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Thursday 28 November 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.51.

It wasn't a bad day when we left Branston and head for Burton on Trent and beyond.

For a blog like this I couldn't resist putting this picture in. However we didn't stop in Burton this time. There was a lot of trade in beer on the canals though and the bridge on the right is over Shobnal Basin that led to a canal branch connecting with the River Trent. Now the marina.

We later crossed the River Dove. This bridge allegedly dates from the 15th Century and the first one being erected in 1225! There are three River Doves in the UK, this one that starts in the Peak District, on that is near Wathe upon Dearne and another that is up on the North York Moors. This one is 45 miles long. We stopped for the night at Willington but as a friend arrived we didn't get to any of the pubs there.

This is becoming an increasingly rare sight, an on paved or cindered tow path. The sun was out as we passed Mercia Marina and brought out the walkers and dog people.

We moored up near Swarkestone, just where a branch canal is indicated leaving the canal to once again connect with the Trent, and was built in 1796 to connect the newly completed Derby Canal with the river. We walked to the Trent to see the Swarkestone Bridge. It is said to be the longest bridge in the country if you include the causeway that you can't see. There are 17 arches. It was originally built in the 13th Century and financed by the Belmont sister. They were both to get married at a joint ceremony but their future husbands were drowned getting to the church trying to ford the Trent in flood. The girls had the bridge built and died paupers for doing so.

These are the remains of the lock and entrance of the connection from the river up to the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Near to the old lock this memorial stands. It was erected in 1995, 250 years after the event of the Jacobite Revolution with Bonnie Prince Charlie. It represent the furthest south they got to on 4th December 1745. Just 22 years before the Trent and Mersey was completed!!

We clled in for a pint at the Crewe and Harpur pub. It was built in 1826 as a coaching inn and the stables are now converted into guest room out of shot to the right. The name of the pub relates to the Harpur and Crewe estate that were the land owners her. The Harpur family were made baronets in 1626 and their base was Calke Abbey. Their name later became Harpr Crewe. The title died out in 1924 but the estate passed down the female line until 1981 when death duties forced the sale of the estate and Calke Abbey was given to the National Trust. The pub retains the high ceilings and large rooms, but have been knocked through. Few other original features remain in this Grade II Listed house.
The pub only had two hand pulls on, Pedigree and a Brakspear beer. The Brakspear brewery was started by Robert Brakspear who started brewing at his pub, the Cross Keys in Witney, in 1769. Business was good so he joined with his uncle in 1779 and opened a brewery in Bell Street, Henley. In 1812 they moved to New Street just around the corner. By 1979 they had an estate of 130 pubs but the industry changed and by 2002 they were out of brewing and Marston's was using their capacity for the beer. At this time a long established pub chain J.T. Davis bought a 30% share in the business. In 2007 they bought the company and brought it back to a private company. They had 150 pubs. In 2013 they started brewing again at the Bell Street Brewery

I had a pint of Oxford Gold at 4%. It poured with a crisp thin white head and a lovely, almost white gold colour. It had a refreshing smell of floral and citrus. Crystal malts are used with Fuggles, Golding and Stryian hops. To me the taste is the taste did not have enough body. I probably don't have a delicate enough palette, or anything else come to that, but it just didn't have any oomph for me. Still a nice drink, especially on a nice summers day. Oh yes, the bee emblem is a reference to Nicholas Breakspear who in 1154 was made the only English Pope and had a bee as his emblem!

Saturday 23 November 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.50.

We were ready to move onwards at out normal time the next day and as we were moored just by the lock we got straight into it.
The lock takes you down into the river section of the river Trent. I think this is the highest point of navigation on the Trent so we have done from here to Trent Falls where it joins the Humber, or rather creates the Humber. The white railings ar the foot ways over the rivulets where the river comes in. It is only a short distance before it flows over a weir and into its own bed, but this section does get closed in times of flood.

This Wychnor Lock which takes you up out of the river again and on to the canal. There is then the danger and noise of the A38 rushing past. I really like this little shed/warehouse with the remains of a post crane on the corner. I wonder when it was built.
This is wharf House that is by Brandon Lock. It is quite grand and I assume it has something to do with what looks like an old warehouse close by. However it still looks quite grand. I wonder why.

We moored up next to Branston Water Park so after a few jobs we had a walk round, but not before helping tie up this pair. Just up the tow path, so at the end of the walk was a pub. So we stopped to check it out.

