Monday, 26 September 2016

Fradley to Fazeley

Tue 20th Sep  Fradley to Whittington

Moored at Fradley

We started by trundling a cassette and some rubbish down to the facilities.  We reversed the boat to the water point to top up the tank.

The Coventry Canal curls round the outside of what used to Fradley Aerodrome, the WW11 site of RAF Lichfield.  The original hangars are still there, but not easy to see from the canal.

Then there is a very noisy section alongside the busy A38 dual carriageway. At Streethay Wharf we spotted Chartwell, a boat from our flotilla into Liverpool Docks in early July.  Also a very nice looking pair of working boats.

Starling and Ethel at Streethay

The Eastern end of the Wyrley and Essington Canal

A little further on, by Huddlesford Junction we spotted Ragtag moored at Lichfield Cruising Club.

Prolific berries

We stopped just before Bridge 80, near Whittington.

0 locks, 5 miles

Wed 21st Sep   Whittington to Fazeley

As we left our mooring and rounded the corner, there was Firoza, with BCF members Derek and Judy Hunt. They had only just arrived.

We waved to Eric as we passed his house in Whittington, know as Whittington Wharf. We once sang in his garden there on a BCF mission.

Passing Whittington Wharf

We noticed that the badger setts at Hademore were obviously very active, with fresh earth and footprints showing. One day we will stop near here and try to see them.

We cruised slowly through Hopwas without stopping, noting a few damson trees just by School Bridge.  We planned to gather some later.

Old Quarry in Hopwas Woods

We found a tree had fallen across the canal near Fazeley, but there was still a passage through.

Hugo takes an interest

Tree down near Fazeley

As we drew into Fazeley, opposite the C&RT office, we were hailed by Alex and Jane on About Time, a couple we had come to know in Aylesbury during our first winter there. We stopped just beyond them and went on board for a welcome cuppa and a catch up.  While we were there, Stronghold went past, so we had a brief conversation with Ray, who wasn’t stopping. He is travelling a bit quicker than we are.

Next to About Time

We walked to Fazeley Mill Marina, where we were hoping our vacuum cleaner battery might have been delivered by now. We had been unable to reach them on the phone but we had had a text from the delivery company to say it would be delivered between 2m and 3pm.

When we arrived, there was a pair of gates across the entrance and they were padlocked.  We knew the phone wasn’t being answered, and wondered if they were perhaps closed on Wednesdays.  If so, where would our parcel have got to?

We decided to walk to where the road crossed the canal, and see if we could get into the marina from the towpath. Then we found their second entrance, with gates standing open. The lady was busy helping another boater with a pumpout and fuel. We had a look into the office, and could see Hazel’s parcel sitting there. Good News! We bought some toilet blue for Alex and Jane, but they had no grease, which we need.

As we passed the first entrance, we found it was open, and we met Tony, from Paws 4 Thought (BCF), who moors his boat there.

We called in at Tesco Express for a few items before returning to Gabriel. We put the Dyson battery on charge, and we now had a continuous green light instead of a flashing one. It looked promising.

0 locks, 5½ miles

Thu 22nd Sep  Fazeley to Hopwas

Our mooring in Fazeley

It was sunny this morning as we moved sideways across to the facilities to top up the water tank and empty cassettes.  We turned the boat there and waved to About Time as we departed north once more.

We paused at Bonehill Road Bridge and walked through to Ventura Park, where we visited Black’s for Hazel to try on a waterproof jacket. We ordered one in a different colour in the hope that it will arrive before we leave the area on Monday.

We then had a good value lunch in Sainsbury’s before shopping for some groceries and returning to the boat.

Bonehill Road Bridge

We moved on to Hopwas, where it was not convenient to pick the damsons, so we moored up on the visitor moorings by the school.

Moored at Hopwas

View across the Tame Valley

After having the Dyson battery on charge for nearly a day, we now have a working vacuum cleaner.  Hooray!

