We had a bit of a lie in as we weren’t in any real rush, and made our way down towards Autherley Junction. There weren’t very many boats on the move at all and we made pretty good time to Wheaton Aston Services where we pulled in to to top up the water tank. We didn’t need to wait long to get through Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 and the section beyond the lock was extremely quiet and so we were able to make good progress.
As we approached Three Mile Post there was a boat coming towards us – it sat solidly in the middle and refused to move out of the way, I moved over just enough to miss them (the offside has some bad silting and I didn’t want to get stuck) and said “Hello” as we passed them… they ignored me completely. I really do not understand people like that at all.
We stopped for an earlyish lunch just after Bathurst Bridge No 2 where we saw a turtle in the canal. It seemed to be enjoying sunning itself on the branch and given its size I suspect it had survived the previous winter.
As we finished lunch a couple of boats came past heading towards the junction so we gave them a few minutes to get through the lock before casting off. As we approached the junction I could see one boat in the lock, the space between the lock and the hireboat base empty and one boat on the water point. As we passed the water point the boat on it pulled out, cutting across us and forcing me to go into reverse. They made their way down to the lock and proceeded to work through it very slowly. I pulled over and once they’d got the top gate closed I opened the paddles; the man from the boat said in a sarcastic tone “It would have been much faster if you’d helped”… well it would have been much faster for me if you hadn’t been such a dick and pulled out when you did.
I worked us through the lock and we turned left onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal (Main Line: Autherley to Great Haywood) . The boat that had gone through before us was motoring off down the canal so I followed it at a more reasonable speed. As we approached Marsh Lane Bridge No 67 (South End of Narrows) I could see Mr Numpty powering his way through the narrows, ignoring the boat coming the other way. I held back and watched the arm waving and shouting and let the boat that was coming towards us to clear the narrows before entering, making sure that there was no-one else coming through.
By the time we got to The Fox and Anchor PH there was another boat between us and Mr Numpty. Mr Numpty decided to pull in right before the pub moorings (and made rather a mess of it) and so we followed the other boat, who seemed to have a rather random speed pattern, down to Hatherton Junction
As you approach the junction there are some big signs advertising the Calf Heath Marina Complex but there doesn’t seem to be any way to get into it from the towpath as the gates on the offside of the Junction bridge seem to be padlocked shut…which all seems a little odd. But apparently they do sell real ale so maybe sometime we should pull over and go and investigate – I suspect the only way to get there is to moor at Long Molls Bridge No 76 and walk back along Straight Mile
We got to Calf Heath Bridge No 77 where we found the boat in front of us attempting to turn round. The winding hole here is right against the bridge and although its a very deep winding hole it isn’t very wide and you have to basically swing the back of the boat round into the bridge hole to turn round. The crew of the boat turned out to be first time hirers and they had major problems turning round. A boat turned up behind us and seemed annoyed that I wouldn’t let him pass – he couldn’t see the boat trying to turn. It took about 10 minutes for them to turn, and the people fishing opposite the winding hole seemed to be quite tolerant and understanding. I spun Mintball into the winding hole and managed to turn without either ramming the rudder into the bridge pilings or scraping the cabin side against the bridge arch : both things the other boat had done.
We followed the boat back through the junction and to the pub where we stopped right on the end of the visitor moorings, whereas the hireboat moored much closer to the pub.