Burns had quite a lot to say about plans going pear-shaped, particularly in the winter. And he’s not wrong.
Unless you’ve been holidaying on another planet, you’ve probably noticed the recent weather. It’s proved a little tricky to keep moving around the canals as a result. Either it’s so damn cold and wet that our fingers seize up after half an hour and even a cup of tea doesn’t thaw them out properly, or the winds get up and make moving the boat a bloody daft idea. Who knew that a strong breeze would turn sixteen tons of Felucca into a moody teenager, throwing massive strops and skidding off all over the canal?
So we have been hiding out for the last week or so, waiting for the rain and wind to stop and counting our blessings that we decided to winter in the Midlands rather than on the Oxford Canal or in Worcester.
But we’re coming to the slow realisation that our plans for late winter and early spring may have to change.
We’d devised a cunning plan, which involved heading away from Birmingham, down the Staffs & Worcs Canal to Stourport, down the Severn to Droitwich and Worcester then up the mighty flight of 30-odd locks at Tardebigge. But the Severn is, um, seriously in flood – with headlines such as “Worcester: a city under siege” on the BBC. And the Tardebigge locks don’t open until March. And our other ideas for the year include the River Trent (yeah, flooding) and the River Nene (another bloody river). In fact, even the usually calm canals are suffering badly from this outbreak of weather – the Canal and River Trust has launched an emergency appeal for help: the photos and descriptions of the damage are pretty scary.
So – sod it! We’re heading back to Birmingham for the next two weeks and will explore the lovely library and city attractions. And we’ve put all the geographers and water experts we know onto the task of predicting when the Severn will return to navigable levels. And after that, we’ll just have to find a stretch of canal to visit that isn’t closed for winter repairs, flooded or otherwise impassable!