Christmas on the Trent & Mersey Canal


We moved from Fradley Junction on Saturday 7th Dec and cruised to Alrewas – still don’t know how to pronounce that! Unfortunately, I left our windlass hanging on the fence whilst we moored and it was only when we were talking to a passing family that we realised, as they said some teenagers were up to no good at the lock. We were also talking to Alan and Sallyann from NB R G Bargee (who we’d first met on the K & A) who had walked past and stopped to chat, whilst we were putting up the back canopy, so Tony walked up there with them but, unfortunately, the kids had disappeared, taking our windlass with them. They had opened all the paddles and opened the bottom gates, the little whatsits, so the water level would have soon dropped if Alan hadn’t closed them! We stayed in Alrewas for Sunday, too, as the forecast was for windy, rainy weather. I had another go at repairing the water damage on our ceiling – with a little more success but still not to my satisfaction. Attempt No 234 coming up – or that’s what it feels like!!!!

There is a riverised section of the canal leaving Alrewas which had been looking lively over the last couple of weeks but fortunately had settled enough to allow us to progress. It was a pleasant walk alongside the river section, albeit a bit muddy again! We set off on Monday 8th and made our way towards Burton-on-Trent, stopping at Branston – where Branston pickle was first invented. We moored beside Branston Water Park, and walked round there a few times with Sally. It was a pleasant walk with tarmac pathway and lots of interesting smells. Sal had a good bark for a good ten minutes at rabbits? squirrels? Whatever it was, it kept her amused and energised, that’s for sure! The weather forecast was for high winds so we didn’t cruise on Tuesday, but as it turned out, the winds didn’t hit until much later in the day so we could’ve moved, really.

We moved on Wednesday  11th Dec, after a supermarket delivery to the towpath, but stopped en route to pop to Morrisons – they are the only stockists of Bacardi Ginger that I know of, other than online, and that is still hard to find. I was devastated to learn, though, that they are no longer stocking it either – what sad news!! Back to my old friend – plain old Bacardi! We eventually moored up in a lovely spot, for a town setting, at Shobnall Fields. We took Sal there and after walking the perimeter (about two miles) and finding it mostly enclosed, we decided to let her off the lead. She did two lovely recalls but then thought the grass looked greener “over there” and went off to investigate! Without so much as a backward glance, she shot off and was soon a long way off, with Tony and I in hot pursuit. She can’t half move for a dog with supposedly three dodgy legs!! She had a whale of a time and we eventually caught up with her when she stopped to look for rabbits but Tony needed a stiff gin on our return to the boat! It would have been ironic (and awful!!!) to have lost her almost to the day we got her a year previously. Doesn’t bear thinking about! No off lead for you again missus, unless we know you can’t go anywhere too far away!

We had three days at Shobnall Fields, a great spot, bearing in mind it was very close to the town centre of Burton-upon-Trent, you kind of expect town centre locations to not be so nice! The towpath was bordered by houses backing on to it and it was very well kept by the locals – grass neatly mown and no litter. Lots of dog 💩, though, which some enterprising local had sprayed bright blue – great to stop you from stepping in it, but also, presumably, to shame the dirty buggers who don’t pick up after their dogs!! Really annoys me!

We cruised on Saturday 14th to Willington which was our destination for Christmas as the marina was just a little further. One strange thing – I was sitting in the lounge, pitch black outside, and heard a frantic tapping on the window – I thought someone was trying to get in but then realised it was canal side so peeped out – it was swans trying to eat the Christmas decorations on the windows – must’ve looked like bread or something! We stayed in Willington for three days, the weather being pretty grotty on Sunday again. We walked up to the marina to have a look round – very nice! 

We had the one year anniversary of Sal’s Gotcha Day on the 15th – we have had our wonderful Sally for a year!! She has amazed us this year with her growing confidence – the things she has had to get used to which she has taken in her stride, she is officially amazing! She has gone from a frightened and wary dog to one who loves life – food, people (who give her biscuits!), squirrels and rabbits are all high on her list. She’s pretty indifferent to other dogs – she will play if approached but on the whole, can’t really be bothered. She loves living the boaty life with us and we love her!!!

