I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Thursday, 25 May 2023

May 2023 - Tixall Wide and Otherton

Tixall Wide (Trent & Mersey/Staff & Worcs Canal) – Monday 22nd May

We were more or less back to our bad ways of a late start!  It was, however, 9.30am which I guess isn’t too bad.

We caught up with a real slowcoach who then broke down completely!  Richard offered to tow him to a decent mooring place which he did.  Quite a queue had formed behind us with all the goings on!  I’m glad there aren’t any locks for a while.

By the time we got to the Armitage Tunnel another boat had joined our cavalcade!  When is a tunnel not a tunnel?  When it is the Armitage Tunnel!!!  The tunnel was built unlined through rock.  Subsidence due to coal mining left to the tunnel with opened up and the banks concreted.  The only bit that is still a “tunnel” is under the A513. 

We stopped in Rugeley to get some fresh food from Tescos.  I did notice that the salad part of the store was pretty bare.  I managed to get the last cucumber.  Almeria, in Spain, has been having dreadful weather with lots of flooding.  I wonder if this will make salad stuff even rarer.

Up through Colwich Lock and on to Haywood Lock. 

We were really surprised at how much mooring there was in Great Haywood.  In the past we have managed to squeeze into the last place, but we would have had our choice of moorings today.

At Haywood Junction we made a left turn onto the Staffordshire & Worcestershire (Staffs & Worcs) Canal. 

Between Haywood Junction and the first bridge, Milford Turnover Bridge, there are works being carried out.  CR&T says it is to repair and resurface the towpath for the benefits of users.

We hoped to moor at Tixall Wide, but were worried that there wouldn’t be any space.  There was very little, but we managed to squeeze into a space.  As I had used Squeeze in the last sentence I looked at synonyms and came up with cuddle!  I like that – we managed to cuddle into a space!!

There is a wonderful landmark above Tixall Wide.  A beautiful gatehouse now owned by the Landmark Trust and rented out.  The Landmark Trust says this about the building on their website.  “When Tixall Gatehouse was acquired in 1968 by the Landmark Trust, it was definitely a building at risk. Following the demolition of Tixall Hall in 1927 it had stood abandoned. Its roof, floors and windows had gone, and there was a danger that the walls too would soon begin to fall.  The Gatehouse had been little more than a picturesque ruin since the 18th century. Repairs to the stonework were carried out by a local mason, Richard Trubshaw of Great Haywood, in 1721. Sir Thomas Clifford may have given it a new roof a century later, but by then it had long been uninhabitable. This roof, in turn, fell in during the 1950s.”  I have also borrowed a photo from their website as my photo was rubbish!  If you want to see more about the Gatehouse you can find it here.  

We had a video call booked with our British friends in Florida.  Maggie is finally retiring, I wont say how old she is but she is the same age as me!!  Instead of their usual 2 weeks in the UK they will be here for 3 weeks in July, and will be staying with us for 3 nights.  I am so looking forward to it.  The call went on for 2 hours, time really does fly when you are enjoying yourself 😊 

9.5 miles
2 locks

Outside Otherton Boat Haven (Staffs & Worcs) – Tuesday 23rd May

We were away by 9.15 this morning.  Our destination was Otherton Marina where we will be leaving Mary H until the end of June when we join a BCN Explorer Cruise.

At Tixall Lock there is obviously going to be some major works done as there was lots of mats down for temporary vehicle parking.  There is nothing on the C&RT stoppages page, so I wonder what it going on.

The cottage at Tixall Lock looks as if it might be a holiday home.  They are two PIR outside lights which come on every time someone moves and stay on for quite a while.  Bearing in mind that it was broad daylight, I think something might be wrong there and I only hope they don’t receive a big electricity bill. 

This sign over the cottage door very kindly told us how far it is to Deptmore Lock. 4 miles and 6 furlongs is 4¾ miles. 

We passed the Stafford Boat Club which was opened in 1990 after a lot of hard work and membership that dwindled until a radio call out was made.  There is a brief history of the club here.  

Deptmore Lock looked a deep one, and it was at 10ft 3ins and it leaked badly.  I had to keep the bow away from the fountain!


Apparently, Shutt Hill Lock is here somewhere.

Ah yes, here it is, and not much headroom. 

