Day 4, Friday 18th June

From sunhats to rainhats, from sunscreen to waterproof gloves: the planning and packing for waterways “climate change” has proved worthwhile! It was a quiet start to the morning as there were few other boat movements. The Trent and Mersey is delightfully rural in this stretch, especially around Weston- upon -Trent and Little Haywood. There are hints of the River Trent to the south, sometimes parallel with the canal, and wooded low hills behind. Cows and sheep graze in the meadows; Canada geese, in gangs, guard their young broods – except once – where at a lock a pair of adults zealously protected their single fluffy gosling. The towpath forms part of the Staffordshire Way, a very tempting-looking route for walkers. Occasional seats have been cut from felled trees and colourful information panels placed at about mile intervals: I longed to moor up and read each one! Stands of trees crowned the hills across the Trent Valley; eventually the area gives way to Cannock Chase, steeper hills and gullies.

The hills flattened out and the first power station came into view at Rugeley. While moored here for essential supplies (newspaper, milk) Ken and the boat suffered a (mis)adventure; mooring either side of Bridge 66 was recommended. An underwater stone shelf grounded the boat so that the only remedy seemed to be to off-load water (half a tank’s worth) and then gas bottles – but to no avail. A passing boater came to the rescue by towing and snatching the boat off the obstacle…

In rain we moored up at Fradley Junction, just onto the Coventry Canal. It’s a colourful spot, canal boats, canal buildings and a delightful interpretive nature area centred on Fradley Pond.

Did I mention the head-banging experiences in the Stoke area? Some of the bridges below the locks are extremely low: even I, when at the helm, have had to bend my knees and neck from time to time. An innovation on this trip is an umbrella holder on the tiller arm. On Tuesday Ken positioned a brightly coloured sunshade in it to shield him from the beating rays. Said sunshade took a few knocks yesterday on those bridges and by the end of the day it was at a very jaunty angle! The holder was in use again today, this time to keep the rain off – and I am glad to report the large sombrely coloured umbrella is still in operational order!

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