Saturday, 13 September 2014

Tixall Wide and Penkridge parts 1 and 2 11th-13th September 2014

11th September 2014
The Delights of Tixall Wide
4.25 miles, 2 locks

The weather just gets better and better.  I could not resist this view as Monty and I walked to Weston lock. 

When we arrived at the lock there was one boat waiting to go down – nb Daisy from Horsham (we lived near there for over 16 years).

Chris and Monty settled in to wait

At Hoo Mill lock there were two boats ahead of us

And two waiting to come up

We were in no hurry and the weather was glorious.  We arrived at Great Haywood and found a mooring opposite the café.  Lunch (yes Captain from nb Cleddau – I had some oatcakes!) in the café and a mooch round the shop – lots of wonderful fresh produce.  We then moved to the water point, filled up with water, deposited rubbish and then moved round to Anglo Welsh for diesel.

Whilst there this boat came through – does anyone else steer like this?

Time to duck

Just a short trip to Tixall Wide our destination for tonight.  We passed these comfy looking chairs.

 Would we be lucky
Someone was smiling down on us - just one space and almost at the widest point – there were boats behind

And ahead as far as the eye could see

What a view from the sidehatch

The weather was just too good not to get the chairs out and a glass of Pimms.  It was so peaceful – a light breeze rippling through the bulrushes, birds singing, the odd hum of conversation and the occasional excitement when our neighbour caught a fish.  Bliss. 

The final treat was the sunset – I suspect I missed the best of it – too busy in the galley!!

12th September 2012
A bit further than we thought – Penkridge
9 miles, 5 locks

We had planned on walking back to Haywood lock and then into Great Haywood to get a paper, but thankfully I double checked our route plan only to find I had a day’s journey planned with no date!  This meant we had to go a bit further than planned, so we headed off.  The weather deserted us – it was dull, grey and cloudy nearly all day, but dry.

There were still quite a lot of boats about, but we were never more than second in the queue at locks and despite my error we were still not in a hurry.  Tixall Lock does have some good views despite the gloom as promised in the Nicholson guide

This aqueduct goes over the River Sow.  From 1816 to just after the First World War there was a lock from the canal to the river and it was navigable into Stafford.  Stafford Riverway Link is an organisation that has been set up to promote restoration of this waterway.  Take a look here.  Sadly I think it is a very long way off.  It is hard to imagine that 70 foot narrow boats used to navigate this waterway.

On the outskirts of Baswich we spotted this car – has anyone any idea why the poly bags?

We passed very many ‘static mobile’ homes and a few that were very definitely not going anywhere

Quite a bit of our journey today was narrow and reedy

This house at Deptmore lock was lived in by a very reclusive gentleman for many years.  There was no electricity and no road access.  He had a floating pontoon to get across the canal.  After some years of being derelict the house is being renovated and road access has been established across the fields.

And then we came to Acton Trussell.  Now what does that name conjure up for you?  Pearson’s suggests a ‘chocolate box village’ which it decidedly is not!  It is just a collection of modern housing.  One boater we met said his guide book said that if anywhere in the world deserves a motorway it is Acton Trussell! I am sure the locals would not agree.  We did come across one garden that is obviously someone’s passion.  Chris’ Mum was a dahlia lover, so pleasant thoughts of her floated across our minds as we passed.

It certainly has a motorway – the M6 on a Friday afternoon.  Much too close to the real world for comfort.

We moored just before B86 in Penkridge and our neighbours are lots of little sparrows in the hedge across the towpath

We wandered along the towpath to find a paper shop – success.  Chris had to cross the road and the traffic was stopped there and back by a lollipop lady!  Having been brought up in Southern Ireland this was a first for him.  Second childhood maybe?

13th September 2014
Not as far as we intended – Penkridge again
0.5 miles, 2 locks

We set off this morning intending to go to go past Gailey and stop somewhere around Long Molls Bridge No 76, but we got to the C&RT moorings just half a mile and 2 locks along and decided to stop and explore Penkridge.  We are near the Cross Keys

 and thought about having lunch there, however the options for lunch are very limited – a ham salad or cheese & onion cobb, so we walked back to The Boat where we were moored yesterday.  A much better choice.

Then we headed off to explore Penkridge.  There are some interesting buildings - Note the upstairs windows

Great floral displays

We then headed for the market

by the railway viaduct

 Where there is this mural 

And you can buy anything from taps

To fruit & vege

To Onesies – handy for chilly nights on the boat?!

In fact there was not much you could not buy – even an ice cream for a very grateful dog!  A rare treat for him, but one he does enjoy and this one came free with the cone I had.

Chris popped into Sainsburys on the way back to the boat – he was under surveillance the entire time he was in there much to the amusement of passers by

This was our ‘stash’ from the market – the rollers work out at 30p each, so no excuse not to do some touching up!  We do have some nail clippers on board, but they are in hiding and Monty is very partial to a marrow bone biscuit.

