Thursday, 31 July 2008

Wrong side of the fence chum!

Strange place to find a lock!

Tixal Wide, great place to view the fireworks at the weekend

Guess who we found?

6 Locks, 10 Miles. Now moored at Penkridge on the Staffordshire & Worcestshire Canal.

Junction of Trent & Mersey and Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canals

Beautiful bridge 109 with original paving

Even though it was raining this morning there was still a constant queue for the lock so by the time we were ready we just had to pull forward and join the queue. Coming up behind us were the cheese and fudge boats who slotted in to where we had been as they are staying for the concert and fireworks week-end. They should sell plenty I would think.

The rain showers kept up until about 11am when the weather started to improve. Since turning onto the Staffordshire & Worcestshire Canal there has been a noticeable reduction of boats on the move. At lock 40 we stopped for a short while to visit Midland Chandlery. By the time we reached Penkridge we were starting to think about where to moor for the night when we spotted a familiar boat in the shape of "Kalimera" with a slot just big enough for us immediately in front. With no further ado we slotted in perfectly while the going was good.

About half an hour later there came a lot of knocking and banging along the hull so we knew that Derek and Christina had returned. They had been into town for some provisions and are planning on moving up to the next lock and water point for the night. We will stay here and move on tomorrow.

1365 locks, 1962 miles, 44 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Shugborough Hall.

1 Lock, 6 Miles. Now moored at Great Haywood.

Essex bridge over the River Trent

Overnight we did get some rain and we could hear the thunder further south but this morning was again fine with a little high cloud. On tonight's evening news we have just heard of a house fire started by lightening and 4 cars in a car yard also destroyed by lightening. The power of nature!!

First job of the day was a quick trip over to Morrison's supermarket for a few essentials. There was also high volumes of traffic on the canal which caused considerable delays at today's only lock which had no ground paddle ,only a single gate paddle in operation.

Approaching Shugborough Hall we looked for a suitable mooring but found nothing and when we reached Haywood lock we pulled in second in the queue. We had moved up to first in the queue when we spotted a Canaltime boat preparing to leave his mooring about 100 yards back down the canal so we did him a swap, a mooring for the lock. We reversed back as he pulled away and then slotted into the mooring, very convenient.

As we hadn't travelled far today we had an early lunch then walked across the Essex bridge which crosses the River Trent to Shugborough Hall. The grounds to the Hall were a hive of activity as they prepare for this weekends Music and Fireworks festival. We would like to stay for the event but we are on a mission and cannot spare the time. The fireworks will be visible for some miles around so we might see them at a distance.

Just as we arrived at the gate to the Hall the heaven's opened up and it was a quick dash under the nearest tree to stay dry. We had come prepared with an umbrella and pack away parka but we still got a little damp. Walking through the grounds to the hall there was another short shower so by the time we reached the Hall there were quite a few puddles around.

After walking through the main house we visited the servants quarters where cook's, laundry maid and brewer (guides) are dressed in period costume and demonstrate their craft and tools or equipment. You can even taste the brewers ale which is very much like flat beer. Apparently part of the servants recompense was an allowance of 8 pints (4.8%) of ale a day, men and women. This was due to the fact that water in those days was undrinkable.

The laundry maid showed us how they rolled rather than ironed the bed sheets by rolling them onto a roller whilst still damp, placing this under a huge wooden flat frame full of rocks and then rolling the frame backwards and forwards to roll out any creases. After this they were hung out on a ceiling frame in front of the huge boiler that heated the laundry and the thirty or so irons that were placed around the specially shaped cast iron body to heat up. As the iron cooled it was replaced on the boiler and the maid grabbed another iron and carried on. No wasted time here waiting for irons to reheat.

We also found out how Staffordshire bull terriers supposedly got their name. Four centuries ago in the belief that it tenderised the meat, a steer or bull was tethered to an immovable object awaiting slaughter, it was then set upon by what was then bull terriers. Many of these dogs were killed but the name Staffordshire or Staffie as they are commonly known stuck from this bizarre custom of the county.

