About Me

My photo
After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 20

Minor Mishaps

Thursday 29th August

I had time to spare now, so pulled the pins and headed for Rugeley. which is an old market town with a wealth of supermarkets, including Tesco, Morrison’s and Aldi as well as a myriad of smaller shops and all of them are just a short distance from the cut.

I was waiting for an hour and half to enter Middle Lock at Fradley, being the last of six boats, but once through, there was only one boat ahead on the next lock layby.

Very narrow bridge 'oles on the T&M.

The other piece of bad news was the bow caught on a projection on the sill of Shadehouse Lock and snapped one of the supporting fixings on the tipcat. It is designed to break if it does catch up, as it is held in position by a piece of cord, but the tipcat was now hanging in the water by the two side chains and would be better removed, rather than left hanging there and the sooner the better, so I pulled into the layby and managed to release the side chains and get it off, being that much heavier than normal after being in the water. I can fix it back on easily enough, if I can support the weight on the stern of another boat

Apart from that the remainder of the trip was uneventful and in sunshine most of the time and I arrived in the town about 5pm. Having been here several times in the past, moorings are normally hard to find, especially this late in the afternoon, but surprisingly there were many free spaces. 

I found Wetherspoons in the town and as it was Curry Night, I indulged with a Chicken Korma, because the Lamb Rogan had sold out. Although I tried out their Table Service of ordering by using the ‘Spoons app, but abandoned it after it refused to show an alternative offered on the printed menu and went to the bar instead. Although it was only Thursday, the place was extremely busy.

Friday 30th August

It was to be a sincere shopping day at Tesco in Rugeley. I was living from hand to mouth on board, not having been to a decent store for ages, so two shopping expeditions where to be made. It is fortunate that the store is very close to my mooring. On the way back from Tesco, I saw a guy that I knew from some previous time on a mooring and then remembered his boat is called Namaste and placed him last at Willington where we chatted about his boat mostly and his Gardner engine.

Having now stocked up, it was time to move off, but first I had to wind the boat at the nearest winding hole, which was a mile away across the River Trent aqueduct. All went well until I tried to turn Stronghold, but the wind at that point was extra strong with no trees or bushes to slow it down and kept undoing what I had just managed to achieve. I did get round eventually, after holding up another following boat and headed back the way I had come, which took just over an hour to get back to where I had been moored.

I have passed this boat every year somewhere on the cut,
 but never talked to the owner or ever seen him.

A famous crime committed at Brindley Bank.

Crossing the River Trent aqueduct.

Someone has a sense of humour.

After that saga, things went well and I pulled in at Woodend Lock layby, as there was a projected part that I might be able to utilise to refit the tipcat, which took about 30 mins with a little help from another boater who had pulled in behind.

Belt and braces to make sure I don't lose it.

Refitted at last.


Fore end now complete.

Shadehouse Lock cill - what projection?

After that success I continued to Shadehouse Lock and moored up for the night, satisfied that something had gone the right way for a change and walked down to The Swan for a pint.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 19.

An Impressive Visit to the National Brewing Centre.

Sunday 25th August

Time to move on again, as well stocked up with shopping for a while and seen enough of Willington, what there is of it.

I found a good mooring just a little further than Shobnall Fields, behind some houses, but with hindsight I would have been closer to my goal at the Fields. My goal being The Bass Museum or National Brewing Centre as it is now called. Having tracked it down on Google Maps, I set off to walk there, which turned out to be 1½ miles away. It was an extremely hot day with little shade and I reached the Museum at 14.30. Fortunately it did not close until 17.00 and I spent a very enjoyable two hours there before finishing in The Brewery Tap, where I had three tickets to cover three thirds of a pint each and there was a good choice of ales on offer.

Having brewed my own beer from scratch for any years, I found the whole exhibition fascinating, especially the Burton Union System of brewing and it is only by seeing it first hand that it is more easily understood. Sadly it has been supplanted now by a more modern system, which needs less manpower to operate, as have many other brewing processes nowadays. However, I do believe they still use it to brew Pedigree beer. The other most interesting item on display was the Robey tandem compound steam engine and I had a chat with the engineer in charge, who even let me into the enclosure to look at the valve chests on the other side. What I had not seen before was the condenser that also created a vacuum when the cold water was sprayed inside and was inline with the piston rod and added extra power, making the whole thing 20% efficient. Both power cylinders were inline too and not side by side which is more usual. Best explanation is here:-

Two cylinders in line, along with the condenser at the far end.

