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  • clivenmel

Dec 4th

Normal 0 false false false /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;}   Tuesday 02 Dec � we woke to another beautiful sunny but very cool morning.  We were moored on a curve opposite the beautiful garden and the strange thing was that the canal was frozen to the left of us and also to the right beyond another moored boat, however the actual curve of the canal we were on wasn�t!  We got well wrapped up and set off � fortunately another boat had come through just before we set off and had made a passage through the ice for us.  There was one lock just around the bend so I walked to that and got it set ready for Clive to come through.  After cruising for a little while we came upon the Tixall Wide � and boy is it wide!  The canal suddenly widens into a broad lake of quite un-canal-like proportions bordered by thick reedbeds.  It was so wide Clive got quite excited and considered doing �doughnuts� � simply because he could!!  It is thought that the canal was widened into an artificial lake to placate the owner of Tixall Hall, however others believe that the expanse of water predated the canal, that it was naturally formed and that Izaak Walton (the man who wrote the first real book on angling) learned to fish here!  Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in Tixall Hall for a fortnight in 1586.  The hall itself was demolished long ago but the extraordinary gatehouse which still stands is let for holidays by the Landmark Trust!   We finally arrived at Haywood Junction.  Our destination is South but we had decided to take a very necessary detour North to Great Haywood Marina in order to use their laundry facilities!  We had phoned them earlier and booked an overnight mooring with a hook-up.  As soon as we got settled in our berth I went off to suss out the laundry.  It was a lovely big new machine with the tumble dryer on top of the washing machine and it took tokens, which Cost �1.25 each.  The washer required two tokens for a wash and the tumbler took one token for 30 minutes.  I got a tenner�s worth of tokens and set to � we had an awful lot of washing to do, including the bedding and all our towels!  I managed to get away with just two washer loads: one for the darks and the bedding and the other for the lights and the towels.  However the drying was a different matter and I was beginning to think I might not have enough tokens!  I nipped back to the shop and got one more token just in case � it�s a good job I did!  Even so I still ran out of tokens before the last load, the darks (jeans, trousers, sweatshirts etc).  By now it was 8pm and the shop shut at 4.30 so I just had to pack up the damp stuff into two bags and haul it back to the boat!   We had dinner then settled down to watch the first part of Lord of the Rings; The Fellowship of the Ring.   Wednesday 03 Dec - we were up bright and early as we had arranged to get our aerial bracket fixed back on by the engineer � he starts work at 9am.  So after breakfast I set off with my damp laundry to finish off the drying.  I arrived at the shop but there was nobody there!  I hung about a bit, rang the bell, but still nobody came so I thought I would get all the stuff in the dryer ready and then come back for the token.  When I went round the back of the building to where the laundry was there was a group of guys all standing round the electricity generator shaking their heads and muttering � Mike, the guy from the shop saw me with my bags and said � you won�t be doing that this morning the generator has broken down, we have no electrics at all and we can�t get it going!  Charming!  So I went back to the boat and rigged up a drying room � wound up the stove, put the central heating on and festooned the saloon with the clothes � they were everywhere; over radiators; hanging from the curtain rails; the clothes airer and two �washing lines� - pieces of strong string hung between the curtain rails!  In the meantime the man came to fix the aerial brackets � yippee we can watch Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday now!   We finally left the marina around 11am and once again the canal was frozen over and it was quite a feat getting out of the marina itself as the boat was struggling to turn due to the ice!  The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.  It was absolutely glorious and as long as we were out in the sunshine it wasn�t too cold, however when we went through cuttings or between houses the shut out the sunshine it was bitterly cold.   Inside the boat on the other hand was quite different � it was like a �steamy� !  I kept putting the central heating on periodically and the stove was also quite hot, but it was working, the damp washing was finally drying out!   One interesting site that we passed on the way was the Armitage Shanks works which were absolutely huge! Armitage and Shanks are synonymous with toilet plumbing.  Their trade marks are emblazoned on public conveniences throughout the world.  Once they were separate firms, merging in 1969, but the site alongside the canal at Armitage dates back to 1817.  Sanitaryware became a specialty in the 19th century under the management of Edward Johns � the origin of the Americanism �going to the John�  I�ve oftened wondered why they called it The John!  The factory, which towers over a narrow stretch of the canal, is vast and there are huge stockpiles of toilet bowls on pallets all along the site.   We continued meandering through the countryside in the sunshine but it was rapidly cooling down and we were getting quite chilled.  We really wanted to get to Fradley Junction by sunset and fortunately it was in sight just as the sun was setting in a red glow.  When we arrived at the visitor moorings however they were full!  We couldn�t moor up on the towpath because we couldn�t get anywhere near the bank.  In the end we moored up hanging off the end of the visitor moorings at the back of the queue of boats.  We could only tie up the front and middle ropes on the moorings and the stern was dangling about two yards out from the bank so we just put a pin in the bank and secured the stern to that � it looks a bit weird but its safe enough.    Once we were all secure we decided to go straight to the pub for a well earned drink and a meal.  Fradley Junction is famous for its great pub The Swan.  It is a real boating inn and was, not surprisingly, full of boaters!  We had a few drinks and a meal then back to the boat to watch the second part of Lord of the Rings � The Two Towers.   We will be turning right at the junction in the morning heading East. This will be the first time we are back on a stretch of canal that we�ve been on before � we came past here heading North in September and we�ll be retracing our steps all the way now back to our starting point.   Gareth and Indy are coming to join us tomorrow and we needed to get to a decent place tonight so we can meet up with them, so we�ve cruised on to the village of Hopwas again � here�s where we had the cratch cover fitted on the way up; it�s a nice spot with easy access for the car in the Tame Otter pub, so we�ll probably stay put now for a couple of days.    

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