Friday, 30 October

It was very gloomy this morning and this probably explained why we didn’t stir until 9am. The stove had gone out overnight but this was no hardship as the outside temperature is amazingly mild for this time of year. We took the opportunity to sweep the chimney.

We moved the boat a mile to Pendeford Bridge where there are 48 hour mooring rings and we’d identified this as a good place to access public transport.

Tomorrow we’re planning to go to RAF Cosford to visit the aircraft museum there and their website suggests arriving by train as it lies on the Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury railway line.

The village of Bilbrook is a half mile walk from our mooring and it has a railway station with trains to Cosford.

This afternoon we walked into Bilbrook to have a look at the station and to see how you acquire train tickets.   Well the short answer is – you don’t!

The station is unusual in that the pedestrian access to the Wolverhampton bound line is separated from the Shrewsbury bound line by a roundabout with five roads leading off it and with no pedestrian traffic light system in place to help you cross the roads.

Having dodged the traffic to reach the Shrewsbury bound line we stood at the top of the pedestrian access ramp to the platform where there was a large sign suggesting that you should not board a train without a valid ticket and that if you failed to heed their advice you should be willing to pay a considerable fine. It then went on to say that if you couldn’t buy a ticket then you should have a ‘travel permit’.   We’ve never heard of a travel permit before.

This is an unmanned station and usually you find a ticket machine on a platform that allows you to buy tickets for the date of travel, or collect tickets that you have bought on line.   Having crossed the roundabout again, we discovered that there was no ticket machine on either platform but there was a machine that looked exactly like a parking pay and display meter, but without any table of charges. The clock on the machine was showing the wrong time – wrong by several hours. The only other sign on the machine was a list of the coins it would accept.

We consider ourselves quite travel savvy, but this system foxed us. The station was quite busy with people waiting for the train to Wolverhampton so we spoke to one to see if they could explain the system.   They advised that we just ‘Pay on the Train’.

Now if you were timid, then by now you might be a little concerned that you were about to break the law and face a horrendous fine for not having obeyed the signage.

We found another sign that said if you had any queries then you could dial the given number for assistance. The same sign said there was no public pay phone on the station.   When I checked my mobile phone it showed that I had no signal. Who thinks of these systems and how do visitors to our shores manage?

Tomorrow we will get on a train with our Two Together Railcard, willing to pay a reasonable fare for our short journey, and then if they reprimand us, play dumb, which is probably what they expect from two white haired travellers anyway!!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Thursday 29 October

It was raining when we woke up which didn’t encourage us to leap out of bed with enthusiasm so instead we stayed in bed reading. Eventually Max hinted that he’d like to get up.

I got togged up and took Max for a leg stretch, leaving Storm to deal with some emails.   Eventually the rain eased, leaving just a grey mist, and we decided to go for a walk back to the Hatherton Branch together and have a look at what was down there.

However, the bridge over the canal to the arm was blocked off and we had to turn back which was disappointing. There is a restaurant down the arm, but it isn’t accessible from the towpath – you’d have to reverse down the arm and hope there is somewhere to moor, or else pay for a night in the marina beside the arm.

As we turned back, I spotted a slight movement in the undergrowth beside us and I managed to grab Storm and we stood and watched as a fox lifted its head up to look at us briefly, before it scuttled off.   It was about 6 m away from us.

The rain was forecast to have cleared by lunch-time and at 11.30 am I thought the cloud was lifting and so decided to untie and head for Autherley Junction. However, I was wrong and I was soon steering while sheltering under an umbrella.

Despite the weather there was a steady stream of boats heading our way.   Invariably we would meet them as we approached a bridge, causing us to go into reverse as there isn’t room for two boats to pass under a bridge.   I also had to pull into one of the passing places on Pendeford Rockin (a narrow passage cut through rock) to let a hire boat through.

With the winter canal maintenance programme starting on Monday, I suppose like us, boats are moving to be on the right side of any closures, and half-term hirers are heading back to their base.

We turned onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, and through the stop lock there that drops you about 8” from the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal, making sure that no water is lost from the Shropshire Union, and moored up as soon as we were clear of the Napton Narrowboat base.

We spent the afternoon planning our movements for the next two months. We have a baby sitting date after bonfire night in Chester, a trip home at the end of November, as well as a couple of days out in between and friends to catch up with too.   Trying to work out the logistics of how to get from ‘a’ to ‘b’ and back again using only public transport is always fun.

(In Chester I’ll be able to collect my camera as it’s back from the repairers- I have missed it as my phone just isn’t the same).

Wednesday 28 October

Wednesday is market day in Penkridge (as is Saturday).  It’s not just any market though as it is huge and sells an extensive selection of wares from live chickens, fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, tools, clothing, hardware, dog food, grave headstones, plants, toys and more.  We wanted a hosepipe.  We’d heard that this was a good place to buy a Magic Snake Hose provided it had metal connectors rather than plastic.  We’ve had one before with plastic fittings and we’re always having to repair it.   The good news is that we found one and checked it had metal connectors.  100m hose at £20 – a bargain.

Storm also bought himself some grinding wheels for his Dremmel to help grind our small areas of rust away.  I think I know what we’re going to be doing next week now.

Cuttlestones Auctioneers also hold a weekly auction next to the market and having paid a £1 for the catalogue we were allowed to pop in to experience their weekly Home & Garden Sale.  Auctions have always fascinated me .   At least in furniture auctions you can understand what the auctioneer is saying, unlike cattle auctions where I’ve never understood a single word they say.

