Saturday, October 09, 2010

Going Up? Not Just Yet!

Back in January, we had a surprise email, telling us that our 'kids' had given us an unusual present – a balloon flight – exciting! The main questions had been when and where to take it, and we had opted for late summer or autumn, near Shrewsbury. We eventually finalised the date for early morning on 5th September, subject, of course, to satisfactory weather conditions.

We left Kidsgrove on 28th August, joining the Trent & Mersey and almost immediately plunging into Harecastle Tunnel, on the tomato-soup-coloured water caused by local iron ore. We remember this well from our second canal holiday, back in 1978, though we have travelled through this 1¾ mile tunnel a few times since then.

Then on through Stoke-on-Trent and down to Stone, where we enjoyed lunch in the Star Inn and then locked down next to it.

Not long before we reached Great Haywood and turned off onto the Staffs. & Worcs., which would take us in the right direction. Through Gailey, its distinctive Round House commanding a good view of the canal above and below the lock.

We found a good spot to moor, not far from Wolverhampton, where Adam could come and collect us the night before the balloon flight and contacted the company on the afternoon of the 4th September, as required. Unfortunately, the flight had to be postponed due to strong winds, and the next available date was 21st September, so we booked for then. We would be able to take a short trip in Zindagi for a couple of weeks and come back for the flight.

Adam and Rachel invited us to come over for the weekend anyway and came to collect us. While we were in Shrewsbury, we took the opportunity to do some supermarket shopping, and Adam took Val in their VW camper van. Unfortunately, as she was getting back into the VW, she slipped and fell on her wrist. We went out to lunch as planned, but a visit to A & E in the afternoon revealed that Val had in fact broken her radius bone. They plastered her arm and wanted to see her again the next day. Needless to say, the balloon trip has been postponed until Val's arm is healed!

Without dragging the story out too long, Val had to go back a third time after another week, when they put her arm in a lightweight resin cast, and again a week later, when they said 'all doing OK – see you in 4 weeks' ! For the first week, we took a short trip up the Shropshire Union, and spotted this kingfisher near Brewood.

After that, we stayed at Adam & Rachel's for 10 days, house-sitting for them for a week while they were on holiday, so it worked out quite well, especially as we had the use of their car as well. We drove out to some land-locked parts of the Montgomery Canal, including the picturesque Brithdir Lock.

Once we had the OK to 'disappear' for 4 weeks, we decided to carry on cruising more or less as we had originally planned, so we set off again . . .

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