Monday, 8 June 2009

Flamin' June!

Norbury Junction to Wheaton Aston and Back
6th - 7th June 2009
I arrived at Norbury Junction on Friday night to find that I'd left Starcross for three weeks with the tiller arm left attached to the swan neck. How embarrassing! I'll now have to add to my "leaving the boat mantra" ("Gas Off, 'lecky off, windows closed, doors locked.....) "tiller arm put away". As it was, I had three weeks' worth of tarnishing to polish off the brass, but I suppose I was lucky to still have a tiler arm to polish in the first place!

After a fortnight of heat and sunshine the weather took a turn for the worse and Friday night was cold and miserable at Norbury. I was woken at 04:15 next morning by heavy rain, which was still coming down when I eventually got up four hours later. When I used to go winter hire-boating in the 1970s, porridge was a staple breakfast food and I've always kept a supply on board Starcross. Saturday was a porridge morning.
With the rain showing no sign of easing I considered staying put - but I'd not been boating for three weeks and anyway had arranged to meet Hil in Wheaton Aston and had no means of contacting her to change the arrangement so at 09:00 I set off southwards.

Approaching Gnosall, I was waved down by a towpath walker and told that a tree had come down at the next bridge, its roots loosened by the overnight rain. I joined the queue of four boats, noting at its head a boat that had come through Norbury at least an hour before I set off. I then realised that the boat ahead of me was Debdale and tried to get a photo for Adam and Adrian but my camera chose that moment to die on me (presumably from drowning). BW were already on the scene and the blockage was cleared, with customary efficiency, within the hour.

There was more excitement past High Onn, where I came across two BW staff effectively marooned on a mud hopper in mid-channel. With nowhere to tie up to on the towpath, they had been attempting to move it to the offside bank but had come to a halt halfway over. I was able to take one of them near enough to the side to jump ashore so that his mate could throw him a line.

The rain kept coming all the way to Wheaton Aston, where I was quite ready to tie up, light a fire, toast some crumpets and make a mug of cocoa. And this is June! The mooring was almost opposite the legendary Turner's Garage, which sells what must be the cheapest diesel on the

system, last weekend retailling at 48.9ppl (plus duty for the "propulsion" element, about which they are remarkably flexible). Unfortunately, as they close on Saturday afternoon and Sunday I was unable to avail myself of any.

Hil arrived from Shropshire about 18:00 and although the rain stopped for long enough in the evening for us to enjoy an evening stroll it was back with a vengeance on Sunday morning so we had an equally wet trip back to base. Hil offered to steer all the way, although I still couldn't bring myself to stay inside the cabin once I'd done those cleaning and tidying up jobs that usually follow a weekend's boating. The mud hopper at High Onn was safely tied to some trees and its crew nowhere in sight. Diesel at Norbury Wharf was only 1ppl more than Turner's so I took the opportunity to put in 80 litres for about £63 before tying up. Shortly afterwards, the rain stopped and the sun came out - which was very welcome as we now had to cycle back to Wheaton Aston to pick up the car - a journey which would have been very unpleasant at any other time over the weekend.

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