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Sunday 31 March 2019

All the way to Alrewas.

When Stephen was with us yesterday we took a stroll up to the junction and then around the reservoir. We had never  been taken a turn round the water before.

There are good paths and plenty of fishing stands too, but nobody out today. There was a pond dipping spot as well. Does it still provide water for the canal?

When you study just about any bird their plumage is very detailed and interesting and has a beauty all of its own. As can be seen in this greylag goose.

A couple of hire boats came up the locks and passed us before we got off ourselves. It was a lovely sunny day but there was more wind and directly in our faces, so a little chilly.

One of the hire boats heading up Junction Lock. I wonder which way he is going to turn at the top?

Almost opposite our mooring was one of the entrance to the woodland, lakeside walk that had nice gates to it.

Down by Common Lock the new marina is taking shape. It looks like they have only excavated one of the bays so far. It is interesting to see the depth with no water, and I wonder how far the piling goes down!

It looks larger than 60 berths but then it is hard to know where the water will be. The service block is up though. Maybe next year.

We were soon down into Alrewas and out of the wind once through Bagnall Lock.

There was plenty of room to tie up on the tow path round the bends and bridges through the village but we decided to moor nearer the lock to take advantage of the sun. Bit breezy here though.

Happy Mother's Day/Mothering Sunday to all those ladies that make the world go round. It is a shame they are so busy being Mum's that they can't run the world for us too. Helen, where are the keys? In your pocket you idiot!!

Saturday 30 March 2019

Found Fradley.

I had a last dash in to Wilco's at 09:00 before setting off a little later. It was overcast and quite cool, but looked promising for later.

I was pleased to see that this old corn mill dating from 1863 has found a buyer who seems to have made a start on refurbishing it. Nothing was done in September last year. It had been empty for several years when it was put on the market for £1.2 million in 2013! It is in a conservation area and should make a great residence.

Spode House was built for Josiah Spode of  pottery fame. When he died in 1893 he left it to a Dominican religious order who built a priory in the grounds. Itthen resorted to more hedonistic pursuits as a spa and a golf course around the grounds.

Armatige Tunnel was opened out after some collapses due to mining subsidence and now it is just a rocky narrows that is not too bad from this direction, but coming the other way means that you can't see if it is clear until you are in it.

Spode Cottage was a pub steakhouse and grill. It is a Grade II Listed building but was bought for around £499,000 and converted to a six bedroom house. The car park was dug up and changed back to a garden.

Armitage Shanks, the company, was formed by amalgamation of the two companies in 1969, but Armitage had been on this canal side site since 1817. There always used to stacks of new sanitary ware and toilets, but maybe this has been altered by the 'just in time' thinking. (See what I did there?).

These gaunt sentries seem to waiting for spring just south of Kings Bromley Wharf.

It seems very early for rape to be in flower, but I'm not sure. It makes for a cheerful sight when it is a bit gloomy though.

Much like the avenue leading up to some grand house the trees frame the canal and give it a certain gravitas. 

Woodend Lock, first of the day, done and dusted. No queuing today. I can't remember ever not having to wait for at least one boat at this lock.

It was fairly busy at the junction today. I bit of sun, but still a little chilly in the very slight breeze. I had to wait for the boat coming up before dropping down Junction Lock and tying up on the visitor moorings.

We were here to rendezvous with an old chum who popped out of Brum to meet us. It was great to catch up with Stephen and we are looking forward to the next time when we hope Marva can accompany him. All round a very nice day with tea and cake and a stroll round the reservoir.

Friday 29 March 2019

Roughly in Rugeley.

Last nights meal was a special two steaks for £14 night and very enjoyable. I woke up to a foggy day but it soon cleared when the sun got up and it was another cracking day when we got away about 09:30.

Very shortly after we left the visitor moorings we saw these little fellers. I can't remember when we saw our first ducklings last year but these are the first we have seen. Yesterday we saw our first heron and swallow too! Later on when we got to Rugeley there was another brood of ducklings too.

A little way further we passed Weston Wharf. There is always an interesting collection of boats here at the old wharf where coal was brought in for the salt brine works and then to take away the finished salt too.

This gentleman was strutting his stuff in the sun. They are magnificent really. If this was in the tropics they would make documentaries about them.

After passing down Sandon Lock we found nobody at the services at Great Haywood so we stopped to top up the water and get rid of the little bit of rubbish we have made. Helen took the opportunity to pop over the road to the farm shop to get something for lunch etc. Pricey, but I hope that they taste good too.

As we passed down through the lock Helen had the first person ask if she was from Hull. Not because of the name of the boat but her accent! I think this is the carriage road bridge to Shugborough Hall so a little bit special.

Shugborough Hall dates from 1693 but was altered a lot in the 1760's when the Anson family, with Admiral Anson RN a member of the clan. It looks lovely in the sun. There were no boats on the moorings overlooking the Trent and the Hall either.

Colwich Lock also looked nice in the sun too. Mind you just about everywhere looks good with the sun out.

Just after Wolseley Bridge is Bishton Hall. Last time we passed this way it was the St. Bede's Prep school, where you could bring your own pony! Last year it closed and the contents were sold off prior to it being refurbished as a 'venue'. Bishton Hall seems to have been mentioned in the Domesday Book. This building dates from the 1750's with the east wing added in the 19th Century.

From Great Haywood the Trent and the canal remain close and a little after this photo the canal crosses on an aqueduct as you approach Rugeley.

Once moored up we went for a walk round the town and to do a little shopping. Rugeley used to have two coal mines Brereton and Lean Hall. When at school I visited Lean Hall, that only closed in 1991, for an underground trip. If I hadn't liked the life at sea I could have been a miner I reckon. This on is of a Deputy with his staff. There is also a rescue miner and a miner from the 1930's and 1940's. They are 9ft tall, made of concrete and each weighs 2 tonnes. They are by Andy De Comyn and cost £55,000 when they were erected in 2015.

