This morning we went to church, since being away on our travels this is the first time we have managed to find ourselves in the right place on a Sunday. Excuses, excuses you all say but we have been keeping up with Tamworth Baptist Church’s sermon podcasts on the internet.
I must say there was a warm welcome at St Paul’s Fazeley, even if the atmosphere was a bit chilly.
No, not a central heating failure, but culmination of their week long Holiday Club “Polar Explorers”. The children seem to have had a great time learning about the diverse people who become Jesus’ disciples with the help of Sir Random Finds and Bare Feet not to mention Jeff the Polar Bear.
Returning to the boat we sampled some more of our Greek Week buys, Saganaki, cheese croquettes for lunch before bearing left onto the Coventry Canal once again and were at Glascote Locks in 40 minutes. There was enough traffic to make the transit easy, one boat up then one down and just after 2pm we stopped near The Gate pub at Amington as the temperature was soaring and we felt the need of a bit of shade.
We sat out the heat of the afternoon and just before 6pm we set off again with a little breeze to cool things down.
Reaching Alvecote the Historic Boat Gathering was in full swing, with a singer belting out rock & roll favourites from the balcony of The Samuel Barlow, our music era, but not at that volume.
We squeezed through the moored boats and debated whether to stop at Polesworth but in the end we pressed on home to our mooring and arrived at 8:20 just before the light started fading.
This morning we made one last trip on the Midland Classic No. 2 bus to visit Lidl who started their Greek Week today and given our love of Greek food we had to go and snap up some of their offers. Notwithstanding this excursion we left Horninglow by 11:20 but not before three boats had passed us and we caught up with them all at Dallow Lock the longest queue of our trip. It gave us the chance to have our lunch of Tirispanakopitta or cheese and spinach pastry swirl as Lidl refer to it.
At Shobnall Basin we were again reminded what Burton is famous for and a little further on a sign entreated us that it was not too late to visit the Brewery Museum as we could moor up and get a bus back from Branston. Yes, the very village in which the famous pickle was first made in 1922
Today’s journey was 7¾ miles and six locks ending with a return to a short section of the river Trent before mooring just above Alrewas Lock for the night. [pronounced Al-ree-was I believe, although I like to call it Ole Walrus!]
Jade was allowed out to explore and she rewarded us by bringing in a live mouse which she promptly let escape under the settee.
She lost interest and went to sleep when she couldn’t find it again. Fortunately it showed up by the TV later and allowed me to catch it and give it it’s freedom.
Friday 25th August
We debated about spending another day at Alrewas but decided to carry on through another five locks to Fradley Junction where we turned left onto Coventry Canal (Detached Portion) [a quirk of canal history] as far as Huddlesford, near the Plough Inn.
Saturday 24th August
We were rudely awaken at 4:15 am by a boat passing with a bright headlight and a noisy engine which we seemed to be able to hear for ever. Unable to get back to sleep we read for an hour or more before dropping back off.
Despite (or because of) this were away by 9:30 this morning and enjoyed a lock-free day’s cruise. At Whittington Brook the canal becomes the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, not that you’d know, and all was going splendidly until the boat in front of us broke down just before a bridge though which another boat was approaching. Evasive action was taken but not without us getting our propeller well and truly fouled with rubbish, we limped through the bridge and found the visitor moorings the other side there completely empty so we tied up and cleared the prop through the weed hatch.
Coincidentally we found ourselves between two pubs, one on each side of the canal, so as it was gone half eleven we repaired to the Red Lion (the more homely of the two establishments) for brunch.
Suitably fortified we completed the 2½ miles to Fazeley by 1:20 and moored opposite Peels Wharf which until recently housed C&RT’s local offices but is now up for sale.
C&RT Advise: The Fazeley waterway office is now closed, the water point and elsan is still open but the bin compound is closed. Please do not leave rubbish here. The next recycling facility can be found at Grendon Bridge 49, Fradley Junction and Cambrian Wharf.
Tonight we treated ourselves to a Chinese Takeaway from the Fortune Garden just five minutes from our mooring.
So… After our brief stopover at Mercia Marina we left this morning with washing done, batteries charged, water tank full and poo tank empty and returned to Willington Visitor Moorings as we had arranged a grocery delivery from Morrisons this evening.
