I’ve just come back after a few days away with my friends, Kate and Geoff.  We’ve been saying for ages that we want to visit the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, so we decided to extend my most recent visit to include this.

Geoff had booked a little holiday cottage close to the Arboretum in a village called Alrewas.  It’s a little village on the Trent Mersey canal, very close to the Arboretum.  It has three pubs – we tried two of them – and three restaurants – we all tried one, Geoff tried two of them.  With a local supermarket and a lovely butchers, we had everything we needed for our week.

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The Arboretum is 150 acres in size and is somewhere best seen in dry weather.  Day one of our holiday was wet, so we deferred our visit in favour of a trip to Barton Marina.

 Barton Marina is a beautiful marina linking into the Trent and Mersey Canal.  It has berths for 320 boats, with facilities for the boaters.  I’m not going into detail about that, but if you are interested, check out


where you can find all the details.

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It was lovely for us to see all the narrow boats, and to watch one being reversed into its mooring – we shouldn’t really have stood and watched, it’s bad enough when someone watches me reversing in a car.  And I think it’s harder in a boat (yes, I have been on a narrow boat and have “driven” one).  There are more canal boat stories to follow.

Up until 1994, the land surrounding the canal was farmland, when work started to extract over one million metric tonnes of gravel and sand to build the marina and two fishing lakes.  The marina opened for business in 2001.

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The landside of the marina is not huge, I’ve been to bigger ones, but it is lovely.  There are some lovely little shops here – what I would call quite artsy shops, but I suppose would be more correctly called artisan shops.

We started off having coffee in the tea rooms, which had some beautifully painted accessories for the narrow boats – kettles, coal scuttles and the like.  Then we had a good look around the shops, and spent a bit of time in some of them.  Well, more correctly, Kate and I had a nice little shop.  Geoff was very patient with us.  Geoff said that he would treat us for lunch at the The Waterfront Pub.  It would have been churlish to refuse…

The Waterfront, as the name suggests, is on the waterfront, and the restaurant overlooks the marina.  We were lucky enough to get a table right at the front.

Geoff had the creamy garlic mushrooms, with toasted ciabatta, which he enjoyed.  Kate and I both chose the fresh warm asparagus and parmesan salad – the salad was actually asparagus and rocket (one of my favourites) and was warm enough to start to melt the parmesan.  It was delicious.

For his main course, Geoff chose the beer-battered cod and chips.  It was huge!  He’s quite a particular eater, and I can honestly say that I have never seen him enjoy a meal so much!  Kate and I both had one of the specials – pan fried hake on a bed of crushed potatoes with fricassee of pea and bacon.  You don’t see hake on the menu very often nowadays, so it was a no-brainer for me.  I thought the fricassee was a bit rich, but it was rather lovely.

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We went back to our cottage after that.  There are more tales of my trip to come in the next post…

©  Susan Shirley 2015


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