Friday, 19 September 2014

The Taft to Swarkestone

Monday 8th September (Continued)

The Taft to Handsacre

While we had a good signal we booked car hire with Enterprise for Wednesday, requesting that we get collected from Alrewas.  We had decided to go to the Graham Bell funeral, and miss the Doris Armstrong funeral, as it was too early.

We moved across to the fuel barge opposite, and bought £100 worth of diesel at 79p per litre.

Crossing the Trent at Rugeley

On arrival at Rugeley we visited Aldi and Tesco.  We also met Gary on a hire boat, who had called in at the Taft as we were leaving.  He had an interesting card for evangelism entitled “Are you going to heaven?”

After the very blind and sharp bended bridge 62, we stopped at the water point by Hawkesyard Hall.  As we were finishing, Grace came past, so we followed them through the narrow cutting known as Armitage Tunnel and past the Armitage Shanks factory.

Armitage Tunnel

Armitage Shanks factory

Grace moored by Bridge 58, but this was by a busy road, so we carried on a little further and moored after Bridge 56.  We had lovely views, but the trains were a little noisy.  We had to use mooring spikes and the earth was a bit soft.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Gary went past on his hire boat.

0 locks, 6 miles, 3hr00

Tuesday 9th September

Handsacre to Alrewas

We had a heavy dew this morning, leading to a lovely sunny day. 

We passed Gary who had moored a bit further on, and headed for Wood End Lock, where one boat was waiting and one boat was coming up.  The house by the lock looked empty.

The next lock was Shade House Lock. Again there was one boat each way first. The house here was for sale for £625,000

Shade House Lock

As this is where HS2 is due to pass through, is this an example of property blight?

Fradley Junction

The five Fradley locks were mostly quiet.  We stopped at the sanitary station where we found there were not enough mooring bollards, so we had to tie on to a ring with the centre line.

A boat came past too fast, and Hazel asked him to slow down. Our stern was sucked out leaving a dangerous gap for stepping off with cassettes.

James thought he heard him say, “Why are you using just one rope?”   James replied, “I’m only using one rope because there are no bollards”.

He had a very loud voice, and said, “That’s not my problem”

We caught up with him at the next lock, where he said in his huge voice “I never go too fast. I was on tickover. I never asked “why are you using one rope?” - that’s not my problem, that’s your problem.”

The name of his boat was unpronounceable, so we referred to him as Mr Loudmouth. We found him trying to moor after lock 14, and his boat was up on one side on a submerged ledge.  We went past very slowly, showing him how it was done, and offered to tow him off, but he declined.

We arrived at Lock 13 Bagnall Lock, where a hire boat was coming up. A CRT volunteer was also there.  They closed the paddles before opening the gate, and James struggled to open the gate. James suggested to the hirer that they open the gates before closing the paddles in future.  When they had left and Gabriel entered the lock, we closed the gate and were chatting to the volunteer, and the level in the lock dropped quickly before we had even moved to the other end of the lock. We discovered that one of the bottom paddles had not been closed properly.

We moored in Alrewas, three boat lengths before the footbridge.

Alrewas Church

Gary went past on his hire boat. Later he returned going in the other direction. It was a lovely evening for a cruise, he said.

8 locks, 5 miles, 3hr55

Wednesday 10th September


We decided to move boat the other side of the footbridge, where it was better for Hugo, with access to the churchyard. Also it was not so overlooked by houses.

We walked to the George and Dragon, our rendezvous for collection by Enterprise Car Hire.  The car was a bright green Vauxhall Corsa.  We were driven down the A38 to Lichfield to the Enterprise base.  Then, after completing the paperwork, we set off back up the A38 past Burton.

Our first stop was Kedleston Hall, a National Trust property we had never visited.  It was a wonderful place with amazing landscaped parkland. It was one of the locations for the film “The Duchess”.

Kedleston Hall

 Marble Hall

  Saloon Ceiling


We had lunch there before looking round the house and chatting to the friendly and helpful volunteers and staff. Then we drove up over the hills before heading for Mansfield.

We have a 2006 road atlas, and we discovered that some junctions had been changed on the approach to Mansfield. Two anticipated roundabouts were missing. However, we found the Civic Hall sooner than we expected.

We were there to celebrate the life of Graham Bell, a friend of ours for many years, and leader of Ashwood Church in Kirkby in Ashfield. We have never investigated to establish a family connection, although if we went back far enough we might find a link.

Before Graham’s memorial service

We had a warm welcome from Molly and eldest son Matt.  We were a row in front of Chris Bowater and Norman Barnes.  It was also good to catch up with John and Christine Noble.  The place was almost full, and the worship was excellent, led by Paul Bell. There were nine eulogies. A very good send off for Graham.

We drove back from Mansfield to Alrewas, and parked in the churchyard, just 50 yards from Gabriel.

No boating today

Thursday 11th September

Alrewas to Branston Water Park

We made us of the car by driving to the National Memorial Arboretum, just outside Alrewas. It was a very moving place and we had glorious sunshine.