There are some independent shops in Penkridge and I saw this in the window of one and failed to resist temptation and went in and treated myself.

So all in all a rather good day if not what we had planned, but then is that not what this boating lark is all about?  We have days to spare in the plan, so nothing lost.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Stone & Weston 9th – 10th September 2014

Tuesday 9th September
No room at Stone
4.25 miles, 8 locks

Yet another wonderful day with blue skies and lots of sunshine.  As we approached the first bridge we wondered if this was a sign that it might be busy. 

It was!  Thankfully for us they were all going north as we headed south.  There was a boat coming out of all four locks at Meaford (pronounced Mefford we are reliably informed) which meant we swept through very quickly.  Every lock was ready and there were other boats waiting to come up, so plenty of hands to wind and push. 

There was a little waiting to be done through the four at Stone and there was still more coming up than going down.  We stopped for services in the middle of the Stone flight.  The elsan is the first we have come across that required a peg for one’s nose! Also the tap in there and the water tap are very slow, but functional. 

We noticed this rather clever bike storage today.

How did I miss these magnificent chimneys near the bottom lock on the way up?

I also missed this wooden carving named ‘Christina’ in memory of Christina Collins near Workhouse Bridge.   Boats used to carry passengers as well as freight.  It was cheaper than by coach as it was slower.  In June 1839 Christina Collins paid one shilling and six pence (8 pence today) to travel by boat from Preston Brook to London to join her husband.  After leaving Stoke the three boat men and a boy started to drink heavily and when they reached Stone Mrs Collins told Hugh Cordwell at the Toll Office that she feared the men would ‘meddle’ with her.  He told her to report them at the end of the journey.  Sadly she never made it.  The next day her body was found in the canal near Rugeley.  She had been raped and her body thrown overboard.  Two of the men were hung for the murder at Stafford and the third was transported. 

There is a lot of work going on at the bottom lock – I gather they are clearing the culvert under the canal.  It is incredibly noisy and makes a quiet drink in the garden of the The Star Inn impossible.

We had hoped to moor below the lock, but no joy – all the moorings were full, so we moved on and tied up about half a mile from the bottom lock.  With boats behind

and boats ahead.
 It was very peaceful apart from when the grass cutters and men with strimmers arrive!  They seem to be following us around.

We made a trip to Morrisons – turn right at the bridge and go up the hill and you will find it on the right.  Just past the lock we noticed this establishment with a great name for a hairdresser!

Postscript - Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup - the only tomato soup I like.  We spotted some as a cup a soup a couple of weeks ago.  It is my staple diet if I am a bit under the weather and today was one of those days, so I decided to try it.  I am delighted to say it passed muster and tasted almost as good as the stuff in the tin!

Wednesday 10th September
Tight squeeze at Weston
6.25 miles, 2 locks

We woke to yet another glorious day – in fact even hotter than yesterday.  Just a short jaunt to Weston today – no need to hurry.  Again there were boats moving, but against us, so no queues at locks for us. 

This was a wonderful peaceful scene of the cows cooling off and having a drink 

We stopped at Salt, but was glad we were not staying for the night as there was a wasps’ nest very close to where we had moored.  It was a lot busier than it looks in this picture.

The reason we stopped – curiosity – the Holly Bush Inn is reputedly the oldest in Staffordshire so we went to have a look.  

The garden was a very pleasant place to stop for a swift one – well it would have been rude not to!

In the 18th century several wealthy and influential families settled in this area (it is very beautiful) and this bridge built of brick and stone echoes the high aesthetic values of that time.
 It is certainly magnificent particularly as we went under on our way to Weston.  No we did not leave Monty behind!  The picture was taken on the way back from the pub.

As we approached Weston we spotted this bridge over the railway that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Note as well the silage in the foreground – a sure sign of autumn.

The sight of Weston church ahead brought back memories of our time on the River Nene when there seemed to be a church spire around every corner.
 Not the best photo as the sky was very blue– I really think my camera is dying.  I need it to last until we get home!

On past this garden with chickens roaming free and black ducks – the first of that colour we have ever seen.

And on to Weston where we got the last possible mooring, but only thanks to the boat ahead of us – they kindly moved a couple of feet to allow us to squeeze in.

So what does Weston have to offer?

Some very pretty cottages – into sun I am afraid, but you should get the idea

One of which has chickens, ducks and peahens running free

And this magnificent cockerel

Is it a duck, is it a swan - no and I really do not know what to make of it!  He decided discretion was the better part of valour and left well alone.

A lake that appears to be privately owned

St Andrews Church

That sadly was locked

And this was the shop mentioned in Nicholson’s guide – just a private residence now, so don’t bother going for a pint of milk and a paper!

It also had a school that is no more. 

It did, however, have the Saracen’s Head where we had a very good meal and a quiet and safe mooring for the night.