Monday, 31 December 2012

Rain,rain go away.


Well,it’s New Years Eve,the last day of one of the wettest years we can remember and I’ll bet that there are many who would echo the title of our blog this week.Lisa,Chyandour and I are still at Barton Turns waiting for the locks at Wychnor and Alrewas to open so that we can cross the 200 Metre stretch of the River Trent that lies between them.We will then be able to get on our merry way towards Birmingham,which is our next intended destination.Many of you will be experiencing the same conditions so I’ll not go into detail or whinge about it,it’s a case of “que sera sera”.The weather hasn’t really spoilt anything for us,we just have to accept that this is the U.K. and we would never have any fun if we let rain interfere.Since our last blog we have been monitoring the Environment Agency’s Measuring Station at Kings Bromley to see if there is any sign of the River Trent levels falling and,for a couple of days the levels did fall,but then,after Boxing Day,they started to rise again.Not much,mostly at no more than a Centimetre an hour,but non the less,they were rising again.The last 24 hours though,has seen a steady fall so we’re back to being optimistic about our chances again..

On Boxing day we walked off our Christmas Dinner by trekking down to Wychnor Moorings,on the far side of Wychnor Lock,in the hope we would see for ourselves how the river was.The Lock itself was “locked” and the towpath was very muddy in places so we didn’t venture any farther.It was obvious that the lock was likely to remain closed for at least another couple of days at best,even if the rain stopped.Feeling optimistic on Friday,in spite of the heavy rain on Thursday night,we set off in the same direction and walked all the way to Alrewas,a round trip of about 5 miles.To make our walk worthwhile there was the promise of some great fish and chips, at the halfway point of our walk,in the village itself.We weren’t disappointed with the fish and chips but we could see that the river still had a long way to go before it would be safe to navigate.Most of the flooding had receded,but there is still a lot of water going down the river.If you feel that Alrewas rings a bell with you it could well be that you are aware that the National Memorial Arboretum is only just across the A38 from here.This is the U.K’s centre of remembrance with a stunning Armed Forces Memorial dedicated in 2007.

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Here are a couple of pictures of the armed Forces Memorial that we took the last time we came through Alrewas in August 2008.A very,very atmospheric place that we will visit again over the next few days.

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On the left the sign says it all and on the right is the sluice,fully open,letting water out of the T&M and back into the River Trent.

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Alrewas lock on the left,chained and padlocked.You can make out the bollards on the lock landing over the top of the gates.This was on Friday after the level had fallen,but was rising again,and the water was up to the bollards,it must have been worse earlier in the week.On the right is the weir as the River Trent follows it’s course and the canal goes to the left.A boat has to stay well this side of the weir floats even on a good day and Friday wasn’t.

Lisa's Alrewas 28.12.12 007 Lisa's Alrewas 28.12.12 008

A pretty thatched cottage in Alrewas on the left and on the right is how they decorate the telephone boxes at Christmas around here.

This has been our first Christmas on board Chyandour and it has been excellent,we had a great day with family on Christmas Day,the cook did an excellent job,making a meal for nine of us.It was great to be with the grandchildren on Christmas morning,when they opened their presents,as well as opening ours of course.On Thursday we took the bus up to the nearby village of Barton under Needwood to get a few supplies.We walked back because it didn’t turn out to be all that far away,we only jumped on the bus because it came by as we stood looking at the timetable on the stop.There’s a Co-op and a Post Office and quite a frequent bus service to Burton,so we’re ok here if we can’t get away any time soon.With the pub across the road and family just a few minutes away,we could be stuck in a far worse place than here.

Well,that’s all for this week,and also for this year.We would like to wish everyone a happy,prosperous and healthy 2013 and hopefully,we will be posting from Birmingham next week.Since our last blog we have done 0 miles and 0 locks,giving us a grand total of 72 miles and 53 locks.Take care everyone and have a great New Years Eve.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve


Well,we are almost there,only a few more hours and we will be spending our first Christmas on a narrowboat,and our own narrowboat at that.We have covered the last stretch to Barton Turns,where we had always planned to be for Christmas,and for now,this looks like being as far as we can go anyway.The reason for this is that just two miles ahead of us the canal is closed because of flooding.There’s a short stretch of the River Trent,near the village of Alrewas,that we have to negotiate,and until the water levels drop we can’t get onto it and onward to our next port of call.We had hoped to get to Birmingham for the New Year,but sadly,that looks to be out of the question now.

Most of the last week has been spent dodging the rain and what a week some of you have had,It’s beginning to look as though living on a boat could be the answer for many in the future.I seem to recall that we were facing water shortages at this time last year,now look at it,and last week I was hoping for mild weather,I didn’t want this much rain though. We have managed to get out and about a bit and there’s flooding in a number of places in the area,with some roads closed,but I am glad that there haven’t been any sign of peoples property being flooded.That must be horrendous at any time but even more so just now when most of us like to be in our own homes to enjoy the festivities.Lisa was caught in the flooding in January 2003 in Perth and she will tell you,”It’s no fun”.

