Sunday 31 October 2021

Last day

Saturday 16th October; Norbury Junction

We were up at 7 and finished most of the packing before we pottered along to the wharf and easily reversed into the mooring.  Even if it had been windy there wouldn't have been a problem as there was someone on hand to take a rope.  I was in a good position to see more information about the boats that are being restored.

We were all sorted and on our way home at 9.30, feeling quite sad – even though it wasn’t Chuffed, we’d had a lovely week apart from the worry about Meg – she was almost back to normal by the time we left, charming the other hirers when they wanted to play with her.  It was strange hiring again.  No jobs waiting to be done was a bonus!  And although we would much prefer a cassette or separator toilet on our own hoped-for future boat, the pump-out type on Summer Wine was an advantage.  We made a list of what to bring if we hire again – insulated mugs for cold weather at the top of the list, with decent kitchen knives a close second.  But the bedding and towels provided were excellent.  We’d taken our own supplies for the fire and didn’t need to use the central heating at all.  We were surprised to see Summer Wine has a cratch cover, which is highly unusual on a hire boat

And as there was no hire company name on the sides we wondered if it was a privately owned boat, which it turns out it is.  The owners live in New Zealand.  We had been a bit concerned that in a hire boat we might be on the receiving end of some dismissive behaviour, but there was none at all – a boat with a cratch cover is usually assumed to be privately owned.

We drove back to the M6 by a slightly different route and passed under the Stretton Aqueduct.

Now we just have to be patient and keep checking the various websites, as not every boat for sale appears on Apollo Duck.  We have noticed that more boats are becoming available as the main season draws to a close. Fingers crossed.

I must get round to doing the total stats for our ownership of Chuffed.

58 miles, 24 locks; Cowley tunnel twice, Stretton aqueduct three times if you include driving underneath; Shroppie and Staffs & Worcester canals.  Lots of kingfishers on the Shroppie!


Thursday 28 October 2021


Friday 15th October; Brewood to Norbury Junction visitor moorings

We woke late to the happy sounds of schoolchildren in the playground echoing in the trees way above us.  We could see it was a sunny day, though it was still very shady down on the moorings.   Meg enjoyed her breakfast of chicken and potato before we all went up to the bakery for bread and some tasty snacks for lunch.  This is the obligatory photo back up the road towards Speedwell Castle, which I took yesterday – the school lollipop person was looking after the stragglers going home from school. We were far too late for him this morning!  The building is supposed to have been named for the winner of a horserace, and built with the proceeds of the successful bet.  Must have been quite long odds.

It was after 10 by the time we toddled off into the sunshine.  The shady bits were still very chilly but it was a lovely morning.  There wasn’t much boat traffic but the A5 was very busy where it runs under Stretton Aqueduct.  From a distance the pillars looked like people huddling beside the railings.  The low sun picked out the decorative details.

The lock at Wheaton Aston was against us but we were soon through.  I closed up then buzzed down to see if there was room to moor, which there was, but it took a long time for Dave to arrive – a 70-footer was doing his best to turn in the winding hole but the bow kept getting caught by the wind.  Eventually we were moored up and had a relaxed lunch in the sunshine, after which we disposed of the rubbish and then called in at That’s D’riculous, the Cheese Boat, and bought some Black Bob extra mature cheddar.  That’s now in the back of the fridge at home, where it will keep fresh in its wax coating for ages.

The sun stayed out as we cruised, though the shady bits got progressively chillier as the afternoon wore on.  It looked as though the vegetation work going on at the moment is concentrating on trees that might fall during the winter – a couple of boaters were selecting logs where the work had been finished, and the men were still busy further on.

I hope these beautiful arching trees will escape the cull and not fall down either this winter!

As I write this it is nearly Halloween, but even in mid-October boats and houses were already being decorated spookily.  Why is this?  Carved pumpkins are fun (though it was a swede when I was a child), but now it’s all fake cobwebs (which trap birds when they are draped over bushes) and plastic bats and skeletons.  It must be down to commercial considerations that we are encouraged to spend money on plastic tat that will break and be discarded?  And it seems to start earlier every year …..  Grumble grumble.....  However most of the skeletons along the canal network seem to be rather more substantial fixtures and I find them amusing, especially when they are fishing or have a witty message with them!

A witch and not a skeleton, but it is still one of my favourites.

