Monday 30 September 2013

Droitwich Spa Marina

It feels rather luxurious being in a marina for a night or two.  I know that's not how it feels over the Winter but while cruising and managing the day to day stuff like power and water.... then it does feel like a luxury to leave lights on, use the electrical kettle, toaster and microwave, wash everything that could do with a wash, and have a longer shower than usual.

We had a sleep in, a late breakfast, and spent the rest of the morning on a cleanup.  Just after midday I had a text from Carol saying they'd arrived at the locks outside the marina.  I walked up to meet them and to rummage in their kitchen drawers for birthday candles while Carol was pre-occupied with the locks.

Once they were settled into their berth we walked to the Eagle and Sun for a birthday meal for Carol. Her friends Sue and Kaye have been with them for the weekend so it was an enjoyable afternoon.  The girls had bought a very chocolate birthday cake and the fellow at the pub kindly lit candles and brought it out.  We were almost back at the boat when Carol realised she had left her bag back at the pub.  Mick ran back to retrieve it.

Mick had his evening shower at the marina facility block.  What a fantastic amenities block!  Separate bathrooms and in the ladies toilets there is a hairdryer and hair straightener.  (Elaine, no more tripping the boat power!!).  One of the bathrooms is larger and even has a bath.  The laundry has a sink, ironing board, a stool to sit on while you read a magazine to wait.  Why can't they all be like this?!

There's a fellow on a nearby boat with the cutest little puppy.  He calls it a "Sprocker", a cross between a Springer Spaniel and a Cocker Spaniel.  Makes us hanker to get home and have a new dog!  We see chocolate labradors everywhere.  They are far more common here than at home.


Sunday 29 September 2013

Droitwich Canal

Tibberton to Droitwich Spa Marina : 4 miles, 3 locks
To date : 779 miles, 501 locks

We decided we'd have a little rest for the weekend so arranged to turn into the rather newly opened Droitwich Canal, down the three locks, and spend a couple of days in the Droitwich Spa Marina.  When I called them to make enquiries they were very helpful and friendly.  We'd heard good reports.

A lot of the canal between Tibberton and Droitwich was narrowed down to a boat width by overgrown reedy things.  We were glad we had stopped at Tibberton as the moorings at Oddingley were alongside a stretch of the reeds.  One boat had their mooring ropes tied so loosely, and the canal was quite shallow there, so as we very slowly passed their boat pulled away from the bank and into us.... pushing us over into the reeds.  The fellow reading his paper on the stern looked up so we suggested he might like to tie his boat up better while we dis-entangle ourselves from the reeds!

The blackberries are at the tail end of their season and there's huge black bunches of fruit on the off side.  We also noticed plenty of crab apple trees laden with fruit.

We're not so keen on tunnels but the Dunhampstead Tunnel wasn't too bad.  At 236 yards we could see the exit portal clearly.  It was high roofed and dry inside.  We don't mind that at all.

We passed some nice canal side property and some lovely countryside.  As we approached the junction of the Birmingham and Worcester Canal and the Droitwich Canal we saw the Eagle and Sun pub where we'll have lunch on Sunday for Carol's birthday.  Opposite was Hanbury Wharf so we might go and have a look at the New and Used Boat Co boats.

Passing under the road bridge we could see on our map that the junction would be soon after.  Actually.... it wasn't "soon after" it was "immediately after"!  We almost cruised on right past it but when I looked back behind us I saw it was the entrance to the Droitwich Canal.  There's nothing telling you so unless you look back the way you've come.   It's a nice wide junction so there was plenty of space to make the almost 360 degree turn to get around and back under the same road.

The three locks before the marina are very deep and quite narrow.  Approaching the first on foot I could see a volunteer lock-keeper was in attendance.  Mick pulled the boat over to the bank and watched in alarm as the lockie opened first the a bottom paddle and then a top one.  The pound between the first and second lock was almost dry and the boat in the second lock was unable to proceed.  These locks have side pounds so half a lock full of water is emptied into the side pound on the way down and then used to refill half a lock on the way up.  The centre side pound wasn't working so the order of things had gone awry.  That lock was drawing a full lock of water from the pound each time until eventually it ran dry.

It only took 10 minutes to sort it all out and everyone was on their way again.  With boats coming towards us and two lock keepers and a day drip boat full of folk, we had every lock in our favour and someone to close the gates.  That was a lovely bonus.

We could see the marina from the locks and the entrance was the best marina entrance we've seen.  It has a huge, wide indent from the canal and the narrow gap into the basin is lined with the nice rubbery bumper stuff that they also had a Aqueduct Marina.

We had asked to be over by the facilities block rather than on the visitor moorings by the little temporary office.  We'd also asked for power.  There was a few quid on the meter so we didn't even need to buy a card.  Bonus!  They've allocated us a pair of berths side by side as nb Winton's Folly will be coming in for one night on Sunday.

