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February 24th 2010 - Shroppie Fly, Audlem

We made it to Norbury on Friday and managed to get a pump-out and I got all my laundry done too.  This time I didn't have to do a thing - just hand over the two bags of washing and the money - two hours later I collected the two bags now full of washed, dried and folded laundry - wonderful.  Whilst it was being washed we went and had lunch in the pub!  I could get used to that!!

The following day, Saturday, we were up in good time and headed off on the journey back to Market Drayton.  It wasn't as cold on the journey back fortunately.  It took us about four and a half hours or so to do the trip back but we did stop for half an hour at the top of the Tyrley flight to have a bite to eat.  We moored up once again just before the pill box in Market Drayton.

I woke up just after 7.00am on Sunday morning and got up for a pee!  There was something about the light filtering through the curtains that was a wee bit odd so I peeped out of the window and got a shock - it had snowed - a lot!  In fact it had put down about four inches of snow!  Needles to say, it was very pretty - but we could really have done without it!  My first reaction was that we ought to phone Clive's parents to let them know as they were expecting to drive down that morning.  Clive suggested we wait an hour to see what happened as the temperature was supposed to rise - according to the weather forecasters!

We phoned Clive's parents at 8.15am only to be told that it had just started snowing there and had already put an inch down!  However, they decided to set off anyway.  So we kept our fingers crossed that all would go well.  It did - they arrived soon after 11.00am.  We joined them at their hotel and not long after that Jean and Glynn arrived and we all went off to The Castle at Bletchley for lunch.  It was really lovely.  After lunch we headed back to Jean and Glynn's for the rest of the afternoon and Jean nipped out and fetched her mum as well.  It was great for Clive's mum, whose family hails from Market Drayton, to meet up with her relatives whom she hasn't seen for many, many years. 

Jean sneaked off into the kitchen whilst we weren't looking and the next thing we knew she had prepared a lovely tea for us all.  So all in all we had a really lovely day.  Finally we said our goodbyes and headed back to the boat.  The one fly in the ointment all day had been the fact that poor Glynn had a really bad back and it was obvious to us all that he was really suffering.  However he had put on a brave face all afternoon and still managed to be the life and soul of the party.  Just before we left them we arranged for Jean and Glyn to come and join us on the boat on Tuesday evening for dinner.

On Monday morning I tried to phone Clive's mum and dad to see what they wanted to do but I couldn't get through to them at all!  A short time later, whilst I was still in my pyjamas, the phone rang, it was Clive's father!  "We're walking down to meet you at the boat, see you in a few minutes"!  Good heavens!  I rushed through to the bedroom and managed to just get my clothes on in time before they arrived - phew!

They were both frozen daft by the time they arrived on board so we quickly got mum into the reclining chair right next to the stove with her feet up on the footstool and it didn't take her too long to thaw out, especially with a cup of tea as well!  In fact they stayed on board all day, we had a bit of lunch and then later I rustled up a meal for us all.  By this time Mum was so warm and comfortable she didn't really want to leave!  However they got togged up again and Pop had nipped back up to the hotel during the afternoon and fetched the car so they didn't have to walk all the way back.  I am really glad that they enjoyed being on board with us, at least Mum can stop worrying now that we are both freezing to death on the canal in all the ice and snow, she now knows what a lovely warm and cosy boat we have!

(By the way, I think I had a bit of a mental abberration when I was typing the last blog - I said that it was Clive's birthday on Monday and Gareth's on Tuesday - wrong!  Its the other way around!) 

On Tuesday morning we walked up to the hotel to meet Clive's parents and then we all went for a walk around the town.  We ended up in The Hippodrome, which formerly was Market Drayton's cinema, now it is a Witherspoon's pub and restaurant.  We had a nice lunch and a wee drinky poo then Clive, Mum and I walked along to Morrison's and Pop went back to the hotel to fetch the car.  We managed to stock up on plenty of stuff, including potatoes and bottles of wine, knowing that we would have transport back to the boat.  Then it was time to say goodbye to Clive's parents as they wanted to get back up to Huddesfield in reasonable time - snow was forecast yet again!  They dropped us at the boat and we said our goodbyes and then they left us at 2.30pm.  Amazingly they made the trip in one hour and forty minutes, not bad going at all!

