Sunday, 7 July 2013

Wightwick Manor

Sunday 7th July, 2013 at Aldersley Junction.
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning and by 7:30am there was a steady stream of fishermen passing by, all making their way to the best angling spots. One of them, when M wished him "Good morning", replied "Aye, it's a right bosty morning". "Bosty" is apparently a local word meaning "good" or "great". The fishermen tell us that they catch carp, roach, chubb and perch, all of which they are now legally bound to put back into the water, although looking at the colour of the water we are not sure we would like to eat anything that lived in it!
The hedgerows that border the canal are a delight at present; they are a joyful tangle of wild roses, honeysuckle and elderflower with damselflies chasing each other over the water.
We cruised up to the village of Wightwick (pronounced "Wittick") and went to visit Wightwick Manor, built by the Mander family and now owned by the National Trust and renowned for its Arts and Crafts design, its William Morris furnishings and pre-Raphaelite paintings.
It is the most beautiful house with a lovely ambience. M said, as we walked round the exquisite rosbeds in the garden, that she felt completely out of place in her scruffy boating clothes and wished that she had something diaphanous and floaty to wander round the gardens in a dreamy artistic fashion! The roses were exquisite.
The Manor also had a tea room built in the old stables, so we had toasted tea cakes for lunch! Yum!
All of the woodwork, both inside and out, was beautifully carved and there were mottos and snippets of poetry carved into the woodwork and written on the walls. On one bay at the front of the house were carved the words "Come live with me and Thou shalt see the pleasures I'll prepare for Thee". How beautifully romantic, we thought.
As we walked around the large gardens, we came across a line of "erratics" that had been deposited in the grounds as the Great Glacier retreated after the last Ice Age. Among them were boulders that had come all the way from the Lake District!
Only one more lock remained before our the day's objective of Aldersley Junction, but as we approached it we found two teenage girls in a bit of a panic because four ducklings were trapped inside the lock. Their Mum and six siblings were on the other side of the lock gates and they were all cheeping frantically back and forth to each other.
Luckily for them, the lock was nearly full, so we opened the paddles gently until we could open the top gate and re-unite the family. M thought she distinctly heard the duck equivalent  of a "ticking off" as a relieved Mum took her brood well away from the lock. All that remained to do was to empty the lock again so that we could get MM through.
As we continued on, we were surprised to see a narrowboat apparently being steered by a meerkat. Guy the Gorilla was quite jealous and said that he wanted to have a go - until we explained that it was really being steered by a man at the front with a remote control.
At Aldersley Junction, we broke with tradition and tied up on the lock moorings. This is normally frowned upon, but in this case it seemed acceptable as the Wolverhampton lock flight, that branches off here, is closed. This is the lock flight that we had planned to use to come north from Birmingham, but the collapse of the lock wall on lock 20 of 21 has caused the whole flight to be closed and meant that we had to make our long detour through Stourbridge.  Actually, in many ways, we think it was a blessing in disguise as the route that we ended up taking has been full of interest and character, and we have been told by several people that the Wolverhampton flight is not very attractive.
After we moored up, we walked up to see the damaged lock. The pound below the lock was empty, which gave us a chance to see what the canal bottom looks like. An empty pound is a sorry sight indeed.
For obvious reasons to do with the "Elf", the site was sealed off, but we managed to see through the fence and catch a glimps of the large hole on the lockside where the side had collapsed.
Wolverhampton's reputation was perhaps underlined by the fact that the contractors had employed watchmen to guard their equipment night and day over the weekend.
Today: 5 miles, 3 locks and 4.4 hours.
Trip: 196 miles, 177 locks and 161.6 hours.

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