Saturday, 29 September 2012

Arrival at Hawkesbury Junction

In contrast to the last few days the Sun has shone beautifully for our passage today from Nuneaton to Hawkesbury Junction which reflected itself in the happy smile of everybody we passed. Even the anglers, normally very glum and taciturn when addressed, were very pleased today not only to return my greeting with a smile but mostly with a witty quip as well. Wow!


002  The flat rural countryside of Warwickshire

The flat rural countryside of north Warwickshire


The Sun is so good for everybody. The feel good factor is enormous when it shines.

Though the view of Nuneaton from the canal is probably not its best the Sunlight on the water today and through the shrubbery behind the council houses sparkled, while well kept gardens glowed with the bright colour of late summer and autumn. Even the vast stretch of allotments to the west of the canal were heavy with produce. Weekend owners were busy harvesting their good supply of beans etc., trimming large cauliflowers and happily digging the ground ready for next year’s crop. The heavy fragrance of mowed wet autumnal grass wafted across the canal as ‘Futurest’ and I passed by to remind us that no summer is ever a bad summer.


005  Relic of a rustic bridge

The relic of a rustic bridge……


 006  Telegraph pole. Relic of a bygone age
…… and of days gone by


There was very little traffic on the canal this morning. ‘Futurest’ leading the little flotilla was probably the first to disturb the bright coloured Kingfisher who flew at a furious pace over our head towards ‘Roots and Wings’. Up until joining the Coventry Canal at Fradley Junction I had not had one sighting of this wonderful bird throughout the whole year’s journey. But in the short period since then I have seen four of them. It’s amazing as well as most pleasing.

Hawkesbury Junction has always been very busy at the times I’ve passed before and I expected nothing less this time. So imagine my surprise but extreme pleasure nonetheless to find the visitor moorings leading to the junction from the north, completely empty when we arrived.


016  The 'Greyhound' under the bridge

The ‘Greyhound’ under the bridge

The Sun makes me feel optimistic always, and when one is optimistic everything always goes right. So on this Sun laden day we were bound to find that we had a free choice of mooring on arrival at normally busy Hawkesbury Junction. The rule never fails.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


We arrived at this little market town, steeped in history since Roman times yesterday afternoon with the persistent patter of rain on the roof.

It was only a shower but it was the remains of a day’s solid deluge, which had kept us tied firmly to the towpath on Monday, just to the north of Polesworth and round the bend out of earshot of the M42 Motorway rushing furiously across the canal. We had been caught and soaked on Sunday also and needed the next day to dry out. I had lit the fire to dry everything off.


003  'Roots and Wings' astern

‘Roots and Wings’ following astern


Unbeknown to our little convoy on Sunday when we arrived, our good friends Peter and Jeanne were moored only three hundred yards away around that same bend. On Monday, dodging the Monsoon conditions, we visited the two of them aboard their boat ‘Castellan’.

We had last seen them at Newark back in May so had some catching up to do. The coffee flowed well as did the chatter. Later Janis and I needed some vital provisions and had decided that come what may, we needed to brave the rain and shop in Polesworth. Jeanne decided to come with us so we three slopped into town to perform our various tasks.

It was good to see our friends again and ‘Castellan’ sparkled even in the wet conditions. They were heading north so the following day we left them and pushed off to continue our progress south.


004  Approaching Lock 3

Approaching Lock 3 on the Atherstone Flight


After a long pound we had the eleven Atherstone Locks to climb before arriving at our mooring near the BW Facilities and the town centre. So we were pleased to arrive after being battered by the rain and the strong westerly breeze for the last few days.


005  IN the basin above Top Lock (1)

In the Basin above Atherstone Top Lock

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Hopwas to Alvecote

Today the little fleet is very much back to normal routine in its endless odyssey, currently in a southerly direction after entertaining its many recent visitors over the last two weeks.

Though it is thoroughly enjoyable and great fun to have people aboard at any time, afterwards the return to the rigours of a normal working pattern is equally as pleasurable; because it is normal and the members of the team can relax into their everyday life. This is not to be complacent so much as to be able to unwind in a daily programme to which they are now very accustomed.

Yesterday this had been even easier for us as the Sun shone brightly all day. Even so there was the crispness of Autumn in the air and when we had tied up outside the ‘Tame Otter’ Pub in Hopwas I felt sufficiently cool enough to light the  Saloon fire for the first time. However I didn’t make it up before I went to bed otherwise it would have felt uncomfortably hot during the night, but the evening chill was just sufficient to warrant the brief glowing warmth of the ‘Squirrel’.


