Endon to Meaford
13th September 2011
The storm blew itself out overnight, the last ragged clouds parting to reveal a haunting full moon which hovered just over the hills to the south.
Bad moon rising
This is a remote area and by the time we got moving at 10.30am we had only seen one boat. We picked our way along the lonely summit pound to the five locks at Stockton Brook but Belle was feeling poorly so I was single handing my way along. I was very relieved to find most of the flight set in our favour and Belle emerged again just in time to steer the boat through the to lift bridges at Norton Green.
Pivot of old swing bridge at Endon
We soon found ourselves at Milton after which the rural landscape gives way to urban sprawl and the final lift bridge at Ivy House. We had a bit of an incident here which just shows how even well rehearsed manouvers can go wrong. I was on the bank manning the bridge controls and Belle brought Wand'ring Bark through planning to rope up on the Stoke side whilst I closed the bridge. The snag was she got off and she had left the boat in reverse, realising her mistake too late as the boat was powering away from the bank and back towards the bridge. I decided the car drivers could wait, so I legged it down the towpath and managed to jump on the receeding bows at the very last moment. No harm was done but its scary how this sort of thing can happen at any time.
Caldon Canal summit pound
This wasn't the end of the drama. Just ahead a hire boat was tied to the bank and its crew of four were staring solemnly down the weedhatch, as if into a grave. With Wand'ring Bark secured I walked down to see if could help. They had caught a bladeful of something unknown and after an hour of ineffectual prodding wit the boathook they were calling the hire base for assistance. "Whats down there?" I asked - "Dunno" came the reply. "Have you had a look?" - "We don't fancy the look of the water". It seems a bit unreasonable to get the engineer out without a proper DIY attempt so I laid down into the hatch and soon emerged with a huge pile of polythene. They have clearly never boated on the BCN!
Site of the fire near the gas pumping station at Stockton Green
Planet Lock is the place to meet mad people. Most times I pass through I seem to encounter a mad / drunk / high person. I don't know if its the combined proximity of the big medical centre and the further education college, or what - but the place really attracts them.
Our passage through the rest of Stoke was uneventful, with a steady string of boats rising up and so speeding our passage through the locks.
The traffic ceased as we passed through Hem Heath and thunder clouds gathered above us. Eventually the heavens opened as we entered Trentham Lock, soaking us and the wheelchair bound skipper of nb Shropshire Lass 2 who was loitering in the area whilst his wife has having a broken leg set in the nearby hospital. We were planning to get into Stone for the night and sample the real ale at a recommended pub, but fate decreed otherwise. Just as we were approaching the top of Meaford Locks the bodged repair to the hatch cover (broken in Froghall Tunnel) decided to fail and we were left with an unlockable boat. We therefore stopped and by raiding various bits of the internal fit out were able to effect a decent fix, completing it just as the sun set.