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Willington to Norton Junction (a Christmas update) 74 miles, 34 locks

Happy Christmas and a merry New Year from Richard and I!
I haven't updated the blog for a while, so I thought I'd do a quick summary of happenings to Christmas...

My little stall at the Stoke Bruerne Christmas Market

As Richard is now firmly ensconced in the realms of breadwinner for the winter, it was up to me to take part in the Stoke Bruerne Christmas Market this year on my own.  I had to take him to work, so that I could have the car and then collect him whilst someone else took care of the stall until my return!  

As always, the boys were impeccably behaved, lying down at the side of me, behind the stall

Saturday, I arrived at 6.30am, thinking I would be first to set up once it started to get light etc, not realising that proceedings didn't start until 12!  I had a big wait, so took the dogs for a long walk in the dark and had breakfast with Geraldine and Michael on the Cheese Boat.  Sunday, I went back to our boat for breakfast, before considering the final leg of the journey to Stoke Bruerne, later on!  
The weekend, overall was good, but next year, we will arrive by boat and open our butty boat for the market!

A few decorations to give the boat a bit of sparkle!  And Lister by the fire as always!

Christmas for us, will be quiet this year, as we like it, but with a twist!  The new boat has an oven with variable temperature control, so cooking may take a more elaborate turn over the festive period!  All mod cons on this boat!  

View from the old bridleway over the top of the tunnel towards Braunston

As this is the first year of properly 'winter continuous cruising', as opposed to paying for a winter mooring, or a marina, we have enjoyed a fair amount of walking with the dogs to move the car to different locations etc.  

The entrance (Braunston side) of the tunnel we have just walked over

This was a particularly lovely walk, taking us from Norton Junction (where we had left the car), over the top of the tunnel to Braunston, back to the boats for breakfast (around 5 miles).

View down the flight of locks to Braunston

Back at the boats, we moved them both breasted to outside the big pub there (no advert here!) to have a drink and breakfast ready for the locks later.  The second time this pub has ignored us, like we have a cloaking device!  We ordered drinks at the bar and were the first in for food, but were told our order would be taken at the table.  No, everyone else, as they arrived, had their orders taken and we blended in to the ether again!  So we had sausage sandwiches on the boat and carried on up the locks bemused!

Mooring at Norton Junction was serene and peaceful and not at all muddy surprisingly!

The lock flight at the junction has only just been opened after repairs, hence the reason why I didn't do the Christmas market from the boat (it was below the locks on the Grand Union canal), but we have had a really lovely mooring opposite my favourite fields.

The boys love this field, unusually not full of cattle, so we can walk around it (the farmer apparently is fine about this)

So that's us for Christmas!  I continue painting for my stock for next season, but we are considering travelling to Stoke Bruerne and opening up if the weather is nice before our first confirmed festival at Easter at Foxton Locks.  We will see....

Fradley Junction, Huddlesford Heritage Gathering and back east to Willington (23 miles, 11 locks)

So that's it for this year!  No more festivals and the gift shop is now part way to being packed away until Easter 2016.

But we bought a new boat this year and we are really pleased with her!  Now the panels are blanked off, we can get her and the butty signwritten and then they will then look really smart.

Beautiful weather at the Huddlesford Heritage Gathering as everyone set up on Sunday morning.

Last weekend was our last festival (please click on the above link for fantastic photos of the event) and we feel a little sad, but now Richard has to get back to work to pay for the realities in life; licences, insurance, sign-writing ~ no, I have conceded that we will get a professional in for the job, and of course getting the boats out of the water for blacking....again!

3 beautiful bowtop gypsy caravans

Men messing around in motorised bathtubs.....

It was a lovely show and we have asked if we can attend the next one in a couple of year's time.

Busy Alrewas

Monday morning was diabolical as the rain fell, but we knew we needed to get to Willington for Tuesday for the Trader day at Midland Chandlers.  We delivered some coal to a customer and then began to plod down the locks at Fradley Junction, arriving in Alrewas as the sun came out!

The river was quiet and calm

The little bit of river between Alrewas and Wychnor stood between us and the next lock, but at this time of year, it was behaving itself!

Narrow bridge time ~ with the new elum on the butty, I didn't have to touch the tiller once as we negotiated this tricky narrow bit!

Another narrow bridge hole

Nearing the end of our long day, we were  about  ready for our pizzas (bought when we nipped to the Co op in Alrewas and a good shower to warm us up.

Moored up above Tatenhill Lock for the night on pins

The ranges were still going, so in went the pizzas, bliss...

A new day and our first lock .. done

Up early, we wanted to get to Shobnall Marina, in Burton on Trent, as it opened to buy some paint for a commission I needed to do.

Shobnall Marina on the left

Mission accomplished, we carried on to Willington.

I get the boys back on the boat as Richard passes over the aqueduct after Stretton.  This nearly didn't go to plan as the curb stone was slippy and we all went a bit sideways getting aboard!

A fairly sleepy morning in Willington as we pass the pub

The plan was to get the shopping list done and then moor up in Willington on the '14 days' and pack the gift shop away etc.

Successfully around the entry to the marina, with the approach to the road bridge in front of us and our mooring

New 135amp batteries, just 3(!), 16 bottles of Elsan Blue we have this for sale in the winter, with coal and firelighters), some more LEDs for the new boat and various bits.... ooh hurting a bit, and Richard decided not to buy the main item after all that..the water pump, as the gasket sealant has held a treat!  

Moored in the marina outside Midland Chandlers

Was that a good idea?  We will have the car soon, so we can cross that bridge a bit quicker if we need to!

