Wednesday 10th October – 19th October We stayed in Worcester for 9 days – 7 days longer than we were supposed to because we were waiting to see if we could get a winter mooring in Diglis Basin which looks like a very nice place to stay. Jackie, the woman that works there, said that she would find out and let us know. In the event, while we were waiting on tenterhooks to find out, she had blissfully forgotten all about us and when we spoke to her on the 18th - the longest we could have left it - she said there were no spaces, sorry!.. Nevertheless we enjoyed our stay in Worcester – a rich tapestry of a city even if it may be fraying a little at the edges... Friar Street is the best - a beautiful old cobbled street full of tudor buildings housing cosy restaurants, pubs and expensive shops. The view on top of the hill in Royal Fort Park where we took Molly in the mornings encompassed the whole city and the Malvern Hills in the distance - breathtaking! Whilst we were in Worcester we had to do our washing in the launderette which was a long walk but there was a junk shop next the the launderette with a bunch of second hand bikes which were cheap – just what we've been looking for for ages. So off we popped to the cash machine and the man was very happy to get £100 for 2 of his bikes - so happy that we thought we should have haggled a bit more! Never mind, neither of us are good at that. During our stay in Worcester we visited a very shabby old pub by the basin called the Anchor which is nevertheless very popular and full of characters and an old cat called Thomas who found Dale's coat to be a comfortable nest. After finding our that we couldn't stay in the basin we had to make alternative arrangements so arranged to stay in Droitwich Spa at a new marina who were only too pleased to accommodate us, so we were very pleased about that.
Tuesday 9th October We got up at 6.30am to negotiate the staircase locks in Stourport Basin after we had filled up with water and emptied the toilets. We got through the locks with no problem thanks to Dale and finally we were on the Severn! It was exciting to be on a wide river again - although it's very rural and not much to look at along that stretch. We had 3 locks to go through and they were different to the ones on the Thames – very deep and you have to hook the ropes through a thick wire at the side to hold the boat. We were so excited when we caught our first glimpse of Worcester Cathedral bathed in sunshine (although you can't tell from this photo).
We had to turn off into Diglis Basin and the Worcester and Birmingham canal and go through 2 large and deep locks which took quite some time. We eventually did it and moored up just past the basin. There was plenty of space which surprised us as we were in the middle of the city.
Monday 8th October We left Wolverley at about 9am in the drizzly rain and travelled through a few locks. We got to Kidderminster, a typical large industrial town but not too grim, with some nice old buildings handsomely renovated into shops and restaurants.
All the locks through Kidderminster need anti-vandal keys unfortunately! Molly was getting cold and wet in the rain so I dried her and put her coat on. She doesn't think she can walk in her coat so stands still all the time and I have to carry her if she wants to go anywhere! She soon got fed up and went inside the boat.
Approaching Stourport on Severn we remembered that a fisherman had told us it was a beautiful place but when we went to explore the town we found it a bit disappointing – the usual signs of recession that have become all too familiar on this trip – a high street with lots of empty shops, loads of charity shops and pubs looking deserted and doleful. It reminded me of a sad neglected seaside town - with an amusement arcade and even a funfair bereft of visitors by the Stourport basin.
We did a recce on the basins and locks we have to go through tomorrow to get onto the River Severn. The lock traffic lights were not showing red so it seems we can venture onto the river and get to Worcester tomorrow morning!
Sunday 7th October Yesterday we bathed Molly so today we tried to cut her fur with our special dog clippers, especially bits on her tummy and legs that have got very matted, but she wasn't having any of it! So we decided we need to find a groom asap. We gave up trying and moved off at about 9.50am, soon arriving at the Cookley Tunnel.
After that we got to Debdale Lock where there is a large cave with a doorway cut into the rock which may have been used as an overnight stable for barge horses.
This is a feature of the Staffordshire and Worcester canal, the high walls of sandstone rock continuing most of the way. The canal wriggles through varied and pretty scenery, and never gets boring. Eventually we got to our destination – Wolverley, and walked into the village to explore. We found an amazing little place where many of the houses are partly cut from the rock.
At the base of the outcrop are the remains of a smithy's shop, cut into the rock.
We went into the only shop to buy a newspaper but it turned out to be a large and bright café with only a few products dotted around the walls. It was full of people chattering and very jolly. We ventured into the Queen's Head next door for a drink and a modern jazz band was playing so we stayed for a couple in the old pub and enjoyed listening to the music.
Saturday 6th October We left Greensforge at about 9.30am today – passed through the lock there and continued through the varied landscape. The next lock was Rocky Lock where rooms have been carved into the rock. Unfortunately I discovered I had left my windlass at the previous lock (we've already lost one) and we only had one long one left which is too long for a lot of the locks so Dale had to walk back and get it. He soon returned with it and we carried on through Rocky Lock and Gothersley lock and came to the village of Prestwood. The canal was quite meandering, through high rocky sides and we soon got to the junction with the Stourbridge canal at Stewponey Wharf, the busiest place we had seen for a while. We went through the lock there then through the Dunsley tunnel which is hewn out of rock.
Eventually we arrived at Kinver, which is an extremely pretty village. There are a lot of long term moorers here. Kinver is surrounded by tall wooded hills and is a delightful village, at once peaceful and bustling, with lots of little shops along the high street. There are some houses in Kinver carved into the cliffs, but we didn't go and see them as they were up a steep hill.
Friday 5th October We got up quite late today - 9.15am. We thought it was going to rain all day as it had during the night but actually the weather looked ok. The first port of call was the 3 Bratch locks through which we were helped by the lockkeeper. I couldn't comprehend how they worked so it was a good job he was there. We told him we were going to Worcester which didn't impress him as he said the Severn is in flood and unnavigable at the moment. After the Bratch locks there was the rudely named Bumblehole lock.
Just before Wombourne Bridge we saw a man walking his dog along the towpath who pointed at a heron and shouted 'Look at that stork!' We talked to him as we drove along and he told us there was a big Sainsburys by the next bridge, it's very new that's why it's not on our map. We were so excited – we haven't been to Sainsburys for months and it was a huge one! Trouble is we had hardly any money so couldn't buy much! Next we travelled on to the Botterham Staircase locks which were similar to the Bratch locks but there were only 2. An elderly man with his 2 granddaughters was behind us - he was a member of the Staffs and Worcs Canal Society and had been through these locks many times. I said I can't get my head around these locks and he tried to explain it to me but I still didn't get it. It took me years to get the hang of normal locks! He was going to a Staffs and Worcs club do near Stewponey. He was very helpful and eventually we managed to get through, but it took a long time. After that we went through 2 locks at Swindon then the last one at Hinksford where we met a boat coming the other way. The lady said they had come from Kinver and I said we're goint to Kinver tomorrow. She said it's very pretty there. Then we carried on to Greensforge which is heavily populated with boats and I'm not sure why. There's a pub called the Navigation there but it looks a bit grotty.