This photo is of the canal as it runs through Teddersley Park.  In fact, that is what the bridge is called.  Teddersley Hall was built in 1754 by Sir Edward Littleton, the first Baron Hatherton.  The fifth Lord Hatherton sold most of the Littletons' remaining estates in the area in 1953, including the Hall. Being no longer required, it was demolished by the new owner in 1954, as were many such large houses at this time. 

The canal goes under the M6.  There is very nice house with a beautiful garden just before the bridge and the noise was awful.  I really don’t think I could live there however lovely the garden is.

Strangely enough once on the other side of the motorway the noise wasn’t nearly so bad.

By now the locks were coming every mile or so.  Penkridge Lock is another lock approached by a low bridge.  As I entered the lock, I discovered that we had found a lock wheeler 😊  Our friends, Steve and Diane from NB Clarence, are moored in Otherton Boat Haven, where we were leaving Mary H while we go home for a few weeks.  Steve had been asking me where we were about every 15 minutes, so I wasn’t too surprised to see him there.  It always makes life easier when there is another person on the ground at locks. 

We had one more lock to do before mooring up opposite the marina, ready to go in the next morning.

10 miles
7 locks

Otherton Boat Haven (Staffs and Worcs) – Wednesday 24th May

Fuelled up and into the marina.  I had been told that we would be bow in and would overhang the pontoon at the stern. As a reverse layout we don’t usually use the front to get off, but it didn’t matter as our pontoon was plenty long enough.

Richard walked to Penkridge Station and caught a train to Birmingham, then one to Rugby and finally a taxi to Dunchurch Pools.  That all went well, and his journey back was good until the very last bit.  The postcode of the marina is also for a housing estate, but there is no road between the estate and the marina.  We use Life 360 where we can see where each other is.  I could see that he had gone wrong and tried to phone him, but his phone hadn’t bluetoothed to the car, so no hands free.  Eventually he stopped and picked up.  I was able to tell him where to go but he missed a turning and took the next one.  I rang him again, but he was out of the car asking someone for directions.  He got himself on the right road but missed the lane to the marina.  I rang him once more and told him where he had gone wrong, and he eventually managed to get here.  Not only was the Bluetooth thing a nuisance, but my phone had no signal in the boat.  Hey ho, he got here in the end. 

My day was cleaning and sorting.  I had made myself a list which I duly got on with.  I even cleaned out the bathroom cabinet – there is a bag of lots of out of date things.

The following photos are all ones that didn’t quite make it to the blog earlier.

I asked this swan if she and her family would pose for a photo, this was their idea of posing, turning their backs on me! 

I don’t know about you but our bath at home is inside not in the garden!

 Everyone in a line now! 

St Leonard’s Church at Wychnor

 And finally, how on earth did Muffin get himself in this mess!!

So that is us done for a few weeks.  We have commitments at home now, but will be back towards the end of June ready to do the BCN Explorer cruise.

Monday, 22 May 2023

May 2023 - Branston Water Park, Alrewas and Fradley

Branston Water Park (Trent & Mersey) – Friday 19th May

After yesterday’s debacle at Willington when we couldn’t get moored up, we decided that we need to start earlier in the mornings and stop earlier if the canals are going to be so busy.  We were moving by 8.40am.

The weather forecast was for rain and thunderstorms so we thought we would get as far as we could without getting drenched.

The May blossom really is wonderful this year.

We crossed the River Dove on an aqueduct that was refurbished in 2003. 

Dallow Lock in Burton-on-Trent is the start of the narrow locks. 

Through Burton-on-Trent which is really nice by the canal.  Richard’s favourite beer, Doombar, is now brewed under licence in Burton.  Doombar is Sharp's Brewery flagship ale. Founded in 1994 in St Minver Lowlands, Rock, Cornwall, by Bill Sharp but since 2011, the brewery has been owned by Molson Coors.  The bottled version only has been brewed in Burton - 267 miles away from Rock, since 2013.

There were a couple of goose families hanging around at the bottom of the lock.  

Branston Lock was very slow in filling, so I had a while to ponder on things.  I could see a large housing estate being built and I wondered where all the people who buy these houses had lived before and what has happened to their old houses.  I thought there was a housing shortage.  Maybe I am just being stupid! 

I was joined by a goose family while I was in the lock.  They were just wandering along the lock side, right next to me.  I took a number of photos and whittled them down to three.  I can’t decide which one to put in here so I will put in all three!

We pulled over at Branston Water Park which was our goal for today.  The clouds were getting blacker, so we battened down the hatches and waited!

