Tuesday 8 September 2020

Stoke Pound

 Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

We were off in very good time this morning (ie just a few minutes after 8) as we had about an hour cruise to the top of Tardebigge which was our main task for today. The day stared grey again but improved through the morning with sunshine breaking through by noon, lasting until tea time.

Just over half an hour and we entered Shortwood Tunnel - as can be seen this wide and very straight. However, we met nothing coming the other way and were through in about 10 minutes.

Twenty minutes later we passed the Anglo Welsh boatyard. At this time of day not much was happening and it did not appear to be a turn around day, although did see a number of their boats yesterday afternoon.

Then it was into Tardebigge Tunnel, very similar to Shortwood, both just over half a kilometre in length.

We stopped at the workshop service facility to empty elsan and dispose of rubbish but we did not need water today. Off then to the top lock in the 30 lock flight. We entered at 9:34. This lock is nit only very much deeper than the rest but also the next pound is quite long.

The second lock delayed as we did not immediately spot that the boat ahead of us (yes, there was one so most of the locks were empty) had left a bottom paddle up. The bottom paddles on just this lock has an hydraulic mechanism and the top of the paddle is shrouded in a metal frame. On one gate there is a clear indicator to show whether it is open or not but this is missing from the other.

There were no volunteers in sight at this stage so we worked steadily down with our own particular scheme: Christine went ahead to fill the lock and open the gate whilst Mike came down the previous one. As soon as the boat was in a lock he hopped off, perhaps closing the gate, then emptying at the bottom. As we no longer feel up to leaping across the gap between the bottom gates this means walking back to the top end and down the other side. Mike then climbed down the lock ladder to move the boat out of the lock. There is then a set of steps which he could use to alight from the stern and take with him a rope so that he did not lose the boat! He then closed the gates, again walking all around the lock. These antics are repeated at each lock but we quickly gained our rhythm. If we get the timing right, Christine is just opening the next top gate when Mike is ready to cruise from the previous one - all the locks now are very close together.

After about seven locks a volunteer arrive but apologised that he would be back after having gone up to the 'hydraulic' lock to check as he had noticed rather a lot of water coming down. He was happy with how we had left it!

From now on we had help that speeded up  our progress a little but made it much less effort! After a while, Christine swapped over to do the steering, but she did not have to tend the bottom gates.

We did meet two boats coming up - here the crew of one waiting for their boat to cross with us in the short pound - chatting to 'our' volunteer. This did mean that we could leave the bottom gates for a couple of locks and have a similar number filled and ready for us. After that it was back to having them all against us.

The volunteer met up with another that had been further down the flight and they paused to have their lunch at their base alongside Lock 41. This left us to carry on on our own but they did suggest that we could leave the bottom gates for them to close as they came back to find us once more a little later.

By Lock 42, the unbroken grey cloud had started to break and patches of blue emerged. The day warmed up considerably and  by the time we were nearing the end of the flight it was very hot indeed.

Alongside this lock a combine harvester was rapidly clearing the field. By the time we arrived at the next it was already part way through another field.

Christine managed to make mugs of coffee as she waited i the locks and, together with another piece of eccles cake, we staved off lunch until we finished the flight.

Another volunteer joined the party for the final lock and we waved them all farewell with thanks for their assistance. We completed the flight at 13:44, just ten minutes over four hours - around 7.5 locks an hour.

We continued around the corner to find a mooring that was not quite opposite the popular Queens Head. There were plenty of customers, socially distanced of course, but our noses to guess that most of them opted for deep fried something!

Our lunch break was somewhat extended - so much so that by the time we thought about making a decision, it was really too late to do any more locks - the next flight of 6 starts a few metres around the corner! Hence we turned it into an overnight stop. We did do just a little cleaning and maintenance, but only enough to feel other than totally lazy! The onset of autumn could be seen in the drainage channels around the back deck which were rather clogged up with dead leaves.

5.8 Miles - 30 Locks

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