Well it’s been a month since the last blog and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then – excuse the pun!
After Loughborough we resumed our cruise along the River Soar heading for Nottingham. We spent the next night moored just before Redhill Lock, lulled to sleep by the sound of planes flying overhead, taking off and coming into land, presumably at The Robin Hood Airport, Nottingham! The following morning we went through the Redhill Lock and soon arrived at Trent Lock where the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire meet! This is a proper crossroads, coming up the Soar there are three possible directions to take; West up the Trent, North up the Erewash Canal and East along the Cranfleet Cut to join the Trent heading for Nottingham,we took the latter route.
It was all very picturesque pootling along through the pretty countryside and we also passed the Attenborough Nature Reserve which is dominated by a collection of lakes and ponds. We then went through another lock which took us onto the Beeston Cut. A short time later we were on the approach to Nottingham. We spotted something rather odd floating about under a tree and as we got nearer realised that it was a tent! Methinks that tent pegs might have been agood idea!!
Soon after this we spotted the moorings adjacent to some rather swish looking modern apartment blocks, it didn’t take us long to get the boat securely moored and the hood up and then we set off in search of Sainsbury’s to do some much needed shopping. The search didn’t take long, the supermarket was just around the corner, a mere five minutes walk – excellent!
We were just a tad nervous at the thought of spending the night in the heart of Nottingham but we needn’t have worried, it was very peaceful and quiet and we were soon joined by several other boats, about a dozen in all - safety in numbers!
The next day we decided to go and explore the city and our first port of call was a pub that we first went to in the early 70s when a friend of ours, Dave Throp, was at Nottingham University. We came down visit him with one of my best friends, Heather Martin (now Welch), who was his girlfriend at the time. Said pub is Ye Olde Trip to Jersusalem and is reputed to be the oldest inn in England! It dates back to 1189AD, just before the third Crusade.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Evidently at that time the word “trip” meant a stopping off place for refreshment before setting off to the Holy Land. Anyway, it is obviously very old and is built partly into the side of the cliff that Nottingham Castle once stood upon. We decided to reacquaint ourselves with the interior. It hasn’t changed a great deal but is now a lot cleaner than it used to be! The last time we were there, before all the Health and Safety rules had been invented, there was a model of a ghostly galleon hanging from a chain above the bar and above that was a chimney like hole going right up through the cliff. The ship was festooned with ancient cobwebs - which would never be allowed today! The model galleon is actually still there but is now in a glass case and free of cobwebs! The "chimney" is still there too and that too is spotlessly clean!
After a swift pint (and a half of cider for me!) we left the ancient inn and headed up into town. We walked up past the castle and went to read some of the plaques on the walls and I had my photo taken with Robin Hood!
Mel and Robin!
On our way up to the town centre from the castle we came to a huge square with a tramline running around it. We also spotted a very strange chap running around in the square!
A very strange sight!
We came to the conclusion in the end that he was most likely on his stag do! There were several other guys all wearing pink tee shirts with writing on but they were too far away for us to read! The other possibility was that they had been doing The Race For Life as that usually has a pink theme doesn't it. There were also several hen parties taking place in Nottingham that weekend, we saw quite a few eye-openers!!
After wandering around the shops for a while we suddenly decided it would be a good idea to go to the cinema, if we could find one! We asked a passer-by where the cinema was and were soon on our way. It was quite a trek but we eventually found it and went in to see what was on offer. We were delighted to learn that the new Transformers movie in 3D was showing so we got our tickets and went in to watch it. It was awesome, the CGI is absolutely incredible and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterwards we went and had pizzas in an Italian restaurant very close to the cinema then made our way back to the boat and bed.
