Tuesday, December 05, 2017

First Trip from Hatherton

Having moved Zindagi to Hatherton Marina in early October, we knew that we would need to get up there again soon to prepare the boat for the colder months.  We also wanted to replace the old carpet, which had been down on the floor since the boat was built in early 2007!
As we came towards the end of November, it looked like there might be a few days of dry and sunny (if cold!) weather coming in the West Midlands, so perhaps there might be the chance of snatching a few days travelling . . .

First things first!  Taking up the old carpet was very easy.  Fitting the new one was a bit more tricky!

But the end result is not too bad!  Still a little tidying up and re-tensioning to be done on a subsequent visit, but a definite improvement on the old carpet.

So, what was the weather forecast like?  Could we manage a few days' cruising?  No rain in the West Midlands for about 4 days, pretty cold but bright and sunny.  We decided to have a go!

12 locks and about 15 miles in a generally northward direction would take us to Great Haywood, where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal.  We went through Great Haywood Junction several times during our canal travelling years, and it was in fact the place we started from on our first-ever canal holiday back in 1976.

So, Tuesday 28th November saw us getting back into our old travelling routine:  Do the engine checks, take down the TV aerial and wind turbine, start the engine and cast off the moorings.  Oh yes, and don't forget to disconnect the mains power hook-up – one of the little luxuries of marina mooring! 

Then a couple of miles of chugging to reach Gailey, with its lock-keeper's lookout tower right next to the A5, where the lock allows the canal to dive 8ft 6in under Watling Street.  I know we went through one lock when we were taking Zindagi to Hatherton Marina, but that was Autherley Stop Lock, with a fall of only 6 inches.  Gailey Lock was a real lock at last!  We were beginning to feel more at home on the canals again.

Here we are again, in what looks like (and really is) a remote rural lock.  What you can't see or hear is the roar of the M6 just a few yards away!  Not to worry; the canal and motorway soon parted company, leaving us in peace again.  The contrast of old and new transport systems struck us when we first came this way 41 years ago.  

We still enjoy the 'slow lane'!

Amazing to think that these peaceful canals were the 'motorways' of their time, always bustling with working boats carrying payloads of all descriptions, and yet the simple architecture of the locks and bridges has been there all the time, with a beauty of their own.

Wednesday afternoon, and we reached Tixall Lock, the last on this short run, but the first lock we ever went through.  One of the staff from the hire company at Great Haywood had been there to help all the newcomers to boating and explain how to work a lock.  We have been through a few since then!

And so to the end of the outward journey, Tixall Wide.  A lovely lake west of Great Haywood Junction and the canal just opens out into it.  Was it widened to 'gentrify' the appearance of the working canal for the landed gentry in their nearby stately homes, or was it a natural lake which just happened to lie in the path of the canal?  Nobody seems to know for sure.

The light was fading in late afternoon, so we just took a broad sweep round in the Wide (no 3-point turns needed here!) and moored up for the night, pointing back the way we had come.

Thursday morning was crisp – and icy!  The Wide itself was pretty clear, but an approaching boat had to cut a path through the thin ice.  Very useful for us as we started on our return journey.

Still no rain and bright sun, but it was cold!  We had to do a little ice-breaking in some places but most of the work had been done for us.  More of a problem was steering into the brightness of the very low sun, especially as it was also reflecting off the water!  Val needed to approach the locks with even more care than usual, at times almost driving 'blind'!

And so back to Zindagi's new home at Hatherton by Friday lunchtime.  The gamble on the weather had paid off, we had had 4 very enjoyable days together, back on the canals again and feeling very much like old times.  Now we are looking forward to some more – and longer – explorations in 2018.  We already have an 'Explorer Cruise' booked with the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society (BCNS) in June and hopefully we shall be out on Zindagi  a few times before then.

