Thursday, 24 September 2009

The last long cruise of the year! Part 3

Thursday 17th September

Another dry day with only light wind!
On our return journey down the Ashby Canal we spotted narrowboat 'Speckled Hen' from Skipton moored outside the Brewers Fayne (originally called The Marina!). It was still quite early and the crew were only just waking so we thought it best, not to give them a knock. Particularly as we know they named their boat after the beer and they may have been recovering from the night before! The last time we saw them was on the Staffs & Worcester down near Kinver approx. 12 months ago. I can only guess this was another trip otherwise it had taken them an inordinate length of time to reach here; even by narrowboat standards. We pressed on and after a brief stop for lunch opposite Valley Cruisers Marina we followed a working boat through the first six locks of the Atherstone Flight. We moored briefly in the pound in order to visit the supermarket for provisions before navigating the next two locks, past Baddesley Basin before finding quite moorings for the evening away from the town.

Friday 18th September
After leaving Atherstone Locks we had a very uneventful journey down to Fazeley apart from passing narrowboat 'Tramper' at Glascote Locks and exchanging greetings. John and Moira (the crew) had been moored up for a week (while they attended a wedding) since we saw them last. At Fazeley we stopped for lunch and set away again behind a pair of old working boats that were immaculately prepared for the working boat gathering at Huddlesford Junction.
As we approached the junction the cruising speed dropped considerably as there were lots of shiney working boats moored both sides of the canal (many rafted out two deep) leaving only a narrowboat width between. Thankfully, we only met one boat coming in the other direction, and with a lot of luck and some anxiety we managed to pass in a gap between rafted-out boats without incident. As we crawled through the train of moored craft, we still managed to speak to Linda (crew of JP2) on the towpath who we had seen earlier in the week. It was unusual not to have the added complication of strong wind in these situations; I guess the blog may have been reporting a different experience had the wind blown! After the gathering boats petered out we moored for the evening just before Streethay Wharf.
The evening entertainment was supplied by a local microlight pilot who was practising his landing in a grassed airstrip next to the canal, passing only feet above the boat roof before touching down in the field on the opposite bank.

Saturday 19th September
Set away at around 9.30am and moored at Fradley outside the Swan to pick a copy of Towpath Talk and buy a newspaper. It appears people in Fradley only read the Daily Mail; as that is all that is stocked! However, we stopped for a while and had morning coffee and read the papers. The weather was fantastic again which made for a very enjoyable cruise up to Great Haywood; stopping briefly at Armitage for lunch.
We moored in our favourite mooring next to Shugbrough Hall below Haywood Lock. This is a popular spot for many boaters; and we noticed narrowboat 'Chelsea' at the head of the line of moored boats. (This was a boat that was featured on an early series of Waterworld that Anthony M had fitted-out in the late 1990s that actual won the best boat award at Crick).
As is often the case on a Friday and Saturday evening when the weather allows; Hot Air Balloons take off from the grounds of Shugbrough Hall, and on this occasion drifted over head (see Photos).

Moored next to Shugbrough Hall

Sunday 20th September

Navigated the last mile or so through through Haywood Lock and into the Marina. Moored up at 10.00am. The weather was again fantastic and we wanted to use the rest of the day to touch up some of the battle-scars before she was lifted out of the water the next day for blacking. The first job (unexpectedly) was to clean down our jetty as geese (or as it seemed a herd of elephants) had roosted overnight leaving lots of 'calling cards' that we didn't want paddled into the boat! It wasn't until after obtaining and reading the Sunday papers that work could commence on cleaning the boat and starting the paintwork touch-ups. This marked the end of a great weeks cruise when the weather had been amazing.

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