Tuesday 21 May 2024

Jack and Jill went up the hill

 We left Whittington, it was grey and threatening rain.  I had another instruction on weather apps and their shortcomings.  No Lisa 30% chance of rain does not mean that 30% of the countryside is going to get rain...  it went on and I went inside to hoover.

I think this stretch is a rather dull section, apart from going through Hopwas, I have very happy memories of this pub with friends and last summer was it we were sitting in the garden when an unknown to me lady approached the table and asked if I was Lisa, she was a blog reader, however I digress.
The Tame Otter at Hopwas.... a nice place.

On we went and at a bridge north of Tamworth we moored up and took David's bike into the Retail Park.  He'd got home this am and his bike would not fold down, a bit irritating as the name is on the tin and it was slightly large on the deck.  David had located an independent bike shop on the far side of the park, to get the bike there would require carrying, now this model can easily carried, maybe into the boot of the car or onto a bus but to stagger 1.1miles was quickly proving to be a challenge so instead of having some fun time unsupervised in M&S I offered to "Jack and Jill" it with him to the shop, about 30 metres along the pavement I had to swap arms and so it continued until I spotted a Halfords and we detoured into there where somewhat embarrassingly a schoolboy fixed it in about 45 seconds.

Schoolboy in action.

  Back to WaL and away again, through the two locks at Tamworth.  As we approached the lock a man was up by the gates, I thought he was with a boat so I hopped off early to walk up and lend a hand, but in the event he was a dog walker and had opened both gates for us.  I thanked him profusely of course as he walked past in a cloud of marijuana smoke... 

Past Polesworth and I spotted this boat, a little unforgettable,  I've seen it in this area a few times before, I wonder if it's travelling the onward journey that CART say have to be journeying.



Approaching the service point at the bottom of the Atherstone flight.


Now I was trying to find a photo of this some years ago, I think its was in the region of 6-8 years ago, my question then as it is today is when does a restoration project become a salvage and disposal job?



 

We moored up opposite the service point, jumped in the car with David's bike which was found to have a puncture, Halfords didn't have the correct size inner tube so off we went to Nuneaton.

The bike was mended and I spotted a branch of Dunelm and in that wondrous shop I bought a new mattress topper, a memory foam one and oh my goodness every bed should have one, comfort beyond belief, I wonder if I will sleep any better......?

Back to WaL and we did several trips to the rubbish bins, the old flat topper, our own rubbish and I picked up with my bare hands a split bag of cans, burger plastic packaging and various other items on the towpath that can only have been dumped by a moored boater.  My mother would say Litter Bugs should be taken out and shot, I'm slightly more liberal.


Supper was splendid, Ottolenghi baked rice with tomatoes, feta and most interestingly cinnamon sticks, a meal in itself but we had it with roast chicken.

Sunday 19 May 2024

Another fabulously hot day

 In the morning we pulled the pins and filled the lock.  I walked past Wood End Lock and down to Fradley Junction, about a mile.  The new gravel path that HS2 have put in (That is to say you and me tax payers) has it downsides as within seconds tiny pieces of gravel flick up into your shoes, some of them agony, but let's not complain.

As usual the volunteer Lock keepers are a jolly bunch and are also enjoying themselves.

We turned right at the junction, onto the Coventry canal and headed south, but first dropping off the rubbish and watering up.

We thought Fradley was very quiet.  Looking past the junction onto the visitor moorings there were three boats in the distance and one was pulling off.  In the past, on occasions it's been so full we've had to go straight through.

Where is everyone this lovely sunny weekend?

The previous night I'd heard from my son-in-law in London that the Northern Lights had been seen from their house and even from our town on the south coast, we had an early night but at about 2am I climbed out the back of the boat and took the following shots....

Ummmmmm

This one is better I hear you say, sadly it's Lichfield city lights.
back to bed.

I've since heard that there might be more opportunities later....




WaL leaving the picturesque Wood End Lock.

Wood anyone?

The Mucky Duck pub in the background where we had supper last night.

Now on the Coventry canal.







We made our warm way along and you can easily see the problems that this wet weather has caused farmers.  Crops have laid in the wet and not germinated.  This will be very expensive to do again.

We moored up a little before Whittington that afternoon hoping to see in the sun, I was coming towards the end of a cracking book (Wake by Shelley Burr), but in the event I had to sit in the boat until the sun went far enough behind WaL to get a bit of shade.

