The Great Fire of Wheaton Aston

We arrived at the moorings on Thursday night at about 9:15 having left Cheltenham just after 7pm – we’d been held up by a couple of slow vehicles after we had come off the motorway.

As it was too late to move we stayed on the moorings and sat on the front deck of the boat drinking coffee as darkness fell. It was very pleasant, apart from the hire boat on the short stay moorings who were rather noisy and one of them (a woman I think) decided that using the hedge at the bottom of the garden as a toilet and then throwing their toilet paper in the canal was an acceptable thing to do.

Still we gave them a bit of a fright in the morning when we cast off and moved out of our moorings and missed them by about 1 foot as we swung the front round and headed off towards Wheaton Aston.

As it was our anniversary weekend we didn’t have any real destination and we were going to play it all by ear.

Tyrley locks were pretty quiet until we got towards the top end when we met a Challenger “Stealth Hire” boat coming down. Now I don’t know what it is about Challenger boats but I guess you have to have a lobotomy before they will let you on one. They filled the top lock without checking we were coming up and then when they came out of the lock they spent about 2 minutes getting all their crew back on (I assume it took them a similar length of time to get them all off at the second lock). I think its time for a new canal “law” – if the boat is painted black is apparently being crewed by idiots its a “Stealth Hire” boat.

As it had been quite a while since we had last watered we decided to pull in at the top of the locks and fill up the tanks. The moorings are restricted to 30 minutes – I suggest that if this is the limit then BW do something about the water pressure (or rather lack of it) at the water point.

Still it was very relaxing sitting there watching the world go by and a cat on a boat on the short stay moorings was only too happy to come and say hello in return for lots of tickles.

After we had filled up with water we cast off and made our way sedately through Woodseaves Cutting which was, as ever, extremely damp.

We went the full length of the cutting without meeting another boat and we were at Goldstone Wharf before we saw any other signs of life – with a small flotilla of boats heading past us towards the lock.

There has been a lot of debate recently about linear moorings. Ignoring the “passing speed” arguments and the effect it has on your daily progress I have to say that I find passing what feels like endless lines of moored boats extremely boring – especially if its on a stretch of canal that you do quite often. You can of course pass the time by playing “spot the licence dodger” – but again if its a stretch you regularly do its rather like playing pub sign cricket on an often travelled road.

We stopped just short of “The Anchor” at High Offley for lunch.

Almost immediately after the Anchor you enter Grub Street Cutting. It is nowhere near as narrow, damp or gloomy as Woodseaves and is actually quite interesting to steer through.

There is a small cluster of boats just after you enter the cutting and although there never seems to be any sign of life on the boats there is usually a white Daimler two door coupe parked in a makeshift car port. It wasn’t there when we passed through and Kathy and I were commenting on this when a bird flew over our heads and into the trees. Previously when we’ve been coming through this cutting we have seen a large bird of prey flying round and settling in a tree but we’ve never been able to get a good look at it. However as there were no other boats around we backed up and Kathy took some photos of it. Looking at them later and using a 30+ year old bird book we identified the bird as a Kestrel.

Kestrel

If we’re wrong then please let us know!

Things were as busy as ever at Norbury Junction so we didn’t pull in and mention the weedhatch incident 😉

I know it was Friday and mid afternoon but Gnosall was suprisingly quiet. To be honest, apart from a couple of bursts of boats it had been pretty quiet all day – not that we were complaining, its nice to go boating sometimes and not be in the boating equivalent of the M6 on a Friday evening.

From Gnosall all the way through Cowley Cutting, through High Onn, Little Onn and Rye Hill cutting, and towards Wheaton Aston we saw maybe 3 boats on the move.

As we didn’t know what state the vistor moorings at Wheaton Aston would be like we stopped short of the moorings themselves and moored up just north of Dirty Lane Bridge. We were able to get right into the bank and the moooring pins went in well – so it is worth remembering if you don’t want to risk going to the visitor moorings and finding them full.

After we’d moored up we got a visit from one of the local ducks who decided to go for a walk along the roof. I hope the quacks were quacks of approval!

Duck

I assembled a new Barbeque (all metal construction) which we had bought from Sainsbury for the princely sum of £2.99. I’m not sure how the economics of it work as it seems to be quite well constructed but is cheaper than one of their rather useless tin foil disposable ones.

The title for this blog entry comes from the Official web site for Wheaton Aston which states:

It is said that two of the major events in Wheaton Aston’s history directly affecting the size of the village, have been the great fire in 1777 which destroyed half of the village houses and the installation of better sewerage in the 1960s and 70s which had the opposite effect of allowing more houses to be built.

Which is depressing really – you would have thought that the canal clipping the side of the village would have had some impact – but then again I doubt the original boaters stopped to eat at the pub or top up with fuel

Back at “Home”

Well the BSS work was finally complete (See Steve’s Blog for more info ) so today we headed up to Norbury Junction to pick up the boat and return it to its moorings at Market Drayton .It was nice to see some sun and to be back on the canals. There was a moderate amount of traffic but not what you’d expect for this time of year. Most of the traffic seemed to be heading to the Wharf Tavern at Goldstone Bridge No 55 and if we hadn’t had plans to be elsewhere we might have joined them.Even Tyrley locks were quiet and we arrived in Market Drayton about 4 hours after we left Norbury.The boat now has new gas lockers and a new alternator setup which hopefully wont eat belts every few weeks. Apart from a minor incident involving an insecure weedhatch (I really must ask Simon at Norbury about that) it was a very pleasant day out and made a change from live in Cheltenham