Saturday 7th May 2016 Narrowboat Black Bart & crew cruised from Rugeley this morning enjoying our last few miles of the T&M Canal. For now.
This afternoon Bart approached Haywood Junction with the usual care & caution, swimming through a sharp left turn, through & under (at the same time) the Marvellous bridge that adorns the ‘entrance’ to the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
We pass the boatyard & move forward, readying ourselves to ‘sail’ over the river Trent again. Second time today. In one day. That is just MAD !!!
Well we is mad. A tittle bit anyway. Just a tittle.
We is moving gently past many a moored narrowboat on our final length of traversing today. Moor mored craft. This is getting very confusing bloggetts. Even for old Skip. Bart is viewing the berth pool that be ‘Tixall Wide’. The Berth canal is not so tight here as is in sum places. We pull in just before the pool proper, where the tow path is fair-thee generous & said canal is……. The sun is still out but the grey is moving in steadily. Good old rumbles (not my tummy this time) of thunder out there. & not just a couple my friends, it has to be said. Has to be Written in fact. Yes written that is. Otherwise you be unaware. Unaware & in the dark. Those that duth not be viewing this ‘ere blog remain in the dark. Not necessarily a bad place to be though. As sum of this-ere be quite bonkers !!
Finally the rain is lashing down. Very soggy outside. Not cold, but Tis watery everywhere now. Even the ducks don’t look particularly happy.
Sunday 8th May Sunny Sunday. The rain is not with us ’tis morning.
The Blue sky is not shy. Bart makes hay, Swishing through the Wide o’ olde’ Tixall & onto moor canal like passageways of water.
Apart from slowing down (all comparative my friend) (I’m sure there might be at least one of yow oat their) for/four locks & numerous moored floaters, Lister charges on at ‘pace’ today. We may have even exceeded 3mph for one or two brief moments. Staggered yow might feel at such amazing ‘news’. We shadow the river Sow before an enthusiastic ‘fly’ over manoeuvre is carried out by our Bart. Milford bridge is a ‘cross-over’ for the towpath. Do like these architectural delights of bricks and/or stone.
The Sow remains close for a while yet, helping us to Baswich where the now (unfortunately) long gone lock down to the River allowed passage to Stafford. Our ‘current’ county town.
Will the lock & navigation to Stafford ever be re-berthed for waterway travellers & many others to enjoy. One day ?? One can hope. Would be a fine addition for Staffordshire.
The river Sow wanders away as the river Penk arrives to accompany the canal. Deptmore lock lifts Barticass & Co. up sufficiently high to allow transit past Acton Trussell.
Shutt Hill, Park Gate locks & finally the deep Longford lock provide us with the perfect mooring. Apart from the amazingly noisy drone of the M6 which is only just tuther side of canal (and the field of ba-bas). Good progress were achieved enroute to a tittle place we know, that be Penkridge. A fine stop-off for a passing traveller or two (three mayhaps, indeed).
What A Fine Beautiful Hot Dry Cruise Black Bart & Crew Have Enjoyed Today. Marvellous !!
Monday 9th May Mr&Mrs Sun are here again. The Hats are out with BIG Smiles indeed. Yes Sir-ree !! Roxy do luv dat Sticky Stick of hers. Poor girl needs sum cool fresh woter now. & a lay down is likely.
Crew start Lister up briefly in ta-afternoon, moving Bart roand the bend to the town’s visitor moorings proper. Later we be not soo sure twas such a good idea. Bart is listing due to lack of depth close to the quayside. Skip allows extra slack in the lines hoping that might help. Unfortunately, every time a boat passes or the lock up ahead is operated poor old Bart gets ‘beached’ again & is sum-wot on the wonk. Most unpleasant. We stay. Should have moved again.
Tuesday 10th May Unpleasant crunching noises keep reminding us of our unfavourable mooring location. Bart’s Bum (bottom to sum) is getting a right old ruffing-up down there. Sounds painful. Rain is expected today. Can’t have it all you know. Before it starts & settles in Lister is brought to life for a while & Bart creeps past a few moored boats to a new position. A sigh of relief from our Bart. Thank goodness. We are close to the side & still floating properly. Even when crew stand on the gunwale, towpath side, Bart moves down & does not even ‘kiss’ the hard below. No unpleasant sounds down there. Good. We shall stay ‘ere guv as is getting soggy oat there noi. Although crew have behaved by not visiting a particular fine establishment of Penkridge this ‘ere time, let us strongly advise all ye visitors of this fine market town to enjoy a treat from Jaspers village Bakery. Oh Dear !! Starting to wish we had ‘popped’ in there now.