We went into Shobnall Marina on Friday to fill with diesel and water and get some coal and a few other bits.This is a great marina run by Cliff and Janette Orton,with a chandlery and cafe,both with very friendly and helpful service and,above all,reasonable prices,so,if you’re passing,call in,it’s worth it,if only for the bacon sandwiches.After doing our bits in the marina we set of to get a bit closer to Barton Turns,and after two miles and one lock we came across a pub next to bridge 34 at Branston,called,The Bridge Inn,bet that surprised you.Anyway,this pub had been recommended to us and,just as we had been told,the food was excellent.It’s an Italian restaurant really and the food was delicious,especially when washed down with Pedigree.We stayed moored at bridge 34 until today because the weather wasn’t all that good and why move if you don’t have to.We had a couple of walks around the Branston Water Park and into Branston itself,there are a couple of handy shops in the village.The idea was to do the last leg of our journey this morning,unfortunately,when we woke it was persisting down,as bad as any of the recent days,but we needed to get here to Barton,so on went the waterproofs and off we set.It was only another couple of miles and one lock so it wasn’t too bad,we’ve cruised in heavier rain and it can be enjoyable in it’s own way.

Bond End Canal Branston 002

Above left is the entrance to Shobnall Marina.This used to be the entrance to the Bond End Canal which finally connected the T&M to the River Trent in 1794 after a number of years of argument between the respective owners.The picture on the right is of the Branston Water Park,a wildlife habitat,which was formed from a disused gravel pit.

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On the left is a traditional working boat moored just beyond Tattenhill Lock on the T&M and on the right,a view over the flooded fields alongside the canal at Branston.Incidentally,Branston was originally the home of Branston Pickle.

Well that’s all for this week,we are off to the Barton Turns Inn shortly for a well earned pint so Lisa and I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.Since our last blog we have done 4 miles and 2 locks,making a total,so far,of 72 miles and 53 locks.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Breweries to the left,Breweries to the right.


As you can guess from the title we are still here in beer heaven.We’ve had a good week since our last blog,having visited the pinnacle of real ale brewing at Marston’s Brewery here in Burton on Trent,and also going over to Birmingham.

We spent a week at Shobnall Fields before we did a bit of cruising up and down the T&M again in order to fill with water and empty the loo cassettes.It only takes a couple of hours or so to go up to Shobnall Basin,Wind,go through Dallow Lock,Wind again at Horninglow Basin,fill with water etc,go back through Dallow Lock and then get to where we are now,just short of Shobnall Basin.A trip like that also enables us to generate some electricity and heat some water instead of just running the engine on a fast tickover.

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On the left we are moored at Shobnall Fields,can you see which one is Chyandour ? On the right is the view from our lounge window on Sunday Morning,it was like a millpond.

Most of the week has been spent looking around the shops for Christmas Presents with the odd little routine job on Chyandour.Nothing drastic,just general tidying and cleaning to keep her up together.I wont be one of the”Shiny Boat Brigade”but I do like to see her being looked after,after all,she is our home and all we have now.

Wednesday was the highlight of our stay here in Burton.We were considering a train to Litchfield for the day so, while waiting for Lisa to get ready,(you know how long these things can take) I phoned the Visitor Centre at Marston’s to book a tour for next week.The delightful lady at the brewery asked if we could visit there and then as there was only a small party booked for that day,so it was away up the towpath and into Marston’s for the 11 o’clock tour.Marston’s has been brewing here in Burton since 1834 and brews my favourite tipple,along with a number of other popular brands and I was looking forward to this.The tour was very interesting,thanks to Beryl, the lady in charge being very well informed,having worked in the brewery since 1978.The best bit of the tour came at the end though,that was when we were given a couple of pints of Pedigree to “sample”,along with a variety of other brews.One thing about brewery tours is the certainty that the beer is in tip top condition and this one is no exception,the Pedigree was to die for.Thankyou Beryl.

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The top two pictures are of the Burton Union system of brewing,where Oak barrels are filled with ale to ferment.Marston’s are the only major brewers to use this system now and these barrels contain the latest batch of Pedigree.The bottom left picture is Lisa standing by one of the old wooden,and now redundant,brewing vessels and that’s a pair of up to date stainless steel ones to the right.

