Well Sandra and I have just completed week six of our continuous cruising experience. Having no permanent mooring to return to is unusual; being able to travel to wherever you want without necessarily returning is exciting. That said, albeit the trip to Burton on Trent and visiting Trevor, we find we have really only completed the ‘Four Counties’ ring. We are back where we started, not far from our old mooring at Kings Bromley on the Trent & Mersey canal. In fact, tomorrow (Wednesday) we are mooring the boat there for a few days to allow us to visit friends and family for a few days. A few days off the boat! We are both so excited about seeing our daughter Emily who is expecting a baby in October – our first grandchild. Sandra also informs me that she is looking forward to having a shower without a time limit!
The last week just like the previous five has been amazing with the added benefit of glorious weather most days. The sun has been out and often it has been hot and we have both needed sun cream – not bad for mid May.
Tuesday last week where my previous ‘blog’ ended started early, 7.00am in fact and it wasn’t an alarm clock that awoke me (we have no need of these anymore), it was ‘Colin’ (our nickname) the swan, who had floated alongside the boat all of the previous night and who had enjoyed various scraps of food from our COBB smoker evening before. Colin was there tapping on the side of the boat to awaken us to a damp colder day than we had been enjoying. When I took my tea and toast outside to join him, he reared up hissing (not aggressively) for some. I was able to feed him hand to mouth; in fact he got quite upset when a morsel of the toast landed in the water! After breakfast we said a fond farewell to our beautiful white swan and headed for the 5 locks ahead of us, our destination Market Drayton. After having such great fun in Nantwich (see earlier Blogs) we were looking forward to having some time to replenish boat stocks and also Sandra had researched the town and we had decided to try one of the Indian Restaurants that evening. When we arrived the weather had got worse, quite heavy downpour as we moored up. However, we still went off for our trip into the town. In fact we thought we might call in for a couple of beers, the rain being a good excuse. A good fifteen minute walk in the pouring rain and me realising I had the wrong socks on in my walking boots resulting is a blister, made it even worse when we arrived to a dismal little town with many of the shops closed or vacant, some buildings derelict and the pubs looking very unattractive. We asked a local where the town centre was and he just looked at us and said we were there! We decided to walk back to the boat – we would give it another go on the Wednesday which was market day.
On Wednesday we were joined by our long time friend Janet, who lives in Shropshire, she kindly picked us up in the car as my foot was still hurting. To our surprise the place looked completely different, the weather was better, there was a little market and we managed to find a Whetherspoons pub, good for a lunchtime snack. Although not anywhere up to Nantwich standards, this place was still worth a visit. When we returned back to the boat around 2.30pm we headed off for the next five locks along our journey. We went through these in an amazing 45 minutes, mainly due to having a boat just leaving the lock as we were going in – at every lock! We found a lovely mooring spot opposite a pub we had visited many years ago in Goldstone. It was surrounded now by caravans and tents, we couldn’t be bothered to visit, so we settled to a cosy night on the boat – with a few glasses of wine, like you do!
Thursday was a stunningly gorgeous sunny day, we decided to, yet again, touch up the black and clean the outside of the boat. Having a bright yellow boat means lots of people notice it – we have to keep it clean! We switched on our Gennie rather than the engine and the batteries were soon charged up, Sandra also washed some clothes in the washing machine. We realised that although the generator is 2.6kw – it doesn’t like a hot wash and battery charge at the same time! We headed off after lunch and moored up only a short distance away at Norbury. We had visited this place before, once passing through on our boat and once when we were looking at buying a boat. One thing we hadn’t ever done was to try the local canal side pub – so we decided to do this. In the evening at the pub we enjoyed a lovely meal in the garden as it was still a warm evening. This was quite an experience as we were joined by a family of ducks that expected feeding and many little sparrows which landed on the table for similar – it was like a scene from Mary Poppins!
