From Atherstone to Rugby via Suffolk

Atherstone is a very convenient place for boaters, it has everything you need within walking distance, pubs, fish and chips, a supermarket and a train station. I was able to say goodbye to Eric safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t starve while I went off to the land of bricks and mortar and spinning wheels. I have a large circle of friends in Suffolk, and I still think it is an amazingly beautiful county so it’s never a hardship to return. It just doesn’t have a canal system.

It doesnt suffer from a lack of boats though, just not the ones I’d choose to live on.  Ipswich was built around the Orwell estuary and despite there being  limited navigation inland, it has a huge marina full of sea worthy leisure cruisers, yachts and quite a few restored old sailing barges. Along with a significant number of fancy meeting places in the old warehouses for me to catch up with old work colleagues, (that’s old work, not old colleagues)

Thorpness is a tiny fishing village on the coast but around 1910 the Olgilvies built themselves and their friends a fantasy holiday village which included a mere paying homage to one of their friends J M Barrie, so if you were to take one of these boats out be warned there are pirates and crocodiles awaiting the boys and girls who don’t want to grow up.Yes Anne, that’s a crocodile on the island.

Thanks to a thriving wool trade back in the 15th century, there’s some remarkable old mediaeval buildings still in use around Suffolk, Anne and I ventured into the heartland to a village called Peasenhall where this hall is owned by the Landmark Trust, who rent it out as holiday accommodation. Eric and I shared a holiday in it with his brother and family, over 30 years ago before we moved to Suffolk. This time Anne and I only stopped for coffee and cake.

And there’s the magnificent Framlingham with it’s  castle, deli and several nice coffee shops.

And being pumpkin season, this is what Tim and Veve brought home, No wonder Heather looked a bit concerned, But Veve knew how to put a good meal together.

While I was enjoying Suffolk, Eric was working hard on Firecrest and he’s also become quite an adept single handed boater. He cruised down from Atherstone in several stages and moored in Rugby, which also has a convenient train station for me to come home to.



From Alrewas to Atherstone

We took a few days to  cruise from Alrewas, with it’s picturesque thatched cottages and first class butchers.Passing the spot where we moored for 2 weeks back in June, up to Fradley junction, where the Coventry canal meets the Trent and Mersey. We turned left and continued travelling south. Having survived the storms and gales, we enjoyed some pleasant cruising.The Hopwas woods almost felt enchanted with their ancient oaks, hidden castle and warning signs to keep out, it is a military site so who knows what lies beneath.And our overnight mooring was equally magical with sunshine on golden trees.
The next morning was just as dramatic when we worked our way up the Atherstone flight. Thankfully those storm clouds behaved and we didn’t suffer any rain.

Loving the locks

Ah to be back in the land of single locks. Having enjoyed the manned electric river locks over the summer, we then had to struggle with the heavy, unbalanced leaky locks at the start of the T&M.  Very few locks defeat me, but Aston lock is notoriously difficult. I’ll happily accept, (and offer) help from passers by or other boaters, but don’t anyone dare tell me I can’t do it because I’m a woman, as one arrogant person did. Of course I graciously stepped back to let them show me how it should be done, and I tried not to smirk when they struggled, and I politely reminded them that I’d said it was a tough one. Eventually we both managed it, but I didn’t hang around to help them get their boat through.  It was bliss to arrive at Dallows lock in Burton and then through one of my favourites, Tattenhill, with it’s own working boat, it’s worthy of a good jigsaw puzzle. And the cottage is a bed and breakfast, if I didn’t live on a boat I’d like to stay there. Wonder if they’ve thought of having a tea room.

We carried on cruising, happily sharing lock duties with other boaters as we made the most of a lovely autumnal day. The river and canal merge for a short distance just before Alrewas. The water becomes crystal clear and you can see the fish swimming, quite a novelty on a canal. We made it to Alrewas just before the heavens opened, but we have to remind ourselves that we need the rain, without it there’s no rainbows.

Dallying around Derbyshire, (and East Staffordshire)

It’s always nice to meet up with friends on the canal and as Ian and Joy moor in this area we took the opportunity to spend some time together. Eric was offered a ride on the stern on NB Tenacity as we cruised in convoy for the day. Eric and I both commented on the water levels on the river Dove aquaduct. The top photo was taken earlier in the week and we’d laughed about having to duck to get through those arches. We’d had some heavy rain but only for a few hours so hadn’t thought it amounted to much. A week later we’d still have struggled due to lack of water. There’s no pleasing some folk. Fortunately the T&M hasn’t suffered to the same extent as the northern canals. Our bridges still remained navigable and pretty as everBack in Burton there’s some good mooring by Shobnall Park. And we took some time to stretch our legs and raise our pulse by climbing up Outwoods Hills.Burton itself was dominated by brewerys. But the view was panoramic and great reminder of the vastness of our countryside. Unseen from this angle is a vast new housing estate being built behind us.Back in Burton, Burnt Oak with John and Martina cruised by, so they moored up next to us. Martina and I had a serious discussion about our spinning exploits as we are part of a team raising money for Air Ambulance through a spinning marathon. (More about Britspin later) I’m not sure if John and Eric are having a serious discussion or not, but it was either about rope or beer.

