We seem to be travelling more slowly than when we set off last July. Perhaps we learned to slow down, or perhaps it is that it isn’t a heat wave (sometimes I wished I had gloves and a hat) or it may be that we haven’t had big flights of locks that had to be covered all at once, and no particular deadline. All the locks have been well spaced. We have stopped early enough for an evening or late afternoon stroll. We investigated the small village of Aston-on-Trent, which had a big jubilee display, for the size of the village, a peach tree and a very old church dating back to the 7th century.
Its off set clock makes space for the bell ringers – how forward thinking and considerate!
The next day was a sun and shower mixture. There is often a debate about when to stop for lunch. Rain coming can be a good reason. Towards the end of the Trent, the Shardlow Heritage Centre was a good place to have lunch and visit a bit of canal history. I was interested in the reconstruction of a working boat living quarters and the illustration of crocheted “ear covers” (apparently to keep off flies) in a labelled diagram of canal horse tack. We also found out from the very chatty lady with a great memory for dates and a passion for researching and sharing information, that it was not always a horse, a donkey was also used and indeed humans, as large horses did not fit under the bridges. The tiny place was crammed with exhibits and two display cases had jubilee memorabilia over the years. I wonder what was displaced, she didn’t say. She had been enjoying the sun as we arrived, but said rain had been forecast and it was now overcast.
We set off and went to the end of the Trent and Mersey Canal and on to the River Trent for a short while. The lock keeper at the end showed a lot of interest in our quiet boat and then saw another boat coming and asked if we were happy to wait for it and re opened the gates. The boat that joined us were also very chatty. We had already met them going the other way. On exit the lockkeeper offered advice on a safe approach to the large lock to enter the Erewash Canal: go past the entrance and turn back into it. I just managed to open the gates, with a family watching. As Shane entered I heard the man say “Impressive!” – I don’t think it was my muscles he was impressed by, but not sure if he was admiring the lock gates, Bartimaeus, or Shane’s driving.
We moored up near a pub but it did not serve late so it was another made up dish à la Clare. There was time for an evening stroll, checking out the floating houses, where we surprised a heron looking for his tea and heard a cuckoo!
Today started by going backwards to the water point. A manoeuvre Shane did easily making good use of the bow thruster. Then we set off along a very nice clear bit of canal. We could see lots of fish in the water. Later in the morning we saw a heron catch one much larger than any we had seen so far. We would have loved a picture, but it took off with its prize to a nearby field to eat in peace.
Later still, Shane saw a tern dive down and catch a fish and fly off again. We also saw quite a few very young baby moorhens getting fed by their parents. This group of cygnets stayed very close to their parents too.
With plenty weed we did have to clear the propeller a few times, but I like to see it and there were lots of yellow water lilies too. Though a pretty quiet canal now, the large mill buildings showed it had once been a busy area. Some are now turned into housing and nicely converted. With the huge windows they looked an attractive place to stay. Some residents waved as we passed.
We stopped for lunch at the village of Sandiacre. We had stopped earlier, when it rained, but by the time we had tied up, the rain had stopped so, we moved on to be nearer a shop and we got a good spot right next to the supermarkets. I had a strange exchange with a man, while I was trying the ropes, who asked me the name of my dog. I said I didn’t have a dog, I had a boat on a lead. He asked the name of the boat then, when he heard the name, asked if it was blind! Given that he had confused a dog with a boat, I wonder who has the eyesight problem.
I went shopping and found out from an information board that most of the mills in the area had been for lace making, not such a thriving industry these days. On the way back from the shop I had to cross at a busy junction and wait a long time for the pedestrian phase. When the light went green a car with L plates on went through and then two other cars followed after. By the time they went through, my green light was off. There was nothing coming from the right though and the driver on my left still had a red light and gestured with his hands in the air that he didn’t know either why those three cars hadn’t stopped and he waited for me to hurry over.
Mind you I had my own problems not stopping when a boat leaving a lock left only the far side gate open and as I was lining up to go in I thought the bridge was very low on that side. Our boat must be higher than his and as I was already well under the roof scraped slightly on the bridge and the “pramcover” caught a sprinkling of brick. Mental note to remember boats are not all the same height and think which side to open and be prepared to stop and change course.
No other locks today had a bridge in front anyway. Each lock had its challenges though, with gates that were heavy to move or kept swinging open or had anti vandal mechanisms. But it has been a sunny afternoon and we have found a very pretty section of wild flowers, rather than rushes that made mooring attractive. So pretty that someone else stopped to take a picture just when I was doing the same.