Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Surprise! Surprise!

“We” – actually it was John – has just ‘clocked’ today’s date and realized that it’s our wedding anniversary!  (It was only ever John’s mum who remembered!)

It’s taken us ages to count up on both sets of fingers and toes – not enough – and find numerous twigs to supplement but ……. it’s 37 years!


OMG!  How have we coped?

Celebration?  Posh meal?  Delivery of flowers?

Don’t be daft but we do know of a really good Chinese Take-Away in Penkridge.  We know how to spoil ourselves!

We knew you’d be impressed, Ken!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  xxoo

Tixall Time

It’s easy to see why Tixall Wide is such a popular mooring spot amongst boaters.  It is what it says – wTixall Ange 002 (800x600)ide!  And, that in itself makes it a special feature on the canal system.

The story goes that the Toff who owned Tixall Hall and the surrounding land at the time of the construction of the canal didn’t want to look out of his windows and see a grubby old canal and ‘dirty boatees’!!  So, to placate him, the Engineer in charge, James Brindley, widened the canal to make it look more like a lake.  Only the Gatehouse of the Hall still exists.

Just a short waTixall Ange 015 (800x600)lk back along the tow path is the busy area surrounding the junction at Great Haywood.  For the visiting boater there’s a canal-side Farm shop, a canal-side cafe and Shugborough Hall where, for a fee, you can visit the mansion, a county museum, part of the working farm, the gardens, the National Trust shop and the cafeteria.  Dogs can be taken into the grounds on leads.  We’ve never gone in because we are not members of the N.T. and we think £30 for the two of us is expensive but I’m sure it’s all very interesting and constitutes a full day’s entertainment.Tixall Ange 014 (800x600)

Leading to the Hall you cross the Trent by means of a fabulous old packhorse bridge called Essex Bridge.  Dogs and children can ‘splish-slosh’ here to their heart’s content.  Today, two horses were ridden into the water for a paddle too!

Whist moored at Tixall:-

  • John has been busy re-doing some of the scumbling in our back cabin.

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  • “President” and it’s butty “Kildare” really did steam by!  I suspect they are on their way to the IWA Festival which is being held at Burton next weekend.

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  • The Hotel boats “Oak” and “Ash” moored here overnight too.  They always demand attention when they go by.

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  • An opportunist stowaway was looking to get on board!

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Tomorrow we will be making our way to Penkridge.  Our friend, Ray, is coming to see us on Saturday and we think Penkridge will be a good place for him to meet us.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Great British Summer!

Today we have been treated to what, at times, seems to be an increasing rarity - a perfect British Summer's day!

Perfect for a long walk up on Cannock Chase.  We have found the easiest access point to be by bridge 72 at Little Haywood where there are some good moorings.

Lots of opportunities for the dogs to 'splish-splosh' and cool down in the stream which runs through part of The Chase.

   So, we now have two shattered dogs and ...................... aching feet!

Friday, 22 July 2011


Yesterday afternoon we were amongst a convoy of boats approaching Fradley Junction from the Coventry.  Whenever we’ve been through Fradley it’s been heaving with boats and really difficult to moor so …………. before we reached the swing bridge, we ‘dived’ into the one available space!  ‘Dived’ is a huge exaggeration – it actually took quite a lot of toing, froing and pulling!  We took the dogs for a walk around the Nature reserve, had a lovely chat with 86 year old Audrey who was out with her son – (she said they go there often to visit the cafe for coffee and cake!!) and then ended up sitting outside the Swan pub watching the boats…… and having a drink.  Well, you have to, don’t you?!

Today we got the bikes out for an airing and cycled into Lichfield which from here is about five miles.  Before we could go anywhere, however, a puncture needed to be mended.  The inner tube needed replacing and, being a Queen Scout and all that ‘Be-Prepared’ business, he just happened to have one!  Bless!  Where WOULD I be without him?  (Back in the classroom I used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”!!!)

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We have never been to Lichfield before – what a gem!  It’s a Cathedral City but small and oozes charm.  It has a long history.  From what I could read on information boards etc it seems that it developed as the religious centre of the Kingdom of Mercia in Saxon times.  Actually, in 2009, the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard was in all the papers.  The largest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold and silver ever to be found was discovered by a chap with a metal detector in a farmer’s field about 4 miles from Lichfield.  An exhibition of these treasures will be in the Cathedral at Lichfield from 30th July.  I would really like to see them.

