Rebuilding the castle

I was lucky enough to find out that Nottingham Castle was due to close for a multi-million pound revamp over the next two years, but even better for us, they had removed the entry charge for the week. So off we went to see what we could find. The kids were in, attempting to build a replica out of Lego.The castle was full of atmosphere, and history. William the Conqueror built the castle in1067 but it became dilapidated and was demolished in 1649. The Duke of Newcastle built the ducal palace in its plac, but in 1831 rioters burnt it down. The Duke was paid £21000 in compensation but didn’t rebuild his home and eventually in 1878 Notingham council rebuilt it as a museum and art gallery.
The castle was built in a huge sandstone rock and overlooked an array of old and new buildings. The one that looks like a stadium is actually the HMRC offices, (which is right next to the canal.)We wondered which building Robin Hood would be frequenting now.One of the other things Nottingham is famous for is that it is the home of Torvil and Dean and their Bolero costumes from their 1984 are on display in the castle.

The Castle dominates the city and as we cruised through Nottingham we could look up through the houses we could see it. The castle was a good place to spend the day, but I hope when it is re opened in 2020/21 it won’t be known as the castle because sadly it is not a castle any more.

Beeston’s Bs

That’ll be starting with

George the Beekeeper of Beeston who took his place in the shopping centre along with his hive 30 years ago. I think he looks rather content. 

Unlike the canal company men who in 1844 who fell victim to cost saving measures. They had their free Beer privilages withdrawn “…unless absolutely necessary and then never more than a quart per day”

But canal workers must have been clean souls, apparently Beeston lock contains the equivalent of 1500 Bathtubs full of water.

And then there’s the Beautiful Beeston. On Saturday there was a multi cultural community Bonanza. It was a fabulous event, designed to bring together the richly diverse cultures of the area. Nottingham University attracts a lot of Chinese students, who have gone on to make their home here. bringing their dancing dragons with them.the Dragon display was performed by the martial arts club
We were all encouraged to have a good at some Bollywood moves. All too energetic for me. But there were some lovely choirs and other dance groups to watch and enjoy.Sadly this week, Beeston was at the heart of commemorations for the Chilwell Bomb Explosion, where 139 people lost their live at a shell filling factory a few miles down the road from here.

You might have guessed I’d want to know if which came first, Beeston or the Bees. Beeston got its name from it’s Saxon heritage Bes was the type of grain grown, nowadays known as Rye and Tun being a settlement. Bes-Tun became Beeston. And as its got Bees it’s also got Birds. The Attenborough nature reserve lakes next to the river attract an even more diverse selection of birds than the town has cultures. The Sandmartins are fully occupied feeding their young which was quite spectacular to watch so close. Although nothing will beat me seeing a wild Osprey flying over. Osprey use the river Trent as a navigational aid on their journey north. And they are seen quite often at Attenborough. Of course you’ll have to take my word for it cause I was too slow to get camera out.


Baking in Beeston

The River Trent skirts the southeast of Nottingham but it can be rocky, shallow and not navigable for narrowboats, its also prone to flooding hence the need for huge weir.
And a canal to maintain transport links.The Beeston Canal was completed in the late 18th century. It runs from the river into the  centre of Nottingham where it connected with the Nottingham  canal bringing coal down from Langley Mill, however that section was closed and filled in leaving us the 5 miles into and out of the city to explore.But first, with a good mooring (we’re on the left just before the trees start) and temperatures set to bake we decided to explore Beeston itself.And what better place to start than the Beeston Marina Boathouse Cafe, where Tony serves a huge breakfast.Followed by doing ALL the washing at this brilliant launderette, -worth checking out these Revolution outdoor launderettes, they’re springing up all over the place. Which of course meant I could justify the best ice cream of the season at the canal heritage centre next to the lock. Before going back to some sun soaking


Remembering Dad

We’ve now arrived in Nottingham which has been our destination goal for a while now. The reason being is that during the annual Methodist conference there is a service of thanksgiving for its ministers who have died over the past 12 months, and this year’s venue is Nottingham university.Eric’s dad was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1953 He cared for several churches around the country, starting out in the North East moving gradually south until he retired in South West in 1990 He and Mum then moved to Hampshire, nearer family, where he carried on preaching for another 20 or so years. Almost 70 years caring for people, and he truly was a most caring and compassionate man, always willing to support and guide anyone in need. We said our farewells to him at his funeral last November, but this week the church he’d served so faithfully paid their respects and gave thanks for all their departed ministers. It was a moving and appropriate tribute. We are glad we came.

