Viv joins the Skipper in the 7th decade


We had planned a tapas tea for Viv’s 60th birthday on the Sunday but our chum Mark, who sailed in last night said he was off to Rugeley on Sunday – to find a vet for his poorly dog, Layla. So we moved the “party” to Saturday – bottles of Cava (added to by Mark, cheers mate!) nicely chilled, we set about making all the food.

Mark, who has been a chef (along with most of everything else it seems) and won a competition for creating a tapas dish “Oriente” – sauteed, chopped mushrooms with a mild curry spice, onions, garlic, lentils, mango chutney & mayonnaise! He also brought a dish of steamed asparagus topped with parmesan – nice chap to know eh?

Boat dressed (inside) with all the flags and the 60 stuff, saved from Steve’s birthday do in Mojacar.

Most of the afternoon was spent cooking & preparing the ickle banquet: simple green salad, Lucia’s Sicilian salad, big tortilla, hummus & dips, Viv’s extremely pokey almagrote (red cheese, loadsa of garlic, chilli and oil  all pounded together), ciabbata, papas bravas, cheeses, chorizo, olives – plus Mark’s excellent contributions . . . washed down with Co-op Cava (excellent), then Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja . . and most of it went!!

The birthday girl


Steve’s Mum bought Viv some handsome titanium earrings  . . . classy

Viv even had her hair done on Saturday.  Then Sunday night – back on the Cava – this one was bought in Mojacar and kept, yes, hard to believe, kept all this time for Viv’s birthday!! Simple Cajun chicken & salad tonight.

We dug out the Scooby-Do candle and musical candle on a shop-bought orange drizzle cake . . . the candle sounded like it was on its last legs

Sad to see Mark go but his dog is a tad unwell. He’s the off up to Manchester, so I doubt we’ll see him again this year.  Cheers Mate.


Alrewas & a big birthday


We always aimed to be in Alrewas and no better place to celebrate a birthday. Even if it’s to be a big one.

With its three pubs, chippy, Chinese, Indian, Co-op, post office and good moorings plus the famous National Memorial Arboretum, it is a good place to be.

Just four locks today and Steve does three of them

Very scenic section with a very narrow bridge coming up


Looks like we won’t fit through

Tight but OK

Did Steve blink?

Onwards to the river section, Wychnor to Alrewas . . . all calm today.

This boat passes us to the left! Behind him the mighty Trent cuts across the canal. They often shut this bit in heavy rainfall but all serene today.

Oh and I forgot to mention the butchers – renown for its meat & pies!

This should have been a “final resting place” photo but we moved, twice!

This chap turned up and wanted 14 day moorings so we moved on . . .


Our final, final place. Right outside the bowling green. 14 day moorings. Nice.


Going for a Burton & ending up in a pickle


Puns a plenty with Burton upon Trent and Branston coming up on the agenda today. Just a short 3 hr or so chug today, or so we thought but nature has a way. The winds picked up and gusted well over 40 mph which meant steering our war canoe mighty tricky but it also brought down trees and we’d only gone an hour when, all stop, big silver birch across the canal at Stretton. CRT were called out and 2 hours later they turned up. Much scratching of beards, chain sawing, falling over, laughing . . but they got the job done and we were on our way.

This caused a 10 boat queue one side and a three boat queue t’other

Not to fear CRT is here and 3 hours later we were off.

Maybe not quite the way we would have done it but job done. Thanks guys.

Into Burton & a pit stop at Shobnall marina for fuel (only 70p /litre why can’t other marinas do this, like ours???) . Plus a new chimney. Looks like a colour co-ordinated skipper – all in green? New socks – Danish endurance no less (offer on Amazon)

Off a few more miles and a couple of, now narrow, hurrah, locks to Branston water park. Meanwhile one of these flew over – I thought a chap would descend and give Viv some chocolates? No such luck.

Our final stop – right alongside the water park – another swim session for Toby and chance for Steve to cycle around the park.

A nice park – not very interesting birdlife . .