Lichfield was a Royalist stronghold in the Civil War and the cathedral was well-and-truly desecrated by Mr Cromwell and his followers.  Thankfully, over the ensuing centuries restoration has taken place and the magnificent bLichfieldJ 025 (800x600)building and it’s ornate masonry is back on show for everyone to admire.ALichfield 014 (800x600)

        It’s just incredible to me that anyone can create something this realistic out of stone.

This was just one of many, many carved figures – all different.


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Every household should have one!

Litchfield just felt like a really nice place ……………

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Onward tomorrow – we need to stop at Rugeley to do a bit of shopping for the weekend and then we hope to be able to moor up near Wolseley but, when the canals are as busy as they are at the moment, you just have to settle for what you can get!  The sensible thing would be to get going early but ………….!!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

On the Coventry

We passed through Hawkesbury Junction last Monday and have been making our way up the Coventry.  Hawkesbury Junction is a notoriously sharp turn and the Greyhound Pub is well situated for all the drinkers to watch and laugh at skippers who ‘mess up’!

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As we were going down the Atherstone flight of eleven locks we met a single-handed boatman who has well and truly got it sussed!

He has a clever little remote-control gizmo that enables him to drive his boat backwards and forwards while the boat is in the lock and he is on the bank operating the gates and paddles. 

   Clever eh?    New camara A's 012 (800x600)

Aren't we all glad it’s summer?!!   The showers keep coming, it’s dull and really quite chilly.  Time to gather some fuel I thought.  Have yet to persuade him to use some of it though. 

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Passing Alvecote marina there were still lots of old working boats moored up following their celebratory ‘gathering’ last weekend.  It’s special to see so many together in one place.  They looked fantastic.               5 more 001 (800x600)5 more 003 (800x600)


I’m all for the canal environment being used and enjoyed by a diversity of interested parties and, like the civilised, intelligent race we are, we all need to tolerate and respect each other’s interests.  It’s really good to see the canals being used not only by boaters but also by fishermen, joggers, dog walkers, ramblers and cyclists.  No one group is any more important than another …………… or is it?

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Can they really DO this?

Can they really prevent boats going through a section of the canal for 10 hours?  If they can then I really hope that someone will think to inform all hire boat companies within a wide radius so that they can pass this information onto their hirers.  Hirers and private boat owners alike could find their schedules seriously impeded.  Hopefully they don’t actually mean to prevent boat passage, just boats being moored along this section of tow path?  That would be fair enough.

AND ….What about the way in which this notice is attached to the lovely LIVE oak tree?   It’s been screwed to the trunk of the tree in four places! Speared! The eejit who put this notice up obviously has no respect for nature.  Anyone with half a brain knows that damaging the bark of a tree like this can leave it open to infection and disease.  At this moment in time I’m feeling very concerned for the fish!      

Time to take the dogs for a walk I think!         

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Yesterday & Today


We were up and out of the marina BEFORE 9a.m.!  Now, I know to you two that this is the middle of the morning,  but to us it’s still dawn!!

The joys of the canals being busy with boats:                                                                                                                                        Having help from other boaters and the lock keeper, we descended the Watford Flight in record time.  I have never seen the flight looking so well kept – someone involved obviously has very green fingers because there are masses of assorted containers of beautiful flowers all over the site.  Again, with help at every lock on the Braunston Flight and being able to go straight in every lock as boats came out, we cleared it in 45 minutes!  Unheard of!!  Today, we have been just as fortunate at Hillmorton.

When we left Willoughby Wharf this morning we had it in mind to put in a few long days to get some miles behind us.  We stopped at Hillmorton for lunch and ……….. we’re still here!  Hopeless!

A new marina is being established at Barby.  When we came by last October work appeared to have stopped and weCrick to Hillmorton 015 (640x480) were told that the developers had Crick to Hillmorton 012 (640x480)run out of money.  Well, things are now well back on course.  It’s all been dug out and filled with water and, as we came by, a digger was breaking through the bank to make an entrance from the canal.  It looked like he was moving the self-same soil he was perched on!!

When you read about the original ideas behind the development and look at some of the plans it all sounds very sophisticated and alluring.


We watched the development of Yelvertoft Marina from start to finish and now,  that appears to be almost full of boats and well-established.   No doubt by this time next year things will be similar at this site.

Maggie and MCrick to Hillmorton 001 (640x480)aisie have both quickly re-discovered the joys of towpath walking and so have I.  Today they were focused on chasing rabbits and I was focused on the numerous and varied butterflies.   

