Wednesday, 29 August 2012
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.
Monday, 20 August 2012
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.
Friday, 17 August 2012
Sunday, 12 August 2012
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.
Saturday, 11 August 2012
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!
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
Friday, 10 August 2012
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 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....