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Friday, October 31, 2008

Fazeley to Hartshill.

Thursday 30th October.

Fazeley, to the bottom of the Atherstone Flight. 8.3 miles and 2 locks
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The body clock is still unsettled, so we were both awake at 6.30am, just lying in bed listening to the silence of the morning. When we did rustle up enough get and go to slide out of bed, Marmite was making her self known with constant meowing. Hoping that if she kept on meowing long enough, she would get her breakfast early. Not on this boat she doesn’t, she has her breakfast when Paddy has his, and that is after his morning stroll, so she would just have to wait. Keith and I had breakfast, with our usual cuppa, Paddy then had his stroll and Marmite finally got what she wanted, her breakfast. Peace at last reigned whilst we prepared to leave Fazeley. The first job of the day was to pull in to Peel’s Wharf to take on water, empty rubbish and empty both of the toilet cassettes.

What was a pleasure to see were the recycle bins, for plastic, paper etc. Wouldn’t it be nice of all BW sanitary stations had them?
As we moved off of the wharf, we were flagged down for coal, which was duly delivered to three boats. It seems that some boaters find it hard to believe that the coal business is run by me and not Keith. They do not think that it is right that I should be carrying 25kg coal bags on my shoulder or doing any of the unloading.
Why?
It is because I am a woman.
It seems that some do not see it as a job for a woman, despite the fact that I love the job, and I am more than capable of lifting and carrying 25kg bags of coal. When it comes to paying for their coal, they always hand the money to Keith, who then explains that I am the coal woman, that I am the one who takes the money, he tells them that he just steers the boat ha ha ha, which is true as he does 99.9% of the time. Carrying cargo on a working boat has been a dream of Keith’s for many, many years, and now he has achieved that dream, with our new working boat. We love carrying and selling coal, it feels like we are helping to keep a tradition alive.
So having done our deliveries, we were on our way, leaving Fazeley and Fazeley Junction behind. The weather looked set fair, although it was a little chilly, so we both had our hats and gloves on.

Whilst passing under the bridge to Kettlebrook Wharf, we saw this great sign,

and the first bonfire of the year being built, and if it’s size is anything to go by, they will have a fabulous time. We then arrived at Glascote locks, and this time there was no queue to sit in for 1 hour and 20 minutes. We cruised past the boat yard of S.M Hudson, where several grey primered boats were sitting waiting for their turn in the queue to be finished for their new owners. It was onward past Amington and Alvecote, where most of the Canaltime hire boats were out on hire. Now that the leaves are dropping off of the trees, we got to see the remains of the Benedictine Alvecote Priory, although there is very little left of it now, it still looks quite impressive. It was not long before we were under the M42 motorway bridge and into Polesworth. We noticed that from Alvecote to Polesworth the veg pledge, had been taken very seriously, with neatly cut grass and beautifully trimmed hedges.

We were fortunate enough to see the men and the tools that had been given the job. Who ever has the contract to do this section of the canal, is certainly doing a lovely job. So often boaters moan about how the towpaths and hedges need cutting back etc, well we were more than impressed by what we saw.

The Coventry Canal at this time of the year is really lovely, with the leaves on the trees changing colour. The canal at times it is joined by the River Anker and the railway following the canals path, so there is always something to look at. The area is also covered by arable land and some old and impressive oak trees line the canal. We decided to stop at 1pm below the Atherstone Flight for our overnight mooring. Earlier in the morning I had put a couple of Cornish Pasties in the back stove, so they were ready for eating, along with a nice hot cup of coffee. Our day ended listening to a generator running on the back of the boat behind us for three and half hours from 5pm till 8.30pm. I kept thinking if this carries on till 9pm, I will have to go and say something. As all good boaters know that engines etc. should be turned off by 8pm. But at 8.30pm it did eventually groan to a halt.

Friday 31st October.

Bottom of Atherstone Flight to Hartshill. 4 miles and 11 locks
.

Oh what a fabulous morning we woke up to. Jack Frost had sprinkled white dust everywhere, it was glorious. Keith and I were both a wake at around 5.30am. I was woken by an owl calling, a cockerel then joined in with his own version of the dawn chorus. Because we were both awake, I got up made us a cup of tea and stoked the back stove fire, to revive its dying embers. Having drunk our tea and lay in bed thinking about getting up, we did crawl out from under the covers, fold the bed up and hide it in the cupboard. 8am and we were ready to leave the overnight mooring and head up the flight of 11 locks. With there having been such a hard frost, it was a little slippery in places, so I did have to be careful around the lock.

Special care was taken when pushing open the gates, because the engineering bricks with the locks are paved with were slippery, they prove very little grip for the feet. Having exited lock 1, Keith headed on to lock 2 whilst I shut the gate behind him.

