Another lovely sunny morning. There were some juicy blackberries just waiting to be picked and so we collected a large jug full. (Storm doesn’t like all the seeds they contain and so I cooked them and then sieved them and left the juice to cool before adding some apple and banana and blitzing it in the blender with some natural yoghurt to make a smoothie – yummy!)
We left our mooring in Alrewas and headed for the lock where the canal joins the River Trent for about a mile. After heavy rain this section of the canal is prone to flooding and so can cause the canal to be closed. Today, however, the indicator boards showed that it was safe to proceed.
Storm walked Max across the raised towpath and enjoyed the view of the flood plain right and left and I steered the boat to Wychnor Lock where the canal leaves the river again.
The busy and noisy A38 runs alongside the canal for about two miles where the speed of the traffic is quite scary after our canal speed of up to 4 mph.
We passed Barton Turns Marina from where we first set out on this adventure on Tuesday 9 February 2010 and headed south. Today we passed heading north and past a factory with lots of nicely stacked pallets.
After another four locks we entered the suburbs of Burton on Trent where the smell of malt assaulted our nostrils before we saw any hint of the breweries there. We could have stopped and taken a tour of one of the breweries but we carried on into open countryside as far as Willington. Who told these birds to line up so neatly?
Having moored up safely we headed off on foot to enjoy the sunshine. Mercia Marina opened in 2008 and is now the largest inland marina in the country. Its existence is due to Toyota’s decision to open a factory nearby and the need for an improved transport infrastructure meant that gravel was extracted here for the building works leaving a big hole in the ground. We sat and enjoyed an ice-cream while we enjoyed this view across the marina.
Willington village supports three pubs and they have all undergone a make-over in the last five years and it suggests that the village is benefitting from the increased contribution to the local economy.
There is also a railway station here which lies very close to the canal and we will be catching a train from here on Friday to return home for a couple of weeks. Our cruising log will continue on the 26th September.
Last night we were able to enjoy for free much of the nearby fabulous Festival of Fireworks at Catton Hall, Walton on Trent. The pyrotechnics lasted for well over an hour. Apparently this is an annual spectacle not to be missed.
This morning we got out our cruising diary from 2010 and realized that our memories have failed us both as we read that we have stopped in the village of Hopwas before and discovered then that there was no shop and apparently visited both pubs at that time. Oh dear, I hope this isn’t the first since of senility! Storm’s more worried that I can’t remember as he tells me that he relies on me to tell him where he is!
On a more positive note though the Summer has returned today as the sun is shining so the stove has been allowed to go out and the additional clothing layers have been put back in the wardrobe for now.
We left Fradley and moved down four locks, and about a mile and a half, to the pretty, village of Alrewas. This afternoon we enjoyed a leisurely stroll round the village and were treated to a spitfire looping the loop as part of the National RAF Service Parade at the National Memorial Arboretum here on the outskirts of the village.
We also walked around the church and found this little window, which we learnt was the lepers’ window, allowing them to partake with what was happening in the church from outside. This has since been glazed with modern stained glass.
We also spotted this newly fledged sparrow that was clinging on to the hedge for grim death and as it wasn’t there when we walked back we hope it had learnt to fly!
It was reassuring that I could remember parts of this village from our first ever visit here in February 2010. This is where we spent our first night out on the cut on our own boat after we left Barton Turns Marina following our boat launch.
Whittington was the next village beside the canal and this boasted a village store so we moved the boat early to try to get a paper before they sold out.
From the canal the village doesn’t look particularly exciting as it is flanked by a lot of 70’s housing, but it must have been serendipity that led us here.
The heart of the village is very pretty and the sight that met our eyes as we approached the village centre excited Storm. There were over twenty five classic cars parked up with their engines running, preparing to go on a mini tour of the village to announce the opening of the local country fete. They were all in good condition and amongst them was an Austin 7, Lagonda, Ford Capri, Riley Elf, Mini, Metro, MG Magnette, Sunbeam Talbot, Morris Minor and a Morris Traveller. New cars just don’t provide the same excitement as each of these cars had a different engine sound, their horns all sounded different notes, and the smell of oil and petrol as they all pulled away made us nostalgic. As the drivers pulled away they all gave us a cheery wave.
After the excitement was over we returned to the boat, only sorry that we hadn’t taken the camera or our phones with us!
We then headed off again towards Fradley Junction. We passed the end of the Wyrley & Essington Canal where the width of the canal was restricted due to the number of moored boats, and arrived at Fradley Junction at lunchtime. We will be visiting The Swan pub tonight – a famous canal landmark. This is probably one of the most photographed public houses on the canal.
We were last here on 25 September 2010.
After a cooked breakfast we left Polesworth, passing Pooley Hall on our left and pausing briefly at the Pooley Fields Heritage Centre to find out more. Unfortunately the Centre and Cafe were closed but we learnt that this was once a coalfield and is now being developed into a country park and nature reserve with extensive footpaths and cycle-ways. The park extends to both sides of the canal and for about a mile north of the M42 motorway.
