Friday 27th June
I managed to get the afternoon off and, after some kerfuffle with Ty’s vaccination certificate, we set off towards the boat mid-afternoon. We had a madly complicated dog-care arrangement in place, even by Indigo Dream standards. Ty was going to stay with good friends Margaret and Roger with their greyhound Bess and Shari (experienced Indigo Dreamers) but they were away on Friday night so Ty would join Bess and Shari at their kennels in Tring for the night – Margaret and Roger would liberate all three hounds on Saturday lunchtime (Ollie would be cruising with us). On paper, it doesn’t look like that much of a detour, but it took over 2 hours to get from home to Tring, then, after dropping Ty off, we have another almost three hour trip to Birmingham. It is a long way to start off with, but the traffic was appallingly tedious. By the time we got to the boat I was beyond exhaustion and suffering from a major sense of humour failure – especially when we found that Indigo Dream wasn’t where we’d left her. Belatedly, CRT had put some mooring restriction signs up, reserving the spaces for the floating market boats and apologising for the short notice. Hah! When we moored there just 5 days ago there were NO signs. I don’t know who moved the boat, but we were now brested up to another boat that was obviously unoccupied and had also been moored up before the signs went up. We hate being brested up as it makes access with the dogs difficult, plus someone had moved our boat without our permission. I reached the end of my tether – I went to bed and pulled the duvet over my head!
In the meantime, Richard made a heroic dash to Tesco to shop for tomorrow’s charity cruise – I did get up at 10pm to help him to put the shopping away but I was glad to get back to bed, as was Ollie, who’d been enjoying some beddy cuddles in Richard’s absence!
Saturday 28th June
Cambrian Wharf to Brades Locks and return
As so often happens, things looked better in the morning! We were brested up to a boat with a cruiser stern so Ollie was able to walk across in safety and Indigo Dream had been fastened securely – just as well, the local restaurant/party boats take no prisoners! A trading boat later fessed up to having moved Indigo Dream.
We had an early start – we were due to pick up today’s charity party at 10am at Cambrian Wharf, but we were now moored down by St Vincent Street Bridge and pointing the wrong way. We had to go down the cut to the nearest stub, turn round and head back to the wharf. There weren’t any moorings there but we did need to refresh the water tank so we filled up while waiting for our guests. The floating market was a strange mix of traders – needless to say, the Jam Butty was the smartest boat in the market and it was great to catch up with Andy and Helen in passing.
Our guests arrived in good time – we’d had advance warning that there would be four adults, two children (9 and 13) and our youngest ever Indigo Dreamer – baby Max, 5 months old! There was also Tinker – our 40th greyhound guest and whippet Ronnie. The baby was part of the reason why we had to leave Ty with friends – he hates boating anyway and when he’d met a baby for the first time last week, he was very disturbed, not nasty, but confused and uncertain. I thought it was best not to take any risks. Ollie, of course, took it all in his stride, I’m very proud of him as he gets on with people and hounds with equal aplomb – usually by plonking himself in his bed and letting fuss come to him!
We had originally planned a big locking day down then back up the Farmer’s Bridge flight but we realised during the week that there was another option, a loop along the New Main Line to the Gower Branch, up the Brades Locks then back along the Old Main Line returning to the New Main Line via the Smethwick locks. We gave the party both options and the loop trip won! This was a wise choice – as it turns out, central Birmingham had heavy rain all day – if we’d done the Farmer’s Bridge trip we’d have been in the middle of it. But by moving just a few miles out, we managed to miss the rain all day – we had a dry and sunny cruise, much to the envy of the trading boats!
We were blessed with another delightful group of guests. Mum had told the kids that they were allowed to bring a book each but absolutely no technology – they took this restriction with good grace and took a genuine interest in the boat, the canal and the dogs. Antonia, the 13-year old, likes sci-fi/fantasy so we were instantly on the same page! Everyone, apart from 9 year old Nicky, had a go at driving and Antonia was jubilant at having driven the boat without killing anyone :-D
We had lunch just above the Brades Locks – it was a tranquil spot undisturbed by traffic of any sort – we had the canal and towpath to ourselves. The hounds had a particularly good time – they all have good recall and enjoyed off-lead rummages along the towpath. Ollie, who doesn’t know he’s 11, had a game of chase with 3-year old Tinker and had a great time putting Ronnie in his place! Tinker and Ronnie also enjoyed running from one end of the boat to the other – by the afternoon they were worn out and finally ready to take advantage of the extra-large dog-snoozing deck. We did have one unfortunate incident where Tinker had an unexpected swim in the Engine Arm aqueduct – she wasn’t impressed and was less keen to get on the boat once she’d learn to associate it with water! She enjoyed being towelled down though and soon recovered her confidence while running down the towpath alongside the Smethwick Locks :-). On the way back we had a meander around the Soho Loop then Icknield Port loop. We haven’t been along the loops for years – it was interesting to note the changes, especially around Icknield Port.
Our guests seemed genuinely fascinated by the canal infrastructure, quickly became excellent drivers and really got what is about narrowboating. We have been so lucky, this is the second charity party we have had in two weekends and like the first they were a great group.
We got back to Cambrian Wharf late afternoon, marvelling at how soaked the towpaths were – we got the weather report from the traders – we couldn’t believe the rain they’d had when we’d been basking in sunshine all day! We dropped our guests off then moved back to our mooring brested up against the other narrowboat. It was a good spot for loading the next lot of shopping and the next mooring was a good half-mile down the towpath where we’d have had to rely on pins in hard ground (this was where all the other visitors had moved during the week). By now, Indigo Dream was causing some comment – we’d passed the traders twice this morning, then twice this afternoon – they were very curious to know what we were up to!
With the boat moored it was time to think about tomorrow’s charity cruise. We left Ollie on board, he was so very tired and starting to feel his muscles after running with the youngsters, and headed off for a Tesco Extra, around half an hour’s drive away. By the time we’d sorted Sunday’s catering, it was gone 8pm – where does the time go? I made us a quick pasta supper then we joined the Jam Butty for her launch party. Although the company was lovely, we were exhausted, so we left early and were in bed by 10pm. Ollie absolutely refused to leave his bed for a last wee walk and slept through until 6am – amazing how long your tanks can last when you’re too comfortable to move :-)