Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Pre Christmas Catch Up

Having said in my last post over a month ago that I would write a blog about the rest of half term with the grandchildren, time eluded me!  A lot has happened since then.

Tuesday 30th October 2018

I went to the National Trust property at Baddesley Clinton (Lapworth) with our daughter in law, Molly, Noah and Evelyn.

We have all been before and it is a place I will go back to again and again.  The children enjoyed the pumpkin trail and I found gourds I did not know even existed.
Outside they have small rakes and big plastic 'hands' to encourage children to collect fallen leaves!  They love it and 'fight' over who has the rakes!  I wish I could find the same enthusiasm for leaf clearance at home!

I took Jaq here earlier this year - I particularly remembered her when we were in the library - this time the volunteer pointed out a book that was around a long time before JK Rowling's version!  4th from the left - The Philosopher's Stone.

 I wrote about the property in more depth then, so if you missed it and are interested  - have a look here

Wednesday 31st October - Halloween

There is a good turn out round here of ghosts and other weird creatures and I have to say they have never caused any trouble and only call at houses that are suitably decorated.  As we had George and Jamie to stay for a few days the first thing to do today was pumpkin carving.

Before they dressed up

and headed out to join the fun!

Thursday 1st November 2018

Chris and I took the boys to The Black Country Museum - a return visit for me, but a first for Chris.  We had a great day out.  Our first port of call was to the mine - something I did not do last time I visited.  We were determined to get ahead of the queue.  It was well worth the 15 minute wait and something I would highly recommend.

There is a lot to see and do and I am sure it is somewhere a lot of you have been.  The lesson in the classroom was good, but the 'teacher' was not quite as strict as the one I had last time I went.

We did take a short ride on the trolley bus

and both boys had a go at skipping

and with the ball and cup which is fearsomely difficult - I am sure there is a knack, but I only succeeded once, which was once more than anyone else!!

The boat trips into Dudley tunnel end on 31 October for the winter, so we will have to go back with the boys as it was a trip worth taking.  One day we will manage to moor our own boat and pay another visit.

Friday 23rd to Wednesday 28th November 2018

We went back to the place we rented last November in Furnace, Mid Wales to catch up with Chris' Welsh family.  Sadly there were two less than when we visited last year, but both were a good age and had had long and happy lives.  On a positive note there were two brand new members to greet (and cuddle!).  Chris' cousin's daughter and son had little girls who were 4 weeks and 1 week old when we arrived.  The cycle of life.  We caught up with everyone and also enjoyed three good beach walks even though we nearly got blown away on the first Saturday.

Ynsylas is dog heaven - just miles of almost deserted beach at this time of year.

Lots of space to run

and fetch balls

and even a bit of paddling

There were two new notices we have not seen on our many visits (my first time there would have been in the early 1970's!).  As parking is on the beach it is wise to take notice!

Thankfully we did not find any of these

and finally - we guess that someone must have hopped back to their car!  It does seem to be an odd thing to have left behind!

Wednesday 29th November to Sunday 2nd December 2018

We went straight from Wales to stay with our friends in Staffordshire - they are the owners of black Labrador, Kiera, who comes boating with us occasionally.  We lunched out together on the Thursday and on Friday, Chris and I left Monty with them whilst we went to Nantwich to see Jaq on nb Valerie.

It is always great to see her, but even more so after the news that she is selling up and going back to the States.  A hard decision, but we wish her well.  To see details of nb Valerie  - have a look here.  We did a round trip of marinas in the area delivering & collecting things and finally to have lunch at Overwater Marina.  It was really good to see Jaq.

Whilst staying with our friends, Monty not only has Kiera to amuse him, but two cats as well.  He is fascinated by them, but does not seem to understand what they are about.  He means them no harm and is often close, however he has yet to learn they don't like having their bottoms smelt!!

If they are in the sitting room he just sits and stares.  He occasionally moves closer until he is growled at by Henry (on the chair) or hissed at by Guiness ((the boss)on the radiator)).  They have both swiped at his nose with their paws, but always with claws in.  He spent almost six weeks with them in 2016, so you would have thought that he might have learnt to ignore them, but no!

Then when you walk into the kitchen to have a nap - horror or horrors

you find Guiness in residence!!

On Saturday we visited Shugborough Hall with our friends.  It was a first for us and one I am sure will be repeated as it was a fascinating place made all the more appealing with the many Christmas trees on display.

