Friday, 4 July 2014

Hopwas to Stafford

Tuesday 1st July

Hopwas to Streethay

As we were leaving Hopwas, past the visitor moorings, we spotted a grass snake swimming in the water. That’s two this year!  Then we entered the beautifil Hopwas woods, where James once had a conversation with an owl.
Hopwas woods

There was then a convoy of  boats coming the other way, we counted at least seven. This happens when there are no locks to separate out the boats, and everyone decides to leave at once.

At Hademore we noticed that the badger setts were very active.  There is some piling opposite, so one day we may decide to stay there overnight and keep watch.

It was very hot and humid. We passed Huddlesford Junction, which is the eastern end of the Wyrley and Essington Canal, under restoration.

We spied a good mooring at bridge 84 – Stoney Step Bridge, where there was piling and shade and a wide towpath, so we decided to stop. We got the chairs out on the bank and enjoyed a pleasant rest in the shade.  Hugo seemed very relaxed – no nervous reactions to yesterday’s episode with the dogs.

Relaxed Hugo

0 locks, 4 miles, 1hr45

Wednesday 2nd July

Streethay to Handsacre

One disadvantage of shady moorings is that trees drop little spots of sap, plus bits of twig, and our roof was well decorated by the morning. 

Six  boats went past before we set off. We also saw Ein Cariad (BCF boat), with Bernard and Anne Hughes seen last year in August near Kinver.

At Fradley James walked down one lock to empty a cassette as there is a bit of a gap before the next facilities.  As we went through the little swing bridge, and turned left onto the Trent and Mersey Canal, we joined a line of boats waiting for the locks. We were 4th in the queue.

At Fradley there are permanent moorings for several boats between the locks, leaving space for only one boat on the lock bollards.  Other boats in the queue have to hang onto them or tread water in the middle. A silly arrangement.  CRT should remove some of the moorings and make them for lock use only. Victor Meldrew.

A New Song came down the locks, Brian and Jean Branch (BCF)

As we cruised through the lovely countryside above the locks, we couldn’t help but think about HS2, which will cross in three places within a mile, ruining this beautiful stretch of canal.  

We moored at bridge 56, just before Handsacre.  There was another boat called
Ormiston, and the lady had a cat called George. He and Hugo seemed to get on fine, lying a few feet from each other, and with no arguments.

3 locks, 8 miles, 1 swing bridge, 4hr00

Thursday 3rd July

Handsacre to Wolsey Bridge

The route from here goes past the Armitage Shanks factory before going through Armitage Tunnel, which had its roof removed in 1971, and then a concrete bridge was put over the top to carry the A513.  The canal cutting is very narrow, with no room to pass another boat, so Hazel walked on ahead to stop any boats entering from the other end.

Armitage Tunnel approach

Armitage Tunnel

Just after Hawkesyard Hall is a water tap with very good pressure, so we stopped to fill our water tank.

Then we passed the ugly power station with its cooling towers, before mooring just before bridge 66 at Rugeley for shopping.

First stop was Morrisons, just south of the canal, as they market their own brand of cider, almost certainly made by Weston’s.  Sadly they didn’t have any.  The shop was really busy, and the checkout queues were long, so Hazel went off to do one or two other bits while James packed and paid for everything.

Back to the boat to stow all the cold stuff, and have lunch before going to the brand new Tesco just north of the canal. There James came away with some Wyldwood cider.

When we left the mooring, we found we were following a very slow boat. Tickover is fine when passing moored boats, but when you reach an open stretch of canal you are meant to put on a few more revs, especially if there is another boat behind you.

We crossed the aqueduct over the Trent, noticing how the railings had been nicely painted by a volunteer work party just recently.

Following slowcoach across the Trent Aqueduct

The, just round the corner, our slowcoach in front indicated that he was about to turn in the winding hole.  He was just out for a jolly.

We continued on to the Taft – where we saw Peter and Julie waving from the house, so we stopped for tea (as you do).  Their new dog Amber was full of energy, stealing bits of foliage to play with.

Peter, Julie and Amber by Maid of Oak at the Taft

We moved on to moor at Bridge 70 (Wolseley Bridge) with good views of Cannock Chase.  Ein Cariad went past again.

