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Monday 10 July 2023

End of The Line.

 We had fish and chips for two between three of us and still had a full portion of chips left over last night. The sun was shining brightly this morning and we didn't rush about on our last day. Still, it was just after 10 am when we let go.

We have passed this way so often that there is little to excite me to pick up my camera. However under the trees, just after Handsacre the Little Chimney Co boat, Tradewind and butty were moored up. If you need anything like a flue of chimney I would definitely recommend them. They refitted my flue and fabricated a stainless steel, double skinned chimney for me.

As we turned into the marina we spotted these tufted ducks (we think). What struck us was the way the ducklings stuck very close to the mother, unlike mallards and moorhens that seem to scatter to the four winds. We did wonder whether this meant if this meant that they were more successful at breeding larger numbers.

We reversed on to the fuel berth and filled up with 100.71 litres of fuel. At 90 p/lt for moorers it isn't too bad for a two week holiday. They did say that they were expecting the price to drop later in the day, but didn't say what to. If not with Aquavista the price would be £1! That makes Wheaton Aston price of 82.9p/ltr look very attractive.
Talking of attractive, with the neighbour away I can get a nice photo of the polished boat.

Our neighbour was away on her travelso as it was a little windy it made it very easy. As it happened all went well anyway and we were soon back moored up. After a few jobs being done, packing and all the other little jobs, we were away at just after 13:00. The motorway was busy but we kept going and weren't too long getting back to East Yorkshire. We are already looking forward to the next time away.

Sunday 9 July 2023

Anson, Handsome and Haddock.

 Whilst we were in Great Haywood, and with Amy not having visited Shugborough Hall, we decided to do that. The gate by Essex Bridge wasn't open so we had to walk up the path to Park Home Farm. Mind you this gave us the opportunity to visit the walled gardens that we hadn't previously.

The main house didn't open until 11 am so we had a stroll round the formal gardens. As the front of the house is sheathed in scaffolding so that the windows can be checked/repaired/replaced and the exterior will be painted too. This garden was set out bu the apprentice gardener in place at present. 

Down by the River Sow the house is pretty impressive from the rear. The money for all this was made from capturing a Spanish Galleon near the Philippines by George Anson when he was on his circumnavigation of the earth. The second Englishman to do so. 

We visited the Lichfield apartments, the main house and the servants areas, as well as the cafe and the shop so we had a full visit. The gate to Essex bridge was open at 1030 so we were able to take a short route back to the boat.

We pushed off just after 1 pm as a boat left the lock and were soon on our way with excited help from an Italian family. Colwich lock and cottage certainly look like a jigsaw picture when the sun is shining. The sun WAS shining as there were no boat waiting up or down today. There is some merit in starting late!

There aren't many photos in this blog as we have done this stretch so many times I have run out of new things to see and say. However as we passed the garden after the Aqueduct I did notice something new. I was just able to take a picture of the 'cave' mid picture. It had steps up to it from the water level but was too small to be a boathouse. It looked like it was made from WWII type concrete etc so I expect that it is an air raid shelter. Just seems strange that it had access to the water.

I also saw this grumpy looking wood pigeon. Either that or he had eaten his fill from the various garden bird feeders.

Armitage Tunnel/Bridge was clear and the Plum Pudding pub had three or four boats tied up alongside. I can only ever remember one being there previously. Trade must be good.

We stopped at the wide tow path before the main road bridge at Handsacre, just in case there was no room further on, as we were going to have a chippie tea tonight. Meanwhile as this was the last chance of a port side towpath I finished the polishing of the port side with two coats. It certainly looks much better for doing. Helen came back with a long face as although the chip shop was open they had no haddock. It seems they can't get hold of it. Haddock is the first preference for fried fish in our part of the world, and we should know as Hull trawlers brought so much of the white fish to the UK at one time. The trawlermen from Hull would never eat cod as they said it was always riddled with worms, unlike haddock.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Stock, Lock and Footpaths.