In the evening we went to the folk club, where we were treated as old friends. We have been there three times before.  Alex and Jane arrived later as promised.  There were a lot of singers, so everyone had just two songs. We sang Push Boys Push and Miles and Miles of Poly.  It was nearly midnight before the music stopped. A good evening.

Chequemates Folk Club at Hopwas

Back on the boat we put the central heating on as it was chilly.

0 locks, 2½ miles

Fri 23rd Sep  Hopwas to Fazeley

There was a heavy dew all around this morning, and it had been quite cold in the night. We found ourselves in the shade, so were pleased we had set the heating to come on which helped.  Very soon it was a lovely sunny day.

Morning sun but not on the boat

Reflected trees (photo upside down)

Morning reflections

Several boats went past before we set off towards the winding hole near Tamhorn Farm Bridge.  The Hopwas Woods were lovely in the sunshine.  We saw three red admiral butterflies which we guessed had just hatched out. One was sitting on a branch just above our heads as we passed.

On the way back after turning, we slowed right down and were able to get some pictures.  These butterflies are just as lovely as ones you find in tropical climates.

Red Admiral on a tree

A closer look

Hopwas Woods

We went back through Hopwas, and attempted to pick some damsons, but we couldn’t get in to the side, and another boat was close behind, so we had to abandon the idea.  We also passed some fields where we could see mushrooms growing but there was nowhere to stop. Sad to see free food going to waste!!

We noticed that the fallen tree had been cleared away. Well done C&RT.

In Fazeley again there was a queue for the facilities so we got rid of some rubbish, and left the water and cassettes until later.

We waved to Alex and Jane (again!) as we passed, and then turned right into the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, mooring up opposite David and Mary’s house, where we could dry the washing in the sun.

Sandra came round at about 6pm and we all went to the Ivory Tusk Indian restaurant at 7pm for a welcome curry. Very good food, and very popular.  We were pleased that we had booked, as every table was taken and there were people waiting.

Ivory Tusk Indian Restaurant

Back to Gabriel for hot drinks afterwards.

0 locks, 5 miles

Sat 24th Sep  Fazeley

It was chilly this morning, so we lit a fire, the first of the season.

We had a lazy morning, doing some odd jobs and relaxing.  Then we had a phone call from Fazeley Mill Marina to say that our second parcel had arrived. This was a new fleece for Hazel.

We went by boat this time passing Sandra's boat Maranatha and then the Old Mill, which textile manufacturer Sir Robert Peel opened in 1790 for cotton spinning and calico printing. It was water powered. It is now divided into several units with various smaller companies installed.


 Sir Robert Peel Mill

While we were at the marina we took the opportunity to empty two cassettes and top up with diesel. We needed to run the engine and turn the boat anyway, so we achieved all these things in 30 minutes.

Facilities pontoon at Fazeley Mill Marina

Fazeley Mill Marina

We moored back in the same spot, but facing the other way.

0 locks, 0 miles (just a few yards)

Sun 25th Sep  Fazeley

There was some rain in the night, as correctly forecast, but it had stopped by the time we went to church.  The 11am service time allows a leisurely start to the day.

Apart from Sandra, who we knew would be there, we met Vic Mortimer, another friend of ours from BCF. Also a guy called Dave Roberts, who was a contact made during the last mission we had in Fazeley.  He now attends here regularly.

St Pauls Fazeley

James Sandra Hazel

We went to the Plough for lunch, which was good value, but a little slow. Apparently there was an apprentice chef on today. When we emerged, we found that a heavy rain shower had taken place.

We called in at Tesco for some milk on the way back.  The path back to the towpath provides a good view of Tolsons Mill, which was built in 1886, and was steam driven. Products included webbing and narrow tapes. This was where red tape was produced, for tying up legal documents.  Not a lot of people know that.

Tolsons Mill

No boating today

Mon 26th Sep  Fazeley

A rainy day was forecast so we did not plan to move.

We phoned Black’s and discovered that Hazel’s waterproof jacket had arrived. We took a bus to Ventura Park and collected it. We then took another bus into Tamworth, where we had a good look around, having a very reasonable lunch in a cafe. We were disappointed with our visit to Morrison’s, as it was a small store, and did not have everything we wanted.

