Saturday, 29 April 2017

Five hours, three counties and two enormous pasties

With a lot of boating to do today, we started early, at five past seven, in fact. The mooring we'd used at Hopwood was not ideal – what appeared to be an access road to some houses was also the access to some depot out of sight from the canal. A very busy depot, wagons went by at roughly hourly intervals as long as we were awake and apparently through the small hours as well. It's a bit of a mystery – they were all unmarked, mostly plain white vehicles, many of them 36 tonners or so. Probably food, then, but what?

Wast Hill tunnel was reached after about 20 minutes cruising and we made good time through it, around 30 minutes for 2500 meters. There were even some boats moored between the north portal and the junction, though it's not an area with a good reputation for safety. The turn off the W&B onto the Stratford is much easier coming from the South; going the other way, the angle is much more acute and can be is a challenge in a long boat.

It's been a bit of a plodding morning. Wast Hill is a rather boring tunnel, almost dead straight and plain brick lining throughout, you just stand there at the helm checking the distance markers as they go by. The summit of the W&B could use dredging and that of the Stratford is a disgrace. It too badly needs a dredge – we were dragging on the bottom for much of the way – and the water is full of detritus, not rubbish chucked in by the locals, for once, just large and small bits of tree.

In addition, the offside is thoroughly overgrown and the bridgeholes full of leaf litter. I had to keep chucking back time and again to keep the prop clear. Just to add to the fun, it was a very chillly morning, overcast and with a cool breeze, and there are long lines of offside moorings at both Earlswood and Waring's Green.

We'd left Worcestershire for the West Midlands whilst in the tunnel and now entered Warwickshire as we passed Earlswood. As time dragged on and on, I started counting the bridges to number 20, site of Wedges bakery which we've visited every time we've passed for the last 20 years or so. It's a well established business – there's been a bakery on the site since 1850 – but over the years it's grown and grown until it's now a destination in its own right, with a coffee shop and deli as well as the bakery.

It was now twenty to twelve, so we bought pasties for lunch. There was a choice of two sizes, smallish and huge. Guess which ones we got...

In fact, we ate so much at lunch, I don't think I'm going to cook tonight, we'll just have the sandwiches we should have had a lunchtime. After lunch, we got going again for 45 minutes or so, finishing at Hockley Heath for the night.

Tomorrow, things start going downhill, 19 locks down the Lapworth flight, indeed, finishing up somewhere near Shrewley ready for working down the Stairway to Heaven on Monday.

Ah, that'll be the Hatton 21 on Bank Holiday Monday, then. Should be fun for some...

Location:Hockley Heath

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