Written April 28, 2023, near Brewood, England, on the Shropshire Union Canal.

I thought that for a change that I might post just pictures, roughly in chronological order, of our day on the canal.

To give some context: Yesterday (Thursday) dawned cold and overcast with a lingering threat of rain throughout the 5 1/2 hours we were underway.

It was a long day, but not as long as Wednesday when we managed seven straight hours of cruising. These two long days were intentional for two reasons, one to achieve evening destinations where there would be good services (aka pubs!), and also to end this week at a location convenient for Charlie and Mary‘s departure and transport onto Chester and then home.

We continue making progress on the Four Counties Canal Ring which actually consists of 5 separate, but connected, canals.

Our 109 mile route covers the Trent & Mersey, the Stafford & Worcestershire, and the Shropshire Union.

I begin writing this piece at 6 AM while my narrowboat mates slept on. Charlie is now up and at the table with me. Hot water for coffee has started, the stove taking the chill off of the cabin. It has been a joy traveling with these two dear friends.

Charlie and Mary depart tomorrow morning.

The best visits always end tinged with sadness. As with Pat and Wendy‘s exit, this will be a sad moment for me and Christine.

Peace Everyone. Pete

16 thoughts on “Pictures From a Day on the Canal

  1. Pete, some of those pictures are achingly beautiful. Love the tunnels through the green banks. So cool the kids were all beached to give you room to go through. I’m sure you did a lot of “connecting” with the kids as you went by. Question; why are two people needed to open the locks? Are the cranks easy to use? Will you describe the process step by step. ie: climb out of the boat; hike to the machinery, I know about the water level stuff. If its boring for everyone; maybe you or Chris can send an email to me. Thanks

  2. Hallo Pete, in einem früheren Leben warst du bestimmt mal ein Seemann oder was wahrscheinlicher ist, ein Pirat! Auf jeden Fall spürt man, dass du in deinem Element bist. Was für schöne Fotos. Das langsame Reisen ist sicherlich wunderbar. Wann fliegt ihr wieder nach Hause? Ahoi und bleibt gesund ihr Wasserratten, Tina (die Landratte)

    • Hallo Tina die Landratte! Ich weiß wie ein Mann kann in Englisch wie ein Pirat sprechen. „ARRRGGG Me Matey!!!“ Aber es passt nicht auf Deutsch. Richtig? 9 Mai fliegen wir nach Hause. Tschüss und Bis Später! Peter der Pirat! 🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️

  3. Thoroughly enjoying (envious) your adventures.
    Wondering what guide books you used to plan such a personal, non-touristy trip.
    Thanks for your posts and excellent photography.
    San Francisco, CA

    • Hi Fran. The hardest part to plan was the trek along Hadrian’s Wall. There was very little infrastructure and accommodations were relatively few and far between. I got started with the guide “Trekking the Hadrian’s Wall Path“ a Knife Edge, Outdoor guidesbook.
      The canal trip was a bit more straightforward as the canal journeys are very well covered through the “Canal Companion“ series by Pearson and Son Ltd. Specifically, we are using the “Four Counties Ring“ guide. Thank you so much for your inquiry!

  4. Well howdy my friends! Loved the pictures… I too am wondering about needing two people to open the locks … does one of them do a James Bond leap onto the roof of the boat?? Do tell (at some point). I am glad that I took a few moments before responding to the canoes in the canal (say THAT three times fast)… my first thought was “oh boy – something to aim for!” Then I realized they were children and I immediately hit my knees asking for forgiveness for my heresies. Lovely pictures… I wish for you it were warmer. Stay groovy … hugs

  5. Greetings to all. This is Christine. Laura and Liz have asked for a detailed description of how working the locks occurs. So, for inquiring minds, here is the routine. To begin with, it is not mandatory to have two people working the locks. One person can do it, it’s just quicker with two. With that out of the way here is the process:
    The boat pulls over to the shore with the towpath and those who are handling the locks get out. When you approach the lock, you check to see if the water level is lower or higher than your boat depending on your direction of travel, and if there are any boats coming the other direction. The boat which is at the same water level as the lock has priority to enter.
    For the sake of ease we will assume that the water level within the lock is different than what is needed, and in this case, is higher.
    Upon approach to the lock, one first make sure the other direction is clear and that all four gates and paddles are closed. One first empties the lock by cranking open the paddles contained within the doors. You crank each paddle up to open the paddle gates. Once the water has emptied out of the lock so that it is at the same level as the boat, you close the paddles. At this point when the water is equal on both sides of the gate, you push the gates open to allow the boat to enter the lock. Once the skipper has acknowledged that they are in the lock all the way, typically by shouting “clear “you close the gates.
    The next step is to wait as the lock fills to the level of the receiving water. While the lock is filling, the paddles are open to allow water into the lock for filling. If the boat is going up, as in this situation, each paddle is opened approximately halfway. As the boat rises when the roof of the boat is even with the sidewalk, the paddles are then opened the rest of the way. This allows the lock to complete filling without churning up a large wake at the front of the boat.
    When the water levels are again equal, and the boat has pushed back from the front gate, the exit gates are opened. As the boat exits the lock The paddles are once again lowered into the closed position. The gates are opened and the boat exits the lock. At that point the gates are once again closed. The paddles on both ends are never opened at the same time.
    It is imperative that the lock operator makes sure that all paddles and gates are fully closed upon exiting. If they are not, it is possible to drain water from the canal making transport nearly impossible.
    Once it has been verified that all gates and paddles are closed and the boat has exited the lock, the boat proceeds forward to the nearest tie ups on the shore to pick up the lock operator. This avoids having to climb down or up the ladders within the lock and trying to walk the top of the boat.
    When there are two people operating the locks it goes much faster than with only one. Quite often it happens that other boaters will be waiting for their turn in the lock and will offer to assist with handling the locks. This is always a very welcome offer, and makes for a great opportunity to talk with other boaters.
    As for the ease of operation of the lock paddles and gates, each one is somewhat different. Sometimes the paddles are very sticky and it takes putting all your weight on the handle of the winch to open and close the paddles. Other times they are well fit and can be opened very quickly. The gates weigh anywhere from 1600 kg to 3000 kg each. Each lock usually has four sets of paddles and at least three gates if not four. Some days there are no locks in between stops, and other days there are up to, on this recent trip, 28 locks to open and close in one day. Yes, one does get very tired. I hope this makes sense to you. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot of hard work, but I still enjoy operating the locks more than piloting the boat through the locks!

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