Blog

Ploddin’ on

Well, we sold more coal in April this year than either January or February. 

March saw us traipsing all over the place - Pete took Roach up round the North via Great Haywood and Stoke, and back down the Shroppie, whilst we were busy with road deliveries. We swapped over with him at Audlem so that we could visit the Anchor at High Offley on the Saturday night, and have Sunday dinner in the Junction Inn at Norbury. It’s a hard life.

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The next outing was up into Birmingham by way of Tipton, where there just happened to be a beer festival and attendant boat gathering on over Easter. Good planning, or so we thought - we ended up spending the Friday night at Rough Hills Stop on the outskirts of Wolverhampton as we had forgotten about the stoppage to allow Network Rail to renew the railway bridge there. It turned out to be an interesting night though, as we got to see the old bridge lifted off by what seemed to be the biggest mobile crane in the world. This was all carried out under flood-lights at night, which made the whole operation appear even more impressive.

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We were able to get through the site on the Saturday morning with a bit of dismantling of the floating platform. It seems that the works planners didn’t expect a narrow boat to be seven feet wide! They had to remove the same sections a few days later when Graham Wigley passed through the works on Collingwood. The site workers were all good natured, though, and removed the necessary sections with good grace. 

An excellent night was had in the Fountain at Tipton, before heading off to Hockley Port, and a night with Penny Barber on Easter Sunday. This involved Penny cooking an excellent meal for us, and this was accompanied with beer, wine, and a bottle of fine port - a picture of which was sent to Mick, Penny’s other half, who was at work on nights. This made him feel much better.

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The trip continued through Birmingham, and down to Worcester and Gloucester with Pete in charge once again. Pete took over at Dunhampstead, and after loading more coal there, he whizzed down the Severn to Sharpness and returned to our yard by way of Stourport. This turned out to be a good trip, with further coal being loaded at both Stourport and Caunsall. 

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Another trip round the North ensued; this time Jenny and I managed the whole trip. This also turned out to be an excellent trip, as frosty mornings combined with snow and hail reminded people that this country is not yet Mediteranean in climate, despite global warming. We even got battered by a mini-tornado whilst waiting for Harecastle Tunnel to open, and awoke to find that the previous nights hail had frozen hard. Just what the Coalman ordered. Steady progress down the Cheshire Locks was followed by a pint or several in the Kings Lock at Middlewich, another fine establishment. This is a pub that has improved immensely since the change of ownership. We had a very convivial night there, early doors with Phil and Michelle, followed by a few more with Bernie and ‘Shell.

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We managed to get to Norbury Junction, on the Shropshire Union Canal, for the festival held over the May Bank Holliday, and spent a couple of days there. Good food, good company and a great band on the Saturday night - “Vavoom” - well worth seeing. 

We sold a bit of coal, and bought a bit of “stuff” from some of the trading boats that formed a floating market along the towing path. Mal Edwards was observed outside the pub, on the Sunday morning, knitting fenders with a large, self inflicted headache. 

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We got back to the yard, tied up and departed to the Dales for a weeks holiday. Very nice it was too. A bit of walking. a bit of train travel and a pint or two, everything a holiday needs. This is the view from the bedroom window - it doesn’t get much better than that. (It’s the Black Horse at Giggleswick in case you were wondering). 



On a more somber note, we were privileged to be able to help an old friend, Colin Brace, give his late father one last trip aboard a narrow boat. John Henry Brace, known to all as Jack, was a well known boatman back in the day, and had worked “Joshers” for a long period of time. We loaded Jack onto Roach at Tipton, and carried him to Broad Street Basin in Wolverhampton, thus mirroring his life - he was born in Tipton, and passed away in Wolverhampton. Colin steered the boat all the way in what was a fitting tribute to his father. 

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