Sunday, 30 June 2013

Ellesmere and the bench bandits

Yesterday we meandered back to Ellesmere to revisit Tesco for a restock and to spend the £20 voucher we were given last week. Although I have no issue with hire boats per se, the perfusion of them on the Llangollen can cause problems. Our departure was delayed by a jam of hire boats which had managed to get stuck, fowl the prop, get sideways across the canal all at the same time in the same spot. I have managed to go the whole trip without a cross word to anyone and this record was maintained, all smiles and help.

View of Blake Mere from the window of Tilly May

After Tesco we approached Blake Mere where we moored on the way down. The nice spot by the gap in the trees overlooking the Mere and next to a large picnic bench was unoccupied, so we decided to moor for the night.  Two other boats were moored but way down the cut and a distance from each other. However, not long after our arrival a hire boat moored next to us. The tell tale signs were there from the start, with almost 250 yards of bank to moor up to the boat tied up to the same ring as us with only 3 feet between  us and them. By now we were sat on the picnic bench having a drink. We chatted with the chap and discovered that we both intended to barbecue later. After a long chat Jan went for a shower and I took Spot for a walk. By the time we returned the entire party from the hire boat had decamped, they had filled every square inch of the picnic table with food plates and drink, along with a couple more chairs to ensure there was no room for us.  We were in no rush to eat so we did a few bits and read for a while before I went out and lit our barbecue.  I hoped that as they had mostly eaten their food and we had just started cooking that someone would at least clear part of the table and say "here you go chap have your meal here". No such luck.  By the time they had eaten, our food was about cooked but they then went back on board and left the whole table still crammed with their remains. I maintained my cross word record, we ate on TM and sat out late into the evening after the dick family had returned to their boat. By 8am this morning the dick family had departed so we had a nice peaceful morning cup of tea overlooking the Mere sat at the picnic bench in the sunshine, no sound but the breeze in the trees, the call of a buzzard and the odd few ducks and geese having their early morning chat.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Look mum we're flying!!

Yesterday we crossed the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct ( pronounced pont-ker-sulth-tee) twice. It's like flying in a boat. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is over 1000 feet long and 127 feet tall at its deepest point, and consists of an iron trough supported by 18 stone piers. The aqueduct was completed in 1805, it is ranked as one of Thomas Telford's outstanding achievements.
I have seen photos of it, but it is not until you cross it in a boat that you get the full sense of scale and grandeur. As you can see, on one side is a footpath with a railing but on the other side an open 127 foot drop!

From our over-night stop at Chirk, the canal wound through some interesting twists and turns towards the Chirk aqueduct.  The canal certainly was a 'cut' where the banks over-shadowed the water making the going very narrow in some places; however, a very interesting passage.  The aqueduct seemed to be a practice run for the big one to come but, though smaller, it still had spectacular views across the valley.

Lots of traffic today on the cut, many of which were hire boats and we were held up before crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - one way traffic only.  As the photos below show, the views from the aqueduct were breathtaking.  It was certainly an experience not to miss.

Photo above is to just to prove that Jan stayed above for the crossing, contrary to her fear of heights when she was adamant she was going to lie belly-down below in the cabin!

Chirk Tunnel - 459 yards and very straight.  Amazing feats of engineering to build these tunnels.

Due to the number of craft on the water, we decided not to go down the canal arm to Llangollen: this is a very narrow stretch and would entail Jan walking most of the tow path in front to check for passing places.  Also, as we had already learnt on our way through the tunnels and over the aqueducts, many of the boaters were either day hirers or very inexperienced.

Passed NB Ramsden with Robin and Alex on board - first met them at Hurleston Locks and seen a couple of times since then.  This is a great way to make and renew friendships.

Finally moored for the night at Hindford Bridge, just down from the Jack Mytton Inn, first decent pint for a few days.