It was a breath taking morning, and so peaceful for most of our journey up through the flight. As we arrived at lock 7, we were surprised to see Brian Jarrett’s narrow boat Kyle, out of the water at Barry Hawkins boat yard. Brian was on the BCN Explorer Cruise with us. We did not see him around, so carried on our way. Coming out of lock 6 was a Canal Cruising hire boat, with Peter and Karen the owners of the Canal cruising onboard with George their dog, they had been out for a few days and were heading back from Banbury. It was lovely to see them as we will not get another chance until we are back in Stone next autumn. At lock 5 we encountered N.B Gleemaiden going in the same direction as us, and in front of them was N.B Black Pearl, who was single handing. N.B Gleemaiden bought two bags of coal off of us whilst they were working the lock. With us all together, we helped each other out as you do when working locks, and it was not long before we were at lock 3, where N.B Black Pearl managed to catch his rope around his propeller, so pulled over to let us both by and to untangle his rope. We arrived at the top of the flight, where Tony the lock keeper greeted me with a good morning. He even called me Princess, awww how sweet, now I feel special. We decided to moor up so we could go and have a look around Atherstone. The last time we did that was back in 2005, when we had our other boat, so it would be nice to see if anything had changed. Our visit to Atherstone was a brief one, nothing new to be found. We looked in all the charity shops and walked on smartish as a couple of foreign lads started throwing punches at each other. I suppose in an ideal world someone should have intervened, but not one person went over to stop them, instead they just stood and watched or like us moved on. In an age where you do not know what someone is carrying on them, you do have to think before you take any action. As it was, within a few minutes a police car turned up and they were both then sorted out. We made our way back to Hadar, where we found a note under the back hatch, asking if we could deliver another two bags of coal to N.B Gleemaiden, which we were happy to do. Keith then got us underway as I prepared lunch, which we ate on the move. We did not fancy staying in Atherstone overnight, with it being Halloween, the last time we stayed in Atherstone with our other boat, youths tried to pinch our bikes off of the boat's roof. We made our way to Hartshill, which is home to a pretty British Waterways Yard, with its splendid clock tower (someone needs to change the time). So this is our mooring for the weekend, whilst here we shall take a walk in to Hartshill.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tixall to Fazeley.

Monday 27th October.

Tixel Wide to Rugeley. 5.7 miles and 2 locks.

We spent a lovely weekend on Tixall Wide, although it was very windy at times.
Now that the clocks have gone back an hour, our body clocks have not caught up, so we are waking up an hour earlier than we should be. But with us now cruising in our own time, it really does not matter as we are not on any schedule at the moment. So we did get up at 7am to a bright crisp morning. Paddy and I were greeted by a really beautiful morning as we stepped off the boat for Paddy’s morning stroll. Well I stroll and he just has his nose buried in the undergrowth, or has his leg cocked against anything in his way. I do love chilly mornings, where everything is so fresh. Back onboard Hadar, we enjoyed breakfast and a cuppa before getting ready to set off at 8am. My thinking was if we set off early for Great Haywood Lock, we may actually be able to get through it without being stuck in a queue.So at 8am we slipped our mooring and headed for the junction with the Trent and Mersey. Yayyy deep joy we arrived at the lock and there was no queue. Mind you most people were still asleep ha ha ha. At Colwich Lock we met a family coming up on their boat, they were out for the half-term holidays, teaching their grandson to steer the boat. As they left the lock, I wished them a good trip and we made our way down through the lock and onwards to Rugeley. It was clear to see that it was a school holiday, as we met a few hire boats with families on, all enjoying the last minute breaks before some of the hire companies wrap their boats up for the winter.
We arrived in Rugeley, which is dominated by its power station at 10.30am and managed to find a place to moor past bridge 66. Having moored up, we went for a walk into the town. Rugeley is described in the Nicholsons guide as an unexciting place, well I have to agree with the description, it is not a place which will leave you remembering it over and over again, and the proof in that was the fact that Keith reckoned we had walked into the town on a previous occasion, but I cannot remember it at all. Having looked around all the charity shops, we did go into Iceland for some freezer supplies; unfortunately the market area was not open, so we headed back to the boat for lunch. After lunch we then walked back to Morrison’s, so we could top up on milk, cereal etc. We like to keep a good supply of things, just in case we should get stuck some where. So we have extra milk, cereal, tinned foods, toilet rolls etc as back-up. You never know what may happen. We also paid a visit to Wilkinson’s as we had a few things we wanted to pick up, one such thing was a TV bracket, as we wanted to hang the TV on the partition between the saloon and galley. We found exactly the bracket we were looking for. With the shopping done and it all packed away in the cupboards, Keith put the TV bracket on the wall, and the TV is now hanging on it, which is much better and safer. We can now actually move the TV right into the middle of the boat if we wish too, when watching a movie. Not only that, Marmite will not be able to knock the TV over, which is an absolute godsend.
So with our day drawing to an end, we will be settling down to an evening in front of the TV. Autumn Watch is back, so I will be glued to that.

Tuesday 28th October.

Rugeley to Fradley Wood. 7 miles and 1 lock.