We stayed in Nottingham for three nights then after going down through a lock in order to turn the boat around, then back up through the lock we headed back along the Nottingham Canal and retraced our steps to Beeston where we moored up. There was a good reason for stopping in Beeston, in our former life when Clive was working for Ventana he had a fantastic team of dynamic young men and women working with him and one of them was Karen Holyoake. We have kept in touch with Karen and met up with her and her husband Tim on one of our many visits to Foxton. Karen and Tim live in Beeston! Not only that but we had moored up directly opposite the end of her road, in fact we could see her house from the boat – amazing! We had been in touch via Facebook and let her know we had arrived and she came over and joined us for coffee. It was great to see her again and catch up on all the news and hear all about Clive’s old colleagues and how they were all doing. Although Clive is thoroughly enjoying his retirement he still likes to hear how things are doing with the business. Karen stayed a lot longer than she should have done really as she was supposed to be going to the evening do to celebrate some friends’ wedding, in fact Tim was the official wedding photographer for the event. She finally dragged herself away about 7.30pm and rushed off to have a wash and brush up before going to the do – still the venue was only at the top of her road so it wouldn’t take long to get there!
The following morning we headed off once more and after filling up with water we went through the Beeston Lock and back down toTrent Lock. This time we turned North heading for the Trent and Mersey Canal, first stop Shardlow. Shardlow is a place we have known of ever since we moved onto the boat but only because we have seen it on milestones! We have often seen milestones whilst travelling on the T & M with Shardlow pointing one way and Preston Brook pointing the other way with the corresponding number of miles to each – there are approximately 92 miles between them. We haven’t been to either of these places, just lots of places in between!
First of all we had to negotiate the Sawley Locks. This is a pair of duplicate locks and they are electrically operated. When we arrived there was a cruiser in the left lock about to come down so we thought we might as well wait for them and go into the lock as they exited. I had to climb up a ladder to get up onto the bank from the boat! Clive asked me to put the rope around a bollard to keep it secure as the water came out of the lock, which I did. However I was rather puzzled as to why the water was gushing out of the lock already as the rear gates were still wide open! I hurried up to the lock to see what was going on and there was a very puzzled gentleman standing by the controls scratching his head! He didn’t know how to operate the lock, even though there were very concise instructions printed on the control box! I took over! The first thing I did was to close the paddles on the front gates to stop the water flow, then I shut the rear gates and once they were fully shut I reopened the front paddles and suggested the gentleman got back onto his boat!! I dread to think what would have happened if I hadn’t got there when I did, he really didn’t have a clue what he was doing! Finally the lock emptied and I opened the front gates to let him out. Clive brought Lady Arwen into the lock just as another boat arrived so both boats came up the lock together. The crew of this boat were also very new to the game and were a little apprehensive about doubling up in a lock but Clive reassured them and told them how it was done whilst I operated the paddles and gates.
After all that excitement we settled down to enjoy cruising in the sunshine. We soon arrived at Shardlow but it was a bit of a “this is nice, wasn’t it”! We had no sooner arrived than we’d left so to speak and all we saw were a few pretty houses behind the weeping willows and lots of moored boats and that was that – a bit of an anticlimax really!
Cruising through Shardlow - it didn't take long!
We carried on for a while then finally moored up for the night in Willington. We were short of a few bits and pieces so took a walk down to the Co-op to stock up.
The following day we continued our journey along theTrent & Mersey through some lovely countryside then we passed through the town of Burton-on-Trent. We passed by a field with a lot of activity going on and a lot of boats moored up along its bank. This was Shobnall Fields and they were all preparing for the Inland Waterways Association festival which was due to be held on the last weekend of July. A short while later we came to a lock on the outskirts of another small town, which is the home of a very famous product – Branston Pickle! To celebrate we had a cheese and said pickle sandwich for lunch!
We spent a very pleasant afternoon cruising along in the sunshine and then decided it was time to find a mooring for the night, we were approaching the village of Alrewas and hoped to stop there. On the approach there wasn’t a mooring space in sight, it was packed with boats, a couple of which were very traditional and gaily painted, overflowing with canalia decorated pots and pans and gleaming brasses being lovingly polished within an inch of their lives by two very ardent gentlemen! Everyone was lying in wait ready to attack the IWA festival and vie for the trophies for best kept boat, most decorated boat, boat with shiniest brass etc etc etc! But where the heck are we going to moor, its getting late! We continued to cruise past the endless line of moored boats when suddenly I spotted a familiar one! Invicta (I always remember boat names!) with Brian and Sue Badminton on board. We met them back in September 2008 in Aspley Marina, Huddersfield, where they have a permanent mooring! Sue stuck her head out of the hatch and I waved and shouted hello! As it turned out we found a mooring only a short distance further up and just managed to squeeze in!
