Sunday 26th August Despite what these cows thought, so far on this bank holiday the weather had held up and continued to today. We left Weston at about 9am for the relatively short journey to Stone, passing through some beautiful rural and very remote scenery. There were 2 locks before Stone, we had to queue up for quite a while to get through both of them. At the second lock there was a man with a big day boat full of children. He said they were going to pick up the brownies next. They all waved at us as we went past them on the way out of the lock. We carried on into Stone and were lucky to get the only space left which was between 2 other boats. We fed Molly and walked into the town which is nice with every sort of shop you might need and a pretty high street festooned with flowers. We were very impressed with the Morrisons there - it was very upmarket compared with others we have been to lately - with every sort of vegetable you could ever want. It even had the cooked chestnuts we needed. I realised we have been starved of shops lately and we were elated to be walking around this lovely big one! After that we repaired to The Star, a very old pub next to one of the locks and whiled away an entertaining couple of hours watching boats going to and fro through the lock.
Saturday 25th August We left early from the pig farm and went on our way. We were aiming for Stone, in Staffordshire. We got through the first lock and went through Little Haywood to Great Haywood where there is a big boatyard and we got new batteries, some Blue, and emptied our toilets and filled up with water. A very nice man in the shop gave us a discount on our batteries so they were £68 instead of £70 each. £70 is a good price anyway! Dale was thrilled to have new batteries – he'd been worrying about how long the old ones would last. Great Haywood seemed quite a nice town – there's a big marina there and lots of boats moored nearby. They have a big farm shop which we should have gone to but didn't. At the next lock – Hoo Mill Lock, the boatyard shown on the map was overgrown with weeds so we couldn't get the diesel we needed. We continued through the last lock and reached a beautiful little village called Weston upon Trent, and moored up opposite a field full of cows. We walked into the village to look for the stores shown on the map to get some things we needed, but the shop was closed for Saturday afternoon and when we looked through the window it had hardly anything on the shelves. We asked a man passing by if there was another shop but he said no - the villagers are upset about it too – so we repaired to the pub on the pretty village green – The Woolpack – to drown our sorrows.
19th - 25th August The backdrop to Rugeley is the four huge cooling towers of the power station which dominate the scenery. Ugly, yes, but actually Rugeley is not too bad, especially on a sunny day. On Monday we decided to catch the bus into the centre of town to get some groceries. We were waiting at the bus stop, not knowing when the bus would arrive as the timetable had gone, when a little boy of about ten on a bike pulled up opposite and shouted "Are you waiting for the bus?" When we said yes he told us he had just left Armitage and he'd seen the bus there so it would only be another 10-15 minutes. We thanked him - how sweet can you get?
As promised the bus arrived and we got on and because we didn't know where we were going asked an old lady where we should get off for the supermarket. A young man overheard and said it was 3 stops. Three stops later they all said "It's here!" So we got off but unfortunately we were not in Rugeley at the Morrisons as we intended, but at a small Co-op in Brereton, on the outskirts of Rugeley. I had a shopping list on which we had planned out 4 days of meals and a lot of the ingredients were not available in the Co-op so we had to re-think quickly. Having simplified the menu, we got a few things that we needed and then went to the bus stop to get the bus back. The bus stop was next to a childrens' park with a proper paddling pool! These are not allowed in London any more because of 'elf and safety! We got the bus back and decided that we would take the boat into Rugeley on Wednesday lunchtime, get the proper shopping and go on to the other side of Rugeley to moor up where I still have a signal. Rugeley is an old fashioned sort of town, a bit run down and overrun with charity shops, but not unpleasant. Some nice houses line the canal – it's not downmarket at all.
Having got all our requirements at Morrisons I found I had some work to do so Dale navigated us to the other side of Rugeley where we stopped opposite a pig farm, which got quite noisy at certain times of day but we had some lovely views of Cannock Chase the other side.
On Friday night after I had finished work we cruised on about a mile further to moor up near the pub called the Wolseley Arms and walked there to have a couple of drinks and a very pleasant evening. There was an Indian takeaway nearby and we didn't feel like cooking so got a takeaway. It was raining and very dark as we walked back so much hilarity was had struggling through the woods to the boat using Dale's lighter to light the way.
