Saturday was one of those days that makes boating worth the hassle of keeping a boat. The sun was shining, but there was still a cold edge to the air which meant that when the sun went behind a cloud it got a bit chilly.
In the 20 or so minutes before we cast off there was a flurry of traffic and we were worried that the day was going to be spent stuck in a convoy. But it quietened down and we cast off into a pretty quiet canal.
As we headed south we caught up with a couple of boats and by the time we reached Autherley Junction we were in a small queue. The boat in front of us went into the lock, the helmsman got off and went into the boatyard shop and the member of crew on the lockside didn’t do anything until the helmsman came back and then was really slow in winding the paddle up. Kathy got off to check to see if anyone was going to come through the lock and the crewmember on the boat in the lock just on, leaving my wife to drop the paddle and close the gate. Luckily they turned West towards Aldersley Junction rather than East towards Coven Heath .
The canal was, once again, strangely quiet – we met one boat just before Marsh Lane Bridge No 67 (South End of Narrows) and another who pulled in at First Passing Point but apart from them there seemed to be no-one else on the mood.
Just after Slade Heath Railway Bridge we met two sets of canoe catamarans full of kids enjoying themselves. The supervisors saw us coming and made sure the boats were pulled up by the bank safely out of the way. As we went past the kids all stood up, saluted us and said “Aye Aye Captain “ It was good to see kids enjoying themselves and even better to see that they were being properly supervised (a situation which is sadly often lacking). We guess they were out from the adventure centre near Laches Bridge No 73, and looking at the photos on the CanalPlan entry it looks like its part of their standard routine
After that excitement it was back to quietness and solitude – even Hatherton Junction was quiet with little sign of life on many of the boats; all we can assume is that as the weather forecast for the weekend was not too good that people just hadn’t bothered, but considering it was the start of the half term holidays we would have thought more people would have been on the move.
Even Gailey Wharf was quiet – no boats on the visitor moorings, no boats on the water points, no boats in the lock, Viking Afloat were taking up all the winding hole. Not what you expect on the late May Bank Holiday weekend. Whilst we watered Kathy popped into the shop in the round house and bought a couple of items, including some extremely tasty slices of cake.
We worked our way through the first two locks and stopped in the pound above Boggs Lock No 34 for a light lunch. Whilst were were moored up one boat went past – it was an old working boat (tastefully restored) and was being singlehanded through the flight by a man with one of the thickest Birmingham area accents I’ve ever heard.
When we cast off after lunch we found ourselves in between the singlehander and another boat who really seemed to be in a hurry.
Originally we had thought about pushing past Penkridge, even as far as Tixall Wide (Northeast end) but listening to the weather forecast on the radio we decided that it probably wasn’t worth it. So we stopped for the night at Penkridge - Visitor Moorings above Lock