I had spotted a far larger Burton Union System outside the museum, but could not get a photo of it, as I was now locked in! The only way out being through the Brewery Tap.

The Burton Union System explained.

How many of these breweries have you sampled?

An example of the interior in a Victorian pub.........

......and the beer taps behind the bar.

The working micro-brewery in one exhibition hall.

The last remaining saddle tank locomotive of which there were many.

The blue wagon is actually a diesel loco.

A Morris Cowley with a two gallon spare can on the running board, which is very similar to the one I have on board.

Can you count the barrels in this stack?

Monday 26th August

Another very hot day was forecast so I set off for a pub by way of Shobnal Basin, where Jannell’s is still in existence after all these years. Long ago they used to have a hire fleet, although I never used them. I had a look around their extensive chandlery and their strip LED’s in particular, but they were more expensive than Midland and did not have the sophisticated dimming switch.

Walking along the main road, I got to The Compasses, but it was evident that it had been closed for some time. Realising now that I was walking in the wrong direction, I retraced my steps to the canal bridge and passed the front office of Marston’s Brewery and shop where the brewery tours start, but I knew they only did tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning, which had to be booked in advance.

Continuing on, I eventually came to The Albion, which is the Marston’s Taphouse and is considerably different from the usual Marston’s houses, in that the handpumps were at the back of the bar and all exactly the same, also the beer was run along pipes in the ceiling from a rack of barrels in a glazed chiller in another part of the room, but that is where the difference ends, because the menu was much the same and there were fruit machines and muzak. I did at least know that the beer had not travelled far from the brewery.

Beer pumps draw the beer from .......

......this stack of barrels.

Tuesday 27th August

I walked up to Shobnall Basin to get another copy of Towpath Telegraph, as I had left the previous unopened copy in the pub and while there, I enquired about a weeks mooring, which to my surprise was only £43 and it was within walking distance from the rail station, so far cheaper than Mercia and no bus ride involved.

I let go later and cruised only for 2 miles, but passed Bridge 33e without thinking about stopping to go to Morrison’s until I got to Branston, where the famous pickle first made an appearance. By now Morrison’s was too far to walk, but there was another Co-op in the village where, just as before the produce was very limited.

I was in a pub when the landlady said, "Is your little friend not drinking then?".
To which I replied, " He has had his fill at the Co-Op across the road."

This is a good quiet mooring spot with rings and there were only two other boats visible, but no wi-fi was to be found anywhere. There were two pubs within walking distance and very little traffic along the towpath, but rain was imminent in the next few days and I needed to move on just in case the Trent went into flood again, although I did stay one night.

One of my good luck stories is that I found another £5 note today beside a lock; this is the 2nd one, as I also found one at Braunston during the historic boat rally.

Wednesday 28th August

I set off under a cloudy sky, that promised sunshine earlier and the day was much fresher with a slight breeze, but it was not long before the rain set in as showers, although some were prolonged more than I would have liked

I set off for Fradley through several single locks, some of which were operated for me, but most were done using the “Jacko Method”, whereby I step off the stern as the boat enters the lock with it out of gear to drift slowly in. Walking up to the top paddles with a windlass, I wait until the boat is within 10ft or so of the cill and then draw half a paddle off. The boat stops at the top gate, while I walk back to close the bottom gates, which are aided to close by the slight current of water through the lock chamber. The top paddles are now fully opened to lift the boat up.

All went well, except that I was now very wet once again as I got into Fradley moorings below Junction Lock and there were plenty of spaces at 15.30. I pulled in on the water point to fill the tank, but another selfish, inconsiderate, bastard boater insisted on passing by at some speed, thereby drawing my unmoored stern into the centre of the cut and almost into his own boat, despite me hanging on to the centre line as hard as I could. These people must have moored up with others passing by them, so why are they so bloody thick when doing it to someone else? If I see another boat without a mooring line fastened off, I slow right down so as not to disturb the other boat, because I know how much it affects them.

With dry trousers now on, I walked to The Swan for a pint and some relaxation and a browse through their menu. I hope the ‘specials’ are changed for Saturday, when I go there to eat with my daughter again.

