Monday, 25 May 2009

Ragley to Barton Turn

An early start but yet another crowd at Stenson Lock; they get up early to watch the boats in these parts. Stenson is a nice little place: popular marina and nice cafe. 

Somewhere nearby is where Tom and Sonia Rolt's Cressy cruise came to a premature end on the outbreak of war in 1939. Don't know exactly where.

We approach Willington and its staggeringly huge new marina. Ironically, the half mile approach is particularly narrow with overhnaging trees encroaching on the line of sight. There is a steady stream of boats coming the other way, as well. Suddenly a large black dog leaps into the Cut by the footbridge and we can't see where it has gone. We are forced to idle the engine, as is an oncoming boat; the trees prevent us from seeing where the dog has gone. It's owner crosses the footbridge, totally oblivious to the chaos his witless behaviour has caused. Although we are closer, we wave the oncoming boat on as we just can't see the damn dog. They tell us the dog is out of the water, and we set off. Dog and owner are heading for the marina, it seems. oat owners, perhaps? 

We arrive at Willington, with pleasant online moorings in the centre of the village. We moor up in a space being reserved for a 70' boat heading the other way. The Canadian chap is remarkably relaxed and we promise to move on and out when they arrive. All smiles and courtesy; wish it was all as friendly as this.

Again, a lack of time to explore is frustrating: wanted to see the bridge over the Trent but no time. I'm getting grumpy because this is not how I wanted it to be. I see the boat as much as a way to see England as an end in its own right. However, we quickly decide to have lunch by Willington Gravel Pits - maybe those rare Whiskered Terns are still around. They are not.

In the afternoon, we start crossing the wide and shalow valley of the Dove, a far cry from its deep craggy landscape further north. Burton approaches beyond, but the town mostly faces away from the Cut. Even so, the Trent & Mersey seems to be respected by the town.

Horninglow Basin is one of those places you just know about, without knowing why. It is a huge disappointment though, and is just a basin overlooked by the dual-carriageway and a couple of permanent moorings. It's the last winding point for broad beam boats, as the locks are narrow from here on.

Dallow Lock, half a mile on, is the first of the smaller locks, and with it's small rise is particualrly easy. Small boys play mischievously in the arch alongside the canal. These are not the threatening, evil, brroding monsters you see occasionally, but cheeky kids up to no good but in the time-honoured tradition of small boys down the ages.

We pass Shobnall Fields and approach Shobnall basin, long the home of Jannel Cruisers - but I think now another company. I need a map and so we moor up to use the chandlery. The lights are on so I enter and start browsing the maps and books. "We're closed" a voice booms across loudly from the counter, and I turn to see a stern-faced man indicating the door. What, am I supposed to guess from the lights, the open door and no 'Closed' sign that you are closed? I am tempted to get the map - I can see it - but decide that I'll take my trade elsewhere. It still amazes me that you can get this kind of unwelcoming attitude. On the other hand, good to see a business doing so well that they can turn trade away to the competition. 

We push on, passing the old breweries and out into the open countryside beyond. It's actually very attractive despite the huge sheds, presumably bonded warehouses. Just to the south is Branston, home of Branston Pickle but someone told me it's made in Cincinatti or somewhere now. Maybe it wasn't Cincinatti, but I don't think it comes from Branston now. Just up the road is the Marmite factory. The kids look impassively back at Burton: they hate marmite and aren't fussed on pickle either. 

We have decided on Barton Turn for mooring, having heard good things about the Barton Turns pub. There are visitor moorings, but two boats have moored in a spectacularly impressive strategic position and we can't get in behind, between or in front of them. It's really frustrating and we think about what to do. The options aren't easy: the A38 runs alongside the canal and only for a few hundred metres is there peace and quiet and shelter from the noise. As it is late and we intend leaving early and there are two water points, we decide to moor obstructing the water point, ready to move the boat if anyone requests.

After a good meal at the pub, we return to find a hire boat has moored in front of us, now effectively blocking the second water point. We hadn't counted on this development and reconsider our plan. But it is late now and there isn't much choice. I'm not having anyone using the lock in darkness and then mooring in an even darker environment above; we'll have to stay put.

The following morning, we can't get away as quickly as we would like and a boat arrives. despite our immediate departure as he approaches, not delaying him one second, he is clearly having a go at both us and the hire boat. I'm really tempted to get off at the lock and go back and have a go at him, but Helen suggests otherwise. I watch as he remonstrates with the hire boat family. It's all so unnecessary but there's this whole sector of the waterways community who are just so unpleasant these days: they see the slightest infraction or perceived discourtesy and blow it out of proportion.


12.8 miles, 5 locks

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