It wasn’t to be a day of sadness though. We were joined by one of Eric’s brothers, David and his wife Amanda. Which meant that we enjoyed a day of reminiscing as well taking them on a short cruise on the Beeston Canal. David has researched the family tree and discovered that Willie Jones, Eric’s great grandfather had been a canal wharf porter in Warrington. No wonder we felt drawn to life on the cut.


There and back on the Erewash

The Erewash canal is part of the Grand Union Canal network. Nowadays a dead end arm off the River Trent going up to Langley Mill. It’s 11 miles long and has 14 locks. We were given mixed reviews about whether or not we should venture onto it.
But here at Trent Lock, the start, we were pleasantly surprised by crystal clear water providing us with our very own aquarium so we could watch the fish.The first stretch is home to some spectacular houseboats which I believe were used by the Nottingham lacemakers.

There are several mills along the canalside which was where the lace was made.  This one is desirable flats now, others are derelict and some have been converted into smaller units. The canal itself was built to transport coal as this was a predominantly mining area. Both Eric and I have northern roots so it gave us great pleasure to see this style of street.It obviously was a prosperous area in its heyday although I doubt the miners themselves had much spare cash. Seeing the area from a narrow boat gives a strange perspective of a location, lots of attractive well cared for properties, but seeing people sitting on vandalised benches nursing their cans at 9 in the morning does make you think. We had been warned to be alert for opportunist theft, but the people we met, both young and old all seemed very friendly and non threatening.  In fact we got the impression that they weren’t used to seeing many boats on the move, such was the interest shown as we cruised. And the boaters were helpful, setting locks for us in anticipation. We cruised to the Great North Basin at Langley Mill and turned the boat to return as we needed to be in Nottingham later in the week.This plaque showing us how far we were from various places.We didn’t quite gallop back but enjoyed another night in a peaceful rural location turning a blind eye to the kids swimming in the locks. When the temperature was pushing 30 degrees it’s understandable that the kids want to be in the water and as we had no power to enforce them getting out why spoil their fun. And to give the kids some credit, when we did need to go through a lock they didn’t hesitate to get out and wait for us.As has become my custom these days, this heat demands ice cream. I was gutted this place was closed when we arrived.Next best thing, a mooring under a tree for shade.  We can now say that we have ‘done’ the Erewash, it was pretty and peaceful, and we will do it again. Sadly it lacks easy mooring as the banks are shallow, – but at least you can see so before you attempt to come in.  I am sure we will do it again some day.

Revving up the river

About a mile on from Shardlow is our last or should I say the first lock on the Trent and Mersey canal. Derwent Mouth lock. That’s Firecrest and Tenacity hovering eagerly and in the top right that’s a dragon fly hovering possesively. We’d got the anchor out and put our life jackets on not knowing quite what to expect on this adventure. To our left is the mouth of the river Dewent,To our right the Trent continued westwardAnd straight ahead the Trent heads downstream towards Nottingham and beyond. We had moved under the arched pipe bridge and now headed under the M1 motorway.Beyond the M1 lies Sawley and boats are diverted into a canal away from the weir, past the huge Sawley Marina, and into our first river lock of the year.This wasn’t as deep as the ones we’d been through on the Severn and we were able to operate the gates ourselves as the lockies had clocked off for the day. All very civilised-insert BW key and follow the instructions, no sweat, no huffing and puffing and no drama. And the we were off.Onto the river proper, not sure how deep and wide it is, but we were able to get up some proper speed. 6.7mph very comfortably. We’ll do some proper speed trials later. But we certainly created a bow wave and wash to be proud of. Ian led us onto the Erewash canal to moor for the night. And while the boys compared notesJoy and I enjoyed the sunset


Travelling with Tenacity

We’ve had a fun week, as we were met en route by our friends Ian and Joy, on their narrowboat Tenacity. They live in Derbyshire, so as we were passing their marina it was an ideal opportunity to cruise in convoy towards the mighty Trent. But first we enjoyed some tranquil and stunning cruising on the canal.Although some of the locks proved a bit daunting, they were heavy and this one that leaked so much we weren’t sure we’d be able to empty it completely before it refilled itself.Joy has just got a ratchet windlass which caused us much frustration as we tried to work out which setting was the best to use. Once we’d got it sussed, it made light work of winding up, and I think they will be well worth while.  As I like to walk between locks, it’s probably too heavy for me to want one myself, but if I didn’t eat spinach for breakfast I’d put one on my Christmas list. we passed through some lovely countryside, I’m not sure if this is Derbyshire, Leicestershire or Nottinghamshire. We saw some interesting wildlife, I’ve not seen a black swan before. 

