We were awake early and although we didn’t have far to travel this morning, we decided to head off rather than have a lie in. This canal is busier than we’ve seen it before and this may be due to the Middlewich Branch breach which means that boaters are having to travel up and down this canal rather than being to do the four counties ring or it may just be that we’re used to cruising this canal in the colder months.
Today we were heading for Market Drayton to meet friends for lunch. Seven locks and five miles ahead of us. To calculate roughly how long this should take, we add the number of miles to the number of locks and divide by 4 which gives us the estimated hours. Three hours maximum!
Storm pulled some muscles in his back recently and although he’s much improved, he knew he’d done the 13 narrow locks yesterday and so I offered to do the locks this morning while he steered.
In the past I’ve been quite happy to jump across the gates of narrow locks but recently I’ve lost my nerve and so I’ve taken to walking round which means operating the locks takes a few seconds longer.
Unfortunately we were out too early to be able to shop at the cake stall at Audlem Top Lock or at the meat shop at Adderley Top Lock as the shelves hadn’t yet been restocked.
At one of the locks today there was a boat moored on the lock landing in a short pound above one of the locks and the lock was set ready for that boat to come down the lock as the gate was open and one of the ground paddles was raised, but there was no sign of anyone. I checked the boat and the only body aboard was the cat. I looked around and couldn’t see anyone so I closed the gate and lowered the paddle and emptied the lock full of water.
Just as we were leaving the lock, a guy appeared on the tow path and apologised for mooring in the pound. He explained that he’d intended to use the lock but had then moored and gone back to assist his mate on the boat behind. I was just relieved to see him as it is unusual to see a boat moored in such a place with no-one around and I’d been mindful that single handers sometimes encounter difficulties.
Anyway we continued on our way. Once clear of the locks our progress along the canal was interrupted by moored boats enjoying the open countryside. who were leaving gaps of about 200 metres between boats.
Our friends Pip and Mick have adopted the term ‘gitgaps’ to describe the annoying gaps between boats at designated moorings where people refuse to share mooring rings with the boat in front. Had they done so it would mean that there would be room for another boat to moor.
The 200m gaps today were too big to be ‘gitgaps’ but they were annoying and certainly ‘tickover teasers’. We arrived into Market Drayton in good time though and well within the estimated three hours allowed. With spare time available we decided to scrub the roof of the boat which was badly needed after months of neglect.
We got changed afterwards before heading out to meet up with our friends Nikki and Sarah who were coming to pick us up and take us to the Red Lion Inn in the town. Since we explored Market Drayton previously this pub has undergone major refurbishment and a new building has been erected to house the Joules Brewery which has moved from Stone near Stoke on Trent to its new home here.
Nikki’s Mum had recommended that we try the Red Lion and we can certainly recommend it for its food in particular. The portions were very generous, the food tasty and reasonably priced, although Storm noticed that they had run out of plates!
We had a great time catching up on each others news. Nikki and Sarah are now living permanently in Shropshire having previously lived a nomadic life working as stage managers and it was nice to see them enjoying a very different pace of life and looking forward to their next adventure in their new home.
Having eaten too much, the thought of continuing our journey this afternoon was forgotten, and so we returned to the boat to set up the TV ready for the England v Tunisia World Cup match and to rest our eye lids which suddenly seemed quite heavy!