Thursday 30 November 2017

Alvechurch (the joy of getting insured as a traveller)

Karen and I went for a cheeky Wednesday drink on Tuesday night at the Crown which is opposite where we are moored this week.  We sort of have a moral duty to pop in there as Joe, the landlord, let’s Karen park in the car park.  It’s the sort of pub that should do really well; it’s in a great location and is quirky inside.  It has recently changed hands yet again and is quite quiet as the new owners are working on a refit.

It would be great if they could leave it as it is, a traditional English pub. It has separate public and saloon bars, which is not unusual I know but it also still has the off sales window and a snug/smoke room.

Wednesday morning saw me and Buddy walking down to one of the butcher shops in the village as I had run out of pork pies. I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but I always like to try what is on offer from each new butcher we find.  I have to admit that these Black Country pies are rather good so hence the stocking up.

I seem to have spent a lot of time on the phone and internet this week trying to renew our car insurance.  Fewer and fewer companies seem to want to cover travellers like us; they are insistent that the vehicle must be kept overnight at the insured’s residence.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether it is on the road outside the house, on the drive or in the garage.

Large companies like Aviva used to cover travellers’ vehicles but no longer and it seems we are now down to one specialist company, ERS or Equity Red Star, a Lloyds syndicate who seem to specialise in niche motor markets such as historic racing cars etc.  They only deal through brokers so it’s a matter of finding a broker that has them on their panel.  I found that Hearts Insurance (HIC) could get the best rate even though it’s more than double the premium if the car was kept at an address.  By the way, I have mentioned names as it may help any fellow cc’ers reading this and it was Jessica I dealt with.

The policy schedule states that the car is kept on public roads and that the insured are resident on a travelling boat so at least we’re covered.  From some of the conversations I had it seems many people won’t be covered with their standard insurance including those who go off cruising for a few months taking their car with them.

On our afternoon walk we passed a house that had it’s Christmas decorations up already!  Not only that it had a large display of reindeer and other beasts in the garden!  I’ll leave my thoughts on Christmas out of this blog entry but with such an extended period these days I doubt I’ll be able to contain myself.

It has been a brilliant week weather-wise; cold but clear and bright.  I think I ought to get Buddy’s coat out as he must feel the cold being so skinny. 

Ideal weather for marina building opposite our mooring this week

At least we have our favourite coal to keep the boat toasty.  Mike pointed out that when I talked, in a recent blog, about the different types of coal we’ve tried that I never mentioned what we found best – it’s a brand called Excel.  We have come across two different Excel products and the one that works for us is the one in the bright yellow bags.


Tuesday 28 November 2017

Alvechurch (taking the recycling bags for a walk)

Sunday saw us up early to drive down to Reading to pick up my youngest two, Jake and Polly, as we were off to Southampton to see them play Everton.  As, is always the case, when Polly goes to see them, they won - she has yet to see them lose so is obviously our lucky mascot considering how badly they have performed this season.  In fact they ended up thrashing Everton so we had a thoroughly good, if long Sunday.

The four of us at the football match

In case you thought we were cruel and left Buddy on the boat all day, we didn’t: we left him at Lauren and Lewis’s in Reading.  They had friends up for the weekend who had a yellow Labrador so Buddy was in his element all day.

It’s always amazing how the recycling builds up, so on Monday I researched where the nearest recycling centre was and found that there were recycling bins in the public car park in Alvechurch.  For our first walk of the day we set off for the car park only to find that the bins had been removed.  I popped into the greengrocers to get a lettuce and the lady told me that they had only recently been removed but why didn’t I just use peoples' green bins on my walk back to the boat.  I didn’t really feel I could do that so went to the local boatyard but they wouldn’t take it – they only recycle items left by their hire boaters.  So, it was back to the boat fully laden still.  I was probably slightly grumpy as it had started raining and I hadn’t expected to walk quite so far with so much recycling  

In the evening we went over to Stratford to play bridge so we stopped off at Sainsbury’s on the way to get rid of the recycling.  

