Tuesday 19 October 2021

Almost home.

 So today Reader I am writing this post on my phone, I started this afternoon and almost completed it when my phone rang, after chatting to a daughter for 15 mins I returned to the post and it had vanished.
Not at all annoying I can tell you.

So here is a second attempt, if this fails then I don't know what I'll say.

So the next morning David set off before 7am, he estimated that it would be an hour before my presence was required.  I arrived on-time and holding his coffee.

I was delighted to see an Egret on the canalside, I scrambled to get my phone camera but he flew off but landed close to two herons!  I have only ever seen individual herons never two before, I've often wondered about breeding...

The Egret and two Herons.

So Marilyn, I tried hard, but this is pretty much as good as it gets this autumn for colour, a vague yellow in the centre of this bush.

So here is the stop lock that marks the end of the Shroppie canal and onto our favourite, the Staffs to Worcester canal.  We are turning left towards Great Haywood and our marina there.

Someone should grab this gorgeous house and restore it, cut down these ghastly trees and give it the love it deserves.  David refused to buy it for me, I thought we could retire here.

This one too.

Left turn.

All of a sudden the narrows are upon you even though we were pretty early.  I said that the oncoming boat should go in the passing place as we are long,. David said we should go in the passing place because we are long.

Ducks got a fright but no bumps or even near bumps.

Oh Marilyn what a cracker.

We carried on to Coven, the sky was quickly filling in and the forecast heavy rain wasn't far away.  On arriving at Coven there were two workmen cutting bricks finishing laying a patio, dust was everywhere and an earsplitting noise was awful, but they were using an electric cutter so I figured they wouldn't be long doing it.  It was spitting as we moored up and pouring as David finished putting the tonneau cover on the back.  We dried off and went off to the pub here, the Anchor.  Never stopped here before but George said it was good.

So it turns out the manager has just changed.  It was a pouring and cold Saturday, the wood fire was set but not lit, we ordered and I asked the waitress as it was cold could the heating be switched on?  Oh yes he's just done it.  Well the food arrived and we sat in our coats as did most of the other customers.
I asked again about the heating as the plates were cleared, oh yes it's on..

I went to the loo and on my way touched every single radiator on the place and none were on.
 The man next to us said the old manager would have had that fire lit, this one won't.
Well it was a truly average meal and we went back to WaL to get warm.  We stayed there for the rest of the rainy day and guess what, those men were still cutting tiles and bricks in the wet.

Another early start this time to half fill up with water at Gailey, then off down the locks no other boats about and the lock needed turning.

I usually walk these close together locks and just as we got around the first bend a hire boat pulled out in front of us, we hadn't lost anything as we still had to turn most of them.
They were Swiss, spoke German and had hired seven times before.

A lovely morning really, a bit slow as a bit of a queue had developed but when we landed at Penkridge we were one of only three boats.

We'd made a booking for The Littleton Arms in the centre of Penkridge, we never go past Penkridge without going here, kinda regretted going yesterday but the country needs us all to go out and spend our money post Covid.

It was warm there, I'd taken a cardi, a  vest and a coat just in case.  The food was very good.  Curiously we have noticed that yesterday and today the extras on the menu were all potato types, mash, chips, sweet potato fries and new potatoes, but the Sunday roast had four veg so we both had that.
Absolutely delicious.

So the next day we dropped down into Great Haywood, another cold and miserable day only brightened up by the arrival of John and Louise from NB Ploddin' Along.   You may remember that we spent a fun filled fortnight in May with them on the GU.  Well they got petrol and came over for lunch.  I fetched out the recently discovered champagne from its hiding place at the back of a cupboard behind shopping bags and Louise and I very much enjoyed it.

After a tasty lunch of fig feta and red onion tart we played cards until they had to leave.

Sad to see them go.  and sorry I don't have photos of them to put up you see Reader, we have left the boat, unpacked and packed again arriving today here in Devon, as three months ago when I was out at my mother's David did a jolly thing and booked a hotel on the beach here in Devon where we plan to do a small amount of the South Western Coastal Path, we have done odd sections over the years but as I type this there is a monsoon outside, if it's too wet tomorrow then we will just stop in the spa here.

So when I get home and have my laptop again where all my photos are I'll post again. 
But this last 2.5 weeks have been brilliant, meeting our good friends, four sets was the icing on the cake.  The Four Counties Ring was very enjoyable with a good variety of countryside and towns, flat and locky.  We've lived it and would easily do it again to stop off in the places we missed this time.

