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The Waterways Wanderings of Narrowboat “Just Heaven”

The Bonded Warehouse

We have cruised the Stourbridge canal several times, but not the Town Arm. So we decided to make the short journey up there for one night.

The weather was good and we set off from our mooring at about 11:00. The weather clear and sunny and after a pleasant two horus or so we arrived at the Bonded Warehouse. As we were winding we heard someone call out “What are you doing here?”. It was Chris from NB Helen, which normally moors just down from us at Kinver, but was in the dry dock being blacked.

We found somewhere to moor up and then walked back to have a chat with Chris and his team. A quick lunch then up the town to wander round the shops and get some food from Waitrose.

Being more or less in the middle of the town we expected it to be rather noisy at night but in fact, other than some boaters returning loudly at 4:00am, it was fairly quiet.

Short chug

This morning we just  chugged the few hundred yards to the service block, did a pumpout, topped up the water and returned to our mooring.

Back home after lunch.

Ice!

The plan for a couple of days was to make a short trip up to Stourbridge today and back tomorrow. We untied, went up though Hyde lock. (Where BW workmen were installing a new handrail as a result of the accident at Stourport). As we came up in the lock it was obvious that beyond the lock the canal was frozen. We tested the thickness and it was enough to cause paint damage. The BW guys said that it was frozen all the way to Stewpony. So we winded and went back to our mooring!

I spend some of today re-installing my monitoring box. I have designed and developed a system based on an embedded microcomputer which monitors the temperature and battery voltage on board. It then sends the info via SMS text message to a computer at home. This enables me to check that all is OK onboard. Below is a graph drawn from the data.

You can see that the Eberspacher heater came on at 3:00, 6:00 & 8:00. It also monitors the battery voltage to make sure that the solar panels are charging the batteries sufficiently to keep the heater going. I’m planning later versions with will be more interactive. You can see the live data here: http://asgard.thornet.co.uk/boat/

We walked down to Whittington Horse bridge to check the ice situation, but it was impassable, so we’re staying here until tomorrow.

Delayed arrival

We had planned to come and check all was OK last weekend, but my health conspired against us. I had had a heavy chesty cough for a while and thought “It’ll go away, I’ll shake it off”. But it didn’t go away it got worse until one evening I collapsed with difficulty in breathing and shaking all over. The doctor was called and, without even coming to visit, she called an ambulance and I was taken to Frenchay Hospital where they diagnosed viral pneumonia. It seems that the pneumonia had weakened me so that I now had a secondary infection, so they pumped me full of intravenous antibiotics. I was also dehydrated so I had intravenous fluids as well. After three days I was much better, though still tired and short of breath, so I was discharged. In my 59 years this was my first experience of hospital as a patient. It wasnt as bad as I expected, and I was very glad of the care and attention I received.
We arrived here at about 6 o’clock, had a quick meal then drove to the Queens head at Wolverley where a very pleasant evening was spent with Andrew & Sheila Goodland and Roger & Margret Millin.

Not moved

We have have spent a few odd nights onboard since October, but we haven’t actually moved.
We popped up this weekend to check things were OK. I have developed a little box of tricks that monitors things on board, e.g. temperature & battery state. It regularly sends data back to a server via the mobile phone network. This allows me to check that the heating is coming in the cold weather. Unfortunately it stopped sending the data a few days ago, so we came up to check things. It was working OK, but the SMS to email gateway I was using is not forwarding the data. I’ll have to check what’s wrong.
All was OK with the boat, no frost damage. We stayed overnight and went back home this morning.

Kinver

We have been here since Thursday. The weather for our last day cruising was grey and damp. We set off about 9ish and were back here by noon.
We spent the afternoon making the security bars for the windows. We want them to be a deterrent but not to be to obtrusive, so we made them removable.
Friday was mostly taken up with shopping at the Merry Hill centre. We did buy some Christmas presents, but not as many as we had hoped.
Tidy up this morning and then back home.

Wolverly Court Lock

A thick mist had descended over the river during the night and, as the sun rose, it looked really great in the sunshine.

