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The Waterways Wanderings of Narrowboat “Just Heaven”

Lowsonford

Another long day today, 10 miles an 28 locks.

A really good boating day, lovely warm sunshine and lots of boats about with people to natter to at locks. Again we set off fairly early and reached Lapworth top lock at around 10ish. There was a queue of three boats ahead of us. The boat immediately in front was an Anglo-Welsh hire boat with a dad, mum & teenage daughter. The dad did all the steering and most of the lock work. Mum didnt seem to know what she was supposed to be doing (and looked like she didnt want to break her nails!), the daughter seem to have more idea, but less enthusiasm. We followed them down the first 18 locks then they stopped for water. Several of the boats in the queue joined the Grand Union at the junction, so we were only in a queue of one from then on. This was a man and his wheelchair bound wife on an Alvechurch boat. As he was effectively single handed we did the bottom gates and paddles for him at each lock.

Typical Stratford bridge

Typical Stratford bridge

We had arranged to meet our friend Bob at Lowsonford, at the Fleur de Lys pub. There was very little mooring space when we arrived but we squeezed in a space with a few inches to spare.

A great evening was had catching up with Bob & John.

During the day I had found someone in Stourbridge who could fix the car, and made an appointment for him first thing Monday morning. That meant that we had to be back in Kinver a day and half earlier than we had planned.

Shirley

A lovely warm day today. Surprisingly few boats about. The sky was clear and bright so we made a start before seven o’clock. There was a bit of panic when we got to Netherton tunnel. Our tunnel light didn’t work! Normally Heddi steers in tunnels. She doesn’t like tunnels much and finds that concentrating on steering takes her mind of it. But this time as she couldn’t see a thing a bit of panic set in. So I steered whilst she held two torches at the front. Eventually my eys got used to the dark and we got through OK. Then on along the new main line into central Birmingham, where we had a rather late breakfast moored by the Sea Life centre.

We had planned to go shopping in Kidderminster yesterday for food, but obviously that was not possible. This meant we needed to find a supermarket. I remembered that a new Sainsbury’s had been built somewhere near the canal in Selly Oak. It took us a while to find it. The variuos towpath walkers we asked didnt seem to know. So, after stocking up we set off again. The original plan was to stop as soon as safe after King’s Norton junction. But, as we wanted to make up extra time to sort out the car problem, we went on to just after Shirley lift bridge.

It was a lovely evening so we had a barbecue.

Merryhill

We are now moored just outside Merryhill shopping centre on the Dudley canal, but at one point today I didn’t think we’d make it!

We set off from home at around 7:30 but, as we left the M5 at junction 6 it was obvious that something was wrong with the car. I had great difficulty in changing gear. A couple of miles further on it was worse so I pulled into a layby. The clutch wouldn’t disengage. I had to stop by turning the engine off!

We called Britannia Rescue, they said someone would with us in a hour. A guy turned up in a van, fiddled around for a few minutes and said “Your clutch is gone”. He arranged for a rescue truck to pick us up. Rather than be taken home we decided to carry on to Kinver, go off on our planned cruise and sort the car out later.

By the time we arrived at Kinver, got the car off the truck and unloaded it was half past one. So much for an early start!

So we have done 6 miles and twenty eight locks this afternoon, fairly impressive I think! We were lucky in that almost all were in our favour. Also we have a good system for going up flights where we work semi-single handed. The crew closes the bottom gates, opens the top paddles then goes on to prepare the next lock. The steerer opens & closes the top gate and drops the paddles before going on. We swap roles every 3 or 4 locks.

We got here in just over 5 hours, now tired and ready for bed.

Just Overnight

Just an overnight stay to check things are OK and to relax a little after the stress & trauma of Heddi’s dad’s funeral.
We arrived yesterday morning, had lunch then went for a walk through the woods to Stourton, back down the towpath from Stewponey lock, then to Wittington Horse bridge and back along the far bank.
We have a new neighbour. A small cruiser called “Wobbly Bob” is now moored between us and the lock. This means that our view of the lock is now obscured, but also that we are no longer the last boat in the line, so less likely to get hit by boats approaching the lock.
The afternoon was spent washing the side of the boat (it was covered in grass splatters from BW’s strimming again) and a few odd jobs.

The canal was busy with quite a few boats about. Around five o’clockish a small GRP cruiser was coming up to the lock when it’s engine cut out just as they passed us. they managed to get into the side. There was various activity on board, then after a while a woman approached us and asked if we knew where the nearest filling station was. They had run out of petrol. There isnt a garage in Kinver, but I thought that I had seen one near to Stewponey lock. We checked in the “First mate Guide“, but that didnt mention one.

After a bit more discussion the woman’s husband set off up the towpath with a jerry can. This left on board the woman, two young children and an older man. They were still on the lock mooring bollards and were a bit in the way for boats approaching the lock. I suggested that we help them bow haul the boat through the lock as there is plenty of space above. However this was their first ever trip in the boat and they didnt feel confident without the guy who had gone off looking for fuel. So they pulled the boat back nearer to Wobbly Bob.

