Branston to Fradley Junction, 7 miles, 8 locks
Woke up to a very misty morn. So misty, in fact, that visibility was about 300yds (274m), however the sun was clearly up and fighting and it quickly started to get brighter. John and Rita were up and set off just as I was making a flask of tea. They said they'd have the first lock set ready for me, but before I got started four South African ladies on nb Ophelia came past.
After the first lock, the canal starts to go through the National Forest and is joined for a couple of miles by the modern-day A38, which in Roman times was known as Ryknild Street. This seems to be very busy and is extremely noisy too.There's a brief deviation at Barton Turn, a tiny place that seems to consist mainly of a pub, a lock, and a turn-off of the A38. It's actually an adjunct to the much larger Barton Under Needwood (hence the 'Barton') which is a good distance from the canal. Amusingly, there's a couple of Little Chefs at Barton Turn (one each side of the road) and I was tickled to see that the canal-side one has piling nearby so you can moor up, should you be in need of an Olympic Breakfast or a toasted tea-cake. The Little Chef itself is directly opposite the entrance to Barton Turns Marina, which is vast and has its own hotel, pub and parade of shops!
After a couple of bridges the canal goes through Wychnor lock and turns away from the A38, finally restoring peace and tranquility. It then dithers about for a bit before passing Alrewas (pron. "Olrewus") which was supposed to be last night's destination. At Alrewus lock, the canal briefly turns into the River Trent. Just before the lock, the landing stage has been ripped out and BW are doing substantial works to fix up what I'm told was a bad bit of bank. There's a temporary mooring point, but it's a long way from the lock, so I was very fortunate that I arrived the lock was empty and one of the bottom gates was open. I called to a passing couple to ask if they would open the other gate for me and the gentleman kindly obliged, allowing me to go straight in. Although these are narrow locks there's a lot of force in the water and I wasn't quite quick enough to catch Oothoon before she hit the front gate, so after she'd popped up to the surface, I took advantage of the short gap before Izzyinn Two turned up to check that everything was still intact. The only casualty seems to be my Ikea 'aerolatte', which will probably never froth again.
Alrewus itself is slightly set back from the canal but even if it wasn't, you wouldn't be able to see much for the number of boats that were moored there. I think not getting there yesterday actually worked in my favour. After Alrewus, there's a short straight, another couple of locks in quick succession, then you're in Fradley Junction. Once again I was lucky and people waiting to bring their boats down helped me through the locks, so I was through in no time.
Fradley Junction is where the Trent and Mersey, and the Coventry canals meet and is one of the most famous canal junctions. When I leave here I'll be heading south down the Coventry, but John and Rita will be continuing on the Trent and Mersey, so it'll be a parting of the ways. They arrived a little after me and we regrouped and hit the BW café for tea and cake. We also had a wander up to look at the Trent and Mersey locks, because John had heard a rumour that they'd been closed, but it looked like if they had been, it was only so that the Cill markers could be repainted.
We had dinner in The Swan: a hearty bowl of Cream of Onion soup (unusual but tasty!) followed, in my case, by minted lamb pie with veg and new potatoes. Very nice. Another pint or two of Spitfire later and it was back to the boat and I was in bed by just after 9:30.