PS please forgive the font size issues, I'm so bored of this now....

Monday 18 October 2021

Norbury Junction and more chums


Last evening was cold when we landed,  plus the light was fading to get a good shot of the view here.  
Not entirely sure where were but way north of Norbury Junction, if I were able to pinpoint the mooring it's possible I might have been able to name that hill or mountain but let's just say it's bound to be Welsh.

Last nights mooring, pity we weren't here longer.

So the journey continued without much incident, none actually but here are some cows that David likes to see.  Did I ever tell you Reader that he is an ex-dairy farmer?  That profession largely accounts for his inability to stay in bed much past 6am, earlier in the summer.

David started up a milk retailing business in our area, pretty successfully too, but if a milkman went sick then David went off out at 1 or 2am, he said that he would never have looked upon a 5am start as a lie in.

One Sunday I offered to help out and go with him to do a Sunday am round I think it was, my mother came down to look after the three little children and off I went at god knows what time...  Well I made shocking mistakes, got cold, got sleepy and we ended up having a ghastly row and Reader I never "Helped" again and probably David was grateful I didn't. 

Pretty cows that bring back happy memories eh David?

Interesting skies today, hot and sunny, freezing and grey then hot and sunny again.

So we arrived at Norbury Junction, we have only passed through here before and apart from filling with fuel not moored up, so as we approached there was a swathe of empty moorings available, well did a spot of fannying that is to say lining up the solar panels with the only gap in the hedge and moored up.  

The rain was making itself unpopular coming and going and David disappeared to move the car along but more importantly buy milk and eggs.  

A little later along the path came Steve and Chris.   We met them back in 2012    HERE    this was Crick that year when   NB WaL was the Fernwood Designs boat on show.  Very sadly Fernwoods is no longer in business, but if you look at Steve's photos you will make out my friend Amanda and myself both in profile and both in warm clothing in the Ferwood's tent as it was perishingly cold and very wet.   
So although we have been loosely in touch since then, we of the Fernwood Fan Club, haven't met up with each other since that day.
Steve is a frightfully good egg and very kindly let us have a good gander at NB AmyJo and her new portholes which I want to have, they have had glass panels put into the side hatches which are fabulous, ours on WaL really need a bit of attention.

We had a lovely evening chatting and laughing and learning from them.  I can't imagine they learnt anything from us, but we both thank you for your time and help.

The four of us at The Junction Inn here at Norbury where we had super fish and chips. Sorry about the shocking clash of red handbag and purple fleece, shocking.

Well the next morning we wanted to roll along again but there was another blockage, a tree down across the canal way down the canal at Gnosall although the hireboats went through, we thought that they wouldn't really have an eye on the CART website, they would likely end up queueing somewhere.  So David did some boat polishing and I helped by doing a spot of buffing.  Much later there was a boat appearing down the way and we asked them if they had come through yes it's all sorted.  So off we went.  On reaching Gnosall, we couldn't see any sign of a tree down, no broken twigs, no sawdust, no trunk and no fallen tree, so that was a mystery.

This is another fallen tree, almost out of the way now but not at Gnosall.

Well it was a nicest sort of an afternoon, it stayed dry, sunny, the rain stayed away but we did have the winter gloves on now.

We carried on at Wheaton Aston, we debated about stopping for fuel, but the cheap as chips place garage there looked closed, it was about 5pm, so we didn't bother.  

A small wait for the on and only lock here gave me the opportunity to off load a smelly bag of rubbish, I'd taken the BW key with me just in case it was a locked fence and gate around the bins.  So when I had touched the bins, yuk, I went into the showers to wash my hands.  Well Reader what a find, what a joy a Book Swap and there was a pristine copy of  
The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo.  

I'd watched in awe of her creating dishes in what appeared a cupboard with a Baby Bell cooker but the book was pretty expensive at the time.  
So I can add it to my own collection of pristine cookery books mostly kept in a 'hard to get at cupboard' now, mostly unused too.  Still I'm very pleased.

Finally we moored up just north of Brewood.  George had told us that  Brewood is mostly in gloomy trees, so to moor up before it or after it.  We had intended to go to one of three recommended pubs here, but time was slightly pressing and that treat will have to wait to the next time.  

Supper was Chicken Malabar biryani, absolutely gorgeous, I'll pick that up again next time I'm in Waitrose for sure.

