Saturday, 21 October 2017

Churnet

As planned, Brother Nº 3 and Wife met us at the Holly Bush Inn for a day's excitement. As hoped, the overnight rain died away at more or less the same time and, after introductions were made with Erin Mae and we'd all had a nice cup of coffee, it was time to go boating.


I think the last time we'd shared a tiller was in the summer of 1968, when we went sailing and camping along the south coast with our friend Barry, who owned a catamaran that was just big enough for three. Now that was an interesting trip – but I will not digress. Just a point of note – a razor has not touched my face since. And my best beloved has never seen it shaven (but she's seen pictures of it without the beard, from the time before this holiday, and she's quite happy for me to keep it!).

The Caldon Canal is a great deal shallower than the waters we navigated on that occasion, and our pace was positively snail-like. Brother tackled tiller duty with appropriate accuracy, especially the bits that didn't involve serried ranks of moored boats around bends on the off-side and unseeable underwater obstructions on the on-side. Sister-in-law declined the opportunity to ground Erin Mae, and instead wielded her camera with great skill.


Meanwhile my best beloved offered instruction in all aspects of managing locks and other hazards. She also offered delicious portions of coconut crunch and gingerbread.


All proceeded well until we got down to Oak Meadow Ford lock, which is where the canal joins the River Churnet for a while.


Just above Erin Mae, on the right of this photo, can be seen a notice, whose purpose was to alert us to possible danger ahead. Out of sight (so you'll have to take my word for it), under the bridge at the bottom of the lock, is a depth gauge, to show the level of the river. It was very definitely in the red! It was also plain that the river was running fast. So instead of going down the lock onto the river, we stopped and had a very nice lunch of Staffordshire oatcakes, hoping that no other boats were following us down, since the only sensible mooring place served as both the lock landing and one side of a winding hole.

Lunch eaten, no harm having been done, and the gauge still in the red, we winded and retraced our steps. Down this stretch of the valley you're never far from the Churnet Valley Railway and, to our surprise (since this was a Friday in October) several trains ran up and down, announcing their presence with that characteristic steam train whistle which, for some reason or other, is extraordinarily pleasing.


Sister-in-law asked me if I had a favourite stretch of canal. It's hard to answer – we've been in so many fabulous spots. But the Churnet valley must be one of the best. It would just have been nice to have had the conditions and time to take them down to Consall Forge and on to Froghall.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Second breakfast

The unseen, submerged part of a fallen tree had a nibble at Erin Mae yesterday as we meandered to Leek.


We escaped intact and I was looking out for it making another attempt as we retraced our steps today. It was cool, a day for wrapping up warm at the tiller. And it was a route with regular hazards apart from toppled trees. In particular it has a number of bridges at awkward angles on corners, usually with boats moored up too close for comfort.


One of these corner-bridges is about the worst we've encountered anywhere, though the setting is delightful.


The first time we came through here, both directions, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to get Erin Mae pointed in the right direction while avoiding collisions. Today, with experience, it was less problematic, but we still used up just about all the allotted space in this very shallow basin. So shortly afterwards we decided on a short pause.


In Lord of the Rings, Pippin says: "What about second breakfast?" Aragorn pays no attention and Merry memorably replies: "I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip." Well, by now we were certainly up for second breakfast, what with the ends of both a seeded and a fruit loaf just begging to be toasted. Then it was through the bridge and round the corner to the junction.


I love the optimistic mention of Uttoxeter 20½ miles. The canal currently extends in that direction for one short pound beyond Froghall, and I doubt even the best efforts of the restoration society will see it in water all the way to Uttoxeter while we're still boating. But the branch towards Froghall was to be our immediate route.


The turn is too tight for Erin Mae to negotiate under power without churning up most of the bottom, so I got off the front with the bow-line, and pulled her round into the approach to the three locks.

The expected rain had arrived and we were glad to tie up soon on the moorings just short of the Hollybush Inn. Whether for main meals, puddings, musical evenings or more second breakfasts, I fancy we're going to be seeing quite a lot of the Hollybush over the next few days if this weather persists.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Forks in the road

Continuing up the Caldon canal, we came to another of those landmarks that draw your hand irresistibly towards the camera.