Luckily we didnt see any cars in thr canal. Obviously the signage is effective. Yes there is a road lurking in that undergrowth. 


Branston, a pickle and a pint

Our final night in Alrewas was just beyond the water point.At which point lock 12 allows the canal and river merge into one for a whole mile, passing yellow water lilies and young cows at the muddy bank 

At Wynchnor, the Trent goes off in its own direction 

Allowing us to continue cruising tranquilly through these easy single locks with neat little bridges and desirable lock cottages. What you can’t see is that the canal runs parallel with the A38 roaring towards Burton.

Only to be separated at Branston, by the water park, a disused gravel pit converted into a nature reserve.

There’s lots of mooring here and it’s a very pleasant place to stay.

Of course being me, mooring at a place called Branston, I had to Google it and find out for sure if it’s where the pickle comes from. And yes in 1922 Crosse and Blackwell started to make Branston Pickle here in this once imposing building. It’s now owned by a Japanese company and is made in Bury St Edmunds Suffolk. Having sorted out the sandwiches we moved onto the beer in Burton. Marstons started brewing beer here in 1834 because of the water quality. we did wonder if it was the Hobgoblin hiding behind the bushes that gave the  canal it’s colour.  Continue reading Branston, a pickle and a pint

In a bit of a jam

I’ve not had the opportunity to do much foraging so far this year, but as I was collecting elderflower for cordial, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful dog roses. And after a quick flick through my NT Hedgerow Cookbook I found several recipes using rose petals, so off I went with another plastic bag to pick petals. The recipe called for 1.5l but I quickly realised that was an awful lot of petals and  if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure of the morals of collecting rose petals. I don’t want to deprive anyone of the pleasure from such a pretty plant but more importantly I don’t want to hamper the bees from their pollen collecting.

This is what half a litre of rose petals looks like, gathered from a variety of bushes away from the tow path.

I did wonder whether or not I’d be better making pot pourri. Especially as the instructions were to let the petals macerate in sugar overnight, so when we woke the next morning the whole boat was smelling divine. I’m not sure Eric agreed with me on that one.With 2 lemons, a pint of water and 15 minutes on the boil I produced 2 jars of jam. 

Added to some homemade bread toast it made a good start to the day. I guess the critique in me likes the thought of rose petal jam more than the taste. It’s too sugary sweet.

I prefer this sort of sweet

Moving down the Trent and Mersy towards Alrewas

We’ve had just over a week moored below Common Lock heading towards Alrewas whist Eric was working and I was out enjoying myself. But it hasn’t all been fun and games,

We woke to some misty murky mornings and of course it’s the only time the heron fished for his breakfast close to the boat.

We enjoyed a visit from my mum, and a trip into Lichfield to see the cathedral. The bus is very convenient from Alrewas. Alrewas is a delightful little place, with most of the essentials for a boater including Coates, a first-class butchers, Coates, a small but adequately stocked Coop, a hairdresser that only charged me £11 for a good cut. And a coffee shop/cafe called Banks, that has only been open a few weeks, and has already got a devoted following of locals. I had an avocado and bacon ciabatinni. And not one but three pubs.



We were chatting to one of the residents who explained how Alrewas got its name. About 600 years ago when someone decided to build a house here, they were laughed at and thought daft. With the river Trent running so close and flooding regularly the fields were “All a wash” which became Alrewas. However the flood plain was also ideal for reed beds which meant that there was an ample supply of roofing material, which is why Alrewas has an unusually high proportion of thatched properties.On our last day in Alrewas, we saw a fellow Braidbar boat emerge from the lock, Chris and Simon were just about to moor up so we enjoyed a pleasant evening together.