Friday 15 October 2021

Chilly mornings, warm days and cold nights.

 So the grandchild is much better, his medication is finished and on our last day with him David and I walked him to his nursery and said a tearful goodbye as he waved to us over his shoulder.  
That was me who was tearful not him.

We drove back to WaL, I think it was four hour trip, sunglasses on most of the way but as we approached Market Drayton the sky simply turned black seeming around one corner, as we approached Addersley the sky was positively thunderous and as we parked on the nearby bridge it fell down.  
We waited.

The useful thing about popping home was that I took all our washing with me.  It was kind of a role reversal in that most children take their washing home and give it to their mothers to do...  I brought a small amount back wet but otherwise a successful task completed.

The car was also full of petrol once again, it seems the "Shortage" is confined to the south east corner of the UK and not many other areas now.  The first service station had a massive queue for diesel only petrol having sold out at dawn, David didn't really want to bother with another service station but as I was driving, (Slightly ironically but David does most if not all the boat driving and I do virtually all of the car driving as he makes me scream when he drives the car) 
so as I was driving I took us to try the Warwick service station, not only is the petrol very quickly accessible there was not one car waiting.  We will use this station in the future instead of having to do a long drive just to get to the pumps.

 WaL was fine after her weekend alone.  The next morning a few boats passed us in both directions while David moved the car.  We never leave the car at bridges for more than one night.  So we finally set off after breakfast and coffee.

Last night's mooring.

Here is a by-wash, we had some rain yesterday David was washed back but got out easily with bow thrusters.  The poor hirers in front of us had quite a bit more trouble coping.

I couldn't quite figure out how this injury had occurred but its been wallopped alright.

Quite a bit of traffic here today which of course makes for an easy passage.

I poked my nose in the bushes here and discovered what happens to the old lock gates.... I suppose they will be eaten by beetles in the centuries to come, don't know about the metal though.

It is quite up and down with the paddles using the Steve method.

This is the other farm shop, the sign remains but not trading just now, here is the stall we paid for the most delicious pork pies, David's words, I cannot stand them.

We arrived at Market Drayton, watered up and departed.  We both would have liked to have had a nose about there but that will wait till next time.

It's the most lovely countryside on the Shroppie canal, that is when you can see it...
So nice for us to see "Black&Whites",  the sun came out and all was joyfulness.  Well doesn't your heart leap with views like this?

So farming news, harvest is over cultivating and drilling has began.  At home, a favourite view of mine when the corn is golden with the grass and trees olive green.  Every year I vow to drive there and photograph this view in harvest colours, needless to say I have missed it again, that makes about 30 years missed.  I just hope I remember next year, remind me Reader will you? 

Seagulls travel far and wide for a bit of cultivation.

Pretty quickly after Market Drayton comes the Tyrley Flight, the bottom locks are in a cutting hewn from rock, very impressive, the towpath was thick mud, not so great on your deck.

See the rock, see the mud?

This by-wash was a stinker even though it had a guard on it.

The countryside completely opens out above this lock.  We met a hirer who was decidedly nervous about this flight tomorrow, he had walked a couple of miles to see the locks before bringing his hire boat here tomorrow.  I couldn't really think of anything to say to alay his fears except just go steady....
Only yesterday we heard tales of a hire boat that had gone 90 degrees in the pound because of the by-washes.

Top and final lock today, Tyrley lock cottages and former stabling

After the lock then its almost immediately into trees and the Woodsleeves Cutting.  Many love the trees and marvel at the work to have made the cutting, but I just think it was a waste of gorgeous sunshine and a bit deadly dull, but don't let me influence you....

There was a sign up saying the towpath was closed.

Landslips on the off side, the ground just looks likes a child's sandcastle after it has dried in the sun and simply rolls away.

Still looks very unstable, I'm sure it will happen again.

High bridge.

Its sunny up there, chilly down here.  Nice and narrow, we didn't meet anyone.

This is where the towpath is closed, you can see plenty of footsteps scrambling over.

So if a tree slips in a cutting and no one and nothing is there to hear it, does it make any noise...?

The temperature was quickly dropping after we departed the trees, then a massive long line of moored boats, then a viewpoint over the rolling hills, shall we moor up here I said with sweeping arm movements to indicate the view, No I want to get onto Norbury Junction, well we were hoping to meet Steve and Chris from NB AmyJo at Norbury Junction there but no day was fixed upon yet, okay I said and went inside to let him get on with it.
Moments later, he was pulling WaL into a space, and in went the stakes.

