Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Alrewas to Fradley

Sat 14th September  Alrewas and the Arboretum

We had a beautiful mist on the water this morning at Alrewas. Everything was very wet with dew.

Mist on the water

We managed to get enough phone signal to call a taxi to take us the National Memorial Arboretum, which is slightly too far to walk for us. The journey was well worth the £5 each way.

Welcome sign

We arrived at 1130 to find the place thronging with people, as there were several parades taking place, with lots of people in uniform everywhere. We bought a map and studied it over a coffee in the very noisy café. We thought we might take the land train ride to see a lot of the place, but at the desk we were informed about a buggy ride we could have as an alternative, with up to five people, stopping for photos and commentary. What a good suggestion that was, as we went to places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Gathering for a parade

Christmas Truce

Operation Pegasus

An anchor from the Falklands War, with our buggy in the background

Women’s Land Army

On our return to the centre, we opted for the coffee shop instead of the café, which was much more peaceful. There was also a lovely butterfly-friendly garden nearby, where we spied some painted lady butterflies, all the way from North Africa. This has been a good year for them.

Painted Ladies

Fortified with cake, we set off on foot to see some more of this amazing and thought provoking place.  We took lots of photos, but will restrict this blog to just a few.  While we were up on the central mound where the armed forces memorial is, two small planes arrived and did some aerobatics for us.

The armed Forces Memorial – names since WW11


The shot at dawn memorial, one of the most challenging.


Silver eagle – the RAF memorial

Gold Eagle

We stayed until 4.30, when our taxi driver came to collect us, and he dropped us off at the George and Dragon, where we had a good value meal before walking back to the boat.

No boating today

Sun 15th September  Alrewas

We had a short walk to the Anglican Church, All Saints, which is canalside. The service was fairly traditional, with prayer books, a choir and robes, but the welcome was excellent, with many people coming to chat, particularly over coffee afterwards.

All Saints, Alrewas

Before the service

Timewarp, the fudge boat was moored on the same length, and we visited them to acquire some more of their produce. We then moved the boat past the bridge and round the corner, partly to avoid the boat opposite, who had been running his engine, having noisy visitors for drinks and loud chatter in the evening, and then running his central heating all night. He also had six border collies on board who barked at other dogs.  We spent the rest of the day back on the boat at the new location, by the churchyard.

The boat with the dogs

Timewarp, the fudge boat

Under the bridge

Moored by the church

Little boating today

Mon 16th September  Alrewas to Fradley

Everything was very wet this morning, partly from rain early in the night, and also from dew.

Wet clover

Moored by the footbridge

We went shopping at the excellent butchers and the Co-op before setting off for Fradley. The first lock is Bagnall Lock, number 13. The bottom gates have a tendency to swing open, so for years there has been a heavy steel pole to tether the gate in place to stop it opening. Now the pole has been removed (in case people trip over it, which they never do), so if you are on your own, like the cruiser in front of us, you have to open the paddles on the top gates before closing the bottom gates. This health and safety business interferes with everything!

The cruiser was Dreamtime and he was asking about places to buy petrol. He might have to go as far as Fazeley where there is a garage.

The boat coming down was Penny from Heaven , originally owned by our friends Mary and Jim Sibley, and now owned by Sam and Alan.

Penny from Heaven

Just before the Fradley locks, we saw that a new marina was being built. Fradley will be even busier in the future.

Fradley Marina under construction

Leaving Hunts Lock

We moored opposite the café this time, as we don’t have to worry being by a road any more, as we sadly no longer have our cat, Hugo.

James went to find out about café opening times and menus, and explored the nature reserve on the way back.

Moored in Fradley

Fradley Nature reserve

The breakfast menu and the friendly staff at the busy “Laughing Duck” café opposite looked a better bet than the alternative Kingfisher Café, where they were a little off hand, and had already closed for the day due to the lack of customers. So that’s a plan for tomorrow, even though they don’t open until 10am.

4 locks, 2 miles. Dep 1300, arr 1430

Next: Breakfast at the café, then heading onto the Coventry Canal towards Hopwas for the folk club on Thursday.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Burton-on-Trent to Alrewas

 Tue 10th September  Burton-on-Trent

After a wet day doing nothing yesterday, we decided to visit the National Brewery Museum. We have been to Burton several times but never done the brewery tour, so this was to be remedied.

We have discovered before that bus numbers 3 and 8 depart every 15 minutes from Shobnall Street, just across a footbridge from the mooring. We planned to get off in Station Street, after crossing the high railway bridge by Lidl, and walk through to the museum.

The bus came, and we got on board. We got to Lidl, and then we realised that the railway bridge was closed for major road works, and the bus took a long detour, ending up at New Street.  We had a longer walk than expected to the museum, but were still in time for the morning tour at 11am.

Dustbin land by the bus stop

Victorian Buildings

There was a lot to see in the museum, and we could have spent a long time looking round. One of the other people on the tour was a narrowboater called Richard, moored a few yards from us on a boat called Y-Knot. We got chatting to him over a drink in the brewery tap afterwards, and discovered that he goes to a church in Bradford on Avon. We gave him some BCF literature.

