Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Barton Turn to King's Bromley

Our early morning departure is spoilt a bit by the antics of a following boater. He is keen to remind us of the rules on mooring by the water point. It's really tempting to explode in an indignant explanation of how much time and effort we had put into avoiding doing just that, and that the really unfortunate moored positions of the other two boats had been partially the cause, and furthermore we had not delayed him at all. Instead, we move on.

The building by the bridge at Barton Turn is beautiful but the guidebooks say nothing about it. I am surprised that the Trent & Mersey Canal Society never published a guidebook. Their website is now dead and I'm not sure even if they still exist.

We pass Barton Marina, a definite possibility for a longer term mooring, but we keep moving. We arrive in absolutely glorious sunshine at Wychnor Bridges and its curious footbridge, requiring an awkward turn to get under the smaller, lower narrower arch. It's a lovely place to moor, but I'm anxious about anywhere on the river, and this is an area with what must be a particularly higher than average risk of flood. 

We pass the lock and move onto the Trent one last time. The Cut here is very narrow and crosses the floodplain through wetlands. The towpath steps across the marshes on long elegant footbridges. The main river course is very short but is met on a tight bend with narrows immediately east. We see an approaching boat and hold well back to let them through. It's easy for us to stand absolutely still in the slight current and much more tricky for them. We exchange pleasantries as they swoosh past.

Alrewas Lock is lovely and we moor up in the village to explore. One passing boat had recommended the village butcher and so we bought the necessaries for a full English. I could have stayed all day; indeed, I could retire here - this is England at its best. There's even a canalside thatched cottage for sale. Tempting.

But we head on. Shortly afterwards we come across another set of pompous boaters. We are struggling with the wind and the shallows on the towpath side. The wind is pulling the bow across to the left and it is tricky keeping hard right. An oncoming boat has kindly left the gates of Common Lock open for us, but is bearing down on us. I am sure he will recognise that the conditions are tricky. I have decided that the easiest way to do this is to wait until fairly late and then take a dive for the bank, as staying to the right is not working. But no, he starts imperiously waving me to the right: easy for him, the wind is pushing him right anyway. I am concentrating far too hard on getting past him safely to catch the name of the boat, but rest assured I would name it if I could, you arrogant, pompous ****. It was a green 45-60' boat, new-ish trad. I am furious with the muttered  passing comments from the git on the tiller and his equally stone-faced mutt of a companion.

But to add insult to injury, I suspect that their helpfulness in leaving Common Lock set for us is as much to do with the fact that there are two extremely aggressive male swans there. They are in a worse mood than I am, and are hissing at us. This is going to be tricky, and I am at eye level with one of them as I come in to the lock. T is up front and stays on the boat as the other swan guards the upper gate. We wait on the boat but it's a stalemate. I get off, shouting, hissing myself and waving two windlasses. We manage to push one back into the water and prepare the lock as fast as we can. Even while the lock is filling, they encroach again.

Kids from an approaching boat are running towards the lock and we have to shout warnings to the parents. They are as alarmed as we are at the swans behaviour and usher their kids back on board.  Eventually in a huge display of outstretched wings, the two of them fight and both move up the canal a bit allowing us to depart and the other boat to get into the lock. The swans stay either side of us - on in front and one behind - all the way up to Keepers Lock.

Although now the day after the Bank Holiday, the sunshine and warmth has brought out substantial crowds again. A couple have patiently waited for us to come up Hunts and Keepers and so T is ordered to stay behind and lock them down. he's actually really enjoys setting the locks and does it quickly and - now - with a smile. 

We take on water and dispose of the Clarkson at the Fradley facilities. It's times like this when I am most graceful for the low pulling power of North Star's 1.5l engine, as we have great low speed control. Given there are just inches to spare between moored boats, we can silently slide through without spilling anyone's G&Ts!

Despite the lure of the Swan (ironically), we pass through the junction and head on up the T&M towards King's Bromley. We need to get to the marina at King's Bromley as we have a long journey home tonight and then I'm on a plane tomorrow for China. No room for doing anything other than motor on.

We turn in at the marina, and once again the wind pulls us all over the place. Over those years of hiring boats, I never remember having so much difficulty with the wind, but then maybe I wasn't manouevering in marinas so much.


7.1 miles, 10 locks


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