Victor finds it better at Rugeley

Published: Saturday, 12 September 2020

THERE was a pleasant surprise awaiting at our usual shopping town of Rugeley.

RugeleyMooringsThis time it was congratulations for Canal & River Trust, as a long length of new moorings were in the process of being completed at the top side of the bridge serving the shops. 

Many of you will be aware that coming into the town from the east should there by no space left at the moorings before the bridge it would most likely result in having to pass through and use pins against the somewhat very battered bank side.

As can be seen from the picture, this is in the process of being turned into a long length of rather sound moorings.  Let's hope they are to be short stay to enable the use of the many shops in the town.

CowShitHardJust as bad

But I'm afraid I still have to complain of Cow Shit Lock. (Colwick Lock to the uninitiated—renamed owing to cows waiting by the lock to be taken daily over the bridge for miking, leaving a 'sloppy residue' in their wake!)

For many years it was so difficult to either open on close the heavy bottom gates, then at last a few years ago the fault was supposedly rectified, and so improved.  But alas somehow or other they have sunk back into their former state and are bloody difficult to either open or close.

It was poor Jan's turn this time and proved to be damned hard work as the picture shows.

AngloWelsh20Surprise indeed

So once more a turn onto the Staffs & Worcs, and a surprise indeed as the Anglo Welsh yard was devoid of a single hire boat—the first time ever as far as we were concerned.

The hire industry had a very bad time indeed when CaRT closed down its waterways during the pandemic lockdown, with many believing it would be a wasted year owing to the recurring problems, but customers and newcomers too, prevented from jetting to foreign parts, saw the means of a holiday on our waterways, and took advantage.

It was on the Staffs & Worcs we then saw the moving hire boats that had been missing for the days before, perhaps as there was little attraction on the eastern end of the Trent & Mersey as the Leicester Section was so hit and miss these days, its whole section being closed at one period and before this was closed as Leicester went into further lockdown.  Then of course those dreaded broad locks!

CrapBoatTixallBoat licences

As we all take for Gospel the statistics given out by dear CaRT, we have to accept that fully paid-up boat licences stand at 98%, leaving just 2% with no licences.

Seeing the somewhat scrappy narrowboat as we entered Tixall Wide, (pictured) I thought well that looks like one of those 2%.  And sure enough it was displaying a two years' old licence, and very obviously occupiedon both water and land.

So, I thought I would resort to my once normal pastime of checking licences that stopped when CaRT had its purge a few years back.  But it would seem its then purge is very much something of the past, as I counted the unlicenced boats (all occupied but one) and Jan counted the number moored.

TopTixallLockAnd I am afraid the 2% of unlicenced boats beggars belief as of the 29 boats moored seven had no licence showing or it was outdated.  Some 98% licenced, eh?  But worse was to come now I had my teeth firmly fixed into licence avoidance, the two at the top of Tixall lock were also unlicenced.

The year of the one shown on one of the boats is any ones' guess, then later of the four boats moored above Park Gate Lock only one had a current licence, and so it went on, with every clutch of boats having those with out of date licenceseven at Mermaid Yard out of the Four, only one showing a with a valid one with a 2017 licence, one with a 2018 licence and one with none at all.

No enforcement policy

So one thing for sure is that there is no enforcement whatsoever on the Staffs & Worcs, making the '98% of boats licenced' a complete mockery

MidlanChandlersClosedIn the halcyon days of British Waterways when maintenance was its prime object, I was concerned about boaters not paying their way as it meant less money for looking after the waterways, but now, as maintenance is of so little consequence and money wasted on so many completely unnecessary things, I thinkwhat the Hell!  

But I digress. So back to Teddersley, and the sure sign that Midland Chandlers was hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as its outlet there is well and truly closed. 

But I understand it does a quick online service and its other outlets, such as the one at Mercia, are still open for business operating of course the required coronavirus restrictions.

Mooring renewed

R0bastonNewMooringsA further bit of good news as far as the waterway is concerned.  The virtually nonexistent lower mooring at Rodbaston Lock that had deteriorated for years until eventually it was just orange fencing, has been completely renewed.

The picture shows the new mooring that we found a welcome change to having to moor way back in shallow water to exit the boat in the past.  So what with new mooring at Rugeley, some work is being done to ease the lot of the boater.

But alas (again!) the lock itself is being neglected, as its cill is well on the way to giving up the ghost.  In fact I noticed a couple of similar instances on locks on the Staffs & Worcs where cills were getting ready for a bit of TLC.  But we can but live in hope.

NoBoatsBelowGaileyGailey problem

A surprise at Gailey Top Lock, absolutely no boats whatsoever crowding the lower lock moorings.  Something we have never experienced in the past.  Perhaps now unlicenced so flitted to pasture new where the enforcement is non existent, eh?

Then a problem at the lock itself, with the volunteer at the lock telling there had been a 60ft narrowboat heading towards to lock, with the steerer putting the boat in reverse to stop, but something broke, the boater told, so he could not slow it down, it so clouted the gate at speed.

The result a broken lock gate, with a volunteer in attendance to make sure that boaters keep their boats well back from the damaged top gate that is held together with a chain, as seen in the bottom of the picture holding the broken parts together.

GaileyBrokenLockThis he told us happened a month ago, but it was inspected and deemed okay providing boats were kept away when coming into the lock.

But it gets worse.  It will not be fixed until either January or February next year!  Luckilyfor usshould it collapse in the near future it will not prevent our return as coming back via Brum.

It was here we learnt that the lock had around 27 boats through on the previous Friday and Saturday when he was present, and is obviously worried of it lasting.

What I find strange is that on the section of the system that is part of the Four Counties Ring there are approaching 30 boats a day, whilst at Fradley, away from the Ring, we were told, between 40 and 50...

Victor Swift