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Thursday 31 March 2022

Snow, sun and Stone.

 It seems that it had got down to -3.3 last night but we were nice and cosy. In the morning the sun was shining as we stirred our stumps and then drank our tea in bed listening to the radio.

After breakfast, and as we were getting ready to venture outside and get moving it started snowing! However we didn't need to sit very long as it soon passed over.

The sun was out straight away and I hopped out to take a picture. By the time we actually let go at 0930, there was hardly any sign of it left at all.

As we approached Sandon Wood I was looking out for Pitt's Column and happened to see the above. I have never noticed it previously so maybe some trees have gone. It turns out it is the top of one of the towers of Trentham Hall that was built in 1840. It was demolished in 1910-12 and the very top of the tower was moved here for the princely sum of £192 7s 0d! It will have a great view from up there, and I am surprised we hadn't seen it on our walk in the area last year.

It is said that Sandon Canal bridge is especially ornate due to demands of the estate family. However if you just put a standard bridge in would the dip down to the deck of the bridge and up again on the other side be too much for wagons etc! Part of the design will be to bring the road level up to get rid of the dip. What ever, it looked well in the morning sun.

There are so many dogs these days! I was impressed by these walkers who seemed to be a long way from anywhere with their dogs, and still met up for a chat. It seems that in 2020/21 there were 12.5 million dogs in the UK. That is up from 7.5 million ten years previously. 33% of homes have a dog it seems, 27% have a cat and 2% a rabbit! The dog food market along accounts for £1.4 billion never mind the coats, collars leads etc. No wonder vets seems to charge what they like these days as they have more than enough customers. 

I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of a yellow sign I saw on the length of railway by Sandon Wood but it was yellow with 32 on it. I think it was like this. I had never heard of a 'curve board' before but it may be that is what it is. I will have to check it when we pass on the way back as it may be a distance marker too. If you are riveted by this, keep on reading tomorrow! Well, hopefully you will anyway.

Last Sunday we were at Acklam Farm on the west slopes of the Yorkshire Wolds for a very informal lambing 'experience'. It was a glorious day in the warm sunshine and we could see York Minster in the distance. I bet it wont be as lovely to day. We were just a it slow to take a picture of the second of two lambs getting to its feet after being born, but these were in the next field. The lambs were realy gamboling so it was a real pleasure to watch them as we passed.

We passed two swans grazing from the water and next to them was this nest with four eggs in it. I wonder if they are wasted now with the cold or the warmth of the sun and the decomposing nest is enough to give them a break. We shall see on the way back.

After heading up Aston Lock and on the way into Stone the blue of this periwinkle stood out in the sun

A little further on wish this orange blossom. Is it a quince (japonica)? I hadn't noticed the blue grape hyacinth and the yellow dandelion earlier. I had asked Helen earlier whether grape hyacinth was native to the UK. It seems that there was one variety that was native to eastern England but this has morphed with incoming species from south eastern Europe. Looking closely again there is some sort of yellow flower below the quince? that could be a yellow spurge!

Before bridge 91 on the way into Stone is this large old house. I have often wondered why it was built here. Pearson's says that it is an old brass works. I had a poke about in the archives and found that it was a brass and wire mill that opened in 1794. It lasted until 1840 apparently. This building is listed and is known as Brassworks Farmhouse and was built when the works started so I think it was the managers home originally. As you can see from the sale item of 3rd October 1825 it was quite extensive with steam and water wheel power.

I love the bit about women and children being available locally! Different times. In the mid 1990's the land was sold and planning for the houses that are there now was given, against the wishes of the local council. Bridge 91 is called Brassworks Bridge.

We pottered on to the winding hole before Star Lock and turned. I made a bit of a pigs ear of it, but were soon round and moored back up. After lunch we headed into town and went to chat to the boat yard as we are booked in for a blacking at the beginning of June which is now a Bank Holiday for the Queen's Jubilee. I wondered if they still wanted us on the Monday. We then had a wander through the town as Helen wanted some blue wool. There seems to be a few more shops full, and maybe even a little more 'up-market' than previously. It looks like a Titanic pub to open soon in the main street. I wonder what the Royal Exchange will think of that!