Apparently (according to Waterways World) the island used to be the pivot point of a swing bridge carrying a light railway over the canal. I expect anyone who's ever come this way has gone home with a photo or two. The one above was taken looking back, the one below was what we saw as we approached.


Just through the bridge is a basin which used to serve the lime-barge industry, but which now houses the Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club. To stay on the main line of the canal you have to turn sharp right.


The other place at which this waterway forks is at Denford, where the Froghall branch carries straight on down three locks, while the Leek branch turns right along a lock-free pound, shortly passing over the lower branch, by now far below.


You can't go anywhere fast on the Caldon. In the first place, it's far too shallow and, in the second place, even if it wasn't, the canal deserves a dawdle. So we've come slowly to Leek and visited Morrisons for some Staffordshire oatcakes – possibly the longest journey specifically for such oatcakes ever undertaken by humankind. Well, we did buy one or two other things while we were at it (in fact, quite a lot).

Tonight we stay here. Tomorrow we retrace our steps to the junction and go down the three locks of the Froghall branch. After that it all gets a bit complicated – down that branch a bit and back on Friday with family. Back to Leek on Saturday. More family doings on Sunday. I'm tempted to leave an Ariadne thread as we move about to make sure that we don't lose track of where we are and can finally escape the Caldon labyrinth. Except that I expect it would get wrapped around the prop.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Caldon duck

Today we came through a stretch of the Trent and Mersey in the southern reaches of Stoke-on-Trent which was completely devoid of wildfowl. It isn't just that they don't like urban environments – they appeared elsewhere in what seemed to be the most unlikely of places. Ducks, in particular, in an assortment of varieties, including the slightly larger black and white splotchy sort that seem to be some farmyard breed escaped and gone native. But, in this stretch, not a moorhen, duck, swan, goose or anything else was to be seen. It was quite nice, when we moored up at Milton on the Caldon Canal this afternoon, to be greeted by the usual little flotilla, including this chappie.


The Caldon Canal branches off the Trent and Mersey at Etruria Junction. The unusual name for this area was given by Josiah Wedgwood when he established one of his major pottery centres here – it comes from the Etruscans of ancient Italy who apparently were known for their artistic flair. Wedgwood was himself one of the major players in the building of the Trent and Mersey – it was to save (and build) him a fortune by providing a way of moving his wares without half of them breaking en route. Today the junction, with its museum and events, celebrates canals rather than pots, and has a statue of James Brindley, the engineer for the T&M and other canals.


The first part of the Caldon goes through a very mixed part of Stoke. This was where we came on our very first cruise on Erin Mae in 2011, and the initial mile was throughly depressing and a bit scary. We were pleasantly surprised two years ago to discover all sorts of urban renewal projects underway, including a new housing development along the canal.


This has now been expanded to the other side, and one new estate has a very striking tribute to the city's past, with a couple of kilns left in place.


With these suburbs straddling the canal bridges are constant – including one electric lift-bridge where you try not to hold up too many cars as you pass sedately in front of their noses. But the one we always remember is Nº 9, because that's where we lost our chimney on that first cruise.


It's the lowest bridge we've encountered anywhere on the network. The sharp-eyed will note that I detached the chimney this time and laid it flat. It's only 12 inches, but it would have gone!


You can imagine what the girder might do our heads if we weren't careful. Now that's what I call a Caldon duck!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Exposed

As we left before 9 this morning, Ophelia was beginning to make her presence felt.


However, travelling north from Stone up the Meaford flight was generally sheltered and pretty calm. All very enjoyable, apart from the 3rd of the four locks, which appears to be damaged and took about half an hour to fill.

We had thought about mooring up just south of Trentham lock, but we found a good space a little before, by the bridge that leads over to the Wedgwood works and exhibition rooms (well worth a visit). Since there's been more traffic than expected, and there is limited space by the lock, we stopped here, looking out west towards the eye of the storm.


