Sunday, 24 August 2014

To Willington, Branston Water Park, Alrewas and Fradley Junction

Thursday 21st August
To Willington
13 miles, 6 broad locks

After a successful week at home we returned to the boat on Wed 20th August via our son’s home where we met their new 13 week old black Labrador puppy, Vespa, for the first time.  Pictures will follow!
After dinner our daughter in law took us back to Sawley with two extra passengers – our granddaughters – Molly aged very nearly 11 (she is counting the days!) and Evelyn who is 5.5.  Before we set off we made use of the ‘child labour’!! 

It was a long day, but we really wanted to get the broad locks over and done with.  The girls were very good and a great help.

They both had a go at steering

They pushed gates

 Evelyn did very well on ‘Monty’ duty at Swarkestone Lock

Whilst Chris climbed and clambered and Molly and I were at the helm

We had done the first lock, Derwent Mouth,  on our own, but thankfully caught up with two ladies at the second lock, Shardlow and we did the next two, Aston and Weston with them.  We were really glad we were not alone at Aston and that there were boats waiting to go down as the back gates are really heavy and swing open, so at least three people are needed.  After Weston the two ladies did not appear again, so we did Swarkestone on our own, but caught up with another boat at the last one of the day, Stenson.  Again we were glad of the company – it was raining by then and it is a very big lock (12’4” with a cill that looks like a cliff!).

So much easier with two.

We moored for the night in Willington just after B23.  None of us needed much rocking when bedtime came!

To Branston Water Park
Friday 22nd August 2014
7 miles 2 locks

A much easier day for us all and what a relief it is being back to narrow locks!  Today we went over a few very small aqueducts and this slightly bigger one over the River Dove – another thing to explain to the girls.

We stopped at Horninglow Basin for water etc.  To moor up at the water point you have to take a fairly tight turn after bridge 32 which we did with ease

and took the opportunity to empty the bow locker and Chris disappeared into the bowels and re-stowed the anchor now we are back on canals.  The dog food box was re-filled and a good sort out was done whilst we had access to a good solid piece of ground.

However when we reversed out we noticed a lady with note pad and pen taking a note of our boat name and number.  On enquiring ‘why’ we were informed ‘it is for my insurance company as you banged my boat’!  We slid past many rubber tyres on her bow with our bow button.  The touch was so minimal that Chris did not feel it at the back.  I took a photo of her bow, which we hope we do not have to use in any dispute!
If you come this way – watch out as we get the distinct feeling that she might just make a habit of this.  I guess the number of tyres on the boat means that she suffers quite a few contacts, but then the boat is moored in a very vulnerable place.  We are waiting with interest to see what happens.   What we are 100% sure about is that there is absolutely no possibility that we caused any damage either inside or out. 

There is a rather beautifully decorated bridge at Dallow lock, our first narrow lock since Northampton on 5th June.

There are some good moorings above the lock.

But we pressed on to Branston lock where the paddles are easy enough for both girls to have a go on their own (I was just behind Evelyn to ensure all was well!).

Molly is able to able to open and close some gates on her own which is a great help

We had a great couple of days with the girls – the only downside – I don’t think I noticed much of what we went past!  Mind you the A38 was impossible to ignore

I did spot some well-tended canal side gardens

We moored right by the entrance to Branston Water Park

After a 30 minute sit down with a much needed cuppa the girls and Monty got their rewards for being good.  First a walk round the lake for Monty

It is a lovely walk that takes a little over 30 minutes – well it does when you stop to read all the boards letting Evelyn try out some of the words.  I was very impressed that she worked out Chiff Chaff!  We went past a reed bed with details of how it is managed which was very appropriate as the girls’ father used to manage reed beds.

Then the girls’ reward – the play park!  It is good and I sat in the sun and let them have a long play and get rid of some energy.

Evelyn follows wherever Molly goes

And she is lucky to have a big sister willing to push the big swing for her!

Back to the boat and I introduced them to the joys of Yahtzee.

To Alrewas
Saturday 23rd August 2014
5 miles, 4 locks

Today we met our son (Mark), daughter in law (Jo), their son, Noah, aged 7 and young Vespa at the play park at Branston Water Park.  Their other car had been parked at Alrewas.  So a full boat today .

Young Vespa seems happy enough where we thought Monty would sit on the boat, but he won’t!

First things first – drinks all round.

The day sped past and I saw very little!   There were 4 locks and a lot of people to feed and water!  Jo had brought a wonderful spread which we all seemed to eat at different times – in fact it was after we moored at 14:30 that Chris and I managed to enjoy our lunch.

