Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The changes start

 Caxton's rear stair as of 8.30 yesterday morning..

Yesterday morning we moved across the canal to moor up at Swallow Cruisers at Hockley Heath on the Stratford Canal.  Dave George, who had been involved in the original fitting out of Caxton, was about to start on the changes to Caxton's galley and stern access.
 Again, Caxton before changes start..
 Work begins as Dave starts to dismantle the stair and ballustrade
 The deed is done, stair case removed
The new bulkheads are in place ready for new cupboards

It was fascinating watching the work involved in creating these bulkheads.  Dave arrived with a 4mm half sheet of MDF and patiently went about creating the template that would be used to cut the shape of the bulkheads.  It is considerably easier to cut and trim a flimsy sheet of MDF including the numerous times the emerging template is offered up to to the boat side to get the shape correct.  This took hours to acheive before Dave returned to his nearby workshop to cut the bulkheads from 3/4 inch ash faced ply wherein he returned and completed their fitting.  He will be back shortly to progress the build so more photo's later today....

Heading for Hockley Heath

Caxton crossing the brand new Selly Oak aqueduct en route for Hockley Heath.

We left Birmingham on Saturday and started our journey to Hockley Heath and a booked mooring at Swallow Cruisers where we are to have some alterations made to the galley and access to the rear deck.  It was a crisp day and there was a bit of ice on the Worcester Birmingham Canal as we headed south out of the City but after turning east on to the Stratford Canal at Norton Junction the ice had disappeared.
Caxton making the turn at Norton Junction

We stopped for lunch opposite Lyons boat yard, a warming bowl of  homemade celery and stilton soup, before setting off again to water at the next waterpoint - here we encounter the serial waterpoint moorer Sunset Nomadic of a previous post - once serviced we pushed on out into the country and pleasant quiet mooring for the night.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Trip Back

We left our lovely mooring at the Black Country Museum on Thursday lunchtime, winded ( a bit tight I might add) and started back towards Birmingham.  We were breaking ice most of the way, yet again...    Our route back was along the OLD Main line so we were able to see just a little more of the BCN ( Birmingham Canal Navigations) and we are rather enjoying the old BCN and look forward to further exploration at a later date.
It was a bright, cloudless day therefore a bright COLD day and though three and a half hours later I was toasty warm and himself was frozen to the tiller!
There is a section of the Old Main Line that is 'crowned' by the concrete stilts and bed of the M5 motorway. Unsightly but rather interesting for the most part.  We slipped quietly along in the hidden canal navigation while the 'other world' out there rushes up and down a congested roadway; I know where I would rather be.
Caxton crossing the Stewart Aqueduct that takes the OLD Main line across the NEW main line. Just to the left is... below
 concrete pylons that support the M5 carefully placed IN the bed of the New Mainline, Yes, that is a canal down there!

As we came through the Summit Tunnel adjacent to what was the Sandwell Colliery wharf I spotted the recent work of a lumberjack and summoned Caxton to a quick mooring exercise while I  liberated these Ash logs.  It is jus so pleasurable to find free fuel ....sad.
The restored Smethwick pumping station the sits squarely between the two canals, OLD line and NEW line.
Mr Heron enjoying the sunshine
Engine branch going over Telfords Aqueduct, crossing from the upper level Old Main line over the New Main line below.
We worked our way the three Smethwick locks at which point I re-joined the boat and put kettle on.  I could do without walking the stretch from Smethwick as I had spent the last 8 weeks tramping up and down that bit with the two dogs.  We were mooring up in Brum 20 mins later back to what has become a usual spot and Nb. Matilda Rose had already arrived so it was out for a meal together that night.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Some people take the Biscuit

I have just sent the following to British Waterways

Dear Sir/Madam
I have been urged to make an official complaint, instead of just quietly 'bitching', about the behaviour of the owners of Narrowboat Sunset Nomadic reg. No. 45782.   Over the Christmas period when boats were iced-in in Birmingham this boat sat on the waterpoint at the Mailbox for three weeks. At times they were iced-in of course, as were all other boats in the centre of Birmingham, but despite a thaw that allowed all boats to move and some of us make our way to the waterpoint Sunset Nomadic continued to occupy the waterpoint while boaters struggled to get water supplies. Despite a number of us remonstrating with this crew they apparently felt that a simple sorry would send us away and leave them in peace to continue their waterpoint occupation! The reason I feel driven to complain at this juncture is Sunset Nomadic is now happily enscounced on yet another waterpoint, this time on the Nth Stratford Canal at bridge 5.   I asked them to move their boat off yesterday afternnoon (Saturday 22nd Jan.) to allow us to water; he bow-hauled his boat forward enough to allow us to get our hose to the working tap, and the re-moored Sunset Nomadic. This boat had been spotted by another boater moored on this waterpoint on the Tuesday, five days previous to me coming across them. It seems that other boaters are unable to persuade this crew that their behaviour is selfish and unacceptable so perhaps BW can get them to modify their ways.