Sunday 19th August It was a bit drizzly again this morning when we set off. We were stuck aground and took a little while to get going but eventually managed to get free. We travelled the short distance to Fradley junction which is very nice and quite 'canal touristy' with a nice pub called the Swan (it was too early to go in) and gift shop, tea shop etc. We turned left at Fradley Junction onto the Trent and Mersey canal. There were 2 locks to get through. A volunteer lock keeper was helping at the first one. He commented on our 'garden' which now consists of 2 large tomato plants and 2 large displays of petunias and marigolds and a herb garden, which have blossomed in spite of me being not that green-fingered. He told me about his potato plants, which have yielded a poor crop this year. He lives in Cannock, and commutes quite a long way to Fradley junction to volunteer. He gets paid expenses but thinks even this may be taxable! He is a retired teacher. At the next lock there was another casual volunteer who has to look after his 100-year-old mother so can't commit himself properly to volunteering. He lives near his mother in Birmingham, but used to live in Harlech in Wales. He tried to talk to me about cricket but I'm afraid I didn't know what he was talking about. The weather was a popular subject with everyone we spoke to today as well, it's very changeable at the moment. I think they're having it very good in London - apparently there's a heatwave. We travelled on through a wooded area - there was one more lock, and luckily someone was coming through the other way which filled the lock for us so we helped them through. The woman who was driving said it had been a very relaxing day for her and said that narrowboating is not as relaxing as everyone thinks. This is very true, it can be quite stressful at times. We continued through the towns of Handsacre which we thought would be a nice little village but in fact is not that picturesque. and Armitage (home of Armitage Shanks the toilet company). We went past the factory with all the toilets packed up outside. Armitage is even less picturesque than Handsacre, so we decided to carry on and stop in Rugeley, the start of which seems quite nice, with the large Hawkesyard Priory and Spode House (former home of the pottery family), dominating the canalside, and the estate consisting of large landscaped gardens and a golf course. We walked up the towpath to see what else we could see and came to the Ash Tree pub by the canal – a family restaurant/pub. We had a couple of drinks in there and decided to catch the bus to go food shopping in the centre of Rugely the next day.
Saturday 18th August We left at 7am from Polesworth because we had quite a long way to go this weekend. It was drizzling with rain. We cruised through Tamworth, which appeared to be quite a nice town which we weren't expecting, it being on the outskirts of Birmingham. There were 3 locks to go through at Tamworth. I got talking to a man on a boat on his way to Coventry. He said Rugeley is quite a nice place. When we got to Fazeley junction there were some attractive old buildings next to the canal, and while we filled up with water we talked to an old man passing who told us that one was a disused chapel and the other used to be a tape factory. They are listed buildings so will probably be converted into something else eventually. He was a sweet old man with a little dog called Dottie which he carried along in the basket on his bike. He called her his 'babby' - she was a cross between a chihuahua and a border terrier and he had named her after his late wife. He had had dogs all his life and most of them were buried in his garden. He was obviously a bit lonely and stayed chatting for quite a while - a very sweet man. We finished doing our water, cleaned the toilets and threw away our rubbish and carried on. We went through Hopwas and Coton which are very attractive villages. Hopwas has 2 nice pubs. Then we continued past a military firing range in a wooded area. We thought we'd have a break and stop at a pub shown on our map in Whittington but the map let us down again, it has been replaced by a large new house. So we went on to a place called Huddlesford and a pub called The Plough. It was a pub that had recently been done up but nice and busy and the landlord was friendly. I finished his crossword for him. We had a few drinks and did some people-watching then continued on. When we got to Fradley which is near a noisy road but is a nice village, the weather had picked up and was quite hot. We decided to stop in Fradley for the night, and walked into the village in search of a shop and no-one was about except 2 little boys so we asked them. After that some people in a car asked us for directions to the village hall and the funny thing was we had passed it so we knew where it was. We got a couple of things in the shop, went back to the boat and Dale cooked roast beef from the butcher in Polesworth. We had high hopes for it, but it was a bit gristly unfortunately.
Sunday 13th August - Saturday 18th We stayed for a week in Polesworth and really liked it. It's a very attractive town yet unassuming at the same time, not at all touristy. It has all the shops you would need - a butcher, a Spar, a greengrocer, post office etc. There is also the ruins of a 10th century abbey and quite a few pubs which we didn't go into because we thought they'd be full of locals and we'd stick out like a sore thumb. The walk to the shops each day took us along the canal, through a nice park, past the beautiful River Anker, and then past a big field with friendly horses in it. The shopkeepers were all very friendly and chatty. It was a bit like going back in time to the sixties. They knew we were on a boat because they have the same customers regularly every day.