Now we heading back towards the Shroppie it is noticeable that we are now going with the flow from the river Dee. Progress in much faster so we can run at low revs and still cover the ground.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Chirk Tunnel and Aqueduct

After the bright sunshine of yesterday, today started dull, the weather forecast promised heavy rain in the afternoon which was promptly delivered. We decided to pull pins early to avoid the rain and made steady progress covering 6 miles and two locks before the heavens opened. The highlight of the day without a doubt was Chirk aqueduct. Hardly warranting a mention in the guidebooks, this aqueduct,  in its own right would be a wonder anywhere else on the canal system if it wasn't for the fact that it is virtually next door to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

Traversing the Chirk aqueduct was an experience in itself but was also a taster for Jan as she is petrified of heights and was not looking forward to going over the "big one".  As the view from Chirk bridge was so fantastic, I think the fear will be overcome - she may not be lying belly down in the bowels of TM for the Pontcysyllte aqueduct after all!  Had a bit of bother with Spot when we entered the tunnel following the aqueduct: normal slowing down of engine signifies her being able to get off the boat which she promptly did.  Then, realising a tunnel was in front and all boats lights switched on, she refused to get back on aboard.  Dragged ignominiously by the scruff and taken below, she sat like a quivering leaf until normality resumed and she could come back into open air.

The Rail Bridge next to Chirk Aqueduct

The Rail Bridge next to Chirk Aqueduct

View from Chirk Aqueduct
We have now moored up between the two tunnels waiting out the rain and plan to cross the Pontcysyllte aqueduct in the morning.

We have been out on TM for almost 3 weeks now. During that time we have gradually changed our priorities. Things that, 3 weeks ago seemed important don't seem so important now. We spend most of the day with a smile on our faces. Sometimes we go to a pub and have a chat with the locals, sometimes we stop in the middle of nowhere. We always have time to chat to other canal folk. Everyone has a story to tell. Most of the time we are asleep by 9pm and up by 6am. Spot has turned feral and comes and goes as she pleases. In 3 weeks we haven't had a cross word with each other, or anybody else for that matter. We stand on the stern of TM and watch the world drift by. At this moment Wales is 1000 shades of green. The fields are lush and the cattle fat with grass. The canal-side towns and villages have great character, most have not been spoiled by ill thought out developments. Some still have village shops and butchers where you can buy local produce. Even Stoke on Trent was a pleasure to cruise through.

As I write this the rain has abated and blue sky can be seen through the side hatch. It looks like tomorrow will be a fine day. Life is Good!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Perry Valley and the Border Marches

Spot desperate to get out this morning: only because she had seen a duck with 4 well-grown ducklings waddling down the tow path - wow! smells!!  A lazy start yet again, we set off about 10am to Ellesmere - having been told Tesco was "next door" to the cut and there was a good butcher in the village - both points founded.

Blake Mere at 6am

Easy passage up through B58 and turn right through B59 to Ellesmere centre.  Saw some 'official' Tesco people at moorings who disappeared when we arrived. Into the winding point past the Shropshire Union Warehouse - a fantastic imposing relic of the old canal ways with an old crane across the cut.  Made a cock-up of turning point: threw TM into concrete bank, hey-ho no damage to either! Went to local butcher (up to town centre, turn right, down on left) who are renowned for their pies (got steak n kidney for tomorrow and free-range chicken for BBQ tonight).

Just mooring up at Ellesmere, we were collared by 2 very nice lady Tesco employees.  The store was taking part in some sort of "dine with me" scheme and there singer had let them down. I said we couldn't sing but all they asked was if we could take them down to the junction and back; for this we would get a £20 voucher for Tesco goods.  What a novelty (the journey, not the voucher!).  No probs, having done our shopping, we awaited the Tesco crew.  Really nice people,  none of which had been on board a narrow boat before (Jan said if I'd known we were to have company, I'd have cleaned the boat - think not!! Take us as you find us!)

