Sunday, 24 March 2019

A Maremmo under a Worm Moon

Deano the Maremmo

Morning All

We are afloat once more! Hurray! The sun came out to play and it put some colour into our winter grey cheeks as we chugged along through Burton-upon-Trent and Branston. I'm glad now that we waited for the worst of the storms to clear off before we set off on our Spring Cruise - we're hoping to get to Wales sometime in May but, as usual, we're not in a hurry. We dallied in Branston, while I did my usual inventory of the Captain's large selection of coats. They take up a good portion of the hanging space in the wardrobe and I hadn't even started to unpack my winter woolies. I didn't enter into any sort of useless discussion with Carl about why he needed so many coats - I just weeded a few out and packed them in the under-bed storage area to see if he misses them. There are several useful storage areas on the boat, or they would be if they weren't full of things that we hardly ever use but can't seem to part with. There's the Big Hoover (I use the little hand held Dyson which is very efficient and takes up hardly any room at all), a Barnacle Bill Prop Clearer(never yet used in anger) and a bag of old tee shirts for the rag rug that I'm going to make one day, when I have time. I suppose there will be an inquest when Carl reads this.
Tattenhill Lock

We've moored in Alrewas today, in our usual spot by the the footbridge and next to the churchyard. Carl is shuffling the bags of coal stored in the bows, in search of Big Boris the Cratch Spider in order to evict him from his winter hiding place. I've spotted Boris a couple of times, sunbathing in his web, munching on an early house fly, but he's too big and black for me to tackle. Carl is out there now with his whip and chair ready to conquer the Creature from the Cratch so that I can exit the boat without an armed escort.
Sunny Afternoon at Wychnor

Speaking of cratches - our black cover is green with algae again so we drove into Lichfield yesterday for a new scrubbing brush and a tub of elbow grease. We were side tracked into a cosy cafe by the Cathedral for brunch then carried on by the Pool to the spectacular West Front of Lichfield Cathedral. Carl has a new phone with a super-duper camera and took loads of photos which I'm hoping you can see in the blog, if we've managed to download them.
 Lichfield Cathedral from the Pool

West Front of Lichfield Cathedral

Carl has been suffering with a terrible hacking cough for weeks now, and , just when I thought I'd escaped it, I've joined in to keep him company. We sound like a pair of navvies with a sixty a day habit. Our only remedy is hot tea and Vicks - drink one and rub the other on your chest and don't get them in the wrong order! Tricky is not amused as it is interfering with her beauty sleep and she has started taking extra daytime naps to make up for her disturbed nights - it's hard to know how a dog can sleep so much, some days she hardly moves out of her bed.

It's a real tonic to get back to boating - the Lady Aberlour struck up on the first turn of the key and we chugged off the moorings with a great revving of the engine to clear the silt which had settled around us during the winter. We crossed the aqueduct over the River Dove and Carl leapt off onto the path to take pictures of the normally placid river which was swollen and tumultuous after the recent heavy rainfall. I dusted off my walking boots and coaxed Tricky out of bed and we resumed our morning routine of trotting along the towpath, listening to the birds and looking for the first wild flowers peeking out of the morning dew. A jenny wren sang her heart out, daffodils nodded from the gardens and little white violets sprinkled the emerald green grass with their magic. The pussy willow has burst its britches and the hawthorn is painting the hedges green while the impatient blackthorn has already frothed its blossom over the winter dullness. It's good to be breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the warmth of the sun once more, we greet each landmark along this oft travelled route with pleasure and moor in our favourite spots so that it takes us a week to travel from Egginton to Alrewas - that's truly a very slow snails pace.

A Worm Moon
We spent the night on the river at Wychnor and it was such a lovely evening that I had the hatch open as I cooked our supper. A lurcher, with a gorgeous fawn coat, stuck her head in to say hello and sniffed the air longingly as I chased the sausages round the pan. Her owner stopped for a chat and, as is the way when boaters meet up, we were soon exchanging our life stories. I would have been there still but I forgot to watch the sausages and set off the smoke detector. The lurcher and her owner went off while I rescued the sausages and Carl tried to shut off the howling racket – the sausages were fine, if a little caramelised!

Did you see the Worm Moon? It was a particularly clear sky over Wychnor so we got a good view. I couldn't see anything very wormy about it, in fact I had to google it to see why it was called that. The name is attributed to the Native Americans and is so called because it appears in March when the ground thaws and the earthworms return bringing the robins with them. I think Robin Moon would be more appropriate but you can't argue with heritage and tradition.

