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Sunday 14 May 2023

Bed, Breakfast and Bugs.

 We were up late watching to them bitter end of the Eurovision extravaganza so we slept through to after 8 this morning. I'm not sure why we do it really as there was no tune that really  caught my attention. The UK entry was a good song but seemed to lack impact of the staging etc., but what do I know.

When I got up to make the tea and feed Macy the cat it was still quite misty.

Mach decided to clamber up the back steps to sample the fresh air this morning, something she does rarely these days.

Macy is now 16 years old and is pretty deaf and blind too, and on daily medicine for thyroid trouble too. So she is doing okay on the whole. Sorry I cut her ears off.

By the time we were up and ready the sun was out and it was another beautiful day. We weren't heading off straight away, but heading for our breakfast at Tuppenhurst Farm.

It was just a few minutes away but it was a lovely day for a walk and to develop an appetite.

This was our mooring seen on our way back and getting ready for the off.

The marina was only 30 minutes from this mooring but it was a nice paddle down the cut.

We went in with no wind and swung round to put the stern in to take on fuel. As there was no wind it seemed sensible to top up. We then swung round and found our berth again. It is almost easier to get round and stern to with a little wind, but all went well anyway. We topped up with water and measured up things we needed and got everything sorted before headed home.

We had a nice journey home, but I was struck by the number of bugs that were squished on the windscreen. Over the last couple of decades I don't remember it being this bad. In 'the old days' it was almost a hazard on a long journey as there were so many that it needed cleaning off regularly so as not to obscure the visibilty. I'm sure I remember reading that some University uses the number of bugs on the windscreen as a measure of the insect population generally. I known this is possibly peak time for flying bugs, but it could well be an indicator that things are getting better for our bugs.

We are not sure when we will be back aboard but hopefully not to long. Five nights aboard have refreshed us both and feels like we have been relaxing for much longer. The power of 'Better By Water' or whatever the C&RT slogan is.

Saturday 13 May 2023

Marathon in the Sun.

 This is a nice quiet mooring and it was the early morning joggers that got me stirring today, but about 7 am so not too bad at all.

We carried on to wards Meaford Locks, but only as far as the winding hole. We had a short wait whilst the boat seen ahead of us above had come in the other direction and winded. I bet he was feeling quite smug that he was ahead of us at the locks, until he looked round as saw that we were winding too! Just before there is a house where the bedding plants are a beautiful display. The owner was just girding his loins to plant everything out. I asked if he was late this year, but no apparently he is three days early!

Bridge 96 announces that Stone is the birthplace of the Trent and Mersey Canal as it was actually planned to start from here, about the middle, and move out in either direction.

As we came back towards our mooring a tug pulled away so we thought we would be behind this single hander, but he pulled in and started to set up to tow a boat, so we slipped ahead. However there were still a couple of boats ahead of us and not really setting much of a pace. The weather was so good that Helen shocked the whole of Stone by stripping down to 3 layers only!!. Later still it was reduced to two, almost naked for Helen!

We were bunched up behind the idlers at Aston Lock, and I was preparing myself for an even longer day than we had expected. Locking back from Aston Lock the swans are sitting and the may is out.

The weather must have been warm as these youngsters were bathing in the canal. Had nobody told them it was not allowed? I had seen lapwings and oyster catchers by this point. I was cheered as both the boats ahead of us turned into Aston Marina. RESULT.

I liked the look of this oak above Sandon Lock. Oaks can live to 1,000 years old and are considered 'Ancient' after 400 years. They continue to grow and produce acorns until around 700 years old. Only one in 10,000 acorns grows into a tree! They are very important as around 2,300 species are supported by oak trees. They need to be worshiped once again.

Launch 'Tamburo' deserves a photo each time we pass as it is so well looked after. Even the little cog boat is immaculate.

The carriage bridge at Great Haywood always looks nice. Here it is still in the shade with the trees beyond in full sun. Great Haywood was pretty busy with few mooring available above the lock, and loads of folks having a wander on the towpath.

In places the 'fluff' from the goat willow trees made big carpets on the water. You had to be careful in places not to breath it in too. We seemed to meet a boat coming up the locks at each set we came across, but didn't catch up with anybody going our way so we were able to continue on our way.

The sun has finally brought out the may blossom and will be even better next week I'm sure.

Our plan was to have a marathon in the sun and moor up somewhere in Handsacre and get the Eurovision on the TV. Handsacre was full and we kept going until we found a nice mooring, which was not far round the corner from Bridge 56. My first reflection picture of the year. We left Star Lock eight hours before we arrived here so not bad going. The weather was perfect of it too.

