Monday, 21 August 2017

Penkridge to Wolverhampton.

So another of those days when they say "No don't worry at all about the rain, its coming much much later.....".

We left Penkridge and stopped briefly at the service point there as it was empty.  We talk a lot about service points together, David hates stopping, he says I am obsessed with rubbish disposal and we have plenty of water to last till Tuesday week.   I have a slightly differing viewpoint, I like to fill the tanks regularly so I have enough water to wash my clothes and hair on demand, he has no hair and happily would wear the same filthy trousers, he is a farmer don't forget...  So as Penkridge was empty we stopped and I turned a blind ear to his mutterings.

It was one of those days when you spot boaters from a distance, coiling ropes, attaching the tiller arm and banging mooring hooks, then they spot you coming and swear silently to themselves while glaring at you and saying Good Morning through gritted teeth.  I guess most people had heard the forecast, disbelieved it and got moving early, but not quite early enough.

I say all this but there are only about seven locks and we had to turn them too.

Later as we got nearer to Gailey and the top of the pound (To non boaty Readers, this means that you've got to the top of the hill and now its lock free cruising till you go down the other side.  In some cases its many many miles).

So I did the driving today and David went up and did the locks.  

Somewhere or other, he went off and instead of emptying the lock signalled to me a boat was coming...  No great shakes but I did pull over and tie up instead of hovering for ten mins.
Nothing happened, besides David and many others watching the boat enter the lock except it didn't....  Well eventually and I mean after an age, the boat crept in, I thought it must have broken down.  It had a large crew, whom all stood staring too at it, I knew that if it had broken down David could do nothing to aid them.

Turns out it was a hire boat with eight ladies of a certain age, I think they might have been Guiders, which is worked with Girl Guides, as I have done in the past.  
Not immediately but at considerable length the paddles went slowly up and I thought I could see steam coming out of David's ears from where I was.  

This boat had done the Black Country Ring and were heading back to Great Hayward so in the past week had done about 60 locks.... The helm hadn't been proficient enough to get the boat in the lock from the lock landing, hadn't or couldn't get the nose pushed out, then had insisted on not having the paddles raised because the front button of the boat touching the bottom gates.  They finally exited at a worms pace!

About 25 mins later I brought WaL into the lock another crew of the boat behind them asked me if I had enjoyed my sleep as it had been so long.  This boat had had to follow them down three locks and she said they might pull over and have coffee.
Oh how we all laughed....

I disappeared inside at Gailey, to go and do my yoga but I did see the service point occupied ahem!

We toyed with the idea of pulling over, but in the event carried on.  David wanted to get through Wolverhampton.  So it was an easy run, not many boats about and those who were turned off up the Shroppie.

I like the green corridor that is Wolverhampton, the water is very clear and on a previous trip had seen a Kingfisher.

Wolverhampton's Green corridor that is the canal.

Looks nice in the sun eh?

Pretty clear canal water here too.

A few more locks then we'll stop at Wightwick (Pronounced Whittock).  But with the sky blackening way earlier than forecast, I suggested stopping at Compton where it was sunny still, no lets do one more lock.....

The last lock had two CART men working on the lock gates owning to an underwater obstruction.....  With much heaving, raking, poking and showing too much 'Builders Bum' finally the gate moved and in we went, the heavens opened and we got drenched, or rather I did as David had already put on his wet weather kit.

Moored up dripping with soaked feet, I felt for the other poor wet boaters as they went past.  

Showers, coffees and light lunch of feats cheeses and rolls followed by good books.  

Saturday, 19 August 2017

At last I hear you cry... they move.

So today we moved on, the forecast said rain later.   Leaving the lovely Tixall Wide, but as we were putting on our shoes a boat came past us going the same way.  Well its August and that's what happens on a lovely and popular route for private and hire boats alike, we took a few minutes tying laces and locating the tiller then after folding up the tonneau cover and pushing off we were smiling and enjoying this "Holiday".

Five minutes later there was the first lock of the day and we had already caught up that boat in front....

I jumped off to do this lock and was met instantly by rain.  I do think the weather forecasters should be made to stand out in the rain when they persistantly get it wrong, that might improve things.

I went inside the boat and did my yoga workout.  My back has been a bit of a pain this summer, I know why, I just need to get back into the groove and do my homework.

As we progressed along the way we traded places and I drove WaL into the locks.  David has been encouraging me to drive for ages plus David Lewis has given me endless lessons, this works as Mr Lewis and I are not related. 

But my David really enjoys doing Lock Wheeling as he gets to meet nice ladies, lets face it hardly any men do the locks, but as a new convert I am a strident supporter of men reversing roles, making the coffee, fetching jackets and apples.  I even met a lady who said her husband "Won't allow" her to drive!!!!!!!   My views on this are not printable.  Even if a scape or two occurs, black paint is easily applicable at the end of the season, even David and I have managed that and usually hardly anyone dies.

