Sunday 1 April 2018


Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

It was a bright and sunny morning as we prepared to set off, with the 30 locks of the Tardebigge flight ahead of us, not to mention the last of the Stoke flight for starters. In fact the pound between the Stoke and the Tardebigge locks is shorter than some mid-flights pounds.

Just after the first lock we spotted this windmill across the fields. So far we have not learnt anything about it - in fact we do not recall seeing it before. It looks suspiciously new and is not marked on any of the maps we have looked at. Google also drew a blank. Mystery!

Stoke Top out of the way we could set our timer to see how long it would take to clear the flight. However, as we rounded the corner we could see that another boat had just set off, with another coming along just behind us. Such a close convoy meant that we could not set the next lock before leaving the previous one as we soon caught up with this boat. This added perhaps a minute or so to the time for each lock. Our log records that we entered the bottom lock at 9:35.

There are several lock cottages dotted along the flight, not all of them easily accessible by road, as well as the usual ones at top and bottom.

Locks 31 and 32 have very slippery coping stones - as Mike quickly discovered. One of the crew from the following boat remarked that he had almost slid into the lock at the first. Only afterwards did we see that warnings signs have been fixed to the lock beams which we do not think were there last year - perhaps there has been an incident or a complaint!

The locks continue unremitting - a couple have large radio installations - GCHQ branching out? Just in case there is an invasion up the Severn and along the canal into Birmingham?

Andrew has recently bought a new camera, one that takes 360 pictures. We have had to get used to the fact that an arm raised is not necessarily a signal but a camera shot in progress!

Someone has decorated all of the locks with a small knitted flower. They look very new - we did not see them when we walked along here during the ice age few weeks back. Perhaps they are an Easter gift to all boaters and walkers?

Gradually we rose up to the level of the reservoir which built to feed the whole of the Worcester and Birmingham canal.

A major bank repair was carried out over the winter - which what we came to look at on our walk. The contractors have done a good job at clearing up - this was the main compound where mortar and concrete were being prepared.

The repair was describe as a Rotating Wall, presumably as the whole wall was collapsing into the water at the foot of the reservoir embankment. Now that the pound has been refilled it is hard to see all the hard work that went into the repair - no doubt most of the visitors walked by without realising what had to be done.

This lock cottage is barely visible from the towpath - even more so when the trees are in full leaf. Actually there is quite a substantial house at a level below the canal.

Just above the penultimate lock stands the former Engine House, now converted into dwellings. It originally pumped water from the reservoir a little lower down but ceased operation in 1914 when water was fed from the Upper Bittell Reservoir by gravity.

And so we reached the top lock! The log records our departure at 13:56 some 4 hours and 21 minutes after starting. Given that we were closely following another boat this was quite respectable.

We then pulled in to the wharf where there are all the usual boater's services. Whilst the water tank filled, we had our lunch - much anticipated.

Eventually we set off once more and passed through the Tardebigge and Shortwood Tunnels. As we approached the latter we could see lights coming towards us, but since this is a two-way tunnel we entered. They turned out to be three canoeists, one on a stand-up paddle board. The experience did little to convince us that allowing unpowered craft into major tunnels is not a great idea (there are signs forbidding it but this had been a recent subject of controversy )

We were now on a long level, right into the centre of Birmingham, not that we were intending to go that far tonight!

A new marina is nearing completion just after Bridge 61. However there was no information on display about either what it is to be called where to enquire about booking a mooring. No doubt that will soon change.

We later worked out that this is Withybed Moorings. Their website shows that it has been a long haul (over 15 years since they first started on planning!) to get to this point and that they re now hoping to remove the final barrier and admit boats at the Spring Bank Holiday.

We continued a little further as we found no useful space to moor at our planned target of Lower Bittell Lake. We eventually pulled in just beyond the official visitor moorings at Hopwood we spurned the useful rings in favour of a spot where we could expect a tv signal!

8,1 Miles - 31 Locks

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