Maximus Sept 30th - Oct 6th 2001

Route: Gailey to Burton-on-Trent to Stone to Gailey

Despite the route this wasn't a booze cruise. We didn't find a decent pub in Burton or have time to find one in Stone.

Sunday 30th Sept, Gailey - Penkridge

After a slow start we set off for the short but heavily locked run north out of Gailey, heading for our rendezvous with the Ken and Claudia Kroeker at the Boat at Penkridge. We soon caught up a hire boat with a large but inexperienced crew, and as there was no oncoming traffic we had every lock set against us. Ken met us as we approached Penkridge and worked us through the last lock just as the rain started. After mooring and a quick tidy up we joined them in the pub hoping for a meal, only to find they were refurbishing the kitchen that night. So we went back to the boat and after showing folks around settled down for a good chat.

Monday 1st Oct, Penkridge - Ashtree Pub (Br 62a)

The first thing I remember is the sound of a boat creeping past in the pre-dawn light at about 6:45 as Ken made his getaway - hoping to get to Fradley that day. In fact they made it all the way to Fazely which is quite a long days boating by any standard. We had a more leisurely start and got away about 8:15. The weather forecast was dire, warning of wind and rain but in fact the day turned out quite pleasant, a pattern that was to be repeated right through the week.

Chris at Tixall lockWe stopped for a tea break at Tixall wide and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the place. We then turned right at Great Haywood and headed east without incident and enjoyed the fine views of Cannock Chase and the stately homes that border the canal.

Our goal for the day had been Wolesely bridge but it was such a pleasant afternoon we decided to push on through Rugely and spend the night at the Ash Tree by Bridge 62 (or is it 62A ? the guides differ as to its identity). The mooring there is convenient but the large piling made it difficult to get our fenders in the right places. We over came this by doubling them up to fill the gap.

Tuesday 2nd Oct, Ashtree - Alrewas

Our first job was to top up the water tank at the water point just the other side of the bridge, but this didn't take long as there is a good flow here. Then we rumbled past the linear mooring and entered the narrows where the Armitage tunnel used to be. Armitage doesn't show it's best face to the canal so we didn't hang about in the shadow of the WC factory.

We were soon out in the countryside passing the site of a new marina development. At Fradley we stopped at the BW office to pick up a swipe card for the DIY pumpout we will need at Christmas, the staff were their usual friendly helpful selves and we were soon on our way.

We arrived at the very pretty village of Alrewas at about 3 p.m. and moored at the excellent visitor moorings just above Alrewas lock to await our first rendezvous. We set off to explore the village on foot and soon found the useful Co Op and newsagent. I then took a wander down the towpath to suss out how the river Trent crossed the canal.

Trent WierThe river joins the canal under a long footbridge over the flood plain. There wasn't much flow that day but I could see that it isn't always so. After a few yards the river exits on the opposite side over a large weir, well protected by a boom of wheels joined by a cable. I didn't foresee any problems making the transit but I could envisage conditions when it would demand respect.

We spent some time loitering at the canal bridge and had a brief chat with a couple of policemen while we waited for our friend Chris to arrive. Once he was on board Christine served up the lamb in red wine that had been simmering all evening pervading the boat and environs with a delicious aroma.

Wednesday 3rd Oct, Alrewas - Burton and return

Dodgy bridge near Alrewas We didn't rush about that morning and got underway just before 9 a.m. We were moored within sight of Alrewas lock so the Christine and Chris prepared it before I cast off. Once through the lock our passage across the Trent passed without incident or drama. The crew were busy with their cameras as it was a fine autumn morning for photography.

A short distance to the east of the weir there is an awkward and rather temporary looking bridge that needs a bit of care. It is important to follow the sign and pass under the horizontal span. One can see the remains of a pervious wooden structure poking just above the water.

Narrow bridge 36It's a short run past some linear moorings to the next lock which has a rather tricky approach and a large bywash. After this the canal runs close and parallel to the A38 on one side and had a large and noisy quarry on the other for about two miles. Right in the middle of this there is a very narrow bridge (36), no wider than a lock and doesn't even have the towpath going through it. I bet the horse boaters hated it. As with every other bridge on this stretch it is defaced by an ugly sign put up by the Burton anglers. This bit of canal gets the "Least pleasant stretch " award for the trip and maybe for the year.

