Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Lost, hot and no drink.

Autumn jobs started today, well actually yesterday morning when we stopped and after watering up we cheekily washed and scrubbed the roof as there were no other boats around.  So when we arrived in Kinver yesterday and after Polly had put the kettle on and we had had afternoon tea with cake in the sun on a raised picnic area in a clearing that had been made for boaters, we polished the roof.

The thing about boat polishing is that once you start your boat appears to increase in size.
Once we got a routine going it wasn't too long till we had completed it.  But the roof is the easiest bit to my mind as there is no bending down and its all easy to see.
It was a bit upsetting that this morning that the sparkling roof had leaves on it so I pick them off before we went off to explore Kinver.
The High Street is a short walk away and is one of those nice towns that still has a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker.  

We had been told about Kinver Ridge and wanted to go there, trouble is how to get there.  No problem as there was a sign for the Tourist Information Office down the street, so off we went to find it... nothing, we must have missed it so retraced our steps.... nothing.... it was hot by now so as David was losing is sense of humour and needing a spot of caffeine so I popped into a cafĂ© to ask if they knew where the Tourist office was, 
"Its here chick..." the lady said pointing to a small wire rack on the wall behind me containing a few leaflets.  But hey-ho there was a map of Kinver on a leaflet and the walk up to the Ridgeway.  Coffee drunk so Let's Go Rambling.
Now you all know how David loves his maps, but since we have been in the Wild West Midlands we have been looking for a map shop but there are none.  
Low level map anxiety had set in so I was pleased that there was a least there was a map of sorts to be comforting him.  Oh dear me, the map had roads on it that were not named, the street had signs directing you seemingly in the wrong direction.  I tried to calm him but didn't do that well, I wouldn't say we argued but it was a close thing.  
After getting lost and being directed up there, coming to a brick wall things were getting desperate serious measures were called for.  I asked a passer by.
So now on the correct road with a letter of complaint to the map publishers being mentally written in my head as we arrived up the steep hill to the car park of The Rock Houses.  
The whole area to the west of Kinver is a huge sandstone escarpment covered  partly in a marvellous forest and heathland.  On one side are the Kinver Rock Houses.  Caves that have been inhabited for centuries by self sufficient people growing crops in the fertile sandy soils and grazing their animals in the surrounding woods
HERE to see the NT link

There was a couple at the car park, more elderly than us and a tad irritated as they had arrived to visit the houses and unwittingly come on a day the houses were closed.  As we had.  
They set off on the path while we studied the NT map which we hoped was better than the rubbish tourist one.  We concluded that we needed to follow the old folks who said they were going to the houses, but it was like a horror film set as these old folks had simply vanished into the trees although we had been talking to them only one minute before....
So Reader,  what could be better, I swapped a town with no map for a dense old folk eating forest with cliffs to walk around in with a moody muttering husband who kept saying 
"Where's the sun?"   
"If only I could see the sun I can get us out of here"...... it was cloudy.
I led the way confidently up the nearest path, it was criss-crossed with other pathways and yes same thing with us, the NT map just twenty yards or so behind us had vanished really quickly...  I kept an eye out for the orange dots that we were supposed to be following.  One at the start then we hardly found any more at all.  Marvellous.
But as we kinda followed our noses and eventually came upon these

Not open today but nonetheless an insight into past lives.

When the family increased in size, they simply dug out another room in the rock.

Lovely paths laid out plus splendid views.

Veg gardens have been restored.

Two or three houses in a row.

Handy well outside your front door.

The blurb says that they were inhabited until recent decades. 
So we continued  uphill towards the Ridge.  Nice big fat blackberries to be had here, so sweet we just ate them, seems blackberrying is out of fashion these days.
When you had reached the very top the views went for miles 

Maybe that is Scotland in the distance.

Right on the top.

Views for miles

Well we decided to walk along a marked pathway on the ridge, two sides of a triangle and come to Kinver church, off we set, a fair few people around, sun had come out, birds were singing and the sky was blue.  Then it dawned on us that we had no idea in which direction the flaming church was as the trees were in the way.
After a lot more muttering mostly about who had forgotten the water bottle, we started to walk in the estimated direction, this was based on the sun as it had now come out.
Forty minutes later, a bit hot and with confidence slipping I asked a couple of fairly speedy walkers where we were going, where was the Church, which is the correct path and finally can we please follow them.  I said that we would walk behind them fifty paces so as not to intrude and the sweet pair were jolly sporting.  They agreed that it was confusing with seeming hundreds of paths going this way and that, none of them marked orange, of course.
So we upped the pace and when we slipped behind had to almost jog to keep up, such is the general fitness levels of the locals.  When they got to another junction they even stopped till we came into view and waved their intended route.  Frankly Reader without them I think we may have still been there.  When we arrived into a car park they too had completely vanished.  There was another sign telling walkers where they were, but nothing saying which direction Kinver was. I kid you not.

