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By the time we had turned in for the night, we had decided to get up early and move on a bit. Six-thirty seemed reasonable enough to start, early enough to be useful but not so early that it would disturb the neighbouring boats. At Five-thirty, the engine of the boat in front started up and coupled with the sounds of piling pins being removed made sure that we were fully awake. Ah well, at least we had plenty of time to prepare for our own departure an hour later. By 7.30 we had worked up the lock at Compton, our third and final lock of the day. From there on in it was just another pleasant cruise in the early morning sunshine along the summit level.

There had only been one oncoming boat by the time we reached the narrow section at Pendeford Rockin’. As we approached, we joked that by the time we were out the other side, that number would be five. As we reached the first passing place we could see the distinctive yellow colour of a Viking narrowboat approaching so we tucked Caxton into place and waited for them to pass. The two lads on board told us as they passed that this was their first day but in fairness, they handled their boat perfectly. They were followed by a private boat which had taken the opportunity to ‘tailgate’ the Viking into the narrow section after the passing place at the other end. Fair enough but did they then have to dawdle along cutting overhead foliage as they went? I had visions of getting trapped in the passing place like someone who gets stuck in a shop entrance by holding the door open for an old lady who is followed by ten more shoppers. As we reached the end of the narrows, another Viking was waiting to enter and an Anglo Welsh wasn’t too far behind them.

From there on in it was plain sailing and we found a good place to moor between Coven Heath and Coven. This is the third time that we have passed this way but the first time that we have been into the village of Coven itself. It’s a small village but it has a nice centre with a few shops although the jewel in the crown has to be the butcher’s shop, Astons. Our visit there yielded a ‘catch’ of award winning steak pies, shoulder of lamb for Sunday dinner, a piece of steak and four sausages (award winning no less) to run a comparison test against the Kinver pre-war bangers.

As has been the case for the last few weeks, the sky was blue, the sun was blazing and the temperature was very high so it was another afternoon dossing in the shade of the cratch.

Kinver to Wightwick

We left Kinver early enough to get up through the lock and on to the service point although when we got there, an ABC hire boat was already filling with water. They pulled back a little and we squeezed in between them and the long term moorings. They were expressing surprise at how much water they had used and assumed that someone had left a tap running overnight. No one had confessed and we did explain to them that they might not realise just how much water four people can get through in a day. Anyway, we had a nice early morning chat before they were on their way. After completing our own chores, we untied and continued our journey. There were another four locks to be done before we found a mooring which was shaded by tall trees on both sides of the canal. Other than a canalside pub, The Navigation Inn, there’s nothing else at Greensforge so we walked along the towpath for a while until we reached The Hinksford Arms where we stopped for refreshments before we headed back to the boat. In the shade, the boat had cooled down nicely for probably the first time in two weeks so we made the most of it and just chilled out.

Another early start the following morning for no other reason than we were awake saw us continue our plod uphill taking in six locks along the way. We only saw a couple of boats on the move as we passed through Swindon and once we had passed through Botterham staircase locks, we pulled up at the first available mooring and tied up for the day. It was still early but that gave us time to walk along the towpath and do a big shop at Sainsbury’s on the outskirts of Wombourne. Back at the boat a couple of hours later, we once again just chilled in the afternoon sun.

Two boats passed us at seven the following morning, both heading in the same direction as we were. It was almost eight when we set off, again the cut was quiet under the blue skies that have persisted for days or even weeks now. Bumblehole lock was all that stood between us and the Bratch locks and we reached those just before nine. It was nice to see some bee hives just above Bumblehole lock on the offside and it was possible to see some flying in and out.

Nothing was waiting on the lock landings at The Bratch and Sue subsequently found out from the lock keepers that the only traffic before we turned up was the two boats that had passed us at seven o’clock. Fifteen minutes later, we left the top lock! The two lock keepers who worked us through really know those locks like the backs of their hands. They were friendly, chatty and very helpful to us – 3 locks in 15 minutes.

Ascending the Bratch locks.

We did three more locks and then found a spot on the visitor moorings at Wightwick. It had been over a week since we last ate out, at Gloucester, so we got changed at had lunch at The Mermaid which is a short walk from the towpath.

The Mermaid at Wightwick.

After an excellent lunch, we walked a mile along the towpath to Compton wharf where we had tied up on our trip down this way in 2015. Back to Caxton for another lazy afternoon but once again we’ve worked and walked a bit so we’re not completely idle.