Destination Christmas. 23rd and 24th December

Common Lock 14 to Gallows Bridge 43

‘Rain, proper rain’ Shefali had said last night and she was right. We could have stayed put until it stopped but that could be most of the day and we had Destination Christmas to reach and things to get sorted when we arrived. So after breakfast we put layers of waterproofs on, rolled and folded the covers, they were already soaked and so were we.

At least our lights brightened up the morning a touch

No photos as it was peeing it down. My phone came out from the Nicholsons shelf so that I could record the locks as we went through them, then it got tucked away again in the dry. Come the 1st January this will be the way we record our journeys on our phones. We’ll wait until we have more time to alter the way the trip computer works before using it again.

A long line of moored boats didn’t boad well for being able to moor up in Alrewas, that was until we realised these were boats on C&RT winter moorings. Bagnall Lock gave Mick the run around the bottom gates preferring to stay open as always. It took a while to get the masses of water leaking in through the top gates to hold one gate shut long enough to be able to close the second one without the first one reopening.

Now we just needed a space to pull into.

No boats moored round the bend or on the narrow section. Sandy’s boat came into view, moored all alone. We carried on, our preferred mooring to be near Alrewas Lock, but from a distance that looked quite full. We reversed back close to the footbridge, leaving 2 boat cat lengths between us and Sandy ( Jezebel and Tilly could hopefully have stretches of the towpath each). We had reached our chosen place for Christmas.

Once tied up, we unanimously decided to head straight off in the pouring rain to do our collections. A couple of months ago we’d been thinking of where to spend Christmas this year. Alrewas jumped to mind. A pretty place to be, plenty of mooring, most suitable for Tilly. But also, possibly more important was Coates the Butchers. A month ago I’d placed our order for a duck and a gammon joint via their website, payment had been taken. This morning whilst grimacing at the rain from bed I’d had a phone call saying that our order was ready for collection, very reassuring. We headed off to the butchers.

The main reason for coming to Alrewas

We’d been told to go to the click and collect under the canopy, no need to join the queue. The click and collect had been pushed to one side to give the queue some shelter from the rain. Chatting to the chap in front, he’d moved to Alrewas when he retired mainly because of the butchers. Then the lady behind started to chat, she used to own a narrowboat until a few years ago. Her son-in-law was part of the butchers family and for several years she used to make sausage rolls for them from November to Christmas Eve, 3000 of them!

Not a place for vegetarians!

Our order was brought to us after a while. We still wanted a few things so stayed in the queue. Fresh veg, bacon and a pork pie. Thankfully the veg outside the shop was replenished. We possibly spent as much as we would have done for big bags of veg from the Co-op, but I won’t have to make soup for the next week to use it all up.

Next a visit to the Co-op for the last few bits. All done apart from some parsley, hopefully they will have new stocks in the morning.

By now we’d started to dry off, so had the weather, the queue at the butchers was longer.

On our first ever visit to Alrewas I’d spotted a knitted narrowboat in the window of an old shop. Today the Alrewas Knitwits have a big display. By the War Memorial where Post Office Road meets Main Street has been taken over by them. Penguins ice skating, a tenth birthday cake, Father Christmas taking refuge in a phone box with a large plate of cakes, an Eskimo fishing next to their igloo.

Then across the road there are wall hangings for the twelve days of Christmas, each one made with applique. I especially liked the pipers piping being girls in gingham with recorders.

Tiptoeing around the puddles

Back at Oleanna we dried off and let Tilly explore for the afternoon. Although two big gun dogs did curtail her exploration for a while. She puffed herself up to almost their size! There was an extra shore leave rule today, ‘No digging in the graveyard’ That simply wouldn’t be good!

Christmas Eve.

Mick was sent on a mission for some parsley this morning. The butchers with only a couple of people in the shop came up trumps with the biggest bunch I’ve ever seen for 50p! Surplus is now in the freezer.

The day has been all about cooking whilst Tilly came and went avoiding the local woofers. Stuffing made. Bread sauce milk infused with flavour and garlic roasted to be added tomorrow along with bread. Red cabbage braised, only cranberry sauce to add. Cider gravy stock bubbled and reduced.

Christmas Eve sausage rolls were delayed as I’d forgotten to defrost the pastry last night! But they were enjoyed with a cuppa before cooking continued.

I wonder who’s birthday it might be?

As Mick did secret things in the bedroom I baked a birthday cake. Lemon and Almond Damp Cake, well that’s what my Mum used to call it.

The day has been much much brighter than yesterday. Plenty of people stretching their legs along the towpath and others visiting their relatives in the grave yard next door. Several boats passed a couple stopping nearer the lock.

Passing boat

Mick walked down to check the level below the lock, the next section is joined by the River Trent. As yesterday, it was Amber, the rain may still be on it’s way downstream, we hope the level drops over the next couple of days so that we can carry on our way. The next couple of weeks we are very much at the mercy of the River Trent.

A notice came through yesterday afternoon regarding Stoke Lock on the River Trent. There has been a winter stoppage which was due to be finished today. The notice said.

We are very sorry to advise that we need to put in place a navigational restriction over the Festive period. The repair works are complete, but unfortunately the testing and commissioning needs further work meaning we cannot return the lock to user operation as we are unable to open and close the gates automatically. The lock can be operated by a Trust colleague to allow boats to pass through and any boats wishing to transit through the lock will be able to book a passage between the hours of 11am and 12 noon on 28th 29th 30th and 31st December.

The churchyard Christmas Tree made from rubbish

We made a phone call to C&RT to make a booking. The chap Mick talked to read the notice a couple of times. He took it to mean that we’d only be able to ring to make a booking during the hours mentioned, on the dates mentioned. He was about to send us away to ring back on the 28th, but thankfully called his supervisor first. Unfortunately it turns out that the people we need to book it with had already broken up for Christmas, so we need to call back on the 28th. So if you were wanting to cruise the Trent between Christmas and New Year, you won’t be able to do it on the 28th as 24hrs notice is required.

Fingers crossed all calms down on the Trent quickly and our journey northwards can go ahead as planned with the tides.

We’re ready, are you?

The stockings are out ready and waiting for the big man in red. We’re all ready for tomorrow.

2 locks, WE 1.16 miles (not including reversing), Pip’s Nebo 1.4 miles, Mick’s Nebo 1.3 miles, 2 very soggy boaters, 1.85kg duck, 1.75kg gammon joint, all the veg, 1 last red cabbage, 2 woofers woofing, 1 bowl of stuffing,1 tuperware of milk, 1 pan of cabbage, 1 jug of stock, 1 plate of cake, 1 gammon the best ever, 2 much cream in the dauphinoise potatoes, 1 river to come down and stay down, 1 numpty, No 4, 1 rubbish Christmas tree, 3 stockings ready and waiting to be filled.

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