These first three weeks on the canals have flown by! John and I are having fun on the cut, we found ourselves dropping back into our canal routine rapidly.
We found Ali’s Dream easily. We met her owner Jackie and the rain eased off for our move in with our garbage bags. Once again, we felt like we were playing a life-size game of tiles: move something to one place, then move it again for the next item.
We set out early next morning for a full on shop at Tesco, we needed food and various boat-hold items to make life more comfortable! And then we were off, on the canals…
First off, we took a short detour up the Llangollen to meet up with our friends from Willow (we did the Rochdale together last year). After all, they were only 4 miles, 5 locks and 2 lift bridges away!
We successfully found them, went on a little further to the next winding hole and turned around so as to be facing the way we wanted for the morning. That night, we moored up next to Willow and caught up with news. Our friends were delighted that we had come to visit.
After that, we headed south in our intended direction.
…and suddenly, May was upon us!
Spring arrived late this year. Cows have only just gone out to pasture (they look joyous), trees are budding, and green is the colour of the moment. The first fluff ball ducklings are hatched, swans are nesting and the birds are very vocal. We’ve seen our first kingfisher. The spring flowers are a delight: occasional daffodils ( have they escaped or do they exist in the wild?), celandine, primroses, bluebells, cowslips (haven’t seen these in years), pussy willows all turned to pollen, glorious blossoms on the trees.
The best evenings are spent outside. One evening I heard a cuckoo calling in the late day sunshine and calm. I hadn’t heard a cuckoo in years.
We explored a new-to us canal: the Staffs and Worcs, which proved surprisingly rural after an urban start outside of Wolverhampton. The ingenuity of the original canal builders- here James Brindley and the Bratch locks- is astounding.
We found a Sainsburys store close enough to the canal to come back with more plant pots and compost (and food). John fitted a new water pump and nearly has the boat to to his satisfaction
We moored up just outside of Stourbridge More for the bank holiday on May 7, with unaccountably good weather for the long weekend.
We had to turn back off the river at Worcester: a sharp left hand turn, but the river was wide and it was easily done. The first two locks on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal were very wide, giving access to the town dock basin for much bigger river boats. We then began our journey towards the Oxford Canal back on narrow channels.
Bank holiday Monday turned out to be a scorcher. We went from bringing the plants in for fear of frost to midsummer temps. This was also the day when there appeared to be a problem with the charging of the domestic batteries. The fridge shut down, the newly installed water pump gave up, and on and on! We called in to a small boatyard for confirmation of the diagnosis and the aid of many fuses, a work-around, and some shore power to perk things up we were eventually back underway.
Next day, we completed the Tardebigge Locks – a personal best with 36 locks before lunch!
We started very early in case it should be as hot as the day before. There were was no one ahead of us and, amazingly, almost all the locks were set in our favour. This meant that the last boat through had been downbound the day before, leaving all the locks empty (except for a couple that had filled or partially so owing to leaks). A huge saving in time and effort for us! The weather was cooler, the heatwave over thankfully.
This saw us onto the Grand Union Canal and into double wide locks. This was the last leg of last year’s journey but, unlike last time, there were other boats around with which to share some of the locks. This can be fun, as you meet and chat with other boaters, exchanging jibber-jabber. Or you can catch up with a single-handler who has been out so long that he has apparently lost the ability to speak, and end up doing twice the work to help him through. It takes all sorts on the canal!
We’ve had a few fun nights with squeaking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and I’ve become expert at finding them and replacing batteries! Otherwise the engine controls are working like silk, the fridge is staying frozen, the shower can get both shoulders wet simultaneously, the new water pump is working and life is good.
On the bank, the moorhen chicks are hatching, the mallard babies are getting bigger (but still insist on trying to race the boat – whilst peeping frantically for mum), the yellow iris are appearing, the lambs are getting tubby. Sheep are nothing but eating machines. We’ve seen two batches of cygnets. The new flowers are planted (we might need a longer boat to accommodate them all!) Now headed for the Thames and new waters in a day or two.