We gave up any thought of going back into the shops and, after breakfast, set off back up to Stourport. It was fairly chilly but a really great morning to be on the river.
We arrived in Stourport about 12 o’clock and as we were just entering the first of the staircase locks Sheila came along with Dylan. We had a quick chat then called in at Limekiln to top up with diesel. A steady cruise up to Kidderminster where we topped up with groceries from Sainsbury’s and wandered round The Range looking for Christmas presents. Moored for the night just below Wolverly Court lock.

Worcester (Racecourse moorings)

The morning was spent shopping in Worcester. The idea was to try and get some Christmas presents, but we weren’t very successful! We came back to the boat for lunch and decided that a second foray into the shops wasnt likely to be any more fruitful. So instead we moved down onto the Severn and upstream about half a mile to the moorings above the rowing clubs. This is our favourite mooring in Worcester.
We crossed the Sabrina footbridge and went over to Homebase, where we bought a few things including some lengths aluminium angle. This to make some security bars for the windows. Last winter some rough sleepers broke into the boat moored nest to us at Kinver and stole bedding and food. We want to put bars at our windows to deter this.
The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling out and going for a walk along the river.

Diglis basin

A cold grey morning to start with, but we were away by 8:00. In Vines Park there are several swing bridges across the canal. The locking mechanisms could do with a bit of maintenance as they can be very difficult to open. One of them is across the “Barge Lock”. This is a flood lock as the navigation drops down onto the River Salwarpe for a short section. The river was not in flood so we opened the gates at both ends and went straight through. The next lock takes you back up onto the canal again. At this lock BW workmen were installing three bollards as per all the other narrow locks around the system. The guys were really peed off about it as they knew that they were unnecessary and a possible danger.
So didnt BW learn anything from all the negative publicity arising from the installation of these bollards awhile back ?
Soon we came to the tunnel under the M5. This was built as a culvert for the River Salwarpe and was never intended to be navigable. The headroom is very tight and the amount available depends on the level of the water in the Salwarpe.

Soon after the M5 tunnel we came to the staircase pair no 4 & 5. It looked as though the last boat down didnt know how to operate a staircase correctly. The bottom chamber was empty, and so was the top. But it was completely empty, no water at all. It looked as though they had left the middle paddles up when they emptied the bottom chamber. So we brought the boat in, then I lifted the middle paddles and the top paddles to fill the two chambers simultaneously. When the bottom chamber was full I dropped the top paddles, let the boat into the top chamber, closed the middle gates & paddles. Then opened the top paddles again. All this took quite a while, but the sun was trying to shine and it was warming up so I didn’t mind.

The weather was getting gradually colder as we cruised on towards Worcester. The pounds in the Gregory’s Mill area were very low on water, with one oncoming boat telling us that they had been aground for over an hour. We moored up on the approach to Diglis basin, near the services block. A meal at Cafe Rouge tonight with Tesco tokens !

Netherwich Basin

Another cold but bright morning. We set off just after 8:00. Andrew & Sheila came down to help work us through the staircase locks and we set off down river.
We arrived at the newly restored Hawford Junction at 11 o’clock. It was great to be at last cruising the water that we had long been crossing on the A449 bridge as we drove to and fro over the last three years.

We found the paddle gear was in excellent condition, but the gates were very heavy and needed a great deal of effort to move. We needed to find a place to stop for breakfast, but the sides are very shallow of covered by high reeds. We did eventually find a spot just above lock 3.
Progress was slow as the canal is very shallow in places, but we were enjoying the chance of cruising some new waters. I had heard that friends Andrew & Wendy Dyke (www.andrewdyke.co.uk) were likely to be in the Droitwich area. So, as we were doing lock 7 I sent a text to Andrew. A few minutes later we see Wendy walking down the towpath. They were just a few yards ahead at lock 8! I walked up to lock 8 while Wendy jumped on with Heddi and hitched a ride. Andrew was fishing in the lock for a lost water can that had been knocked off of Lord Toulouse on a previous visit. They didnt find it. We were introduced to Roger & Margret Millin who I knew virtually, but hadn’t met before. Andrew & Wendy then drove back to Droitwich and Roger & Margret travelled with us on JH.
We all met in the pub for a few drinks and a natter. We spent the night moored up in Netherwich basin.

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