What you can't see from the photo is how the wind had developed. Under these conditions, it seems there a balance to be struck between exposure to the elements and making sure that you're not susceptible to a tree collapsing on you. So we opted for the more open choice – it looks good in the sun, and feeds us electrons via the solar panel.

Meanwhile, Ophelia has been having some fun dragging dust up from the Sahara, with some extraordinary effects.


I did nothing manually with the exposure for this photo – just let my little Panasonic do it all by itself.  We're used to the moon occasionally appearing unusual – a harvest moon or that eclipse – but I can't remember seeing the sun looking quite like this before. When the clouds swirling in front, the effect was different again.


All very wonderful, but we're hoping Ophelia doesn't have too many surprises left in store.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Stone

As we travel. we try to link up with local churches for Sunday morning worship. What would you google in Stone? "Stone Church" gives you a range of results that are not exactly relevant!

Stone also offers an opportunity to lay in supplies. With plans for turning right in Stoke and going up the Caldon Canal, this is the last chance for a decent supermarket shop before Leek. We'd planned on eating some Shropshire oatcakes with family on Friday, but unfortunately have found that they have a life expectancy of about three days (the oatcakes, that is, not the family!). Unless we can find an en-route supplier (suggestions, anyone?), we may have to push on to Leek for an oatcake shop before coming back to the Hollybush Inn where we're meeting on Friday. Not the end of the world.


The Star in Stone has been doing good trade on this fine day, which is getting hotter by the minute as hurricane Ophelia drags all that air up from the south. Tomorrow's forecast still looks good for our trip to Trentham – perhaps a bit gusty around the time we expect to arrive. My best beloved's Donegal family, however, looks likely to cop rather more of the wind, and we'll be thinking of them and others we know over there.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

North by North-West

Our brief trip home was highly successful in its primary purpose – getting my best beloved's dental emergency unemergencified. Yesterday we drove back north to Erin Mae, wondering from time to time what on earth had induced us to do so on a Friday afternoon, when the world and her husband are going places. But we have plans! Our big question is whether the weather will allow us to fulfil them. Everybody's talking about a hurricane for Monday – and boaters, generally speaking, don't like the wind. But if you look at the Met Office website, the forecast for our neck of the woods seems at most a little breezy and for the most part quite balmy.

So (intrepid adventurers that we are) out we set, following the Trent and Mersey on its North-West passage to Stone. And very nice it was, too, with the autumn colours around on a sunny afternoon.


It was a bit of a long haul (over 4½ hours) and we'd started late, so we were slightly concerned about finding a mooring spot. A boater who helped us up the first lock in Stone indicated that there was a place above the second lock, just behind his boat, where we could squeeze in and no one would mind us staying over the weekend. The first part of his assurance was correct. We'll report back some other time on the the second part was as accurate!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A tale of two hirers

The first hirer we met today was a Black Prince boat coming through a bridge hole. There were two people sitting at the front enjoying the scenery, and two guys at the back doing the steering. Now this section of the Staffs and Worcs, though much better than it used to be, is still pretty shallow in places, and they clearly were finding this a challenge. They were being very careful and going very slowly, but as a result found it difficult to get their boat pointed in the right direction. There was much yanking on the tiller to try and pull the stern round. Another boater followed them under the bridge, and looked as though he was having to go slower than tickover most of the time. Since the name of his boat was "As It Comes" we exchanged a few pleasantries as we passed on needing to take that seriously!

A little later we found ourselves behind an older couple in an Anglo-Welsh boat, also going slowly. When we were 50 yards behind, they turned to wave us past and, to facilitate this, decided to stop and hold their boat on the line. Bringing a boat neatly to the bank on the curves of this section is challenging even for experienced boaters, and they found themselves with one on the towpath trying to control the boat with the line, and boat with a mind of its own pushing out into mid-stream. We took our time and chose the moment to glide by, and he called out a question, which I stopped to answer. He basically wanted to know what was the rule about waving another boat by – which side should it be? I replied to the effect that it was such a rare occurrence there probably wasn't a rule – you do whatever seems right in the conditions, and what he'd done seemed quite appropriate. I don't think I've ever seen this discussed.

