Ah this is the life. Catching up on the blog, with one eye on Masterchef on iPlayer (oh god, Faye, you’ve cocked that right up), a tummy full of curry and a pot of Minstrels on my knee. Actually, I think I may have overdone it on the Minstrels, feel a bit sick now…
What can I say? It’s all going swimmingly well. We arrived in Stourport mid-afternoon, slotting into a Henry sized spot on the York St VMs before I went off with the dogs to recce the river. The level is barely in the green with no discernible flow so tomorrow’s trip down to Worcester should be a fairly sedate affair…continuing the theme of the week, really. Monday saw us sashay from the Shroppie onto the Staffs & Worcs, the actual moment of transition marked by my generous handing over of the tiller to allow Andy to lock Henry through…we managed the six inch rise with no alarms although my technique on the wheels was harshly critiqued – bloody cheek!
Yesterday we ran from Wightwick to just above Hyde lock, with an absolutely scintillating mooring for the evening. The drop down to the Severn is very rhythmical…along, along, along and down; along, along, along and down; along, along, along, down, and oops, bumpitty bump, dragging our arse over a shallow, silty bit. Yes, that was a bit of a feature of today…from Wolverley onwards, we were grounding out a fair bit, nothing dramatic, but in stark contrast to the rest of the canal that seems to have been well served by the extensive dredging of the other year. I popped down the weed hatch a couple of times, the neurotic me convinced that I must have something on the prop but I didn’t…I rarely do, in all fairness, and I definitely think the 5p plastic bag tax has had a huge impact on the amount of floaty gubbins lying in wait.
But this was just a sideshow to the main event, which is the beautiful Staffs & Worcs canal itself. Why do people bang on about the Llangollen and the Oxford and yet the S&W never gets a look in? I first came this way with dad in the late 80s, and I remember doing the Kinver to Stourport run on the most wowser of an early autumn Sunday morning. Those memories were rekindled today as we awoke to a May day full of promise (the sort you wish you could somehow bottle, either that or press the world’s ‘STOP’ button so you can just enjoy it for a bit longer). We trundled our way through some stunning sylvan stretches, not forgetting to play the ‘will it, won’t it’ game at every bridge. Because Henry sits so low in the water, we can run with a 28″ stack plus a 4″ cutter and not clatter any bridge undersides – usually. But we know from last year’s trip that there are two or three along here that are very tight fits indeed and it only needs me to line up wrong or for the levels to be up on last time for the cutter to be at risk. Well obviously the levels must have been way up as it was bridges 2 – cutter 0 by the time we tied up! One scrape but shape retained, and one completely scrunched and flattened – Andy immediately volunteered to push it back into some semblance of a loop but it looks more like the outline of Australia now.
Talking of Andy, I have to say how very proud of him I was today. We came upon an older couple on a Starline hire boat and they were really struggling with the locks so Andy set to and helped out. He always does so no difference there, it was just that he was so patient and kind to the lady he was assisting, taking care that she didn’t feel awkward or harried about anything as she was really, really struggling with the basics. It got me wondering how they’d made it this far really. Actually Andy is usually a big hit with the ladies he chats to at the lockside – I see them from the lock landing, chatting and laughing over a greasy paddle as he flexes his muscles, gets his tool out and whips it up…who would have thought you could have so much fun with a windlass? So the boy earned his curry and Cobra tonight, but I will no doubt suffer the wrath of his curried meatballs in the morning.