So as David stood in the centre of the car park gazing up at the sun and down at the shadows, I flagged down a passing car.  It became apparent that it's pretty complicated to get back to Kinver even though it was the only town in the immediate area, but the nice man gave directions and off he drove and off we set.  Fifteen minutes later, I heard a car getting close and we stepped into the grass.  It was the nice man, he had been give the task of getting his baby grandson off to sleep in the car and come back to rescue us!!!!  He took us to The Vine pub in Kinver and had he not have been in sole charge of a babe we would have stood him five pints such was our gratitude.  The man told us that he lives very close to Kinver Edge and they have lost walker regularly knocking on their doors asking for directions!!!  So you see Reader it wasn't just being old and daft..... this time.

 We recovered with long cool drinks and eventually had supper here too.  
PS Never saw the Old Folks again from the car park and never came across the church.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Swindon to Kinver

Well time to leave Swindon today.  David had returned to the boat with paper, milk and a smile from doing his "Hunter gatherer' bit.  
We cast off following a couple of boats who had moved off within the last fifteen minutes.  
The  run was again very beautiful, wooded sections with the sun filtering through then more open sections.
Here are a few pictures to try and show the beauty of it all;

An Aquaduct

The other side of the aqueduct 
This lower section of this canal is bendy, very bendy.  Then the sandstone is apparent.

Love these steps

Dunsley Tunnel, just a wee one cut into the rock

This sweet place had been extended along the canal then..... 

Look at what happen next!
Past that lock and a long line of CART moored boats all in tall trees, a bit dark.
Then it all opens up again, the canal curves around this cute hill and one more lock down into...

Lock above Kinver

Glorious Kinver
Skinny supper was Red Thai Curry for a complete change!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Sunny Sunday

A good early start leaving Wightwick, on Sunday and we were out into open farmland very quickly, in and out of trees with views across, all lovely.

The first one of these misty dawns so far this year. 

A lost opportunity, we used to have zillions of these churns now going for £50....

A place of interest was Bratch Locks, a series of three staircase locks.  We are pretty used to these as we regularly go up and down Watford and Foxton Locks.  I knew there was going to be a lock Keeper but I was surprised to find a "Proper" one, a seasonal but employed one.
There were instructions written up on a board which I read, walked away from and then went back and read them again....
The Lockie had seen us coming, set the critical bits and welcomed us in and then explained it.  Its the same but different to Foxton and Watford.  you fill the top one to go into, then go down to the middle one of the three, open those paddles so that the water from the top lock goes into the middle lock, got that.  Then you have to go ahead to empty the third one, so that when you open the paddles of the middle one you don't swamp the pavements, the bridge and the towpath below.

All nicely kept as is usually the case when there is a lock keeper.

Toll Booth

Middle of three then there was a big panic as this was the only rubbish point around.

I am really liking the names in these parts

How great to have this on your address.

I was so pleased to say hello the crew of NB Etoile du Nord, who are the first people that have said to me "I read your blog!", I am just so sorry that I forgot to ask your names, but I do hope to meet up again maybe nearer to your home!

NB Etoile du Nord

Pretty lovely pinks developing for autumn

See how lovely South Staffordshire is?

On round this hill then down into Swindon. 

Lunch was a roast that we had at Swindon, in The Green Man.  Home cooked food, very cheap nice beer and sunshine, what could be better?  We spent the rest of this sunny Sunday reading on chairs and dare I confess to nodding off!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Grand Day Out

I was thrilled and excited today as David had said that they was somewhere here I might like to visit.  He had seen in the Nicholson that not only had Wightwick Manor got a good collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, drawings and sketches.  Ceramics and original rugs but it was open today! Hurrah.  The Pre-Raphaelites are my fav.
It's a NT property (You will remember that we have let our membership lapse two months ago) but its only open two  days a week.  How lucky is that?
Not open until 12pm, so we went off together on bikes to look at the countryside hereabouts.  
Back at the Manor and up the sweeping path to suddenly view the property

Not nearly as old as it might appear.

Well a fabulous place and I would urge all Staffs to Worcester Canal boaters to time their stop here to be on either a Saturday or a Thursday.  Gardens were lovely too if you hate arty farty stuff.

Someone in charge of the gardens had been very clever producing these


Not an easy feat in September to look as good as they did. (Although one Christmas Day Nanny brought me in a rose from our garden).

This is the front door

It was such a warm day that we found a sunny spot and just sat awhile.

The house and NT are very behind the times of course and don't allow photography so I only got this shot before being told off.

It is painted glass in the drawing room one of many.

Sign that autumn is racing around the corner.

This was a whopper although David is small.
We were amongst the last to leave, and as we walked out of the grounds, we had to vault the gates as they had been closed much earlier.  Viking Princesses have no problem with gate vaulting.

Supper was a shared baked camembert with roasted beetroots, crisps, salad and chutney.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Unexpected beauty

I had one of those nice mornings today.  The type when David gets up early and then disappears for a good stretch, leaving me to read snug as a bug in my big warm bed.  He had gone off to do his fav chores newspaper and grocery buying, moving the car onwards and then returning, he had hoped that I would be up and dressed and I almost was too. 
No locks to do for a long stretch as we had reached the top pound yesterday afternoon at Gailey.  