So there we were watching the world go by when we heard a call “Hello Joy”, “Hello Chris” and there was nb Jubilee passing en route to the IWA Festival at Ilkeston over the bank holiday weekend.
Later Jan surprised us by popping in (they had moored about ¼ mile away) and came in for a cup of tea while John cycled back to Branston for the car.
Jan kindly invited us for an evening meal but since we were expecting Morrisons we ‘reversed’ the invitation and we produced a Mushroom and Green Pepper Stroganoff on Wrens-Nest.
Jan contributed some extra mushrooms and a sponge for desert and we enjoyed a really pleasant evening.
Tuesday 22nd August
After a quiet day yesterday we had a late-ish start at 11am and had a lock free journey, cruising up to Horninglow Basin where we were tied up by half past twelve on the visitor mooring just past the basin.
In the afternoon we decided that we would go and a take a look at The National Brewery Centre, we found that we had just missed the bus which would take us almost directly there so we decided to walk.
Big mistake, we were in need of a drink before the tour of the centre!
The museum and buildings were very interesting though and at £8.95 each for us ‘Seniors’ we thought it good value especially as it included 3 beer tokens each so you can sample a variety of their wares in The Brewery Tap.
Needless to say we caught the bus back from outside Sainsburys!
Today we ventured into town again, after cooking a ‘Full English’ to sustain us, but we were now more savvy about the bus service although I had to watch out, as the (lady) bus driver was very covetous of my trilby.
We had a snack of tea, hot chocolate and fruit toast at Muffin Break and had a wander around the town. Joy bought a new bag and splashed out £2 for a T shirt for me in Primark, but the rest of our purchases were mainly edible.
This morning we patronised the Rose & Crown for breakfast, good value with Sausage, Bacon, Hash brown, Egg, Beans, Tomatoes, Mushrooms & toast £3.95 per person for their Regular Breakfast .
Feeling well fed we stepped outside to the bus stop and caught the ‘Skylink’ to Nottingham (via East Midlands Airport) and spent the day exploring the city shops but didn’t find a lot to excite us, however Joy bought a new top and a jacket at Primark.
We made our way up to the Castle area and called into Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, the oldest inn in England, dating back to 1189AD. We were delighted to find that they had Wren’s Nest bitter on tap, from Howard Town Brewery in Glossop, so naturally we were obliged to sample it and can report that it was most enjoyable. We had been told of it’s existence about 3 years ago (previous blog post) but this was our first chance to sample it.
Many people believe the pub is named ‘Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem’ because people made a trip to Jerusalem from here. In fact the word “trip” does not mean a journey in this case.
An old meaning for ‘trip’ is a stop on a journey, like being tripped up, so the inn’s name means a stop or rest on the way to Jerusalem.
The pub is famous for its caves, carved out of the soft sandstone rock against which the building is set. The larger ground level caverns are now used as the pub’s rear drinking rooms.
Before catching the bus back we walked along the canal area quite well presented but we thought it wasn’t somewhere we would like to stop overnight.
Tuesday 15th August
After two nights at Zouch we departed at 9am today headed for Trent Junction, five more locks if you include two more open Flood Locks stopping at Kegworth Marine to fill up with diesel at the excellent price of 61p/litre before duty.
Just before Trent Junction, we rounded the corner and saw a boat on the ‘wrong’ side headed into Redhill Marine, wait… I know those faces, it was Cookie and Russell from our home mooring arriving to collect Russell’s latest acquisition, a little Springer Waterbug.
We made the turn onto the scarily wide Trent and had hoped to moor on the pontoon moorings there but they were all full so we pressed on to Sawley Lock which is manned, duplicated and automated and we were soon through without having to get off the boat.
Sawley moorings were full too so it was off to Dewent Mouth where we joined the Trent & Mersey canal, back onto ‘muddy ditches’!
At Derwent Mouth Lock we caught up with Katie-Marie, a hire boat crewed by a German couple who we had shared a few locks with on the Soar. Fifteen minutes later we were in Shardlow, and hurrah, an empty mooring, right outside The New Inn and The Malt Shovel.