These bridges cannot be taken at full speed.

My Road Pro 12v fan found in 
Braunston Marina laundry - a life saver in a heat wave.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

freedom of the Cut 2019 - 18

Return to Willington.

A few more notices like this could be useful to novices today

Tuesday 20th August

The only place to shop for food was Shardlow Village Stores, which was 1 mile along the main road that crossed the cut, so it was time to investigate, not that I was expecting much. Not a pleasant walk alongside the traffic, but I needed some exercise. True to my expectations, it was more a boutique type of shop that sold a minimum of foodstuffs along with birthday cards and gifts. I did locate a couple of expensive lamb chops to BBQ and that was it. I caught the bus back and had a pint in the Clock Warehouse, where Marston’s have done a good job of restoring the interior, but ruined it with an imitation wide beam barge in the loading arch below, which is looking somewhat tired by now.

The Clock Warehouse.

I cooked both chops on the BBQ and will keep one for tomorrow if I don’t eat out again.

The bricks in this boundary wall are so soft that birds have pecked nesting holes in it. They also go behind the adjoining brick so the nest would be hidden.

The brewery bottling store built in 1780.

Used for unloading boats at the bottling store.

Wednesday 21st August

I let go about 09.30 to wind the boat in Dobson’s boatyard opposite and head for Shardlow Lock hoping to follow another boat in, but when I got there he had an offer from a boat already waiting in the lock, so I had no alternative but to do it solo although it was only 4ft 5ins deep. The next lock was Aston where I had moored previously and although 8ft, I did this one as well. The following lock was Weston and this was 10ft 11ins, so more daunting and despite getting Stronghold in and tied up fore and aft, I could not close the offside gate, as it was just too heavy and had to ask a dog walker to add some weight behind the beam. Just as I was about to exit that lock, another boat appeared behind me, so I offered to wait at the next one for them – any help making things that much easier.

It was about here that I saw my second ever terrapin, but no chance of a photo as it dropped back in the water as I went past. The last one had been in the filthy water of Paddington Arm last year.

Instead another boat appeared behind me at Swarkstone and got me through with the help of mother and two girls, but they were pulling in at Barrow, so that didn’t last long. Eventually I got back to Stenson and what with the bridge over the tail of the lock and it being 12ft 6ins deep, I was just not going to chance the slippery ladder that far up, so I hung around on the layby waiting for the previous boat, which was twenty minutes behind me and they took me through to moor up again by The Bubble Inn. That was quite enough for one day and the 9 miles took me 7 hours of cruising, bearing in mind that I had to fill most of the locks before I could pass through.

I did not feel like cooking by the time I had moored up, so went to The Bubble Inn for a Greek beef stifado, with rice and Greek salad. It was not how I remembered it in Greece and was rather dry with none of the recommended spice flavourings or the baby onions. Anyway, it was all washed down with a couple of pints of Cornish Tribute.

Thursday 22nd August

A slow start this rather miserable morning with overcast skies and a strong wind, although no rain is forecast and the Bank Holiday weekend is looking good. I motored up as far as Mercia Marina to visit Midland Swindlers again and moored outside this time. I wanted some Morris oil for topping up, some Duraglit and a deck chair. Duraglit has now been replaced with Brasso wadding in exactly the same type of tin as the original make. There was only one type of chair on sale and that was too heavy for carrying any distance, so that was off my list. Besides, it was more expensive than I wanted to pay. I also bought some toilet bowl cleaner as mine is now very badly stained despite scrubbing vigorously in the past, it has remained so. This Jabsco concoction is made by the pump manufacturers and is biologically safe, so should not damage the biological action of the Silky RX in the waste tank.

I looked at some LED strip lights housed inside an aluminium extrusion and was given a demo by the salesman. Not only is there a touch switch on the end of the strip, but if a finger is held on it, the lights are dimmed. After switching off, they remain as the same setting when switched back on – clever stuff and I must admit to being tempted to replace the fluorescent strips over the galley work area.

Whilst on that mooring I went into marina reception to make enquiries about getting a temporary mooring for when I went home next. It was £67 for a 50ft boat for a week and no reservation required, so that was easy. There is also a bus service every hour from a stop outside the marina to Burton. Not as cheap as Rugby Wharf, but still fairly reasonable, compared to some other places I could mention.

