Rewind to Sunday 29th June
Cambrian Wharf to Brades Locks and return
Today we did the third of our charity cruises – this time with a group of six people but no hounds.
Although we cruised the same route as yesterday, today’s cruise couldn’t have been more different in character – that’s the random nature of hosting unknown groups :-)
But I’m ahead of myself, we started the day with winding at the nearest stub and cruising back up to Cambrian Wharf, where we turned again and topped up the water tank while waiting for our guests. They were spot on time, and, like yesterday’s group, decided against the lock-heavy trip along Farmer’s Bridge. We did our obligatory safety briefing – I hope we didn’t scare them, because the first thing they did was jump ship! They decided to take a walk along the floating market and we arranged to pick them up at our overnight mooring spot. As we cruised along, we were delighted to see our party shopping at the Jam Butty – result!
We took our party on board and cruised along the New Mainline – the party went to sit on the front deck, Richard took the helm and I looked after the galley. So it stayed more or less all day – which is absolutely fine, honestly! Yet we were surprised that no-one was interested in taking a turn at the helm or doing the locks. Some of the party were a bit under-dressed for the Birmingham climate and rigours of the towpath, so we were soon supplying them with blankets, then running the heating so they could divide their time between the chilly front deck and the toasty cabin.
Ollie hound was very tired after his adventures with young Tinker greyhound yesterday, so he was happy to snooze the day away in his warm bed. However, he did enjoy a lot of fuss from our guests, who do have dogs of their own, just not with them today.
Unusually, we didn’t have the canal to ourselves today. Initially there was a hire boat in front of us, but they turned in the stub and headed back to the centre; but a little further along there was another hire boat! They seemed hesitant at the various junctions that we passed, and we assumed that they would carry on to Dudley Port Junction. But they surprised us by turning onto the Gower Branch – we were impressed – it’s great to see more hire boat exploring the wider reaches of the BCN. Of course, they might be hopelessly lost and have since passed into legend as the feral wandering boaters of the BCN :-D
Rather than chasing the hire boat up the Brades flight, we decided to stop for lunch in the Gower Branch. This proved to be a wise decision – as the party came inside to eat, the heavens opened with the only shower of the day! The sun came out to greet us as we set out again, and although it was cold in the shade, the occasional shaft of sunshine gave some welcome warmth.
We were soon doing the return trip around the Old Mainline and heading down the Smethwick Locks. Our guests were keen to see the rest of the Floating Market, so we gave the Soho and Icknield Port Loops a miss and headed back to the centre. We dropped our guests off at Sheepcote Bridge – this time on the other towpath so they could explore the market traders on the opposite side of the canal. To this day, we have absolutely no idea whether they’d enjoyed the cruise (the other parties have been in touch since with their sincere intention to buy a narrowboat!).
Having dropped them off, we headed into the centre and turned round the “roundabout” where I dropped Richard off with the rubbish and the car keys – he’d dump the rubbish at the service point then recover the car. In the meantime I cruised the boat along to the grassy moorings beyond St Vincent Street Bridge, which was the nearest unoccupied spot past the market traders. I got the boat semi-secure, but the first grassy section was too dry and hard to retain pins; the first trip boat past took a pin out, so when Richard came back, we moved her down a boatlength to a softer bit of towpath. Nonetheless, we secured her with four pins and packed up as quickly as we could for the long slog home.
The traffic was much better on the way home, though it still took a couple of hours to get to Berkhamstead to collect Ty. As always, Roger and Margaret were delightful and interesting company, so we whiled away another hour there, drinking tea and chatting about canals and greyhounds. Ty, of course, didn’t want to leave, but we persuaded him to come home – it is still his favourite place in the whole world :-)