Friday 30 April 2021

That's not old, it's maturing.

So we set off very early from Fradley Village, when I say we I mean David as I was still in bed but he's a trooper and an insomniac.  I rose later, as we approached Streethay Wharf where this boat caught my eye and immediately made me think of Adam Porter's one time review of an orange new boat in an article of his in Canal World taking out new boats to try them.  One time when he described the boat as being "A bold choice of colour" that expression has become a frequently used expression in our household describing anything from my new dress, to a picture or to David's new golf shoes.


Nice doggie.

So farming news, the land in this area is admired by my ex-farmer all the way along.  Note the fine soil, he thought would be already planted with maize, that is sweetcorn for stock in the winter which ends up looking like chopped dead weeds however cow love it and its very nutritious.   I'll show you more later in the year.


We've seen some large flocks? Families? Clutches? of ducklings the biggest was 12, however in this brood of Moorhens there were five, I kid you not five, one was out of shot but they are speedy black puffs when they don't want to be photographed.

I know it looks like four but there were five....

Here is the fifth.

Seems like more and more poly-tunnels around here, we think this one had asparagus in it.  Ugly as heck aren't they but David reminded me that I really love asparagus.... It surely is a conundrum.

All the way along towards Hopwas were these beautiful views of rolling hills, nicely positioned trees, that is to say not spoiling my view, trees are okay in their place.  

The sun shone, the birds sang, David was busy on the phone for the most part and I drove without interference and Reader it was totally joyful made me breath deeply and smile.

Glorious views

Golden leaves in the sun just blooming.

Now help please;  Does any clever person know the name of this blossom?  I love this delicate single blossom and I want one for our garden at home, it grows everywhere around this part of whatever county we are in.  This morning on his bike ride David brought me a bough back but I'm still in the dark as to a name.


The two locks at Tamworth were in our favour with a boat waiting for us so I didn't have time to look at the fully artificial grassed and bedecked garden by the locks.  I will check on it on our return.

We faffed and fiddled to moor up, David wanted a bridge to this road to fetch the car in the morning and I don't mind where we moor as long as it's away from any trees, on armco,  got a view, sunny position, out of the wind and no neighbours.  We past a couple of crackers but of course he didn't stop.... blah blah blah same old.

Supper was Rogan Josh with a pack from Amjun Anand, absolutely delicious and a year out of date  HERE  not compulsory to have it out of date....

My daughter once sorted my larder out and there were things in there way older than that.  
No one died.


Thursday 29 April 2021

Cold, oh so cold, mad swan and friends again.

I've been remiss.  Since my last posting we made it back alive to the marina and then back home proper.  Whereupon we had our second covid jabs as did my mum and now we are as fully protected as we can be, until the boosters appear.

So now we have returned to the boat from the south coast where we have endured two weeks of horrid horrid strong east winds freezing the cockles of your heart and my feet.  David kept telling me that's it was warmer up north and he was right.  I couldn't quite believe that it was raining the first night in the marina either.

The next day we set out in the teeth of a gale.  It was all action in the marina with reports of a man holding his own rope had been pulled into the water well and truly dunked.... he was rescued by two other handily placed men thank goodness.

I can testify as to the temperature of the canals in April and yes its breathtakingly cold, I found out for myself some years ago.  I blame Amanda one of our "Boat Sharers", she had been polishing WaL very effectively and as I went to hop off at a bridge hole I just slipped straight down like a burial at sea.

The "Boat Sharers" did redeem themselves admirably by fishing me out in seconds.  I did what I had been instructed to which was to strip off all my clothes quickly on deck and have a hot shower below deck.

Anyway lets hope that poor man recovered himself.  The wind continued to blow and thankfully for our bow thrusters we made it out of the marina unscathed, as WaL emerged from the entrance, on the tow path opposite a male swan (Cock?) was holding six people and three dogs at bay, one brave woman ran the gauntlet, the swan wasn't quite ready but he was for the next couple taking a chunk out of her dog and narrowly missing her bosom as he lunged in for a second attack! 
I advised from the safety of the bow and across the canal to stick yer boot in, but that's farmers wives for you.

As punishment for my anti-swan sentiments God sent a extra strong gust that blew out our newly mended Lockgate.... not at all annoying, another three hours or so till it cools down to light again.

We headed south, this accompanying wind was perishingly cold but it places along the canal we were beautifully sheltered, but after Colwich Lock the open meadows down to Rugeley were something else.  I feel the cold more as I get older and moan louder that's for sure.

Well hours later and after gawping at all the new building developments along the way, (Don't they build them close together?????) a boat came into view well know to me, it was NB Lady Aberlour   HERE
Carl and Linda and Tricky, these two always make me laugh so if you like laughing go read the blog Hedgerow Jottings.

