Sunday, 27 September 2020

Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Stratford to Draper's Bridge.

 We spent a glorious weekend under Shakespeare’s watchful gaze in Bancroft Basin.


While the Bard was keeping an eye on Legend we went for a walk up to the Welcombe Hills country park. There’s a very pointy monument up there surrounded by some very pleasing views.





We also had a stroll down the Tramway for our weekend Waitrose fix.

On the Sunday morning Kim and Luke phoned and asked if we were about, so there was a flurry of scone making and child proofing then a fabulous afternoon in the park with a boomerang that wouldn’t come back and pink ice-creams.


Dave was up early on Monday morning flattening our roof-tat before we reversed off our pontoon and exited the basin under the rather low bridge.



Our smooth departure came to an abrupt halt above the first lock where the pound was virtually empty.


Dave carefully edged Legend out of the lock; it cleared the cill, but it wasn’t going any further...
...so Ann-Marie ran some water down from the pound above until we got floating again. Half way across the pound Dave ran aground again, so Ann-Marie had to do some more winding. While all this was going on a hire boat appeared in the pound we were stealing water from. Thankfully they were an experienced crew so they weren’t phased by what was going on, and before long we were all on our way.
The bottom 5 locks on the Stratford are hard work; gates that are really stiff and heavy, gates that won’t open all the way or won’t stay closed, difficult paddles and leaky pounds and, where a bridge has been widened, there’s a horrible truncated gate beam with a 90° angle that looks like it’s made out of a kid’s Mechano set, and feels about as sturdy.
On the plus side we got a bucket full of crab apples from a tree on the off side and had a shower while we filled with water. We moored up at the bottom of Wilmcote locks where there was a nice wide towpath and a bit of a verge that we could work on.

First job was getting our freebie washing machine out onto the towpath to see if it worked. Once there, we switched our big inverter on and plugged it in.


The lights came on (Hurrah!), then everything flickered and the lights went off again.(Boo) It clearly didn’t like the quasi sinewave output from our big inverter, so we switched to the small pure sinewave one. This time the lights stayed on (Hurrah!). We poured a bucket of water through the drawer, put it on a program, turned the temperature to cold and off it went. (Hurrah, hurrah!) And it span and it drained and it didn’t leak.


That was enough fun for one day, so Ann-Marie set too cleaning it, while Dave finished off the shelf that it’s going to sit on, put a spur across the boat from the hot pipe and made a temporary platform to go on top of the engine covers so it would be easier to slide the machine into position. He also fixed a couple of hooks at the back of the recess so we can strap it in position; we really don’t want a washing machine walking out of its hole on its final spin while we’re under way.

The next day we put it back in the engine room, not in it’s hole, but close enough to the plumbing so we could test it. We hooked it all up, put some expendable clothes and cloths in and switched it on. It started filling, but we noticed that some water was dribbling out from under the detergent drawer. We cured that simply by pulling the drawer out a fraction, and put it on the list of things to investigate. Sadly, with the drum full of heavy washing, when it got to the rotating part of the cycle it was too much for little 350w inverter which tripped out, so we went to plan B and put the gennie on. It was perfectly happy with that and finished the wash with no problems. While that load was on the line in the breeze we put another load through with the gas boiler switched on. That came out rather scuzzy, so we did another load as hot as our boiler would go with old towels and soda crystals in it. The rinsing water told the story, lots of scale and crud came out so we gave it a good clean inside with white vinegar. A good clean up of the detergent drawer cured the dribble and cleaning out the holes at the bottom of the door seal has made it rinse a lot better. It’s done several washes since then and it’s all fine.

Why then was it abandoned by the side of the road? Obviously someone couldn’t be bothered to dispose of it properly, but why get rid of a working machine? Well it might be that the heating element doesn’t work, we’ll never know because we’ll never use it. Or it could be that they moved in with a bigger, newer one, or any number of other reasons. But we really don’t care, we’ve got a working washing machine on our boat and we’re immensely happy about that, (Ann-Marie especially, because washing is a Pink Job). We’ve also done Evesham Town Council and the world a favour by keeping it out of landfill.

We’ll obviously need a bigger PSW inverter if we want to run it off solar or while we’re under way, and we still need to put a drain hole and skin fitting through the side of the boat - that will have to wait until the towpath is on the other side though, it’s getting a bit cold for waders. 

During the day, CRT had been doing emergency repairs on one of the locks further up the flight.


That evening, while we we were sitting at the table engrossed in our weekly on-line quiz, we suddenly realised that the boat had begun to lean over quite dramatically. While Ann-Marie went through the boat carrying out damage limitation...



...Dave leapt out, grabbed a head torch and a windlass and shot off down the towpath, expecting to find a breach or some other catastrophe.

About half a mile away, what he found was the next lock, with the top gate wide open and the bottom paddle fully up; a situation that can’t happen by accident. By the time he’d shut everything and got back, all the other boaters at the bottom of the locks, (which numbered quite a few hire boats, due to the temporary lock closure) were out of their boats and doing headless chicken impressions. Dave and Chris from the boat next to us went up to the flight and opened up all three bottom locks to try and refill our pound. It took nearly all the water from the big pound above them to get everyone floating again, which was fortunate, because the works team had got the lock above that drained, so there wasn’t any more to be had. It was just as well that Dave had stopped what was left of our water disappearing when he did. Anyway, drama over, we closed everything down again and all went to bed, hoping that whoever did it wasn’t going to come back and have another go.

