Victor takes to the 'terrible six' again

IT WAS two years ago that we last ventured up the 'terrible six' of the Trent & Mersey Canal but now there is a difference.

The gates no longer swing open!  The bottom right hand on Derwent Mouth; both top gates on Shardlow; the top two and bottom right hand one on Aston; the bottom right hand on Weston; bottom right hand on Swarkestone.  All of those swung open in the past, and all now stay firmly closed.  Fantastic!  But...the collars are extremely tight, so it would seem the gates alas have not been rebalanced, as still no easier to move, but that nut on the collars has simply been tightened!

AstonCillAnd alas, the worse, Aston, has otherwise been completely neglected. The top right hand ground paddle that was not working two years ago, is still not working, the two bottom gates are still nearly impossible to move, but at least are held closed with steel struts.  Both top and bottom gates have really ferocious leaks, but worse of all the bottom gates cill is obviously broken with water clearly seen coming up, even with no paddle open.

And thrown to one side of the lock on the grass and slowly rotting are the stop planks.  Can you imagine the old British Waterways workers doing such a thing with their equipment? Of course not, but obviously the contractors that are now employed couldn't care less.

After many, many, years the bottom gates at Stenson still will not fully open, meaning a narrowboat cannot get though just one gate, but it is made easier by a couple of volunteers on hand, though we only had one.

No Canaltime

For the first time in a long time no instruction needed for Canaltime hirers—there aren't any!  There are none at Sawley Marina anymore. And what a blessing, with so many not being properly taught how to operate a lock, and at one time nearing 50 of 'em being let loose!

Time and time again She Who Must, etc. etc. has given lock operation to so many, with no few of them opening top and bottom gate paddles at the same time and even meeting one pair who thought that only one narrowboat could use a broad lock at a time! All causing frustration to many. 

Right up to Burton we did not see a single hirer, for of course those Shakespeare Line from Mercia have long gone, and have not seen any Aqua hire boats this time either.  So no moored on lock moorings anymore—fantastic!

MenSleepingWere they dead?

At Thomas's favourite lock, Branston, there were a couple of fellas flat out, or possibly three, with ner a sign of life, but none of us considered investigating further or alerting the police, as the way the law seems to operate these days, we would most likely have been arrested!

Leave that to some other poor bugger.

If the one by the edge of the water was alive and had rolled over he would have had a very rude awakening!

The new bridge at Branston, serving some form of industrial estate or other is finished, having demolished the house in its way, but not much activity.  Not much activity on the Water Park moorings either since the old pub was turned into some sort of eatery. Obviously not so popular.

A new record

One of She Who Must etc. etc. favorite pastimes when cruising by the side of the A38 from Barton Turns is waving at lorry drivers as she steers, with this time a new record of 15 waves and seven 'pips' from the drivers!

JanWavingWe often wonder if anyone else undertakes this strange pastime to relieve the monotony of that long straight pound by the side of that busy road.  It is something she has always done, and cheers her immensely.

Bagnall Lock

Notwithstanding the work done to stop the bottom gates swinging open, they are still the same, and so it still needs a top paddle opening to hold the bottom gates closed, that of course means the second one closed does so with a crash.

But now the 'dog leg' beams have gone with exceptionally short straight beams in their place, that needless to say are difficult to move!

And to add to the misery, from the paddles at least being very easy to operate on the bottom gates, they are now a struggle indeed, being so tight.

BagnallNewOnce again it is all done by contractors who obviously just do not really know what they are doing.  But alas, under this lot, we are stuck with them. Here's a picture of the new gates.

Covering its back

I see that the warning signs for the state of the Trent at both Wychnor and Alrewas have been permanently set to 'proceed with caution', meaning it often gives a false reading of the state of the river as it fluctuates.

Today this was absolutely wrong, as the river was quite low there being no rain for many days, so there was certainly no need to 'proceed with caution'. What is worrying though does the same advice remain when it is in flood and downright dangerous.

The state of the fastenings of the boards clearly show they have not been altered for many a month.

FradleyMarinaNew marina

There is to be still another new marina on the Trent & Mersey Canal, that will not please those already built under British Waterways regime that encouraged new building with the promise that there would be a limit.

With the large marinas of Mercia, Barton and Kings Bromley and scores of linear moorings in between surely there are enough marinas on that section, but no, for there is to be a new one at Fradley, with the site already mapped out on the offside below the Fradley locks.

This will be right in the centre between Kings Bromley and Barton marinas and will surely take boats away from both it being situated at the junction giving the choice of three routes. Of course it could possibly give an advantage to passing boaters by getting rid of that long line of boats moored below the lock, but as these provide an income for Cart, then I would not think there was much chance of that.

Motorbikes

Since we last spent a night moored at Fradley the motorbikes have taken over the road by the waterway up to the junction. Even though it was midweek, from arriving at noon until well into the evening there was the roar of motorbike engines passing the moorings up and down all day long.

Workers CoventryIt is obvious there is some kind of meeting place for them around the junction, not sure if it is the old pub or the café at the caravan park, but there is definitely an attraction, so be warned.

Dredging

Our Keith was definitely correct about the dredging on the Coventry from Fradley down to Streethay Wharf—it had certainly been done as we were moving easily.There were other sections too that had been dredged recently, but alas were few and far between as the slowing clearly showed.

And then an illusionbut no it was notfour fellas actually repairing, but alas not the canal but the towpath that was giving way. Cart has to get its priorities right, don't you know?  Mind you as any boater who has cruised the Coventry knows, visitors to the towpath are very few and far between, just the occasional dog walker of course.

But there was some new piling offside and trees cut, so we boaters were not entirely forgotten.

Plenty of boats passing, but one thing that was unusual—all men steerers, not having seen a single woman at the tiller all the way down to the Birmingham & Fazeley from Sawley, and still not a single hire boat either.

WalksBFAll change

Moored at one of our favourite spots below the locks on the Birmingham & Fazeley, it all changed in the space of the afternoon as seven hire boats passed us, mostly out of Birmingham, and two had woman steerers! There were boats from Viking Afloat, Kate Boats, Anglo Welsh and those with bird names, but did not catch the company.

Plenty of walks here, with lakes on one side and an extensive wood on the other, and not a motorbike in sight!

Victor Swift