At the time we were more concerned about them getting started again with both on board, ready for the corner just ahead where you go aground if you cut it too fine. As it happens, they came by a little later as we were tied up in Tixall Wide for a spot of lunch. It's always nice to stop there when on our way back to the marina – delays the inevitable just a little bit.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Recapitulation, Part the Third

There were going to be only two parts, but today we came past the garden at Acton Trussell that I reported two weeks ago but had failed to capture in photo.


I realised we were approaching it, so had the camera out super-early.


The blooms were not quite what they were a fortnight ago, but still worth recording.


Now I capitulate – I promise that's the end of recapitulating. Until the next time.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Recapitulation, Part the Second

One of the things about having music in the head is that you (or, at least I) nearly always have music in the head. Sometimes you get something which just won't go away. However good it is, it gets a bit tiring when it seems to be on auto-loop and you can't get rid of it.

I've found this happening a lot recently. The first reason is that I discovered (via Spotify) a series of tunes by Phil Cunningham which seemed perfectly suited to learning on my accordion. I transcribed four or five of them using my scoring app MuseScore, and have been practising them when I get the chance. So, at the moment, they are always around in the head, waiting to be conjured up. The second reason is that steering Erin Mae down a long lock-less section of the Shroppie or the Staffs and Worcs is a classic cause of the mind emptying. The void is immediately filled by the first candidate to come knocking – which at the moment is bound to be one of Phil's little gems. They are wonderful, but they've been getting a bit wearing when I suddenly find that, unbidden, one of them is playing itself yet again.

When, at work, this sort of thing used to happen while I was trying to concentrate on something else in my study, I found two musical items that I could play in the background, which would (a) take the place of whatever was trying to get itself on my internal CD player, and (b) not insist on requiring all my attention (the reason why I have never been able to have music on while studying). They are Górecki's 3rd symphony and Fauré's choral music – wonderful material in their own right, but here used for a less than lofty purpose. They would drive out what else was attempting a takeover. At the tiller, these are impractical, but I have found a substitute. For last Sunday's folk session in Audlem I practised both "Autumn Leaves" and the Incredible String Band's "October Song". Now I find that singing through one of those (almost inaudibly – don't want to give the wrong impression!) has the required effect of eliminating all competing items from my mental sound space.

So if Erin Mae should pass you, and you observe the strange person at the tiller mouthing things with a slightly distant look on his face, don't think he's out of his mind (necessarily). He's merely exorcising yet another recapitulation of Loch Katrine's Lady.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Recapitulation, Part the First

Returning, over the last week, by the way we came, I haven't felt at all the necessity I blogged about earlier, of photographing every item of interest along the way, including those I might have snapped often enough before. Passing such things, the camera has mostly stayed in its case. However, stopping for water at Gailey today, I felt compelled to take a couple of shots.


What had struck me was that both the tower with its shop, and the yard with its boats for hire…


showed very few signs of life. The boats were all arranged in serried ranks, looking as though they were packed away for the winter. Some people must surely take boating holidays in October, but none of them seemed to be starting from here. So Gailey merited a repeat photo.

Recapitulation, Part the Second tomorrow, probably.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Philip

Erin Mae's engine was due a 250 hour service on this trip. We expected to be doing it at King's Lock in Middlewich but, having retraced our steps, decided to get it done at Oxley Marine, just down from Autherley Junction. Philip was on hand to do the necessary.


The first time we met Philip was on an emergency call-out on our very first summer cruise, in 2012 – one of the alternators was no longer working. We had stopped at Gailey, and my best beloved met someone on the tow path who told us to give them a call – reliable, good engineers and they won't rip you off, was what he said. So that's what we did, and Philip came out to fix the problem. Since then we've been to them for one or two things, including the last 1000 hour service, a year ago. It's still a few hours short of the 250 – we haven't done much cruising this year – but we thought we'd take advantage of passing their front door. Well, nearly – they're actually just a bit down from the junction, in the wrong direction. So coming out from the Shroppie I turned the bows left and then reversed the hundred yards or so to their yard, in order to be facing the right way when they'd done.

