Five years ago I visited the working boat gathering at Braunston and enjoyed it so much that I decided I would make visiting it an annual event. Circumstances however conspired against me and this is the first time since that I've been in a position to go. Having reduced my work time to four days a week I have a lot more flexibility in going boating but I still don't have enough time to make the trip there and back from Norbury in one go so I'll be "weekending" to the gathering, which is on 26th and 27th June.
After some thought I decided to go "out" via Great Haywood and the Trent & Mersey, Coventry and Oxford Canals, returning via the Grand Union, Hatton, Northern Stratford and Birmingham. This is largely due to the fact that I'll have to do most of the trip there on my own, whereas I have been able to rustle up a crew for the more heavily-locked return leg.
So the trip started at 9.20 on Saturday morning when I left Norbury heading south. At Stretton I passed the boatyard where "Chertsey" is undergoing renovation and looked out for her as I always do. I'm pretty sure I saw Sarah leaning out from the engine hole as I went past, and I should have waved as she once asked me to do in a comment on the blog, but I didn't: Sorry, Sarah.
It takes about four hours to get to Brewood and by now I was ready for a break, some lunch, a bit of shopping and last but not least, some respite from the hot sun. The medication I'm on following my heart problem of last year has the unfortunate side-effect of making me extremely sensitive to the sun - not ideal for summertime narrowboat steering, so I was glad to find a space on the visitor moorings in the shaded cutting at Brewood.
Brewood visitor moorings
Brewood is well served by shops with a large Spar, a newish Co-op, a butcher and Cooper's wonderful deli-cum-grocer which sells everything the others don't (and a lot that they do - only better). It's also a very characterful and picturesque village, summed up by this antique signpost in the square:
After an hour and a half it was back on the move, stopping again just before Autherley Junction for a cup of tea and to extricate myself from a small queue of boats so that I wouldn't feel pressured working through the stop lock at the junction.
Lock and junction successfully negotiated I turned onto the Staffs & Worcester and made haste for Hatherton Junction, my intended destination. Boats were tying up all along the cut with crews looking for TV signals even on the off-side in some cases, ready for the big match. I surprised one such boater by telling him I didn't need to find anywhere special as I didn't have a television - and, of course, when it comes to sport I'm Welsh anyway so the eventual result was not altogether displeasing. The Welsh - and the Scots - know who they want to win when their own team's not playing - ABE (Anyone but England!).