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WITH waterway closures and restrictions coming fast and furious it was certainly going to be a risky business taking our Spring cruise this year. But little did we realise it would be floods.
It was originally going to be the Trent with thus a guarantee of plenty of the wet stuff, with a trip to Boston muted, but at the last minute our Thomas fancied the Old Main Line from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, so it was the Trent & Mersey—well it had to be, the only other way through Leicester was closed—and then it was the Staffs & Worcs for the twelfth time.
The waterways may have been short of water, but the sky certainly was not, with even the dog wearing a raincoat! Then of course there was the worry of the Trent at Alrewas, but it seems the ground was soaking up the rainfall, for even after two days of rain, it was still below the green on its marker.
I can now well understand the many complaints about continuous moorers taking up moorings, I have never seen so many towpath moored boats on the Trent & Mersey in all the 18 years we've been cruising the waterway—they were everywhere. The entrances to the new marinas were packed with them, with those at Mercia Marina now stretching all the way to Willington. In the past we could always rely on no boats by the level crossing and the railway bridge just before Willington, but it was crowded.
Talking to a few we soon learnt why—the cost of marina mooring had reached its cut-off point, and boaters were simply taking to continuous cruising/mooring, saving themselves over 2,000 quid a year. Simple.
They were even moored by the towpath on the Trent above Wychnor Lock—something I've never seen before. As to whether they were genuine continuous cruisers or not, there was no way of telling, but one thing for sure—they were all licenced! That is certainly something new for that part of the world.
In complete contrast, also as others have related, there were fewer boats actually moving, and using the regular moorings, as the empty, normally packed, Branston Water Park moorings show. My regular readers may remember my complaints about long queues at the narrow locks on our last cruise that-a-way, but this time—nothing! All we really saw were hire boats, Canaltime and Shakespeare Line—both getting rather long in the tooth, and well shown up by the pristine Aqua boats. Yet speaking to those hirers, all have something in common—the pathetic television aerials are fairly useless for getting digital reception if any decent way away from the transmitter.
I was most pleased to see a great many overhanging trees have been chopped down, so the local waterway managers have at least had some cash to spend. And there was 'Emergency Dredging', so the notice told us, at Stenson Lock moorings. But long gone are the days when British Waterways employed its own well versed people doing the work, for this was being done by contractors, and as to the pathetic barge they used—could have done it quicker with a wheelbarrow. And so badly organised, even though two boats, it seemed they only had one driver for the two machines.
And so to Rugeley and shopping of course. It was exactly two years since we approached it from the East, but what a difference. Though we arrived at the same time, but two weeks earlier in the year, there was simply no mooring space whatsoever on the 48 hours moorings, yet two years ago there was just a single boat, but this time the boats stretched further than ever before.