 Memorial Arboretum

We returned the car back to Enterprise, and were then dropped back into Alrewas, where we visited the famous butcher for ham, pork pie, turkey, chicken breasts, and feta cheese.

Then lunch on board before setting off.

We timed it well at Alrewas Lock - a boat was just coming out.  This was followed by the river section where the navigation joins the River Trent for a short distance. This sometimes causes stoppages in the winter when the river goes into flood.  No problems today though.

Alrewas Lock

At Wychnor lock there was a queue of one.

We called in at Barton Turns Marina for gas and elsan.  Since our last visit there is a whole line of new buildings including shops and restaurants.

Facilities are a bit spread out along this section. We stopped at Barton Turn Lock for water, and then again half a mile further on for rubbish.

Barton Turn Lock

At Tatenhill Lock the bottom gates had been left open so we had to fill the lock before we used it.

We moored by Branston Water Park, where there were several boats already.

There were lots of rabbits on the path, and something similar to a shield bug on a plant by our window.  Hugo was happy.

Shield bug?

4 locks, 5 miles, 1 mouse.

Friday 12th September

A leisurely departure today, with only one lock to operate before mooring at Shobnall Fields.

We walked into Burton town centre past the Coors brewery, almost a mile.

Monument to beer

Burton beer town

James wanted some brown socks, so he went into M&S.  You can’t buy dark brown socks there unless you also buy light brown ones and beige ones.   Why do they package them like this?  No sale.

We stopped at a lovely teashop and had tea and cake, before taking a bus back to near the station and walking through to Lidl for our provisions.

Back to the boat for supper.  We heard on the news that Ian Paisley had died.

We walked the short distance to the Cottage Tavern where Brewtown Folk Club takes place every Friday.  The guest artists were Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies – very entertaining with their own songs, which had a folk feel, with a touch of reggae.  They had been at Greenbelt this year, where they had sung Sydney Carter songs.

Floor singers only had one song each, so we sang Well, well, well.

There was a raffle where they sold tickets by the strip of 5.  Instead of folding up the stubs singly to put in the basket they folded the whole strip.  A lady was asked to draw the first ticket, and she drew her own strip. Then James was asked to draw one, and he also drew his own strip! Very odd. We took away a nice bottle of Hardy’s Shiraz Cabernet.

Brewtown Folk Club

1 lock, 2 miles, 1 mouse

Saturday 13th September

Burton to Willington

It was sunny today as we set off through Dallow Lock, the last narrow lock.  We stopped at Horninglow Basin to fill with water and empty the loo.

Dallow Lock

As we crossed the Dove aqueduct, Hazel spotted some flowers for our vase, so we stopped on the aqueduct and took some photos.

13th century Monk’s Bridge at Egginton

Aqueduct over the River Dove

We moored at Willington, where the trains rattle loudly past on the other side of the hedge, and traffic rushes along the minor road the other side of the canal. We will try and avoid mooring here in future.

James tightened the stern gland and replenished the grease, to stop water leaking in by the prop shaft.

We walked round via the bridge to dump our rubbish, and then went to explore the baptist church, the shop and the three pubs.

Back on the boat, despite the noise, we had Zzzzzzzzzzz.  Hazel made a shepherd’s pie with the mince be had bought at the Alrewas butchers - lovely.

Willington moorings

1 lock, 5 miles, 2hr15

Sunday 14th September

Willington to Swarkestone before bridge 15

As we headed for the service at the baptist church, we spotted a Fox boat, and James was just about to get a photo for Peter Ekins when he realised it was March Mole, Peter Ekins’ boat!   They weren’t on board but we spotted Peter and Pam further along the towpath so we went to say hello.

Peter and Pam

At the Baptist Chapel we had a warm welcome, and discovered that Peter Brooks was also visiting.  The service was very real, with no formality. There was an excellent children’s talk to explain what taking communion was all about.

Willington Baptist Chapel

Music group

We had a good Sunday lunch at the Green Man, and it looked better value than the more popular Dragon, which is on the green in a better location.

Originally we had planned to spend two nights in Willington, but due to the noise we decided to move on.  We paused at Mercia Marina to buy some blue. We tied alongside another boat, as there was only one mooring space by the chandlery. The couple on board had met Norman Woolley on heartbreak hill (Pat and Terry).

A little further on we came to Stenson Lock, our first wide lock since the Thames. It was also quite deep and took a while to fill.  We gave out two “How do locks work?” leaflets.

Stenson Lock Gongoozlers

The railway line had divided into two, with the main line going off to the left, and a minor line staying with the canal.  We moored just before bridge 15 at Swarkestone, where there was a thick hedge between the canal and the track.  We only heard very occasional trains here.

We noticed Hugo jumping around on the stern deck, and when we opened the door, we found a very active bank vole, who wisely decided to escape by running and leaping into the canal, and swimming away.

1 lock, 5 miles, 1 lively bank vole, 2hr15

Next week: heading up the Soar

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