Wednesday 16th August; Handsacre to Hopwas Woods
It was cloudy but dry when we pulled pins and with a very chilly breeze – so chilly that I dug my woolly hat out for the first hour. Then it got warm very quickly and the shorts were donned for Wood End lock, where there was a short queue. There was a volunteer there counting boats and recording serial numbers, and helping with the gates in between. She has done this for the last three years; this lock has a counter at the bottom gates – it is made of the same grey plastic as modern guttering – and the count is to check that it is working properly. It counts one every time the lock is emptied, but doesn’t that mean someone coming up after a boat had come down wouldn’t get counted? and I hope it doesn’t leak as that would give a false positive. Her busiest day had been last Thursday – 52 boats while she was on duty. Her previous highest count had been 40 last year. By the time we were in the lock three boats had arrived behind us.
At Shade House lock the volunteers were out in force; it is a training day for new volunteers and there was someone at each lock. There was also a notch worn between the two bottom gates, just the right size for a bow fender to fit snugly. With two people at the top gate to distract him, Dave went further forward than he normally does, and when the lockies started emptying – I felt a bit redundant by this time – what with all the chat, no-one noticed that the bow fender had caught up. The trainee lockie said, is that supposed to happen? and I shrieked STOP! luckily Dave was able to get the boat off without us needing to refill the lock but it could have sunk us if it hadn’t been noticed. It just goes to show you have to pay attention at all times. This was taken after the excitement.
We got down the next lock to the junction without further incident, and turned onto the Coventry where we needed to take on water. Two boats were on the water points with just enough room for us to slot in and wait. Dave had taken the first cassette down to the Elsan point – a few hundred yards further down the Trent and Mersey – and got back again by the time it was our turn. The tap was slow when both water points were in use, and our tank was quite low, so there was plenty of time for a couple of cups of coffee and plenty of chat (and for Dave to go back down to the Elsan point with the second cassette, lucky man!) It was still a bit early for lunch so we went on. We made a point of enjoying the peaceful countryside this morning; I’m not sure where exactly HS2 will run but it’s going to affect this area quite considerably.
We stopped just past Fradley village to pop up to the garage on the busy A road for a paper – only to discover that it had closed down since we last used it. We decided not to bother going back to the village and had lunch instead. Our next stop was Streethay Wharf as we needed to replace a gas bottle. While we were there we topped up with diesel too. Work was taking place on NB Lilibeth, which was being overplated. An expensive job! The welder was working round the stern area so isn’t visible, and I obviously couldn’t go round to snap him working.
There were a lot of boats on the move today and sometimes it was slow going past lines of moored boats. At one point there was what looked like smoke blowing across the canal, but it was dust and chaff; there is a combine harvester in there somewhere, with the tractor and grain trailer arriving out of shot.
The sun was going behind the clouds as we continued on to where the Coventry becomes, temporarily, the Birmingham and Fazeley canal. Not a good picture I’m afraid as it was too bright to see the words on the marker.
Rather than bagging a patch of bank to catch the last of the sun we wanted to moor in Hopwas Woods – the dog walks are splendid and we knew there was rain forecast before long. We bagged our favourite spot not far from the bridge which leads to the woods.
This mooring has the added advantage of extra light, as a tree on the towpath side had fallen (away from the canal) some time ago, and we were also clear of the trees so wouldn’t be dripped on after rain. Dave took Meg off to the woods and I went for a run along the towpath. We hadn’t long been back when the rain began and seemed to continue for the rest of the night.
10 miles, 3 locks, 1 swing bridge.