THERE was a volunteer on Junction Lock at Fradley and very welcome he was to this single hander.
As the picture shows he was comprehensively equipped, with high-vis vest, life jacket and even a life line on his belt, for throwing to anyone who got into difficulty. All he lacked was a hard-hat; when I asked him, he said an umbrella would be more useful.
While his services were very welcome, the thought did occur that all the equipment and training for him must have cost something, to provide a service that never previously existed. So here, at least, the volunteers are not saving money, they are costing extra—in these straitened times is this not a bit of a luxury?
I also noticed at Fradley, that although the British Waterways shop is closed all the signage (and there is a lot of it) still points to it—perhaps British Waterways expect to reopen it—or have they just forgotten. The latest Pearson's guide actually mentions it being shut—so that's a bit more up to date than British Waterways.
At Middle Lock, just above Fradley, the cross-over bridge has acquired a new set of railings. Despite the notice saying they are temporary, they looked pretty permanent to me and perfectly acceptable. Built of timber, they do not alter the headroom and once painted they will look as though they have always been there. If they can get it right on the Trent & Mersey, why have they made such a mess of the Staffs & Worcs?
While we were in the south-west I kept getting stoppage notices via Waterscape for the Severn—and very useful they were. Now I am approaching the Trent—nothing. I know it was shut a week or so back and judging from its current appearance at Swarkestone it's shut now. But how do I find out? I suppose I shall have to ring a lock keeper, or the office at Newark, but why isn't the information circulated with all the other stoppage notices?
Crossing the Trent below Alrewas there was no problem, but I noticed one interesting anomaly. The indicator board at the tail of Alrewas Lock was exactly on the green/yellow boundary, but the board at the head of Wychnor Lock at the other end was in the green by a good two inches. Surely they should be showing the same? I've always had my suspicions about how accurate these indicators are. How exactly do they calculate where to put them—is it just someone saying 'That looks about right', or is some science involved?
The next phase of our trip (if the Trent co-operates) will take us out of Pearson land and we will have to fall back on Nicholson, whose guides I find much less easy to use. I was overjoyed therefore, to see in the key map of a recent Pearson that there was a new East Midlands guide, covering the Trent as far as Newark and the Chesterfield, amongst others. I couldn't find it on sale, however, so e-mailed Mr Pearson, who tells me that it is a work in progress and he hopes to publish it next Spring—I'll just have to be patient.