Friday 28th August; Above Hurleston locks to Willeymoor Lock
Another lazy start. The sun was out, but it was chilly in the shade of the trees and the stiff breeze, so it was fleeces and woolly hats for a while! There were some puffballs growing the wrong side of a barbed-wire fence on the off-side so no mushrooms for breakfast.
We had an excellent start to the day – at Swanley lower lock the gates were opened for us by an on-the-ball hire crew on only their second trip. These locks are so small and quick a lot of boats would have filled it up as we approached, so gold stars to this lot! and most of the other locks were in our favour too. There was a constant stream of boats coming towards us, several in bridgeholes (sod’s law in operation today). But everyone had their sensible hat on and there were no awkward moments.
We saw some some pretty cottages on the way and one amazing chimney (though my camera skills are unfortunately not amazing enough to avoid the trees)
The bywashes on these locks are quite fierce. The canal is fed from the River Dee at Llangollen and there is a general flow downstream. It will be quite strong as we get closer to Llangollen, but it’s not really noticeable at the moment.
At the top of the Baddiley locks a young hoody was sitting with his girl friend. He silently came to help with the bottom gates, returned to his girlfriend then came back to help close up. His hoody proclaimed him as a member of the Birmingham Uni Re-enactment Society – they specialise in Mediaeval re-enactments, not the Civil War as many societies do. The poor lad got soaked as he closed the gate and the Heavens opened! See his girlfriend sitting disconsolately on the stop plank shelter?
They promptly decamped to the bridge below to escape the rain and we pulled in pretty smartly as it suddenly got worse. There was just time to change out of wet clothes and make the coffee before the sun came out once more and we set off for Wrenbury, mooring before lift bridge 19 to walk over the fields to the shop. We passed this unlikely sight on the way to Wrenbury – I think another blogger has already compared it to Charity Dock!
As we set off again and approached the Wrenbury lift bridge, a hire crew was being taken out. The hire base is on the outside of the bend where the canal passes under the lift bridge, and there is only just enough room for the longer boats to turn towards Llangollen. We were able to follow them through and I was able to watch a lift bridge closing behind me which doesn’t often happen!
There were more heavy showers but this time we were properly clad so didn’t stop. Coming towards us was a constant stream of Wrenbury boats on their last day and many other hire boats too, so we hope it won’t be too crowded as we get closer to Llangollen. We moored for the night above Willeymoor lock. I went for run up to Grindley Brook to see how many boats were pointing our way – not too many, but with new Wrenbury hirers on the move again the picture may be different tomorrow! We went to the Willeymoor Lock Tavern this evening. This is the pub with the massive collection of teapots, which adorn every surface which isn’t a table or the bar.
You can just make out our favourites, on the bottom row – Wallace sitting in his armchair on the left, and Gromit in his Pest Control van on the right. The menu is reminiscent of the Berni Inns of the late ‘70s, all prawn cocktail, steak and floater coffee! though the pudding menu here is far superior. The steaks were properly cooked too. We didn’t have room for pud though.
We returned to the boat to find the combine harvester which had been starting work as we moored up was still hard at it on the other side of the canal. As I write, gone half past nine with a full moon, they have just finished. It’s hard work being a farmer.
8 locks, 9 and a half miles, 2 lift bridges (1 electric and lifted for us), 5 hours.