We managed to get a new screen protector for James’ phone in a specialist parts shop, and some buttons for Hazel’s new fleece (She didn’t like the ones that came with it).

Then we returned by bus to Fazeley. We had a look inside the saw mill yard, where they deal with whole trees. Their crane looks historic.

Crane at the saw mill

No boating today

Next: we set off down the Coventry Canal via Polesworth and Atherstone, heading for a church at Hillmorton near Rugby for Sunday.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Burton to Fradley Junction

Sat 17th Sep  Burton to Alrewas

It was a bit cooler this morning as we set off.  We noticed an advertising sign for the Old Cottage Tavern to remind us of the folk club we had missed yesterday.

Pub sign on the bridge

Beautiful artwork

The first lock was Branston Lock, where a boat was just leaving ahead of us and a boat was coming down towards us. By the time we left another boat was coming towards us and there was a further boat arriving behind us at the foot of the lock. There was a steady flow of boats both ways, with single locks to space them out. So there were just enough boats at the locks for bit of a chat, but not enough for a lock queue.

Bridge 36 is strangely narrow, with no towpath, as though it is at the entrance to a lock, but it is an isolated accommodation bridge.

Narrow Bridge 36

We were debating whether to stop at the water point at Barton Turn, or whether to wait until Alrewas or even Fradley Junction.  As we arrived we passed another boat moored on the visitor moorings. The lady said “Ah! A Canal Ministries boat!”  This was La Licorne, a BCF boat, belonging to Vic and Anita.  So we stopped to take on water, and we went on board for a chat, a cuppa and a prayer. It was good to meet them.

We continued along the very noisy section by the A38, where we had been by bus by mistake the day before.  There were other pleasant people on a boat coming the other way at Wychnor Lock.

Wychnor Church

We had one more short section of the River Trent just before Alrewas, and we had Alrewas Lock to ourselves.  We found a mooring on the outside of a bend, so our bows stuck out a little.

The river section

Moored on a bend in Alrewas

Hugo was happy, but he came back with lots of burs and leaves in his fur. There was a derelict pig sty the other side of the hedge, and the church yard was also close by.

Sunset at Alrewas

4 locks, 7 miles

Sun 18th Sep  Alrewas

We went to the Methodist Church and had a warm welcome. There was an excellent pianist who was playing there for the first time. Because of this we had one or two “modern” songs like Shine Jesus Shine, which the congregation knew and Blessed Be Your Name, which they didn’t know, so we had to sing loudly.  We had an opportunity to pray with the pianist after the service as he was going through a tough time.

Alrewas Methodist Church

After the service

We had a good lunch at the George and Dragon. We had been put off going to the Crown by recent reports on Trip Advisor. 

George and Dragon

Timber framed cottage in Alrewas

Later James went for a walk to see which boats were there. He met a local couple who had moved there six years ago after living in Walsall for many years. They said that within two weeks they knew more people in Alrewas than they had known in Walsall in years.  A hot air balloon drifted over and everyone was talking about it.

Hot air balloon

No boating today

Mon 19th Sep  Alrewas to Fradley

After a cool and wet start, it brightened up and was quite warm.

We started with a visit to the butchers and the Co-op for some provisions. The butcher’s pies were not yet ready, so James returned at midday to collect a huge sausage roll and a chicken balti pie.

We had a fairly uneventful journey through the locks to Fradley Junction, where we emptied two cassettes. Thankfully we did not need the water, as there was a boat already there, and they said the water pressure was very low, so it was taking a long time.

Bagnall Lock

Leaving the facilities at Fradley Junction

 Junction Lock and the Swan at Fradley

We turned the corner into the Coventry Canal, and found a good straight mooring. There was plenty of space, although it filled up later in the day.

We haven’t seen swallows since Thursday.