This was the last lock before Penkridge, a stinker, even he struggled.

We sat in the sun in a very sheltered spot in Penkridge, it was in the shelter of a garden fence that the owners had mown nicely on the towpath side...  Then later we went biking.  Its a bit uphill he said, but only four miles.  Well I did struggle, he went well ahead and each time stopped for a drink, by the time I caught him up, I didn't dare stop gasp gasp!

We came to here. 
To Cannock Chase Commonwealth and German Cemetery.  A very touching a beautiful place surrounded by trees.

These are German graves from the First and Second World Wars.

Sorry I have clipped this frame, but to the men of four Zeppelins.

Heartbreaking simply to read the ages of the fallen, oh so young.  The German dead were brought to England some as wounded and some as prisioners.  Treated and then many died after the end of the First World War of Spanish Influenza.  
In the Commonwealth section very many New Zealanders.  There had been a training camp nearby in the First World War and when injured they came back from the front.  
So very very far from home.  Even a family member from my Son-in-laws family was buried at Guildford, his grave never to be seen by his family back home.

Heather in full bloom all over Cannock Chase

A sexless statue at rest.

It was down hill literally all the way home, in my ears all I could hear was David behind me yelling FASTER FASTER...  When we got back down to Penkridge and the flat, we passed over the M6, poor souls on there.

M6, I always feel smug when boating and come across a motorway.

Showers, aperitifs and a short walk brought us to HERE  Flames Indian Restaurant, as recommended by two Bloggers, NB Waka Huia and NB Willow.  It was delicious.  

Now another reason to stop at Penkridge each time.

Friday, 18 August 2017

A Nice Lazy Day

I decided that we should break a long held habit by staying in the same place for another night, David was twitchy at first but got over it and we awoke to a lovely sunny day and went biking.

It wasn't that long a run, the very worst of it was to get to the road.  We went forward a short-ish distance to Tixall Lock on the bone shaking towpath, expecting to get onto the lane there that serves the cottage.  But sorry to say that there is no public access so on again to the next bridge.

We cycled the short distance to Tixall village and had a good snoop.  I like looking at the names of the cottages for clues 
i.e.  Old School House, Rectory, Blacksmiths etc  One was called Rose Cottage but it had a bare lawn and not a rose in sight, not any bloom in sight.  We carried on....

So this is the much photographed Gatehouse of Tixall Hall.  The actually Hall is long gone leaving only the Gatehouse.  

It's Elizabethan and dates from 1580, this is what it looks like close up.

You can stay here now for holidays.

Lets look in here he said serving off the lane, it was to Ingestre Golf Club for a small snoop at the driving range, Reader he even has his golf clubs in the car!!!!!

He was looking most longingly

So up the road and you come  to here, now we heard whinnying and stamping coming from here, so I deduced stabling, but there were no written signs....  
Quite grand wouldn't you say?  For a bunch of old nags I mean....?

In fact over the lane were some very boring looking stables called The New Stables.

Now around the corner and past a sign which evidently said Private Do Not Enter....  we came to this.  Ingestre Hall, this version I think is largely 1880's rebuilt after a fire.  Not my idea of cosy, bet its parky in the winter with all those windows.  

Reader you are lucky to see this photo, as the caretaker arrived and threw us out!  Verbally that was, he said no photos either as we have got children staying here, indeed they do as today its an Arts Residential  Centre, but I didn't see any.

After the indignity of suffering the caretakers tone, we peddled on to revive my spirits at the Farm Shop Café, again. There as we sat in the sun, a dear sweet gentleman came over and chatted, he must have been 70 plus, and told of a lady in his Road Cycling Club who at the age of 84 thought she would have to give up as she couldn't keep up, BUT, she got herself an electric bike and now overtakes them all on the hills.  How terrific is that.  I shall be telling my mother all this.

And there he goes with a wave cycling to Stone that day.

We departed separately, me back to WaL and David off over Cannock Chase to see stuff.  I looked at my book and the insides of my eyelids, but before that I saw this...

Jeremy Fisher.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A return to normal service

So Reader I am delighted to inform you that we have returned to the lovely WaL for a few weeks more.  Its been a bit of a disjointed summer for us with more and extended trips home, but I can tell you that the lawns are mown, the garage doors are painted and everything in the garden is rosy, not that I was responsible for any of that.  
My role is that of mainly catching up with beloved friends in the form of having lunches out.  I am very good at this.

But back to WaL.  It was a slow start, we arrived at Great Hayward Marina in the afternoon.  All was well with the boat at this lovely marina with the lovely Lynn running the show but we stopped there overnight after filling the fridges and freezer and to keep them on the Leckkie.  

