The Midlands March, where are we now, Warwickshire.

My last post was in February, we had just left Birmingham and we cruising roughly eastwards along the North Stratford canal.

North Stratford canal

We sat out storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin in a pretty little village on the edge of the Solihul district, called Hockley Heath. It had both a well stocked Co-op, first class butchers, a nice pub, and good TV reception. So we were sorted for a fortnight. Especially as I was taking part in a competitive knitting event running parallel with the winter olympics, so my enforced down time was not put to waste.

A productive few weeks

But as soon as the winds abated we set off once more on our travels. Down through the Lapworth locks towards Kingswood Junction. Such a pretty set of locks, but you’ll have to take my word for that, because that’s where disaster struck. Absolute calamity. As I was struggling to wind up a stiff paddle, my phone camera decided to leap out of my “secure” pocket and take a dive into the swirling waters of the emptying lock. In a flash of madness I was tempted to leap in after it, but despite my distress I only plunged my arm in as I watched my entire life being sucked away into the locks murky depths.
Alas no more Midlands photos. And if you have ever tried to buy a new phone online, without a mobile number to verify purchases, you’ll understand when I say I wont ever ever ever let my phone go swimming again. Thanks to some very helpful friends and family, it is now all sorted, and I am reconnected, albeit with a few missing contacts, so if you are a friend who hasn’t heard from me for a while, please get in touch.
Since that fateful day we have continued our travels, onto the Grand Union canal, down through the Hatton Flight, into Warwickshire. Which got me thinking about where we were, and more to the point, when do I draw our Midlands March to a close.

Where exactly is the Midlands? We often hear the definitions “northerners” or “southerners” bandied around, equally with pride or derision depending upon the point being made or the person claiming heritage. And I think both parties would include or exclude areas of the Midlands to their advantage or disadvantage as the mood required. But until this particular part of our canal life, it’s not a part of the country that either of us were that familiar with. Having consulted Google, the fount of all knowledge, we have come to the conclusion it’s not a straight forward question. Yes it is the mid section of England, from the Welsh borders to the Lincolnshire coast,

The Midlands

But there’s the West Midlands and the East Midlands to take into consideration.

The West and the East, with more detail below.

The West Midlands and East Midlands regions are NUTS 1 statistical regions and were formerly constituencies of the European Parliament. Local government in the Midlands is as follows:
• Boroughs: (1) Birmingham, (2) Coventry, (3) Derby, (4) Dudley, (5) Leicester, (6) Nottingham, (7) Sandwell, (8) Stoke-on-Trent, (9) Solihull, (10) Telford and Wrekin, (11) Walsall and (12) Wolverhampton.
• Shires: (13) Derbyshire (Districts: (a) Amber Valley, (b) Bolsover, (c) Chesterfield, (d) Derbyshire Dales, (e) Erewash, (f) High Peak, (g) North East Derbyshire and (h) South Derbyshire), (14) Herefordshire (Districts: none), (15) Leicestershire (Districts: (a) Blaby, (b) Charnwood, (c) Harborough, (d) Hinckley and Bosworth, (e) Melton, (f) North West Leicestershire and (g) Oadby and Wigston), (16) Lincolnshire (Districts: (a) Boston, (b) East Lindsey, (c) Lincoln, (d) North Kesteven, (e) South Holland, (f) South Kesteven and (g) West Lindsey), (17) Northamptonshire (Districts: (a) Corby, (b) Daventry, (c) East Northamptonshire, (d) Kettering, (e) Northampton, (f) South Northamptonshire and (g) Wellingborough), (18) Nottinghamshire (Districts: (a) Ashfield, (b) Bassetlaw, (c) Broxtowe, (d) Gedling, (e) Mansfield, (f) Newark and Sherwood and (g) Rushcliffe), (19) Rutland (Districts: none), (20) Shropshire (Districts: none), (21) Staffordshire (Districts: (a) Cannock Chase, (b) East Staffordshire, (c) Lichfield, (d) Newcastle-under-Lyme, (e) South Staffordshire, (f) Stafford, (g) Staffordshire Moorlands and (h) Tamworth), (22) Warwickshire (Districts: (a) North Warwickshire, (b) Nuneaton and Bedworth, (c) Rugby, (d) Stratford-on-Avon and (e) Warwick) and (23) Worcestershire (Districts: (a) Bromsgrove, (b) Malvern Hills, (c) Redditch, (d) Worcester, (e) Wychavon and (f) Wyre Forest).