This is a link to Nb Matilda Rose's blog about the same boaters.

Sunset Nomadic photographed Saturday after I had 'urged' them to move the boat off of the waterpoint.
Sunset Nomadic on the Mailbox waterpoint in Birmingham - you will note, there is NO ice.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Turn around time

I have just spoken to Dave George, joiner cum boat-fitter cum shipwright, and our scheduled works are ON for Monday.  We are preparing, well actually Joe is preparing Caxter, not WE, to pull pins and head back to Brum through this morning's ice. Yes, more ice, but thin fortunately.  We will more in Brum tonight then push on towards Hockley Heath on the morrow.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

On top of a Wrens Nest...

The Tipton Portal of the Dudley Tunnel - Floyd is less than impressed, not much headroom there - we are moored about 5/6 boats lengths away.    I wandered down and had a look this morning before taking the dogs for a walk.  I had 'Googled' a satilite view of the area and spotted woodland not too far away that would be great for the dogs if I could get access.  It turned out to be quite an extensive Nature Reserve that welcomed dog walkers and their charges, the Wrens Nest Nature Reserve which appears to be an abandoned Limestone quarry that is now heavily wooded.
Above - One of many  limestone cliff faces to admire
The view from the top of the Wrens Nest looking towards Birmingham.

As the weather was so springlike Joe and I spent a hour or so cutting wood that the Dudley Canal Trust (DCT) had piled up for boaters use.  We had spotted it yesterday and asked permission this morning.  So we are log- heat tonight as opposed to coal and very nice it is, thank you the DCT.

Yesterday's PIC's

 Caxton just passing Smethwick Junction on the New (1823-1838, hardly new) Main Line canal
 The Telford Aqueduct built in 1825 crosses the New main line carrying the branch that went originally to Boulton and Watt Steam pumping engine on the Engine Branch.  This is just so elegant.  Such a contrast to the concrete tubes that elevate the M5 motorway a bit further on...

 The bridges at Galton just after the Galton tunnel.
 Passing Bromford Junction where the Old Main line Wolverhampton level joins the New Main line - confusing isn't it?
 Caxton moored at the Black Country Museum Dudley.
A lock , a lock, yippee!  The last of the Tipton three before we turn off towards the Dudley Tunnel.  It was real pleasure to be working locks again!

Monday, 17 January 2011

We're OUT!

We left dear Birmingham this morning after filling Caxton's empty water tank.  We need to be able to get back to Hockley Heath on the North Stratford Canal if we get the nod that the boatyard can accommodate us this coming weekend so the plan was to MOVE, but not too far.  We travelled west out of Birmingham, along the New Main Line, up through the three Tipton locks and turned sharp into the Stourbridge canal, heading for the entrance of the Dudley Tunnel and the visitor moorings at the Black Country Museum.  We met only one boat on the move and that was a day boat being driven at full speed through a bridge hole and round a bend - inexperience, youthfulness or idiocy, takes your choice.. but we managed to avoid a collision.    I walked with the dogs, only getting back aboard after I had got the locks out of the way.  The dogs are now sprawled out in the land of the snoozles while I am updating the blog and Joe has wandered off to find Dudley - I said, 'it isn't lost', but the 'we are not amused' expression would have put Queen Victoria to shame!  Anyway it was grand to be moving again especially on a day that was so springlike and an added bonus is we are moored up next to a supply of wood that is just asking us to cut it up and burn it!  Photo's don't want to load so I will try and illustrate our journey tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Eees up and running

Joe has just downloaded his first e-book from Amazon!  I went into the City today to Blacks store and bought two Kindle readers and appropriate covers for them and managed a small discount of £10 - it is always worth asking, so I do!

Friday, 14 January 2011

With apologies to William C

With apologies to William Caxton, our boats namesake; we have decided to fore go the printed page for one of those newfangled e-readers, well two readers actually.   I feel a bit shamefaced about this because when these contraptions were first being banded about I was secretly quite scathing; what's wrong with books for goodness sake I thought . Why would you want to spend money on eeee-readers when books were so readily available and so, so, tactile, colourful and reeeadable?  Well this last weekend we came face to face with a KINDLE e-reader.  We played with it , we pressed buttons , we changed font sizes, we downloaded the daily newspaper, we checked the cost of e-books and the size of the available e-book library and we looked at the space that books take up on Caxton.  Suddenly my poor opinion of this technology was looking a bit silly.  After several days umming and arring we have decided to do the deed and go techie, tomorrow we are off to a store in Brum to wave the plastic and buy a couple of Kindles - sorry William.....

