Farewell 2021, part five. Tis the season to be Jolly

December decisions. We do love living on a boat, but sometimes it’s management is hard work. We wanted to travel south, but events were conspiring around us so we set off north on the Staffs and Worcester. December became an exercise in time management, getting us from A to B on the right day. Thankfully non of our days were long cruises and although we were conscious of various deadlines we still found a lot to enjoy, even misty mornings have a certain beauty.

Coven Heath

Our first stay was in Penkridge with a convenient train station so I took the opportunity to visit Mum in the Lakes. Whist Eric got on with some work…..

I love being back in the Lakes

And when I got back we set off in the snow to reach Stafford,

Snowy Penkridge

Thankfully the snow didn’t last too long, and the canal didn’t freeze, although it was bitterly cold. The sun shone and we got our rainbow as we slipped and skidded our way up to the vaccination centre for our boosters

Radford Bank, Stafford

Our next stop was to reach Great Haywood Marina on the Trent and Mersey. Because that was the only marina we could find that had a week’s temporary mooring for Firecrest whilst we both returned home.

Great Haywood Marina

But en route we had a windy night on the Tixall wides.

Tixall Wides

It was lovely to be home for “First Christmas”, knowing if we had left it another week or two, there was a possibility we wouldn’t have been allowed to get together, and this was the first time Tim and Heather had been together since January 2020.

The pizza is a jigsaw, not tea for all of us

Once we were back on board Firecrest, we set about retracing our steps back onto the Staffs and Worcester, a brief stop in Stafford for the very convenient Aldi, and a peaceful plot in Penkridge, where we got our flu vaccine. Ironically our quiet mooring in Penkridge runs parallel to the M6, it would be noisy in summer with windows open but we had battoned down the hatches so not disturbed.

That’s the M6 motorway across the field

We got to be good Samaritan’s the week before Christmas when we were flagged down by another boater, they had sprung a hull leak and their overworked bilge pump had drained the batteries. They were in serious risk of sinking cause they were already paddling in water. Thankfully Eric had a spare pump and enough battery power, to stop it getting any worse whilst they waited for professional help to arrive. The boat was new to them and even though they’d had it out of the water for a survey, the problem hadn’t shown up. They hadn’t heard the boaters acronym “Bring On Another Thousand”
Our maintenance was relatively painless this time, as Eric did the generator service and oil change.

Sitting down on the job…

I consider it to be a fair exchange of labour, cause I happily cooked a big roast duck for our Christmas dinner, from Russell’s, the first class butchers… not the canal

A happy Christmas on board Firecrest

We continued cruising south to see out the year, and had and amazing day with our friends Helen and James on new years eve.

Setting James to work doing the locks

What a finale, we’re back on track, heading south and looking forward to an exciting adventure in 2022

Farewell 2021, part four, the final furlong.

We kept our colour well into November.

The time had come to study the planned winter closures list and, whilst also keeping an eye on any unwelcome restrictions that might hamper our cruising plans, decide where we wanted to be for Christmas. At the end of October we were all still optimistically planning our parties and big family gatherings. We knew we had to be off the Llangollen by 8th November but it was noticeable how much quieter the canal was becoming with fewer and fewer hire boats so we took our time wandering around some of the gorgeous villages.

The parish churchyard at Marbury

Nantwich is only a short cruise off the Llangollen. And the Shropshire Union towers over the town on an embankment, via an aqueduct, making it a popular mooring spot.

Nantwich aqueduct over the Weaver

We could only get onto the 48 hour, and I regret not spending longer here because its a fascinating town with a lot of history. Although a lot of the black and white “tudor” buildings are relative victorian youngsters, after many originals were destroyed by fire.

Just a little bit of Nantwich

We continued down the Shroppie at pace, stopping at some lovely places on our way, Audlem Mill, on the wharf is now a museum and craft shop,

I could have spent all day in Audlem mill

We gave thanks for some lovely rainbows, after some torrential rains

Rainbow at Audlem

We ploughed through some pretty hairy overflows on the locks

Overflows like this seemed to be the norm along this stretch

We wondered at the amount of boats that must have used this canal over the years, looking at the depth of wear on the metal bridge protectors

We marvelled at the feats of engineering, building bridges like this which contained the telegraph pole

But although there were some lovely moorings

We found this part of our journey frustrating, had the canal been built for speed, with long straight cuttings? I guess so, although we were mightily glad we weren’t cruising at the height of summer having to negotiate narrow stretches with on coming boats.

Along the straight and narrow

We had also fallen victim to some poor planning, albeit partly our own fault, needing to pick up fuel meant we hadn’t stopped to enjoy the nice places for longer. We were in the midst of the fuel supply crisis, and had declined paying £1:10 per litre, in favour of getting to Wheaton Aston who were still only asking 79p, saving ourselves over £100. And although autumnal leaves are beautiful in the sunshine, they are anything but once they are in the canal. Leaf soup made progress hard going.

Leaf soup

But we made it to the end of the Shroppie