A couple of related events happened yesterday evening. First, a number of Drayton hire boats came down junction lock travelling together, and apparently had little idea what they were doing. One shot out of the lock and managed to scrape along the side of Briar Rose. The girls on board seemed to think this was quite amusing. Much later the boat moved in a strange way, and at first we thought little of it; then it happened again. It turned out that the same boats had left the paddled open right down at Common Lock, and the boats on the permanent moorings there were sitting on the bottom. Some of the owners ran water down from the junction, and as they did so we rose by at least six inches before the water levels sorted themselves out.
This morning we were awake early, so at about 7.30 crossed over to the water point where we filled the tank while having breakfast. At about 8 we got bored of waiting for the top to be reached, and a boat was coming up Keeper's Lock, so we set off. Reports from boats coming up said Alrewas had been choc-a-bloc last night, so many had set off early to try to get ahead of the crowds.
This meant that we swapped with boats in the opposite direction at most of the locks to and through Alrewas. We also saw the Drayton hire boats heading back, zig-zag fashion, towards Fradley.
Below the first lock of the day I saw a chap I vaguely recognised. It was Nev off Percy, so we were able to have a quick chat.
Alrewas is pretty from the canal, but it was also very busy and doesn't have much room if you meet another boat. Fortunately, the place where this happened had a kind of passing place, where someone had already left. Below Alrewas Lock, the River Trent crosses the canal. The weir is better marked these days than it was when my parents and uncle and aunt boated this section in the 1960s. It seems they nearly went over it!
By Wychnor church is a strange bridge which requires you to get right over to one side.
Bridge 36 is another which requires a bit of concentration. From a distance, it looks impossibly small, and when you get closer there's evidence that some people have indeed had trouble getting through it.
At Branston Water Park we came across a trinity of bloggers. First, Muleless, the latest boat by MGM, and we were able to have a quick chat with Della and Gary (who seemed to be expecting us!). The other side of the bridge were Petroc and Epiphany, but there was no sign of anyone at home.
Much of Burton on Trent seemed fairly familiar, as we went to the IWA national at Shobnal Fields a few years ago. Naturally we photographed the best known of the bridges.
Much of this section is accompanied by the A38, which is rather noisy and spoils the enjoyment somewhat. All the locks along this stretch are shallow as well as narrow, with falls of as little as 3ft. Dallow Lane is the last narrow lock in this direction, although there's a long lock-free section before the first wide one. On the outskirts of Willington, I spotted a house where the loft appears to have been turned into an observatory.
Stenson Lock is the first wide one, and it's also deep, at over 12ft. We shared with a boat which appeared to have no reverse (or at least, its owners seemed unwilling to use it). I was slightly concerned that their bow button had got caught on the gate, but before I could say anything it slipped free and the boat dropped about 9 inches. There were plenty of gongoozlers from the neighbouring tea rooms, many asking questions about where we'd been and where we were going.
After Stenson is a rather pleasant section of canal, going through farmland. It was enhanced by the fact that it was a lovely sunny, warm afternoon. Not only have coats not been needed today, but fleeces have been discarded, and the shorts have been brought out of retirement.
We moored up for the night just short of Swarkestone Lock. We walked along to have a look at the lock, and found a Hire a Canal Boat coming up. They were taking things carefully and, we thought, doing quite well, until it became apparent that their rope had been taken twice round a bollard and had got jammed as the boat rose. It meant the boat was being forced to lean over at an increasingly alarming angle.
The crew didn't seem to have noticed, so we alerted them as to what was happening, and when it became apparent that they didn't know what to do to rectify the situation we directed the closing of top paddles and opening of bottom ones, until the boat was upright and the rope could be freed. Amazingly, quite a crowd appeared to watch what was going on.
It's now a lovely warm evening, we have a glass of wine, and there's a chicken roasting in the oven. What could be better?
20 miles, 11 locks. (341 miles, 195 locks)