Thu 24th May Hopwas
Our anniversary! We have now been married for 43 years. To celebrate we had duck eggs for breakfast, which Mary had brought us yesterday. We exchanged cards, and had flowers on the table, bought in Fazeley yesterday.
The morning was spent rehearsing a few songs for this evening. James realised that he had lost his guitar tuner. We must have left it at the pub in Brinklow. He downloaded a guitar tuning app on his phone as a temporary answer.
Then we had a leisurely late lunch at the Red Lion. It seemed friendlier than the Tame Otter.
Red Lion, Hopwas
We had a nap in the afternoon, and set the cat flap for one way in, so that Hugo would not go out again once he returned. We didn’t want any clash with the killer cat on the next boat.
We walked to the Social Club where the folk club was to be held. On the way we met Ian and Mo on a boat called Weyflower. They saw our instruments and asked where we were going. They play melodeon and concertina, so they joined us at the folk club.
We had a friendly reception. This is the fifth time we have played there. We sang London Rain and Antiques. So far we haven’t repeated any songs here. They have a PA system, which means we can sing quieter songs, and everyone is there to listen, which is good. Ian and Mo played some Morris tunes, which went down well.
Performing at Hopwas
The photo above was borrowed from the Chequemates Folk Club Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=cheque-mates%20folk%20%27n%27%20roots%20music%20club
Ian and Mo
James went back to the boat in the interval to find, thankfully, that we had one cat on board and not two, and he locked the flap to prevent any further movements in or out. Whether the two cats met each other we don’t know.
The club ended at 1145, and we returned to the boat, just 30 minutes before heavy rain started. We had put up the hood in anticipation.
No boating today
Fri 25th May Hopwas to Fradley Junction
The heavy rain continued most of the night and part of the morning. When it finally stopped soon after midday, we made our preparations to leave, putting down the hood, and undoing the mooring lines.
Rain – not often seen recently
At that moment a boat called Tonal came round the corner and passed us. We had eight miles to go get to Fradley, and we didn’t want to be held up by a slow boat in front. Thankfully they had a reasonable speed, and they pulled over to moor soon after Hopwas Woods.
The quarry in Hopwas Woods
We often wonder whether anything sinister goes on in Hopwas Woods. There is a small quarry there which appears to be well frequented by people, and there are two large flat stones which could be used as some kind of altar. Perhaps we have too much imagination.
We passed the badger setts at Hademore which appear to be active, and then we saw a team of farm workers putting away the large hoops which form the frame of the polytunnels.
Putting away the polytunnels
After a cruise past some delightful gardens at Whittington, we passed Whittington Wharf, where we sang at an event on a mission a few years back.
Gardens in Whittington
We came past Huddlesford Junction, where the Lichfield and Canal used to leave. The first part is now used for moorings for the Lichfield Cruising Club, but hopefully one day will be restored as a through connection to the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Ogley Junction.
The Plough at Huddlesford
We had some very fine rain for the last 45 minutes as we almost completed our transit of the Coventry Canal. We moored just before the junction with the Trent and Mersey at Fradley.
The last proper bridge on the Coventry Canal
A moist evening at Fradley Junction
The Swan pub at dusk
0 Locks, 8 miles
Sat 26th May Fradley Junction to Rugeley
We were woken at 4.30am by an amazing dawn chorus. Later we were woken again by three ducks on the roof. This is getting to be a habit! We have noticed more mallard families than usual, some with as many as twelve ducklings, and most with around eight.
We took rubbish and full cassettes down past one lock to the facilities on the Trent and Mersey. We were delighted to find a recycling bin – the first one since Aylesbury. We didn’t use the water point near the boat, as we know it has very poor pressure. We departed through the small swing bridge, and turned left into the Trent and Mersey.
The very last bridge on the Coventry Canal
Into the Trent and Mersey
We had two of the Fradley locks to negotiate, and thankfully there was a volunteer on each one. There were boats going in each direction.
As we neared the top of the second one, a boat pulled away from the moorings above the lock. It was Solace, heading for Tixall Wide, and then the Shroppie. We may catch up somewhere.
Mallard and Shoveler
When we arrived at Woodend Lock, there was no volunteer, and there was a queue of boats coming down towards us. For one guy it was his first ever lock, so we gave him “How do locks work?”. We were able to have a quick chat with the people on Solace.
Into Woodend Lock
After this there is a wooded section, and the rhododendrons were just coming out. They are beautiful, but they are classified as an invasive plant, as they take over large sections of woodland, where nothing else can grow. There also lovely clumps of Campion.
The two villages of Handsacre and Armitage merge into one, and we passed the Armitage Shanks factory, so called because it is in Armitage, and used to be run by the Shanks family.
Armitage Shanks factory
Just after this there is a cutting for the canal, and it was good to see a kingfisher – the first one since Aylesbury.
We noticed that what used to be the Spode Cottage restaurant has now closed down and turned into a house. If you read the Trip Advisor reviews you can see why. The Plum Pudding Brasserie is across the road, canalside.
Armitage Tunnel follows soon after. This is no longer a tunnel, as the roof was removed in 1971. Then a wide road bridge was constructed across the top, turning it into a tunnel again. It is very narrow, with no passing places, so there is a place at the entrance where a crew member is meant to step ashore to get a view through to the other end. This time there was a lady on a phone who beckoned us through, saying her husband was waiting for us at the other end.
Sure enough, another boat was waiting when we emerged a few minutes later. We passed Hawkesyard Hall, which used to be the home of the Spode pottery family.
We stopped to use a water point just here, as there are bollards to make it easy, and the pressure is good, so it doesn’t take long to fill the tank.
The yellow irises are out
We cruised into Rugeley, and there was just one mooring space for us.
As we set off for the shops, we spotted an Ichthus on a boat called Buggerlugs, so we gave out a BCF leaflet. We had shopping to do – Argos for a new guitar tuner, Morrisons, Aldi and Tesco for all the usual bits. Morrisons here have at last decided to stock their own cider.
Back at the boat, James changed the strings on his guitar. It is amazing how Hugo appears within seconds whenever this event takes place. He had been in the hedge, but he has very sharp hearing and was back on board when the first string was being slackened off.
Hugo with the guitar strings.
We put up the hood in preparation for thunderstorms that were forecast.
3 locks, 7 miles, 1 tiddly swing bridge
Sun 27th May Rugeley
We had heavy rain and thunder and lightning in the night at around 4am. Hazel slept through it. James went to see where Hugo was and found him hiding in a cardboard box.
Rugeley in the storm
We went to Victory Church, where we had a great welcome from Will and Barbara Graham, the leaders, who recognised us from our two previous visits, both in 2015. The worship was current and sensitive, with guitar, bass, keyboard and drums.
After the notices, Will called James up to the front to share a little about Canal Ministries, and they prayed for us.
The preacher was Mike Parkes, who spoke fluently without notes, talking about living as salt and light.
After further chat over coffee, we wandered down the high street to the Plaza, previously a cinema, now a Wetherspoons, where we had a good value, well presented lunch.
Back to the boat to await further thunderstorms, which were needed as the air was humid and heavy. An ice cream from Tesco somehow seemed essential.
No boating today.
Tomorrow: calling in at The Taft in the morning to see our BCF friends Peter and Julie, then probably mooring on Tixall Wide on the way to the Shroppie. We are aiming for Brewood next Sunday.