Thursday, 22 January 2015


The weather forecasters predicted a 'very cold snap', so we hunkered down in Audlem for 5 days, thinking that Audlem was a good a place as any to be iced in.  Thankfully it didn't happen.  We were met by two volunteer lock keepers at Audlem, which was nice.  I think I read that you can now book the services of a volunteer lock keeper, if you so wish.  I'll check this out, and post the details.

Happy as pigs in .... mud!  (Top of Audlem flight)

Billy no mates in Audlem.

Turning at the bottom of Audlem & heading back up the flight.
Fierce by washes - this one is at Lock 12 


We actually met a boat coming down the flight, as we were going up, which was nice.  We saw them coming down, so left 5 gates open for them behind us (yes, we did check that there was no one coming behind us).  By the time we had done 5 locks, they had done one, and were on their way into the second.  They had closed the gates behind them, so I waved frantically at them, windlass in one hand, & wooly hat in the other.  They acknowledged that they had seen me, and waved back - but still closed the gates behind them!  We then waited in the exit of the next lock & I walked up to join them in 'their' lock.  I said I had seen them coming, and we had left top gates open for them, but oh - I see you have shut 'your' gates.  "Oh, I don't leave any gates open" & then went to shut the gates after her boat had exited - & ours was waiting to come in!  Duh!!!  "Excuse me - we're coming in".  "Oh yes, silly me".  We can't win - when you want someone to leave a couple of gates open as you will be crossing in a lock flight, they close them.  If you want them closed - some oik leaves them open.  I've said it before and I'll say it again "No canal etiquette!"

Scene this morning from the kitchen window - 
a heron and a cormorant, both after the same fish.

We stopped in the long pound between locks 2 and 3, awoke this morning expecting a white out.  According to forecasters (ah, those pesky forecasters) we should have had 5-7cm of snow.  Nothing, nada, not even a frost. Today it should have been snowing all day, so we decided not to move off.  It's now 3pm and we've had nothing.  Just a bit of drizzle at 11am.  Ah well, at least I got the blog up to date, although this will be published a day behind.

Oh, and after 5 days of no boats in Audlem, and only seeing one moving, when we crossed in the flight, a boat comes passed us at 7pm, in the dark and ice.  I assume they were boat movers judging by the speed the lock wheeler bloke ran (yes, ran) past us on to the next lock.  Good luck.

So we're now on our way back down the Shroppie towards Wolverhampton, and we're back to Midlands Today, and Shifali's weather forecast, which is more reliable than the North West Tonight ones we've been receiving.  (Still not the same without Derek - although I do follow him on Twitter, so do get the odd S'Mae).  We're slowly heading back to Birmingham, to meet up with Mum, and another concert in the Symphony Hall.  We hope that the Fiddle & Bone [CLICK] will be open by the time we get there.  

As stated above, we're heading south back down the Shroppie, through 'The Land Of No Internet Signal', so don't know when the next blog will be - I may be some time............

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sheltering from the storms

I don't know how well you'll be able to see this map, but hopefully it will make sense of the route we have taken over the last few weeks.

Not that brilliant - so (Mum) you'll have to get your map out!

From Great Haywood we retraced our route back down the Staffs & Worcester canal, through Penkridge, and took a right turn onto the Shroppie (the Shropshire Union Canal).  There were storms a'comin', so we stopped outside Brewood (pronounced Brood) at the 'three mile mark' - I don't know if there is a proper name for it, but that's what we call it, as it's 3 miles from Autherley Junction, the start of the Shroppie.  We figured that with the forecast high winds, we needed to take shelter for a couple of days, NOT under any trees!  We stayed there for 4 days, and only saw 2 boats during that time.  One was the coal boat 'Roach', and the second was Henry Hollingshead & Cetus.  We had a brief conversation as he passed, but I have no idea what we were talking about, as he's that broad with his Black Country accent mixed with Old Boater speak.  We were getting low on diesel, so broke cover & headed to Wheaton Aston where we filled up at 62.9p per litre - 30p per litre cheaper than the last place we bought it.

 Not long after we turned onto the Shroppie, we came across this fella - a teal.  Quite happy doing duck things.   The very next day, a car had been 'dumped' in the canal at this very spot.  Don't suppose it held up any boats though - there's no one moving at all around here.

While we're doing birdie pics, here's one of a buzzard, casually strolling across a field as we passed.

This is what greeted us when we arrived at the refuse disposal point at Wheaton Aston.......

After contacting CRT, with a picture of the mess, CRT advised us that the contractors had not been to empty the bins since before Christmas (this was on 6th Jan).  This seems to be a frequent event (judging by the what we've seen on our travels - and at home up Llangollen).   This necessitates CRT sending their men out to load up some of the rubbish bags into a CRT vehicle, and take it to the tip themselves.  A drain on CRT resources don't you think?  If the contractors aren't fulfilling their contract to collect rubbish - then get another contractor in who will stick to their promises & dispose of the rubbish!  It's not the fault of the local CRT Team - but they are the ones that have to clear up the mess.  Rant over (for now).