Alrewas is a beautiful village with some absolutely spectacular houses adjacent to the river, some of which were for sale. One of them was a beautiful thatched cottage with a gorgeous garden – now I could almost swap Lady Arwen for that but I’m not really ready to become a landlubber again yet – maybe one day!
The following morning we saw Invicta cruising past whilst we were having a late breakfast. We followed after them a short while later and headed up to Fradley Junction. We have been having a few problems with our pram hood cover recently, several studs that hold the canopy to the side of the boat have come off! We did buy some more and try to fit them ourselves but we just didn’t have the right tool for attaching them so they just came off again. Therefore Clive got in touch with Terry Ryan of Viking Hoods who made and fitted our hood and he said he would come and meet us at Fradley Junction that afternoon as he was working not far away. He duly arrived after lunch and it was good to see him again. It was a bit of a shock however to learn that he was recovering from a mild heart attack! Still he seems to be doing very well, thank goodness! He soon had all the studs sorted out and also left us a couple of spares in case any more come off. He also told us that he was swapping his cruiser for a narrowboat which he was in the process of renovating and told us to be on the look out for it next year some time when he starts cruising in her, she will be called Still Waters! We look forward to seeing him again on the cut one of these days.
After Terry had left we took a walk up to the junction itself where there is a shop, café, pub and a laundry! On the way we came across Invicta and stopped to have a chat with Brian and Sue. Brian is a fellow musician and he informed us that there would be a folk night in the pub, The Swan (also known as The Mucky Duck!) that evening – brilliant! I managed to get two lots of laundry washed, dried and stowed away in the drawers then we decided to go and have a meal at the pub and be in good time for the folk club. The meal itself was mediocre but the folk club was great! There were quite a few musicians and singers, there was a lady who played accordion and hurdy gurdy, a guy on fiddle, and several other and of course Brian on his very distinctive Ovation guitar, which is full of holes! Brian tends to focus on amusing songs and does a great rendition of Jake Thackeray's Bantom Cock, amongst others!
There was also a gentleman there by the name of Mal Edwards MBE. We met him on one of our visits to the Shroppie Fly folk club at Audlem. He plays a mean guitar and sings some really great songs, a lot of which he has written himself relating to the canals and working boats of yesteryear. He has been on narrowboats since he was 14 years old! He now makes traditional rope fenders, which he sells from his boat.
The following day, after a late start, we continued our journey up the T & M. We passed by the Armitage Shanks factory again with all its hundreds of toilets stacked on pallets outside! We moored up for the night just before Colwych out in the countryside, it was lovely, very peaceful and quiet. Next day we arrived at Great Haywood junction and took a slight detour down to the marina to fill up with diesel, have a pump-out and get a spare gas bottle then back up to the junction and a right turn onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal. We moored up for the night in Penkridge and after a quick look on the internet the next morning I found a hairdressers up in the town and managed to get an appointment for that afternoon. That is the only problem with having had my hair cut in a bob, I have to keep having it cut to keep it looking smart! Whilst I was in the hairdressers Clive went off and found a supermarket and did a bit of shopping then we headed back to the boat.
The next morning we set off again and it wasn’t long before we arrived at Coven. We moored up and stayed there for a couple of nights. On Thursday morning we cruised up to Autherley Junction and on the way we had to negotiate the Pendeford Rockin! Rockin is an old boatman’s term for an extremely shallow and narrow cutting and this one certainly lived up to its name!
The very shallow, very narrow Pendeford Rockin!
There is water there, honest! It does actually have passing places in case you should meet another boat but fortunately we didn’t!
We made it safely to Autherley Junction and moored up just beyond the junction itself. We were expecting a visitor – my sister Thelma was driving down to Somerset from Huddersfield for a party and had asked if she could stop off and spend a night with us to break her journey. She arrived mid afternoon and after a cuppa and a snack she and I went off to do some shopping at a local Sainsbury’s. We had arranged for Thelma to park her car in the Napton Narrowboats locked compound for the night and we only just made it back in time before it was locked up at 5.30pm - phew!
