Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Dolittle and Dally

Morning All

The title this week comes from a 'For Sale' board that we saw outside a house in Bridgnorth. I bet they had a few bottles of liquid sunshine before they came up with that name!

We were really hoping for a still morning when we woke last Monday morning. The previous evening, we'd looked at the map and decided that it would be quicker for us to reverse back through the bridge and turn our boat in the Diglis Basin rather than go up a few locks to the winding hole and back down again. It sounded feasible after a few glasses of cider with our cruising companions Pat and Malc. The Naga Queen is also facing the wrong way and they were planning to turn if they could or reverse back to the lock. 'We'll play it by ear ' we said as we tottered off down the tow-path after a night of red wine and very silly jokes. I offered to man the tiller if Carl would stand by on the bows. I don't mind standing on the stern trying to look like I'm actually doing something useful but the thing is, when you're going backwards on a narrow-boat, you've got absolutely no control at all. If it wanders off across the canal and the bows swing round and hit the boat you're trying to pass, then all you can do is wave apologetically to the angry face at the window. I gave it my best shot but I didn't do so well on the tiller – I tried to blame the wind (like Carl does) but he wasn't in the mood for my jokes. We made it back through the bridge and past two more moored boats and tied up alongside the Naga Queen. As soon as the rush of hire boats had gone we pulled both boats back to the corner of the basin and started to reverse our boat round the corner. That's when the 'Voice of Doom' piped up from the boat opposite us – a dour Scotsman who sounded like he was speaking in Gaelic for all the sense I could make of it. I did make out 'Crosswind' and 'sideways' and gathered eventually that he was telling us that if we weren't careful the cross wind blowing across the basin would take us back down the canal sideways. We had a couple of goes at turning, but the crosswind did indeed take our bows sideways down the canal so we gave that idea up and decided to strap both boats together and reverse to the lock. It went perfectly – in a text book turn we reversed up the canal, backed into the basin and turned together to arrive at the lock perfectly aligned to go straight in. That's when we realised that one of us should have stayed ashore and walked round to open the lock gates!

After a gloomy start, the sun came out and we chugged down the river, through the last of the manned river locks, arriving in Stourport to find there were spaces for both boats on the floating pontoons. It's a great mooring and a nice walk into town along the river, past the fun fair and into the high street. We celebrated the end of our summer cruise with Pat and Malc in our usual way with a few glasses of wine and a bit of a sing-song – we'll miss them very much but Tricky will miss them more!

Have you heard of the Severn Valley Railway? It's a steam railway that runs from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth and it's been on my bucket list for a while so we caught the bus to the station for 'A Grand Day Out'. We took Tricky because we didn't want to leave her all day by herself and we thought she'd be OK on the train - she loves going in the car so it never occurred to me that she wouldn't like the bus. Tricky absolutely hated it! She paced and panted, jumped up and tried to climb over my shoulder to get behind the seat. Carl and I were both wearing black jeans which were covered in Tricky hair by the time we arrived at the station – all three of us traumatised by the journey. Luckily, she was fine on the train and settled on the floor by my feet and hardly moved until we got to Bridgnorth. Funny dog!

The views from the steam train over the Severn Valley are just as good as I'd hoped and it was a lovely sunny day as we left Kidderminster. As I watched the industrial units of the town passing by, waiting for the scenery to open up, I was surprised to see a group of elephants below us. Yes - thats right, elephants. Of course, I didn't have my camera to hand to capture the scene, but I found out afterwards it's the West Midlands Safari Park. |It was just a glimpse of the exotic before we crossed the bridge and I was immersed in the English countryside at its best - a sparkling river, lush green pastures, white-washed cottages and fluffy white sheep.

By the time we reached our destination the rain clouds had gathered and we just missed a heavy shower as we crossed the footpath that joins the station to the Upper Town of Bridgnorth. We ate our lunch on a seat looking out over the river and the Lower Town. The little Cliff Car is a major attraction taking people up and down and I'd have liked to have a trip myself but I thought Tricky had been through enough for one day. We found the Castle ruins surrounded by a beautiful garden – have you noticed that there are hardly any municipal gardens left these days? As we waited for the train to depart, I read through the train schedule and decided that we would get off at Bewdley and catch the little hopper bus back to Stourport after a tour of the town. It didn't quite work out that way. We walked down into the town to find we'd missed the last bus and then the heavens opened and the main street became a river and as we watched, the sewers overflowed and a terrible stink rose up and drove us into the shelter of the Co-op. A lovely young man, who didn't look old enough to tie his shoelaces never mind being the manager of the Co-Op, was very helpful when I explained our predicament. He used the shop phone to call me a taxi and it arrived in five minutes as promised – nothing short of amazing on such a wet afternoon. We arrived home in style and Tricky was spared the terror of the bus from Kidderminster – tell me, do you think we spoil that dog?

That's all for this week – we're hanging around in Kinver for a couple of days waiting to get some repairs done on the cratch cover. Have a lovely week everyone

Love as always
The Floating Chandlers