We had arrangements to meet Boatie Friends John and Louise who have NB Plodding Along.  Previously David had stumbled on a pub at Salt, a short distance north of Great Hayward and a pub there called The Holly Bush.  HERE
A lovely evening and thank you for driving over to meet us. Sorry there's no photo.

The Nicholson's says its the oldest pub in Staffordshire.... I always like the sound of that so we went there and had a great meal.  If you moored up at Bridge  82  its a shortish walk of about 200-300 metres, well worth it.  

The next morning bright and not very early we walked the 250 metres or so and had a coffee in the sunshine at the Café by the Farm Shop at Great Hayward,  then we had another.....

Only later again did we actually leave.  We travelled about a mile and moored up just past Tixall Wide, in our newly favourite spot, we were all on our own but had the benefits of a long evenings sunshine, something I am very fond of.  Quite a few boats passed us going in both directions.

Supper was a bit of a smorgasbord with Italian cold meats, couscous, cheeses, tomatoes and kettle chips, washed down with a very very fine sparkling wine from the Chapel Down vineyard,  seems we were celebrating!!   

The slightly worrying thing was that when we looked online the price of the stuff was drastically more than we could recall paying for it on a visit last summer.....  But most enjoyable in the sun, without a care in the world, watching boats go past.

The next morning, David took these shots at dawn. 

He says autumn is a coming.....

Friday, 11 August 2017

A precis of the end of our trip.

Dear Reader I can hardly believe that this day took place about a month ago and I haven't written it up.  But you find us at home after a family member was taken poorly.   
Making a recovery now and we hope to return to WaL in a few days now.

But going back to the day trip we took;  We headed towards Leek first in the car and I appreciated the nice buildings in the town plus a Waitrose!

Not far out of town was a side turning and a great rocky outcrop, called Ramshaw Rocks, I abruptly turned off the main road and we explored. 

This was one of the views, see farm on the top? We drove back along that road at the end of the day.

Great face on this rock

Good zoom on this camera.

Ramshaw Rocks Nr Leek Staffs.

We eventually got to Buxton and sat outside enjoying the hot sunshine chatting to a couple and the wife was actually a local councillor, we told her that this was our second visit in two years and on both days we had enjoyed glorious sunshine....  she said that we should keep visiting as we brought the hot weather with us and that this weather is really very rare.
I decided that as much as I love Buxton, I won't be retiring here.

Stained glass in Buxton Museum doors

We saw this last year and I quite thought we would go here for lunch today, but still under restoration as a Five Star hotel, the finances are staggering and the work has encountered many water related set backs.  Next year perhaps for lunch

Opera House.

Opera House Lobby ceiling, nothing was on tonight so we didn't get to see the auditorium. 

A lovely day spent following our noses on different roads to which we have taken before. 

The next day was David's birthday.  He wanted to take me on a bike ride he had done a few days earlier, we went up about three hills but then had great views all along a ridge.

This really old farmhouse I estimated to be from the 1600's, sadly it looked run down and needed some money spending on it.

Lovely views all along this ridge ride.

Just look at the pretty colours of the freshly cut stone on this newly rebuilt wall, I am loving the pink, I would have the whole wall steamed cleaned to get the pink .

As we sat at a pub called The Boat, a steam train puffed by, we finished our drinks and scooted down to the station in time for the last train trip of the day.

Fabulous joke cracking Guard.

Steam train "Winding" (Turning around)

Taken the next day, the trains whizz past the canal.

The next day we drove into Stoke to retrieve another daughter from the train station.  The weather had turned a bit but we had a lovely couple of days with her pootling down towards the end of both branches of the Caldon.

Seemingly all too quickly it was time for her to return to the Big Smoke.  This was about the time my camera broke so sorry I only have phone snaps.

I love gateways.  This as we left Durnford first thing.

Early blackberries.

We dropped her back in Stoke by boat this time and having had the news from home so we made a dash southwards to see if we could home earlier.  

At the first lock there were volunteers, BRILL I thought, some help, we had done quite a few hours already that day to get to the train station in time for the 1pm train to London..... But they were not volunteers, it was a Gongoozeller (Spell?), a passer by and "Rob The Lock" and his son.  Both on bikes and Rob stayed with us all the way down saving us masses of time.  I was thrilled.  

Rob offers help and other services too such as laundry or shopping, I would urge anyone in need of help to call him on 07999426005. 

Wonderful Rob who helped us so much

We just kept going and moored up after a twelve hour day, (Time off for lunch admittedly)  but unheard of for us.

Unflappable resident duck in Stone.  It hopped onto the wall when I approached then walked down the main road on the pavement, I quacked to her and she responded, when we left I think she returned to the lock beam.

Pretty good sunset that night.
Finally mooring up well south of Aston Marina having started from The Holly Bush at Durnford.

Next day a quick flit to Great Haywood Marina where we tucked WaL up in bed and came home.