Cashback and splashback
Saturday 4th June, 10 miles, 6 locks
The Cleddau crew have very strong connections with Pembrokeshire. Like many they were shocked to hear of the very serious industrial accident that has occurred at the Chevron Refinery on the southern side of the Milford Haven. A relative is employed there but was not on site at the time of the incident. Our thoughts are with the people of Pembroke and the surrounding area at this time.
Ketchup, Techno Son-in-Law and the rest of the Cheshire Clan have returned home after their Cotswold camping caper – so there is hope now that the map location may correspond with Cleddau’s mooring position… To aid him the Captain has found use for his handheld GPS gadget and reported that we are N52 02.779’ W002 12.206’, at an elevation of 291 feet. But in words we are still in Staffordshire, in lush green countryside to the west of Wolverhampton, the Bratch locks a mile or so ahead. A further gadget moment came this evening when binoculars were deployed to establish the angle of TV aerials on distant houses…
As for the decision last night as to whether to eat “out” or “in”, well it was an outside occasion, the Captain allowing informal dress (i.e. boating gear) since his tropical DJ was not on board! The rake of the towpath would allow only one way of stabilising the table: as the sun went down the Captain resorted first to napkin draped over his forehead and then to Boatwif’s brimmed hat to shield his eyes, a pragmatic solution – but a ridiculous look!
The boating day started early: the rest of the summit pound, “the narrows” and some suburbia needed to be passed before Compton was reached. Here, after the first lock (downhill now), was a useful mooring place within easy distance of some shops for a restock of food and of cash. Five more locks – and a good overnight mooring, chosen early, as to go further would leave us in urban areas, possibly unwise, especially at a weekend. The locks are uniformly ten feet deep, and here for the first time was sight of circular weirs. To fill the locks means winding two ground paddles and one gate paddle. Shades of the Caldon Canal! A lock winder in the wrong place may get an upward shower of water. First splashback! Second came as Cleddau was moored early afternoon, a distinct and persistent rain shower. Passing boaters looked both damp and dejected.
Today’s ten miles has proved delightful, mainly peaceful, with just a duck under the M54 the only reminder of fast road traffic. Boats creep through the rock-sided narrows, a couple of passing places allowing oncoming traffic. At Autherley Junction the straight Shropshire Union Canal heads for Chester and Ellesmere Port; at Aldersley Junction the canal heads for Birmingham. We passed the Wolverhampton Canoe Club and thereabouts cruised under two high road bridges immediately followed by two high railway bridges As we cruised southwards colours sang out, complementing trees, hedgerows and turf paths: the sizzling yellow of a rape field, the pale pink of wild roses, the creamy yellow of honeysuckle, the sharp yellow of emerging water lilies, the mild green of the bulrushes, a flash of blue from the flower (name unknown) where on one plant a busy little bee methodically investigated the blooms. Then came more colour in unexpected places: a face on a tree, others on wooden pylon warning signs. Further sensory experience came from the bird song, which was varied, birds alternating in the early morning but at Ebstree Lock just after midday a choral competition seemed under way, massed, full-throated avian voices! From our mooring a sandstone tree-covered ridge is in view, just a few hundred metres away.
Tomorrow the Bratch is ahead (an unusual three lock combination). From there it’s onward to Kinver – or, maybe, first, a diversion up the Stourbridge Canal…
Fishing is popular hereabouts – and one cannot escape noticing how much gear seems to be required for each angling adventure.