Saturday, 24 May 2014

Taking Shelter at Huddlesford Junction

This blog is being a written a day or two behind real time so it was on Thursday morning that we set off from Branston at the rather more civilized time of 8.45. The cut was far busier than it had been for the last two days and we found ourselves in a queue for the first lock. Fortunately the boats both immediately in front and behind turned into Barton Turns Marina leaving us alone to "enjoy" what must be one of the most unpleasant stretches of canal in the country - the straight and boring stretch of the Trent & Mersey that runs alongside the screaming roar of the A38 all the way to Wychnor.
It was a relief to get onto the short river section at Wychnor Lock and we stopped in Alrewas for water and as for once there were plenty of vacant moorings we tied-up for a little shopping and a walk round the village.

Then it was on to Fradley, where we met Star Class Carrying's "Callisto" fully laden with solid fuel and other boaters' supplies just leaving Keeper's Lock. I've been experimenting with using my camera to take "moving pictures". It's early days yet, but see what you think:

As we were coming up Junction Lock I thought I saw Sue and Vic of No Problem leaving the Mucky Duck, but they had their backs to me and were walking away, back up the locks, so by the time I was sure it was them it was too late to do anything as we were turning left to head for Fazeley.  Apparently I not only missed them but also blog reader Kevin TOO. Sorry folks, I'll do better next time.

Shortly afterwards that the weather deteriorated with light rain becoming steady rain and then heavy! Bernard had been steering and as "Sunshine" has an open cruiser stern he very generously suggested that there was no point in both us getting soaked and that I might be better off inside making the hot drinks and getting tea ready.

Bernard - A Fair Weather Boater?
 He was therefore still steering when we reached Huddlesford Junction where there were two flashes of lightning followed immediately by two of the loudest crashes of thunder I've ever heard. Fortunately we were just approaching the wide bridge that carries the West Coast Main Railway Line over the canal, under which we hid until the storm had passed!  Not that everything stopped mind you. Just as we were tying up to the mooring rings thoughtfully provided under the bridge (!) a boat equipped with a "pram hood" shelter over the counter came racing along. Perhaps they were attempting to prove the theory that the in rain the faster you go the drier you stay, but whatever the reason it was too important to ease off for passing us. I didn't complain, but I did think that perhaps "Slowly" wasn't quite the right choice of boat name!

The rain soon eased off and we continued to Fazeley Junction for the night. Fazeley is a popular stopping point for boaters and has two pubs (well, it actually has three but I doubt many visitors choose the third).
The proprietors of the canalside Three Tuns appear to think that the best way to drum up trade on a quiet midweek evening is to dim the lights and crank up the music volume, whilst serving indifferent beer and allowing young children into the bar to run around under minimal supervision.  The roadside Plough is a fair bit more sophisticated, allows customers to see and talk to each other but still serves so-so beer and has TV screens that bombard you with pictures of the food you could have ordered from their menu had they not stopped serving for the evening and had you not just gone in for a pint anyway!

Sometimes I'm not surprised that pubs are closing down in their hundreds.

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