Back around and onto the canal, we had an impromtu visit from Richard's parents as we are back in 'the Shire' and then the bit we had been waiting for...last night we had a Chinese from THE best Chinese takeaway 'Sun Hall'.  Our life is complete!

Alvecote, Great Haywood and return to Fradley Junction (39 Miles, 12 locks)

It is now the run up to the biennial Huddlesford Heritage Gathering, where we and other traders will be showing off our wares, along with exhibitors in the field and lots of music! 

Leaving Alvecote a couple of weeks ago

We decided that before the festival, we would visit Great Haywood again and hopefully trade for the first weekend in between.

Storm clouds gathering as we pass over an aqueduct

Wiggling through Hopwas

We passed up the 2 locks at Fradley and then the single one at Wood End, before having an unfortunate encounter with a hire boat coming around the corner on the wrong side of the canal!  
The woman on the front of the boat decided to take exception to my husband's outburst of 'flipping idiot', insisting that he swore.  A moored boat bore witness to the woman's tirade as Richard struggled to reverse the motor and pole off the bank as he was well and truly stuck.  His outburst was not aimed at the hirers, who, give them their due, offered to help eventually, but in explaining the situation to the moored boat.  Oh well.  So we won't be on her Christmas list!  The moored boaters laughed and suggested a holiday with her would be the holiday from hell!!

Round the bend at Handsacre

Carrying on up the Trent and Mersey Canal, after mooring on pins for the night, we passed through Handsacre on the outskirts of Rugeley (Staffs)

Armitage Shanks

The remains of Armitage Tunnel ~ strictly one way traffic here!

Large swimming pool in beautiful conservatory in the ground of this house

Trent Aqueduct


Essex Packhorse Bridge in the grounds of Shugborough Hall

Last weekend, we spent a fairly steady 2 days trading at Great Haywood.  Footfall was surprisingly low considering schools were not back until this week on the whole.

Back down through Colwich lock

Early morning, we set off in thick mist, to get down through Colwich lock and get to Rugeley for much needed shopping.

Very quiet this time in the morning except for us gently plodding along

Lovely gardens in Colwich

We managed to get moored up centrally in Rugeley, did the shopping and move the boats out of town for the night.  Randomly, we passed a hire boat with 2 familiar faces aboard from my previous life working in a secondary school 8 years ago!  We chatted for a couple of hours before they headed off to keep to their schedule.  Funny how small a world it is!

Back through the narrows at Armitage

And now we are moored above the locks at Fradley Junction.  Richard has been headhunted by his old firm again to help them out for a couple of days.  It is that time of year, where real life catches up and the prospect of paying bills etc looms heavily!  But then we can do all this again next year.....

Alvecote Festival 2015

Thank you to the organisers of this year's Historic Boat Gathering at Alvecote.  It was a great weekend and thankfully the weather behaved this year!

Wow what a lot of boats!

View across the sea of chimneys

Bit further round taking in the Cheese Boat!

Hasty and Adamant enjoying a 'steamy' tug of war!

The parade of boats ~ down to 'wind' (turn without hitting anything and within the least amount of manoeuvres) in the 'layby' and back again

I think Guvnor was just passing through but she is a beautiful boat with lovely watercans on the roof, so I think that qualifies!

Monarch with Sam on the tiller.  She did well turning the boat without any trouble!

Graham on Minnow, on the other hand, has a reputation for not negotiating quite as accurately his technique.  But this year, he surprised everyone!

Winding breasting up ~ a technique we do often with our pair

Safely back on their moorings ~ steamtugs Hasty and Adamant

Meanwhile, I had promised Richard that I would knit something for him after the jumper I knitted last winter, fitted me better.  I think he likes it........

Hillmorton to Alvecote (33 miles, 12 locks)

We are hoping that the bank holiday weekend proves better for weather than last  year at Alvecote Historic Boat Gathering.  We are attending as traders along with the Cheese, Fudge and Olive (ethnic clothing) boats, all enjoying the music and atmosphere surrounding this momentous event!

Another commission successfully completed in time for the event!

Demonstrating at the recent Hillmorton Locks anniversary event (pictures by kind permission of Michael Parmee)

Painting petals on a rose

Last few stages

My first time demonstrating was not as scary as I thought.  Thank you to everyone who showed an interest.  Hopefully we all learnt something!

Peaceful moorings below Hillmorton

After Hillmorton, we relaxed for a few days below the locks and got some jobs done on the boat.  Now Jjinad is nameless.  The watercan was requested to be returned to the old owner, which we did, and the panels with her name on have been sanded and repainted by Richard in readiness for the new name 'Eclipse'.  Not very original but it goes well we think with the butty (Echoes) and the Star class design, her hull is based on.

Lovely decoration under some of the bridges around Rugby

Setting off again, with Road and Tracy on their boats Biddie and Olive, the convoy of 4 boats has slowly wound it's way towards Alvecote for this weekend.

Following Richard on cross-straps

Whilst I was at Hillmorton, I received a request for a very large order of canalware from a marina I haven't supplied to for a while. A bit of bad timing really considering it's proximity to the festivals we are attending in the next few weeks!  So I have been getting the stock back up to a good level, sending good long days in my butty workshop.

The boys, Reilly and Lister, just take it all in their stride!

Some overgrown bits on bends under bridge holes...

Love this boat

Lots of Piebalds and .... a Shetland?  Perhaps he got the wrong field, bless!

So now we await the weekend excitedly as more and more historic boats arrive and find their moorings....