Forget Me Not

Great Haywood – Kings Bromley – Alrewas – Willington: 27 miles, 16 locks

The Cleddau summer cruise resumed on Thursday: remarkably, there was no rain and there was little wind.

Volunteer crew, the Stafford Campanologists (their most recent cruise mentioned here) reported for duty. “It would help if you could wield a pole,”     the Captain announced to Tim, anticipating the labyrinthine exit ahead. From the furthermost corner of the Great Haywood Marina back to the Trent and Mersey Canal required several tight manoeuvres: a left, a right, another right, a left, a squeeze left out of the marina entrance,    a bit of shuffling about to bear left – and then Cleddau was on her way.

Confirmation of the route to be taken came very soon: at Great Haywood Junction the signpost pointed south for The Trent. 

Confusion was widespread at the Haywood Lock where a single-handed boater stern-hauled his boat into the lock    in order to reverse the 200 yards back to the water point rather than cruise the 4 miles to the outskirts of Rugeley to turn his boat around…

This stretch of the Trent and Mersey Canal has a great deal of charm. There are views of the Shugborough Estate,     glimpses of the baby River Trent babbling through the fields and woodland and the distant outline of the slopes of Cannock Chase.

Colwich Lock is often a bottleneck; there was time to recall that this was ‘the Physicist’s Lock’ (April 2008) – and to watch the cows cross the bridge as the boat dropped in the lock. 

The Campanologists leapt off at Armitage,     just after the Narrows.    It was great to have their help and company again –  and the cruise continued.  Armitage is famed for its toilets. The canal passes the Armitage Shanks factor   but only a tall photographer, a steady hand and a telephoto lens will get a good shot of the pallets of toilets these days… 

‘The yellowing of England, the yellowing of England’ – the phrase runs through the brain as fields of bright yellow oilseed rape are seen to the right    and to the left   of the canal. Spring is so often characterised by yellow flowers – daffodils, dandelions, forsythia, tulips, primroses and here hedges of gorse.    Along the towpath now can be seen other blooms too, small white-headed flowers    while on the offside rhododendron buds are just becoming visible. Onward on Friday,  through an unbusy Fradley Junction. 

5½ miles and 8 locks further on, it was blue flowers that attracted the eye.  Alrewas  is a pretty village    with a population of about three thousand people. The Trent and Mersey Canal weaves its way past well-tended gardens and a large churchyard     before dropping the canal down to a short section of the River Trent. Forget-me-nots are evident in plenty of gardens, beside walls, within borders, in all sorts of nooks and crannies. Years ago a godson’s bride presented wedding guests with packets of forget-me-not seeds. Boatwif forgets her not, when every May a few shy blue flowers appear in the garden borders. These dainty flowers are always a reminder of that glorious Greenwich wedding. Here though in Alrewas forget-me-nots could have a have a more sombre significance. Just two miles away is the National Memorial Arboretum, a 150 acre site where living trees and thought-provoking memorials support personal and respectful remembrance.

A walk along the riverside path towards Wychnor on Friday afternoon provided a view of a stubby church tower.    A stile, a field to cross and a fence to climb are no deterrent when there is a potentially atmospheric place to explore: a very large memorial at the churchyard gates records the loss in 1941 of an 18 year old in the sinking of HMS Barham .     In this small churchyard amongst the forget-me-nots     was another heartrending memorial.

 

How, why had two young brothers (?)  both died in 1932… Never forgotten    are the clear words on a slab in the garden of remembrance – this person though had a longer life.

Back along the river path towards the boat     and a peek inside the church in Alrewas. What colour, what needlework, what involvement. 

 

It was a Bank Holiday Saturday with continuous sunshine  – and the mile-long Trent River section from Alrewas to Wychnor was at its most beguiling. On a busy day most boat traffic was heading west rather than east. With locks comfortably spaced there was time to observe a few boats whose names chimed with past memories or associations:             

Often there are views of water-filled gravel pits,    there is a fine Water Park at Branston and after Burton upon Trent (brewery territory here)    there are aqueducts over brooks, over mill streams   and over the River Dove.    Tied up just short of Willington crew members congratulated themselves on a mooring with an open view and no intrusive noise from road (the A38), rail (the Derby line) or pub (The Dragon). 

Things don’t always go so well – there have been cries of frustration over missing maps (their location forgotten but, days later,  rediscovered) and too a missing radio (location still forgotten…)

May, perhaps, there be rather less forgetting in the ongoing cruise!

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2 Responses

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Glorious pictures Sue! I am pleased as punch the weather is finally cooperating for you and Ken. Long may it continue in some delicious form or other barring torrents of rain and inches of mud.

    Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis)) are the Alaska state flower. I was tattooed with a swag of
    forget-Me-Nots the day before Les and I wed as were both of my daughters, as a reminder of our connection to Alaska and each other. Some of the seeds handed out at les’ memorial service were Myosotis, and the mother of a friend planted her in her garden. she sent me a picture last week of them in all their glorious blue blooms, a lovely reminder of my Best Beloved.

    Love Jaq xxx

  2. Hi Jaq,
    You’d probably told me before about forget-me-nots being the Alaska state flower. I wish I’d remembered it! We have seen more wonderful displays of the flower in various gardens at the eastern end of the Trent and Mersey Canal. As for the weather – well, glorious!
    Sue /Boatwif

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