The sun is going down and the wind has got up making the boat rock gently. Tricky is snoring in the key of G and the kettle is steaming on the stove - all's right with the world. That's all for this week - how I've missed writing to you all, it's good to be back

Love and hugs from
The Floating Chandlers

PS I met the most gorgeous woofer as we came up through the lock here in Alrewas - an Italian Maremmo Sheepdog called Deano He behaved like a film star and posed most appealingly for a photo. He came over and sat by me so that I could admire him some more. Tricky wasn't impressed!

PPS If you're looking for a good book then I can recommend 'The Boy in the Red Boat' by Michael Seirton. I'm looking for new authors if anyone has any recommendations.
Reaching Alrewas in the sunshine

River Dove in flood

Barton Turns Lock Fairy

View from Barton Turns Lock

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Sloths and Squirrels

The Packhorse Bridge, Great Hayward

Morning Jotters 

The blue tooth keyboard is set up and this week's photos have been downloaded so I can remember where we've been and what we've seen. We turned for home last week and we've pootled back down the Shroppie, enjoying our favourite isolated mooring spots and the peacefulness of this rural canal. We tried not to get caught up in the midsummer mayhem caused by a mixture of day boaters and holiday makers but we couldn't avoid all of them and it's been hard to stay calm in the face of ignorance and arrogance. As we left the Shroppie, through the stop lock at Autherley, we were met by a 70 footer trying to come in. He seemed to think that he had the right of way, but we were already in the lock - I don't think he has read his boating handbook regarding 'Lock Etiquette'. It's hard to claim the lock is yours when the other boat is sitting in it waiting to come out.

One final photo of the Shropshire Canal

The previous day, we'd been in a queue for the lock at Wheaten Aston, it's a well know bottle-neck during the summer, being the only lock between Autherley and Tyrley. There are miles and miles of lock free cruising once you're through there so people are usually good humoured and patient and there are plenty of gongoozlers to help with opening and closing the gates. I left Carl and Tricky in the queue and walked up to the lock to assist a hire boater who had opened the top paddles without closing the bottom ones. His wife was on board, and in a panic, threw the throttle into forward gear, sending the boat hurtling towards the gates. Up pounded a woman with a windlass who began shouting orders, causing more panic and the poor lady in the hire boat was almost in tears. Fortunately, the lady knocked it out of gear and calm and order was restored. I talked to the nervous lady until the gates opened and her husband took over the tiller again. The 'Windlass Woman' turned to me and said 'We own our own boat you know' as if I hadn't watched them making a right pigs ear of mooring at the services just ten minutes earlier. I refrained from making a sarcastic reply and left her to it and went to talk to a lovely family who were on a hire boat behind us and wanted to know how to operate the lock. We will always remember our first boating holiday and the kind people we met along the way. We were very grateful for their help and so we always try to help other boaters whenever we can. If you're going to be snooty and patronising then at least learn to moor your boat tidily.

Oh My! What large onions you have!
 We moored by the marina at Calf Heath and were up early the next morning for the 10 locks down to the junction at Great Hayward. My foot is still painful so I had no choice but to take to the tiller for the day. In our ten years of boating, Carl has rarely been allowed a turn on the windlass. I like the camaraderie of meeting people at the locks and I feel at bit isolated on the tiller, which can make me grumpy! Carl was, as ever, the model of patience, although I thought I heard him muttering 'Happy Wife, Happy Life' once or twice. Great Hayward was packed out by the time we got there late in the afternoon and there was no room above Hayward Lock. We locked down through Hayward Lock and moored just beyond the lock landings under the trees with the railway on one side and the river Trent on the other - not our usual choice. but it had been a long day and we were ready for a big mug of tea and a bite to eat. The only bread available at the shop in Hayward was a 'Warburtons Thickest' white sliced which is perfect for doorstep toast but wasn't quite what I had in mind for my Prawn and Rocket Open sandwich.