If you want to follow our route, you can click on 'Where Zindagi Is Now' and then zoom out to see the map of the whole area.  Just follow the thin blue line of the canal as it snakes west and then vaguely northwards from Hatherton towards Great Haywood.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Zindagi Flies Again . . .

. . . twice in one day!

Yes, the time had come to move Zindagi back onto the main canal system, so we made arrangements for a lorry trip and a crane at each end of the journey.

We chugged away from our moorings at Orchard Farm on the afternoon of Monday 2nd October, and then moored a short distance away, at the Tiverton Road Bridge, the same place where we had the boat craned in almost exactly 3 years ago.

A night on board (first one for a while), in readiness for an early start on Tuesday morning.  We had Lottie, Adam's Rottweiler, staying with us while he was working overseas, so she came too.

The lift went smoothly.  Same crane operator and same driver as last time, but a novel way of attaching the boat to the lorry – very neat!
Then in the car and up to Hatherton Marina, Zindagi's new home mooring, where we left the car and got a lift from Dawn to her base at Industry Narrowboats near Stretton Aqueduct on the Shropshire Union, where we had arranged to have the boat craned in.
Not quite such a smooth craning-in!  It looked a bit scary at one point, when the boat was rocking around on the end of the chains, but in the end she was back in water, unscathed, and with only a few small things inside that had moved around!

Back on board with Lottie (though she fell in on the way!) and chugging southwards towards Autherley Junction, where the 'Shroppie' branches off the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.  We moored up for the night just a short distance from the junction and the 6 inch (!) stop lock.
Wednesday morning saw us going through our first lock in three years, then onto the 'Staffs & Worcs' and northeastwards up to Hatherton.  We have not been this way for several years, but it was amazing how familiar it seemed, as we often knew what was round the next corner!
Quite a tight fit to get Zindagi's 57 feet round to reverse into our mooring, especially as it was a fairly windy morning, but we managed OK, made it all secure and left her there in her new home, before taking Lottie back to Adam in Shrewsbury and setting off on our way.

No disrespects to the Grand Western Canal in Devon, but it was really great to be back on 'real canals' again.  We both felt as if we were back on our watery travels again, like old times.  No plans to do any long-term living on board, but we really hope to be able to get out for a few odd weeks, hopefully with a few friends to join us from time to time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Zindagi's First Trip on the Grand Westernl!

When we moved 'Zindagi' to the Grand Western in October 2014, one of our main objectives was to be able to do some maintenance work without needing to travel 4 hours + each way to get to the boat.  Well, we have managed to get some work done, but we have also enjoyed a little travelling on the canal.

 Just a few weeks after we arrived, we took two days out and went pretty much as far as we could!  Well, there are only 11 navigable miles, and we can't even do all of that as there isn't room for us to turn at the end!

So, leaving the moorings ...

We chugged to 'Swing Bridge' (which isn't a swing bridge - I wonder how long ago it used to swing?) and walked into Halberton, knowing that the Barge Inn served meals - we had eaten there once before when exploring the canal on foot.

Well, no meal there this time, as they no longer had a chef, so it was back on board and chug on to the Globe at Sampford Peverell,

After a pleasant meal there, slowly on and past the little chapel at Ayshford Court,

and then we moored up for the night after Ebear Bridge but before we got too close to the railway line.  Nice to enjoy the old routine of the evening, night and morning on Zindagi again!

Dave's morning walk took him past Fossend and Fenacre Bridges, seeing this impressive brood of 8 cygnets, all apparently in fine fettle - as well as their parents!

And as far as Whipcott bridge, where a fallen tree would prevent even small craft going further.  That was beyond our furthest turning point, in any case, so we were not expecting to take Zindagi that far.

We had been told that there was an inlet just north of Great Fossend Bridge, which would be OK for us to turn in, so we went through the bridge and were just beginning to turn into the inlet when we ran aground in mid-channel!