About this time a narrowboat came towards the lock, the steerer called out “are you going through?” when they said “No”, he started to shout and yell at them for being in the way. the woman tried to explain that they were out of fuel, but he wouldn’t listen and became abusive and pushed her out of the way. He then went up to the lock and quickly started working the paddles for the hire boat in front without checking with them first.
A woman who was with the abusive boater came back to the woman on the cruiser and tried to excuse his behaviour  by saying he was tired as they had been following the slow hire boat all day. The poor woman from the cruiser was in tears, it was their first boating trip and she thought that they had done something seriously wrong. After the narrowboat had gone we went up to her and tried to reassure her that he was in the wrong and that there was no excuse for such behaviour and that the majority of boaters are friendly and helpful.

After almost two hours her husband returned with some fuel. he had walked all the way back to Ashwood marina to get his car.¬† The boat with the abusive boater was moored just above the lock. When the husband from the cruiser went up to see him, the abusive boater refused to speak to him. I hope the event hasn’t put them of boating.

This morning we went for a very pleasant walk up on Kinver edge, then left for home after an early lunch as I had a blood donor appointment.

Kinver

An early start back to the mooring as we wanted to go home via the Forest of Dean to check on Heddi’s dad. Luckily almost all the locks were in our favour so we had packed up and left by two o’clock.

Mitton

A long and tiring day today. We called Gloucester lock and asked to be locked down at 8:00. Because of the current low-water restrictions we had to wait until 8:45 in case any other boats wanted to go as well. There were a few other boats about, but no-one had appeared by 8:40 so we went down on our own. There wasnt much flow on the river so we made good progress, about 4mph up to the parting, then around 5mph on the main river. A quick stop for a cooked breakfast at Lower Lode and then settle down to the long boring plod up to Worcester.

Commercial traffic on the river

From Diglis onward we shared all the locks with a Black Prince boats crewed by seven young men. All male crews on hire boats have sometimes caused problems with too much drinking and dangerous activities, but these were great, helpful and courteous, and we had a natter with them in each of the locks.
We had hoped to moor on the river at Stourport, but there was no space. No space in the basin either, and only one space above York St lock. That was right outside the noisy “Black Star Inn”. So we left it for the guys on the Black Prince boat and carried on round to Mitton, where we just about squeezed in before the old railway bridge.

Llanthony Quay

It was our latest granddaughter’s christening today. Nik & Paul, the proud parents, had planned a barbecue in our garden. They had spend a lot of time and effort planning it and tidying up the garden. Unfortunately it poured with rain all day. Very disappointing after the good weather we have been having. But they still went ahead with the barbecue, with everyone under a couple of huge gazebos. Despite the rain it all went very well with everyone enjoying themselves. I had expected that we would need to leave mid-party, but most people had to travel quite a distance so everyone had gone by 5:30.
Our other son in law Simon then drove us back to Parkend, where we picked up the boat and cruised on up to Gloucester and are moored for the night on the floating pontoons near Llanthony bridge. It is convenient for the city here, but the seagulls make an awful noise all through the night!

Parkend (boat), Home (us)

The second stage was done by first moving the car from Fretherne bridge to Sandfield bridge. We then chugged to just north of the Saul footbridge, moored up again and walked over to the marina chandlery to buy some fuel additive. Another short chug to just past Parkend bridge. Here we made the boat safe and then took a walk back to the car by way of a detour to Epney & Framilode. This was across the fileds to Epney, along the Severn Way to Framilode and then up the old towpath of the Strodwater canal back to Saul where the car was parked.

We then drove home to prepare for our granddaughter’s christening on Sunday.

Saul

A bright sunny morning so we had breakfast outside and then waited for Rachel, Steve & Emily. They spent the morning at the Wildlife & Wetlands Trust and then joined us about 12:30. We had a picnic lunch then set off for Sharpness. It was fairly windy, but warm & sunny. After winding we moored up for a while, watched the tides and had a cup of tea. Then back to Patch bridge to top up wit water and drop off our guests.

We wanted to get to the north side of Parkend bridge so that when we return on Sunday, even if we are later than 7 o’clock, we wont be stopped by the bridges as Rea & Sellars are high enough to get under without them opening. The car shuffle was done in two stages. First we cruised up to Saul and moored up midway between Sandfield bridge and Fretherne¬† bridge. A walk back to Splatt bridge to pick up the car and park it by Fretherne bridge was the first stage.

Patch Bridge

The day started bright and sunny, so even though we had had a late night we got up about 8:00, had breakfast then headed up to the oil depot by Fretherne bridge to top up the diesel and get a new gas cylinder. Then down to Patch bridge.
We had arranged to meet Jim, Mo & Patrick for an evening meal. Previous experience led us to think, rightly as it turned out, that mooring space would be limited, so we wanted to arrive before noon.
There was just one available space so we moored up and spent a lazy afternoon reading & people watching.
J,M &P arrived at about 5:30 bearing pizzas and w e sat outside in the warm evening eating, chatting & drinking until they left at about 10 o’clock.

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