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Saturday 03 November 2012 - near Hopwas

Well we ended up not going to the Anchor Pub after all, there didn't appear to be any other boats moored outside and we thought perhaps there wasn't going to be any music after all.  Plus, to be honest, neither of us could be bothered to go out!  Clive nipped down for a wee pint the following lunch time and learned that there had been a bit of music the night before but there were only a couple of musicians.  So we left The Anchor behind us and headed down to Norbury Junction where we stopped for diesel, a pump-out and a few provisions then we continued on our way.  One of the great things about the Shroppie canal is the number of Kingfishers we have seen up and down this waterway.  Sure enough we spotted one sitting on an overhanging rose branch and I grabbed the camera quick.  I must have taken a dozen shots but sadly only one of them turned out well.  I had my long lens on and the bird was very close as we went past and of course with us moving too it was not a good combination.  Anyway its not too bad.

Shroppie Kingfisher

We cruised on down to Wheaton Aston and moored up.  We tied up, put the pram hood up and just as we fastned the last stud the heavens opened - talk about timing!  The next day got off to a very bad start - we slept in!  We had planned to get off early in the morning and get down to the bottom of the Shroppie but that wasn't going to happen!  We had missed breakfast so we had brunch and then finally set off.  We only cruised a couple of hundred yards to the water point as we needed to fill the tank.  We tied up at the water point and just as Clive was attaching the hose the rain started - wonderful!  So in the end, when we had finished filling the tank, we went up through the lock and then moored up again on the first bit of decent mooring we came across and that was it for the day!  The next day we set off again and soon reached Autherley Junction at the bottom of the Shroppie, where we turned left onto the Staffs & Worcs Canal. We had a really good run all the way down to Penkridge, where we moored up for the night.

October 4th 2012 dawned bright and sunny, what a contrast!  We had a slight hold up initially as there was a queue for the lock.  By the time I got down there with my windlass two had gone down and one was coming up.  As the boat came up in the lock I noticed its name: Wine and Roses - then I looked at the man at the helm, it was Don, the brilliant fiddler whom we have met three or four times at the folk night in The Shroppie Fly, Audlem.  We just had time to say hello then he was off and the next boat was coming into the lock.  We had a lovely day cruising in the sunshine and we were absolutely delighted to spot two Kingfishers!  We finally moored up for the night at the beautiful and aptly named Tixall Wide.  From what I can gather there was a breach here many years ago and it was decided that it would be too expensive to try and fix it so they just left it as it was.  Very glad they did as it is one of the prettiest moorings on the cut.

The beautiful Tixall Wide

We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from Tixall the next morning bright and early.  We had a very productive day cruising, seven hours in fact, which brought us to Fradley Junction.  We had made a stopover in Rugely on the way down to nip to Morrisons and stock up with all the essentials and a few non-essentials too!  With it being quite late in the afternoon when we arrived in Fradley we were worried that we might not get a mooring as it is a very popular spot but fortunately there was just one left, phew!  One of the reasons for wanting to get to Fradley was a guaranteed TV signal - Grand Prix weekend!!  Not only that though, its Strictly season now so we need a good TV signal to watch Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday nights and Sundays too for the results show!  We also had a good internet signal so I was delighted to be able to Skype with our granddaughter Indeia in Colorado Springs, USA.  It was good to see her and catch up with everything she has been up to.  I also managed to Skype with our daughter Vicki, in Grantham, Lincolnshire as well that afternoon - isn't technology wonderful! 

We actually stayed in Fradley for five days - not bad considering we were on a 48 hour mooring!!  (Don't tell the Canal & River Trust will you!)  We finally left on the Tuesday and had a very pleasant cruise, including four locks, to the pretty village of Alrewas where we moored up and planned to stay for a few days.  I had been chatting with a fellow boater at one of the locks and when I told her we were going to Alrewas she asked if we had been to the National Memorial Arboretum, which was only a short walk from Alrewas - I told her we hadn't.  She said it was well worth the walk.  So after we had moored up and had a spot of lunch we decided to go.  It took us about fifteen minutes to walk, the only tough bit was running the gauntlet trying to cross the very busy A38!  However we made it and finally arrived at the Arboretum.  The lady was right, it was well worth the effort.  What an amazing and very moving place it was, with over 50,000 maturing trees and over 200 memorials, set in 150 acres of land.  It is a beautiful and lasting tribute to those who serve our country or who have died in conflict.  I have to confess I needed a tissue on several occasions!  It is so huge and there are so many memorial gardens that we just couldn't possibly see it all but we were both very glad we had gone.  We stopped off in the cafe on the way back for a coffee and a bun!  Our only disappointment was that we wanted a big poppy to put on the front of the boat but unfortunately they didn't have any!

