Sunday 31st August
That was a good spot last night, extremely quiet with very few passers-by. Meg had no ill effects from the fallen damsons she scoffed yesterday before she could be stopped! We stopped at Wootton Wawen to visit the farm shop. It is now part of a complex of small units in the barns, with some fairly up-market stuff, though mostly not open at 10am on a Sunday. We were disappointed with the farm shop – ok veg, ok bread, very poor meat selection with no indication of provenance (free-range? local? no idea). They did have a fascinating range of pies ……
But the cakes looked ok so we bought a carrot cake which turned out to be quite good. The garden furniture outlet had some amazing stuff – this lovely sheep made of bits of wood, and a rather amazing garden bench, for example -
though there was an even more ornate bench, you just couldn't see it for all the stuff in front of it. We walked up to the village for a paper, past the old mill, now flats. There are some very attractive half-timbered cottages too. It must have all been lovely before the road got so busy. We got going again, past the Anglo-Welsh hire base – half the boats seem to be back now the holidays are coming to an end.
We soon reached Edstone Aqueduct, where Sunday walkers and cyclists were enjoying the sunshine. This doesn’t really show the drop to the ground, though the lowered towpath is obvious -
The aqueduct crosses a stream, a road and the railway -
and then we saw the cyclists again, far below -
All good fun. It’s the longest aqueduct in England, though not a patch on the Pontcysyllte! We had a lunch stop at Wilmcote, where we could hear the steam train though we didn’t go to have a look as we’d done that a few years ago. On we went to the top lock where our drama began.
Part way through the top gates, Chuffed stuck fast. Couldn’t go back, even hard astern with me hauling on the rope. Couldn’t see anything the matter at the lock – Chuffed wasn’t touching the sides. Two guys from the boat coming up came to help, but even with four of us hauling/pushing and the engine hard astern we had no luck. Head-scratching ensued.
But the cavalry to the rescue! or rather the pirates – three Anglo-Welsh boats with a 30-strong pirate-themed stag party were close behind! I thought I’d do the photographic record at this point.
With one mighty
bound push we were free! and no engine required either. This was the thing that got us jammed – almost completely waterlogged, it must have fallen off someone’s roof. One of the guys hauled it out but it needed two others holding his belt and shoulders to keep him on the bank.
Here is the victorious crew! Ha-harrr!
We met the groom-to-be a short while later. Very pale and a little less hearty than his mates after the previous night’s jollifications. We also heard that there had been a 4-hour delay the day before when a stag group had managed to drain a pound. The pirates swore blind it was another group – but we didn’t meet any others …….. After all the excitement we were soon calmly proceeding as though nothing had happened, passing the last of their 3 boats.
Apart from the appallingly difficult bottom gate of lock 67 (Maidenhead Road) we had no further problems. Lock 67 has an angled bottom balance beam because of the proximity to the bridge. It’s metal, so you can’t ‘put your back into it’ very comfortably and I had to get Dave to help (and he opened the difficult paddle too).
Once he’d taken Chuffed through I had to commandeer a passer-by to help me close it again. We moored just before the basin outside the Red Lion, where we’ve moored before. We left Meg on board and went for a stroll round the town. We wanted to eat out but everywhere looked the same – cheapish mass-market pubs or more expensive restaurants where all the menus were very similar. As we are hoping to go to the theatre tomorrow (closed for a private function tonight) we chose the cheaper option and went to the Pen and Parchment close by. Good beer and ok meal.
17 locks, 8 and a half miles