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The Odyssey 2011: Day 20

Posted by indigodream on 8 July, 2011

Hopwas to Branston

Sorry – I’m a week behind – again!

Waving farewell to the Herbie's - doesn't her paintwork look good....

Friday 1st July

We dropped the hounds off with Richard’s mum this afternoon – they’re having a weekend of frolicking in her garden for a change. It felt very odd not to have them with us but we were glad we’d left them behind – we had the most tedious trip to the boat. We’re becoming connoisseurs of the M25 – to think that it was such a promising vintage when it was first built but today it was totally unpalatable – it took two and a half hours to travel roughly 30 miles. Thank heavens for the M40 – at least that was working! We had good reason for wanting to get to the boat in good time – we were liaising with the crew of nb Herbie who’d slowed their trip down so that we could meet up in Hopwas.

We got to the boat around 8.30pm and found something of a gathering of bloggers – nb Bendigedig, nb Gypsy Rover (Australia) and, of course, nb Herbie moored up directly in front of us. We quickly loaded our bags onto the boat and went down to the Tame Otter with the Herbies. We had the best evening – their good company, interesting chatter and easy banter lifted our spirits enormously. Neil solved the mystery of which chain owns the Tame Otter – it’s a Vintage Inn, the same as the Coy Carp back on the Grand Union. By the time we got back to the boat we were feeling much better, though I paid for my overindulgence later on in the night – note for the future: ice cold swedish cider and an enormous eton mess don’t mix!!!

Saturday 2nd July

We had a reasonable start to Saturday though it was so strange not to have to walk and feed the hounds – our usual morning ritual. Our dog-free status wasn’t to last though – at 10am we were joined by Sarah and hounds Ranger, Henry and Archie – see, we simply can’t cruise without hounds!

Isn't that beautiful?

We bid the Herbies a fond farewell and got ourselves organised. Sarah and I left the hounds with Richard and set off for Branston – our target destination. The A38 runs very close to the canal around here – it’s incessant buzz impinges somewhat on the quiet water, but it’s damned useful when doing the car shuffle! We left Sarah’s car near the Bridge Inn in Branston – there’s parking in the adjacent street but also on the roadside just over the canal bridge. Richard had set off from Hopwas along the lock-free pound on the way to Fradley Junction. Along the way he met nb Fair Fa’ – a veteran of the Royal Docks convoy a couple of years ago –  he had a nice chat and caught up with their dog news – they sadly lost their two old dogs but now have a puppy!

With Richard on the move we had to meet him along the way – a bit of co-ordination led us to Whittington Bridge – again, there’s useful roadside parking by the bridge.

We had a serene cruise along the canal – it’s shallow so we had no choice but to take it easy and enjoy the abundant scenery. The canalside was a riot of vegetation – the recent rain and summer warmth has led to a frenzy of growth. It was all very beautiful but you’d be hard-pressed to moor alongside the overgrown banks.

We noted in passing the stub of the Wyrley and Essington Canal – sadly not attached to the rest of this fascinating waterway – I know that there’s some restoration happening – I wonder if the two ends of the canal will be rejoined during out cruising lifetime?

Sarah knows this area very well, having once moored her ‘northern’ narrowboat Greyhound at Streethay Wharf before moving her ‘oop north’. She still feels it’s her spiritual home and recognised many of the boats moored there.

We stopped off at the water point just before Fradley Junction to fill our drinking water bottles – we had fond memories of meeting nb Treacle Dolly and their three greyhounds here a few years ago. Then we had another historic moment in our cruising life – we turned right at Fradley junction – new territory for us.

Busy scenes at Fradley Junction...

Fradley was predictably busy – there was one boat waiting to go down – we tucked in behind him and another boat soon tucked in behind us. Indigo Dream’s crew went to investigate the lock and I popped into the very good canalside shop for some ice-lollies – we had a hot afternoon of locking in front of us so it was a good chance to get the appropriate refreshments! As I came back from the shop, I heard a piercing voice from the hire boat behind us saying “are we sure that Indigo Dream is going down the locks?” – “yes” I replied loudly while standing right behind the lady asking the question!

