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Monday, 24 September 2012

From Fradley to Loughborough

Monday 17th September Bright at first but not warm and showers by 5. We pushed across to the water point at first and had a pretty awful cup of coffee before we set off around 10.30, joining a line of boats descending and meeting boats coming up. Between Fradley & Alrewas we met Mo & Vanessa on Balmaha, moored up alongside and had a good natter with them & Mo’s cousin and wife who were moored with them. Mo’s coffee was much better.
Lily leaves Balmaha

It was a great chat but we had to get on, we had an appointment to meet Mike & Jo on Sarah Kate that evening in Burton on Trent. We had a bit of queuing at locks and it clouded over and the breeze got up but we made it to tie up with Sarah Kate just before the footbridge to the park in Burton.
Alrewas weir was not so well protected when we first went past it.

After we had eaten they joined us in Lily for a good old chat. There are two significant coincidences we have with them, the first is how we became aware of is their boat. Sarah Kate was launched, fully fitted, at Thurmaston boatyard on the day the shell of our second boat was also launched. In Mike & Jo’s care she has been much improved as well as growing quite significantly longer and she shows the love they have for her.

The second, and much stranger coincidence came to our mutual knowledge about two years ago. A schoolfriend of Carol right from the early years of her education joined the nurse training scheme at Leicester Royal Infirmary with Carol. Sadly through illness she did not achieve her State Registration until a year after Carol, having dropped into the following set of trainees. During a communication around two years ago she mentioned she had another old nursing friend with a boat called Sarah Kate! Yes Jo was in her set, what a coincidence.
Mike approaches his mooring spot.

I regret I forgot to take photos of both meetings, but Mo & Jo provided images, thanks both.

Tuesday 18th Mike & Jo moved away quietly whilst I was doing my morning exercises, heading towards Nottingham to where they have never been by boat.
I've not seen one of these old Morris cars for I guess 40 years

The trouble with Burton on Trent as far as Carol is concerned is the smell of the brewing, but I of course love it, and we were moored near to Marston’s brewery. The other big problem is that it is a very long way from the canal to the major stores. In the past we have walked there and struggled back, but regrettably Carol’s back problems mean a walk like this is completely out of the question. However, just east of our mooring the number 3 bus runs every quarter hour down to the supermarkets & coffee houses. We have visitors coming on Thursday and Carol had another feast to prepare. We did some of the purchasing in the morning and after lunch I left Carol resting whilst I caught the bus to go to the National Museum of Brewing. 
The "brewery visit lets you see a sort of reconstruction of a brewery. I went on a
tour of Marstons during an IWA Festival, there we were in the actual brew house

It was very interesting, I spent well over 2 hours there and finished in their bar for my 4 samples of beer. I tried Worthingto E, Red Label, White Label and one from Rock in Cornwall. It was very interesting trying them as a tasting, the Cornish beer was not in the same league as the Worthingtons, the E was a drink I used to enjoy when much younger, but the White Label was by far the best of the four, if only you can find it!
The brewery a justly proud of their horse drawn vehicles

Wednesday 19th and after getting fresh soft fruit we moved on to Willington, mooring just before the road bridge in a lovely spot and much further from the rail lines than where most people moor. Weather was reasonable but wet overnight, Carol prepared some of the dishes in advance for our guests on Thursday.
The old stone bridge over the river Dove

Thursday 20th and it was damp at first but brightened so that I was able to polish the brasses before our friends arrived. We cruised down to Stenson and back before mooring up for a typically magnificent meal made by Carol. During the cruise the weather stayed dry but cool and overcast, during lunch it lightened, and as we chatted and played cards out came the sun! It was a most enjoyable way to spend a day.
Friends after they had eaten very well!

Friday 21st A very wet day, but we had arranged to have some of our family for lunch on Sunday in Loughborough and we had to move on. We reversed back to the winding hole and went about, used the services and got cruising about 10.15. It rained with differing intensities all day and it was breezy and cool, even I had fingerless mitts on! Our first large lock since the few we did up the Rochdale on August 5th was that delicate little one at Stenson! We met boats at most locks but only shared one and one of the top gates at Swarkestone was horribly jammed but fortunately in the closed position and the other gate did open. I reported it to C&RT, hopefully they soon got it sorted.

We carried on till we got to Red Hill when we’d had enough and we moored just before the flood lock at 5. Quite a big day for us, 9 miles and 9 wide locks, but 15 years ago I reckoned that on a long summer’s day we could get from Thurmaston to nearly Alrewas, but we never actually did quite that much! No pictures in the awful weather!

Saturday 22nd and a lovely day after a cold night with big condensation inside Lily. We were away by 9.20 meeting with a fibreglass cruiser at Ratcliffe Lock and shared this and Kegworth with them. They had sold the boat after renovating it and were delivering it to Thurmaston. 
Carol passes Ratcliff Power Station

By the time were at Zouch sweater & jacket were off. 
The river past Normanton on Soar is lovely

At Bishops Meadow we shared with another narrowboat and then we stopped to watch qualifying for the Singapore GP, before moving on to moor just through Chainbridge. We had intended to moor in Loughborough Basin but two long broad beam boats and about 3 others had pretty well filled it, in fact if we had ventured up there I’m sure we’d never have been able to turn.

