Jemima D on the Staff and Worcs
From Sue & Neil
Well it was nearly the end of April - and we hadn't managed to go boating yet this year, so it must be time to load the car and head for Jemima D. So May Bank holiday weekend, off we went. Jemima is on the Staffs and Worcs., and Mike Casswell has left her at Coven, by the Anchor Inn.
We set off Friday night, after work, and arrived at the Anchor Inn at around 9 o'clock. Our friends Ray and Janet had set off from our village about an hour or so earlier, and had loaded their stuff onto Jemima, and were waiting for us in the pub.
This is not a great pub. It serves beer and food, but neither are very exciting. But it is better than nothing! I have Scampi and chips to be on the safe side.
By the time we have eaten it is lashing down with rain, and we decide to wait 'til later to load the boat. Later comes along, and it is still chucking it down, so we dash back and forth along the towpath with bedding and essentials, and soon settle in for the night.
Saturday dawns bright and sunny, we finish unloading the car. Ray and I do a car shuffle and we eventually get away. It is lovely to start the engine, hear that Lister putt-putt and begin to wind down for the weekend.
We head North up the Staffs and Worcs., arriving at Calf Heath Marina around lunchtime. Just the job. Jemima is thirsty and so are we! After filling with diesel we go and sample the beers in this friendly little bar - the landlord makes us very welcome. It is not a very atmospheric building - but we enjoy our stop here. I don't know whether it is true, but the landlord claims to sell the second cheapest diesel on the cut!
The weather is now very hot and sunny, and we have a pleasant afternoon's cruising ahead. We meet our first lock at Gailey. Ray and Janet are pleasantly surprised - they have only ever been on the Leeds and Liverpool with us, and this is their first narrow lock. We are soon down, and back in the swing, Janet and Neil are mainly working the locks, Ray and I are standing at the tiller, enjoying the ride. For a little while the M6 intrudes on our idyll, but we soon leave it behind, and dip into Penkridge.
There are good moorings here, and we are soon sampling the delights of The Boat. But we fancy splashing out on a meal this weekend, and as it is Saturday night, we walk into Penkridge to see where the action is! We find the Wing Fat Chinese restaurant at the far end of the High Street, and decide to give it a try. This is much recommended. It wasn't cheap, but the food was all superb. There was far more than four hungry boaters could eat, and it was beautifully cooked and presented. The service was friendly, and prompt, even though they were very busy.
We walk back through the village, and return to The Boat. It is a lovely warm evening, Bank Holiday weekend, and the joint is jumping! But we manage to find a table and round up some chairs. We are all struggling to finish our beer as we are so full after our meal!
It is only a short walk back to Jemima and bed.
Sunday is just as warm and sunny as Saturday, and we are now very relaxed. No cars to move today, Ray and Janet walk into the village to get supplies and then we are on our way. I am looking forward to today, as we will pass a few familiar haunts. We cross under the M6, and are soon on our way to Acton Trussel. Despite sounding like corrective underwear, this is a lovely village (but a bit upmarket for the likes of Jemima D). Undaunted, we moor up and visit the Moat House - a much tarted up 14th C pub - with a lovely garden and pond. We sit outside and just enjoy the sunshine. We chat to other customers, and watch children feeding the ducks. We are really getting very lazy, and spend longer than we mean to sitting here.
Once we are on our way again we are on our way. We pass through Hazelstrine Bridge, and there ahead is Stafford Boat Club. It all brought back very fond memories of last year, and it was good to see that The grass has grown on the main camping area, so all will be well in August!
Once past the next bridge we are once again in new territory, and very soon we leave Stafford behind, and are out into lovely countryside. The stretch from here to Great Haywood must be one of the loveliest on the system, and Tixall Wide has to be its crowning glory. I resist the temptation to loop the loop - there are too many spectators here, as several boats seem to have gathered for a barbecue.
We are soon at Great Haywood and moor up above Haywood Lock. I decide to sleep off my lunchtime drink, while the others go to explore. Neil and I spent a few weekends here a couple of years ago when Jemima needed some maintenance, so we are back on familiar territory. We advise Ray and Janet to visit the Packhorse Bridge, and also our old haunt The Clifford Arms.
Later, when we go to the Clifford Arms for a meal, the landlord greets Neil like a long lost friend, and we enjoy a convivial evening, with Janet leading the locals in a singsong!
Monday dawns bright and fair, but we find that there have been gremlins in the night. Neil's wellies have been thrown in the cut, and although one is visible in the reeds near the lock bywash, the other has completely disappeared. We discover that several boats have suffered from 'mischievous' happenings, but nothing too serious. This surprises us, as we didn't expect anything like this here, and had not thought to be careful about what we left out - so we were lucky not to lose anything else. Neil is most upset - he was very attached to his wellies! But despite our encouragement he doesn't go snorkelling to find them!
We visit the boatyard to fill with water, deal with the dunny and dump our rubbish, and spend a pleasant half hour watching increasing chaos at the junction as hire boats return, and several other boats arrive at once, all going in different directions!
We are once again on our way, and enjoy another pleasant morning. Ray and Janet decide to walk for a while, and we pick them up again on the outskirts of Rugeley. Passing through Rugeley I spot a familiar boat-name. It is Artists Afloat on tugboat Ann! Unfortunately in my excitement, I have completely forgotten Linda's name - all I can remember is 'tinhat'. But I manage to get by - shouting 'hello, are you on the net?' to Linda who is sitting on the towpath, doing some sewing. I stop in a bridgehole while we chat. (And, of course, I soon remember her name, which saves a lot of embarrassment) Linda seems well, and is enjoying a leisurely journey Northward. It was nice to put another face to a name.
Unfortunately, we must move on, as we have promised to be at the Plum Pudding for lunch, in return for leaving a car in their car park for three days. All too soon we are passing through the delightful Armitage 'tunnel' - and mooring up at the Plum Pudding.
I gather that this pub is not always thought of as friendly to boaters. But we found it very friendly. They were more than happy for us to dump a car there on Saturday morning, and were also happy for us to leave Jemima on the moorings for a while. They told us that it was fine - because we had bothered to ask. What annoys them is if people don't ask, or even worse, don't use the pub! The lunch was very good too.
After lunch we reversed the car shuffle, and began the tedious task of taking our belongings off Jemima. This always takes twice as long as loading them on, as it is done with far less enthusiasm. We sit on the grass in the sunshine for a while, savouring our weekend for as long as possible, before the drive home.
Once home, I check the bookings sheet, and immediately book our next weekend! Only two weeks and we will be back again.