Nb Ellie Rose made stately progress down the locks in front of us – their progress was slowed later when the lady of the boat apparently fell into the canal – she was unhurt and quite cheerful about it according to the boat coming up after them! The slow pace gave us plenty of time to enjoy this busy junction with it’s lively population of boaters, walkers and general gongoozlers; there were also pedal bikes, cars and motorbikes – the ‘towpath’ is the road up to the famous Swan pub. We were particularly impressed with nb Tsar who came up through top lock while we were waiting to go down – she’s a Mel Davis shell and very smart.

It wasn’t just us who benefitted from Sarah’s knowledge of this stretch – the hounds had a joyful off-lead rummage at Common Lock – a site that Sarah recalled was relatively enclosed for the hounds. The young boys Henry and Archie raced along while Ranger gamely bobbled after them.

We cruised on through the stunning countryside, enjoying the fine weather and marvelling at the traffic, which wasn’t excessive, but certainly more boats on the move than we’ve seen all year.

What do you think, boys, has she got the boat properly lined up for the lock??

We arrived in Branston in good time, and, following Sarah’s local knowledge again, we cruised on past the pub and the bridge to the stretch beyond which she assured us would be less crowded. But it’s a popular spot and we were aghast to see that the mown moorings were full.

“Reverse” yelled Richard from the bow!

Sarah sensibly declined and handed the helm to Richard for the long reverse back through the bridge to the few spaces we’d passed earlier – the moral of the tale – “a mooring in hand is worth two in the bushes”!  I took on the role of bow thruster with the pole. We merrily zig-zagged back past the moored boats to the amusement of all concerned.

But then we had the massive drama of the day – I was pushing the bow out of the bank when a movement caught my eye, there was a splosh and the horrifying sight of ripples radiating from the point where one of the greyhounds had gone overboard. To my immense relief, a little black head popped up in the centre of the ripples and I yelled at Richard to stop reversing; Sarah rushed out and we called out to Archie, who proved to be a competent swimmer! We leant over the bow and managed to catch hold of him but I couldn’t get enough of a grip to lift him back on board. We yelled at Richard some more and he ran through the boat to heroically hoick Archie out of the water. Thank heavens – with the immediate danger over we had time to notice that Sarah had started to disrobe in readiness to go in after Archie – well, she’d taken her trainers off! Obviously she’d left her top on as you can’t underestimate the merits of a wet T-shirt as a tool for attracting help from passersby!

Archie was alarmingly quiet after being rescued – he lay on his back where Richard had deposited him and didn’t move at all, though he was obviously conscious. We gently turned him over, wrapped him in a thick, fluffy towel and rubbed him vigorously – he lay there pathetically while the moorers who’d witnessed the whole drama asked after his health. We were seriously concerned – had he banged into the boat on the way down, was it head injuries, internal injuries, had he gone into shock? No, he was suffering from a near-terminal case of the ‘drama queens’ – a syndrome known to greyhound owners everywhere; as soon as we’d passed his audience of sympathisers, Archie sprang to his feet, shook himself off and appeared to have no ill effects from his dunking.

With all this going on, and the fact that we were now being approached by two boats – one from either direction, we decided to abandon the reversing and headed back towards the end of the moorings where a fisherman had miraculously moved, making room for us to get our stern onto the mown part of the bank – phew.

With our nerves ever so slightly in shreds, Sarah and I headed back to Whittington Bridge for the car and left Richard to walk the hounds. The car shuffle didn’t take very long and there followed the debate about where to eat – home-made on the towpath or a visit to the nearby Bridge Inn. We’d been told that the pub served Italian food but that the service was a bit slow. We went there anyway and found a simple but tasty pasta/pizza menu – the service was efficient enough and we had a nice time.

We all walked back to the boat,  but as we got close I heard a high pitch whistle reminiscent of the gas alarm accompanied by some deep throated barking. Fearing another drama I wobbled and wheezed down the towpath, in a rush to open the boat and rescue the hounds from some uncertain doom.  I needn’t have worried – the whistling wasn’t our gas alarm and the hounds weren’t in distress (other than Archie missing his hu-mum).

