Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shugborough Hall

Sunday 22nd August

We have tried many times to visit Shugborough when passing by on the T&M but have failed for numerous reasons including it being closed or the Trent flooding the grounds. This time we decided to moor up on Saturday, lock up and take the car to visit it instead.

The front of the servants quarters.

We arrived just before 11am and immediately visited the craft exhibits situated in the old stables between the entrance and the main house. We left here a little poorer due to the purchase of a couple of very nice turned Birch goblets which we'd watched one of being made whilst chatting to the lathe operator and his wife. We also explored the walled gardens.

We then decided we needed some sustenance before hitting the main house so we visited the restaurant and had a wonderful cooked meal. In future I would consider stopping here and wandering in from the boat just to eat an excellent meal as you would not need to pay the full admission fee to do so and the food was that good. I had game casserole whilst Brenda had a chicken breast cooked in a tarragon sauce. Both meals came with two types of potato, broccoli and parsnips. Excellent!

chandelier The estate was quite interesting being split into three sections, the main house, the servants quarters and the farm.

Brenda fell in love with the chandelier (pictured left) in the main room. We finished the visit with an ice cream and then set off for home at about 3:30.

I would recommend this visit to any passing boater even though the ticket pre-booking system is not practical, we had a great day out even at the full 'on the day' price!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

A short penultimate day

A short run to a suitable 14 day mooring for our penultimate day on this trip. I hoped an early start would allow me to fetch the car from Stafford before it started raining - WRONG - I got a good drenching during the last two miles on the Di Blasi to Stafford Boat Club. We breakfasted on Staffordshire Oatcakes with 3 varieties of home made preserves  before passing down through Meaford flight meeting only one northbound boat at the bottom lock. Good to see the top lock gate paddle ratchet has been mended since I reported it to the BW guy at Etruria last Monday. We continued down through Stone locks and then stopped to visit Aston Marina for a look see. They have a very good butchers stocking unusual meats like goat and venison as well as a deli and a selection of wines and local beers for sale in their farm shop. The prices in the shop were not of a Lidl standard but the selection of stock was high quality including upmarket ready meals available in frozen or chilled form. I got a couple of frozen croisants and chocolatines for tomorrows breakfast from their self service section. Laundrette facilities are also available to passing boaters with £3 giving you a wash and dry. We didn't check out the Bistro menu as MegaPixie has promised me a tinned Fray Bentos steak and ale pie (eat your heart out Beeky!) for dinner tonight but the establishment was very busy. We then moored up and I got the car ready for tomorrow's visit to Shugborough on the way home. Simon will be using Jannock next weekend so say hello if you see them.


Friday, August 20, 2010

'F'ingberry Jam

We started the day trying to pre-book tickets to visit Shugborough on Sunday. The saving was attractive however you have to collect booked tickets from Stafford theatre and the box office doesn't open on a Sunday. Useless then if you are unable to get into Stafford, no deal if you can only make Sunday, canal visitors forget it, you'll have to pay full price.

This morning we 'caused' blackberry rage! Having spotted an abundance of the blighters on the off-side we pulled over, only to find we were being followed by two other boats. There was plenty of room so we waved them by whilst hanging onto a substantial tree. As they passed us another boat arrived heading the other way. I signaled that he should stop for the overtakers. As they passed us they asked if we were OK, could they help? We explained we were harvesting blackberries and then reversed a bit after they had passed to allow the other boat a bit more room. As he came past his comments were frankly unprintable, suggesting we make up our effing minds  and why let effing boats overtake there (on a wide straight stretch?) Our explanation that when we pulled over we didn't realise there were boats behind us caused more expletives. He passed us with plenty of room and more profanities. We can only hope he has the good fortune  to meet inexperienced boaters in excessively long boats on tight and shallow bends during his trip on the Caldon ;^)

If the owner of the rather smart jacket that I had to clear off our prop after passing through Ivy House lift bridge would like to contact us I'll tell him which skip it resides in at Etruria.

On arrival at Planet lock we discovered that Cap'n expletive had caused some nasty paintwork damage to the first of the overtaking boats when they passed each other. We also had difficulty working all three boats through due to an obstruction behind the towpath lower gate and so I notified the lengths man at Etruria when we stopped for water. We saw that the Bywater hotel boats had winded at Etruria and we pointed back up the Caldon so there is hope for a spectacular meeting with Cap'n expletive as well as the boat they damaged yesterday.

