Saturday, 28 April 2012

There & Back and Back Again!

Last Saturday we were at Willington and …… this Saturday we’re at Willington!  It’s not that we haven’t moved – we have – but, because of a self-confessed cock muck up, we needed to turn round and go back to Willington Marina for a full ‘services’ call.  The deep, wide lock at Stenson is beginning to treat me as an old friend!dove 013 (600x800)
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The old cooling towers of Willington Power Station   - taken from the bridge over the River Trent.  They have a certain majesty about them.                                                      
                                              and ……..
on the other side of the Trent, the stiletto-sharp spire of the church at Repton.

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                    and just because I like this:- Sometimes quite ordinary things can still be quite fabulous!

We are now moored on some very nice moorings at the bottom of the garden of a pub called ‘The Ragley Boat Stop’.  We have good TV reception,  good internet reception and mains electricity!  Tokens for a hook-up can be purchased from the pub.  So, a hoovered carpet (yes, I know it’s an O.C.D. but, actually, this time John did it!!), unlimited TV, everything electrical charged up and no cooking for me tonight. Nice way to end the week I’d say.
Earlier in the week we did eventually cycle into the city of Derby – a place we have never been to before.  What an experience!  There are definitely some things in life that one doesn’t need to do twice and, for me, cycling into Derby via Sinfin and Normanton is one of them!  Derby itself seems to be a really good shopping centre – it has all the major chain stores but also a variety of smaller, individual shops.   Such a shame though about the large amounts of discarded fag ends and blotches of chewing gum all over the pavements.
Canal Time boaters have really been the only committed crews to cruising in the wind and rain this week.  I supposed that the river section between Shardlow and Sawley was still OK as the hire boats have kept coming to and fro and I know that they come out of Sawley Marina.  Wrong!  I found out today that they have been setting off from Shardlow instead as the river is running too fast for safe navigation.
There’s a picture in today’s paper of the River Ouse at York – that was where we were hoping to get to this year.  Maybe late Summer/early Autumn will be a safer time to visit than the Spring!?  Megan is coming home on Monday – perhaps she’ll bring some of that hot, Spanish sunshine with her!  Yeah, right!!odds 012 (800x600)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

On Days like Today ….

On days like today, when the wind and the rain are both in seriously determined moods, the hire-boaters have it pretty much to themselves!  As it’s somewhere we’ve never been, we had intended cycling into Derby but, today, that has no appeal either!

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Sawley marina are doing very good business at the moment in the hiring out of their “Canal Time” fleet.  When you pay out lots of £££££££££ to hire a boat, you’ve got to use it whatever the weather!  Of course you have.  “Been there, done that.”  These days when the weather is grim, we just stay put and find other things to do:-

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This table has been awaiting transformation for over a year.  Whether the weather will allow us to get out the barbecue and show it off on the towpath this year remains to be seen. 

At the moment it’s all a bit of a joke really isn’t it?  We left Crick marina seven weeks ago fearful that there would be insufficient water ‘to float our boat’.  Now, we are fearful about going on the River Trent and down to Boston because there’s too much of it!!  Oh well, plans can always change!


Returning to the subject of hire boats:-

Since we have been out of the  marina this year, not one hire boat has passed us going too fast whilst we have been moored up.  This doesn’t just apply to the “Canal Time” boats, it’s been pretty much all of them.  What has happened?  There was a time not so very long ago when it was a major grumble amongst the private boat brigade.  Mind you, that’s not to say that private boat owners always slow down when passing moored boats because they definitely do not!  Some of them are the worst offenders.