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Gone, gone...staying.

We heard from Dave George, the joiner who is going to add more cupboards to Caxton's galley, that we will not be able to get into Swallow Cruisers boatyard at Hockley Heath this weekend, we may however, be able to be accomodated the following weekend.  So it looks as if we will be staying on in Birmingham for another week at least.  Although there has been a  bit of boat movement over the last few days no one has succeeded in getting very far.  Brian Jarrett on Nb Kyle had to return yesterday after the ice at Netherton defeated him! I am bored witless at walking the same bit of towpath with the dogs though  they are quite happy it seems so here we go for another week of tramping the mainline and the Soho loop...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Nearly gone

The ice has now gone IN Birmingham though it is still quite thick on the main line and the Birm.& Worcs still.  I will take the dogs for a walk along the B&W today to check conditions but I believe we will be on the move by the weekend. Caxton will be heading to Hockley Heath and our belated date with a carpenter/joiner and Matilda Rose is off to Lyons Boat Yard at the start of the North Stratford for engine mount replacements.  Thereafter the plan is to head for Chester...we'll see.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Didn't we have a lovely day...

Didn't we have a lovely day the day we went to ..... The Black Country Living Museum?  We surely did.  Yesterday Jill and I took ourselves off to catch a bus to Dudley to visit the Museum, (Joe had been a couple of years ago and Graham was dog sitting).  We had a very straightforward journey, one bus, a £1.60 fare and a 5 minute walk and we were walking into this open air celebration of  life and work in the Black Country of the 19th and early 20th century.  The 'Black Country' is the area west of Birmingham and south of Wolverhampton that was blessed with an abundance of rich coal, iron stone, limestone and fire clay - the stuff that fueled the industrial revolution!  

 The transport section of the Museum is extensive with numerous examples of the motor cars and motorcycles that were built in the area, as well as working relics of the days of trams and trolley buses.  This single deck tramcar (above) was built in 1920 at Tividale and operated on the Dudley-Stourbridge tramways until 1929.
 The pit-head at Brook Shaft. This is a real pit, one of the 600 or more that were sunk in this area. See info below.

 The telegraph in the wheel house at Racecourse colliery
Single cylinder steam engine to wind the cage up and down the mine shafts and pump out water.
 Dudley Transport clock
 The 'cage' that lowered men and boys down the mine shaft at Racecourse Colliery
 Limekiln cut with a 19th C icebreaker on the right - we could do with that out on the cut now..
 Open all hours....
 The 'mangle' in the background is a 'mangle' because it has wooden rollers - those with rubber rollers were called 'wringers' - you learn something everyday don't you?
We had just been sitting the boatman's cabin aboard 'Peacock' and having a chat.

This rusty hulk (to be restored) is also an icebreaker, or at least it was..

 Another view of FMC Peacock with the Strip Mill in the background.
 These are solid brass sweet moulds
And this contraption with the moulds loaded is used to roll the confectionery and create the sweets

 A parade of shops circa 1930's with a real and functioning chippie!  We enjoyed a bag of chips that had been cooked in beef dripping for our lunch.  The chips were not wrapped in newspapers though...
A posh parlour of 1910

There was so much to see that we didn't manage to cover the whole site but it is so interesting that we will be going back again and as this is a museum that is constantly being added to it is somewhere that would draw me back every couple of years anyway - super place!!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Joe the Wise

Shortly after we found ourselves, well the boat not 'US', frozen in, Joe took himself off to an Army Surplus store and returned with a 30 litre water carrier with tap and breather hole.  How useful this has been in the last few weeks and how wise of the grey-headed-one to find this gem. This provides us with water for 15 strip washes, or 3 loads in the dishwasher or two showers, frugal showers but nevertheless, lovely, lovely showers.
As the canal in the centre of Birmingham has thawed now we are able to get to the water point and this we did on Monday. There was a continued procession of boats making their way to the services throughout Monday but we are still not able to actually get out of the City and make headway to our date with a boat fitter at Hockley Heath; I hope he is patient....

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Passing the time...

Waltzing dancers on the stage in front of the orchestra.
 On the first day of the New Year  I went, with Jill of Nb Matilda Rose, to the Birmingham Symphony Hall to see a concert by the Strauss Orchestra.  As well as the orchestra we were entertained by waltzin g ballet dancers and the soprano, Amy Freston.  Two hours of magical music...
The Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Lindy-Hop dancers
On the second day of the New year I went, also with Jill of Nb Matilda Rose, to the Birmingham Symphony Hall to see/hear a concert by The Glenn Miller Orchestra. Two and a half hours of SWING music and jitterbug dancing and singing.  The best so far, loved it!!