By the time were in the cuttings on the approach to Gnosall we had our woolly hats on and I soon added a warm fleece and gloves as it was so cold – and it wasn’t even 4 o’clock.  Today was the first time we had got something round the prop, but correctly guessing it was only going to be leaves, Dave dropped into neutral for a while, and had to do that on several occasions before we moored for the night.

Cowley tunnel, north portal

Many hirers from Norton Junction stop at Gnosall on their last night, which is fine if you don’t mind getting up at 6 to return the boat before 9.  Well we did, so we opted for another hour in bed and went on to the visitor moorings at Norbury Junction.  By 5 we were inside and lighting the fire, for a cosy evening in – and starting the packing.

10½ miles, 1 lock, lots of leaves and kingfishers


Wednesday 27 October 2021

What a palaver for 6” of water!

Thursday 14th October; Moat House bridge to Brewood

Thank you to everyone who has sent their good wishes regarding Meg – she is fully recovered but with a hiccup or two along the way, as you will see.

She appeared very hungry yesterday evening, so as well as her mashed potato and the tiniest bit of bacon fat to get the tablets down her, I gave her some of her normal dried food.  Well that was a mistake! She brought the lot up, kindly waiting till we had gone to bed of course.  She needed a clean blanket but otherwise seemed absolutely fine and went back to sleep!  So we were all a bit subdued this morning, but as she seemed alert and wanting her breakfast, we decided to push on to Brewood where if necessary we could get a taxi to Penkridge.  But we only gave her mashed potato.  It was slow going this morning – It’s a bendy bit of canal and there were quite a few moored boats.  The permanent mooring at Coven Heath has a watch-dog – once he saw Meg sitting up on the locker he ran to the stern of every moored boat barking loudly.

He was wagging his tail furiously, so was he saying hello, come and play, or telling us to push off?  He was a handsome boy though.  He looks like a cross between a Staffie and a boxer.

The giraffe at the end of the moorings had company today.  The cold weather seems to have affected its knee joints, I hope they're not too painful!

Once again we had a clear run through the narrows.  It’s shady, and beautiful ferns adorn the rocky edges of the cutting.

It wasn’t long before we were passing the allotments.  I love looking at allotments and seeing what people are growing and comparing their results with mine!  Their sunflowers have done much better than mine, perhaps Wolverhampton slugs are less rapacious

At Autherley junction there were at least 5 boats waiting to turn right up the Shroppie.  We floated about under the road bridge, as with another boat hovering in front of us and the moorings before the junction fully occupied we had no option!  After 10 minutes or so a space became free on the moorings, which was lucky as two boats were approaching behind us.  Fortunately they were both going straight on towards Stourport, or maybe up the Wolverhampton flight.  I left Dave tying up to the rings, and went along to the junction to see if it was worth stopping for an early lunch.  The chap who had been having trouble holding his position mid-stream was relieved to be pulling in below the lock – with boats manoeuvring or cruising by he had been at the mercy of cross-winds, which were slight but very annoying.  It was clear we wouldn’t have too long to wait and by the time we arrived he was already rising, or was it dropping, onto the Shroppie.  We decided to crack on a bit and moor out in the country for lunch and stopped on the Armco past bridge 6.  The autumn colours had begun to show, especially when the sun came out – hazel

And cherry

Meg was hungry for her scrambled egg for lunch, but rejected all the potato as she could detect the presence of a tablet.  If she doesn’t pick up soon we will call the vet again.  There was plenty of mooring on the rings at Brewood and we all walked up to the village where the butcher sold us some skirt steak (for beef stroganoff) and chicken (for the invalid).  When we got back Meg wanted a game of ball too, and then when we went up to the Bridge for a pint she charmed all the staff, though we refused the offer of a treat, in case it upset her tummy.  It was the first time since the first lockdown that we have sat in a pub for a pint.  There wasn’t much choice of draught beer but the warm welcome and crackling fire made up for that.  We went back to the boat to eat – and Meg thoroughly approved of the chicken!  We didn’t try to get her to take the antibiotics, as we think they were only prescribed in case there was an infection, so provided she continues to improve we will forget about them.