Out in the livery stable there is a large display of 18th century horse drawn passenger vehicles some of which are still in their original condition. Part of the staff quarters has been dedicated to a museum of anything connected to Staffordshire like Armitage and Shanks porcelain bath's, basin's and toilet pans. These two companies are now merged as one and still produce these products to this day. This ad hoc visit turned out to be well worthwhile and as it turned out was very timely because as we left the hall we found surface flooding all over the place indicating that there had been some heavy rain while inside the hall.

As we walked back to the boat we noticed that the River Trent which had been quite clear when we crossed it the first time was now running quite fast and very dirty so there must have been some really heavy rain somewhere. Glad we are on a canal.

1359 locks, 1952 miles, 44 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Through Leafy Glades.

8 Locks, 9 Miles, 1 Tunnel, Now moored at Rugeley.

Beautiful carved seat at Alrewas

After watering up at Alrewas we set off on what was going to be another hot day. The canal was very busy so every lock was going to be 1 up, 1 down and after we passed through Fradley Junction with the Coventry Canal it got worse with up to 4 boats queuing to go up but only the odd boat coming down so travel was pretty slow. In fact this stretch of the canal is narrow and with moored boats at various locations it does tend to restrict your speed.

Fradley Junction

Away from civilisation we passed through some wood's or forest's which gave us some lovely cool shading away from the relentless sun. The last three days have been so hot that it is unbelievable, the sudden change in weather. At Armitage we found the former Armitage tunnel which to all intense and purposes still is a tunnel except the roof is now a bridge for the A513. Originally a very narrow unlined bore through solid rock the top of the tunnel had to be removed due to mining subsidence. It certainly is narrow as we only had a few inches clearance on both sides.

Armitage Tunnel!

Since mooring up for the night we have had a short shower of rain and thunder and lightening has been rumbling around the district for a couple of hours but we haven't had the rain that we expected.

Harvesting! Its that time of year again!

1358 locks, 1946 miles, 44 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 28 July 2008

Childrens Hospital Memorial Garden

Of Significance to New Zealand

National Memorial Arboretum 2

National Memorial Arboretum

Still moored at Alrewas.

With another scorching hot day heading our way we headed off to the National Memorial Arboretum which when you know where to go is only a 20 minute walk from the canal. Unfortunately we got the direction slightly wrong and it took us nearly an hour to get there but coming back we got it right.

It turned out that the day we chose to visit was the 55th anniversary of the cessation of the Korean war and returned servicemen and women from all over the country were present. We actually felt quite sorry for these guys who would have all been in their 70's and 80's all dressed up in beret's, blazers and grey flannel trousers under the searing heat of the sun especially when the main service, which was conducted out in the open air Amphitheatre, took nearly an hour.

The whole event had been arranged by the British Korean Veterans Association and the Korean Ambassador and Defence Attache were present as guest speakers. Music for the event was provided by the combined band of the Lancashire Artillery and Duke of Lancaster Regiment.

We watched some of the proceedings and spent the rest of the time wandering around the many sections of this memorial not just to military forces but also the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, the Ambulance service, the Irish conflict and Home Guard personnel killed in Britain during bombing raids.

The NMA is set out as a huge park and there are plenty of places to sit and remember old friends and comrades. There are thousands of tree's planted around the site and they all commemorate a fallen soldier or airman or seaman, a regiment, or squadron. If you are looking for a particular unit or person you can ask at reception and they will tell you where to look instead of having to hunt all around the park. There was also many plaques saved from buildings now demolished where the likes of insurance companies had a roll of honour of members of staff killed in various incidents around the world. Sitting high up on a mound overlooking the whole site is a new Armed Forces Memorial with all the names of service people killed in conflicts since the end of WWII.

As we were leaving we got talking to one of the volunteers that help run the NMA and she told us that they get around 1000 visitors a day and they are hoping that the demolished Alrewas railway station which was nearby will be rebuilt which will allow more people to visit.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Wot a scorcher

Still moored at Alrewas.