This is the Bridge Inn right by the tow path on the Trent and Mersey. At its heart there is obviously quitre an old building but it has had plenty of additions. I would think that it would have been quite a quaint old fashioned drinking hole until it was done up. Now it is more of a restaurant, doing Italian food and with a good name. It has little spaces along the back of the building, but I imagine the beer garden gets full on a sunny day.

The Bridge Inn  is a Marstron's pub and as can be seen on the logo dates back to 1834 when John Marston set up a brewery at Horninglow, Burton on Trent. Things went well and by 1861 they were up to 3000 barrels a year. They bcame a limited company in 1890 as Marston and Sons Co., but by 1898 had amalgamated with another local brewer, John Thompson whose brewery was at Shobnal Road. The new company moved there, and are still brewing there today. Still expanding they merged again with Eversheds and became Marstn, Thompson and Eversheds. This lasted until 1999 when they were bought out by Wolverhampton and Dudley Brewery. In 2007 the light had been seen and the outfit changed its name from Wolverhampton and Dudley to just Marstons.

I didn't have to make a choice of beers as the only hand pull they had on was Pedigree. This beer started out being called just 'P'. Not sure if that was by the drinkers, or the brewers!! That was in 1952 and now it is the brewerys best seller, at 150,000 hectolitres per year. The name Pedigree was chosen in a staff competion and I think that he bloke on the pump clip is George Peard who I think was the head brewer at the time, not the competition winner. It has the distinction of being the only beer in the country brewed in oak using the Burton Union system. It is fermented in wood and being closed in prevents frothing so much. Apparently this means that the quality is repeatable so every batch tastes the same. It just has Burton spring water, malted barley and fuggles and golding hops to give a 4.5% beer. There was a good head on the pint and a nice colour. There is a definite biscuity taste. Not my favourite brew, but kept right it certainly hits the spot. 

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No. 49.

We moved on the next morning to find a new pub and different beer, well not really, we were moving on to get to our destination for the main years events. Roving on the rivers!

After stopping for water we passed Spode House and were then ready for the Armitige Tunnel. It is extremely narrow and was a tunnel until they took the top off, but didn't make it any wider. We have never meet another boat here yet, but we thought that it could be our day for that to change so Helen decided to get off and walk ahead.

There are some lovely stretches of canal on the way to Fradley. The leaves are just ready to burst so the sun is still able to filter through the branches. I noticed the rape in the fields was flowering but didn't spot any snowdrops.

Here we are waiting to descent Junction Lock at Fradley. The Swan to the left. Actually we moored just below the lock as we had visitors coming to see us. As it happened we didn't head to the pub so this blog needs to continue onwards!

The next day we headed down hill some more and then stopped in Alrewas. It always seems to be busy here but there was plenty of space today.

Image result for crown alrewas

The Crown has been tarted up a bit, but the food still looks good, although we decided not to eat. Helen was disappointed there was no Aspell's cider but we stopped anyway. I was disappointed with the choice of beer but it is a comfortable places and always seems friendly with folk willing to chat. Parts of the building date back to the 16th Century but mostly to over three hundred years ago. In the past it has been a coaching inn and a post office. Now it has plenty of wood and two room have been knocked into one L shaped room, but the small strangely shaped snug remains.

Image result for theakstons brewery
Disappointingly for me the tyhe range of beer was restricted to more or less a Marston's range, with a Theakston's on hand pump too. Theakston's were started in 1827 by R. Theakston and J. Wood in Masham (Massham). By 1832 Theakston was the sole owner and in 1875 he gave it to his son. In 1919 they bought out the other local brewery Lightfoot's and closed it down. In 1974 they tried to expand by buying the Government owned Carlisle Brewery but this became such a drain on resources that they were forced to a sale to Mathew Brown Brewery. They in their turn were bought by Scottish and Newcastle Brewery and this may have lead to the managing director leaving and setting up the Black Sheep Brewery in the old Lightfoot Brewery in 1988. By 2004 four Theakston brothers had bought a controlling interest in Theakston's and it was independent again.

Image result for theakstons best bitter
I had the Best Bitter. At 3.8%, a session beer, pulls well with a nice thick head. It smells hoppy, but not of citrus and is a nice orangey brown in colour. To me there was a sweetness but not over played as it was countered by the dryness of the hops. All in all a very nice pint to quaff at any time. The badge on all Theakston's beers denotes the 'Seal of the Official of the Peculiar of Masham'. In time past the Lord of the Manor went on the Crusades but was taken captive and kept for seven years. he was so grateful when he was exchanged that he gave the living from the church of Masham to the Archbishop of York. Travel to and from York was such a problem that the Archbishop made Masham a Peculiar and appointed an Offical to administer it for him

Sunday 17 November 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.48.