To pass the time I did a little survey as I went along. I missed a few boats as we met either leaving locks, or similar spots and missed the information, but between Aston Lock and Handsace I checked 17 boats, only 2 were hire boats. I suppose as we were at the largely Saturday changeover period. I checked that they had a name, displayed a licence, and my old bugbear, whether they had fenders up or down. I think that it is part of the licence requirements that the name of the vessel is displayed on both side as is the licence.

24% had no name displayed, 76% did.
29% did not display a licence, 71% did. I did not check that they were in date though! I was only recording boats coming in the opposite direction so they passed very quickly and on the new 'disc' it is not easy to see.
With regard to fenders up or down. 41% had them down and 58% had them up whilst underway. This seems a little better than previously I have looked at this and it was closer to 50/50.

Eurovision mania is at its peak at the moment so I had better go and see what it is all about.

Friday 12 May 2023

Stopped in Stone.

 We had a bit of a lazy start to the day as were weren't going anywhere. We decided to walk into town to pick some odd bits and to pick up a few geraniums too.

I'm not sure I had spotted this before down on the right of the High Street, after the Crown Hotel. Peter De Wint was a to notch landscape painter. His father was a physician of Dutch extraction and came to Stone from New York, and Peter was born here so obviously British. He was apprenticed to an engraver but after  a few years bought his way out with the promise of 18 painting over the last two years of his apprenticeship he had forfeited! We enrolled at the Royal Academy school and met another artist William Hilton who became a life long friend and he later married his sister. The Hilton's family home was Up-Hill Lincoln and Peter visited often and painted a fair bit around the area. He soon was displayed at the Royal Academy and is now displayed in the National Galleries and other important places in the UK. He did in London in 1849.

This is one of his paintings Roman Canal (Fosse Dyke) from 1840 in water colours.

We wanted to have a look inside the church of St. Michael and St. Wulfran but the door was locked, although the lights were one. The grave yard has largely been flattened and seems to be more like a car park now. Near the front facade of the church was this table tomb. It was unusual as I have never seen one like this outside. Research finds that it was originally in the south chancel of the church but was moved before 1843. It is of William Compton Junior, who died in 1606 and his wife Jane daughter for Sir Walter Aston of Tixall

Round thre back of the church is the mausoleum for the Jellico Family. It was erected for Sir John Jervis. He ran away from the family home, Meaford Hall, close to Stone at the age of 10, to join the Royal Navy. He rose rapidly through the ranks and in 1797 was in charge of the British Fleet that routed the Spanish fleet on S. Valentine's Day after they had left Cadiz. This prevented them joining up with the French fleet and almost certainly prevented the invasion of England. Horatio Nelson was his second in command at the time. He later became the First Lord of the Admiralty and stamped out corruption at the Naval dock yards and prevented mutiny in the fleets. He died in 1823 and was buried here.

Looks like a new plaque above the door.

We had a coffee at Morrison's and headed back to the boat fro lunch. I started reading a book that we had picked up at a Chrity shop, mainly as it was by Henry Porter, and I couldn't put it down. I forced myself as the stern gland greaser need refilling and one or two other little jobs were done before getting back to it.

We had decided to go for a meal and decided to try the Crown of India, restaurant down an alley of the Market Place. We couldn't book so we went early to make sure we got a spot. The staff were very friendly and it was not busy as we went in. The food was very good, not pricey and in good quantity. We will go again I feel.

We went over the opposite side of the Market Place to the little Wren micropub. The serve Lymestone Brewery beers from here in Stone and the music is soft jazz style. It is nice an relaxing time before heading back to the boat. Another nice stopover in Stone. We always enjoy our visits here.

Thursday 11 May 2023

Showers, Shelter and New Bits of Stone.

 It was grill night at the Saracen's Head in Weston and we had booked fro 18:30. We thought that we would have to walk from our mooring via the very muddy towpath, in parts, but we bypassed this by taking the road over the bridge and came out opposite the pub.

When we first visited this pub it was a poorly decorated bog standard boozer with no real ale etc. Now it is very busy and many tables were full at this early hour. It is owned by the same folk who own the Weston Hall Hotel just up the road. The steak was very nice indeed and at a very reasonable price too.

It rained overnight but was dry when we set off and even seemed to be trying hard to let the sunshine on us too. The out of character bridge at Salt was to placate the local landowners when the canal was pushed through their land.

I am not sure what the buildings at Sandon Lock are? There were some lime kilns here, they were behind the tall trees on the extreme right of the photo. They were derelict by the 1870's but there was a smithy butted up to the old kilns in 1879 until just before the 1920's. I'm not sure whether the smaller cottages were built for the lime kilns. The larger dwelling looks like it was an estate home, but the lock is a pleasant spot. 