The day was looking decidedly brilliant this morning so we wandered off into the village. We didn't get very far along the towpath when Dot stopped by a boat with the name Sarah-Kate, Welford. She wasn't too sure wether or not it was a boat we had come across at Market Harborough as she thought that, that boat was green. Anyway she called out to the occupants and it turned out that it was Mike and Jo who we had met before and they had just recently had the boat repainted, and very smart it look's too.

Mike and Jo with their new paintwork, you can even see our reflections in it

Well, the obligatory cup of tea or coffee was had while catching up on the last year since we last saw them. Mike told us that the boat had been stretched twice, 11ft the first time and 5 ft the second but you couldn't tell from inside or out. After delaying their departure for the best part of an hour we finally reached the village and did a circular route back to the boat. We got there just in time to see Mike and Jo go down the lock heading to Long Eaton where they are having some cabinet work done. The funny thing is they are taking the boat to where we stopped alongside a moored boat and had a long chat to the owner Derek last Tuesday.

Memorial seat alongside the canal

I had planned on repainting the starboard gunnels but the boat in front of us was the same boat that complained about us leaving the engine running yesterday so I thought that I would service the engine instead. Hopefully they would leave in the meantime. By this time the temperature was getting decidedly hot and it was like a sauna down in the engine bay. After finishing that little chore we walked into the village by another route and found the butcher who is also the baker and green grocer and bought a few things. On the way back we called into the Crown Inn for a much needed cool ale or two.

Thatched cottage and petunias in Alrewas

Even though the boat ahead of us had gone, it was getting too hot and uncomfortable to even contemplate starting work on the gunnels so we both just blobbed out in the boat. It wasn't until about 8pm before the temperature started to drop and become bearable again. I had tried my luck with the fishing again without success but the guy two boats along had caught two Chub around 3lb - 4lb and a small Perch but he was fishing close to a bank of reeds.

Believe it or not!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Crazy weather, crazy boaters.

6 locks, 11 Miles. Now moored at Alrewas.

We headed off early this morning planning to go as far as possible before threatened rain and thunder storms arrived. As the morning wore on it was getting warmer and more humid, sure sign of an impending thunder storm.

Arriving at Dallow Lock, we were pleased to see the first narrow lock we have seen for weeks since passing through Foxton Lock Flight on the Grand Union Leicester Line. Easier to manage alone and much quainter than the double locks on the Grand Union and rivers. This mural was painted under Dallow Lane Bridge. There were murals on both sides of the road bridge alongside the lock but the others didnt photograph too well.

Our first stop was at Branston, the original home of the famous pickle and sauce. Morrison's supermarket is only 5 minutes walk from the canal near the A38 bridge so we took the opportunity to stock up as we are not too sure of what shops are available further up the line. We probably came back to the boat with more than we planned but you can't look a gift horse in the mouth especially with regular use item's. We had lunch before we set off again and at this stage it was getting very hot with high cloud.

A short way up the canal and it became very narrow with boats moored all along one side. We were pottering along quietly when we saw an old 60 footer approaching too fast for the conditions,there was no where for us to go but she had the option of pulling into a gap between 2 boats on the towpath side. Instead of this she just kept coming, so I put the boat into reverse to stop. The next thing that happened was that she hit a moored boat that was luckily unoccupied, bounced off that and was heading straight for us, thankfully we hit side on and the fenders took the brunt. Needless to say there was a terse exchange of words to which all she could say was "sorry". I just hope that there was no damage inside the moored boat. What's the matter with these people? I would hate to see her behind the wheel of a car!

After this we had an uneventful cruise up to where we are now moored. The village sound's as if it is very much like Braunston so we will go and have a look around tomorrow.

