Trains and boats and locks – and brides

‘Canalorak’ readers – skip to paragraph 2*.
         Boatwif’s childcare mission was accomplished just after midday on Friday when she was the sole passenger to leave the train at Wootton Wawen’s request stop. On Wednesday a kindly Walsall–bound couple had guided her (via Debenhams second floor perfume department in the Bullring) from Moor Street Station to Birmingham New Street Station.  On Friday a kindly gent offered help in finding the way out of the New Street maze:  when it was apparent that the wrong end of the bridge concourse had been reached he sighed and said “Well, it’s the blind leading the blind…” The eyes were sufficiently open though on the crowded concourse to see Superman (X3), plus a Batman and a Robin, all hastening somewhere (probably to a Stag Do!) Somehow the exit was found and somehow, aided by signposts (until they all but disappeared) and by one enquiry, Moor Street Station was found again, with ten minutes spare to catch the onward train.  During Thursday Boatwif and the Cheshire One had amused themselves well.  On Friday morning, In monsoon conditions, the Cheshire One was back at school, dressed for the day in her twenties outfit.

The school is celebrating its centenary and for this week each year group is focusing on the art and fashion of a prescribed decade.

           *The train route to Macclesfield goes via Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent. Heading north through Birmingham there were frequent sightings from the train of a wide straight canal (the Main Line?); there were classic lattice-patterned canal bridges, canal loops to warehouses and wharves; there was a glimpse of a lock at Wolverhampton (the Wolverhampton 21?), there was a lock at Stone, boats moored at Barlaston, the wide Trent and Mersey passing through Stoke, a snatched view of Hardings Wood Junction at Kidsgrove, the sensation of paralleling the Biddulph Valley Aqueduct as the train glides over the viaduct above Dane-in-Shaw Pasture…  Yet again a train journey has been a reminder of how canal routes preceded the advent of the railway!
          Back then to the watery road: Friday afternoon allowed for three hours cruising further downhill from Wootton Wawen, vital stats: 4.83 miles, 9 locks, 2 aqueducts.  The first aqueduct at Wootton Wawen

crosses above a road through the village

while the second one is altogether more impressive. Edstone Aqueduct soars above farmland and a road and railway lines.

Last seen in January during a memorably muddy walk, on Friday two trains rattled below and ducks fussed in the water in front of the boat.

 By 5pm eight of Wilmcote’s 11 locks had been completed

(hey, that’s the bench where a picnic lunch was eaten in January)

and the boat moored up for the evening…
Saturday: 2.25 miles, 8 locks. There’s a certain point on the Wilmcote Flight when a long white modern building hoves into view, it’s the first inkling that the canal is changing from a rural to an urban environment.

Initially this morning just dog walkers passed by as Cleddau’s descent continued, then another boat, then small groups of people. Patrick (about 7), his dad and baby sister shadowed the boat down the locks and at the last one young Patrick took a guided tour and rode on the back deck with Boatwif. On every previous occasion this way the pounds out of the town have been short of water but not so today. “Someone left a back paddle open up the top of Wilmcote last night,” explained a lock keeper. “”That’s why there’s so much water down here.”
          The last stretch into the town inches past apartments towards a low road bridge – and then you emerge into Bancroft Basin,

a riot of colour and seething with activity. On today’s summery afternoon crowds filled the seats overlooking the basin, gathered around a street entertainer, lay on the grassy lawns in front of the theatre, thronged past the finger pontoons. Moored on  a boat in Bancroft Basin you become part of the  Stratford scene, you are the performer, taking questions from many in any number of languages –  and today one particular reply had to be made: “No, madam, sorry, we are not a trip boat. Try down on the river!”
           As for the brides in the title – that will wait until tomorrow…

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