Saturday, 26 June 2010

Wolverley to The Bratch

Wolverley to The Bratch
2nd June 2010
Staffs and Worcester

11 miles - 15 locks - 8 hours

Today was as glorious as yesterday was wet. The clouds dissapated during the morning  till blue sky ruled supreme in the afternoon.

Between Wolverley and the Botterham Staircase pair the Staffs and Worcester runs through it's finest nine miles, usually acompanied by the River Stour and after Stourton Junction, the diminutive Smestow.

Hinksford Lock

All the way the canal runs along a narrow rocky shelf with the towering red sandstone cliffs arching overhead and the river lapping at the retaining wall. At times rocky outcrops blocked the route of the canal forcing Brindley to carve tunnels at Cookley and Dinsley.

We proceeded in glorious isolation as far as Whittington Lock where we virtualy bumped into a boat winding and then stumbled at its heels through Kinver as the canal traffic grew. Stourton Junction was passed in waves of Wild Garlic accompanied by a regiment of Herons.

The next four miles were spent playing tag with an old Dolphin cruiser with a tempremental outboard. When it ran it was faster than us but there were long perious when it cut out altogether. Not that it mattered much  because we were in a steady procession of boats moving up the cut.

Trouble hit us at Botterham. It seems that someone had left the paddle open overnight and drained the pound, causing a huge tailback. When we arrived there were eight boats backed up and a delay of about an hour and a half predicted. This log jam was exasserbated by the presence of the Northwich Cruising Club flotilla, which aded 15 boats to an already  busy canal.

Leaving Botterham

Perhaps the most alarming thing was the "canal rage" I witnessed. The rules are clear - at busy times it is one boat up and one boat down a Botterham, but if crews communicate a more time efficient two up two down method can be enployed. The long queue was waiting to go up, but there was one boater waiting to come down. He waited for two boats to rise and then said he was descendng. Oh the outcry and the childish names hurled at him. Some of the rising boaters from the club were outraged that he didn't let the ascending boats carry on for three, four or more. He quite reasonably pointed out that he had already been generous and as a rusult the childish other crews refused to help him. Personally, he had my sympathy so I helped him on his way and I was minded to moan about anti social implications of blocks of boats travelling together, but of course I didnt.

These enforced stops have a way of bringing people together and I was pleased to make the acquaintance of nb Lucky Dip. An unusal name, so I asked the obvious question.
It seems that a man won a £million on the Lucky Dip and bought his wife a narrowboat. This present was not welcomed and the craft was sold at a loss to the current owners. He was later interviewed in the press, citing his narrrowboat fiasco as his poorest investment. By way of a contrast, its new owners see it as the best investment they ever made. I know who I tend to side with.

Finally, two hours after we arrived, we cleared Botterham. Now well behind schedule, Mr Truth made a qick exit up the towpath to meet up with his wife leaving his gear on board. In the event she was delayed, he sank a couple of pints in the pub at Swindon and we rolled up just as his lift turned up.

The plan was to pass through The Bratch in the evening but when we rounded the bend another long queue faced us. Blow that for a game of monkies - we backed up, moored and wandered up to the locks for some evening photos before settling down to some fishing, a curry and a film. The queue can wait till tomorrow.

1 comment:

Martin said...

At such times, never fill or empty a lock without at least one boat in it!
Anything else is stupidity at least.