It was rather startling, in the summer of 2015, to suddenly see Philip steering a boat past where we were moored up in Skipton – one of those "totally out of context" moments. Only later did we find that Yorkshire is indeed his home, and he goes back at weekends. During the week he stays on his own boat at the yard.

So now Erin Mae's engine is set up for the winter. Thanks, Philip. Good service, as ever.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Collaboration

From a distance they looked like a mother with a relatively new brood. That really would be a first for October!


We slowed down and followed them and they paddled up the middle of the cut in front of us.


She really looked as though she was shepherding them to safer waters.


It was only when we got closer (should have been earlier, really) that we realised this was a multi-species event, not a mother with brood at all. The goose, we think, was a greylag, though we're open to correction. The ducks seemed to be a collection of young adult mallards. How they all got together to behave like a family group, who knows? Who adopted who?

We had a conversation today with a boater who helped us up Wheaton Aston lock. He was lamenting what he saw as a decline in courtesy on the cut. Yesterday, I have to say, we both benefited from, and were able to contribute towards, a collaborative effort with other boaters while coming up the Tyrley locks. Two posts ago I mentioned that I had re-written a couple of lines from "October Song". One of them emerged as: "But the one who finds the way of peace will never be forsaken". I enjoyed singing that.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Whittington

Never having been to the panto, I know just one or two things about our Dick. He had a cat; he became Lord Mayor of London; he nearly didn't make it; the great turn-around came as a result of his hearing Bow Bells telling him: "Turn again, Whittington!" My best beloved and I are hoping that the great reversal of fortune occasioned by reversing direction will apply in our own case as well, as we decided to turn around and return home, to get her dental issue sorted out.

So this morning we went down the last two locks of the Audlem flight to the winding hole conveniently situated just beyond them, did the great turn (and winding was absolutely the correct name for it, given the breeze), and then retraced our steps up all fifteen locks of the flight. The sun fooled us by coming out for a few minutes, and we thought: "That went well. Let's carry on." So we went up the five locks of the Adderley flight as well, and made it all the way to Market Drayton. Dick would have been proud of us!

Coupled with the need then to walk to Morrisons and back, this exercise means today has been the polar opposite of yesterday, when we lazed around for most of the day, and then went to the folk session in the Shroppie Fly in the evening.


This is the only place I've seen a hurdy-gurdy being played in the wild and, not content with one, they have two of them! (I wanted to write that sentence rather differently, but I couldn't work out the plural of "hurdy-gurdy"!) There were also singers of various kinds, guitars, bagpipes, fiddles, recorder, bodhrán, egg shakers, penny whistle and piano accordion.


In fact there were two of those as well, since I took my own and got to play a tune or two. Overall, very good fun, a nice range of homespun talent, good company, the joy of making music together. And with a good mix of contemporary and traditional – some of the songs sounded as though they dated from the time of the original Richard Whittington!

Monday, 2 October 2017

To and fro

It's been windy. On Erin Mae's roof sits the paint can I converted for use as chimney spout cover for the times when the actual chimney gets put away. It's tied on with a piece of cord so it doesn't blow away or get nicked, but is free to be blown across the roof (within limits) – and to rock. It doesn't rock much in the wind, just enough to make a noise that echoes down through the insulation and is like the sound the ducks make when they start nibbling at the weed around the water-line. It's been getting into my head as I've been sitting inside practising a song or two for tonight's folk session at the Shroppie Fly. I went out and found a new position which didn't help much, though it's now quietened down. I guess I was just too lazy to untie it and stow it somewhere else.