We stopped for the evening at Oldroad bridge near the Wedgewood factory. I managed to polish the whole of Jannock's starboard side and Brenda made four pounds of blackberry jam before the rain set in.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

We beat the rain again ;^)

Yet another very peaceful night, is it our overnight mooring choice or Jannock's new(ish) double glazing having this effect? We breakfasted whilst watching squirrels in the trees opposite gathering food whilst dangling precariously over the river. We then set off up the Churnet by 10 am, passing through Cheddleton and Denford before finally stopping at Park Lane Sani. Stn. where I used the wonderful shower facilities. Whilst we were moored there another boater was busy taking note of all of the BW telephone numbers he could find on the notice board. It would appear that he has been struck by the butty Karmataka, of the Bywater Hotel boat pair, and had suffered serious damage. He was most miffed that they had not stopped or shown any concern at all despite their guests bracing themselves for the impact. I gave him our 2009 copy of the Waterways World annual which contained all their contact details. Above Stockton Brook locks we happened across a BW volunteer work party busy clearing undergrowth from the bankside and tarting up the lock with fresh white paint. They had a tug and lighter which was blocking the bridge-hole on our arrival. They moved out and beckoned us forward without realising that another BW work-boat was ascending the top lock and we would have no-where to go if we'd moved forward. Brenda finally got Jannock through and into the lock once the other work-boat had come out through the bridge. We continued on to stop for the night at Milton and had moored up and moved inside just before it started raining hard and two hours later it is still doing so.


What? The Black Lion is shut!

Wednesday 18th August

Last night's mooring near Denford aqueduct was so quiet that we had a lazy start this morning. Round to the junction and then a very tight turn into the three Hazelhurst locks and back to Denford again. We continued on through Cheddleton locks and then stopped just after Basford bridge to go in search of a post-box. Mission accomplished we returned to Jannock and had lunch during a very heavy rainstorm. After lunch we continued on to Consall Forge where it rained again as we arrived. We filled the water tank and then winded and moored up for the night. The Black Lion has a sign on the door saying they will be closed all day Wednesday due to a planned power outage by their REC for some tree trimming work up the hillside. Luckily I have it on good authority that they will be opening in the evening so I'll still get my dinner ;^)

All afternoon during our run down from Cheddleton and our stay here there has been a DMU and a steam hauled train passing back and forth on the Churnet Valley Railway.

The Black Lion opened at 6:30 in the evening but were not serving their usual menu. They were only doing filled baps and baguettes so we ordered and added chips and onion rings to bulk it out into a main meal. We need not have bothered with the extras for when the hot beef baguette arrived it was about 15" long and really loaded which made it a lot to eat. We both had great difficulty in finishing our meals and felt totally bloated in the end. Brenda tried the 7% rum matured cider whilst I stuck to Celtic Gold bitter although I did finish the evening with a pint of Dartmoor IPA. We definitely recommend this establishment now it is in new hands.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quiz night at the Holly Bush

Tuesday 17th August

Well ...... last week, whilst at home, we had a text message from BW telling us that Jannock had been reported as showing an out of date mooring licence and how much money we needed to send to rectify the problem quick sharp. I rang the sender and explained that I only paid for a BW EOG mooring for the winter months when Jannock is at her mooring and spent the summer weekending around the system and not on my mooring. The BW person on the end of the phone found it very confusing as their computer did not specify my mooring as winter only. I suggested that as they had seen the boat on the Shropshire Union then it was unlikely to be a summer mooring either.

So ...... should we now ring her again and tell her that boat registration number 4000196 on the Caldon is showing an out of date licence (by 4 months now) and no mooring licence at all. It is after all one of theirs! (We know it doesn't need a mooring licence as it is a workboat - but fair's fair) The next one we passed, not 30 minutes later, was 'Not Displaying' at all.  Come on BW, you make the rules!

We thought we'd go as far as possible along the Leek branch, moor up and then enjoy the delights of Leek on the morrow (market day apparently). We went through the tunnel, winded and then found no free moorings, they were all occupied. Two hire boats were locked up and abandoned to we thought they might move on before too long but they was no-where to wait for their return. So, having abandoned all shopping plans, we returned towards the junction and moored for the night by the aqueduct so that I could get some work done on Jannock (repack stern tube, adjust neutral switch and radio aerial filter) when the hire boats cruised past - Bah Humbug!

After dinner we went for a walk and wandered into the Holly Bush for a drink where we ended up helping a local quiz team, well joining it really! Brain cells were lubricated by a delicious perry straight from the barrel and Theakston's Grouse Beater. After the quiz Hot Staffordshire Oatcakes stuffed with cheese were served, a very pleasant evening.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The sun came out today