This body clock lark is really not playing the game. Keith was a wake at 4am and I woke up at sometime around 5.30am, but dozed on and off until I got up at 6.30am and made us both a cup of tea, which we enjoyed in bed. It was not long before we heard the tap, tap on the roof from the rain. So it looked likely that we may not bother to move from Rugeley. We had enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep and no bother from the locals. On previous occasions we have never stopped in Rugeley overnight, because we had been told it was not a place to stop, due to the local youngsters, but we never had any problems at all, despite the fact it is half-term. On saying that it was a cold evening, so maybe they were all at home, playing with there computer games. We were the only boat on the moorings, guess we were lucky.
So having enjoyed our cuppa in bed, we finally crawled out of bed. I made the fires up and put the kettle on the back stove. Because it was cold outside, porridge was on the menu for breakfast. Just what we needed to get the day off to a good start. Paddy was then ready for his morning walk. The rain had stopped, so he only had to dodge the puddles, which he has become quite an expert at.
8.50am we left the Rugeley mooring and head off for Fradley Junction. We found ourselves behind a Canaltime hire boat, as we approached the Hawkesyard Priory; they pulled in to allow a boat to come out of the Armitage Tunnel (130yds long). The tunnel is now more like a cutting as the roof was removed in 1971 to combat the subsidence effects of the coal being mined close by. Keith and I soon realised that the boat exiting the tunnel was N.B Sanity, with Bruce and Sheila onboard. We said our good mornings and how are you, before wishing them well as we all went on our way. Rain was beginning to fall again and with it came a chilly breeze, which went right through you. We followed the Canaltime boat past King’s Bromley marina, Ravenshaw Wood and onto Woodend Lock, where a boat was already coming up through the lock. The Canaltime boat then proceeded to go down. I then noticed a beautiful sandy coloured dog with a gentleman helping with the lock. My thought was “I know that dog”. It was Simba. So where ever Simba is, Andrew is never far away, and right enough he was waiting to coming up the lock. Andrew is out on his N.B Khayamanzi, with his dad Brian for the half-term holiday, leaving the little darlings from school behind for a week. It had been sometime since we had seen Andrew, although I do pop into his blog from time to time, so we had a lot of catching up to do. It is amazing how much you can talk about whilst working a lock. It is always lovely to see Andrew and Simba, and nice to meet Brian face to face, as I have only ever seen his photo on Andrew’s blog. I hope that they enjoy their break and we will see them again sometime no doubt. The rain was now coming down harder, so as we approached Shade House Lock and saw that there was a mooring free, we decided to call it a day. There was no point in getting wet and cold just to get down to the junction today. We will set off in the morning for the junction, when hopefully we will not be queuing for the locks. There seem to be a lot of Canaltime boats heading back to base, so we are happy to let them go.
We snuggled down in the boat, with hot soup and thickly cut bread for lunch. During the evening we heard a Tawny owl in the wood opposite the boat calling, and three boats came past us with head lights blazing. We just stayed in watching the TV.

Wednesday 29th October.

Fradley Wood to Fazeley. 10.8 miles. 2 locks and 1 swing bridge
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Having slept like a log in a nice warm cosy back cabin. Brrrrr a cold and frosty start to the day welcomed us to Wednesday. It had gotten down to below freezing over night, so all around us was white, where Jack Frost had cast his spell.8.40am we were getting ready to set off, when I was asked about delivering coal to a boat on the Coventry Canal, if we were going their way. I assured them that we would be heading on to the Coventry and would stop to sell them 5 bags of coal. The gentleman told me that, a few coal boats had past them over the last few days, but all were empty. So he was glad to find a boat with some coal onboard as they only had a small amount left. Having slipped our mooring, I walked ahead to Shade House Lock, to get it ready for Keith to slip Hadar in to. On the lock moorings an Anglo Welsh Hire Boat had been moored up on the bollards all night, so Keith gave them a polite reminder that they should not be moored there. They soon untied their ropes and waited behind us to go down the lock. Having done the Fazeley locks, we then turned onto the Coventry canal, where a gentleman taking on water, very kindly opened the swing bridge for us. I of course thanked him very much for his kindness.We were then waved into a mooring to drop off the 5 bags of coal ordered earlier, and a young woman from another boat asked for a further 2 bags of coal. With deliveries made and money taken we were soon on our way. Once again there were plenty of boats on the move on this most beautiful of mornings, with the mist rolling along the canal. It is day’s like this, which makes you glad to be a live. The trees looked so glamorous in their autumn finery, of gold’s, reds and browns. It was not long before we were passing the junction with the Wyrley and Essington Canal, which is home to moored boats these days. We had thought of stopping at Whittington, but with the weather being so lovely we decided to carry on to Fazeley. We got to Bridge 89 where we found ourselves behind a Rose Hire Boat, which looked to be having problems with the bridge hole. They were trying to go through the bridge hole, when another boat came through from the other side, so the Rose boat allowed them through, the chaos began when they tried again to go through the bridge hole with us following. Somehow they messed it up, hitting the bridge; we almost ploughed into the back of them. Keith had to wind Hadar in to reverse to avoid hitting them up the rear. As they then reversed themselves out of trouble another boat slipped through from the other side. Eventually they made the manoeuvre to get through the bridge hole; they then pulled over to allow us past, as they knew we would be quicker than they were.Cruising alongside the Hopwas Hays Woods, with the sun beaming through the leaves on the trees was beautiful. The woods are the home of the Military Firing Ranges, so care has to be taken when the red flags are out. Today they were no where to be seen thankfully. What we did see was another of the Pillboxes, which is so iconic these days.With Remembrance Day soon to be upon us, the pillbox serves as a reminder of the war years and all those killed in the conflicts, so that we may enjoy the life we have today. Please remember to buy your poppy. We arrived in Fazeley and moored up near Peel’s Wharf. Having had a coffee we took a walk in to Fazeley to see what it had to offer. It has a Tesco Express for any supplies needed, a fish and chip shop, Chinese, Indian and Cantonese restaurants, and a couple of pubs, oh and not forgetting a Post Office, which these days is becoming a rarity. Back onboard Hadar, the meatball casserole smells yummy; all’s I need to do later is add the dumplings. Oopps sorry am I making your mouth water, I did not realise you only had bread and dripping for tea ha ha ha.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Does anyone have????