Wednesday 11th May Market Day in Penkridge. A long established traditional open stall market. Large, thriving and a wonder-ous mix of very reasonably priced treasures to behold. Through an unusual method of exchange Bart has acquired three meat pies, many cumberland sausages (Skip’s fave), metal cutting saw blade, 25mm a/f socket, potatoes, tomatoes, extra large free-range eggs. We do be Pirates ya-no. Aaaaarrrggh !!!!!!!! Sufficient rations to keep the crew energised for a week or moor. The rain settled in after we return to Bart with our heavy bags of swag. Just over the yard arm & rain has backed off. Just a tittle.
Lister decides we must go anyway. Bart needs refreshment of the liquid kind so with lines cut Bart makes for Penkridge Lock. Fifty toes (& a few moor on top) of ascent and our latest vehicular chamber spits Bart (unhurriedly) out & onto the water point. That was almost scary. Well not really. We be tuff. Bart were nigh on dry. Having a now very wet whistle Barticus releases those lines & Lister sets a leisurely pace bordering, almost on sluggishness, dew to the twisty, turny, locky & moory boatinesses a-plenty nature of our passage. The watery droplets from above have ceased & we start to drip (or maybe ‘air’) dry. air dry. That’s what we sum-tyms do to our feet & our toes too.
A couple of straight lengths of canal are a rare opportunity to open old Lister up. We arise over fifty feet (in excess of 250 toes) (olde’ ‘istorical measurement from the time o’ digits) combined with forward momentum for many a furlong. Over 16 furlongs to be (nearly) exact. Gailey Lock is our last for now.
A most splendid Round House sits proudly by the lock. Originally the toll clerk’s office. One of the many architectural delights of our wonderful canal network. We be floating along the S&W Canal’s summit. a mear 340 feet (toes?) (don’t even try) above sea level. What a climb !! Fantastic views. Panoramic. Lister takes us gently past the moored boats ‘parked’ along the tree lined Gailey visitor moorings, round the bend (quite literally) & MAGIC !! There be an ideal location to rest for the evening (& maybe the night too). Safe & secure. We be the only peoples roand this corner ‘ere. Perfeck.
Thursday 12th May Dear Bloggetts. Hi. Summer is here again. Yippee !! We be progressing a few furlongs further along our (no) current waterway of choice. The S&W straightens for a short while as we be flanked by Four Ashes & an almost expansive chemical works.
Either side of the now redundant Hatherton Branch some very tight bendy bits make for interesting navigation for a full 70 foot (how many toes is that?) long narrowboat. That’s Black Bart if you didn’t know).Short straights & even moor bendy water for BB & crew to deal with.
Finally after a fair old while Skip is happy to berth & secure lines. We have arrived at the toilet stop. Last year we moored here & the toilet had to be removed, transferred from Black Bart onto the towpath & disassembled. That was an ‘interesting’ day. You may have read aboat those aromatic days in June 2015.
Friday 13th May Thirteenth Day. Friday. Not a good combination in some peoples minds. Pirates just laugh. Laugh we cry (that’s almost a contradiction) at such silly tings.
Following Bart’s crew’s ‘start-up procedure’ for the day & Roxy games, work has to be done. The green roof edge/ridge of our lovely narrowboat is not in the best of health. At sixteen years old a tittle tlc is required in places. this long run of paintwork is one of them. Our craft is moored starboard side so this be the side to attract our attention on this occasion. Starboard side roof edge/ridge includes engine room & galley opening roof hatches. Scraping & rubbing down of flaky paint & rusty spots ensues. Takes ages. Rusty bits are magic-ed, The masking tape is applied to protect the ivory border below the green on the upper cabin side & the blue-y-grey pre-kote (yes, that is real) is opened. Late afternoon. Who cares. Brushes at the ready crew (poochy can’t be bovered to help with this area of expertise) make their slow steady way along. Roof edge & ridge inner flank for one crew member. Ridge top & cabin side upper strip for other. Working along as a team. Finely tuned it can (almost) be said. The sunny day is now being chilled by extensive cloud cover. as crew (of two) make their way from fore to aft we gradually become rather chilled.
