Eleven locks to Swindon

Another 9:30 start this morning, but not early enough to be away before our overnight neighbours and another boat who passed us just before casting off. The latter had a large crew and seemed in a hurry and soon disappeared out of sight.

The Staffs & Worcs (Staffordshire & Worcestershire) is a nice canal, pictureque, well maintained, with interestingly designed locks & circular overflow weirs like giant plugholes and we seemed to have it to ourselves for most of the day.

We completed the first three locks in under an hour and at Awbridge was pleased to see that the remaining original lock-tail bridge (for all the world like a couple of shelf brackets, with a gap for the horses tow-rope between them) had been stripped of its hideous Elf & Safety scaffolding hand rail which was present the last time we travelled this way and has been replaced with a more sympathetic design, but it still smacks of architectural vandalism to me.

Another hour’s gentle cruising took us to The Bratch, a set of three locks telescoped together with side ponds to economise on water usage and which still have a lock-keeper in attendance (to make sure boaters operate them without flooding the neighbouring garden!

Here we caught up with the ‘Boat in a Hurry’  who complained they had been waiting half an hour already. The lock-keeper explained that the procedure is three boats up then three boats down. Apparently, they, like us are headed for Gloucester and the Locky observed wryly that two days of rain were forecast and the Severn would probably be closed again by the time they reached it. “What shall we do then?” they asked,  “Well I suppose you could always catch a bus or a train.” he replied. We have already factored in a couple of ‘rest days’ to coincide with the forecast rain. [writes he, smugly]

Onwards to the curiously named Bumblehole Lock, then a stop at The Round Oak pub for a ‘2 for a Tenner’ lunch in their garden, good value although the Black Country Faggots were not entirely to Joy’s taste however my steak, ale & mushroom pie was fine.

It was then time to tackle the Botterham Staircase, just two locks joined together, Marsh Lock & Swindon Lock after which we found a sunny mooring.

Later I made a start on washing one side of the boat & the roof, now it’s bound to rain, isn’t it?

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