The next day was to be our first full one underway on 'Holderness' and we headed further down the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Great Hayward Junction is usually very busy with great confusion as boats make the sharp turn in or out of the Staffs and Worcester canal and other hang about waiting to get on the services for water/rubbish etc. Today was all quiet however and when ever we see a vacant tap we usually stop and fill up. Helen went off to the Garden Centre to buy some stuff for lunch.

Despite being late March there were still plenty of hire boats in the yard. These add to the chaos I'm sure as they reduce the width of the navigation and when they set off on their first foray it can't be easy for them as it is a baptism of fire.

Past Shugborough Hall is Colwich Lock. There is often a bit of a queue here, but once again we had it to ourselves.

After Wolseley Bridge on the east bank is Bishton Hall, It was started in the 17th century and the east wing added in the 19th Century. It had been the St. Bede's Prep School until recently but the last I heard (earlier this year) it had been bought by Charles Hanson, of Bargin Hunt fame (one of the experts0 to run as an antique showroom and auction room. The chapel and gym would be the auction room and the rest of the house would be used to display their wares. It may be a great way to save the house as there wouldn't be much need to knock it about.

We were soon at Rugeley and found a mooring in this busy place. It is a stop over point for most as the major shops are very close to the canal so a cupboard filler trip can be undertaken. Walking through the town are these four sculptors celebrating the mining heritage of the area. As a school boy I went on a trip down Lea Hall Colliery here. These 9' tall 2 tonne concrete figures were raised in 2015. This one represent a mine deputy, as can be seen by his staff. The others show a rescue miner and a figure from the 1930's and later.

We stopped to have a look in the Crown. From the outside it looks a nice old building. Inside it had been drastically altered by the Craft Union pub Co. and there was loud music playing. Mind you it was very busy with after work drinkers.

I love these old tablets and brick works and this reveals that the Crown Hotel was once in the William Butler and Co. Ltd fold that took over Eley's Brewery from the Woolpack in Weston.

Image result for st austells brewery history

They only had a couple of real ales on the bar and I chose St Austell's Brewery Tribute. The brewery was started by Walter Hicks in 1851. He later merged with another Cornish brewery and kept the name going from strength to strength. The brewery is in St. Columb and the business is still run independently and  by  fifth generation family members. They produce about a million barrels of beer a year.

Image result for st austell tribute

St. Austell's Cornbish pale ale 'Tribute', 4.2%, actually makes up 80% of those 1,000,000 barrels per annum, and selling a million pints for the first time in 2002. The brew started life being called 'Daylight Robbery' in 1999 as a seasonal beer and named after the total eclipse in August of that year. By 2001 it had become a permanent beer and had the name changed to 'Tribute' in honour of all those who had got the brewery through to its 150th Anniversary. It pours with a thin white head and a faint citric aroma to it. This pale ale has a fairly sweet taste and is a good standard pint to me.

Friday 15 November 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.47.

We left our winter moorings late in March. We had been comfy in Aston Marina and all were very friendly, although I do think somebody had been using our electricity! We did have a couple of meals at the restaurant over the six months and they were very good. Not much choice of beer though!!

Anyway were were finally off, on a cold but sunny day. We felt as fresh, but not quite so young as the lambs in the fields. We turned left at the entrance and headed down towards Fradley Junction.

The first lock of this years campaign was Sandon Lock. Helen remembered what to do, and still had some muscles left to accomplish the process too. I did offer to do the 'honours' but she wanted to test her self! I managed to get in the lock with out dislodging anything from the shelves inside, or giving myself a paint job on the first day!

Once away from the railway line and the road it is a pleasant cruise and as there wasn't much wind the reflections were good.

Having started late, as I had to come back on the train after taking the car home, we didn't go far as the days are still short. We moored up at Weston on Trent and took a walk into the village.

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There is a choice of two pubs in Weston, the Saracen's Head right by the canal or the Woolpack on the village green. We chose the Woolpack, but later heard that the Saracen's Head had recently been refurbished. We also wanted to eat and as they had a deal on two steak dinners we were sold.
Weston did appear in the Domesday Day book with one household. The pub was originally a row of cottages and a blacksmiths shop which explains the various areas or bays in the building, and the low ceilings. It was welcoming with a real fire. It had been one of 150 outlets of the old Eley's Brewery of Stafford. It started out as run by a John Bishop in 1878 and than became Eley's in 1899. It was sold to W. Butlers &Co in 1928. They were a Wolverhampton brewery. They in turn were bought by Mitchells and Butlers in 1960 and the Bass the year after.

