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. 

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