Next morning we were still floating and Dave was off to go and retrieve our car from Stourport where it had been for the last three weeks. Through a Facebook group called Car Moves on the Cut, he’d found a chap called Paul who was boating from the Stratford canal to Stourport. He was going to give Dave a lift there in his car, and Dave was going to give him a lift back in ours. How neat. Dave was also going to drop into Limekiln Chandlers and pick up a skin fitting. Paul and Dave got on like a house on fire, it turned out they’re both the same age, both have the same ailments, both used to drive trucks, and both have a fairly similar easygoing live-and-let-live attitude to life. A very enjoyable trip and a new firm friendship.

Having got our car back we made good use of it with a trip over to Mum & Dad’s and Karen’s. Over the last goodness knows how many years, a bump has been very gradually growing in the hallway floor in Mum & Dad’s bungalow, and we’d put that weekend aside to go over and investigate what was going on. Sulphation and subsidence had been suggested, but as there was no collateral damage, we thought that was unlikely. It didn’t take long to take up the floor tiles, chisel the screed out and chop down through the concrete to find out what had happened.

There was a foundation wall that had been built half way across the hallway and the concrete had been poured around it, but not at a sufficient depth to be stable over the long term. Over the years the concrete had settled slightly around the wall which had caused the bump. 

We put some bolts into the wall and some re-enforcing bars along the hole and tamped some new concrete into the hole up to about 25mm below the top.




Next day after it had set, we mixed some mortar and put a new screed topping on. Quite an easy job, and nice to be able to help out. Dave used the left-over mortar to re-point some of the crazy paving round the fish pond and Ann-Marie gave Mum a hand in the garden, sorting out plant pots, putting a new greenhouse up and generally moving things that Mum can’t manage.

Dave went for a blood test while we were over there and had a chat with the pharmacist about collecting his repeat prescriptions. That was a very informative conversation; she told him about the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), a paper-free system for sending prescriptions to pharmacies electronically. What makes it good for us is that if you don’t nominate a pharmacy, it will hold a prescription virtually, until you go into any pharmacy with your NHS number and request it. So now, although it’s always nice to go down every now and then to see the folks, we don’t have to go every month to pick up Dave’s meds. We’re planning to take Legend back up north next year; we still haven’t done the Trent or anything off it, and the Standedge tunnel on the Huddersfield canal is still beckoning, so being able to collect a prescription from anywhere on our route is a Godsend.

When we got back to Legend we found that Paul and Maxine had moored Nb Rosemary behind us so, inevitably, that evening turned into an impromptu towpath party, and the next couple of days were really good fun.

After they left, Dave finally got round to making a new bracket for Legend’s alternator. A bit of technical detail might be useful here. On Lister engines, the engine pulley is on the camshaft, which means that it runs at half speed, and as it’s a slow revving engine anyway that often results in the alternator generating very little power - if any - at tick over. At some point in it’s history, someone added a bigger belt pulley to the engine to make the alternator run faster; a sensible idea if you need to charge the batteries without moving. It’s not something we do because we use the genny to run a mains battery charger, but it’s still handy to have that option. Anyway, they had to move the alternator to get it to line up with the new pulley, which meant using a different method to support the belt tensioner. Whoever did it chose a very bodge method and it’s been on our list of things to sort out ever since we moved in. However, so far it hasn’t broken, the pulleys are still aligned, and the belt hasn’t been slipping. Recently though things have changed. As we already had an electric kettle to use excess solar in the summer, in and effort to save even more gas we though it would be a good idea to use it for making brews when we were under way. That put quite a load on the alternator, but nothing beyond it’s design capabilities. It was however beyond the capabilities of the bodge job tensioning bracket which flexed and allowed the belt to slip. As we’re now planning on using the washing machine while we’re going along, fixing the bracket suddenly became high priority.

This is what Dave made out of an old roller support off a boat trailer.



He was quite proud of his achievement, and posted it on a narrowboat technical forum with some pictures. One keen eyed forum member pointed out that the pulleys, although nicely aligned, are different widths; something Dave hadn’t even considered, let alone noticed. It turns out that the engine pulley is 13mm and the alternator is 10mm. So now we need to find a replacement alternator pulley, a task which is proving to be trickier that we first thought, and the list hasn’t got any shorter.

On the Friday,we took the car into Stratford for an MOT. While we were waiting we bought a pack of stubbies and wandered across to Bancroft Basin where Paul and Maxine were moored. They were going off down the Avon the next day so it was nice to be able to say goodbye. We’ll keep in touch and no doubt our paths will cross again sometime. We’re happy to report that our faithful little Kia passed another MOT. No mention was made of Dave’s brake pipes, which is a good thing, and we already knew about the couple of advisories that cropped up, so it was all good.

With the car moved forward to Edstone Aqueduct, we finally climbed Wilmcote locks and found a beautiful sun trap mooring at Draper Bridge.



Climbing the flight was fabulous, wall to wall sunshine, lots of boats going both ways and a couple of CRT volunteers helping out as well. Perfect boating to a perfect Indian summer mooring.

After this week the weather is going to start getting colder, soon there’ll be stews on the fire and muddy boots in the welldeck, but we don’t mind. The summer of 2020 will be talked about for a long time, and it’s now looking like the winter probably will be as well, but as we snuggle into our toasty little boat, we’ll look back on the good stuff; the unprecedented bounty of wild fruit, the new solid friendships, the fabulous sunny days and the adventures we’ve had.

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