Thursday 4th October We walked into Brewood again this morning to get some food then set off on a beautiful morning, travelling under the noisy M54 to reach the end of the 'Shroppie' through quite a lot of wooded areas which are a bit boring. We arrived at the last lock at Autherley Junction and we turned right onto the Staffordshire and Worcester! Although we were passing through the outskirts of Wolverhampton it was still very green and peaceful with hardly any other boats around. We saw about 3 kingfishers along the way - that's always a joyful experience - and we saw a young fox resting in some bushes by the canal looking on at men working on an allotment. We went through Compton lock then Wightwick locks which had just been oiled and were very black and greasy. We passed by several old chaps fishing and reached Dimmingsdale Lock and Ebstree Lock. One of the men who had just finished fishing looked down at the boat and said 'I envy you'. I said we were going to Worcester and he said 'Oh it's lovely along there – Stourport on Severn is beautiful it's like the Blackpool of the Midlands, but not really like Blackpool, much nicer. At Awbridge lock there was a queue of 2 boats coming the other way which was good for us. A lady helped us through and told us that Worcester is lovely – she has relatives there. All of a sudden the canal had become crowded - it must have been rush hour. We came to the last moorings before the Bratch staircase locks and we didn't fancy doing them so we moored up. Dale went to see the lockkeeper and bought a vandal-proof key which we will need for some of the locks further on. Then we walked into nearby Wombourne which the lockkeeper had said was very old and picturesque but looked quite ordinary to us. We bought ingredients for macaroni cheese for Friday.
Wednesday 3rd October Having stayed the night at Norbury Wharf we went again in the morning to the shop and bought a newspaper, spaghetti and milk. Then we set off in sunny weather at about 10am. There was some lovely scenery but a lot of wooded areas, which can be a bit boring, as you can't really see the landscape. We cruised above the A5 on the aqueduct looking imperiously over the bridge to the busy road below. As we approached Brewood there was some nice scenery and we decided to stop on the visitor moorings at Brewood and then walk into the village. It's a picture perfect village, very quiet and friendly. I watched as a butcher in pristine aprons helped a disabled man out of his shop and into his motorised wheelchair. The village has a useful butchers, bakery, greengrocers and 3 pubs. We went into the Bridge Inn next to the canal, which was very friendly and we chatted with a local old man.
Tuesday 2nd October We left early this morning at 7.30am to quickly navigate through the 5 locks at Tyrley Wharf then travelled on through some beautiful scenery with Welsh mountains as a distant backdrop. Then we passed through the very deep rock cutting near Woodseaves, which carries on for about a mile and was cut entirely by hand with no machinery. It had just started raining when we arrived at Norbury Junction which has a fantastic wharf with a chandlery which stocks everything you could ever want for a boat. I forgot to say that while we were in Market Drayton our inverter blew up, which is the 'thing' that provides electricity, so we had been relying on our generator. We had been told that we could get a new one from Stourport on Severn and it would cost about £330. Luckily we noticed that they sold them in Norbury Wharf for £299 so we bought one! (and when we got to Stourport the shop was closed so we couldn't have got one from there anyway)! We also got coal diesel and gas there and 2 slices of home made lemon cake in the tea rooms.
13th September - 2nd October 2012 We approached the town of Market Drayton with high hopes, but unfortunately as well as taking in the beautiful old buildings in the high street we noticed the many empty and boarded up shops, rubbish in the streets and run down pubs, none of which looked inviting enough to enter. We did venture into one pub, The Talbot, near the canal, but we were the only ones in there on a Sunday lunchtime and so we didn't stay long. The town seemed forlorn, empty and neglected. So our hopes were dashed - we had been looking forward to Market Drayton so much having heard good things about it but talking to locals revealed that they blame the council for high tax on the shops, and also for allowing several new supermarkets on the outskirts of town which have taken business from the local shops. We had to stay there for my work and therefore we spent 2 weeks moored up and hardly ventured into the town except to get food. So really there's not much to report - we talked to a few regular dog-walkers along the towpath and made friends with another couple of CCers who kept an eye on our boat when we went back to Teddington for a big party – we stayed with our friends Gary and Sandra for the weekend and it was very nice. Going to and coming back from London we travelled on Virgin Trains and I discovered they make me feel very sick - I actually was sick on the way back (nothing to do with a weekend of drinking and merriment!)
NantwichMonday 10th September I had to work so we stayed in Barbridge Monday and Tuesday morning then on Tuesday afternoon moved on to Nantwich. We were very impressed with this smart and interesting little town - we only had a short time there but thought it was the best town we'd visited so far - there are some amazing old buildings there. We carried on after doing a bit of shopping and moored up after the 2 locks at Hack Green near the secret nuclear bunker which is open to visitors. We wished we had time to see it. On Wednesday we had 4 locks to go through and then we were in Audlem a small but pretty village with 4 pubs - one of them being the Shroppie Fly which we visited in the afternoon but it was a bit empty. On Thursday morning we left at 9am to go through the Audlem flight of 11 locks - we got into a bit of a rhythm with working the locks but there was someone behind us catching up more and more, so we felt a bit under pressure to hurry. We stopped for lunch at Adderley before the 5 Adderley locks then decided to carry on and get to Market Drayton, which was our destination for a couple of weeks, as soon as possible. Going through the 5 locks was made easier by a kind man ahead of us who after he had gone through himself, emptied the locks for us. We were really looking forward to getting to Market Drayton, a town in Shropshire, as we had heard lots of good things about it and the it's described in our map book as an 'attractive town with some splendid old buildings'.
Sunday 9th September Had a lie-in this morning and got up at 9am. We went for a walk with Molly and tried to find the Yankee Candle shop in Church Minshull which was advertised on the canal. We couldn't find it so came back and set off about 11am. It was a sunny day but a bit windy. For the first lock we had to wait in a queue for ages. There were lots of boats going about today. There was a boat coming the other way when we went through so they helped us with the lock. The lady from the boat said they lived aboard and were continuous cruisers and she could never go back to a house again. She had a young dog called Mitch who kept barking loudly at another dog on some nearby moorings. She said she thought the weather was on the turn - it had become very cloudy and windy. I said we were looking for somewhere to live and she said if anything happened to her husband she'd go and live on the Gloucester and Sharpness canal as there are no locks and she likes Gloucester. Anyway we finished the lock and waved goodbye then carried on to Barbridge junction. We turned right and we were on the Shroppie at last! (the Shropshire Union). We were celebrating as we had looked forward very much to travelling on this canal. We moored up and had a couple of drinks at a pub called the Old Barbridge Inn, which was full of boaters. The food there looked amazing but a bit expensive. We watched boats and people going back and forth along the canal for a while then went back to our boat.
Saturday 8th September It was a lovely day again as we travelled through an increasingly industrial landscape. We had several locks to go through. At one I met a man who has his own property company and goes out for weekends on his little cruiser with his wife. He was interested that we live on our boat. He said he'd offered to buy a boat in France so he and his wife could cruise off down the Midi but she was happy to stay in Cheshire with her friends and grandchildren. We carried on past a huge industrial building with no windows and we wondered what it could be. As we approached it became apparent that it was a salt factory with big piles of salt outside.