As we passed Barton Turns marina a private boat "Christina " came out onto the main line and turned towards us. The lady at the helm insisted on passing on our starboard side despite my having moved over. Resulting in an emergency stop and a lot of evasive action. I had failed to notice the trad engine and immaculate paintwork so it was of course entirely up to me to stay out of the way, never mind the rules.

The outskirts of Burton were not much of an improvement but over the A38 section but from what we saw the town presents its best face to the canal. I now can see a derivation of the term "Going for a Burton". We turned at Horninglow wharf and headed back intending to stop for lunch at the well advertised pub, pity it had closed down. A friendly resident directed us to another pub a bit further into a rather run down 1970's estate, we didn't stay once we found it didn't do meals.

Alrewas mooringOnce back at the boat Christine made some excellent toasted cheese and bacon sarnies which we washed down with Tesco's best bitter while lounging on the front deck on bright sunshine. After lunch we put on ear defenders and prepared to tackle the A38 stretch again. While heading that way on a dead straight stretch I lost concentration for a second and stuffed the boat through an overhanging elderberry bush and got the crew and the boat covered in thousands of ripe elderberries. We were still finding them on Sunday - I wonder how long the stains will last.

We were soon back in the peace and quiet of Alrewas and moored up pretty much where we started. Chris took his leave and we settled down for a quiet evening' s read.

Thursday 4 th Oct, Alrewas - Weston

We had a relatively late get away and set off taking time to admire the village as we passed with it's half timbered cottages and immaculate gardens leading down to the canals edge. This could have potential as a retirement home.

We had arranged to meet up with Christine's sister and her husband Tim at the Ash Tree. We met at lunchtime and had a good lunch. We were impressed by the value, four of us had lunch and drinks for about 16, good food promptly served. Tim arranged to leave his car there for a few days and we set off at about 2 p.m.

Tim and Kate were our "Good Lock Charms" as in contrast to the rest of the trip once they were aboard we had all the locks set in our favour, often with a boat just leaving or another arriving as we left. With that good luck and the larger crew we were making very good progress, so rather than heading back to base we decided to keep going north at Great Haywood and headed for Weston. We reached Weston at about 6 p.m and moored at the very pleasant visitors moorings by bridge 80 on a very pleasant evening. Our guests had brought some Belgian beer brewed by Trappist monks so we didn't bother with the Scarecen's head or Woolpack and had a very convivial evening aboard.

Friday 5th Oct, Weston - Baswich

Tim at the helmIt rained heavily during the night and was still rather unpleasant when we woke so we had a leisurely breakfast and debated whether to turn at Sandon or press on to Stone. The weather cleared by 9 am and it looked like we were in for a nice day so we opted to go to Stone for the turn. Tim decided it was time he learnt how to steer the boat and he soon got the hang of it which freed me up to do some locks. We didn't stay in Stone - it's a nice enough town but we had been there recently ( see Stoke ) and we wanted to get to Baswich for the night.

We stopped at Great Haywood on the return trip to take on water and Christine bought fresh baked bread at the farm shop by the junction. While passing through Tixall wide I decided to loop the loop, it was interesting to see just how much putting the helm over slowed the boat. After a pleasant run to Baswich we moored by the Radford Inn pub but didn't bother going in as we had some more of Tim & Kate's Belgian beers to sample.

Saturday 6th Oct, Baswich - Gailey

Ladies in waitingAn easy day's run back to base, leaving time for the big end-of-cruise clean up. We passed the hire boat that had held us up at the start of the week. They had moored just before a lock and weren't pleased to see us go by just before they cast off. I assured them we wouldn't hold them up and indeed we got to Penkridge well before them.

We arrived back in Penkridge in time for for lunch and had our only real soaking of the trip. A squall hit just as we were coming up the lock, but we were soon secured and heading for the Boat Inn. This time they were doing food and we all had a good lunch while the weather did its worst. Once it had passed over we returned to the boat and set off on the home stretch.

Beyond Penkridge there was a canoe race coming in the opposite direction which made life interesting at the locks as they used the landings to get out and re-launch after carrying the canoes round the locks. We found one lock set against us with the top gate open, as there wasn't any one in sight we re set it and progressed through as we were leaving a working boat showed up. The crew explained they has set the lock but the boat had gone aground some way up the pound.

All too soon we were back at base and started to pack and clean ready for departure the next morning.