It is with relief the lid can finally be re-secured on the can, ready for another time. Fingers are not quite fully cooperative with signals from thy brain. Yes we have them. & Yes, we use them on occasion. That’s fingers & brains. Back inside to warm through & recover.
Saturday 14th May Lovely Sunny day for all to enjoy. Still feels chilly when those pesky clouds keep hiding the sun from us. Mr/Mrs Sun is darned hot when unblocked. What we will call the ambient temperature is not up there for a day in May. We do not think. Primed roof edge/ridge looks good so after a wipe down the green pot is un-lidded & we two replay the route taken (and enjoyed) yesterday. The sun is tuther side of canal from us at the start, so the metalwork is not getting hot. Yet. Time marches on by as the feet & inches (& toes) are methodically coated in verde. That sun has crept roand & metal ’tis becoming ‘ot. The ‘painters’ have finally reached the stern end & then we split. One to engine room side roof hatch. Tuther to galley hatch. All done. Thankfully.
bits & bobs cleared away. Masking tape puller off & time to relax. Bit of lunch, drink, chill, relax & read. Roxy is a happy doggy enjoying the sun.
The horses on udder side from Bart are a happy crew too.
& the ‘front’ roof garden is looking mighty fine.
Sunday 15th May Today. Yes, what will today bring you ?? What will today bring the crew ?? We will all find out at the hours progress by. We manage a typical eggs-softy start to the end of the weekend. A chilled start to balance the previous days of hard work. Lister & Bart make a break for it before the yard arm notices, Still heading South as we don’t want to turn roand yet.
Soon after ducking underneath the M54 Bart is carefully negotiating the 1/2 mile long ‘Pendeford Rockin’ shallow and narrow cutting. Hewn by Brindley’s Navvies through a solid belt of sandstone which breaks through the clay strata in this area. Hear endith the lesson. With the narrows finally behind us & no oncoming boats having troubled our passage (unlike last year) the ‘Staffie’ opens up to an almost expansive thoroughfare for the last stretches of water before we have to say goodbye. Last year we travelled all the way to the Southern tip of this navvy-made wonder of the canal network. Strongly recommend you all experience this delight too, if you can. Well worth the ride.
The dredging equipment is quiet today. Tis Sunday matey !! No delays for us ‘ere. Steady progress soon leads our tittle boat & tittle crew to Autherley Junction where it were slightly busy.
Black Bart cruising South. Bart ‘holds’ position, treading water. Narrowboat cruising North, turning (left) North-West onto the ‘Shroppie’. Has to reverse back. Narrowboat turning left from the ‘Shroppie’ to cruise North on the ‘Staffie’.
What Fun !!
Narrowboat waiting behind Bart is waived through to continue their cruise South on the ‘Staffie’. With water slightly clearer Bart proceeds, turning sharp corner to pass through bridge onto the ‘Shroppie’. Another Narrowboat is coming out, leaving the ‘Shroppie’. Bart reverses back out of the way. Moor narrowboats also treading water behind Bart waiting for their chance to transfer waterways. All Good fun. Except for the disgruntled lady from the boat now treading water behind Bart who was unnecessarily stressed aboat the delays, and apparently Bart’s slow careful progress through the narrows a tittle earlier. Sum people just seam to miss the point of this whole life. Their boat followed Bart onto the ‘Shroppie’ after waiting for another one to leave. We moored for water they continued on their ‘merry’ way. looking straight ahead as they passed. No words. No eye contact. Strange. Calm down. Calm down. I’m sure they sped along nicely with their path ahead all nice & clear. They be mooring at Brewood five miles along the canal, when we pass them a while later. Tortoise & hare again me thinks. Happy Days !!!!!!!
In 1978 the ‘Staffie’ was declared a Conservation Area which means the heritage of the canal is protected by law. The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal is definitely a wonderful inland waterway to be cherished by all who are lucky enough to spend time in her company.
Black Bart has cruised from Haywood Junction at the Northern end of the ‘Staffie’ to Autherley Junction at the Southern end of the ‘Shroppie’, swimming 20 miles of the idyllic Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal ascending 12 narrow locks, swimming over the River Trent, the River Sow and another unknown waterway using strange channels called aqueducts, negotiating the 1/2 mile long ‘Pendeford Rockin’ narrow cutting & passing under 50 bridges.