After spending time the previous evening in the pub researching train times and bouncing text messages around it turned out that the best place to do the crew swap was at Rugeley – with Simon and Mike leaving on 14:04 and David arriving on the 14:05.
So we set off into a slightly misty, grey and dull day – but at least it wasn’t raining! The canal continues its almost meaningless meandering along the Trent Valley, it seems to go nowhere and seems to be in no hurry to get there and with very infrequent bridges it can become hard to work out where you are. Weston Bridge No 80 and the settlement of Weston even manages to sneak up on you heading south but the village seems to be unwilling to let the canal go and new developments are stretched out alongside the canal almost until you reach Weston Lock No 24.
Great Haywood Junction was, as usual, slightly chaotic with boats moving round all over the place and for some reason people seemed to be having problems getting through Haywood Lock No 22 for some reason and we didn’t want to think about how bad it would be at Colwich Lock No 21 but it wasn’t that bad and whilst we waited we had a good chat with the resident lock keeper who used to be a working boatman. Once through the lock we made good time and soon arrived at Rugeley North Visitor Moorings which are very hand for a supermarket (just over the the bridge) and for Rugeley Trent Valley railway station which is a few minutes walk in the other direction.
Once we’d swapped crew we set off under very pleasant skies and soon arrived at Armitage Tunnel where we didn’t have to wait for another boat and we didn’t follow one through either which is a pretty rare occurrence from our experience, and given the fact that a few minutes earlier we’d passed a lot boats going in the other direction, and the canal was actually pretty quite all the way down to Wood End Lock No 20 which always looks so tranquil. The locks down to Fradley Junction were pretty quiet too and we navigated the junction and Fradley Swingbridge with no problems.
Although our original planned stopping place had been just above Fradley locks we decided to push on Huddlesford Junction for the night as it was a pleasant evening and it seemed silly to waste the nice day.
The Plough at the junction has changed quite a bit since we were last in it which we think was over 15 years ago, however the beer was good and the staff were very friendly..