Two months to the day after the normal mooring rules were suspended, the restrictions were lifted again. We are now allowed to cruise again, but leisure boaters are still restricted to day trips and are not permitted to stay on their boats overnight. For us, though, navigation has returned pretty much to normal.
So, we left the dry dock on Friday, 30th March and the boat was looking like a shiny new pin! It was an odd sensation, living on the boat whilst out of the water. Your brain tells you it is still moving, even though you know it isn’t! Very strange. A lovely chap called Jim was doing the painting and he did a fine job of it, too. We elected to have the gunwales painted, too, whilst she was in there, it seemed too good an opportunity to be miss. We were intending to do that ourselves but it would’ve been hard work so we took the easy route and paid Jim to do it! Tony pottered and polished various bits that had been taken off, I just pottered generally. We had intended to spring clean whilst we were in dry dock (access to unlimited hot water, having a free electric hook up whilst in there) but we didn’t want to use up our limited supply of cleaning materials, with there being none in the shops to replace them! So pottering was all we could do, therefore pottering is what we did!!! We have been very lucky, though – during the week that we were in the dry dock, the managers of the wharf had to make the decision to close the business after all, as they were refused a grant from the local authority which would’ve allowed them to remain open with a skeleton staff. As we came out of the dry dock on Friday, they refloated us, got us back out on the canal, then took the day to get things ready and then closed down their operations. Shame…..On a very happy personal note, though, as well as being extremely pleased that we had been in the right place at the right time, and that they had painted the boat, they also had a litre bottle of Bacardi on their shelf which we were able to purchase!! Happy days!
When we left the dry dock we filled the water tank, had a pump out and cruised the short distance to Gnosall, which is an absolutely lovely little village, where we found a lovely sunny spot. Although there isn’t a supermarket there, there are three village shops, a launderette and a pub which was selling takeaway fish and chips twice a week and pies (gorgeous!) which they would normally serve on their menu! We bought a steak and kidney pie and had fish and chips on a couple of occasions. There was a water point there, too, and there were also some lovely walks so our trips out with Sal were a bit varied. We were still maintaining Tony doing the first and me doing the afternoon walks so that we were staying within the government guidelines for exercise.
I saw that there was a sewing group sewing scrubs for the NHS in the village so I offered my services but, unfortunately, was refused because I don’t have a decent steam iron on the boat! I was a little perturbed by that – surely the ability to sew is more important as anyone can iron the finished product? Hey ho, seems not. I wasn’t put off, however, I put a post on the Facebook Gnosall village Covid-19 support page, asking for fabric donations and was given loads of suitable fabric. I started off making scrubs bags, as most of the fabric was white so not practical for scrubs. (The staff take off their “contaminated” uniform, put it into a cotton bag then the whole bag is put in the washing machine on a hot wash. Saves unnecessary handling of contaminated clothing) I made 75 bags out of one kind lady’s fabric donation! All have been sent off to NHS and other care workers. They were easy to make (boring!) and Tony helped by cutting long strips of fabric to make the drawstrings and threading the finished drawstrings through the finished bags – as well as making lunch, dinner and cups of tea so that I could carry on sewing! Another lady donated a large quantity of some lovely fabric which was enough to make 20 scrub tops and another donation of smaller lengths of fabric was made into face coverings. It was good to have something to do and focus on!! A couple of kind people had given me a bottle of wine as a thank you for sewing, and I also had donations of sewing thread – it was a lovely community! People offered to get shopping for us and a family living in one of the houses backing on to the canal offered to take in any post we needed – we took advantage of that and ordered our favourite tea bags in bulk from eBay! 1100 tea bags will keep us going for a good while! This was particularly surprising as I had unwittingly flashed my boobs at the man of the house!!! We had been there for a fortnight and had never seen anyone in the garden, so, one morning, having just got out of the shower, I was standing, starkers, directly in front of our bedroom porthole. I looked up and saw this poor chap directly opposite – I don’t know which of us was more surprised!! No emergency intervention was required, however – he lived to tell the tale, so it was all OK in the end!
