4th to 13th Sep – up the Shroppie and a rendezvous with an old mucker
Well Monday was a scorcher and despite all our efforts, closing blinds, removing windows etc, the temperature in the boat soared to over 30C. There was not a breath of air either. Thank goodness for our trusty fan, which had to work overtime! The plan had been for me to move the boat further along the canal while Paul worked, hitting the couple of locks that lay ahead in his lunch break, but it was just too darned hot! We eventually set off around 5pm and it was still pretty hot. We worked our way through the two locks and then continued until we found a nice quiet spot for the night.
As it had been so hot yesterday, we agreed to pull one of our “6 o’clockers” and boy, were we glad we did. We were treated to the most glorious sunrise and mist rising off the fields and canals. We slipped silently past the many moored boats, most no doubt, still slumbering after we passed. We take care to whisper if we are out and about this early as we are only too aware of how annoying it is to be woken up by thoughtless folk.
We reached the T junction (Barbridge) and turned out with some trepidation. It is customary to toot your horn to alert oncoming boats of your impending manoeuvre. It didn’t seem appropriate to be doing that at this early hour, so I went to the bow to check that the coast was clear. It’s prudent to do this anyway, to be honest, as some folk may be unaware that the toot actually means something. Luckily all was clear.
It was a real joy to be out and about on this beautiful morning. I could not help smiling. As the morning wore on, more people emerged and we chatted to a few kids and their parents, off to school, some for the first time, bless them. Eventually, we arrived at Nantwich, where we need to dump the loo and shortly after, we spotted a space on the VMs that looked an acceptable spot to spend a day. We’d probably move off again that evening.
Once moored, I put the breadmaker on, then the washing machine. Housewife overdrive engaged! Also had a quick chat with Chester and his Mummy and Uncle D, who is on holiday on the IOW. Brilliant weather for him! So pleased.
After I had exhausted my burst of housewifeliness (it lasted all of 15 minutes!) I settled down to a spot of embroidery. I bought a beginners kit from Amazon as it looked pretty simple and fun to do. That kept me absorbed – interspersed with doing my daily word games on my phone – most of the day. At teatime – when it had cooled off a bit – we moved on. Well I did – Paul went off with the bike to give the boys a run and then – after popping them back on board – nipped into town for a container of milk. As we were leaving, we saw Clara Scintilla – one of the earlier Ortomarine boats. Paul eventually caught me up at the agreed bridge hole, handed over the milk and then gave the boys another run. They love it. He eventually got back on board with boys and bike and we soon found our nightspot, on some Armco opposite a field of cows, and there we spent the night.
We planned a slightly less early start for Wednesday as we did not have to far to go to the spot we planned to spend the day – a spot called “Coole Pilot Visitor Moorings”. It’s a very pleasant spot overlooking farmland (W3W REF ///hitters.reporter.mixes). And the odd name? It is in the Parish of Coole Pilot – which translates as “croft growing pill oats”. – whatever they may be! None the wiser, but I love unusual place names. There are moorings for about 10 boats, and there are picnic benches and BBQ stands dotted along there, to boot. Not that we have anything to barbecue…….
The benches and barbecues are very kindly provided by the Shropshire Union Canal Society, who do a great job enhancing the look and feel of the canal for all users. From a bench to sit on whilst out on a walk, to signposts, upgrading moorings with rings, and the picnic tables and BBQ stands I mentioned. They are also very instrumental in restoration work. Thank goodness for groups like these. We boaters are so much the richer for such groups.
To get to Coole Pilot, we had to pass through Hack Green locks – for the 4th time this year! They are a nice pair of locks and the first was ready to drive straight in! Bonus. It was another lovely morning and the boys seemed particularly happy to be boating, much running, bounciness, tail-wagging and play fighting. We were tied up, with breakfast on by 08:30.
Once again, we spent the day trying to keep cool, removing every single window and using blinds to keep the sun off. It was still too hot! When we eventually went to bed, we decided to leave most of the windows out as it was still hot. Poor decision as it turned out, because it started raining at 3 am and we had to rush around putting windows back in and closing doors. It rained for all of the time we were doing this, but stopped the very moment we got back into bed. Mother Nature having a laugh at our expense!
We stayed put on Thursday as we had just a short hop to our overnight mooring in Overwater Marina. We had enjoyed it there last time we visited and fancied another night there. We left at lunchtime and the heat was pretty intense. It was maybe half an hour until we were moored in our allotted space for the remainder of the day and night – although the night would not be very long. as we have 15 locks to do before it gets too hot, and after chatting to a chap about his Vetus E-Line motor and our experiences of living with one for three seasons for some while, the evening was pretty truncated.