I must add here that during the morning I received a phonecall from Jean.  Unfortunately they were not going to be able to join us on board for dinner that night as Glynn's back was really bad and the poor man had had a very bad night indeed.  He had an appointment booked for the afternoon with an osteopath so we were all keeping our fingers crossed that he could help him.

This morning, Wednesday, we got up in good time, had breakfast then Clive untied the boat and we cruised under the bridge and moored up again - at the water point!  It took a while, as the pressure was very low, but eventually the water tank was full and we headed off up the cut.  It seems to have been a very long day!  The first part of the journey from Market Drayton was easy, just one long cruise, then we arrived at the top of the Adderley Lock Flight.  There are five locks in this flight and they were all reasonably straight forward apart from the fact that they were all against us, so each lock had to be filled before I could open the gate for Clive to bring the boat in.   When the locks are reasonably close together I do, what I call, oversewing!  This means whilst the boat is in the lock and the lock is emptying I nip down to the next lock and open the paddles so that the lock fills, ready for the gate to be opened, then I walk back to the previous lock in time to open the gates to let Clive bring the boat out.  So, if you think about it I am walking three times the length of the lock flight more or less! 

Just as we arrived at the last lock in this flight Clive spotted a Kingfisher in a tree just below the lock.  It sat there for ages.  He nipped inside and fetched the camera.  I had just met a lady walker on the towpath and she was thrilled to bits when she saw the Kingfisher and stood and watched it for ages.  I told her that I would send her some of the photographs if they came out OK, she was delighted.  Her name is Margaret and she often walks along the towpath.  She told me she had often seen Kingfishers in flight but had never seen one sitting still long enough to get a good look at before.  We all felt very priviledged indeed that this one decided to stay put long enough to be admired.

A short distance after the last lock in the Adderley Flight is the first of 15 locks in the Audlem Flight.  (There's no peace for the wicked!)  On the cruise between these two locks I managed to nip inside and rustle up some sandwiches for our lunch.   We arrived at the next lock, which I opened and when Clive had brought the boat in we managed to munch our sandwiches before I went to open the paddles. 

All in all it was a very long slog down the locks and by the time we had reached the tenth lock in the Audlem Flight my knees were really complaining!  Clive decided to help me with the gates.  Once the lock was empty he would climb up the ladder (all locks have a ladder up the side) and open the gates.  He is braver than I as he will actually step across from the open gate to the closed one in order to get to the other side - I daren't!  He also discovered that if he came out of the lock very slowly and then stopped the boat just as he had cleared the gates, he could actually jump off and close the gates behind him, thus saving me from having to traipse back up to deal with the gates - excellent, it was a really big help. 

Finally we reached lock 12 and once through that we moored up near The Shroppie Fly.  Without any more ado we both dashed into the pub for a well earned drink (mine was a soft one I might add!).  I left Clive in the pub then and came back to the boat and had a lovely shower whilst the water was really hot.  Ooooh bliss!

All being well we are having more visitors tomorrow.  My cousin Peter and his wife Katie have a wonderful caravan site up in Scotland just North of Oban at a place called North Ledaig.  They came down to Birmingham for the Caravan and Boat Show at the weekend in their caravan and as they are going to be very close by in Chester, they are going to come and meet up with us here tomorrow.  We are really looking forward to seeing them and of course giving them the guided tour of Lady Arwen!

We also found out today that one of the winter stoppages at Wheaton Aston Embankment further South on the Shroppie, which wasn't due to reopen until March 12th is actually finished and navigation is now possible.  So we are planning to continue on our way to Nantwich for the time being, stay a few days there, then turn around and head back down the Shroppie as we can now start our journey South again.  There are still some stoppages which won't reopen until the 12th but we can get a lot further than expected now that this particular stoppage is finished.

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