Whilst we were at Willington with a few days to spare before Christmas, we emailed the boatbuilder, who was only a day’s cruise away, to see if he could fit us in before Christmas to have a look at one or two things for us – the underfloor heating had a couple of cold spots which he said he’d look at for us and also we wanted to pick his brains about the bowthruster and horn/tunnel light wiring. He said he would be able to look at it before Christmas, so we cruised there on Tuesday 17th – a long cruise for us – and arrived at Shardlow ready for the boat to be looked at. The boatbuilder sorted us out not just with the underfloor heating (a balancing issue, apparently) but also helped us with the one or two other queries we had. We are now confident that we know as much about the underfloor heating as he does! We stayed in Shardlow for Wednesday night and on Thursday moved to the other side of the lock to be next to the road and had a supermarket delivery – this is proving to be a great way of shopping and all the delivery drivers have been so helpful and accommodating! We continued on to Ashton on Trent a short distance further on as we had a delivery of a new hose pipe due on Friday – our old one having developed a terminal leak! Plus it was raining – again!! It also rained all day on Friday, so even though our delivery arrived quite early, we decided to stay put.

On Saturday, a lovely crisp, clear winter’s day, we cruised to a spot just about an hour away from the marina and where the towpath looked half decent for a doggy walk, not really wanting to book into the marina on Saturday night – and knowing that the towpath around the marina was awful!

On Sunday 22nd Dec, we made our way through one lock and a couple of miles and booked ourselves into the marina. It’s big with wall to wall boats but well served with a couple of restaurants and a few shops, very nice! We walked round with Sal and it’s nearly two miles round the perimeter, including a circuit of the dog field, so fairly sizeable. Tony nearly came a cropper when he jumped off the boat to moor up – slipped on the pontoon and caught his shin on the edge – nasty graze all down his shin!!! We visited the Chandlery and bought the fuses needed to mend the bowthruster – it is now working again! We don’t use it that often but it is certainly handy when you need an extra bit of oomph – in windy conditions, for example. Unfortunately, the tunnel light and horn are still evading being mended – a project for another day!

We met with some new friends for a drink and enjoyed a meal in the Lotus Indian restaurant in the marina on the 23rd – a new experience for us as Indian food is never our first choice but we really enjoyed it! We left the boat on the 24th for our trip back south for Christmas.

We arrived back at the marina on the 29th December after a thoroughly lovely Christmas. It was strange to not be in our house and having everyone come to us, but it was great to have things different this year and to start new chapters! Dave and Mel did us proud in their new home on Christmas Day and Jim and Livv did us proud on Boxing Day, with Beata and Richard hosting us for another lovely day!! Other days of family get-togethers followed and all thoroughly enjoyed!

On the 30th, whilst we still had use of the hire car, we had a trip to the small, restored but unconnected part of the Ashby Canal which we hadn’t been able to get to when we did the main Ashby. We discovered we were only about a 25 minute drive away so we had a quick trip and then a lovely walk both ways along the 1.3 miles of the restored section. It was a gorgeous clear, fine day and perfect for the walk – couldn’t have been more different to the wet and horrible weather we’d experienced whilst at the terminus of the main Ashby Canal! We also managed to do a good stock up shop before Tony delivered the car back to the hire company.

We had a quiet New Year’s Eve and an equally quiet New Year’s Day, which was absolutely fine with us! We made good use of the hook up to the electrics and water and did 4 loads of washing! Everything on board clean and fresh to start the new year including all the dog’s stuff – bed, blankets and towels! 😁 We also enjoyed some dog walks along the now not-so-muddy towpaths.

We left the marina on the 2nd Jan and have been retracing our steps along the Trent and Mersey, stopping at Willington, Shobnall Fields at Burton upon Trent, Branston, Alrewas and now Fradley. It has been lovely to walk the same routes as before Christmas, but without being cold, wet and ankle deep in mud!! We continue back down the Coventry Canal but will turn right this time at Fazeley Junction and head towards Birmingham.

Unfortunately, Tony sustained an injury to his eye, thanks to Sal’s enthusiasm at chasing a squirrel, whilst we were moored at Shobnall Fields (where we had the incident of chasing round the field after her!!). Tony and Sal were just heading out for their morning walk and Tony hadn’t noticed a squirrel lurking under a tree. Sal did notice it, shot off the boat and took off after it! Tony was still on the boat and was just dipping to go through the door flap between the back cover and the boat. One of the fittings of the cover and the also the zip left some impressive gouges just above his eye! Of course, there was a fair amount of blood (and swearing!!) which resulted in him having to sit quietly for a while with compresses and applying pressure! Sal versus the squirrels strikes again!!

The forecast is not too good for a couple of days now, so we will stay here and enjoy a relaxing day or two.