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14. Oct, 2018

We left Alrewas after a very enjoyable visit to the Arboretum and continued on our way to Stoke-on-Trent, home of the potteries.

Our reason for going to Festival Park in Stoke was to meet up with the Captains daughter Hannah, and little Stanley his latest grandson.

We had to pass through various towns and villages to get there, and of course us being us had to stop off and try the local hostelries.

We stopped off first at Rugeley, which is really handy for shopping as Tesco is right next to the canal, and there is a very nice Wetherspoons called the Plaza, which as the name suggests is an art deco cinema opened in 1934, and the refurbishment has been done to the highest standard, and has kept all the art deco features. The addition of old and new film posters harks back to its past too.

Then on to Stone, a very nice little town with a good selection of shops and pubs. Our favourite pub is the Swan, a proper real ale pub, we also tried the Poste of Stone (a Wetherspoons) which is ok, and the Star which is right on the canal and has a rather interesting history. The pub was fully licensed in 1819, although the building predates the canal by some 200 years. The building has in its time been a butcher’s shop and slaughterhouse. Stabling for boat horses was available up to the 1950s, and the business relied heavily on the canal for trade.

 We moored on the offside right next to a car park, and of course Bubbles had to get off and made himself known to people using it. He strutted his stuff, and bathed in the admiration of his subjects.

Whilst in Stone we heard there was a Food and Drink festival being held the following weekend, so the decision was taken to return and attend.

Then on to Barleston, and a favourite pub of ours The Plume of Feathers, owned by Neil Morrissey of Bob the Builder fame, he saved it from closing, and now it is a popular local serving very good food, if a little on the pricey side. It is said he likes popping in and helping in the kitchen from time to time, but we have never seen him. Oh and they have a good selection of real ales on which are very well kept.

We met Hannah at Festival Park and had a great afternoon catching up, and I got to meet Stanley for the first time, he is lovely.

Then we retraced our steps and got back to Stone on Thursday, already for going to the food festival on the Friday.

The festival was great, with a wonderful selection of artisan foods and drinks. I didn’t mention before, but the reason the Captain really wanted to go was because Titanic brewery had a bar there, along with a few other local breweries. But first we had to sample the food and oh boy what a choice, all sorts of cheeses of course, chutneys, jams, and all manner of chilli sauces and flavoured oils. I was in heaven. Chocolates, cakes, breads, wine, gins, the list is never ending. One stall which I must give special mention to sold Thai curry pastes, and had warm pots of each so you could try them. I bought a Chiangmai one, it has a slightly aniseed flavour and is quite hot and spicy (a bit like me).

We also picked up 5 different cheeses for Christmas (if they last that long) a limoncello flavoured one and another is horseradish.

We didn’t try any of the fast food stalls, but again there was a great selection.

So on to the beer, first Joules brewery and Slumbering Monk. Then on to Titanic and the Captain was in 7th heaven, he had eventually tracked down the Plum Porter Reserve (6.5%), and it was beautiful, with a deep plum flavour and very rich. They also had on Cherry Dark, Cappuccino stout and Chocolate and Vanilla stout. He was spoiled for choice, and to top it all he found out that the Royal Exchange in Stone is one of their pubs. After trying a couple he moved on to Weals Ales Brewery and Centwealial, a very nice milk stout.

On the Saturday there was a farmers market, but the weather wasn’t looking great so we stayed put until late afternoon, before venturing out to try the Royal Exchange, again we weren’t disappointed at all. We finished off a very enjoyable weekend in the Poste of Stone, were I got to indulge in my recently discovered enjoyment of flavoured gin.

After such a busy (or should that be boozy) couple of days we decided to moor in the middle of nowhere the next night, and this is where we had a visit from a cheeky little kingfisher, who decided our front ropes was the best place to eat his tea. We always love seeing these beautiful and extremely colourful birds. However even though they are bright neon blue and orange they are very difficult to spot. They dive from branch to branch at such a speed that all you catch is a fleeting view. We have seen a few on our travels, and the Captain has managed one clear picture in that time and, that’s all.