Not a good sign, so we decided to reverse to just south of the bridge in the hope that we would be able to turn there.  We did, but with just about 4 inches to spare!  At 57 ft long, Zindagi is probably the longest boat on the canal . . .

On our return journey, the swan family followed us some of the way.

Back to the Lift Bridge at Tiverton Road Car Park - where we had been craned in a few weeks earlier - ducks all lined up as a reception committee.

Then past the moorings and on towards Tiverton, where we turned at Tidcombe Bridge.  We probably need to look at the canal on foot before we venture any further into Tiverton on board - the information we have been given on winding holes (turning spaces) does NOT include the maximum length of boats that can turn!

Then back to the moorings after an enjoyable 2-day trip.

A pleasant introduction to Zindagi's new home!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grand Union to Grand Western - in a day!

As we have become more and more involved with life back in Devon, having Zindagi moored at Blisworth has become more and more difficult to justify.  4 hours driving - exactly 200 miles - before we could start to do anything with the boat at all, whether that was maintenance (increasingly needed, 18 months after we stopped cruising) or even getting out for even a few days' cruising.  Since moving back to Devon in January 2013, we had been out for precisely one week!

Time for decisions!  We drove up to Bradford-on-Avon on the Kennet and Avon Canal and looked at possible moorings there.  OK, but that would still make a 2-hour trip to get to the boat.  Would we get to it any more often?

How about having it transported down to Devon on a lorry and placed on a hardstanding in a friend's farmyard?  Expensive for transport, but hopefully fairly cheap for hardstanding rental, and we would be able to get the maintenance done!  We enquired, but unfortunately the friends we had in mind did not have enough spare space and other possibilities came to nothing, except for one very expensive option.

Then Val thought of the Grand Western Canal at Tiverton.  Only 20 miles from home, just 11 landlocked miles of navigable canal.  We enquired and, yes, we could have a mooring.  The mooring and the licence were quite a bit cheaper than leaving Zindagi at Blisworth, but of course we still had to pay for the craning out onto a lorry, transport down to Devon and then craning in - definitely NOT cheap!  

Moving day was set for 17th October, but Shireen and Thor had a half-term break before that, so they joined us for just 2 days the weekend before, and we went for a sort 'there and back' trip.

Then a few days to pack up the 'breakables' ready for the trip by road, and also to spend a little time with some of our Blisworth friends.  Here we are in the 'Queen Eleanor', Val with Alan & Jan, Mary, Sally and Dianne.  Thank you, Sally for arranging the get-together!  A little sadness at the breaking of our obvious link with Blisworth by moving Zindagi, but we feel sure that this will be 'Auf Wiedersehen' and not 'Farewell' and that we will get back for the occasional visit - and maybe get some return visits in Lapford!

Friday 17th came, and we chugged the half mile round to Gayton marina to be craned out, as we have done twice before to get the bottom of the boat blacked, but this time it was onto a lorry!

All ready to go - once the lorry driver had got a buckled wheel replaced!

The driver told us he was taking a different route, so we had a surprise when we overtook the boat on the M4!  Quite a bizarre experience . . .

Shortly after 3 in the afternoon, and Zindagi was being craned into the Grand Western Canal near Halberton.  All had gone remarkably smoothly.

Just a short chug to our new moorings at Orchard Farm . . .

. . . and Zindagi was in her new home!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Early Autumn on the South Oxford Canal

More than 10 months since we returned to Blisworth from our 2012 canal travels, we actually managed to get out on the boat for more than just a short chug to get the bottom blacked!

We drove up to the marina on 21st September and, after Adam had joined us the next day, we had just enough time to get to Weedon and moor up before darkness closed in.  Red sky at night - perhaps we would have fine weather?

Climbing Napton locks - can you see the windmill on the hill?

Of course Lottie came with Adam and was soon very much at home on the boat.  Lots of long towpath walks!

We only went as far as Cropredy, moored there for the night, ate at the Red Lion again, then turned around and started back up the locks.  Here at Claydon Lock No 20, Dave on the paddle, Adam on the gate and Lottie supervising!

