Why, Mr Brindley, knowing your aversion to river navigations, did you incorporate this natural bit into your brilliant canal? Was there no other way?
By the time the water drops to navigable levels once again, work will have started on those two locks further on, effectively barring me from reaching Mercia Marina till mid-December.
Time to put Plan B into operation. B is for Barton Turns Marina, a fairly new marina just this side of the first lock to be closed. As soon as the river section is passable we’ll head into there for a couple of weeks until the locks are re-opened and we can resume the trip to Mercia. I’m saying “we” at this point. I intend to go and fetch Margaret from Wales on Tuesday. That will be a joyful reunion.
She’s feeling a lot better now, starting to shake off the cold that’s been pulling her down for the last few days. I’ve got one as well, but that should be clear by Tuesday. Val and John have been brilliant looking after her, making sure she eats and drinks (water!), and carrying on with the physio exercises to restore full use of her left hand and arm. But it’s my turn to take over now.
To expand on my somewhat truncated post yesterday -
It was a fine morning in Stone when I pulled pins and set off to Limekiln Lock, the sun just showing on the horizon, mist on the water and ice the cabin top.
Waiting for Limekiln Lock to fill
I was just motoring out of the empty lock when a face appeared around the lock wall – “Hello, I’m Simon”. This was my volunteer lock partner for the day. We’d not met before, but he'd kindly offered his services for the day, a good excuse to get out of the office. The amazing thing is, he’d travelled up from London, by train, to join me!
We made brief introductions, then I put him to work!
Simon raising the paddles on Newcastle Road Lock
After clearing the Stone Locks we had time for a cup of coffee and a chance to get to know each other better. He lives on a boat in London, on the River Lea, but doesn’t get out on it often enough.
As he’d never cruised any of the northern canals, he thought a day with me on the T&M would be a good experience. Narrow locks were a revelation!
As it turned out he couldn’t have chosen a better day. Dry, sunny, but a bit chilly (it is November) as we wended our way down the Trent valley.
Weston Upon Trent church spire above the trees.
Unusual view for me – inside a lock chamber!
We stopped for lunch just below Weston Lock, then pushed on, down through Hoo Mill Lock and into Great Haywood. Just past the junction with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal I spotted a familiar boat, NB Timewarp. We keep coming across Tony and Jacquie here and there, and it’s good to have a catch up.
Tony and Simon on the lockside at Great Haywood
The sun was starting to set as we motored past Shugborough Hall, making the tops of the trees glow.
We met George and Carol on NB Rock’n’Roll here and joined them in a cup of tea, then, after supper, went back for something a little stronger… Thanks both, it was good to see you again.
We didn’t stay late; frankly we were both knackered. The long days are starting to take their toll.
Simon had chosen to take up my offer of a bed for the night instead of getting a taxi to Stafford and a train south that night. It was the least I could do, after all.
We were up early again, and on the move soon after half-past eight.
Bye George and Carol
It was an entirely different day. Yesterday’s bright sunshine was replaced with damp mist and cold that seemed to penetrate several layers of clothing.
Someone’s fitting out a new working boat shell at the pig farm moorings…
No propeller yet and no engine either, judging by the trim.
I dropped Simon off in Rugeley so he could catch a train south, but that didn’t go according to plan. The train he’d planned was cancelled, so he finished up having to go back to Stafford and travel from there. Thanks, mate. I’ve enjoyed your company, and your help.
On my tod again I pushed on out of the town, past Hawkesyard Priory and through the mainly opened out Armitage “tunnel”.
Hawkesyard Hall, now a “venue”
I was talking the other day about unusual boat names….
Ravenshaw Wood is certainly looking wintry, now
At the end of the wood is Woodend Lock. Not a lot of imagination used in naming that one….
Here I met my second helper for the day, Ray off NB No Direction. He and Jayne moor at Kings Bromley Marina and Ray offered his services for the Fradley Locks.
Ray at Woodend
He’s a tough dude, cycling in shorts in this weather! Unfortunately my arrival here coincided with the arrival of the rain, and it was a damp trip down through Fradley.
Part of the repair work in Junction Lock, re-opened yesterday
Coming down through Fradley Locks
The short, cruiser-length moorings on the left have been removed. More narrowboat moorings, perhaps?
Ray heading off to set Common Lock, the last for today
I pulled in on the piling above Bagnall Lock at the edge of Alrewas village, and Ray cycled down to check on the river level. He said he’d be happy to help me down through the next three locks back onto the canal at Wychnor, if the river was passable. A bit of a forlorn hope, though. No change from yesterday; still well in the red zone.
Of my kind assistants, Ray certainly drew the short straw. He put up with the cold and rain to help me down these seven locks, and didn’t even want a cup of tea for his services. Thanks Ray, anytime I can help you with anything, you only have to ask. That applies to Margaret and Nigel, and Simon too, of course.
Locks 8, miles 13