Day 57: Burton-upon-Trent – Trent and Mersey Canal – (Alrewas – Fradley Junction) – Coventry Canal – (Whittington – Hopwas)

18.7 miles – turbulent clouds which might have gone either way, but finally did the decent thing, and resolved into middle-age grey with a little mothball sunshine

Burton Market Square

Burton is, above all else, a brewing town, and I felt I couldn’t leave without popping into the National Brewing Centre. It’s a little bit thin if you’re already familiar with the brewing process, but they have a few very nice old artifacts; my favorite was the Burton Union System double set, which had been donated by Bass

A Burton Union double set. Beer ferments in the barrels. As fermentation proceeds, yeast and trub are forced up the swan-necked pipes into the trough above and the beer clears. When fermentation is complete, the bright beer is racked off and the good yeast at the bottom of the trough is let into the barrels through pipes, ready for the next fermentation and the trub and dead yeast are discarded. Simple. Elegant.

I left Burton to the warm, rich smell of Marston’s mash tuns. I spent the rest of the day walking on canal tow paths. It’s amazing how quickly muscles get used to the easy life, and after two days of total idling I never felt really comfortable.

A comforting sight: Marston’s Brewery, Burton-upon-Trent

Although I haven’t spent much time on narrowboats, I quickly learnt to tell the difference between the hire boats and the permanent homes. The sleek, shiny craft with modern fittings and nothing on the roofs but a life ring were tourists’ boats, whilst the rusty ones with peeling paint and as many things strapped to or piled on their roofs as possible: logs, bicycles, chairs, trolleys, planks, dinghies, gas canisters, washing lines, solar panels, even children’s toys (but not necessarily a life ring at all) were all their owners’ residences.

And the owners usually looked like their craft. The tatty boats with holes in the sides, patched up with duct tape, and with a higgledy-piggledy pile of rusty tools to mend them were owned by scallywags, determined to keep beneath the radar, whilst the ones with pretty roof gardens were the homes of aging hippies and those in search of a slower pace of life.

I think I could enjoy living on a narrowboat.

Trent and Mersey Canal
The Yorkshire Lass enters a lock.
Trent and Mersey Canal – Bridge 42 with bridge 43 behind it.
This delightful couple, who live on and work from their narrowboat allowed me to photograph it and them and share it with you. Note the fabulous roof garden!
River Trent to the right, Trent and Mersey canal to the left.
Poppies in the corn field.
Two swans guard their cygnet.
The Swan Inn at Fradley Junction.
Coventry Canal
Coventry Canal – an ingenious way of getting more things board.
Coventry Canal
Alrewas – it seems to be fashionable to have a new home with a canal frontage; views like this are common either side of Birmingham.
Best roof garden?
Souvenir of Burton with my supper – the original IPA.

Comments (2):

  1. Cecy Kemp

    23 July 2022 at 14:44

    I love the idea of living on a narrow boat but as Russ frequently points out I wouldn’t fit my books in it.

    • Toby

      26 July 2022 at 10:49

      I can’t even fit my books into my home. Half of them are in the loft. Books are the hardest thing to part with, even if you know you’ll never read them again.


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