SEASONS OF MISTS AND MELLOW FRUITFULNESS
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.
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