Saturday, 31 January 2015

In a pickle

We had three or four inches of snow on Thursday night.  This was the first time Buddy has seen real snow so it was going to be interesting to see how he handled it.  The spot where we are currently moored is one of the quietest we have been in for some time.  It’s so peaceful laying in bed and hearing nothing but bird song.

I took Buddy out for his quick morning walk and he wouldn’t get off the boat.  He was so frightened and he kept lifting his paws up in turn. He was running backwards and forwards on the deck hoping to find a spot where there was no white stuff to jump into.
In the end I had to drag him off but once he was in the snow he was fine and started tearing around.

Our daffs are all out now – we were surprised as it has been so cold.  Anyway they make us feel spring-like even with snow outside. 

After breakfast we went for a walk around Branston water park.  A lot of the water fowl were in the car park as most of the lake was frozen over.  There was even a tern on the post.

These greylag geese had us in stitches breaking their way through the ice.  I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just fly across to the non-iced area.  They seemed to be breaking the ice with the top of their backs and they kept coming up for air in unison.

When we got back for lunch Buddy wouldn’t come on board; he loved the snow so much.  The sun had been out for the morning so a lot of the snow had melted.

After lunch we decided to have a bit of culture so went in search of the old Branston pickle factory.  We found it after a lot of road walking which wasn’t much fun for Buddy.  It is an impressive building but rather spoilt by being a B&Q depot.  Crosse and Blackwell claimed it was the largest and best equipped food preserving plant in the British Empire.

The whole complex appears to be surrounded by these ornate brick walls.

At one end are a couple of squares of terrace houses that the factory foremen used to live in.  

These also exhibited the same ornate brick work.

These were a couple of the bottling sheds, again with the same brickwork design.

On the way back we passed a pet shop and Buddy got himself a smart new winter jacket.

When we got back to the canal we found we had a neighbour. A couple of guys had moored up and their boat had a brilliant name.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Just a little one

There was a light scattering of snow on Thursday morning and it was forecast to sleet or snow off and on all day.  We had another walk around Burton as we wanted to visit the market and get some fresh fruit and vegetables.  After lunch the sun came out and as we both fancied being more remote and away from other boats, houses and factories we cruised to Branston.  It really was quite a sunny afternoon even though it was bitterly cold so a short cruise was OK.

This is where we moored - nice and remote if a little exposed. 

It got very dark after we moored and then the snow came.  This is five minutes after we tied up and it just started snowing.

Thinking about our time away it occurred to me that we have only eaten out twice and not had any take aways. Both the meals we had out were treats for my 60th birthday - one from my children and the other from my parents.

Karen is really rather good at planning menus for a couple of weeks ahead and also ensuring we only buy the items we need to prepare those meals.  Contrary to what may be read in the blog I do cook occasionally but I do raise a glass in thanks to Karen for looking after me and being a domestic goddess.

Anyway, if we get snowed or iced in here, we have enough food for two weeks and there is a country pub at the next bridge west.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Rain, sun, wind and snow but we're happy

Another sign of spring this morning: courting ducks.  I watched a pair of mallards courting outside the kitchen window whilst drinking my coffee.  Another pair of ducks were looking on as if they were mad.  

After breakfast I fixed two new bridge plaques that we had “earned” to our back doors. Another sign of my "train spotters" attitude: I will only buy plaques for canals and rivers we have been on.  Even more anal, I won't buy a plaque for anything other than a river or canal, e.g. I won't buy a plaque for a site of interest like the "Anderton Boat Lift" or "Inland Port of Shardlow".

There are two canals we have been on that we have not managed to get plaques for.  Having asked around I have found out that they have stopped making the plaques in the UK and are setting up a supply chain from India.  Yet another example of manufacturing that has been transferred out of the UK.

It was really windy and raining so we thought we would walk to Branston rather than cruise there.  Branston is where Branston pickle was invented.  There are large lakes at Branston so we had a walk around one of them.  First time we have seen a dog dip but try as we might we couldn’t get Buddy in.  Karen thought it would be a bit mean to throw him in.

There were a lot of wild fowl in the water that fascinated Buddy of course but I think he was wishing the "Dog dipping" sign had been removed in the first picture here.

Just to prove Karen has longer legs than me – she is the one holding the camera.

During the walk the clouds cleared and the sun came out and by the time we were back to the boat it lightly snowed but it didn’t come to anything.

Later in the afternoon we walked into Burton Upon Trent to stock up on the heavy things like wine as we won’t be near supermarkets for three weeks or so now.  We also bought a bunch of daffodils so it would feel like spring on the boat when they come out.

Karen kicked off a pork vindaloo last night so it has been marinating for nearly a day - can't wait to eat it this evening.  The supermarket we went to had a good range of Indian nibbles so we thought we would try the vindaloo mix.  Be warned, this brand is very hot. Karen did have an evil thought that the swans and ducks may like it though, not that we feed the water fowl normally.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Tight turns and an old basin

Tuesday dawned without a frost again so we headed off west to Burton Upon Trent as we planned yesterday.  As there may be some inclement weather ahead we stopped to top up with water first.  This gave us a chance to clean the roof with the hose pipe and water.  Here’s Karen admiring her newly scrubbed roof with Buddy sitting amongst some mole hills.  We have seen more mole hills in South Derbyshire than in any other area of our travels.

Karen and Buddy walked most of the way as normal.  This ornately carved bench marked the western boundary of the National Forest.  Whenever I see signs for the National Forest I am reminded of my fist job, Forestry Commission labourer.  It was one of the best jobs I ever had as it entailed working outside all the time and was a step to achieving an ambition to become a forest ranger.  Unfortunately I was put off by the fact that the ranger types didn’t get forest (tied) cottages until they were in their 30s or 40s which was too far into the future for me as a 16 year old.

We went over the River Dove.  We had seen this river yesterday where it joins the Trent.

We arrived on the outskirts of Burton at lunchtime and moored up for a bite to eat.  Here is the welcome to Burton sign on the canal together with the first narrow lock we have seen for a couple of weeks and also Buddy with a friend.  All locks west from here on the Trent and Mersey are narrow locks.

We reached Shobnall marina by mid afternoon and went in to get supplies and make sure we were fully prepared for the bad weather.  Mind you, we believe there is a lot of scare mongering and it will be the real North and Scotland that will get it if anyone.  Anyway, better to be safe than sorry as we have a lot of rural areas to cruise through on our next leg down to Birmingham.  The entrance into the marina was very tight as can be seen from these shots.


It was brilliant as the servicing area was an old lock that they had put a roof over.   The marina is on the junction the old Bond End and the Trent and Mersey canals.  The Bond End canal used to serve the local breweries but was closed 100 years ago or so and the old lock we were in is all that is left of it.

The guys in the marina were really friendly and helpful.  We always give feedback in these situations because their approach means we are more likely to call on them when we next come through.  In fact we are more likely to deliberately make sure we buy something from them because of their attitude.  Shame more people aren’t customer friendly these days.

We moored up for the night right next to Marston's brewery.This was taken on Wednesday morning - the white thing on the bench is my coffee that I always take for the first Buddy walk.