Saturday, November 24, 2012

So near, yet so far

All of the hard work by myself and my locking companions has been to no avail. The River Trent is in flood after all the rain, and there’s a mile section of the Trent and Mersey that uses the river. It’s very high and running fast, too fast for safe navigation.

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 fillSAM_4330

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 LockSAM_4332

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.SAM_4337

Unusual view for me – inside a lock chamber!SAM_4340

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 HaywoodSAM_4361
The sun was starting to set as we motored past Shugborough Hall, making the tops of the trees glow.SAM_4362

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 CarolSAM_4364

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.

Colwich LockSAM_4365
Someone’s fitting out a new working boat shell at the pig farm moorings…SAM_4366
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”SAM_4368

I was talking the other day about unusual boat names….SAM_4367
‘Nuff said….

Armitage “tunnel”SAM_4370
BW C&RT recommend you send a crew member ahead to check for approaching boats. Meg didn’t seem to understand what I wanted of her…

Ravenshaw Wood is certainly looking wintry, nowSAM_4373

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 WoodendSAM_4375
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 yesterdaySAM_4377

Coming down through Fradley LocksSAM_4378
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 todaySAM_4379
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


No Direction said...

Geoff, if you are stuck at Alrewas and need to empty cassettes, ring me and I will run you (and tanks) up to Fradley in the car.

Lyraboat said...

What wonderful community!

Liverpool Marina said...

what a wonderful place it is. There are many different marinas offering narrowboat moorings with beautiful views & amazing wildlife.