Monday, 19 August 2013

A special place where Odin learns to swim.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Secure mooring at Lane Head, but with immediate access to pub!
Where we spent the night is a very secure locked offside mooring, and even had a sign proudly announcing it had had European development money to create it.  Whist all very nice, it would not even have accommodated another 50 foot boat, and to be honest the area didn't feel like one where you needed the security of a locked mooring.  Whilst it is good to see investment in this little used canal, it did seem to have had a lot of money spent on it for a canal with virtually no boats on it even in mid-Summer.  Some of the several full facilities blocks might be more usefully spread out around other canals that simply don't have enough, for example!

I had been meaning to check the diesel tank for some days, but had given it no urgency, believing we would still have plenty.  It came as a bit of a shock to find we had far less than I imagined!  Fortunately there was a garage very nearby, and they could sell me a can, as well as the Diesel, but only a 5 litre one.  I made three round trips whilst the man at the garage looked suitably confused, even though I tried to explain what I was up to.

A very confusing 360 degree panorama by David - the cast iron bridge we are heading for, the brick one is on the Cannock Extension Canal to Norton Canes
We realised at this stage that buying canal-side diesel was going to be a problem.  There are almost no boatyards anywhere near, and a call to the one possible supplier at Norton Canes, up the Cannock Extension canal, eventually produced the answer they had not stocked it for several years.  We had been undecided about going into central Birmingham on this trip, but now realised this was the only way we were likely to buy bulk diesel before we ran out, so started modifying our route accordingly.

The Wyrley and Essington canal is nick-names the "Curley Wyrley" because of its long deviating path it makes around the North of Birmingham following the contours of the land on a route free of locks.  At its Northen-most parts, around places like Pelsall & Brownhills it becomes very rural and very attractive, and quite different from how many probably perceive many of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

Ogley Junction on the way to Anglesey
Several people had suggested that a detour to Anglesey basin was well worth doing.  This is a canal built as a feeder, and at the end is the massive Chasewater reservoir.  We thought we now had enough fuel on board to allow us to do this, although were uncertain initially we would make an overnight stop there, as it would make today another very short boating day.  We decided we would give it a go, and again it has much attractiveness along its route.

Tied up in the feeder at Anglesey Basin.
However the real appeal of this arm only really starts to emerge as you reach a very large basin at the end.  Well, I say "basin" because it is described that way, and there is a large expanse of canal, but only at the very end is there anywhere to really moor narrowboats, and then only two can be got against the sides, and only in the actual feeder that supplies the canal from the massive reservoir who's banks loom ahead of you.  The limited mooring options was not a problem, as the canl is deserted, and we were the only boat there, and remained so.

A quick "scoot" up to the reservoir convinced us that this was not somewhere to whip in and out of, and we must stay overnight, (athough there were some reservations about the waterfall immediately behind the boat, and whether it might disturb sleep!)

Odin regularly takes on bigger "sticks" than is entirely sensible!
We all then went for a very extended walk around the reservoir with Odin, who was far too excited to ever really calm down.  David was attempting to photograph some very large birds of prey fling overhead, but they were not coming close enough, when Cath said, "If you want to photograph a bird of prey, why not ask the man over there!"  A man was carrying what turned out to be Harris Hawk, and he not also agreed to be photographed, but also suggested he put in in a tree for a more natural picture.  Its strange what we find on our walks some times!

Harris Hawk and trainer.

A very handsome bird.
Shortly after this was the momentous moment that Odin learnt after having not realised for 15 months that Labradors could swim, that if he wanted to he can.  The whole process took literally about ten seconds between looks of "this is very frightening - I don't like it at all" to "I have now got this completely cracked, what's next please!?".  Far from returning immediately to be within his depth, you could see him consciously practising turns, and deliberately swimming away from us as well as towards us, until he had it sussed.  Needless to say, we are now considerably more fearful that he will either start going into the canal uninvited, or (much worse), will actually leap from a moving boat.  We are watching him more closely now, as the edge of the boat has tended to be a demarcation line he hasn't generally crossed unless invited to.

Just getting used to the idea

"Splashy Cannonball" dive for a stick

Fully confident after probably less than a minute's practice

Anglesey Basin has to be one of our most unusual overnight moorings, and is recommended as well worth a visit.  But please no more than one boat at a time, in case we want to go there again!

Lane Head to Anglesey Basin
Miles: 13.3 (Chalice), Locks:0

Total Miles: 289.4, Locks: 135

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