Sunday 23rd started dry but overcast but it was raining by mid day and carried on doing so through till we went to bed and there were heavy showers after this. The forecast for Sun night/ Monday is awful with heavy rainfall and strong winds, perhaps we should have pushed on through to Kings Lock to get off the river. We didn’t as we had organised for our oldest daughter and family to come for lunch in late afternoon. It was off for a coffee first, quick shop to make sure this week’s chicken was totally fresh!
Very tasty & chocolaty!!

We had a lovely afternoon and evening, great food and several board games. It had been Hannah’s 15th birthday the day before so we had some girly pink fizz at first and a very yummy cake Sally had bought for her later. Now if the Soar can just avoid going into flood!!!!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Slowly homewards, eating well

Monday 10th September The weather was overcast most of the day and we were in sweaters. Intermittent rain and a downpour in the evening, not great weather. We set off to Leek tunnel but decided not to pass through it as it doesn’t really get you to Leek, so we winded and battled our way back around the twisty canal, rubbing on the bottom in many places, pretty but it would be better on  warm sunny day. We returned to Hazelhurst junction to find it crowded with boats, so we decided the defer our trip to Froghall until the spring and made our way back to Etruria. We stopped to pick up or water filter, noting that the cycle Tour of Britain was to pass on that road the following Thursday. 13 miles and 8 locks
This wonky horned beast was along the Caldon canal

Tuesday 11th Very wet overnight, starting cloudy with a cold wind in the morning and we saw friends Mike & Jo on Sarah Kate filling with water at the water point in front of us. They being ready to set off & we having other things to do, we arranged to meet in Stone in the evening to talk over the 2 years or so since we last met.
By the time we were ready to set off there were boats everywhere. A boat had just gone down the top lock, I reset it, but a boat coming down from Stoke blocked us from turning in to use it, so we followed that boat down, and before we had left the lock 4 more boats had arrived! 
This structure alongside the canal in Stoke is a refuse incinerator,
 unlike those in Leicestershire it is still working

We met and followed boats all the way through to Stone, and started to hear Stone mooring were full!! Then Jo rang to say they had not found anywhere to moor in Stone and we would have to defer our chat! We stopped as soon as we reached the outskirts of the town in a lovely quiet mooring. 8 miles 10 locks
The problem with Carol's garden this year!

On the last three nights Carol has really excelled in the galley with excellent Singapore Noodles, brilliant Lamb Dhansac and a very good Chicken Tikka Marsala. All in wonderfully low fat format, giving Carol great pleasure in the cooking and both of us in the eating.
We saw many kingfishers this week

Wednesday 12th A bright start with little wind and warming as the day went on. We shopped & coffee’d in Stone before getting away, but turning into Aston Marina to collect a porthole glass that had been delivered there, and topping up with fuel at 81.8p. We carried on for about half a mile before finding a lovely spot to stop. 3 miles and 5 locks.
Carol and her garden on a sunny day

Thursday 13th A surprisingly pleasant day after a really cold night, shorts were on again! Away at 9.20, we caught up with 2 boats at the first lock, and 3 others arrived before we left, and boats came up too. We made steady progress, surprisingly the water point at Gt Heywood was free, so we topped up before we queued at the next lock before passing through easily to Rugeley where we stopped at 3.15 just before bridge 67. We then headed into Costa & booked a table at the Royal Harris, a Chinese restaurant as I though Carol deserved a break.
A home owner has a great idea for slowing down boats

The coffee was good, the meal pretty good, it operated on a buffet system, but where you order what you want & it is cooked fresh for you. The Shoulder of Mutton in Foxton does the same, and in our opinion is better, but we both ate well.  11 miles 3 locks

Friday 14th Mostly bright with a cool strong wind. We stocked up for friends visiting for Sunday lunch, and collected repeat prescriptions. We didn’t rush as we only wanted to get towards Fradley but we had a pleasant cruise stopping for the night above Woodsend Lock. The heating was put on!  6 ½ miles.
Above Woodsend lock

Saturday 15th A glorious day, and all we did was cruise down 3 locks and moored opposite the services block in Fradley. A volunteer was marshalling boats going down into the junction, and warning people about fresh paint on the lock gates. Volunteers from Coors Brewery had repainted them a few days before but sadly the paint was only dry on the surface but sticky and wet underneath!

After stopping we sample the cafes coffee (pretty good) and then Carol set to preparing food for Sunday lunch whilst I cleaned & polished. We enjoyed a walk around the nature reserve, picking some blackberries, and then a pint in The Swan. 1 mile, 3 locks

Sunday Disaster, the chicken had gone off!! It was in date but with this much pong we were not going to eat it!! Fortunately Carol had some chicken pieces she could interpret into a great meal. Our friends dined royally and we had a great day.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Spitfire Week

ASpitfire Week

Mon-Wed We were away from Lily, having left her in Aston Marina near Stone. It was an impressive place with a very good, but expensive farm shop. We had concerns that our power supply had dropped out as we tried to poll our alarm system but though it responded on Saturday, it didn’t on Monday. To our relief all was well when we got back, the alarm just doesn’t seem to want to react to text messages any more, another job to sort out when we get home!
Aston Marina entry, don't try to get in by turning right and over the bridge
as the sign above Aston Lock tells you!

