Thursday 22 November 2018

Fradley (with a boating “buddy”)

Cruising companion for the day

We set off for Kings Bromley at nine on Tuesday morning.  There had been no frost overnight, but it felt chilly on the back of the boat as there was a fairly brisk breeze.  Still, the sun was shining, and we saw the odd kingfisher as we headed towards Great Haywood junction. 

Great Haywood junction is where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal leaves the Trent & Mersey and winds its way 46 miles down to the River Severn at Stourport.  We first went down the Staffs & Worcs in February 2015 – click here for a link

The beautiful (I think) bridge at the start of the Staffs & Worcs at Great Haywood junction
We stayed on the Trent & Mersey going down three locks and got through Rugeley before mooring up for lunch just before Armitage tunnel.  It started raining as we got to Rugeley and it didn’t stop for the rest of the afternoon.

Saying we moored near Armitage tunnel is a bit misleading as it is no longer a tunnel.  It is thought to be the first canal tunnel in the UK when it was opened in 1770.  The roof was removed in 1970 as the tunnel was suffering from subsidence caused by coal mining.  Now it is just a long cutting wide enough for one boat and with a kink at the end.  As there is a kink someone has to walk ahead to make sure the way is clear and stop any boats about to come the other way.  Fun when you have to do it on your own which I had to do twice when taking the old boat up north to swap it for the current one and then bring it back.

We moored by bridge 55 at Kings Bromley on Tuesday evening having covered 11 ½ miles down three locks.  Talking about miles and locks, Karen has pointed out that I made a mistake in the last entry rather than having 155 miles and 111 locks left to Aylesbury, I should have said 118 miles and 74 locks!

The rest of the day was spent indoors, and we finally decided what to do with the car when we’re in France next year.  We have been weighing up the pros and cons of various options including leaving it SORNed for a couple of years in the UK and hiring a French car if we come home for a holiday.  We have now decided that we will leave it in a port in France whilst we cruise and, when we pop back to the UK, find a way of picking up. 

I also got in touch with the ropemakers at Braunston to order the remaining lines and zigzag fenders we need for France.  We will pick these things up when we’re cruising through Braunston next Monday. 

Wednesday was our CRT boating buddy day.  This meant Adnan Saif, their West Midlands regional director, got to taste life for a day on a narrowboat and was able to try and see things from a boater’s perspective.

He was dropped off at the boat at nine and after our introductions and a safety (?) chat from me we set off.   We were heading for Fazeley and there were only three locks on the journey and he and Karen did them together under her excellent instruction.

Karen and Adnan getting ready to close up Wood End lock
Other than talking about boating, CRT and waterways we also covered some of the history of Yemen.  Adnan and his wife are both Yemenis and it was interesting hearing about the history and the current political situation of Yemen.  In return he seemed to be really interested in our way of life and our views on CRT, its current direction and what we think is good and what’s bad about the organization and its approach as a charity.

After the three locks we arrived at Fradley junction which is usually a honey trap for gongoozlers; today there were none to be seen.

Fradley junction with just Karen and Adnan in sight
We turned right at the junction onto the Coventry canal and stopped at Huddlesford for lunch.  Later in the afternoon we dropped Adnan off at Whittington just after the Coventry canal becomes the Birmingham & Fazeley canal.  It is now the Birmingham & Fazeley canal all the way to Birmingham.

Waving Adnan goodbye
While we had been cruising in the morning, we were on the look out for kingfishers as Adnan had never seen one.  He was unlucky I’m afraid and, ironically, we saw three in the next hour after we dropped him off.

I’ve probably mentioned this at least once before, but the northern stretch of the Birmingham & Fazeley is called the Coventry because the company building the Birmingham & Fazeley ran out of money, so the Coventry company stepped in and paid for the final five miles to the Trent & Mersey, so they could have the through link to those rivers and their cities.

After 13 ½ miles we were ready to retire for the evening when we arrived at Fazeley especially as it had turned a lot colder during the afternoon. 

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