Moving on, I soon arrived back on the Willington moorings and there was one space left on the edge of the winding hole restrictions. In all cases, there is no mooring opposite a winding hole, although I have seen hire boats and liveaboards there many times.

I did some shopping in the Co-Op, which is better stocked than the ones I am used to and popped into The Green Man on the way back. Surprise – it was full of locals eating and drinking and it was only Thursday. There were six popular ales on tap, but I restricted myself to one pint of Bombardier. 

Back on board, I had to do something with the remains of the beef stifado, a small piece of fillet steak and a lamb chop previously cooked on the BBQ. I had bought a tin of oxtail soup so it was all mixed together with some boiled potatoes, leftover mushrooms and some broccoli and carrots, flavoured with some tomato puree, Worcester sauce and seasoning and simmered for a while. Surprisingly, it was very tasty and produced enough for about four meals.

Friday 23rd August

A leisurely day on the mooring with not a lot to do. At last the constant wind had dropped this morning and it looked like a warm sunny day for a change. Blogging and generally wasting time this morning, but another visit to the Co-Op was due, before another visit to The Dragon for beers outside and the garden was packed with people.

Not many tables free on a Friday evening at The Dragon.

Visitor moorings full up on the towpath. 

Saturday 24th August

Yet another visit to the Co-Op, but the problem is that I can’t carry too much shopping in one go in a knapsack, unless I take the wheels.

Andy Belton stopped at the waterpoint opposite and we had a few quick words. He had been up the Caldon and was now on his way back to Nottingham, so he missed all the hanging about for the flooded Trent.

I got into conversation with a boater on the towpath after he remarked about how good The Anchor pub was after spotting my tee shirt. We talked for a while about pubs and beer and he did complain about the cloudiness of the two pints of Boot Ale that he had and that the Doombar was now off. We compared notes on various waterway pubs and I showed him my database of 120 pubs on the cut, many of which he had been to in the past. The Boot ale was now off, so I had Clod Hopper instead, which was a light ale with slight citrus flavour. Strangely enough, another punter at the bar, said, “That’s a bloody good pub,” referring again to The Anchor at High Offley. So two people had remarked on it within the space of five minutes.

It is extremely hot again this afternoon and I spent a lot of it sitting out with a book and the fan going full belt to keep cool.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 17.

Onwards to Shardlow

Wednesday 14th August

The rain just got more intense as the morning wore on, so it looked like a ‘stay where you are’ kind if day. Reckon the short River Trent section will be in flood today with all this rain anyway, even if I did want to return to Fradley.

The dirty clothes were piling up again, so time to do some more washing which will keep me occupied for a couple of hours. I am not bothered about drying it outside, because of limited space, so it stays on hangers inside for usually two days in the bathroom out of the way.

I had decided to eat out for a change tonight and walked to The Dragon. Surprise – there was only one large table free, because I had not booked. Although booking is advised, I though it unnecessary on a Wednesday as there were so many tables, but they were all full, which is of course a very good advert for any restaurant. So, there I was, feeling somewhat guilty at having so large a table to myself, that another guy with a pint of Coke was looking around for somewhere to sit and I asked him if he wanted to share the space, which he did. Not so surprisingly, he was also a boater and came from Lancashire, but trying to make conversation was like getting blood out of a stone – he was so dour, although I did get a laugh out of him before he left.

I am very prone to mussels when they are on the menu and they were too, in a Massaman curry sauce with folded light pancakes on the side. It was a large portion and enjoyable to the last, before I chose a white chocolate cheesecake with mango and passion fruit – pure indulgence to say the least and I was bloated. It is a long time since I have eaten so well. The full menu is worth drooling over and is here.

Thursday 15th August

The day was chilly off to a start, but the rain had cleared at last, so time to move on. As usual, I did an engine check, only to discover that the header tank was almost empty, which after having new core plugs fitted and the system sealed, was most unusual. Searching further, I discovered a split Bowman rubber connection at the stern end of the engine, where it connected with the skin tank – not good news, as this is a restored 1970’s BMC engine of the type fitted to London Black Cabs and I could foresee it being difficult to source a replacement part.