On that happy note, (if you have made if this far,) we shall consider our Midlands March closed when we turn South at Napton Junction.

Warwickshire countryside

The Toft Alpacas

Toft is a small company on a working Alpaca farm. They rose to prominence in 2013 when Kerry Lord, their founder, started designing crocheted animals and wrote a book called Edward’s Menagerie. And if you mention the word Toft to many a yarn aficionado, they will instantly start to drool. Toft produces high end super soft wool that’s very hard to resist. It’s only a few miles from the canal, so when Jo suggested we went on a visit, I leapt at the chance. Edward’s Menagerie has grown in numbers and there are now over 200 furry friends who regularly make an appearance at yarn festivals and craft shows. I knew that I was in for treat.Toft is situated in a purpose built barn studio and welcomes visitors with a hot drink. Everything at Toft is beautifully presented, including the coffee, and we indulged in a piece of spicy pumpkin cake as well. Then we were set to shop. Deciding what we could bear to leave behind or more to the point, how much we could afford to bring home. Jo is going to crochet some presents and I bought a gift for Heather. Heather has already made several of the Menagerie so Leanne the Chameleon will be an addition to her family. There’s a walking trail around the farm where we were able to see the alpaca.Although Heather and I both think that this is a llama not an Alpaca.



Safely through Newark, but only just.

After some mindless hooligans spoilt our last visit to Newark we were a little apprehensive.  We delayed our entry into the town to avoid the weekend by using the Muskham Ferry patrons mooring. We anticipated they’d be quite tricky to get onto due to the river flow and the short angled pontoons. The easy solution would have been to go in bow first but you cant use the pub if you cant get off your boat easily, so that would defeat ths object.  Eric’s helmsmanship was well and truly tested, they don’t do reversing around a corner whilst going upstream in boat school. Thank goodness we’d chosen to arrive in the morning before the gongoozelers were watching, it took 2 attempts but we made it.  I made sure he was well rewarded and we fulfilled our “patrons duty” with several pints and a good sunday lunch.And before the anticipated weather change, I got to finish the shawl I was knitting and took advantage of the sunshine to wash and dry it flat on the roof.

Well replenished we set off to for the last few miles into Newark.

We steamed ahead towards the castle and in our excitement forgot to read the map, I mean what could be so hard to navigate, under the bridge and moor up on the right….Oops, when you have an 8 foot radio mast, it pays to to go through the middle arch with enough headroom. Luckily I don’t think the damage to the bridge was severe enough to stop the traffic. And it really was only the tip of the ariel that scuffed the already flakey brickwork.  Much relieved we moored up at Farndon and I went for a walk. One of the last remaining working  willow holts a is just off the mooring. Both a fascinating site for the number of varieties of willow trees, a haven for wildlife. This Comma Butterfly obliged me by posing for a photo.

Winter blues

I’m feeling very British, needing to talk about the weather. It’s dire, bleak and wintery, with sleet and biting winds. The temptation is to snuggle down under the duvet and go into hibernation. I’m certainly not cruising anywhere whilst it’s like this.

Thankgoodness I had the foresight to fill the larder with enough food to see us through at least a week without any repetition or two or three weeks of pasta and tomato sauce.

We don’t even get any TV reception here so I’m making the most of this enforced idleness by catching up on some knitting projects.

A scarf that has been on the needles for too long and needs to get finished. And to add a splash of colour, last week I finished a cardigan for my new nephew, Solomon


A little light relief

They always say moving house is rated as one of life’s most stressful events, not a lot is said about moving onto a boat, but needless to say, the constant uncertainties about when our boat will be complete has been very stressful. Hence the need for a little light relief; I’m knitting a lacey shawl.

For those of you that know me, you’ll know how much time I spend working with fibre, knitting spinning and sewing. I’ve been promised I can have the space under the bed to store all the necessities of life. I’ll be sharing a few of my projects on my craft blog pages, although I can’t promise to be entirely truthful about how much wool I buy.

Good things come to those who wait. It won’t be long now.