Essex Bridge, Great Hayward
We had a walk over the old packhorse bridge and into the grounds of Shugborough Hall, recently taken back into the care of the National Trust and looking a bit glum in the fading light. It's a very beautiful house with a fascinating history and a past richly embroidered with follies and scandals. I wonder what shenanigans went on there when Patrick, the very handsome fifth Earl of Lichfield, held house parties for the rich and famous. On this overcast evening, it was just us and a couple of magpies and there's not even a faint echo of the glamorous guests that once strolled across this parkland. We cross back over the much photographed bridge, stopping briefly to rescue Tricky from a pack of Jack Russell terrorists that ambushed her from the back of a moored boat, and settled in for a jolly evening of Saturday night TV – if only!
Shugborough Hall
We set off early this morning, wanting to get through Rugeley and moor in Handsacre for a proper Sunday dinner at the Olde Peculiar. We had a few spots of rain but nothing could dampen our spirits as we chugged along drinking our coffee and with just Colwick Lock between us and our roast chicken. Everything was going well until we reached the straight by Hawkesyard Priory when two boats pulled out right in front of us and then crawled along at a snail's pace towards the Armitage Tunnel. This 'tunnel' is really a very narrow channel - the roof was removed due to subsidence. There is an instruction board at the entrance advising you to send a passenger ahead to make sure the way is clear before proceeding. The two boats in front dithered about by the entrance until someone, somewhere decided the way was clear and we all set off in a convoy. The Captain of the boat in front of us was very wary and the snail's pace slowed to three-toed-sloth. Eventually, we reached our destination, and Carl limped me up to the pub, where I decided to lubricate my bad foot with a large pink gin. It seems to have worked but I suppose Ibuprofen might be a cheaper solution.

That's all for now my friends. The Lady Aberlour is mooring up for a few weeks while we meet up with my sister from Aussie and check if the the grass has grown at all since we were last home.

Lots of love

The Floating Chandlers

PS. We finally came across the Little Chimney Boat and got a new coolie hat. Thanks Kim, sorry it was so early!

PPS. A boat came up behind us at Colwick Lock and the wife came to help me with the gates. I asked her if they always travelled so early and she replied that they'd been woken by something on the roof and she'd looked out to see the man on the next boat waving his arms. She went to see what was the matter to find him in his underpants rescuing a squirrel from the water. It was rummaging around on his roof, fell off and couldn't climb out. What a picture that conjures up!
Gatehouse at Shugborough Estate
Cottage at Little Hayward, Trent and Mersey Canal

Handsacre Mooring

Anyone want to apply for this post?

Grandpa's Garden 

Fungus or Fungi?

Steep steps up to the bus stop at Gnosall

Tyrley Wharf

Met an old friend at Penkridge

Down in the depths

Acton Trussell - lovely dahlias

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Moody Dog versus Batman and the Flies

After the rain

Morning All

We'd made it to Gnosall (apparently pronounced 'knows all') by last Monday afternoon. Tricky had been having 'women's problems' for a few days, so we'd made an appointment with a local vet. After an examination, she confirmed our suspicions and prescribed some HRT tablets. I'm happy to report that her violent mood swings are settling down, and Tricky is also improving.

We liked Gnosall so much that we stayed there the next day and caught a bus into Newport for a taste of the bright lights. The bus fare was £6.10 for a return ticket, or £2.70 for a single. Damned clever, these ticket price planners.

On arrival we popped into B&M for some paint brushes, frog tape and other bits and bobs for the ongoing battle with the paintwork. While queueing at the checkout, where the lady was changing the till roll, I watched some customers in a longer queue at the self service tills. Here, a harassed young shop assistant was jogging hither and thither, sorting out unexpected items in the bagging area.

In another shop window there was a poster advertising a new brand of shampoo. Apparently, so the poster told us, 90% of one person agreed that the shampoo was so mild that, no matter how many times you used it, your hair still remained dirty.

From Gnosall we had a pleasant little cruise to Norbury Junction, where we tied up late on Wednesday morning. Our mooring was plagued by noisy generators and excessive engine runners so we moved to the other side of the bridge, which proved to be much more peaceful. A pleasant evening followed in the Junction Inn, where we were treated to dinner by Claire, Jess and Reece, who live close by.

The next day found us wending our way to Shebdon Embankment, where there were impressive views westward towards Wales. Just the sort of place to settle down with a good book, a comfy chair and a cup of tea. So that's what we did. The weather was still being kind, with warm, sunny intervals and winds light to variable. The first of the 'nuisance' flies appeared in our boat this day.

We left Shebden Embankment early on Friday morning, our boat moving through misty waters, with shafts of morning sun playing on the still waters of the canal. The approaching clouds were threatening rain, so we decided to moor up earlier than we had planned. We chose a spot near to Woodseaves Cutting. The ground here was very soft and boggy, and finding a firm spot to hammer the mooring stakes into was problematic. However, tenacity won through in the end. Our weather observations were correct, and within the hour the rain was hammering down. That set the scene for the rest of the morning, with many prolonged, heavy bursts of rain.

