There was no escaping the fact it was summer on The Four Counties Ring today. Can’t really blame the traffic when you are the traffic etc etc etc. It was constant, from start to finish. Most boats moving in the same direction as us are heading to either the Chester rally or the one at Ellesmere Port or both. You need a ‘Russell Newbery’ engine to qualify for one or the other so there are a lot of those chugging about. A pretty happy crowd, unlike people from the opposite direction, fed up and reporting tales of historic work boats moving through Audlem – towing, crawling in tandem and generally taking forever. Thankfully the mass of general traffic stopped us getting anywhere near close.
It was a bit of a long day in then end as after negotiating the busy Tyrley Locks we had a food and water stop in Market Drayton…a few miles of straight and narrow before plunging into the mayhem of Adderley Locks and then deciding to continue on.
Audlem never disappoints. Fairly sure the stalls set out amongst the grasses and hedgerows are the genuine thing but if not then they’re a genius bit of marketing made all the better for a drenching of evening rain. Soggy bunting, cakes under umbrellas, scones hidden away at the back of wooden huts and empty jars of sweet peas – an impossibly perfect step back in time.
Very happy to find a mooring below lock 13 as there was barely an inch to spare along the way.
The solar panel was putting in over 11 amps this morning meaning the batteries were topped right up by the time we woke. Taking turns at the tiller we showered on the move which is still the strangest thing to me. Norbury Junction was busy with what seemed like boats poking out from just about every angle. The cuttings are long and narrow and with a fair amount of traffic around they involved lots of pulling over, shuflfing about and rewinding. The sky darkened as we finally emerged from Woodseave Cutting, the rain came pelting down making our minds up not to continue down the Tyrley Locks today. Some very soggy boaters pulled in infront of us about half an hour ago – yuck. Dodgy 3G so this may never appear.
A Victorian scrapbook, the tweeness of Audlem Locks fanned out as we climbed: lace, blackbirds, holly, butterflies, violets, ribbon, feathers, roses – it’s probably all there. A little curtain twitching from the long-term moorers, not sure they’re used to many boats passing at this time of year, certainly not the bin dipping variety anyhow. Hose on the waterpoint, Nick disappeared with a couple of rubbish bags, re-appearing moments later with an unbelievable bin dip and a show stopping performance… a whole world of alfresco dining possibilities stored in the size of a suitcase. Cousin Jack’s offcast has joined our travelling show.
A lucky run of locks, the all important glint of light shone through the gates for all but one of many locks over the last two days. The gates are small, the paddles easy and the pull very gentle. A sunny journey down through Betton Cutting, glided on past where we limped to moor last year with our first chocked fuel filter.
A quick lunch at Market Drayton, then an Asda assault on our senses with dazzling lights and disturbing musac. We watched our basket load shuffling along the conveyor feeling pretty proud to have collected a pile of almost healthy looking stuff, a battle against mid-winter scurvyness.
Tyrley locks were a hub for Saturday afternoon walkers. Very pretty around here but with days dark so early what’s on the outside matters far less than it does in the summer months – a dry towpath and it’s basically a winner.