Escaping the attentions of Gertrude, the 007-licensed Government Attack-Cow, of our previous moorings came at a price. The Adderley Locks, five in a row, followed by some miles of what I have come to term the “DNS Canal”. “DNS” standing for “Do Not Stop”, a sentiment forcefully expressed by everywhere having the most outrageous examples of the “Shropshire Shelf” that I have encountered to date! There just isn’t anywhere to moor up that doesn’t require an onboard crane and some sort of breeches buoy arrangement to get a chap onto the towpath. Tis crazy, tis crazy maximus. My breakfast wore off entirely while I cruised and looked for somewhere to moor.
That somewhere presented in the form of a “Market Drayton”. A “town”.
This town having suddenly introduced itself an angling contest equally suddenly made itself known, all of the towpath and moorings between Bridge 64, Lord’s Bridge, and Bridge 63, Betton Bridge, being covered in chaps drowning maggots and worms. Drowning them, it must be said, as though their own lives depended on snuffing out that of the bait. Drowning them with the use of twenty or thirty foot-long carbon-fibre rods, running I don’t doubt into the thousands of pounds. Each angler had with him a pile of equipment suggesting that they had all bought one of everything out of the Angler’s Essentials Catalogue.
That said, they were for the most part (50.1% versus 49.9%) a cheerful bunch, and the first angler that the Cardinal and I passed called out that my speed was ‘perfect’ and that if I might continue to stick to the middle of the cut (as I was doing) then this also would be ‘perfect’. The Cardinal and I cruised then under what may only be described as some sort of “Mexican wave salute” of raised fishing rods.
Had I been forewarned of the fishing match I would have been sore tempted, perhaps irresistably tempted, to secrete a small tomato about my person and, passing under the most miserable of the raised rods, to squish the tomato into my eye socket and scream ‘My eye! My eye! The hook… The hook…’
But I wasn’t forewarned, so I didn’t.
Although I may do next time. I shall leave a tomato on the rear deck, it might go better with a slightly mouldy fruit… a more colourful splatter to accompany my screams.
Anyhap, the war on fresh-water herring or spawning lumpsuckers or whatever it was that is in season (it is that was in season?) rather precluded use of those devilishly attractive-looking moorings. Damn it and, if I may say so, tsk tsk.
Through the next bridge though we found ourselves without warning quite atop Market Drayton Services, which is a delight that had entirely slipped my mind. Overwhelmed with emotion I slithered us to a halt on the hand-brake and, it has to be said, I… smiled. With hindsight I am ashamed of the outburst, but well, what is a chap to do when he’s been DNS’d and angled into a frazzle?
Blessed be the white bollards of service, for they may be moored to while the main water tank refills. Rubbish, gazunders, potable water cans, all done. Splendid. The water-point tap, it has to be said, gave fresh and pithy meaning to the word “dribble”, but while it slowly pithed I wandered about, assessing …stuff & things.
To my Callooh! Callay! delight on that frabjous day the next twenty or twenty-five yards immediately after the (30 minutes maximum) Service moorings were labelled by the “The Canal & River Trust” chaps to be “48-hour moorings”. While I do not entirely agree with their regulation-by-blackmail limitations, they do at least (usually) provide easy mooring rings and – quite often – Shropshire Shelf-free, properly dredged stretches in return for their dubious edicts. Anyway, after five locks and a couple of hours of cruising and I really couldn’t give a principled fig. They had me heart and soul at “…mooring rings…”
Once the tank was full I cruised the Cardinal forwards, threw out a couple of ropes and rang down “Finished with engines” on the Chadburn repeater.
It was only then that I realised that I had moored directly opposite Cuckoo Land.
All change, no change. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme wibble moo fribble de-clomp.
Urban the moorings may have been and with a busy towpath, but I stayed there two nights. Market Drayton has bright lights, and an ASDA, and – drum roll – a Chinese takeaway.
I took away a takeaway, and it was splendid. First one in years, I kid you not. Last one for some time to come, too, I suspect, but I shall have my memories.
Would you like a close-up of Market Drayton Services?
I thought that you would. Here they are, on the left, opposite the CaRT depot. The billions of anglers were all dipping their wicks, or something, whatever you term it, on yon side of this bridge.
The bridge at the bow, however, is the one with more promise, for it leads away from Market Drayton and the lure of bright lights and easy living, towards another five locks and a cut described on the maps as being so narrow that “there is not always room for two boats to pass”.
No ship, Sherlock. That’ll be fun if we encounter traffic. Have you ever reversed a narrowboat? I have, and it is an art-form requiring mastery of Luke Skywalker’s “The Force”. I’ve been down some of that promised land today, and I’ll tell you all about it in the next blog post.
The Cardinal and I, on this wee cruise, are now well into terra incognita. There is much new to grok.
I didn’t spot Gertrude following me, although it’s just possible that she was using a snorkel or something, and I did forget to check for a trail of bubbles.
That’s one of the (few) nice things about urban moorings, aside from the bright lights, ASDAs and Chinese takeaways – there are no cows.
Chin-chin for the moo, chaps.
Oh bugger. Did I just say “moo”?
Chin-chin for the mo, chaps, is what I ought to have said. I’m obviously still under the influence.