Tuesday 29 September

We can recommend the meals at The Black Swan, especially the burgers!

Last night’s red sky was quite spectacular and we weren’t surprised when the sun shone again today, once the early morning fog had lifted.

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We reached our destination at lunch time today and we’re now ready to head off to Chester tomorrow morning for a few days of babysitting.   Summer took a tumble over the handlebars of her bike last Friday and I’m delighted to say that today she has returned to her normal self after giving us cause for concern over the last few days and is finally eating and drinking again.

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Monday 28 September

Another foggy cold start so we donned fleeces and were underway by 9.30am. The washing machine was on again in the hope that the sun would show itself later.

We wended our way through Burton on Trent, and on past  Barton Turns Marina by which time the sun was shining and the fleeces had been swapped for sunglasses, and out onto the River Trent for about a mile before re-entering the canal. At Alrewas the warm sunshine had encouraged boaters to stop for lunch and quite a few were picnicking on the towpath.

We didn’t wish to stop and so carried on to Fradley where there was plenty of room to moor.

Entering our last lock of the day

Entering our last lock of the day

As it was such a nice day we treated ourselves to an ice-cream from the café opposite our mooring and tonight we’re treating ourselves to a meal at The Black Swan.   This is something we promised ourselves when we passed this way earlier this month.

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Fradley in the late afternoon sunshine

We’ve done 25 miles and 15 locks since leaving Shardlow yesterday morning and we’ve just got 8 miles and 3 locks to do tomorrow before we catch a train to Chester on Wednesday.

 

Sunday 27 September

When we woke we felt a bit chilly as after yesterday’s high temperature we’d not banked the fire up at bed time and the stove had gone out.   As it was thick fog this morning we didn’t rush off.

After a Skype call to Laura and to my Mum, we said goodbye to Pip and Mick and reversed back to the winding hole, winded, and headed off into the fog, back the way we’d travelled yesterday, switching on the washing machine as we left.

We didn’t have anyone to share Shardlow Lock with but we shared the next two locks with a hire boat. There was a volunteer lock keeper on duty at Weston Lock who had prepared the lock ready for us.   After this our lock buddy stopped for water and so we continued on again alone towards Swarkestone and caught up another boat so shared a lock with them, after which they pulled in at Ragley Boat Stop (a pub with good moorings and electricity for boaters). By now the fog had lifted and the sun was shining again.

We arrived at Stenson Lock to find a widebeam in the lock. There were three volunteer lock-keepers on duty here and a lot of people standing around watching the action.

By the time the wide beam had left the lock we were ready to enter, a boat came up behind us with music blaring and a young couple on board. The young lady got off to operate the lock. One of the lock-keepers opened the ground paddle for her and suggested that it would be best if the young lady didn’t open the gate paddle immediately but the young lady knew better and didn’t heed the advice.   With that the volunteer lock-keeper walked away, as did her two colleagues and they didn’t reappear.

The young couple didn’t engage in conversation with anyone around the lock, nor did they turn down their music, and as the lock filled with water they edged their boat further and further forward and when the lock gates opened, the young lady got back on board and the boat sped off, leaving someone else to close the lock gate behind them and me on the non-towpath side of the lock.   I closed my gate, and walked back round the lock, closed her gate, and got back on board. In five years of boating, I don’t think we have ever encountered such inconsiderate boaters before! I hope we don’t bump into them again.

We carried on to Willington, stopped for water before moving off into open countryside and mooring up early so that we could make the most of the late afternoon sunshine to dry our load of washing.

The hedgerow beside us was still well stocked with brambles and so I picked a jug full which I’ll cook and strain later.

 

 

Saturday 26 September

Our Nicholson’s canal guide book suggested there was a store in Swarkestone, so we delayed breakfast to go and pick up our Saturday newspaper.

We saw Swarkestone’s main feature; its 18th century five arch stone bridge over the main channel of the River Trent and the elevated stone causeway that takes the road on stone arches all the way across the Trent’s flood plain to the village of Stanton (about half a mile away).

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We learnt that Swarkestone was the southern most point visited by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Scottish uprising of 1745 where he gave up his attempt to gain the English throne.