This photo is courtesy of the Arboretum website - my photos just don't do it justice!

Can't remember whether I have mentioned before but we were actually on our way to Nottingham.  Our daughter Vicki and her fiancee Ben now live in Grantham and Ben works in Nottingham, which is the nearest place to Grantham by boat!  We had planned to be there for the weekend of the 13/14th October but Vicki sent me a message to put it off until the following weekend, so now we were ahead of ourselves!  This gave us an amazing opportunity.  Our very good friend Bruce Davies, Scottish singer/songwriter, whom we have known for many, many years, was doing a very rare gig South of the border at The Chase Folk Club, Burntwood, too close to miss!  So we turned the boat around and cruised back up to Fradley.  We also had another opportunity now, to meet up with another friend, Iain Hysom, who now lives on a boat moored in Bristol.  He is a bat conservationist and was doing some work, believe it or not, in Fradley!  We let him know we were there and he came over and joined us on the boat on Thursday afternoon.  It was great to catch up with him again.  I also made good use of the launderette at The Swan!  It was a week of opportunities actually because Thursday night is music night at The Swan (aka The Mucky Duck!).  So after Iain had left us we grabbed the instruments and headed up to the pub.  It was packed!!  The folk club takes place in a cellar room off the main bar and it was absolutely jumping.  Fiddlers were poking people in the eye with their bows, I was poking Clive in the ear with my flute - talk about sardines!  Clive counted about 35 musicians!  However it was a great night, lots of brilliant tunes and songs, we really enjoyed it.

Friday morning, October 12th 2012, we left Fradley behind and headed back up the canal to Rugeley.  We booked a taxi to pick us up at Morrison's that evening and were soon at the venue in Burntwood.  It was absolutely wonderful to see Bruce again and to finally meet his lovely wife, Sandra.  We had another reunion too, with some of our old neighbours from Caldecote!  John and Sue Butler lived just around the corner from our house and amazingly John (who is Scottish) knew Bruce when he was a child!  John's sister was the same age as Bruce.  See, another one of those amazing 6 degrees of separation but whittled down to 2!!  We had a lovely evening, Bruce was as brilliant as ever, he has such a lovely voice.  If you want to listen to him check him out on uTube!

Sue, John, Sandra, Bruce, Mel & Clive

We were going to get a taxi back to Rugely but a couple who were at the gig very kindly offered to give us a lift, which was very kind of them.  Sadly they were in a hurry so we couldn't stop and have a real catch up with Bruce, maybe next time.

The next morning we turned around and headed back to Fradley yet again!  When we arrived we noticed that the warning board at one of the locks stated the following:  'Alrewas River Section closed' - oh dear!  Evidently the rain from a few days ago had affected the level of the River Trent and as it joins the canal just below Alrewas for a short distance it was not safe to navigate.  We found out later that it had actually been deemed safe at around 6.00pm that evening, however we stayed until Monday.  When we got up that morning it was to be greeted by glorious, warm sunshine!  Unbelievable!  We set off and cruised down to Alrewas and I was in my shirt sleeves - far too warm to wear a coat, especially when working hard on the locks, it was really lovely.  We moored up in Alrewas again and then the next morning headed off to brave the river!  We went down the lock which took us onto the river section and it was quite high.  There are colour coded gauges on river locks, red at the bottom means its in flood and you can't go through, yellow means proceed with caution and green is safe.  The gauge on the lock was just into the yellow!  We headed off down the river, going quite quickly and approached the weir.  The water was really fierce going over the weir and we tried to keep well to the left of it but there was a boat coming the other way and all of a sudden the boat hit something under water and rocked violently over to the right!  I seriously thought we were going to capsize, it went so far over!  I rushed to the other side of the stern and it rocked back again then settled back to level - very scary moment and no idea at all what we hit!  We were soon back on to the sedate waters of the canal and continued on our way.   The next day it was quite breezy - narrowboats don't cope very well with wind, they get blown about a lot!  We needed a pump-out and there is a lovely new marina on this stretch so we pulled in to use their facilities.  We moored up on the service pontoon and hardly needed to tie up as the wind was pinning us onto the mooring!  Clive nipped over to the marina office to get a token for the machine but when we had got all set up we realised it was on "pause" - I switched it on again and we managed to empty the whole tank, including time for a rinse, without having to put the £14.30 token into the machine!  As we knew we would be coming back up this way it meant we could use it on the way back.  However, now the fun began - we couldn't get the boat away from the pontoon as the wind  was so strong!  I pushed her off and she came straight back in!  In the end Clive had to reverse the boat and pivot on the corner of the mooring whilst I pushed her out until she was finally at the right angle to get us off!  We didn't go far after that, it was just too windy to cruise safely.