Mercia Marina was about half a mile further on, so with the tank topped up, that was the next port of call. When I was through the entrance, there was no indication where anything was, so I moored up on a wooden jetty close to the shops and found the reception office. They advised me to try Midland Swindlers or the workshops of Streethay Wharf, which has a yard on site here as well as the one at Streethay. I found Midland and asked for a spare part, not expecting them to have any at all in stock, but to my surprise they did stock several different sizes, which I never realised how many there were. After returning to Stronghold and measuring and getting the serial number of the split one, I returned to find that they actually had one on the shelf, so I took it back and fitted it within the hour - job done. Sometimes things just fall into place, but this surpassed my dreams of almost instant success.

Well perished after 18 yrs!

The new Bowman connection in place.

To celebrate, I had a pint in the marina bar, but what shops were here on site were either cafes or gift related, which is not my scene at all. As there was a tap close to the mooring, I took advantage and filled the tank. I would not be at all surprised if I could have moored here for the night and no one would have commented.

Mercia Marina - more shops than boat services.

I exited the marina and cruised as far as the top of Stenson Lock, which is double width to take the barges originally to and from Burton from the River Trent. It is also very deep at 12’6”. If I am going to tackle that, it will be with another boat or volunteer only. There was one mooring space left here, so I got in quickly before someone else took it.

Friday 16th August

Yet another wet day! This must be one of the worst summers for some years. I can probably count the really hot sunny days on fingers of one hand this year. Looking at the forecast however, the next week or two appear to be sunny spells every day in this area.

After a leisurely breakfast, it was time to write up this blog and I had a few days to catch up on. I also had considerable e-mails to read and reply to as well, which all consumed most of my day. While the rain continued to pelt down non-stop. I think there were only four or five boats that went through Stenson Lock all day, so the volunteer must have had a boring time of it.

12ft 6ins to the bottom.

A pint in The Bubble Inn was enjoyed later before the meal on board.

Saturday 17th August

Another chilly start to the day, but it gradually warmed up as the morning progressed. I had a chat with a new boater behind me to see if he was going through Stenson Lock, but not so. I had been waiting around for another boat to either come down or up for forty minutes by now and decided that I was going to have to do it on my own. However, there was a bridge below the tail of the lock and although I could pull the boat through on a line as far as that and then let go, there was the bywash outlet to contend with at the bottom on the towpath side which would push the boat away from me and into the trees. I could not win without some help, so walked back to ask help from the previous guy on the moored boat. We walked back to the lock and then lo and behold another two boats appeared behind me and one at the bottom waiting to come up - just like London buses, nothing for hours then they all turn up at once!

Not the sort of cill to catch the boat on!

I was now on my way with nb Lock and Roll and we did the next three locks together. They were on their way back to Nottingham, so had to go on The Trent after Shardlow, but the river was in flood and Cranfield Stop Lock was closed, which meant that Shardlow moorings would be solid with boats waiting to go on the river. They decided to stop above Aston Lock until it was clear, so I followed suit and moored up astern of them and had a chat later, before walking down to the lock. I had been on the lookout since the beginning of the month for ripe blackberries and here they were, not very big but back along the towpath there were a few really large ones that I ate there and then. These I will cook up with the Granny Smith apples that have been waiting for a few days on the galley shelf.

Sunday 18th August

Another dry day with sunny spells and another rest day. No news on the River Trent in flood, so Lock and Roll is staying put, but may have to move tomorrow as they, like me are running out of food. It would seem that there are no food shops in Shardlow. I decided that I would try out The Malt Inn at Aston, which was ¾ mile from the lock and I was surprised how busy it was, but then a several pubs are on Sundays. Tribute was on, which is one of my favourites. An interesting feature of this pub is that they have a Barter Board, with a few fruits and veg on and if you donate any of these to the kitchen, then they are worth a pudding or a free pint in exchange – unique I would think, but an excellent idea as growers often have a surplus at this time of year.

Terry, from Lock and Roll came up later to explain that they were not going to move tomorrow, as the Trent was still in flood.

I had a BBQ this evening, as I was well away from any other boat and the present charcoal smokes considerably on starting up. That is the last of my food stock, so it maybe a case of dining out later.

Monday 19th August

Terry was kind enough to see me through Aston Lock and it was only my a short distance to Shardlow, where I expected difficulty finding a mooring, but that was not the case and I got one just below the lock and opposite a boatyard. There were several boats tied up here waiting for the river to subside. I had only been here an hour and heard a shout outside – it was Mark and Maggie Young on nb Forever Young. I grabbed a windlass and walked up to help them through the lock, catching up on their travels in the meantime.