In 1624 it was purchased by William Anson who was a descendant of the Earls of Lichfield.  When the 4th Earl died in 1960 it was passed to the National Trust in lieu of death duties with the 5th Earl, Patrick Anson (known as Patrick Lichfield in his professional life) being allowed to use a few rooms for a reduced rent for the remainder of his life.  A couple of these were open to the public, but no photography is allowed in there.  Patrick's name appears several times on the height chart of many generations of Ansons to be found on a door of one of the rooms.

Most of the exhibits around the house chart the lives of Thomas (1695-1773) and George (1697-1762).  Thomas was responsible for extending the house - when he inherited it there was just the central portion with the seven windows.

he had extensions built either side

He was also responsible for purchasing the many treasures on his travels round Europe and sometimes further afield.  The money was raised by his brother George who was in the Navy (he rose to be the First Lord of the Admiralty).  He captured a Spanish treasure ship and took his riches back home to be invested in the estate.

There is so much to see and almost impossible to decide what to show, but this is a small taster to whet your appetite.

We had started the tour 'below stairs' and that was as fascinating as the house itself.  It was there that we learnt that the dining room is at the far side of the house away from the servants quarters - a good 10 minute walk, so ensuring they got hot food was always an issue.

Again just a small taster of what there is to see.

A very lowly salary for the laundrymaids

The butler fared better

but it was the French Chef who ruled the roost.  He cooked for the family and guests, whilst the rest of the kitchen staff looked after all the servants and farm hands.  French chefs were highly prized and were a sign of your affluence and influence.

This 'monster' is a box mangle

and this explains all - I think I will stick to the automatic washing machine, thank you!

Apparently valuables were kept in this cupboard (and the one on the other side of the range) - the butler kept the ladder, so there was no chance of things going walk about!

We had limited time outside before darkness fell, but time enough to have a very quick look at the kitchen garden which was being prepared for Christmas

The grounds are extensive with far reaching views.  On the far side of this picture is the  River Trent and then the Trent & Mersey Canal

Access can be made from the moorings at Great Haywood and we would definitely recommend a day here to explore.

Before we left we rescued the dogs from the car and took them for a walk to one of the follies -  Hadrian's Arch

The next day it was back home to face the chaos!  We have a decorator in who arrived on 12th November and he is making his way through most of the house.  We have always done our own decorating in the past, but it is something that is just not possible for us any more.  I am suffering enough with an asthma cough just having the paint on the walls, never mind getting up close and personal.  I have to say he is extremely thorough and the neatest workman I have come across in a very long time.  Every night he folds all his dustsheets up into a perfect pile and even hoovers before he goes home - the place is cleaner when he leaves than when he arrives.  All but my 'craft room/study' (also a spare bedroom) and Chris' study will be done before Christmas.  Thankfully we have a quiet Christmas 'a deux' as we both need to empty our rooms for decoration from 3 January.  I also have the challenge of getting rid of enough 'stuff' to free up space currently occupied by large bookcases to allow us to erect bunk beds.  It will happen and I will be ruthless - well if I keep telling myself that, I might be right!!  For many years I have made hand crafted greetings cards and I know I have a lot of 'stuff' I will never need again, so it has to go!  One of our spare rooms has been gutted (the old furniture was very old and very brown) and new Ikea white wardrobes have arrived which Chris has built.  The carpet was replaced there last Tuesday and today a new carpet arrives for the other spare room.  It really is chaotic, but it will be worth it. Once our studies are done all the really cheap acrylic carpet that was in the house when we moved in 7 years ago will be gone.  The biggest issue with it is that it hangs on to the dog hair and won't let go!!

Well that is it from me for this year - I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and we both wish you all the best for 2019 and hope to bump into a few of you (not literally, though !) during our 2019 cruising season.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

And back again - 28th - 29th October 2018

The bottom blacking went to plan.  The other job to be done was a service on the Eberspacher - remember this photo taken on the Braunston flight - it was definitely not working as it should have been:

Sadly it was deemed terminal, so a new one had to be fitted.  We are still awaiting the bill!

The journey back to the marina was to be very much a family affair.

Sunday 28th October 2018
Tardebigge New Wharf to The Queen's Head, Stoke Pound
2.5 miles, 30 locks

Saturday was a really wet and miserable day so it was a relief to find a dry and relatively warm day dawning on Sunday.  Our daughter in law (Jo) and her three children (Molly, Noah and Evelyn) had arrived on Saturday to spend the first part of half term with us whilst Daddy was left at home to 'bring home the bacon'.

Chris and I moved the boat from outside the dry dock to the water point at Tardebigge New Wharf.  The plan had been to load the boat from the cars - there was quite a bit of stuff with four of sleeping overnight, 6 for lunch on Sunday and 9 on Monday).  Jo and I were then going to leave Chris on the water point (it is not a busy one) whilst we pre-positioned a car at the Queen's Head,  So far, so good until someone came along needing water!  We left Molly with Chris to help move the boat across the cut and moor up.