We survived very well on what the village shops sell and the launderette was a definite bonus. This saved us having to run the engine to power our own washing machine, plus saved our water supply. We only had to fill with water twice and the water point was only a couple of hundred metres behind us, in any case. The sunny weather was a definite bonus – our solar set-up provided all the energy needed to charge our batteries.
The walks with Sal were getting a bit “samey” – we are used to new walks every few days, but we were lucky to have nice walks at all! On one of our walks, I saw some diesel or oil pollution and reported it to the CRT. I wasn’t sure how much of a spillage there has to be before it is classed as pollution but I was thinking about all the little ducklings swimming about and getting that oil or diesel on their feathers. It must have been serious enough for them to take action, though, as the canal was closed for one day whilst it was cleaned up.
Video of Sal in her favourite spot in Gnosall – she shot up the bank every time we walked this way – I’m not convinced she saw anything every time but had a good bark, just in case!
We were grateful to have been in such a lovely spot, although the smallholding behind us proved to be rather noisy! The owners of the animals don’t live there, they just come daily to feed them, but I think they must have had a falling out with the nearby houses at some point, as they have filled the small space with exceedingly noisy creatures!! There are geese, which honk loudly when someone walks past, a peacock who calls out frequently, a cockerel which crows all bloody day, guinea fowl which chatter noisily, especially in the evening when they fly up into the trees to roost and last but by no means least, a small flock of sheep! It’s preferable to the sounds of traffic or trains, obviously, but that cockerel was in danger of ending up in the cooking pot a few times!!
Speaking of birds, there are loads of tiny ducklings at the moment. We have rescued two on separate occasions which had been left behind by their Mums. They stand little chance of surviving if left alone, so we have, on both occasions, found another duck family and introduced the lone baby into the family. Not sure of the long term success of both rescues, but the ducklings are better off being with their own kind than swimming around alone!
Baby ducks trying to catch flies!!
We stayed in Gnosall for four weeks but, with the necessity to move for a pump out, as well as the need to visit a larger shop than the little village ones, we left Gnosall on the 1st May, heading to Wheaton Aston. We stayed in Wheaton Aston for three nights and were delighted that the village pub did a takeaway roast Sunday lunch, which we thoroughly enjoyed! We left Wheaton Aston on Monday 3rd, after doing the pump out and filling with water. Unfortunately, we suffered a major hose malfunction whilst filling so had to ask to borrow a hose from another rather hesitant boater. Under normal circumstances, there would have been no hesitation, I’m sure, but, of course, with the virus in the forefront of everyone’s minds, he was a little unsure. However, he lent us his hose and we were careful to disinfect it before we returned it to him. We headed for Autherly Junction where there is a Morrisons, but got shouted at along the way by a rather miserable old bugger who made the effort to heave himself out of his chair, run to the front of his boat and shout at us that we shouldn’t be moving. We shouted back that we were on our way to buy food, and was that OK with him? We decided to stop, however, on a pretty stretch just before Autherly Junction as I was still in the process of sewing the scrubs and this was a lovely open spot with lots of solar. We stayed there for four nights which enabled me to finish off the scrubs, ready for posting when we got to Autherly. It was whilst we were here that we started to notice a bit of a pong – we thought that the slight malfunction with the flushing mechanism of our loo was the culprit, so we ordered a spare part to be delivered to the lovely family in Gnosall. Having just placed the order, though, a towpath walker told us that the fields surrounding the mooring were used for the spreading of treated sewage – the pong wasn’t coming from us at all!!!!
Having almost depleted our food stocks by then, we moved the last little stretch of canal on Friday 8th and the journey was just long enough for me to press the 20 completed scrub tops. We arrived, topped up with water from our spare water carriers, went through the stop lock turned and came back so that we were facing the right way and then moored up as near to Morrisons as we could get. It was, of course, the Friday Bank Holiday for the 75th Anniversary of VE day; there were so many people out and there was very little evidence of lockdown or social distancing! Ho hum…..
