Friday, 5 July 2013

At Long Last! A One Layer Day!

Friday 5th July, 2013 just south of Swindon, Staffordshire.
The day we've been waiting for!  It's 20 months since we started cruising and today was the first day that we awoke to still, warm sunshine which streamed through the open windows. For once, there was no cold wind. The sky was cloudless and the birds sang merrily from the hedgerows. This is the sort of day that you see depicted in narrowboat holiday brochures, with smiling boaters wearing skimpy clothing and sunbathing on the roof. We've had a few lovely sunny days before, but the air has been cold so two, three or even four layers were needed - but today was definitely a "One Layer" day! At last!  Hooray!
We decided to visit the Red House Glass Cone Museum, which we had seen as we passed by last night, so we set off to walk the short distance back up the towpath. The 100ft high structure is impressive indeed with its complex, and surprisingly attractive, brickwork.
Stourbridge has a history of glass making going back over 400 years and it is still home to a vibrant community of glass companies and artists.

The exhibition inside was very well done, explaining the process and the methods used. But, as ever, it was very sanitised. When in operation, the heat, fumes and noise must have been tortuous for the people working there, given that the furnace works at 1,000 degrees plus. All the raw materials used to be delivered by barge and the finished products also went out on the canal.
They do have demonstrations of glassmaking, where you can try your hand at blowing glass, but sadly they only take place at weekends. However, this was the next best thing:
We are not sure we would like to do it for a long time though, as it tends to affect the way you look. M wondered if she had ever managed to fulfill her lifetime's dream of learning to play the oboe, would her cheeks have ended up looking like this? This is a genuine photo, by the way!
We set off about midday through rural countryside. M pointed out to R the climbing plant in the hedgerows called "Traveller's Joy" - what a fitting plant for narrowboat itinerants such as ourselves!
The Stourbridge Canal joins the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at a junction with the unlikely name of Stewponey. Perhaps the recent scandal of horsemeat in food has an historical precedent? Four fairly easy locks took us down to the pretty junction, where we moored up for lunch.
The journey continued up the Staffs and Worcs along the contour often with sheer sandstone cliffs on one side.
At Greenford lock, we took on water and a curious group of Americans quizzed us at length about this eccentric English pastime of narrowboating. They appeared to be quite taken with the idea and eventually left us talking animatedly about renting a boat to find out what its all about!
We moored up for the evening just south of Swindon and for only the second time since MM was launched in October 2011, we got out the picnic chairs, poured ourselves a gin and tonic and sat on the towpath in the sunshine!
Skylarks were singing high above the field of freshly mown hay opposite, the sun was shining, it was warm and all was well with the world! Heaven!
Today 5 miles, 6 locks and 4.7 hours.
Trip: 185 miles, 162 locks and 150.1 hours.

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