Things domestic

Armitage (T & M) to Tixall Wide (Staffs & Worcs Canal), 8 miles and 2 locks

 “Uuh?”  you may say, if you are a keen canal route follower. “Aren’t you going the wrong way? Wasn’t there a plan to continue over the hill after the Harecastle Tunnel at Stoke on Trent, and to drop down onto the Cheshire Plain and then go down onto the River Weaver…?”   

There was… there still is, but the sun is shining and Tixall Wide is a glorious area, wide enough to turn a full length boat around and it’s only about a mile from Great Haywood Junction to rejoin the Trent and Mersey Canal.  So a relatively short boating trip today has led to a pleasant afternoon and overnight mooring in a favourite spot.

 This morning the Armitage Narrows were managed without incident – no oncoming boats, nor bears skulking on the sandstone ledges.  At the far end, still holding a torch aloft is the white night-gowned figure of… well, maybe it is Ebenezer Scrooge. Cleddau cruised onwards from Armitage to Rugeley, to moor briefly for a grocery restock. When you pass narrow gardens in towns you can often sense the personalities of the house owners from their choice of ornamentation – classical, contemporary or comical. In small spaces enthusiasts can squash decking, summerhouses, garden huts – and plants. More than in past years gardens with small chicken runs can be seen but the house with the swimming pool only five yards from the canal is up for sale now.

Once over the Trent Aqueduct at the far end of the town the canal vistas just get better and better. The river flows gently on the left along the valley, the trees and slopes of Cannock Chase providing constantly varying shape and form. To the right small scale farming is apparent: pigs and their piglets were snuffling in pig runs, sheep were dozing in the heat under trees.  Then there are occasional large houses with gardens and seating areas right down to the water’s edge.  Onward, towards Great Haywood.  On the left there is first a glimpse and then a fuller view of Shugborough Hall and the Shugborough Estate. Up Haywood Lock, past a garden full of lunch-time customers at the Lockhouse Restaurant, past a line of boats moored alongside the towpath and a left turn at the Junction, as if to Wolverhampton. Would there be space? Would Cleddau have to do a wide sweeping turn and go back to the Junction?  But in this very popular area luck was with us – a mooring space had just been vacated.

To the Things Domestic: not domestic servitude, not “having a domestic”, just domestic concerns. Shopping, laundry (washed and dried), carpet brushing, floor sweeping, boat exterior (left hand side and bow) dusted, washed and polished, window cleaning, touch up painting…  a busy day.  Boatwif’s eyes may have deceived her but she is sure she espied a full scale ironing board through the side hatch of one boat passed hereabouts; likewise her ears may have been deceived, but from inside a different boat there was an unusual but very distinctive sound, that of a pressure cooker.  Such enthusiasm for household duties… Late afternoon at the tiny little Toll Office embossed with the Staffs and Worcs Canal plaque for the first time an open door was spotted. Inside were the advertisements for CabinCare, a company which provides soft furnishings, blinds and deck tiles for boats.

Domestics done and interiors improved all make for a satisfied feeling – but time at Tixall is far, far more rewarding: smooth waters, geese on the wing, a stunning sunset and a clear night sky.

 

Tomorrow to Stone.

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