Monday 27th June - Tixall Wide
As the weather was promising to be good today we decided to spend the day moored up on Tixall Wide. After visiting the farm shop for provisions and a delicious brunch at the cafe we set off for a walk along the canal and back through the Shugborough Estate.
Throughout the park are scattered extravagant stone follies which were commissioned by its owner, Thomas Anson, to beautify and improve the estate house and garden.
The House is now owned by the National Trust and has been leased to Staffordshire County Council who now manage the whole estate. Inside there are many treasures and magnificent rooms, but we didn't go in as we had Toby with us.
This lane of completely symmetrical and handsome terraced cottages was built to house the people evicted from the former Shugborough village when the Arch of Hadrian was built in its place.
On the opposite side of the Wide is the handsome Tixall Gatehouse which is now owned by the Landmark Trust and you can rent it to stay in. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here for two weeks in 1586 before being beheaded. It is all that remains of Tixall Hall.
Tixall Wide happened when the canal was built across the landowner's ground and he didn't want to see a canal from his windows, so it was designed to look more like a lake!
Tuesday 28th June - Tixall Wide to Wolseley Bridge
Today we set off for Wolseley Bridge hoping to arrive before the rain set in. It wasn't a long cruise and we managed it just in time. The lock at Great Haywood was very busy with lots of boats coming up and going down.
The iron bridge across the canal just outside Great Haywood now goes nowhere, but it was built to carry a private road from Shugborough Hall for the family to travel on a horse and cart to church each Sunday. Before it was built they had to walk 300yds across the ancient packhorse bridge as it wasn't wide enough for a horse and cart!
At Wolseley Bridge we hoped to visit the Craft and Antiques Centre but it was closed!! The rain began in earnest so we returned to the boat and stayed in the dry!
Wednesday 29th June - Wolseley Bridge to Handsacre.
A wet day forecast so set off in wet weather gear and umbrellas!! We stopped off in Rugeley to stock up on provisions then continued on to Handsacre. A very wet, cold and windy day, even Toby didn't want to go for a walk!
Once it dried up in the late afternoon we walked down to the River Trent and found an old bridge over the river called High Bridge.
You can just make it out behind the new modern bridge. The old one isn't used for traffic anymore.
On our way back we saw two working boats, Nuneaton towing Brighton, the butty. They didn't have their names painted on as they had just had a new paint job.
Thursday 30th June - Handsacre to Hopwas
Left Handsacre in much better weather and cruised through what is for us a very familiar part of the canal network. Our share boat, nb Minuet, was moored at Bromley Wharf and most of our cruising was done from there. She is now moored at Nantwich.
At Fradley we turned right onto the Coventry Canal and through the swing bridge. The pub, The Swan, is known affectionately as 'The Mucky Duck'.
There are some lovely woods as you approach Hopwas but they are used as Firing Ranges so you are not allowed to walk there - the signs are very obvious!!
Moored up in Hopwas and found a walk down to the River Tame, but it was so overgrown we abandoned it after a while! The nettles were twice as tall as Toby!!
Friday 1st July - Hopwas to Alvecote Marina
We were surprised to see such beautiful street art on the side of one of the buildings.
Just before we got to the Glascote Locks we passed a hire boat called 'Black Swan' from Alvechurch Marina. It had come adrift from one of its mooring pins and floated across the canal effectively blocking it. We pulled over and with the help of a single lady boater, we managed to bring her back into the towpath and reattach the mooring pin. Our good deed for the day!!
Moored up for the night outside Alvecote Marina and took Toby for a walk through Pooley Nature Reserve before the next storm hit! The winds were so strong my flower pots and Dave's tomatoes were being blown off the roof!
Saturday 2nd July - Alvecote Marina to Hartshill
Today we tackle the Atherstone flight of 11 locks, but before we got there we saw a beautiful field of poppies, stunning to look at.
They were pretty busy, but mostly people took their turns and everyone got through safely.
Two of the volunteers, Ken and Maureen, ensured that the movement between the locks went as smoothly as possible.
To add to the excitement, a large group of scouts were being taken down the locks in their canoes. They had set out from Hartshill, were camping overnight at Pooley Nature Park and returning back up the locks the next day! They did look very tiny against Ella!
Spent a pleasant evening at the Malt Shovel in Hartshill with my brother, Chris, as he was celebrating his 61st birthday. Happy birthday Chris!
Sunday 3rd July - Harshill to Stoke Golding
Today we cruised on past Nuneaton and turned left onto the Ashby Canal. This canal is 22 miles long and has no locks on it. It passes through the most beautiful Leicestershire countryside, and it is hard to believe that it originally carried coal! It was intended that the canal would be a through route to the River Trent at Burton, but it was never completed and eventually stopped at Moira. Today it terminates just north of Snarestone due to subsidence between there and Moira.
It was a longer day for us, over 6 hours cruising, and once we were moored up we walked to the village of Dadlington were it is believed soldiers who were killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, are buried in the grounds of the church.
The local pub delights in serving people arriving on a variety of forms of transport, cars, motorbikes, foot, horseback and horse and cart. Much to Toby's annoyance!!
This marks the end of our 4th week, I apologise for the late publication, but it was a long day yesterday!!