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Monday, August 21, 2017

Tamworth to Whittington on the North Coventry Canal

"Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding." ~Kahlil Gibran

     Once the rain let up I set off early in the morning for Peel Wharf at the junction of the Coventry and the Birmingham and Fazelely canals. I planned to stop overnight in Polesworth and pick up an Ocado grocery delivery and then venture on towards Peel Wharf for services. Well of course I managed to screw it all up. things look very different on the cut than they do on Google maps. That combined with using Nicholson's canal guides which are fifteen years out of date have created a perfect storm for me. Les always said we didn't need to update our Nicholson's guides since he knew every mile of all the canals he had traveled and a quick look in one of our old guides brought everything back to him. I no longer have benefit of my Best Beloved's fine memory for the cut, and using outdated guides is not working for me. Note to self: purchase the most up to date guides at the next chandlery.
     Meanwhile because I didn't actually recognize the place I designated to stop and pick up my grocery order until it was too late to try slowing down and backing up, my choices were to find a winding hole and turn around to come back or keep going and find another likely place for a delivery--which is what I did. I reached the aptly named Askew Bridge in a subdivision on the very outskirts of Tamworth and moored up across from a large house near the bridge. There was a path from the cut up to the road and I used the address of a nearby house to change the delivery details on my grocery order. I also changed the time from 10:00 am to 5:30 am so I could load up and be off down Glascote locks before traffic on the cut picked up.
The house across the canal from me on the outskirts of Tamworth where I moored up for the evening to await my grocery delivery.
The rest of the yard across from my mooring spot in Tamworth with the canal bridge stretching out of site on the right.  Lovely view for me!
Five am and the Ocado delivery man appears with my grocery order! There is a path up to the lane between the bridge and the tall hedge.
     Thursday, August 10th dawned clean and bright but yet another weather system bringing rain and high winds was forecast for later in the day leading into the weekend. I walked up to the road in the quiet of the morning and shortly an Ocado delivery van turned up. I flagged him down, he stopped, and we walked back to the boat together. By 5:40 am my groceries were on board and put away, and I was off by 6 am.
     I reached Glascote locks at 7 am with no one else in sight. I tied up the boat, set the top lock and walked down and set the bottom lock as well since I had them both to myself. Taking my time, I brought NBV into the top lock, hopped off, closed the gate, wound down the paddle and went to the other end to wind up the bottom gate paddles and drop the lock down. Soon enough it was done.
     I opened first one gate then walked around and opened the other side. I began bow hauling the boat out and I hopped on at the stairs to steer the boat over to the bollards and tie up. I needed to walk back and close the gates behind me and then walk up and open the top gate on the next lock. Just as I pulled over I spotted someone standing in the shadows near the bottom gates of the second lock with a windlass in hand and I realized that she had opened the next top lock gate for me! Yay! A boat was coming up and they were waiting for me to come down. This meant I could simply cruise gently into the next lock and I didn't need to go back and shut the bottom gates on the first lock because it was now set and ready for the folks waiting for me.
     I called out a hello and thank you to the woman with the windlass. She asked if I was alone and I replied in the affirmative so she offered to lock me down. Lovely! by 7:45 am I was cruising out of the bottom gates of the second lock and on my way! My thanks to the wife on NB Shendish for her help.
     I cruised along in the early morning sunshine watching as people and homes on either side of the cut began waking up and starting their day, my mind wandering to Les. He so loved his perch on the stern of NBV, the tiller tucked under his arm, a smile on his face. I missed him so badly I ached and my  thoughts of him distracted me from steering the boat. I made a pig's ear out of going through the bridge approaching the junction, glancing off the right side and then the left with a dog walker and two boaters as audience. I could feel the condemnation as they watched: women boaters! They simply cannot steer a boat...I always feel as a woman on my own that I need to be twice as good as a man at anything aboard in order to be seen half as capable in the eyes of a lot of men. Ah well, it is what it is. I came through to the other side to see a water point on my right but too late to stop (it isn't listed in our old Nicholson's guides, having been put in recently) and in any event there were four boats queued up to use it. I wondered why a couple of them hadn't used the services at Peel Wharf.
