Tuesday 29th December
In the face of a dreadful weather forecast of heavy snow for the Welsh Borders and Shropshire, I took the dog out to check the conditions. A hire boat had pulled in last night, so I was not the last boat to arrive in Audlem, and as they left quite early, while walking back down the locks I met them coming up at Lock 10. I set the next three locks to give us a good head start, but diverted a few yards into the village, tempted by a preheated Co-op bacon roll in a plastic bag, which was actually very good indeed.
Munching this on the way back to pick up Zulu I was less than impressed to discover that another moored boat had sprung into life and was making its way up the flight through all my prepared locks. So much for all my advance planning but they must have thought Christmas had come again!
So I set off making quite heavy work out of it, as every lock had to be turned, and was pleased to meet Adam and Adrian on Debdale coming down, so at least a couple of locks were set in our favour. They told me they were heading for Audlem for New Years Eve, which in retrospect seems like an incredibly good idea. I spent the rest of the morning trying to work out where I would end up on Thursday night, but gave up!
The forecast snow didn’t arrive, but around lunch time the constant drizzle was turning to sleet so whilst the temperature was warmer than yesterday, the chill factor made it much colder, with the a strong gusting icy wind too, although any ice in the canal had now all but disappeared.
These locks are actually quite easy on a good day, but today the bywashes are carrying a huge volume of water which requires quite a bit of power to punch through, by which time Zulu is going too fast to allow her to coast into the lock without power, which in turn means that I missed the opportunity to jump off the moving boat at least half a dozen times and then have to reverse back to the steps and haul her back in by rope. With everything slipper, wet and icy it was all rather tiring – I must be getting old!
Adderley locks were comparatively easy, followed by a few miles of respite to Market Drayton. Arriving there at 3.30 I just had time to carry on to finish the final five locks at Tyrley. The bottom two locks are very damp, in a gloomy narrow cutting where the towpath is liquid mud and leaf mulch. The volume of water coming down the bywashes on both sides of the first two locks was more like shooting the rapids, but we had plenty of practice and by now had a more efficient locking system, enabling me to complete the five Tyrely locks in 40 minutes and therefore in daylight.
We pulled in to the Tyrley visitor moorings and I then attempted to entertain Seth, the dog, with an interesting walk, but the rain was relentless, the towpath flooded, the roads flooded and very dark, with icy cold sleet and wind, so I changed plans and made do with a sniff around the moorings and back to the warm cabin where at 5pm it felt like midnight. Seth was less than amused by this and I still don’t think he is speaking to me.
8 miles and 23 locks today.
Feels like progress, although theres still an awfully long way to go to Uxbridge! Its too depressing to count the remaining miles yet, as this route is so much further than the Trent and Mersey I think I am still further away than I started!