The alarm went off at 05:30 and we slipped away into the dawn to travel the short distance to Audlem bottom lock. We were fortunate to find that all but the first lock were in our favour – always a bonus! We met just one boat, a single hander, so he too would have an easy run – we were pretty sure no-one was following us up the flight so the locks would all be in his favour too, although they were pretty leaky.
We had reached the top lock just before 09:00 and stopped at the handy booth there to buy pasties for lunch. We had a destination in mind, just below Adderley locks, where we had met Vetus engineer Joel earlier this year and when we arrived, there was a space waiting for us. Excellent. We are meeting friends tomorrow so that should work quite well.
On Friday evening, we had a flying visit from Rob and Caroline (Ortomarine). They’d been to see a boat further up country and popped in on their way home. So lovely to see them. Quite made our day! And it was a beautiful spot and we were treated to a great sunset. It was a very hot and sticky night and we were very grateful for the fan, without which, I doubt we’d have slept very well.
It was another very hot day on Saturday, too. Our friends – Chris and Sharon – arrived at about 11, as arranged. It was their second visit this year, and we’d both experienced some major life events since we’d last met – for them,their son getting married in Greece and for us the arrival of Chester. We had the five Adderley Locks to do and it was pretty darned hot – I was reminded of the mad dogs and Englishmen and the midday sun saying. Spot on!
We pulled over for lunch in a nice shady spot and were a bit surprised to see that someone was clearly living in the woods, with a makeshift house affair and even a pen with chickens. Not just transient but properly living off grid. Being a boater, your mind very quickly turns to their toilet arrangements!
Lunch had been provided by our guests and it was delicious. Charcuterie, chicken, salad and lovely bread. A sumptuous repast, indeed. And then it was out into the relentless glare of the sun again and onwards towards Market Drayton, where we were dropping them off. We had some strawberries and cream (my favourite) followed by a cuppa when we arrived – unusually there had been plenty of space on the VMs. All too soon it was time for them to go and we bid them adieu. They had to pick up one of their cars from where they had parked it in Market Drayton and then go and get the one they had left at our meeting point, before heading home.
All we had to was a bit of washing-up. Paul then watched the footie while I had a lovely lie down with my book. Around 6-ish, we could hear the rumbling of distant thunder which went on for quite some time, getting slowly closer and then the skies opened and we had a bit of a deluge. It did freshen the air somewhat but we still slept that night with the fan on.
It was a little cooler on Sunday morning as we set off for Tyrley Locks and the church bells were ringing. Tyrley are another set of five locks and I was a tiny bit apprehensive, as the by-wash from the bottom lock is famously fierce. I’ve seen some massive cock-ups there, and the left hand side of the lock as you approach bears much evidence of boat strikes. The force of the water as you approach the lock mouth forces you over and there’s nothing you can do about it. Luckily, CRT have added a baffle over the spot where the by-wash spews out. and with that and the help of the bow thruster, I managed to get into the lock with very little trouble at all. Go me!
Business was brisk on the flight and there were 4 or 5 boats queing to go down as we reached the top, at pretty Tyrley Wharf, so we had a lot of help for that last lock. We noted the site of the “winding hole that is no longer a winding hole” because the new owner of the property to which it abuts, has moored his boat there and put up signs to forbid winding. He is not particularly popular among we boaters and it seems CRT are powerless to overrule him.
The sun was pretty hot by then and it was a relief to enter the first cutting (for which the Shroppie is famous) and we revelled in its bosky (that one’s for you Chris Fry) shade. We met quite a few boats on this very narrow, rocky section so made slow progress. We came out of the cutting just as it started spitting with rain. The rain gradually gathered momentum, so I left Paul out there with a brolly. I’m not daft! A quick check on our favourite weather app showed it had probably set in for the afternoon, so we began to look for somewhere to moor. You may recall the infamous Shroppie Shelf? It always makes mooring a bit of trial but we eventually found a good spot with rings on Shebdon Embankment and called it a day. As we approached, I had luckily noticed some rather nasty bolts sticking out, where a piece of wood, placed to stop boats grinding their paint off on concrete banks, had rotted and fallen off. I quickly reported it to CRT. The wood either needs replacing (preferably) or the bolts need to be cut off. They could currently do some damage.
Next week, we will be continuing back up the Shroppie and turning onto the Staffs Worcs at Autherley Junction, near Wolverhampton. We last passed through Autherley in mid-April and have done quite a few hundred miles since then!