Rewind to Monday 1st September
Penkridge to Stafford (Radford Bank Inn)
Usually when we plan a longer cruise, we make a “long list” of canals, find it would take 5 days more than we have, then do it anyway. This has resulted in satisfyingly long days, which we do enjoy, but doesn’t allow time to explore our surroundings much beyond the towpath. Unusually for us, on this trip we scheduled 7 days’ of cruising into 12 days.
Our intention had been to shuffle the car along with us, giving us some flexibility to visit local museums and other landmarks. The car shuffles went smoothly enough, but our plan of visiting places didn’t materialise – we were just enjoying the boat too much :-)
I had packed clothes based on the weather we’d had over the August Bank Holiday, when the overnight temperature fell to 3 degrees and we unpacked the winter duvet and hot water bottle (and dog blankets, of course!). This was big mistake! As soon as I’d filled the wardrobe with jumpers, the sun came out, the temperature rose and summer returned. I was soon rummaging for my emergency t-shirts, the ones I’d packed to be an under-layer if the weather were that cold. The benign weather meant that Richard could cycle back to car every day – after all, we weren’t moving the boat huge distances :-)
In fact, today we moved just 10 lock miles, or just under 6 linear miles – it was a very relaxed day!
Our short day was the result of our “navigation by pub” approach. There is a pub by Radford Bridge; the next, according to Nicholson’s, was in Great Heywood. But that was a little too far – and we were concerned we might be pushed to find a decent mooring if we arrived late in the day.
By the time we got going, the queues caused by yesterday’s lock closure had vanished. Past Penkridge, the canal is delightfully remote, so the hounds could enjoy a rummage, when they could be bothered! One day I will try to quantify the hounds’ energy levels and graph how they fall from day to day during a long cruise. I think it’s fair to say that on the first day, the sight of a falling leaf gives them a thrill; by the last day, a conga line of cats and squirrels wouldn’t earn an ear twitch :-D
Longford Lock was the last to “kiss” the M6 – past this point the canal improved as it peeled away from the M6 and became as pretty and peaceful a stretch of water as you could hope for. As the canal improved, so did the weather, the sullen overcast of the morning being replaced by a sunny afternoon. There were no boats ahead of us, but there was a steady stream of boats coming the other way, just enough to ensure that most of the locks were set for us – sweet!
When we got through Deptmore Lock, where Richard cycled back for the car while I took the boat on to find a mooring by Radford Bridge.
Although there were mooring rings by the bridge, I moored a way back so that we didn’t have to be quite as vigilant with the hounds near the busy road. This meant I had to reverse back a bit and got myself out of position – sigh! Several failed mooring attempts later, some kind passersby took my centre rope and held her while I got the back in. They were fellow boaters, and considerably more helpful that the man on the boat moored just up the towpath, who seemed happy to stare intently without moving a muscle to assist as I struggled to moor ! The boaters who helped me out were especially kind – Archie Beanz had barked ferociously at their bassett hounds from the back deck as we passed them earlier – luckily they didn’t hold it against him, and he wasn’t bothered when he actually met them!
I was still chatting and holding the boat on her centre rope when Richard caught up with me. We got the boat moored up and had the first chance to play with our new gadget – a hand-sized hedge-cutter which we’d bought for trimming the vegetation from the wilder mooring spots. The cutters worked very well indeed and were much more efficient than our hand shears.
We pottered around for a bit and took the hounds for a wander, then we strolled down to the pub. I was so pleased that I’d moored further back as there were a few colourful characters and a few less than controlled dogs in the boats moored near the bridge.
I’ll let Henry Beanz review the pub – it was not dog friendly inside, but it was just about warm enough to sit with them in the garden. It had a good carvery and a very generous chef who gave us a box loaded with the scraps and trimmings from the hotplate.
Despite there being some traffic noise from the road opposite, by bedtime it was quiet. By 3am it was totally silent and, thanks to Archie’s bottom (and yet another pyjama walk), I was privileged to witness the silver mist on the water surmounted by a velvet sky and diamond stars – heavenly :-)