The Tesco Team at Ellesmere

After our little cruise we moved west through Frankton Junction, where the Montgomery joins the Llangollen. From here the canal meanders along the Perry valley, the scenery is fantastic! After about an hour we came across a spot which faced south looking across beautiful countryside towards the Berwyn and Breidden Hills. We moored, got out the chairs and lit the Webber. Spatchcocked chicken salad and new potatoes for tea.
Perry Valley ant the Boarder Marches

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Great Dismal Swamp and Blake Mere

A late start this morning (again!!).  Spent a long time swapping experiences plus local knowledge of home life with our new chum Keith (Ian still in bed?) on the bank over cups of coffee and tea. By the time we set off at 11.00 the sun was almost in its zenith and very hot.

Managed to get some milk and a few supplies from the village shop at Grindley Brook and set off to hopefully moor "in the countryside".  Not bothered to go into Whitchurch as have been advised Ellesmere a closer destination to the cut for Tesco and a good local butcher.

Down past Whitchurch branch at  B31 was, what we thought, very peaceful; however the best was yet to come!

Pump out and fuel top-up at Viking Afloat, B32 and we were on our way.

Met the first lift bridge at B33 Hassell's Bridge on our own: no problem, took our time.  Next 2 lift bridges, B34 and B42 we came into sight while other boats were coming up - no work from Jan required there; however, Morris's bridge 45 had 2 boats about to come through just as Jan had opened it up - as one boater said "pay back time!".

The length of the Llangollen from Grindley Bridge to Platt Lane B43, the canal meanders through an extremely pretty length of surrounding woods, sometimes the canal banks were quite overgrown and consequently narrowed the passage; the birdsong echoes through the trees and you feel as if you are in the 'Great Dismal Swamp' (Terry Darlington - "Narrow Dog to Indian River").

Whixall Moss

From thereon the canal straightens and you float above Whixall Moss on the escarpment over a vast panorama of raised bog, pasture land and reeded areas - a specified SSSI area - where you can see for miles on both sides.  One of the most impressive views we have come cross so far.  Often seen were buzzards, one of which landed very low in a nearby oak tree; I hadn't got my camera to hand so it flew off disgusted to have missed its photo-call!

Replenished with water at B48 Bettisfield Bridge so now complete to moor 'wherever'.

From B48 the cut meanders again with wooded areas and pasture land surrounding.  After B53 Cole Mere appeared on left (sorry, port side!): a huge expanse of water with yachts and lodge to be seen on distant shore. Meandering again, we finally moored not far after B56 on the near edge of Blake Mere.  Spot has enjoyed an exciting walk along the shoreline, lots of interesting scents to follow.

Blake Mere

Fishing on Blake Mere

Monday 24th June Wrenbury to Grindley Brook

The weather forecast for Sunday was not good so we decided to stop an extra night at Wrenbury and have sunday lunch at the Dusty Miller.

St Margaret's Church from the footpath

Wrenbury is a charming village with a village green and St Margaret's Church a red sandstone 16th century church. A footpath passes through the churchyard and across the fields to the first Llangollen lift bridge.

Lift Bridge
Walking to Wrenbury from the canal you pass a new housing development on the left. I admit you could hardly call it affordable housing, but it is evidence that given the right incentives developers can build houses that look comfortable and echo the feel of the ancient properties in such a rural community.

The Dusty Miller pub sits at the point where the river Weaver crosses the Llangollen Canal. It dates back to the opening of the canal, but the site was used as a mill dating back to the 16th century. Sunday lunch was very nice if a tad expensive, but maybe we are spoiled by the standard of the carvery at the White Swan (Mucky Duck) at Fradley Junction.

It turned out that the extra day layover was a good idea as Sunday contained very strong winds and was a rainy washout. However we awoke on Monday to blue sky and sunshine with lessened hurricane winds.  Having had our first experience of lift locks on this stretch, it was fascinating to watch those experienced and hilarious to see 2 chaps of advanced ages with no experience (they had obviously had assistance in previous lift locks as they sat in the centre of the cut pumping their horn hopefully awaiting a CaRT volunteer), however another boat coming through the lock helped them and gave them a quick lesson.

