We travelled to Willington on Tuesday evening and took the opportunity to catch up with Andrew Denny, aka Granny Buttons, once again as it's his home village. Andrew jogged along the towpath to Northern Pride for an evening drink, and we returned the favour by dropping by his lovely home on Wednesday for a cuppa and some fascinating story telling. He very kindly lent us his 4 disc set of 'The Travelling Man' so we'll watch them over the next few days or weeks and report back! I was living in Germany when the series was on in UK, and it never got to New Zealand, so we hadn't heard of it until we read about it recently on Andrew's blog.
Plenty of 'Canaltime' hire boats along this stretch
But still many colourful owned boats
No, not jet vapour, but a very striking cloud formation in the early evening light
Opposite our mooring - Andrew spotted the dusk sunlight on these red hot pokers, but by the time I'd got the camera it'd gone - still makes a nice shot though
Along the canal bank - a cow for Maggie and a toppling gate, each reflected gloriously in the glass-like water
Interestingly, there are a number of boats on the canal system still showing the 'Fellows, Morton & Clayton' name, but apparently only one is legally entitled to do so. The boat is called 'The Black Country Man' and is owned by the Stourbridge Navigation Trust which uses it for boat trips, charter cruises and its commercial arm. The boat is franchised out and the current franchisee has announced his intention to retire so applicants are invited to apply to the Financial Director at the Stourbridge Navigation Trust.
A couple of last shots before it got too dark - and I needed a drink!
We found Willington to be a very quiet and well kept village, with a couple of appealing looking 'green' pubs (The Green Man and The Green Dragon), and a good co-op only a short walk from the canal which was handy.
It may feel like you're being watched in Willington!
There's an abundance of beautifully manicured gardens in the village
Three pubs in the village, two of them are opposite each other, 'The Green Man' and 'The Green Dragon' - you don't think this might cause some confusion?
The cute little village church
After lunch we moved a short way to visit the newly opened Mercia Marina which is vast! There's a well stocked chandlery, though it didn't have the oil filter that Barry's been searching for and we arrived at Stenson chandlery 10 minutes too late to see if they had one, damn! The owners are trying to keep the marina in keeping with the natural habitat, with the recent addition of a huge chandlery built of wood with a lawn on the roof! There's also plans for a gastro pub and leisure centre at the marina, and a holiday village, and Andrew informed us that they've even put aside a piece of grassland especially for owners to walk their dogs bless them.
Plenty of boats here
Didn't stop to count them
Andrew's dazzling display of rose's above his front door
We gave them all some duck food, though mum preferred a bit of meat! She'll have foot and mouth disease by now!
It was refreshing to feel the warmth and see the blue sky and sunshine for a change, so we continued our journey a few miles until we found a quiet spot to moor for the night, just past Sarson's bridge by Weston-on-Trent, away from the constant drone of traffic or the persistent noisy interruptions of trains speeding by. Whilst travelling, with me driving, Barry managed to get a brew of beer on this time, which made the boat smell as though we were still in Burton!
We followed another 'Canaltime' boat and shared a couple of locks with them
The basin at Swarkestone - formerly the entrance to the Derby Canal (under restoration)
We're back to the double locks again now, Swarkestone lock being almost 11 feet deep; I'd forgotten how difficult they can be to open the paddles and gates. Luckily we shared the first couple with a hire boat and their crew - a young couple and baby who were on holiday from Hove in Brighton, not far from where my daughter lives. The amusing thing is that it was the females of the two crews who got stuck working the backbreaking locks while the boys remained on the boats chatting amiably! A reversal of roles for a change!