With so many people popping into our diary. I am hoping that someone out there maybe able to help me find this book.I know that it is no longer in print, but I am hoping that someone out there has finished with their copy of 'Idle Women' by Susan Woolfitt and would be happy for it to go to a new home. It is a book I have been longing to read, but have had little luck with finding a copy. So if you can help me out, e-mail me, I would be so pleased to finally read 'Idle Women'.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time to say goodbye

Thursday 23rd October.

Stone to Burston. 3.6 miles and 5 locks.

Sadly our time back in Stone has come to an end. Our new battery arrived yesterday, and Keith immediately fitted it.
Both Keith and I were awake early this morning, possibly through excitement, as we knew today was the day we would be making a move south. So we were up early. I made us porridge for breakfast, a nice warming start to the day, along with a cup of tea. Paddy enjoyed his last walk in Stone for a year. Keith and I had to get some coal ready for two coal deliveries on the way down to Star Lock. After breakfast we popped around to Roger's Boatyard to say our goodbye's to Roger and Tina, who were enjoying their morning coffee, before the days work begins. We also got to say cheerio to Nigel on N.B EnSeaBee and Tina's husband Rob who was working from home. It is always sad to say goodbye, but we will be back next September like bad pennies LOL. Having done the farewell's we dropped off coal from the bow of Hadar to Sharon and Ian on N.B The Mutley Crew and said cheerio for now. It is kind of odd because people have been wishing us a Happy Christmas arghhhhhhh, what a thought, it is not that far away. We then made a delivery to N.B Cedar who are having boat problems and are moored below Newcastle Road lock at Stone Boat Building, whilst there we collected a new gas bottle and said our goodbyes to Kath. We wish the Denny's onboard Cedar well, and hope they will soon be on their way. Already it seemed like we had done a day's work, and we still had the food shopping to do. Luckily we managed to get a mooring on the 12 hour Crown Car Park moorings. It has been full of boats for the last few weeks, all of them over staying their welcome. So having moored up we headed off to Morrison's for a large food shop. The supermarket was packed. I wondered if something was going on that no one had told us about. Still we managed to finally make it through the check out and back to the boat. Before putting the shopping away, we went down through Star Lock to take on some water. Whilst Keith kept an eye on that procedure. I put the shopping away, made us some lunch and a coffee, which we would have on the move. Because we have sold almost all of the coal onboard, Hadar is sitting really high out of the water at the moment, with the gusty winds she is likely to move around a lot on the water, so filling her water tank will certainly help to a degree, as it has been almost three weeks since we filled her up. We were soon on our way to Aston Lock, where we sold another bag of coal to a lovely lad named Martin, we wished him well and set off to our over night mooring at Burston. Having moored up Keith did our canal cruising Log and worked out that so far we have cruised 1058 miles and done 755 locks since we set off in January. It really does not feel that much if I am honest. We are now both so looking forward to seeing Autumn and the Winter in the full. I will certainly be taking lots of photographs. So tomorrow we will be making for Great Haywood and a weekend mooring. See you next week as we head South to pick up coal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Away for the weekend.

One of the joys of living onboard 24/7 is the fact that we can just move when ever we want to. So on Friday at 3.30pm we decided we wanted a change of scenery, so we slipped our mooring and headed off to a mooring near the Wedgwood factory at Barlaston. It seemed that everyone else had also decided to move as well, but they were going in the opposite direction, which was handy for the locks at Meaford. The top lock at Meaford was having paddle problems, the top gate paddle would not close properly, due to a lot of foliage being stuck in the paddle. BW had been cutting the banks and bushes down. What they had cut down was left to float in the canal, which then jammed in the paddles. One of the boats coming down had notified BW and they were going to send someone out to clear it.
It was a really enjoyable cruise up to the weekend mooring, the sun was out, but there was now a chilly breeze blowing. But with the back stove lit and the kettle boiling, we were soon warmed up with a cup of coffee. On approaching the mooring, we noticed that BW had been tree felling, so it was a good time for us to go log collecting over the weekend. The day finished with a lovely sunset over the fields.
Saturday morning we were up early to bright sunshine, there was not a breath of air blowing. it was an ideal time to collect logs and split them with the chainsaw and axe. So we pulled the trolley out of the hold and loaded it up with the tree trunks left by BW. we soon had a nice pile, which Keith cut up using the chainsaw, we then took it in turns to split the logs with the axe. Whilst we were hard at work, people were walking their dogs and cycling past us. One little girl and her father stopped to watch us splitting logs, her father informed us that she had never seen wood being cut with an axe before. I explained to her we were going to burn it on the fire to keep us warm, during the winter. She was bemused by this fact. It makes you realise that there will be future generations growing up only to the knowledge of gas and oil central heating. It is a sad thought that they will never enjoy coal or wood fires.
We took the opportunity to move the coal in the hold forward, to bring the bow down a bit as she is now sitting high out of the water. My worry is that if we have a low bridge, we may not get under. So we shifted all the bags forward and then stacked the bags of logs into the open space. I just love it when we get jobs done in the dry.
The evening was spent watching the TV, before retiring to bed after the X-Factor result.
This morning were got up to a meow from Marmite, and the sound of a boat moving. Whilst I walked Paddy, Keith did us mushrooms on toast for breakfast with a cup of tea. We got to watch the F1 GP, whilst eating. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his win, lets hope he will be F1 word champion in 2 weeks time. We thought we would make our way back to Stone, as strong winds were being forecast throughout the day. So we set off in lovely sunshine back towards Stone. On the way back to Meaford Locks we saw no other boats moving, so it was just us and Hadar's engine thumping, down the locks. We did meet FMC boat Elk at the bottom lock, so left the gates open ready for her to enter. We once again moored up and I made us another coffee. The wind was gathering and it had turned really chilly. Not long after we had tied up a small boat pulled in for two bags of coal, before moving off. N.B Rossmore then moored behind us and, as we always do with fellow boater, got chatting. It is always a good excuse to stand and put the world to right.
We are going to be in Stone for a couple more days, as Keith has to have his crown fitted and we have some post to pick up. After that we will be heading down South for the winter. Have a good week everyone. if you have time please give me a shout in my shout box and I will reply.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Health and Safety gone mad.

