Friday 7 July
Stoke Prior to Astwood
After having ‘Very Pinook’ serviced this morning, we cruised for just a few hours to the village of Astwood, near Hanbury. We mainly use Crafted Boats at Stoke Prior for any work on VP, so the fact that we were actually passing the boatyard meant we took advantage of having her checked over right now. The reason for this is to ensure VP is ready for our trip across the Bristol Estuary next week. The pilot – that we have booked to navigate us across the estuary -suggested this; he also told Tom to make sure we have gaffer tape on board as the waves may come over the bow, so if the doors are not gap-free we’ll need to tape them up. That’s a bit scary but sounds super-adventurous to me – I am a bit of a dogdaredevil.
We only cruised for a short while today but this stretch of canal is serene, and extremely pretty. It is the type of place where you feel at-one with your surroundings. Golden fields of crop – with gently nodding heads, birds chirping and cheeping in the trees, and the ripples of sparkling water are all you need sometimes, aren’t they?
As we approached the last but one of Astwood locks, a vision of Eden (or what I think it would look like) appeared. The ex-lock-keepers cottage is between locks seventeen and eighteen. We met and chatted with the couple who live there on our last cruise along this stretch. The man was the lock-keeper when Canal and Rivers Trust (formerly British Water Ways) actually employed lock-keepers.** The pair of them are really pleasant and fascinating to chat to; their memories of their lock-keeping days make for a great story.
The garden is reached by climbing over the lock and it truly is a garden. A proper, old-fashioned, flower, fruit and vegetable garden.
As you feast your eyes on the different colours and species of roses, you spot runner beans and apple trees and some quite unusual deep red sunflowers.
The Lock-Keepers cottage is prettily painted and has hanging baskets, a picket fence and a couple of traditional round life-buoys. What stands out are the whiterthanwhite net curtains; every time I pass this place I feel like I have been transported back in time. I just love it.
** Employed lock-keepers are very few and far-between nowadays; mainly they are volunteers or ‘seasonal’ workers! Volunteers are super when you are assisted by one – especially when there is a flight of locks to be laboured…
Saturday 8 July
Astwood to Worcester
Yesterday’s little sojourn is now a distant memory after a long, nine-hour (with a couple of stops) jaunt today. There were just fifteen locks for Leigh to labour; when we have travelled this stretch in the past my humans always end up ‘discussing’ the fact that we need to allow seven-and-a-half hours travel time. It seems over-generous, yet that is how long it takes. Canal travel is slow. Very slow.
Being yet another glorious day weather-wise, the scenery appears even more scenic – although the towpath nearer to Worcester city isn’t as pretty as from Tardebigge to Astwood. I guess that’s the difference between rural and urban areas – the big, bulky buildings of old (albeit I love the architecture) and the smug, all-so-similar newbuilds just can’t compete with the views in the countryside. When humans ask each other, ‘Country or Beach’, Leigh always answers, ‘Country’, and I am right there with her. There is so much more to see, so much detail, so many things to arouse my curiosity…that super-bubbly female country singer (Doggy) Parton has it covered in some of her songs. I do love a bit of Ms Parton. Yelp!
A funny thing happened on today’s trip. Leigh videod the boat of a lady she knows – the boat is called ‘Drunken Rambler’. She posted it, for Elizabeth’s attention, on a Facebook page called ‘Canal Market Place’. As we carried on cruising, passing a rather gorgeous, old, traditional boat called ‘Valencia’, a voice shouted out,’Hi’ and then tentatively, ‘Is it Leigh?’
Leigh and Tom must have looked quizzical as (Craig, as we now know) added, ‘Saw your post on Facebook a minute ago – the one of ‘Drunken Rambler’, so knew you’d be passing us!’
After a few minutes of chatter and ‘We just love your boat’ (from our humans to Craig) my humans discussed the pro’s and con’s of having an old traditional boat; pro’s are that they make such a wonderful sound, put-putting along – they also look so beautiful in their (mainly) bright red and green paintwork. Con’s are that you lose room inside (due to the engine room) and the exhaust is up-top, so you get diesel coming at you as you steer. We do love them though…
We moored up in Diglis Basin overnight where my humans had a chat with some of the livaboard residents; they seem like a really nice bunch, sitting and chatting on the grassed area between the boats and the old ‘lock-keepers cottage’.
Rosie and I met several dogs that livaboard too. I was a little envious. They even had a paddling pool to share, which they were jumping in and out of, it looked like great fun. We finished the day with a longishwalk and a couple of glasses of wine – I’m teetotal myself but the humans do enjoy a tipple.