Victor: Bugsworth or bust

Published: Thursday, 04 May 2017

AS SOME of you may be aware this will be our third attempt for a second visit to Bugsworth Basin at the end of the Peak Forest, so definitely Bugsworth or bust!

Starting out from Sawley Marina, I see that the somewhat forceful appeal to Cart to have those two overstayers removed, who were moored three weeks on 48 hours moorings and had commandeered the water tap has had an effect, as they had gone, with others boats now able to moor.

Strut AstonNot in favour

Us fellas are not in favour of Bank Holiday cruising, but Jan, known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, had decreed we were starting on the May Day holiday, so be it, and of course soon found ourselves amongst the multitude. I shall stop myself complaining about the dreaded Aston broad lock, as at least 'they' have fitted a couple of strong struts to hold the bottom gates from swinging open.

But a complaint about Stenson Lock that was particularly busy, with ner a volunteer in sight. The past few times we have used this lock on weekdays, there has been little traffic, yet there have always been a couple of volunteers on hand, but the May Day Monday was perhaps too hectic for them.  Mind you, let's be fair, they are volunteers, and perhaps being sensible to themselves in allowing us to sort ourselves out on such a busy day!

Of course early in the season with a few very windy newcomers about hardly daring to wind a paddle, and glaring at Thomas attempting to give a helping hand by daring to wind the paddle another notch, it was a long wait.

MerciaWillingtonMercia Marina now of course adds to the mix, helped by its broad trip boat attempting to turn in the melee of Willington, with a couple of boaters unable to understand the 'Turning point no mooring' sign. It all made for the fun of the day, but luckily after Willington the 'road' became clear to Branston where we had some concern about being able to moor.

New Bridge

You see, a couple of you had told us that the mooring rings had been cut off and there was a notice stating that there was no longer any mooring at Branston.  But our Thomas thought that surely Cart can't be that stupid, so refused to publish. Luckily Cart was not, so there was no need for concern.

The picture below shows it all.  Being close to the A38 the powers that be had decided on yet another industrial and warehousing park—not close to the road, but way over the canal in the far distance, for some unfathomable reason, that needed a brand new accommodation road and a bridge over the canal.

Branston new bridgeSo there it was.  There were no rings as there was no mooring allowed for a fairly short distance where the bridge work was taking place.  The rings before the bridge on Branston Lock side were still there as were those by the water park.  It was clear boaters had seen that the rings had been removed and the 'No Mooring' notice before work had started and had assumed all the rings were going.  Daft buggers.

Now there are none

Aston Lock had a couple of struts to stop the bottom gates swinging open, but alas those at Bagnall Lock, were now both missing.  They were installed three years ago as the bottom gates immediately swung open when closed, with newcomers left in a quandary what to do to get the lock filled. We, and many like us, knew that the only way was to half open a top paddle, then close the gates, alas crashing them together.

But it was the only way if just one person operating the lock, as no way could anyone get to the top paddle in time to stop the bottom gates swinging open. Last year there was one strut, but now there are none, so it seems rather than balance the gates properly Cart prefers for them to be crashed. Strange thinking

Prosperous building community

A fairly early start just before 7am and we definitely had a free run through Alrewas and into Fradley, with County Lock now a prosperous boat building community, with no less than three in various stages of completion, and just one licence amongst the lot,  two on trade plates and one showing nothing. It is obviously a thriving boat building business, using the offside bank for the work.

Three County LockI have mentioned this activity before, pointing out that the red numbered trade plates are solely to allow boat builders to move boats on the waterways before they are licenced. But here, to my knowledge boats have been on trade plates—without moving—for four years.  Nice if you can get away with it—and they can... I wonder how they manage it...

Volunteer friendly

Fradley was certainly volunteer friendly with at least one on every lock, and allowed you to work the locks as you wanted.  At Keeper's Lock there was an host of Cart men too, who we were told were inspecting the lock to work on it—next February!  That's what the fella said, and it is certainly believable. 

All of you must know by now that this is the trend with maintenance—do what they can with the money allowed and let the rest wait until the next winter.  Which is why the system is in such a mess.

Shadehouse cottageHS2

The gossip amongst the volunteers was the route of HS2, and the ex lock cottages.  The owner of the cottage at Shadehouse Lock had been trying to sell it for about three years, but buyer realising the HS2 was nearby pulled out.  There is a fund that covers a property being unsaleable by HS2, so the owner applied and after some wrangling he was eventually bought out.

The sharp turn of the canal after Shadehouse Lock resulted in the original HS2 line crossing the Trent & Mersey Canal twice with one bridge showing a six feet clearance.  Objections to this resulted in just a single crossing some short distance after the lock, with enough height to accommodate boats.

The first route had the line also crossing the canal at Woodend Lock, with the lock cottage being compulsory purchased.  Then the route was changed away from the lock and HS2 then re-sold the cottage—at a profit!

HS2 FradleySo the route of the line is now a couple of hundred yards above Shadehouse Lock, right across the moorings, with the picture showing where it will cross the waterway.  But at least, as mentioned, there will be clearance for boats, but how much is not stated.

Afraid those preferring to moor there when the line is in use will be in for a few rude awakenings—but at least at the speed the train goes it will only be a few seconds.  Far better that those noisy steam engines that chug away seemingly for ever.  Now that will get those who love those dirty 'orrible things going!

Struts again

And whilst I remember, there were two struts on the bottom two lock gates of Junction Lock at Fradley.  But it really is a poor example of the lack of maintenance when so many lock gates are so badly balanced that struts have to be used to hold gates closed. At one time they were missing, but no doubt the volunteers make sure they are present to make their lives easier.

One lock that would benefit from a couple of struts for the bottom gates is Colwich Lock, better known to boaters as Cow Shit Lock—the picture below well showing the reason why.  Great to plod through it in wet weather!

Cow shit lockIt was 19 years ago that we first used this lock, and then, and for many years after, it was a doddle to operate, the gates swinging easily and the bottom two remaining firmly closed.  Then the former British Waterways axed the teams that repaired locks and employed, what can only be described as useless contractors—that obviously had no idea whatsoever how to balance a lock gate, with the result—as all you boaters only too well know—gates are difficult to move and refuse to stay closed, with Cart's only answer to the problem to fixed on struts to hold them.

Even then, there are still many, like Cow Shit Lock, where boaters are left to struggle. But as this particular lock has now been in this condition for many, many years, it can only prove that Cart just does not care. Perhaps far too interested in other things.