Talking yesterday to an obviously experienced hire-boater, I was told that the general practice now amongst the hire companies is to issue hirers with training DVD’s to watch in the comfort of their own homes.  He told me that, previously, written information was issued but that few people actually bothered to read it prior to the start of their holiday.  DVD’s are proving to be much more alluring!  Apparently, the consequences of going too fast passed moored boats is well illustrated.  So, ‘well done’ to all the hire-boat companies – praise where praise is due.  Mind you, I wouldn’t mind having a couple of spare copies myself to ‘present’ ceremoniously to those in the private sector whose behaviour indicates the need!                                                    

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Wanted: Good Interpretation Skills

Every now and then, especially on busy stretches of canal, boaters feel an urgent need to engage in a variety of wild gesticulations in an attempt to communicate their intentions to other users.  These gesticulations are often accompanied by confusing shouts and grunts which are generally inaudible and of no help whatsoever.  
Lucky motorists have documented guidance regarding the use of hand signals in the form of The Highway Code but the poor old skipper on the tiller has to rely on his/her own creativity.  Rarely are the same signals seen twice.
Boaters make signals expecting you to know exactly what they mean ……  Pit your wits at these …… What CAN they possibly mean?

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1.     Is that lock full or empty?
     Don’t you just love Madonna?  Vague or Vogue?

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 2.  I need to fill up with water.  The tap's just over there.
       Get in there now and do that washing up.               


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3.  It’s so good to see you!  Give us a hug.
     Leave both lock gates open, we’re on our way.

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4.  There's one more boat following me.
      One sugar in mine please.

Enough of this nonsense but, take it from me, strange signals do happen on a regular basis!  They are usually ambiguous and full of mystery but are definitely entertaining.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Alrewas to Branston Water Park

Leaving the lovely Alrewas and heading east-north-east,(!) boaters have to travel on a section on the River Trent.  It’s very lovely – especially when the sun is shining.

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          Moments like this are magic!                   They weren’t a bit bothered by the boat!

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            A tight turn!                          The church at Wychnor               Huge marina at Barton Turns

There are lots of marinas between Fradley and Sawley so, consequently, this is proving to be a busy stretch of canal –  hire boats have been consistently coming out  from Sawley and lots of private boats are out and about too.

We are now moored up next to Branston Water Park which has to be high on our list of ‘best mooring sites’.  Branston is just outside of Burton-on-Trent.  The only thing that spoils it a bit is the constant drone of traffic noise from the nearby, busy A38.

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                 Moored up at Branston Water Park.               The view from our galley window.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Come Share our Day ……

On days like today it’s easy to remind myself just how lucky we are to be doing what we have chosen to do.

Today we are moored up in a lovely spot in the lovely village of Alrewas in Staffordshire - Mealings – I think this is the village you wanted me to find!  I definitely could be tempted to live here!  We attempted to walk to the National Memorial Arboretum but had to give up as we couldn’t safely cross the busy A38.

Alrewas 011  Really nice mooring.     Alrewas 013  Yes please!

We went for a long walk in the Trent Valley instead, returning just in time to put our feet up and watch the coverage of the Chinese Grand Prix.Alrewas 034

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Some boating friends of ours went to the RSPCA to rescue a dog – they were turned down on the basis that, as they lived on a boat, the dog would not have a garden and – dogs need a garden!

I still can’t get my head round that one!

We really enjoy walking and, to be honest, it’s the dogs that make us explore.  Without them I’m sure we would miss out on lots of this lovely countryside.  Something that really ‘gets our goat’, ‘cheeses us off’, ‘gets us going’ etc is when footpaths are not maintained.  On occasion we have had to give up, turn round and return the way we had gone.  Keeping footpaths open and maintained has become a bit of a Crusade for us!  Our GPRS has earned it’s place on our boat and, if we are able to report any negligence – deliberate or otherwise – we are going to continue to do so!!  SO BE IT!

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Footpaths?  Where?  They should have been re-instated …………………………………..   like this .

Six miles on and we found a pub!  Result!  ‘imself said I had to drink the bottle of water I had made him carry for me but he did give in and provide me with a pint of proper cider!  Dogs were pooped and had a touch of back-to-back recuperation.  Even allowed in!!

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Re-joining the waterway where the canal becomes a river section, we had that cup of coffee which John had also carried around – for nine miles!

