Due to the lack of signal this is the first chance I've had to finish our trip report, so here goes.
On arrival at Cathrine de Barnes we had to do a bit of shopping, it just so happens the pub is across the road from the shop, so we popped in for a taste, well you have to, don't you. We got our beer and noticed we were surrounded by a funeral party, so being a nice day, the garden looked a good option, where we are now in the company of uncontrolled brats and a gang of breast feeding mothers. We drank up and thought we'd come back when all the little darlings had gone home.
The next morning we set off at 7:15 thinking we'd have a good run to Samson Road due to Sagitta coming through last night and clearing the way. How wrong can you be...we ploughed our way through mud all the way and having to rope through nearly every bridge 'ole. At one bridge some kind person left us an industrial bin liner, with a log in the bottom, that nearly stopped the engine and caused some hard work with the shaft. As soon as we got to the more industrial area, things seemed to get better and the going got easier. Also, the scenery got more interesting with the remains of the industrial past. I don't do flora, I'd much rather see a nice piece of brickwork or a riveted structure and appreciate the craftsmanship.
Surprisingly some of the buildings are still in use and the aroma of metalworking drifts across the cut, jogging memories of my days in the Sheffield Steelworks.
On arrival at Samson Road Depot. things didn't look much like the 1950's film. Obviously parts had been filled in and buildings demolished. We got here anyway, but I doubt Bill and Joe could make the trip today with their loaded pair. The bottom of the cut is too near the top nowadays.
Leaving Samson Road we head off down the Camp Hill Locks. It's nice to be back in narrow locks, being able to stride the bottom gates and use my less bulky Neil windlass. The locks are in very good condition and a pleasure to use, no anti-vandal key needed and the pounds are full. However, on reaching the bottom, nothings changed, all the lovely bridges and buildings covered in mindless daub by the latest generation of brainless brats. The two blokes who invented plastic bags and aerosol cans should have been throttled at birth!
We now turn right down the Garrison flight and again, a pleasure to use everything working fine and plenty of water.
On reaching Salford Junction it's my turn to steer and it's going to be fun due to the angle of the turn, about 270 degrees. I ended up with the Bow and Stern touching concrete and had to resort to ropes, no other way.
Had a reasonable run to Minworth then arriving at Curdworth at 4:00 decided to carry on to Fazeley, "can't be stopping at this time". By the time we got to Fazeley the weather was good and everything was running ok, so, we said sod it and headed for Fradley. Arriving at 10:45 tied up and in the Swan in 5 mins.
The next day I had a close look at the blown head gasket and the associated drawings. I discovered the oil blow was nothing to do with the head gasket but, a broken oil pipe dripping down the cylinder head, then running round the gasket, then, being blown off by the cooling air escaping through a gap in the cowling. After curing that I could see a small blow from the gasket, a quick tweak with the Torque wrench soon cured that too. While I was at it, I adjusted the Tappets, which were miles out, then ran the engine up and it seems to be a lot better.
Now it's back to the restoration of the hull, now the warmer weather is here.
Got through Stoke Bruerne and left the Gongoozelers in a cloud of smoke at the top lock. I forgot to mention earlier that the head gasket has blown and we're burning a little oil now, so it gets a bit smokey at times. We motored on and got to the bottom of Buckby by about 9:00. Left Buckby at 7:30 hoping to get ahead start on the Sunday dawdlers but that plan went to cock at the second lock up, no water. The local locky was already on to it and running water down, top man. This delayed us by about two hours so the poor boat that came up with us ("Mel 'n' Colly") had to get into trot mode. By the time we got to the top the lady on the boat, Mel or Colly, I don't know which, was completely pooped and was fearing the confines of Braunston tunnel. We met again at Braunston top lock and she seamed to have survived the experience, after a quick descent we parted company and we turned left at Braunston turn and headed for Napton Junction. Due to us coming from Brentford, we thought, well I thought, we might retrace the route taken by Bill and Joe Beresford in the 1950's film "Inland Waterway" and carry on to Samson road depot. It was a steady slog to the junction, the sun was beating down and we'd caught up with the Sunday dawdlers, we're in tickover and still gaining on them. Eventually we were waved on and we overtook. Thinking that would be the last we saw of him, I looked back and there he is, right behind us, all the way to the locks. I'm sure he just wanted someone to follow. We teamed up with another boat waiting at the locks and left him behind. After a while we were on our own and trying to be good boaters and shutting the gates behind us only to find them open up again, so we gave it up and left them as they did in Bill and Joe's day. When we got to the bottom we left the lock and we got him, Mr. sodding perfect, "Are you leaving that gate then?" my answer, "Yep...Why" his reply I didn't hear being a bit deaf but I got gist he wasn't happy. The top gates were tight as a ........ well they weren't leaking so whats the problem? We then dragged our arse or Shoe plate if you want to be correct, all the way through Royal Leamington Spa where I had to out stare a few of the local brats armed with stones, I'm glad to say my scruffy hat, unshaven face and mean look won the day and the stones dropped to the ground. After eating my tea on the move we finally got to the Cape of Good Hope, the pub that is, and tied up.
