Day 914 – #31 Go on a cruise (including #23, #29, #32, #36 and #43)

Oh yeah!  This is a whopper of a post.  I could have tried to break it down into individual parts but that would end up being quite repetitive so I’ve combined it all into one humungous post 🙂

We’ve been on a cruise.  Granted, it’s not the sort of cruise I imagined when I wrote my 101 things but it was pretty good.  We hired a boat from ABC Boat Hire from their Gailey Marina in Staffordshire (http://www.abcboathire.com/Boating-Holiday/england/gailey-base/7.aspx).  I’ve never been to Staffs before and thought it was much further away than it actually was (only 2 hrs drive – bonus).  We picked up our boat Ivarr last Saturday and have been out for the week.  Our first day was short as we didn’t leave the marina until gone 3pm and we made it as far as Coven.  Here we moored up and watched Ireland thrash Scotland and England beat France to win the Grand Slam.  Good start to the week!

Sunday dawned clear and sunny and we had a lovely cruise along the Staffs & Worcs as far as Napton Junction where we did the world’s shallowest lock “down” on to the Shropshire Union.  This was literally to accommodate an inch difference in water levels!  According to a helpful local – the reason for the lock was because the two canals were owned by different canal companies who each didn’t want the other nicking their water!
Onwards from Napton we stopped at Brewood for a lunch break.

brewood 2 brewoodBrewood is a very, very pretty little village.  We stopped at the Bridge Inn for a drink and had a wander round the village itself.  A quick shop in the co-op and then back on the boat to carry on.

We moored up for the night at Norbury Junction.  Other than a pub, a cafe and a Hire Boat Yard there wasn’t a huge amount here.  A few houses scattered about – one of which had a flock of birds in the front garden that wandered out onto the main road.  Mark though they were very small turkeys or quails- I wasn’t so sure.  Following a quick google we discovered they were Guinea Fowl!

 

 

market draytonDay 3 was very cold and grey.  No break in the cloud at all which made it hard going.  Our next stop was Market Drayton (#32 5 New Places).  The wharf reminded me very much of Hungerford wharf so it was looking promising.  There was a footpath leading from the canal to the town centre so off we went.  It wasn’t like Hungerford.  I think that once upon a time MD would have been very nice indeed.  However, it’s a bit run-down and sad looking now.  Within a hundred yards of eachother you had an Iceland, 2 bookies and a Greggs.  That kind of summed it up for me.  Undaunted, we went in search of liquid refreshment… The first pub we came across had a couple of unfriendly looking men smoking outside the front door, barring the entrance and glaring at us – so we gave that one a miss.  The next had a sign out saying Dogs Not Welcome, so we skipped that one too.  We then found The Tudor House Hotel.  tudor houseWhich looked nice from the outside.  So in we went and found lots of old ladies drinking tea and Escape to the Country on the TV!  Not what you’d expect in a normal bar.  Little did we know, this was no normal bar!  The conversation went like this:
Mark: Can I have 2 pints of Guinness please?
Landlady: We don’t Guinness I’m afraid.  We don’t have much beer.  We’ve got lager?
M (slightly stunned): Ok, can I have a pint of lager and a gin and slimline tonic then please?
L: We don’t have any slimline is normal ok?
M: Yes fine. (getting fed up)
L: Oh, we don’t have any lager either.  I have some bottles.
M: Seriously?!  Ok, I’ll have bottle of Peroni.
L: Ok, here you are.  That’s £8.05.  Do you have the 5p I don’t have any change!
Complete and utter farce.  The Dubliners summed it up perfectly – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJW19nlzb3Q
We decided to go back to the canal and visit the Talbot which is on the cut.  Only to find that they don’t open on a Monday!  Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.  So we left and set off once more.  We spent the night moored up just above Adderley locks ready for the descent into Audlem.

Day 4 dawned.  Still cloudy but nowhere near as cold as the wind had dropped.  We made good time through 20 locks and several miles to bring us to the visitor moorings at Audlem.  audlemThe Shropshire Union Canal is quite different from other canals we’ve been on.  It’s like a motorway canal – huge cuttings and built up banks to make it as flat as possible.  Even after descending the locks into Audlem, the canal towered above the housing and surround fields.  It was very odd.  Audlem itself was lovely (#32 5 New Places).  It had a very pretty church, several pubs (more of which in a moment!) and some useful and more unusual shops.  It was lunchtime and locking is apetite inducing so we went in search of food.

