Hot Spot Audlem

Coole Pilate Moorings to near Adderley, 4.04 miles, 15 locks
        Audlem Bottom Lock was a mile or so beyond last night’s mooring. Fairly frequently alongside the towpath other boats were moored. Then on the right appeared a whole array of boats, neatly parked beside pontoons in the recently opened Overwater Marina.

It was breezy: a boat was struggling to exit the marina, poles were deployed and other hands recruited. Waterside was a large marquee, set up for a function of some kind. Two staff members were tugging trucks of bottled drinks up a slope towards the marquee – and a bit further away a RNLI flag flew. A towpath walker helpfully explained that today was RNLI Day, she was walking to Audlem to do her shopping but would catch the boat back… apparently there’s a weekend boat taxi service between marina and village.       
Bottom lock: first of fifteen. No real need to go to the village butcher’s and greengrocer’s shops!

        Above the third lock is the Shroppie Fly pub, the crane and flower baskets presenting strong visual appeal.

Perhaps many more will have seen postcards and calendar pictures of this scene than have seen the place itself. It becomes congested here: while folk vie for pub seating, boaters vie for access to water and boater facilities as well as for the lock. It was here that the peaceful scene was disturbed this morning when the Captain’s parade ground voice was found to issue orders… enthusiastic hire boaters above the lock were winding anything that could be wound and pushing anything that could be moved: hence the pound’s water level was fast depleting (bottom gates were open and top paddles were all open!) and then, while Cleddauapproached the prepared lock, the gates were slammed shut. A little sheepishly, though making light of the incident, one voice remarked: “I wasn’t really meaning to steal your lock…”  A boater on the deep drafted workboat on the offside muttered darkly about being thoroughly aground…   Why is Audlem flying union flags and bunting?

Sixty years after the Coronation? A village carnival? Hot spot picturesque village decked out in summer garb? The answer is unknown but the billowing flags made a pretty sight – as did the Austin Seven parked outside the pharmacy.

        Along the wharf is the large Audlem Mill, a boating craft centre cum chandlery cum needlework haven. Upstairs three ladies were earnestly talking and sewing and all around were wonderfully crafted examples of stitchwork. Just look at the boatwomen’s bonnets.

        Twelve more locks to go; the boater settles in to analyse these Shroppie locks. Water flows fast down the by-wash channels on the offside, giving approaching boats an unwelcome shove as they approach a lock, the beams are painted grey rather than black, some top gates have gate paddles, the ground paddles are easy to manage.

For the wanderer there are paths to explore – frequent signs for the Weaver Way, a stile to the west,

a steep path down to the east.

Under the bridges iron protective verticals show the markings of the towing horses’ harness.

The flight continues its climb: focus on the sounds, the rattling of  paddle gear being wound up,  the clank of paddles dropped on the lower gates, the gurgle of water into a filling lock,

the slight swish of  a breeze on summer grasses,

the cacophony of birdsong overhead.
         Top lock: “Look, there are cakes here!” called the Captain.

There, in the lock side garden, was a table laden with cakes and scones… Willpower weakened, into the honesty box was tossed money for a cream scones tea

and a pair of cheesey rolls.
        Moored in sunshine (near Adderley village) there was chance for another towpath exploration. See the flowers outside the galley window.

Is this a badger’s sett?

A dark line zoomed past the legs; a dragonfly? And up near the bridge hole, from a tree clump nearby small birds darted and dived, catching insects on the wing – swifts perhaps…?
         The sun drops behind – all is still. Tomorrow, up five locks, cruise a mile or so, tie up  and report to the gas engineer first thing on Monday morning, Maybe he will manage to ignite the fridge!

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