 9 miles, 1 lock, 6” fall

Sunday 24 October 2021

On towards Autherley Junction

Wednesday 13th October; Penkridge to Moat House Bridge, no 74

It rained on and off all evening, and was grey but dry this morning.  We set off around 9, so we had a choice of destinations if Meg became ill again.  A cheerful fisherman was just setting up at the bow – there is a match this morning, but with only 20 competitors it was unlikely to cause us any delay.  We had hoped to take on water above the lock, but someone arrived as we locked up, so we just disposed of rubbish.  What a luxury not to have to bother with emptying cassettes!  As we cruised between locks it looked as though someone might have had a leak in last night’s rain – roofing felt was being lifted off here in jagged fragments.

 Filance Lock is a bit awkward with a vigorous bywash just below it, and no bollards to moor to as the lock empties.  Below the bottom gates the brickwork is worn away at gunwale level where boats have been knocked about, or over-compensated with the steering.  Dave didn't touch it I'm pleased to report!

There were quite a few boats on the move today, but no queues at the locks.  A hire boat was coming down Gailey lock so that was set ready for us.  It was very congested above the lock – two boats on the water point/lock landing, and mooring two and three deep on the wharf opposite.  With a boat holding back to allow us to get out of the lock and past the boats watering up, we pulled in at the far end of the water point to wait – there are 4 taps here, but even when two boats fill at the same time the pressure drops, so we opted to wait – and our hirer’s hose was too short to reach the vacant tap anyway.  The boat we needed to move out of the way wanted to go down the lock, and with a boat already descending, there was a bit of a wait before we could pull back.  We stopped for lunch on the visitor moorings further along.

The towpaths round here are very gritty and with last night’s rain the ropes were unpleasant to handle. You really understand why when traffic was horse-drawn the bridges needed rope guards!

I used to think these were to stop the tow-ropes being worn away on the brickwork – but no, it’s the other way round, the brickwork is being protected from the gritty ropes.  There were no more locks now until the junction with the Shroppie.  We cruised on past the Four Ashes chemical works at Calf Heath, with its forbidding signs.

The wording always seems strange to me – shouldn’t it be ‘especially when you hear an alarm’?  On we went round the bends and past the Hatherton Branch.  The Hatherton canal used to connect to the northern reaches of the Cannock Extension canal on the BCN and was a profitable concern for transporting coal, but was abandoned in 1955.  Since then large parts of the Cannock Extension canal have been destroyed by open-cast mining, and the proposed restoration by the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust is to re-route the canal to join the Wyrley and Essington near Pelsall Common.  It would be nice if that were to happen in our boating lifetime ….

The Hatherton Branch is now used for moorings, and the first lock has been adapted for use as a dry dock, as in the arm at Norton Junction.  We had hoped to moor for the night on the open stretch of piling past Deepmore bridge, but it was occupied so we went a little further on through Moat House Bridge.  It’s a bit shady, but there is little noise from the roads either side of the canal, or the railway.  Meg was up for a walk this evening and a game of ball.

6½ miles, 7 locks


Saturday 23 October 2021

Progress, of a sort

Tuesday 12th October; Penkridge

Meg enjoyed a small serving of rice and mashed potato for breakfast, but turned her nose up at the paté I'd bought specially – so no antibiotic this morning.  With a cat, you can do the stuffing-pills-down-the-protesting-throat thing, and we had the bites and scratches to prove it in years gone by, but we never managed it with our old dog.  Anyway, with Meg seeming a little better this morning we trundled off to turn round at the next winding hole.

The M6 was busy and it was in our ears for most of the journey.  Before Park Gate Lock we came to halt, where 8 or more boats were waiting to go down the lock.  We had been warned about a tree blocking the navigation; the canal was open by the time we arrived but there was a long wait while the queue cleared.  We pulled in behind the last boat, NB Skylark, whose single-handing owner was loading logs into his hold with a big grin on his face!  I put the kettle on.  Behind us was NB Soudley, an ex-Ownerships share boat which, like our old share boat NB Padworth, which we had for 8 years, was self-managed.  The sharers were some of the original owners, so we spent a happy 10 minutes comparing notes and remembering some of the Ownerships characters.

Skylark cruises off to the lock

Eventually it was our turn and we moved on through Shutt Hill lock towards Acton Trussell.  Meg was feeling well enough to sit up on the locker, her frequent perch when cruising.  She looks quite haggard – her grey eyebrows don’t help – but she was more alert than she looked.

