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.

National Memorial Arboretum part 3

We spent the whole day at the Arboretum and I don’t think we saw it all. Just as in times of conflict, it’s rare to see the whole picture, just the bits that impact you.

This memorial is dedicated to the evacuation of millions of children from our towns and cities to safer rural retreats. And to think I cried (like a lot of mums) the day Heather and Tim went to school for the first time. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like knowing your husband had been sent to fight, and your children were being sent away as well. Not knowing when you would see them again.

I think war tears people and communities apart regardless of whether or not it is thought to be “necessary”.

This is part of the Quaker memorial, pacifists who are actively conscienous objectors but equally serve our community passionately seeking peace not just in this country but across the globe.

Sadly it’s not just conflict that causes pain and there were several memorials dedicated to voluntary organisations like this garden of rememberance created for the RNLI, where I stopped to remember Adrian.

I waited a few moments before approaching this memorial because there was a lady looking at it and I didn’t want to interrupt, but it seemed appropriate to then say hello and pass a few words. It is the Gift of Life memorial and she shared her story with me. Her husband suffered a brain haemorrhage, and whilst everything was happening very quickly beyond their control, the doctors were able to recognise that even if they attempted to treat him, his quality of would be severely impaired. She knew instantly that his wishes were not to prolong his life in these circumstances and that only a week before they had both added their names to the organ donors register. He died quickly without regaining consciousness and they were able to donate both his kidneys. As he was over 60 it was not feasible to transplant his heart or lungs. So in their time of trauma, they were able to give the Gift of Life to two families. I asked if knowing this had helped her grief, and in a strange way it had. Her wish now was that we should all be more open to conversations with our families before tragic events happen and add our names to the organ donors register The memorial is of a butterfly sitting on a forget me not flower symbolizing new life and that the donor will not be forgotten.

The final memorial that we visited was the centrepiece of the Arboretum. This impressive dominating structure, reminded me of a modern day equivalent of stonehenge.  The Armed Forces Memorial bearing the names of over 15000 military names of those killed after WWII. Sadly it has space to add another 15000 names.

I have copied the words from the NMA website

The centrepiece of the Memorial is two large bronze sculptures, representing loss and sacrifice, on either side of a central bronze laurel wreath. Created by Ian Rank-Broadley, the sculptures bear silent witness to the cost of armed conflict.

To the north, a Serviceman is raised aloft on a stretcher by comrades. On either side family members look on – a mother clasped by a child and an older couple clutching each other in anguish. It bears witness to the cost of armed conflict to those left behind – the families, loved ones and friends who live with the pain and consequence of their loss for the rest of their lives.

Opposite, the body of a warrior is being prepared for burial by female and Gurkha soldiers. The figure before the double doors points to a world beyond where the warrior will rest as another figure chisels the name on the memorial.

The alignment and axis of the Memorial portray a greater meaning and draws inspiration from prehistoric monuments. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the sun’s rays stream through the door of the sculpture, illuminating the wreath in the centre of the Memorial.

National Memorial Arboretum part 2

The Arboretum is spread over a 150 acre site with paths radiating out to various themed areas. There are volunteer guides, and motor trains to help you through the various memorials, but we chose to wander freely, spending the first part of our day around the Army and it’s ancillary corp.  After coffee we moved onto the Navy’s service and sacrifice.

This figure is honouring fallen comrades looking towards the setting sun.

“At the going down of the sun, we will remember them.”

The Merchant Navy also lost many, in their quest to keep our island nation thriving. But in contrast to the colours of the Royal Navy, this living sculpture was a dark, densely packed forest, each tree representing a ship lost.Many of the trees had dedication plaques sponsored in memory of individuals. We debated whether or not the NMA was the appropriate place for this sort of personal memorial but we didn’t reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Both Eric’s dad and mine did their national service in the RAF, though not as flyers.  My dad built runways in Aden and Eric’s dad was an electrician. I loved this memorial of these 5 men setting off on their mission.

Of course not all our service men and women made it home initially and this very simple stone played tribute to “The Home Run” and this garden was dedicated to special services, the undercover missions and intelligence agencies, small groups of dedicated people who knew their missions were so dangerous that they weren’t guaranteed to make it out being captured or killed. 