Maybe this could be British Waterways new means of keeping the towpath clear

1350 locks, 1937 miles, 43 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 25 July 2008

Inconsiderate and selfish boaters

5 Locks, 12 Miles. Now moored nr bridge 25 Trent and Mersey Canal.

We got away before the rush this morning and did the first 2 locks solo but by the time we reached Weston lock we had caught up with another boat with the name Kai Tak making locking a lot easier as these locks are very deep with huge bottom gates.

Swarkestone Pavilion

At Stenson lock we had to wait for 1 boat coming down so the crew of both boats went up to wait at the lock while we tied up on the lock moorings. I know this is a very deep lock (12'.4") but it seemed to take a very long time before the boat emerged. After we had locked through Dot told me that the couple on the boat that had caused the delay were a pair of lazy B's as lady muck had sat on her fat a*^e on the boat and did nothing and when Dot and the lady off Kai Tak appeared the male just jumped back on his boat and let them do the work. When the lock was empty Dot and the other lady just sat back to see what he would do. The next thing they knew was him yelling up to them " Are you going to open the gates or leave us in here all day". If I had known this I would have just left him the cheeky bugger. They were not hire boaters either so they should know better.

Crane at Swarkestone 48 hour moorngs

We carried on up to Willington and pulled in at the end of the 48 hour moorings. We were tying up and were discussing wether to stay there, water up and or move on. The next thing we knew was the lady on the boat behind us telling us in no uncertain terms to turn our engine off. We had only been there a couple of minutes at this stage. That made our minds up, we obviously were not going to get on with the neighbours so with a lot of to-ing and fro-ing we moved across to the water point on the opposite bank, took on water with the engine still running and then left madam to sunbathe in the company of a Canaltime hire boat that slotted into where we had just vacated. One of the advantages of living on a boat if you don't get on with the neighbours, move on, so we did.

New Marina from the quarry on the outskirts of Willington?

Dis used Willington Power Station. Was this Nuclear?

1344 locks, 1926 miles, 43 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The original inland port of Shardlow. Warehouse is now residential.

Boats galore.

5 Locks, 3 Miles. Now moored at Shardlow. Trent and Mersey Canal.

It was time to say farewell to the Erewash Canal this morning. After watering up it was down through the Trent lock out onto the River Trent for the short run up to the start of the Trent and Mersey Canal. One last chance to give the motor a good blast through before we start pottering along the canals again.

We called into Sawley Marina for diesel and took on 109 litre's at 89p per litre. With the central heating unit not being used at present the diesel is lasting quite a bit longer.

Once we had found a mooring opposite Dobsons boatyard we wandered into the village to investigate this historic area. We started off with the Heritage Centre which is in an old salt warehouse. This gave us a good overall picture of what has taken place here over the centuries. Shardlow started out as an inland port around 1777 and with the building of the Trent and Mersey canal Shardlow rapidly grew. As the railways started eroding the profitability of the canals old warehouses were turned to other uses such as mills, grain stores or workshops. When the cargo's finally ceased in the 1950's the whole area fell into decline until 1974 when it was designated a conservation area and restoration took place putting the village on the tourism map. Sadly the designation came too late for Zachary Smith's Trent brewery which was demolished 4 years earlier.

The Old salt Warehouse. Brindley's 17th Century inland port.

While in the heritage centre I read some history about the local school and some of it was quite amusing. Children absent from school, reason, (1) taken pig to market, (2) helping with hay making, (3) cutting and stripping willow for cane maker and helping Mum with the baking. Other entries such as, school was cold today, child rostered for fire lighting didn't arrive until 9.30, Johnny and Billy reprimanded for fighting in the village after school, class given detention for not doing homework (nothing changes there) and complaints of monitors not doing their designated chores. Children these days don't know how lucky they are.