Thelma left us the following morning to resume her journey down to Somerset, we decided to stay at the junction for another night as we had a 3G signal on the dongle, unfortunately though the TV signal was poor! Clive had a great time though watching all the activity at the junction, it was hilarious! There were boats coming down the Shroppie, boats coming up the Staffs and Worcs wanting to turn up the Shroppie, boats coming down the Staffs and Worcs wanting to turn up the Shroppie etc etc. At one point there was a guy on his narrowboat in the middle of all the chaos directing traffic like a policeman!
On Saturday morning we were up bright and early, turned the boat around and headed back to Coven and moored up. Clive wanted to watch the qualifying for the German Grand Prix! Fortunately we had quite a reasonable signal in Coven. The reason we had come back here is because I was off to the Burwell Bash, my annual Summer music school, which is just outside Cambridge and I had arranged for a lift on Sunday lunchtime by fellow Burwellites, Gina Barre and her daughter Emily who live in Shrewsbury. Coven is very near to the M54 so they only had to make a small detour to pick me up. They duly arrived on Sunday lunchtime and after a guided tour of the boat they just had time for a quick cuppa and to eat their sandwiches before we said goodbye to Clive and headed off for Cambridge. Its hard to believe that it was time for Burwell again, where on Earth have the last 12 months gone!!!
Gina dropped me off at a Tesco store just outside Cambridge where Vicki was waiting for me, I was spending the night with her and Ben at their new house, which is lovely! The following morning Vicki and Ben dropped me off at Burwell on their way to work. So Clive had a lovely peaceful week without me and I had an absolutely awesome time, as usual, at Burwell. It was wonderful to meet up with all my old friends and also to meet some new ones too. We had a very international Burwell this year with students from the USA, Russia, Austria, The Netherlands, and Germany, its fame is spreading! I really enjoyed the week but it was over far too soon – still never mind, it will be Burwell Bash 2012 before we know it!
Flute and Whistle class 2011 with tutors Brian Finnegan (next to me) and Katherine Mann (behind me on the left)
Gina and Emily dropped me off back in Coven and again popped in for a cuppa and a snack before resuming their journey to Shrewsbury. When they had gone Clive and I went for dinner at The Fox and Anchor as it was a bit late to start cooking!
The next morning we upped sticks and headed back once more through the Pendeford Rockin to Autherley Junction but this time we turned right, through the stop lock and onto the Shropshire Union Canal (The Shroppie). We moored up for a short while and went for a walk up to the shops as Clive had ordered some filters for the engine and had to collect them also there was a Morrison’s so we could stock up again with essentials. Then we were off up the Shroppie, however we didn’t go very far because it was another Grand Prix weekend and Clive wanted a spot with a good signal in order to watch the quallies today and the race tomorrow! We did find a spot but had a devil of a job getting into the bank as there was a submerged shelf and we couldn’t get right in, however we managed finally, after three attempts!
After the Hungarian Grand Prix had finished (well done Jensen!) in the afternoon we set off again and cruised through Brewood (pron. Brood) then moored up for the night after the lock at Wheaton Aston. The following morning we were off again an this time we made it all the way to Norbury Junction. Clive wanted some stuff from the chandlery and I wanted to make use of their laundry facilities, they don’t have a launderette as such but do service washes so you just deliver your bags of laundry and get them back all washed, dried and folded – nice! We were too late to get it back that day so I left them the bag of light colours, which would be ready in the morning and they told me if I delivered the darks by 8.30am they would have them done for me by 10.30am so that is exactly what we did. I was up at 8.00am and stripping the bedding almost out from under Clive! The only fly in the ointment was that the chandlery didn’t stock Clive’s air filter so it had to be ordered and wouldn’t be delivered until Wednesday lunchtime so we had to stay another day. Not a major problem except that it’s a black hole when it comes to signals, no phones, no dongle, no TV!
Moored at Norbury (third up on the left)
The Shroppie is a very busy canal, especially now with it being the school holidays, there are soooooo many hire boats on the go! Whilst we were moored at Norbury there was a constant stream of boats passing us in both directions and sometimes at the same time, we could reach out the window and shake hands with the people on some of the boats they were so close to us!