We got our washing under way straight away.  By the end of the day we'd washed mats, linen, towels and all but the mats were dry and put away.

In the afternoon we had a visit from Roly and Bev from nb Klara.  They were moored not all that much further along on the B&W Canal and they had their van with them.  We last saw them at Hawkesbury Junction back in April.  We had a lovely catch up and heard all about their exciting plans for a repaint of nb Klara.  We arranged to meet up again in a few days when we pass where they are currently moored.  Great to see you both!

Vic... there's a pic for you today.


Locks with Lynne

Worcester visitor moorings to Tibberton : 6 miles, 14 locks
To date : 775 miles, 498 locks

We had a plan for today.  Lynne would drive her car to park at Tibberton and then walk back towards us.  We would head out of Worcester through the locks and collect her when she reached us.  Before she left, Lynne wanted to say a quick hello to Carol.  She'd seen Barry the day before when he came to see if we had any potting mix to spare.  While they had their couple of days on nb Parisien Star and we went to Tenby, Lynne and Marie had spent an evening with Barry and Carol.  We found them in their pyjamas when we knocked on the hatch.  I wasn't allowed to take a photo.

Mick and I headed off after Lynne took off in her car.  We expected we'd be meeting about midway on our journey to Tibberton.  But, it didn't work out that way.  There were two locks within the first 1/4 mile or so of our mooring.  I  helped a hire boat through the first lock and by the time it was our turn there was another hire boat behind us.   At the second lock a queue of hire boats had formed ahead.  It seems Friday was changeover day for them.  The lock had a paddle out of action both top and bottom so it was slow going.  Mick jumped off the boat and went up to help.  He was alone when it came our turn through the lock and as he emptied it I heard the 4 crew on the boat behind us grumbling about how long it was taking.  I couldn't bite my tongue so said to the fellow who had wandered along to stand at the bow of their boat that if one of them went up to help it would speed things up!  It obviously hadn't occurred to them but he ambled on up to the lock.

The row of boats moved steadily on through the locks after that and with it having taken well over an hour to get through those first two locks Lynne reached us much closer to Worcester than we expected.  Gave us an extra crew member for working the locks.

A couple of the pounds were extremely low and I'm sure we were near on touching the bottom.  The boat was hardly moving.  The next pound would be fine and then we'd get a bad one again.  We discovered the reason.  The boat ahead of us was a little lax in remembering to close the bottom paddles before opening the ones up top.  We caught them up at the next lock and the lock was 3/4 full.  Any wonder it was taking so long, the water was pouring out the paddle below and nobody had noticed.  As I walked up to the lock they heard the gravel crunch and turned.  It was then they saw the paddle was still up.

We reached Tibberton in time for a late lunch at the pub.  They were excellent moorings.   It had taken longer than we expected... mainly due to the delay at the second lock.  We had a nice lunch and a couple of drinks, then a cuppa back on the boat.  Lynne headed home and we settled in for the night.  We had tv!

I had a little parcel from my nieces.  Thanks girls.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Wonderful Worcester!

We love Worcester!  What a lovely town it is.

Today we spent pretty much the whole day out walking and we only saw half the town.  The High St had the usual suspects in the way of stores but there was a maze of narrow, winding streets with fantastic old buildings.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. 

With a Marks and Spencer in town we stocked up for a few days.  I took a photo of our purchases.... we'd never buy pre-packaged food at home and today we both looked at the collected at the checkout and laughed.  Everything in little plastic tubs and bags.  Three days breakfasts, lunches and dinners without cooking a thing for under 50 quid.   Such a treat for us to not have to cook.... just open the oven and pop them in.  Terrible, isn't it!  Marks had a stand of Christmas stuff out already.  I captured the expression on Mick's face perfectly when he saw it.

We noticed a National Trust property on our travels.... The Greyfriars.  We decided to go back to the boat for lunch and then return to have a look.  It was an interesting property with a garden that used to be the site of tiny cottages.... demolished to make way for the garden and the 12 families moved on into council housing.  Inside there was a collection of stitched samplers which always grab my attention.  One of the volunteers pointed out to us the last paragraph on one of them.... the stitcher began the sampler in 1851 aged 8 years old and finished it in 1926 aged 83!

We each bought a new pair of shoes as we've worn the soles away from our old ones with all the walking.  At the entrance to a shopping area we saw a tree we've never seen before. They only way I can think to describe it is a "bean tree".

So after a day spent pounding the streets we were back at the boat in time to have a tidy up before our visitor arrived.  Lynne came straight from work and arrived about 6.30pm with our mail in hand.  It was lovely to receive a parcel from my nieces. 

We had dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant and came back to the boat and played cards for a couple of hours.  It was to be the first night we had someone stay overnight on the boat with us.  Lynne's stayed on the boat before, but with us gone off with her car!