A couple of weeks ago I finally sent off the paperwork to attend the Basingstoke Canal Festival, at which HNBC will be holding their fiftieth anniversary gathering. In keeping with the organisation's campaigning roots - and ongoing campaigning role - and wanting to come south this year, it was decided that the Basingstoke canal would be a good, and sufficiently challenging, destination for the Club's intrepid boaters. The challenges basically fall into two categories.
1. Too little water
2. Too much water
I suspect it may be Challenge 2 we are more likely to face. We've navigated the Thames in lively conditions before, albeit in Warrior, and admittedly not entirely unscathed
, and we did the Wey in November in Helyn with about a week's experience under our belt, so that side of things is hopefully surmountable; what may not be (or whatever the opposite of surmountable is) is a low bridge at the start of the Basingstoke. We at least can take down the deckboard if we have to, even the mast, in extremis, and if the cabin won't go under then we won't be the only ones and we'll have to have our rally the other side of it. Of course I have no idea where this bridge is or what it looks like, never having been there before, and I'm not one hundred percent sure we even have to go under it, but I'm pretty sure we do.
Before we moved the boat to Alvecote, this was going to be The Year we did the whole of the Grand Union, Birmingham to Brentford. However, starting where we are now, that would be silly, so we'll be going Coventry, North Oxford, then Grand Union from Braunston to Brentford, up the Thames, up the Wey, and onto the Basingstoke. The reason we're not taking the perhaps more obvious South Oxford route is because we have not yet tried to get Chertsey through Napton, and if it won't go, I don't want to find out when we're pushed for time. I'm hoping to make a special test trip in the Autumn, especially as I think we've only been on the South Oxford once before (in 2008).
Being at Alvecote now seems to make shorter trips more of a possibility. It's not really logical - Stretton was apparently the second best place in the country to be based in terms of the number of different waterways you could hit within forty eight hours. But Alvecote is nearer Braunston, and is pastures new, and perhaps also better placed for the places we're more likely to want to go. I was never in love with the Shroppie; the BCN can wait, and in terms of going further north, the extra three days is marginal. More, shorter, trips may be the order of the day now too in light of the way things are going at work. I seem to be responsible for so many things now that I dare not turn my back on for too long.
I'll be off to Alvecote for the weekend, where we are planning to build a platform in the fore end to double as a bed, and somewhere to stand when doing tricky things with ropes, thinking particularly of the Thames locks.