Best to let Mrs Bill Oddie with her new binos (Nikon Prostaff 7S 10×42) tell you.  They are rather good!




Time for a 2-day stop and time to order Viv some pressies as it’s someone’s 60th birthday next Sunday. Thanks to those Amazonians, we can order stuff and it’s sent to a local post office “Local Collect” they call it. Wonderful. A new pair of Nikon binoculars for Viv and some granite ice cubes!

We moved on from Weston, in convoy with April Star, as we were keen to share locks. Just two locks but again, big uns. First Swarkeston (10’11”) and then Stenson (12’4″ – huge) but luckily, a CRT volunteer was on hand to help us through. Then it was a short hop past Mercia marina and down to the cute village of Willington.

Swarkestone lock & some help from the yoghurt pot coming up behind us

Final spot – just up from the pub & winding hole.

So what’s in Willington?  Well, the post office (and very friendly they were – had 4 parcels in all!), a chippy, three pubs, Indian, Chinese, florist, tea rooms and a Co-op. Plenty of space to walk the dog. Only mega downside is that we have swapped the planes for the trains! The mainline goes very close to the canal but then a railway station could be useful….

View from the canal – weather station, Mi-Fi and TV mast, all very trad!

We keep meeting up with Mark Eastgate on Tamsin. One of the “characters on the canal”. He’s transformed his boat into a show stage. Cutting out the cratch at the front and putting up a small theatre-like tent. It had its debut at the riverside festival in Leicester, to some success. He’s hoping further bands/events will take him on. He had around 10 acts performing on his “stage over the weekend.

And here’s Mark himself – with his two dogs, Layla & Pancho


Trent & Mersey Canal


Monday morning. And guess what? We’re not in work.

Time move on after the weekenders have stopped pratting about. Just a short trip to Weston on Trent, about 3 hours and through 4 widebeam locks. Past the “inland port” of Shardlow, through Aston lock and the deep Weston Lock (10’11”), around to bridge 9, Fine George’s bridge and stop. The Trent is not too far away and so Toby gets a swim, for it is our promise and boy, it is another hot day. Can’t say we recommend this stop – unless you like planes! For we are now at the other end of East Midlands airport. All through the night they took off. Plus there were nasty horse flies (cleggies) and biting mossies.

Goodbye to Sawley Cut . . . one of our favourite stops

Steve had an odd moment, so he painted the lid to the tool box.

Out along the Trent and the confluence with the Derwent, under the M1 – see the cows sheltering?

This way for the T&M

Under bridge No 1 – funny to think this goes all the way to Preston Brook and the Mersey.

Steve waits at Weston Lock – just bitten on the foot by a horse fly – children, don’t wear crocs on your boat – lets flies in!!

Yep, pretty deep.

Final spot – a hot day – spot Toby on the grass? And below a field of poppies


Long Haul & Lockkeepers Rest


Friday, time to leave Stoke Lock and on to Nottingham and then after a lunch stop at Sainsbury’s, on to Sawley. A seven hour day – not our M.O. anymore but we’d like to get to Sawley before the weekend rush and besides, Dave’s micro pub is open!

The birdsong at Stoke was wonderful – not sure what they were but here’s a few minutes . . . answers on a postcard . .

Our place on the Sawley cut – same as a week ago

Just behind us are a load of permanent moorings – with threats of £150 a day charges! Scare tactics from CRT. Why do they do this? They did promise they’d do away with online moorings as it wastes space for visitors but then they realised it’s money. They can charge upwards of £1,000 a year for these moorings and that’s on top of the licence. End result . . . visitor moorings jampacked – permies – empty! Does make I livid!!

Empty spaces! Below the cafe open early for Sunday breakfasts – nextdoor to the micro pub.

Looking back to the double locks, pub & cafe.

View from . . . the pedestrian bridge – shows the car park behind with the facilities – good toilets & showers, all well kept. Rubbish, elsan & water here too.

A short walk along the Trent brings you to the Erewash canal (see blog passim) and two old timer boats

And an arty shot in B&W, doesn’t quite come off with the van in the background.