Shire horse

The Worthington’s building

Historic vehicles

Richard and the tour guide

Model of Burton

Old railway engine

After some shopping and a visit to Costa, we caught a bus back to the boat.

Cooper statue in the shopping centre

Shobnall Fields with Y-Knot in the foreground, and Gabriel in the distance

No boating today

Wed 11th September  Burton-on-Trent to Branston

We felt we had done justice to Burton, so we moved on a short way. The first stop was just after the first road bridge, where we pulled in to Jannel Cruisers, at Shobnall Fields Basin. We needed some coal, and we saw they had fuel at a reasonable rate, 73p, so we filled up. In hindsight it would have been better to reverse in as the fuel pump was in the entrance to what had been a loading basin for canal boats, taking beer on board. There was a small electric lift bridge that we needed to operate in order to get the boat in the right position. Staff were very helpful, and we were able to empty a cassette while we were there.

Fuel stop

Marston’s Bridge

We set off once more, under a bridge that leads to the Marston’s Brewery, and then to Branston Lock. We moored by Branston Water Park, and then took out our Nordic walking poles and took a turn around the lake.

Branston Lock

Branston Water Park

Nordic walking

The mooring was very noisy as they were building houses adjacent to the canal and the park. Later, when the machinery ceased, a floodlit rugby ground opposite came into action with lots of yelling.

Floodlit rugby

Sunset at Branston

1 lock, 2 miles, 1 lift bridge

Thu 12th September  Branston

We walked into Branston village, using an underpass below the A38. James found a barber’s shop and had a haircut, and we bought some things in the Co-op. 

No boating today. No photos either.

Fri 13th September  Branston to Alrewas

Everything was very wet with dew this morning, and we were shaded by trees, so it took a while to dry the hood before putting it down. The Trent and Mersey has low bridges.

Dawn at Branston

Our mooring by the water park.

The first lock was Tatenhill Lock, with a typical low bridge at the entrance, a picturesque lock cottage and an historic boat. This is followed by bridge 36, a turnover bridge, where the towpath crosses from one side to the other, and it is unusually narrow.

Tatenhill lock

The narrow Bridge 36

We realised that we had collected something on the prop, so when we paused on the water point to fill the tank, James visited the weed hatch to remove clear the propeller. It was fishing tackle, and the hook of a spinner managed to find his finger. With immediate use of TCP, we think we avoided infection.

Fishing tackle from the prop.

Our unwelcome experience at Barton Turns Marina

We decided to visit Barton Turns Marina to empty two cassettes, and possibly moor overnight to visit one of their restaurants. The sign said, “Visitors Welcome”. We emptied the two cassettes, as we have done here on previous occasions, but a staff member came up and charged us for doing so. It was only £1.50, but there was no sign to say so, and James didn't have the money on him, and it made us feel like intruders. A sharp contrast to our experience at Shobnall Fields Basin a few days ago where they were pleased to see us.

We then went to ask where to moor to visit their restaurant this evening.  Visitors moorings were advertised outside.

“Oh, that is £11 per night.”
“Even if we are mooring to eat at your restaurant?”
“Yes, if you are here overnight.”
“Visitors not so welcome then.” 
“But you can have four hours free, in which case you don’t need to book, just go and moor.” 

So we left the services wall, not so easy as it was difficult to turn, and found our way to the pontoons in front of a large sign saying “visitor’s moorings.”  Having moored up, we discovered that, although we could walk ashore through a gate by pressing a button, we wouldn’t be able to get back in. We phoned the office to ask about it, and were told:

“Oh, you need to come to the office and get a key fob - £5 deposit”
“Why didn’t you tell us that when we were in the office?”
“I thought you would moor on the waterfront”

Well, there was no notice to encourage visiting boats to moor on the waterfront, and there were just two boats moored there, both of them commercial trading boats. We had moored where it said “Visitor Moorings” in large letters.

After paying our deposit, we looked in the shops, all very upmarket, e.g. Italian shirts, half price, now less than £100. There were lots of people having coffees in various eateries. We found a Thai restaurant and went for their lunchtime special, which was very nice. We followed this with an ice cream from another place.

James took our key fob back to the office and retrieved our £5 note, leaving Hazel on the pontoon to let him back in.  We then departed.

Barton Turns Marina

On the visitor’s pontoon

The waterfront area

The Thai restaurant

The canal at this point runs alongside the very bust A38 dual carriageway, and it was noisy. We were pleased to divert a little away from the road at Wychnor Lock. The church at Wychnor has a prominent position on a hill.

Alongside the A38

Wychnor Lock

St Leonard’s Church at Wychnor

Before reaching Alrewas, the canal joins the River Trent once more, just for a short stretch, but in times of heavy rain, this section is sometimes closed. Not so today, and the far end is marked by another lock, at the start of Alrewas.

Crossing the Trent at Alrewas

Approaching Alrewas Lock.

We moored soon after the lock, where it was sunny, as we had washing to hang out.

4 locks, 5 miles. Dep 0915, arr 1125 Barton Marina. Dep 1315, arr 1430 Alrewas.

Next: a day at the National Memorial Arboretum, then a visit to All Saints Church on Sunday.