On Saturday, 9th, I went off to Morrisons to do the shopping with the intention of calling Tony as I got to the checkout so that he could come and help me carry it home. I got a bit carried away, however, as it had been about 6 weeks or more since we had been to a supermarket, so there was quite a lot of shopping! Tony brought with him, when he came to meet me, the defunct hose which needed to be returned to Amazon, which we were depositing in the lockers at Morrisons. There was a problem with the locker, though, so Tony went on ahead with the frozen goods whilst I sorted out depositing the parcel. He had barely gone 100m before the wheel came off the trolley – it did contain rather a lot of shopping and was undoubtedly overloaded! By this time, I had managed to sort the parcel issue and was hot on his heels, so he left me with the trolley whilst he took the rest of the shopping back to the boat to unpack the bags, to then return to transfer the shopping from the trolley into the bags. I got a bit bored though so started to carry the trolley. I could only go short distances and had to keep stopping for a breather – it probably weighed about 30kg!! I did managed to get 2 or 3 hundred metres nearer the boat, though. To make matters worse, one of the bottles of (Tony’s!) wine slipped out of the trolley as I was carrying it and smashed on the pavement! We eventually arrived back at the boat, cross, hot, tired and hurting. We can’t wait for the day when we can get a Tesco delivery to the boat again!!! I went back later whilst walking Sal and picked up the smashed bottle, which I’d hidden under a bush in the meantime.
It was nice to have a change of scenery and different walks with Sal again. On one of the walks, she must have picked up something horrible which resulted in a very upset tummy. She is such a scavenger and I often wonder why I bother to buy expensive, good quality food! We had three disturbed nights with her – walking the towpath in your nightie and dressing gown in the middle of the night is not to be recommended and is neither pleasant nor ideal!!! She soon improved, though, and I have capitulated after many musings since we’ve had her and have now bought a muzzle to stop her eating anything and everything! She just needs to be trained and happy to use it and we’ll be on a winner!
We started our return journey to Gnosall on 14th May – we had several parcels to pick up from the lovely family there. 2 hoses (decided to get two shorter ones which can be joined together when needed but will mean we are not without a hose again) 2 lots of medication for Sal (normal plus bad tummy meds recommended by the vet), the spare toilet parts and a replacement fire alarm (another failed Amazon purchase, although I’m sure it’s not Amazon’s fault!). We took advantage of the lovely weather and only travelled for a short distance just whilst the washing machine was running and then stopped to get it out and dried. Tony walked with Sal whilst I steered and on the way, I decided to do a couple of practice turns. We rarely turn the boat, as we tend to just keep going in one direction, but whenever we do have to turn, 9 times out of 10 we make a complete hash of it, or at least we make hard work of it. I did one very successful turn but, of course, was then pointing the wrong way, so made to turn again and was doing very well when I got stuck in the mud! There was no other way – bargepole deployed and with Tony and Sal standing on the towpath watching, unable to help. I managed to get myself out of trouble and was pointing in the right direction at the end of it, so I suppose it could be classed as a successful turn. I try not to slag off the Canal and River Trust, but when you get stuck in silt in a recognised winding hole, I do get a bit cross!
We continued our journey on the 15th to get back to Gnosall, arriving and mooring just a little further up than where we were before – but whereas we were the only boat there before, there were now about 6! Tony popped round and picked up our parcels from Jon and Di – everything present and correct – and Jon asked him if I was going to be making any face coverings. He felt obliged to say yes, considering they’d been kind enough to take in our mail, so my next sewing project was initiated. Whilst he was round there I was busy getting ready – as well as being our one year anniversary, it was also a surprise virtual Hen Do for Mel, as this would have been the weekend of the actual Hen Do. All 16 of us got togged up, had drinks at the ready and joined a video group meeting. Unfortunately, our internet just wasn’t up to such a big data requirement, so, although I could hear everyone, they were all just frozen on the screen. Livv had prepared a quiz, which was good fun, but I had to bow out soon afterwards as I just couldn’t join in effectively. They all had a good time, though, and I know Mel enjoyed herself and that is, without doubt, the main thing!