There were many hands to help at the locks

There had been gates to push

And paddles to wind

It all became too much for the youngest crew member who crashed out in the bow

But was moved inside when the rain came down – she promptly took over Monty’s bed and I am glad to say he did not mind at all. 

Once we were moored in Alrewas the dogs shared a drink

Then we all went for a wander around the village – and what a pretty village it is.  This is a real chocolate box cottage 

And we arrived at the Alrewas Arts Festival and today was a craft market

There were sheep covered in quilts and many stalls selling all sorts of craft goodies.  The only purchase – Molly bought a second hand book for 50p!  Is she taking after her Auntie Sarah who has an excellent eye for a bargain!

Around the village there are many applique banners and handmade bunting – it did make me thing that perhaps I should have spent last winter making the bunting we festooned Tentatrice with for the Bedford festival!
 There is a small war memorial

For the festival the fence surrounding it has been covered in crochet poppies.

And a tree nearby decorated in patchwork - it was planted in 1902 to commemorate the Coronation of Edward VII.

All too soon it was time for the family to go home.  One little one had certainly had enough!   

 It was a fun day that went far too fast.  Chris and I ate in the George and Dragon.  The food was good, but huge portions.  We both had haddock and chips and really could have done with one meal and two plates!  We think if we were to return we would try The Crown, which is closer and looks as though it might have a more varied menu. 

Sunday 24th August 2014. 
To Fradley Junction just after lock 16
2 miles, 4 locks

Just us for the first time since 30 May!  We were going to award ourselves a day off today after the last few hectic days with the family, but we looked at the forecast and tomorrow does not look good.  We decided to head for Fradley Junction and if we found a mooring we would stop and take tomorrow off. 

Just a short day in the sunshine and only one tricky lock – these gates are hard to push and were reluctant to stay shut.

We passed this rather lovely Art Deco boat

 We were lucky enough to find plenty of moorings above lock 17, so we stopped!  Went to the pub for a drink, the Kingfisher CafĂ© for lunch and then for a walk around the Nature reserve park.

This is a dipping pond where young and old can ‘dip’ in safety (there is a hole in the middle of the ring giving access to the water).  I think it makes a pretty good place to sit and watch. 

It is a lovely walk

With a hide for those who wish to watch the wildlife 

At the entrance there is a rather wonderful dragonfly bench.  It is a good walk for all of us. 

Then it was back to the boat for photo sorting, blog writing and reading the Sunday papers – this is the life!!  It does, however, seem very odd not to be with Cleddau!  One thing Boatwif and I have sorted out over the last few days is our Christmas present to our Granddaughters, The Cheshire One and Molly – a trip to the RSC to see 'The ChristmasTruce' next January.  It is a play for children over 9 about the WWI Christmas Truce.  The girls know each other, so I am sure it will be a good day out for us all.

Now this is done I guess I will have to do some cleaning tomorrow!!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

To Sawley , home and The English Civil War

Thursday 14th August 2014
To Sawley
6 miles, 4 locks

This journey marks the end of phase 4 of our summer voyage.

My first job of the day was to walk Monty.  Chris had taken him along this route the evening before and it certainly did not disappoint.  Down to the lock, cross over and you are beside the weir

And the unnavigable part of the River Trent

Along the side of a vast expanse of grass that had several football pitches on it. We turned left at the end and follow the Trent through some very pretty paths covered in wild flowers

Out to a wheat field

I then turned left to cut across another huge area of grass – rugby pitches this time.  Then left again to follow the canal back to the lock where I found the boats had moved to the sanitary station and jobs various were being undertaken.

There was a family of swans – once again five cygnets which seem to be the most common number on our travels to date.  There was only one adult, but he/she was a very insistent hull nibbler – thankfully she did not start until after 8am!

Just as we were about to go two boats came along to use the lock!

Setting off in the opposite direction were three men in a boat – the dog had stayed at home.  They started at Tamworth and were heading for Dunham Bridge – a journey of some 140km in a week.

Into Beeston Lock which is very pretty and well tended.   Along one side of the lock there are many ‘mobile’ type homes.  We reckon there must be some great ‘gongoozling’ dinner parties held under the white pergola. 

This chap surveys all at Beeston Marina

Past an island which has numerous landing stages with huts of various types nestling in the trees and many ‘Private, no mooring’ signs at every landing opportunity.

We were soon back on a very wide and scenic river again 

Another house that looked strangely out of place – it towered above the neighbouring single storey  chalets.

Then to Cranfleet lock with the best lock landing stage we have ever come across.

We have a rake at the Stoke flight for clearing bywashes when we are doing our stint as volunteer lock keepers, but nothing like the size of this one. 

The windlasses are all attached to the paddles here – the lock keeper (off duty) explained that they can get up to 250 boats through a day over bank holidays, so the last thing you want to do is to be rushing around carrying a windlass.

