Sunday, 19 February 2017

River Thames Cruise 2017 - Destination Henley-on-Thames

Week 1 -  Overwater Marina to Black Country Museum

Welcome to our 9th cruise aboard nbElla, our plans for this cruise are our most adventurous yet.  We hope to get onto the River Thames as far as Henley, explore the South and North Oxford Canals and some of the Grand Union Canal.  We have allowed ourselves three months at a very leisurely pace.

Monday 13th February - Overwater Marina

Today Dave went down to the marina to meet Tim, the engineer from Bourne Boat Builders. He was going to fit a missing part on the gear lever which allows the engine to disengage from the propeller.  We think it went missing when we had the problem with the gear box oil leak.  Whilst he was there he checked the engine bay and said that the gear box was still leaking oil, and advised us to talk to Beta as it needed a replacement part.
Once he was back at the house we waved goodbye to Lizzie and our granddaughter Bea and set about closing up the house and loading all we needed into the Landrover.
We then drove down to the marina, loaded up the boat and spent our first night in the Marina!

Tuesday 14th February - Overwater Marina to Market Drayton 

Made an early start and prepared the boat for leaving the marina and the longest cruise we have done so far!!  We reversed out of our pontoon, turned the boat and headed out onto the Shropshire Union Canal and turned right heading south towards Audlem.

The canal is very quiet, the weather is cold but bright and a little breezy.  Almost perfect conditions!

The reception block at the marina where a cafe makes the most delicious sandwiches! We shall miss them!

As we approached the first lock Dave walked on ahead to make sure all the locks were open and ready to be worked.  Audlem flight has been closed for a number of weeks with work being carried out on 3 of the 15 locks.  All was good so we began our climb up the locks.

It took us about 2 hours to complete the flight.  We had a couple of boats ahead of us and one behind us.  Many of the boats had been waiting for the flight to open.  

Once through the the flight we headed for the 5 locks at Adderley and met a boat coming down the locks which meant that they were going to be set in our favour and made it much quicker. 

We also passed a solid fuel boat heading towards Audlem.  There are several of these boats on the system and they cruise around delivering fuel to boats on the canal, very convenient!

We then headed through Market Drayton and out the other side to open moorings with views across the fields.  It is one of our favourite moorings and where we shall spend our first night.

Wednesday 15th February - Market Drayton to Norbury Junction

In the morning we waited for the Beta engineer to arrive and he replaced an O ring and said that might do the trick..we shall wait and see!
We soon set off on our way up the Tyrley Locks - I usually approach these with a certain amount of dread as the by waters are so strong and push the boat out of line with the lock, but this time it was quite different and we found the locks a real joy to work our way through!!!

Once through the top lock we passed 'Spirit of Phoebe', the smallest narrowboat I have ever seen!!

At Cheswardine is Wharf Tavern with a large winding hole.  We rarely use the pub as it is not dog friendly and the opening hours are strangely erratic.

It does have an enormous campsite in an adjoining field so I guess it must be camper friendly!!

We carried on to Norbury Junction and as the weather had closed in and Dave had got soaked on the back of the boat we decided to call it a day and moor up for the night.

Thursday 16th February - Norbury to Brewood

Our overnight mooring at Norbury is one of our favourites - the scenery is spectacular, this was the back garden for the night!

We stopped at Gnosall to put on water and I began to give the roof of the boat a bit of a clean.  With the winter came black soot marks from the chimney and green algae, but a scrub with diluted vinegar soon brought it back to new!!

Just outside Gnosall is Cowley Tunnel - a very short tunnel which was originally intended to be much longer. It was opened out during construction in 1831 due to dangerous faults in the rock and leads into a steep narrow cutting through solid rock.

This turnover bridge moves the towpath from one side of the canal to the other and leads into High Onn private moorings.  

The last time we came past here one was for sale, but it has now been sold and a new boat is berthed there.  We were intrigued as to how you could buy a part of the canal bank!!!

We continued to Brewood and moored up next to the Christmas tree like last time, the weather again deteriorated and we found the towpath to be a sea of mud!!  
In the evening we met up with our friends Anne and Steve and enjoyed a catch up and meal at The Crown Joules in Codsall.   

Friday 17th February - Brewood to Bridge 8

We had a very quiet day as we were planning on making a very early start for the Wolverhampton 21 locks tomorrow.  We did essential shopping in Brewood and then moved the boat 40 minutes up the canal to some visitor moorings literally in the middle of nowhere. It is very peaceful and we were 1 of only 2 boats moored up for the night. 

For Christmas my future son-in-law gave me a marquetry keyring holder with our boat name on it.  He made it himself and used different woods to create the stunning effect. A beautiful addition to our boat - thanks Pete!

Saturday 18th February - Bridge 8 to Dudley Black Country Living Museum

We set out early as we had just over an hours cruising time until we got to the start of the Wolverhampton Locks.  Quite a feat for me - 8am, unheard of!!

We arrived at Autherley Junction and had to wait as a sole boater had been waiting for another boat to come along and help him through the lock!  
This is the toll office, now used as a gallery.

We turned right out of the junction and headed towards Aldersley Junction with the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations) and the Wolverhampton 21 locks.

Here we met another sole boater who had collected his boat, nb Serenade four days ago from Stourport and was on his way to the Oxford area.  With only four days experience of narrowboating Adrian tackled these locks with the greatest of ease!!

As we glided into our 6th lock, the engine cut out and tiller jammed.  We had picked up a huge piece of wadding around the propeller and it took Dave over half an hour to cut it free.  It filled three bin bags which we left beside a bin, a better place for it than the canal!!

The last three locks and pounds were incredibly low and Dave had to let down extra water as Ella got stuck on the bottom of the canal several times.  This is the first time we have seen a canal as low as this!

 Great excitement as we got through Wolverhampton Top Lock!

We carried on to The Black Country Living Museum, winded the boat and moored up in the secure visitor moorings.  We finally stopped at 4 o'clock, after an 8 hour day and soon settled down for an early night!!

Sunday 19th February - Black Country Living Museum 

Today we have decided to have a quiet day and not go anywhere at all.  Unfortunately I have developed a humdinger of a cold and just need a day to get over it!!  

Our mooring backs on to the north portal of the Dudley Tunnel, and last night it was lit up in an eerie red light.  The tunnel has only one ventilation shaft and powered boats cannot use it.  If your boat will fit, then you can be towed through the tunnel, but Ella is too tall to fit through.

Toby has made new friends, he was put outside so Dave could wash down the stern and the next thing we know he is enjoying a chin rub!!!

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