Victor meets the convoy

Published: Sunday, 12 September 2021

IT WAS a convoy indeed we met coming out from shopping at Rugeley.

Counting 11 boats coming towards us (thankfully) in 16 minutes, then even the odd ones right until 4pm, something we have never met in over 10,000 miles of boating.

1y colwick lock cowsOne thing for sure, the pace of the latter ones crawling along clearly showed they were not going to get very far.

And what was it going to be like at Cow Shit Lock?  Mind you it was a lot easier to operate than previous years, so must have had some TLC at last.

But back to Rugeley and it was obvious that coronavirus had had a devastating effect on the town—our most popular. Our favourite ironmonger was shut, the whole town littered with empty shops, and even the big W H Smith having bit the dust.  A great pity, as it was no longer swarming with the people as so often before. More of a ghost town.

Then there were two

WoodEnfPaddleThere I was congratulating myself that no paddles were out of action through Stone, but by Wood End Lock there were two.  One before the junction with a bit of tape, but the other at the fateful Wood End Lock with one of the new bags, plainly telling us that it was being repaired.  Last time, some four years ago it took a year, so as to its repair, pull the other one.

It is obvious to all that it is the latest whizz from CaRT to give the impression that it is doing all it can with such repairs, but many paddles on Heartbreak show differently.

At Woodend Lock there was a man (pictured) who gave it the lie.  His green trousers were to us reminiscent of the old British Waterways men, and so it proved for here was an ex BW employee.

He telling that in his time, his boss would be most worried if a paddle became unusable as if the other broke then the navigation would be closed. At that time, he told us, there were linesmen walking the canals reporting any failures.  Now under CaRT?  It relies on us boatersit don't cost owt!

JunctionLockWhat a difference today under Canal & River Trust who tell people it was brought in to rectify the problems of British Waterwayssomething that had Jan in a frenzy when told it by an obviously indoctrinated woman at a CaRT stand at Foxton.

Our cruise from Middlewich has seen 17 paddles out of order!  How does that compare with British Waterways, eh?

Oh Dear!

Then we arrived at Junction Lock at Fradley to discover we had to be most careful with the top lock gate as it was falling to bits and had to be tied up with tape! 

And of course regularly checked to make sure it was holding!

FradleyMarinaSet21The picture shows a volunteer locky making sure it was tight enough.  He knew about Wood End Lock, telling that the paddle rod broke last year, was repaired but only lasted about a month then broke again!

You really couldn't make it up!

Going up

With most of the pontoons in position in the new Fradley Marina, it's now time for the buildings, with the main one on its way to completion.

I just wonder if it will clear any of the long line of boats from below Hunt's Lock.  It would be handy for those near the far end who have to walk the hell of a way to their boats.

BranstonPavillionMind you, I expect not so cheap though.

Vast difference

We have seen a vast difference in the moorings at Branston in the past 20 years, from just a pub by the side of the canal to a housing estate now by its side and behind it, to another vast estate on the opposite bank complete with school and shops.

And since we were last here before coronavirus there's now a brand new pavilion and Rugby field. 

All complete with a new road and bridge over the waterway.

Then as we head towards Branston Lock a mighty structure going up, obviously yet another massive warehouse.  The formerly country vista through Branston is fast becoming a thing of the past.

PaddleStensonThen a stop for breakfast with Keith, who brought us up to date with the happenings on the waterways, all so rather depressing, but our way to base seems clear.

Until we grind to a halt at Stenson Lock, with its top paddles blocked with debris—as expectedso restricting the flow making it a very slow filler.

Where once again only a single paddle working on the bottom gatesas also expected.  And only a single volunteer helping with those heavy awkward bottom gates, as his companion failed to show, but can't really blame him or her, all that hard workfor nowt!

So that is it, but...

Keith told me at our meeting that the tree that fell blocking the Ashton Canal at Guide Bridge had been removed—in just a day!

All it needed was the normal method of cutting it up and removing in chunks, but for some obscure reason it was decided to bring in two cranes to do do the job that meant closing a main road and interrupting a railwayand closing the canal for weeks.

TatenhillLockSignBut the road authorities would have none of it, so it was done the normal way.

I have to wonder who were the idiots who decided on two cranes and all the upheaval when it just needed a normal chain saw?

It certainly brings into question other decisions that to me seem extremely expensive...


And whose further daft idea to replace the normal iron lock name signs, certainly more in character with 200 years old locks, that these most intrusive blue signs

BlankLicenceWhich mean now even more of the maintenance cash being spent on new signs telling the name of the locks. I expect every lock will have to be so adorned at a total cost of thousands of pounds, instead of it being spent on the so neglected waterways.


I wonder whose crazy idea it was to have boaters print their own licences, of course to save CaRT the cost of postage.

Haven't they the sense to realise that sending them to print in black, is the worst to be affected by sunlight—with normal domestic printing ink it very quickly fading.  Green or even its blue would be more 'fast'.


It was only a few weeks ago that CaRT announced with much aplomb that it had contracted a new organisation to take care of its rubbish disposal which we were promised would be much better that the former Biffa. This had caused so many complaints over its management of the rubbish sites, with them often overflowing with rubbish and rubbish even left after collection, as shown by our two pictures.

RubbishWillingtonSo CaRT tells that the new company, Reconomy, will introduce a range of waste management services and systems to safeguard against the impact of hazardous waste, improving the experiences of all those using Britain’s waterways.

Here is the site at Willington today, with the bins so overflowing that rubbish is coming out of its enclosure. 

'Another fine mess' to quote two very well known comedians of yore, just about describes it.


Oh no, not finished yet!

That paddle out of order at Stenson Lock was the 18th since Middlewich.

Which all just sums up our waterways today.  I just wonder what that boss the ex British Waterways man told us about would think about his precious waterways now?

Victor Swift