Saturday August 12th; Coven Heath to Penkridge
The wind had changed direction slightly overnight so the M54 was less noisy when we opened up this morning. The sun was shining as we pulled pins but there was a chilly breeze too. We have seen some lovely floral displays this summer but this was something else …
Maybe the little dog was keeping lookout. A picture from the front would have been ideal – the steerer was invisible! but the sun was right ahead of us.
The chemical works at Calf Heath was quite smelly. It has pipe bridges with decorative covers
but they really don’t want you to moor there. Dave said, don’t they mean ‘no mooring especially’ if you hear an alarm?
It’s several years since we’ve been along here and a lot of it was entirely unfamiliar, though we did remember the chemical works, and Penkridge too when we got there. We stopped at Gailey to get some bread. The visitor moorings are a long way from the lock and bridge and I have not seen this level of threat for overstaying before.
The garage near the bridge had very little choice of bread so I thought I’d walk along to the shop. I would have taken the bike, but an inner tube had split when Dave was pumping up the tyres for me. It’s a very busy road – fortunately with a decent footpath – and when I got to the roundabout it was to find the shop closed for the duration of nearby roadworks! So it was back to the garage for a paper and then to the boat to share the last of a stale loaf for a rather small lunch.
The afternoon was warm and sunny and we met boats at all the locks on the way to Penkridge. Of course I had to take a picture of the round toll-house at Gailey lock.
At Brick Kiln Lock an unusual boat came into the lock as I walked up to help. Where was the steerer? All I could see was its roof. As I closed the first bottom gate a figure emerged from half-way along the boat, reaching for the ladder – the steering position was near the front but the only way out was through a side hatch. Not a very practical craft for a single-hander! He wasn’t wearing a top – the risk of getting covered in green slime from the lock wall must be very high and I suppose skin is easier to wash than a t-shirt. He kept a towel handy to wipe it off – you can just see it hanging to the right of the side windows in the picture. Anyway I told him to stay put while I worked the lock.
His boat is a modern copy of an inspection launch and looked very smart. At Penkridge lock we caught up with the boat in front, which was waiting for a boat to come up. We pulled onto the service point opposite the lock moorings to empty a cassette while we waited our turn. The boat that came up was the trip boat Georgie Kate from Teddesley Wharf, whose passengers were enjoying delicious-looking fancy cakes and tea served in beautiful vintage china on white tablecloths. He was turning and going back down, so we topped up the water tank as well and left the lock for him. It wasn’t long before we were down too, and mooring a few hundred yards along between houses on one side of the canal and mobile homes on the other. Penkridge lock has a horse-tunnel going under the road.
We took Meg and walked into town, where she chose cows’ ears in the pet shop and we chose some nice cakes in Jasper’s (and some bread too). After eating on the boat we went to the Boat for a pint or two as they had live music – a singer with guitar playing pop classics from the Beatles onward. There was a TV tuned to the athletics World Championships in London, so every now and then she lost half her audience (including us) as their heads were turned to watch GB get some medals – silver for the women’s 4x100 relay and gold for the men. It was a highly enjoyable evening, but we didn’t stay right to the end as it was Meg’s first ‘live gig’. It wasn’t so much the amplified sound she wasn’t keen on, more the applause. She did get a lot of fuss made of her by the other drinkers though, which she did enjoy.
8½ miles, 7 locks