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Spring is in the air, but not the sun!

 It was a quiet night last night, and even after the radio came on we managed to drop off to sleep again. Never the less we were away by 0930.

The Armitage Shanks building is one of those sights that I seem to take a picture of every time we pass. I love the curved building that wraps around the canal bend.

Helen jumped off for her exercise but there wasn't anything coming so we headed through the opened up Armitage Tunnel. There was nobody on the water point after the Spode Hall moorings so we pulled in and topped up. Never miss a vacant tap is our motto.

I have often wondered what this old complex of obviously old buildings was and today I have spent a bit of time tracking it down. It is just a bit closer to Rugeley than the basin, now hidden from the canal that sat at the bottom of the cable track from Brereton Colliery above. It was an iron foundry in about 1820 but by 1834 it was being used as a brewery and it was to be let in 1840 by brewers Yeld and Dawes Co. Ltd. The complex consisted of six workers cottages and a manager's house as well as the brewery and linked premised. It obviously had a wharf with the canal and right the other side was the Armitage toll road,

There was not one boat oored alongside Love Lane as we came into Rugeley. I have never seen it so quiet. We were stopping to get some items from Tesco so we had the pick of moorings. We didn't linger very long as rain was forecast and we were soon on our way. I have often wondered what this house, the one with the glassed in swimming pool by the canal. It seems that they are not heating the pool at the moment as it wasn't all steamed up as usual. No wonder with utilities priced as they are today. The building has a date stone of S E 1841. Having had a look at the old maps it seems it was part of the Churchdale House Estate. The big house was further away from the canal. This was a wharf. It seems that the stone block work on the bank to the right of the photo was the start of a wharf on the 1880's map there is a crane at the end furthest away from the building.

After the aqueduct and after Bridge 68 there is a winding hole. This was apparently a transhipment basin, as you can see it is very near the railway line. However on the 1879 it doesn't look as though there is any infrastructure associated with the basin, no roads, buildings etc. I wonder if it was just a wharf used for the construction of the railway and then not used as it isn't close to anywhere really. By 1900 it was definitely unused as the map indicates it is full of reeds.

This monumental vase is by the A513 and seems to be close by the site of the Oakedge Hall. It doesn't seem to appear on old maps so it must be fairly new. Oakedge Hall was demolished in 1694 and some of its remnants were used in the foundations of Shugborough Hall. Just by the house are four medieval fish ponds that must have been associated with the old hall. I wonder what this monument is. I felt sure I had found something about it previously, but not now it seems.

We caught up with a boat going up Colwich Locks but it gave me time to pop down the weed hatch to pluck off a dish cloth that I had caught going alongside. They stopped for water so we were now in the lead. As we passed Great Haywood Marina there was a bore driller. It seems that HS2 is starting its work here. There is to be an aqueduct across the canal and river in this area and they are undertaking ground investigations. There is also a gas pipeline that needs diverting it seems in this area.

As we entered Hoo Mill Lock I remembered last year when we had to call out RCR as I couldn't start the engine as the isolator switch had given up the ghost. Just as an aside. How many of you actually turn off your battery isolators, and if so when do you use them? Personally I have only ever turned them off when I have actually been working/changing batteries. There was a lovely carpet of cowslips just on the offside by the lock.

There were a few of these ducks about and I think they are Muscovy ducks. It seems that they are the only breed of domestic duck that have not descended from wild mallards. They have come from common wood ducks and roost in trees at night. They originate from central and south America and are really escapees from collections and are now considered domestic.

Spring is definitely in the air, with the leaves starting to appear on some of the trees. The canada geese and mallards are scrapping over mates and the swans are pairing off, or rebonding. We even saw a pair of swans on a nest which seems very early it feels, especially in the cool wind of today.

It seems anti spring that the beautiful velvet bulrushes are bursting and becoming so scruffy and untidy. I suppose though that they are scattering their seeds but they do look like a burst mattress found under a bridge. The circle of life!

