After a full cooked breakfast with Bridget and Storm we said our farewells and parted company. We are hoping that they will be able to be with us for the launch of NB Oleanna, so our paths will cross again soon despite winter maintenance on the canals.
Then it was time for me to get accustomed to being behind a steering wheel again. I haven’t driven for around two years, today I was going to have no choice as engineering works on the railway meant that it would take me over 7 hours to get to Ipswich! Driving was a better option.
First Mick needed dropping off at the nearest station Yorton. Today there would be two trains heading north to Manchester from Yorton and we managed to time it well for the first one 11:40, it was a request stop! Luckily he successfully hailed the driver. To get back to Plank Lane this required him to get a bus to Leigh followed by another one out to the bridge.
Meanwhile I started my drive to Ipswich, 200 miles away. Driving soon came back to me and I did manage to overtake a few lorries! Living your life at 3 to 4mph and 60 ft away from the bow is completely different than having to keep up to speed and only having 6 ft in front. The M6 soon passed followed by much of the A14. My new phone helped in finding the Premiere Inn and once settled I couldn’t help but go and look around the marina and quays.
Ipswich is reportedly the oldest continuously inhabited town in England. The modern town took shape in the 7th and 8th Centuries. Situated on the estuary of the River Orwell the port has been important through out much of it’s history. Much of the area around the docks was badly bombed during World War 2 and is now a marina, modern apartments and a university campus. But some of the original dock buildings are still there.
As the tide was high boats were coming into the marina from the river and sailing straight through the open lock. A large cargo boat had just docked. Two chaps in high vis orange were returning a long pontoon to the lock by pushing it along with a very small cruiser. Not one narrowboat in view, but there was a catamaran version of Lillian.
In the evening I met up with everyone that I would be working with this week. We had a very nice meal at Pizza Express where I tried my first gluten free pizza and dough balls. The balls were good, the pizza a bit crispy, but still tasty.
We all reconvened in the morning to set up the Research and Development day in association with the New Wolsey Theatre. Several learning disability groups had been invited to join in with the Dark Horse ensemble. A very fulfilling day with lots of games, sampling of noises, movement, touch sessions and small extracts from the play. Normally a designer isn’t part of such things, but I joined in with the hole day and then did my small section.
Walking back to the hotel to pick up the car I passed a lot of interesting buildings. One in particular jumped out, The Ancient House is a Grade 1 listed building dating from the 15th Century. It has detailed pargeting, a weather proof ornamental plaster, and elaborate wooden carvings around the front of the house. Four panels of pargeting show a Tudor impression of the world,Africa, America, Asia and Europe are all shown, but Australia is missing as it had not been discovered at the time.
My journey back to Lillian was of course mostly in the dark. It took the best part of 2 hours to travel along the A14 to the M6 where I decided that the £5.50 toll would be worth spending as there were so many lorries about. I eventually turned into the car park by Plank Lane Bridge at 11.15pm. It had been a very long day.
Mick had been busy too, checking on our next visit to NB Oleanna. A studied look at the winter stoppages was also done as Bridget had mentioned that the Middlewich Branch would be closing in November, we hadn’t spotted this. Then he set to on the task of trying to see where we can launch NB Oleanna when the time comes. The area for this is vastly reduced from what we had thought, south of Middlewich, north of Harecastle Tunnel, leaving us with what is left of the Trent and Mersey, Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals. At the moment we have two possibilities and are waiting to hear back about them.
0 locks, 0 miles by boat, 490 miles by car, 1 request stop, 2 buses, 2 pit stops each way, 8 dough balls, 1 crispy pizza, 5 ensemble, 4 dictaphones, 2 aching arms, 1 suitcase needing new items, 2 launch sites, 1 lot of heat logs chopped, 3 hours of towpath exploration, 1 big cuddle when she got home.