As we came into Middlewich the road followed the canal and I had to keep Molly on the lead so she didn't go into the road, whilst navigating through the locks which was awkward. Middlewich seems a bit of a bleak place even on a sunny day but we stopped there to get some shopping in a little Spar. We went through the last lock on the Trent and Mersey and then turned left into the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union. It was like going into a different world with beautiful farmland and rural landscapes surrounding us. We moored up near the village of Church Minshull in lovely scenery. Dale sat outside in the sunshine and did some fishing and I had a little nap.
Friday 7th September We got up at 7am and I had some work to do so I started at 8.15am. I did as much as I could then we left at 11.15am. We had the second bit of Heartbreak Hill to do today - 14 locks. Luckily lots of boats were coming the other way which helped us. It was a beautiful day weatherwise and we went through some stunning countryside on the way. Molly was very good, she has now learned to walk in a wobbly fashion across a narrow lock gate. At Malkins Bank there was a row of cottages and one of them had a hand written sign in the window saying For Sale - 100k We finally got to Wheelock village which is a bit of a bleak little place. They do have a huge pet store there and they have everything you could ever want for your pet. We went into the Cheshire Cheese pub which was quite noisy and jolly, then went back and sat outside watching the sunset and talking about spiritualism.
Thursday 6th September Today was a lovely day weatherwise and very hectic and enjoyable although to start with we weren't looking forward to it. We set off at 7am and soon got to Stoke on Trent which wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be. Obviously people who say Stoke on Trent is grim have never experienced some parts of greater London. We had to stop at the station, which conveniently is next to the canal, to pick up some prepaid train tickets we have bought to get us from Market Drayton to London to go to a party in Teddington at the end of the month. It was the first time we had got prepaid tickets and we must have looked a bit doddery trying to work out how to extract them from the machine. We got them in the end and feeling pleased with ourselves we carried on through Stoke. We were stunned by all the beautiful old ruined buildings along the canalside - hopefully they will be preserved in some way - there are quite a few bottle kilns, which we know are being protected.
We passed the Middleport Pottery, a modern pottery works in a very old building, got through Stoke and to the Harecastle Tunnel where we had to wait an hour and three quarters said the friendly tunnel-keeper – there were 5 boats coming the other way through the tunnel. The friendly tunnel keeper told us stories of boats being stuck in the tunnel, running out of diesel and having to be rescued. When the 5 boats finally emerged one boat owner got told off by the keeper for being too slow. He said his headlight wasn't working properly. Anyway we started into the mile-long tunnel - it was very cold and dark in there and Molly got scared - she was shaking. We got through in record time - frightened of a telling-off - 40 mins (average is 45). Dale drove really well. It was lovely to come out into the warm sunshine.
We went through Kidsgrove then a long flight of 17 locks which is part of 'Heartbreak hill' or the Cheshire locks, and were helped by some youngsters on a boat following us through. At the last few locks a kind man whistling a Glenn Miller song opened them for us in advance and helped us get through – he said he often brought his windlass on his dog walk and helped people because they were worn out after all the locks. We ended up in a beautiful village called Rode Heath which has a post office/shop and a nice pub called the Broughton Arms which was friendly and busy and shabby and we loved it. We are in Cheshire now!
Wednesday 5th September Early this morning at 7.30am we left Stone with some sadness and made our way through the 4 locks. We filled up with water and got some diesel at the boatyard. Then we emptied the toilets (well Dale did). There were another 4 locks at Meaford. At one of the locks I met a nice lady from Rugby and we had such a long chat that Dale was left stuck in the lock wondering when we were going to open the gate. Her fella works at the Euston Marks and Sparks. We carried on to Barlaston, which is a quiet village. We made use of the large Londis store there – we were both hungry so we bought pork pie and home made lemon drizzle cake. When we got back to the boat we had some lunch, then carried on. After another mile there was the last lock before Trentham and at that lock I didn't have to do anything as 4 finnish men on a hire boat were coming the other way and they did everything. I had a little chat with them, they said this was the first time they had been on a narrowboat holiday in England and they said it was very different. They don't have canals in Finland, except one going into Russia. The didn't speak a huge amount of English but we had a nice chat. We remarked on the weather being sunny and that they were lucky and they said "Oh, we know the English weather!" One of them had deliberately not bought a raincoat because he had faith that the weather would be good. Anyway, we carried on through Trentham which looked like a nice town and ended up mooring just before the beginning of the sprawl that is Stoke on Trent overlooking a large nature reserve with horses and foals. It was quite lovely, and a lovely day as well, albeit a bit windy.
Sunday 26th August - Tuesday 4th September What can I say about Stone? It's a delightful little town in Staffordshire, a proper canal town with historical connections. It's lively, with a great market on the first Saturday of every month, and lots of music events on all the time. We went into the Swan Inn, which is a proper old locals pub, very lively with lots of old characters and a free buffet on Sundays, of which we partook merrily. Children are not welcome in the Swan, but dogs are - only until 9pm though, and then they have to go home to bed.
I had my hair done in a local hairdressers by Douglas, and we visited all the charity shops and came away with 3 nice jumpers for under £20. The high street is pedestrianised and coffee shops and restaurants have seats outside so people can enjoy themselves in the sun, which gives a relaxed holiday feeling to the town. The Morrisons is the best we've been in and they have a large Co-op and lots of other independent shops. It's a small town with a buzzing atmosphere. Terry Darlington, writer of Narrowdog to Carcasonne lives here, although we were informed by someone in the supermarket that he has had a stroke and is not well. Everyone knew we were off a boat because apparently people from Stone don't carry rucksacks.
Sunday 26th August Despite what these cows thought, so far on this bank holiday the weather had held up and continued to today. We left Weston at about 9am for the relatively short journey to Stone, passing through some beautiful rural and very remote scenery. There were 2 locks before Stone, we had to queue up for quite a while to get through both of them. At the second lock there was a man with a big day boat full of children. He said they were going to pick up the brownies next. They all waved at us as we went past them on the way out of the lock. We carried on into Stone and were lucky to get the only space left which was between 2 other boats. We fed Molly and walked into the town which is nice with every sort of shop you might need and a pretty high street festooned with flowers. We were very impressed with the Morrisons there - it was very upmarket compared with others we have been to lately - with every sort of vegetable you could ever want. It even had the cooked chestnuts we needed. I realised we have been starved of shops lately and we were elated to be walking around this lovely big one! After that we repaired to The Star, a very old pub next to one of the locks and whiled away an entertaining couple of hours watching boats going to and fro through the lock.
