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Trustee John Dodwell reflects on his three final days of cruising for 2016 as he's joined by the boating team and comes across an intriguing fountain.
I came back to HELEN today, having spoken to the Macclesfield Canal Society last night. I was joined by Mike Grimes, Head of Boating (joined the Trust last year from BOAC, so he brings a new perspective), Amanda Crossland, Business Support & Licensing Manager (been with the Trust/BW for 22 years), and Matthew Symonds who deals mainly with boating mooring planning (joined about 3 years ago). They came with me from Autherley along the Staffs & Worcs to Hinksford. Each took their turn at steering and each got the hang of it quite quickly.
I checked the towpath and offside vegetation. Fountains had recently done their edge-to-edge cut. This meant I couldn’t tell how high vegetation might have been earlier in the year but from what I could see it didn’t look as if towpath edge vegetation had got out of control. I’d noticed much the same when journeying along the eastern Trent & Mersey. As there, most offside trees on the S&W seemed OK. Indeed, above Botterham Lock, we saw where Fountains were cutting back offside trees. Not that this will be of comfort to those using the Oxford Canal!
I knew that there had been major dredging on the Staffs & Worcs this year and we saw the signs of this – spoil dumped on the offside as part of rebuilding the bank. See the photo right which shows the nicospan used to create the new edge.
The journey included descending The Bratch three locks and so Mark, the lockkeeper, was able to show the Trust staff how the locks and pounds work. See my photo taken from the bottom lock when it had emptied.
My wife Pamela had joined me the previous night. When we started off, we found an angling competition was about to start – see photo. They were going to be starting at 10.15 with the weigh in at 3.30. It was a sizeable match as the anglers continued past Greensforge and Rocky Locks.
We saw further signs of dredging spoil tipped as we approached Stourton. The dredging has now ended and we saw the fleet at Greensforge waiting to be lifted out – see photo.
I was intrigued by a fountain (see photo below ) in one of the side pounds on the Stourton Flight when we turned onto the Stourbridge Canal. The length running up to the bottom of the Sixteen is one of my favourite short section but today my eye was caught by a marvellous red creeper (see main photo) as I went along the Arm to Stourbridge town. I had gone there as it was the annual Bonded Warehouse Open weekend – see photo.
Sunday saw us packing up and leaving from home. I checked my log book. I’d travelled nearly 30 hours in the four days before starting again on Friday. After adding in the last three days, my total for the year comes to about 190 hours. Not a lot for some people’s standards but about in line with what seems to be my usual approx. 200 + each year.
John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.
John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!