Faced with my best beloved's dental disintegration yesterday, we had three or four options about which direction we would take. We could soldier on, doing what we'd planned for October, and sort it all out at the end of the month. Convenient, but not very attractive. Or we could turn around and go back to Great Haywood now, and make an appointment for next week some time. Sad, but not disastrous. Thirdly, we could push on towards Chester and leave Erin Mae in the sister marina at Tattenhall – something we've done before. That then entails a cross-country trip to Great Haywood by bus and train and bus to pick up the car for the journey south. Possible, but it would save us only a couple of days compared with turning round. Or we could go a few miles to OverWater marina and leave Erin Mae there. That would be the emergency plan, with corresponding expense.

The dentist wasn't in the practice today, but they told me (a) there was an appointment available late next week, and (b) to send him an email about the problem. Surprisingly, he emailed back to confirm he'd sort it all out on Thursday week. So tomorrow we shall go down two locks to wind, and then retrace our steps.

There's an old, seasonal song by the Incredible String Band that I'm thinking of singing tonight – October Song. It's got a couple of lines I don't like, but I've re-written those. It ends: "…but mostly I just stroll along the path that he is taking." Seems rather appropriate for the moment.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Dentalurgy

We'd decided to join with Audlem Methodist Church for worship this morning. Getting up a little later than we should have led to a decision to have muesli instead of porridge for breakfast, to save a few minutes. In the middle of eating hers, my best beloved suddenly discovered she was chomping on something that definitely had not come out of the muesli packet. This was naturally very upsetting.

We'd also decided to have lunch at the Shroppie Fly, and she faced the prospect of a roast dinner with an incomplete set of grinding equipment. However, lamb was on the menu. Lamb is her favourite, and lamb was what we ordered. Most people do, after all, have two sides to their mouths. Unfortunately, when the lamb duly arrived, we found it impossible even to cut with a knife, and it didn't respond to chewing at all well, tending to bounce back rather than separate. I decided that it was not going to be a pleasurable dining experience, and my best beloved (unwillingly, since she is of far sweeter disposition than I, but with the challenge to her remaining chewing tools in mind) acquiesced in sending it back to the kitchen. The guy serving us was most helpful in organising a replacement of  pork and chicken, one of which was surely bound to be sufficiently tender. In the event, they both were, and the portions were very generous (just a shame about the undercooked cauliflower, which also resisted all attempts at cutting it with a table knife).

So now we shall have to ring the dentist in the morning and decide what to do. Being about half-way round the four counties ring makes the decision complicated, if he thinks that immediate attention is required. We were expecting to find temporary distraction from the issue this evening by joining the folk session at the very same Shroppie Fly, only to discover that they've moved it back to Mondays. We'd like to be here still tomorrow evening, but we shall see…

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Systems

Yesterday afternoon we took a walk into Adderley village – partly for the exercise and partly to see if we could find a way of getting on-line to put up the blog post. There's a bridge over a disused railway line, and that's where the lady pointed, with a wry laugh, when I asked her about the best spot for a mobile signal.


I stood there, laptop in hand, dongle in laptop. Not a hope! So it was onto WiFi – one of our reasons for being a BT customer at home is that everyone who uses a BT internet hub makes available a local hotspot by default. Sure enough, as I stood by the bridge, I was picking up a strong WiFi signal. I just couldn't see where it was coming from. The only likely source within range was the fibre broadband junction box opposite.


I had no idea that such things might broadcast a WiFi signal, but there didn't seem to be anything else near enough. Be that as it may, the actual speed of connection didn't match the apparent strength of the signal, certainly not enough to log on to Blogger. What to do? Easy! We wandered down Rectory Lane between some houses until my computer showed I had another strong signal. Logged on, and this time it worked a treat. I have only the vaguest idea of whose BT hub we piggy-backed on, but it was enough to send yesterday's blog post. I've occasionally used BT WiFi hotspots in cafés and so on, but this was a first – sauntering down a road, laptop in hand, waiting for a signal to show up!

It great when you have a working system. Today we came down 13 of the 15 locks of the Audlem flight.


We've developed ways of managing such a task, which involves us both in paddle and gate operations. My best beloved does one side, while I do the other and then climb down onto Erin Mae to take her out of the lock once the bottom gates are open. Occasionally it is helpful, while the water level is dropping, for me to walk on down to the next lock to get it set and the top gates open, so that I can take Erin Mae straight in without trying the negotiate the shallow edges of the pounds.

