Thursday 23 April

We moved off from Stoke Pound following NB Lillyanne down through the next six locks. We switched the washing machine on in the hope that it would have finished its cycle by the time we reached the last lock. Storm and Pip did the locks with help from Max while Mick and I helmed. Both boats filled up with water at Stoke Works after which we moored up for the day. There was no sign of the clouds that the BBC had forecasted so having hung out the washing to dry, after lunch we left Max on board and headed off across country to Hanbury Hall.

‎As we set out we passed our first sighting of ducklings this year.

We should have travelled to the Hall by car though as the house was ill-prepared for people arriving on foot at the back door and we had to re-enter the grounds by the correct route to get our tickets. The Hall was once the home of the Vernon family and is now owned by the National Trust. The house was built in 1701. We learnt how the phrase ‘election canvassing’ may have come about as people seeking election would have a poster painted on canvass which they would display in each place where they were seeking votes and would then roll it up and move on to the next public meeting. We toured the rooms that were open to the public and Pip explained the technique of trompe l’oeil, used by the artist Thornhill, in achieving his magnificent ceiling and wall paintings. After an ice-lolly we toured the grounds, visiting the orangery, the mushroom house, the parterre, the apple orchard, the wild garden and then on to the ice-house before we followed another public footpath back to the canal and to the boat for a rest.   We headed out again at 7.30pm to the Boat & Railway for a bite to eat as we’d managed to resist the temptation to eat at the pub at Stoke Pound!


Wednesday 22 April

The Wasp …


We revisited the Avoncroft Museum today and this time we had our own telephone engineer with us.

Mick enjoyed reliving his past experiences with the former British Telecom employee volunteers who manned the telephone exchange in the National Telephone Kiosk collection and who, together, helped explain to us how the various selectors, relays and systems worked.   For the first time I was able to operate a peg and cord switchboard, taking a call from Pip, who asked to be put through to Mr Fairchild (alias Storm).


One complicated piece of kit in the telephone exchange


The light on the roof lit up when I called the police!


Most of the telephone boxes were locked today, although the police phone box was open for a photo opportunity and there was a George VI phone box with A & B buttons that was in working order and allowed Pip to ring the phone box next door and complain to the telephone engineer who answered that there was a dreadful crackle on the line which was traced to a loose connection in the cable.

Today we also learnt;

  • That the Mission Church on site was built from a flat pack kit and it was possible to order a church of any size depending on the size of the expected congregation and additional rooms could be added afterwards if necessary. The building was capable of being put together in a day and these kits proved so popular they were shipped all over the world.

    Mission Church with organ extension

    Mission Church with organ extension

  • The origin of the word ‘CURFEW’.   In Medieval times, when the church bell tolled at dusk, residents had to return home to extinguish their fire that they used to heat their homes and prepare their food, which left the residents without any heat source in houses without glass in the windows and only doors and shutters protecting them from the elements. If anyone was found to have a fire alight in their homes they would be fined.
  • The initial grinding of grain produces wholemeal flour (available to the masses for baking) and only when it was sieved further was it separated into white flour (at one time only afforded by the wealthy), semolina and the bran remaining would be fed to the animals.   How things change!

In the chain shed where there were about six fireplaces either side of the shed where self-employed men would work in sweaty conditions making chains of different dimensions, for which they were paid peicework rates per hundredweight


Admiring the range of bellows in the chain shop

Admiring the range of large bellows that would be used to keep the fires hot in the chain shop

On our walk back from the museum we spotted this tin man relaxing in the sunshine.


Tuesday 21 April

We walked back to the top of Tardebigge flight of locks to meet up with Pip & Mick for 10.

Max enjoying the view from the top of Tardebigge reservoir

Max enjoying the view from the top of Tardebigge reservoir

We passed three boats who’d begun their descent through the locks. Two of these were sole boaters and they’d teamed up to help each other down the flight, moving three locks at a time with one boat and then bringing the other down.