We moved round to the water point on Saturday, 16th, and decided to stay on this section of canal for a change and also, the tree that we’d been moored under was a home to several hundred birds, judging by the amount of pooh pebbledashing the boat!! Tony was distraught – all he’d been doing over the weeks of lockdown was polishing the boat and now it had been royally shat upon! The village fish and chip shop had reopened, so we treated ourselves for tea that night. I started to cut out and sew some masks from the offcuts of the scrubs fabric and offered some masks to the people that had donated fabric or thread, some of which took up the offer. By the time I’d finished them over the next few days, I’d made 56 masks. Jon donated the elastic which was lovely quality but it was about 30mm wide, so Tony set to whilst I was sewing and cut it into long thin strips. We gave 12 masks to Jon and Di and their family.
The lady that I had been chatting to in relation to the sewing in the village group (Jennie) and with whom I had become quite friendly, asked me round to see her garden before we headed off – she was very proud of it so, as the Covid guidelines now said that you could meet another person “outside” we agreed that it would be OK for me to go and see her garden and whilst there have a sneaky glass of wine. As it was forecast to be a lovely day on the Wednesday of that week, we made a date. We had a lovely surprise, though, on Wednesday, when Kim and Tanya, who we’d met in the Walsall Town Arm basin, turned up just after lunch – it was great to see them and we had a lovely catch up. I had to leave them with Tony, though, to keep my date with Jennie, so off I went with Sal. Jennie and I were very careful and made sure we stayed the required 2m apart – I even took my own glass so that she wouldn’t have to wash up my germs after I’d gone! Her garden was a picture, although generally gardens and plants don’t float my boat, but I could see she was immensely proud of it and it was certainly a nice little haven for her. We had such a nice natter that, unfortunately, I missed Kim and Tanya by the time I got back but I’m sure Tony admirably kept up his side of the conversation!
We moved on Thursday, 21st, back to Norbury Junction, arriving quite early as it was only a short distance. Tony set to and changed the toilet part which we’d ordered to go to Jon and Di in Gnosall and it was a fairly easy, if somewhat smelly job. The existing part was undamaged but completely scaled up, so a good soak in Viakal and we have a spare for next time. When the job was finished, I took Sal for her afternoon walk but didn’t get very far as a swan was blocking the towpath – and it would NOT move! If we went towards it, it puffed itself up, put up his wings and came towards us! A couple of people coming the other way were also trying to get past it and they did manage after some shooing but because I had Sal, it wouldn’t be shooed enough to give us enough space to pass. I gave up and went back the other way!!!
We had intended to move again on Friday but the weather turned out to be very windy! We stayed put for the Friday and Saturday, too, which was equally as windy. We saw on Facebook that a tree had fallen in Gnosall, right above where we’d been moored a few days previously!! Fortunately, no one else had moored under it after we’d gone. With better weather on Sunday, 24th, we had a very enjoyable cruise, heading towards Market Drayton. We stopped after about 8 miles in a pretty rural spot (mind you, it’s all pretty rural and it’s all quite pretty!) just for an overnight stay. On Monday, 25th, we travelled the last 3.5 miles and worked 5 locks of the Tyrley flight (the most attractive flight of locks I think we’ve come across yet) and stopped on a glorious mooring just outside Market Drayton.
Having moved on Tuesday to the 48 hour moorings to be nearer the town, and with the mooring rules back in force, we moved on Thursday 28th May, having visited the town in the intervening two days to stock up. We stopped at the water point on the way out which had an incredibly low pressure which, in conjunction with our new narrow bore hose, took an hour to fill the tank. We travelled a short distance of 3 miles and worked 5 locks and moored overlooking farmland at the bottom of Adderley Locks. This was a busy mooring spot and we had a very pleasant evening sitting outside (very hot day!) chatting to other nearby boaters. We decided to move again today as there weren’t many options for dog walking there, so travelled an even lesser distance of 1.5 miles and two locks. If we’d continued, it would’ve meant working another 9 locks, and it was a hot day again, so we took advantage of this mooring to break the locks up a bit. We will tackle the next 9 locks tomorrow….
STOP PRESS! – Another boat came up through the locks so we took advantage of them being in our favour and went down last night. We are now in easy walking distance of the town centre. 👍