Tuesday 7 July. 5 1/2 miles, 1 Tunnel.
On the way south we stop at High Onn Bridge and walk a mile into Church Eaton. Nice little isolated village with the usual variety of buildings. Got talking to a local about the buildings and he asks us how old we think a Black and White building is. Turns out to be 30 years old. When you look at the Oak closely it is all symmetrical and has regular saw cuts. He also sent us down a side road where the old vicarage has been renovated and now on the market for around 8 million. Back to the boat for lunch then off we go. No cooling water coming through the engine so back onto the bank for a look see. The pump belt is so loose it is not driving the pump, A bit of rope and cable tie sorts the problem out and we cautiously head off to Wheaton Aston where there is road access to the canal. Ring the River Canal Rescue (AA of the waterways). Very good service over the phone and will have an engineer with us in the morning. We have been here before but nothing much to see.
Wednesday 8 July. 3 miles, 1 lock.
The RCR engineer arrived and after a struggle to see how the pump was tightened he managed to finish the job and get rid of the rope and cable ties. At least I know how it is meant to be tightened so will be able to do it myself if it happens again. Moved down to Brewood as that is where Alison & Keith will join us tomorrow. A very friendly village and happy to spend a couple of nights here. Walked familiar roads and repeated the photos taken in 2010.
Thursday 9 July. 0 miles
Tidied up the boat to make room for extras. Stocked up the fridge. Keith & Alison arrived by taxi mid afternoon and once all their gear was on board we went to show them some of the highlights of Brewood. They had traveled from Cornwall to London the day before so were happy for a quiet night onboard.
Friday 10 July. 7 1/2 miles, 1 lock
We travelled up the Shroppie to the Autherley Junction. Introduced them to a lock. As it is a stop lock I told them it was a special training lock for beginners. Turned East onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal traveling to Cross Green where we moored up to walk into the village of Coven, Nothing there but when we got back to where the boat was we stopped at the Fox & Anchor for a drink which led into dinner, it was Diana's birthday after all. Stayed the night moored outside.
Saturday 11 July. 7 1/2 miles, 6 locks.
Yesterday a local in Coven said the only place around here was Penkridge and Saturday was market day. Off we go through mostly country side and a bit of industry. Keith and Alison get to experience decent size locks. Penkridge had some nice buildings to view. The market was nothing to write home about and it wasn't long before we were back on the boat for the evening.
Sunday 12 July. 7 1/2 miles, 6 locks
Before we headed off we went back into town for some items for tea. Alison & Keith are on tea duty tonight. Ready to go. Turn the boat around and head back the way we came. On the way we stop to introduce the visitors into a "pump out" and taking on water. Tomorrow we are heading into Birmingham and the nearest safe mooring before there is back at the Fox & Anchor. Drinks and dinner on board tonight.
Monday 13 July. 10 1/2 miles, 21 locks
Early start with a bit of drizzle about. Get to the bottom of the 21 locks at 0800 and start on up. Not much drizzle at the moment. It is a long slog up. About two thirds the way up it starts to rain heavy so we pull over for a cuppa. Two boats go passed before the conditions improve and we continue on to Wolverhampton where our visitors leave us and Murray will join us. Shortly after we set off again Murray walks down the towpath to meet us. Stop for lunch at the top of the locks then Murray takes Keith & Alison to the station he has just come from. With the change of crew complete we continue on to The Black Country Museum as we know it is a safe place to moor behind locked gates.
Tuesday 14 July. 0 miles
We spend a good part of the day in the Museum. A new street has been built since our visit in 2006. It includes a traditional F & C shop cooking in dripping. A cone of chips each for lunch. Just before closing we get a call from friends from Napier to say they have found the boat and waiting there. We leave the museum and enjoy an hour or so with them.
Wednesday 15 July 8 1/2 miles, 3 locks.
Today it's into Birmingham City. Last time it was via the Wolverhampton Level which was grubby and all sorts floating in the canals. It also took us under motorways and generally made us wonder why we were there. This time we took the newer straighter Birmingham Level. Wide, Deep and very little rubbish in the canal. Eventually we are back onto a familiar canal again and moor up short of the city as the place is busy. Walk into town and note there have been some changes with new buildings up and demolition in full swing. Dine at a very good Thai restaurant.
Thursday 16 July. 0 miles
Diana has not had a good nights sleep. Body covered in a rash and been itching all night. We guess an allergic reaction to something in the Thai food. Decide to go to a medical centre associated with Boots the chemist. That proved a waste of time so Murray suggested we need to go to a walk in centre. The nearest one is 3 stops away by train. Once there we only wait for 1 hour before Diana has been seen and a prescription for an anti-histamine is given. By the time we are back in town we stop at Selfridges for an Italian meal. A bit average.
Friday 17 July. 0 miles
Diana has had a better night's sleep so we are back in tourist mode. First we visit the new library. A great piece of architecture. Modern, functional and an icon for Birmingham. The only got one thing wrong. They were over budget so sacked half the staff so they can only open it for about 6 hours a day. What a waste. Then it was on to the Art Gallery where there is a special exhibition of William Morris and Andy Warhol. Well the William Morris stuff was well worth the visit. Still can't figure out why the Andy Warhol stuff was there. That took most of the day so back to the boat via a walk through town. The evening entertainment is the party boats going up and down the canal.
Saturday 18 July. 600 yds.
Last night Murray did something to his back. This morning he can't get out of bed. I take a walk down the towpath to see if we can move a bit closer to town. I find a 14 day mooring at Cambrian wharf so moor up there before calling an ambulance. Eventually they find us and whisk Murray, us in toe, to A & E. Four hours later Murray is discharged with painkillers and a walking stick in hand. Movement is slow. The decision is made that it will be difficult for Murray to get back on the boat and if he did he would not be that comfortable. We take a cab to the railway station and arrange travel for him & Diana to Glasgow this afternoon. Diana and I leave Murray at the station while we walk back to the boat to pack Murray and Diana's bags. Then walk back to the station where they eventually catch the 1715 to Glasgow. So tonight I am moored next to a pub with loud music.