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We didn’t find the store but there was a garage on the main road but they only had tabloid papers such as The Sun and The Star and we were directed to walk to the nearby village of Chellaston (a fifteen minute brisk walk away). This walk involved navigating a large pedestrian-unfriendly roundabout over the A50.   Having eventually found our paper we returned to the boat for breakfast.

By now the early morning mist had lifted and a cloudless sky heralded another warm day so we set off to meet up with Pip and Mick at Shardlow. We shared all but the first lock of the day which made our journey easier as we only had to open paddles and gates at one side of the wide locks.

After we’d passed under the A50 we spotted two familiar figures walking towards us and we stopped to pick them up. After hugs and kisses we continued on for the final half mile to Shardlow where we moored up in front of NB Lillyanne. The Wasp re-united.

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We sat on Blackbird’s stern and enjoyed a cup of tea and a catch up and I gave Pip a little gift of some Cadbury’s chocolate fingers! She was most appreciative and passed them round to have with our tea.

Our catch up continued later in the pub when we went to The Malt Shovel for a drink and as they didn’t do meals we ended up in The Shakespeare where we enjoyed a very tasty and reasonably priced meal.

Friday 25 September

We arrived back on board just after lunch today after two weeks away.

During that time I’ve been to Es Castell in Menorca with my Mum for a fun week in the sun where we had a lovely time wining and dining in style.

The view from our apartment of Cala Fonts, Es Castell

The view from our apartment of Cala Fonts, Es Castell

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Gin & tonics!

Gin & tonics!

Storm has been working as he still has one architectural project on the go, despite having officially retired six years ago. This project is for four Code 6 houses and work on one house is underway on site. Storm visits whenever he is home to check on progress and resolve any queries that have arisen from the build process. This three double bedroom house will provide the eventual owner with a zero carbon dwelling (ie generating its own electricity), a workplace, and an allotment that should be capable of growing sufficient fruit and vegetables to support a family of four for a year.

We’ve been trying to buy a smaller house in Beverley and after a frustrating couple of months we’ve learnt today that this isn’t going to be possible. At least we now know what we’re not going to be doing and so we need to make a plan of action for the immediate future.

The first thing we’re going to do is meet up with Pip and Mick tomorrow.   We’ve arranged to meet at Shardlow which is only about eleven miles and five locks from Willington. When our two boats are together (one black and one yellow) we refer to them collectively as “The Wasp”.

As it was such a nice sunny afternoon today we decided to start our journey towards Shardlow and so after stocking up with supplies at the village shop and filling our tank with water, we headed off.   Four miles and one lock later we moored up on the outskirts of Swarkestone for the night, just far enough away from the railway line to be able to get a good night’s sleep.

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Wednesday 9 September

After last night’s pies we had a light breakfast and went for a stroll to Stenson Lock, which is about two miles ahead of us on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

We had medicinal Magnum’s at the lock side café in an attempt to cool down. Max enjoyed sharing Storm’s (well he finished it off for him!).

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We saw another Wasp but it was an interloper.

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Tuesday 8 September

We had a ‘business’ day just dealing with emails and future arrangements before we headed off to The Green Man at tea-time to meet up with friends who live nearby.

We first met David & Sandra in 2010 before we set off on this adventure when we stayed with them for three nights before the boat launch and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

I’d been in contact with David and we’d arranged to catch up over a meal and a pint in their preferred pub in the village. David had kept it a secret from Sandra and she was delighted to see us.

Tuesday night is “Pie Night” there and we were lucky to find a table as we’d not booked.   The award winning ‘Parson’s pies’ were very popular and we had a choice of three different fillings to choose from. We settled for two Beef & Mustard Grain and Two Beef & Merlot. The other option was Lamb & Mint. The pies were superb and we’re happy to recommend these to everyone.

We had a lovely couple of hours with them exchanging news and we discovered that its Sandra’s birthday tomorrow and she’d been baking all day in readiness.

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David had managed to smuggle out some cup cakes for us and two of them had fresh cream in so they just had to be eaten today and so after David & Sandra left, we took the buns back to the boat and had them for pudding. They were yummy. We resisted the temptation to polish the others off and put them in the fridge for tomorrow.