a mug of tea and dry out.Today we made a full day of it,it was snowing when we left but stopped about lunchtime and we finally got as far as Tixall,which is just short of Great Haywood.Lisa and I are looking after both boats for the night and then tomorrow we are going to make for Alrewas if we can.That will probably be it for a day or two as the River Trent is in flood and the locks at Alrewas could well be locked again.

Monday 11.02.13 001 Monday 11.02.13 004

On the left is how things looked this morning when we woke and that’s me on the right,at the tiller,and boy was it cold.

Earlier last week we got out and about as usual and Tuesday we went to the Millennium Think Tank,which is a sort of science museum.It’s full of interactive displays for all ages plus some of the the machinery,cars and aircraft that have been built in Birmingham over the last 250 years.A new display was being built ready for later this month so we have an excuse to go back on our next visit to Birmingham.On Wednesday our first 250 hour service was due,so it was off with the engine covers and out with the toolbox.We were well prepared for this,having bought fuel and oil filters as well as engine oil before we left Trent Lock.It took us about an hour,I guess,and then Chyandour was good for another 250 hours before her next service is due.

Lisa's Birmingham 06.02.13 007 Lisa's Birmingham 06.02.13 009

There’s me getting ready to check the oil level while Lisa’s filling the engine with oil

We went for another long walk on Thursday,this time to have a look at a couple of the canal branches off the Mainline and also to see what we could of the old Soho Foundry that was built by Matthew Boulton and James Watt for manufacturing their steam engines.We managed to see bits and pieces of all the places but a great deal has gone with only little bits here and there to show where the Cape Arm and the French Walls branch were.You can just about make out the foundry from the nearby road,with James Watts name painted in large white letters on the wall,and there’s also a blue plaque at the main entrance with the Foundry Tavern opposite.

Cape Arm branch French Walls branch

On the left,the only view of the Cape Arm that I could get.The junction has no foot access and the whole arm is surrounded by factories.All that remains of the French Walls branch on the right,just the bricked up junction with warehouses where the branch used to be.

Soho Foundry Tavern Soho Foundry

The old Soho Foundry Tavern and a blue plaque on the wall of the Soho Foundry entrance,little of the original Soho Foundry can be seen from outside.

Perrots Folly Edgebaston Water Works

Perrotts Folly on the left and Edgebaston Pumping Station on the right.These two buildings are said to be the inspiration for Tolkien’s Two Towers.J.R.R.Tolkien lived near Edgebaston as a child and these two towers can be seen for miles.

Well,that’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done 35 Locks and 36 Miles,giving us a grand total of 134 Locks and 143 Miles since we set off,on our travels,on the 12th of October 2012.Take care everyone.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Factory Tunnel


This week we are still in Birmingham and making the most of our time looking at the history of the canals around here.I walked back down the Farmers Bridge Flight last week to have a closer look at the Factory Tunnel that has been bugging me for about a month.I now know the name of the company that operated from there,and what they made.As the C&RT guy told me a few weeks ago,the company was called Birlec,but what he couldn’t tell me,was that it was short for Birmingham Electrical Furnaces,and they were world famous manufacturers of,(surprise surprise),electric furnaces.I managed to take a couple of photo’s of the inside,of the factory,it’s empty now and being used for storage,and the reason it was built over the canal was probably because they could.It doesn’t seem to have been built with canal transport in mind,large pieces of machinery don’t fit under many of the bridges on our canals.

Factory Tunnel 005 Factory Tunnel 006

Factory Tunnel 012 Factory Tunnel 013

Top left is the view of the factory from the outside,top right is the view through the “ tunnel “.there are four doors at the far end giving access to below the factory but it’s unlikely they would have been used for much other than coal deliveries.The bottom two are the inside of the factory,overhead cranes were used here,but as you can see,it’s now just used for storage.

Over the weekend we took a walk in the other direction from here towards Smethwick.Our first walk was to the reservoir at Edgebaston,formally called Rotten Park Reservoir,it’s only a couple of miles or so and our route took us through some more of the manufacturing history of Birmingham.Rotten Park Loop is part of James Brindleys Old Main Line Canal,the first canal built here in 1769 to bring coal from the Black Country collieries.In the 1820s Thomas Telford built a New Main Line that is much straighter and cut through the Old Main Line.This left a number of Loops which attracted a lot of businesses wanting access to the canals.You have to realise that at that time there were just fields around here.Rotten Park Reservoir was built by Telford as a feeder to both canals.It’s a great place for a walk and it’s only a mile or two from the city centre.

Engine Arm 001 Engine Arm 005

On the left we have Edgebaston Reservoir and on the right is one of the feeders to the canals.The main feeder goes directly into Rotten Park Loop,the one on the right took water from the reservoir to the Engine Arm,which is just under a mile and a half to the north west of the reservoir,and the destination of my last walk.

Engine Arm 010 Engine Arm 016

The picture on the left is the Roving Bridge over another of the loops left by Telford’s new canal,this one went through Matthew Boulton and James Watt’s Soho Foundry.The foundry was built in 1795,for the manufacture of steam engines,for which it became world famous.I believe the buildings in the photo’ were built by W & T Avery the weighing machine makers who took over the foundry in 1895.On the right is the Engine Arm aqueduct over the New Main Line,built as the end of the feeder in 1825 to take water to the Old Main Line which is to the left of the photo’,and higher than the new by 20 feet.

Engine Arm 012 Engine Arm 013

The top of the Smethwick Locks on the left,with it’s replica Toll Office,on the Old Main Line.The entrance to the Engine Arm is on the right.I have been assured that this short arm is navigable so sometime in the future,Lisa and I will take a trip to the end.

Engine Arm 014 Engine Arm 018

On the left is the Engine Arm from the bridge you see on the top right photo’ and on the right there are the factories that back onto the arm.Non of these use the canals now but they would have when they were built some 150 years or so ago.One of the factories here,was,I believe,the Patent Nut and Bolt Company which eventually became part of the GKN empire.

That’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have not done any locks or any miles,but this is likely to change in the near future so next week we could be anywhere.Our grand total should stand at 99 Locks and 107 Miles,my addition has not been so good of late and I got the totals wrong for the last few weeks.Take care everyone please.