On the Friday it was a cooler cloudier day, we headed off early after filling up with water and disposing of our rubbish. No locks, but a lovely stretch of canal. This would have been a very busy waterway in its time. We decided to moor up at Brewood, a place where we had met our friends Steven and Lynne a few years ago when they had joined us for a week’s holiday on our boat. We went into the pub, but both of us were tired an ‘crabby’ with each other, and when I accidently spilt the remnants of my second pint all over the table, Sandra said it was time to leave. We headed back to the boat, Sandra took the dog for a walk and that 20 minutes break from each other’s company was sufficient for us to get a ‘second wind’ to the night. We opted to visit the town Indian restaurant – ‘The Curry Inn’ and we had a lovely time. We have found that when you are together 100% of the time in a restricted area, getting time away from each other – even if its ten minutes or so, is really important. Well it works for Sandra and me!
On the Saturday we had a late start and Sandra cooked a lovely ‘Full English’ breakfast. Around 11.00 am we were on our way. The day was sunny, but not as hot as it had been which was somewhat of a relief. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, some of it travelling on very narrow waters. Our one disappointment, which we ensured wouldn’t ruin our day, was when we past three guys fishing off the tow path. We were passing them in the middle of the canal at just over tickover, when one shouted out for us to move the boat to the far side of the canal. This is was where all the bushes were and often this is silted up, which would cause the boat to run aground. I continued on my way, only to be shouted at quite aggressively – one thumping his fist in the air and calling me a ‘fat fu**ing cu*t!’, both Sandra and I were quite shocked. We ignored them and carried on. Sandra commenting that at least they got one of those right! And we both burst out laughing. We were soon out of the ‘war zone’ and found ourselves mooring up for the evening on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal – time seemed to fly by. We found a great spot just past the Fox and Anchor pub near to Cross Green. We didn’t venture out, but had a ‘chill out’ evening on the boat; Sandra cooked a lovely chicken in white wine sauce with New Jersey potatoes with fresh asparagus. Sometimes I don’t realise how lucky I am to be married to a qualified chef – the meals (when she can be bothered!!) are excellent. We also enjoyed another one of our bottles of wine, both commenting that we need to watch our consumption of alcohol, especially when we decided to open a second bottle!
Sunday we had a relatively early start for us – 10.00am. We headed off towards Penkridge, somewhere we have visited a couple of times before. They have an excellent market, but Sunday was not market day. We couldn’t find any moorings near to the town, so we filled up with water near one of the locks and disposed of our rubbish and decided to find a spot on the outskirts, which we did. A lovely spot again, great for the dog the only downside being the M6 which was quite close. You could hear the road noise, which was quite unusual for use after spending the last 6 weeks or so mostly in the quiet and sometimes isolated countryside. I don’t want this to become a food blog, but yet again we enjoyed a superb meal, simple but fresh, a lovely Spanish omelette with salad and blue cheese dressing, of course with a mandatory glass of white wine!
On the Monday we had a lazy start, I sorted out the TV aerial in the bedroom by converting the indoor digital one to an outside one - a plastic bag was sufficient to do this and hey presto a perfect signal! We headed off to Great Heywood and thoroughly enjoyed our cruising as we skirted around Stafford. We decided to moor at a place we had done before, a place with a large expanse of water renowned for its population of Kingfishers, just before the junction onto the Trent and Mersey, Tixall Wide. We found a great spot just after the ice cream ‘barge’. We took the dog for a walk and chatted to lots of people, one guy was busily polishing his pristine boat, which he informed me had been the ‘Crick’ show boat a few years ago, real nice guy. We then continued and met up with some young people who had decided to make living on a narrow boat their way of life, they were so happy and seemed very contented. Our poor dog who suffers a little from arthritis told us it was time to turn back, so we headed for our boat and of course – an ice cream, home-made with ‘real’ cream. I opted for a tub of clotted cream ice cream and Sandra, the ever adventurous decided on Banana. Mine was superb; Sandra gave hers 5/10! When we settled for the evening we had no TV signal and our onboard broadband had decided not to work – so we ended the day with all of the doors and windows open in this amazing spot with a few G & T’s and later a DVD CSI Miami. (Sandra’s choice of course!)
So, this is the end of our sixth week aboard Captain Hastings our big yellow boat, a week where yet again we have met so many lovely people along the way, many who have got to know us previously on ‘Facebook’, someone even coming over to the boat in a lock, saying they enjoyed the blog!, Michael, who has given me continuous assurance about my boat electrics, who came out of his boat to help us with a locks and just so many other brilliant amazing people. What a life we are all enjoying.