He didn’t get a picture on this occasion, we were sat with the front doors open watching the sun slowly setting when he spotted a bird flitting about the front of the boat, eventually it landed on the t-stud and he could see it was a kingfisher, me, I was engrossed in candy crush so missed its first appearance. He went to the back of the boat in time to see it sitting on the roof before it was gone again. Then he made his mistake and decided to nip to the loo on his way back. I was looking out of the front thinking our little cheeky friend had gone, when something dived across the front of the boat and then reappeared on the front ropes. The kingfisher was back, this time with a silver fish wriggling in its beak. It tossed the fish in its beak until it was in the right place to be swallowed whole and then it was gone, the fish and the bird. And this time it didn’t return. What an amazing sight.

We are now on our way back to Coventry for the winter. We stopped off at Rugeley again but only for shopping this time. Before setting off next day Bubbles ended up on the roof and was mistaken for a missing cat from the area, luckily the Captain saw the notice on facebook and was able to put them right, I hope they find their cat, Angel (a long haired ginger and white cat) soon.

Then on to Fradley junction were we turn on to the Coventry canal for the final part of our journey. We moored up just through the swing bridge and were soon joined by a couple of other boats. One a hire boat from Anglo Welsh, with 3 dogs on it which they let run free whilst mooring up. The reason I mention this, is that Bubbles when we stop, likes to have a quick look round his new domain but his exploration was cut short as one of the dogs spotted him and came to say hello, (being a bit polite here) I was concerned as the dog seemed very interested in something in the water between the boat and the bank,  I got off and shooed the dog away, and checked to make sure it wasn’t Bubbles, but of course he is more sure footed than that, and was sat in the cratch well out of the way of the dog.

We went off and tried the Swan, we had been very impressed last year and had had a very good meal there, but it didn’t have the same welcoming vibes as last year which was  shame, so after a couple of pints we headed back to the boat.

That’s all folks for now.

6. Oct, 2018

Yes folk it’s that time again, and our thought turn to our journey back to Swan Lane for the winter. And my thoughts turn to looking for a job boo hoo.

Our plans have changed once again, we are no longer going on the Caldon canal (have to save some where new for other years) and we are not paying our annual visit to Brum, so after a family get together in Stoke we will be heading back to Coventry.

Well how did we get to Stoke on Trent, it took us nearly 2 week because as you know we love to visit places on the way, and sample what the local pubs have to offer.

After leaving Trent lock we travelled a short distance on the River Trent before joining the Trent and Mersey canal at Shardlow.

The T&M, as the name suggests, was built to connect the River Trent in Derbyshire with the River Mersey in the north. Opened in 1777 it is 93.5 miles long, with 70 locks and 5 tunnels. Built by the famous James Brindley, the first sod was cut in 1766 by the one and only Josiah Wedgwood. Wedgwood needed a way to transport his pottery without it getting broken, and the terrible state of the roads at that time was not very conducive to his wishes. The canal was also used to transport coal from the coalfields of Cheshire.

One outstanding feature of the T&M is the Anderton boat lift at Middlewich which lifts boats 50ft from the River Weaver onto the T&M, and yes we have been on it

First port of call on the T&M was Shardlow, a small village but with a number of good pubs. We tried the Navigation first but not impressed, then off to the New Inn, we knew we would be happy here and we weren’t disappointed. The Captain noticed a meal deal that we couldn’t miss, 2 steaks and a bottle of wine for £26. It was a bit early, so after telling the barmaid we would be back we nipped across to the Malt Shovel. It was their Thai inspired night, must try that next time, we had our drink and we headed back to the New Inn and our tea. The customer service was very good, as the Captain had to return his steak as it was over cooked. It was quickly dealt with and we got a free peppercorn sauce to boot.

Willington next and the Dragon and Green Man. The Dragon always has Boot Brewery beers on, and the Captain was very happy to see their stout Tuffer’s Old was available.

