Saturday, 6 July 2013

Anyone for Cricket?

Saturday 6th July, 2013 at Dimmingsdale just south of Wightwick
This is bliss! We were able to leave all the windows open all night and we awoke to birdsong. The early morning sun streamed through the open stern doors as we were having breakfast.
We travelled the short distance to Swindon (no, not the Wiltshire one!) and walked up into the village to buy bread and some eggs, which turned out to be local, free range and still with distict evidence of their origins. M says the best eggs always have chicken poo on them!
The baker's turned out to be a little tea room as well, so there was a mandatory stop for a coffee and a chat to the shopkeepers. Throughout our travels we have made a point of talking to everyone - you learn so much that way.
Botterham locks are a staircase of two (where the top gate of one is the bottom gate of the other with no "pound" in between). This was where a friend's boat had an unfortunate incident, so R was very careful with the locks and only told M the significance of the place after we were safely through!
Shortly after, we came to "The Bratch", an unusual arrangement of three locks with only a ten foot "pound" or gap between each lock. This makes managing the water levels a bit tricky and there is a permanent lock-keeper on site to help. He was a very friendly chap and we were very glad of his help and advice. He's on the left in the photo.
One of the three locks is blessed with the quaint name of Bumblehole!
As M had just done a load in the washing machine, we decided to moor up to peg it out to dry on our washing line.  Just as we approached a likely spot, there was a large splash in the water, at which point, M leapt up, hoping it was an otter - but no, it turned out to be a cricket ball from a large cricket pitch on the other side of the hedge!
We fished the ball out of the canal with some difficulty and threw it back to the grateful cricketers. Having moored up at what we thought was a safe distance, M put out the washing. She wondered if one of the balls got "caught" in the cup of one of her bras, would the batsman be "out"? What a hoot that would be!!!
A few minutes later, another ball flew over the canal, sailed right over MM, over the towpath and into the hedge beyond! M managed to retreive it with the boat hook so we could throw it back.
However, R decided that discretion was the better part of valour - and it was time to move before MM got a  broken window, so we sailed slowly on, with the washing gaily billowing in the breeze!
We later found out that, at the end of each game, the teams use a long pole with a net on the end to fish balls out of the canal and that there was supposed to be a warning notice, but if there was, it was completely hidden in the undergrowth - we certainly never saw it.
That evening we moored up just beyone the lock with the charming name of Dimmingsdale. Close by was yet another disused railway line, which has been made into a walking path and bridleway. We decided to set off and walk down it back to Wombourne, the town next to the Bratch Locks. We were much later leaving than we'd planned and it turned out to be further than we thought, but it was a lovely walk in the evening sun.
As we approached the town, we came across the old station, which is now used as a tea room. What a sad sight, although wonderful that it hasn't been demolished like most old station buildings.
We also walked past a very ornate water pumping station. It was partly obscured by trees but M managed to photograph it through the bars of the gate.  One would almost think it was part of a Walt Disney film set!
By the time we eventually arrived in the centre of Wombourne, it was about 9:20pm. There were two restaurants there, one Italian (that was just closing) and a Tandori Restaurant that was heaving (it was Saturday night, after all!). However, we quickly got a table, had an excellent dinner and then walked back to MM along the towpath in the dark. Lovely!
Today: 6 miles, 12 locks and 7.1 hours.
Trip: 191 miles, 174 locks and 157.2 hours.

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