Image result for ringwood brewery

Ringwood Brewery was started in 1978 by Peter Austin at Minty's Yard, in the market town of that name, north of Southampton. By 1986 it had outgrwon the original site and moved to the present site. In 1990 they were brewing 5000 barrels a year then a massive rise to 13000 by 1994! There followed to further expansions of the brewery. By 2007 retirements saw the take over of the brewery by Marston's and hence it is an offering at most Marston outlets.

Image result for boondoggle beer
Boon Doggle was first brewed in 1997 and is classed as a 4.2% blonde. I think of it more of a pale ale. It has four hops and english malt that gives it a lovely mix of hoppy aroma and citrus taste and quite a sweet taste. A lovely drop on the whole with a nice head. Apparently boon doggle is an American phrase from the 1920's and meant 'work with little value'. This is taken to mean in this case, jolly, or an excuse for a pint! I'll drink to that. 

Sunday 3 November 2019

2019 Quick Summary.

It doesn't look like we will be getting the chance to move the boat over the next few months so I may as well check out the end of year stats.

We started the year at Aston Marina and headed down the Trent and Mersey Canal

Moored up at Weston on Trent on our first day out.

Fradley Junction and for the first time in a long time we headed straight on down the rest of the locks, mooring up for the night between them though.

On our way into Northampton.

After a lovely trip down the River Nene we ended up at Peterborough. The early morning mist soon cleared.

We passed through the Middle Levels Link, and made it to the Denver Sluice to get on the Great Ouse.

All the way up the Ouse to Bedford.

We ventured down the River Wissey to Stoke Ferry and spotted this doorway. Interesting little town that obviously was more important at one time.

We also pottered down the River Cam and just happened to arrive in Cambridge on the hottest day recorded in the UK, and guess where that was noted? Yes, you've got it Cambridge. 38.7 deg if I remember correctly.

Next we ventured down Brandon Creek, or the Little Ouse as far as we could go, which is the lock at Brandon. The river is said to be navigable for much shorter boats above the lock and this is the river taken from the road bridge about a mile upstream. 

We also went for a wander down the River Lark, and this is as far as we could get on 'Holderness'. Fortunately there was a pub where we could celebrate, Jude's Ferry.

We eventually completed our trip down the navigational length of the River Nene with a stop over in Wisbech before heading out to sea for our crossing of the Wash.

We picked a very good day to pick up Daryl, our Wash Guide for the day and headed out into the Wash and round to the Witham. Daryl is very professional, and extremely well prepared so even Helen was able to relax as we moved out of sight of land. We had a really good chinwag all the way across, before arriving at Boston Grand Sluice to take the last pen up on to the non tidal river.

We had a couple of days in Lincoln before heading to the Trent and finally to winter quarters for this year. All in all a very different year, not so many locks and plenty of rivers, and you can compare our years below.

As can be seen out of the total of 26 navigations we seem to have only been on six 'traditional' canals!!

1.   Trent and Mersey
2.   River Trent
3.   River Soar
4.   River Wreake
5.   Grand Union, Leicester Line
6.   Market Harborough Arm
7.   Welford Arm
8.   Northampton Arm
9.   River Nene
10. Kings Dyke
11. Whittlesey Dyke
12. River Nene (Old Course)
13. Well Creek
14. River Great Ouse, tidal
15. River Great Ouse
16. Old West River
17. River Lark
18. River Wissey
19. Brandon Creek, (Little Ouse)
20. River Nene, tidal
21. The Wash
22. River Witham, tidal
23. River Witham
24. Fossdyke
25. River Trent, tidal
26. Stainforth and Keadby Canal.

As it turns out miles are up this year, but I suppose that is due to the distance run on the rivers speeding things up. The plunge in the number of locks worked is also down to the same reason. It may have something to do with old age too, and the fact that this year we were actually on the boat less than previous years.

It has been a fantastic year with seeing many new sights and places. We have now completed visiting the furthest points north, south east and west on the canal and river system, and crossed the Wash too. It all takes a lot of organisation to get licences and pilots etc but has been well worth it.

It is hard to believe we have had the boat seven years, and I am already looking forward to next year's campaign.

                 MILES       LOCKS
2013           627             579
2014         1027             764
2015          752              524
2016          776              5582017          687              454
2018          666              328
2019          696              222
TOTAL   5231            3429
Average   747               490