Burton on Trent, the Captain had order his prescription to be picked up from here, but once again it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. He used the Boots on line ordering system as his surgery no longer has a telephone ordering service. But lo and behold he got a phone call from the surgery querying why he wanted to pick his tablets up in Burton. So once again he explained about living on a boat and not being in one place all the time. However, on this occasion the lady he spoke to was sooooo helpful, and he came off the phone with a big smile on his face. For although the surgery can’t order his prescription for him, they can and will change the address of the Boots he wishes to collect them from, and then all he will have to do is go on line and place the order. Fingers crossed it works next time.

Alrewas, however you pronounce it, and we met up with Adi and Tina at the lock, the Captain got chatting and said we would see them for a pint later in the William IV.  When we got there Maggie and Bill were there too and we had a very enjoyable time chatting, and putting the boating life to rights. We decided then to try one in the George and Dragon, it had had a recent refurbishment,  we were impressed with the decor, and even better they had Hobgoblin on for the Captain and I spotted a bottle of King Goblin in the chiller, mmmmmmm a lovely way to finish the day.

Next day we decided to visit the National Memorial Arboretum, which is about 2 miles by road from Alrewas, but as usual there is no public transport to get you there. After phoning a couple of local taxi firms, or should that be Highway Robbers Inc and being quoted £8 -12 one way we decided to walk. It was a lovely day and apart from having to cross the very busy A38 it was nice walk.

The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK's year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country. It is a living and lasting memorial.

Planting began in 1997 on reclaimed gravel pits bordered by the River Trent and Tame, and some 30,000 trees have been planted since then. Covering 150 acres there are over 300 memorials dedicated not only to the armed forces but, police, fire and civilian groups who gave their lives in service of our country throughout various conflicts and hardship. It opened in 2001

The focal point is the wall which carries the name of every service man or women, to die in active service since World War II, and all round it are the memorials to the individual groups.

To pick out a few that I found most interesting is hard, but I think the one that surprised me the most was the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain Memorial, I have known true Showmen and their families, and was immensely proud to see them honoured in this way, and the gallopers horse is beautiful.

The most moving was the Shot at Dawn memorial, which remembered those executed during WWII. 309 men were executed after being court martialed for various capital offences including desertion, most did not have a proper trial, and many were minors who had lied about their age when joining up. Shell shock and PTSS were not understood at this time. In 2007 these men were awarded posthumous pardons.

The memorial portrays a young British soldier blindfolded, and tied to a stake, ready to be shot by a firing squad. The memorial was modelled on the likeness of 17-year-old Private Herbert Burden, who lied about his age to enlist in the armed forces, and was later shot for desertion.

It is surrounded by a semicircle of stakes, on each on is the name of one the soldiers executed in this fashion. On many it says ‘age unknown’, as these were the ones who lied when enlisting.

Then finally to a more recent memorial, the one dedicated to the Land Girls and the Lumber Jill’s. These women took on the roles as farmers and forestry workers when the men went off to fight. The memorial was dedicated in 2014, however I am sad to say, that it does not included any reference to the work done by the IWA ladies, who worked the canals and took the place of boaters who went off to war. These intrepid ladies learnt how to steer, do locks, and live in a small cramped space, many of them coming from well to do backgrounds. There are books written about, and by these ladies, and I would highly recommend the Alarum Theatres ‘Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways’ show.

https://alarumtheatre.co.uk/

After a very overpriced and not very nice hot chocolate in the cafe we walked back.

We stopped at the Co op for a couple of bits, and were greeted with the sight of a huge ginger and white cat sun bathing by the door. I thought at first it was Bubbles, but it looked like it had eaten him, it was that fat. It lay on its back all 4 paws in the air without a care in the world. People just walked round him, quite a sight.

Of course we had to try another in the George and Dragon to finish off a very enjoyable day.

And we are still on our way to Stoke

 

 

 

2. Oct, 2018

Is an understatement, so we are going nowhere. We have made it to Trent Lock after spending an extra week in Langley Mill basin, and it looks like we might be here a few days. Storm Ali is doing its worst, and as we tend to be fair-weather boaters we won’t be going far. Plus the Captain doesn’t think it’s safe to cruise the river Trent in this wind, and I agree with him.