Back down Napton locks again the next day. This looks like the same lock, and the sun was still shining!

A lovely week, great weather, a good time was had by all.

Hard to believe that we have only cruised for one week this year!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spring and Summer Visits

Since we last 'blogged' in January, visits to Blisworth and Zindagi have been few and well-spaced!

 In the colder weather, we tried to visit roughly once a month, so that we could make sure that the heating (on a low thermostat setting) was keeping Zindagi frost-free.  The Northampton Arm near Gayton Marina looked tranquil in its February ice-bound stillness.

 Five weeks later, and the long cold spring continued.  Snow on the Rothersthorpe flight as Dave took his morning walks.  The only 'cruising' on these two visits was to the marina's diesel pump to fill up the tank for the heating system!

 Late April, and Zindagi was booked in to Gayton Marina to be craned out for bottom blacking.  On our way up from Devon, we had a phone call from the marina to say that their crane was out of action, but that they hoped to have it working in a day or two.  As you can see, it was not just out of action, but still in pieces.

Fortunately, we had already planned to be on the boat for a week, but any hopes of getting out for a few days' cruising already looked doomed!

 Three days later, and the crane was repaired and working.  First they had to lift out a boat that had been craned out weeks ago, before the repairs, and had been waiting to be returned to the water.  You may remember that we had exactly the same experience, two years earlier!

 Then it was our turn to be lifted in.  The green algae would be pressure-washed off, and the 2-year-old bitumen coating was not too bad underneath.

 Three days later, and Zindagi looked a lot better with two more coats of bitumen blacking and the blue paint along the gunwales tidied up a bit.

Although Gayton Marina is very close to Blisworth Marina, we needed to do a short (half-mile) chug to the top of Rothersthorpe locks in order to turn around - the nearest we got to doing any actual cruising!  Our week was gone and we needed to drive back to Devon.

FIFTEEN WEEKS LATER (!), we returned to Blisworth on 9th August and found Zindagi was fine.  Batteries nicely charged from a short charge every day, diesel tank still quite full as Steve and John had kindly turned off our heating system in response to a phone call once Spring finally took hold - and still some electricity credit left in the meter!

 Our visit was planned (at short notice) to coincide with Blisworth's Canal Festival, so we have had a good wander round and seen almost all the attractions, as well as meeting up with friends.

Maybe we shall manage a week's cruise in September?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Turning the Page . . .

Many of you know that we have now returned to rural mid-Devon.

After nearly six years living on board 'Zindagi', it is proving a real wrench to have moved most of our belongings out of the boat and return to Lapford.  To be honest, it is worse when we think about it!

At the moment, we don't have much time to think about anything else apart from sorting out our bungalow, with the prospect of lots of work ahead, both indoors and out!  Six years of occupation by tenants leave their mark!

Zindagi is still there, though, waiting for us to return for visits – of various sorts!  Like all boats, ongoing maintenance will be needed.  It would be nice to be able to make a proper job of repainting the roof!  Though we started in 2012, it was not a good year for boat painting!!

If the bungalow cleaning, maintenance, repairs and improvements continue as anticipated, we shall NEED to return to Zindagi for our own sakes, and to sample again the unique waterways lifestyle which has become our own since 2007.

We know that the last 6 years have made us different people.  We have met so many wonderful people, seen so many strange, beautiful and unusual sights – and enjoyed that glorious freedom of just moving on wherever and whenever we have wanted to.  Thank you for your company as you have shared our travels.

When we get back on board for short or long cruises, we hope to update this blog with news of our travels again.  So please continue to watch this space!

Meanwhile, we have started a new blog: 'Wilanson – back to the Land in Rural Mid-Devon', in which we expect to tell you some of our experiences as we try to pick up the strands of what feels like a former life.  We hope that you will join us on a new sort of adventure . . .