Later that evening we were royally entertained but tractors, they were prepping the fields for potato planting, then one got stuck, wheels slipping at one point I thought he might end up in the drink.  A second tractor failed to rescue him.  
Retired farmers are allowed to chortle at other farmers as in the past it's a certainty that you have had worst troubles.  
I could list some of ours.
  

The blue one had sunk into a muddy hole.



He slipped and slithered closer to the edge.


We went to bed and the tractors carried on to about midnight.

Supper was beans on toast with cheese on the top.

Cracking book.



Wednesday 15 May 2024

A gorgeously hot spring day, a welcome change.

So we left Rugeley at a reasonable time and made our way south.  I didn't see much of Rugeley as I was still unpacking and organising, but David had already planted the car ahead.

He is trying to get into the habit of sending me a location of where the car is, for as I've said to him, if he is knocked off his bike, I won't know where he is or where the car is.  Today he sent me a location of Oxford city centre, now he's pretty good on his bike but I hoped that he hadn't really made it to Oxford, and so it proved.  
He is going to need a wee bit more practice on locations.






Just next to Kings Bromley Marina, north of Fradley, on the T&M canal.


These were a bit of a surprise, firstly to be able to see them as the undergrowth has been cleared away but also what is the development of them going to be..

We were aiming to moor up in the vicinity of Fradley.  With the demise of HS2 (Train line to any overseas readers, a highly controversial new line that was over due and trillions overspent from London to the wild and wooly north.  Post covid and with more and more people working from home, plus the country is broke the project was cancelled in 2023).  But prior to the cancellation, the area around Fradley Junction has been carved up not least but the bulldozing of many mature trees.  

We were curious to see how the area had been left, even if it has been left.  I think I'm correct in saying that it is going to run to Lichfield (Very close to Fradley) and not beyond.
Time will tell.

One of our favourite moorings is immediately above Wood End Lock.  This lock has a charming early victorian cottage,      Wood End Cottage, that was surrounded on one side by said mature woodland,  but last time we came through was surrounded cleared woodland and mud with pencil sized trees planted in tubes.  

With much anticipation we rounded the last bend and oh the joy to see one boat on the mooring, this appeared unoccupied so we moored up quickly.

So as to the pencilled sized trees, they've grown.  Now David knows a thing or two about growing stuff and he says they are far too close together.  But I'm sure the team from HS2 will be out walking the big area with their secateurs so that's alright then.

We got the bikes out and peddled off to the pub in Fradley, it's called The Swan, but know to all the boaters as The Mucky Duck.  We were lucky enough to get a table outside with cyclists, families, Boaters, dog walkers and god almighty 
what ever is that noise?????

A crowd of about 30 Motorbikers arrived, revving and revving to make sure all heads were turned to watch them and my god the fumes made my eyes water and me to cough.  
All in black leathers, skulls all over the place and many many tattoos.  Most of them were older than David and that's saying something.
The majority drank pints of Coca-Cola, then later they left quite literally in clouds of smoke.  

But you could hear the engines for miles afterwards and they raced around the area.  
I think it said that Wednesday was "Bikers Night" so you might want to put that in your diary.  

Todays 'Pretties' I spotted all the way along to the pub, about a mile, the sun was shining and everything was fabulous.


I call this Campion.

No idea but pretty.


One of the joyful sights of Boating, no not Bikers but the yellow Flag Irises at this time of year.






So here we are, curiously they left scattered trunks of trees, some with nesting boxes.



WaL looking pale, but Reader this is the good side, the other side is pink!

Pretty close together....



On the other side of WaL, looks to be a maize field planted and a Heron. 

Twilight and the handful of taller trees remaining. 


So this was a Sunday, so we didn't any HS2 workmen at all.


Very late lunch was fish and chips for both of us and a high standard it was too.

 





 






  

Monday 13 May 2024

Chocks away Biggles

Reader here we are all present and correct, the spring cruise has  finally started and will run seamlessly into the summer without you hardly noticing.

News first.  Now who remembers these two?



For those of you who don't, this is beloved youngest daughter
 Verity and her Kiwi husband Mitch, these two departed these shores after Mitch living here for fifteen years, Verity went around the world when she was eighteen and brought Mitch home with her as you do.  Well they are now giving NZ a whirl and yes you've guessed it, they are expecting their first baby due later this summer.

I, as all mothers would want to am going out to be there and to Lendahand.           (I'd have gone with or without an invitation, but I do have one.
David isn't, he is staying here to mind my mother and of course play golf.