So why did we stay in Langley Mill for another week? well 2 reasons,

1) We went and stayed with my daughter to talk about her wedding next year, and I must say how impressed I was with all the plans she and her fiancé have. My son and his wife came over and we all had tea together, which was lovely, followed by a quick game of Bastard Brag, proper family time. Next day we went into Mansfield and had tapas, and then we were chauffeured over to see my sons new house which is lovely.

2) We again tried to sort out the Captains Christmas present, his microlight flight over the Derbyshire dams, but once again the weather was against us, so we will have to try when we get back to Coventry.

We spent some time deciding where to cruise next, I would have liked to make it to Stratford upon Avon, but it would a bit of a push in the time we have left, so we are off up the Trent and Mersey to Stoke, and onto the Caldon canal which we haven’t done before. Then we will return to Coventry via Birmingham for the end of October.

As we haven’t moved very far in the last week or so there isn’t a great deal to tell, so I thought I would ramble on about more boaty and canal stuff than I usually do, pubs always seem to take front of stage in my blogs, I really don’t know why, nudge nudge wink wink.

So lets start with narrowboats, every narrowboat is different, the only thing they have a common is the width, and that can vary slightly, most are 6’10 which is the width of the single locks. You do get widebeams that go up to 14ft, but these are restricted by lock width and narrow bridge holes so tend to stick to wide canals.

Length, well how long is a piece of string, the longest boats tend to be 72ft, but these are restricted again due to the length of the locks, in the south and midlands they are long and can accommodate these boats, but in the north the locks are shorter. Avalon Two is 57ft and we can do 99% of the system, and that is why we decided on this length. Obviously the benefit of having a longer, wider boat, is more room, but it restricts were you can cruise. The big locks on the rivers which are HUGE and can take 6 or 7 boats at a time. I think we got 9 boats in the barge lock at Teddington on the tidal Thames when we went on our adventure with the St Pancras boating club in May, and there was room for more!!!

There are 3 types of back, a Trad or traditional, with this type there is really only enough room for the steerer to stand, and the engine is usually in the back of the boat, although there are also a lot that have a walkthrough engine room and make the distinctive Put Put Put sound as they cruise along.  Semi Trad, which has more room and is enclosed around the sides, but allows the steerer to have company whilst cruising along, and a cruiser stern, which is a big open space. The last 2 have the engines under the back floor. We have a semi trad.

Layout, a traditional layout has the living area and kitchen at the front of the boat, and the bed at the back, it is the way the working boats were laid out, with most of the front being for cargo, and the family crammed into the small space at the back, It’s really hard to imagine how they could live that way, but live they did, and for many years plying their trade on the cut.

A reverse layout it what it says, the reverse, with the bed at the front and the living area at the back, this is becoming more popular I think. And then some boats have a bed in the middle.

Owners , there are even more types of owner than boats, old, young, middle aged, single, couples, families. Live aboard full time, summer only, holidays, share boaters, never leave the marina types, happy, helpful, grumpy, and sometimes rude. Some boaters continuously cruise, only going to marinas or wharfs for diesel and gas, they live on the cut all through the year and don’t have a home mooring, these have to abide by the 1995 waterways act and move to a different place every 14days, and must be on a journey, rather than just hopping between two places on the canal. The interpretation of this law is difficult, and has caused more than a few arguments between boaters and the Canal and River Trust, or CRT as it’s known. I think we have the best of both worlds, continuously cruising in the summer, and living in our wharf in the winter.

Well, what can I say about CRT, they can be a bit like marmite, you love em or hate em. The frontline staff are in the main great, but the management come in for quite a bit of stick and don’t help themselves at times. The recent rebranding and new logo has come in for a lot of criticism. Boaters feel that the money spent on new signs, and other rebranding, could have been better used on maintaining the infrastructure of the canals for boats. This wasn’t helped when the press release at the launch made no mention of boats, and said that the canals are free for all to use, well that’s not true, we boaters pay a license fee to be on the water, so it’s definitely not free for us. To make matters worse the new leaflets and website had not one picture of a boat, and the website is lacking in boater information.

