Leicester Ring 2011
Rugeley to Calf Heath
18 miles - 14 locks - 9 hours
I have mixed feelings about last days of trips, especially when approaching base from Great Haywood. The eastern end of the Staffs and Worcester is pleasant enough in its own right, but it is very familiar ground and I sometimes get impatient to get to the end.
But this time it was different. The sun continued to shine on us as it has for the last ten days and I would dearly liked to have carried on north from Gt Haywood Junction to who knows where. That's the thing about boating - everyone is moving somewhere and no two trips are ever the same. That glittering strand of water casts its spell upon me, leaving me thirsting for more even before I finish the current trip.
We came up behind nb Willow at Colwych, another boat built by Floating Homes, not that the owner noticed the similarity of Wand'ring Bark such are the changes I have wreaked upon it! The first thing he said is "oh, but the welding is deplorable" and poured all over WB trying to work out how our welds were nearly invisible (lots of angle grinding and filler before the repaint). He also showed me his engine - a Barrus Shire unit which ran very fast and smoked a lot more than our faithful Beta 38.
We expected massive congestion at Tixall but all the boats had evaporated and we entered a steady procession of craft, but no more than a typical weekend. No incident, no issues, just mile after mile of rippling waters punctuated by the occasional lock.
Perhaps the greatest surprise was at Acton Trussell. There I was, pottering along nice and slow past a moored boat which I hadn't noticed before when I saw its owner standing in his garden watching me intently. I glanced up to offer a cheery "Hi" when I realised that it was none other than Phil Jones, my trusty boat engineer who has undertaken all the tasks on WB which are beyond me - most recently the new cooker. A personal welcome back is service over and above the call of duty Mr Jones!
A welcome from Mr Jones
It was also a day of ducklings - they were everywhere. The record was a clutch of 15 to a single mum!
So, a moment of reflection. What of the trip?
Well, to be absolutely honest it was a bit of a stretch. I had slightly over egged Nicks Canalplanner and we ran for nearly 10 hours per day, which was tolerable only because of the amazing weather. In fact, most days we just wanted to cruise right into the sunset, which is always the most exciting time of day for a photographer. Jeff's tireless work on the locks also helped a lot but overall I would have to say that the Leicester Ring proper should be given 10 days - with an extra 4 days to get us to and from Fradley Junction. 10 days overall was too fast, and our itinerary approached that set by the Captain Snr all those years ago - something I try to avoid.
So I bid the Leicester Ring goodbye, till next time. It has much going for it and is well worth the effort. As for us? Belle and I will be put out again at the End of May - destination Stratford, and then there is the BCN Marathon Challenge to look forward to, supported by Jeff and Mr Truth. Lots to anticipate to and lots of trip reports to write.