It has been a wonderful day weatherwise, wall to wall sunshine with an autumnal chill in the air. Keith and I thought we would take a walk down in to Stone, to have our usual look around the charity shops. We found another ribbon dish for our back cabin which is always nice, this one is A Present from Llandudno. Having been around all of the shops, I wanted to buy some beetroot from the veg shop to add to a crumble. I know sounds daft, but bare with me on this one. This shop does cook your own with leaves and root still on, or you can buy it already cooked. I chose the pre-cooked one, now normally in the box there would be a pair on tonges to pic up the beetroot, but they were missing. So I asked the lady behind the till if she had the tonges. Her reply totally stunned me. She said "Sorry my dear, we cannot use the tonges anymore, due to health and safety. They say there is a risk of cross contamination".My reply was " Your joking aren't you". It seemed that she was not joking, they have been told they can no longer use tongs, they now have to use plastic bags to handle the beetroot. So ok we avoid the possible risk of cross contamination, but we polute the enviroment with more disused plastic bags. Where the hell is the sense in that?
This health and safety lark really is out of hand big time. Soon they will be asking us to use disinfectant hand wash before handling the veg.
How on earth did the older generation ever survive I wonder without all this nonsense?

Now I know your wondering about Beetroot in a crumble. Well I got the idea from the TV program River Cottage Autumn, with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He made a Beetroot and Apple crumble. I have already stewed the apples. We will be giving it a try for pudding tonight. Next on my list of things to try are the Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies.
Watch this space.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back to Stone.

It has been a few days since I last posted as we have been busy, with lots of things, which include Keith and his health issues. The good news is his blood tests and ECG came back normal, so that is a relief to us both. The GP does not think that his heart problems are anything sinister, but as they are still happening, she now wants Keith to have a 24 hour monitor on, but we are unsure as to whether that will be happening as it could take a few months for the appointment, which is absolutely no good to us, with us being continuous cruisers. We need to be away from Stone and onto the Grand Union to collect coal and get away from the winter stoppages. Keith had the first dental appointment for his crown on Monday, and all went well, so we thought we would go off for a few days.So we left our mooring and headed south down through Stone and Star lock, meeting another boater coming up on their first time out with their new boat. The lady was asking my advice as how to operate locks in the most efficient manner, so I was happy to show her how I operate the locks and the things you must always remember to do. She was most appreciative for the help. I wish them lots of luck with their new adventure, and I dare say we will see them again someday.We arrived at Aston Lock to see that one of the lock cottages has now been sold. Another Lock cottage has gone, let’s hope it is to someone who loves the canal. The word was the house was up for sale for £250,000, which is a huge amount of money in this present climate. It was a really lovely day for cruising, and we met a few boats on the move. At the top of Sandon Lock we decided to wind in the winding hole and find a mooring with our bow pointing back towards Stone. We found a fantastic place to moor about ½ a mile above Sandon Lock. There were no boats, the faint rumble from the trains and plenty of wildlife to look at.It was so nice to have a bit of peace and quiet, after the hustle and bustle of Stone. Autumn has really begun to show its true colours, with the leaves on the trees turning, reds, golds and yellows. I just love the changing of the seasons.From our very quiet mooring, we were treated to views of a Kestrel hunting, a pair of Buzzards enjoying the thermals and cows feeding their calves, now what more could we possible want.
Marmite and Paddy were even allowed off to play as the mooring was so quiet.Paddy was doing his best to push Marmite into the cut, but she is far to clever for that. They certainly enjoyed each others company and gave us a few laughs.Paddy cannot understand why he never wins against Marmite. The thing is, she is much cleverer than he is, bless his heart. Come 4.30pm the Canada Geese took off for their evening roosting grounds, so it left us with a truly peaceful evening, with a lovely setting sun.By 10 pm we were both ready for our bed, and as we lay there we could not help but notice how quiet it was. There was not a sound, not even the rumbling of the trains. All around us was totally silent.
Having enjoyed a really good night’s sleep, we spent the day enjoying the solitude. I got some more of my blanket done, so it is now growing fast. Keith spent time doing his crossword, it was just so nice to be alone in a beautiful place. During the day both hire and private boats passed us in both directions. It has to be said that many of them clearly have not heard of ‘slow down past moored boats’. If either Keith or I had bothered to ask the boaters to slow down, we would never have sat down. Having read a fellow bloggers diary of a boater getting injured due to another speeding boater, The piece is called Speeding, I wonder how long it will be, before there is a serious injury caused. The injured boater in that case was not seriously injured, but what will it take for other boaters to have a bit of respect for others when passing moored boats. During the evening, Keith unfortunately lost the temporary crown that was fitted by the dentist on Monday, so we would have to head back to Stone. We awoke to a beautiful morning, the sun was coming up over the canal on what would start out to be a very still morning.I am a huge lover of sunsets and sunrise, there is something really magical about how the sky looks. We made our way back steadily towards Stone, catching sight of four cormorants in a tree, fanning out their wings to the early morning sunshine. This is what beautiful mornings are made of, seeing nature in the raw.Having arrived back in Stone, it was now raining, so we found a mooring below Star lock and made our way to the dentist, where Keith had his temporary crown repaired. Keith is due to have the proper one fitted Monday, so it only has to last a few more days.
We had toasted tea cakes for lunch, before moving Hadar up through the locks, to moor up again above Roger Fuller’s Boat Yard. We will be here now until at least Tuesday, as Keith has the dentist and we have a coal delivery to make. Life is never dull when living on the cut.

