Extra boaters at Branston

Willington to Alrewas, 12.5 miles, 6 locks

            There was a phone call on Sunday evening: a polite suggestion was made, a plan was formulated. Hence after a night’s rest punctuated all too often by fast freight trains just yards from the towpath (see previous post) there was an early alarm call, a swift departure for the services area further along, a dive into the village Coop and a departure westwards. 2 locks and 6 miles later, thirty seconds (yes, thirty seconds!) before rendezvous time Cleddau drew in beside Falklands Friend and her sister, they having headed south by car from Chesterfield, Cleddau having navigated 6 plus miles and 2 locks west from the other side of Burton upon Trent.

            What a glorious day: no hint of rain, just clear skies and warm sunshine. As boats cruised towards us, all crews were beaming with delight at the sun’s rays. Would the Godmanchester Friends recognise V and I Harley’s boat, one wondered?  The roar of the A38, when the canal ran alongside it, seemed more noticeable today than on the outbound trip. Could the calmer weather be to blame, or was this still rush hour…? Burton seemed neat and  spruce and at Dallow Lock there was time to notice the murals which celebrate Burton’s brewing heritage.  As the boat cruised on towards the brewery end of town a faint aroma of hops hung in the atmosphere. Marstons brewery borders one side of the canal, Coors the other, inhabiting what had once been the Bass brewery.  Once past the breweries the scene swiftly becomes pastoral, meadows framed by the low-lying hills.

            Then at Branston on jumped the Falklands Friend, a returning visitor after many years. The Sister had had canal experience, knew what to do with a windlass, could steer into a lock. On we cruised, attracted by the natural world. Twice two of us spotted a low-flying bird dart into the canal edge greenery – a kingfisher? Then there were the llamas, posing arrogantly in an area of National Forest near Wychnor.   A calf peered shyly at the boat from the river’s edge. An approaching  boat had its front deck manned (??) by a skeleton (“Our cook,” pronounced the helmsman). The final stretch into Alrewas is along the river, its course meandering, the towpath raised on footbridges above the water meadows. At Alrewas Lock the crew squirmed over and past the fallen tree blocking the access stile: one  hire boat down, one Cleddau up.

            Moored up there was a late and lazy lunch. Secret pasts were revealed: The Sister had once lived in Congleton, had once been in the navy, so long ago submarine stories were exchanged: The Sister had recruited on a submarine, Boatwif had escorted a school visit to a submarine and the Captain explained the activities of the very yellow submarine spotted offshore from San Diego. None present has yet seen the narrowboat submarine reported in the press to be patrolling the Leeds and Liverpool Canal…

                Falklands Friend and The Sister left, heading back along the towpath to their car. Boatwif took to the quiet streets of picturesque Alrewas in search of milk for the morrow. What type of place is this then where “Violators will be shot”?  Best arm ourselves with windlasses and walking poles tomorrow then…!

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