Still Scorchio but nearing “home”


We inch ever nearer to our home base. Still only doing 3 or so hours a day. We left All Oaks Wood quite early and chugged on to Hilmorton visitor moorings. Met up with Barry (aka Baz the fish) for lunch at the Bell and then pushed on the next day, Friday to the outskirts of Braunston at Willoughby. Only 2 miles from what one might call the centre of the canal network but a very quiet and rural spot. Thankfully a breeze is blowing today so very hot but cooling too.

Here’s one for Stephen & Lucia – a bridge 42!!

Hilmorton VM – somewhat spoilt now by a huge house building programme that spreads out along the side of the canal all the way from Rugby to Hilmorton – see the big yellow truck behind the boat. Bulldozing all day – not a nice place to stop anymore.

Up to The Bell Inn on Hilmorton Road – just next to our dog’s vets, doesn’t look too much from the road – a big, white 70’s art-deco front-ish place, you’d think only good for lager & sports TV but it is surprisingly nice. A small lounge bar, a big restaurant and best of all, a huge garden with a fish pond.  Here’s Barry replenishing the beer stock!  Lunches were good too – £5 for 1 course, £7 for 2 and £9 for 3. Good grub it was too.  Beer not so with Sharp’s & St Austell fare (it is a Heineken pub). Bit of a trek from the canal in the heat (a mile or so uphill?) but worth it and all downhill going back.

Next day. Off at 0830 and up through the 3 double locks.  Vince the regular volunteer was on hand to help. Cheers.

Quite speedily through these locks – the busiest on the whole canal network but not today.  We noticed the unusual paddle gear, no ratchet but a stopper.

Oh, look, another Blue Moon! How often do you see these?

Round we go on a big southerly loop, past Barby marina and four alpacas

Lots of other more native wildlife

Past the new marina at Onley, Dunchurch Pools.

Looks fairly full of boats – some widebeams too.

And finally, just beyond bridge 87, we stop. Only a 30 minute walk into Braunston but with no noise from builders, cars, trains or planes . . . it’ll do us.

Just fields and a whole flotilla of boats passing by!


Cooler when Cruising


Yes, the SCORCHIO weather continues and it looks set for another five days at least. Slightly down from the 29 degrees but still peaking at 24 – 27 all week! We decided to keep moving as the three hours we do in the morning will mean a bit of breeze. So we left Springwood Haven and headed for Sutton Stop or Hawkesbury Junction – to take on water and to met up with Karl (of KC Canopies). He is going to make us a brand new cratch cover – in burgundy with charcoal gray trim. He was prompt at 1800 and set about making a pattern with a plastic film and took on board all our requests . . . two zips, windows, curtains etc We chose the new fabric called Top Gun (as recommend by Gary2 on Ermintrude), which should last, not leak and not stretch – a failing of our canvas one.


Our mooring at the junction – right up to the bridge. Luckily the old steam pump house gave us some shade. It was so hot Steve put the stove fan on the roof and guess what:

 It is a special type of fan on will rotate for as low as 45 degrees but that does mean our roof was > 45 degrees!! One other good reason for stopping here is the famous pub, the Greyhound. They do great pies and have good beer & cider.

Very rural and a bit overgrown this North Oxford canal. A famous stretch for Butter Burrs.

Viv steered for quite a bit – under the M6

Nice to see the usual double lane of stationary lorries . . .

Our final mooring down at All Oak Woods.




Not much to write about today – just the heat!  “I don’t’ mind the heat so much, it’s those damned drums, will they never stop?!”, is one of Steve’s odd phrases.

They got it right – those Met chaps – pretty much 25+ degrees here all week.

As you can see – over 32 here in the boat (that’s over 90 in old money). With a dull grey metal roof it does rather heat up. Steve’s taken to covering the roof with tarpaulin, dog blankets and anything spare – just to keep the heat down.

Last night we saw another of those meteorological optical thingies – we saw one in Mountsorrel (see blog passim) , called a Sun Dog and now we have a Solar Pillar. Nice.

Not quite a candidate for the “photo of the year” but here’s the inside of one of the battery boxes – sexy innit? Steve bought that battery monitor from that nice Mr Kevin of Onboard Solar on Saturday and was going to fix it today (the BMV 712 if you’re into that sort of thing) and he set about the job with alacrity but with some trepidation. You have to uncouple all the negative wires and attach them to a shunt, connecting it then to the negative terminal. Sounds simple?  Hmm, four big chunky wires and one enormous one too. Got half way thru when he found that two of these blue wires had holes in their terminal too small for the new bolt, doh! Couldn’t drill them out, cos the elastic trickery had been turned off. Doh, indeed. Put it all back and do it in the marina next month.