Monday saw us travel the six miles from Wrenbury to Grindley Brook. The ten locks included a three lock staircase at Grindley Brook. Although the staircase is manned by a CaRT volunteer, he had gone to lunch when we arrived so we were helped through by Keith and Ian, two single handed boaters we had met at Quoisley Lock. We met them at each lock as they leapfrogged each other up the locks, the first one setting the lock for the second boat so they could motor straight in. We sat and had a beer with them once moored at Grindley Brook. It turned out that Keith was from Beeston, not far from where Jan was born. It was obvious that both Keith and Ian had spent some time traveling the waterways, Keith told us he had been living on his boat for 13 years.

Evening meal at the Horse and Jockey - local ham, free-range eggs and hand-made chips (yum said Jan). Nice open-plan pub inside and dog-friendly too.

The Llangollen Canal gets its water from the river Dee at Horseshoe Falls. The flow of water feeds Hurleston Reservoir at its junction with the Shroppie, giving the canal a noticeable flow from west to east. This flow equates to an extra 200rpm on the engine to maintain our normal cruising speed; this was very noticeable from the battle against the wind on the previous stretch.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Felucca and the Dusty Miller

The day started wet so we delayed our move onto the Llangollen Canal until the weather improved although there were a number of boats moved off Burbridge early to get underway before the weather got too bad. Although the sun came out later it was a day dominated by high winds making it difficult to steer TM. Strapped to the tiller, Spume in my face, driving TM into a Westerly Gale. We were held up for half an hour at Hurleston Locks as a boat manned by New Zealanders had lost control in the wind and managed to get wedged across the top pound (felt very sorry for them) - big queue build up with boats in below pounds being blown about. At the top of the Hurleston locks we bumped into fellow bloggers Emily and Tom on NB Felucca. We last saw them in April when we shared Aston Lock.

Emily and Tom on NB Felucca

The Llangollen is a very beautiful canal

Our final destination for the day was Wrenbury, but not before we encountered our first lift bridge. Jan forgot to put the barrier over the road - could have been a disaster! but I noticed and ran to put it down. Learnt for the next one.

Had a great meal at the Dusty Miller (Hake and mussels, Lamb Tagine) (dogs welcome)

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Barbridge in the sun

Yesterday we travelled the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Canal to Barbridge. The sun shone all day and the views from the canal over the Weaver valley were fantastic. We are moored opposite the Olde Barbridge Inn, where we had a very nice lunch yesterday. Jans 18 hour cooked belly pork was to die for.

After a day in the sun, a few pints and a nice lunch the inevitable happened, we both fell asleep on the boat, only waking at 7pm. So we did the only thing we could, we had a shower and went back to the pub.

Took this with the little cannon camera, we were so close the Buzzard didn't seem to be bothered about boats

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Salt Mines and Meeting old friends and the Clampits

We moved off this morning with the aim of getting a pump out at Middlewich then winding and moving onto the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Canal. Just as we are about to move the working boat Renaissance went by; they supply diesel, fenders, solid fuel, etc - also pump out. Had a pump out from them which saved us some time. Lovely couple, eager to please, good prices.

We started crossing the Cheshire Plains in intermittent rain but that soon stopped and we had another fine day from lunch time onwards.

Historically a salt mining area, lots of evidence appeared of the salt extraction including the British Salt works (a famous crisp company boasts contents of salt from Cheshire - famous name associated with the company is ex-footballer).

Look at the mountains of salt here and below - a few too many to fill the blue tie-bags in crisp packets!

Just as we were about to turn onto the Shroppie we saw a chandlers so Jan popped in to buy a replacement windlass. To our amazement we spotted Brenda and Mick on NB Ada Apple moored at the chandlers so we stopped and had a good chat. The last time we saw them was in Leicester last year with Lynda and Ken from Amarantine, when we were all stuck in Leicester city unable to move with the Soar in flood. We missed Lynda and Ken earlier last week when we passed their boat at Rugeley. Brenda and Mick were on their way to the Anderton Boat Lift and from there over the Pennines. It was great to catch up today, all the best for the rest of your trip chaps.
Now moored the other side of Middlewich in the middle of nowhere about to cook a fry up!