     As I pulled in to the wharf side I was about to find out: a piece of paper taped to the side of the wooden planter informed boaters that as of the week previously, rubbish would no longer be collected from Peel Wharf and so boaters could no longer use the rubbish bins as they had been taken away. Also the water point had been disabled permanently, leaving only an Elsan point with a sign warning "No Self pump outs allowed!" Great!! There went my carefully laid plans. I had two black rubbish bags on the roof and one was from the emptied Airhead loo. I knew I had half a tank of water so I wasn't in danger of running out but still, I like to keep my tank topped up. Nothing for it now but to continue on to the other side of Tamworth and moor up near Bonehill Road and the adjacent industrial estate. Les always moored there to access the shops. When we first stopped in February of 2012 there was an ASDA, a B&Q, several car dealers and not much more. Now there is also a Sainsbury's supermarket, and loads of other shops.
     I found a good spot just three boat lengths from the bridge, moored up and proceeded to do a good boat clean, vacuuming, dusting and washing all the windows inside and out. I also walked into Sainsbury's on Saturday very early for a paper and a few bits, stopped at B&Q for more compound glue and found the oak-look vinyl planks in stock that Les used to recover the bow steps. I purchased two boxes of them and hoicked it all back to the boat. I need to re-cover the stern steps so now I have everything I need to get on with that job.
     Of course since I had washed the windows, the farmer in the adjacent field on the offside of the canal decided to harvest his wheat before the threatening rain became a reality and he was off--up and down the harvester covered his field threshing wheat from chaff. The wind was gusting at 35 MPH carrying the chaff everywhere. It covered the boats and stuck to our windows. Several folks moved off elsewhere in disgust as they could not open their windows without chaff flying in. Never mind, I can hear Les saying. It is all part of living on a boat. I got on with baking a batch of NY 10th Street Brownies for the visit of Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) on the morrow.
Moored up at Tamworth, Bonehill Road. The farmer's field is on the left out of site.
Laundry out to dry. It is difficult to believe that just beyond the trees on the left is a huge industrial estate with car lots supermarkets and malls!
     They arrived mid-morning Saturday bearing lovely gifts of  Ken's Welsh cakes, flowers, hand cream, and other items making me feel thoroughly spoiled! We had a good long catch-up over coffee, tea, lunch and Brownies. As the afternoon wore on a boat cruised past with a barn owl painted near the front and Ken suddenly jumped up shouting, 
     "Hang on, I know that boat!"
     It was Angela and Patrick on NB Chouette. They had traveled across the wash with NB Cleddau two summers ago and become firm friends. Angela pulled in, in front of NBV and they tied up for a quick chin wag. Lovely to meet you both!
     Soon enough it was time for Ken and Sue to leave. I decided to move on as well...for it was tough being moored up in this spot. It was here on June 27th that we were given the news that cancer had spread to Les' bones and my lovely cousin Joanne in America had died that morning of lymphoma. This was to be my last tough memory place on the cut.
     In the long golden rays of the early evening sun I cruised onward, through the lovely village of Hopwas, passing Angela and Patrick who had moored for the night and were preparing dinner; past a wedding celebration in full swing at the Hopwas community centre, the bride looking gorgeous and glowing. I passed only two boats on the move which made me happy. I am finding that very early mornings and supper time in the evening are my favorite times to move. Less traffic and more leeway on the cut. The Coventry narrows now as it travels on northward so I was delighted to travel in evening peace. Soon enough I reached the village of Whittington where Les and I moored in early 2012 and I met Keith and Jo on NB Hadar for the first time. Les and I also took a bus from the village into Litchfield.
NBV moored up near Whittington in a perfect spot to watch the Perseid meteor showers and get stuck in to a spot of boat work.
Sunset at Bridge 80 the North Coventry Canal near Whittington.
     While moored here for two days I finally scraped away all the old rotting door seals, glued new seals on the bow doors and added a sturdy new seal to the newly refitted stern hatch which had a gap of nearly two inches letting in loads of cold air all winter (I stuffed a towel up against it last winter to block out the draft), and I finally added a seal to the outside stern doors which means along with the new latch installed by friend Andy Elford the outside stern doors no longer bang in the wind, keeping me up all night. With the latch and the new seal it also means I can close those doors while cruising in cold weather and it will block the winds somewhat and help keep me warmer. Job done--onto the next thing!


