Sun 5th July
A stroll to Victory Church for their 1030 service proved to be a good decision. We had a warm welcome, and the worship was good, with some songs that were new to us. Communion was very informal, and relationships within the church appeared strong. The talk was based on David, and having a heart for God.
We went to look for somewhere to have lunch, but the two pubs we found were not serving food. We ended up in Morrison’s café where we shared a table with a chap called Donald. He was a bit paranoid about people out to steal his money. He also did not get on with his neighbours or his four sons. He didn’t like foreigners either.
We did some shopping but Morrisons did not have their own excellent cider, or their own Spelt and Rye bread. We went to Tesco and bought some Wyld Wood cider, which used to be very good, but recently it has changed. It is still OK, but not as good as Morrisons own, also made by Weston’s.
As we were about to leave Tesco, heavy rain started. It was two hours earlier than forecast. We waited for it to abate a little but we still got wet on the way back to the boat, where the covers were still down.
Because of the damp weather there were fewer people wandering past. We arranged to call in the Taft tomorrow.
No boating today
Mon 6th July
Rugeley to Shugborough
Heavy rain was forecast for later on, so wanted to get our boating finished by midday. We nipped to Tesco for some of their lovely fresh baked kalamata olive bread, before setting off through Rugeley and across the Trent on an aqueduct. We passed a field of potatoes, which were flowering, and looked impressive with their striking white flowers.
We paused at the fuel barge by Taft Bridge, where we filled up with diesel at 65p per litre, and replaced our gas bottle. We also bought some eggs. This took nearly all our cash, as they don’t take credit cards here. Fortunately we had been to the cash point in Rugeley.
We paused at the Taft to visit Peter and Julie, BCF friends of ours for many years. While we were there, Yum Sing came past, with Ian and Betty, friends of ours from Byfleet Boat Club. They were travelling with Hazell Nut, following a few minutes later with Rodney and Valerie. Sadly not enough time to catch up properly. They too wanted to get their boating done before the rain.
After the usual hospitable time with Peter and Julie, we set off again, and decided to go beyond a possible mooring at Wolseley Bridge, and through Colwich Lock to moor near Shugborough Hall, which we thought we might visit the next day.
As we approached Colwich Lock, there were two other boats waiting to use the lock, so we took our turn. There were also several boats coming down, so there were plenty of crew with windlasses. One of the boats was towing a butty, so just before Gabriel went up, James was helping to haul the butty into the lock while the boat towing was waiting below the lock.
This all took time, and by the time we were ready to leave the lock the rain had started so we put up the hood. We moored by the grounds of Shugborough Hall, making sure we were not under trees. We had heavy rain later.
1 lock, 5 miles
Tue 7th July
Shugborough to Tixall Wide
In the morning we discovered that Hugo had reduced the local rodent population by one, as there were some remains on the floor. We also discovered that Shugborough Hall was open every day except Tuesday, so we couldn’t visit today.
We moved the boat up half a mile to bridge 73, where we moored on rings and went to visit Great Haywood. We needed to post a birthday card to our son Greg, and we also bought some milk.
On the way back to the boat we walked across Essex Bridge, the historic packhorse bridge across the Trent. There we met a local couple who said there used to be lots of fish here, but there were none to be seen now. We asked them about some caves marked on our map, and they said they thought they were between the canal and the railway. We returned to the boat after buying some tempting items from the candy boat.
We then went exploring across the iron bridge 72a, walking down a long well worn path in lovely woods, between the canal and the railway line. It ended abruptly at a fence before an open area full of bracken, with no obvious path. We walked back again, Hazel returning to the boat, and James going under the railway to explore on the other side.
The path there went initially through woods, with two magnificent Douglas Firs, and then into a lovely meadow with a few sheep and cows. There were clumps of mature trees, some of which had fences round, which may have been to prevent sheep falling into caves, but James could not find the caves. Looking at maps online later, the caves may have been just a few yards further on. Maybe another time! This field is owned by the National Trust, and was originally part of the Shugborough Estate.
There was showery rain on and off, and we chose a dry gap to set off up Haywood Lock. The boat in front was Awesome Wonder and the chap was singing Scarborough Fair in a very tuneful voice. Apparently he used to be an actor and singer. He is heading in the same direction as us.
Unusually, we didn’t have to wait for water at Great Haywood Junction, and we were able to empty a cassette without having to obtain a key from the office. We also disposed of the rubbish. We were entertained by hire boats coming out of the hire base, going under the bridge and attempting to turn right in the strong wind. It was a bit of a challenge for their first five minutes of boating.
We set off down the Staffs and Worcs Canal and soon spotted a kingfisher. We found the mooring places on Tixall Wide were all taken, so we turned round and moored in a slightly narrower bit. We will need to reverse out when we leave.
Hazel went to visit a book exchange boat further up the towpath, and discovered that the couple had been in the Samuel Barlow pub when we had performed there on the mission. They are Chris and Pauline and the boat is named Magpies.
1 lock, 1 mile, 1 mouse
Later this week: Stafford, Stafford Boat Club, … who knows?