We hadn’t been there but a couple of hours and around the corner came Cookie & Russ with the Waterbug in tow.
Wednesday 16th August
Today we caught the bus into Derby which we enjoyed visiting, we enjoyed sausage/saveloy and chips in the food court of the intu shopping centre, later I got myself a haircut at a Turkish barbers.
On getting back to Shardlow, we saw an artist painting opposite the pubs, wonder if she included our boat?
This evening we took part in the quiz at The New Inn and distinguished ourselves by coming last, well it was only the two of us and some teams had up to eight members.
Thursday 17th August
We left Shardlow this morning and watered up opposite the iconic Clock Warehouse, now another pub.
Shardlow is considered Britains most complete surviving example of a canal village, with over 50 Grade II listed buildings and a large number of surviving public houses within the designated Shardlow Wharf Conservation Area. Wikipedia
5.80 miles, 4h26m & 4 Locks today ending up at Swarkestone Visitor Moorings a pleasant enough spot, once the freight trains stopped rattling by!
Friday 18th August
Just five miles and one lock today, Stenson Lock were we were met by a Volunteer lock-keeper who asked if we would mind waiting a few minutes as there were eight boats waiting to come down (perhaps due to the upcoming IWA Festival at Ilkeston?) and he could fill the lock quicker if it was empty.
By the time they had brought the two boats down a hire boat had joined us and we went up together, there were 3 Vo-lockies so we could all stay on board. The hire-boaters were first timers and asked for advice as they had never turned a boat round before and they had to return it to Sawley Marina the next day. There’s a winding hole marked in the guide before the lock but it is now clearly signed No Turning. I think they turned in Mercia Marina’s entrance as it’s good and wide.
We carried on to Willington, a nice little town with pubs, Indian restaurant, chippy, a Co-op and even closer to the railway line! We arrived at the same time as a sudden heavy rain-shower which of course stopped as soon as we had tied up.
Saturday 19th August
We turned around this morning and headed back to Mercia Marina as we wanted to use their facilities. We have the luxury of electricity and water on the pontoon, a laundry room and shower block nearby.
It’s a huge marina with a bar, restaurant, coffee shop, shops and chandlery and currently being further expanded to include another restaurant and six more retail units.
This afternoon we enjoyed a visit from Dave & Maureen from Nottingham, friends who share our love for the Greek island of Skiathos whom we haven’t seen for many years. We had a good time catching up with each others news and they brought us a gift of some veggies from their allotment which we had with our evening meal.
This morning the river level had dropped by about an inch and two other boats came up the lock so we decided to go while the lock was ready for us. 8½ miles and 5 locks today (6 if you count Pillings Flood Lock) which was open, quite a weird sensation cruising through.
We stopped outside the Boat Inn at Loughborough for lunch, but decided to move on a bit closer to the town as we were right opposite a kids playground and some pre-teen boys and girls were screaming and shouting at each other. In fact we found a nice spot just before the junction to Loughborough Basin with easy access to the nearby Aldi through the industrial estate.
Friday 11th August
Today was a ‘rest’ day and Joy & Iona went down town for some girly-time at the shops and a visit to Creations Pottery where Iona produced a Penguin!
When they returned I cooked a not-very chilli con carne as Iona had found the Indian food too hot for her taste, however this meal had sweet chilli sauce added at the table to ‘adjust to taste’.
Saturday 12th August
This morning we packed a picnic and set off for a day at the Great Central Railway and travelled to Leicester and back, we were hauled by a diesel but there were lots of steam photo opportunities.
When we returned to Loughborough we were able to have a tour around the locomotive repair workshop where they are repairing several locos, including Boscastle. Our guide was very kind and even let Iona & Grandpa up on the footplate of Witherslack Hall.
Jeremy arrived later in the afternoon to take Iona back to his boat to do Tardebigge Locks tomorrow, she should sleep for a week after doing them!
Sunday 13th August
After another trip to Aldi we left at about half past eleven this morning, and had help at both Loughborough and Bishop Meadow Lock, I must be looking old as a family on a cruiser insisted on working us through the first one and a young lass closed the gate for me at Bishop Meadow.