Before I sign off for the day. Do you keep a cat onboard your narrowboat, cruiser or barge? Or are you a lock keeper who lives in a waterside cottage with a cat? If so, Cats on the Cut would like to hear from you.
Cats on the Cut is a photographic research project investigating people who keep their cats on the canals and rivers.
If you would like to share your stories, experiences or anecdotes of cats on the cut, contact Linda Prince on 07887 600028 or email catsonthecut@yahoo.co.uk.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Best laid plans.

As always the best laid plans never come to fruition. we had planned on leaving Stone after the Food and Drinks Festival, but Keith had a doctors appointment, which resulted in having blood tests and an ECG at the local hospital, so we need to stay around Stone for those results.
We then had our yearly appointment at the dentist, and Keith needs a crown, which will keep us here in Stone for a couple of weeks. It just goes to show you should never plan anything ha ha ha.
So we will get underway hopefully once everything is sorted out. In the meantime we left our mooring below Star Lock and came back up the canal to Canal Cruising, to fill up with diesel. The diesel at Peter and Karens is 79p a litre at the moment, which is a very good price right now. Canal Cruising Co. Ltd, has been a boat hire company for over 60 years now, celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. They have been operating longer than any other hire company on the canals.

We got chatting to Karen about the diesel derogation situation, and she told us that they would not be selling diesel to pleasure craft once the derogation comes into operation on 1st November 2008. She read us some of the information she had received from the British Marine Federation, and it was a mine field. we cannot help but feel, many of the marina's, chandleries and diesel boats will also go the same way and not sell diesel to pleasure craft. The one thing I got from what she showed us, was it was not written in good old plain English, so can make it difficult to understand. I reckon only time will tell, as to whether it will work at all, and at the moment we both think it will not work.


So having filled up with diesel, we made our way to a mooring just past Roger Fuller's Boatyard for the night. Tomorrow we will take a trip up to Wedgwood for a couple of days. We have to be back in Stone for Monday, so Keith can go to the dentist.

The one thing we will get time to do over the next few day's is catch up with the rag rug and knitted blankets. Keith is doing well with the rag rug, it really is looking lovely. I cannot wait to scrunch my toes up in the pile. When it is finished it will be Red, White, Blue and have a Black border. I need to cut up more t-shirts, so Keith can get a move on with it.I on the other hand have caught the knitting bug, since finishing my first blanket (below). I have also just finished my shawl for my boatwoman's costume, which I found great fun to do, it only took me 2 days. I am now knitting another blanket for the back cabin (above). This one is a little more complicated as it is not individual squares of Red, White and Blue. But I am enjoying the challenge. What next I wonder?We have enjoyed a beautiful day weather wise, we sold four bags of coal and enjoyed chatting to a couple who live on board N.B Innisfree.
What ever your doing, have fun and stay safe.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Food and Drink Sunday.