Shobnall marina

Cruising through Burton usually leaves you feeling mellow, it’s a smelly town, although not entirely unpleasant if you like a good pint. It’s undergone many ups and downs through the centuries but Burton is widely known as the home of British Beer, thanks mainly to the high mineral content of the water enhancing the flavour. Production really boomed in the 18th century when the canals were used to transport both the finished beer and ingredients. Just another reason why we should be grateful for our canal heritage. Brewing still dominates the town as we found when we spent a few days here in Shobnall Marina.overlooked by the chimneys and red brick cottages,and watched the Hobgoblin lorries trundling by morning noon and night. It’s a bit of a tricky entrance, but never the less a great little marina, family run with a well stocked and competively priced chandlrey and cafe. Eric had to be off the boat for a few days and what with the strong winds still wreaking havoc, we wanted that extra peace of mind that the boat and I would be safe.
It’s quite a tight fit to get moored, but never the less once we were settlled I made myself at home and took advantage of the bountiful pear tree making cakes puddings and chutney. Burton town centre is about 20 minutes walk and is not the most appealing places, but it’s got all the essentials, so ok for a few.

You can’t moor there

It’s underneath a cocker tree.However I did pick up a few to help ward off the increasing number of spiders taking up residence on Firecrest. Although I don’t think spiders take any notice of this old wives tale. And Eric knows when to humour me….. But going back to the mooring, having spent 3 months on the river, we were still of the mentality that if you saw a mooring place you took it, because the next available one might not be for several miles. And I know that when Eric says this will do, it will.And it wasn’t a problem.  We did check the forecast for wind speeds, and do our own little risk assessment. The big storm itself, wasn’t due to hit us for another few days and despite it being a bit blustery, we didn’t get too many conkers on the roof overnight. And Shardlow is a very pretty place to moor.Almost as good as a howl of Maltesers.


Last leg of the river adventure

We said goodbye to our grey and chilly mooring in Beeston and headed under the footbridgethrough the lock and into the sunshineWhere Eric picked me up on the landing post ready to do our last few miles on the Trent.
This young heron stood sentry duty by the weir, I’m sure he’d have waved us off if he could.
We passed familiar landmarks that we’d seen several times back in June, it would have been nice to take a meander up the Erewash again, but we had arranged to meet friends in a few days, and the forecast was warning of imminent storm force winds so we didn’t want to get caught on a temulutuos river, which was already getting choppySawley lock, last of the easy locks, electricly operated with volockies to see us through, it was a bit gloomy down here. But sheltered from the wind,which we could tell was picking up from the flapping flags. We stopped to pick up water at Sawley, before heading under the M1, yes it always makes me smile smugly when I remember I’m no longer living in the fast lane. And finally back onto the Trent and Mersy canal for our first “proper” lock at Derwent Mouth. Those clouds were gathering pace, so although today’s journey hadn’t been a long one. We were ready to call it a day.

We’ve enjoyed our river adventure for this year. I can understand why some narrowboaters are hesitant to venture into deeper waters but we enjoy the change.



Here be Dragons

We had a lovely few days on Victoria Embankment overlooking, (or should that be underlooking) Trent Bridge, watching the Dragon Boat training. Eric doesn’t like the thought of me sitting at the bow beating a drum, it defeats the idea of a silent electric boat, and besides as all boaters know…. you shouldn’t go fast past moored boats…..But it was time to set off back up the Beeston Canal through Nottingham, admiring the grand warehouse developementsand snapping almost identical photos to those that took on our outward journey. I wonder if the sun always shines on this canalside hub. We never found out how to access it from city side.


Lovely Lace in Nottingham

My Aunty Avril is a skilled and knowledgeable Lace Maker so I was keen to explore Nottingham’s lace centre. Unfortunately the Lace Market that Google maps lead me to is a multi story car park. Even the tourist information office was apologetic that Nottingham doesn’t make the most of its creative heritage.However they did direct me to Debbie Bryan’s studio, who was doing her best to compete in a concrete jungle.
She runs a friendly creative retail outlet housed amongst the refurbished lace warehouses. Debbie is an artist who has drawn inspiration from the lace and makes it accessible to all with her quirky shop and tea room. Richard Arkwright established a cotton mill in this area in 1768. It led to an influx of workers needing housing and by the 1840s lace making had changed from a domestic industry to an international export business.What we have left now are the huge and impressive warehouses and factories that dominate this part of Nottingham. The idea being that the more impressive your building, the more desirable your lace was. They’ve been taken over by the trendy who recognise good structure and dollars signs when they see it.I found the current centre of Nottingham spoilt by the concrete and consumerism. And I had to keep reminding myself to look upwards where the cities true beauty lies today. And whilst this might now be a trendy nightclub called the Alchemist, Im not sure its actually one of Boots the Chemists buildings.

Whilst I was looking up, I saw that the Cirque du Soleil were performing in Nottingham, a spectacular I’ve always wanted to see, we got good seats and thoroughly enjoyed the show. We were encouraged to take photos but weren’t allowed to use flash so I didn’t try until they were taking their final bow.

We had a good week in Nottingham, culminating in a few more days in Beeston, where Ruby and our neice Bryony came for a visit and mini cruise.