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Into the Severn Valley

After yesterday’s marathon effort, we were in bed at 9.30 last night. Fully rested, we got on our way and left our mooring at Compton wharf at twenty to nine. It was still as windy as it had been the day before but it was dry and reasonably warm as we drove on to the first lock of the day. 

Our descent into the Severn valley revealed a subtly different landscape to that of the Trent valley that we had climbed out of over the last few days. The canal seems wider and deeper, the variety of trees and plants slightly different, both sides of the hill being pretty and picturesque. It’s hard to believe that we have been travelling so close to the huge conurbation of the West Midlands and yet have only passed through open countryside.

This part of the Staffs & Worcs is new to us and our journey today took us down through the Bratch locks, locks which were built as a staircase and then converted. They still need to be managed closely though and today there were three lock keepers on duty to aid the passage of boats through the short flight. We were third in the queue but with nothing coming up, we were soon in the top chamber. After the Bratch there is a normal lock with the curious name of Bumblehole Lock and then onto a proper staircase lock at Botterham. We then descended the two locks at Swindon and tied on the visitor moorings there. 

Dinner tonight is beef that Sue has had in the slow cooker all day (the smell is driving me mad so I might risk sampling it while she is showering!)

There are two research establishments in the village that we might check out later, The Green Man and the Old Bush.

We did 13 locks in 6.5 miles today so with a bit of luck we should reach Stourport on Severn by Friday lunchtime.

Over the summit and on to new waters.

We had no real plan for today but our travel was shaped by others. We were woken at five thirty when the boat which had been tied in front of us set off in the direction of Great Haywood. We tried to get back to sleep but when twenty minutes later, the boat behind us set off in the opposite direction, we decided to get up and get going ourselves and we were underway by six thirty. We had the locks to ourselves until we reached Penkridge just after nine o’clock and although it was extremely windy and quite cool, we had a good time anyway. We made use of the services above the village lock before moving on a few yards and mooring on the towpath side. We then took a walk into the village and had breakfast in a café as well as paying a visit to the bakers and the butchers.

On our walk back to the canalside we caught up with a couple who were also walking back to their boat. We recognised them as the crew of “Stormin’ Norman”, a small cruiser that we have been leapfrogging since Saturday morning near Atherstone. We carried on the banter that we have been having with them along the lines of , “Oh no! Not you again!”

Once back on board, we prepared for the second part of our day’s cruise and then set off again. There were now enough boats on the move to make the lockwork easier, we even had crew members hang back and help close the bottom gates – much appreciated. Stormin Norman caught up with us a few times and by the time we had cleared Gailey top lock, we knew that the next time they passed us would be last time we would see them as they were planning to turn on to the Shroppie at Autherley junction. We said our goodbyes about an hour later as they passed us on a straight section of the summit. 

We reached Autherley at four o’clock and made a brief stop to buy a couple of Pearson’s guides to help us with the rest of our trip. The last time we passed this way, we turned on to the Shroppie so from here on we are travelling on new waters. We carried on for another hour before taking the last mooring spot below the lock at Compton, our descent to the Severn had begun.

We did a little exploring, visiting the Oddfellows pub, the supermarket and the chip shop where we picked up some chips to go with the pasties from Penkridge which were warming in the oven, just the sort of food needed at the end of a long day when we covered 19 miles and worked 10 locks.