This morning, up with the birds and Hatton in front of us. you know the rest if you've done Hatton in the blazing sun. We were on our own, as usual, so it was a steady plod, 3 hour 10 mins. and a pot of tea at the top. We're now at Catherine de Barnes and off to the pub.
Had a very good weekend at Ricky and got a bottle of bubbly for our efforts, looks like we'll be there next year. While down this end of the country we've had a run up and down, firstly through Little Venice, and onto Lime House. I always thought Nuneaton was the plastic bag centre of the world, I was wrong, It's Bethnal Green. I have never seen so much crap in all my travels, funnily enough we didn't get one thing round the blade. After taking a look at the Thames we headed back to Little Venice and met up with some friends for a drink. Very nice place, I see why people don't want to leave. The following morning, not too early, we set off to Bulls Bridge and turned left to Brentford. Here we picked up another friend of ours from the Keighly and Worth Valley railway who lives in the area and gave us a historic industrial guided tour. It cost me quite a bit of home brew I might add. Looking at Brentford, it doesn't look anything like the the old films, must look at the films again and compare with the photos. Got back to Uxbridge that night for Fish and Chips, and, would you believe it, some Yorkshire beer. Leaving the next morning we bumped into George Wain, he's working the Gravel boats for Land and Water, quite a thing to meet in a bridge 'ole. Had a chat then on our way up the steady climb through Ricky and Hemel then stopping at Winkwell at tea time. This has also changed a lot since the films were made in 1950. Called at the Three Horse Shoes for a pint.....five quid for a pint and a half!! didn't look at the menu. We only had the one then back to the boat, home brew 27p a pint, gammon, sausage, egg chips three quid...very nice. Left early next morning, cracked on up through Berkhamsted, over the top and down Marsworth. While it was quiet I thought I'd have a bash at this Thumb lining business. Not very good with single motor but I've got the idea, thanks Malcome. Got to Soulbury three last night, the weather finally got to us, Knackered! Set off this morning about seven heading for Stoke Bruerne.
I tried blogging yesterday while on the move but the signal was up and down on Tring summit, since then I haven't had chance. So now we're at Ricky here goes. After leaving Stoke locks it seamed to be endless miles of moored boats in various states of dis-repair. Nothing much happend all day until tea time when we were entertained by a group of Little Terns fishing behind us. Then at the last lock before Marsworth, I dropped my windlass in the pound! Not any windlass but my H. Neal and I was determined to find it. After what seamed like ages the magnet finally attached to it and it was saved, phew! We arrived at Marsworth Junction at 9:30 had coulple of beers then called it a night. Next morning woke up at 5:00 to a keen frost, this meant we were going to have problems starting the Armstrong, and we did! We finished up with Andrea on the starter motor and me on the cranking handle, after several goes it kicked up, smoke everywhere and twitching curtains. Got going up the locks and soon got into a routine opening the paddles in right order to keep the boat steady. this was ground paddle on the boat side, then gate paddle other side, then the ground paddle on that side, leaving the boat side gate paddle close. About the third lock up we were joined by a Robin, cadging a ride and not in the least bothered by my pressence. By the time we reached the top lock it was a warm sunny day. On the Tring summit, we were given a flying and fishing display by a Kingfisher and later going down to Berkhamsted we had the company of a very freindly Heron. Seem to be having a bird day.
Here we are at the bottom of Berkhamsted. Not long after this at Fishery Lock we found GU boat Belfast waiting for us to pair up until they got to their base at Nash Mills lock. Travelling down this area there are numerous GU boats, good area for Chertsey's "Spot Blog"
By the time we reached Cassiobury locks Andrea is loosing the will to live, here you can see her fed up gnome impression.
And here the locks took that long to fill she dropped off to sleep
After passing all the the floating sheds that some people might call home, we arrived at Rickmansworth at 8:00. to be greeted by Chris Bennet off GU boat Boldock.
Now we can have a weekend doing nothing after completing 127 miles, 99 locks, in 59 hours.
I'm writting this sat in the back cabin not too far from a AS2 thrashing down the GU, Andrea's steering, as she does every morning. We finally got away on Monday morning about 7:30 and headed down the Coventry, through Fazeley and up Glascote locks. Here I was very supprised to see the lock keeper greasing the paddle gear and gate straps, before I had chance to speak he was off up to the next lock and we never saw him again, but he left his greasy evidence all the way up the Atherstone flight too, well done that man. On leaving Atherstone and approaching bridge 38 I noticed most of the new wall toppers missing off the bridge and you don't need many guesses to where they are. I wound up the motor to put some water behind me then as the bows entered the bridge 'ole, I knocked of the revs and let the water wash me through then waited for the scraping and the bumping. But nothing happend, we just glided through. Cracking on through all the places we normally get grounded, not a bump or a scrape... have BW been having a clean up. Even Nuneaton was clear, very strange. We didn't have any real problem until we got to Sutton's Stop. As we approached the junction we pick up a sheet of plastic and this cocked up my turn. By now night was falling and we thought about getting tied up somewhere. This turned out to be just short of Ansty at about 9:30. Next morning 5:00! we're up an ready for off, got the canal to ourselves and the birds, funniest dawn corus I ever heard, sounded more like an episode of the Clangers. After a while other boats began to get on the move and bridge 'oles became a challenge. The aquaduct just before Streton stop caused bit of confussion for one boater, he thought he had right of way, well he hadn't, then, the canal wasn't wide enough for him, it's only about 50 foot wide at that point, how much does he need? Just as we came upto Braunston, I looked behined to see another blue deckboard gaining on us rather quickly. As we did the turn I could see it was Jaguar with Malcome Berge in charge. At the first lock he made it quite obvious without saying a word, he was pairing up with us and it looked like I was taking both boats. At the top of the locks I told him he could go first and crack on seeing as he looked to be in a hurry. Not long after I could see the black clagg of Bollinder coming from the other side of a bridge, it was Jaguar with motor trouble. We then followed him to Buckby and desended using a Thumb line to open one gate. Having never used this method before I stood to learn something. Malcome made it quite clear that we had a lot to learn. For a Pipfitter I thought we did alright, I suppose I could teach Malcome a thing or two about bending copper steam pipe.