 I believe CRT are between a rock and a hard place, I want them to fix things that are broken on the system, and not spend money on changing signage that is perfectly fit for purpose, but is the wrong corporate colour and has the old logo, and I know that they need to find new funding stream to ensure that our 200yr old canal system remains open and usable, but I question the way they are going about it. I have boater friends that really believe CRT do not have boaters, or the canals best interests at heart. I sincerely hope this is not the case.

I hoped you enjoyed reading something a bit different from stories of pubs and beer, and will just fill you in on our trip down the Erewash. We managed to pair up with Nb Voila for the first 6 locks before stopping for the night at the Gallows. Although the next day was quite windy, the Captain decided we would set off for Trent lock and see how we got on. Well we made it and spied Voila moored, but no sign of its Captain and crew (sorry we didn’t get their names). We found a suitable space and moored up, it was a lot busier than last time we were there. The Captain chatted to the man on King Billy moored in front of us, whilst I decided we would go to the pub, (you knew there would be one somewhere in my blog). As we walked to the pub I spotted a very familiar boat, The Oak, and fishing on the back our good friend John, and his wife Janice was in the cabin below. I said hello and he was really surprised to see us, our paths haven’t crossed this year so it was great to catch up, and they came to the pub with us. Hope to see them sometime next year.

All we can do for now is wait for the weather to improve and we will be off on our adventures again

19. Sep, 2018

Well it is for the Captain, I however seem to be suffering from a mild case of laryngitis and a cold, and have lost my voice.

We made our way to Langley Mill basin, firstly on the Nottingham and Beeston canal, before joining the Cranfleet Cut to take us back on to the River Trent, and Trent Lock junction. Here you turn right to go up the Erewash, left to the River Soar and Leicester, or straight on to join the Trent and Mersey Canal.

So we turned right and up Trent Lock itself were we moored for the night and made for the Steamboat, a very popular pub with us.

History time folks. The Erewash canal was opened in 1779 and its main cargo was coal from the Derbyshire coalfields. It is 12 miles long and has 14 locks. It lasted longer than most canals, and when it was taken over by the Grand Union Canal Company in 1932 it was still a going concern. It was nationalised in 1947, and its last commercial delivery was in 1962.

It is sad to say that all of its feeder canals, the Derby, Nottingham and Nutbrook canals are lost to us. However, when you lock up the last lock into the basin you actually join the Cromford canal, this canal is what we call ‘in water’, and navigable for about 5miles of its 14.5miles length. There have been plans for some years to open it up and to allow it to become part of the canal network once again. Fingers crossed it will become a reality at some point in the future.

The Erewash is a beautiful canal, with a mixture of industrial and rural areas to cruise through, I know some people from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will try and tell you how bad some towns and villages are, and to avoid them at all cost, but we have never had a problem and moor in Ilkeston every time we visit this canal, we have also moored in the countryside without any problem. The water is lovely and clear, but lacks the number of fish we saw whilst on the Chesterfield. I would recommend the Erewash to all boaters.

As usual we broke our journey half way and stayed just below Gallows lock for the night. The canal was extremely quiet and we only saw 2 other boats all day. One we recognised, Icing, which moors in the basin and was there when we visited at the beginning of July.

Sunday, and it was quite a lovely day, and as we moored in the basin we got chatting to a couple with 2 young children who were fascinated with our life aboard, and of course Bubbles and Sam put in an appearance, and were rewarded with lots of stroking and petting.

We saw Vicky from the boatyard and she jokingly told us we were early as we were not booked into the dock until Thursday.

 A walk to the Great Northern, and the Captain was very happy to see they had Plumeth the Hour on once again, it’s a very nice plum stout from Sawley Brewery. Of course we had to walk round to the Bunny Hop too, and as it was Sunday afternoon they had a band on, we sat inside and the music was just the right level for us.

The next few days were quiet as we waited for our spot in the dry dock, the Captain prepared what he could, and I caught up with the blog and had a relaxed time.

Thursday and Dan, Vicky and Dan’s mum and dad were all about to lend a hand to get us into the dock. It was accomplished without any fuss or problem.

