Monday, 31 August 2015

Off down the Stratford

Summer 2015
Longwood to Hockley Heath
August 2015

Its August Bank Holiday Monday and here we are at Hockley Heath, two days into our summer trip..... and its chucking it down!

When towing The Jam Butty we are constantly asked where we are going and its amusing to say "Windmill End", a look of confusion crossing their faces as they think "isn't Windmill end on the BCN?.... but you are going south".

It is true that we are making for the Black Country Boating Festival, but that's not for two weeks so we are paying Stratford and Tewkesbury a visit along the way. With the summer fruit a bit late this year we should also be able to stock up on wild ingredients and come to the festival armed with some very fresh produce. 

Day one was abandoned before we even started. The thing is that we are off to New York in a few weeks and will be returning in the Queen Mary 2, which dictates a level of sartorial elegance neither Helen or I can really achieve at present. So it was a case of load up the boat and then hit central Birmingham and give the credit card a good old work out.

From a boating perspective day two was more productive. The mile pound below Rushall Locks (why were they called "Moshes"?) has been fixed and we are back to normal water levels - ie shallow - and then onto the long slow Tame Valley. With the temperature at about 22 it was perfect boating weather and as you would predict, the northern BCN was heaving (not). In fact we travelled on the backwaters for seven hours before we saw another boat - its like having 40 miles of personal canal which is great. 

The northern BCN canals are much cleaner these days and whilst we had to make half a dozen trips down the weed hatch they were all for its given purpose - to clear weed which does build up an late summer. Nothing nasty, not even many poly bags.

As we passed through Smethwick I got to wondering. When the old Brindley summit existed it was fed by Smethwick Great Reservoir, which was drained in the mid 1800's after Rotton Park Reservoir came on stream. My question is "where was it". My research suggests it was the site of today's Victoria Park but I am not sure. Answers in the comments box please.

A very pleasant day ended at Symphony Court where we moored on the private moorings and shared a few glasses of wine with Nick and Victoria.

As we move towards out summers aboard the boat phase in 2016, we are trying not to hurry and move as we fancy. It was therefore a 10.00am departure from central Birmingham, the butty being the focus of a great many photos, as usual. Then it was the two and a half hour pull out to Kings Norton Junction where we dropped off a jar of jam to the guys who live in the old junction house as a thank you for putting up with us during the recent festival.

Leaving the Worcester Birmingham and transferring to the North Stratford also meant we left most of the hire boats behind and for the next five hours no boats came up behind us. That's a real bonus because trying to facilitate an overtaking maneuver on a shallow, narrow waterway is a real challenge.

Just before we set off I decided to tackle the stern gland problem. It was repacked a couple of years ago but it had reached the maximum adjustment and water was coming in steadily - and the auto pump was kicking in every three hours of travel. I was fearing that new stern gear was needed but before going to that expense I decided to repack it myself using some thick gauge packing I had in reserve. I extracted the old packing with a curved bradawl tool I found in my grandfathers shoe repairing box and then discovered that the new square profile packing was too thick to get into the stuffing box. Undaunted, I compresses it a bit with a hammer and then pressed it home using the stuffing box adjuster plate to drive it home. All seemed ok till I ram the engine in gear and the stern gland warmed up!

I was therefore more than a bit nervous when we started off on our two week trip with a very uncertain stern gland. However, I forced plenty of grease into it and hoped for the best. The grease did the trick and it soon bedded in and guess what - two days of travel and not so much as a drop of water! I have even mopped out the drip box to check and so far it remains stubbornly dry!

And to here we sit, planning our New York itinerary, practicing our dance moves on the towpath (almost as funny as it was romantic) and waiting for the blinking rain to stop. Hopefully we will be off down the Lapworth Flight this afternoon and arrive in Stratford on Wednesday.

Sorry, no photos so far. Will do better next time!

Happy bank holiday one and all.


Adam said...

Are you heading back to base after the festival? We are due to be exploring some of the BCN later in our trip (which starts tomorrow), and we should be around the Longwood area around the 19 Sept (not sure exactly when). If this is before you head across the pond, it would be great to meet up.

Andrew Tidy said...

I Adam - we will be between the BCBF and New York so a meet up is possible. We have guests round that weekend and I have promised one of our guests (Alan) a boat trip and some beer. The options would be a mid day trip to the Finger Post on Pelsall Common or a trip to the Manor Arms about 30 mins north of Longwood. Lets check where we are a few days beforehand and see if we can get together.

Adam said...

Hi Andy, that's great -- I'm taking a slightly more relaxed approach to the planning of this trip, so when I know exactly where we'll be when, I'll let you know!

Andrew Tidy said...

That works for me Adam! It will be great to see you both again.