Monday 23rd to Sunday 29th January 2012.

Monday 23rd
A quiet and somewhat lonely cruise, rarely encountering a boat on the move, and it’s cold as you’d expect but the scenery has plenty to keep our mind off it.
‘Found’ a large tree ring on the side and borrowed it to keep the back end down while the water tank is full and the diesel tank empty. Once we take on diesel I’ll have to return the wood unless I can find a use for it onboard.

Spotted nb.Belle, sister ship to Balmaha, at Fradley, no sign of Chris or Stell but it was hard to see anything past that shine. Lovely fan on a pole Chris, you can turn it off now that a breeze has picked up.

Visitors !!
Ray and Diane were a welcome sight this morning, clutching cake and wine.
And it’s not as if we were just across the road from their marina either, it’s a good walk and a train ride each way, thanks guys, you really are appreciated. Lovely company, and plenty of laughs. Look forward to seeing you cruising ‘Ferndale’ somewhere on the cut.

Rugeley has never figured in my mind as anything more than a quick stop-over for shops and banks but this week that changed. A fella on the towpath accosted V (in a nice way) and asked what we were carrying, was it wheat, barley or sugar? When she explained that this was home he went on to tell her that he remembered the old days when he worked on Fellows Morton and Clayton boats.
He went on to tell us about the old brick buildings on the off-side that belonged to the hide works, coke works and iron foundry. He brought to mind how the working boats tied up against the walls waiting their turn to load. Jolly interesting, wish we had more time, there’s just so many things you want to ask a guy like that.

We were hoping to meet up with Diesel Graham before Great Haywood but it wasn’t to be, supply problems we were told. This might have been connected with recent troubles at a London refinery.

Little Haywood was our next stop followed by Penkridge where we took coal and gas from Monarch & Grimsby. Another day and we could have missed them completely, it was our good fortune that they were waiting for a coal delivery. This is where the Lock13 website comes into its own, a quick phone call and you can tie in with a coal boat within a day or two.

Oh boy isn’t it cold, somehow I haven’t got used to these low temperatures and it isn’t below freezing yet. I’ve had to look out a Christmas present from our lad two years ago, a heated waistcoat. A bit greedy on rechargeable AAs but with a bit of tinkering I should soon have it working off the boat batteries.

Friday must be a half-day for these school children. I was hesitant about taking a picture, you don’t want to get branded, but teacher said wave to the boat and I took that as an OK. Why the balloons I shall never know and, what I thought unusual, none took to the sky.

A right turn onto the Shroppie and barely five minutes before the clouds split open we’d kicked ourselves to the kerb south of Brewood.
And didn’t it empty down.

While V did the walking bit to the shops and café I demolished the tree trunk, and met the locals, and entertained their dogs, particularly the inquisitive one that whipped down the steps into the boat before I could shut the door. Trust me to get the one with mud up to his knees.

This is a busy mooring spot in the summer but at this time of year it’s practically empty. There’s a boat moored half a mile away and apart from him we only get to see a couple a day on the move. Why cruise in the winter? Because it’s so quiet.
The birds are on the feeder high in the bushes, the moorhens are getting used to coming to the window for food and the water is so clear you could see fish on the bottom.

The forecast is snow but I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.