Tuesday 15th August; Shugborough to Handsacre
After a wet night it was a lovely sunny morning. There were a lot of boats going by as we had breakfast but most were going up Haywood lock. One boater commented, as we made ready to leave, that CRT ought to suspend the moorings closer to the lock in the summer as it was always so congested. She had a point; two boats were already hovering waiting for the chance to get onto the lock mooring. With the ground paddle out of action at the top it was taking ages for the lock to fill.
We left at about 10, with a short wait at Colwich lock as someone came up, and made our way to Rugeley. Over the Trent (shame about the fence)
to Brindley Bank, the site of the murder in 1839 of Christina Collins. She had paid for a passage from Liverpool to London, where her husband had gone to look for work, but was murdered along the way by the boatmen she had engaged, and her body dumped at the Bloody Steps. But I can’t work out if the steps went up or down. Was the body carried UP the steps to the Talbot Inn? The Talbot Inn is no longer there and the only ‘up’ today is the back gardens of houses. Or down? Either way, I’m not sure I would like to live so close to the site of a murder.
There is a sculpture in Stone in her memory, just below one of the locks. I remember reading, in a recent Canal Boating Times, a modern ghost story based on the sad tale.
On our way into Rugeley I was very fortunate in taking a picture of a swan family at ease on the bank at the very moment a spaniel came barrelling round the corner. The cob leapt to the defence of his family in an instant and that dog certainly changed direction pretty quickly! We could clearly hear the hiss of the cob above the noise of the engine.
We stopped at Bridge 66 for a stock-up shop at Tesco. Then after lunch we went into town to find the only cycle shop in the area (Peloton, in Horsefair) to get a new inner tube for the bike. We bought two, reasoning that if one had failed at the valve the other probably would quite soon. The car park behind Iceland has recycling bins so we cleared that too.
On our way out of Rugeley we took the regulation photographs. Construction of the power station began in 1965 but it was decommissioned last year and demolition is scheduled to begin later this year.
I have always found this figure, at the end of the moorings west of the Armitage Tunnel, rather creepy. He has been raising his glass to passers-by for years. The picture seems rather blurred; he must have been drinking for so long it has affected the photographs. Can’t be my
lack of photography skills.
And the last obligatory photo should have been of toilets but I failed! I had foolishly put the kettle on a while before and it started to whistle at the worst possible moment – when I came out again I had just missed a lorry with a full load of the things. So annoying. So I took a snap of the factory instead.
We had to wait ages for three boats to come through the narrow section at Armitage. There used to be a tunnel here, though the roof was later removed. But you still need to send a crew member ahead to check for, or stop, oncoming boats. I was lucky that a local boater was coming the other way and the crew had come ahead on foot to check or it would have been four. And I was further through the narrow bit, so we won. It must be awkward for single-handers.
We moored on an attractive sunny stretch soon after Handsacre. The towpath edge wasn’t perfect so pins had to be placed with care. At the back we had crossed pins, but at the front crossed pins moved when the first boat went by so I changed to a triangle arrangement, don’t know if it has a proper name, but it worked much better than crossed pins in the soft ground.
It was a very pleasant spot. Dave replaced the faulty inner tube on the bike before we relaxed in the evening sunshine. Though if you look you can just see my chair to the left of the picture. I was in charge of getting the relaxation going you understand.
8 miles 1 lock.