My boating has been a bit limited of late due to a minor heart problem that has meant I've had to take it easy and avoid things such as locks. Although this hasn't been too much of a problem - Norbury Junction being in the middle of the long pound on the Shropshire Union that stretches from Wheaton Aston to Tyrley - I was glad when my appointment for treatment at Hereford Hospital came round last Friday and couldn't think of a better way to spend the rest of the weekend than taking Starcross (and Hilary) for a trip to Brewood. This meant passing through the lock at Wheaton Aston, the first lock I've been through on Starcross since January; although as it turned out Hil did all the lock work, while I steered!It took us a while to get through because we were behind a training boat with a crew of novices being given an introduction to the canals. Naturally, they did everything by the book, including waiting an age for an oncoming downhill boat which had the lock in its favour. As this turned out to be a hireboat, also with a first-time crew, the procedure was somewhat drawn out and it was a good 45 minutes before we were away again!
There's always something interesting to see at the boatyard at Stretton Aqueduct, which seems to specialise in former working boats and other interesting craft. Today was no exception with Hamstead and Battersea tied up outside and "British Waterways 135" up on the hardstanding (behind the tree).With fellow Grand Union boat "Rigel", "ACC's" "Prince" at Wheaton Aston and "Lynx" at Brewood it was quite a fruitful day for working boat spotting! We arrived at Brewood a bit later than intended and tied up just north of the winding hole at Countrywide Cruisers' base ready for a quick turn round in the morning. I always prefer these informal moorings to the official visitor moorings at Brewood which are in a rather dark and dismal cutting, although you have to pick your spot carefully. We didn't, and not only did we have to contend with the dreaded "Shroppie Shelf" we chose to tie up alongside a dog mess infested bit of towpath and opposite the only boat in the area that was running its engine (although they soon stopped). That evening we celebrated with a meal at "The Mess" in Brewood but although the food was good we got the impression that they weren't trying quite so hard as when they first opened.