Oh what a dismal morning, rain and yet more rain.
We ended up going to bed early last night, because I had been trying to get rid of a headache, which was not going to go away, so the only option was an early night. If only I reckoned if I got an un-interrupted nights sleep it may go. Oh how wrong I was, not about the headache but about the un-interrupted nights sleep. At 2.20 am we were both woken up by shouting and screaming of males, probably coming back from the pub. One of the males wanted to kill the other; he was shouting how he was going to drown him etc. All this shouting included the F word over and over again. Because I am too much of a lady I will not add the word to this posting. I infact absolutely hate the word, and see not reason for its use in the English language. This ruction went on for sometime and others joined in. Keith and I just lay in bed and hoped that they did not come near the boat. It was not something we wanted to get involved in. But having said that, I would have called the police, if it had escalated. At one point we heard a young woman scream out, and more shouting. The group then settled down at the chatting, shouting and lots of swearing taking place. Eventually the weather played its part, when it began to throw it down, meaning that the group went off to find cover. All that took place was more than likely fuelled by drink. What these individuals fail to understand is the fact that their words of killing someone have far more reaching consequences. If they should actually do the deed. Not only will it destroy their lives and those of the people around them, it is forever, they cannot go back once they have committed the crime. And all this is because they have drunk too much and taken something trivial to heart. They will wreck the lives of the person they kill and those connected to that person. By the time all this seemed to stop the church bells had struck 4 am and I was still awake, with my headache still in the back ground. I did fall asleep and when I woke up thankfully my headache had gone, but the rain was still pelting down heavily on the boats roof. This meant that the ground was going to be very soggy. We got up around 8.30 am and I put on my wet weather clothing to take Paddy out for his walk, around Crown meadow, which was extremely soggy. The river had also risen considerably due to all the over night rain. This does not bode well for the Food and Drink Festival today. The Signal 1 Radio weather forecast, has said that the weather will brighten up later, so we shall see. Liz Ellis on Signal 1 gave us a mention on her morning radio show, which was great. Keith joined in a competition to name the year, which got him another mention. At 10.30 am, I decided that I would wander over to the festival site to see, what conditions were like and if anyone had turned up, even though it was still raining. I was in my tradition boatwoman’s costume, due to the weather. It was really nice to see that despite the weather, people were entering the festival site.It was as you can imagine muddy under foot, but that was being dealt with. I soon had the camera out and was snapping away. The main areas for the mud were the exit and entrances, but the field itself was standing up well to all the feet trampling over it. I got the chance to photograph Dahmendra Vassaramo, International Indian Chef of The Year. Dahmendra is the chef at Thornbury Hall, whilst he cooked some truly amazing dishes, Parveen Saddique proprietor of Thornbury Hall told the audience how to use the spices on display, Parveen also answered any questions from the audience. Keith joined me over and the demonstration tent, where we had the honour of trying the dishes Dahmendra had cooked. The smell alone of the food was mouth watering. It was great to see that so many people are passionate about food.If you want an amazing Indian meal then Thornbury Hall will do you proud.
Come lunchtime, the sun was out and so were the crowds. It seems that the fact that there was a little mud put them off from coming to try the food and drink on offer.
Next up in the Demonstration Marque was the Staffordshire Oak Cake filling competition. Janine Machin was once again the compere for what was a great competition. Eight contestants offered up recipe fillings for the Oat Cakes and Peter Nullis of La Dolce Vita, had to cook them all for the judges to sample. It certainly got the publics attention, as the marque was full. I can honestly say I have never eaten a Staffordshire Oat Cake, maybe I will have to change that and try one.The demonstration Marque had proved to be a huge success, with plenty of people going into watch the chefs perform.One of the biggest crowds of the weekend went to watch Mandy Wilson of Golden Goose Catering Company, Mandy produced some mouth watering food, which the audience were allowed, in fact encouraged to try, so Keith and I were on hand to indulge in testing the food, which was lovely. We really have enjoyed our weekend of photographing and trying the food. As the afternoon and the festival drew to a close, Keith and I were invited for a drink in the beer tent, where we tried a pint of the Titanic Brewery’s beer. Neither Keith or I are real beer drinkers, but we did like what we tried and it was nice of Jill to treat us. We sat and discussed the weekend’s events and the feedback which we had been given by the stall holders. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed their time in Stone, and many of them had done very well despite the weather. What was nice was the fact that they would like to come back and do it all over again next year. That also goes for us, as we have had a lot of fun. The Stoke-on-Trent IWA stall, was very quiet. They had been a little busier in the WOW area, helping to keep the children amused. The fact that this event was not a canal event meant that people really were not that interested in the IWA stall, which was a real shame. Still you cannot win them all.
Back onboard Hadar and we have settled in for the evening, watching the Harry Potter movie, and I reckon we will be in bed early, hoping to make up for the lack of sleep, in the early hours of this morning. So another week has passed, and a new one will begin, we will see you next week all being well.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Food and Drink Saturday.