 We had a very late start as the girls had seen it was market day in Penkridge and they were going to go. It was a 'proper' market so we all bought something in the end. For me it was a new lump hammer, but they made do with clothes and stuff like that! By the time we had got back to the oat and had a cuppa it was time to go and conveniently a boat had just come up Filance Lock

If the wharf had been free we would have stopped to top up with water, after hair washing day, but there were two waiting so we headed onwards.

The girls were doing the honours today, and as luck would have it, and the opposite of yesterday, the locks were all our way and at most locks there was a boat coming up too.

At Park Gate Lock we swapped and I helped Amy at the locks. We had passed Georgie's trip boat with a couple of lads driving loaded up with cream teas and a retirement home on the move. They really seemed to be having a great time.

As we passed Acton Trussell the display of meadow sweet and montbretia was quite something to behold. My photos never do such things justice. There was a big event going on at the big hotel and most were in black so we didn't wave, that is until loads enjoying their snap at the tables outside, waved at us!

After my success yesterday with a heron taking off pick. I thought I may be on a roll, but this one brazened it out. Still, quite a nice picture.

At Deptmore Lock we just missed a boat leaving the lock, and any later we would have missed the lock as another boat was arriving below. We had a good road today, for sure.

At Radford Bridge moorings we spotted the boat's name in sufficient time to get No1. daughter lined up for the snap. Has anybody seen a boat called Tony? There are loads of Helens.

It seems that steady, but slow, progress is still being made with the lock down to the River Sow to link with Stafford. I wonder if the river or moorings at the other end need dredging too.

As we passed Milford I took a picture to remind me to do a little research and this yellow and purple train came passed. It seems that it a West Midlands train livery, but we also saw a grey and green one go past. I think that this colour is for their London Northwestern Service to Crewe, via Stafford.

The view down the Sow valley from the aqueduct is always pleasing on the eye whatever the season.

The contractors are working on the tow path just by Tixall Lock and the girls dropped me before all the plant. The tow path are having demolition rubble placed over a leveled route then some sort of sand place on top. The notice by the lock says it will be finished between the Junction and Milford turn over bridge by 14th July. That is not going to happen.

Amy brings 'Holderness' out of the lock to pick us up and have the pleasure of steering through Tixall Wide.

Always impressive the gatehouse of Ingestre Hall is iconic. I quite fancy spending a weekend there, just to watch the boats on the Wide.

When we approached Haywood Junction Helen saw a little cruiser coming to turn into the Staffs. and Worcester. He lets us come out to turn to st'bd and head towards Fradley but as there was nothing on the services we reversed up and topped up with water and dumped the rubbish. We had intended to drop down Haywood lock and moor up by the Trent, but as a sunny spot before the lock landing was free we stopped and took advantage.

Friday 7 July 2023

Shropshire and the Staffordshire.

 There were plenty of boats going in both directions before we set off this morning in occasional sunny periods

Looking back at Brewod Church reminds me somewhat of the church at Braunston

Last night Macy decided she wanted to go for a bit of a walk. Somewhat problematic as she is pretty deaf and blind. However I walked about with her just in case a dog appeared etc. This morning she was sitting on the back step wanting to go out so we sat her down. She soon got fed up of the vibrations over the engine I think and went to sit on the front step instead.

The last boat to pass us never really got above tick over once we had passed the moorings and with the best will in the world That speed wouldn't suit us today. I gave him time to speed up, or allow us to pass, but although seeing us, he just ignored us.I don't understand this as it can not be conducive to relaxed boating having a boat close astern. ( I was not this close all the time I assure you), just as it is not relaxing being stuck behind somebody going much slower than you want to. I  believe he should have the right to go as slow as he wants, just as I have the right to go as fast as I want, within the regulations so why not just pullover and let the fate boat past. That is what we try to do. In the end I closed to this distance so Helen could ask him if it would be alright for us to pass! He let us. 

As we passed Wolverhampton Boat club we came across two hire boats go very slowly too. hey were travelling together and doing it slowly, despite only a 6" drop at the stop lock. Obviously the the guy I had overtaken caught us up. He was able to make a sarky comment when they arrived, so I hope it made him feel better. I just thanked him and asked him if had enjoyed the leg. He said no as he kept going aground?