5 locks, 2 miles, 1 swingbridge

Next: Up the Coventry Canal to Fazeley, with a folk club in Hopwas on Thursday, and a meal with Sandra on Friday.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Nottingham to Burton on Trent

Mon 12th Sept  Nottingham to Trent Lock

Today was hot – much too hot for September. There was a warm wind coming from southern Europe with a lot of humidity.

We visited Sainsbury’s for some Shropshire Red from their deli, among other things. This is the most wonderful cheese, and you can only get it at Sainsbury’s.

We departed soon after, on what is left of the Nottingham Canal, heading past the Nottingham Castle Marina and the sealed off junction with the derelict part of the Nottingham Canal, onto what is known as the Beeston Cut.  Just past here are two interesting displays of loos!

Nottingham Castle Marina

 Nottingham Canal junction



We followed the Beeston Cut past the headquarters of Boots where it seems they have sold off some of their land and are building a second bridge over the canal to the new development.

New bridge at Boots
We stopped at Beeston Lock to empty cassettes and rubbish, tying up on an awkward corner.  A couple in a white cruiser were coming up through the lock here, and somehow they both got off the boat and neither had a rope. The cruiser drifted to the back of the lock where they could not reach it. James went to fetch our boat hook, and they were able to pull it forward level with a ladder.

Awkward angles at Beeston Lock

Cruiser adrift in the lock

After the lock we were out on the Trent once more, past Beeston Weir and the Attenborough Nature Reserve.  A visitor mooring pontoon would be useful here, so we could go twitching round in the bushes at dawn.

 Looking back at Beeston Weir

Cruising past the Attenborough Nature Reserve

Cranfleet Lock was next, and like Beeston, you don’t need a windlass, as some have been welded to the paddle mechanisms. Cranfleet Cut came next, where we were hoping to moor but the only spaces available were next to the railway bridge.

Railway Bridge and Flood Lock at Cranfleet Cut

We moored by Trent Lock in the end, opposite the sailing club.  We had a visit from Charles of Mrs Noah, who used to be a member of BCF. We had some good discussions, as he had left BCF, left the Anglican Church, and joined the Catholic Church.
Our mooring by Cranfleet Cut

Although the mooring was mostly peaceful, we had trains rumbling over Thrumpton Weir, rowers making a lot of noise and wash, and yappy dogs in the cratch of the boat next door. They barked at everyone on the towpath and at us whenever we appeared. Hugo went in and out a lot, to wind them up!

Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station

2 locks, 8 miles

Tue 13th Sept  Trent Lock to Shardlow

Early morning at Cranfleet Cut


We decided to use the facilities on the Erewash Canal as it was so handy, so we trundled the cassettes along the path.  At the rubbish point there were no bins, so the rubbish was piling up in bags.

 Entrance to the Erewash Canal

There was a water point available without going through Trent Lock, so we filled our tank before setting off on another river section for a mile to Sawley.

When we arrived there, we saw a man on a boat called Tickey, who waved us into the lock, where one gate was open. We went in and moved across, and James climbed up the ladder, while the man eventually brought his boat in beside us.  James operated the lock, and when it was time to open the top gates, only one gate worked. Both boats were out of the lock before James discovered that there was a second set of buttons for the second gate, which he duly opened for a white cruiser that was waiting to come down.

After Sawley Marina there is a flood lock in Sawley Cut, leading to another wide river section, where we overtook Tickey, before reaching Derwent Mouth, where the River Derwent joins the Trent and the Trent and Mersey Canal starts.

Flood Lock at Sawley

Under the M1

Derwent Mouth

Here there used to be a footbridge on the left called the Long Horse Bridge. This crossed the Trent opposite the Derwent to connect Sawley Cut with the Trent and Mersey Canal. It was in place when we first came past here in 2002, but was closed and demolished soon after due to concrete decay.

There is now a wider, modern bridge, installed in 2011, further upstream, to restore the connection.

Long Horse Bridge replacement

Trent and Mersey sign

On arrival at the first lock on the Trent and Mersey, someone was just closing the bottom gates. We assumed that there would be two boats in the lock, otherwise they would have kept it open for us, but no, there was just one boat.  Knowing that Tickey was following, we weren’t bothered.