On our way home we stopped in London to meet Rowan & Suzanne from Wellington NZ whom we met while descending Hatton Locks 4 years ago. We had a lovely natter but neither the coffee nor the meal we shared was up to much, I intend to write and complain over both.
With Rowan & Suzanne in a pub nr Trafalgar Square

Why a Spitfire week? Well on the train from London I looked out the window of the train and saw a Spitfire flying over. Then on Friday I heard that distinctive sound of a Merlin engine, but trees obstructed my view, but on Saturday as we moved away from the Etruria Staircase Locks I heard the sound of two of these engines and saw a pair of Spitfires flying over. I suppose it was around this date 72 years ago that they were battling away over Southern England.

Thursday 6th September was a bright day, warmish but with a cool wind. We used the mains power we had paid for to clean the boat and polish around before setting off for Stone. We cruised there and moored above lock 29 and re-provisioned at Morrissons, enjoyed a coffee and a Thursday curry. We were surprised when Mick from Aligator, (and we’re sorry we can’t remember his wife’s name), sat down at the table next to us! Earlier this year they were moored alongside us in Debdale whilst they completed work on their new home, living aboard, and with her having her ankle in plaster! What a coincidence!                         2miles & 4 locks

Friday 7th and the weather was lovely with much less wind. Aligator passed us at 7.30, it was much later that we joined a busy set of boats climbing and descending. It was steady work and we met boats at most locks halving the work. After the late start it was 5 by the time we moored at the end of the Caldon. 81/2 miles and 11 locks.
The end of the Caldon

Saturday 8th a fabulous day of weather. Overnight one of our gas bottles became empty and just past the end of the Caldon towards Etruria Marina, on the towpath side there is a firm selling gas at £17.50 inc VAT!!! I wandered along to replenish our stock, then we walked to the Costa at Festival Park before returning to view the Etruria Museum. It was a Steaming Day, but not till 1pm and having enjoyed steam in many places, we made do with viewing the preserved works. Quite interesting but not very photogenic, though whilst I was finishing off my viewing, Carol was sitting on some steps alongside the canal arm and watched a kingfisher flying to and fro.
Water pours between the gates within the staircase locks

We enjoyed our lunch then reversed to the junction and turned into the Caldon Canal and up through the staircase pair, after using the services to top up our water. Two Spitfires flying over gave an emotional sense to this bit of the cruise. We stopped at Ivy House lift bridge so I could walk to Screwfix to replace our water filter cartridge. I had bought 2 cartridges around Xmas as they need changing every 6 months and had no idea whether I’d be able to buy one at replacement time. When I fitted the new one, it leaked!!! I have not previously checked closely for leaks after replacing them, thank heavens I did so this time. Fortunately when I refitted the one I had removed, it was water tight, and fortunately too Screwfix has centralised computer records that showed when I bought the faulty one.......except they had none in stock, I need to call by on our return cruise. I also bought some oil from the motor spares shop next to Screwfix, an oil change is due.
Bottle Kilns near the Caldon

Fantastic plants by some apartments

This bit of the Caldon far from attractive and is narrow. Old pottery works have largely been demolished, though some of the grander office buildings have been converted to other uses, but several of the typical bottle kilns have been preserved to retain some of the old character. We carried on to bridge 15 and moored up with several other boats in a near rural setting. The fine dry weather had resulted in Lily becoming very dusty so I washed off the towpath side in the evening after watching the qualifying for the Italian GP.   Just 3 1/2 miles. 3 locks and one lift bridge.
This old level crossing was alongside our mooring
I can't remember how long ago it was since I saw gates like these.
The mighty river Trent flowed near our mooring

Sunday 9th another lovely day, warm and mostly sunny with little breeze. I walked to the nearby village to get my Sunday Times fix, Google Maps showing a shop nearby, but I asked a local just where it was & he was guiding me far away, so I returned & we set off around 10.15. We stopped at br 18 in Milton & I got the papers on a short stop, during which I saw a very old car, I’d guess from around 1915 but couldn’t spot its badge, driving through the village. Away again we caught up with a boat at Engine lock, in the country now. I could hear water flowing under the grass along the off-side edge of the lock, is this a problem for the future for C&RT?
This lock side sculpture shows images reflecting the history of the area
It mention the Spitfire.

The other boat opened the first lift bridge, I did the second then we had the 5 locks at Stockton Brook near where R.J.Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire was born with iInteresting sculptures at lockside. We stopped for lunch just past and then after using the services we moved onto the Leek branch, but it was incredibly shallow. 
Turning right towards Leek

We met Alligator just after the junction, were discussing as to whether to bother going along it with it so shallow, but stopped just past the Hazlehurst Aqueduct to watch the GP.
Mooring at Hazelhurst Aqueduct

6 locks, 2 lift bridges & 6 miles.