Old friends, new friends and runaway boats!
Puzzle and I have certainly packed a lot into the last couple of weeks and we find ourselves (at last) a significant distance from our starting point – well, for a narrowboat anyway, probably half an hour by car!
We set out from Shardlow on Bank holiday Monday, with Leeze, Immy and Boo on board, only to be subjected to the foulest of weather – torrential rain, hailstones and thunder and lightening. Luckily, discretion being the better part of valour and having seen the looming purple sky, we moored up and watched the final downpour from inside the boat!
We survived the elements though and on Tuesday made our way to Willington to reunite ourselves with Leeze’s car and after a lovely lunch at the canalside pub, I waved goodbye to my first visitors of the cruising season. However, I must be the luckiest mummy, because a bit later that day, Sam arrived and brought with him my electric spinner, mainly made on his 3d printer. Sadly, I can’t embed video clips here, so a still will have to do…..
The motor takes the place of the wheel on my traditional spinning wheel and what’s more, it’s powered by the boat’s 12v supply! The best thing ever! As I said to Sam, if the bottom falls out of the aero industry, he’ll have something to fall back on. More to the point, it’s made me realise that my children are no longer children, they know ‘stuff’ and what’s more, they probably know more ‘stuff’ than I do!
Rain again the following day, luckily a day of rest for me while I waited for my next visitors, Amanda, Andrew and Archie the Springer Spaniel, surely they should be known hereafter as the ‘A team’! Andrew, how did you escape the camera?!
We travelled from Willington to Fradley Junction, discovering Branston Water Park and a lovely village called Alrewas on the way. Archie loved life near the water, Andrew was a natural when it came to steering and Amanda had the locks sussed in minutes! I think we’d all agree that Burton on Trent could be summed up in one word – ‘smelly’ , but we never did discover whether the smell emanated from the Marmite factory or Marstons brewery!
Saturday saw me travelling solo, north up the Trent and Mersey canal, on my way to meeting Elaine at Great Haywood to start this year’s ‘cruise in company’. I passed Rugeley, the scene of the grounding incident, where Iain and I were rescued by Canal and River Trust employees (Blog entitled ‘Puzzle Floats Again’) but bizarrely could see no reason why it happened!
Having made it to Great Haywood and successfully met up wth Elaine, we took Monday off to explore nearby Shugborough Hall, which I’d thoroughly recommend if you are in the area, beautiful grounds and amazing architecture, long walks and fantastic views….
Then came the serious boating bit, I had arranged an engine service in Gailey for Thursday, so we had a deadline, passing through Tixall and Penkridge on our way. It was during this stretch that Esme, Elaine’s boat, made a bid for freedom! So, here’s the scenario…..We were having an evening cruise, all very pleasant, at the last lock Elaine said ‘you go ahead and choose a mooring’ (she won’t be doing that again in a hurry!). Now, we have two sayings – a bird in the hand……and – discretion is the better part of valour – both applicable to finding a mooring and basically meaning if you see a reasonable mooring take it, ‘cos if you assume there’s something better round the corner, Murphy’s law dictates there’ll be a mile of moored boats you need to pass at ‘tickover’ speed and it’ll be dark, cold and probably raining by the time you find the next space! So, with this in mind, I saw a whole stretch of towpath and no moored boats – ok, so no ‘Armco’ – a metal, fabricated canal edging that makes secure mooring, but hey, you can’t have everything and the rhododendrons on the other side were beautiful! We got out our mooring pins and mallets, secured out vessels and retired to our respective boats. Elaine had mentioned that she was getting up early to walk back and move her car on, so I was quite surprised to look out of the window about 9am the next day and see she was on her way, or at least, her boat was! Esme’s mooring pins had been pulled loose by a passing boat and in Elaine’s absence she had floated over to inspect the rhododendrons! Hmmmm…..of course, the towpath had been empty of people until this precise moment and suddenly there were people and dogs everywhere! Reverse gear is not Puzzle’s favourite, but she knows when to step up to the mark and having come alongside Esme and ‘breasted up’ with Puzzle’s midline, we arrived back on the towpath just as Elaine returned. Captain Harley, Elaine’s furry feline, remained blissfully unaware of his adventure and slept through the entire event!
Time was looking short, so I went on ahead while Elaine took advantage of Wednesday being market day at Penkridge and she caught up later, just as my dear friend Manda joined us for the afternoon. And as Manda was leaving, another friend arrived for an all too brief visit – I met Dawn two years ago as Emily and I were heading from the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon canal, Dawn very kindly invited me on to her boat and marked my map with good mooring spots, difficult locks and other interesting features! Although we have kept in touch on Facebook, we haven’t met in person since, so it was lovely to see her again.
I had been looking forward to taking Puzzle to JD boats in Gailey for the last couple of years. It is where she was built, where she spent the first ten years of her life as a hire boat and where she was painted in the colours she has now and was renamed from her original name of Ragnavald. Michelle, who met me, came on board and talked me through the few changes that previous owners made, answered endless questions from me and arranged for one of the engineers to supervise me engine service the next day. I say ‘supervise’ because when I has phoned them to arrange it, I had said that I wanted to do the service, I’ve seen it done several times and felt that I should be able to do an oil and filter change and change the fuel filters, but was reluctant to have a go unaided! Nigel was brilliant and yes, next time, I’ll be doing it myself!
Friday was the wettest day I remember in a long time and apart from a quick walk to the local garden centre for potting compost (!) and lunch, we stayed put and spent a considerable time looking at route options, given that this persistent rain will probably result in the River Severn being in flood just as we plan to arrive – I’ll keep you posted on that one! In the meantime, we are heading towards Stourport on Severn……