001  Dappled but bright sunshine

Dappled but bright sunshine during the morning


This morning we set off again with the Sun shining hazily through a thin layer of high cloud. The BBC weather forecast wasn’t good but we hoped to cover most of our day’s cruise with the Sun as our happy companion. The air was very calm and ‘Futurest’ was silent as she slid gracefully through the water. There was the steady throb only of the Russell Newberry to assist me in my reverie.

At Fazeley Junction the two little ships topped up fresh water tanks while their skippers enjoyed an early lunch before slipping their moorings once more and entering the Coventry Canal.

All through the morning we had enjoyed beautiful weather but just as we began to work the locks at Glascote, Sod’s Law took over and it began to rain in earnest. Everything was wide open on ‘Futurest’ so I had to abandon working the Bottom Lock and dash back aboard to batten down all the hatches.


003  Battling the weather

Battling through the rain in the afternoon


The rain’s been battering us ever since.

So by three o’clock we had all had enough and we have tied up near the ruins of Alvecote Priory.

It’s become cooler again as well so I have since re-lit the fire so that all is now warm and cosy.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

My last Skippers

It was marvellous to meet again my last skippers, Ian and Linda on Monday and they haven’t changed a bit since I last saw them…..

Still the happy friendly couple they always were in the old days. I’ve missed them at times, especially in the early days so it was lovely that they came by, just at the right moment to bring back lots of happy memories.

They were with me when I was born so I shall always have a special relationship with them.

I’ve since got used to the Old Salt though, or Ancient Mariner (giggle!), as some call him now. He’s learning slowly bless him.

He can't help it if he’s a bit slow, can he?

He’s a pretty good skipper and he does his best to look after me. But I shall always remember fondly those early days of my life.

They stayed for about half an hour just astern of where I was moored and luckily the Skipper invited them aboard. His son Rupert was there and he invited Janis and Raeleen on too so it was quite a big party that sat supping tea in my saloon for a little while.

It was lovely. Happiness was all around!

The new boat ‘Lillian’ was beautiful and they’d obviously looked after her well. It made me a bit sad really coz they gave me up for her.

She didn't have anything to say to me and looked rather smug I thought so I’m not too sure whether I like her or not. But I have to admit she looked pretty good.

The Skipper looks after me alright though. He’s different from Ian and Linda but I’m used to him and he’s okay.

All the guests have gone now and it’s as it used to be ….. Just me and the Skipper and Janis on ‘Roots and Wings’.

I had to laugh though when Ian noticed Janis’s washing hanging in her windows to dry and said that she should call her boat ‘Bras and Panties’ instead of ‘Roots and Wings’.

He! He! It tickled me it did!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Good Friends and Fradley Junction

Since leaving the Caldon Canal around a fortnight or so ago we’ve been busy entertaining and being entertained by various friends.

Soon, after the little convoy had re-joined the Trent and Mersey Canal,  at Stone in fact, we met Janis’ sister Raeleen at the railway station and since then she has crewed well on ‘Roots and Wings’. Though she’s a New Zealand girl she travels worldwide professionally, lives in Australia and has a home in Dallas Texas too. Consequently her accent is a bit mixed, though predominantly she speaks ‘NewZild’ still. She’s been great fun to be with.

Then on our way south, we had journeyed as far as Rugeley by Friday when I received a phone call from my elder son Rupert, who wanted to know whether he could join me aboard for a few days.

“Yes.” said I “When would you like to come?”

“Tonight.” he replied.

So that was it. I met him near Rugeley Trent Valley Railway Station just as it was getting dark and I led the way for the quarter of a mile along the towpath back to ‘Futurest’. So my little ship was not to be outdone, for she had a new crew member too.

Rupert stayed till yesterday and left the ship where we are at the moment, near Huddlesford Junction. All four of us walked the two miles into Lichfield, spent some time shopping and having lunch before seeing him off on the train to Bristol, where he is now about to study for a Master’s degree.

Raeleen has to be on her way tomorrow and is flying to Dallas.

Fradley Junction must be one of the top contenders for the the doubtful honour of being the busiest place on the waterway system and though there are visitor moorings nearby I have yet to find a vacant one whenever I am there.

On this occasion it was no different. When we arrived on Friday afternoon, boats were arriving from all directions as always, while the usual gale was howling fiercely across the actual junction, making the going even more difficult and trying on both experience and patience. No moorings were available and while I tried to get away with mooring near the shop, adjacent to the ‘Swan’, with ‘Roots and Wings’ breasted up to ‘Futurest’, I was soon told off by the lady inside the shop and asked to move on. We had to carry on down through the locks and on to Alrewas where we moored close to each other for the weekend.