The rain wasn’t nearly as bad as forecast, but it gave me time to do some holiday planning and a couple of jobs around the boat.  Richard more or less cleared his list.

We were moored near the Bridge Inn at Branston so had to give it a try.  It’s basically Italian food with the usual main dishes in there too.  It was a very good meal, and they were very busy, however eating out is becoming expensive   We sat out in a marquee as we had Muffin.  It was quiet when we arrived, but the tables soon filled up. 

5.5 miles
2 locks

Above Alrewas Lock (Trent & Mersey) – Saturday 20th May

It was 8.15am when we left this morning.  We really needed to get fresh food in Alrewas but I was worried that we would get there before people had even left for the day!  A boat had already gone passed us and there was one hot on our heels.

It was a glorious morning, not a cloud in the sky and some lovely warm sunshine, even at 9am. 

Out first lock was Tatenhill where there is one of my favourite lock cottages, it looked even nicer in the morning sunlight. 

Wychnor Lock is pretty. 

It has an unusual shed on the lock side along with a wooden crane with a pulley on the top, that would have been used to load or unload boats in the lock.     

There is also a house called OK Ouse, I’m sure it would make more sense to call it Lock House!

After the lock the canal uses the River Trent.  

As we came out of Alrewas Lock and a boat was just leaving it’s mooring and going into the lock, so we swapped.  He had the lock, and we had his place!  It’s a lovely spot and the nearest to the Co-op which is an added bonus.

We walked to the Co-op which was only a 7 minute walk away.  Back at the boat it was such a lovely afternoon that we put our chairs out on the towpath and chilled out for the rest of the day. 

I wondered about the name Alrewas and looked it up.  The name is derived from the alder trees growing locally which were used in basket making.  It made me think of Alresford, where we used to live and looking that up saw that they had alder trees too.  If you are interested in reading about the alder tree, look here. 

½ miles

Tuppenhurst Bridge (Trent & Mersey) – Sunday 21st May

Today was Richard’s birthday.  He isn’t one for really celebrating, which is, perhaps, just as well with us being away on the boat.  We did have a nice meal out on Friday though.

We were away by 8.45am.  There are quite a few single locks to do and we decided that if all the boats that were moored at Alrewas were to get there before us then we would be waiting for ever!  When we got to the lock there were still 2 boats in front us at 9am!

Alrewas is a very pretty town and the houses by the canal are lovely.  I just didn’t get my phone out in time to take a photo of a beautiful, thatched cottage, so this one will have to do. 

We had 8 locks to do, split very nicely in half by a bacon and sausage sandwich at the Laughing Duck Café in Fradley.  We needed to get water and empty the elsan which Richard did while I ordered the food from the café at the water point.  We ate the sandwich on board and then continued on our way up to Fradley Junction.

These three photos are all of Fradley. 


It was at Fradley that we started to find more boats moving and had to wait at every lock.  At the last lock, Wood End, there were three boats going our way and four coming down.  Apparently, the lock is the 4th busiest on the system.  In 2021 the busiest locks were

1.       Hillmorton Locks on the Oxford Canal, which saw 8,147 lockages.
2.       New Marton on the Llangollen Canal with 7,457 lockages.
3.       Cholmondeston on the Shropshire Union with 7,103 lockages.
4.       Wood End on the Trent & Mersey had 6,279 lockages.
5.       Bradford-on-Avon on the Kennet & Avon with 5,994 lockages.

We could see HS2 being carved out of the countryside.  Sadly, I didn’t take any photos, mainly, I think, that I couldn’t believe my eyes.  There is a lovely lock cottage at Wood End, and it is going to be slap bang on the railway.  I found this online.

Phase One of HS2 connects to Phase 2a about 250 metres north-west of Fradley Wood. This 13.5km section of the Phase 2a route passes through the parishes of Fradley and Streethay, Alrewas, Kings Bromley, Armitage with Handsacre, Mavesyn Ridware, Hamstall Ridware and Colton within the local authority area of Staffordshire County Council.  From north west of Fradley HS2 continues towards Kings Bromley, passing over the Bourne Brook and River Trent and associated floodplains on viaducts. The track will then pass through Tomlinson’s Spinney Local Wildlife Site, will cross over Trentside Meadows on a viaduct and will run adjacent to Pipe Ridware. The route will continue north and will pass approximately 500m west of Blithbury before running between Colton and Stockwell Heath.

