Boatdog on board – the cruise resumed

          Phase 2 of Cleddau’s summer cruise began on Thursday. This is the Droitwich Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon leg. (Is “leg” the right word?)
        The six nights at home? Well, if really interested, see below.
         Relief Captain and First Mate live close by to Droitwich. They are very nearly the proud new owners of nb Tentatrice. They also work as volunteers for Canal and River Trust (C&RT) on the stretch of canal between Stoke Prior and Tardebigge.
         “We have a suggestion,” said First Mate, “how about we crew for you up the locks…?” And that is why over two days four humans and one dog (Monty Boatdog, a border collie pup of 14 months of age) helped Cleddau climb through 7 miles and 45 locks. The humans got a boat-handling fix and the pup had a two day induction course into being a proper boat dog.
        From Droitwich Spa Marina turn left to go uphill. Within yards the canal arrives at the three Hanbury Locks.

Side ponds here on the bottom and top lock require use of the side paddles first – which makes for interesting locking. First Mate put herself on serious dog training duty… Monty Boatdog is used to towpath patrols, but his enthusiasm for a life jacket was, well, mooted.

         At Hanbury Junction it was a left uphill for Birmingham, a right downhill to Worcester. As the canal sweeps along towards the Astwood flight there is a glimpse of what makes the Droitwichname familiar to radio listeners, the radio masts.

Droitwich used to appear on radio dials and its masts have been transmitting BBC radio services since 1934. There was a pub with a compelling notice so there was a pause while two crew members jumped ship…

         Soon the roar of the M5 had faded, and where there were cottages their gardens had a profusion of summer flowers.

Next up the Astwood Flight (6 locks).          Then the canal’s route proceeds to Stoke Works. There, floating tidily outside Pinders, was Tentatrice. Nose to nose, bow to bow were Cleddau (1989) and Tentatrice (2013).

A quick inspection of the new boat was made, now equipped with mattress, upholstery, curtains and connected electrical fittings. Handover date is very soon, due next week on 1stJuly.
        Up the Stoke locks (6). “These are our lock-keeping locks,” explained Relief Captain.
        “On a boat today,” someone called from the Black Prince boatyard. This stretch of canal is very much local territory for Relief Captain and First Mate.
         Years ago (correction: decades ago) on a first ever narrow boat trip the Captain and family had arrived, hungry and exhausted, at the bottom of the Tardebigge flight and had eaten memorably at the Queen’s Head. This well known pub is going through yet another transformation, the work force hard at work outside (and presumably inside) until about 6pm. Here Cleddau moored, within yards of Tardebigge Bottom Lock.

Monty Boatdog was exhausted: lock operation he had been familiar with but on Thursday night he even learned to walk a gangplank

– success!
Friday was a hot and humid day. Only the Tardebigge Flight to do, only 30 locks, 29 in quick succession and then it’s about half a mile after the 29th to the famous 30th. Up the locks Cleddau steadily climbed, the crew regularly swapping roles.

         Half way up – it was hot.

Two thirds up – passing Tardebigge Reservoir.

Monty Boatdog waited at lock gates,

supervised paddle-winding,

rode on the front deck,

rode on the back deck.

         Top Lock: site of the famous meeting between three post-war waterways campaigners Tom and Angela Rolt and Robert Aickman.

          There was a welcome mooring for three nights at Tardebigge New Wharf, the eighteenth century St Bartholomew’s Church rising on the hill opposite. At nearly midnight on Midsummer’s Night a nearly full moon behind the church cast a magical spell across the canal.

         There is a ruby wedding celebration hereabouts to enjoy on Sunday, then the cruise should start again on Monday, at full pelt, through a few tunnels in a rush to get to – a railway station. There’ll be more to follow on that as the trip proceeds towards Stratford-upon-Avon.  Check back on Monday or Tuesday for an update of location.  
         As for the days and nights aground in Southern England: the four sisters and the two cousins converged on RHS Wisley for a day of walking and talking, gazing and grazing. Niece and Pony Clubber Great Niece were part of  the Senior Sis Conspiracy. Brum Cuz was a guest for two nights. Falklands Friend is on home leave and came for a day. Elderly Neighbour is comfortable in her Care Home, her daughter mightily relieved… The pile of mail was pretty high, the grass even higher…

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