bridge inn#29 Go for 12 Meals – The first pub we found was The Bridge Inn which welcomed dogs with open arms!  It even had a carpet for Pedro.  Perfect.  We ordered some drinks and a packet of crisps for the dogs.  I chose the lasagne and Mark went for the Cowboy burger.  It was massive!  It was a big, fat beef burger topped with bacon, cheese AND onion rings.  My lasagne was lovely – just the right size portion and plenty of meat.  We left feeling totally contented and carried on along the canal where I deposited Mark and the dogs in the Shroppie Fly pub (bar actually made from an old Shropshire Fly boat – http://www.shroppiefly.com/photo-gallery-5866.html) while I went next door to Audlem Mill.
shroppie flyYou can see the mill in this pic – it’s the red brick building just past the Shroppie Fly.  It’s a converted mill which houses a fantastic canal shop and a huge range of craft supplies.In addition to this, it had an art exhibition which is what I wanted to see (#23 Visit an Art Exhibition).  The exhibition was in association with the Guild of Canal Artists and was pictures of the canal in various different forms and media.  It was fabulous.  You had a whole range of images depciting the very different moods from the canal.  Some were bright, sunny, chocolate-boxy water colours and others capture the murk and mist of a cold morning beautifully.  There were even some more abstract/pop-art style pictures which weren’t to my taste but made a good contrast to the other works on show.  See here for more info about Audlem Mill – http://www.audlemmill.co.uk/index.html

Audlem marked the turning point in our week and so having gone down and back up the final 4 locks we were ready to set off on the return journey.  On the way back we stopped in different locations (mooring at Goldstone Wharf one night, Gnosall for lunch and Wheaton Aston the next day) and then got back to the marina late on Friday afternoon.

We had a brilliant trip out – boating holidays are very restful pastimes (if you don’t try to do a cruising ring!) and for most of the time we didn’t have any phone or TV signal.  Luckily we were prepared for that and took appropriate ways to pass the time.  Books, DVD boxset, puzzle books, playing cards and….. a colouring book!

DSC_0106 DSC_0107#43 Complete 3 Boat Scenes – This is my “Cool Canals” colouring book.  A book with loads and loads of canal images to colour in.  Some are abstract – just patterns.  Others such as these are actual scenes.  I had great fun doing these two and will look forward to completing more of them.  Get a colouring book – they rock!

Along the way we saw lots of wildlife – ducks, moorhens, storks and even lots of kingfishers.  It’s not easy to take photos of wildlife when you are moving along on a boat but here are a selection of photos that I took:

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Day 636 – #29 Go out for 12 meals

padstow

Well, I’ve just come back from a lovely week away in Padstow.  Despite a dodgy weather forecast, the week has been mostly glorious sunshine with the odd bit of sea-mist thrown in to keep things fresh.  I am now sporting a beautiful t-shirt tan 🙂

While we were in sunny Padstow we met up with my Auntie Barbara and her partner Rob.  They are slightly more adventurous than us and were camping nearby on a kayaking trip!  We arranged to meet up for something to eat on Monday night and we happened to choose the the Old Custom House.  We came in here last year so we knew it was dog-friendly (to be honest, most of Padstow is – great place!) and as they have to come too it’s just as well.

After we caught up with a major gossip we ordered our food.  I went for Huntsman’s Chicken, Barbara opted for Scampi and the boys both chose Fish Pie.  Unfortunately, they were out of fish pie 😦  So Mark had fish & chips and I think Rob did too.  The food was very tasty.  My only gripe (and it’s a common one with pub food) was the lack of vegetables.  The three fish dishes came with peas only and mine came with a bit of rocket (not a salad, just a bit of rocket).  When you’re eating out for the best part of a week you really start to miss the veg!  Still, it’s meant that I’ve come back desperate to get back into healthy eating.  So that’s not a bad thing!

We had a lovely evening with Barbara & Rob and can’t wait until we are down in Cornwall again. 🙂

Day 580 – #29 Go out for 12 meals

firehouse

Last Saturday Mark and I went to the theatre!  We got vouchers from Mum & Dad for Christmas and booked to see And Then There Were None at the Theatre Royal in Bath.  It was a glorious sunny day and as we were going to the matinee performance, we got to Bath just after lunch and made our leisurely way to the theatre by way of Flan O’Brien’s fine drinking establishment.  The play itself was excellent.  Neither of us had been to see a straight play before (having seen pantomime, musicals and Bryher’s musical performance) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Afterwards we were planning to go for a meal but had no fixed idea about where we might end up.  Avoiding the crowds we walked up the back streets, past the gin bar, past the Raven and up towards the Salamander.  Then we spotted the Firehouse Rotisserie.  It wasn’t too busy and the menu looked nice so we went in.  We sat in the window, funnily enough on the table next to one of the actors from the play we had just watched (Colin Buchanan of Dalziel & Pascoe fame).  The service was excellent and we were soon furnished with Prosecco (me) and Peroni (Mark).  Despite a tempting array of Rotisserie & Grill options, we both opted for brick-fired pizza.  I had the Prosciutto, Mozzarella & Rocket and Mark went for Spicy Barbecue Chicken, Roasted Peppers, Shaved Red Onion, Smoked Cheddar and Coriander but without the Coriander.  We ordered a side of sweet potato fries.

The food was swiftly produced and Oh.My.Word it was bloody gorgeous!  The dough was soft and pillowy without being too much or too heavy.  The toppings were delicious.  The fries were spectacularly crispy – much better than I’ve ever managed.  The portions didn’t look huge but I didn’t manage to finish mine.

It was an excellent experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a venue.  I’ll definitely go here again.