So we've tied up in Audlem, and found ourselves just behind Adrian and Dawn in NB Chalico, our neighbours at Great Haywood. Thanks for the help getting into the space, Adrian! We're well in time for the folk session in the Shroppie Fly tomorrow night, but the rain has come early. In fact it's so miserable outside that, instead of putting up a photo of our mooring, I'm going to finish with a shot out of the side-hatch from last night, just to remind us that not every evening is as awful as this one.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Signs of things to come

Setting out when it seemed the overnight rain had finally finished, we did the 3 miles to Adderley and came down this flight of five locks. In three of them we crossed with a boat coming up, which cuts the work in half.


This flight is preparatory to the Audlem flight of fifteen, which we hope to do tomorrow, and where you feel you are really coming down towards the Cheshire plain. Appropriately, we passed these as we descended.


Cheshire is, for us, the black and white county and we expect to see a great many more Fresians. In the same field was this flock of gulls (I take it). It’s a bit worrying to see them gathered in this way. Even if it wasn’t a worm-fest, I suspect it’s a sign of significant wetness, and the forecast for Sunday is currently pretty appalling.


But, for now, we’ve tied up in a spot that is sunny and remote – so remote that there’s no mobile signal, and I can’t see any TV aerials on the few houses within sight. But it’s sunny and calm and peaceful, and we are about to enjoy a magnificent fritada prepared by my best beloved.


After that we shall have to go for a walk into the village to work it off, and to see whether I can find some sort of wifi signal to post this. If you’re reading it on Friday, you’ll know I succeeded.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Obligatory

Somehow it seems necessary, whenever we travel this stretch of the Shroppie, to take yet more photos of the same landmarks. It's strange, because it's not as though any of them are likely to have changed appearance. There's the odd High Bridge (Bridge 39) in Grub Street cutting, north of Norbury Junction.


For those who haven't seen countless pictures of this bridge on boaters' blogs, that's a telegraph pole mounted on the mezzanine.


It appears to serve no purpose whatsoever, apart from that of whimsy. Unlike the Anchor Inn, whose purpose is clear, but whose existence is a mystery, given its isolation and tiny facilities.


They still advertise a Gift Shop, but I've yet to see any evidence that one actually exists. Perhaps it's one way to keep the trade coming.

No longer getting any trade by way of the canal is the factory whose wharf used to see a lot of chocolate floating away to Bourneville.


It now just seems to provide shelter for the occasional boat, while the Knighton factory behind just makes milk powder. What they need reserved moorings for is anybody's guess.


A little further on is Woodseaves Cutting, boasting both another single track with passing places and a bridge competing for height with the "High Bridge" above.


When that finally comes to an end, we reach the last of the obligatory photo-opportunities – Tyrley locks. These are notable on three accounts. First, in the sunshine they are wonderfully picturesque, especially the cottages at the top lock of the five.


Secondly, the beckoning view from the top…


gives no hint of what awaits in the bottom pound of the four. Pity the boater who decides to pull across to the towpath side, to pass another boat or to work the lock. Grounding at that point is one of the few certainties of the inland waterways. Thirdly, should you be coming the other way, it is wise to take no liberties with the bywash of the bottom lock. It can catch you most horribly.

Apart from all that, the Tyrley flight is a joy, and ends with another delight.


I've never really understood fishing, in the form in which it is practised by most of the fishermen we pass. And they are not even uniform in what they'd like from the passing boater (apart from getting off their canal). Some want you to cut the engine, some like you to churn up the bottom. There's really no telling.

One well-understood obligation, however, is to cut your speed when passing moored boats – an obvious courtesy. It only grates a little when you get this:


On several sections of today's leg the moorings seemed to go on for miles and miles. Not that we were really in a hurry, of course. But we did want to cram in a day and a half's travel while the sun was shining. Tomorrow is looking distinctly wetter.