That afternoon, the clouds cleared and the sun came out and I was forced to enact the great 'Battle of the Flies'. The little blighters had invaded our boat and were, frankly, taking liberties. Our in-house spiders were cowering in a corner, clearly out of their depth. While Linda and Tricky were outside enjoying the sunshine, I stalked to the end of the boat and unlocked the fly swatter cabinet. I chose the Webley Hawk MK2 super-swat with extra zing. Then Zap! Swish! Bam! Just like an episode from that wonderful sixties series Batman, I pranced up and down the boat, flailing the swatter like a whirling dervish. The battle raged back and forth. Eventually, gasping for breath, I managed to get one of them. Perseverance was the name of the game though, and eventually they were overwhelmed.

We had a flight of locks coming up the next day. These are the Tyrley locks, just after the Woodseaves Cutting. As the cutting is seriously narrow, and goes on for quite a distance, we wanted an early start the next day, to lessen the chance of meeting anything coming the other way. We weren't the only ones with this idea, hence we were woken at six-thirty the next morning by a boat chugging by us. By the time we were ready to cast off, a second boat went by. We untied then and got under way, creeping through the dripping trees and spotted a Kingfisher as a reward for our early start. We met no boats in the cutting, and got to the first lock to find a bit of a queue. One boat was coming up, and the boat in front of us, was waiting at the lock to go in. The boat coming up left the lock and drifted slowly by us. The man at the tiller was beaming all over his face, and waved happily as he went by. He shouted something to us, which sounded like "Hi! My name is Mr Ahab, and I'm having a whale of a time". (Note from Linda – he just said 'Good Morning-nice day' – Carl can't hear a thing over the engine noise!)

Descending the locks was a slow business but it was a nice morning, the sun was warm and we weren't in any hurry. It wasn't long before another boat caught us up, it's crew filling and emptying locks as if it was some sort of race. Before long they were treading on our heels. As we waited for our next lock to be ready, they seemed to think that we should somehow magically get our twenty-odd tons of fifty seven foot narrowboat into a half empty lock with all the gates closed, so that we wouldn't be in their way. We haven't met many dolts on our travels, but this one really was a nincompoop, with a hint of prat thrown in. We left them behind after the last lock and, as a bonus, enjoyed a particularly pleasant cruise into Market Drayton, where we stopped for the weekend.

That's my lot this week, dear reader, so adios for now.

Best wishes from

The Floating Chandlers

PS And now it's time for a correction. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I'd turned the boat hard to starboard to get onto the Staffs & Worcester canal. Of course, I should have typed "hard to port". In my defence I had been up all night shaving, due to the full moon, so I was really tired.

PPS Tricky wagged her tail twice this week - the HRT is working!
Famous landmark on the Shroppie

Boat Inn at Gnosall

Sunny morning leaving Gnosall

Another grumpy dog - what a sad face!

Jess had to be persuaded to have a photo taken

Reece was hungry

Last chance for the sun hat

Land Rover doing a spot of bird watching

The Anchor
Views towards Wales

Cheeky squirrel

View from the Shebdon Embankment

Harvest is in

Swan at Goldstone Wharf

Goldstone Wharf

Woodseaves Cutting

Shroppie high bridge

Tyrley Locks

Rocky cutting at the bottom of Tyrley Locks

He's always here and I can't resist another photo

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Some Days Are Diamond

Shady Mooring in Wheaton Aston

Hello from the Floating Oven

The heatwave continues and Carl and I have abandoned our plan to boat to Gloucester in favour of a trip up the shady Shroppie. We've pottered along from one cool patch of shade to the next, sitting out on the towpath until the heat of the day slips away with the setting sun. The nights, thankfully, have been much cooler but still I've needed my USB fan which hangs from the overhead locker and hums away, lulling me to sleep.

We left Tixall Wide on a cool Monday morning and, once we'd got through the lock, Carl left me on the tiller while he made the coffee. Standing at the tiller on a summers morning, watching the swallows dipping and diving and a buzzard gliding effortlessly across the valley, is balm for the soul. I have to confess that sometimes, even on my beloved boat, I wake up feeling a little Mondayish but an hour on the stern, watching the watery world go by, soon cures that! The coffee arrived and we floated along listening to the birdsong and trying to cheer Tricky up – she does seem to be terminally glum and it's a diamond day indeed when Tricky wags her tail! I handed back the tiller and went below to do battle with the washing machine and soon had my sheets in the bows, where they dried in a flash.