Busy day, Sunday. Lots of boat movements – here’s a widebeam, Jane Away11

Meanwhile, we bought some duck food and have been feeding the insistent little beggars for days

A short hop – quiet rural spot


We admired the visitor moorings just before Stoke Bardolph lock on the way down and said “hmm, be nice to stop there, looks so quiet” and so we did. Only an hour or so from Gunthorpe and Mrs. Skipper drove all the way, yes, indeedy. Allowing me to film all the Canada/Greylag geese scooting out of Viv’s way. At times I thought she was actually aiming for them. Wildlife? What did we see today . .  loadsa geese, swans a plenty, oyster catchers, egret (on the way down we had No Egrets!), arctic tern, heron, little grebes, swallows . . . .

Does she look happy?  Helming through gritted teeth? No, she’s a pro at this now and look, no lifejacket! The boat behind is Border Reiver (Raider), in convoy. Teddy looks good as does Steve’s dangle (?).

Catching oysters??

Just to show that  a 20 metre (65 foot ) boat is quite a long beastie, keep going Viv!

Short video of all those geese convoys. So many geese and yes, apparently, you can catch and eat them but our neighbour said, if you put them and a brick in the oven, the brick would be done first!!

Ah, we saw two egrets. Normally we have No Egrets (cue song)

Hmm, hardly a day’s cruise but then you’ll see why we stopped here later. Big sign saying “this way”. Stoke lock. I think someone’s glad to see land again.

It’s a HUGE lock but the (volunteer) lock keeper checks us all in and presses all the button to close the gates (12 tons each) and open the paddles . .  yes, we are now are going uphill and the water comes in to lift us up. Gunthorpe was the lowest level reached. All the locks from now on will be uphill ones. Choosing to go anticlockwise around this ring means the majority of “up” locks will be narrow ones – a tad easier than the large locks, especially if you are on your own where the boat can swing around a bit, a lot . . .! In these huge locks there are plastic runners up the sides, so you can slip a rope around the to steady the boat. The paddles are also programmed – once the button is pressed, a program causes the paddle to rise slowly and only part way, until the lock is half full. Neat and quite gentle.

Final stop – around the corner to the floating pontoons – the Trent can rise another 10 feet or so! Toby seems happy.

It really is a quiet spot – no roads, trains or planes  . . .

Even CRT appreciate this stop

Here’s a photo lining up for photo-of-the-trip – a quiet spot.

Wood cutting in the woods

And yes, we do get bigger vessels coming down the Trent. Luckily, this was as far as he came. If you don’t turn into the lock – this is what you can face

A weir

Chance to give Toby the swim. Photographically,  what’s the subject here? Steve, Toby or that Swan??

The lock setting is quite sublime

Oddly that wasn’t the end of the day. Our wonderful chums on Raven suddenly turned up . . . . but I thought they were long gone, heading down the Trent and on to Goole?  Seems a problem with oil pressure so they’re retracing their steps to Foxton. Got to get that fixed – can’t head down the tidal Trent with a niggling engine . Shame but nice to see them again and maybe share a pint or six in the Lock Keepers Rest at Sawley. They took the time to stop and chat – thanks! And then on to Nottingham. Catch you guys tomorrow.


Going Down the Trent


Our 4 days in Castle Marina were up and so time to move on. Out along the canal – two locks and then out onto the mighty river Trent. Down thru two massive locks – all automatically operated by lock keepers and thence to a secure and very pretty mooring at Gunthorpe.  Been here before and like the rural outlook, the two pubs, restaurants and a beach for Toby to swim.

Meanwhile, Viv steers us out of Nottingham

“Don’t get me started” but here’s one of the new CRT signs and part of their entirely spurious & superfluous rebranding excercise, oh, and “we’re not going to change all the signs straight away as that’s too expensive”. Well, here’s a very out of the way one and the second I’ve seen today. No facilities at all along this 2 mile stretch through a CITY, just the feeble and often vandalised ones at each end. No refuse points, no water, not even a dog poo bin! Come on CRT – get together with Nottingham City Council and actually WELCOME boaters to this great city.