As Rupert had to return home on Tuesday I had to have him near to a railway station by then and had decided to take him back up to Rugeley. So I would need to find a winding point for this. I had hoped to use Fradley Junction for the purpose but as this was not possible the nearest was either four miles with no locks down the Coventry Canal, where we wanted to go, at Huddlesford Junction, or a mile and five locks further along the Trent and Mersey to Alrewas. We plumped for the latter.

And jolly glad I was too that we did, for moored just below the Junction Top Lock were my good friends John and Diane on ‘Our One’.

In 2010 we had first met down south and subsequently cruised a long time together on the Kennet and Avon Canal becoming firm friends in the process. Though our paths had nearly crossed in the meantime on a couple of occasions, this was the first time we had met since then. They were headed in the opposite direction to us and as there were no moorings available and traffic was piling up behind, we only had a few moments to do little more than exchange greetings. But it was lovely to see them again and great to be able to chat for a minute or two as ‘Futurest’ drifted slowly past.

On Saturday after arriving at Alrewas, Janis, Raeleen and I were collected by Peter, one of Janis’ climbing friends and taken in his car to his home at Long Eaton where later in the evening  he took us along to the ceilidh, which he had organised as a charity bash for the Samaritans. The company was lovely, and the band and the dancing lively. We finally piled into our beds at one thirty in the morning and later on Sunday morning we breakfasted with delicious bacon and egg baps, the eggs having been newly laid by his own hens in the garden.


He delivered us safely back on Sunday afternoon which was extremely kind of him and on Monday the ships returned to Fradley Junction. Here I had decided to travel on the Coventry Canal down to Huddlesford, close to Lichfield and its railway stations, instead of going back to Rugeley. We arrived at our mooring on Monday afternoon at the same time as my very good friends Ian and Linda were passing in the opposite direction in ‘Lillian’ on their way home to Doncaster.

Unlike Fradley there are plenty of moorings here and they were happy to tie up for a while and come aboard their old ship ‘JP2’ for a cup of tea and a natter.

Ian and Linda are my longest known friends on the waterways as they sold ‘Futurest’ to me back in 2009. They were very good then in waiting patiently for quite a while, as I awaited the sale of my house to raise the money for the transaction. We have met a couple of times since I sailed away from Great Haywood then and it is always such a pleasure to see them again.

On Monday evening the crews of the two little ships celebrated for the last time with a good meal at the local ‘Plough Inn’ at Huddlesford, before we began to return to our own ways once more. Raeleen is still here but she returns to the other life tomorrow. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Railway Stations and Nostalgia

The Skipper and I are on our own today at the end of the Caldon Canal as Janis has taken ‘Roots and Wings’ out for an extra cruise with her friend Nigel on board, who has come to stay for the weekend.

So for a moment or two it’s been just like old times.

But no …. It wasn’t meant to be that way for very long, coz after cleaning my chimneys and other things this morning, the Skipper’s gone off exploring on his own. I heard him mention to Janis before she left that he was going for “afternoon tea and homemade Victoria Sponge at the Railway Station”. The two of them did go for a ride on the steam train when we were moored back at Cheddleton and enjoyed it very much.

I remember I had a job to pass under the overhanging station platform at Consall Forge as we went by, without it touching my roof. The railway line and the canal are within feet of each other at this point and almost at the same level.

I’ve just borrowed the two pictures below from his computer collection to show what I mean. He’ll never know I’ve done it so please, whatever you do, don’t tell him. He’d be so cross if he knew.

In fact I hope you’re not letting on to him that I’m writing this blog at all. I know he wouldn’t like it if he was to find out.

I’m only doing it now and again just to put a few things straight you know. ‘Coz he just makes it all up I think as he goes along and that’s not right is it?


020  The Platform and Waiting Room overhanging the Canal

The overhanging Platform at Consall Forge



The railway lines beneath the platform


But anyway; he’s got a thing about steam railway stations and afternoon tea and not necessarily in that order, or even together.

He enjoys them separately or together ….. It’s his age you know.

I’ve heard him say it so many times now, that it’s getting boring: “Nothing is like it used to be in the old days, when I was a lad.” he says. Cars aren’t the same; trains aren’t the same. Even people are different now to the nineteen fifties he reckons.

Well of course they are the stupid old dope. Thirty years have gone by since then.

Hang on that doesn’t sound quite right to me. Perhaps it’s fifty years is it? Yes fifty years have gone by.

But it’s nice that him and me are still together …… Coz I’m not perfect you know. I’ve taught him all I know by prompting ideas into his head and he’s not a bad boss really.

Could be far worse. Even though he does lots of things with Janis, I think he likes coming back to me the best.