Stop Press!

Now I know we are fairly new to this boating lark, but one thing I have learnt is not to judge a book by its cover. So when we saw a rough looking boat moor up 50 yards up from us we smiled and said "hi" whilst watching them heave even more metal onto the roof of their craft. After about half an hour two lads in their twenties, an old chap and a lady of a certain age walked past us on their way we supposed to Middlewich. An hour later they returned with a stack of lager and cider. Again I like a drink myself so I don't knock others, and the fact that their dog barked constantly we could live with for now. When the lady of a certain age started dancing in the tow path in nothing but a pair of knickers we started to worry - not a pretty sight believe me! Fortunately they decided to move on, and what passed us was a strange sight: a 50ft narrow boat with two lads on it, towing a 30ft narrow boat with the old chap on it, which was towing a 20ft cruiser with the lady of a certain age lying on the roof. As they disappeared into the evening I am sure I heard banjos!

Heartbreak Hill to San Marco

Early start today as the weather is supposed to be hot and we have a few locks to do. We pulled pins at about 8:30am and reached Wheelock at 2:00pm having covered 6 miles and done 22 locks! No wonder it is known colloquially as Heartbreak Hill. Having to stop so often gave us chance to see the surrounding countryside: it is extremely well maintained rolling pasture land.

Found a great spot to moor in the shade just around the corner from the CaRT facilities. Knackered and in need of rehydration we made our way to the Cheshire Cheese Pub for a few pints then back to the boat for a rest. We used the CaRT shower facilities, not that the shower on TM is bad, but sometimes it is just nice to watch water disappearing down the plug hole without having to worry about the water tank. The facilities were very good and very clean (well done CaRT).

After our lunchtime pint we had a look at San Marco, the Italian restaurant on the waterside next to the facilities and decided that was the place for an evening meal. We were not disappointed, the food was great (real italian), obviously a popular place as it was very busy for a mid-week evening. We sat outside with Spot in the evening sunshine eating great food!

I include a photo of San Marcos taken this morning. If I had taken it last night it would have included Spot asleep on the grass.

Drizzling this morning and the forecast is not good for the next few days, but its not very reliable so we will not get to depressed about it and head off to Middlewich for supplies and a pump out then down the Middlewich Branch towards Llangollen or Chester, not sure which yet.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Harecastle Tunnel and The Red Bull

Had a pleasant, very dark and quiet night at Westport Lake. Really easy moorings, lots of wildlife (birds - Canada's particularly). Watched a chap land a 10lb Carp this morning while walking the dog (he wasn't walking the dog, I was). We set off on the last mile before the dreaded Harecastle Tunnel. As we arrived a really useful CART chap coming from the tunnel said 2 boats had just gone in. As the tunnel is one way in convoy, and it takes about an hour to get through, it looked like we were in for a two-hour wait at least! However, as we approached, the CaRT chap waved us up, opened the gate, gave us our safety chat on the move (very eloquent, lots of info but easily understood: basically if this /that goes wrong this is what you should do; paperwork completed on the hoof so as to speak) and said "on you go the other have a 5 minute start on you". As we entered the tunnel Spot gave an extremely good impression of scardy cat (in Terry Darlington's words, she hugged the floor as if she was rescuing the boat). Jan had to take her inside and close the door but ensured she could see us through the top hatch. The passage took 45 minutes during which time Spot sat at the bottom of the stairs shaking. I have to say, I don't know what all the fuss is about, Braunston is a much worse tunnel to go through.
Once through we filled up with water and decided to do 4 locks and moor near the Red Bull pub. It was hot and we didn't feel up to doing the first part of Heartbreak Hill in the blazing sun.
We will make an early start tomorrow.