Moving off again we immediately passed under the motorway and soon passed Alvecote Marina. Over 20 years ago a gang of about a dozen of us hired a boat for a weekend from here – I can’t remember where we headed for!
Reaching Tamworth the canal takes a wide sweep south westwards Fazeley Junction and down the two Glascote locks. Here we encountered two boats coming up and the second boat didn’t wait for us to exit the top lock before they emptied the bottom lock for themselves. The skipper gave his wife some grief because she wasn’t paying attention! She was very apologetic.
At Fazeley Junction we stopped for water as we’d done another load of washing yesterday and we‘d both had showers.
Fazeley Junction with Blackbird moored on the water point on the left.
Over the years we’ve acquired three space saving hoses and in the last month we’ve had pipe failure with three of them. Today there was more water squirting over the towpath than there was entering our water tank. So today we had to bin one, repair another, and the third is awaiting a trip home as we need a grab ring for it, which we think is sitting in a box in our garage! Fingers crossed we don’t have any more problems in the short term.
Whilst the tank was filling, I popped into Tolson’s Wool Mill to drool over their selection. I managed to resist temptation and drag myself away without buying anything as I still haven’t used up what I bought last time.
By mid afternoon we’d reached the village of Hopwas and as we’d not stopped here before, we moored up for the day.
It was quite a sleepy village where not a lot happens.
We climbed up to the unusual brick church on Hopwas Hill and admired the view over the Tame Valley before then following the road and crossing the river and walking through the pretty village that is surrounded by lightly wooded open fields.
Our guide book suggests there is a store in the village but sadly this is no longer the case and we will have to seek our newspaper from somewhere else in the morning.
The Barge & Bridge pub in Atherstone is still standing but has been closed for some years now and so we visited The Maid of the Mill last night and got a friendly welcome from one of the regulars who was here when we last visited in July last year (not that he remembered us!).
This morning after a bowl of porridge we moved off to the top of Atherstone locks and filled up with water again before heading down the flight of 11 locks. There was some confusion amongst the four volunteer lock-keepers whether there was a boat coming up the flight at Lock 4 as the bottom gates of locks 2 and 3 had been left open.
A quick jog down the towpath by me to check what was confirmed that there was no-one coming up and so bottom gates were closed and top paddles opened and we continued our descent of the locks.
Lock Four, Atherstone
As we left Lock 6, we met the fuel boat waiting for us to vacate the lock and bought some coal from him. After that there was a steady stream of boats heading towards us and so we passed quickly through the remaining five locks.
The Coal Boat
At Lock 10, there was a tree on the lockside laden with plums and we now have a crumble cooking.
Black clouds hovered overhead at lunch-time but it didn’t rain although there was a strange hue to the light quality for the rest of the afternoon, something like you see when there is a solar eclipse. There was certainly no sign of the sunshine we were hoping for.
We continued on to Polesworth where we moored up for the night. We’re still in Warwickshire at the moment although we’ll pass into Staffordshire tomorrow.
After a good night’s sleep we woke as our neighbours moved off. After breakfast Max and I went off to find a post box for a couple of letters and then we moved the boat down to the water tap beside the Barley Mow pub. With a full tank we headed off through Newbold Tunnel (250 yards) and onto Hawkesbury Junction (11.5 miles)
Yesterday the BBC weatherman said that the first of September heralds the start of the meteorological Autumn and this morning it certainly felt like it had arrived as a cool breeze fanned our faces and we donned long sleeves, fleeces and Storm even wore a hat.
The Crewe to Euston railway line kept us company for most of the way and we passed under the M6 and the M69 as the canal wound its way north-westerwards towards Bedworth.
We passed a number of elegant iron bridges that occur periodically and which mark the course of the old Oxford Canal prior to its 1820’s shortening when its length was reduced by about a third between Braunston and Coventry to help it remain competitive with the rest of the canal network.
We passed through the stop lock at Hawkesbury Junction which lowered us about a foot from the waters of the Oxford Canal into the those of the Coventry Canal. We’d intended stopping here but the moorings were all taken and so we turned right at the junction and skirted round Bedworth and Nuneaton.
The site of the Warwickshire Canal Carrying Company commands that you slow down to the admire the fun that someone has had in creating a kind of canalside wonderland from someone else’s rubbish.
Once out of Nuneaton we caught a glimpse of Mount Judd, the largest mountain of waste built with spoil from the Old Judkin’s Quarry.
We passed the CRT’s Harthill yard – a wharf of attractive mellow canal architecture with a splendid clock tower and old dock.
We then passed Boudica’s final battlefield at Mancetter before arriving into Atherstone at about 5.30pm, having travelled a total of 21.5 miles today.
This evening we lit the stove to keep us warm and to help today’s washing load.
Five days in Chester whizzed by as we had so much fun partying with family for Summer’s birthday.
2015 – Four Generations
We arrived back into Rugby at lunch-time today and after shopping in Tesco we moved the boat about a mile to Newbold on Avon, while the weather was fine.
By early evening it was raining heavily leaving the towpath awash.