One question we often get asked by non-boaters is whether we get bored because every day is just the same. The answer is that we never get bored because every day is different. We learn something new each day. We see something new each day. Let’s look at this week as an example.
Last Friday, we travelled from Penkridge to Compton, an unusually long day for us – about seven hours cruising. Despite going through the middle of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, this is a pretty canal. It is one of the earliest, built by a chap named James Brindley and opened in 1772, and uses the contours of the land rather than cutting through hills and using locks to go up and down. Near Compton I found this pretty Victorian arts and crafts house to visit.
On Saturday, we stayed in Compton for a lazy day. I found a nice long walk for the dogs – along the canal, across countryside and back again along this disused railway line. Fascinating to imagine the heavy steam trains, the grime and dirt. It was a hot day and in the afternoon we found a country park where the dogs could swim. Pizza for team and a film.
On Sunday, it was back on our journey south. A boat coming the other way warned us that a boat club was ahead of us. Fifteen boats were waiting to go down Bratch Locks. This is a bit of a bottleneck on the canal, because three locks are next to each other, so they allow three boats to go down and then three come up. This means if you are boat four, you will wait around an hour before you can go. If you are boat fifteen, you could be waiting several hours. Fortunately by the time we got there the queue had reduced and we were only held up for around forty minutes. Bratch Locks are fascinating. They were built by Brindley as a staircase, where the top gates of one lock form the bottom gates of the next one. But this used too much water, so around 1820 they were converted to individual locks with about a meter of canal between each lock, and side ponds to hold the water. I have never seen anything like them, and as you can see in the photo, the rules are somewhat complex. Fortunately there were volunteers to help us and all was well.
On Monday, we passed through a number of small villages with great names such as Boterham, Giggerty and Bumblehole. We even went through Swindon – not the massive 1960s sprawling town in Wiltshire, but a hamlet of a few houses and a pub in the West Midlands.
Tuesday was a short day. Just a couple of hours from Stewponey to Wolverley. We moored in a beautiful tree lined stretch, next to a brilliant pub called the Lock Inn. It cooked traditional Black Country food. I had a couple of pints of the local ale, and an enormous plate of Faggots and Mash. We considered staying another day, so we could see the Morris dancers, but in the end decided to carry on.
On Wednesday, we continued to the end of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal at Stourport. Stourport was once a very small village called Mitton, but after the canal was built became one of the busiest inland ports in Britain, as the canal joins the river Severn and from there large boats sailed down to the sea at Bristol. Nowadays it is a sleepy pretty town, with much history to see. It also has a permanent funfair, where we found this rather sad Winnie the Pooh.
Thursday was another day off and we stayed in Stourport. We took the opportunity to enjoy this small breakfast. Yum! We also went on a trip to see Dudmaston, a huge stately home that is still lived in by a (rather wealthy) family.
So no. Every day is not the same on a narrowboat. Every day brings something new and we are very lucky to enjoy it.