Calf Heath to Coven
I have recently completed the South Pennine Ring, inspired by this book. I am therefore re reading it and now realise that a first read merely provided an overview of the trip, sort of whetting ones appetite. Having actually seen it, done it and won the tee shirt the book now comes to life. I suspect it will justify another blog entry when the accounts of our travels are complete.
The overriding memory of the three surviving crew was rain, rain and more rain. As I recall, it rained every day for most of the day and always heavily!
Maybe this is par for the course on the western side of the Leeds Liverpool, but it went down as one of our less successful boating trips and we spent a whole week in a state of mild hypothermia. However, it must have stopped raining as some points to allow the following photo's to be taken.
81 my father and I were both canal fanatics and enjoyed the trip. Its funny looking at a very young me all togged out in my Troll waterproofs, but clearly happy to sit out in the pouring rain day after day plodding along a lonely stretch of canal. Some things never change, and each year you will still find me in exactly the same position, happy as a pig in muck!
I recall the scenery being somewhat dull but even in 19
For this trip we hired nb Rivington from a now defunct yard at Rawlinson Lane in Heath Charnock. This is about an hour or so above the Wigan flight and just before Botany.
The day was truly exceptional with bright sunshine and gentle winds, but more boaters than one generally expects this late in the season.
I made an obligatory stop at Wheaton Aston filling station and topped off the diesel tank (62p per litre) and was advised that the 60:40 split is by no means obligatory, it is all down to self declaration, which the garage is happy to accept. When applied, the extra tax will cost an additional 50p per litre, which sounds a lot but when considered on an annual basis, it is not enough to dissuade us from boating.
From Diesel I moved on to the self service pump out only to discover that both my pre paid meter cards have been used by friends who have borrowed the boat and replaced the cards, fully used. Its not the money that matters, it’s the inconvenience of only finding out when all connected to the machine! Grr. In future I will hide my BW payment cards.
Whilst “not” pumping out I encountered another of the genial solitary male continuous cruisers sailing aboard “Directors Cut”, selling some lovely photos to supplement his pension. It is interesting how the linear village throws you into contact with complete strangers, most of whom display a warmth and willingness to engage which you never find on land.
The stretch from Wheaton Aston to Brewood was a stunning show of autumn colour – the best I have ever witnessed. This left the cut clogged with leaves, of course, but that was a small price to pay for the experience. And anyway, you always get there in the end.
It happened that a crew were descending, so I waited and fell into conversation with the owner of the boat in front, who was a continuous cruiser and had been aboard for for five years, slowly making his way around the system accompanied only by his dog. He was a quiet but friendly man who graciously lifted a bottom paddle on exiting the lock and so eased my passage. His boat was called “Inky and I” so I guess I was talking to “I”. Mind you, I am sure he called his dog Spot which was curious. Maybe boats live for longer than dogs… I followed “I” right through Woodseaves Cutting, which was made ponderous by the huge number of leaves brought down by the overnight winds. There was no danger of breaking the 2mph speed limit today. We finally parted company with waves and greetings at Goldstone Wharf, with me on my way to Calf Heath and him to his winter moorings half way up the Bradley Arm of the BCN. (see log entry May 2007).
The passage up the Tyrley Flight and through the cutting had been sheltered and in sunshine, but all that changed as I left Goldstone behind. Dark grey clouds streamed in carried by a gale force wind which sent WB crabwise up the cut and became wild as I crossed the lofty Shebdon Embankment. Just beyond the old Cadburys works a boat pulled out when I was less than 100 yards away and then veered from side to side. I quickly realised that this was the same boat that has been making a total hash of things in the area the previous day so pressed on and passed by without delay.
By the time I reached Grub Street cutting the clouds opened necessitating a quick stop to don full waterproofs, have a pint of water and stoke the fire – all whilst the boat continued at tickover and without touching either bank. This is not a trick to play when there are other boats around.
From here on the rain never let up and I passed a sodden Norbury Junction with few signs of life, apart from a curl of smoke from the residential boaters. I had the canal to myself all the way through Gnosall, but was constantly reversing to clear the clogged prop. The surface debris was so bad that at times the prop was fouled the minute I started up. Progress was therefore very slow.
I decided to press on a bit further and stop at dusk, hopefully stopping at Little Onn, just before the Rye Hill Cutting where I had noticed a good mooring spot after bridge 24. The spot was also recommended by a walking boater who helped me with Tyrley Top Lock. I arrived in the failing gloom to find plenty of space and a sheltered haven for the night.
Woodseaves was an absolute delight and taken with the lovely Tylrey flight made a great end to the run. Woodseaves was a riot of autumnal colour and on this occasion I had it to myself. This space allowed me to stop under the bridges and take some excellent photos. This run offers the best of the Shroppie’s cuttings and of all, I love Woodseaves the best. As a child my parents took me on canal holidays and these must have included the Shropshire Union. Throughout my teenage tears I used a mental image of an endlessly straight cutting with a magnificent high bridge at the end as a picture to help me get to sleep. I would lay there with my slowing heartbeat being the rhythm of the boat engine driving me oh so slowly towards the bridge – but I always fell asleep before I got there. I assumed it was a amalgam of various canal images, but was shocked to discover it was a real place – Woodseaves!
I rolled into Market Drayton just as darkness was falling and a fine rain was in the air. On the final run in I encountered a turtle. Yes, a turtle – you know a scrawny necked creature that pokes its head out of its shell. In this case it was the boating variety who felt that my slow wasn’t slow enough so out popped this withered head on a stick and all ranting and gesticulation. Poor old bugger, he can’t have much of a life if that’s all he has for entertainment.
Settled on my now regular moorings alongside the school playing field, consumed a hearty salad and sardines (I know how to live... actually I also know how to lose weight - two stone in two months thanks to the Cambridge Diet and self control) and settled down to watch Bond's Goldeneye.
Another great day aboard WB.