Victor tells it's the Trent & Mersey yet again

Published: Friday, 07 June 2024

AT LAST I have article and photographs happily together to tell of our cruise on the Trent & Mersey and back yet again.

Starting at our normal 7.30am it was 10.15 before we saw a boat on the move, and all the day long only six. There certainly is a difference, and it was the same as our cruise went along with so few boats on the move in comparison to earlier years. Not forgetting we have been cruising the Trent & Mersey for well over 20 years,

One boater we met definitely did not want to be on the Trent & Mersey but had no option when a landfall at Brinklow on the Oxford closed the canal, so it was a detour to get to the Crick Show where he was booked in. Not sure what the detour was, he only telling there were others that just did not bother.

The fella told that though there was no one available to clear the landfall there were five workers on the adjacent towpath bringing it up to a ‘better standard’ he discovered. He thought the landfall would however be cleared the following week, so perhaps cleared now. Priorities, eh?


Once again we were stopped in our tracks. This time at Shadehouse Lock at Fradley, pictured.

Our being informed that a large sandstone block had eventually worked its way to stop a paddle working with the navigation closed.

But luckily it was one of the new ‘quick fix’ jobs with a five strong CaRT team rolling up and getting at it.

They obviously knew what they were doing so did not have to find that ‘method of repair’ so necessary for contractors, with it all done and dusted by late morning after an early start.

Our Thomas congratulating them on a quick repair, and finished before the stated time. But no stoppage notice!

But what a difference when we were held up in the past, luckily towards the end of a job, by contractors on the Leicester Section that took from Monday to Friday to attach two strips on the gates of the locks, together with other bits and pieces to drag it out.

A sandstorm

Coming out of the top lock at Fradley we were amazed to see no moored boats on the towpath side, where, many of you will be aware, there is always a line of them right up to the lock moorings.

But soon realised why after being told that a new surface had been put on the towpath of sandstone and when the wind blew it created a sandstorm of dust covering the boats. So off they went.

It certainly must have been badevery single boat had gone!

Very few ducks

We have been cruising the Trent & Mersey for over 20 years and never a shortage of ducks, but they have been getting less and less throughout the later years, with very few indeed seen this time.

Of course it was those idiot  and obviously brainless 'do-gooders' that released hundreds of mink from a farm some few years ago, that are now decimating the native duck population, showing their complete lack of foresight in releasing such predators.

What we do have are literally thousands of non-native Canada Geese—and their numerous offsprings populating the waterways.


So to our cruise and a most worrying title our Thomas has given it in the log—Swan Song!

Mind you a surprise indeed when I discovered it was our 50th cruise and all over two weeks each. And not counting those in hire boats. So does this mean this is a case of enough is enough?

Has he had enough? Instead of a quick dash out of the marina as usual on our cruises, we actually did not move until the following day. Mind you the previous ones from Sawley usually meant those dreaded terrible six locks, and our getting half way through them the evening before to ease the pain!

But from Mercia there aren’t any such locks...

No mooring at Stone

Finishing one day at Stone we hoped to get a space to moor above the lock at the Star Inn our having an early finish at 11.30.

Yet were gob-smacked to see just a single boat moored the whole length to the next lock, and then realised there were even mooring spaces below the lock, which is unheard of. Even the two day moorings on the off-side above the lock were empty. So we gratefully pulled in and moored away from the pub behind the boat shown, that we discovered was unoccupied. The photograph was taken from the bridge by the above lock.

And wondered why. Then the reason for no boats became clear—very clear indeed—and loud!

At noon came the racket—trash-bash belted out from speakers that could be heard over the whole area needing every door and window firmly closed just to lessen it a little. And it lasted until midnight!

It certainly showed why Saturday at Stone is a no mooring day! Our esteemed editor being deaf was an advantage—but not for us.


One of our favourite moorings is along the long straight at Trentham, with plenty of walks on the towpath side, but some years ago there was a planning notice for houses on the rather large site. But building permission was not granted, with people, us included, still being allowed to use the paths and fields.

But recently came another planning notice for many houses and local amenities on the other (off-side) of the canal, that has obviously been granted, with our picture showing the site as it is now, with buildings constructed and space for many more.

Looks like another village in the offing.

The reason?

These days after heavy rain we get so many complaints of sewage in the riversand canals where they join.

But surely, with all these new developments and what-have-you being constructed all over the country and all releasing waste water into the sewers, has anyone in real authority actually realised that the current sewage plants just cannot cope—so into the rivers it overflows…

A case of the cart before the hoss again...