It is a shame that the toll house isn't featured more. I don't know why, but it always makes me think of an Indian bungalow.

The Pendeford Rockings were pretty chaotic as the two slow hire boats had gone that way and there was much traffic heading towards them. For the first time ever that I can remember we paused to let a couple of boats pass at one of the bays cut for that reason.

A boat made use of the winding hole before Hatherton Junction, and by the time he was round and heading in the same direction as us there were three boats behind me.

By the time we had reached Gailey we ad caught up with the two hire boats and there were four boats behind us!. Then wanted to come off the fuel berth and head down the locks. When we got on the landing by the water point we connected to the hose and were full before we had to move off towards the lock.

The round house was looking ice with the roses, and the shop is till open.

I often try to catch a picture of the numerous herons that fly off as we approach and never get the timing right. As we approached Brick Kiln Lock I managed it!

The girls at Otherton Lock Looking forward to mooring up and eating out. Otherton Lock is still like a Whirl Pool with bubbles everywhere.

We were expecting the moorings to be full so took the first one we could after Filance Bridge, despite the armco being well battered. Quite a good idea s it turned out. We went to the Cross Keys for a pint of Banks' mild and then on to the Star before getting food at the Boat. 

Walking back to the boat via the towpath and the horse tunnel at Penkridge Lock meant we could see how good was our stopping as soon as we did, as there was no room up to the service, and one of the two hire boats was on the lock landing!

It is market day here tomorrow, so I am told that we are having a look around before we leave. I am on the look out for a couple of things too, so no argument from me.

Thursday 6 July 2023

More Moored.

It was a nice morning when we set off and were soon in to the embankment and cutting routine. 

We were soon at a cutting that led to our first sight.

The Knighton Cadbury's wharf was soon being passed. Milk was collected along the canal and brought to here where it was mixed with cocoa and sugar to make crude chocolate and then this was shipped back to Bournville by boat to become the proper thing. The factory then started making evaporated milk. It then started making powdered drinks etc for Premier foods, including items from Angle Delight, Birds Smash and Marvel brands. This January it was thought to be closing down all together.

We passed the site of Shebdon Wharf where there is a little community. It seems that the wharf was the place where many auctions of trees for timber were  held and used to move to timber yards.  It seems that in December 1860 a warehouse 45' x 15' was constructed by one Humphrey Greenfield. I think that it is still there, by the crane on the wharf. 

One day I will walk up to High Oflley to get the view. But this photo reminds of the main feature of this section of the Shroppie. The seemingly endless miles of off side moorings. What a pain they are. It makes me think of the problem in Cornish and other beautiful places where the villages etc are blighted by holiday homes where people just go for the occasional weekend. Shouldn't all these boats be in marinas where they can be just parked up. If they were lived aboard all the time I could understand not wanting to look at another boat everyday, but the majority of these boats are just inconveniencing people using the canal. They are imposing themselves on other users even thought they are not there by people having to go slowly past them.

Built about 1830 with the canal and being run by the same family since 1903 it is somewhere you have to visit. We went years ago and the beer was awful. I would go again, but today wasn't open again until 7pm.

Grub Street cutting was dabbled with sun and moored boats where the classic car on the off side seems to have been polished and given a run since we were last there.

It had to be done, the obligatory photo of the double bridge and mini telegraph pole. I was wondering when it would rot away, but it seems to be well card for somehow.

It is always bust at Norbury Junction and we have never stopped. I think if there was a walk down by the old Newport Branch Canal, seen heading off here, we may do. In 1844 all narrow boats that were delivered to Autherley or Norbury Junctions would be transported to anywhere on the main line of the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal for a 1d per ton. The owner had to provide a steerer though.

