Immediately after the end of the BCNS Explorer Cruise we were offered the opportunity to head straight for the BCNS Rally at Titford. Not all the boats involved in the cruise turned up but there were a fair few and we headed up the six Oldbury Locks – known as The Crow because of the chemical works there, owned by Jim Crow. The Jim Crow Arm is long gone but it’s entrance can still be seen between locks three and four. The top of the flight marks the highest point on the BCN.
Most of the ‘prime’ spaces had already been taken by the time we arrived and the Explorer Cruise boats moored together just a little bit along opposite the ruined malthouse. It was a lovely mooring, actually a great deal quieter than those nearer the Pumphouse where the festivities were centred.
We indulged in a visit to the beer tent on the Friday evening but didn’t stay late to save ourselves for the main event on Saturday evening. I had also volunteered to work on the Tea Stall on Saturday afternoon so needed to be fresh for that!
Saturday proved to be a pretty horrible day. A few late comers were helped up the locks but nobody particularly wanted to spend any time outside in the rain.
This meant that the tea stall was very popular…
…and the bar even more so.
I’d made Saffron Buns for the cake stall and, those, along with just about all of the other cakes on offer, had been snapped up. Before heading out to the evening’s entertainment, I had to bake a fresh batch for the following day.
By this time the weather had improved and we managed to walk to the entertainment tent dry shod. The beer was excellent – from The Olde Swan Brewery at Netherton. We particularly enjoyed Bumblehole and Dark Swan.
The entertainment was provided by The Shady Band, who put on a great couple of sets that got (almost) everybody up singing and dancing. It did help that we were all of a ‘certain age’ and knew the words of everything they played. They certainly knew how to target their audience.
The morning of the next day was given over to visiting Titford Pools, the reservoirs that act as one of the feeders of the BCN. I had volunteered to do a stint on the Burger Bar that afternoon and Marie kindly offered to cover for me if I was late back from the pools. I really didn’t expect that the offer would need to be taken up as we’d allowed ourselves over two hours for a trip that would normally take an hour. Shows what I know!
It’s inadvisable to visit the pools without the assistance of someone who knows the area well. They are generally pretty shallow but in some spots far too shallow for just about any boat. Stuart came with us to make sure we didn’t stray into the shallows
Three other ‘explorer cruise’ boats followed in our wake.
We all successfully negotiated the larger of the two Titford Pools…
…even though one or two turns were a touch tight.
When we got into the smaller pool we came across the tug Finch, which had strayed into shallow water and was firmly grounded.
We threw them a rope and attempted to pull them into deeper water but unfortunately we were unable to do this and were blown into the shallows ourselves. At this point Roger and Rob on Artu attempted to come to our aid but also got a bit stuck. They eventually freed Artu but the boat was too deep drafted to be of any help. Finally Dave and Sue on nb Destiny’s Dream came to everyone’s aid. We threw a rope to their bow and they managed to stay in deep water and reversed, pulling both boats off. This whole procedure took rather a long time so it’s as well that I’d organised for Marie to take over my shift.
I eventually arrived at the burger bar 20 minutes late. Gordon and I worked there, selflessly, right the way through the duck race and hence missed seeing our ducks coming in last. We also missed the last of the beer (which is probably as well as we’d drunk enough the previous evening)
We did manage to catch what seems to be a big spectator sport – watching the ducks being counted and put away for the following year.
We also managed to arrange something a bit spectacular. We’ve always toyed with the idea of doing the BCN Marathon Challenge, where boats of all kinds travel the BCN for 24 hours picking up points for lock flights, inaccessible corners of the network etc. It’s the 50th Anniversary of this event and we were lucky enough to be invited to compete on the working pair Atlas and Malus. I’m not sure whether I’m more excited or scared but I’m sure it won’t be dull!