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

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