The open fields on the north side of the canal appeared to be home for many Canada geese, many with their goslings with them. They seem to look after their young in creches at times. The adults find a mate for life when two or three years old. They take their young down to water within 24 hours of birth and can dive to 10 mts almost straight away, though not in the canal! The bird was introduced from North America in the 17 century to St. Jame's Park in London. It wasn't until after WWII that they started expanding their range greatly. Since the early 1980's they have more than doubled in number with an estimated 62,000 pairs now. Our Canada geese do not migrate anywhere for the winter, but some do shift places within the UK for their molt. I also saw a couple of lapwings.

There were fields of buttercups too, to help brighten up a dull day.

The buttercups only worked for so long as very soon it was chucking it down. Even the sheep were seeking shelter.

This gang of mums and calves were doing their best, and to be honest were probably dried]r than me at this stage!

The rain had reduced to a drizzle with intermittent heavier bouts by the time we got to Aston Lock and then up the Stone Locks. This is yard lock and on the right can be just seen the statue of Cristina Collins who I mentioned as being murdered between here and Rugeley in 1839 when a passenger on a fly boat. She told the lock keeper here that she was worried by the crew as they were drinking and she was scared. Despite it being late at night she spent the passage through the locks outside so there were other people about.

The old workhouse, now council offices I think. The first poor house on this site opened in 1793 for 60 people who were engaged making blankets, mops and linen. In 1839 it was extended by adding an new entrance block and infirmary and extending some of the wings to accommodate 300 souls. It was extened again in 1879 and 1901. With the coming of the NHS after WWII it became Trent Hospital and a nurses home was added. It closed as a hospital in the 1990's. There are many articles regarding suicides and deaths in the papers. One tells the story of a middle aged lady throwing her self out of the highest window and dying in the yard. She had given two people the slip and had take most of her clothing off to be able to squeeze through the bars to take her plunge. The papers made much of this as the 'wardens' were surprised she could fit through the 8.5" gap as she was a well made woman! There was the story of two elderly in mates that were married at the church. It was felt to be quite amusing in 1897 as the service took a while as one of them was deaf and the other with speech difficulties! You couldn't report thinks like that today.

Once the rain stopped we headed into town for a tour of the charity shops and to drop in for a pint on the way back. After a pint at the Royal Standard we walked back via the station. I had never seen this building that was called the Kitchener Institute, and as it was dated before the outbreak of WWI I was intrigued. It seems that the Staffordshire education committee agreed to building it in 1910 and it was opened in September 1911. However at that time it was called the Stone Special Subjects Centre. Its purpose was to provide facilities for learning cooking, laundry and handicraft to the pupils at local elementary schools. In the evening it would be open for adult education evening classes. It apparently changed its name in 1916, however this had nothing to do with Lord Kitchener of WWI poster fame, but the chairman of the Staffordshire County Education Committee who, along with his wife were largely responsible for the funding and erection of the building, and used as a way to mark his death.

The moorings below Star Lock were just about full, and they are pretty busy up here too, but they are much nicer with more sun. How nice to have bluebells alongside the boat. It had started softly raining again whilst we were shopping but stopped again when we got back to the boat and settled in for the night.

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Suffering from piling?

 When we woke up this morning the sun was blazing down on us with 100w coming in from the panels. It soon warmed the boat up after a clear night. W got off about 09:30 and threaded through the boats.

Last time we passed this way they were just finishing this length of piling. It now means there is loads of room to moor in Rugeley, and not too far from the supermarkets and town either.

Then there were the work boats of Rothen that were continuing the piling right up to bridge 67. I wonder why this length of towpath got the nod for piling rather than loads of other places that would seem to need it more? Did the local council put some money in the pot as the moorings must bring people and money into the town, even if it is just the high street supermarkets, as they provide locals jobs too. The tow path work between Kings Bromley and Fradley is being carried out by Canal and River Services of Weston Wharf which we will pass later today, but is not the size of Rothen.

I wondered if this female mallard was just having 5 minutes peace and quiet from the kids as there are loads of ducklings about now, as well as plenty of goslings from the Canada geese, and we have also ween a few little moorhen chicks.

Just near the Brindley Trent Aqueduct are the 'Bloody Steps'. This is where the body of Christina Collins was brought up from the canal after her body had been discovered after being murdered by the crew of a fly boat in 1839. She had asked for help at Stone and hence the little statue at Lock 94 that has been cleared at last.

Helen sat catching up with the ship's log as we cross the aqueduct. There is a fair bit of water in the Trent, but not as much as I had assumed.