We were moored a little out of the town next to another boat making and selling chimney pots. The view were we were was an idyllic scene of local farmland. A very nice place to stay.
Saturday 11th August We got up early and set off up the Coventry canal to go through the flight of 11 locks in Atherstone. We met a few boats coming the other way so that made it easier for us. A couple who were following us through said that their mooring is in Tamworth. They said there's no trouble in Tamworth, it's a safe town and told us where we could moor. This is good bcause we have to spend a while in Tamworth for my work. We managed to negotiate the 11 locks quite quickly, the countryside around them was very pretty with distant farmland views, and we ended up in a place called Bradley Green which was very quiet with nice surroundings but distant noise from roads and trains. Dale made a chicken and potato curry that evening, we watched some of the olympics and tried to watch a film called 'The Ghost' but it was boring and I fell asleep on the settee.
Friday 10th August There was a broadband signal where we were moored so I did some of my blog this morning. We left about 11.30am to get to Atherstone. It was a lovely day again. There is some beautiful open countryside with rolling hills and distant wooded areas on the way from Nuneaton to Atherstone. We reached a convenient mooring in Atherstone near the town centre. Then we noticed there was a sign saying 'No mooring - British Waterways work boats' but the man on the boat next door said don't worry about it, they haven't been here in years, so we ignored it. Then we walked into the town. Atherstone is an odd town with a kind of faded scruffy prettiness - it seems to be fighting back, there are some nice old buildings and lots of little independent shops, but also quite a few empty ones. The old market place beckoned, but by that time we had been shopping the in large Co-op and had heavy bags, so we went back to the boat and had some macaroni cheese for lunch, then Dale had a sleep and I read the paper. Later on that evening we watched some more olympics, then went to bed early and read our books. We do have an exciting life!
Thursday 9th August We got up early and travelled for 9 hours altogether. We wanted to get back to the Coventry canal and on our way. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we ended up mooring the other side of Nuneaton in a nice quiet place near Hartshill.
Sunday 5th August - Thursday 9th August Karen and Les arrived at 9am on Sunday morning and we had a lovely time with them for the next few days. This involved travelling up to the end of the canal visiting each of the pretty little villages along the way, lots of drinking, watching the olympics in the evenings, eating lots of bread and butter pudding and crumble, which me and Les love, and barbecueing, with a couple of days of lovely weather to boot. The canal from Market Bosworth to the end at Snarestone is absolutely beautiful. When we got to Snarestone we had to walk 2 miles to get to Measham because we needed food and there were no shops. Laden down with food (and drink), we decided to find a taxi to bring us back which proved quite difficult and involved a half hour wait outside Tescos.
Trying to find drink food...
Saturday 4th August We left Stoke Golding at 9am. Stopped at Sutton Wharf bridge where there is a nice café. Dale emptied the toilet and I took the rubbish. We continued cruising along in bright sunshine through some beautiful and peaceful countryside. It was a delightful journey. Then at about 11am we arrived in Market Bosworth. There is an old steam engine there and we could hear it whistling nearby.
As soon as we'd stopped we started on our cleaning chores, which we have to do before Karen and Les arrive. I cleaned the bathroom and Dale did the kitchen. When we'd finished we decided to walk into the town, which is about a mile from the canal. At first it was quite a busy road but then began to change into the beautiful little 18th century town that is Market Bosworth. It has some lovely little independent shops in the high street, including a butcher, a baker and a greengrocers. We tried to get some cash but the machine wasn't working so we had to get cashback at the Co-op where we bought our alcohol supplies for the next few days. We had a walk around the village then Dale felt a bit ill because he hadn't eaten so we went into Ye Olde Red Lion pub (good excuse). It's a lovely old fashioned pub that smells like a proper pub when you walk in and it's obviously very popular, because it was busy. We had a couple of drinks then went to get fish and chips but it was nearly 4pm and the shop had closed! So we walked back to the boat with our very heavy rucksacks and had some burnt pizza for dinner.
On the morning of Wednesday 1st August we carried on up the Coventry Canal for a diversion up the Ashby Canal. We were going to meet Dale's sister Karen and her partner Les for a few days break. Our map told us that the Ashby was very rural and beautiful but we were a bit disappointed with the beginning of it. It was narrow, shallow and difficult to negotiate and we hadn't managed to escape the ubiquitous electricity pylons.
