Monday 6 June 2011

BCN Challenge 2011, Part Five - Walsall

BCN Challenge 2011
Part Five - Walsall

Final Tally: 50 miles - 97 locks (9 duplicates) - 50 miles

We were on our knees by the time we reached Walsall, taking hour long spells on the tiller. The wind was howling between the new buildings, blowing the new arrivals over to the far side of the cut. The only safe place was in the narrows, but this was being used to gauge the deeper drafted boats who were after their extra points. WB draws a modest 24 inches so we were waved through and letting us slot into the last bay next to the Wharf Bar.

Wand'ring Bark tucked in for the night

After exchanging a few greetings with the other competitors Belle arrived with Tilly, bearing gifts of shortbread and sponge. Adrenaline has kept us going but now the fatigue really hit me. I was wrecked and kept lapsing into silence - most unusual! 

The Capt with the Walsall's Mayor and Mayoress

Then we were summoned to the stern to greet the Mayor and Mayoress of Walsall, visiting at the boaters and generally savouring the sight of a packed and vibrant basin. I got the impression that they have maintained a vision of a basin packed with colourful narrowboats and here at last was their dream come true. They were clearly proud of the town's achievements and when the developments in the waterfront are complete the area will be transformed. Mind you, it will take quite a lot to attract casual boaters along there weedy backwaters.

Our reward

The Mayor and Mayoress left clutching bags of lavender shortbread and we were left with our Marathon Challenge brass plaque. Now I don't normally go for these plaques but this one is going to be screwed into pride of place. Completing the challenge is real achievement and no matter how well or badly we do, I am proud to have participated.

With all those lovely boats in the basin I had to take the camera out for a spin.

Naturally, after all that effort we retired to the pub along with the other crews and supped a pint or three, losing what little coherence I had left. As I sat there with the crew of Indigo Dream I spied the Tawny Owl guys in the corner and identified Mark (nb North Star) who is a regular reader of my lost BCN posts. I knew he would be present and he is a guy whose knowledge of the old backwaters is more encyclopedic than I can ever aspire to. He proudly showed me his copy of the Blue Book (I have got to get one) and told me about the huge book of BCN distances he has just bought. We compared notes about the Danks Branch which we have both been exploring, talking in an informed manner about the location of a now non existent inlet on the Tame Valley Canal. We made a sad pair!

Eventually at 6.00pm I could talk no more. Sue identified my fatigue and sent me packing back to Wand'ring Bark where a meal awaited. I was so far gone that I fell asleep three times whilst chewing causing Mt Truth to send me off to bed where I snoozed for an hour or so and kept me going for the rest of the evening.

They had a band playing in the Wharf Bar, a bunch of young kids endowed with more enthusiasm than skill, but mercifully they packed up at 10.30pm leaving us to sleep like babies through till 7.00am - bliss.


Unknown said...

That Shortbread was wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Band, what band? I heard no band.

nb Indigo Dream

Halfie said...

Perhaps the Mayor and Mayoress would like to put up a notice at the entrance to the basin saying that the boom across the entrance is not a barrier to boats! When we were there in April we tied up outside the empty basin and then had a difficult reverse to the end of the arm, collecting a large amount of prop-stopping clothing on the way. How were we to know?

Martin said...

What's the blue book then?

Andy Tidy said...

Jill and Graham - glad you liked it
Richard - did you know they were on when you chose your mooring?
Halfie - good point.
Martin - take a look on Marks blogsite:

belle said...

Sponge? Sponge?! It wasn't just ordinary SPONGE! It was Rose Petal Victoria Sponge sandwiched with cream flavoured with Rose Syrup and spread with Rose Petal Jam - all foraged from the Wolverhampton 21 lock flight!!!

Andy Tidy said...

Top Tip
Never give your wife editorial rights to your blog!

belle said...

Oops, Jilly and Graham - I'm very glad you liked the shortbread. I must post the recipe. In fact, I shall do that now. I may even mutter about the sponge ...

Andy Tidy said...

She's not an easy woman to live with.....

Halfie said...

You foraged cream from the 21? I'm impressed!

Andy Tidy said...

Its surprising what you can pick up on the 21!

belle said...

OK, so I should clarify, it was the roses I foraged from the Wolverhampton 21. I got carried away with my indigation. Righteous, I think you'll find ;)