Wednesday October 17th 2012 - The day had finally arrived where we would go down onto the River Trent on the last leg of our journey to Nottingham.  Unbelievable at one of the big locks on the way down I managed to injure my hand yet again!  This particular lock had windlasses already attached and as I was trying to wind down the paddle my hand slipped off the handle and the windlass whacked me on the back of the hand, in a different spot to the last time!  It really hurt and I now have another lump to show for it!  In light of the recently high water levels we were a bit nervous about cruising on the Trent but we needn't have worried.  We had a lovely, if speedy, cruise down river.  It was so wide and beautiful and the sun was starting to set casting a beautiful golden glow over the river, absolutely gorgeous.

Golden Trent Sunset

According to the map book the cruise down to Sawley Junction should take an hour and a half but as the river was running so fast we were travelling much faster than our usual 3-4 mph, more like 8-10!  So, it only took us forty minutes!  We were soon through the stop lock and onto the Beeston Cut where we moored up for the night. 

After a couple of uneventful days we finally arrived in Nottingham and moored up adjacent to Sainsbury's, which we made good use of shortly after arriving.  Vicki and Ben arrived soon after 8pm and we all had dinner together.  The following day we all hit the shops in Nottingham and it was lovely to just spend time with Vicki and Ben.  They left us later that afternoon as they had plans for the evening.  We then made the terribe discovery that we didn't have a good TV signal and no BBC hence no Strictly!  However we managed to watch it the following day on the iPlayer - phew!  Later that day we got the train to Grantham and Vicki and Ben took us out for dinner to The Chequer's Inn, the venue for their wedding next  April.  It is a lovely place and the food was wonderful.  The staff were all very kind and they let Vicki take us to look at the function room where the wedding ceremony and reception will take place.

Vicki and Ben at The Chequers


We went back to Vicki and Bens for a coffee then Vicki ran us back to the station to catch our train back to Nottingham. 

We stayed in Nottingham for a few more days.  On the Tuesday I put a casserole in the oven for dinner at some point during the cooking process the oven mysteriously went out!  I had now idea how long it had been off but the casserole wasn't cooked so I had to go to plan B and get something out of the freezer.  I was absolutely horrified to find everything in the freezer was soft and actually beginning to feel warm!  I was gutted!  The freezer was full of boxes of home made curries, soups, casseroles etc etc all ruined.  There was no way of salvaging anything because it must have been off for quite a while as things were actually going off - disaster!  We had to bin everything and give the freezer a thorough clean.  Clive discovered that the Earth wire had come loose at the back of the freezer - again!  This has now happened three times over the course of our four years on board!  He really went to town on it this time and is hopeful that it won't happen again - it better not!  Fortunately we were still moored outside Sainsbury's so we went shopping again and restocked the freezer but obviously I couldn't replace all the home cooked food - such a waste!

We finally left Nottingham on the 25th and made our way back up to Fradley junction, having had a three day stopover in Branston we arrived on the 31st .  I made use of the launderette again and we went to the folk night at The Swan again the following night.  Quite a contrast to the previous one, this time there were only five of us!  However it was a fantastic evening, one of the guys was the most amazing fiddler, I could have listened to him all night.  We left the next morning and this time we turned left at the junction onto the Coventry Canal.  We cruised for about an hour then stopped off in Whittington to do a bit of shopping.  After lunch we set off again but didn't travel far.  We moored up near Hopwas, out in the countryside with views over a huge ploughed field and a very good TV signal.  Yet another Grand Prix weekend but more importantly its Strictly tonight!

The farmer ploughing the field opposite the boat accompanied by the usual entourage!

We will be leaving here on Monday, unless it is raining in which case it will be Tuesday!  So, until the next time..............

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