Mon 29th June
Polesworth to Bradley Green and back to Pooley
Several of us decided to have breakfast at “Licensed to Grill” in the High Street. We had Noah’s breakfast (two of everything), which we thought was appropriate. There were ten of us and they ran out of bacon and had to nip to the butchers almost next door. Peter and Lin, Henry, Lin and Jack, Sue and Eric, Peter, James and Hazel
We called the lady at the Elim Church to see if anyone had found our lost guitar stands. N-one had reported them found. We are passing there anyway, so will call in to look around. Alan Dewhurst had also said he would look in his car.
We cruised to the winding hole at Bradley Green, where we turned and reversed through the bridge for water etc. Trinity was on the water point, and there were two boats waiting opposite. We reversed beyond them and James took the opportunity to visit the weedhatch. Nothing on the prop – just shallow water and silt causing sluggishness. One of the boats waiting did not need water, and the other was a small sea otter, which didn’t take long. The pressure was good, so we were soon on our way again.
We passed Trinity moored in the countryside before Polesworth. We also passed Don on Tumzul Cloud, who hadn’t moved. The Polesworth visitor moorings were fairly full, and we decided to stop soon after the M42, in shady woods at Pooley Fields, before Alvecote. It was very hot.
Pooley Visitor Centre
There was a boat there called Marmite, and the man seemed to know David Litchfield. He had two rotweilers, which he kept on a lead.
Several historic boats went past, returning from the Braunston Historic Boat Rally. These included at least three fuel boats, with loads of gas bottles on board.
Historic boats returning from Braunston
James went for a walk in the nearby woods, visiting a lake, and climbing to the top of the nearby slagheap, which is topped by a monument. He could clearly see Polesworth Abbey, and beyond it, Merevale Hall at Atherstone.
A curly oak in the woods
The track up the slagheap
The monument at the top
On his return, we discovered that our gas bottle had just emptied. What a shame it hadn’t happened an hour or two earlier – we could have replaced it from the fuel boats.
The railway wasn’t far away, and we heard the sound of steam train!
Mooring in the woods with Marmite
0 locks, 6 miles
Tue 30th June
Pooley Fields to Middleton Lakes
Thankfully the boat was in shade, so we were able to lie in a little longer. We travelled through Alvecote. This is no longer a hire boat base, and the character has change completely. It is no longer a bustling commercial place, but a sleepy marina, with quite a few people living on their boats.
We retraced the mission route through Amington, and moored by Bridge 73 at Glascote. We went to the Elim Church, and tracked someone down in the office, who took us into the church. After some poking around, we found our guitar stands in a box of leads!
We returned to the boat and set off down the two Glascote Locks towards Fazeley.
It was very hot, and just after the Tame Aqueduct we found some piling with a large tree opposite, providing welcome shade. Here we paused for lunch and a short snooze, until we found ourselves in the sun again. We met a couple on a boat named Pasha, and we gave them details of BCF. We also saw Sunny Brid three times.
Our shady spot by the Tame aqueduct
Later on we moved to Fazeley Junction where James filled the water tank while Hazel went to Tesco for some essentials. James thought his phone had been stolen, as he couldn’t find it, and when he tried to phone it with Hazel’s phone, he got a message saying the phone was switched off. Several people, including some boisterous school kids, had been past the boat at the water point. Hazel found it, tucked in an unusual place.
We then headed up the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, in search of shady moorings. We turned just before the first lock and found a shady mooring near Gravel Pit Bridge.
Drayton Manor Bridges
Fishers Mill Bridge
We got the chairs out on the bank and enjoyed a glass of wine and some olives. We saw two greater spotted woodpeckers in the trees opposite, plus a goldfinch.
After supper James went for a walk to see what he could see at Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve. The main sights were five avocets, many reed buntings, a colony of black-headed gulls, two egrets flying overhead, and a grasshopper warbler. Sadly no barn owls.
2 locks, 7 miles
Wed 1st July
Middleton Lakes to Hopwas
James woke early and moved the boat half a mile to the main entrance to Middleton Lakes, at Fishers Mill Bridge. Thankfully this was in shade, as it was another hot day.
We both went for a walk, going up the west side of the reserve as far as the furthest bird hide. We returned down the east side, where there was more shade.
When we were ready to set off once more, James could not find his mobile phone. He tried ringing it, but the message said the phone was switched off! This time not even Hazel could find it, and James remembered putting it down in the furthest bird hide. He set off there in the blazing sun for a third time, and thankfully he found it where he had left it. He tried to call Hazel, but it said, “Before calls can be made, airplane mode must be switched off”. After some searching, he found Airplane Mode, and sure enough, it was switched on. How does this happen? Who switched it on?
We returned to Fazeley, where we said farewell to David and Mary in their garden. Jubilee was opposite with no one aboard, and likewise Maranatha was unoccupied.
