After another prompt start today, on a fine but cool morning scheduled to deteriorate, we headed up to Fradley, me steering and Sheila locking. Bagnall was ready for me well before I got there and things chugged on in similar fashion all morning. Sheila started a wash load between Bagnall and Common.
Willow Wharf farm on the offside, formerly Happy Girlie Hens, seems to be developing apace, as does the nascent boatyard above Common where they are collecting what look Ike Colecraft shells in primer. The locks were largely against us and we started to cross with boats by Junction Lock. It was still fine and calm, so hovering below the locks was no problem.
Middle and Shade House had volockies on duty, though the elderly chap at Middle put up a bit of a black mark by asking if Sanity Again was an ex-Challenger. Sheila managed not to tell him to wash his mouth out as he was being so friendly and helpful, but it was a close run thing.
The guy at Shade House apologised for the lack of a volockie at Woodend – it seems the lack of toilet facilities means one can't be stationed there. Since the volockie scheme, excellent as it is, also doubles as a social services project for the isolated elderly, this is quite understandable.
(I've not been getting many comments on the blog so far this trip, so clearly need to be a touch more controversial ;))
The weather having duly turned cold, cloudy and windy, I added a waterproof jacket and a fleece beanie to the layers I was already wearing and very welcome they were too. In addition, we had a coffee once locking was over for the day.
A bit further on, a dog walker warned me of a boat adrift up ahead. Sheila had just finished hanging out the washing so went out on the bow again and we plodded cautiously on. And on. And on. That dog must have had a good walk. Finally, the drifter showed up, blown across the cut into the offside vegetation. As we approached, pondering how to tackle the recovery, a welcome sight appeared on the towpath in the shape of a chap in hi-vis and blue sweatshirt. CRT were on the case.
His mate was already on the offside trying to board the derelict and discovering why we keep pleading for better veg control. I collected the guy on the towpath and put him aboard the drifter. His mate, a senior figure in a black sweatshirt, worked his way back to the road and headed down the towpath towards us carrying a coil of line. We were able to leave them to it, good deed done for the day.
An uneventful cruise to our preferred mooring just beyond the Handsacre winding hole followed arriving in nice time for lunch. It's now cold enough that I've lit the Squirrel for the first time this trip. We've got a decent stock of fuel, sticks and firelighters still, hopefully enough to see us through to the warmer weather of May.
Tomorrow, we'll stop in Rugeley to shop for a variety of things, then carry on to the VMs at Brindley Bank.