But a big Thank You to said Kevin for all his help and advice. I know he helped install a lot of kit for Gail (Hello!) on Sleepy Otter and she was impressed.

I know, our sleek and neat Aqualine boat looking more like a skanky one but it does help reduce the insides from the usual inferno. I’m guessing we may move tomorrow, if only to find some shade.

And just for Gail, Jenny & Penny (Happy Birthday!!), here’s a much younger Toby at our old house in Blagdon, in the snow – it cools you down just to watch it.

From one rural idyll to another – Springwood Haven


Well, I can’t keep on calling each post Moving On, wouldn’t be right. Stands to reason. Sorry, been watching a lot of Endeavour – we bought the boxed set and are wending our way through them. They are very good. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin . . . Atherstone was great but Saturday looked to be a tad cloudy and then the forecast for the following week, the last in June was set to be Scorchio, so we decided to chug along – doing the 9 locks ahead of us but no rush.  If we go slowly, then maybe, just maybe, someone will come down, setting the lock in our favour.  I must mention, if only DT’s pleasure, that I discovered a new pub – the New Swan. This rather ancient but wonderful pub, in the market square, served 3 Church End beers and at good prices (£3.20) plus they have a new pop-up-van in their courtyard selling burritos and salad boxes – all very pleasant. The Angel Tap is the place to go but they don’t open until 4. Lovely.

Sunset – last night in Atherstone

Down by lock10

And Viv’s birthday seems to go on and on . . . the last bottle of Cava!

During the day that Solar Kettle does it job – 0.5 litre boiling water in an hour or so

Toby gets a new toy after a passing dog took (with our permission) his old piggie

Right 9 locks to do – Viv does 4 and then we swap round for the last 5

Here’s the Plant Boat – seen last year in Brewood – Neil on Jodarolo.  Bought a pot of marjoram from him to add to our herb pot.

And there’s Neil himself!

Top of the locks – ably assisted by 3 volunteers – made the ascent quite easy & enjoyable as they are all quite chatty.

Time to take on water and then on to Springwood Haven – just another hour.

Marvelous sunset – the water very still, so brilliant reflections.

And Sunday morning – here we be! A very rural spot. Ideal to stop for a few days as the solar energy will keep us going.

Just back round the corner is this delightful marina – with Onboard Energy – specialising in Victron products (so Steve went and spent money on a new Victron battery monitor – does Bluetooth, so he can be even more nerdy and watch all those ickle electrons coming and going via his phone!)

Here’s a long shot, showing just how rural we are. Only a few miles from Nuneaton.


Moving On


“Farther On and Farther Up.” All the locks are in the up direction now but at least they be narrow ones until we get to Braunston. After Viv’s birthday celebrations we moved off from Alrewas on the Monday morning – five locks to do and a corner turned into the Coventry canal. Down to Kings Orchard to moor for one night.

Fradley Junction – lots of volunteers to help here

Been here many times before – The Swan pub on the right but we turn left, into the Coventry canal.

A few hours later and we stop near Kings Orchard marina and near to the Plough at Huddlesford

Next day – off again, thru Fazeley junction, turn right here for the Birmingham & Fazeley canal and Brum. We fork left and stop pretty soon, near the Tame aqueduct and a safer place (than Glascote) for visiting Tamworth.

Fazeley junction and our herb box!

This is the view from our cratch – not much, thanks to the tomato plants taking over – be glad when they’re all done.

Kingfisher & robin pix – looking a little faded now.

Nearly there . . . longish day for us . . .

Viv went off with her trolley – to visit M&S, spend her 20% discount (birthday discount!) & 10% off food too. Bit of a trek but worth it.  Next day – off again, tad windy but Viv steers over the Tame aqueduct. Something surreal about water being carried over water.

An alpaca farm near? Dunno.

Nearing our final destination today – Atherstone, we espy Titanic II

Final spot – inbetween locks 9 & 10. A nice, quiet rural spot. Bit of a trek into town but better than being close to the railway & the A5.

Viv took this splendid sunset photo – Steve’s immaculate waxing of the boat gives a good reflection.

And another arty photo – the lonesome tree

Looking down at lock 9

A long shot looking back to our boat – just to show how rural we are! And then zoomed in:

Just up from the “bottomless bridge”

Chris had sent us some money for Viv’s birthday, so we made the trek into town and found the Red Lion hotel – they allow dogs in to the courtyard and have excellent food & more than that, Goat’s Milk – a Church End beer (a CAMRA winner).


We’ve been here before and can heartily recommend it.

Meanwhile here’s one of those signs that really tell you where places are


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