This next part of our journey was reminiscent of the Thames, with impressive riverside properties, both homes and holiday chalets. Normanton Church was snapped as we passed and at Zouch (apparently pronounced Zotch) we entered another canal section and have moored just before Zouch Lock.
In the evening we went to a surprise 70th birthday celebration for our friend Carol, her daughter drove over to collect us and we enjoyed a Chinese meal with them all.
Sunday 6th August
This afternoon our son Jeremy arrived with his children to drop off our granddaughter for a week with us, this time we went out for an Indian meal what else?) at The Owl and the Pussycat.
Quite the unique experience, authentic Indian food in a typical large city pub!
Monday 7th August
We took another trip to the city centre today with Iona, and had wraps and sandwiches for lunch at Pret a Manger, and visited the covered market for fruit and veg.
Tuesday 8th August
We had intended to leave the marina today but the rain persisted all day so we stayed put, Joy & Iona did arty stuff and we watched the ‘Sound of Music’ on DVD in the evening, something I’ve avoided for the last 50 years!
Now we’ve got a ‘Lonely Goatherd’ earworm!
Wednesday 9th August
The rain stopped (!!!) so at midday we cast off and left the marina after filling our water tank, in just a few minutes we arrived at Thurmaston Lock which was negotiated without any problem despite the river being on yellow boards.
We stopped for lunch near The Hope & Anchor and debated whether to continue onwards so we went on the canalised section, past L R Harris’ Old Junction Boatyard where we spotted nb Rainbows End again.
When we arrived at Junction Lock we found the river below here to be on ‘Red Boards’ so we are moored on the rings opposite the weir to see if the level drops tomorrow.
Oh My Goodness, it’s August already! We took another short trip today, this was new territory for us and were able to enjoy the views on this stretch. We found a lovely spot to moor, just short of Saddington Tunnel, and spent the afternoon and night there in splendid isolation and although there was a minor road nearby it was very peaceful.
Wednesday 2nd August
We were off at 9:30 this morning and passed through the die-straight Saddington Tunnel and soon found ourself at Kibworth Top Lock where a C&RT man was ‘letting water down’ to restore water levels further down the flight. We had to wait a few minutes but he told us there was a lady boater a couple of locks ahead who would appreciate sharing locks with us (these are wide locks) and sure enough she was waiting for us with the lock prepared for us to go straight in and we introduced ourselves to Wenna & Molly the dog.
We made good progress and we soon got into a routine where she would go ahead in her smaller and nippier boat and prepare the next lock while I closed up after us.
We reached our destination of Kilby Bridge 12 locks later at quarter to four and Joy and I rewarded ourselves with a drink at The Navigation where they have a reasonably priced menu but we opted to cook a veggie Penang curry on board and put our feet up for the evening.
Thursday 3rd August
Up and away at 10:00 this morning in the company of nb Rainbows End again and at the second lock (Double Rail Lock) we found another C&RT employee adjusting the water levels, he had a trio of gongoozling horses here who he said usually tried to bite him although they were friendly enough to me!
Another dozen locks today through varying rural and townscapes, we had rain showers at lunchtime and stopped below Gees Lock to share some jacket potatoes which Joy had cooked as we travelled along.
We joined the River Soar for part of the journey and finished our journey at Castle Gardens Moorings which are secured by gated access into the park. The city centre moorings were a far cry from our usual spots with traffic noise, motorbike on the towpath and sirens through the night but we were snug aboard our boat.
Friday 4th August
Another 9:30 start this morning, just 4 locks today as we alternated between river and canal, one stretch of canal was really black and polluted and we picked up rubbish on our propeller but there was no way I was putting my hand in that water so it had to wait, I got some of it off by going into reverse and trying to ‘chuck it off’.
We had booked a few nights in Leicester Marina on the recommendation of Jan Pickles Price who is a licensed canal Roving Trader selling crochet goodies as “Nancy May Crochet” from her boat Drifter, so we bade farewell to Wenna & Molly at Birstall lock, we have enjoyed their company and hope to meet up again.
By mid-day we negotiated our way into Leicester Marina where we were welcomed and allocated a berth at the very reasonable rate of £6 per night.