Detained at Tixall

Thursday 2nd June, Tixall to below Shutt Hill Lock, (Staffs and Worcs Canal)

An early start had been planned, hence at 0740 the engine roared into life, stuttered, and at 0742 stopped. Efforts to restart it led to what sounded like flooded cylinders. Pauses – investigations – breakfast – thinking time – and at 0820 a call to RCR (River and Canal Rescue Service). 

By 1030 a cheerful and quietly confident marine engineer (plus apprentice) had trundled along the towpath from the junction at Great Haywood. Much inspection of cables and fuel lines followed.  Constantly the fuel system was bled until all the air was evacuated. Boatwif, meanwhile, had been engaged in conversation by a passing boater, pondering the addition of three feet in his six year old boat to accommodate his partner’s wardrobe needs… On the back deck the starter battery was beginning to labour; power was transferred from the leisure batteries. The little grey state of charge dial on the instrument panel reported 88% charge but Cleddau’s engine was still in silent sulk. Then quietly confident Marine Engineer set off back to his van for his paperwork and a spare battery…

Boatwif, too, took to the towpath, lugging eastwards the rubbish and recyclables while lugging westwards came the engineers with a heavy battery stretched between them. At about 1230 the Captain reported the good news: engine singing sweetly, problem caused by airlock; advice was offered that the starter battery had deteriorated and a replacement would be wise…

So some six hours later than intended, with one last look at the Gatehouse across the water, Cleddau drew away from Tixall Wide, and headed towards Tixall Lock where for the first time in 2011 she started to head uphill!

The canal is rural, creeping on Milford Aqueduct over the River Sow. A train line is often close by.  The cut passes a host of mobile homes, extended, individualised, gardens carefully tended. Trees encroach over the canal, boats squeeze past each other. At Deptmore Lock a transformation is under way: last year this was a sad property in desperate need of TLC; now it appears to be getting it. (See photo of same spot on https://boatwif.co.uk/2010_08_01_archive.html ). More rural stretches; then more houses – and it occurs that this part of Staffordshire is secretly Ornamentland. Yesterday in Shugborough Park the most bizarre monument features a cat that supposedly circumnavigated the world with Admiral Anson. Here, canalside, were not tasteless statues, more whimsical figures, in flowerbeds, in bushes, along moorings and canal edges, even on the back deck of a boat.

 Gently to the west of the canal the M6 thrums. Tomorrow’s cruise is likely to involve about 5 miles, 9 locks and a much closer motorway view. Somehow the chance of sitting on the front deck enjoying whimsical dreams seems rather remote…

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