We almost moored on the delightful open meadows south of Armitage and Handsacre but didn't.  

David is the kind of driver that, when asked to stop at the next lay-by or Ladies Loo will just keep going and say I didn't think that was one! or I didn't hear you, just the same at the pretty, open and pleasant meadows, 
"I don't think we can get in there" we have moored there plenty of times "I thought you wanted to go to Fradley"   well finally we rocked up at Fradley village as Fradley junction was completely full. 

Last thing to say was that we moored up to a Portuguese boater, I've never met a Portuguese boater before I said to him, "Neither have I" he replied!

The three of us after our second jabs- No cameras allowed!!

Shrugborough Estate have introduced these English Longhorns, rich mans pets.

The foothills of Cannock Chase get left behind as we head south.

NB Lady Aberlour I should have snatched a photo of Linda but I was too busy shouting greetings.

New builds, if it rains you can reach to get your neighbours washing in for them without leaving your own garden

Best patch of bluebells seen so far.... 

Floral shot of WaL coming past the Mucky Duck at Fradley, it was cold and windy but some souls were sat outside chortling and having a pint.  

Nicely lined up for the swing bridge that marks our turn from the Trent and Mersey Canal and onto the Coventry Canal

Is this called Knitting Bombs? I have mixed views, pretty and all that but is it polyester wool, where will it end up?

Wood End Lock, HS2 is acoming to a charming lock and cottage for sure, they've taken out many mature trees but they sure have planted more.  I have mixed views on HS2 as well.

Lunch was curried parsnip soup that made my eyes water as David used up the last of the chilli flakes when making it, then cheese on toast for supper, Boris Johnson's recipe, with stilton on the top, I underplanted the cheese with sliced mushrooms.  Lockgate on again and I turned the dial up higher this time, over six hours cruising today, a mamouth day, bed at 20:00, lights out at 20:10.


Sunday 18 April 2021

A walk on the wild side, well a little bit anyway.

The days this week have been lovely with blue sunny skies and cold nights.  It's no great surprise being April after all, no one is expecting bikini weather.
We went off walking.  We had moored between Sandon and Weston if you know the area.
We were just setting off when a couple walked by in walking kit and walking sticks, this was a boon as we got local knowledge and with recommendations.  
Over the railway bridge, but then we did need to cross the dreaded A51 but right there was at least a wide verge so it wasn't dashing across four lanes.

The path through the fields took us to the village of Gayton, but not the Gayton of canal fame but another, this one literally off the beaten track with pretty cottages that I could easily see into the gardens of.  

Pretties that are in bloom in April, I've no idea what but pretty.

This is the view from the top of the railway bridge which we cannot understand how they ever got planning permission on the skyline to build that barn.  WaL is at the foot of the hill.

So following the map..... we ended up here!  Had it of been dryer I might have been tempted to brave it but we had to find another way.  But not so may fords about these days.

Now this is a sight of Spring, wild Primroses.

Wild Primroses on a country lane

So we were lucky to pick up the footpath signs again, they tend to be hidden quite well, up a slope towards the woods over a couple of stiles and this bridge, I thought there must be a replacement nearby but no..... 

We are going to retrace our steps in the next three weeks or so as this greenery is uninterrupted bluebells.

So out of the bluebell wood and on the hill gets you this view of Rugeley.

From the hill top it was pretty much down hill all the way to Sandon and The Dog and Dublet.  The garden was busy with newly released general public from Lockdown ready willing and able to meet friends, sitting down, no kissing to enjoy dwinks and they were looking pretty thrilled to be there too.

We walked back to WaL down the canal and a dreary stretch of canal it was very close to the trainline and in turn the A51.  But altogether it was a gorgeous walk.
Lastly I loved the sun shining on the buds of this tree, use your imaginations a bit to see the golden shoots. 


Supper was poached eggs, avocadoes, tomatoes on toast, there may have been a gin and tonic in the sunny cratch too.

Friday 16 April 2021

Getting going

 So the "Hard to get part" was indeed got and fitted by lunchtime.  A bonus is that the boiler is now running more quietly than ever before.  

Its situated at the back of the boat not too far from my head when I'm in bed.  Some freezing mornings David will everso kindly put the heating on for me on his way out on his bike.  This is a bittersweet kindness as it woke me this first occasion when I thought a helicopter had landed nearby.  

His wife is very happy just now.

After a bit of faffing we did actually leave the marina, we decided to go northwards for no particular reason, going through two locks to come to a halt north of Weston.  

It was lovely to be out away from everything Covid especially, with hardly any boats around.  The weather is set fair for the next few days and we hope to see a bit of the surrounding countryside.  