This simple structure paid tribute to those who were held as prisoners of war. The gates are open now and there is no barbed wire or guns to hold us captive

And while it seems we still live in a world of conflict there is peace and reconciliation as well. 


National Memorial Arboretum part 1

The National Memorial Arboretum is an inspiring thought provoking, and I would say, an essential place to visit if you are are moored in Alrewas. It’s about a 45 minute walk from the canal. We were there for the whole day and still didn’t see it all.  My words can not do the sentiment of the place justice, because not only is the venue vast but also the enormity of the depth and breadth of sacrifice and service is overwhelming. And way beyond agreeing with the rights and the wrongs of war, I think it is appropriate that as a country we have a place to acknowledge the freedoms we have because of the service of so many.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I expected to see on our visit. There are over 300 memorials and 30 000 trees. You’ll be glad to know I didn’t count or photograph them all. Some memorials are representative showing servicemen going above and beyond, like the Army medical  corp. When I think back to my nursing career in the safety of an NHS hospital, I’d have been given the sack if I had moved a patient like this but this medic got his patient to care despite the potential consequences of his own safety.

This Eagle is the emblem of the Army Air corp. There were many magnificent beasts honouring various regiments but we don’t have a familiar allegiance to any one in particular so I chose to share this one because it impressed me. 

Some represented the suffering of service men and women, this one paying tribute to those with mental health issues and post traumatic stress.

And some represented our serviceman and women at work, as in this Bomb disposal officer.

This poignant sculpture called Shot at Dawn acknowledging our errors when our conscripted young men, terrified at what was confronting them fled rather than face the enemy. They were court marshalled, stripped of their regimental insignia and shot for desertion. It was a brutal and unforgivable punishment, carried out without justice as one young soldier wrote home to his mum that he was suffering with a cold and needed some fresh air to clear his head, he had been arrested and “was in a spot of bother, but would sort it out in the morning” the wooden posts behind the sculpture all had a name plaque, and their age, sadly some only 16 years old, having lied to get into the army so they could serve our country.




Fradley Pond

The Pond at Fradley Junction, is a water conservation facility. It was built around 1777 when the owners of the newly completed Trent and Mersy canal were worried about loosing their water to the adjoining Coventry canal. A channel was dug, taking water from the top lock above the junction into a reservoir, which  fed back into the canal below the junction.

There’s a mile long circular walk with audio points giving lots of snippets of information about what you can see.  And there’s some lovely sculptures as well.

The pond has had several uses but now been developed into an award winning nature trail with hides and feeding stations, fishing platforms and viewing points.

Lots of grubs for hungry Blue tit chicks

But the Mallards had to look a bit deeper.

I believe this is a greylag goose, obviously it’s gosling has had it’s lunch and is now taking a nap.

Squirrels on the other hand are always looking for their next titbit.

I was told to look out for the water vole who lives at the feeding station, I’m not sure if this is a water vole or a rat. Either way I think it’s cute. There were several mice but they didn’t stick around for a decent photo.

We don’t often see Jays on the ground, but someone had sprinkled seed for them.

Around the bend and over the pond

We’ve now moved onto the Trent and Mersy canal, and gone around the bend at Fradley Junction. It’s gongoozelers heaven, Fradley Junction seems to have a lovely atmosphere and a real buzz. And we’ve found a quiet mooring inbetween the junction and Alrewas. On Sunday we had a visit from Tim and Veve. Veve hadn’t seen a lock before so it was a new experience for them. 

That didn’t stop us taking advantage of an enhanced crew as we all got to work the four locks for the day.

Not sure this technique is in the RYA handbook, but they got the hang of it and have promised to come again.

Fradley Junction is well served with cafes and a pub as well as all the other necessary services a boater needs. Including a dog mooring spot.

We bought our ice creams and went for a wander around the adjoining nature reserve, Fradley pond. And oh what nature we saw.This has to be the biģedt dragonfly I’ve ever seen.

Lots of opportunity to explore with this purpose built pond dipping platform.