Tixall Wide (2)

Albert moored up in the Wide

On our second day mooring at Tixall Wide the weather finally brightened up. We took ourselves off to Shugborough Hall again to take advantage of their guided tours. We signed up for two; the Private Apartments, which is mostly about Patrick Litchfield, and the Voyages of Admiral George Anson. It turned out that we were the only two for the first and there were only two other takers for the second, so it was a bit like having a private viewing. Both were fascinating despite the subject matters being so different and centuries apart.

Another fine display of rhododendrons

We had lunch at the Lady Walk Tea Rooms before visiting the excellent Servants Quarters. We returned back to Albert with the best weather of the day but not before sampling the Lockside Tea Rooms which we have passed many times without sampling.

Buckby Cans
The evening weather was the best of the day and we again saw the sun set over Tixall Wide, surely one of the "musts" of English canal boating.

Maggie doing cross stitch

Sunset, reflections, shadows and contrails at Tixall Wide

Tixall Wide

We are on a long weekend at Tixall. Yesterday we travelled up to Stone (by rail as usual) and left Aston Marina for Weston. Before we left we got our provisions at the marina farm shop and had lunch in the bistro. The marina swans are growing quickly. The pen was feeding her three cygnets with grass from the bank.

Pen and cygnets at Aston Marina

We cruised south through Sandon in drizzle, moored up at Weston and explored the village. It was looking spick and span as they have entered the Best Kept Village competition. The village green is impressive.

Just before we went out for the evening we were visited by a pen and her cygnets. She had five cygnets in tow but it was difficult to tell exactly how many since some of the cygnets kept hitching a ride on her back.
Can I have a lift?

Best seat!

That night we ate at the Woolpack which is popular local. They were doing an offer on a free bottle of wine for every couple. Ours is now in Albert's fridge.

We awoke at around 4:30 to the dawn chorus, fell back to sleep and were rudely awakened at 6:00 by two Canada geese having an argument. Eventually they were driven off by the male swan. He also attacked Albert as we left. He had had a go at us earlier in the year and with young to protect he has lost none of his aggressive instincts. He continued chasing us for about half a mile.

Cob attacking Albert's stern fender

Maggie at Weston Lock, note the new can

We had an uneventful trip down to Great Haywood and turned onto the Staffs & Worcester. We found Tixall Wide relatively quite and chose a suitable spot to moor up.

 Growing strawberries on tables - not so back-breaking for hand picking
A CRT piling crew working near Great Haywood Junction

On the Friday afternoon we took a circular walk to Tixall Lock, Milford, into Shugbrough Estate for tea at the National Trust Team Room, and then back to Tixall via Great Heywood. The weather was dull, which was not as promised, but at least it wasn't raining.
NB Shakespeare at Tixall Lock

Tixall Lock Farm from Shugborough Estate.
(The crane near the lock can be seen; the River Sow is in the foreground)

Rhododendrons at Shugborough

Bee covered with pollen feeding on rhododendron

Tomorrow we shall spend another day at Tixall and will probably look around the mansion at Shugborough.

Crick Boat Show 2014

Crick Marina
Along with thousands of others we looked at the weather forecast for the weekend and decided that Sunday was the best of the three days to visit Crick. Arriving at Junction 18 we found ourselves in a long queue, some of it caused by congestion as the result of a breakdown on the M1 southbound carriageway, but most it due to heavy show traffic. It took a long time to negotiate the roundabout, where there was some confusion,  but eventually we got into an orderly queue along the A428. After one-and-a-half hours we finally got into the showground and then met the mud! The marshalling staff were doing a great job, because by midday the car parks were quite full, the mud meant that many cars, including ours, had to be pushed into a space.

A sea of mud

No wonder we didn't have much grip!

Getting into the site from the car parks was no problem since there were no queues. We celebrated getting into the show with a Cornish Pastie and sat and watched the Old Grey Dogs play bluegrass.

We then toured the pavillions and I went mad and bought a replacement Buckby can. The can from our first boat Bertie was decprated by Ron Hough and was given to me by Maggie for my 50th birthday, some 17 years ago. It has for some time sat alongside its larger "brother" on the roof of Albert. 

Bertie and Albert cans in better days (2008)

However, like its owner, it's beginning to show its age; its paint is peeling off. I think the very cold weather in spring 2013 must have really taken its toll. Our new can was from Sue Woodward from Long Buckby Wharf. We admire her work a lot and look forward to placing it on the roof next to our "Albert" can. Sue suggested that it may be one the last cans she decorates. 

Our new Buckby Can 

We toured the static (that is out of water) boats, looking at their steel work (some of which was somewhat less than perfect), and then visited the floating exhibits. The boats in the marina were creating a lot of interest with queues to go onboard.

Busy on the showboats

Among the showboats there were a few historic boats including President and Raymond. Kathryn Dodington from Stoke Bruerne was helping to display the Canal Museum's working boat Sculptor.

Kathryn on board Sculptor

 After bumping into a number of our boating friends, and visiting some more stands, we decided to take advantage of the Waterways World VIP pass and visit the Vintage Tea Room. Even inside the team room tent it was muddy, with the staff wearing wellies; they still managed to serve a delicious cream tea.  

Friendly service in wellies!

We were joined at our table by a couple and got talking about boating adventures, as you do. The conversation then wandered onto boat names. Since their boat had a Welsh name I proffered the trivial fact that as an Englishmen I had two years of Welsh when at school in Cardiff. As the conversation moved further on we discovered that I had attended the same primary school as the husband, just a few years apart: what a small world!

Pootling around Stone in May

From last Thursday until Sunday we went pootling on the Trent & Mersey around Aston Marina. As chance had it we had four days of wonderful spring weather. On the Thursday we polished the cabin sides using our power polisher. The night was very calm and a hot air balloon floated very slowly overhead, using its burner quite a lot. I think we've seen this balloon before near Barlaston.

Balloon over Aston Marina

On Friday we headed south and moored up at Burston. It is a lovely little hamlet with a mill pond and a good pub, the Greyhound. We went exploring the village; the hedgerows were abundant and quite a picture.

Moored at Burston

Burston Millpond (being repaired)

Whilst we were moored up at Burston, NB No Problem with Sue and Vic arrived and we had a good chat. As we talked we heard the unmistakable sounds of a Bollinder coming down the canal from Stone. It was NB Spey, one of the former Thomas Clayton tar boats. 

NB No Problem with NB Spey passing

NB Spey heading south

That night we returned to Aston to have meal at The Bistro with Maggie's brother and sister-in-law. We so enjoyed the trip we repeated it on Saturday with our friends Anne and Edward Winter who drove over from Sheffield.

Cattle cooling-off in the canal
Swan family at Aston Marina, cygnets being fed grass

On Sunday we returned home by rail. Unfortunately the journey was disrupted when the train arrived at Rugby. The driver, who was due to take the London Midland train on to Euston, failed to turn up for work! We had to swap to another train, half-an-hour later, which was full. We felt a bit sorry for the poor guard who was left to pick up the pieces with no obvious way of returning to Crewe. 

Evening panorama at Aston Marina

Canal Museum Stoke Bruerne

For some years I have been a member of the Friends of the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne. I have been keen to support the museum where I could but to date other commitments have not made it easy. However, I have recently dipped my toe in the water by offering to help leading guided heritage walks. So far, along with others, I am in training. All very interesting and at the moment the group is "feeling our way forward". There is still lot to learn about Stoke Bruerne.

Here is a video of news about the reopening of the museum after the refurbishment.