It will pass over a brook, through a spinney, a wildlife site and a meadow.  I’m sure everyone was up in arms when to motorways were built, well I know they were for the M3, but I just can’t understand the reasoning behind a railway line.  We are a small island and this abhorrent blot on the landscape is not needed – just my thoughts of course!

This map taken from Waterway Routes shows how close to the canal HS goes.

I just love this short stretch of the canal after the Fradley top lock, especially in the sunshine.  However, it is just before the spot where HS2 will get the closest to the canal.

We pulled over in the middle of nowhere but it had a nice wide towpath and some trees as it was really quite hot and I don’t like sitting in the sun. 

6 miles
8 locks

Saturday, 20 May 2023

May 2023 - Zouch, Weston and Willington

Footbridge over Zouch Cut - Number 44 (Leicester Line) – Tuesday 16th May

We had some rain overnight, but nothing to write home about (wait a minute I am writing about it!).  However, the day dawned bright though there was quite a strong breeze which made locks interesting!

The first lock was empty, what a surprise, but when we got the second lock two boats were coming out and the next 2 locks were in our favour, but sadly it didn’t last, and the rest were against us.

These two photos are of Sileby Lock.

 The next lock was Mountsorrel.  I took these photos just after it. 

We went under the Mountsorrel Mineral Railway Bridge, though we didn’t know it was a mineral bridge until I did some research.  Canalplan says “Grade II Listed the bridge dated 1860 in the brickwork is also known as the '1860 Bridge'. The 90ft span is considered one of the finest brick-built, single span bridges in the country. Broad Hill Quarry became the first industrial operation to have its own branch line and sidings and by 1863 the line was carrying 200 tonnes of granite per day. The Mountsorrel Granite Company was bought by Redland Aggregates in 1959 and the mineral line closed soon afterwards. Now the bridge carries a conveyor, transporting crushed stone to Barrow and the sidings.”  We could see that the bridge had a canopy over it, so the fact that it now carries a conveyor answers the question why!! 

Barrow Deep Lock has a drop of 9ft 7ins and has a lock house with traffic lights!  These are to show if the river is safe to navigate. 

We pulled over for lunch after Pilling’s Flood Lock.  It’s a strange one as the sign says that from March to October it will operate as a normal lock which makes me think that it is open in the winter.  You have to leave a paddle up at each end, and I can’t quite work out why?

We stopped in Loughborough Basin to empty the elsans and go to the big Sainsburys right beside the basin.  I was concerned as I’m sure there was some drug dealing going on.

At Bishop Meadow Lock there was a swan in there.  There was a man watching and worrying about it.  He said that it had flown down the canal and landed in the lock – big mistake!  I reckon it had done if before because as the water level in the lock rose there was a great flapping of wings, and it pushed its way through the gaps at the top of the gate and serenely swam off as if nothing had happened!

Mooring became a problem as we didn’t want to moor in Loughborough.  The first place that was acceptable (!) was too close to a factory with some sort of fan going which was very noisy.  This now meant that we needed to go on beyond Zouch Flood Gates.  There was a couple of spaces before Zouch Lock.

Back in  2016 we came down through Leicester just as Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League and there were lots of flags in gardens.  I heard this morning that it is highly likely that they will be relegated this year

12.3 miles
8 locks

Below Weston Lock – Number 4 (Leicester Line/River Trent/Trent & Mersey Canal) – Wednesday 17th May

We were very close to Zouch Lock and there was a motor cruiser coming out which was a good start to our day.

In 2016 I wrote the following.  “Down through Zouch lock and back out onto the river and the anticipation of seeing one of my favourite places on the waterways.  This is the third time we have been on the Soar and each time I have tried to find out something about the house but to no avail.  Well, this year I have!  It’s called The Hermitage and is up for sale.  It appears to be under offer and was on for £750,000 - which I reckon is cheap!  The house has an interesting and varied past, having been previously a religious retreat, from whence it derived its name, and then latterly a hunting box.  It has been owned by the same family for 48 years.”  So, 7 years on I thought I would see if I could find any more recent information on it.  The house was the family home of Catherine Parr but the amazing new is that in 2021 it was on the market for £1.5m and sold in 2022, but I can’t find out how much for.  It looks lovely inside, so I guess someone bought it to do up and sell on.  If you want to look at the details, they are here.  

Yesterday it was Barrow Deep Lock well today it was the turn of the Kegworth Deep Lock which, with a 12 ft drop, out does Barrow at 9ft 7ins!  I wrote in 2016 how the lock leaked, well today it was lovely. We had to wait until two boats came up, but at least the lock was then in our favour.