We arrived at Hinkley, which we had thought was going to be a small country village but in fact it is quite a large town. We stopped outside a large pub next to a marina and a Premier Inn hotel - it was a bit like a motorway service station! We had to see what the pub was like of course so had a couple of drinks in there - it was very busy and friendly.
Next morning we walked a couple of miles through Hinkley to get to Tescos after asking several people for directions. We liked the Tescos there, the people from Hinkley are friendly and ready to have a good old chat about anything. We had a chat with the cashier who told us that Market Bosworth (where we were planning to meet Karen and Les) is a lovely town and quite posh. After Tescos we cruised on and stayed at a lovely place near Stoke Golding which was quiet and beautiful. We gave Molly a bath and read our books for most of the evening.
On Friday 3rd August we cut Molly's fur a bit, her legs needed doing, then I cut Dale's hair for him. We are getting the hang of this. Molly looked nice when we had finished (well she thought she did anyway!).
Then we put the generator on and did some hoovering. I cleaned the bedroom. Then we set off for Stoke Golding village. There is a marina next to the village. I did the washing up while Dale dusted (we had visitors coming - we had to clean up!) then we walked up the lane into the village. It has 2 pubs, an Indian restaurant, a post office, a store, a tiny hairdressers and a beautiful church. What a pretty and peaceful village!
Later on we walked back up to the pub, the White Swan, in the High Street. As we walked in there were people on 3 separate tables and it was deathly quiet. The tables were arranged strangely around the edge of the room. The bar staff were really nice and we ended up having quite a few drinks and staying quite late. It was busy throughout the evening with people eating and had more of a restaurant atmosphere than a pub. We outstayed most of the people, then bought 2 fairycakes over the bar and walked home.
We stayed in Newbold for 10 days, discovering the two pubs, the Barley Mow and The Boat during our stay. The pubs are ok, not that great. One night we had a meal in the Barley Mow which was quite nice. Staying behind us was a friendly woman called Alison. She was on her own and had M.E. so Dale helped her with a few little jobs. She was waiting for her son who was going to accompany her to her new marina in Devizes. She had a long journey ahead! The weather was good while we were there and one day we were standing outside with Alison and another woman walking her dog, whom we nicknamed 'the gatherer' because she talked a lot about foraging for food. She told us there was a dump nearby where we might find some cheap bicycles, so that afternoon Dale walked to the dump. There weren't any suitable bikes there that day, nor the following Sunday when we visited again unfortunately.
Most of the people that moored up on their boats in Newbold were holidaying and were very cheerful and pleasant. One day we caught the bus into Rugby and had a good old look round. We concluded it must be quite a poor area because there are a lot of Poundland type shops there.
One day Dale accidentally switched the water heater on and left it on all day, and it left our batteries flat. Thus followed a panicky day of using the generator to charge them up again, and hoping we hadn't wrecked them. It turned out that all was well, however.
The main happy memory of Newbold was of several hot evenings where we sat at the bow of the boat watching the sun go down, chatting and drinking cider.
On the 31st of August I finished work at lunchtime and we set sail again. It was drizzling but not unbearable. We went through some beautiful countryside around Brinklow. We arrived at Rose Narrowboats in Stretton Stop, filled up with diesel and water and emptied all the toilets, which were perilously full! After that we were looking for an out-of-the-way place to moor so we could use our generator and do some washing. We certainly had a lot of washing by then! We stopped in a noisy place right next to the high speed railway, where nobody else would want to stop and set to work doing our washing. I looked out of the kitchen window which was up against some long grass and some of the grass was moving twitchily. I knew there must be an animal there and sure enough spotted a tiny field or harvest mouse eating in the midst of the grass.
Not all views on the canal are pretty....
My name is Angie Wood and I live on a narrowboat on the beautiful Oxford canal.
A long time ago in the eighties I studied Art and Design at Goldsmiths College and went on to be a paste up artist and then a graphic designer. I’ve never stopped painting and drawing though – I painted pet and animal portraits for a while and over the past two years have begun creating small oil paintings of vintage objects, textiles and flowers. I collect items from fleamarkets to paint and my little narrowboat is getting fuller all the time! I’m particularly delighted by colourful patterns on textiles and ceramics and I also love painting reflective surfaces. I’m usually attracted to items from the early part of the twentieth century, which bring back memories of my great aunts’ and grandmother’s cosy houses. My artistic aim is to pay homage to the things I paint by observing them as closely as I can, and to create something beautiful that will hopefully make people as happy as I was when I was making it!