Friday 27th March
We left Hopwas Woods at 9.15, with chiffchaffs singing and the Tame visible down through the trees below the towpath.
Last time we were this way (some years ago) a huge area around the Tamhorn bridges was covered with polytunnels. Now that land has been returned to arable, and the polytunnels re-sited further north near the Hademore bridges. They cover hundreds of yards along the canal and each one seems to be around a hundred yards long. We couldn’t see what was inside but it was in wide ridges and we guessed it might be asparagus, as we saw that growing in the open here last time. As asparagus is a perennial crop (ie isn’t replanted every year, like potatoes) it would seem likely. You wouldn’t want to shift all those tunnels to cultivate the ground every year.
At Whittington we came to the last of the Birmingham and Fazeley bridges (which have names, rather than numbers). Here it is, Whittington Bridge, and soon after passing that we rejoined the Coventry Canal.
The canal here is on an embankment and you can see right down into the gardens of the executive-style houses below. No-one was around (it is still rather cold for using their expensive garden furniture after all) but they left this fetching young lady to keep an eye on passers-by. She seems happy in spite of the cold!
A little later we passed Gnome Corner.. I wonder what shenanigans have been going on for Police Tape to be deployed?
At Lichfield Boat Club Mrs Swan was busy with a little light housekeeping.
Our original plan was to stop at Fradley tonight and maybe eat in the Swan, before tootling off to Tixall for Saturday night before finishing on Sunday afternoon at Aston Marina, where we will be leaving the boat for a few weeks. But we were getting concerned about the weather forecast. The wind was manageable at Friday lunchtime, though there were some strong gusts, but we didn’t fancy mooring at (or indeed leaving) Tixall Wide in the wind and certainly didn’t want to start faffing around trying to moor in a marina once it got really bad on Sunday. So we pushed on round Fradley junction, up Shade House Lock (where there was plenty of space to moor had we stayed) and on to Woods Lock.
I got pretty warm working the locks but had to put all my layers on again after this. It was quite difficult to take the obligatory photo at Armitage Shanks today – the toilets were largely obscured by piles of pallets.
Luckily for us, the boat that had been some way in front had stopped to check for oncoming craft before Armitage Tunnel, so we could just follow it through. (Armitage is an ex-tunnel really – the roof was removed in 1971 because of mining subsidence, so it’s just a narrow cutting now).
The creepy figure at the moorings just past here seems to be getting tanked up for a karaoke night – that is a microphone in his left hand! He already seems a little the worse for wear, but I think that is more to do with my not holding the camera level….
Rugeley power station soon started rearing its ugly head on the skyline as we pressed on towards the new Tesco at bridge 66, where we had a quick stop for provisions, before crossing the Trent aqueduct at Brindley Bank, following which the new 48 hour mooring has just opened. We didn’t stop here, as the earth hasn’t all grassed over yet and we’ve got enough mud on the boat already thanks to our four-legged friend.
We carried on towards Taft Bridge. The wind was strong but in the right direction to help us moor, and there was enough light left for Dave to polish the port side.
A long day today; 16 miles, 3 locks, the Fradley swing bridge (opened for us by a walker) and more than 7 hours cruising in the cold.