As soon as we got back we joined them and headed for the first lock hoping for a couple of minutes to get ourselves prepared.  Sadly that did not work either as a boat loomed up behind us, so we had to go.  Sandwiches were made very speedily during the 700 metre transit from lock 58 to 57.  Then it was all hands on deck and go for it until we reached the bottom lock.

Just a few pictures to mark the day

Molly. Jo and Noah

There was a surprising amount of traffic - sadly for us most were going down, but we did pass a couple coming up.

We still have our supervisor 


Molly, Jo and Evelyn

Jo and Noah

 It took us a little longer than usual, but 4.5 hours is not too bad a time for this flight, especially as all the locks were against us - well apart from the two when we passed boats going up.  We usually stop in a lock to have a quick lunch, but no chance today with two boats hard on our heels.  It is the first time (and I hope the last) that I have carried my sandwich round in a bag and eaten it as locks filled and emptied!

The boat immediately ahead of us stopped before the bottom and we then caught up with the one ahead of that.  It was no wonder they were slower than us - the lady who was doing most of the locking was walking with the aid of a crutch!  Understandably she was not crossing lock gates, so her helmsman was working the non towpath gates.

To our surprise we had the pick of the moorings, so moored in our place of choice - away from the pub and dog kennels, but not overlapping the lock landing this time!

Next job was to retrieve my car which is when we discovered that we had left Jo's car keys in my car at Tardebigge!  There was nothing for it, but for me to walk the 2.75 miles back.  Monty did not complain! I clocked up over 25,000 steps and completed 11 miles, so felt I could enjoy my dinner.

Once I returned we headed home, changed and went out to Pizza Express for dinner.  There we met up with our daughter, Sarah, son in law, Paul and their two boys, George and Jamie.  We had an excellent meal - a great way to end a busy day.

Molly and Jo stayed at our house whilst Noah and Evelyn came back to the boat.  Noah has wanted to spend a night on the boat for a long time, so he was a very happy lad.  We always forget just how long it takes to prepare the extra bed and then put it away again the next day!  We discovered this time that the shower is a good space to store the back rests from the dinette that are not required when it is a bed.  There was certainly more floor space and less to fall over.

After all that exertion we all slept well.

Monday 29th October 2018
The Queen's Head to Droitwich Spa Marina
4.5 miles, 15 locks

Once Jo and Molly arrived back at the boat we set off for the Stoke flight of 6.  Someone was smiling on us as it was dry again - a little chillier, but definitely no wet stuff.  Sarah, George and Jamie were dropped at the bottom of the Stoke flight by Paul,  having pre-positioned a car at the marina - they did ensure they brought the car keys with them! They walked up to meet us,

so we had 9 pairs of hands to help with the locking!  A few too many in some ways, however, as Noah said, it made a great fun family day out.

Many hands really did make light work and with very few boats on the move we had an easy run.

Molly, Jo, Sarah, George and Jamie walking towards Stoke bottom lock

Evelyn preparing the bottom lock

Noah taking a break
At least with the locks being separated on this trip you do get time for a cuppa
Just to prove I do exist and do occasionally take the helm!

We were glad of the fire

Evelyn, Sarah, Jamie, George, Jo and Molly
We motored on to Hanbury Turn where we pulled over and moored up to have a well earned lunch
There were sandwiches to go with the sausages and pork pies!
After lunch it was a quick right turn on to the Droitwich Canal and the last three locks at Hanbury.  There were two volunteer lock keepers on hand to teach the children how to operate side ponds.

A quick line up for a photo before we dropped the first lock

 Volunteer lock keepers can turn their hands to a multitude of tasks including acting as a photographer to capture our rather large party of lock hands plus the helmsman!  We are always grateful for any help we get along the way.

First stop in the marina was to fill up with diesel, so we have a full tank for the winter.  Sarah drove Jo and I back to the Queen's Head to retrieve our cars whilst Molly helped Chris to return Tentatrice to her mooring where she will stay until at least March.

Once Jo and I returned with the car we loaded up and headed home for a busy half term week as you will see in the next post.  We will return in due course to do some much needed cleaning (10 pairs of feet leave a lot to be desired!), retrieve the bedding for a wash before storage and the composting loo for its annual deep clean. We have other jobs to do over the winter, but our first priority after half term is getting the house ready for a decorator - a good time to have a much needed clear out.

It was a great fun two days - a journey we could have done on our own, but it is so much better with company.  Thank you all for your help.