We turned left at the junction, and emptied cassettes and rubbish at Peel Wharf, where we met some boaters from the Wey on a Sea Otter called OT. A short name for a short boat.
On the way to Hopwas we had a brief but welcome shower of rain, and we found a mooring which we hoped would be shady. Also there was a BCF boat called Aquilo.
James wandered back to Aquilo later, but they were watching TV.
This was the hottest July day on record.
0 locks, 5 miles
Thu 2nd July
Several boats were moving early. We discovered that Aquilo had gone, so we will have to wait until another occasion to meet them.
We went to catch a bus to Lichfield, and were aiming for a no.735 at 0930. Along came an express X55, so we caught that instead, which took us on a more direct route, without going through Whittington.
We found the tourist office, where we had some very helpful advice, and were given two maps and a heritage trail leaflet. We went first to the farmers market, which only happens once a month. We bought a lovely looking pie, and some fresh cut ham, before going to the cathedral, which was being furnished for the Lichfield Festival. Most of the chairs were facing the wrong way!
After a leisurely wander round we found a café and had some lunch, before going separate ways - Hazel to the shops, and James to the heritage trail. We met up later after some difficulty with phone signals, and we bought a new toaster in Argos. Our old one needs to be held down while it is toasting.
A visit to Tesco successfully filled up our shopping trolley, and we were just about to leave to catch a bus back to Hopwas, when a heavy rain shower started. We decided it would be wise to visit Costa first, for drinks and a teacake. After the rain we found another express bus to take us back to the Tame otter in Hopwas.
In the evening we revisited the Chequemates folk club where we received a warm welcome once again. We sang “Flowers never bend” and “Windmills”.
Folk Club in Hopwas
No boating today
Fri 3rd July
Hopwas to Fradley
Moored at Hopwas
After a warm night there was mist in the valley. Hugo ran on board in a panic, with two dogs chasing him. Their owner was not in sight. The dogs ran up and down by the boat, sticking their heads in through the open window. A man strolled into view, and when he came nearer, James said the dogs were interested in our cat. “Oh, they’ll go for a cat!” he said. One was a greyhound. “Shouldn’t they be on a lead, then?” James asked. “Well, I don’t know which boats have cats on,” he said. Precisely. We noticed that when he walked back a little later, both dogs were on leads.
We set off for a very pleasant but uneventful cruise to Fradley, where we managed to find a mooring in sight of the water point before the junction, where there were some overhanging trees giving lovely shade.
James finally managed to update the blog with details of the mission before going for a walk round the Fradley Pool nature reserve.
We enjoyed the pie from Lichfield market.
James washed the boat roof and starboard side, as rain was forecast.
0 locks, 8 miles
Sat 4th July
Fradley to Rugeley
Heavy rain and thunder in the night, which rinsed the boat roof nicely.
The mooring in Fradley
We walked down past the first lock to the sanitary station where we emptied two cassettes and disposed of the rubbish.
There was the usual queue for the tap by the swing bridge near the boat, and the pressure is notoriously low, so we had decided to use the tap in Armitage instead.
We set off through the little swing bridge, turning left onto the Trent and Mersey. Sadly no volunteers this time, but there were plenty of boats going up and down so we didn’t have to reset any locks.
Middle Lock at Fradley
We noticed that the house at Shade House lock was still up for sale. Nobody wants it as HS2 is planned to run very close by.
Thankfully there was a slight breeze as we cruised in beautiful sunshine through woods and meadows. We paused for lunch by bridge 56.
We travelled on through Handsacre and Armitage, past the Armitage Shanks factory, until we came to the Armitage “tunnel”, which originally was a tunnel, then they took the roof off, then they put a big wide road bridge over the top, making a bit like a tunnel again. It is very narrow, with no room to pass another boat.
Armitage Shanks factory
Boats going from East to West need to go ashore to check if any boats are coming through. A boat had just emerged, and the helmsman said “Don’t worry, there’s nothing behind”. As James was already ashore, he decided to check anyway. There was a boat in sight, just entering the narrow section! When they emerged five minutes later, they said “Don’t worry, there’s nothing behind”. “That’s what the last fellow said”, replied James. This time it was true.
Armitage Tunnel with oncoming boat
Armitage Tunnel the dark bit
Armitage Tunnel the light bit
Once through the tunnel we stopped for water as planned, just past Hawkesyard Hall. Several boats went past while we were on the water point, and when we set off again we found ourselves following a hire boat going very slowly, as they hadn’t worked out how to steer. They were in and out of the bushes and banks, getting stuck in the shallows, using the pole frequently. Thankfully we managed to pass them and our final mile into Rugeley was unencumbered. We moored up and it was 40 minutes before the hire boat turned up.
Hazel went shopping in Rugeley, particularly Wilko and Morrisons.
3 locks, 7 miles, 1 swing bridge.
Next week: We plan to attend a service at the Victory Christian Centre tomorrow, followed by a gentle cruise down the Staffs and Worcs Canal.