Fish Friday

Bratch Locks to Rocky Lock: 5.1 miles, 11 locks
       Off down the Bratch (three locks) this morning – its octagonal toll house at the top is very distinctive.

By the middle lock the volunteer lockkeeper was tugging her sweatshirt off to get down to T-shirt level in the sunshine. She confirmed that this end of the canal is quiet at present; her home area of Penkridge, however, is seeing six boat queues and confusion.
        At the bottom of the locks a line of fishermen sat at ten feet intervals under the shady trees. Motionless they sat, contemplating. The heat grew and the Captain, already well covered with Factor 30 and wearing a sun hat, put up the brightly coloured parasol.

“It ain’t raining mate, is it?” called a wag from a fast bike ripping down the towpath. On past carefully tended gardens and Wombourne’s suburbs

(the largest village in England, according to a local voice last night.)
         The surroundings grew more rural.

At Botterham Staircase Locks a white lilac tree was still in bloom and pretty flowers flourished in the front garden of the lock cottage.

Down the Staircase – looking back the middle gate looked rather tall.

       There were more fishermen, fishing for carp and bream and roach.  “Duck,” squawked the Captain to Boatwif on the back deck as Cleddauslid amongst the anglers. There was a kerfuffle as an angler began a scuttle along the towpath.
“I’ve caught a BOAT!” he claimed. At the end of the line of anglers the boat was brought in to the bank and the angler disentangled his hook from a fender rope.

“Biggest catch I’ve had…” he proclaimed.

        “Yes, 16 tons,” the Captain confirmed.

         Greenery, greenery: there are hedges and untended marsh land and trees and hillsides on this next section of the canal.
        The approach to Greenforge Lock is past a long line of permit holder boats. Overhead the trees were shedding dried off blossom. A large tree trunk bobbed in front of the boat. It caught under the bow and, as a pair of water wings, stayed stubbornly in position.

Too heavy to hoist from the water…with boat pole and blue rope the trunk was attached to a BW workboat,

leaving it as a problem for their workforce to sort out…
          A half hour passed. Tied up at the water point the tap was on, tank filling, washing machine churning, buckets ready for a boat wash. Up rolled three BW contractors to check their boats. Thoughts bubbles spun above their heads: Well how did that tree get there? you could hear them think. And it took all three to fish out the sodden brute!
         There were encouraging comments as the Cleddau crew strove to de-dust, to wash and then to rinse the boat. Proud of its polished appearance at Higher Poynton about four weeks ago, now it looked dull, dusty, dirty. Dried blossom, field dust and birds had done their worst. With no other boat movements and no shortage of water there wasn’t even a guilt feeling as the hose pipe rinsed off the (large) expanses of metal.

        Two locks further down a perfect overnight mooring  was found.

The boat looked a bit cleaner, the Captain disappeared for a shower – and then cooked salmon pieces for an evening meal – after all, it is Friday, fish Friday!

       Tomorrow – to Kinver


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