From Great Haywood it had been spitting but it wasn't really getting us wet so we just carried on Hixon and Shirleywich where salt was extracted. There are a couple of arms still there that led to salt makers works. I have found an advert for saline baths in Hixon too.

An advert in the Staffordshire Gazette for May 1841. On the 1880 OS map there is a row of cottages between St Peter's Church and the Methodist Chapel called Bath Cottages and just next to them a building labeled BH (Bath House?). By 1900 the bath house building had gone, or at least got smaller so changed use.

We didn't go much further pulling up at Weston on Trent, and just in time as the rain got heavier for a time. We got settled for the night in the warmth of the stove.

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Out and about, at last.

 Well hello again! It has been such a long time since I have sat on the boat in the evening and tapped away with some nonsense. Life certainly has seemed to get in the way of boating over the winter at least!!

Anyway we are here on 'Holderness' for a few days, and of course the glorious weather we have been having is set to change, but to be honest I don't care as it is so good to be away at last. If the worst comes to the worst it will be a real pleasure to sit in front of the stove just doing nothing. I wont bore you with what has been going on but it is all starting to come to and end now, although knowing me I will say yes to something else that will keep me way too busy.

Macy the cay knew something was going on and hid away but once the car was packed up we soon had her on the parcel shelf and she settled down to another trip away on the boat. We got away after popping in to the mother in law, just getting over COVID and we were on our way.

A couple of hours later we were at the marina and disgorging the contents of a small pantechnicon into the boat. It all seemed to fit. I did all the usual arrival jobs as well as checking the fuel. I do this now as I am sure we had some stolen when we were moored over winter at Saville Town Basin, Dewsbury. I don't know how they did it as the lock was there still, but hey ho, once bitten twice shy! I purchased another three bags of coal, just in case, with one eye on the forecast. We were soon on our way and heading out of the marina. Helen was frantically trying to remember what her tasks on departure were and eventually popped up on the bow to let go etc.

We had intended to do the a Ring, but as I have to pop back home on Sunday we had to be somewhere to facilitate that. There is a lock at Penkridge that is still closed for the winter maintenance and another at Minworth so we decided on an out and back to the marina and then another out and back after Sunday. Once we left the marina and turned left we were on our way. I would hate to live in a marina full time myself, but does give you a very liberated mood once you leave! I was amazed that the sun came out, as I wasn't expected it. It was quite warm, but boats in the other direction were dressed up to the nines, wind behind makes a bif difference. There were patches of yellow along the banks, and not from daffodils but from the gorse/broome/winn/furze. I have always liked this plant for the colour, the aroma of coconuts and later the snapping sound when the dried pods burst to project the seeds as far as possible. It is a member of the pea family by all accounts.

As well as the yellow of the gorse there is more of the white blossom in the hedgerows. It is not hawthorn or may so I am assuming that it is blackthorn or sloe. It is nice to see, and we should make a note of their locations so that we can return to pick the sloes. We haven't made any sloe gin or vodka for a couple of years now,

We didn't go very far, just as far as Handsacre. We have never moored here and we found a spot in the sun, just before the winding hole. The curtain of weeping willows just before our moorings have been well trimmed, but I wonder how long it will be before they grow back to be a curtain again.

Helen was dressed up to the nines, but was out on the back enjoying the sun. She wasn't asleep, I promise.

Just to get us into the holiday mood we walked up to the Olde Peculiar pub just a little up the road from Bridge 58, It turns out that it isn't open on Monday and Tuesday, so we just wandered back and had a pint at the Crown  by the bridge. There was only pedigree and Hobgoblin on, but a pint of pedigree and a packet of peanuts was a great start to the holiday.

Once back on the boat I lit the fire and di some more of the chores, like make the bed, put stuff away etc and then settled down to bash the keyboard for this. It is lovely to be sitting her at the end of the day and still in daylight. It is good to back aboard. Our few visits to the boat since last year have been a real break for us, but to get underway and head out of the marina is a real treat. I think we will head up to Stone and then just head back. We shall see what is what with the weather though.