We passed over the Shelmore Embankment that is around 52' above the surrounding countryside and was the last part of the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal (Shroppshire Union) to be finished. It was expected to be finished at the start of 1834. At the canal's AGM in July 1834 it was complete but only had a couple of feet of water in it to 'prove' it. It would be ready for navigation by the start of August 1834. It took six years to build.
We stopped for water at Gnosall. It was a slow tap but nobody came past us. Gnosall may look peaceful today but when the canal was being built there were about 2000 'navigators' in the area in 1829. One riot was when they had got a barrel of beer from one pub and after drinking that demanded another from one of the other pubs, or else they would demolish the place. Despite barricading themselves in 'Kentish Will' broke in the backdoor and ran through the house and opened the front to admit the crowd. They smashed every piece of crockery in the house and drank him dry.

The rock hewn Cowley Tunnel is next on the list. A tunnel through stone always seems 'nicer' than a brick lined one despite the skills of the brickies often being extraordinary.

It was fairly windy today and these trees sounded like the waves pounding on a beach from a distance.

I'm not too sure whether this is the current price. The Yard at Norbury Junction stated that their price was the cheapest in any boat yard, and of course here is not a boat yard.

Just before the aqueduct over the Watling Street (A5) is Brewood Wharf which is now home of Countrywide Cruisers Hire boat base.It started out as a wharf for bricks and tile manufacturer John Cox, but he soon moved in to coal, which remained a staple. We passed over the A5 and as the railings are not painted, still, I thought I would feature the sandstone pillars more. After all there was no real need to make them like this, but they did!

We moored up before the visitor moorings as they were still in sun and not under trees. The girls went off into the village and I stayed to wash the port side and maybe polish some as we are running out of days with the tow path to port.

Wednesday 5 July 2023

On the Shroppie Straight and Narrow.

 A couple of hire boats ahead of us, but going in the opposite direction, got going at 06:30 but after that there was nothing until 09:00 and we were off soon after.

No.1 daughter got her hand on the tiller and hadn't forgotten anything.

Cheshire is cattle country, especially diary I think. I also think that these may be Jersey cows rather than Guernsey cows. They are good looking with their alluring eyes. (Did I really write that for all to read?)

There was a boat going up ahead of us at Hack Green bottom lock but no real delays. There were a few spots of rain but it didn't amount to much.

Entering the top lock.

The Shropshire Union's mile posts.

We got moored near the Weaver Aqueduct at the foot of the Audlem Locks. There was a floating market going on as Helen and Amy wandered up to the village whilst did some jobs aboard. The view was pretty good, but I git a few things done rather than stare off into the distance. They arrived back with an ice cream for me and a pizza from the pizza boat for lunch.

The girls wanted to get their steps in so I was left on the back deck. There was quite a good footfall heading to and fro to the floating market and we could occasionally here the mike testing at the mini festival at the Party in the Park.

We topped up with water just before the third lock and dumped the rubbish before pressing on. Thedre is a tap just by the carne but being stared at by the punters at the table didn't appeal. Iy was 1974 when the old warehouse was converted to a pub, and it has had some ups and downs since then. It was closed for a time and twice we have come passed and gone for a pint, but the atmosphere, and beer, were so poor that we moved on. It is good to see that it seems to be doing better at the moment. Beyond the Shroppie Fly is Audlem Mill that is a canal and book stall. The owners are looking to retire and selling up, so if you are interested in that sort of thing give them a call.

The old toll house, lock cottage is looking the other way and seems in great repair.

There were very few boats coming down but we were behind one going up. You get quite an impression of the next 8 or 9 locks in the flight from this photo.

About half way up this stretch of locks there is a bridge that gives you a good view of the hard working lock crew.

The other team that were hard at it keeping ahead of us. It seems that they had hired the boat for three days and had chosen to climb the Audlem and Adderley locks, and then come back down them!

The last few locks and the countryside opens out. It looks like it is raining here, but it really didn't.

At the top lock there is a little shed with goodies to purchase. Helen duly did. I only noticed as I passed that this cottage must have been the same as at the bottom seen earlier in the blog. The lady said that some of it was falling down so they were hard pressed to save any of it. In fact the Council suggested that they knock it all down and rebuild new!

We went on a little further to moor up out of the trees, with a view, and a sunset if there was to be one., but somebody was in my spot. We tried a couple of other spots but couldn't get in until nearly at Bridge 73 again with a slight view.