Moored next to the new marina being built here at Alvechurch reminds us of when we were moored on Mike and Lesley’s mooring over the summer in Cropredy.  They were in the process of having a new house built on their mooring so, on weekdays, we often watched the mechanical digger at work.

Reminding us of the few weeks spent at Cropredy in the summer

On Tuesday, we walked south on the canal towards Tardebigge and had a look at Cobley aqueduct on the way.  This aqueduct has always fascinated me as it looks like it crosses a dry river bed but it is very unusual to have dry river beds in this part of the country.

Cobley aqueduct from the ‘river bed’

Upon investigating further I have found that the river bed is actually one of the old saltways from Droitwich.  Many of these were built to transport salt to local villages and several roads in the area have stretches that are still called Saltway.  The track must still have been in use when the canal was built otherwise the aqueduct wouldn’t have been deemed necessary.

Part of the Droitwich-Alvechurch saltway which, apparently, is mentioned in the Domesday book

Following the old path up Cobley Hill gave us some wonderful views across the open countryside and we also came across some meadowland that, judging by the state of the molehills, hadn’t been cultivated for a long time.  This is always a refreshing sight to see as it often means it will be good for butterflies etc.

Old molehills

Its only just over a fortnight until Shirley lift bridge is due to reopen, so over the next few days I will probably start thinking about turning around and making our way back to Lapworth for the last part of the year.  

We won’t be able to get into the centre of Lapworth until the 16th December as the locks are closed until then but in the week between the bridge opening and the locks opening we will probably moor at the top of the Lapworth flight or in Hockley Heath.  It will make Karen happier about her journey to work as she will be able to go cross country rather than use the motorways.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Alvechurch (where our first boat was born)

With only 15 weeks of work to go now, Karen has managed to relinquish some of her responsibilities already.  This meant she didn’t have to work on Friday for a change so, in the morning, we walked to Alvechurch along the towpath and also had a look around the town/village which lies about 1/3rd mile from the canal.  There are a lot of modern houses in Alvechurch which gives it a town feel, but the independent shops and friendly passers-by give it a village feel.  Strangely it has two butchers’ shops, so we took a while debating which one to choose when stocking up on meat over the weekend. 

When we got home, Karen made some soup for lunch whilst I moved the boat down to the water point outside the Hopwood House pub, took on water, and then moored up a bit further on next to a little lay by.  This was ideal as we needed more coal and as there are no fuel boats on this part of the canal, I drove to the coal merchants at Hockley Heath.  I say ideal as it meant it was easy to offload the coal bags onto the boat.

Parking next to where the boat is parked

A couple of weeks ago I had bought coal at Lyons boatyard on our way to Hopwood and as they didn’t have our usual brand I bought two other brands.  We have tried both and neither burn as well as our usual brand (relatively ash-free and hot).  As the weather was predicted to be a bit colder over the coming week I was more than happy to drive to Hockley Heath as they stock our brand – oddly, even though fuel boats seem to stock it, boat yards don’t seem to.

Later on, we cruised down to Alvechurch and although it was crisp and sunny, cruising wasn’t easy as the sun was very low and in our eyes.  We decided to moor up by the Crown pub right opposite the new marina that is being built there.

Our mooring for the next week (opposite the new marina)

We went for a couple of pints in the pub which seemed to only take men as customers as Karen was the only girl there.  They were very friendly though and the landlord said Karen could use the car park during the week especially if we had the odd drink in his pub ūüėä  We had thought of cruising on a bit further on Saturday but with good parking near the boat and a non-muddy towpath we decided to stay put.

Further on from where we moored, at the other end of Alvechurch, is the boatyard where our first boat was built.  It was built as a hire boat in 1992 and we bought it at the end of its serviceable life but had some happy years on it.

Once we were up on Saturday (which was a lovely frosty morning) we decided to go for a bike ride and then pick up the car that we had left at Hopwood on Friday.  We had left the car next to a pig field and Buddy found the pigs very interesting.

In the afternoon we walked into Alvechurch town/village, visited the butchers and greengrocers and then spent the rest of the day indoors.  We did come across this sign which can be viwed in so many ways, including an elephant washing itself.