Friday, 26 June 2015

The "Overwater" Marina and Nantwich.

Friday 26th June, 2015 at Nantwich.
We heard rain during the night but fortunately, it had stopped by the time we had breakfast. Before setting off, we walked into the village to "The Deli" for a coffee and so that M could buy two more of their delicious pasties.
We topped up with water above the first lock and, after waiting for a boat coming up through the lock, set off.
Between the "Shroppie Fly" pub and the lock-keeper's cottage next to the lock, there was a hedge that seemed to be exploding!  M had no idea what it was - any ideas anyone?
By the second lock, three C&RT volunteers were cutting grass - or, more correctly, one was cutting grass while the other two watched him! Not sure why they were trimming the non-towpath side, but I am sure that they knew what they were doing. By the lock was a sort of "allotment" garden full of vegetables.
We were curious to see the new "Overwater" marina, which had recently been voted "Marina of the Year". Could it be a serious rival to our beloved Aston? So we turned in to fill up with diesel fuel and to check it out.
It certainly is very nice, very well maintained, with a well stocked shop and a small cafe - but it didn't have Aston's Bistro or Farm Shop! Hardly surprising, as it is well out into the country and does not have the large urban centres close by as Aston does.
A watchful owl looked down with a beady eye as R struggled to moor up MM in a strong wind that was doing its best to blow her off the mooring.
The hedgerows are truly lovely at the moment; honeysuckle and cascades of wild roses predominate. There are signs already of a bumper crop of sloes and blackberries this autum. Let's hope so.
We arrived at Nantwich and were lucky enough to find a good mooring spot on the popular moorings above the aqueduct.
As it was tea time we walked in to the local Costa for refreshments (!) and we also checked out Nantwich Railway Station. M is going home tomorrow for the weekend by train, back on Monday. (note from M - R will no doubt be getting up to no good in her absence!). (Reply from R - Moi??).
Today: 6 miles, 5 locks and 3.7 hours.
Trip: 68 miles, 44 locks and 38.6 hours.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Twelve Locks and a Duck of Very Little Brain!

Thursday 25th June, 2015 in Audlem.
Awoke to another sunny morning. M, while enjoying her first cup of tea, was thrilled to see her namesake boat passing by (April 1st is her birthday).
We set off after breakfast to tackle the first of the twelve locks down to Audlem. They are in a delightful rural setting, the gates and paddles are easy and the constant passing of boats going up the flight gave us a "good road" (as the old boatmen would say) and brought out the best in the boating community - everyone cheerfully helping each other through the locks.
At the first lock, the cows came down to the water to drink and to gaze curiously at the strange parade of boats passing by.
When the canal boats were horse-drawn, metal plates were put on the bridge corners to protect the stonework from the tow ropes. The tow ropes were always full of grit and they wore deep grooves in the metal.
There was a drama at one of the locks when a mother duck and her six very small  ducklings were stranded in the lock. This is not normally a problem as they will make their way out when the gates open - but this was clearly a mother duck of Very Little Brain! She hopped out of the lock, leaving her brood behind, stranded and completely panic-stricken in the lock.
When the gate opened, they were reunited - at which point she led them over to the by-wash (the overflow water flowing past the lock) and they were promptly swept down the turbulent underground by-wash to the pound below the lock. It must have been a roller-coaster ride! M held her breath, fearing the worst but thankfully all six survived and appeared safely below the lock.
The mother was now in a panic as she had lost her chicks and flew into the air, circling until she heard their plaintive cries from below. M said that the chicks must have been terrified as they were swept down the underground outflow, but R's view was that they probably said, "That was great, Mum. Can we do it again!"
We moored up at Audlem in the early afternoon and fell into conversation with three delightful ladies who were admiring MM and who were fascinated by the locks, having never seen one at close quarters before.
Chrissy and Pat are two sisters and Susie is Pat's daughter. They were so interested that we invited them on board for the "ten cent tour".  They were great fun and we had a delightful half hour together. We hope to see them again, particularly as Pat lives in Nantwich, our next port of call.
We have a prime mooring spot directly beside Audlem Mill, a handsome building now fully restored and a two storey shop offering a huge range of canal related bits and a magnificent array of needlecraft - recently awarded "Best Needlework Shop in the North West". M was in her element!
There is an excellent deli/coffee shop in the village, called "The Deli" so we walked in for some afternoon tea.
In the Deli, M had a pasty, which she declared to be the best that she could ever remember having, and we were quite surprised to see Peter Rabbit pushing a barrow of Cornish potatoes.
The town is dominated by a fine church that sits high above the shops.
We had a very agreeable and quiet afternoon moored in this lovely spot and had our supper to the accompaniment of the local church bells.
Today: 3 miles, 12 locks and 2.4 hours.
Trip: 62 miles, 39 locks and 34.9 hours.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Market Day in Market Drayton.

