Sunshine – sunshine – sunshine

Friday 3rd June, Shutt Hill Lock to near Hatherton Junction, 10 locks, 9.5 miles

A day marked by LACK of trial and tribulation!  And, as anticipated yesterday, little time for whimsical dreaming from the front deck.

By 0950 today Cleddau and her crew had negotiated four locks, exchanged an empty gas cylinder for a full one at Teddesley, sorted yesterday’s laundry, loaded the washing machine, bought a newspaper and milk, refilled with water and (the Captain, that is, had) had a close encounter with a sanitary station.  But Boatwif’s reward was to come, when she was allowed browsing time in the Gailey Canal and Book Shop. (More on that later).

Apart from Penkridge the route is mainly rural, although the M6 makes itself known when the canal tunnels underneath it and later runs close enough to it for boaters at Otherton Lock to read the motorway signs!  Some industry (chemical works) appear for a while but mainly the waters wend their way gently under brick bridges (all named and numbered) and between tall trees, which today rustled and drifted in the soft breezes.   

Gailey was today’s major destination. From either direction the round house tower beside the lock comes as a surprise, so distinctive is its shape.  Built in 1805, the year of Nelson’s success at the Battle of Trafalgar, it was initially used as a toll house and from the upper storey four locks can be seen.  Apparently, according to the round house and shop owner, another round folly exists (“somewhere in the north”) to commemorate the Battle’s success but the exchange has brought to mind Nelson’s Tower on top of the Kymin at Monmouth, and Cluny Hill Tower in Forres.  Folks, any other Nelson suggestions…?

A quick update on “Ornamentland” in these parts: seven or eight model owls spread out along the top of a boat, two very cheeky looking frogs in a garden and a special mention for the cherub-supported birdbath, over which loomed a tall (stone?) heron… What else was there to see? Several boats with canoes tied behind, to act as tenders, perhaps, and several more sporting skulls or rather grotesque masks in their windows.

But words have been more intriguing today. We passed nb The Jolly Buccaneer (first sighting of a boat thus named) and came upon nb Toperu (but no, the owners had not had a secret Paddington Bear past in darkest Peru), for the name recalled their offspring Toby, Peter and Ruth. Along the side of one boat moored near Hatherton Marina were the beautifully painted words: Fend fer yersel’ while another boat was called Rest and be thankful. Those words remind Boatwif of the totally unexpected greeting yesterday at Tixall Lock, when the down-coming boater (a Mr Griffiths, according to the name on his boat) addressed her with the words “Thank you my dear. May you be rewarded in heaven – but not just yet!” Rewards there were in the bookshop today – and maybe some in heaven later!

In the heat of late afternoon the boat was pointed directly into the sun. So intense was the glare inside the boat that a spot of improvisation was called for – an Indian cotton throw and some pegs have effected a pretty good awning over the front deck.  Now to the big decision of the evening – to eat al fresco, upon the towpath – or in the shade, inside?

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