The electrical wiring challenge
James decided to do some electrical work that needs doing. We have two 12v sockets, which originally were for a small lamp, plus the TV.  When we installed the TV,  we found we needed a signal booster, which also needs a 12v socket, so the lamp was unplugged, and the booster was plugged in.  There is no master switch for the TV so to switch it on or off we have to unplug it. The plan was to combine the wiring for the TV and the booster into one plug, using one socket, and use the other socket for the lamp as originally planned. The lamp has an online switch in the cable.  This part of the operation was successfully achieved. 

The other part of the plan was to replace the unswitched TV socket with a new one that has a switch. When the old socket was unscrewed from the wall, and the new one examined, we discovered that the new one had much smaller brass terminals, and we couldn’t fit the two pairs of wires in.  James decided to use some connector block to reduce the two wires to one, which could then fit easily into the terminals. All that was needed was two short pieces of electric wire. James had one, a red one about two inches long.  He was debating whether there was enough to cut it in half to make two lengths, when along came Mistol.  They went past but Rob had seen the engine hatch open (the electrics had been turned off) and he came back to see what was wrong and if he could help.  He said he had some electric cable on his boat, so we walked up to where he had left Tricia trying to moor. We helped her get the boat tied up, and then Rob produced various bits of cable he had kept “in case”.  Having acquired a suitable short piece of black cable, James was able to connect it all up and it worked!

Rob and Tricia came aboard to help us finish off some wine and nibbles. A very good evening.

Rob and Tricia

0 locks, 7 miles, 3hr00

Friday 4th July

Cannock Chase to Stafford

Wolseley Bridge mooring

A sunny day to start with.  We got going early (only one boat had already passed), and we waved at Rob and Tricia as we headed for Colwich Lock.  On a previous occasion here we were  boat no12 in a queue, and we didn’t want a repeat of that.

The boat in front was Daydream and they enquired about BCF.   By the time Gabriel was in the lock there were three boats waiting below, including Mistol.
Colwich Lock
Canalside cottages at Haywood

We caught up with Daydream at Haywood Lock and gave them a BCF leaflet

At Great Haywood junction we turned left into the Staffs and Worcester Canal, and Hazel  stepped off to dispose of our rubbish.
Leaving the Trent and Mersey at Great Haywood Junction

 Crossing the Trent once again

Continuing through Tixall Wide we realised that here there was no railway noise as the line went through a tunnel under Shugborough Park.
Tixall Wide
Tixall Lock

We discovered from walkers that the farm shop at Milford Bridge 105 has now gone, and there is now no right of way over the bridge to the village of Milford. The bridge itself is a turnover bridge, allowing horses to cross from one side of the canal to the other without unhitching the rope.

  Milford Bridge

We moored at Radford Bridge 98, with a plan to take a bus from there into Stafford to do some shopping and sightseeing.

The wallet incident
As we were gathering up phones, keys etc, we discovered that Jame’s wallet was missing.    We both searched throughout the boat several times, looking in ridiculous places (even under the engine hatch!) and decided that he must have lost it or had it stolen.  James had last used it at Morrisons in Rugeley.  It contained credit and debit cards, plus James’s bus pass and driving licence, as well as some cash.

First we rang Morrison’s, and then Tesco, but neither had found it.  The we checked online banking to see if the cards had been used. They hadn’t.  We phoned HSBC and cancelled the cards. New ones are now being sent to our address in Suffolk.

Then Hazel rang Barclaycard to cancel James’s card.  As she was talking with them, James was looking through some other cards he had in a small box, and discovered the Barclaycard, which had not therefore been in the wallet.  Just in time – we were able to stop the cancellation going through.

Then we rang Surrey County Council to arrange a new bus pass. Not so easy.  James has to go in person to a local library to arrange it and pay £5.  He may have to pay for bus rides for a while.

Then we considered the driving licence.  This was the worst problem as we are hiring a car in two weeks to go to Jasmin’s birthday party in Leatherhead. 

We decided to ring the police in Rugeley, and went through a long conversation with someone there.  As James was talking to them, Hazel had another look in James’s shoulder bag, which has several pockets, and found the wallet! We had both looked twice already, but missed it.  BIG SIGH OF RELIEF!

By then it was too late to go into Stafford, and it had started raining heavily, so we decided to stay put, and go in tomorrow instead.  If the buses run on Sunday, we may go in again to go to a church.  Trinity looks good (Methodist and URC combined).

Chilli con carne and strawberries for supper

3 locks, 7 miles, 3hr15

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