We left Norbury Junction on Wednesday August 3rd and cruised up to The Anchor and moored up. This is a tiny boatman’s pub, which is only open during the Summer months and it is a place we have always wanted to visit but have never been on the Shroppie in the Summer before. We managed to moor up behind three other boats only a stones throw from the pub. The first thing we noticed was a boat moored on the opposite bank on a permanent mooring – Becky – also painted on the side was “Mal Edwards MBE – Rope Fender Maker”. This is the same Mal whom we met up with inThe Swan a couple of weeks ago. We decided to go and suss out the pub and have a wee drinky poo. As we walked along the towpath we passed other moored boats. We immediately recognised the skipper of the first one, it was Bruce whom we had met back in February 2009 at Bridge 61, Foxton, whilst we were iced in for three weeks! He is a musician and singer and has raised many thousands of pounds for the Air Ambulance doing charity gigs. The next boat was Taliesin. I recognised the name straight away but couldn’t remember where I had seen it before. The artwork on its side depicts musical instruments: accordion, whistle and Bodhran. There was a gentleman sitting in a chair next to the boat who looked vaguely familiar and he was wearing braces with musical notes on them – bit of a giveaway that! We stopped for a chat and it turned out there would be a folk night in the bar that evening – brilliant! Anyway, we nipped into one of the tiny bars of the pub and ordered our drinks, which we drank outside in the garden. The bars are basically the front rooms of a cottage. The Anchor is run by Olive and the pub has been in her family for over 100 years! It is very traditional and up until recently the beer was brought up from the cellar in jugs, however Olive has found it a bit hard going up and down the stairs recently so it is now pumped up to the bar but she still decants it into a large jug to pour into the glasses to save wastage - priceless!
After our drink we returned to the boat for some tea and a change of clothes then grabbed our instruments and headed back to the bar. We had a wonderful evening of music and song. The weird thing was that we knew everybody in the bar! There was Mal who we had met twice before, then Bruce who we had met in Foxton then we recognised the gentleman and his wife from Taliesin, it was Alan and Ann whom we had met at a folk night at The King’s Head in Market Drayton in February last year! Alan then remembered us and said he still had our card on the boat!
Folk night at The Anchor - Alan & Ann in the window, Mal on the left and Bruce on the right
There was another lady in the bar that evening, her name was Hazel. At some point dragons were mentioned and I commented that I loved dragons and collected them. A short while later Hazel left the bar. When she returned Bruce started nudging her and saying “go on, show her” so she very shyly got something out of her bag and laid it on the table. We all had a closer look – it was a beautiful dragon necklace made entirely of beads and she has been working on it for four years in total but has had other projects on the go at the same time.
Beautiful beaded dragon necklace made by Hazel
Clive immediately asked her if it had been commissioned and she said yes, for herself! He asked if she would sell it and she said she would consider it. Bless him, he would have bought it for me right then and there if she had said yes, however I pointed out that I hardly ever wear the jewellery I already have since moving onto the boat and that I really didn’t need any more, so I declined!
We left our mooring at The Anchor on Thursday morning and cruised on up the Shroppie, through all the cuttings and the Tyrley Locks - our favourite flight of locks anywhere, they are so pretty and pretty easy to work as well. We finally arrived in Market Drayton and moored up near the pill box then took a walk up to the town intending to go to Morrison’s to stock up. However when we we were passing what was a Netto’s supermarket last time we were here it turned out to be an Asda! So we didn’t need to go any further, we got everything we needed right there and it was a much shorter walk from the boat – excellent!
We had intended setting off again this morning but decided in the end to stay put for another day. We will be leaving in the morning and heading on up to Audlem where we are hoping to meet up with an old school friend, Christine Thorpe, who has a narrowboat and is currently moored at the new Audlem Marina. Also there is a folk night at The Shroppie Fly in Audlem on Monday night so we will definitely be there for that! After that we are heading up to Nantwich and hope to catch up with one of my oldest friends, Heather Welch (was Martin) as mentioned above relating to our time in Nottingham. As with Lindsey Britton in New Zealand, Heather and I met at infants school when we were 5 years old!
The blogs may well now become monthly editions so look out for the next one around the beginning of September, however I may surprise you and do one in between! Tee hee!:D