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Friday 30 September 2022

Mine's a Priory.

 We decided that as the rain was supposed to land in Alvecote about lunchtime we would just stay put and go for a walk in the morning and move tomorrow.

We took the path through Pooley Hall Country park known as the Miners Way. It looked to me as if it was a plate or tramway or maybe a railway track of old but looking on the old maps it seems that it has always just been a footpath to get the miners from Amington and Alvecote to the mine at Pooley Hall. Then path takes you past a few ponds that have been caused by subsidence following the extraction of the coal. It seems that the first seems to be worked were only 2 mts below the surface.

We crossed the canal and headed for the Heritage Centre. The head gear pulley is visible from the canal. I wonder if it was from Pooley Hall Colliery, or just a generic one. I also wonder whether it was made by Thompson and  Southwick whose engineering business started out near the basin as Glascote and expanded into the brick and tile yard next door.

This sign was never a truer word as we had being daring to believe that the Heritage cafe was open but instead of tease we had a tease!

There were couple of lumps of rock outside the centre that had been carved. One had a couple of animals and a blanket and this one seemed to be a cloth draped over a table with mice running over it. I could find no information about them though.

The Pooley Hall War memorial was erected in 1921 and records 32 men who gave their lives in WWI who had worked at the mine. It is another object often seen from the canal but never visited.

We had also glimpsed the Golden Tower of Leaves from the canal and the Miners Walk goes right past it. It seemed very steep and looked quite slippy with the rain so we gave it a miss. That was our excuse anyway, and I took the photo from the war memorial.

This was Pooley Hall Colliery at its largest extent in 1939. It had started with a pit being dug in 1847 and was producing coal by 1850. By 1897 it had become a limited company and included a brickworks. Many mines in the area had brick and tile works as the coal seams included clay among them. In 1924 the Duke of York (George VI) visited and trusted miners were ordered to form a guard of honour in their Sunday best and a flat cap. If they didn't have a cap they had to buy one, at their own cost! They painted the mine at the bottom of the shaft with white wash and installed a bucket toilet! Also in 1917 it was the first mine to generate its own electricity from excess steam for the winding gear. It was also the first pit to have pit head baths that were installed in 1928. Tamworth Mine became Alvecote Mine in the 1940's and became the access pit for Pooley Hall with man riding and coal hoisting. In 1951 these two pits were merged with Amington Pit to become the North Warwickshire Mine. It all closed in 1965.

Pooley Hall had a wharf for loading canal boats with the coal being brought from the pit head by a single track mineral way. Original this was the entrance to a basin, but by 1921 the basin had been pushed through to the other side of the bend in the canal and this formed an island, as it is today. It appears that there never was a bridge to access the island either.

We walked past Pooley Hall but there are no views of it due to trees. It looks lovely in the  few photos and parts for the building date from 1509 but it has seen a lot of changes. We walked back up the canal  and enjoyed the peace and quiet and the colours turning. I was hit on the head more than once by acorns dropping from the trees as the wind rose.

When we got back to Alvecote we popped over the bridge to Alvecote Priory ruins. The Priory was set up in 1159 allegedly as a certain William Burdett, on return from the Crusades accused his wife of being unfaithful with his steward and ended up murdering her. When he learned the steward had taken advantage of her he tried to atone by paying for the priory. It was a sub priory of Benedictine Great Malvern Priory. It seemed to only have had around four monks on site for much of the time and was dissolved in 1543. At some stage a house was built on the site using the stone of the priory.

Apparently this was the main entrance to the original priory.

The ruins of today seem to be the rectangular shape with the 'blob' on the upper left corner. Right by the canal is the rectangular dovecote, that is the oldest in Warwickshire. The 1938 shows that the Priory House built after the closure of the priory in 1540 was quite a massive one. It was demolished in the 1960's.
PS. I have just discovered that Alvecote Priory became the Tamworth Agricultural College and Training Farm in 1886. It had closed by 1914.

We had remembered that there had been a horse chestnut tree so we went to find some to keep in the boat to keep the spiders away in winter. (Yes we believe that it works, so long as you use fresh conkers each year!). The map above also shows that there were orchards laid out in the grounds which would explain the presence of the old pear tree by the ruins. So, as well as two pockets of conkers we came home with enough pears for a crumble in the next day or two. 

The rain arrived on queue at 13:00 and we settled down to reading and drinking tea. It is all supposed to be gone by the morning.

Thursday 29 September 2022

A Bit of a Blast from the Past

 Lazy day today with a wander around Tamworth with a tourist mobile phone guided walk, lunch and a trawl of the charity shops.

The sun was shining on the trees by our moorings as we went ashore to the pictures last night.

The walk from the moorings to the town centre take you through the park next to the River Anker and bring you out at the base of the castle. The gardens are always well tended on these terraces and were installed in 1940. However the bandstand was there from 1900 and is still used today. The castle was first there from the original Motte and Bailey from 1070AD. It is now earned by Tamworth Borough Council after they bought it in 1897 for £3,000.

St. Editha's Church is on a high point in the town. The original 963 church with Norman additions burned down with much of the rest of the town in 1345. It's rebuilding was used to revitalise the town after the fire, the Black Death and a famine. The church has some lovely stained glass. The lady told us that some of it Pre-Raphelite. She also told us that Andrew Lloyd Weber had been to see it as he is a lover of all things Pre-Raphelite. He saw that the glass was not protected from external damage so raised the money for the grills to be erected.

In the church yard I saw this monument to Edward Farmer the writer of the poem 'Little Jim'. see here. I think I am going to learn it by heart as it is great to say out loud, and is a real tear jerker. It Turns out the Edward, or Ned as he was known was a batchelor and died age 70 as the head of the Detective department of the Midland Railway Co. police department. He had gone to work via the train from Tamworth to Derby and had a stroke at his office. He was taken to the Midland Hotel where he died later.

When I first saw this building I thought it would turnout to be an old cinema. In fact it was the old Tamworth and District Electrical Supply Co. new showrooms that were opened on 28th December 1936. They moved from further down Church Street where they had been since 1924. What a lovely Art Deco building.

We wandered up Colehill and saw a pub and gin bar called Hogarth's. As we stood outside I saw the painted window over the door and above, the plaque on the wall. Edwin Gooderidge Ashwood bought the the old building in 1882 when it was just a small rundown beerhouse. He had followed his father as a carpenter/joiner, training under his father. After his fathers death he carried on the trade but also started to run the beerhouse. Over the years he removed the old building and rebuilt it in 1894 to the fine building you see today. It was where all the Societies and groups met and had their meetings. It even had an air shooting club that had competitions there. His mother lived nextdoor as a shopkeeper and men's barbers. By 1901 Edwin had retired, aged 46 and moved to Wigginton/Hopwas. He had been elected to Tamworth District Council and then Wigginton. When he moved to the country he became a farmer and when he died in 1934 he left over £9,000.

To the left is the basin that was home to the Samuel Barlow canal long distance haulage business. You can see that the triangle concrete structure must be the buffers for the line that can be seen running along the side of the basin from this 1938 OS map.

We have seen this sign before but I had a look to see what the story was. Charlotte was born in Maidenhead and started work as a nurse maid age 13 to a Doctor's family in London. By the time she was 23 she joined the household of Duke and Duchess of York. She took over as head nurse when the previous person had been dismissed. When the Duke became King Charlotte Jane Bill stayed at Sandringham with Prince John who had been born in 1905 and had several medical problems, epilepsy and austim/learning difficulties. He died in his sleep in 1919 and Charlotte, or Lala as the children called her, was devastated. For her devotion to the children, and especially Prince John, she was given a grace and favour house on the Sandringham estate. It seems that she never married but she continued to assist at many royal births, including Princess Elizabeth in 1926. Queen Elizabeth.

On the way to Alvecote I spied this brick wall in the trees. I thought it may be a railway line but I think it was this basin. I can't see that it served any particular factory of works, but it is close to the Tamworth Colliery so it may be just a transhipment point for coal not sold direct.

The basin that now houses Narrowcraft was built for the Tamworth Colliery. This OS Map is from 1938/39. The pit became the entrance for the Polley Hall Colliery and all in the area were closed in 1965.

We moored up for the night almost opposite the Samuel Barlow pub at Alvecote Marina, that by the way was built on an old brick works. It is supposed to be wet tomorrow afternoon so we will have to see what we are going to do, after having slept on it.

Wednesday 28 September 2022

And the Sun Shone on.

 The sun was shining brightly when I poked my head out the hatch today. Last night was lovely and clear, and despite the light pollution from surrounding towns the stars were very bright last night.

A boat passed us earlier, but as we were making moves to slide down to the lock another couple came passed. As was waiting a guy in a pick up drove up the field on the tow path side. He got out some survey equipment. I was an avid fan of time team and it looks like he is about to a ground penetrating radar survey in the field. I wonder if that means they will be digging there for HS2, which I thought was on the other side of the cut.

When we were about to head down to the lock the single hander that had gone ahead of us left the lock and made room for a boat to enter the lock from Fradley direction. It was only a little 40' boat bur she grounded. It took a bit of pushing and heaving and eventually a rope ashore to pull her off. We we later left the lock we were centre channel and it certainly felt like we were dragging through the mud. So beware below Woodend Lock.

The sun was shining on Shade House as I was waiting for the Middle lock to make a level. You can see the 'road works' sign that indicates that the towpath will be closed between Here and Kings Bromley for 24 weeks! It seems it is due to the HS2 putting the bridge over near Fradley. It seems along stretch of towpath to close for that.

Quite quiet at Fradley, a boat having come up Junction Lock and swung into the Coventry. We followed a little later and as expected the water points were occupied so we carried on.

Just past Helen's favourite house C&RT are installing wooden shuttering and have filled in behind with dredgings. I was expecting to see the green tinge of tanalised pressure treated timber. However I think that this is not too good for the environment. I expect that they use UC4 that is classed for use when in permanent contact with the ground. It is kiln dried and then placed into a vacuum vessel and then a preservative pumped in under pressure to ensure deeper penetration.

The sun through the trees was beautiful. This low sunlight is magical.

The hawthorn is starting to turn adding a nice colour to the red berries. Not the blue sky still. 

The water point near Fazeley Junction was vacant so we stopped and topped up before continuing past the junction house, and turning left to continue on the Coventry Canal.

Under the junction bridge the canal is pretty narrow, but in the hey days it would have been even more crowded as there was the wharf serving the Fazeley Gas works, which must have taken plenty of boat loads of coal.

The Tame looks more full than it might have done a month ago and will look even better when the leaves really start to turn.

The new house on the towpath side between the locks were obviously built on the old brick and tile works looking at this 1901 OS Map. However by WWII the site had largely been taken over by the engineering site by the basin with railway lines, turntables and travelling cranes.

The view towards the basin from the top lock. The houses beyond the basin were Fitch and sons Ltd Firelighter Works from at least 1899 to WWII when it seems to have changed to making creosote.

Last lock of the day, Glascote top lock, both our way and nobody else about. Can anybody tell me what the circular metal plate with the hole in it may have been for? Some thoughts were a base for a stanchion, a sheave for heaving boats to the lock with the horse going the opposite direction. It isn't the culvert vent as that can be seen the other side of the paddle ratchet.
We moored up just above the lock and past the basin on the bollards with one other boat. We walked the short distance to the cinema to see 'A Ticket to Paradise' with Julia Roberts and George Clooney. It was okay, but wasn't even filmed in Bali, but in Queensland!

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Treemendous Day.

 There was a bit of rain before we got up, but when I opened the back doors the sun was shining, but not for long. Last time we moored here the trains were on strike so we had not been disturbed at all. I'm pleased to say I wasn't disturbed this time either.

We were off pretty promptly this morning, despite the unappealing weather. As I was letting go an hire boat passed and I exchanged pleasantries with the Americans aboard. Then after I followed them I passed a boat that was just letting go to return the favour. By the time we got to Colwich Lock the Americans were just heading into the lock. He made a great run in and it turns out they were on their 5th week, so he had definitely got the hang of it. The boat we had passed was one we had moored by a couple of days before. The bloke had said he was swapping with his son and wife so I was able to say hi.

The farmer just let the girls out to cross the bridge to the yard as we were lowering down. The other girls were fascinated.

Just before Wolseley Bridge is this row of cottages. It seemed strange to have them on the off side and along way from anywhere else. When I look on the 1881 OS map they are called Wolseley Warehouse and the buildings are more numerous.

It looks like the surviving cottages is the bit roughly parallel to the canal. I assume that there was a wharf here too. The gardens of the current cottages are always a pleasure to pass.

After Wolseley Bridge I enjoy thre tunnel of trees. I had read that there was a boat house here, associated with Bishton Hall, but have never caught site of it. I had though that it was for a boat on the River Trent that was right next to the canal. However when looking at the map for the Wolseley Warehouse I noticed that there was a little indent that could well be a mooring for a boat. I will have to check again next time we pass as it is right opposite the house, but I think I would have noticed something if it had been obvious.

They do afternoon teas at Bishton Hall now. It may be worth a look next time we pass as they also have a set of posh shops that Helen likes looking around. When is her birthday?

Unlike the Horse Chestnut trees that seem to have suffered badly over the drought the Sweet Chestnut seems to be doing very well, with plenty of fruits too. It is commonly thought that the Roman's brought the sweet chestnut over with them but it seems it may have been introduced quite a bit later than that. The trees do not bear fruits until they are 25 years old, but they can live to 700! I do love a roast chestnut though. Another Hull Fair smell and taste.

The Oaks also seem to have an abundance of acorns this year, and there is a regular plop as another drops in the cut as we pass. We should all pocket a few and plant them up to grow at home, and then when they have grown into whips plant them somewhere suitable as the oak tree, that was once the raw material of the Royal Navy now is a life support system for wild life. The Woodland Trust say that the oak 2,300 species are supported by oak trees. Not only that 326 species depend on the oak for their survival and 279 species are rarely found on any other tree. When an oak is 400 years old it is referred to as an Ancient tree. The quick way of estimating a tree's age is to measure the girth in cm, about 1m from the ground and divide by 2.5 as the girth expands approx. 2.5 cm a year. Go hug a tree.

The trees at the sharp turn after the Trent Aqueduct at Brindley Bank always look nice.

We stopped for some shopping just after the new piling where the grab was dredging by the Armco and filing in behind. We were moored just behind a boat from Hull. I could see he was using some electrical equipment on his roof. Then there was a violet curse and a splash as it landed in the water. It seems that it was a DeWalt drill! When we passed we said hello as the boat had Hull on he side. He already had a magnet out and was fishing for it. We popped to Tesco's and then had lunch when we got back and then headed off once again.

The warehouse opposite the Tesco moorings has not deteriorated much, but does need seeing too. The rain came and went, but I really didn't get wet really. There was a little wind that made it feel cooler, but luckily for me (Helen had found some thing to do inside) it was largely from astern so all in all not too bad at all.

We passed our Marina and carried on a little before mooring above Woodend Lock. As I was mooring up I could see the three towers of Lichfield Cathedral that I had never noticed before. I got the aerial up as I am told it is 'Bake Off' tonight and to earn a few brownie points the TV was tuned in and all ready to go.