Today we went by train down to the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham,this is the third year we have visited the Christmas Market there,and having visited a number of Christmas Markets in Europe,I can say that it is as good as any we’ve ever been too.We also went to see our friends Jan And Dai who are moored on their boat Jandai just off the city centre.Birmingham is a great place to be on a narrowboat,there are miles of canals,loads of good moorings in the city centre and it’s only a few minutes walk to all the shops and markets.We had a great day sampling the wares at the market and catching up on the gossip with Jan and Dai.Merry Christmas to you both,hope to see you again soon.

Birmingham 007 Birmingham 010

Above are just a couple of pic’s I took today,not the worlds best cameraman I admit,but they at least give an idea of how the German Market looks.

The weather has been good to us for most of the last week,we’ve only had one icy morning,in fact the temperatures have been quite good for December.Long may it last as we have a few things planned for the next week or two and they all depend on the weather staying relatively mild,we have our fingers crossed.

That’s all again for this week I’m afraid.Since our last blog we have done 2 locks and 1 mile,not a lot,giving us a grand total of 68 Miles and 51 Locks to date.Take care everyone.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Shobnall Fields.


This week we are moored at Shobnall Fields to the north of Burton On Trent,a nice,quiet,open mooring,only fifteen minutes from Burton itself,so it’s just a walk to the shops.We had a bit of sad news the day before we arrived here,the friend I went to see only a week ago,passed away quite suddenly.I guess it was fortunate I saw him when I did,we were friends for forty years,though I have only seen him occasionally over the last few years.

We stayed an extra day in Willington because it was raining cats and dogs last Tuesday morning and there was no sense in getting wet if you’re not going anywhere special.On Wednesday we slowly made our way to Stretton,on the outskirts of Burton,where we moored for a couple of nights.The A38 runs alongside the canal for some of the way through Burton and the traffic is very noisy so we wanted to be sure we got some quiet moorings.Stretton was the last obvious place to stop while we checked out what was ahead.After a chat to a local boater,who gave us the lowdown on mooring around here,we cast off on Friday morning and moved the last couple of miles or so to where we are now.

Shobnal Fields 001 Shobnal Fields 002

The picture above on the left is the Aqueduct over the River Dove between Willington and Burton,close to Stretton,with it’s World War Two Pillbox.Thousands of these Pillboxes were built close to canals in the belief that they would act as a barrier in the event of an invasion by the Germans.The right hand picture is of the River Dove itself,we have crossed this river here many times and the river has been little more than a trickle,now,as you can see,it’s in flood.The flood was receding as I took this pic’,but only a few days before it had broken it’s banks and flooded the nearby A38 causing chaos.

Shobnal Fields 003 Shobnal Fields 005

Above left is the thin covering of ice that we woke up to on Thursday morning the whole of the canal was covered,it had thawed a bit before I plucked up the courage to venture out and take a pic’.Lisa flatly refused to go out, “just to take a picture”.On the right is some of the artwork on the bridge over Dallow Lane Lock,it celebrates Burtons connection with brewing.

Burton has been a centre for brewing beer ever since the monks at Burton Abbey first started brewing ale here around eight hundred years ago.At one time there were thirty one breweries producing up to three million barrels of ale a year,a truly liquid heaven.We are going to spend the best part of the next two weeks here so that Lisa can get the rest of her Christmas shopping and I can sample some of the current production from Marston’s brewery.All the facilities that we need are close at hand and one of the stoppages ahead of us has been extended so we can’t go very far anyway.The lock about four miles up the T&M from here will not now open till the 21st of December,just in time for us to get to Barton for Christmas.

Shobnal Fields 016 Shobnal Fields 015

The left picture is what I believe is a fountain in the grounds of Molson Coors brewery.I guess the water is turned off for the winter.On the right are some of the Brewery Vessels in the Molson Coors brewery.I used to work for a transport company as a driver,and we delivered vessels like these all over the country from where they were manufactured here in Burton.A great job,police escort all the way.

At the weekend we had visits from family and friends and Saturday saw us taking some of them on a short trip up to the next winding hole,back to the one behind us and then back to here to our mooring.It was a nice sunny but cold day and it was surprising who was the most competent at steering the boat,the ladies won this time.At the end of the afternoon we walked back to Horninglow Basin and into the nearby Navigation for a refreshing pint of good old Marston’s Pedigree.In the meantime Lisa has put some more decorations on the boat,in addition to her homemade Christmas Tree,and I’ve put some solar lights on the front as we get ready for our first Christmas afloat.Chyandour is starting to look very seasonal.

Shobnal Fields 021 Shobnal Fields 011

Lisa’s efforts so far,on the left and the solar lights I put up in the Cratch on the right (hope you can see them).

O.K. that’s all for this week,we should be out exploring a bit more next week.Since the last blog we have done 6 Miles and 3 Locks (the same one three times).our running total has now reached 67 Miles and 49 Locks.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Willington (part two).