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The village of Alrewas – lovely.  The surrounding area – lovely!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Fradley Junction is ………

in the same vein as Braunston – things happen here and, consequently, it’s always full of boats both moored and on the move.
For the ‘landed gentry’ amongst you, Fradley Junction is where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent and Mersey.  East takes you to Stoke and the Potteries and West goes to the River Trent and Nottingham.  There’s an old pub at Fradley called ‘The Swan’.  Apparently, years ago, it was known as ‘The Mucky Duck’!  There are two cafes, a small canal shop and there used to be a BW information centre and shop housed in the old buildings of the once-upon-a-time-maintenance yard.  Sadly, this has been another victim of the current financial climate.  Perhaps, at busy times, this is something that could be manned by C&RT volunteers?  Just an idea.  There’s also a small, well organised nature reserve.  Lots to encourage boaters to stop then.
Yesterday, when we arrived, we were lucky.  We managed to get a spot just opposite the old maintenance yard.
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Before (1963) and after (2012)fradley 025 (800x600)
We managed to catch up with our lovely friends on n/b Kessandra.  They were moored at the bottom of the locks on their way back to their mooring at Shobnall.  We walked down to see them ………….. in a heavy thunderstorm!  Seeing HRH Kenneth, Earl of Rotherham (!!) and his lovely Lady Sandra, alias Lucy, is always great therapy for us.  Thanks to Sandra I am now back on track with the ‘miracle’ knitting project!!  Ken and Sandra are truly ………………………!  Smile

DUCKS!  What an assortment hang around the cafe here!  There is definitely a multi-cultural, many generation feathered community!
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And, talking of ducks,  we are in no doubt about nearing both Derbyshire and Yorkshire.  Twice today I’ve heard one lady say to another -       “All right Ducks?”  Down Souf I suppose we’d say, “OK Love?”!  We’ve also heard rumour of:-
“If thou’ll not shut thy mouth, I’ll deck thee one”!!!!!!
Down Souf – it would probably translate to:-
“Shut yer mouf mate or I might be tempted to shut it for yer.” (This is according to the Captain – I know nothing of such things!)
  Our rich and varied regional, colloquial heritage – isn’t it just special?  Luv it!
AND FINALLY …………. the weather!  Yes, this year the good old English April seems to have come to its senses and get back to normal.  This year we have decided to head for the great River Trent, and so, it is, as I write, in flood!  Typical!!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Good Result

We never did complete the Warwick Ring!  Back in 1986 we set off from Nuneaton in a hired boat (with a young Gill and even younger Mark on board) and went clockwise.  We got as far as the bottom of the Hatton flight, became faint-hearted and turned around to go back the way we had come!

So, all these years later we have, at last, found ourselves on part of The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.We have only come as far as the bottom of the Curdworth locks and have turned round in the winding hole, near which are really good, open-aspect moorings – right next to one of the gravel pits which are now part of a large nature reserve.  There’s at least one public bird hide and a selection of way-marked walks some of which are accessible to dogs as long as they are on leads.  Wonders never cease! Why has it taken us so long to find this brilliant spot?  Unfortunately in some ways, we can’t stay here for longer than a day this time as we have a rendezvous in a pub tomorrow with The Trotters!  For sure, however, we will return here at some time in the future.

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Shortly after turning off The Coventry Canal we came upon this.  Drayton Manor Footbridge is really unusual as the bridge itself is supported by little castellated towers inside of which are miniature spiral staircases! 

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A bit further on is Kingsbury Water Park with all sorts of outdoor activities on offer.

We watched these ‘crazy’ people bungee-jumping from the crane!  Good idea for your 60th birthday, Rosa?  Thought it might appeal to you!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Generally speaking though, it could be a novel punishment for anyone who upsets you couldn’t it??!!

Maisie is 5 tomorrow!  She seems to have spent a lot of her five years in muddy puddles!  Perhaps, as she reaches the equivalent of 35 human-years, her behaviour will improve?  Some hope!

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                        Happy Birthday, Maisie.  We love you loads and loads – mud and all! xxoo

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Following/dipping into other boater’s blog sites has, in the past, enabled us to pick up good tips and useful bits of information.  So ….. for any boater who has never stopped at Polesworth before:-

  • There are very good moorings by Bridge 54.  From there, it’s only a short walk into the village where there’s a selection of shops for essential supplies.  Amongst other small shops there’s a well-stocked Co-op by the Abbey Gatehouse, a Post Office and a veritable choice of establishpolesworth 010 (600x800)ments at which to get a hair cut!


