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Sunny Summer Sunday

Another restless night for us for some reason but nevertheless we were up and moving by 8.15. It was already quite warm when we set off and we made reasonable progress in the morning sun. We saw that Streethay Wharf was open so we pulled in to see if they had a replacement belt for the Travelpower. They did and I bought one, although at £22.50 it was more than twice the price of the same articles on ebay. I’ll be investing in a full set when we get back.

When we reached Fradley junction we were able to get on to the water point where we filled the tank and dumped the unmentionables. The slow running tap is a nuisance but with the other facilities some distance away around the corner, it all works out alright.

With the services done we popped through the swing bridge and joined the throng of boaters at the junction. There was the usual wait but it wasn’t too bad given that it was a sunny Sunday in August at one of the busiest canal junctions in the country. We eventually got through all three locks and made our way north on the Trent & Mersey until we reached bridge 58 at Handsacre where we tied up for the day.

We had both showered along the way so once we had Caxton’s lines secured we took a walk over the bridge to the Crown Inn, it didn’t really appeal so we walked up the road past the world famous (well, boating world if you believe Pearson’s guide) Michael’s fish bar but since it is closed on Sundays it is impossible to comment on its wares. We ended up at The Olde Peculiar, a nice looking pub a few hundred yards up the road. The clock in the bar is one of those back to front types and the taps in the gents are reversed so that hot is cold and cold is hot, all adding to the olde peculiar theme. Naturally I felt obliged to try the namesake beer from Theakstons even though it is many years since I last had one. It was a well kept one and hadn’t changed from my memory of it but it’s an acquired taste and one that I don’t intend acquiring.

We wandered back to our mooring after that drink whereupon I proceeded to fit the new drive belt to the travelpower. It’s not a difficult job but it involves a bit of straddling the engine, awkward at the best of times but there was still a lot of heat in the engine making it a bit uncomfortable for me. It all went well and we will test it properly tomorrow as we travel to our next mooring. 

With that work done, Sue started making dinner for us on this lovely sunny evening.

9 miles and 3 locks today.

Girlie Button A-Go-Go!

The title of course refers to Caxton’s bow thruster.
We awoke at seven after a peaceful night near Little Haywood, got up and dressed and set off by half past. It didn’t take long before we reached Colwich lock and although we had to fill it first, we were soon down and through it. Sue then made some tea and toast for us to eat on the go. It was breezy but there was enough sunshine to keep us warm as we made our way south on the Trent and Mersey. We cruised past the pig farm at Taft Wharf before using the Brindley aqueduct which took us over the Trent and then into Rugeley. It is almost six years since we passed this way on our miserable four counties ring trip but strangely enough we moored in exactly the same spot as we did then. In 2008 we went shopping in Morrisons, today there is a newish Tesco on the towpath side of the canal so we took the opportunity to visit it and fill up the larder. However, despite filling the shopping trolley, the larder on Caxton is so big that it would take several trips like this to fill it!
We untied at half past ten and left our mooring, heading in the direction of Armitage. The weather, which had been benevolent, took a turn for the worse as we reached Spode Hall. We braved through the rain and by the time we had cleared Armitage “tunnel”, the rain had eased off so everything seemed alright again.
When we passed by the marina at King’s Bromley, the wind blew so fiercely across the canal that we were driving at 45 degrees to the bank! At the wharf, we met another boat near the bridge and as a result, the bow thruster, aka “Girlie Button” was pressed into service. What a marvellous device, for years I have sneered at boaters who have these but in less than 24 hours I have been converted!
Eventually we reached the first of the three locks that would take us down to Fradley and the junction with the Coventry canal. We were assisted at Wood End lock by a boater ready to ascend and experienced our first moment of “cratch envy”, Paul & Elaine had warned us of this when we bought the boat with its nine foot long well deck. I had to turn the next lock and then opened Middle lock for another ascending boat while Sue lingered in the shelter of Shade House lock. The wind by this time was ferocious but our passage downhill and the subsequent turn on to the Coventry canal was an absolute breeze, pun intended, thanks to Caxton’s bow thruster or girlie button for those without one.
After securing our mooring beyond the swing bridge we took a walk back to the junction, dumped our rubbish and headed for the famous pub, The Swan. The heavens opened just as we reached the old drinking hole so we took refuge and I managed a couple of pints of Stella to well behaved Sue’s glass of lime and soda.
The rain had stopped by the time we were ready to return to Caxton so we made the short trip and then settled down in the much envied cratch to eat dinner and then catch up on emails and internet stuff.
Sue tells me that tomorrow’s weather forecast is terrible as is the following three days but who can believe the Met Office and the BBC? Let’s face it, when it comes to weather forecasting, history is definitely not on their side!!!