The canal trip, the skipper and crew, and I all took turns being "the good, the bad, and the ugly."
First Day Out
Actually, the canal tour itself could have only been good. You can't blame Mother Nature for bad weather, which actually could have made the tour a bit more exciting for me. But it did make it very bad and ugly for Skipper Dave and Dave II when it poured rain all day.
I told them they could stop and weather it out as it looked like we had plenty of time to cover the few miles we had to cover before 5 PM of Day Four of my paid excursion.
"No, No! We cannot stop. We have people to pick up two days after you."
We did not stop at any villages. I was not allowed to tour the old mills or any museums that were close to the canal. Whenever I tried to get involved in opening and closing the locks, I felt like I was going to be in the way. Although they said I could help and even steer the barge, whenever I tried to do something it was always "Darling, you watch out...it's slippery... it will tear your arm off..." or whatever warning seemed appropriate to the task at hand.
Consequently, I spent most of the time riding in the barge except for walking along the tow path a few miles a day. Even then, I could not dawdle and look at any village or chat too long. I had to be sure I arrived at the meeting point before the Katie.
We moored each night near a pub. After a nice dinner in the barge and a short nap for Dave II, we headed for the pub. I quickly learned that pubs get full of Brits drunk on beer at a rather early hour. Skipper Dave and Dave II were gently drunk every night. After one night in the pub, that was enough for me. I haven't been a good pub drunk for decades.
This would have been no problem, except we did not moor near any charming villages.
I might as well have flown 8 hours and spent $200 a day to visit Larwill, Indiana. (Nothing against Larwill all you Hoosiers; but few would travel the world to visit it.)
On the second day, I did find someone to talk to on the street and an old church cemetery to walk through.
Charlie of Birstall
Ancient Birstall Memorial
On the third day, Skipper Dave told me we were mooring for the night at a village where I knew there was a local museum that would be open for two hours after we moored. When I checked our location and the map, it seemed to me we had passed the location.
Eventually, Skipper Dave pulled up to a mooring point. I looked around and discovered we were mooring at the base of a nuclear power plant and were surrounded by the huge cooling towers I had seen on the horizon for miles.
Somehow, Skipper Dave had barged on past the one quaint village. We were only two miles from where we were supposed to be 24 hours from now.
That is when I became very bad and very ugly.
This entire journey had been like some men in the USA who go on a road trip and will not stop for anything except gas. Reaching our destination is the purpose of the trip. And, by cracky, we reached our destination 24 hours ahead of schedule.
Had we been traveling on the barge back in 1850, we should have been commended.
As we were on a pleasure voyage at my request, I definitely did not commend Skipper and Crew. I won't bother to tell what I said.
Suffice it to say, neither had seen and heard such a chewing out since they had left the Royal Navy and the merchant marines.
At Least It Is on the Horizon
We did continue on down the canal a bit so that the power plant was only on the horizon instead of peeking in my window.
We moored at a village with a Medieval church cemetery I could visit and a great pub where the men got really drunk.
They loved the pub they found because they met an "army lad" who when I asked his age was a "54-year-old bloke." They weren't pleased with the marina because of all the "plastic boats" and few barges.
Oh No, Plastic Boats
The next AM, I told Skipper Dave and Dave II to take their time getting into Shardlow, which was our final destination. I walked.
Somehow, I did not cross the correct bridge and lost the towpath. Instead, I walked crosscountry through a private fishing and hunting club and then found one of those famous county-sponsored foot paths.
I Missed the Bridge
There's a Footpath in Here
It Is the Correct Town
I did make it to Shardlow a good hour before the barge and 10 hours ahead of when the trip was supposed to end. I finally had some time to walk around another English village.
Historic Ferry Fares
Yee-Ha! A Bit of Americana
Shardlow Original Lock House and Terminal
Everywhere Flowers and Green
Katie Gets to Shardlow
The local museum was closed, but I approached a volunteer sitting on a bench. As it turned out, today was the annual visit of the local 3rd grade classes.
Schoolchildren Sketch Katie
The volunteer sneaked me in between groups to see the recreation of what the living arrangement looked like on the barge
back when they were used for transport.
In order to keep the goods moving, the whole family lived, ate, and slept in an area that was about 7' X 10'. Skipper Dave knows a man around 90 years old who was born into a barge family of six members who all lived on the barge until the 1950s.
Volunteer and a Bronco Fan
Much to my surprise, I have met several avid American football fans. They still think Elway is the best of them all! The wife of this couple was the raving fan - he could have cared less. She kept asking my opinion about players and teams. All I could do was let her rub my hand and promise I would rub the Denver Bronco in front of Mile High Stadium on my return.
Because I raised such a fuss about the lack of charming mooring sites and the early arrival, Away4Awhile
, the barge company, hired a taxi to drive me from Shardlow to Leicester. There, I could tour around at my leisure.
Dave II remembered that in 2014 Leicester was where they found the original grave of Richard III
The town has built a very interesting visitor center
where you can learn the newly-researched history of Richard III and compare it to the Shakespeare and Tudor versions.
You can also view his original grave under the car park. I talked with some residents about my age who have always lived here, They remember playing in the then-schoolyard which would have meant they were hopscotching on a king's grave.
Previously a Car Park
Site of Original Grave
Richard's New Digs
There are several museums in Leicester - including the Medieval Guild Hall.
600 Year Old House
18th Century Leicester
Leicester Guild Hall
You can also visit the churches of Mary de Castro and the cathedral where Richard III is now interred.
My trusty cabby Lesley picked me up again and took me to the Church Farm Lodge back in Harrington where they treated me like a regular.
Lesley at the Church Farm Lodge
400 YO Pub 24 YO Chef
I walked across the road again to the Tellemarche Arms. This time I sat in the cozy area and had a good chat with the owner (manager?).
She commented, "I bet you meet a lot of interesting people on your journeys."
"Yes," I replied, "except for when I was here last week"
She looked slightly chagrined and said they always assume when someone sits in the dining room they want a more formal dining experience and don't want to chat it up with the staff.
So, now you know the rules of enjoying the pub.
If you want to get drunk and noisy, stay in the bar part or stick around until after 10 PM.
If you want a formal time with only the people at your table, sit in the formal dining room.
Formal Dining Room
If you want to chat it up with the staff or anyone who might be in the same room, find the room that looks like a cozy dining room. (I don't know what they call it in England.)
Some More of That Harrington Gin
I don't know about any other pub in England, but here in the tiny village of Harrington you will get delicious food from a 24 year-old chef if you sit in the bar, the cozy dining room, or the formal dining room.
Now This Is a Chicken Potpie
Best Lamb Burger Anywhere in the World