The theme of my last few posts has been "slowly to Stourport". This post is anything but!
Our crew member soon arrived and we an hour or so later we were ensconced in the "Waggon & Horses" at Wombourne enjoying a meal.
The manager of the pub agreed to let us leave a car in his car park for the weekend, although little did he know what excitement this would later bring. The weather forecast for Sunday was awful so we decided to cover as much of the 25 miles and 11 locks between us and Norbury Junction as we could on Saturday with the added incentive that if we could get back by Saturday night we could attend Norbury Wharf's end of season party. So it was an 07.45 start next morning which got us to the Bratch half an hour later. I'd allowed for some delay here as the three locks are so close together that boats can't pass, but we were straight through and left the top lock at 08.38 (exactly!). That set the scene for the rest of the day. With relatively few boats around and nobody in front of us and with an extra hand to lock-wheel we made good progress to Autherley Junction, arriving at midday despite a shopping stop at Compton. We made similarly good time up the Shroppie, having to stop just once, at the M54 overbridge, to remove a length of fishing line from the prop. Darkness was just falling as we reached Gnosall, but its only 45 minutes from there to Norbury and I know the way, so we carried on. The canal here is on a tree lined embankment and as we motored along by the light of the full moon we were "buzzed" by large numbers of bats emerging from their roosts to feed, reminding us it was Hallowe'en!
Norbury Wharf's party went well, good beer and food and superb Cajun music from "The Boat Band" The party was held in a marquee on the wharf itself and the visiting working boats tied up there completed the scene. I'm sure Sue won't mind if I pinch this photo from her blog that
sums it up perfectly.
The weekend ended with a little drama as our crew member awoke feeling unwell. We could see that they were in no fit state to drive and that we'd have to take them home but first we had to return to Wombourne to collect the other car. During the trip said crew member got worse and on arrival at the Waggon & Horses car park it was obvious that we needed help. The paramedic from Wolverhampton was at the scene in seven minutes, beating the ambulance by two, which he put down to relying on local knowledge rather than the satnav the ambulance crew used. After an initial examination it was decided that a trip to a hospital on the far side of Wolverhampton was called for, although not with "blues and twos" so I was able to follow the ambulance to New Cross Hospital, which only involved going through two red lights and where after an hour or two crew member was passed fit to go home, Hilary driving them while I drove our car back to Hereford.