Staffs and Worcester Canal
13th December 2008
You have to grab boating opportunities when you can at this time of year. In spite of a diabolical forecast and a long list on unbought Christmas presents, the return of Chris, one of my best friends from the distant north (Morpeth) inspired us to have a day on the boat "come what may". Our wives deemed us mad to venture out in the face of such rain, but we both heeded the Outward Bound saying - "its never the wrong sort of weather, just the wrong sort of clothes!" and donned our most water resistant wet weather gear. A detailed inspection of the local weather map suggested that the worst of the rain would pass by 11.00 so we set off, hoping for the best.
With all the rain, the water levels in the Gailey summit pound were very high and some kind soul had loosened the ropes on WB. They are a good bunch at Calf Heath.
We had been thinking of making a descent to Penkridge but given the adverse weather and limited light we opted for a more leisurely trundle along the Staffs and Worcester to the Fox and Anchor at Coven. Imagine our delight when we discovered that BW had been thinning the offside trees and had left logs everywhere. We stopped off three times on the outward journey and noted some additional likely locations for the return trip.
I usually only hear about these free wood bonanzas after the event, by which time all my friends have stripped the smaller logs clean leaving only the huge ones which are too big to handle, let alone saw up. Not this time, today I was the first on the scene and enjoyed the rich pickings which were available. BW had been so thoughtful that they even left one supply neatly stacked up on a dredging barge.
The Fox and Anchor offered their excellent Scottish beefburgers all washed down with a pint of John Smiths and topped off with a festive Bread and Butter Pudding.
The return journey saw more timber collections eventually covering the rear deck and weighing in at about 1.5 tons! The added load caused the boat to settle several inches, such that we became firmly grounded and it took us a good 15 mins to break free.
After returning home and relieving the groaning car springs of their excess load, there was just time for a wash and brush up before the Capt and Belle departed for a Christmas meal with old friends (all poshed up in our DJ's). This group gather at the start of each Christmas and the male contingent form the core of the Boat Boys, the group that used to relay Honey up and down to London.
With Honey off the radar the group have now migrated to Wand'ring Bark and can often be seen chugging around the canals of the West Midlands and the BCN. Give them a wave if you like, but they prefer a bottle of Port!