It was now COLD but quickly hot showers were had and supper was served.

Sausages and french beans with peach surprise. 

Monday 11 October 2021

A jam, a blockage and an SOS

 As we walked up towards the Shroppie Fly pub last night to meet George, at the first lock was a hand painted sign on a flattened cardboard box propped up on the side saying Lock 2 in the flight was closed, do not go above Lock 4 (I think it said 4).  Well this notice caused some consternation amongst us but also amongst the many boats moored up in the pound immediately below Lock 2.  There was to be a floating market at Market Drayton (The next town along the canal) on the weekend and several trading boats were caught up in the queue.

I called CART to see what the state of play was, a frightfully nice chap on the other end of the line said he didn't know any more than was on the website but that the contractors were indeed on their way.

David and I walked up the flight in the gorgeous sunshine to see, plenty of boat owners muttering was pretty much all there was to see.
No contractors.  But some men declaring they could fix in it in 20 minutes if they only had the right tools....

We walked back down to NB Hodma'dod and friends Sarah and David who we had arranged to meet this weekend and were moored at the bottom of the flight a few boats along from WaL.

We had coffee with them and mulled over our personal situation, which was David having a hard to get appointment at home in about 8 days time this delay with the stoppage put that appointment in jeopardy, a now poorly grandchild and parents who needed a bit of help, the petrol panic buying non shortage but no petrol.  

On nearly every occasion when we arrive at the Marina, we fill up the car at an independent garage but this time we didn't, so the car probably had enough petrol to get us home but not back to the boat again and the worst of it that on this trip for the first time in five years we haven't kept the car with us.  Lovely lovely Sarah and David immediately offered to run us back to the marina if needed but first they had to go back to their own marina to take delivery of a brand new car.

We all had dinner together in The Lord Combermere that evening, I love the LC pub here and we weren't disappointed.

I had calamari, then Nasi Goreng and then something new to me, chia seed pudding with caramelised banana which was completely tasteless and stodgy.  I ate the caramel sauce.

So in the morning, we few boats winded here at the winding hole (Turny round place) and set off in the other direction, David had given me the choice of us doing this and Heartbreak Hill again but I said no thanks.

We thought we might go up a few locks and moor WaL, but then suddenly a boat came out of the lock, we scrambled to ask where they had come from and yes the flight was open!

Several more boats came down, smiley captains to be free again.  I asked how many were left waiting but they didn't know....  Lots more came down, then nothing, it all went quiet.

David and I grabbed our hat gloves and windlasses and set off.  Reader it was pure heaven.  The sun shone and every lock bar one was in our favour or had a boat leaving.  
We were up the top in no time with virtually all the boats departed from that pound.

This below is the third lock I believe, could be 4th, but look at the by-wash here.  You have to power in to avoid being bashed to the opposite wall, but look carefully and there is a wooden plank that has been placed to prevent that bashing here.  David had a slight brush on it

Protective wooden plank on the right.

Small brush on the plank but no harm done.

It was after this lock that I remembered some sage wisdom imparted by the now famous internationally known Steve You-Tube vlogger   HERE  but he's just known as Steve to us.  Steve explained previously to me that if I empty the lock and open the gates for WaL to come in then also open the top paddle again, this will reduce the by-wash considerably and make like easier.  Ordinarily boaters are wanting to conserve water but in times of rainfall on the Shroppie canal and also the Llangollen you can do this trick.

David has been trained to jump off the boat to open the gate for me.  It makes me RAGE to see men standing watching their wives do all the work.

This structure is designed to protect the bridge wall from the rope rubbing against the bricks in centuries gone by. 

I know not what they are called but to my mind a thing of beauty.

For those who don't already know, there's a Farmer's Wife selling cakes, pork pies and ice-creams right on the tow path.  I thought it a mirage, but brought scones with clotted cream, shortbread, brownies and 4 ice-creams.

Supper was cheese on toast with mushrooms and then the scones... delicious.

Food of the gods.

We moored WaL up near-ish a bridge and the next morning David from NB Hodma'dod appeared as if by magic and drove up back to our marina and our car.
So we popped home for a couple of nights and helped, we did the night shift for his medication so the parents could sleep and yes we managed to fill up our car at that lovely small independent garage.

Well WaL enjoyed this view from our mooring for a couple of days after we vacated.

Back soon.