This is the first time I have seen this little mooring free for ages. It is on the way To Colwich Lock and a little before Taft Wharf. It got me thinking about mooring as nobody seems to ever moor on pins anymore, unless there is no other choice. We are as to 'blame' as anybody. On the Kennet and Avon you would have nowhere to moor if you didn't have a plank and were able to leap ashore to secure to pins. Everywhere with a bare mooring of piling or coping stones is taken up with the many boats that are not really on 'a voyage of navigation' (or whatever the term is). This then led me to think the reason that most people give for preferring piling is that boats pass too quickly and there is every chance that the pins could be pulled out and the boat set adrift. I have talked of mooring with your ropes better, but it maybe a chicken and egg thing. Do people moor on piling or rings so as not to have pins pulled and does this then encourage people to pass more quickly? Maybe a few brains could be put to better ways of securing the boat in the ground, different sorts of pins. They would have to be able to sink into all sorts of material and not cause too much damage to the structure. Tricky.

The run to Wolseley Bridge with the Trent on the port side and Bishton Hall on the st'bd is very pleasant, but more so at this time of year with the bright greens of new leaves.

The sun was still shining as were the Gods as we approached Great Haywood Junction as there was nobody on the water point so we pulled in and had a quick top up. Rothen had a few units on the field opposite the junction and services in the camping field. They have put a surfaced pound on one side and it looks like they are to have a big campaign that will involve bringing in lorries of something. Already there were baulks of timber, looking like fender timbers.

We got a very heavy, but very short shower as we passed Haywood Marina entrance, and then met our marina neighbour at Hoo Mill lock where we had another heavy downpour. We were soon dry afterwards however as the sun was soon out again.

We are booked in to the Saracens Head at Weston but there was no room at the inn for mooring as once again folk had left big gaps. We continued on to the next spot and moored up. The sun shines once again. The walk to the pub will give us an appetite. Looking forward to grill night now!

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Here we go again!

 We have finally reached a penciled in slot on our calendar that says 'boat' so we have a short break afloat at last. We set off just before 11am and arrived just before 1pm. The journey was very good and dry until we got to Alrewas just after leaving the A38. By the time we arrived at the marina it was 'chucking it down'. By the time we had got our selves and Macy the cat in the boat there was tremendous thunder and lightning. In between the heavy rain, during dry spells with the flash and bang of the clouds banging together we emptied the car into the boat and had lunch.

We don't often get to see our boat like this as our neighbour doesn't often go out on the cut at the same time as us. It is also a fine example of the new gravel that Aquavista have spread everywhere over the old gravel!

After our lunch we girded our loins to leave when there was yet another heavy burst of rain with attendant timpani so we sat tight. We eventual cast off at 3:30pm and turned left at the entrance to the marina. The first boat you come to has been there for as long as we have moored at this marina! It was overcast, but warm, and with the leaves bright green on the trees and the flash of the yellow rape fields we felt glad to be back on the water.

Slowly the drab grey sky lifted and in the distance there seemed the promise of better things to come, and we decided to keep going until Rugeley.

I have finally got round to looking up what these plates on railway bridges actually mean. The top line denotes the line, in this case it means London Euston to Crewe, and the 2 means that it is the Rugby Trent Valley to Stafford South section. The next  and largest number is the Identifier of the bridge. the numbers at the bottom indicate the distance from the given origin, in this case London Euston. It is given usually in miles and chains, but this case it is miles and yards. (For those to young a chain is 22 yards and is also the distance between the stumps on a cricket pitch! And there are 80 chains in a mile) The identifiers for the structures do not follow consecutively as the route is traveled. I assume this is because it would mean that the whole line would have to be renumbered every time a new bridge level crossing etc was added. Each railway company had their own system it seems but this system was adopted when everything was computerised. They retained the imperial measures as it would be a nightmare changing everything. So now you know. If you want to know much, much more and to identify every structure go to www,railwaydata,

As we approached the Plum Pudding pub near to the Armitage 'tunnel' we passed a long line of pans and tugs and it looked like the 'Stalwart' was acting as an hotel boat.

Just past the pub and closer to the 'tunnel' was the point where the footpath toppings for the towpath stretch from Kings Bromley to Fradley is being loaded into the pans and take down there. You can see the pile of chippings behind the fence.

We couldn't remember if we had topped up with water on arrival back at the marina from our last foray but as the water point was vacant at the end of the Spode House moorings we stopped and filled up. It turns out we hadn't filled her up so it was a good job that we did.

The boats at Rugeley had all moored with plenty of space between them, but before the supermarket bridge we slotted in a space and moored up. As it wasn't raining we decided to pop to the shops before settling down. It could well be raining in the morning!

It is so nice to be back aboard and muscle memory always seems to click in and back in to the routine.