I made tonights dinner, to let it sit and infuse all day.  Then I treated David to a batch of his fav flapjack, this is with apricots, walnuts, raisins cherries, citrus peel and a handful of broken up digestives.  This is another non Weight Watchers recipe Tim.

On a fair bit and I returned to the Bridge with Captain, (He gets lonely if left too long), David had been to three shops in Penkridge to get croissants but only one was available so we shared it with coffee and the last of the hand made Raspberry jam brought from the church in Stoke Golding and it was Fab. 

Soon we reached here.  Half way through a boat appeared but the Hirers skilfully nipped into a wee passing place and I am glad they did as we would not have fitted.  While they were there a crew member was picking Blackberries!

Some of it here cut into the rock.

Looks wide, but it wasn't.

This pretty thing landed and was polite enough to keep still while I took a photo of it.  Anyone know what it is?

This little bit reminded me of photos of The Canal du Midi, not that I have been there but our Friendly Boat Sharers have, not in WaL but on bikes. 

So keeping going and there was our junction to The Shropshire Union, but we had changed our minds carried on going.  This canal is just so very pretty. 

We have a family member who is an ex-pat from this part of the world, I text him (JOKINGLY) to say we were approaching the outskirts of Wolverhampton and should we be concerned...
He replied thus, that we should make ourselves as large as possible, make no sudden movements and distract any attack by launching pies at them.  
But Reader I have to say, in The Black Country the fishermen are from some sort of Happy Planet.  They smile, send friendly greetings and answer when asked if they have caught anything. Remarkable! 
The walkers are so friendly too, far more so than in other places.  The accent takes some listening too but what a great place. A Kingfisher flew past and buzzards calling above, hard to believe we are so near to a city.
Family member will get a thump.

Grade 2 Listed I think it said

Pretty sure not Listed 

Lookey lookey this remind me of the K&A for clear water

We did three locks, nice big deep ones with cute little bridges 

We moored up at Wightwick (This clearly should be pronounced White Wick but no its called Weetook).  David had spotted a place to visit for me tomorrow.
Supper was Lamb Goan Xacuti with coconut.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Late start for once.

Now this was a first was us, moored up south of Penkridge on armco, but what we really noticed was how much the pound went down with the lock being operated, we were on a tiny ledge too and although we knew this when we moored up, we figured that as the evening wore on and the locks went to to bed for the night all would be well.  Luckily, the blood was running to our feet not heads, however the boat remained going up and down like, as my mother always says 
"A whore's drawers".
Oddly in the very early morning (David had gone to fetch the paper) as some early bird came down the lock towards the boat, it righted itself and I felt as if we were falling off a cliff the other way.  So much so I kept out of bed, that tells you how it 
un-nervered me. 
So later after breakfast, then coffee and finally paper reading we departed.

Penkridge Lock with the tunnel for the horses.
Reader picture this, sun shining, shorts on him, skirt on me,  I had started out with a thin fleece on but that was quickly whipped off and the canal although we met boats coming towards us at most locks, seemed very quiet.  Fab or what?
 We met a lady at one of the eight locks who said something like they are widening the motorway almost into the cut, I didn't really believe her.  Then I took this;

That is motorway traffic too.

It was a lovely run all the way to the middle of nowhere, the sort of place we like.

Someone must have got the maths wrong here as the bridge would take yer head off if you don't come up the steps on all fours.

Gailey Lock with its round tower like building.

Just think all all the boaters who put their foot here to do this short beamed lock at Gailey to heave

Now then sooooo much has been written in the boating press and sworn at in the boating pubs about passing boats racing past moored boats creating wash but Hells Bells and Buckets of Blood, we had four go past us in quick succession this evening at supper time, the wash was so great, greater than I have experienced before including on the Thames last year at Windsor when it felt like we were on the ocean,  I nearly lost my plate too!!!  
I grabbed my camera and took this photo of the offenders to name and shame them, and they were laughing....

There were for of them and one was called Hugo, if you see them drop your anchor!
Now on a separate matter, a request has flooded in for the recipe for White Chocolate and Ginger Crunch.  Now I first had this at Annie's Tearooms in Thrupp and I have to say her version was better than mine so go eat hers if you are there. 
1 pack of Tesco Oatie Crunch biscuits CRUSHED. Or digestives or whatever you have in the cupboard.
Half a pack of butter melted
Half a tin of condensed milk (Diet is available to save the day)
1 packet of Whitworth Crystallised Ginger pieces.
High quality pack of white cooking chocolate

Into melted butter stir in the condensed milk.
Into a bowl put the  crushed biscuits.
Into the bowl add the ginger pieces. Stir.
Add melted butter & condensed milk mix.
Whack into either a flat oven dish or as I used a 2lb loaf tin and pat it down as neatly and as flatly as you can. Bung in the fridge.
The next day melt the chocolate in a basin in a saucepan over a LOW HEAT.
Cover the turned out Crunch Cake and keep in the fridge.
Lastly take strenuous exercise for an extended period before and after a small slice.

Picture here I hope at the foot of the page