On getting back to Stronghold it was time to do an oil and filter change, which was a few hours overdue – a messy business as the plastic milk bottle I used on the end of the oil pipe to catch any residue had split and was leaking oil. Lesson learned - not to use those in future. 

This barge can only go as far as Burton.

Being out of food now, I had to eat out somewhere, but finding a suitable place was not easy as most of them had inconsistent reviews on TripAdvisor. There was supposed to be a Thai Kitchen at 3 Wilne Lane, but when I got there it was a boarded up old house, so I went in The Navigation to see if they did food, as there was nothing published recently, although they did have a working kitchen some time ago, but the answer was no. I asked a couple in the garden and he recommended Smithys Marina Bar at Shardlow Marina, where he knew they did food, so I chanced it. It would not be a place I would naturally have gone for food, but they did a reasonable blackboard menu and I chose deep fried squid with a chilli and garlic salad, which was very tasty and served within a few minutes. The beers were Smithys Pale Ale and Doombar, which were priced at £2.70 as it was Happy Hour, so I did well in the end.

Just done a bit of shopping!

Shardlow is a very well preserved inland port, used for transhipping freight from the widebeam barges that came up The Trent from the docks, to narrowboats and onward to the rest of the country. The town has about 50 buildings dating from 1770 when Brindley developed the area, similar to his only other inland port at Stourport-on-Severn. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shardlow#Transport_hub

Restored crane for loading at the brewery bottling warehouse.

The warehouse behind the crane.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Freedom of the Cut 2019 - 16.

Monday 5th August

It was time to stock up again in town, so getting there now by way of the park alongside the towpath was more pleasant the by the road. Just previously I had walked to the nearby petrol station to buy 2 galls of petrol to run the generator. With all these short trips along the cut, the batteries were not getting enough charge, so better to keep the fuel level up and some in reserve. As usual, I spend the morning procrastinating and surfing the net, so by the time I got to the butcher's shop, he had closed for the day at 1pm. After getting a few items, I paid a visit to The Bull’s Head just see what it was like. It was quite a surprise after the last time I had been there many years ago, when it had just reopened after a long period of closure. Not only was it clean, tidy and well kept, but they had three ales on tap and an Indian Restaurant upstairs. Having perused the extensive menu with my pint, I made the decision to eat there for a treat later that day. In which case it would be better to moor up closer and I could see that moorings were available.

After a shower, I walked up to The Bull’s Head, ordered a pint and enquired how to get up to the restaurant and guess what? ……they were closed on Mondays! Nowhere was this advertised, not even on the menu, so I was very disappointed to say the least. Anyway, back on board I had some crispy duck left from the night before, which was still good and some compensation.

Tuesday 6th August

It was necessary to go and shop this morning, if I was moving on towards Alvecote, except that it began to rain heavily at 10am. I decided to get wet and went as far as the butchers which to my amazement, also sold homemade cakes. Apparently it began as a cottage industry, but as the lady also worked in the shop, she decided to sell them there and it proved to be very successful.

It continued to rain throughout the day, so I put my feet up and had a day off. For the first time ever, I completed reading a book in a day and did some cooking in the afternoon, which was very satisfying.

Wednesday 7th August

Time to make a move, although it only took half an hour to Alvecote and the weather had changed for the better. The first port of call was to the yard to fill with diesel, then wind the boat for a pump out. For the first time the tank had held out for 60 days, which goes to prove that the pump out machine at Pyrford Marina is not up to the job, as it only lasted about a month after that.

Howard Williams and his wife were moving nb Hampstead into the marina and a brief exchange took place between us. I moved back to the towpath opposite The Samuel Barlow and moored up to have a pint in the pub and recharge the laptop, as well as write this up. The menu is no longer chalked up on a board, but written out on clipboards, but apart from that not much else has changed, although there is now more choice of beers. Strange isn’t it, that I used to pass this pub by in the early days of boating up here, dismissing it as being too modern. Since joining the Narrow Boat Trust 7 years ago, when we always came in here after a day working on the pair, I will now never miss it out because it revives so many memories of those days and the good times and laughs we had.