Well,that’s us at the end of our second week in Willington,we’ve tidied up the last odds and ends that we needed to do and we will be leaving tomorrow,Tuesday.It’s been good here,we’re close to shops and pubs,we can get water and we can empty the loo,what more could we want? Now though,it’s time for a change of scenery.Since we left Trent Lock at the beginning of November,after our 50 hour service,it has been our intention to steadily make our way to Barton Under Needwood for Christmas.We knew that there were stoppages at some of the locks in between so that has been the reason for our somewhat slow progress.There are still a couple of stoppages still in front of us so we are only going up the T&M for a few more miles and there we intend to stay for another week or so.The stoppages are due to be completed by the 14th of December and we would like to be at Barton about the 22nd so we can spend our first ever Christmas with some of our Grandchildren,as well as our first ever Christmas on a narrowboat.

Willington (4) 007 Willington (6) 004

Sunset over Willington on the left and our cosy fire on the right.The fire hasn’t been allowed to go out since before we left Trent Lock on the 3rd of November,and the kettle is always on the boil,I have been known to enjoy the odd cup of tea.

This week here at Willington has been a relaxing one,with just a walk along the towpath for a mile or two on most days.On Wednesday though,we went by train to the village of Tutbury where I used to stay.We went to see an old friend and catch up on the gossip,sadly,I think that that will be the last time I go back,things change and we have to move on.Thursday had us going to the nearby marina to fill up with diesel and,as a result,I am very impressed with the fuel consumption we are getting from our Beta 38 engine.I keep a running total of our engine hours and since our previous fill up we had done 60 hours.I put 57.5 litres of diesel into the tank to fill it back up so that’s not bad at all,slightly less than a litre per hour.Most of the 60 hours has been spent generating electricity which works out at a little over two hours a day,again,not bad and we are also getting a bit from the solar panels.

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Willington village centre on the left as seen from the Railway Station,there’s another pub out of picture.On the right is Trent Bridge at Willington,now the floods have gone down,last week the water was above the arches.This bridge was built in 1839 and was a toll bridge,the old ford and the ferry that were used before this were destroyed so the only way across the Trent was to pay a toll.The villagers of Repton and Willington wanted the bridge but not the tolls,which were quite hefty and they finally got them lifted in 1898.

On Friday,now that the floodwater had receded and we could get across the River Trent,we took a walk to the nearby village of Repton,the one famous it’s school which was founded in 1557.Apart from the school there’s just a couple of pubs and a few shops,one of them being a butchers,so we got our meat for Sunday Dinner.We like to use the village shops when we get the chance because the produce in them is often better than that in a supermarket and not always more expensive.

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Above are a couple of pictures of the centre of Repton.

The weather is now starting to play a bigger part in our plans.On Sunday morning we woke up to find a covering of ice on the canal,and ice can have a big influence on our progress,because,if it gets too thick then we are going nowhere.It takes a few days of below freezing temperatures to make the canal impassable and,usually,any ice in a morning has disappeared by lunchtime,which is what happened on Sunday.It is possible to cruise through thin ice but there is a risk of the protective coating on the hull being damaged,allowing rust to set in,so we aren’t keen on doing that.The weather forecast for the next few days gives us above freezing temperatures so we should be ok for the next leg of our journey.There are the usual media generated warnings predicting the worst winter for a hundred years but that’s mainly to fill the gaps between the adverts,there’s never any evidence,just some “expert” we’ve never heard of.We intend to just move from one haven to the next anyway,when conditions permit,so moving like that means we shouldn’t get stranded anywhere without any facilities.

Willington (6) 001 Willington (5) 009

I caught this on Sunday,not bad seeing as I didn’t have any bait.On the right you can see me doing the dishes.Lisa cooks,I wash up,seems a fair way of doing things to me.

I tried my hand at a bit of baking today,something I’ve never done before.We had some of the Sunday joint left over,so we got some pastry from the local Co-op,I got the mincer out and I set about making a couple of pasties.Are we allowed to call them Cornish if I made them in Derbyshire? Buying the pastry seemed to be the best bet as trying to make pastry as well as pasties looked like a step too far for someone with my culinary skills.Anyway,the result was very good,they tasted as good as they look,believe me.I shall now have another go and the next time make my own pastry.

Willington (7) 004 Willington (3) 001

The pasties really were delicious,can’t wait for another go.One of Lisa’s projects on the right.It’s a garden ornament that she has painted using Nail Varnish,looks good.It’s not the one we had made into a Tiller Pin by the way,that still has pride of place in the window ‘cos we’re scared to use it as a Tiller Pin just yet.

That’s all again for this week,we move tomorrow just a few miles up the T&M.Since our last blog we have done no miles and no locks and since we started,on the 12th of October,we’ve done 62 Miles and 46 Locks.Take care everyone.