18.7 miles – turbulent clouds which might have gone either way, but finally did the decent thing, and resolved into middle-age grey with a little mothball sunshine
Burton is, above all else, a brewing town, and I felt I couldn’t leave without popping into the National Brewing Centre. It’s a little bit thin if you’re already familiar with the brewing process, but they have a few very nice old artifacts; my favorite was the Burton Union System double set, which had been donated by Bass
I left Burton to the warm, rich smell of Marston’s mash tuns. I spent the rest of the day walking on canal tow paths. It’s amazing how quickly muscles get used to the easy life, and after two days of total idling I never felt really comfortable.
Although I haven’t spent much time on narrowboats, I quickly learnt to tell the difference between the hire boats and the permanent homes. The sleek, shiny craft with modern fittings and nothing on the roofs but a life ring were tourists’ boats, whilst the rusty ones with peeling paint and as many things strapped to or piled on their roofs as possible: logs, bicycles, chairs, trolleys, planks, dinghies, gas canisters, washing lines, solar panels, even children’s toys (but not necessarily a life ring at all) were all their owners’ residences.
And the owners usually looked like their craft. The tatty boats with holes in the sides, patched up with duct tape, and with a higgledy-piggledy pile of rusty tools to mend them were owned by scallywags, determined to keep beneath the radar, whilst the ones with pretty roof gardens were the homes of aging hippies and those in search of a slower pace of life.
I think I could enjoy living on a narrowboat.