The high winds and heavy rain over the weekend had brought a tree down across the canal at Shutt Hill so nothing was coming towards us. It made a nice change not to meet a boat at every bridge! We were tempted to moor by the pub on Radford Bank and catch the bus into Stafford for shopping but decided that it would be too hot to leave the boat shut up with Tricky aboard so we chugged on and moored up by the Stafford Boat Club. We were waiting for a rush of oncoming boats which would let us know the way forward was clear again but time ticked on and nothing arrived. We consulted Mr Google for directions, deployed the rucksacks and set off up a track by the side of the Boat Club, heading for the Co-op and fresh milk. (I do hate it when you stagger out of bed, desperate for your morning brew, and the milk falls into your tea in a lump so you have to wait for the kettle to boil again.) We followed the footpath up and up through the trees, by a brook that should have been burbling but was struggling to do anything except make a murky puddle in the bottom of the dried up bed. At last, we came out in the middle of a housing estate and as we followed Mr Google maps around the outskirts, I noticed that there was a bus stop on every corner. I inspected the timetable wondering if I could catch a bus into Stafford from here. Sadly, the timetable was very brief - one bus in the morning and another in the afternoon and if it stopped at every stop around this large estate then you'd be an age getting anywhere! The Co-op was right next door to a pub, how very convenient for a convenience store! It was very tempting on a hot day after such a long walk up hill, but I settled for an ice lolly and saved my syns for a large G&T as a reward for mountaineering through the jungle for a couple of pints of semi-skimmed. We dawdled back down the hill, Tricky waddling along behind us, sniffing every blade of grass and walking slower and slower as if she was a clockwork dog winding down. A shower swooped along the canal as we crossed the bridge to the tow path, it ruffled the surface but was gone in a flash. Boats were travelling in both directions past our mooring by the time we got back so we gathered that the fallen tree had been removed. The sun was on the panels so we decided to call it a day and tackle the locks up to Penkridge before the sun got too hot the next day..

We arrived at Penkridge on Tuesday afternoon and moored below the lock, ready for the Market on Wednesday. We set out early and and bought enough cherries, plums and strawberries to keep us safe from the dreaded scurvy and Carl topped up his stores with paint brushes and 'Big Boy' filler. (That name makes me smile, so much more memorable than the other option called simply 'Repair Metal'.) Imagine ladies, if the same person was responsible for naming our lipsticks we'd be wearing 'Gob Wax' - sorry, was that a bit too strong for your delicate sensibilities? Please address all complaints to the Captain - he's used to them!

Our trip up the Shroppie this week has been blighted with noise - we're surrounded by engine runners, who wait till everyone is sitting outside, then strike up a stinking, noisy engine right next to you and run it for hours. Tonight it's a particularly hot one, over 30 degrees since about 3pm but we've kept cool sitting out under the trees with a nice breeze blowing – it would be a diamond day except for the flipping engine runner next door - he's been running for hours. I can't ask him to switch off as he's not on board - I expect he's in the pub! I'm plugged into my Apple Music again, listening to a favourite old album by John Denver - hence the title of this blog, did anyone recognise it? I think we may be about to embark on an evening cruise to escape the racket.

And we did! Of course, as soon as we struck up our engine, the engine runner switched off! Carl had the tiller between his teeth by now so we set off regardless, with Tricky on the hatch looking slightly less depressed than usual and a very happy Captain and crew. We arrived at our new mooring spot a few degrees cooler and our good humour restored. The sun is setting over the nearby farmyard and there's a beautiful red sky. I don't need a shepherd to tell me it's going to be another scorcher tomorrow - another diamond day, if we're lucky.

That's all from me for this week lovely Jotters - keep cool, drink plenty and when you're too hot to sleep try a cold hot water bottle - trust me, it really works. Wishing you lots of diamond days.

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

PS Met so many nice people this week, dog walkers, ramblers, holiday boaters and day boaters. The prize for the most memorable costume goes to an enthusiastic day boater dressed all in white - we're not sure if he was Top Gun or Max and Paddy, but he made us laugh as he stood to attention and saluted us from the bows of his tiny boat. 
PPS Moored by the holiday park in Brewood - normally a very quiet mooring.  The people opposite us were sitting outside their caravan singing along to an 80's play list, very loudly and very badly. They were having a diamond day - we were shining less brightly!

Hello Sailor


Mile Post

Lovely Lolli 

More visitors

Sun on the panels

Sunset at Stafford Boat club


Autherley Junction

Locking through at Autherley


One for you Terry - where's this?

Gorgeous Garden

Evening Cruise