Saturday, 21 September 2013

Big Trip - Day 26

Tixall Wide really is a lovely mooring, and we can also highly recommend the chicken and mushroom pie from the farm shop.

This morning it was dull and grey but perfectly still and we slipped away from our mooring just after 8am.  I got off just before Great Haywood junction to check whether anything was coming, and Adrian made the turn back onto the Trent & Mersey.  The section from here to Fradley Junction is one of the few bits that we're repeating; we did it in the opposite direction on Day 6.

I walked down to the lock, where a boat was just going down.  We saw it again at Colwich lock.  The lock cottage has lots of old canal and railways signs decorating the walls.

We stopped at Rugeley and Adrian went shopping while I got a wash load going, and rang my mother on her 80th birthday.  Setting off again, we negotiated the narrows at Armitage without incident.

The stretch beyond Handsacre got increasingly surreal.  First we passed a boat with a cockatiel sitting on the semi-trad stern.  A bit further on, two people sitting near a moored boat got up rather suspiciously, then got out a phone as asked me to smile!  It was only when I saw the name of the boat that I realised it was John and Louise from Blue Moon.  It was good to meet them, if only briefly as we drifted past.  Next I could see that we were being followed by an unusual boat.  When we joined the queue of two boats already at Woodend Lock, the little plastic craft passed us, hoping there was a short boat up ahead that he could fit in the lock with.  There wasn't so the chap joined the end of the queue, and turned out to be wearing a kilt.  He apparently built the boat himself, and has been travelling the network for twelve years.  He sleeps on board - and has a Gold licence!

From the lock landing at Woodend, you get a single, far-away view of the spires of Lichfield Cathedral.

It took quite a while to get down the lock, and a similar process was repeated at Shadehouse lock, the top of those at Fradley.  At least there started to be a few boats coming up.  Eventually we were down Middle Lock and heading for the junction.  This time we'd be going straight on, continuing on the T&M.   The lock was in our favour, and apart from having to wait for two boats to turn out of the Coventry Canal, I could go past The Swan and straight in.

We're now on waters we haven't done for a while -- 2006 in a hire boat was the last time we did this section, when we did an extended version of the Leicester Ring.  This being Fradley on a Saturday, we weren't hopeful of getting a mooring, but in fact there was plenty of room below Junction lock.

Having moored, we walked over to the cafe the other side of the canal for tea and cake, and we're joined by a very brave little bird, which I think may be a chaffinch.

We walked back via the next lock down, then around Fradley Pool.  I hadn't realised until today that it was built by the Trent and Mersey canal company when the Coventy Canal junction was established.  Water flows down a channel from above Middle Lock into the pool, then re-enters the canal further down.  It meant they were sure they weren't losing water to the Coventry.

It's been a fantastically sunny afternoon, and Fradley is swarming with people.  The moorings here are next to the road to the pub, so not the quietest (especially with all the motorbikes and trikes going by), but you can't blame people for wanting to visit here; there's something a bit special about the place.

13 miles, 6 locks.  (321 miles, 184 locks).

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