Saturday 25th August We left early from the pig farm and went on our way. We were aiming for Stone, in Staffordshire. We got through the first lock and went through Little Haywood to Great Haywood where there is a big boatyard and we got new batteries, some Blue, and emptied our toilets and filled up with water. A very nice man in the shop gave us a discount on our batteries so they were £68 instead of £70 each. £70 is a good price anyway! Dale was thrilled to have new batteries – he'd been worrying about how long the old ones would last. Great Haywood seemed quite a nice town – there's a big marina there and lots of boats moored nearby. They have a big farm shop which we should have gone to but didn't. At the next lock – Hoo Mill Lock, the boatyard shown on the map was overgrown with weeds so we couldn't get the diesel we needed. We continued through the last lock and reached a beautiful little village called Weston upon Trent, and moored up opposite a field full of cows. We walked into the village to look for the stores shown on the map to get some things we needed, but the shop was closed for Saturday afternoon and when we looked through the window it had hardly anything on the shelves. We asked a man passing by if there was another shop but he said no - the villagers are upset about it too – so we repaired to the pub on the pretty village green – The Woolpack – to drown our sorrows.
19th - 25th August The backdrop to Rugeley is the four huge cooling towers of the power station which dominate the scenery. Ugly, yes, but actually Rugeley is not too bad, especially on a sunny day. On Monday we decided to catch the bus into the centre of town to get some groceries. We were waiting at the bus stop, not knowing when the bus would arrive as the timetable had gone, when a little boy of about ten on a bike pulled up opposite and shouted "Are you waiting for the bus?" When we said yes he told us he had just left Armitage and he'd seen the bus there so it would only be another 10-15 minutes. We thanked him - how sweet can you get?
As promised the bus arrived and we got on and because we didn't know where we were going asked an old lady where we should get off for the supermarket. A young man overheard and said it was 3 stops. Three stops later they all said "It's here!" So we got off but unfortunately we were not in Rugeley at the Morrisons as we intended, but at a small Co-op in Brereton, on the outskirts of Rugeley. I had a shopping list on which we had planned out 4 days of meals and a lot of the ingredients were not available in the Co-op so we had to re-think quickly. Having simplified the menu, we got a few things that we needed and then went to the bus stop to get the bus back. The bus stop was next to a childrens' park with a proper paddling pool! These are not allowed in London any more because of 'elf and safety! We got the bus back and decided that we would take the boat into Rugeley on Wednesday lunchtime, get the proper shopping and go on to the other side of Rugeley to moor up where I still have a signal. Rugeley is an old fashioned sort of town, a bit run down and overrun with charity shops, but not unpleasant. Some nice houses line the canal – it's not downmarket at all.
Having got all our requirements at Morrisons I found I had some work to do so Dale navigated us to the other side of Rugeley where we stopped opposite a pig farm, which got quite noisy at certain times of day but we had some lovely views of Cannock Chase the other side.
On Friday night after I had finished work we cruised on about a mile further to moor up near the pub called the Wolseley Arms and walked there to have a couple of drinks and a very pleasant evening. There was an Indian takeaway nearby and we didn't feel like cooking so got a takeaway. It was raining and very dark as we walked back so much hilarity was had struggling through the woods to the boat using Dale's lighter to light the way.
Sunday 19th August It was a bit drizzly again this morning when we set off. We were stuck aground and took a little while to get going but eventually managed to get free. We travelled the short distance to Fradley junction which is very nice and quite 'canal touristy' with a nice pub called the Swan (it was too early to go in) and gift shop, tea shop etc. We turned left at Fradley Junction onto the Trent and Mersey canal. There were 2 locks to get through. A volunteer lock keeper was helping at the first one. He commented on our 'garden' which now consists of 2 large tomato plants and 2 large displays of petunias and marigolds and a herb garden, which have blossomed in spite of me being not that green-fingered. He told me about his potato plants, which have yielded a poor crop this year. He lives in Cannock, and commutes quite a long way to Fradley junction to volunteer. He gets paid expenses but thinks even this may be taxable! He is a retired teacher. At the next lock there was another casual volunteer who has to look after his 100-year-old mother so can't commit himself properly to volunteering. He lives near his mother in Birmingham, but used to live in Harlech in Wales. He tried to talk to me about cricket but I'm afraid I didn't know what he was talking about. The weather was a popular subject with everyone we spoke to today as well, it's very changeable at the moment. I think they're having it very good in London - apparently there's a heatwave. We travelled on through a wooded area - there was one more lock, and luckily someone was coming through the other way which filled the lock for us so we helped them through. The woman who was driving said it had been a very relaxing day for her and said that narrowboating is not as relaxing as everyone thinks. This is very true, it can be quite stressful at times. We continued through the towns of Handsacre which we thought would be a nice little village but in fact is not that picturesque. and Armitage (home of Armitage Shanks the toilet company). We went past the factory with all the toilets packed up outside. Armitage is even less picturesque than Handsacre, so we decided to carry on and stop in Rugeley, the start of which seems quite nice, with the large Hawkesyard Priory and Spode House (former home of the pottery family), dominating the canalside, and the estate consisting of large landscaped gardens and a golf course. We walked up the towpath to see what else we could see and came to the Ash Tree pub by the canal – a family restaurant/pub. We had a couple of drinks in there and decided to catch the bus to go food shopping in the centre of Rugely the next day.
Saturday 18th August We left at 7am from Polesworth because we had quite a long way to go this weekend. It was drizzling with rain. We cruised through Tamworth, which appeared to be quite a nice town which we weren't expecting, it being on the outskirts of Birmingham. There were 3 locks to go through at Tamworth. I got talking to a man on a boat on his way to Coventry. He said Rugeley is quite a nice place. When we got to Fazeley junction there were some attractive old buildings next to the canal, and while we filled up with water we talked to an old man passing who told us that one was a disused chapel and the other used to be a tape factory. They are listed buildings so will probably be converted into something else eventually. He was a sweet old man with a little dog called Dottie which he carried along in the basket on his bike. He called her his 'babby' - she was a cross between a chihuahua and a border terrier and he had named her after his late wife. He had had dogs all his life and most of them were buried in his garden. He was obviously a bit lonely and stayed chatting for quite a while - a very sweet man. We finished doing our water, cleaned the toilets and threw away our rubbish and carried on. We went through Hopwas and Coton which are very attractive villages. Hopwas has 2 nice pubs. Then we continued past a military firing range in a wooded area. We thought we'd have a break and stop at a pub shown on our map in Whittington but the map let us down again, it has been replaced by a large new house. So we went on to a place called Huddlesford and a pub called The Plough. It was a pub that had recently been done up but nice and busy and the landlord was friendly. I finished his crossword for him. We had a few drinks and did some people-watching then continued on. When we got to Fradley which is near a noisy road but is a nice village, the weather had picked up and was quite hot. We decided to stop in Fradley for the night, and walked into the village in search of a shop and no-one was about except 2 little boys so we asked them. After that some people in a car asked us for directions to the village hall and the funny thing was we had passed it so we knew where it was. We got a couple of things in the shop, went back to the boat and Dale cooked roast beef from the butcher in Polesworth. We had high hopes for it, but it was a bit gristly unfortunately.
