Monday 21st October
Mercia Marina - Shobnall Fields
5.25 miles and 1 lock
We delayed our departure from the marina, it was raining hard and very windy, by late morning the rain had stopped but the wind was still blowing well but off we went. It was difficult to make the left turn from our berth out of the marina so instead we turned right and tuned in the middle of the open part of the marina and made our way back to the canal. It was on and off raining all the way and the only lock was our first narrow one, I went to heave the small bottom gate and it flew open, I’d forgotten how easy they are or maybe I have acquire some muscles from the big gates of the double locks!!
|Moored up at Shobnall Fields|
|Our first narrow lock for a while, under the railway bridge|
Wednesday 23rd October
Shobnall Fields - Wychnor
6.3 miles and 4 locks
After stopping off at Shobnall Marina for diesel and coal we caught up with an Aqualine hire boat at the lock, it was their first time out and for only one night to see if they liked it as they are thinking of buying a boat. It was another windy day which made maneuvering in and out of locks tricky especially at Branson Lock 8 as there is a very open stretch just after it which kept trying to pin us to the bank. We had a quick stop just before Wychnor Lock to check out the river section and the weir, also to see if the bank was suitable for mooring after the lock. The notices for the river section were on amber and with the wind blowing the wrong direction we were a bit reluctant to do the river section today and the forecast was no wind in the morning. Yes good mooring spot after the lock just before bridge 44.
|Just above Wychnor Lock before the footbridge|
Thursday 24th October
Wychnor - Alrewas
1 mile and 1 lock
We walked up to check on the state of the river section this morning, it was slightly higher than yesterday, but still within the amber section and the flow seemed slightly more but no wind at all. Three boats came down with the flow and one up so we walked back to LJ and started off. We didn't travel far as we wanted to stop off in Alrewas and check out this lovely old village. So on arrival at Alrewas the sun was shining and quite warm so we had a late brekkie on the back deck.
|One of the smaller weirs from the river|
|Approaching the massive weir|
|and just passing it - doesn't look too bad here but it was!!|
|Going against a fairly fast flow|
|Moored at Alrewas on the 48 hour moorings|
Friday 25th October
Alrewas - Fradley
2.25 miles and 4 locks
There were volunteer lockies at the Fradley locks to help us through, we just did the first two one of the lockies said there was plenty of room to moor either side, so we opted for the new pontoons but unbelievably couldn't get in as it was too shallow so we reversed up and went the other side instead. Can’t believe new pontoons have been installed but you can’t get alongside them!!
|You can't really tell from this photo but the larger duck looks half mallard half goose|
|Moored at Fradley|
Saturday 26th October
Fradley - Rugeley
7.4 miles an 4 locks
We headed off fairly early as we wanted to get settled in Rugeley, we had decided to sit the storm out there. After the junction with the Coventry Canal we were on familiar waters again, as we had done this stretch up to Hayward Junction on the second boat we hired two years ago. As we were leaving the second lock a boat was just leaving the lock ahead coming down so it was a quick changeover and saved me opening/closing a couple more gates. We passed through Armitage with their stacks of loos and basins awaiting collection and then onto the Armitage Tunnel which had its roof removed in 1971. There are large signs here to send a crew member ahead to check it was all clear so off I went with a two way radio in hand, we didn't expect to see a boat as we had only passed one all day, but typically there was one on its way and no one getting off to check it was all clear. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe he was single handed, I could understand that, but no as he passed by there was little wifey sat there all comfortable, so I said him it was a good job I had come to check before coming through, his response was a laugh and ‘yes it is’. When he passed James at the other end he did say thank you for waiting and mentioned ‘it would have been a bit tight’ was he having a laugh it’s tight for one boat going through, that’s why you have to send someone to check.
Our guide book says there are pleasant moorings just before bridge 66, I couldn't really see what was so pleasant about them that the guide book had actually mentioned them, we continued on just pass the bridge and found a few mooring rings just after the 48 hour section. We knew there was a fairly new Tesco right near the bridge and had a wander over, they have now pedestrianised the bridge and area near Tesco, apparently it has not even been open a month so really new then. Over the course of our stay we stocked up on all the heavy things like tins and flour and I ordered a vacuum cleaner to be delivered there using Tesco Direct, which is a fantastic service and keeps you fully informed by text as to where your order is. Lucky for us we didn't get much of a storm it all happen ‘down south’. We also had a wander around Rugeley town.
|Passing Fradley Junction|
|Here they come - slow progress through the moored boats|
|The Armitage factory|
|and their products awaiting collection|
|Through the Armitage tunnel that was|
|Moored at Rugeley|
Totals for week
Miles 22.2 miles
Tuesday 29th October
Rugeley - Shugborough Hall
4.25 miles and 1 lock
Again it was a fairly early start, we had passed about seven Anglo-Welsh hire boats from Great Hayward so it seems they are keeping busy. When we got to the only lock of the day a boat was just leaving so we went straight in, I jumped off just before and headed up to close the gates but no need there were quite a few guys doing all that, it turned out there were eight boats waiting to come down the lock, I haven’t seen such a big queue at locks before even in the height of summer! Did they all know something we didn’t!! We arrived at Shugborough and headed off for a quick walk up to Hayward Junction, we met Ian, Irene and Jade on Free Spirit moored only a couple of boats ahead of us and spent along time chatting drinking coffee and eating biscuits. It was lovely to meet them all.
|Approaching the aqueduct over the River Trent|
|Moored at Shugborough|
|Our view across the River Trent|
Thursday 31st October
Shugborough Hall - Tixell Wide
0.75 miles and 1 lock
After a couple of days and a lovely early morning walk we did the short journey onto the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal and moored up at Tixell Wide.
|James' Halloween pumpkin|
|Moored at Tixell Wide|
|View from the side hatch|
Sunday 3rd November
Tixell Wide - Stafford Nr Bridge 98
4 miles and 1 lock
We had an early start leaving Tixell Wide and with nothing about James couldn't resist doing the complete 360 turn, after all it must be the only place on the canal system that this can be done. It’s a shame I didn't think about it before as of course I was on the boat but it would have made a great video from the bank! After that we were on our way - in the same direction., we spotted a kingfisher just sitting on the reeds but as usual as soon as we were close enough for a photo he flew off, I did see again further up but not being too skilled in photography I couldn't get a good shot, never mind practice makes perfect, well I’ll never be perfect but the practice will help. Again we only had the one lock to do before we arrived at our destination of the nearest bridge to Stafford.
|Mid 360 turn|
|Moored at Stafford just before Bridge 98|
Total for week
8 tunnels10 swing bridges