25th to 28th August 2016
Apologies to our blog followers but have been very busy with back to back guests at floating hotel nb Lucy for the last week. We had a wonderful day and a half with our family of four from the Netherlands. They really lucked out as we had the most wonderful weather for them. We picked them all up in Nantwich where we squirrelled away there hire car for two nights whilst we chugged off down the canal.
It is pretty unfair to expect your guests to slog it out on the locks but these guys did it admirably and especially as first timers. The first afternoon they put in five locks which was just a warm up for the next day. We pulled up after a little while and had an impromptu picnic on the towpath which was a lot of fun and most enjoyable. Just a little thing but a lot of fun. We finished the day off by heading up to the nuclear bunker which has been mentioned in the previous blogs by Milla and Ollie. We all woke to a magnificent day and after a pretty quick breakfast we pulled up anchor and headed on down the cut.
We hit them between the eyes with 20 locks. They all performed the task superbly. With six of us it made it a lot easier and more enjoyable and a lot of fun. Milla and Ollie caught on really quickly and were most helpful. Ollie was amazing on the helm whereas we will not mentioned the abilities of his mum and dad. Toques feet did not hit the ground the whole time Milla was with us as she was being extremely spoilt and well loved. Maples meantime was more than happy not to be fussed over.
There was the odd opportunity for them to sit down and enjoy the peaceful gliding of the boat for a little while before we cracked the whip on them again.
We hope we have not turned them off boating as we did put them through the ringer. They were speaking to us the next morning when they had to catch their taxi back to the car at the ungodly hour of 9.30am. An hour of the morning which we have not seen for a while.
They left on a truly unpleasant day as it was just pouring down. It was one of the wettest days that we have had in that it did not let up all day. They were driving on up to York for the night and to enjoy the Shambles which we had done previously. It is a fun city to visit.
We spent the remainder of the day moving beds around and shopping and getting ready for our next guests to arrive who were driving up from south of London. We met Horst and Elfi who are from Germany back in 2000 when we were walking the Milford Track in New Zealand. We have visited one another quite a few times and even though language can be a barrier we always have such a great time together. There is always something that happens that puts Elfi and Di in tears of laughter.
They arrived at 4.00pm and due to the miserable weather we spent the night moored up at Market Drayton.
Next day after a very casual breakfast we headed off to Gnosall Heath and to once again put our lock slaves to good use. The weather just turned it on for us, especially after yesterday. It is OK for us as we are used to rainy days and when there is only the two of us on the boat it is not hard to handle. But, when you have guests on you want to show them how beautiful and calm it can be and not so slippery and dangerous as in wet weather. Not to mention the dampness that permeates the boat and the wet dog smell that develops.
Every time we have met up Elfi and Di have always done a jigsaw puzzle and Di had one waiting for Elfi. It is a 1000 piece picture of the Cotswold area. Di chose very poorly as there is a lot of water, sky and trees in it.
We are now travelling down the west arm of the Four Counties Ring on the Shropshire Canal. We did this route back in 2008 and it is still as magnificent as it was the first time. There are avenues of magnificent mature trees forming a canopy over the canals allowing shards of filtered sunlight in around the leaves. Those leaves by the way are now changing to the colour of yellow and even falling off. It is quite a sight to see and very peaceful.
It is also in these areas when we are most likely to see a Kingfisher. To date we had not seen one but Fraser was fortunate to spot one on a post. Di finally saw one as it was flying past the boat but they are almost impossible to capture on camera.
Horst took to the tiller like he was born with one in his hand.
A very well known landmark on this part of the canal.
Here we go again, eating at a pub. This is in Gnosall Heath where we had pulled up for our second night. In the morning we saw about 35 horses and there riders coming down the country lane in all their finery on the way to a hunt. They did away with fox hunts about 15 years ago but we think they know hunt the Pokémon!!! Unfortunately we were not quick enough to catch a photo of it as it was such a spectacle and the sound of the horse’s hooves reminded us of what it would have been like when canal boats did not have motors.
This is the bridge that the horses crossed and as Di said to Elfi, it would have been great to have got a picture and make it into a jigsaw puzzle – very English indeed.
Our guests and the Hotel Manager in the Manor de nb Lucy.
Our happy guests before we turned them into lock slaves.
Lock slave in action.
Lock slave being frog marched down the towpath.
Lock slave being given instructions.
Now lock slave being forced to undertake lessons in the game of cricket. Pretty cool that you can just pull up on the edge of a canal watch a game. We were providing claps of encouragement and helping the score board with our signs of fours and sixes. There was one LBW and a catch out – what a hoot.
We came to the Autherley Junction which on canal terms is an extremely well known and busy junction. To anyone who is a non-boater it is hardly worth being noticed.
This is all new territory for Di and Fraser as they have not been any further south than this in the past. We are now on the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal heading towards Stourport.
Below is a circular weir that is unique feature of this canal. It is hard to imagine that this is 200 years old and still in perfect working condition.
One of the features we went through today was the Bratch set of locks. It consists of three locks almost on top of one another but not considered a true staircase. The grounds around the lock flight were beautiful with amazing brick work and great gardens.
We dropped over thirty feet in the flight and popped out the other side into stunning countryside. Really wish out pictures could do justice to the scenery.
In this picture you can just see the dent in the brickwork which is to accommodate for when the lock gate is in the open position.
And finally a photo of a canal boat that was built only recently – 1986 – but this one is steam driven. A true enthusiast’s boat.
Well today the weather man had predicted showers all day which we were dreading for many reasons but particularly because we would not be able to spend very much time cruising with Horst and Elfi but the gods looked favourably on us. We got a good five hours cruising in today and rewarded ourselves with a slap up lunch in a canal side pub. After eating way too much which has been a mantra of this trip so far we decided that Horst and Fraser would make their way back to Stone to pick up Horst’s car as they are driving down to Cornwall tomorrow. It is a bank holiday long weekend and the traffic is going to be a nightmare so if they can get away to an early start tomorrow it will make their travel day a little easier. Horst drove his car from Germany to England so he is in a left hand drive on the left hand side of the road – not a good mixture – pretty scary in fact.