After that, Jaguar spead off and we just plodded our way down the GU, looking at things we'd missed before. At about 8:00 we passed Jaguar tied up and we motored on to Stoke Bruene for the night. Going through Blissworth tunnel was impressive with a demonstration from the Bat population, never seen that before. Arriving at Stoke Bruene about 10:00 just in time for a pint then bed. This morning up at 5:00 again, Stoke locks to ourselves. see how far we get to day.
Thursday 29th April about 3:00pm we set off down the Trent and Mersey, destination, Langley Mill.
While getting going it started to rain, so it was hats and coats out. Our first stop was Barton Turns Marina to meet up with some friends for a drink and catch up on the latest gossip. On arrival, soaking wet through and not very happy at all, we were met by a typical dayglow jobsworth uttering " that'll be seven pound fifty please" my reply "how much?!!! for an over night mooring" Well after a bit of banter we wasn't messing about in the rain getting Dove out of the marina after all the trouble we had getting in so, we paid up and tied up for for the night.
After a very late night, we finally got on the way about 8:00am the next morning, heading for Shardlow for another drinking night with the "Trouts." We had a good trip down, a bit dryer this time, paired up with a boat for the first couple of wide locks then we were on our own at Weston. The boat we were paired with went down with a Canal Time and has it happend another Canal Time was comming up so I thought I'd get some help with the bottom gates. No such luck, they all just sat on the boat. After closing both gates, twice, then cracking a paddle, I then informed them "I am not a lock keeper you know" and left them to it. After about five minutes, still no activity, I thought it time to give these people a lesson in locking. On their exit from the lock I asked if they'd grasped the idea and would be able to manage the next one on their own. How they got up the previous locks I don't know. It was a steady plod all the way, arriving in Shardlow about 4:30pm, tied up and waited for the Trout's to arrive home. Saturday morning, bright and early, well, eight 'o' clock. We set off down the Trent with Trout in front, then sharp left and into Trent Lock, blimey! never done that one with a seventy foot slug before, thought it weren't going to happen.
Has you can see we made it and here we are sat in the lock in glorious sun shine.
I was amazed at the condition of the canal and very pleasant as you can see in the photo above. There was quite a bit of industrial stuff which I like to see, especially when it's graffity free as most of this was. All the locks were hard work, I think because of lack of use more than anything. They were all in good condition and well painted.
The canal itself is a little shallow in places and did become hard work at times especially on the numerous tight bends as Andrea found once when reverse was none existant and turning just didn't happen. We did have another incidend at bridge 27, a very low foot bridge. The underside of the bridge has a perculiar shape and it looks like a shadow, but it's not, as I found as we got closer, much too close as it happens. As we went through, the bottom of the bridge just took the rope off the looby, we were both waiting for the crunch.....lucky or what!
The next lock took us into Langley Mill Basin, here it says in the book we can wind, HA! Thought we weren't going to make it, only inches to spare.
Here we are tied up for the night BBQ, good beer, good company, good night
Sunday, back at bridge 27, knowing we only just got under on the way up, we thought it best we take care and a good job we did. I asked Andrea to stop with the Looby under the bridge so I could take a photo. We didn't get that far, we hit it with a right clout. Nearly pulled the Cratch down and split the Mast Case. By now the mast was stuck under the bridge so I had to go and stand on the Cross beam and push up under the bridge and bounce the mast over ridges of the underside of the bridge until we were clear.
Everything was easy after that. On the back we stopped off at Barry Argent's where he has Ex-FMC Perch in two pieces on his back garden. The bows are finished and stand on blocks high above the canal. The stern end is still getting attention but is looking good.
We then got back to our trip and made our way back to Trent Lock without incident I might add.
It was now testing time for the Armstrong, going up river. We left the lock in the middle of a yacht race but we all missed each other and we motored away. I was really pleased with the perfomance of the Armstrong it cracked on quite smartly.
We did some video between us and Trout so at a later date I might get it all together.
The rest of the trip was uneventfull so I will not bore you with it. Must say all in all it was an excellent trip and suggest more people do it.