Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"Sheer weight of traffic", but an excellent meal to end a long day.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)
Post for Wednesday 20th August.

Queuing for the first lock, with the delightful ex ice-breaker
Finally after our fairly hectic last three weeks we found ourselves in the happy situation of only still needing three longish days to reach Alvecote for the historic boat event this weekend, and actually having three days to do it in.  We had by now successfully negotiated anything that needed a booking, or, like Harecastle tunnel yesterday, requires you to be in time to guarantee a passage that day.

We spent the night at Westport lake, which in my view is easily the top spot anywhere in the area below the tunnel, and onward through to Etruria.  It is often packed out, but overnight there had been unusually few boats there.

A better view of this unusual and immaculate boat.
Our objective now was just to make best possible progress each day, without flogging ourselves to death.  However any hope that we would progress quickly through the first flight of locks commencing at Etruria was quickly dashed when we turned up to find four or five boats already queuing waiting for that lock.  The situation was exacerbated by the fact that it is a deep lock, and we were told one top paddle was out of action, making the re-filling for each new boat to go down very slow.  In fact the steerer of the boat ahead of us chose to check this "fact", and both paddles actually appeared to be in fine fettle.  Once the misinformation was corrected, progress through that lock at least became a lot quicker.

A bridge in the undemanding Meaford lock flight
However it quickly became apparent that we were not going to get anywhere very fast, as two single handed boats were ahead, who were attempting to help each other work each lock twice, before moving on to the next.  Here we deployed our secret weapon, David, getting him not to set locks for us, but for boats ahead of us, and this eased the slow progress considerably.  However at every lock there was still at least one boat waiting as we arrived, so our overall rate of progress remained no more than half what it would have been with nobody else ahead.

Typical of the new estates that line the canal around here.
Whilst we had waited for the first lock, a delightfully unusual boat had emerged from the Caldon, and turned and joined the lock queue immediately behind us.  The hull was clearly that of a horse drawn  ice-breaker, but the top a delightful hardwood construction unrelated to the boat's original use.  Chatting to the owners they belived its build to probably be circa 1900, and that it was used on the Oxford canal, but had no other firm information on its origins.  We loved it, and it clearly moved very well, as each time we joined a new lock queue, it usually arrived fairly proptly behind us, before we had access to the next lock.

The congestion eased by the four Meaford locks, and almost completely by the locks at Stone, where some very enthusiastic CRT volunteers worked us through the first couple of locks.  Cath did a quick shop whilst I failed yet again to buy the oil I'm after in yet another chandlers, and dealt with the toilet and rubbish.  David and I then worked on until Cath rejoined us.

Massive flower display at Weston - bigger and better each time we visit.

Our original hope was that we could get to Weston on Trent, but the slow progress earlier had seemed to make that unlikely.  Now, however, with most people now stopped for the day, we started to move much faster, and realised we could still be at Weston in good time.  A very good recovery, but a longish day to achieve it.

We went to the Saracen's Head for our evening meal, and I'm very glad we did.  Dog friendly, with the bar staff very people friendly, there was a good choice of "veggie" food.  It was probably the best pub meal we have had in the whole six weeks of this trip so far, obviously truly "home made", and no more expensive than the very average "out of the freezer" fodder we have been fed at other pubs.  Well done the Saracen's Head - hopefully non-veggie food equally good, but you would need to find out for yourselves.

Westport Lake to Weston on Trent (Trent & Mersey)
Miles:  18.9 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks: 16

Total Miles: 669.1, Locks: 468

No comments:

Post a Comment