Victor gets cut short

Published: Thursday, 13 May 2021

FOR the first time since we started boating, 27 years ago, our cruise has been cut short.

No, no, no, I hasten to add, not from any fault of dear Canal & River Trust, but purely from an unforeseen illness, and not of the crew itself.

So it was a turn just outside Jannel Chandlery in Burton and heading back to base—a very shortened cruise indeed.

The difference

From seeing not a single moving boat from Sawley to Stenson, how different is was after passing the entrance to Mercia, as from there to Burton and back we met 16 on the move!

It certainly shows the unpopularity of those six broad locks in comparison.

And makes me also wonder about the popularity of the Leicester Ring, and the seemingly endless stoppages on the Leicester Section, some of you perhaps remembering the two hold-ups we encountered and just missing a long stoppage when we last risked that navigation.

Cruising the Leicester Ring not helped, I may add, by the now introduced savage restrictions on both the Foxton and Watford flights with passages only being possible from 10am to 4pm (last boat entry to the flight at 3.15pm).

StensonSignsLike many others we arrive early, and often join a queue that has increased dramatically with the opening of the marinas on the Leicester Section.  Hardly encourages use, eh?

Heading back

So here we are heading back to hit Stenson Lock and pleased indeed we have the extension lever on our new windlass to help with the lower offside gate paddle, which perhaps is one of the reasons for seeing no volunteers on the lock that day.

But what we did see was a plethora of blue signs—three just looking across the road.  They must be costing thousands.

Empty moorings

RagleyBoatStopEmptyThen a surprise to discover the moorings at the Ragley Boat Stop were empty, something previously unheard of, but we soon discovered why when moving across to read a notice attached to the power bollard—ten quid was being charged for an overnight stay, that once and for all cleared-out those taking advantage without ever using the pub's facilities.

Who can blames them, as the ten pounds are redeemable against a meal or drinks, so then it costs you nothing, but from a nearly full mooring just a couple of days previously there were now none, that obviously shows they were scroungers after free moorings.

So now those who want a meal or drinks will at least be able to moor and take advantage of the moorings that include a free overnight stay with power on hand.

SwakestoneVolunteersBywash collapsed

Back to Swarkestone, with surprise, surprise, volunteers working the lock, and the reason given was that the bywash had collapsed with workers attempting to repair it. We then discoverd we only managed to get through the lock on the way up as it was closed soon after on that Tuesday morning.

It was definitely open now, but certainly not repaired, though the fella sharing the lock with us told that he had just looked at his app to discover a notice from CaRT stating it was!  I shall not repeat what our Thomas replied to that!

But it seems they were all playing silly buggers, attempting to lower the pound between Stenson and Swarkestone locks so the bywash could be repaired, but having no success. For of course it is fed from the Trent as it crosses below Alrewas and opening the locks on Swarkestone and keeping those closed on Stenson Lock had no effect as we could see the water pouring through the Stenson bywash!

Little wonder that two days later it had still not been repaired.

WorkboatAcrossCutThe excitement continues

So now an uneventful cruise back to Sawley thought we, but alas no, there was a blockage, with a work boat jammed across the cut and a fella with a rope in his hand on the offside bank looking somewhat happy to see us, as he was definitely in a quandary of what to do!

But a gentle tap with our boat's bow at the end of the work boat nearest the towpath, quickly had it moving back into place with the help of the pole from She.

What we found strange was that the boat was firmly secured on the offside bank but it had seemingly come loose against the flow!

This was rather obvious from the angle of how it was jammed against the bank. So possibly a boat coming up had 'pulled' it across as it passed.

SwarkstonePavillionSomething completely different

Yes indeed, something completely different.  I should imagine many of you cruising between Swarkestone and Stenson will have noticed the twin tower building over the towpath side, and perhaps wondered what it was.

Today, moored by Bridge 12 we took our usual walk on the footpath along the fields and this time carried on to explore the building, discovering it wasn't the remains of some extensive grand house, but one in its own right—Swarkestone Pavilion in fact. And now part of the Landmark Trust that lets it out as accommodation for two people having completely restored it for such use.

So if you fancy a weekend of one sort or another, with the bed in the living room and no telly, then here's the place.

Victor Swift