Good job we obeyed the instructions to use ropes whilst locking – it is a fierce flow.

Just past the lock we came across this boat – was it entered in ‘The Shed of the Year’ we wondered – I have to confess that we found the TV programme strangely compelling!

Back to canal country for a short time

Until we arrived at flood lock at Trent Junction

That is the way to go 

Maybe next time we pass this way we will explore here

Past the tea room

And the pub

It was a good job the river was wide again as we had to pass this very slow moving traffic – two boats – one engine

Then Sawley lock appeared on the horizon – not one but two locks

But with hardly any landing stage – such a contrast to Cranfleet

This one is all mechanised – you just need a key and a finger

 and even the gates are opened electrically. Please not the wet weather gear - 15% chance of rain the forecast said and we got three short, sharp showers, mostly at locks!

On the other side – well boats as far as the eye can see!

Our journey was nearly done – within minutes we arrived at Sawley Marina.  A small entrance, but with visitor moorings at the front past the yellow boat

Boatwif was landed and set off to find the office.  We were expected.  The Captain took Cleddau to the other side of the cut, we joined him and we waited and waited and waited.    The visitor moorings were rapidly filled with Canaltime boats and inevietably as one of the them was exiting the marina another boat came along the cut. Just to add to the excitement a flotilla of canoes came the other way.

At one point we thought Boatwif had been abducted by aliens.  She did return eventually with papers in hand and instructions of where to go – into the narrow marina entrance, turn left and find pontoon H numbers 17 and 21.  There were no signs anywhere.  We spotted a man busy with a hoover – we eventually caught his attention – ‘I have no idea’, he said ‘I am just doing some work here’.  He did, however, go along the pontoon and ask another man.  'Yes this is H' we were told and he kindly walked along to find 17 and 21.  Before long we were safely moored.  Cleddau just for the one night and us for a week. 

So what exciting things did Boatwif and I find to do on our last afternoon together – we spent about 3 hours in the laundrette!!  Towels and bedding all washed and dried, so although a real chore, it was a job worth doing.

That evening we dined in style with a bottle of bubbly to mark the end of phase 4 of our trip.  We provided the starter and dessert and the Cleddau crew provided the main course and the cheese.  And so to bed. 

Friday 15th August 2014

It was bright and sunny and we waved Cleddau and crew off with tears in our eyes, lumps in our throats and very heavy hearts.  It has been a fantastic 2.5 months and the first joint venture. Others sure to follow (Ellesmere to Liverpool, the K & A to Bristol and onto Gloucester have both been mentioned already!).  It has certainly made a very memorable introduction to our floating life.  Thank you both for all your help and guidance and we wish you well for the rest of your trip home to Macclesfield.

They waved

and were gone

Our son collected us and took us to Beeston railway station where we got a train to Bedford (just one hour and five minutes and no changes), then it was taxi to The Captain’s and Boatwif’s house where we collected Chris’ car and headed for home.  We both agreed that motorways are not good places to be, but they are a necessary evil.  What a sight met us on our return – about 50 molehills in our very small patch of grass!  That is a job for Sunday – try to clear the earth and then mow the grass. I rather suspect that we will have a lot more to do when we finally come home at the end of September.

Saturday 16th August 2014

Today we went to our local museum, Avoncroft with our daughter, son in law and two grandsons.  It isa  very non commercial, low key place to go, but we love it - – if you want to know more about the place.  First we had a very chilly picnic, then we went for a wander round. Today was a Civil War day.  Lots of people in costume, the local constable along with this stocks and pillory, armour for children to try on, a man making pencils to name but a few of the things to see and do.  We went to examine one of the permanent exhibits - the WWII air raid shelter

And then read all about their latest project which does look quite exciting.

At 2pm there was a ‘battle’.  The leaders followed the standards to ‘talk’.  The local army would not be persuaded to leave the battle field and go home

So the fighting began - The Royalists on one side

And the locals on the other 

Then the Pikemen were brought in to play

However, despite having a big canon

The locals could not win through and men started to drop like flies

It was too noisy for J, so he and I went to the park

Much more fun

When the others joined us we were assured that the Royalists won.  A good time was had by all

On the way out the old privies were examined (J wrinkled his nose when he was given an answer to what was in there!)

What better way to end a day out - a good old ice cream!

The day ended with a BBQ at their house and we have found ourselves booked for babysitting duties tomorrow evening!

It will be back to the boat on Tuesday at some point and we will be off again on Thursday for part 5 of the summer cruise.  

Total Stats since leaving Droitwich Spa Marina on 23rd May 2014

460.5 miles, 231 locks