Approaching Weston Lock

Gorgeous sight at the end of the day

Supper was M&S lamb tagine.  David said it needed more apricots and nuts but when I have made it at home I triple the quantities of both.

Thursday 15 April 2021

A sunny day spent waiting

 So we had a free day with which to wait for the "Hard to order" part for the Eberspacher boiler.  

Ed had warned us that if this part didn't work we would need to have a new control panel.  Ed seemed shocked at the price, David was miffed at the price but I thought it much much cheaper than a new handbag.

We went awalking, although yes I am sick of walking.  Reader if you are from a Covid free country and I know several people who are then you might not understand that in the UK, we have been limited to walking close to home for the last five months.  So that's 65 million walkers stodging through parks and over hills that left the footpath near our farm looking like The Somme in WW1, I got stuck wearing wellies one time.  But now farmers are returning to a normal frame of mind (That is David moaning about the dry conditions), so we trotted off to walk through the trees, heading south, from the lock at Great Haywood on the opposite side to the tow path.

There were Wrens, Long Tailed Tits, tree rats (grey squirrels) and the first opening heads of Bluebells.  I had forgotten my camera so borrowed David's phone.  Now this trauma of David going from an iPhone to a Google phone could be a whole blog posting alone but I shall spare you the trauma, but now I have spent over 45 minutes at this computer with and without wires trying to get the photos from his phone to mine.  If anyone can advise please do come and help me but I can't try any longer without a nervous episode.  
Just use your imaginations to picture the sun coming through he trees, the birds, no wind at all, green shoots sprouting through, seeing Shrugborough somewhat and one or two narrowboats passing by.

We ambled back to Essex Bridge the much photographed pack horse bridge that is well over 400 years old, sat in the sun on a fallen tree watching the small crowd crossing it, but not for long, its romantic but frankly pretty uncomfortable.

We went to the Canalside Farm Shop Cafe and had coffees, watching the one narrowboat pass by.  

Back to WaL, I did a bit of tidying and duster wafting and finished my book.  
A cracker of a read,  HERE  so I also had the joy of choosing the next book.

Supper was calamari and asparagus.  We talked about the morality of buying imported veg in this case from Peru as opposed to waiting a few more weeks for English, but I have to say Reader it was delicious.

The pretty sky tonight.

The wooded path so pretty

Shrugborough which will soon be invisible from here.

Essex Bridge so romantical uncomfortable.

Oh my I cannot believe these photos have now arrived!!!

Wednesday 14 April 2021

A return to What-a-Lark

 So Reader here we are.  It's been a while and the earth has shifted on its axis but I am hoping that you Reader have made it through this ongoing pandemic in good health.

David and I had the luxury of living very close to the South Coast and the farm where we still live has quiet a lot of space around it, we came to appreciate just how very fortunate we were to have outside space.  My mother has fared well and we as a family were able to celebrate her 90th in late August in our garden with blankets and with all her descendants just before it all shut down again.

David and I, his brother and wife all had the dreaded Covid last November completely out of the blue, I tested positive despite not having any symptoms, they came later, but happily it was very mild and we were completely better in two weeks or so.

At the end of last season, we had high hopes of returning to WaL but no.  The lovely folk at Great Haywood Marina overwintered the boat for us.  Of course our small electric winter heaters were at home and in the end the best way was to buy new ones delivered to the marina.

Entering WaL the other day was a bit like last July after one Lockdown or another, we got to WaL and had to pull to one side the cobwebs to get in...

Jeepers hasn't it been cold?  Luckily I had a new coat built for the arctic and I don't think I ever expected to have to wear it as much on walks and by the way I am heartily sick of walks.  David and I developed a list of topics of conversations that we cannot talk about;

1) Covid.

2) Brexit.

3) Government.

But we have thoroughly enjoyed the US Election and their subsequent troubles, indeed I have sat up many a night watching CNN until 2am following the coverage and admiring CNN's Caitlin Collins coats.

So back to UK and Great Haywood and WaL, we drove up the other day and I was slightly dismayed that the temperature dropped to 2C as we drove through quite thick snow and cars overtook covered in snow... But arriving in Staffordshire and GH the temperature was a balmy 10C and clear blue skies.

I just hope the boat starts said David, well it did on the second attempt, however the heating failed which includes the hot water.  This trip had been primarily to get our Lockgate Stove serviced and working properly and the nice man Ed from Four Counties Marine got it working in the afternoon, ( I would have lasted only one night otherwise) so now we are waiting for a hard to get part for the boiler and fingers crossed that will work.  

More on that later.

Supper was a smorgasbord of cheeses, olives, olive bread salmon pate, the bonus was a bottle of my favourite wine    (We had expected to have cracked in the locker in the cratch over winter, it was already nicely chilled).