We woke up to what looked like being an overcast morning, but despite the dire forecast yesterday, there was no rain, although with the sky being so overcast, we had the feeling, it was only a matter of time. Having had breakfast and a coffee, we donned our boat costumes, and headed off to Westbridge Park, with our camera’s. It has to be said it was a little on the chilly side, so I had my shawl wrapped tightly around my shoulders.Having arrived at the festival site, it looked as if it was a little quiet, maybe the weather had put people off of coming. But it soon became apparent that everyone was in the main Gourmet Marque and in the Demonstration Kitchen tent.People were actually queuing to look at the stalls, which was fantastic to see on such a dreary day. Mean while we headed off into the Demonstration Tent to take more photos of the chef’s in action. First up was The Rotary Young Chef Competition, where four budding chefs, battled it out again each other under the watchful eyes of four judges, one of them being chef Paul Gilmore. Janine Machin was today’s compere.The young lady on the right of the photograph won the competition. Each contestant had a budget of £6, and they had to come up with a tasty meal for two. They all did themselves proud. We certainly would not mind them cooking for us. No sooner had they packed away their things. Then it was the turn of Richard Cullen Young Master Chef and Master Chef for 2008.Richard has worked with Gordon Ramsey and in the Dorchester Hotel in London, so he is no stranger to hard work. He is now head chef in his family run restaurant The Spotgate Inn at Spot Acre in Staffordshire. What we have enjoyed about this years festival, is the fact that all the chefs are local, they have not bothered with the celebrity chefs this years, the event organisers have also had the demonstrations on Westbridge Park, so anyone can go and watch the demo’s, where as last year it was ticket holders only in the Crown Hotel. It certainly has worked well, making it more accessible to everyone. The demonstration tent was probably the warmest place to be today. Having taken lots of photographs we then headed for Jimmy’s Farm stall to buy some sausages, £4 a pack or 3 packs for £10, so we of course went for the £10 option. The stall was doing a roaring trade, with people queuing to buy their sausages and bacon. Keith and I also bought some more cheese from Lymm Bank Farm a family run business, having sampled their Tomato & Basil, Garlic and Marmite Cheeses, we handed over the cash and walked away with some lovely chesse. The great thing is I have put their cheeses in the freezer and they will be fine for 6 months. Coming to an event like this is a pure pleasure because it gives you the chance to try lots of food and drink that you would not ordinarily bother trying. You also get to meet some lovely people. We enjoyed trying Whiskey from Celtic Spirit, their single malt was mmmmm very smooth. We tried cheeses and meats from stalls such as Poachers Pasties. If you like game then these are the ones for you. We pecked at the seeds on Munchy Seeds stall, although it was not really for us, despite the fact that we know they are high in Omega Oil etc. You really can spend the whole day just sampling food and drink. If you need a break from the Gourmet Marque eating and drinking outside Bill Bailey was playing the music, trying to keep everyone entertained on this drab day. The Staffordshire Soup Co did their very best to fill people up with their warming soups which included Staffordshire’s Beef Lobby.Having enjoyed chatting to people and taking more photographs for the festival organisers, we made our way back to Hadar, where we got to chatting with the passing public. The weather did the honourable thing and stayed pretty much dry, even though it remained overcast all day.

Now before I close the diary for today, I have a little task for you. We saw this on the way to the festival site and thought it would make a great caption competition. So does anyone have a great caption for this photo?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Food and Drink Friday.

The Stone Food and Drinks Festival is now in its 4th year. It has certainly grown year upon year and this year is no different. With events having taken place all week, today was the opening day of the festival at Westbridge Park. Despite heavy rain over night, conditions were looking pretty good for the day, even the ground under foot looked to have stood up well to the weather, even though some of the exhibitors had problems with getting their vehicles onto the field, it was soon resolved with the help of the organisers. Keith and were asked to be the official Food and Drink Festival Photographers, so we were on site at 9 am to catch the early photographs of the setting up of some of the stalls.It has to be said that it was rather chilly, and people were running around to keep warm. We noticed some stalls that were at last year’s event, but there were also many new stalls who have come to enjoy the festival. With the stall holders all set up, on hand to open the event was the Mayor of Stone, Mark Green and his wife.Along with the Mayor in the photograph above are Richard Stevens (Chairman of the Stone Food and Drink Working Group) Colin Taylor (compere) and Jill Hood (Festival Administrator), they have all worked extremely hard to organise this event.
Keith and I spent our time photographing the stalls and chatting to stall holders, but we could not resist buying some cheese from Shirevale Cheese makers, who won the Gold Award at the Nantwich Cheese Show.
There was so much to see and try, but one stall that caught my eye was Jimmy’s Farm.I am sure many of you will have seen the program which was on BBC2. We certainly watched it, and enjoyed seeing the progress of the farm and its animals. We will be going back and buying some of the lovely sausages on offer.There were some local businesses with stalls, one being Titanic Brewery, who have the beer tent covered, and with the weather being on the damp side over the weekend, it will be busy no doubt.The local Stoke-on-Trent IWA Branch had a stall at the festival, with WOW all set up to help make the event more enjoyable for the children, who may find all the food and drink stalls a little boring.I was on hand to do a promotional photograph for the sale of the new bags for life, which are on sale at the IWA stall.The bags have printed on them a buckby can with Friendship on it. They cost £4 and all the profits made go to the IWA. In this day of recycling everyone should have a bag for life.
Throughout the day the demonstrations kitchen held cookery demonstrations by local chefs. These included International Indian Chef of the Year Dahmendra Vassaramo of Thornbury Hall, Jake Lowndes (pic below) of La Dolce Vita one of the contenders for Young Chef of the Year, Jake came 3rd in the event, Carlo Crimioli of Pasta Di Piazza cooked up a storm as well. The final event in the demonstration tent was a cook off between two teachers from Walton and Pirehill local schools.They were helped by chefs from Pasta Di Piazza. With school children cheering their teachers on it was going to be a noisy affair.It also got very warm in the kitchen. We couldn’t stay for the result as Mog and Dog needed feeding. Keith and I had a wonderful day and met some fabulous people, we will be doing it all again over the weekend no doubt, so fingers crossed the weather is not as dire as the forecast has just told us. If you are not busy why not come a long and enjoy tasting food from around the country.