Sunday 13th August - Saturday 18th We stayed for a week in Polesworth and really liked it. It's a very attractive town yet unassuming at the same time, not at all touristy. It has all the shops you would need - a butcher, a Spar, a greengrocer, post office etc. There is also the ruins of a 10th century abbey and quite a few pubs which we didn't go into because we thought they'd be full of locals and we'd stick out like a sore thumb. The walk to the shops each day took us along the canal, through a nice park, past the beautiful River Anker, and then past a big field with friendly horses in it. The shopkeepers were all very friendly and chatty. It was a bit like going back in time to the sixties. They knew we were on a boat because they have the same customers regularly every day.
We were moored a little out of the town next to another boat making and selling chimney pots. The view were we were was an idyllic scene of local farmland. A very nice place to stay.
Saturday 11th August We got up early and set off up the Coventry canal to go through the flight of 11 locks in Atherstone. We met a few boats coming the other way so that made it easier for us. A couple who were following us through said that their mooring is in Tamworth. They said there's no trouble in Tamworth, it's a safe town and told us where we could moor. This is good bcause we have to spend a while in Tamworth for my work. We managed to negotiate the 11 locks quite quickly, the countryside around them was very pretty with distant farmland views, and we ended up in a place called Bradley Green which was very quiet with nice surroundings but distant noise from roads and trains. Dale made a chicken and potato curry that evening, we watched some of the olympics and tried to watch a film called 'The Ghost' but it was boring and I fell asleep on the settee.
Friday 10th August There was a broadband signal where we were moored so I did some of my blog this morning. We left about 11.30am to get to Atherstone. It was a lovely day again. There is some beautiful open countryside with rolling hills and distant wooded areas on the way from Nuneaton to Atherstone. We reached a convenient mooring in Atherstone near the town centre. Then we noticed there was a sign saying 'No mooring - British Waterways work boats' but the man on the boat next door said don't worry about it, they haven't been here in years, so we ignored it. Then we walked into the town. Atherstone is an odd town with a kind of faded scruffy prettiness - it seems to be fighting back, there are some nice old buildings and lots of little independent shops, but also quite a few empty ones. The old market place beckoned, but by that time we had been shopping the in large Co-op and had heavy bags, so we went back to the boat and had some macaroni cheese for lunch, then Dale had a sleep and I read the paper. Later on that evening we watched some more olympics, then went to bed early and read our books. We do have an exciting life!
Thursday 9th August We got up early and travelled for 9 hours altogether. We wanted to get back to the Coventry canal and on our way. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we ended up mooring the other side of Nuneaton in a nice quiet place near Hartshill.
Sunday 5th August - Thursday 9th August Karen and Les arrived at 9am on Sunday morning and we had a lovely time with them for the next few days. This involved travelling up to the end of the canal visiting each of the pretty little villages along the way, lots of drinking, watching the olympics in the evenings, eating lots of bread and butter pudding and crumble, which me and Les love, and barbecueing, with a couple of days of lovely weather to boot. The canal from Market Bosworth to the end at Snarestone is absolutely beautiful. When we got to Snarestone we had to walk 2 miles to get to Measham because we needed food and there were no shops. Laden down with food (and drink), we decided to find a taxi to bring us back which proved quite difficult and involved a half hour wait outside Tescos.
Trying to find drink food...
Saturday 4th August We left Stoke Golding at 9am. Stopped at Sutton Wharf bridge where there is a nice café. Dale emptied the toilet and I took the rubbish. We continued cruising along in bright sunshine through some beautiful and peaceful countryside. It was a delightful journey. Then at about 11am we arrived in Market Bosworth. There is an old steam engine there and we could hear it whistling nearby.
As soon as we'd stopped we started on our cleaning chores, which we have to do before Karen and Les arrive. I cleaned the bathroom and Dale did the kitchen. When we'd finished we decided to walk into the town, which is about a mile from the canal. At first it was quite a busy road but then began to change into the beautiful little 18th century town that is Market Bosworth. It has some lovely little independent shops in the high street, including a butcher, a baker and a greengrocers. We tried to get some cash but the machine wasn't working so we had to get cashback at the Co-op where we bought our alcohol supplies for the next few days. We had a walk around the village then Dale felt a bit ill because he hadn't eaten so we went into Ye Olde Red Lion pub (good excuse). It's a lovely old fashioned pub that smells like a proper pub when you walk in and it's obviously very popular, because it was busy. We had a couple of drinks then went to get fish and chips but it was nearly 4pm and the shop had closed! So we walked back to the boat with our very heavy rucksacks and had some burnt pizza for dinner.
On the morning of Wednesday 1st August we carried on up the Coventry Canal for a diversion up the Ashby Canal. We were going to meet Dale's sister Karen and her partner Les for a few days break. Our map told us that the Ashby was very rural and beautiful but we were a bit disappointed with the beginning of it. It was narrow, shallow and difficult to negotiate and we hadn't managed to escape the ubiquitous electricity pylons.
We arrived at Hinkley, which we had thought was going to be a small country village but in fact it is quite a large town. We stopped outside a large pub next to a marina and a Premier Inn hotel - it was a bit like a motorway service station! We had to see what the pub was like of course so had a couple of drinks in there - it was very busy and friendly.
Next morning we walked a couple of miles through Hinkley to get to Tescos after asking several people for directions. We liked the Tescos there, the people from Hinkley are friendly and ready to have a good old chat about anything. We had a chat with the cashier who told us that Market Bosworth (where we were planning to meet Karen and Les) is a lovely town and quite posh. After Tescos we cruised on and stayed at a lovely place near Stoke Golding which was quiet and beautiful. We gave Molly a bath and read our books for most of the evening.
On Friday 3rd August we cut Molly's fur a bit, her legs needed doing, then I cut Dale's hair for him. We are getting the hang of this. Molly looked nice when we had finished (well she thought she did anyway!).
Then we put the generator on and did some hoovering. I cleaned the bedroom. Then we set off for Stoke Golding village. There is a marina next to the village. I did the washing up while Dale dusted (we had visitors coming - we had to clean up!) then we walked up the lane into the village. It has 2 pubs, an Indian restaurant, a post office, a store, a tiny hairdressers and a beautiful church. What a pretty and peaceful village!
Later on we walked back up to the pub, the White Swan, in the High Street. As we walked in there were people on 3 separate tables and it was deathly quiet. The tables were arranged strangely around the edge of the room. The bar staff were really nice and we ended up having quite a few drinks and staying quite late. It was busy throughout the evening with people eating and had more of a restaurant atmosphere than a pub. We outstayed most of the people, then bought 2 fairycakes over the bar and walked home.