After a while surfing and writing this, it was time for a shower and change of clothes to go across the cut for a meal at The Barlow. I had already selected a fish dish from the menu and was looking forward to it. After ordering a pint, I picked up the menu only to be told that the kitchen was now closed, as it was 8pm. I had done it again! Had I looked more closely at the top of the menu, it did state the times there. So back on board, I had sweet and sour chicken that I had cooked yesterday.

Thursday 8th August

A warm day ahead, but I felt the need for another rest day coming on. Mostly reading the latest Towpath Talk and then surfing the net and wasting time generally.

I set about writing a few e-mails and organising some files on this new laptop and then made a big mistake of saving one file on top of this blog on Word. I should explain that I write up the blog in MS Word, before copying and pasting it into Blogger when the time comes to publish. Up till now, I had not saved it anywhere, but unknown to me it had been saved automatically in OneDrive and it took about an hour of searching before I could find and restore it. So, I got it back at last and it was hidden away after all!

Time to move on tomorrow, but looking at the forecast, it is going to be raining heavily in the morning.

I had admired this boat Zulu many times when passing over the years.
Noah Hingley was a famous chain and anchor forger that 
appears in my book about chain making in Brirmingham.

The Samuel Barlow, Alvecote.

Friday 9th August

It was not as bad as the forecast predicted, so I set off through Tamworth and towards Glascote, where there is a waterpoint on the Top Lock layby, which is not well planned at all. A boat was going down ahead of me and another rising in the lock below, so I waited for it to arrive, by which time there were three waiting boats, so I had plenty of assistance through both locks. A lady helping with the bottom gate was one of my blog readers, who are few and far between on my travels.

It was an extremely windy day and only one light short shower, but as I approached Hopwas the heavens opened and despite throwing on a waterproof coat, I got saturated, it was tremendous squall with strong winds to back up penetration of clothing. Having to moor up in the middle of it made it possibly worse.

Now being wet on the outside, I decided to get wet inside as well, which prompted a pint at one of the two pubs here. The nearest was the Tame Otter and as the name suggested a Vintage Inns establishment to me, similar to the Coy Carp at Harefield, that is exactly what it is. Had I been told that it was the Coy Carp, it was impossible to tell the difference from the interior.

Later I paid a visit to The Red Lion on the other side of the cut and the difference was like chalk and cheese. This was a real locals pub, with blokes having just finished work and three of my favourite beers on handpump; I was spoilt for choice, but only had one. There is another bar, which appears to be mainly a restaurant. The menu said that all food was home cooked and it certainly appeared that way. Maybe a place to eat tomorrow, if I stayed. The outside of the pub would seem to have been a police station in times past, because it was built on the Victorian style and had what could well have been a blue light on a wrought iron bracket over the entrance. But I could find no evidence of that.

Saturday 10th August

Winds today were forecast at 40mph and boating past moorings could well have been difficult without running alongside other boats, so it was time to just sit it out. TV reception and wi-fi were both good here and I had begun a new book, so there was no shortage of things to keep me occupied.

Another visit to The Red Lion was made in the evening, just to see a few people.

Sunday 11th August

The winds had eased during the night, so it was time to let go at 09.20. All was going well until a shower a little later, but it did not last long. I spoke too soon, because shortly after it became much more prolonged, although this time I already had wet weather gear on.

As I approached the small swing bridge at Fradley, I began pulling on to moor, but a passing boater told me that there were plenty of spaces below Junction Lock, which I knew to be a far better place than this. There were plenty of gongoozlers at the lock and there were even two of them sitting in their deck chairs to watch the fun. I made the turn in front of the pub and pulled into the lock layby and set the lock in my favour before exiting to the water point on the right and empty the trash. The places were filling up fast opposite, so I had to be quick and get one before another boat got in and this is only 1pm, so no chance in the afternoon.

Even two Gongoozlers in deck chairs!

A trip to The Swan (aka The Mucky Duck) was in order as I had not been here for a couple of years. It had been taken over by Everard’s Brewery a while ago, so things were looking up after all the problems this place had had in the past with dirty kitchens and food poisoning. Of course, the beers were Everards, although I later spotted a Mild and Titanic on tap in the other bar. The service from the kitchen and behind the bar seemed very efficient. It certainly was a change for the better.

