I walked back down to Audlem the other day, just to get some of the photos that I couldn’t get while on the Cardinal. It’s a nice, sleepy sort of place (excepting the occasional traffic snarl-up when tractors meet). It has a cashpoint and a Co-op shop.
It also has a nice winding hole (turning point) saving me from any possibility of having to tackle the fifteen locks through town and out the other side. Hallelujah, praise the Lard and fry me two pieces of bread to go with those mushrooms please.
A couple of years ago this was where I turned the very first boat I’d ever handled, and it says a lot about how preoccupied I was then that I remembered not one detail of the place! Nothing. In a Police line-up I might just as easily have tapped the Thames Barrier on the shoulder and said ‘This one did it, Occifer.’
From the watery angle and from the icy wastes of the “The North”, this is the way to get into town, under the bridge-ette and past lock fifteen, or something. I mean to say, it’s not called “or something”, they’ve settled on a definite real number, it’s just that when you’re talking about this many locks I lose count and everything goes blurred after you get to “Ye gods – how many?”
Since moving onto the Cardinal I’ve floated and walked under so many little arched bridges that I feel closer to my troll heritage now than ever before. If I thought that the hairy feet, the über-grumpy demeanour and the taste for human flesh were giveaways they pale into insignificance next to my new-found propensity for waiting under bridges until someone walks over the top, when I let loose a blurd-curdling “ooh Matron!” or a bone-chilling belch. We must consider the evidence conclusive, and I must move on with my feet, and with my life.
Talking of moving on, yes, let’s.
The Shroppie Fly. A pub. Looks like a tailor-made inkahoolic’s dream of a mooring place right outside, too, eh? Think again, for that is Audlem’s Sanitary Station and a water-point to boot. Mooring strictly while and only while using those facilities. That said, there are plenty of visitor moorings dotted in and amongst the locks, so if you’re lucky there’s still not far to stagger back to the boat after twenty-two pints of Bishop’s Piddle or some such “real ale”.
The canal traces a route of dingly dell-esque beginnings through town. I traced a bee-line to the cashpoint and the Co-op, dosh and comestibles for the procuring of, if you please. I didn’t photograph the Co-op. It wasn’t terribly photogenic.
There are, of course, alternative pubs available, should the Shroppie Fly prove to be stuffed to the gunwales with inebriated narrowboaters dancing the Can-Can while wearing nought but their yellow oilskin sou’wester hats and stocking-garters made out of old bungee cords.
There’s the Bridge Inn. It’s alongside the main bridge through town. Imaginative nomenclature extra.
There’s an impressive structure for the religious folk too, of course, although a brief survey taken between the hours of 00:00 to 24:00, Monday to Sunday, revealed that foot-fall on the steps to Heaven was somewhat less than foot-fall to the steps of either of the Bridge Inn or the Shroppie Fly. There’s hope for the hooman species yet, methinks.
Prime spot, eh? I think that the mound in the middle of town was already there when the church was built, it’s not that the building has risen to new heights along with the level of the cemetery as they pile on more stiffs. The church is a sprightly young thing, being just 15th century (no, this is England, I’m serious).
The structure in front of the church used to be a butter market, apparently. One assumes that folk stopped there before walking up the steps to the services, just to prove to all and sundry that butter really wouldn’t melt, &etc etc. …
For those without an urgent need for either spiritual sustenance or spiritual guidance, there are benches abounding upon which to perch one’s gluteus pert but maximus, from which vantage points to watch the world go by, slowly. I mean, the world in Audlem goes slowly by, it’s not that I was watching it slowly. Although, perhaps a brain-stiffening brandy might have helped.
Yes, yes, I hear you say, but what of the Co-operative and comestibles, what of those?
Well, they had saladings and squeezed oranges and vegetables torn from the ground and bread beaten into submission by, well, not by sweaty local bakers with arms like a rugby-player’s legs, but by some machine in a factory somewhere. The Co-op provides. Perhaps not food to make me want to sing verses from the Hallelujah Chorus, but it provides enough for me to stagger on to the next pub. Um, I mean church, to stagger on to the next church. All hail the Co-op.
Having shown the Cardinal the place – and then scurried a full one-eighty and back north again, we shall return.
In the words of Margaret Rutherford in Terminator I, II, III, IV and V – “I’ll be back… oh, and if you wouldn’t mind awfully, I need your clodes, your boods and your modorcycle…”
For today though, it’s a sunny, quiet day and I am going to stay right where I am and watch the boats flogging themselves up and down, up and down, up and down. If you thought that people-spotting on dry land was fun then you really ought to try it on the canals. It’s bloody terrifying.