THE COAL MAN COMETH
In October last year, Jason Gallop, Four Counties Fuels Limited, asked me if I fancied loading Darley to help him out with deliveries. Canal and River Trust had a scheduled stoppage for work on Longford Lock, Penkridge. This meant he would not be able to complete his usual deliveries between Longford lock and Audlem locks as part of the four counties ring, where another stoppage was also due. Upon telling Dawn she spoke to Jason with some proviso’s
1. 1. He had to make sure that I ate regularly ( due to my Diabetes).
2. 2. He had to make sure I did not drink too much (I don’t know what ‘too much’ equates to).
3. 3. I was not to lift any bags of coal (Due to my medical conditions).
Of cause I said yes, any excuse for boating. As a result, we had to load Darley before the stoppage came on and get her north of Penkridge and so the plan was hatched
On the 3rd November 2021, I moved Darley from her mooring at Great Haywood down to the services at the junction to await the lorry. At approximately 10.00am it arrived and Jason, Kat and the two lads from the Bryn Coal Company proceeded to load the first 9 tons onto Darley which put her down in the water a bit.
A week later I again moved Darley down to the service point to await the arrival of the coal lorry. After unfastening the side cloths and loosely rolling them up, again Jason, Kat and the two boys from Bryn Coal loaded a second 9 tons onto Darley, making a total of 18 tons and putting even further down in the water.
Again, I reversed back to the mooring but this time I couldn't get Darley anywhere near her mooring and so I pulled her alongside Chris Shenton's boat Dubhe on the next mooring. Upon securing Darley alongside Dubhe we fastened the side cloths back up. Darley was going to stay like this until the beginning of February. During which time several trips down were made to pump out rainwater.
We were soon going under Forster bridge and into the Autherley narrows where although not dragging the bottom progress was slow due to width restricting the flow of water past the boat. Luckily we did not meet any boats through the narrows and were soon making the tight turn at Autherley Junction and onto the Shroppie. Had to lift the back button to get through the stop at Cut End as the foot board is on the wrong side of the gate reducing the lock length considerably.
Monday 7th Stretton to Wheaton Aston. March saw me setting off from Stretton as I was meeting Jayson and Kat at the services at Wheaton Aston. They arrived by van at about 12 noon and worked me down the lock to the services where the van was parked. They then proceeded to load 1000 litres of diesel in 20 ltr containers (1 ton) Logs and Kindling (another ton) and about 30 gas cylinders (1 ton) and about another ton of aged coal. (4 Tons total making load now about 15 tons).
After loading and with the van now empty, Jason took it round to the Hartley Arms and left it, with the Landlords permission, on the car park for the week. I moved Darley to the other side of the bridge and moored up in readiness for the pub. Went to the Hartley Arms and had a lovely meal (Butchers faggots mash, chips peas etc) and a few pints of Guinness to swill it down.
Tue 8th.Wheaton Aston to Gnosall We had originally planned to get to Norbury, but the Junction Pub at Norbury is closed on a Tuesday so we decided to go to Gnosall instead. This is normally a 2 ½ hour journey but having to stop every 10 minutes to serve customers with three or four bags of coal here a cylinder of gas there made the journey a lot longer. Tea time saw us tying up on the services at Gnosall and a trip up to The Navigation pub where fter ordering beers were told they were not doing food so we left and walked down through the village, past the open chip shop to another pub recently re-opened The Royal Oak who made us very welcome but were also not doing food. We stayed and had several pints planning to walk back and collect fish and chips. Not to be as they were shut.
Wed 9th Gnosall to Market Drayton. Much the same as yesterday with deliveries every 10 minutes or so. One of the problems with delivering to boats tied up on off side moorings such as at Shebdon and Soudley is that over the years of boats passing at tickover the mud has build up alongside these lines of moored boats making it difficult for loaded boats to get alongside.
On 30th April Jason emptied the remaining coal off Darley onto the passing Bargus as he made his deliveries back as normal with the stoppages lifted. On the whole I enjoyed my little ‘delivery trip’ although I was surprised with how I struggled even with only 18 tons on compared to back in the 70’s. I also managed not to :-
Bang ‘em about