LockbeamRepairLong2A quick fix

I reckon we are all aware that a lock beam breakage usually means the dreaded contractors brought in to find their usual ‘method of repair’ and the waterway closed for weeks, as they decide the lock too needs replacement and of course the beam has to be made.

But in now come CaRT’s local team and actually repair the broken beam on site. As can be seen in the picture.

That at least will last the season until a winter repair can be undertaken.

LockBeamRepairShortIn addition to this beam repair that has made a broken lock gate usable, there was another that was cracked that has had the same treatment—preventive maintenance at last! The two were Haywood Lock and Cow Shit Lock.

Now a quieter Stone

Coming back to a much quieter Stone on a weekday, we dropped down below Star Lock and moored as heavy rain was forecast for the following day, and it came to pass, as most of you boaters will well remember that particular Wednesday.

On the pervious visit. Going up, the noise notwithstanding, we enjoyed the many pleasant walks above Star Lock between it and the lock above, then when returning took advantage of the stretches of grassland and walks that we had previously discovered opposite the top lock of the flight.

After taking shelter before that promised day-long downpour, again we found more attractive walks and fields plus a massive pasture, all open to the public, showing us that Stone by the Trent & Mersey Canal is very attractive indeed and has much to offer in recreation. With an actual recreation centre thrown in.

WolseleyBridgeArmsA good choice

Caught up with Keith at Wolseley Bridge and took him for a meal just up from the canal at the Wolseley Arms. And all of us very impressed, and not only by the quality of the food but by the service, with the waitress being most effusive in her greeting and looking after us very well during the meal.

One of the very few eateries I have visited on the waterways that I can recommend.

Not so good this time

Then we met up with former fellow boaters from Sawley Marina—who had also escaped—for a meal at The Swan at Fradley—but what a difference.

This was the second time we had had a meal at this pub. The first time being seated in a restaurant area and fairly good food. But alas, not this time.

Though we had booked a table well beforehand we were not placed in the restaurant as expected but plonked at a table next to the bar and its crowd.

Two of us ordered lasagne but lasagne it certainly was not, its taste unrecognisable, so quite a portion went back.

The service, also was not. Two youths, without a smile between them just plonked the food on the table at one end, not even asking whom it was for, leaving us to sort it.

I was very much against leaving a tip, that certainly was not earned. Perhaps a visit from Gordon Ramsey would be in keeping!

JanPathThose visitors

Well, I must mention towpath walkers, or the lack of them. For if it wasn’t for our four legged friends and their owners there would hardly be any seen.

Just passed the second lock above Haywood Junction where we stopped at 11.45am and had a clean at the boat.

Just 14 people passed all the rest of the day. And, with the exception of two, all walking—or running—with dogs. Hence the unused state of the towpath in the picture.

In fact people with dogs along the whole cruise up to Stoke and back (a slow one, as I mentioned) took up the majority of the visitors. How this relates to what—I see has leaped another 100 million—up to 900,000,000 visitors a year to our 2,000miles of waterways that we are told, I can only guess.

As very obviously have also those have guessed who conjured up this ridiculous figure. Well, just think, it means that every single person in the country has to visit the 2,000 miles of our waterways 16 times a year!

Believe it? Neither do I.

SeatLatestEven more visitor spend

Now something else for CaRT to spend money on for its towpath visitorscrazy seats!

Crazy they are, as must be the people who thought them up, and here's a picture, so what do you make of that?

We were at the moorings just below Burton and here was one, and yet another some 80 yards below!  And no few others we have passed.

But what the hell is the point of a seat with only half its back? All I can see is that CaRT had just not enough cash to afford the full back to the seat.

There is certainly no point to it. One can only wonderwhat next from Crazy CaRT?

BranstonAfraid of the river

And so to the last lap where we broke our rule of an early start to miss the hire boats and the like, coming across six boats waiting to go down Branston Lock!

How come? They were those who were scared of that 'frightening' river below Alrewas Lock so had tackled it as there had been a shower during the day making them more scared of it being too fast for them the following day!

So off they went to moor at Branston during the evening that meant our late morning start the following day we joined them.. One at the front of us, I was informed, had just bought the boat having never had one before!

It taking just under an hour to get through and the boats out of the way, it would give time to be clear by Branston Lock, but no such luck—still five waiting to go down, as pictured, so we packed in for the day.

NoCuttingHighestGrass cutting

I can honestly state that the amount of grass cutting by the locks is the worse I have ever seen. Lock after lock had the grass so tall there was no way to see the bollards that were covered and most dangerous as trip hazards for both boaters and visitors alike.

So what of the standard that CaRT is presently preaching about things being better for boaters?

And another thing there is still no waste disposal at Stone. So that's it from me!

Victor Swift—telling tales for 24 years.