The pretty church over the hill outside Acton Trussell appears completely isolated across the fields – its nearest neighbour semms to be the large hotel/wedding venue just round the bend.

We waited for the boat coming through Acton Bridge to pass us before we turned in the large winding hole, and returned for a lunch stop below Park Gate lock where the barley-sugar steel barrier separates the towpath from the road.  Then up the lock we went, moored opposite the Teddesley Boat Company/Bourne Boats and called in to see what they had for sale.  There was nothing suitable, but we were shown round a boat nearing completion and another, in for its first blacking, whose owners had given permission for people to see inside.  Very interesting indeed, and beautifully fitted out although some of the owners’ requirements seemed a little strange to our eyes.  A new chandlery has opened where Midland Chandlers used to be, and Dave popped in to get some WD40 to try and free up the sliding hatch which is very un-slidy.  As they have only recently opened they are still building up stock, so there were some gaps on the shelves, but we were pleased to support a new business, even if only for WD40!

I love the stones around the locks where you put your feet where generations have done it before you.  I’m not sure which lock this beautiful coping stone is at,but it’s probably Longford Lock.

Perfectly positioned for closing the bottom gate

We returned to Penkridge, where we chose a spot away from the bridge opposite the mobile home park, where it is quieter and more open.  Meg took her tablet concealed inside a sausage, but sausages aren’t very good for dogs, so I popped up to the shop at the bridge for sardines, which we’ll try next.  I also bought a bag of kindling for the fire as we were running low, so we won’t need to fire up the gas central heating.  Very cosy.

5 miles, 6 locks, some very stiff paddle gear.


Monday 18 October 2021

Not what the doctor ordered!

Monday 11th October; Coven Heath to Penkridge

The doctor? rather, the vet.

A jolly cold morning it was to start with, so it was on with the lined trousers and multiple layers on our top halves.  We took turns steering north into the northerly wind.  Then Meg, who was lying cosily on the bed looking out at us, suddenly threw up.  Unusual, and as I went to clear up (we always put covers on the bed against muddy feet, and now sick, thankfully) I saw she was also shivering violently.  She soon warmed up with the aid of a blanket, but suddenly was panting and overheating – classic signs of a fever.  Maybe the slight scratch she got when she missed her footing on Saturday had got infected?  Out in the sticks as we were, all we could do was monitor her condition until we got somewhere we could access a vet.    At least she was drinking water when offered, and gradually her fever eased but she was clearly not well.  As we approached Gailey she seemed a little better and we thought we could easily get to Penkridge, where we were likely to find a vet reasonably close to the canal, by mid-afternoon at the latest.  The sun had come out by the time we got to Gailey.

The toll house at Gailey, beside the A5

It can be difficult getting a taxi from an isolated spot, and even harder to find one which will take dogs, so we didn't plan to stop here.  The A5 bridge at Gailey has been widened over the years and the bottom lock beams have to be angled, as the bridge is in the way of a standard balance beam.  They are easy enough to open in spite of this.

Gailey lock bottom gates

We moored briefly for Meg to have a wee (thankfully that department is still working properly) then cracked on.  The towpath hedge below Brick Kiln lock was alive with bees and other creatures on the strongly perfumed ivy flowers.

Buzz buzz

Brick Kiln and Boggs locks have sturdy new shelters for stop planks, though Brick Kiln’s is empty as yet.  Our extra layers were now redundant in the warm sunshine.

A passing dog walker had given us details of the nearest vet to the canal – less than half a mile from Penkridge Bridge – and not only did I manage to get an appointment that afternoon, we bagged the spot closest to the bridge too.  She walked to the vet without needing to be carried, though rather slowly.  Covid procedures are still in operation - we waited in a huge open-sided marquee with fairy lights and widely spaced benches, with dogs, cats and a tortoise all waiting their turn.  Most owners and all the staff were using masks.  Owners are not allowed inside (except to pay their bills of course) so the animals are taken in on their own, are returned with a diagnosis, then you give your permission for the treatment (in this case an anti-emetic injection, antibiotics and capsules to settle her stomach), the vet goes back in and returns to give the shot. Eventually you get the tablets and can go in to pay.  The diagnosis was a touch of pancreatitis – this can affect older dogs who have had too fatty a diet (not Meg) but a bout can also, as Dave discovered later, result from a blow to the chest wall.  As she had crashed into the iron towpath edge when she slipped while jumping off the stern on Saturday that seems the likely cause.  It will probably take her a few days to recover with a light diet, so we will need to cook rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs or chicken for her. 