Lillyanne moved off at 10.10 with Mick at the helm, leaving the rest of us to work the locks. Storm went ahead to prepare the locks ahead while Pip and I lowered Lillyanne down and closed the lock up afterwards.

IMG_4364 IMG_4367 IMG_4368

We’d done about a third of the flight when we caught up the other three boats. The two sole boaters moored up to let us pass and Storm assisted the third boat and refilled the lock they’d just left. (We saw the sole boaters again at 4.30pm as they headed to the pub for a well deserved drink – it had taken them 8 hours to bring their two boats down).

Waiting for the lock to refill slowed us down slightly but we still cleared the flight in under 3 hours. Pip and I had chatted away while we worked, and it didn’t feel as though we’d done 29 locks by the time we reached the bottom lock at 1pm.


Tardebigge Bottom Lock

Tardebigge Bottom Lock

After a reviving cup of tea I headed off again but on the bike this time, to buy some wine from Aldi in Bromsgrove. This was quite good because I was able to freewheel down hills and only had to push the bike up relatively short distances when peddling became too hard.

Our Tesco delivery arrived as planned and the driver insisted on barrowing it from the pub car park, along the road and down the towpath to the boat, despite us having taken the bike with us to act as a mule. What service and with a smile too and all just for a £2 delivery charge!

Pip and Mick invited us to join them for supper this evening for a delicious porky apple stew and yummy orange crunchy topped cake with fresh raspberries and blueberries.   Another evening when the time just whizzed by when conversation and wine flowed easily.

Monday 20 April

A chilly and sunny start to the day.  A text from NB Lillyanne let us know that they’d be joining us later today and asked if we’d like some secret bread from the shop in Alvechurch.   We said, “Yes please and could they pick us some Lurpak to go with it”.

We spent the morning catching up on emails and generally pottering about.

Lillyanne joined us just after lunchtime.  We had a discussion about tactics followed by a cup of tea and Pip and Mick spoilt us by sharing their cream cakes that they’d bought from the secret bakers.

Our tactical discussion resulted in us suggesting that we head off down the locks today and that we would come back to the top of the flight in the morning on foot and help Pip and Mick through the locks.   It was agreed that this sounded like a plan.  Mick said that he would come and help us through the locks today.  (Pip wasn’t shirking – she didn’t feel too good)

A boat had just come up the flight of 30 locks which should mean that most of them would be set in our favour.

Pip walked with us for some of the locks but then headed back to Lillyanne as  the sun was really quite warm.

We got quite a good rhythm going.  To start with the locks were all set in our favour but then after about the first ten, the locks ahead of us were empty so with Mick walking ahead to set the locks, I stayed and opened and closed the two bottom gates.   Just recently, I’ve found the confidence to stride from one narrow lock gate to the other which saves a lot of walking round.

We didn’t check the time as we set off but think it was about 3pm and we made good time, reaching the bottom about 6pm.   The only mistake we made was that we forgot to put the washing machine on!!  Never mind.

Our food stocks are almost exhausted and we placed an on-line order that will be delivered about 4pm tomorrow.

We were too busy working today to take any pictures.



Sunday 19 April

A chilly and overcast start to the day. Storm sanded down the paintwork from yesterday after which I washed off all the dust. We filled up with water while we waited for the boat to dry off and then we began applying a coat of enamel. We had just enough paint left in the can to do the gunnel. Phew!


I took Max for a walk and he helped gather some kindling for the fire.


We then waited until after lunch, to let the paint go off and as there was quite a stretch with no obstacles to scrape against, before we set off back towards Tardebigge.

Since we passed this way last year, they’ve created a circular fishing lake beside the canal and it looked strange seeing so many fisherman sitting so close to each other.   We had visions of the fish swimming round and round trying to evade capture.