Wednesday 24th June, 2015 at Adderley.
Last night, we were so ahead of ourselves that we caught up our diary right up to date - but later, M took this photo of the still evening on the water - and we had to include it. Beautiful!
Awoke to a beautiful sunny morning. We had no milk, no fruit juice, in fact, not much of anything! So a shopping trip was in order! We walked into Market Drayton and had an excellent breakfast in the Buttercross Tea Room.
Wednesday is market day in Market Drayton so the town was busy. The market extended for the length of the pedestrian area in the middle of the town and, as with any good market, you could buy almost anything. R bought some fishing line (to hang a crystal in MM's window) and M bought some sewing cotton.
Then we braved Morrisons, not this time for a "few bits" but "rather a lot of bits!"
As we walked back along the towpath, we were delighted to see nb "Wanderin' Bark" and the "Jam Butty" belonging to Helen and Andy, who sell their wonderful jams, marmalades and cordials from the two narrowboats. We naturally assumed that they were there for the "Floating Market" in Market Drayton this weekend; however, there appeated to be no one aboard.
Soon after, R, while on his way to the rubbish bins, was horrified to see that "Wandering' Bark" was preparing to leave. It transpired that Helen and Andy were not aboard but that two gentlemen were taking the boats back to their permanent moorings for them. R enquired if there was any chance of buying some marmalade and, although the two chaps were very helpful, they couldn't find any - so R left very disappointed.
M was inconsolable - but insisted that R went to take a photo of "Wanderin Bark" for the blog, which he did, rather reluctantly.
What a good thing that he did!  The gentlemen had found some marmalade and we were able to acquire six jars of their "Sloe Whisky Seville Marmalade".  Paddington would have been delighted and Guy was pretty pleased too (as were we!).
Our mooring was reserved for the "Floating Market" from today, so we set off north after lunch. The sky had clouded over a bit but it was lovely cruising through rural countryside.
At the top of the Adderley flight of five locks, there was an excellent stall selling a huge variety of home produced goods including cakes, tarts, eggs, meat, bread and even home made butter and cheese (which you don't see often). As with most of these stalls, there is an "honesty box" - M bought home-made scones, a rhubarb tart and a pork pie.
The flight of locks is an attractive one and not difficult, so we were soon down the five and moored up for the day at the bottom in a pretty spot opposite a large field with calves and their mothers. It was lovely to see the young calves playing together and bounding about in much the same way as young lambs do.
This area is famed for its dairy herds and milk production, hence the large number of butter references such as Market Drayton's "Buttercross" and Nantwich's "Buttermarket".
It was touching to see the cows grooming and being so affectionate with the little calves.
As we were moored a few hundred yards below the bottom lock, we noticed that after a boat had gone up through the lock (leaving it full), the gates leaked so badly that the lock emptied in about 45 minutes! So much for C&RT's guideline for boaters to save water!
Once again, we were treated to a wonderful sunset. It is a real treat to be able to see to the horizon.
Today: 3 miles, 5 locks and 4.5 hours.
Trip: 59 miles, 27 locks and 32.5 hours.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

RAF Cosford Museum, Two Years On.

Tuesday 23rd June, 2015 at Market Drayton.
Today, we decided to go and re-visit the RAF Museum at Cosford. We went there two years ago and were very impressed. A little research at Market Drayton Bus Station yeilded absolutely nothing; there are no timetables or any other information in evidence anywhere!
The internet, however, indicated that there was an hourly bus which went to Shrewsbury and a train from Shrewsbury to Cosford Station. So, at the appointed hour, we presented ourselves at the bus station and arrived in Shrewsbury an hour later.  Because it was before 9.30, we had to buy tickets! Rats!!!The first time we've had to pay a bus fare since obtaining our Old Codgers' passes a certain number of years ago!!!
Shrewsbury Railway Station is a magnificent building and serves a wide range of destinations including Birmingham and North and South Wales.
After a relatively short train journey, we arrived at Cosford and walked the 20 minutes or so to the museum. As we walked through the gate, we saw a group of young children picnicing under a Bristol Britannia - what a wonderful place to have lunch!
In the entrance hall to the museum (entrance is free!) was a magnificent one-fifth scale model of a P51 Mustang. Apparently it took 10 years to build and was accurate in every little detail. Magic!
The museum is divided into four hangers. The first is the "Test" hanger and contains the most incredible collection of test aircraft from a time when Britain led the world in jet research. Best of all is one of two surviving TSR2s that is undergoing restoration.
In the "War in the Air" hanger there is the oldest Mk1 Spitfire in existence. It has been restored as it was in 1939, which required the removal of 39 "upgrades" to get it back to its original condition.
It also contained a small exhibit of photos of bits from the Dornier recovered from Goodwin Sands and which we were fortunate enough to see two years ago when it had only just arrived at the museum, still dripping water! Unfortunately it is still being restored and is not currently on display.