Being close to the supermarkets we got a few heavier things, and after a pint repaired to the boat. Master Chef final tonight so luckily I got a picture otherwise my life wouldn't be worth living!

Thursday 28 March 2019

And there off!

I hope that at least some of you have enjoyed the Beers, Boats and Boozers blogs over the winter. Iwas a little surprised to realise that we had visited 46 pubs over our cruising, but the variety of pubs and beers and the history of the breweries can be interesting.

Those that didn't enjoy it may be relieved to find that we are off cruising again, however brokenly for a will. It is the start of my research trip for the winter blogs actually!

We got to the boat in 2 hours and 15 mins and unpacked all the gear. I can't believe how much there is at the start of the year! I then filled up with water, got all the stuff out of the boat for the roof, changed the ropes etc etc and we were ready to leave just after three and what a lovely day to start the year off. Just clear of the marina where these little fellers taking advantage of the sun.

I was expecting it to be a bit busier than it was with the nice day, but we passed only one moving boat in the two hours we were under way.

First lock of the year, Sandon. Helen remembered what to do and I didn't manage to bump anything and we were soon on our way again.

Helen was putting her back into it, but it was me that was bushed at the end of the day. Just one lock today to break us in gently.

Pitt's Monument peaks out above the trees as the canal runs right next to the railway and the road. Sandon Park is now a wedding venue!

Just shows how how still it is today withe these reflections of the trees. A bit of a Game of Thrones thing.

As we approached Weston a baloon rose in the evening shy. It would be a great evening for a boat ride.

Two hours and we moored up at Weston and we are treating ourselves with a bite ashore, and the first beers of the cruise too, at the Woolpack with a bit of luck.

Ah it is good to be back!! I wondered when we got clear of the marina whether everything was okay as we didn't seem to be moving very quickly. It took me a little bit of time to adjust to the new pace of life

Friday 22 March 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No. 46

We left Braunston on another lovely day and headed onwards towards Hill Morton

There was a bit of a hold up at the top lock and the boat waiting there managed to come astern into us as we came alongside astern of him. No damage done. Helen took her down through the locks and with the double locks, (not all operating though), and with traffic coming up we soon sped downwards.

We were tempted to stop at the moorings by Newbold Tunnel, but kept going through the tunnel.

We stopped just before All Oaks Wood and the footpath to Brinklow. The photo looks like it was a misty morning shot, but actually it was the smoke from a bonfire in the house next to us.

The next day we pushed on once more and reached the end of the Oxford Canal at Hawkwsbury Junction. It was all very quiet and I was even able to risk a snap as I rounded the tight bend from the lock on to the Coventry Canal.

The hawthorn berries were ripening on the surprisingly rural stretch of canal passing Bedworth. Especially surprising when you think that it was a very busy coal mining area in its day

We stopped for water at the lovely Harts Hill Yard. It was very quiet with little traffic, but we still decided to continue on a little further. We stopped for the night near Rawn Hill overlooking  with woods all round a field and watched as a mother buzzard teaching her two young to hunt.

Yet another nice day and we were off to make the short dash to the top of Atherstone Locks. It was quiet, but the volunteer keepers were there and helped us down a few locks before leaving us to complete the rest. Always a pleasant flight to run through, even more so on a lovely day.

We continued through Polesworth and Alvecote before arriving at the Glascote Locks by Tamworth.  Here we are crossing the Tame Aqueduct close to Fazeley.

C&RT Offices at  Peel's Wharf have been sold off and the services closed. Another place lost for rubbish disposal etc. The tap by the junction is still working though.

Wew continued on through Hopwas and called it a day at Whittington, close to the spot where there is the above plaque and a marker stone to bear witness to the spot where the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal met the Coventry Canal in 1790, forming the through route.

We had shore leave and  went to look for a pub. The Dog (I think it was) in the village was closed for refurbishment so we found our way to the Bell Inn. It is a lovely old building with plenty of rooms and much exposed brick and beams! The original the house became a shop and beer house in 1834. Over the next few years the nextdoor properties were purchased and in 1854 the pub was named in directories as the Bell Inn. In 1884 a death and debts meant the the pub was mortgaged to the Lichfield Brewery, and 1898 they bought it outright. Just before the war it was the base for the Loyal Peel's Pride Lodge of the Oddfellows. By1959 Lichfield Brewery became part of Ind Coope. The pub is very atmospheric and has been used as a TV location several times. In 1990's it was used for a series called 'Chancer' and also 'Soldier Soldier'. Again in 2004 it featured in 'Dalziel and Pascoe'.

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I choose a pint from St Austell's Brewery from the not too extensive range of draft beers on the bar. St Austells was set up by a local man in the town of that name in 1851 and remains a family run independent brewery. In 2016 they bought Bath Ales to try to move away from the lack of sales in Cornwall in the winter months. They built a new brewery and bottling plant in Bath. Tribute is there most famous beer and is about 80% 0f their sales.

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There wasn't Tribute but there was 'Proper Job' so I had a pint! At 4.5% it is lower than the original recipe but still maintains the taste. It uses spring water and Marris Otter Barley to make the IPA that has a golden colour and a thin white head. The smell is grapefruity and the taste has a hoppy, pine taste that is very clean on the palate. The beer was created in 2006 and has become, apparently, Britain's best selling bottle conditioned beer. In the bottle they have maintained the SG at 5.5%. It is a good pint that was especially welcome on a warm evening after a walk to the pub. One to look out for.