  • Take Aways :– we noticed both a Chinese and a Fish & Chip shop and, over the canal bridge the other way, there’s an Indian restaurant.  Two very enterprising young men put menus aboard  all the moored boats.  Looks a good menu too – unfortunately I had already prepared our evening meal.  Next time!  Menu is ‘on file’.


  • The pretty Rivpolesworth 009 (800x600)er Anker runs through the centre of Polesworth and the District Council has done a good job incorporating it into a very nice recreational area – good for walking the dogs. 

Unfortunately, general litter and abandoned dog waste were too much in evidence to be ignored!  Shame.



Yesterday, whilst moored at Atherstone, I thought I was seeing things!

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We’ve seen plenty of  dogs and cats, occasionally  ferrets, rabbits, parrots and chickens on boats but a goat??  Apparently he has an established ‘escape route’ from his adjoining field and is frequently trying to ‘catch a ride’!!


Today:              Wet!

Tomorrow:        Wetter!!

Monday:            Wettest!!!


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

For us ……… a New Discovery

Yesterday afternoon, as the rain gathered momentum, we decided to moor up at Hartshill -  just passed bridge 32 and the BW yard with it’s lovely old clock tower and arched bays.  We’ve never stopped here before so, today, leaving the canal at Bridge 33, we went off in search of the Hartshill Country Park.   The clue is in the name – HartsHILL – yes, it’s a steady climb up but, from the top, the view over the valley is well worth the effort even on a misty, rainy day like today.

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In the woodland there’s a labyrinth of waymarked walks – it would be so easy to get lost.  Apparently there’s a visitor centre where you can obtain pamphlets describing the different walks but ……….. we didn’t find it!  Had to rely on the GPS instead!  The woodland floor is literally smothered with bluebells – in a couple of weeks time it will resemble a very large blue ‘carpet’.

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On the top is a well kept picnic/viewpoint area with lots of benches dedicated to presumably local people who are no longer alive.  There’s also a commemorative board – something I’ve never seen before and a really nice idea I think.

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On the way down we skirted the edge of pastureland and for at least 1/2 mile there was Warwickshire’s very own ‘Watership Down’ – an extensive warren of which almost every hole had to be checked out by Maggie.

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I know two little Jack Russells who would have had a whale of a time here and would probably have gone missing for quite some time!

When we re-travel along familiar canal routes we try to find different places to moor and new places to see.

For those who like walking – with or without dogs – Hartshill Country Park and its’ surrounding area is a real gem.  From now on, whenever we come this way, I’m sure we will stop here just to access the lovely walks.


I will look forward to seeing it in the sunshine!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Adieu ………… for now.

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Having spent a very pleasant weekend moored up behind Lynn & Paul at Oaks Wood, this morning we bade ‘farewell’ and, with a steady stream of other boats,  set off for Hawkesbury Junction. 

I can’t quite decide whether Sapphire was sad to see us go or …. glad to see the back of us?  Bless!  Lovely photo of her anyway.

We left Paul busily preparing for the threatened snow which is apparently falling in Scotland and heading South! 

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   It pays to be cautious now doesn’t it?

We moored up for lunch at Ansty and ………. we’re still here!  Having cleared up the lunch things and gotten myself and the dogs ready to go for a walk, I couldn’t find John!  I expected to find him outside gassing to someone but, no!  I then noticed that the bucket we keep in the cratch area had been emptied of all the toot we normally store in it and was also gone!  Plot thickens!  I looked further afield and there, up the tow path, accompanied by two other boaters was missing hubby.  All three of them were throwing buckets of water at the hedge!             This is why …..

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People on the boat behind us had looked out of their window and seen smoke and flames billowing from the hedge.  Thank goodness they did because with quick thinking and speedy action it was soon under control and extinguished.  Our best guess is that someone passing had inadvertently thrown down a cigarette end.  It just goes to show how easily these things can happen.

Hawkesbury Junction tomorrow then – that is if we’re not iced up and snowed in!!  xxoo