There was a boat moving at Wheaton Aston - the first one we had seen in a weeek.  They were coming down the lock, and we were going up.  Turns out they were from Wrexham!  What are the chances of that! Oh- and we passed NB Armadillo in Norbury, with just time to shout a quick Hello.

Back into Brewood, heading from Wheaton Aston (north to south)

Now, I've never seen this before - no one - not one boat, at Brewood moorings!

Although one boat did come past us while we were here.

The Indian in Brewood had had a make over, and an extension.  
It looks fantastic, and the food is as good as ever.  Sam the owner was very excited and proud of it!

After a couple of days in Brewood, we retreated to the safety of the 'three mile mark' again, and sat out the next storm.  Turned (again), and headed north, back up the Shroppie (are you keeping up?)

After the very high winds, we only saw one tree down across the canal.

Deer in a field between Knighton and Goldstone.  
Don't know if they were escapees, or if they were supposed to be there. 

 We took advantage of the 'lul' in the weather, and kept heading north, up the Shroppie.  We have a couple of weeks in which to hang around and do very little, so we thought we'd head for Audlem, as the weather forecast was again  looking very bleak, with a few days of ice looming, so if we were going to be frozen in anywhere, Audlem seemed a nice place in which to be stuck.

Work is continuing on Woodseaves cutting, but due to the constant land slippages there, I think this work in progress will continue for a long time!

So, we camped out in Audlem for 5 days - on the 5 day moorings of course.  Again, there were NO boats around here.  None at all moored between locks 11 & 12, nor down by the Shroppie Fly, and just two boats below lock 13.  Very unusual.  Where is everyone?

Friday, 9 January 2015

Plans go a bit wrong for New Year

With all the winter stoppages 'on hold' over the Christmas two weeks, we made the decision to go and see Paul (best man), and catch up with friends in Stone. We set off from Penkridge breaking ice as we went, it was quite thick in places, but the temperature was warming, so we figured that it could only get better.  We stopped at the services to do the necessary, but had to de-ice the water tap first.  While we were waiting, a boat came past us - horah!  Turns out they were heading to Stone and 'had to get there as they were booked in for blacking'  Fantastic!  We'll follow you then!  We followed them as far as Great Haywood, and decided to call it a day.  Even with the boat in front carving a path through the ice, it made for heavy going.  It's just as well they did keep going after Great Haywood, as the next day we were well and truly stuck in the ice.  I don't know if they did make it to Stone for blacking before they were iced in - but I doubt that they did.  

We had several attempts to move, but retreated back.  On the third day (New Years Eve) our luck was in (so we thought) when a boat came past us, heading for Stone, smashing his way through the ice.  So we took our chance and followed.  Unfortunately for us, he turned into the marina!  So we were left to smash our way through the ice towards Hoo Mill lock.  We didn't get very far, and came to a grinding halt, on a bend after only a few yards.  The bloke on the boat who had turned into the marina was also stuck, he just cleared the entrance to the marina, but the ice was too thick for him to get to his mooring.  We then turned in the entrance of the marina, and again retreated to our mooring spot in Great Haywood.  So, we never did get to Stone.  We had a pint early doors in the Clifford Arms, then turned round and retraced our route back to Penkridge.  It wasn't too bad though - we had a delicious game pie for dinner, with a bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape.

Breaking ice in Penkridge

Keep to the unbroken bits!   Tixall.

We had studied the stoppages again a few days before, and decided not to head south onto the Oxford canal, and to stay north and west of Birmingham, so we could get into the city in early February as we've got tickets for the Transatlantic Sessions in the Symphony Hall.  So for the next couple of months, we will be mostly cruising the Shroppie, and the Staffs & Worcester.   First stop Wheaton Aston and Turner's for some cheap fuel!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Christmas in Chirk

We left the boat in Penkridge for a couple of days over Christmas - which was the main reason I didn't want to blog at that time - I didn't want to advertise the fact that the boat was unoccupied.  We had planned to get the train from Penkridge, and to get a taxi to take Nemo to a cattery not far away.  However, after wrapping up the christmas presents, they took up a suitcase on their own, so that idea was scrapped and we got a hire car instead.  This meant that we could keep Mum busy by taking a load of bedding to be washed. (She was thrilled).  Now we had the hire car (delivered to the Cross Keys car park), Dave ordered a polypin of Stonehouse Sunlander for his delectation over the next few days, which we picked up in Oswestry on the way.  Although there were a few people drinking it, we still had some left, so brought it back to the boat.  Having the car in Chirk also allowed us to go and visit friends - which included Jeanette and Allen in the Butchers Wern, as it was Allen's 50th birthday - ha!  join the club!  Dave also met up with Dai for a pint in the Aki (Aqueduct).  Rick and Hazel had by this pint, ran away to a cabin in the woods for Christmas!