Monday 12th August

A bright and sunny start to the day for a change, but the week ahead is going to be changeable, so not good cruising weather to look forward to. I was desperate for some shopping and beer tokens (cash) and was advised that there was a Co-op in Alrewas, so that was were I headed. There were plenty of mooring spaces above Lock 13 and above and below Bridge 48, so I got the essential shop done, before visiting the butcher, where I also got advice about the best pub to drink in – William IV, rather than The Dragon.

Continuing on through Alrewas Lock, I was now on the River Trent for just short of a mile until Wychnor Lock where the cut resumed. I did intend mooring there, but for the A38, which was incredibly noisy. Eventually I got to Branston Lock and there were moorings above there next to The Water Park, so that was where I pulled in for the night.

I had just locked up the boat and was on my way to The Bridge Inn, when I heard someone shout “Hey Ray.” I turned around to see Andy Belton on nb Would It Be So Bad shove his boat into reverse for a chat. He used to moor close to me on The Wey Navigation at Pelican Wharf, but moved up to Nottingham last year. He is, or was also a member of the Narrow Boat Trust. Small world! We chatted for a while about moorings and his new job, before he moved on. His home mooring is Alvecote Marina, where I was a short time ago.

The Bridge Inn nearby is much more an Italian restaurant than a pub, with only Pedigree on tap and nowhere to sit inside, because despite it being Monday, all the tables were laid for service and reserved. A good indication of how good the food is. It is possible to eat outside in the garden, if unreserved, but obviously not in inclement weather. If this place wanted to increase its clientele as a pub, an extension is the obvious next move.

Tuesday 13th August

I let go about 10.30 on what was a chilly morning for August. Although I had shopped previously, the Co-op stores around here seem to stock so little compared to what I am used to and to get what I really want, I am going to have to find a Tesco or similar big supermarket.

I was doubtful about stopping in Burton until I had a good look on the way through. As is frequently the case in large towns, the canal enters by the back door and is hidden away from the busier parts by trees and shrubs along the length. I passed Marston’s enormous brewery and the Bass Museum with recommendations for mooring places, which appeared to be fairly safe, with other boats moored up there, so I may well stop at one of them on the way back.

Coming up to the Old Mill at Stretton, I asked a pub guy if there was a supermarket across the cut and he said that there was and it was quite big as far as he could make out. I pulled in on rings outside the pub and walked up to what was another Co-op and it was tiny inside so I hardly bought anything. Returning, I went into the Old Mill, a Greedy King Hungry Horse, which says it all in the title and not my kind of pub, but they sold beer, so I had a pint. The barmaid, who I suspect is also the manager kept calling me ‘Mate’, which I dislike intensely. I am not her mate and never will be, so do not appear so familiar with customers. Another gripe about this place is that the moorings are opposite a very wide reed bed, which cuts down the ability to pass easily on the offside. Obviously the pub cannot do anything about this, but CRT might make the channel wider.

I pulled in at Horninglow Basin for water and had to get at right angles to the main line to get close enough. The basin was extremely small, with room for about eight boats and also beneath the A38 which bridged the cut here also. Once again there is no place for waste disposal and CRT seem to be reducing these everywhere I travel and yet they have a survey running asking boaters to report large gaps in their service, which appears to be farcical to me.

Horninglow Basin.

Moving on towards Willington alongside the busy and noisy A38 all day, I eventually approached the village and was now well away from the main road. With three pubs and yet another Co-op, it had plenty to offer the boater in the way of refreshment as could be seen by the number of moored boats already here, as well as permanent moorings on the offside. The towpath is very wide here and seems to be a popular promenade for strolling and walking the dog. The only snag so far is from the freight trains every few minutes on the other side of the towpath. The day had begun to warm up about midday and was now very pleasant as I pulled in to moor up.

I went for a walk to the nearest pub, The Dragon and although it dates back to when the T & M was built 150 yrs ago, it has been sympathetically extended and restored to what is now a pub with all modern conveniences and very efficient staff. The interior is enormous and most of it is fitted out for dining, but the front garden, which overlooks the canal, is also huge with the addition of a complete glass verandah. The beers are mostly of their own brew – Boot Beers, which is Good for the Sole apparently. I had a pint and it does exactly that! Unfortunately, of seven handpumps only three were activated at the time.

The Dragon at Willington.