We stayed in Newbold for 10 days, discovering the two pubs, the Barley Mow and The Boat during our stay. The pubs are ok, not that great. One night we had a meal in the Barley Mow which was quite nice. Staying behind us was a friendly woman called Alison. She was on her own and had M.E. so Dale helped her with a few little jobs. She was waiting for her son who was going to accompany her to her new marina in Devizes. She had a long journey ahead! The weather was good while we were there and one day we were standing outside with Alison and another woman walking her dog, whom we nicknamed 'the gatherer' because she talked a lot about foraging for food. She told us there was a dump nearby where we might find some cheap bicycles, so that afternoon Dale walked to the dump. There weren't any suitable bikes there that day, nor the following Sunday when we visited again unfortunately.
Most of the people that moored up on their boats in Newbold were holidaying and were very cheerful and pleasant. One day we caught the bus into Rugby and had a good old look round. We concluded it must be quite a poor area because there are a lot of Poundland type shops there.
One day Dale accidentally switched the water heater on and left it on all day, and it left our batteries flat. Thus followed a panicky day of using the generator to charge them up again, and hoping we hadn't wrecked them. It turned out that all was well, however.
The main happy memory of Newbold was of several hot evenings where we sat at the bow of the boat watching the sun go down, chatting and drinking cider.
On the 31st of August I finished work at lunchtime and we set sail again. It was drizzling but not unbearable. We went through some beautiful countryside around Brinklow. We arrived at Rose Narrowboats in Stretton Stop, filled up with diesel and water and emptied all the toilets, which were perilously full! After that we were looking for an out-of-the-way place to moor so we could use our generator and do some washing. We certainly had a lot of washing by then! We stopped in a noisy place right next to the high speed railway, where nobody else would want to stop and set to work doing our washing. I looked out of the kitchen window which was up against some long grass and some of the grass was moving twitchily. I knew there must be an animal there and sure enough spotted a tiny field or harvest mouse eating in the midst of the grass.
Not all views on the canal are pretty....
From the 9th of July we stayed in Hillmorton on the outskirts of Rugby. It's a quiet suburb (it used to be a village in its own right, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book) seemingly populated by older people. There don't seem to be any decent pubs, but there is one shop. A man called Roy told us where to find the shop. He told us he had been living here for 44 years.
We went into Rugby on 2 occasions. The first time we waited at a bus stop with a Geordie man who was very helpful and told us where to get off the bus, and once we were in Rugby he escorted us all the way to Asda. People are very friendly here. Rugby is not an unpleasant town, but there's nothing about it that would blow you away. It has all the required shops, and a small market.
Hillmorton has a field full of radio masts which have been there since 1926 and were used for communications during the war. In our first week we stayed near the beginning of a flight of 3 locks and spent some time observing people going through them on their boats. This helped while away the time for Dale, who got a bit bored. I was expecting work to come in that week, but in the end none came.
On Monday 16th July we made a second foray into Rugby. We got to the bus stop and started talking to an old man waiting there. He moved to Hillmorton in 1960 from Durham and worked with agricultural machinery. It was pouring with rain that day, and while we were talking a large vehicle carrying an enormous load of staw was fighting to keep the bales on his lorry. Several other elderly people joined us at the bus stop and we all chatted, moaning about the rain and the lateness of the bus. When we got on the bus it was full of old ladies and all you could hear was loud chattering! We got our stuff in Rugby and on the way back on the bus we met our Durham friend again, and we walked back together to his road and then said goodbye.
In our second week we moved on through the locks and stayed beyond them. There were some other liveaboards staying there - the boat behind us was occupied by Dave and Hayley and their dog Tasha. They asked me to paint a picture of Tasha so I took a photo of her. Another of the boats was called the '70s boat', and was painted with pictures illustrating different facets of that decade. We left Hillmorton on Saturday 21st July and travelled on to a big Tescos in Rugby which is near the canal, and got the shopping for the coming week. After that we went on to Newbold on Avon, a suburb the other side of Rugby where we intended to stay for the next two weeks while I was busy with work. Newbold is nice, it has moorings that attract a large number of holidaying and liveaboard boaters, it has a fantastic Co-op and a nice old fashioned pub, The Barley Mow.
We did our washing in the marina. I phoned my friend Barbara at the top of the hill at 10am (there was no signal below). She said there was torrential rain in Cambridge so she didn't think they could come. So all that cleaning was in vain! We finished our washing then walked up to the village again to look round a bit more. The church service was taking place as we walked past All Saints' Church. There are beaufiful countryside views from the top of the hill. The shop had sold out of any sort of meat so we ended up getting Fray Bentos tinned pies for our Sunday lunch and stuff to make bread and butter pudding again for a treat. We then paid another visit to The Wheatsheaf. My friend Bruce phoned while we were there to see how we were getting on. We had a couple of drinks then hurried back to the boat to watch the Wimbledon final - Murray v Federer. It was very exciting but Federer won.
Saturday 7th July – we got up early and left at 8am to go through the 6 locks. It was a pleasant journey, peaceful and pretty countryside surrounding us. At the last lock I was busy winding up the paddles when a man came out of a nearby shop escorting Molly. 'Is this your dog?' he asked. She had been nosing around as she usually does when we aren't looking. We found a place to moor and went to enquire about doing our big pile of washing in the nearby marina. The man in the shop there was very helpful and also told us how to get to Daventry (we needed to buy some food). It turned out there was only one bus an hour. We followed his instructions, walking past a narrowboat selling old-fashioned sweets and a narrowboat café which appeared to be very popular. Having dawdled a bit we realised when we got to the bus stop that we had just missed the hourly bus. At last it came (an hour later) and we arrived quickly in Daventry. The friendly bus driver (they are all friendly round here, and people say thank you when they get off the bus as well!) pointed us in the direction of Waitrose. Daventry is a fairly small and quiet town and we felt peaceful and calm walking around Waitrose. Everyone was very helpful. We managed to fit all our food for the coming week into our 2 rucksacks and caught the bus back. When we got back we decided to do some cleaning because our friends Bill and Barbara might be coming to see us tomorrow. After that we went up the hill to the village with Molly and visited The Wheatsheaf - a good scruffy locals pub - the sort we really like - which had a nice staffy called Ruby who quickly made friends with Molly. We had a couple of drinks then walked down the hill home.
Friday 6th July – It was raining this morning so I had a lie in until about 9.30am. Dale filled the boat with water and we decided to set off in the rain with raincoats and umbrella. It was pouring with rain but despite this all the boaters we met waved us a cheery good morning. We went through the Braunston tunnel which is nearly a mile long. We decided to stop before the Braunston flight of locks and wait for the rain to stop. Of course it didn't stop so we walked along the squelching muddy towpaths up the hill to the village with our umbrellas. Braunston is the canal junction between the Oxford canal and the Grand Union Canal and was once an important part of the canal transport system. Many former boating families have links to the village. It is a lovely friendly village with a well-stocked shop, a butchers and 4 pubs. We had one drink in the Admiral Nelson and overheard boaty talk in this nice pub right next to the 4th lock in the flight. At last the rain ceased at about 5pm but by then we couldn't be bothered to work the locks. On the news it said there has been widespread flooding around the country.
