We made an earlyish start, but still not that early and, once again, no boats were on the move… in fact we saw no moving boats until we got to Goldstone Wharf where we met a boat that had just cast off and was heading south.
When we got to Tyrley Top Lock No 3 there was a boat going into the lock, but they had a Volunteer Lockie with them who got them to wind up a top paddle when they were leaving the lock so we made pretty good progress down the locks as most of them were just about ready when we got there.
We got back to the moorings, moored up, put the power on and tidied up the boat before heading home.
We had another moderately lazy start but still managed to get moving before any of the other boats. Anglers were starting to collect near Coven Heath Pipe Bridge – obviously the sewage works outfall attracts the fish but does that compensate for the smell?
We made it all the way to Autherley Junction before we met another boat.. they were in the lock and we waited for them to come through the bridge which they did by going in a perfectly straight line and trying to turn using just their bow thrusters…. which was a pretty spectacular fail… I suspect they they could have turned faster if they’d used their boat pole but obviously that would have been to much like hard work. Eventually they did manage to get round and I swung Mintball round under the bridge and straight into the lock. Business was obviously good at the boatyard as their moorings were totally and utterly empty, but the moorings at Wolverhampton Boat Club were still quite full – so I’m not sure when people from there actually go out on their boats.
We had another “encounter” near Three Mile Post – a hire boat was coming towards us and started to pull over to the side to go past us and as they started to do that a boat pulled out from the visitor moorings. The hire boat panicked a little and went aground and the boat that had pulled out, finally realising we were there accelerated across the canal and nearly went into the back of the hire boat.
We continued on through Brewood where the moorings were moderately busy and then we ground to a halt at Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 . We’d expected a small queue, we’d expected people who didn’t know how to work a lock.. we hadn’t expected a boat in the queue to tie up on the lock landing and take a break, and for the boat behind them to just sit there….. which is what happened. Once people had been prodded and pointed comments made (by other boaters) the queue moved moderately quickly.
We had though about stopping for lunch or a drink at The Hartley Arms PH but there were no moorings to be had anywhere around so we chugged on.
There was a fishing match round Rye Hill Cutting Bridge No 23 – 35 sullen and dour fishermen sitting in a line, most of them left it to the last minute to move their rods and then muttered about it, several of them swung their rods back before the boat was completely past them and I was waiting for one of them to lose the end of their rod.
As we cruised along past the moorings between Bullock’s Bridge No 43 and Shebdon Bridge No 44 I saw a Kingfisher on the moored boats on the offside. It was using boats as fishing perches and kept flying ahead of us.
It was no surprise when we got to the Visitor Mooring at Shebdon Wharf to find the same boats moored there that had been there on the Friday when we’d come through.
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.
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.
We had a bit of a lie in because we were just out for a leisurely weekend. Over night the all singing and dancing Smart Meter system had decided to turn itself off… we’ve no idea when or why it happened – we certainly didn’t get a disconnect email so it looks like it was just a glitch..
We headed south and made pretty good time through the locks as there was a boat coming north at just about every lock. The crew at the top lock closed the gates despite me waving at them and blasting the horn several times. They did eventually open one of them but the woman on the bank told me that one of the gates wouldn’t stay open (which isn’t the case).
There was a boat watering above the top lock so we left the gate open and headed off into the cutting. The Notice at Tyrley Farm Bridge No 59 always amuses me – I’m not sure what sort of evasive action you can take in a canal boat if rocks start falling.
The cutting itself looks quite stable and the major works C&RT did a couple of winters ago seem to be holding firm, but on the approach to it a tree had come down and had pulled quite a bit of rock with it.
We made quite good progress through the cutting and things were going quite well until we reached Goldstone Wharf where we got stuck behind a couple of slow boats.. and when I say slow I mean SLOW. I think they dropped right to tick over well before any bridge and then seemed incapable of actually speeding up after going through them. One person on a moored boat even asked if there had been a delay – seeing so many boats in a queue like we were.
We gave up at Shebdon Visitor Moorings (The Wharf Inn) and stopped for lunch, hoping that it would allow the slow boats to actually get a decent way ahead. There were two other boats moored on the 48 hour moorings, one at each end, and one had a very annoying notice:
After lunch we cast off and made reasonable time to Norbury Junction where we topped up the fuel tank before continuing.
As we were moving away from Norbury a boat pulled out in front of us and proceeded to dawdle down the canal to Gnosall where luckily they pulled over on to the Gnosall Visitor Moorings. In fact everyone seemed to be stopping and we did consider it ourselves but decided to take advantage of the weather and the fact that everyone else had stopped and so we pushed on for a little longer before stopping for the night.