Penkridge village was very busy and the chip shop and bakery were also doing good business .  Having done our bit for the local economy we returned to the boat and moved off.

The morning had been overcast but by early afternoon we were shedding layers in the warm sunshine.  We passed through six locks and headed towards Hatherton Marina where we pulled in and moored up on the first available sheeting rail.

Tuesday 27 October

We left Tixall Wide having seen only two kingfishers in our time there and I have become familiar with their distinctive high-pitched call when in flight.

At Tixall Lock, a couple of nosy Jersey cows came up to the fence to see what we were doing.

Inquisitive Jersey cows

Inquisitive Jersey cows

As we motored the weather improved and the early morning mizzle lifted and we saw the sun again for most of the morning.

Storm worked the five locks over the nine miles to Penkridge. The Euston to Crewe railway line kept us company to the outskirts of Stafford and then, after another two miles, the M6 came alongside us and stayed beside us all the way to Penkridge.

We arrived into Penkridge just after lunch and moored up near The Boat pub. Fiona came to see us late afternoon and we chatted over a coffee before heading to The Boat for a bite to eat. The food was delicious.

Our Nicholson’s guide book describes this pub as “A mellow and friendly red-brick pub dating from 1779 with plenty of brass and other bits and pieces in the homely bars.” I think it has had a bit of a de-clutter makeover recently as we didn’t spot any brass or bits and pieces and the homely bars would have been better if someone had put a match to the open fires.

As Fi was driving home later we returned to the boat to chat more and enjoy a cup of tea while we glowed in front of our fire!

Monday 26 October

We were expecting a cloudy start to the day and were delighted to wake to blue skies and an absolutely glorious deep orange glow as the early sun reflected the light off the trees.  Two hours later it was a very different colour but the camera does neither justice.

SONY DSC

7.30 am

SONY DSC

9.30 am

We decided to stay put today and make the most of the good weather and explore some of the area on foot. There is a good choice of circular walks from where we’re moored and we headed off westwards along the towpath before turning off at Tixall Bridge and heading north into the village.  (If we’d turned eastwards we could have done a circular walk through the grounds of Shugborough Hall.)

A hexagonal obelisk dated 1776 caused us to pause at the T junction in the village and enjoy a landscaped vista that includes a rotunda, originally designed by Capability Brown which was moved here in the 1960’s from its original site at Ingestre, about a mile away.

We followed the road into the village and passed a field of jersey cows.   My Dad used to have a herd in the late 1950’s and 60’s and I just love these pretty faced cattle which you don’t see very often.

GetAttachment-3.aspx

Mick – did you know that in the village there is an example of a K6 type telephone kiosk, designed in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and made in cast iron?

GetAttachment-2.aspx

We then passed the impressive Tixhall Gatehouse that once led to Tixhall House. Sadly the house has now gone but the stables are still visible beyond. Tixhall Gatehouse is owned by the Landmark Trust and can be booked for holidays.

 

GetAttachment.aspx

A little further on we came to Tixhall Farm. This brick farmhouse and farm-buildings were listed when they were sold for development in the 1980s and have now been converted into apartments.   They are a good example of an early 19th or late 18th century purpose-built model farm. Prominent beside the road at the east end is a large and impressive contemporary “Dutch” barn with 5 brick arched openings.

GetAttachment-1.aspx

Opposite is Bottle Lodge, a curious octagonal lodge with just one room upstairs and another downstairs. In the 19th century it was used to house the local shepherd with his children sleeping in the farm buildings on the other side of the road. It made our living accommodation seem quite generous.

From here we took the public footpath eastwards towards Great Heywood and we treated ourselves to some locally made ice-cream at the café there and bought a couple of items at the farm shop.

On our ‘swingometer’ of ice-cream quality, these were average as the flavouring was not very strong.

 

 

 

 

Sunday 25 October

We had a lie in and watched the clock tick round to 8 am new time.

Boats were on the move early this morning as there are quite a few hire boats out and about with it being half-term. We took advantage of a full lock to head down through Star Lock to join the queue of boats waiting to fill up with water. I popped to Morrisons to buy some dog food while Storm waited his turn for the tap.

With a full tank we switched on the washing machine and headed off towards Haywood Junction (9.5 miles and 3 more locks).

Tixall Wide with Tixall Gatehouse in the Background

Tixall Wide with Tixall Gatehouse to the right

At Haywood Junction we turned onto the Staffs & Worcester Canal and moored up at Tixall Wide, a site noted for its Kingfisher population. We hadn’t been moored up long when I went to step off the boat and disturbed one sitting on our tiller. Where is your camera when you need it? This is the closest I have ever been to one of these magnificent birds.

Saturday 24 October

We spent the morning taking Max for a walk and picked up the Saturday papers on the way. We also discovered Mountford’s ironmongery and hardware shop. We’d been told that it would sell whatever we needed and we’d expected a huge store, but instead it was a very small shop but what a gem – we did get all we wanted!

Heavy rain was forecast for noon and we made it back to the boat just in the nick of time.

The afternoon was spent keeping warm and dry in front of the stove, reading the papers and testing our skill and knowledge with the various crosswords and puzzles.

By late afternoon the sun was shining again and I took Max for a walk down by the nearby River Trent. Here the river is about 20ft wide and fairly shallow but deep enough for canoeists and we stood and watched the youngsters weave their way through the slalom course, which was certainly a popular pastime as there were canoes all over the place.

We spent a quiet night in watching a film, a comedy drama – My Old Woman – starring Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristen Scott Thomas – a thought provoking film about relationships.