So we won’t be going to Tixall Wide after all.  We’ll turn round at Acton Trussell tomorrow, and stick around Penkridge till we are sure she is improving.   She did enjoy the fire this evening, which is a start!

8 and a half miles, 7 locks

Saturday 16 October 2021


Sunday 10th October; near Wheaton Aston to Coven Heath

We had an excellent night’s sleep, the weather being very still, so there was no scraping along the Shroppie shelf, and it was a really comfortable bed too.  The morning was chilly though.  We set off around 9.30, aiming to reach Brewood at about 11 to get a Sunday paper and some milk.  Wheaton Aston lock was ready for us, so we were speedily on our way.  Industry Narrowboats near Stretton Aqueduct is always interesting to look at and today there were various boats on the wharf having work done and the Fellows, Morton & Clayton Plover moored alongside.

A long time ago we came past here paying too much attention to the yard, and ran aground just before Stretton aqueduct.  Those were the early days before we knew that the cardinal rule when you run aground is not to try and drive off forwards!  I ended up standing knee-deep in the water pushing the bow out and then hauling myself back over the gunwale into the well deck.  Strong arms and shoulders in those long-ago days but such bruised ribs!  No such problems today.

About a mile from Brewood a boat was coming towards us.  I was just about to comment on the familiarity of the cratch board and the attractive livery  … it was Chuffed!  What are the chances of meeting her on our first return to the waterways?

Waving and shouting

We waved and shouted ‘that’s our boat!’  Of course it isn’t any more.  But we both moored up and met Amanda and Ross, her new owners.  They are delightful and we were quickly reassured that they are the right people to be her new owners.   They have booked in for a repaint next year, which needed to be done, and will keep the lovely grey but will opt for a darker shade of red, which will not fade so badly, for the handrail and coachlines.  They will also remove the words ‘Coalpit Heath’, which is where the first owners lived, and we never got around to getting rid of it!  It should all look wonderful when it’s done.  We chatted for almost an hour and exchanged emails.  We really look forward to meeting them again when she has her new paint job and a spanking new pram cover!  Maybe by then we’ll have a boat of our own ….

Amanda and Ross, and Meg getting in on the act too

By the time we got to Brewood it was lunchtime so we had a break and got some milk and a paper.  The village was quiet enough for a pony and trap to be waiting outside a pub for the driver.

The afternoon was sunny, which was great and we had a lovely cruise down towards Autherley Junction.  Avenue Bridge is the unexpectedly ornate bridge where the canal was cut through land held by Chillington Hall, whose lodge appears on the Nicholson’s map but the hall is off the map.  We once walked up onto the bridge, and it doesn’t look as though it has ever had more than a footpath over it.

We were soon at Autherley junction, through the stop lock  - it is difficult to tell just by looking whether you are going up or down here, the drop is so small -  and round the turn to pass the allotments on the way north.  A couple of plots had these hugely tall grasses – far too tall to be sweet corn, and not bamboo, but maybe they were sugarcane?  I know this can be grown here, not for producing sugar in this climate, but as biomass to put on your compost heap, but I’ve never seen it growing.

12' tall mystery

The next excitement was the narrows once known as Pendeford Rockin, according to Nicholson’s, after a local farm.  It is indeed very narrow, but does have a couple of passing places which we had no need of today.

Under the M54 we went, where a talented graffiti artist has made his/her mark.


We carried on a bit to get further away from the motorway and moored after bridge 69.  It’s a little bit noisy here but it was time to stop.  I cooked chicken paprika for tea, well it would have been if I’d remembered to pack some paprika!  That’s the sort of thing that would have been on board already on Chuffed.  Tricky business this hiring, I’m sure we’ll discover other things we’ve forgotten this week.  At least we'd asked for fenders and piling hooks, so we could moor easily and comfortably.

10½ miles, 2 locks, Autherley junction.


Wednesday 13 October 2021

Just a taste of what we’re missing

Saturday 11th October; Norbury Junction to Wheaton Aston (nearly)

Every time a likely boat has appeared on Apollo Duck, it has sold within hours, long before we could have driven uo to see it.  And the hire boats were booked solid all summer and through September. We couldn’t stand it any longer – we needed a proper canal fix!  Eventually Dave found a week available on the Shroppie so here we are on Summer Wine.