Although Dan was at work in the afternoon (he moves staging for big shows like War Horse and Miss Saigon) he stayed and looked at a few things with the Captain that needed his expert help. The Captain then set too and replaced the prop shaft and clamp. Looking at the old ones it was not a moment too soon either. However he needed to drill a hole, and because the prop shaft is made of extra hard steel it was proving to be hard work. He decided a new drill bit was needed, and we took a walk up to B&Q. It was difficult to find the right one and even the assistant we asked couldn’t find the right one for the job so the Captain made do with what was available, I wish when they advertise things they actually have them in stock. We couldn’t even find it on the internet.

And of course on the way back we had to have a pint. Well we both deserved it, I had done my bit going round with some rust inhibitor and touching up the bits the needed doing.

Next day, and it would appear that the drill bits the Captain had been using may have been the problem, as the new one went through the rest of shaft like a hot knife through butter. That was that job done, which was great, as we had planned to go to Ripley mid afternoon and everything just fell into place nicely. Of course after a little shopping (my sister birthday present) we had to try a few of the pubs. Ripley’s Little Ale House first, and as usual a great selection on, then The Red Lion, the local Wetherspoons, were we saw our good friend Andy Brett, he is the cellarman there and really knows his ales. Then off to the Cock Hotel, I have many happy memories of this pub going back years, and a recent makeover has made it a lovely place to drink good beer. And finally the Talbot, again a pub I have known for many many years, and one of the best real ales pubs in the town. In here we met up with my old neighbours Andy and Clare, and their huge bulldog Reggie. It was nice to catch up. Then time for the bus home, but not before picking up the essential bottle of wine from Lidl, and in here we met Micky Smith and his girlfriend. Micky is an old school friend of mine. So the trip to Ripley was very enjoyable and successful.

Saturday and the Captain and Dan finished off the little jobs on the boat, and we were ready to be refloated but it was decided to leave it until Monday when another boat was due in the dock in our place. So we took a walk to Asda to get a birthday cake for my sister Di, and called in the Bunny Hop for just the one, which quickly turned into 3 or 4 as it proceeded to rain cats and dogs, and we don’t like getting wet. And that’s our excuse.

Sunday and back to Ripley, we were meeting Di and Mick in the Barnes Wallis (him of the bouncing bomb fame, who was born in Ripley) for a carvery. My kids Adam and Jess were joining us, unfortunately both their partners were working, and Mick’s daughter Fay with her partner Gaz and 2 boys, George and William. His other daughter Clare was also working. I won’t say a lot about the meal but we won’t be going back, but the afternoon was lovely and it was great to catch up and celebrate Di’s birthday with her.

However as the afternoon wore on I began to feel quite poorly, and now I have no voice and keep sneezing. These things are sent to try us and the Captain is being all sympathetic and loving. But I think he is enjoying the peace and quiet.

11. Sep, 2018

So we were on the Trent, and I was chatting with Sandy on NB Syd who was ahead of us. Here’s the rest of the story.

As you know I am an avid facebooker, and on numerous narrowboat pages. It was on one of these that I met NB Syd, well not the boat but its crew Sandy. She posted that they would be leaving Torskey the same day as us, and going down the Trent, and that it was the first time they had done this trip. I was happy to assure them we would be going the same way, and had done the trip a couple of times.

They had set out before us as we had to go up the lock to wind, so I waved to them as they left at 7.30am. We joined them on the Trent about an hour later.

Well it was a bank holiday weekend, so a lot of small cruisers or yogurt pots were out and about, as were the very large cruisers or gin palaces. Sandy found the 2 nicknames quite amusing. At one point as we waited to go into Cromwell lock, we were in a queue with 4 gin palaces in front of us, and 2 behind, but the locks are huge and they got us all in.

Syd was still well ahead of us, and Sandy was providing me with information of approaching boats, when she said they were going to stop at the next lock, as some kind of alarm was going off, and they needed to see what it was.

Unfortunately they couldn’t as the pontoons were full of cruisers, so they pushed onto Newark.

We were stopping in Newark and it was lucky that we had our VHF radio with us. We use this to contact the lockies and let them know we are coming. All the locks on the Trent are manned most of the time and us e a traffic light system to inform boats what’s happening. Red says lock not ready and to wait, Red and Green lock being set and Green to go in. Amber means unmanned and you have to do it yourself but on such a busy day all the locks were manned.