We passed NB Lillyanne in Alvechurch and, as all was quiet on board, we left a note on their back deck letting them know that we’d see them at Tardebigge.

The sun came out late afternoon and we passed our first field this year of flowering oilseed rape. Towards the end of our journey we passed through Smallwood and Tardebigge tunnels which are both wide enough for two boats to pass so we had plenty of room with no fear of scraping the walls and we didn’t meet another boat.


We deposited our rubbish into the skips at Tardebigge Wharf but first had to clamber over a CRT working boat that was occupying the wharf.

By now our paint was touch dry and we headed towards Tardebigge top lock, one of the deepest locks on the canal system. We entered slowly and, as the boat doesn’t move much in the water when going down in a lock, we came out at the bottom with our paint unscathed.

We moored up on the 14 days moorings there to wait for Lillyanne. We had a lovely Skype chat with Summer, Marc & Laura.

Home-made pizza for tea.

Saturday 18 April

There was a cold wind this morning and we were glad that we’d fired up the stove last night.

A quick trip to Costcutter at the garage to buy our preferred paper, milk and bread*, after which we winded in the winding hole just ahead of us before mooring up again so we could paint the other side of the boat.

We’d already done 1 primer and 1 undercoat so just a light sanding was needed before we added 1 more undercoat.

Rather than hanging around to glare at hire boaters who came too close or too fast as they passed us, we took ourselves off for a circular walk that took us cross country to the Upper Bittell reservoir and back.  It was only afterwards that I realized I’d not taken any photos.

* If you buy anything from Costcutter at the garage in Hopwood, be sure to check the “Use by” date.




Friday 17 April

Today the weather was dry and cool enough to apply the final enamel coat of black paint and we managed to finish this before 11am so that it had plenty of time to cure and harden during daylight hours.

Pip and Mick came to check our handiwork and to tell us that they were planning to wind and head back to Alvechurch in readiness for Mick’s boat electrics course tomorrow, and before the returning hire boats take up all the moorings.   We arranged to meet them on Sunday evening when we plan to travel together towards Worcester.

Max and I left Storm pottering on the boat and we headed off for a walk along the towpath as far as West Hills tunnel before moving away from the canal along a public footpath westwards across fields and for the first part of the walk we believed we were miles from civilisation as there were just occasional houses and farms to see.   We then rejoined a country lane and got to one stile where there was a map advising that an alternative route be followed due to subsidence. Thankfully I had my phone with me so photographed the map and we followed the proposed new route. This led us down a narrow and muddy path beside some kind of sports facility where there were many football pitches, beyond which the urban sprawl of Longbridge was visible.  Eventually we came out onto a busy main road where there was no footpath and we edged our way carefully along the grass verge until we found a safe place to cross the road as there was a footpath on the opposite side.   According to the signage, we’d walked into Birmingham and then we passed another sign that welcomed us into Worcestershire.   We followed the main road back into Hopwood.

Later in the afternoon we got a text from Pip warning us that there were two stag parties and a hen party aboard three hire boats heading our way and the celebrations had already begun!

The first of these three narrowboats moored up behind us once they’d bounced off our stern as they tried to stop the boat. They apologised for crashing in to us and then dropped their mallet in the canal before attempting to tie up the boat before heading off to the pub. They’d already broken their barge pole as there was only half of it with a splintered end in the fore deck so we’re not sure what they’d been fending off with that.  Thankfully there was no real damage done to our boat.

The second boat passed us by without incident and then the hen party arrived and they moored in front of us, but not before scraping our front end as they came in. Thankfully it was the side that we’ve not yet painted.

It is a little galling that hire boat companies do not seem to concern themselves with how their hirers behave once they’ve set out on their journey as first time hirers are unaware of the potential damage they can cause to both themselves and others. It appears that they are given little training, if any.

Anyway, it is all quiet tonight.  The girls are celebrating quietly on board and the guys moved off after their visit to the pub to go and moor somewhere else.