After braving out the weather of the last six weeks in Great Haywood we have finally moved on and are now moored safely at Penkridge on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal North, a stepping stone to the great big adventure planned for this summer!.
It has been a month since the last blog and whilst Celtic Maid has been stationary we have had another side adventure to visit friends in Leicestershire, and shared our boat – and Bunion’s space – with Gina (Chris and Jim’s dog from NB Sylph).
We celebrated Chris’s 70th birthday with dinner at the Clifford Arms in Great Haywood on 24th January before Chris and Jim left for a warm break on Grand Canary entrusting both Gina and their home, NB Sylph, to our care for the next couple of weeks. Whilst we envied them the sunshine, we enjoyed the discipline of taking Gina (and Bunion) for morning, afternoon and evening walks and the resultant exercise. Well Bob did. We shared the responsibility – Bron took care of inputs (food, water, warm place to sleep) while Bob took responsibility for outputs ( no explanation required!). We took the opportunity of exploring the canal both northwards and southwards as well as the grounds of nearby Shugborough Hall, Cannock Chase (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty AONB), the village of Milford (featuring a Wimpy hamburger eatery) and the local sights of Great Haywood.
Amongst all this walking (often up to 10km a day!) we took a bus trip to nearby Stafford for a wander around the shops and to get some provisions. Our proficiency badge for accessing all manner of public transport is being well earned. Gina and Bunion behaved themselves very well in our absence with minimal damage and only one long term outcome (the arrival of their offspring Bungi a few weeks later). We were also called upon to relocate both narrowboats as dredging of the canal was commenced close to our moorings and the free floating barges used to transport the mud and debris created havoc for the safety of any nearby boats. The relocation for a week was achieved with minimal fuss by Bob while Bron wrestled with the excitable Gina who hates being confined to quarters when something interesting is taking place! We were able to move back just in time for Chris and Jim’s return on the 10th February.
Both Gina and NB Sylph were returned to their owners in good condition – none the worse for our care and attention in their absence. Despite Chris and Jim having a few problems with the electrics in their trusty Volvo they arrived back in time to join us for a light dinner and a catch up about their travels and our adventures.
We handed back all of Gina’s accoutrememts the next day before being picked up by Malcolm and Julia, our friends from NB Figment, to spend a few days with them at their home near Leicester.We spent the time very productively – exploring the city of Leicester and its connection with King Richard III, convincing Julia that it wasn’t as unattractive as she had assured us, shopping, eating, sampling the beers at the local pub (Malcolm and Bob did anyway!), briefly visiting Bradgate Park (850 acres of parkland bequeathed to the people of Leicester and not able to be developed further thank goodness) and most importantly planning some cruising together this summer. We have now booked both the Ribble Link connection to the Lancaster Canal for late July and some time in Liverpool a month later.
Malcolm and Julia dropped us back to Celtic Maid last Monday morning after a very enjoyable visit. We appreciate both their fabulous hospitality and caring friendship – feeling very blessed with the friendships we have made since becoming narrowboaters. We also belatedly celebrated Jim’s birthday on our return and were so happy to receive momentos from Chris and Jim’s trip. A beautiful Paua shell bracelet, bright vinegar bottle and spoon rest in appropriate Celtic Maid interior colours, a towel with the most perfect quote ( Marriage is a relationship where one person is always right and the other is the husband!), and of course Bungi!!!
After waiting a month since the London Boat Show for our bespoke mattress to be made and delivered it finally arrived in the rain (thankfully well covered) last Thursday. Oh how we have waited for the comfort of a supportive, firm but gently yielding mattress. Three nights on and we are so very happy with this rather expensive purchase. Sleep comes more easily, stays longer and we awake feeling much refreshed. Back aches are lessening and relaxation is increasing. Given that in these winter conditions we are spending almost half our time in bed this is perhaps our most important investment to date!!
On Friday we finally made the move from Great Haywood. After making sure we had emptied our waste and filled with both water and diesel we cruised to nearby Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal – our first new scenery for six weeks. Full of birdlife (apparently very full in summer) this is a beautiful spot despite the constant noise of the Canadian Geese. Bob captured some lovely photos to add to the gallery.
Saturday saw us making the run toward Penkridge through some beautiful countryside through the valleys of the Rivers Sow and Penk before mooring near Shutt Hill Lock overlooking the very busy M6 motorway which runs very close to the canal through this section. It was not as noisy as we feared but this morning we were keen to make tracks to our next mooring near Penkridge before the weather turned really awful. Alas we didn’t beat it and by the time we moored at 1.00pm today we were drenched (well our wet weather gear was!) had slipped over in the mud whilst mooring and were keen to retreat to the warmth of our beloved Celtic Maid to recover from the cold and wet.
So here we are. All caught up (thanks everyone for the gentle reminders!!!!). With a plan for the coming months and already in new territory. The adventure continues unabated!!!!!!