Sunday 20 June 2021


 Today's Canal - Trent and Mersey

The forecast band of rain eventually arrived during the night and had just about cleared by the time we awoke. It was, however, distinctly chilly and as soon as we ventured outside we quickly added layers of clothing!

As we left our overnight mooring it was pretty grey and remained that way for the rest of the day, despite a few valiant but failed attempts by the sun to break through the clouds.

We continued on out of the town and the landscape gradually became even more rural, even though we had to put up with the incessant traffic noise from the A38 util much later in the day. In the area where the River Dove joins the Trent there are numerous small streams that cross the line of the canal, each bridged by an aqueduct. It seems that there is some subtle distinction between an aqueduct and a stream culvert - although the latter are always somewhat smaller.

The old Eggington Bridge is still usable but almost all the traffic now takes the modern dual carriageway.

A fiercely pollarded tree is beginning to fight back but at present is stark against the grey sky. Look rather like the baobab trees that Windows is currently using a login screen.

On the edge of Willington we spotted a house with what looks like a small dome attached to its roof. Perhaps the owner is an astronomer?

As we arrived into Willington, Christine spotted some doormats for ale from the fender maker's boat. We pulled in and she made her choice from the range on offer and it now replaces a worn our mat at the bottom of our back steps. Having stopped we took the opportunity to chat with the fender maker about a replacement front fender for Alchemy - the original was now looking the worse for wear. The front fender, more than any other, gets considerable use when in a lock so it it always best to consider it a long term consumable. We actually replaced the one on our previous boat just here, several years ago. We are not sure whether it was the same maker! He gave Mike some assistance and advice in fixing it and after some  audible grunting and groaning it was deemed to be well fitted.

Shortly after setting off once more we passed the first wide beam on this canal - it is narrow above Dallow Lane. There has been quite a growth in the number of wide boats on the canal network and is, in places, quite controversial. Clearly, the construction of this section of canal was intended to allow large barges to trade up from Shardlow to Burton carrying the output from the breweries. However, such working boats rarely moored other than at the wharves they served, where there would be room for them. The modern wide beam boats are regularly tied up at almost anywhere that a narrowboat is allowed and this can create problems when the space is arguably not enough - especially as some of the boat steerers are less experienced than the commercial workers of the past.

The cooling towers of the former Willington Power Station are still standing, unlike those at Rugeley that were demolished a couple of weeks ago. It seems that once the rest of site had been cleared following the closure, it was sold off for development. The new owner submitted plans for a substantial housing development but there was significant local opposition from residents not wanting their village to change. After the plans were rejected, the site was sold on and so far there has been no agreement about is potential use. Until that happens no-one is going to spend the money on demolition.

After three hours of level cruising we arrived at Stenson Lock - this and the three that follow are particularly deep and many people complain about how hard they are to work. At this one we had the help of a volunteer lock keeper who encouraged us to get on boars so that he could work the bottom gates for us.

The lock cottage has had a large cafe added to the front which has become a popular destination for local people. The pandemic had no doubt had a dramatic impact for them but they did seem to be doing as much business today as the social distancing rules permit.

A large meadow field with lots of flourishing poppies.

At Swarkestone Lock we had to wait whilst a couple of boats came up - they had just started to empty the lock as we loomed into distance but perhaps just too late expect them to let us take the water down. And there was no lock keeper - we had thought that they were more likely to be here than the others on the way to Shardlow.

We had just a brief glimpse through the hedge of Swarkestone Hall Pavilion. Its original purpose is a matter of  debate but by the mid 19th century it had become largely derelict. In 1985 it was rescued by the Landmark Trust but even their careful restoration found that only the shell could be re-used. It remains a holiday home.

Weston Lock proved quite hard work - the very long paddle stems on the bottom gates are very 'springy' and rebounded nearly causing Mike to take a backwards tumble but he managed to recover his balance just in time.

We continued until just before Aston Lock where we found a gap in the thick hedge in the direction of the tv satellite.

Frustratingly, after we moored the evening gradually became much pleasanter with, eventually, some bright sunshine!

12.8 Miles - 3 Locks

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