The Malt Shovel Pub originally built for the Manager of the Malt Warehouse alongside

With a heritage pamphlet in hand we wandered off around the village to look at the warehouses that had been converted to a pub and residential apartments. The Malt Shovel pub used to be the home of the Manager of the malt warehouse and was built in 1798. Near the village green there are a row of terrace houses built by Dickenson's, who were a nationally known plant nursery, to house their staff. Unfortunately many of the glasshouses were destroyed by enemy bombing during WWII. Old nail makers sheds, stables and blacksmith shop, lock keepers cottage and opposite the latter is a private house which used to be a tavern brewing its own ale, baking its own bread and butchering fresh meat for the many boatmen and their families that passed through the village.

The Clock Warehouse with its internal loading dock. Now an upmarket pub.

At the end of our little tour is was obvious why this place is one of the waterways of England's historic sites and popular with boaters. Since being here we have seen more boats on the move than we have in the last 2 months so we must be back in civilisation.

The Heritage Centre Shardlow

1339 locks, 1914 miles, 43 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Another canal ticked off the list.

8 Locks, 7 Miles. Now moored at Trent lock.

With warm humid conditions we set off under an overcast sky. Other than getting stuck in Pasture lock because the bottom gates were jamming on something it was a pretty easy cruise. We moored up at Sandiacre for lunch and Dot popped over to the Coop for some fresh vegetables and yoghurt. We also had a surprise in meeting another boat heading up to the basin. He told us that he was headed for Peterborough but with the Loughborough lock closed until the 29th he didn't want to sit around waiting for it to re-open so he decided to give the Erewash a go.

Junction of the now defunct Derby Canal and the Erewash Canal

As we came through the 'S' bend at Long Eaton we found a gentleman mowing his lawn alongside his narrowboat. We pulled alongside for a chat and found that he was lucky enough to have an end of garden mooring and also had a caravan in his back yard for touring non canal regions of the country. We pulled his leg about having the best of both worlds as we had had to sell our caravan to finance the boat. He was also very helpful in giving us information about were to find things once we leave the Erewash canal.

Sandiacre Lock headquarters of the
'Erewash Canal Preservation and Development Association

Tonight we are having a treat of roast NZ lamb with roast potato's, butternut, kumera and cabbage. Just because we live on a boat doesn't mean we have to slum it.

1334 locks, 1911 miles, 43 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Cursed money machines.

5 Locks 4 Miles. Now moored above Potters lock.

This morning I had to make another unexpected trip into Ripley due to a Barclays bank money machine swallowing my debit card yesterday. Just lucky we have the bus passes because that would have been another £4.40 for the return journey.

When I spoke to the lady behind the glass screen at Barclays I was asked if it was a Lloyds bank card to which I answered that it was. She then told me that only Barclays bank cards are retained, any other cards are automatically destroyed. Bloody marvellous, their machine caused the problem, now I'm stuck with the problem of getting a new card. I was politely told where I would find a Lloyds bank and to go and speak to them. I was not a happy chappie.

Round the corner at Lloyds the staff were not at all fazed about the situation and soon had another card ordered and a cash withdrawal made. The only problem now is that the replacement will have to be sent to our London address and then work out a way of getting it to us where ever we may be.

Old Nottingham Canal enters Northern Basin- now used for moorings

Original Nottingham Canal Toll office

Well that was the morning taken care of and we knew that today's travel would only take a couple of hours so there was no problem on this score. After the week-ends mediocre weather today is gloriously sunny and hot but we still have that infernal wind although not as strong as it has been. Along the way we couldn't help but notice how clear the water was and with the sun shining down onto it we could see the fish as we went. There was a shoal of large bream, a solitary carp. umpteen jack pike and many shoals of roach.

A couple of new bridges on the Erewash Canal(two years work according to the signs)

Just before we moored up we had to give the propeller a reverse blast twice to clear away some debris, so after mooring up I went down the weed hatch to see if anything was still attached to the prop shaft. I finished up attacking it with a knife as there was rope, string, plastic, fishing nylon and a couple of feet of heavy duty weed strimmer nylon. The latter was about 2mm thick and no way would it break but I eventually succeeded in clearing everything ready for tomorrow.

1326 locks, 1904 miles, 43 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006