David has asked me how long I'll be gone and I say I'll almost certainly be home again, by christmas, maybe.

Thoroughly thrilling news, you just can't have enough babies in the family says I.  This will be our fifth grandchild.
"Guess who's having a boy?" she trilled down the phone,
"A boy? How wonderful" says I, delighted,
"Not me!" Its a girl,
"A girl how wonderful" says I.

All this brings me back to the point, that this spring summer cruise is to be a bit shorter than previous summers.


We departed Great Haywood the other day and for the first time in two years headed south.  Its been warm these last days and well I have almost forgotten what it feels like to have the sun on your skin.  Sun cream was slapped on bare skin, sun hats too retrieved from the back of cupboards and away we went.  

Approaching Great Haywood lock.

In Colwich lock

The cottage here is charming, I'm not sure why WaL is pointing uphill.

I bet this lot have been squelching about in mud before this weekend. 

Nice bit of carving and what a good idea to chop down a willow tree.

Here's his nose.


It was in the later part of the afternoon and we had in mind to moor up in a quiet spot in the sun, David didn't fancy Worsley Bridge on the Trent and Mersey just past the end of Shrugborough Estate, so on we chugged.  

The old "Pig Farm" where in the past we and many others brought cheap diseasel from a moored up work boat used to have a couple of quiet spots but this has changed as the pigs have been replaced by private moorings, on we chugged, there's on spot with armco just big enough for WaL a short distance but of course by 4pm on a sunny Friday it was already taken.
On we chugged and tried to get on just before the aqueduct over the river Trent north of Rugeley and although several boats here and there we tried twice but it too shallow.  So boringly we went around the sharp bend and moored in Rugeley itself.

We sat in the cratch with the sides rolled up and pretended we were miles away from it all.

Supper was chicken curry, now I wouldn't ordinarily post a recipe but this really was a QUICK one even if David had dug it out of the freezer this morning.  It was quick when I made it so give it a whirl.











Tuesday 16 April 2024

Safety First.

 The time had come for WaL to have the four yearly Safety Check.  

The first time we had WaL done yonks ago back in 2016 I think it was, the marina we were at previously organised the safety checks for any boat that needed one altogether was organised by them there.  We didn't attend we were told we didn't need to.

We learnt later that the tester couldn't find the gas valve and "got cross".  Well when we did get back to WaL we had been charged a full call out fee, which was fine but I bet all the other boat owners had too.  
But my biggest complaint was that there were large dirty hand prints on the cratch seat cushions, oily ones.  Presumably in looking for the gas valve he'd lifted the long cratch cushions and in the manner of Eric Sykes     HERE       in turning around knocked off the Eco Fan from the Reflex Stove.  That proved to be broken and had been placed on the cooker hob not where I'd left it on the Stove.  Luckily for us David wonderful Lewis mended that by fitting a new motor onto it.
All of the above totally without proof of course but you can see why I was a bit disgruntled.

He failed WaL too, this was a four year old boat!  Some weeks later we caught up with another Fernwood boat in Braunston completely by chance, it was immediately in front of WaL in being built, a very similar built boat who also had recently had a Safety Check done and passed.  Not at all annoying.

Anyway enough of these old grudges.  WaL passed this test with flying colours.

But as the weather was calm and almost dry we took the week to enjoy ourselves aboard.

After the Safety was completed we took off for Tixall Wide, it was still terribly flooded in the adjacent fields which now look like an established water park for birds but I did notice mosquitoes buzzing about more in numbers than I would have expected, but it has been very mild, mild and wet.

We were waiting to see long lost friends you see.  Those "Boat Sharers" have now got their own boat and more to the point are home and onboard after overwintering in Canada where their grandchild resides.
The first day it was blowing a total hooley, I think it may have even been another named storm (There have been so many) anyway they arrived and we had big hugs all around.

The following day we pulled the pins and set off northwards.  I would have fancied a flit to Penkridge for a bit of a change, but with the dodgy weather and us only having another few days to play, we decided to go north, nice pubs, nice moorings, few locks and easy for us to scoot home again for appointments.
It seems "appointments" and ageing go hand-in-hand.....

So it was a shortish trip with the darling Lewis's, but longstanding Readers to this blog may recall that some years ago we plus three other Boating couples went to France boating in one of those Le Boats, looks like a bathtub, you know the kind     


Well, come June we are repeating the fun and going again.  So watch this space.  The Lewis's included.