Our timing was perfect as we set off, the locks set by a boat coming down but not taken by the boat that followed us closely. We met Will Chapman on Quiditch and had another 'bobbing about' chat. At Etruria we set off to find the Pakistani shop recommended by the Gecko crew. We found it and bought more snacks than we should, savoury and sweet. Note to Geckos :- we got Citric Acid there, no questions asked. Onto the Caldon, spotting lush blackberry bushes ready for jam making. As we approached Milton we saw an advertising hoarding for the Millrace pub "Home Cooked Food". Himself, in the hope of a beer, offered to treat me to supper. We entered a rather nice pub ( turn left if you don't want huge TV), ordered a rather nice pint and a menu. "We dont serve anything other than a hot pie or baps" was the response. We pointed out that the canalside notice said otherwise. "Gets the punters here" was the answer. Mine host did recommend the local Indian so we went there instead. Head South from the canal bridge, through most of the village and it's in the old bank premises at the traffic lights. (For chippie turn right at the lights) We had a super meal, the veg was fresh even in the curries, real indian deserts were available and we had to turn down the complementary drinks as we'd eaten so well. They do take-aways too! info at


Sunday, August 15, 2010

A day for meeting friends

I started the morning carrying out a repair to the TV aerial system and Peter and Margaret stopped for a chat as they were on their way out for the day. Repair completed we set off North to join a 4 boat queue for Hoo Mill lock. Near Weston we met Brenda and Brian (BCNS) heading south so hovered stern to stern midstream whilst catching up on a whole years gossip. Above Aston lock moored nb Red Admiral was displaying a Cutweb sticker but there didn't appear to be any sign of life aboard. At Stone we met a newby who was causing a 4 boat traffic jam at the approach to Star lock. His in-experience was due to the fact that he'd just picked up his latest Ebay purchase - an old narrowboat - and as he'd no experience or knowledge he was regretting his purchase already.  Buyer beware par excellence. We hailed Nigel aboard ndb Enseabee as we slowly passed by on our way out of town before finally mooring for the night before Meaford locks. Here I fitted the new bicycle rack that I've fabricated for the stern rail and chained the bike onto it before retiring for the night. Brenda tested her new (to replace the one broken during Matt's cruise) slow cooker and did an excellent joint of beef ready for when we moored up. Delicious.


Jannock heads back to the Caldon

Saturday 14th August

We arrived at Stafford Boat Club during a showery period and so spent a couple of hours getting Jannock ship shape after Matt's cruise. En-route from home we visited Aldi in Cannock to get some bread as Brenda had left her newly made loaf at home. Whilst there she was tempted by their "half chicken in Piri Piri sauce" from the chiller cabinet. 20 minutes in the oven and we can heartily recommend it as an affordable tasty treat. Our plans to do the Severn and Avon have been shelved in preference for a peaceful return to the Calden which will place the boat in a suitable location for Simon to use her over the bank holiday weekend. I reversed Jannock back to the winding hole and turned her whilst we chatted to Ann (nb Margarita) and her husband who had wandered across from their boat to introduce themselves. Nice to finally put a face to a Canals list poster. We set off North towards Tixhall wide with hopes of being able to moor there but all spaces were occupied and so we continued on to Great Haywood where we moored bow to bow with nb Gecko. Peter and Margaret joined us for an enjoyable evening before we finally called it a night at midnight.


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Biscuit Pirates and other Ne'er Do Wells hoist the Jammie Dodger.

Crew: Mat - Cap’n Garibaldi, Robin- Custard Cream. Ben - pirate Bourbon Benji,

Jonny - Fleet Commander Fox's and newly pressed Varney- pirate Nice.

Saturday 31st July

Here you will find the tales...nay the chronicles of the Biscuit Pirates. My crew travelled hard and far to meet at the good ol' tub Jannock. (Thanks Dad) With an 'argh' and a 'hoorah' we set off just as the cruel Mistress Drizzle backed off. Me crew looked like an untrustworthy bunch of landlubbers, and they are, but they took to the seas extraordinarily. Five locks later we came to shore after already having stopped for a flaggon earlier. (could have been worse, could have been a floggin'. ed.)We were enticed by the mystical arse tree (pics to follow). Drinks and joviality were to be had late into the night, with a few falling over mishaps (Ben).

Biscuits consumed: fig rolls, custard creams, Fox's crunch, malted milk, cookies.

Sunday 1st August

We set out for our first real voyage, a whole day of cruising, yargh! A flight of 20 locks lay ahead. After some hours of cruising and near enough 20 locks we sighted land and set ashore for a carvery and a beer at the pirate friendly Bridge Inn. With full bellies and an eye full of norks we boarded our vessel for the last locks and started looking for a place to weigh anchor. Pirate Nice (pronounced niece, it's a biscuit see? ed.)was initiated to the helm and once he'd learned left from left (right) he was as scurvy as the scurviest of sea/cut dawgs. We went ashore certain of an evening of rum and liars' dice. Yargh!!!

Biscuits consumed: Hobnobs, Bourbons, Pink wafers, cookies.