Thursday 5th July – We left Weedon Bec, passing nice countryside on the way. We were heading for the Buckby flight of locks. As we approached the first lock Dale pointed to a boat moored saying "That looks like Kevin and Ingrid's boat!" As we came nearer we realised that it was indeed our friends' boat Columbia. Ingrid poked her head out and waved so we pulled in and moored up. We couldn't go by without saying hello. We stood on the bank with them chatting and drinking tea for about an hour or so. We told them we were going through the locks and they said they would meet us for a drink in a couple of hours at the New Inn. So we proceeded to go through the locks - we shared them with a couple from Market Bosworth, who were on a week's holiday. Today happened to be a nice day, but it was the end of their holiday and it had rained all the rest of it. She said they came for a week every year and it always rained. She said she hated narrowboating, but her husband loved it, so she did it for him. We were working as a team, so it didn't help when Molly was sick and refused to walk so I had to carry her between 2 of the locks. She was all right after that, except for a disappearance at one of the locks. We found here in someone's garden with another little dog. A gang of youngsters were on 2 boats behind us and they helped at each of the locks so that made it quicker for us. We got to the New Inn, the last lock was there and all the people in the pub garden were watching us. The pub said no dogs allowed so of course Molly wandered in. We finished doing the lock, moored up nearby and went back to the pub to have a drink. Then Kevin and Ingrid turned up and we had a great afternoon chatting, laughing and drinking. The sun was actually out that day and I got very sunburnt. I think we were sitting outside for about 6 hours! We said goodbye at about 8.30pm and walked back to the boat, switched on the telly and fell asleep.
Wednesday 4th July – left Blisworth at 8.15am. It was cloudy but the rain held off. Had a pleasant journey with no locks from Blisworth to Weedon Bec travelling through pretty Bugbrooke and Nether Heyford, surrounded by lovely countryside. Got to Weedon Bec. The map said there was a supermarket on the newer side of the village but there wasn't - only a noisy busy junction with some dodgy looking pubs. We were told by a man at the bus stop to go into the old part of the village. So we walked through a bridge under the canal to the other side - a lovely old village with some new development surrounding it. It had a doctors, a dentist, a school, a greengrocers, an antique shop, a post office, a one stop supermarket and two pubs. However there was a doleful feeling about the village I can't really explain. We couldn't get the veggies we wanted in the One Stop so changed our menu and bought some other stuff. Then we walked to have a look at the ordnance depot which was built during the Napoleonic War but is now owned by some private companies.
Tuesday 3rd July - We got up early this morning and left at 7.30am because we wanted to get through the Stoke Bruerne flight of 7 locks before it started to rain! Got to Stoke Bruerne without being rained on and Dale emptied the rubbish. Stoke Bruerne is a proper little canalside town with 2 nice pubs. Pity it was too early to go in. So we carried on to the Blisworth tunnel. It was quite fun going through the tunnel which is over a mile long. Me and Molly had to keep sheltering from the drips coming from above. It's cold in the tunnel and it smells very musty. When we came out we could really smell the difference. We moored up in Blisworth. The people in Blisworth seem very friendly and helpful. I had a long chat with a lady with a cockapoo called Norman. She asked me if we were retired! Do we look that old?? Went for a walk in the village which is small and doesn't consist of much. In the shop the assistant tried to give us a tatty copy of the Lord of the Rings and some old gloves. Walked back to the canal and had sausage sandwiches for lunch. Had a 'power nap' and then did some painting.
Monday 2nd July - We left at 9am this morning and cruised along in the miserable drizzle to get to Yardley Gobion and the boatyard there. When we arrived we were told that they didn't open until 11am so we were an hour early. They were very busy with dry docking changeovers. So we walked to Yardley Gobion - about three quarters of a mile from the canal. Yardley Gobion is a quiet and pretty little village with a pub, a nice church, a shop and a post office in what looks like a private house. We walked to the shop and got some supplies. When we got back to the wharf the chap filled us up with diesel and we got a canister of gas. He said it was very quiet this year, not many boats around at all. After Yardley Gobion, we continued until just before the Stoke Bruerne lock flight, and stopped in the middle of countryside a long way from anyone else. It was very peaceful. I did some painting and then we bathed Molly, dried and brushed her and attempted to clip her with the new clippers. They didn't make that much difference as her fur is still quite short. She was a very good girl though. We had the generator on so we watched Come Dine with Me. Later Dale cooked steak and chips. We saw a programme about how to make Crunchie bars and both wanted a Crunchie. Watched a good thriller called Blackout later.
Our friends Tim and Jane were going to come to Cosgrove today to see us but phoned up to say Tim wasn't feeling too good. We went to the Barley Mow for lunch and had roast beef which was nice. We came back and finished off the bread and butter pudding.
On Friday morning we awoke in Water Eaton. A friendly young man with an alsation called Layla who lived on the next boat told us not to go shopping in Milton Keynes (we needed to get some clippers to groom Molly) as he said we would get lost. There was a pet shop in Bletchley, so we decided to go there as it would be much quicker. We got our clippers and the lady in the pet shop was very helpful.
Got back to the boat and set off towards Milton Keynes. There was one lock in Fenny Stratford on the way and we thought it would be a doddle but oddly the lock has a swing bridge in the middle of it which made things a bit more complicated.
We got through and carried on through Milton Keynes. My memories of Milton Keynes last time we came (4 years ago) are that it was quite neat and manicured but things seem to have gone downhill since then. The winds that day were horrendous and we were stuck behind a very slow boater for such a long time Dale got boat rage. This isn't supposed to happen on the canals! Your're supposed to get relaxed! At last we got to the top of Milton Keynes - Old Wolverton, and stopped beside a nice pub called the Galleon. Dale made a cauliflower and chick pea curry and we went to the pub for a few drinks. It had a jolly atmosphere - lots of people laughing and chatting.
On Saturday we got up and took Molly for a walk along the towpath. There were lots of friendly people about with their dogs. A great big tattooed man came towards us with a tiny black fluffy thing and we chatted to him - his dog is a cockapoo and 12 weeks old.
We set off for Cosgrove which wasn't far but the wind was bad again. We went over the little aqueduct in the pic above which carries you over the River Ouse. It was quite scarey in the wind, especially as one side has no barrier. When we got to the lock an old man started chatting to me. He has lived on a boat for 29 years and enjoyed every minute of it - he is moored at Fenny Stratford. He's got through 3 wives he said because none of them liked boating. He said he couldn't find a woman who liked boating for its own sake. He told us where to go in Cosgrove for the shop and helped me with the lock gates.
Cosgrove is a pretty little village, very quiet, with a nice pub which we visited later on. You have to go through an old horse tunnel (shown above) to get there. This is a pub that restores your faith in pubs - very old building, unspoilt and full of atmosphere, with good food to boot. We had a couple of drinks and did a bit of people-watching then came back and had the remains of our curry and bread and butter pudding which I had made earlier.