So I'll just add a few snaps of our few days away and in a months time, we'll be back onboard WaL for a proper trip.  By then we are desperately hoping that the rain will have ceased at least not as much as it will involve a river currently on red boards.

Reader I splogged in the muddy mud to bring you this photo.  David was here at dawn and thought this was the highest he had ever seen the Trent up the arches on Essex bridge, he thought it had dropped a bit by the afternoon when I made it here. 


The back of Shrugborough Hall, I've never seen so much colour here

The formal gardens also looking wonderful considering the weather.  Puddles on the pathways never mind the grass.

Here is the Lewis's lovely boat NB Caxton.  We were leaving Tixall Wide and Caxton just about to turn to follow us.


This is a swan who was a bit annoyed at having boats invade his section of the canal.  He bit at our back button but this is Amanda's photo and he was trying to bite her arm off.








Beautiful blossom here and there.




The last day, we had to be home but I was very envious of them being out for weeks.  If timings permit we should like to see them again before June, if not then au revoir Les Lewis's.


She knocked these up on request, I think they are actually Canadian, Cinnamon Buns with cream cheese icing and yes they are as good as they looked.  Just ask her, she'll make you some.

Amanda did this rather good selfie, I hope she allows me to use it here, she called it just like the old days with us all together.

Slightly out of sequence but this is Amanda's photo of us moored up at Tixall.  Note the new path...?  I was regretful at first as I thought it will just enable cyclists to go bananas, but it's pretty good not to be paddling in mud here in the winter.





 






Wednesday 10 April 2024

David, I'm leaving!

 In March we had cause to leave the house and flee, we had workmen coming in.  
We were renewing our bathroom after thirty years and the plumber had asked nicely if we could be out of the house for a few days while they turned off the water, drained the central heating system and knocked out the old suite.  David said later when I told him that yes we could go away for a few days, I said a fortnight.  

I know him, he'd naff off to the golf club leaving me in all the dust and cold.  
So away we went.  

The plumber said he'd be two weeks.  

We went to Devon to Topsham on the river there bird spotting shopping and strolling plus seeing life long darling friends Rob and Sue.

One day we went to Castle Drogo which was fascinating, in that built 1911-1930    HERE     built by a multi millionaire who against all advice wanted a flat roof castle to provide an ENORMOUS area for entertaining on the roof top, despite having huge rooms inside the castle and a large terrace however almost immediately the roof leaked and continued to leak for decades.  But that's millionaires for you.

There we scrambled down the path, me in heeled boots and my best coat to the cliff top and watched a Peregrine Falcon hunting. 


Just look at this sunshine, it was glorious.

Right behind us here we watched a Peregrine Falcon soaring and diving, a sight that will stay with me.


Had the daft owner put in a slightly sloping roof it would not even have been seen.



David lodged with this newly married pair when he was a agricultural college in 1974, yes he is that old.

The beautiful view from Topsham.  I could retire to here....


We said goodbye to the adorables and moved on to belatedly celebrate my birthday to a spa hotel, a rather nice one in Buxton.  

We had visited there some years ago from Bugsworth Basin and driven to Buxton, at that time the hotel was surrounded by hoardings as the mammoth refurbishment was ongoing.  It had cost millions over budget after all sorts of problems were found with the foundations and the water, a bad combination if you ask me but oh golly how wonderful it is now its completed.






It did a fair bit of raining in March in Derbyshire as you might expect but who cares it was toasty in the spa.

Next down to the boat for a few days.  We took WaL out of the marina and sat in Tixel Wide.  It was like being in a county cottage for a weekend.  Lovely.
But my golly the surrounding flood waters..

Tixel Wide, on the left is the tow path and beyond that the flooded fields of Shrugborough Estate.

Warm enough to be in his lesser warm fleece.



Certainly needed sunnies glasses this day. 



Then lastly we joined the middle daughter Koo and her family for a few days in Centre Parks at Woburn.  Much fun and swimming was had by all.  





This selfie was taken by number one poppet, with number two poopet wanting to have a go.

Both Poppets on my bike.



And lastly my dear mother, who is well thank you for asking, here she is winning the Easter Bonnet competition at her social club and being presented a prize by the vicar, mum donated the hat to the vicar who wore it home!

So that was us, we ended up being away from home for three weeks and yes you've guessed it, the bathroom wasn't finished.

It is now.