Sunday, 31 August 2014

To Rugeley, Weston & Stone

Tuesday 26th August 2014
7.75 miles, 4 locks

The decision to stay put yesterday was wise – it poured all day and was cold enough to light the fire.  Tuesday we set off in damp weather, so we booted and waterproofed just in case!  We came across this property at Shadehouse Lock – on sale for a cool £625,000! 

Although we saw a surprising number of boats defying the rain yesterday there were even more about today causing queues at the locks.  The worst we had was being number 3 in the queue, but at Wood End Lock the people coming up were in a queue of 8.

There were some nice properties as we went into Handsacres, but the owners of this one

Do not seem to feed their visitors very well

Going out of Handsacre there are some very run down warehouses that on first sight appear to be derelict, but they are working hard with some seriously big machinery inside.

Rugeley power station dominated for a long time

I love this pub name and I guess if you are called ‘The Plum Pudding’ you can rightfully have purple paintwork

As we approached the old tunnel at Armitage several boats came towards us.

I was sent ahead to check the coast was clear, which it was.  We went ahead closely followed by another boat

We got a really good view of this figure which Boatwif from nb Cleddau has suggested it might be ‘The ghost of Christmas Past’? 

There were a few of these boxes around, but the only one we looked in

The cupboard was bare

The Captain on nb Cleddau reckons there are two types of boater –‘those who have’ and ‘those who are waiting’.  Well today I joined the ranks of ‘those who have’!  I got off just after B65 in Rugeley with the intention of pulling the boat in and Chris was going to hold it there whilst I walked ahead to see if there was anything better further ahead.  The boat would not go in; ‘get back on’ was the instruction.  I tried, but missed!  Why is it that a boat comes round the corner just at the moment of my undoing!  It is not easy hauling oneself out of a canal, but I managed it.  Clothes were changed and a new mooring was found just after B66 – there is a great new Tesco one side of the bridge and Morrisons the other.  We were also able to walk into town to find an optician – my glasses got sat on a couple of days ago and needed to be straightened out.  The mission was successful.  Broken glasses and a dunking – I hope the third thing to happen is a little less traumatic.

 Wednesday 27th August 2014
To Weston
8 miles, 4 locks

As we left Rugeley there is a very large and very well-tended cemetery. 

The route took us over the River Trent – a little smaller than it was when we were last on it!

It was a glorious stretch looking out over Cannock Chase

Our first target for the day was the fuel barge at Taft Bridge – 79p a litre, but the story of our life – they are shut on Wednesdays between 09:00 to 15:00!

On past Shugborough Hall

To Great Haywood

Turn left into the Staffs & Worcs to get diesel at the Anglo Welsh boatyard – 89p a litre, but needs must.  I have to say the person who served us was really nice – very chatty and helpful.  The wind made it interesting getting out again and back on the T&M, but we made it.  There were no moorings, so Chris pulled over at the water point to get rid of rubbish whilst I made a very quick dirty dart to the farm shop to get some carrots and cheese.   The café will have to wait until we return this way in September.

We stopped for the night at Weston – a pretty little village.

Thursday 28th August – my birthday!!
To Stone bottom lock
6.25 miles, 2 locks

We had experienced some delays at locks yesterday, so decided to leave a little earlier today and it worked.  We were off in glorious sunshine 

At Sandon Lock there was a boat behind us and they all pushed together to finish the lock off for us 

The good weather continued

We passed this heron who unusually stayed put rather than flying off

There are definitely signs of autumn in the hedgerows

At Aston lock there were so many people (all coming up) that we did not have to do a thing! So that was it for today – a nice easy one.

The sun continued until we were mooring in Stone when the heavens opened!   You win some you lose some!  We had lunch in the Star – a famous pub with all floors being on a different level. 

Stone is a lovely town with this rather intriguing 'Welcome to Stone'

With lots of plaques done by different children and commemorating different groups and organisations in the town - the WI seemed to be absent!

There are also many wonderful floral displays

Now I really know how to spoil myself on my birthday – Chris and Monty went out for a long walk, the engine was on and I got the big hoover out and tackled the floor and then gave it a really good clean!  A quiet night in before the Stoke and Meaford locks tomorrow.

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 Café 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!!