nb Bonjour said...

Hi Jaq, looks as though we missed you by a week! We also got caught out at the Peel Wharf facilities but didn't need water, so didn't realise that had gone too! Best wishes and love, Debby xx

Arthur said...

Jaq, Looks like you are following our route from earlier this year! We turned at Great Haywood and on to Wolverhampton.
We were also using a very old Nicholsons but found this:-

Unknown said...

I Love you so much mom! I am so proud of you for taking things in stride when they come up, learning tons of new things, and being fairly independent in applying said knowledge and accomplishing things on your own!

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Hi Jaq, I think we are getting closer to meeting up! We are at Audlem currently and heading down towards Autherley then to Penkridge and Tixall Wide.
It's good you have found the right times for you to travel - lowers the stress and has you happier. Both important in this life!
I agree about getting new Nicholson's guides - I am noting things that have changed since ours were published and the one I have most recently updated is a 2012 version - change is the only constant, eh?
Love and biggs hugs, friend, Mxxoo

Jo Lodge said...

Hi Jaq. I am so enjoying reading your posts. I remember our first meeting really well. It seems like an age ago now. So much has happened in our lives and so much water has passed beneath us all.
Interesting about Peel Wharf. I had heard that it was to be closed down by someone, but did not take it seriously. But clearly it has closed down. I am presuming the office is also closed down?
Happy and safe cruising xxxxxxxx

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

is there a problem with using the up to date maps from Waterway Routes, as recommended by you?

That has the rubbish and water points correctly marked.

Unknown said...

Don't seal everything up too tight - you will need ventilation when you have the stove/oven on... we wouldn't want you to asphixiate yourself...

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Debby

We seem to be ricocheting along past each other this summer. the two of you take care now as you go along.

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Arthur,

I tried the link you provided but it didn't go anywhere. a group of women boaters gave me this link which is pretty good: if you want an electronic source and there is always Paul Balmer's Waterways Routes electronic maps.

It is good to be up north now and away from the teribly sad memories there. Up here there are really only good memories of me and Les and the carefree days we had before cancer changed our lives--again.

Take care and my love to you Jennie

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sparkala

Thank you for believing in me sweetheart. It is a comfort knowing you are out there somewhere albeit 7000 miles away following along and keeping track of your old ma. I hae no choice about accomplishing things on my own. I am on my own. I've never felt so alone in my life which is due to having lived cheek-to-cheek with Da for six years and sharing everything.

Life is more aboard is more manageable up here on the narrow northern canals and the countryside is spectacular. Les and I both loved it up here.

I love you to the end of the universe--and back again.

Mamma xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Marilyn,

Your phone call this A.M. spurred me to get out the computer and catch up with a few online things. It will be lovely indeed to see you and David again and hopefully have more than a day or so to catch up before you are off again in the other direction.

Yep, less stress is better and doing everything on my own takes a certain level of concentration and thought I didn't have to muster with Les at my side so I find myself knackered after a morning of moving.

See you both soon!

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jo

I am not sure about the office being closed. I didn't really think to go inside or ask. Seems like a total waste of resources to me.

a lot of water has flowed pas us both since we met in early 2012. It is my pleasure to have met you and Keith and to count you both as friends. Les so enjoyed time spent in your company as did I. You are both easy to be with and your canal tales are superlative!

Love Jaq xxx

Lesley K said...

Hi Jaq
Do not splash out on the 'latest' Nicholsons because although they may have a new photo on the front the contents is often not fully updated. If you have a tablet or smart phone Waterway Routes maps ARE updated and better value for money.
Lesley K

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Christine,

Thanks for the reminder. I am very mindful of such issues as the boat safety examiner required Les to enlarge the ventilation holes in our bow doors in 2012. Apparently the boat builder never bothered to drill any vent holes in the doors when it was built in 2006. The ventilation screens were just screwed in for looks? So Les had to drill holes through the doors for real ventilation. The examiner said in 2012 that the holes needed to be larger so Les did enlarge them and everything passed the 2016 boat safety inspection. I also have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted and I always keep certain windows open summer and winter.


Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...


As you have noted in your comment I did recommend your electronic maps as we have many readers from all walks of life and all across the cut and Les was chuffed to bits to try out your product. Many boaters prefer electronics to paper and some are facile enough to manage an electronic device while cruising, but I am not. Doing everything on my own really requires me to give my full attention to the boat and the canal. I am dyslexic and find it difficult to stare at a small screen app. I am also one of those people who prefers paper.

Interesting hearing from you now in regard to this issue and your product when I heard nothing from you when Les died--not even the simplest of condolences, which surprised me greatly.


Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Lesley,

Thanks for your imput. While I understand the Nicholson's Guides have not actually been updated inside for awhile now, I have purchased numbers 3 and 4 and there are about four marinas in them which are not in my 17 years old Nicholsons.
I simply cannot do one more thing electronically at this point in my life. all my banking, personal correspondence, Skype calls to family, blog posts, and book rough draft is done online. I am sick to death of being on the computer and I want to hold something in my hand and dwell on it for awhile, and make notes in the margins like Les did in the old Guides. I know Pauls' Canal maps are brilliant but they don't work for my needs. I also have dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalcula. Writing wit one hand is manageable but typing with tow is fraught with errors and takes me hours to review, edit, and find my errors to fix--which makes leaving flags and notes about canal related things on Waterways Routes maps a frustrating under-taking; all my fault and none to P Balmer's brilliant program and apps.

I hope you, Joe and the boys are well. I miss your blog!!!

Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs