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Thursday 30 March 2023

Sheepishly back at the Marina.

 There was an hour in the night when the wind picked up and it was rattling the TV aerial on the roof and the chain on the chimney, but either I got used to it, or the wind died down again. When I finally woke it was a nice morning with a little spitting rain off and on.

Always a sad day when we are this far from the marina and heading back. This run by Ravenshaw Wood is always pretty and full of birdsong.

The sun even came out to celebrate. One boat had passed us about 0730 and another about 0830 but we had this stretch to ourselves to enjoy.

Alongside the canal was this field of sheep they had eaten what was left of the grass and now it was bare. There were piles of beats for them but I am puzzled why this would be done. The sheep looked large, so maybe ready to drop their lambs. I would have thought in that case they would need a good diet to beef them up for birth and milk production. If the sheep were being fattened for sale again you would have thought they would have been on better commons to get their weight up! The field behind had sheep in with plenty of grass. I assumed that they were just about to lamb! Does anybody have any answers?

Just before Kings Bromley Wharf and dairy is J F Boat Builders at what is apparently called Wharf Farm Barn Marina. J F stands for Jamie Franklin and their website looks to be building very smart boats on Tim Tyler hulls. Handy spot for a blacking mind.

Of course we met the only boat of our trip at the bridge before the wharf so I waited. They have done a great job of the garden of the house by the bridge, and the house is lovely too. We soon made the turn into the marina and ignored the fuel berth and made our way straight to our pontoon. A neat job of backing in to our pontoon was made and we were soon fast and getting ready to head home.

The journey was very good other than a torrential shower that had speeds down to around 50 mph but everybody was keeping their distances and it was soon all dry again. We are at home to go to the opera. It is Puccini's Tosca which is an opera about an opera singer! I am expecting it to be a modern staging but we will see.

We will soon be back, at least for a short time as we introduce our 4 year old grand daughter to the canals, as well as her Aunty who is coming along.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Eating out and the Long Arm of the Law.

 We had a good nights sleep and the day dawned fine and dry. We finally got going about 09:45 and pottered through Alrewas to come to Bagnall Lock just as a hire boat was entering.

I was taken with the weather vane of the old school as we passed. AD 1855. The pigeon just made it better.

The weather vane says 1855 but it was 29th May 1855 that the foundation stone was laid after a procession of the children and the vicar with flags around the village. The stone states 'This stone was laid by Mrs. J. Levett, Wichnor Lodge, 29th May 1855. Rev. R.K. Haslehurst, Vicar, Ewan Christian Esq., London Architect, Mr. Thomas Andrews, Barton, Builder'. It is also interesting to note that the sale of the old school was advertised in April, before the stone had been laid. It had the master's house with two school rooms attached and a playground.

The lock landing for the Bagnall Lock is not anywhere near lined up to give a straight entry to the lock. It ids no wonder that so much damage has been done to the knuckle, and on the other side where boats bounce off I suppose. Mind you it looks like the original stone work has been shuttered by bricks that have taken the brunt of it.

The cavenous shed at Fradley Marina was open today and they had a curious looking 'trolley' to bring boats up and doen. It is certainly looking much busier, and at Common Lock we crossed with a boat that was just dropping down to enter, maybe they were waiting for him!

On the bank there was the first swan I have seen sitting. Not much of a nest though, and I couldn't see any eggs. I have seen my first swallow of the season though that was at Branston Lock. Last year we saw our first ducklings on 1st April. I wonder if that will be so this year?

There were boats coming and going with odd delays at the locks. I think the lock keepers will start their season here next weekend.

We moored up by the 'Laughing Duck' and decided to go to the Canalside Bistro, past the Swan for a bite to eat before travelling onwards. It rained whist we were eating but has been pretty good after we set off again.

This is the crane that was rescued from Horninglow Basin in 1977. There is also the pillar of another crane next to it.

We pottered on to moor just above Woodend Lock with a view of the new woodland planted by HS2 with soil salvaged from the mature woods, some of the trees were brought to that just look like masts at the moment

After my post regarding the beer theft a name came up when I looked further. Joseph Oldham was born in Wellesbourne Warwickshire in 1806. The first time I can find his name is in 1844 when he is 37 and a police constable for the Trent and Mersey Co. We was living at the Wharf in Kings Bromley and seemed to be have been very active in the area. He was described as 'indefatigable' by one judge when he caught a boat crew stealing barley from a consignment from Gainsborough to Horninglow on a wide beam boat owned by Smiths of Horninglow. The judge also praised him for the 'audacious detection of these robberies which are not only frequent but almost daily occurrences'. He apprehended robbries who had broken in to a canal warehouse in Atherstone and stole brandy and drapery and cloth after catching up with them in Handsacre. The theft of nails and a plank along with 60lbs of iron from a railway bridge repair near Wychnor too. There was more theft of barley and of beer too. He was assaulted by a boatman when he was stationed at Sandon Lock to supervise the chaos following a stoppage there with everybody arguing about whose turn it was. Two of the boat captains were arguing and when Joseph intervened he was set upon by one of them. Non of the other boatmen would come to his assistance. He was also responsible for the apprehension of  boatman William Ellis, alias Lambert who was wanted for the theft of a large quantity of barley from a boat at Chester. It turns out that this fller was one of those convicted of the murder of Christina Collins who is remembered at Stone after her body was discovered in the water near the aqueduct near Rugeley in 1839. He was condemned to death with two others. They were hung but he got off at the lat minute, following the priest sermon, the taking of the sacraments and actually on the way to the gallows!

By 1862 Joseph Oldham was a Wharfinger at Kings Bromley. He late moved to Riley Hill towards Kings Bromley and was then declared to be a retired policeman, a timber dealer and at the end, aged 86 a framer! As a policeman he had worked for the Trent and Mersey Canal Co and the North Staffordshire Railway Co.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

What Three Words; Salt, Casks, Vets.

We knew it was going to be a rainy day, but actually it was mainly just light rain so not too bad at all for boating. The wind didn't get up to expected velocity though so we didn't get chilled to the bone as we had to move. We were off about 09:45.
The daffodils in  Shobnall Fields park were abundant, and very cheerful on a dull day like today. As you can see the blossoms are starting to come on the trees too, so despite there been few leaves on the trees there is plenty to catch the eye as we pass gardens etc.

We were at Dallow Lane quite quickly. It is the last narrow lock on the way to Sawley and below the bridge is this well painted mural that has been there for sometime now. It is protected by perspex sheets that may explain its survival. 

This unusual chimney intrigued enough for to try to find out what it was.  It turns out it was part of the J.Grout and Co cooperage that was built here in 1891. Here they only made new barrels. In 1935 they were bought out by J. Burnham and Co. who only repaired old casks, so making a great symmetry. The business survived until 1970 when a new direction was taken with them becoming a DIY shop!

We continued to Horninglow Basin where we stopped for water and to dump the accumulated rubbish, both ours and collected along the route. However there are no bins here. Along the joining wall  propping up the busy A38 is yet another mural, paid for by local business. It was a bit of a struggle to get in so I think that it is quite shallow other than alongside the wharf.

This is the view of Horninglow Basin in the early 1970's. Where the boat is moored is where the water point is now. The buildings were part of the Midland Railway warehouses. The wooden shed on the right is for salt and spans the canal. It is a shame it has gone for road widening in 1976/77. The crane you can see is now the one outside Fradley Visitor reception and toilets.

On the opposite side of the canal to the basin is the Navigation Inn. I wondered if it had been there as long as the canal, but the first reference I can find to it is 1874 when it is the scene of a coroner's inquest. It seems that a boatman working for the Grand Junction Canal Co., Jesse Moore, 52, was steering a butty towed by a steamer. The steamer stopped suddenly and this caused the tiller on the butty to swing and strike him on the head and into the water. He was fished out quickly but died after a few minuets
Looking across the basin from in front of where the old salt warehouse would have been you can see how close the main road is. Amazingly though there are several new large houses being built along the off side, as you can see top left. I suppose triple glazing and the fact the road is slightly raised may mitigate the noise, but I worried about the pollution from it all.

This is listed as Bridge 1, not obviously on the Trent and Mersey, but of the Bond End Canal that connected the T&M with the River Trent wharfs where keels and flats worked. There were plans to link this with the Ashby Canal and also the Caldon Canal at one time. However it closed and part of it was filled in 1874 as the River traffic disappeared.

With all the building of houses and warehousing that is going on around Branston it is good to see that somebody has done okay out of it all. Burton Rugby Club has a smashing new club house and stand as well as 5 pitches. It may also have an indoor training place nearer the road. Top notch stuff. 

As you approach Barton Lock from the south there is a large house on the towpath side that is right next to the A38. It looked like it had a bit of history so I sort it out. It seems that it was built  in 1837 and it probably got given it name by a later occupant a Mrs. Hallam who seemed to spend her time between here and Ireland. The house is called 'Errisbeg' which is the name of a mountain over there. The house changed hands many times and by the 1930's it had become an hotel that held dinner parties, wedding receptions, bridge parties etc. It seems that during and just after the war it was frequented by stars of the stage and other famous people as a stop over between gigs! In the early 1950's Burton on Trent Council bought the ten bed house to become an 'old peoples home' for 10 men and 10 women. It has been home to a brewery, a dentist and has been offices to a boxing promoter and It companies. In 2018 it was sold to a Lichfield Vets as they had outgrown their premises in that city. It has had a large wooden extension put on the south side and it now houses 6 consulting rooms, 4 operating theatres, 2 X-ray rooms as well as a cattery and kennels. The building lives on and has a car wash and taxi firm in the car park too.

I have noticed that these lock signs have the grid reference on them. These are pretty useless to most people. On the canal we perhaps tend to use bridge and lock numbers to indicate where about we are, but when not talking to canal people they have no idea what you are on about. I once reported a break in in progress in Manchester. They didn't even know what the canal was called, never mind the bridge or lock number. Needless to say they did not attend! It would be best to use What Three Word. Here would be Whirlwind. Piles. Dairy, which could be the story of my day as it happens!!

The Barton Turns pub look like it has been there a while but I can't find it as a pub until the 1930's when it was The Vines. A coroners inquest was held there regarding an unknown man who had been found dead either side of a railway line at the station over the road! It remained The Vine until around 1990 and by 1993 it was known as the Barton Turns Inn. I have never been in but it looks as though it would be welcoming. It seems that they don't do much of a selection of beer though.

The rain petered out as we approached Wychnor Lock. there was somebody coming down too. All the notices were saying that the river section was in Amber but when we got to Alrewas Lock the board was well into the green. We didn't go much further and just moored up before the water points. Another great day on the cut, but a bit of sun would have made it even better.


Monday 27 March 2023

Just a Little Rusty.

 Today was to fine and still so as we were close to Burton I thought I could set to with some pressing work whilst Helen could head off into town to spend time shopping, something that she likes to do now and then without me tutting and looking at my watch! It would be a win/win hopefully.

The bit that needs attention and dire need of treatment is around the Morse control and switches on the back deck. I had been nervous of starting the job as when you start everything goes wrong and it doesn't get back together and we need to go back! How ever I had tried the machine screws previously and they turned so one problem of the needing drilling out and replacing was not present.

When in Alrewas I had freed up the hatch to move much easier, and this was my downfall yesterday as when taking the cat's litter tray back inside I leaned on the hatch with my back to open it a little wider. Previously there was resistance to this, but this time, now I had made it so you could open it with a finger, I leaned back and nearly fell backwards down the rear steps. I saved myself, but at the cost of chucking the tray of cat litter up in the air! Do one job and muck up three more!! It was something I was wary of today.

I used an old chisel to scrap off the main rusts and then used an orbital sander to remove as much back to meatl as possible and to flatten off the edges. I just didn't the area around the back deck as I didn't want to run out of time, and really wanted to just do one colour as a top coat in the end. Once I had dusted off I then treated all the sanded spots with Ferratan which needs to be left to dry, and best for 24 hours.

The deck boards over the engine hole had to come up to clean the cat litter off, and generally clean the winter muck of them. I could also take the opportunity to clean out the gutters too. I replaced the deck boards the other year and by mistake I used thinner than original boards. They were much lighter to move about so I thought it was a happy accident. I painted each cut edge with waterproofing liquid and then painted them all with PVA once it had dried. I thought that would prevent water getting into the layers and splitting it. However, as you can see from this photo it didn't work. I will have to replace them sometime this year. I wonder if I could do the same and get some aluminum channel  that will go over the edge and be able to be screwed in place after trying to waterproof it again.

Whilst I was giving the Ferratan as long as possible to cure I did a couple of other jobs. One was to test the life jackets and check them over. I checked the cases and checked the expanding pellet for auto inflating was good, The gas bottle was intact but I wasn't able to check the weight as one should do. I then inflated the jacket fully by mouth and left it for a couple of hours. It said so long as they are still inflated after an hour they are could. I suppose you would be in really trouble if you had to rely on it for more than an hour on the canal! Two more to do now.

I checked through the engine hole and the obvious things in there, water, oil, greasing point for the stern glad and then weed hatch and then went and washed off the dust from the towpath side. I then had lunch and a little sit and a read trying to give the rust changer as long as possible.

I washed off the rust remover and let it all dry before painting on a fast drying undercoat and then, once dry a second coat of undercoat to the parts that would get covered up with panels etc. I gave that as long as possible to dry and Helen came back bearing gifts so we had a cup of tea.

I must get round to scaling and treating the two seat lockers when I am in the mood. At 18:00 is started to assemble the plates etc. I greased the engineering screws so that they would be easy to remove next time. I fiddled about for a while trying to work out how the plate that the Morse control is crewed on to threaded over it but eventually worked it out and mounted it. I had some sealant to put between the plate and the hull to prevent getting between them, but when it came to it the sealant gun was broken so I had to dash up to B&Q to get another one, and then managed to get it all back for tea!

Stupidly I forgot to check that all the switches were working before assembling it all again. It appears that the horn isn't working so I will have to take that to bits again! The boat needs a good wash and a polish but as it seems this will be the only totally dry day for a while that may have to wait.

Not my favourite job, sanding and painting, and to be honest any sort of maintenance on the boat, but needs must.

I was poking about in the newspaper archive and found a story that involved Beer, Burton on Trent and canals.In January 1839 there was an hearing in court with a case against Richard Moss and his two sons. They had loaded 63 hogsheads of ale at Tunley and Hodson's Wharf, the beer was from Bass and co. and was to be taken to Liverpool for export. They left at 3 pm on Sunday and were expected to be at Preston Brook at noon on Tuesday. Hodson and a representative of Bass, acting on information received, went to Clowich Lock, 25' away on Tuesday morning and found the boat there. Richard Moss and his sons were arrested and the boat brought back to Burton. It was found that 23 of the 63 cask had been drilled and plugged and there was a round a gallon missing from each. All but two of the 63 were new and it was shown that the plugs used for repair were cut with a knife rather than turned like the brewery used. They had been seen at Alrewas where they offered beer to someone if they brought them so meat for their dinner that day. Rabbits were provided. The long and short of it was that The 17 year old son got 6 months and the father and son got transportation for 10 years! William Hodson died aged 30 the following year. His wife Mary Ann remained in the business for another three years until the partnership was dissolved. A nice little story covering some of my favourite subjects and could be expanded on with some more research.

Sunday 26 March 2023

A Bitter Day.

 It was raining when I woke up this morning, and it continued to do so until the Archer's had finished. Today had already been decreed a day of rest, by me, as I had things to do. The main job was to construct the Hedon Museum March Newsletter. I am trustee of this small museum in our historic little town and the newsletter is just one of the jobs I do. I am quite pleased with them, certainly compared with whet went before. Whilst I was key bashing on the computer Helen had a walk into Lidl once the rain had stopped. By the time she returned I had finished my work and had sent it off to my readers.

We are moored on the wide towpath before you get to Shobnall Park. There were only two of us when we arrived on Saturday, but there are a few more of us now.

We decided to walk back into town later on as we had booked to go to the pictures later. Burton on Trent is the brewing capital of the UK so it would be remiss. Yesterday we visited three pubs and I had three dark ales, none of which were bad at all, and three nice pubs too. We headed to the nearest real ale pub to the moorings.

The Weighbridge is just that the weigh bridge of a coal yard next to the station. It started out as the Middle Earth in 2015, and over the years the lease was taken over by Wentwell Brewery, Burton Old Cottage Brewery and final by Muirhouse Brewery in 2019. Richard Muir named the brewery after himself and the fact that he started brewing in his garage. It was a bijou but friendly place and well worth a stop over on the way into town. I had a pint of the Tick Tock Boom, which is a special bitter. It had lovely caramel notes and a damn fine pint. 

This old grain store is now the Ibis Hotel, but as a sign of modern times it is now housing Immigrants awaiting their paperwork completion. A lovely building and I am glad it is being used. They are also the landlords of the Weigh Bridge Inn.

On the other side of the railway, opposite to the Ibis, is this lovely industrial building that started out as the premises of one of the original bi brewers in Burton On Trent, Samuel Allsops New Brewery built in 1859/60. It has been refurbished to offices, but obviously all are not full!

Just a little further down Station Street is the Roebuck Inn. It was built in the early 1800's and was virtually the Brewery Tap of another of the major Burton brewers Ind Coope as the brewery was opposite. It was remodelled in 1956. I had a pint of Ten/Fifty Extra Special Bitter by Grainstore Brewery as we had just passed the grainstore. It had been started up in 1995 in Oakham in Rutland. Again it was a nice caramel tinted in colour and taste.

The Devonshire Arms was next on our route. It had been built as a private house around 1830 but was a pub by 1850. It is Grade II Listed. It was Eadie's Brewery pub until 1932 when they were bought up. I had another special bitter, Reservoir by local Gates Burton Brewery which is based in Shobnall.
The beer first started around 2007. It is a nice pub with copper table tops that Helen admired from afar. It has been a day of special bitters. I seem to have been drinking stouts and porters right through the winter, so has made a nice change.

We were booked in to see the British film Allelujah. I was expecting a little bit of a comedy romp by Alan Bennett about NHS and old people. However it was a real rollercoaster of a ride that dragged you through every emotion and covered all that is good, and bad about the NHS. I love British films. They are so nicely paced compared with American pictures. Well worth a look if you can.

On the way home we passed this old Methodist Church built in 1860. It was declared redundant in 2014 and a local businessman took it on as a business and event venue.

Saturday 25 March 2023

Burton for Beer and a Balti!

 It was nice to wake up with the sound of rain on the roof, knowing that there was no rush to get up! I inevitably we did, and we finally got away just before 10 am. We headed down the cut, and as there was nobody on the water point we stopped and topped up, as is our want. Job done we headed down to the lock. The board was on amber. The river was hi'ish and the flow was faster that we had seen before but nothing too bad.

There is a series of horse bridges over the various branches of the River Trent as it meets the canal.

As you come round the bend of the Trent there is a good view of St.Leonard's Church before you get to the moorings. There is a nice walk from Alrewas to Wychnor and back via the canal.

I love this little warehouse and crane at Wychnor Lock.I hope it survives many more years. With the lock cottage in the background.

I'm not sure why the bridges are so narrow on this section of canal.I assume that it is to save money when originally built but I stand to be corrected.

After Barton Lock, where we met a boat mover who said he had been busy right through the winter the next lock is Tatenhill Lock. There used to be a vintage boat moored here that added to the old world charm of the view of the Lock House. Now it has gone, it is still pretty great.

The are a couple of boundary markers in the garden of the lock house. MR stands for Midland Railway.

It was getting a big black over our Betty's but is is always nice to see the Marston's bridge by Shobnall Basin. We carried on and moored just before Shobnall Fields Park on a wide towpath. After a bite to eat we set out to find our way into Burton.

The Grants Building Offices On Station Street have been converted to apartments but the 1897 building still shows plenty of character. They don't make them like this any more.

I love the fact that this water tower in a brewery has a secondary purpose of offices or stores below. a gabled roof, gorbelling of the brickwork between floors and the decoration of the tank itself. Which states that it was built by Halsham and Co. Engineers of Derby.

We had a visit to Asda and Helen was incensed that Burton had a Marks and Sparks when the one in Hull had been closed! We then went for more of a wander and found the indoor Market. I loved the bull with a ring through its nose above the entrance.

Behind the Market place and memorial garden is the Winery that was part of the old Burton Abbey. It formed part of the infirmary. Most of the abbey was lost after the dissolution, but these bits survived.  In 1910 they became a pub and now a restaurant bar.

Andresy Bridge was built in 1884 by Thornhill and Warham of Burton on Trent. It crosses one of the courses of the Trent to one of the many islands in the river. It is quite ornate. The Mayor of the time has managed to get his name up there too, H. Allsopp!

We then went to find a pub, the first was the Olde Royal Oak, followed by The Dog and then to the Coopers Arms. It was great to see a Joules pub in Burton on Trent as when Bass took over Joules there was great ill feeling in Stone as they closed the Joules Brewery down. Joules India Pale Ale was the first and Bass' took over. It is just a little payback that Joules has been resurrected and now is in Burton.
When they went to the Balti Tower and had a great meal before waddling back to the boat. I couldn't believe how full the restaurant was at just gone 6pm. It must be popular.