When that boat had gone up, two boats came down, and we went in, sharing with Tickey, who had eventually arrived, although he stayed back down the lock cut and took a time to get in the lock. Meanwhile, more boats were stacking up waiting to come down. We were glad to be through there and into Shardlow.

Chaos below Derwent Mouth Lock

Sharing with Tickey

Bridge 1 on the Trent and Mersey

In Shardlow we managed to find a mooring in the shade, which was important, as it was very hot.  We went to find a pub lunch, and discovered that the New Inn and the Malt Shovel both had Rosie’s Pig cider. We settled on the New Inn, although the photo we took was of the Malt Shovel. We had what they called chicken stack, which was chicken and bacon in a stilton sauce – lovely.

Malt Shovel, Shardlow

A shady mooring

Petrel goes past

We then had a go at sorting out songs for Yelvertoft in three weeks time.  We need two twenty minute sets of boating and folk songs for the Saturday evening plus some worship songs for the Sunday church service.

2 locks, 2 miles

Wed 14th Sept  Shardlow to Cliff Wood

As we set off this morning through Shardlow, another boat pulled out ahead of us, heading for the lock. This was a Springer called Kwa-Heri (Goodbye in Swahili).  The lady had to run back for their centre rope, which they had used for something else, and left behind.  We shared Shardlow Lock with them.

Old warehouse in Shardlow

Shardlow Lock and the Clock Warehouse

Sharing Shardlow Lock

There is a long line of boats after Shardlow, so it is slow going. We passed under the A50, which bypasses Shardlow, and we arrived at Aston Lock.  The ground paddles here were not in use, so we had to use the gate paddles very slowly.  The bottom gates had steel bar props to keep them closed. Kwa-Heri had a small dog that could not be trusted to stay put, so it was carried by the skipper, getting in the way while he tried to operate the windlass.

Aston Lock

Weston Grange

We left first, and at Weston Lock there was another boat in front, and we suggested they share with Kwa-Heri, who were first at Shardlow Lock, and had further to go than we did. When they got to the top of the lock, and the gates were open, there were boats waiting to come down, but they spent some time chatting to the people in the other boat and showing them their dog.

Weston Lock – another boat with Kwa-Heri

Then we were on our own for Weston Lock. Unlike Aston Lock, Weston Lock does not have the bars to prop the bottom gates shut.  James closed the bottom gates, and went to the top gates. The bottom gates started to open, so James opened a ground paddle to help to close the bottom gate, but it swung open fully. James went back to close the gate, and Gabriel was forced forwards by the surging water.  James went back to the top gates and was trying to shut the paddle. The paddle was so stiff that it needed two hands to move it, but there was a “safety” device to prevent the paddle being closed without holding the latch open, leaving just one hand. Meanwhile a lady from a boat coming down was oblivious to the problem and was starting to open the paddle on the other gate, causing even more flows. Gabriel was in full reverse to avoid slamming into the top gates.  James managed to close it with a lot of effort, and the lady stopped opening hers, and Gabriel was able to get back to the bottom end of the lock where the flows were manageable.

Email to C&RT required!

We found a pleasant mooring not far from Bridge 10, and we went for a stroll up a footpath to Weston Church, past a Ukrainian settlement.  Sadly the church was locked, but the walk was pleasantly shady in the very hot and humid weather.  Unfortunately the mosquitoes also thought this was a good time to be out and about, and Hazel suffered several bites on her hands, which swelled up. They prefer her to James.

Weston Church

Evening visitors

Back at the boat we discovered that our vacuum cleaner was not working. It had not been charging properly and the green light was flashing slowly.  We put it back on the charging point hoping it might restore itself overnight.

3 locks, 4 miles

Thu15th Sept  Cliff Wood to Burton

It was slightly foggy this morning. Autumn has arrived.

Foggy morning at Weston

A boat went past fairly early, going in our direction.  Later, when we were almost ready to leave, a boat called Ragtag went past.  We got ready quickly, and followed about 5 minutes behind.