We bid a fond farewell to Sarah and the pack – it had been another priceless day’s cruising – what a store of memories we’re gathering to keep us entertained in the short days of winter. As Sarah left, we got chatting to the crews of nb Albert, nb Devon Maid and an un-named boat who makes and sells very fine rope fenders. The light had faded to a vague glow on the horizon when we suddenly realised that it was getting chilly and that the local insects had made a meal of us while we were talking – time for bed!

We had a quiet night on the mooring – and slept uninterrupted – just as well, we had a big day’s cruising ahead of us on Sunday…


Click on this link to see a great action sequence of Richard trying to outpace Archie the greyhound – you need to click really quickly from photo to photo to get the effect –

nb Fair Fa' looking mighty fine in her new colours .....

These carved wooden 'mushrooms' are very popular on boat roofs hereabouts....

Crop pickers hard at work - hard to see what they were picking but there was a lorry advertising parsnips nearby....

Streethay wharf - Sarah and nb Greyhound's spiritual home...

I like this garden water feature - shame it's not still joined to the canal - that would make a very tidy mooring....

Now that's a useful service - you'd need a few cans to fill our tank though 🙂

The canal in summer (1)

The canal in Summer (2)

Indigo Dream against a much photographed backdrop....

Locking is a sociable event at Fradley....

Extraordinary artwork....

Now what does that motto mean?

Henry and Archie having a race at Common lock...

A good time had by all......

Another useful canalside industry....

The canal in summer (3)

Have you got enough sheepskins there Ranger....

The canal in Summer (4)

Looking back to Alrewas Lock - a gentle introduction to the river....

The weir below Alrewas Lock....

I guess you would get a headache if you went under the wrong side....

The canal in Summer (5)

The canal in Summer (6)

Henry and Archie cooling down with an ice-lolly...

Bridge 36 - Sarah called it the 'mousehole' - how apt!

This bench is so welcoming...

The canal in Summer (7)

The olympic looking team in action - I believe there was a cat in the adjacent garden....

They're very talented - they can do indoor looking too....

Three hounds enjoying the back deck....

7 Responses to “The Odyssey 2011: Day 20”

  1. Adam said

    “True joy is a serious thing” or “True pleasure is a serious business”. Somthing along those lines, anyway.

  2. indigodream said

    Thanks Adam – I knew someone would spare me from getting my latin dictionary out!

    Good motto too…..

  3. Greygal said

    Weez got a complaynt…we didnut get much lolli humums scoffed all the lollis and we just got to lik a stik. Where wos ar magnumms?

    enery and archy (lympic lookin gold medel opes)

  4. indigodream said

    Deer Enery an’ Archy

    I’s very glad to see that you is spellin’ like proper hounds now.

    I’s a detectorin’ hound so I’s will look into the ice lolly scandal – I’s already hinvestigatin’ whefer Archie woz pushed in the canal – mummy Sue is lookin’ a bit shifty…..


  5. I know people have answered your question about the motto, but next time try .

  6. Greygal said

    Deer Lynx, fanks for hinvestigatin. weez more upsett about the lollis than archy taking a dunkin. that canal warter has given im soft furr so allswell that endswell. whats werse was that there were moor lollis in the frij and we didnt see nun of them. just got a stick to lik wiv hardly anyfink on it. corse, archy may have got a bigga stik up him bum later kertesy of arnty sue but he’d hav prefurred a magnum.

    this writin and spellin is kwite triky. your very klever, lynx. best paws, yor pals, Enery and Archy

  7. indigodream said

    Deer Enery and Archie

    You is is gonna be even more hupset now – mummy Sue forgots the ice-creem woz in the freezer then she turned the freezer OFF and left it there all week. I fort me luck woz in wen we gots back to the boat but she sed “ughhhhh” and sheTHREW THE ICE-CREEMS IN THE BIN!!!!!

    I is so sorry – you coulds have eeten that – I will make sure she duz better this week….



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