Monday 2nd August

We started the day off with 2 locks and bacon and brie sandwiches made by Fleet Commander Fox's. After that we cruised for a few hours to find many deep locks, none of which the Cap'n couldn't handle. We travelled through a very gray town and by about 7 we decided to moor up after we saved a girl from a silty, watery grave. Yargh! Pirate Nice cooked up a BBQ on the bank, 24 burgers and 8 sausages. We then sat and watched the sun set with a few beers until retiring for some gambling and more beers. It was a good day yargh.

Biscuits disposed of: 1 pack Jaffa cakes, 2 of Bourbons, custard creams and cookies.

Tuesday 3rd August

Today began with the usual cheer of 'Yargh!' from all of the crew before setting sail for Heartbreak Hill. many a double lock was encountered along the way, but each was made light work by the skilled crew. We stopped to pillage the wares possessed by the folks at Lock 57 and had ourselves some drinks and merriment at the nearby pub. Though we were tempted to loot and plunder the establishment for failing to provide food for our bellies we decided to try our remaining meat and eggs. Chef Jonny (Fox's)was displaying his fine cooking skills again. Later that evening pirate Bourbon Benji cooked up a mean lasagne to quench our thirst for meat and cheese. The evening ended with cards, beer and more cheer. (wot, no biscuits? ed.)

Wed 4th August

Me crew were up 'n at 'em early on a flea-bitten, extremely wet day. Leaving port at about 10.00 hrs the locks started immediately and clad in ship's waterproofs even these were made light work of. Captain Garibaldi piloted Harecastle Tunnel, claiming to be the responsible adult, ya-har-hargh! Landlubbers be easily fooled. Bourbon Benji left a souvenir, in the form of the magic light-box that requires neither gas nor candle. (That'll be Jannock's emergency zillion candle-power tunnel torch then ed.) A quick resupply of water after the tunnel was followed by a well deserved lunch of leftover lasagne with extra pasta mixed in. Lots of cruising and locks led us to turn into the Caldon Canal. It's extremely windy and quite nasty to start with but don't let that put you off. It's quite Birminghamesque but soon turns picturesque and nice and lovely. We stopped on a precarious mooring in order to be as close to the pub as possible. Good thing too as yet again we left with bellies full o' grub and eyes full of norks.

Thurs 5th Aug.

Our day began with the usual stirring of bodies at half 9ish. We set of fairly promptly after a walk to the local Co-op for more biscuity supplies. We pressed on down the Caldon at a good pace. The scenery kept on getting better throughout the day. A short lift given to some kids who really wanted to go on a real canal boat was granted after having spoken to a parent on the phone to make sure it was OK. As we passed more and more scenes of nice traditional buildings to do with the flint and limestone industries of the past, including a waterwheel, we were oblivious to the haven around the corner. The most amazing pub, 'The Black Lion' was the centre for our amusement, surrounded by lush, dense forest the pub is set back from a railway as well as the cut. Chickens roam the garden as well as crazy regulars. The cider selection was AMAZING. Both the rum and whiskey casked scrumpies were favourite @ 7.5% with the strongest being Ruby Soozie @ 10.5%. Black Hole, a local bitter/stout also comes highly recommended. We met a nice couple from the elder generation, called Andy and Liz who live aboard their boat. An extremely comical pair that we all got on extremely well with. So after Bourbon Benji had finished destroying the train station - you can't take him anywhere - we returned to the boat and ended up drinking the night away chatting rubbish with Andy and Liz, and offering Varney up for adoption.

Friday 6th Aug

The day began with a hefty hangover shared by all after much cloudy cider. We gave our last goodbyes to Liz and Andy and set off back down the Caldon. We made it all the way to civilization only to get a huge chunk of carpet around the prop. After pulling it out we made our way down the Trent and Mersey. We pushed as hard as we could to catch up on lost time, testament to this was catching up with a boat that had left half a day before us. A way down the Trent and Mersey we came to a section of canal with high concrete walls where we opened up the full power of the mighty Jannock. We finally moored up, had a few drinks, some card games and some more biscuties (sic) followed by bed.

Saturday 7th Aug.

With the holiday approaching the end we made haste to reach our destination before dark. Again the temporary crew of Jannock sprung into life to ensure we got there in plenty of time. Once again we encountered our Anglo-Irish friends whom we had overtaken and been overtaken by many times throughout the course of the week. Clearly we had the locking down to fine art! Once again Jonny organised a lovely pizza lunch which was consumed on the move to save time. After another few hours of steady cruising, and overtaking, dinner followed courtesy of Robin, a very cheesy affair. Soon we found ourselves at our destination, The Stafford Boat Club. We met with the folk at the club, all very friendly and hospitable, had some drinks at an extremely reduced price and talked about the events of the past week. An immensely enjoyable week had by all.