The "Cold War" hanger is quite exceptional with aircraft and vehicles from the Cold War period including examples of all three V-Bombers as well as brilliant panels explaining the differences between East and West cultures at that time on everything from sport to politics.
Finally there is "No 1" hanger that contains training and transport aircraft as well as examples of engines from First World War rotary engines to an RB211 jet engine. But, perhaps best of all, the little Folland Gnat T1 trainer - R's very favourite aircraft (next to a Mosquito).
As we walked between the hangers, we heard jet engines out on the airfield and watched as two Jaguar GR3's taxied around the apron.
We later found out that these two aircraft were retired in 2007 and are now used for technical training and in this case were being used to train ground crew in marshalling jets. So about ten students were being taught by two instructors how to marshall the two aircraft around the apron in a very classic "dance".
Back in Shrewsbury, we had an hour between our train and the bus back to Market Drayton and so wandered around the town. The River Severn winds its way round three sides of the town and a trip boat does hourly excursions up and down the river. Many years ago, the river was connected to the canal network by a canal that ran up 16 locks to Norbury Junction. What a lovely journey that must have been.
In the centre of the town was a beautiful timber frame building with an impressive brick built section.
It appears that it belonged to a very successful draper and brewer, who built the brick extension as the first brick built house in the town.
So we caught the bus home - both a little foot sore as we did a lot of walking today.
The evening sun was lovely and M remarked that the beautiful tree on the opposite bank reminded her of the fact that John Constable was reputed to have used brocolli as models for his trees - but this was a case of nature following the artist! M also observed that in fact, he must have used the English Purple Sprouting variety, as the calabrese that we call "brocolli" is a relatively recent import.
Guy was so pleased to see us back on board that he immediately put on M's red hat!
Today: MM rested quietly in the sunshine and didn't move.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Home for the Weekend for M's Concert.

Friday 19th June to Monday 22nd June, 2015 in Market Drayton.
Friday dawned dry but VERY cool. We treated ourselves to breakfast in the tea room at Norbury Junction, which was doing a roaring trade with boaters, workmen and grockles alike.
This is a working wharf with full facilities. It was once the junction of the Shroppie with the canal that went down to Shrewsbury; unfortunately, only the first couple of hundred yards or so survive. It would be a lovely waterway to restore, but sadly there seems to be no movement towards restoration.
We wrapped up well to continue our journey. M is wearing two fleeces, a hat, scarf and leggings. Well, this IS June in England after all! After breakfast, we set off with a fairly long day ahead to get to Market Drayton.
It's lovely cruising on the Shroppie, the waterway constantly changes from "rockings" to "valleys"  (the old boatmen's names for the deep cuttings and high embankments respectively). These are a masterpiece of sheer hard slog - millions of tons of rock and earth being dug out with pick and shovel to make the cuttings, some 80 feet deep, and then carted by barrow and cart to make high embankments. Those navvies certainly earned their money!
In some places in the deep cuttings, the towpath is muddy, overgrown, narrow and almost impassable partly because the sun never gets to the bottom of the cutting. The guide book says that anyone who attempts to walk the Woodseaves Cutting towpath should get a Certificate - of Insanity!!
It was very pleasing to see that some serious remedial work had been carried out over the winter on one section, but there was still a lot more to do! ("Before" above and "After" below).
On the way, we passed a narrow boat that appeared to have got lost on the far side of the field. We also saw it last year and nothing much seems to have been done to it in the meantime.
The flight of five locks at Tyrley is a pretty spot and we came down through them quickly helping, and being helped by, a number of boats going the other way. So we had a "good road", as the old boatmen would have called it.
At the bottom of the locks, we passed some trees growing out of the rock sides, which had  resulted in a curious effect - tree roots or a nest of snakes?
We found a good mooring on the outskirts of Market Drayton and walked in to the town to visit the "Buttercross" tea shop for afternoon tea.
MM looked pretty in the evening sun.
On Saturday morning, we moved into the centre of town and moored up at Tom's Moorings, where we had arranged to leave MM for two nights while we travelled back to Reigate as M was singing with the Reigate Grammar School Cantata Choir on Sunday. We had left the car at Aston Marina, so had to make our way there on public transport, starting with waiting for the bus in the rain!
Recently the stern gland on MM has started to leak a bit and R had run out of the waterproof grease needed to re-pack it. Luckily, by researching the internet, he found some at DB Marine on the Thames. They closed at midday on Saturday but were kind enough to leave it under a bush next to the gate so that we could pick it up on our way past.
The concert on Sunday night at Dorking Halls of the Verdi Requiem was a brilliant success and R was so proud of M, all the choir and the orchestra (mainly current and ex RGS students). They all excelled themselves.
Monday saw us back on buses and trains to get back to Market Drayton where R re-packed the stern gland with the new grease.
Then we moved MM off Tom's moorings (which have to be paid for) to the other side of the canal (which is free). So now MM is moored up in the sunshine and dinner calls.
Five years ago, one of the three storey houses opposite MM was for sale (with its own mooring) and we seriously considered buying it.  We even drove up from Reigate to view at it, but the estate agent proved to be useless and hadn't even bothered to contact the owner, so nothing came of it and the trip was for nothing!
On Friday: 11 miles, 5 locks and 4.7 hours.
Trip: 56 miles, 22 locks and 28.0 hours.