Spot in the garden of The Red Bull
We seem to be building a rather good collection of photographs of Spot asleep in various pubs up and down the country

Monday, 17 June 2013

Good trip through Stoke on Trent and a wish put to bed

Moored just below B104 at Trentham last night.  Only the second boat to arrive but were later joined by another 6 or 7.  Incredibly peaceful mooring, no night sounds or light pollution.
We awoke to the sound of rain on the roof of TM, but within an hour the rain stopped and we made progress through Stoke on Trent. It turned out we had moored just around the corner from the Wedgwood Estate.
Lock 35 posed a problem: mum swan with 8 cygnets - mum came onto the bank ensuring Jan and Spot in fast retreat until I alighted with boat hook to threaten mum back onto the water. We passed through gates non-attacked!

The approach to Stoke from Trentham was much more rural than expected, even the incinerator at the A50 junction looked good. I include a photo of the incinerator because I passed it everyday on my way to work at the lab in Stoke.

The photo below records a very special moment. For five years I commuted to Stoke. Every day I would look across as I went down the A500 slip road and see a brief view of the T&M canal before mixing with the traffic. I remember thinking every day, "I wonder what it would be like to have a boat on that canal?" Today I looked back from the stern of Tilly May on the T&M canal to the same slip road. My God it feels good!

Neither of us were looking forward to the journey through Stoke on Trent. We expected it to be like Nuneaton only bigger. How wrong we were. The passage was fascinating and quite pretty most of the trip.  History of the industrialised area is so evident, most of which would be missed by car but appears to be being improved on the canal-side of the city.

Pass this sign today and couldn't resist a photo

Jan sat overlooking Westport Lake
Tonight we are moored at Westport lake, just north of Stoke. Took a walk around the lake with Spot, had leftover chicken for tea. Tomorrow Harecastle Tunnel!
We were told today that the Caldon Canal was closed for a few days because the police were having a pound drained to look for a video camera that was evidence in a death.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Trentham with the rest of the world

Today we left Stone after a 2 day stay. Yesterday I caught the bus to Stoke to go to Zoe's wedding reception and meet up with a few old friends from my days as FAL. It was nice to see them all again, I do not miss work at all.
This morning the sun shone, the seven locks out of Stone were all in our favour, most of the gates were open beckoning us in. The locks were busy but everyone was friendly and the sun shone. We travelled on the the Plume of Feathers pub and had a couple of pints of Abbott, and the sun shone. We stopped just short of Trentham on the last bit of countryside before we move through bandit country, Stoke on Trent. A full test of the Webber BBQ was undertaken, cooking a spatchcocked chicken. It passed with flying colours, and the sun shone. We thought tonight would be quite but every man and his dog had decided to moor here, and every other man, wife, kids, and dog are marching up and down the towpath.
Here are a couple of photos of the water meadow in the middle of Stone, just next to where we moored.

Friday, 14 June 2013

To the Star Inn at Stone

The weather forecast suggested that the afternoon could be a bad one, so we set off early from Salt with the intension of mooring in Stone, if we could find a space. The journey from Salt to Stone was very pleasant. The Sandon estate is beautiful and green and full of fat cattle and round sheep. The locks are deep but not difficult to handle.
After taking on water below the bottom lock at Stone, we decided to risk moving up the locks in the hope of finding a mooring, fully expecting to have to wind at the top and come back down. However just as we passed the Star lock we spotted a mooring in the perfect spot in the middle of Stone, by the park, less than 100 yards from the Star Inn.

Bridge 82 Salt

Sandon Estate

Fat Cow on Bridge

We had burger and chips in the Canal Bar of the Star Inn. A pilgrimage to Terry and Jim's pub. As a mark of respect for Jim, Spot tried to get inside a bag of Scratchings
We will be here until Sunday so we have time to have a good look around tomorrow.

