Coxbank Moorings to Audlem between locks 11 and 12.
Mick had just put his dressing gown on this morning and walked through to put the kettle on when a chap stopped for a conversation. Were there any shops? Yes down in Audlem. Their boat had broken down, their gear box didn’t have any oil in it. Mick got dressed and went out to see if he could help, taking with him the bottle of left over oil from engine services. They topped up the gear box and they continued on their way. The boat is an old one, but new to them.
Over breakfast another three boats headed down hill, no point rushing we’d be resetting the locks anyway.
Straight into the flight, the boat ahead of us was only one lock down with another boat in front of them. No point in walking on to set the next lock as it was already full with a boat sat in it.
A local old fella walked up and had a chat. He walks the flight every morning, sits on the bench at the top for five minutes before returning back down the flight in time for the pub to open. We did our best to keep our distance, but he insisted on helping with the bottom gates. A lovely fellow.
The boat ahead lifted paddles for us on just about all the locks once they’d closed the bottom gates. A cheery wave back and forth for acknowledgment.
Progress was slow, then even slower. The downhill pack had met an uphill boat, a hire boat. We joined the boat ahead of us in the next pound to wait and I loitered to help close the bottom gates with the lady from the hire boat coming up.
Then we’d just manged to space ourselves out again when another boat was coming up. I zoomed in on my camera. Down the flight I could hear a ‘putput’ engine. As the boat rose in a lock the chap stepped off, climbed in the hold and reappeared with a bag of coal on his shoulder. A coal boat. But which one?
Not in need of diesel, a gas bottle still with a few days left and the sunny day making us wonder if we would be needing any more coal this year (I know I’ve tempted fate now) we decided to wait until we hopefully see NB Halsall and not in the middle of a flight of locks.
The boat rose in another chamber and it was obvious that it was NB Mountbatten. We’d met Richard and Ruth whilst on the Llangollen a couple of winters ago. Soon afterwards NB Mountbatten had come down Hurleston Locks and so far has not been able to return. The bottom lock has for years been getting narrower and narrower, excluding older boats with a touch of spread. Richard has continued doing deliveries up the canal by van, but had to trade by boat along the Shropie main line.
However this winter Hurleston Bottom Lock has been rebuilt by C&RT. A few days ago we saw on facebook that NB Mountbatten had been invited to give the newly built lock a go. They ascended the lock about half way and fitted. They are now looking forward to getting back onto the Llangollen to trade by boat again, still a little while before the Hurleston flight reopens, but I’m sure they will be the first up the locks.
Back at Audlem we finished descending the main thick of the flight and pulled in in the sunshine. The side hatch was opened to let fresh air in, the back doors left open and Tilly came and went. The bank by the towpath is really quite good in this outside, I can be busy without too many woofers causing me concern. What a lovely spring day.
A walk to the bins, a look around the book shop and then up to the shops for a few bits. We managed to support the local butcher by buying a red pepper and the co-op provided us with milk, potatoes but no bread.
Mick tuned in the TV and the afternoons news came on. Boris Johnson giving us the news regarding new measures concerning Coronavirus. Measures that will see our older friends stuck at home for their safety. Then ‘Social Distancing’, avoid going to pubs, theatres, large gatherings. All measures we understand to help contain the curve of the virus. But within an hour a large proportion of my friends in the theatre world were out of jobs, theatres closing across the country.
During the evening we have thought about our plans. We will continue to cruise so long as nothing stops us from doing so. If restrictions come in that stop us moving then we will find a section of canal where we have services and access to shops, Tilly will just have to cope with the same outside for some time. Various facebook groups are being set up along stretches of canals so that local communities of boaters can look out for each other. We’ll be looking for them as we travel and seeing if we can help.
9 locks, 0.84 miles, 1 boat rescued, 1 boat broken down again, 2 ahead, 2 passed, 4 hours! 2 friends, 1 pepper, 1 bag potatoes, 2 pints milk, 2 lego models, 1 step further, 1 loaf started, 1 batch of pasta started, wonder if my sourdough will produce toilet paper? 1 crazy world.