Saturday, 15 July 2017

Handily to Handsacre

Alrewas to Handsacre is a longish day by our standards and we knew that, it being a Saturday in July, Fradley would get pretty frantic later in the day. Accordingly, we set off not long after seven having eaten breakfast but not had a coffee. It was Sheila’s turn to steer and mine to lock, so I walked through the village (now totally chock-a-block with boats) to Bagnall Lock. A boat had come past the other way as were setting off and sure enough the lock was empty and open and there was a space on the towpath above.

All I had to do was hang around until Sheila arrived in Sanity Again having crept past all the other boats. We made good time to Common Lock, crossing with Crafty Foxes out of Mercia on the way. In theory this meant that Common should be with us, but we could see that there was at least some water in there as it was draining through the mitre of the bottom gates. Sheila dropped me on the lock landing and I found that the top gate was leaking so badly through one of the upper boards that the lock had half filled.

It’s a pretty shallow lock, of course, so it didn't take long to drain it down again and on we went, your correspondent walking from there on to the top of Fradley. Here, things were rather busier, starting with an odd sort of bloke in a very small splitter GRP cruiser who emerged single handed from Keepers as I got to Hunts. This last was completely empty and Sanity Again was not far away, though now creeping past the boats on the long term moorings below the lock, so I didn't try to turn it and he had to wait for us to work up.

He didn't seem to mind, though seemed very vague about where he was or where the next lock was. I did my best to explain, whereupon he said he was on his way to Leicester “through Nottingham”. He knew that he had to turn right when he got to the Trent, though, so I said, yes, that’s right. It was only later that it occurred to me that if he turns right immediately on joining the Trent, that is, below Derwent Mouth lock, he’ll find himself going upstream back to Shardlow, but I expect someone will sort him out when he gets there.

Meantime, we carried on up the locks, waiting for just a little below Junction for a minor traffic jam to sort itself, and were soon rising in Shade House. As soon as we were clear of that, I nipped below and got a wash load running – I’m sure regular readers will be relieved to hear that…

There wasn't a lot to do apart from making coffee once we were above Woodend. I spent a bit of the time pondering what a loss it will be when the classic mixed English wood that gives the lock its name has been raped by HS2. It’s not an important or specially significant wood, as far as I know, just a typical mixture of oak and ash with a bit of beech and holly, providing accommodation for a broad assortment of native animals and insects.

Mind you, just as I thought these very words, I realised I was staring at a huge bank of rhododendrons…

We got to Handsacre just after eleven and had no trouble finding a towpath mooring a bit beyond the winding hole. Things have filled up now, though there’s still space opposite the pub. We’ve been taking it easy this afternoon, apart from when we were taking a stroll. Lots and lots of boats have gone by, mostly well behaved, though one seniors booze cruise tested the quality of our moorings quite ferociously. No hire boats have been seen today – it’s probably turn round day for most of them.

Tomorrow, a later start as we want to do a bit of shopping in Rugeley and the supermarkets won’t open until ten.


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