According to my reference chart, this lovely butterfly is called a Gatekeeper. 



Something else I saw today:- boat livery at it’s most extraordinary.

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Both sides of this boat have been painted with scenes of the countryside.  The longer you stand and look at it, the more you see – animals, birds, insects, trees, flowers, a water wheel, a bridge, a moored boat to name but a few things.

Each side is different. 



Finally for today – an update regarding Megan.

megan photo

She has arrived safely in Buenos Aires where she has enrolled in a language school in order to have a crash course to learn Spanish.  There are only three students in the class (the other two are both female and both in their 30’s) and, apparently, she is the worst!  Being bottom of the class for a change will be a useful experience for her!  They have all made friends and intend to do lots of things together.  I think this involves learning to tango!  She says that what she has seen of the city so far, she really likes. Apparently, however, things are not as inexpensive as she was led to believe. She is then going to do another intense course for a month in order to attain a qualification to teach English as a second language.  She assures me she’s not interested in teaching children; it’s the businessmen she wants to support!!  It remains to be seen what will happen after that!  It’s all just so far away and so, well …………..foreign!!   xxoo

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Crick Fun Weekend

This weekend the villagers of Crick have banded together to organise all sorts of fun activities in order to raise money for charities.   All over the village there have been things to engage and entertain:-

  • A small circus in the field near the marina.
  • Story-telling sessions for children.
  • All sorts of fair-ground type stalls.
  • A display of birds of prey.
  • A Fire Engine on display
  • A Scarecrow Competition
  • Dog Show
  • Art Exhibition
  • Garage sales
  • Raffles
  • Local Live bands on the playing fields
  • Food stalls – cream teas and burgers in the church
  • Craft stalls
  • Puppet making sessions
  • Face painting
  • An auction of promises at the pub

It has been a bit like you would get at a school fair but the whole village has been involved, not just the school.  Thankfully the rain has held off!  I have been so impressed to see how residents of roads worked together – for example, all the scarecrows in oneCrick weekend 004 (640x480) road shared the theme of ‘The Yellow Brick Road’ so there was Dorothy, the Tin Man, The Scarecrow etc and ……………. Elton John on his keyboard!!

The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was our overall favourite – it was complete with smoke and music!  What a lot of time and effort must have gone into making it all. 

The funCrick weekend 007 (480x640)niest was the young lady (surely only young ladies wear knickers like those?!) climbing back in the window after a boozy night out – it was called ‘The Curfew’

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Tracking down all the activities and scarecrows has opened our eyes to just how big Crick actually is!  We have discovered roads and areas we never knew were there.

10/10 for the People of Crick.  I hope they have raised a good amount of money for their chosen charities.

We are hoping that our water heater will be back up-and-running tomorrow (yet another part of it has been sent off for repair!) and then we will be on our way.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Back in the Marina

We have been back in the marina at Crick since last Friday busy sorting things out and doing various jobs.

We have cleaned, emptied and sold our loyal old van.  Crying faceHomeward 002 (800x600)

                                                                    New plants are festooning the roof and front deck.  





Homeward 003 (800x600)The boat has been cleaned inside from one end to the other and …………, on Tuesday we just went to have a look for some new flooring and ………… on Friday, new carpeting was fitted!  I have an O.C.D. where carpets are concerned so the chosen colour is undoubtedly madness!!

The boat’s paintwork has been washed and polished on one side (need to turn her around to do the other), windows have been cleaned and all the brass has been brasso’ed!

Oh, and I’ve watched lots of tennis!!


On Saturday Megan and Maisie arrived and are staying for a few days – well, Megan is;  Maisie is back with us for as long as she needs to stay.  Megan didn’t find whatever it is she’s looking for in Malta, neither was ‘it’ on a cruise ship so now she’s going to explore Buenos Aires!  ARGENTINA!!??   And I’m not supposed to have any concerns!  The plan is that she is going to learn Spanish and get a qualification for teaching English as a second language.  She flies out this Saturday.

Rodney has also arrived and is planning to stay on his own boat in the marina until Friday.  No doubt he and John will be seeing quite a bit of the inside of  “The Red Lion” over the next few days!!

John and I are looking forward to getting back out on the cut.  Judging by the number of cars in the car park here and the number of boats out, it’s going to be busy.  We will be heading North up the Coventry Canal towards Fradley.