As we approached Ratcliffe Bridge, a police officer asked if we could please go as slowly as possible under the bridge.  As we got closer there were about 6 officers standing around.  We wondered if someone had jumped off the bridge and there were waiting for divers, but if that was the case surely we shouldn’t have been allowed through at all as our prop could have done horrible mutilations to a body.

At Ratcliffe Lock we came across Plan B who was already setting the lock.  We had seen the boat a number of times on our journey up the Soar.  We travelled through with them and continued to lock with them until Shardlow.

As we passed the Ratcliffe Power Station I noticed that there was no steam coming out of its cooling towers.  I thought that it was probably closed but discovered that it should have closed in September 2022 but is now due to close in September 2024.  The power station was commissioned in 1968 and, as of now, it is one of only two coal-fired power stations left in the UK.  The other being in County Antrim.  Both these will close before 2025 as In November 2015, the Government announced that all the remaining fourteen coal-fired power stations would be closed by 2025, these are the only two left. 

We joined the River Trent and cruised upstream with Plan B.  The Sawley Locks are mechanised, but Richard seemed confused!  However, when he realised that the operating column was on the other side of the lock it was fine.  Plan B pulled over for water and we pulled over for lunch just afterwards.  Strangely enough we both set off from our mooring at the same time.

We came to the end of the River Trent and joined the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Up through Shardlow.  Wikipedia says “An important late 18th-century river port for the trans-shipment of goods to and from the River Trent to the Trent and Mersey Canal, during its heyday from the 1770s to the 1840s it became referred to as "Rural Rotterdam" and "Little Liverpool". Today Shardlow is considered Britain's most complete surviving example of a canal village, with over 50 Grade II listed buildings and many surviving public houses within the designated Shardlow Wharf Conservation Area.”  It certainly looks an interesting place and maybe one day we can walk around and see the 50 Grade II buildings. 

We lost Plan B at Shardlow Lock as there was another boat waiting.  We shared two locks with them before arriving at Weston Lock where Richard was approached by a farmer who asked him if he could please help him herd his sheep!  The farmer was bringing them up towards the canal and wanted Richard to stop them from going headfirst into it!  Well not exactly, there was a bridge, but the first bit sounds far more interesting!!  The lady off our lock buddy (the boat had no name) gave her husband and I a running commentary of what was happening as we were down in the bottom of a deep lock (10ft 10ins).

We pulled over just after Weston Lock.  This was our view, so pretty. 

I was just comparing today’s distance and locks with yesterdays.  They look almost the same, but the day was so much easier with sharing locks as opposed to doing them on our own.  Easier for Richard with help and nicer for me with someone to chat to in the lock.

12 miles
8 locks and 4 flood locks which were open.

Coach & Horses Bridge - No 25 (Trent & Mersey) – Thursday 18th May

We didn’t have far to go today so had a leisurely start.  Our first lock was Swarkestone where there were two lockies working as there was a ground paddle not in operation.  Another deep lock at 10ft 10ins. 

Just after the lock is the junction of the disused Derby Canal.  According to the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust it was built in 1797 and had locks that were 90ft long and 15ft wide to take Trent barges.  There were attempts to close the Sandiacre line in 1937 and commercial traffic on the remainder of the canal ceased in 1945. The IWA lead a protest cruise in 1961 to maintain the right to navigate but the canal company felled two trees across the lock, resulting in the last protest that the IWA lost. In 1964 the canal company gained permission to close the canal.  Land was sold off for housing and some for the M1 which was sold for the grand sum of 1/- (5p). 

This is one of the few surviving examples of canalside cranes left on the canal and is situated at Swarkestone.

The next lock was Stenson, which is even deeper at 12ft 6ins.  There was another boat waiting so they went in first but couldn’t decide which side of the lock it was going, this went on for ages until finally they threw a rope up and chose the left hand side!

We were planning on stopping in Willington, one of my favourite places.  There is a long stretch of mooring but there was only one space left and it was right bang next to the railway.  We started to pull in just as a train went by and the whole boat shook.  There wasn’t anywhere else to moor.  Bang went the fresh food shopping and a meal out.

We continued on to the Waterway Routes next mooring place and the line of moored boats went on and on.  Fortunately there was one space left on the end.  It is very close to a road, but at least we have somewhere to stop.

A lovely spring scene with lots of babies. 

9.5 miles
2 locks