Salt and a Pre-Historic Monster

First the sun shone, then the wind blew, then we had rain, more sun, more wind, more rain and finally the evening turned out to be warm sunny and very pleasant. We came across a few boats struggling in the wind. one chap tried to make a right angle bend with a strong wind pushing his boat from behind, when the stern struggled to turn across the wing he powered back to try and stop hitting the far bank. no chance! However no damage just a bit of a problem getting off the bank. I follow the Tits McGee school on this. If in bought hit the power and point the tiller at the thing you want to miss and all will be fine, most of the time. If your going to cock it up, at least do it in style and give the Gongoozlers something to laugh at.
Had a nice meal in The Holly Bush in Salt. Great home made steak and kidney pudding, and Jan had Packington pork chops with a cheese and mustard sauce. We thought that mooring so close to the railway line might give us a disturbed night, but we heard nothing.
Hoo Mill Lock

Does anyone know that plant this is? It looked almost prehistoric.

Short hope to STone today, we will stop there until Sunday as we have a do to go to in Hanley on Saturday.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Just missed old friends at Rugely

I have some concerns over the security of Tilly May. When the stern door is locked with the Yale lock it can be opened with a few sharp jiggles. After much thought the best solution was to drill a hole through the brass runner at the right point so when the slider is closed a padlock can be put through the hole preventing the roof from being opened. All I have to do is find someone who can drill the hole. This morning as I walked through Fradley Junction I saw a chap wrestling with a hose. "Don't suppose you know where I can find a chap to drill a hole in my boat?" "What sort of hole?" "About the size of my little finger, drilled through the runner". "I'll do it, just pull in here on your way up". So after filling with water, we stopped behind his boat, he popped out with a drill and did the job perfectly. "How much do I owe you?" "Nowt, just do a lock for me some day". I don't even know his name, such a nice chap, thanks who ever you are.
We needed a few provisions so decided to stop at Rugely. As we approached the town moorings we spotted NB Amarantine moored facing Fradley. We haven't seen Lynda and Ken since we were stuck in Leicester last summer. Unfortunately we didn't see them today either. The boat was locked, we did our shopping and hung around for an hour but no sign. Unfortunately we have a do to go to in Stoke so could not stay any longer. Such a shame, we so wanted to meet up with you again chaps. Hopefully our paths will cross again before the summers out. All the very best Lynda and Ken (we did leave a note but the rain may have made it unreadable).
Just after Rugely we came across a boat firmly run aground. The couple looked like they had been there for some time, so after a couple of attempts we managed to tow them free with the help of another boater with a boat pole from the bank.
We are now moored just outside Little Haywood with no other boats in sight. I tested the new Weber BBQ by cooking the massive steaks purchased from Cotes in Alrewas. It turned out we were not so alone as we first thought.

Its been a long hard day with a far bit of rain, poor Spot can take no more

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Fradley and the Duck Invasion

The invasion

Up early, kettle on, tea made, side hatch opened, grab stick and beat back the invading ducks. The carefully planned bird attack took the form of a pincer movement, with a drake coming in through the stern door and a duck (with drake back-up) through the side hatch. Fortunately they had underestimated our fire power. Cry "havoc and unleash the dogs of war!" and Spot came flying out of the bedroom and drove them back into the cut.

Slow start from Alrewas mooring although preceded by visit to local butcher (Coates - has own abattoir and sells only locally produced meat of very high quality) to ensure we don't starve on our journey.

Misty rain developed but being sure Tits Magee would take no notice of inclement weather we set off; the weather improved and became brighter and warmer as the day wore on.

Fradley Junction by 2pm, the Mucky Duck by 2:15pm. Jan left me spouting bollocks in the pub to take Spot for a walk. Back to Tilly May topped up with 4 pints of Abbott Ale. Fell asleep while Jan again took Spot for a walk.

Lamb and mint pie in the pub for tea (too late to BBQ steaks bought earlier from Coates): highly recommended top pub grub, washed down with more Abbott Ale. Life is hard!
I have included a few photos taken early this morning at Alrewas.

It's now 9:30pm and some kind sole has just started his engine on the boat opposite us - Joy!