Out on to the Trent and down to Holme Lock . . .

And who should we bump into (not lit.) but Emma on her “water bike”, pedalling for the great litter campaign, litter picking as she goes. She’s just doing a stretch of the river but a team of water bikers will do 1,000s of miles. See the Waterbike Collective.

Well done!  We’ll see you later.

Plenty of wildlife . . . lots of swallows, herons and even one kingfisher . .

Into Stoke Bardolph lock and then the hour or so down to Gunthorpe


Final spot for a few days . . . Emma did catch us up . . . here she is in Gunthrope lock, her litter pile has increased quite a bit! Brave lass all on her own.

And out onto the Trent – looks quite a lone figure. All the best!


Meanwhile, this is what we’ve been promising scaredy dog all day – a swim!

Toby and his beloved Flubber Wubber  . . .


A Grand Day Out – Ilkeston Brass Band


Another hot day – Sunday and what to do? Viv looked up a “What’s On” web page and found that the Ilkeston Brass Band were playing their first concert in Ilkeston – Victoria Park. Only a 12 minute train ride. Hmm, it turned out to be a 30 minute walk to the station and then a 40 minute walk, uphill to the park but it was a Grand Day out! Smoked salmon & cucumber sandwiches packed & off we went.

Someone now has a Senior railcard and so the return fare was only £3.65

Found the station but where were’s t’park?

Ah, found the Erewash canal (see blogs passim)

Following Viv’s Google map directions we arrived – and a very nice park it was too. We were just an hour early – time to eat sarnies and admire the empty bandstand

Come 1330 and it started to fill with various musicians and their instruments

Bit of a mixed bag of music with a lot of new stuff, like Harry Potter themes. They did give quite a few soloists a go, including some youngsters, which was nice. A young lad played a muted trumpet playing a great ragtime jazz piece. Here is a guy playing the cornet (Spanish Eyes) and they had a good go at Khachaturian’s Masquerade suite (waltz) . . .

The only pain was dear old Toby!  He doesn’t like loud noises and a brass band did do a few of those. At first he sat and shivered. The he hid behind the seat. Then he sneaked off into the trees behind, so we had to move! Big, bold, fearful dog, eh? It was a grand day – very warm and a lovely, British thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

So it was time for us to be Westering Home . . . .

Via one or two “refreshment” stops. This one stocked Shipstones – a rejuvenated brewery. Steve had a pint of Farady (?). Then it was a quick stop at the Vat & Fiddle in Nottingham.

Home to a Sicilian salad . .  orange slices, onions, olives, tomatoes, feta cheese and Sicilian olive oil .


Crafty Crow


Saturday in Nottingham. The marina’s chandlery is moving to a new block and so had a sale on – up to 70% off, so we bought a few bits and pieces. Then we trundled on to do our shopping in Sainsbury’s. On the way we met some friends who said they had an interesting night – on returning to their boat around 8 they found a group of lads leaning against the boat and when asked what they were doing it became apparent they were snorted a line of Charlie of the handrail of the boat! Hmm, another otherwise unknown use of a narrowboat! Glad we opted for the marina.

After the revittelling was done we took the Boggle with us, up Maid Marion Way, past the Robin Hood statue and into the Craft Crow for a pie & a pint.

Be a shame not to, having come this far.

The Crafty Crow – notice the monk giving the tourists a spiel, guess he’s Friar Tuck, the well know spoonerism. Oh and there’s Viv and Toby – both have their tongues hanging out – onwards!

Quite a nice and airy place of two levels – with lots of beer:

And craft beers too. We tried 4, 5 & 7

We had fish n chips plus a Club Sandwich and then Steve tried the Tiny Rebel, Great Cornholio (just a half mind) – stunning, as so it should be at £3.60 a half.

Viv found the comfy seats

Very dog friendly – they came out with a bowl and treats for Toby.

Lots of weddings today – not sure about that dress??