For the past 10 days we stayed in Leighton Buzzard because I had a good broadband signal and needed to do some work. We stayed about 1 mile outside the town itself, next to a nice park with lots of wild flowers, rabbits and a lake. It was a peaceful place to stay, nestling at the end of a row of narrowboats. The town itself has a man who carries a guitar and plays maraccas, seemingly for no reward. The people are friendly and the town is pleasantly old fashioned, with a market every Saturday. The high street is suffering a little from a glut of charity and pound shops, but has everything you need.
Two interesting things happened while we were there – a cow in the field next to us hurt its leg and had to be confined in a field on its own for several days and on our last day we watched a police search in said field (nothing to do with the cow). They said they were looking for a person, a helicopter came over and firemen were thrashing about by the canal with sticks.
Also whilst here, I bought Dale a fishing rod for his last year's birthday present and he was thrilled with it, but there was a canoe race along the canal on Sunday, and he thinks they frightened all the fish away.
On Wednesday I finished my June magazine so we set off to Tescos to get water, empty toilets, and throw rubbish away. We went into Tescos to get some shopping. When we came out the maraccas man was there shaking his maraccas, singing, poking the trees and saying good morning to everyone. It was very jolly. Then we continued our journey through pretty countryside and a very pretty lock - Leighton Lock, to reach the Globe where we were going to meet my friends Helli and Chris. The Globe is a very old and pretty canalside pub and it's very popular, was packed. We went in and asked if dogs were allowed - yes they were - so I went and got Molly. On the way back to the boat a man who was sitting on a boat watching said "I remember you, I gave you a lift the other day". It was the man who gave us a lift to the shops in Pitstone! He was working on his boat, ferrying people to the pub and back. I went back into the pub and Chris and Helli arrived. Chris was the drummer with Lonnie Donegan for 23 years and Helli was a "Hill's Angel" with Benny Hill in the 70s and later did a lot of work with Harvey Goldsmith putting on events. They brought their little dog Kiki, a rescue dog with them. Molly growled at Kiki when Kiki tried to jump up on her seat, which resulted in Kiki shaking with fear. Kiki was so sweet! Helli and Chris have recently moved to Leighton Buzzard and they like it there. It's like countryside to them because they used to live in Lambeth. They know the maraccas man. We mentioned the missing person drama and they said lots of things seem to go on in Leighton Buzzard. There's supposed to be a big cat on the loose as well.
Eventually we went back to the boat and had a pleasant cruise to our home for the night, which was in Old Linslade, surrounded by stunning countryside.
On Thursday I did some painting, then we set off towards Fenny Stratford. We drove through some absolutely stunning countryside in Old Linslade and Soulbury. I noticed there are lots of wild roses everywhere this year.
When we got to Soulbury three locks a man joined us on a small cruiser. He had to walk with a stick but had got through 400 locks on his boat - he had been everywhere. We went through the 3 locks and then stopped at the pub there called the Grand Union. It was a beautiful day and we sat outside and had a couple of drinks. Carried on after that through some amazing countryside. The lock at Stoke Hammond was heartbreakingly beautiful. We went on and arrived at Water Eaton on the outskirts of Fenny Stratford. Decided to stay there for the night.
Thursday evening at the Anglers Retreat was eventful. Rosie the parrot cottoned on to Dale's laugh and performed it whenever she felt he wasn't paying her enough attention.
A man came in and on tasting his beer, started wretching and ran outside to be sick. (This is no reflection on the quality of beer, ours was fine).
When we got back to the boat, it was leaning heavily to one side and all night long Dale was trying to stop himself from falling out of bed.
On Friday we took Molly for a last walk around Tring reservoir. I did some work then at about 12.45 we set off. It was blowing a gale and raining intermittently. We met an older couple and went through 2 locks with them. They were hoping to get to Crick and were in quite a hurry. They moor at Cowroast but want to move to Crick as they can't travel anywhere from Cowroast because of the water levels. The lady was nice but the husband was grumpy. Got to Pitstone about 3pm. There was supposed to be a pub there called The Duke of Wellington according to our map but a man told us it had just closed down. The nearest pub was the Old Swan at Cheddington, a mile in the other direction. We asked him where the nearest shop was and he said he was going that way to pick up his daughter so he gave us a lift! We stayed in tonight because Cheddington is too far. Had scrambled egg on toast, Dale watched football and I read my book.
On Saturday we got up about 8.45 am. Windy again. We walked to Cheddington to get some provisions because there is no shop in Slapton where we are heading. On the way to the shop which was miles from anywhere as usual, we passed the Old Swan. It looked nice and we wished we had visited it the night before.
Got back to the boat, had a cup of tea and set off about 11am. The wind was horrendous. We did a swing bridge then met up with a couple and went through the 6 locks with them. It was a pleasant journey, they were very efficient and nice people. They had been boating for 28 years, their name was Wood and they moored at Yardley Gobion. That's where they were going. Got to Slapton about 2pm, had a little rest then walked to the village to do a recce on the pub which had been highly praised in our map book. Unfortunately the Carpenters Arms was a disappointment. It was empty and forlorn except for 2 young men sitting next to each other staring at what I thought must be a TV but turned out to be a wall, a barmaid, and a man trying to chat her up. The furniture was modern and out of place in the very old building.
Although the village was pretty and surrounded by gorgeous countryside, it all seemed a bit lifeless. We got back to the boat in the afternoon and had a little sleep. Got up about 7pm, had cheese omelette and beans and watched Poirot on TV.
On Sunday (today) we took Molly for a walk to the lock. Then got going – it's still a bit windy today but brighter. Had to go through 3 locks to get to Leighton Buzzard. I tried to drive into one of them - total disaster! Met a man travelling single handed – he told us the best place to stop in Leighton Buzzard. Met another man who came from Slapton and had had a heart attack. We told him we were disappointed with the Carpenters Arms and he said it had just been taken over by someone from London who had modernised it. He said he'd tell him we were disappointed.
Got to Leighton Buzzard and stopped where the man had told us and walked into the town – a pleasant and quiet market town. Went to Waitrose to get food then went to the Golden Bell for a couple of drinks – a bit rough and full of locals but lots of people laughing and we quite liked it.
My name is Angie Wood and I live on a narrowboat on the beautiful Oxford canal.
A long time ago in the eighties I studied Art and Design at Goldsmiths College and went on to be a paste up artist and then a graphic designer. I’ve never stopped painting and drawing though – I painted pet and animal portraits for a while and over the past two years have begun creating small oil paintings of vintage objects, textiles and flowers. I collect items from fleamarkets to paint and my little narrowboat is getting fuller all the time! I’m particularly delighted by colourful patterns on textiles and ceramics and I also love painting reflective surfaces. I’m usually attracted to items from the early part of the twentieth century, which bring back memories of my great aunts’ and grandmother’s cosy houses. My artistic aim is to pay homage to the things I paint by observing them as closely as I can, and to create something beautiful that will hopefully make people as happy as I was when I was making it!