We passed under Sarson’s Bridge, unusually built of stone instead of brick, and we could see the old pavilion at Swarkestone across the fields.

Sarson’s Bridge

Swarkestone Pavilion

Swarkestone lock two miles away was set against Ragtag by the first boat, and we caught up with them as they reset the lock.

Just above Swarkestone Lock is t he junction with the derelict Derby Canal, now used as moorings by the Swarkestone Boat Club. This junction is marked as a winding hole in Nicholson but there is a sign saying “no turning in basin entrance”.  If we had wanted to turn here, we would be very cross at having to go another three miles to Stenson Lock, go through the lock, turn, and come back again. It would take 2 ½ hours.

Derby Canal Junction

The Derby Canal used for moorings

Winding Hole sign in Nicholson Guide

Swallows gathering

Ragtag paused to dispose of rubbish above Swarkestone Lock, so we went past them

When we reached Stenson Lock, there was a boat going up in the lock, and two boats waiting to come down. Ragtag had caught up by then, so we shared once more. There were no volunteers on duty this time. Last time there were three.

Ragtag by Stenson Marina

Ragtag left first and paused at Willington briefly to empty a cassette. We did likewise and disposed of rubbish at the same time.

As we left Willington we spotted a black swan – the second this year. We had a closer view this time. We then crossed the River Dove on an aqueduct and had a view of the old road bridge alongside.

 Black swan

River Dove aqueduct

Road Bridge

There are seven aqueducts here in the space of a mile, and the area is fairly marshy. We spotted an egret in one of the streams.

The next lock was Dallow Lane, which is a narrow lock, only taking one boat, so we said farewell to Ragtag, and they went on their way.

Dallow Lane Lock

We moored at Shobnall Fields, where we have stopped many times before. We went online to find Dyson spare parts, as the vacuum cleaner had not charged overnight. We found we could buy a new battery for £60, and / or a new motor for £70.

 In the evening there was a mixture of low sun and mist over the playing fields.

Shobnall Fields

It was a very warm evening

3 locks, 12 miles

Fri 16th Sept  Burton

Our mooring in the distance at Shobnall Fields

We decided that, before we ordered a battery for the vacuum cleaner, we would go to PC World at Branston, and try it out with one of theirs. The cleaner came from them originally. We could also visit Morrison’s which is close by.

James looked for bus stops on Google Earth, and found one right outside Morrison’s, with bus services 7, 813, and X12.  He checked the services in Burton and found X12 left from New Street, so we would have a simple change of buses in Burton.  We set off from the boat, crossed the footbridge, and as we reached the road a no 3 bus arrived, and waited for us. Good timing!  On arriving at New Street we had a little wait for the next X12, so we went to the very pleasant “Nook and Cranny” cafe for lunch.

When we finally boarded the X12, James was following the route on an app on his phone. We went through Branston village, and then suddenly we were on the A38 heading for Lichfield!  We hadn’t been to the retail park at all. James went to speak to the driver, who said we needed the 812, but the quickest way now would be to stay on the bus to Lichfield, and return to Branston Village, and walk through Clay Lane to Morrison’s.  Thankfully we were not in a particular hurry.

Silly old pensioners on a bus

When we finally got to Morrison’s, James went to check out the bus stops he had seen on Google Earth. The lay bys were still there, but the bus stops had been removed. Staff in Morrison’s pointed to the nearest stops, which were very close by, but only serviced by the 812.

We went to PC World, and were told that the new Dyson models don’t have removable batteries, so we were unable to try out our vacuum cleaner! What a fruitless day!!

We caught the 812 back to Burton, and discovered that the last No 3 left at 1702, and it was now 1720. So we took another bus to the station, visited Lidl, and walked back to the boat past the Old Cottage Tavern, where tonight’s Folk Club was to take place.

The Old Cottage Tavern

In the end we were very tired and James’ voice was suffering from a cold, so we decided not to go to the folk club after all.  Maybe next time.

No boating today.  Lots of bussing!

Next: On to Alrewas for church on Sunday, then onto the Coventry Canal.