Drifting along the Coventry
Sorry for the prolonged radio silence - anyone would think that I had forgotten the "Publish" button on Blogger.
The simple fact is that we have been away boating, and I havn't had time to write up the trip report.
So here is a post completely out of sequence.
Having cruised to Croperdy, Wand'ring Bark was recovered by Martin, as usual, but due to time constraints he had to pause the return trip leaving the boat in Tamworth. The forecast for the weekend was excellent and with Belle and my mother in law booked in for a double dose of Shakespeare, it left John, my father in law, and myself with a day to kill. How better than spend it out on the water moving the boat back to base?
We made our way to the boat on Friday evening and slept aboard, ready for a prompt getaway with Gt Haywood as a likely destination. The morning was clear and still, with the sun soon burning off that autumnal nip in the air. In no time we were cruising along in our tee shirts. This really is a lovely stretch of canal, not spectacular but in some ways it's the Midlands at its benign best.
Balloons at Shugborough
First there are the wooded hills of the Canwell Estate before reaching the busy A38 corridor at Seethay Wharf. Along the way others were struggling to wake up - a couple of lads in a RIB who didn't know which side to pass on (didn't even bother looking for a license) and then as I was approaching a long line of moored boats an oncoming boat was hypnotised by the haystacks and again I had to pass to the left to avoid a collision.
But after that initial excitement the miles just rolled under the keel. We moved from village to village with just a smattering of oncoming traffic to keep us on our toes. Fradley was thronging, with the Cheese Boat at the junction making for the Black Country Festival at the weekend and four boats waiting to rise up the Trent and Mersey. No problem on a day like that - we grabbed a couple of take out pints from the Swan and chatted to the folk on the towpath. The incident, if you can call it that, was down to the Trust volunteers. I shouldn't really gripe as their help was appreciated, but as with my father in law being inexperienced I was in single hander mode and stuck the bows against the top gate with the drive in slow forward. "Oh no, can you move to the back of the lock please?" We complied and, of course, as the boat neared the top she surged forward and gave the gates a heart whack. Not sure how best to handle these situations.
Up into the sunset
Then it was on in a dreamy summer afternoon, drifting through Armitage and Rugely. As we enter home waters we encounter more and more boats that we know - its nice really. The sun started to set as we crossed the River Trent, trailed by a couple of black country guys out in their canoe doing a round trip from Wolsley Bridge.
A bonus emerged as we approached Great Haywood. There in the grounds of Shugborough two balloons were taking off. We stopped and were busy taking some photos when I looked at the boat beside us which seemed more than a little familiar - Starcross, and there was Jim sitting in the bows.
And so ended a particularly beautiful day, good weather and a whole day with my father in law, polished off with a pub meal. It dosn't get a lot better than that.