I had this great plan to do 'before' and 'after' pics of the turkey, however, I got too wrapped up in the excitement of the day and forgot to take any more photos till much later.  The prosecco and wine had nothing to do with it! 

Cole (Rachel's dog) watches the turkey being prepared.

This is George, Bethan's dog.  Funny how they end up at Nan's house.

They've both got their Christmas bows on.

Rachel, Bruno and girls didn't exactly have the Christmas they had planned.  Every year they go skiing, unfortunately this year there was no snow.  So they drove half way across France, to discover that the ski lifts were not in operation, no lift passes were even being issued, as there was still no snow, so they had a couple of nights in a b & b, turned round, and headed for Chirk.  Mum had a phone call on 23rd:  "how big is the turkey?"  Very disapointing for them that their holiday was in effect cancelled, but we were delighted to have their company over Christmas.  It's been a very long time since we were all together at this time of year.  So that made it 13 for dinner:  Mum & Tony, Me & Dave, Rachel & Bruno, and their three girls, Rhiannon, Iona and Nia, Bethan, Adrian, Adrian's Mum, and Bethan's son Robert, who had come up from London to spend Christmas dinner with his Nan - what a star!

Rhiannon, Rachel & Mum

Rhiannon & Rachel

Everybody (well, almost)

We had to put two tables together to seat us all.  
This is Tony's ingenious solution for the different table heights 


The sunlander beer survived Christmas, and was kept cool in the cratch.  It says on the box 'best before 10/01/15'  Oh, I think we can manage that.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


After a quick jaunt to Chirk for a couple of days, we psyched ourselves up for Christmas in the City.  It was HEAVING!  No matter what time of day you went out, there were thousands of people about.  I came across this band playing outside HSBC on the main drag.  The leader of the band is on his way over to me to get me to buy their CD - which I did - but as is always the case, it didn't sound half as good on the CD as they did live, on a cold winters day in the middle of crowded Birmingham.  Their performance certainly made my day!  For some inexplicable reason, I didn't take any photos of the German market, which as always, was lovely.  Lots of lovely foodie things, and lots of hand made crafts.  We particularly enjoy visiting the food markets down the other end of town, below the bullring, which sells cuts of meat I didn't think there was any call for - like chicken feet, and sheep skulls.   Not to our taste, but we did get a couple of pound of goat, lovely in a curry.

I hope you're able to click on the picture below and listen, it's quite uplifting!

The big wheel was back, as was the ice skating rink between the big wheel, and the Symphony Hall.  
This pic shows the lower level of Birmingham library.

Symphony Hall behind the big wheel, and the library on the right.

 And this is what we came to Birmingham for ........

Jools Holland concert

Ruby Turner, belting 'em out like a good 'un.

 We didn't think we would be able to get into Birmingham by boat this year for the Jools concert, and were just about to book a hotel room, when it was announced that the stoppage at Farmers Bridge locks had completed two weeks earlier than planned.  This allowed boat traffic into Birmingham, Where as for the weeks before, all routes in had been blocked with all manner of stoppages.  There had been alot of 'discussions' on social media about Birmingham being closed to boats, so CRT concentrated their efforts in resolving the works on the lock flight, so opening up a route in.  Thank you very much!

No visit to Birmingham would be complete without a visit to The Wellie.  16 real ales on hand pumps, together with 6 ciders on hand pulls.  There are so many beers, that they are listed on screens around the pub, so you look at the screen, see what you fancy, and order a pint by number.  As well as excellent beer, although they don't serve food, you are welcome to take your own food in, and they will provide crockery, cutlery and condiments.  Dave was in heaven!  A quick walk down to New Street Station Cornish Pasty Shop, then back up to the Wellie.  Bliss!

Another major stoppage was at Coseley tunnel, on the Main Line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.  There had been major landslips over the last couple of years which had blocked the towpath completely.  The works were (are) scheduled to take place between November to March, BUT with a two week opening over Christmas.  So we were able to go straight through on the main line and on to Wolverhampton, rather than making a detour round the Wyrley & Essington Canal, which in hindsight we should have done, as we've never been that way before.

This is the entrance to the Coseley tunnel, with all the debris cleared away, and with bank stabilisation works.

The pics below were taken last year, so you can see the extent of the problem they're trying to fix.

We were on our way to Penkridge, where we would leave the boat for a few days to head back to Mums in Chirk for Christmas (see next blog)