 Listening to the radio we found out there was a festival on and very little mooring space left in Newark. Bummer. Then I remembered that our friends, Trina and Paul off Bearwood Boster, had stopped in Kings Marina last year, so this is what we did and very reasonable it was too.

We walked into Newark and hoped to catch up with Sandy and her husband Mike off Syd, but they were doing maintence on the boat, so we postponed the get together, and we headed to the Prince Rupert, then to Just Beer, and then the Blue Monkey Taphouse, the Organ Grinder, all good real ale pubs, last off we tried the Castle Barge, not really us.

The cats were happy in the marina, but could only get off at the back, but they both had a little explore before settling down.

Next day and rain was forecast for most of it, so we decided to stay put and I had a message from Sandy to say they had decided the same, and it was agreed we would meet up later when the rain stopped. The second message was more worrying, as they had problems with the electrics on the boat, it would appear that’s what the alarm the previous day had been trying to tell them, the leisure batteries had not been charging.

Now the Captain is a dab hand with this sort of thing, and had a chat with Mike to get all the details and suggest what could be the cause, he agreed to pop over later after the Grand Prix.

Mike did some investigations and found the engine had 2 alternators, one for the starter battery and one for the leisures, and that the belt for this one had snapped. Luckily it appeared they had a spare, so the Captain collected up a few tools and we went to see if he could fit it.

Whilst the Captain fitted his large frame into the small space of their engine bay, and Mike supervised. Sandy and I got to know each other and we hit it off.

The repair done we had a glass of wine, but unfortunately it didn’t go to plan, and the belt began to squeal and slip. So we went to the pub to discuss the options. The Captain decided a slightly longer belt was required, and even though it was a bank holiday a number of motor factors were open in the town next day.

 After quite a few pints and a great chat we parted company.

The belt was obtained and we moved Avalon Two to be next to them. Whilst the Captain and Mike worked on the boat, Sandy and I walked into Newark to get a few bits, and she explained that the boat was shared between 3 couples, and this was their week to have it, but unfortunately they were going to have to cut the week short and return home as her Mum was poorly, and she needed to be on hand.

On our return it would seem the repair was successful and the engine was purring away. We decided to make for Gunthorpe, but as we set off it was discovered Syd had no reverse gear. It would appear the Captain big size 11 feet had dislodged the gear cable, but it was a quick fix and we were soon off.

Mooring at Gunthorpe was a bit of a feat, and was not helped by unhelpful boaters, but we managed it, and had a beer with Sandy and Mike to celebrate getting that far.

They had decided to leave their boat in Nottingham and head home to Surrey. So we headed off to Nottingham next day, the 2 of us, and 3 other narrowboats in convoy, which was quite a sight. The large locks on the Trent meant we all fitted in. A bit cosy but ok.

At Meadow Lane lock, the first small lock back onto the canal, I was relieved to see 2 of the boats continue on down the Trent to moor outside the council house, and the 3rd boat was heading to Shardlow, so it meant only 2 of us to accommodate on the moorings outside Sainsburys.

We moored up opposite Sam’s bench again, with Syd behind us. Sandy and Mile made their plans to get home, and we swopped addresses and emails before they went. I was sad to see them go and hope we meet again soon.

Sam and Bubbles jumped off to explore, but Sam showed no interest in the bench which had been her home for a week earlier in our cruise.

Bubbles however gave us a bit if a fright, as when we returned from the pub it was just getting dark, and instead of him coming running to greet us as he usually does, there was no movement from him on the side of the towpath, fearing the worst we ran towards what we thought was him injured or worse, only to find that the BLOODY CAT was more interested in eating something he had found, I didn’t investigate to closely what it was, and left him to his banquet, quietly swearing under my breath.

We stayed in Nottingham a couple of extra days as Andrew, another of Syd’s owners, had ordered new batteries and was going to come up and fit them. We decided to stay and give him a hand, but unfortunately the batteries didn’t arrive as planned, so we set off for Trent Lock and our date with the dry dock.