As we left Gloucester Docks, waving a sad farewell to Jim, Chris and Gina as we passed through the locks, we knew we were embarking upon a journey of over 100 locks, 100 miles, half a dozen tunnels and very changeable weather. It was quickly obvious how the recent high river on the Severn had affected the banks and quantity of floating debris, and the dull brown toning of both land and water along with grey skies really set our somber mood.
However, we knew we had work to do to get off the Severn before more rain fell and to find safe moorings by 15th December so that Bob could attend his much-needed eye appointment in London. A conversation with the lock keeper before we left made sure that the locks along the Severn were all booked for us, and also revealed his connection to our home town of Paringa, South Australia. His brother had travelled there to work but unfortunately died in a motor vehicle accident there about 12 years ago. He is now buried in the Paringa cemetery. And we heard this story on his birthday!!! Small world. The lock keeper seemed to find some comfort in talking about this and showed us the photo he keeps in his wallet.
All went well and we were off the Severn by Sunday morning having left Gloucester on Friday. Of course, our luck ran out as soon as we entered the first lock on the Droitwich Canal. Above the lock, the canal was frozen over for some distance and we limped our way through the second lock to moor up and wait out the thaw. This took three days. Meanwhile, we went for walks, reviewed our route plan and prayed for warmer nights. Finally, by Wednesday we were able to fight our way through relatively minor frozen sections by breaking them up first and finally made it into the Droitwich Basin for the night.
We left quite early on Thursday morning (8.00 in the semi-dark is very early for us!) as we tried to make up for lost time. Our goal of mooring at the bottom of the 30 lock Tardebigge flight was reached enabling us to conquer it and a few more miles on Friday.
A much shorter day on Saturday through the Wast Hill Tunnel of 2726 yards and into the centre of Birmingham gave us the opportunity of finding very safe moorings at Cambrian Wharf, assisting a fellow boater with her electrical problems and time to take a walk to explore the Christmas markets. It didn’t take long for the throng of humanity and constant drizzle to tire us out and send us back to the sanity of Celtic Maid.
Sunday was perhaps the ugliest day of all as we made our way through Birmingham – its industrial and suburban areas filled with rubbish (to get caught around the prop as it did) and graffiti, 27 locks in 3 flights, and Bob having a very nasty fall before we had gone 2 locks!! He is still sporting a very large bruise on his hip and thigh almost two weeks later that would give Picasso a run for his money in terms of both design and colour!!!!! A second slip a couple of days later and he is sporting a massive lump and more bruising on the same leg below the knee. We think he needs a rest!!
We did make it to the lovely pub at Minworth called The Boat where we relaxed over a pint or two and chatted to the locals. Thank heaven for the friendly pubs along the way to help lubricate the journey!!!!
And finally, on Monday we made it off the Birmingham Canal system and back onto the Coventry which we are fairly familiar with, picking up a lovely rural mooring near Polesworth that helped to ease our stress. A short day on Tuesday to moor near Atherstone gave us a day to relax, recover, shop and plan where we would leave Celtic Maid for our upcoming trip to South America. A couple of phone calls later and we knew we were heading up the Ashby canal again to the lovely Bosworth Marina at Market Bosworth.
And so by Saturday we were securely in the marina and off for a few days to visit our friends Julia and Malcolm in their home near Leicester.
But all good things come to an end and so we find ourselves back aboard, covering off on the myriad preparations for our holiday, catching up with our family via skype for Christmas, and ensuring that Celtic Maid is able to withstand a few weeks without us.
Wishing all our family, friends, followers and fearless travellers a very merry Christmas and every success and happiness in 2017. We will be back then to share more of our journeys with you.