Making a short detour from the Trent and Mersey we popped onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal as Tixal Wide had been recommended as one of the area’s ‘nice spots’. There is a hiatus of water on the canal forming a mini lake at Tixal overlooked by the squareness of Tixal Gatehouse where small holidaying children are permitted by their parents to take the helm and experience whipping their boats round in mad circles.
Here the good weather broke and the sun left us; otherwise we would have stayed a while at Tixal for its novelty value. Instead we forged on in the rain onto the Coventry Canal. A stop at Hartshill and a chance meeting with a local character saw us being invited into his self-built recording studio where he plucked a banjo from its perch on the wall next to its colleagues of guitars and fiddles and played us an animated tune of his own devising. He had become interested in the restoration of fiddles but fifteen years ago had decided to build his own banjo. On completing this endeavour he thought maybe he should learn to play it. His artistry has blossomed with aptitude and skill and we were lucky to meet such a warm and affable gentleman so willing to share his time and enthusiasm with us.
The guidebook prefers Fradley Junction over the junction at Fazeley, but the quieter Fazeley we found much more appealing. Fradley was fractious and brimming with pub clientele and hot boaters and the general bustle of people at pleasure and we were pleased to leave it behind. A winter visit would suit us more when the orange leafiness of an autumn stroll and the promise of a seasonal micro-brewed ale would draw us back.
The windows of Fazeley Junction’s waterside renovations were all thrown open presumably to quicken the drying of plasterwork and on passing, the frontage of the buildings were sympathetic and beguiling for modern dwellings. Creeping past, your eyes are met by a stunning kingfisher and robin back-to-back painted on a warehouse wall. We have a closer picture of the birds but prefer this one showing beneath them the mirroring of human brightly coloured birds on their ‘perches’.
Between Marston Junction and Hawkesbury Junction lies a strange dock worthy of note for its eclectic mix of tailor’s dummies, vintage tin baths, plastic river cruisers and dogs with almost mountain climbing abilities nimbly traversing them. It seems a pre-requisite of mooring at Charity Dock that you share everyone elses’ passion of both hoarding and jauntily displaying bizarre stuff from huge plastic Cornettos to pith helmets. The dock is a pantomime scene but curiously not a living soul that isn’t canine is to be seen.
Hawkesbury Junction is a popular convergence of the Coventry and Oxford Canals but luckily for us most activity was static – either with moored boats thickening the arteries of the canal or with people enjoying a drink at The Greyhound pub. Passing through the solitary stop lock with its egg cupful of a difference in water level the Oxford Canal wiggled before us. Beneath electricity pylons we passed a rather random snoozing tethered horse. A real One Horse Town.
Thanks to Donna and Mark for permission to post their blog here.