We were so excited about getting back on the canals we took extra care to spot the landmarks we crossed on our journey – the Bristol Avon (high tide but no boats), the Stratford Avon (no boats), and we waved through the concrete wall at the BCN as we roared along the busy raised section of the M5.  Then we were keeping our eyes peeled for the Tame Valley aqueduct over the M5  -

- no boats, and the top of Offerton locks (still no boats).  The satnav took us off the motorway onto the A5 past the Gailey toll house, but we couldn't see the canal, then through the lanes towards Gnosall where we finally spotted some moored boats, and eventually to Norbury Wharf and a bit of action.  We were too early to get on board, so took our sandwiches and wandered down to find a bench on the towpath.  We sat opposite a motor and butty which are being restored by the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust, who will then take them down to Wappenshall when they have been restored and the canal is in water that far.  The motor is sitting so high out of the water because the engine has been removed for restoration. 

I'm afraid I can't remember their names, Mr Google can't find them and the leaflet two kind gentlemen gave us got left in the car.

The arm opposite the Wharf is just used for mooring at the moment.  The first lock is currently in use as a dry dock (the white building at the end of the arm), but when the restoration through to Wappenshall is nearing completion a new one will be built to the side so the lock will return to its proper use.

Then we sat in the car, read the paper and watched ‘our’ boat being sanitised on the outside – a lot of spraying and wiping along its length, a bucket of some disinfectant stuff we supposed sloshed over the stern deck followed by a good hose down.  Finally we were able to load our stuff on board.  There was just a suggestion of bleach in the air.  We only needed a quick briefing on the engine and safety stuff, no need to be shown how to steer!  But we did let the engineer perform the very tight turn out of the mooring towards Autherley Junction.  And we were off!

It was a bit strange, as this boat is the same layout as Chuffed and it gave me quite a jolt when I first went inside.  So similar, yet quite alien.  The tiller arm is very high, which made it quite uncomfortable to use – neither of us is very tall and it felt very heavy to steer.  I found it tucked neatly into my armpit, which is not a comfortable steering position!  Dave thinks the top bearing of the rudder needs attention too. We haven’t been on the Shroppie for years, and were busy looking out for things we remembered.  Shelmore Embankment, for one, with its kingfishers.  The stop gate at the southern end, there to be used in case of a breach in the embankment, looks distinctly ropy.  It’s a long way between locks on this part of the canal, so a lot of water to lose if stop gates aren’t operational.


Then through Gnosall, where we once had a good meal in the Navigation overlooking the canal, and past the garden which seems to be trying to emulate Charity Wharf.

I had somehow got the wrong setting on the camera, so it was rather over-exposed and I had to crop some of it.  I’ll try for a better shot on the way back.  We are not attempting the Four Counties ring in a week!

By now it was getting late and we were tired, so we moored before we got to Wheaton Aston.  We were prepared for the infamous Shroppie Shelf (an annoying concrete shelf that juts out up to a foot from the back, but inconveniently under water so you can’t see it till you grate along it).  There was no wind, so we didn’t think we’d spend the night banging against it (hire boats aren’t issued with go-kart tyres to keep the boat away from it, of course).  Poor Meg, doing her best to leap the gap, found her back paws slipping on the stern deck – no rubber mats on hire boats!  And the poor thing had to be hauled up the bank – twice! – before we had even finished mooring up.  Once we twigged the problem and laid one of her towels down to provide grip she was fine.

The TV system on board is up-to-date and was already tuned, so Dave could sit in comfort for the England match this evening.  The seats are the modern lighter-build Captain’s chairs and very comfortable.  Just the place to enjoy a glass of wine.

It’s weird being on a boat that isn’t ours.  We knew there wouldn’t be fenders, so I phoned ahead to ask for some and also some piling hooks, which they were happy to supply.  Everything else is just different.  Sometimes better - for example it's a lovely modern shower - and sometimes, well it's a hire boat so you don't expect more than the basics do you?

Our initial plan was to hot-foot it to Great Haywood junction, and spend the night on Tixall Wide to try and catch the fabulous murmuration of starlings we saw a few years ago. Will we make it?  It means being on a mission, like most hirers!

7½ miles, no locks, rocky Cowley tunnel and a damp dog.