Tuesday 18 October 2022

Stoke (Tardebigge Bottom)

Today's Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

We did not moor last night quite as close to Tardebigge as perhaps we should have done - we were getting too accustomed to stopping half way through the afternoon as the evenings draw in earlier. As a result we were prepared to start early and Mike was underway just after 8:30.

As forecast, it was a perfectly clear and sunny day through out. At first, everything was rather cold to touch but the air temperature

was already nearing 'comfortable' and before long it was pleasant indeed.

Back at the start of the season the house at Bittell reservoir was surrounded by scaffolding and intensive updating was in progress. Now it looks very splendid, free of the builders and resplendent in the sunshine.

In between moored boats we managed a good shot of the reservoir, fuller than we might have expected in the light of reports about others. 

In the garden of a canal-side house, just after the Crown Meadow Arm:

This unusual but fine looking hut (too solid to call it a yurt, we think) stands in the grounds of Withybed Moorings. It has a solid fuel heater so meant for sleeping in. Does it appear on AirBnB? Or is it the Marina Manager's Office?

Alvechurch Marina staff were preparing for a boat lift - not one of their hire fleet but a privately owned one.

Two tunnels today, both of similar length. As we entered the first we could see a boat going in the same direction as ourselves - oh dear, will we have to wait for them at the locks?

As we approached the start of Tardebigge Tunnel we could see the spire of the village church - the other side of the hill!

As we emerged from the tunnel we could see that the boat ahead had just pulled in at the service wharf and was preparing to fill their water tank, so we could go straight down to the top lock. However, as Christine went to fill the lock she spotted a boat approaching from below so we had to wait until they had come through. It was another 20 minutes before we were on our way.

The first lock is very deep but all the others are almost identical. Hence, this one photo is all that is needed - any more would just be repetitive! (The locks were, however)

Tardebigge Reservoir is several locks down from the summit and back in the Spring it looked healthily full. So it was a shock to see just how much depleted it has become in the interim. As plenty of water was being fed down from the Birmingham Level perhaps the reservoir is not being called on at the moment.

By 2 o'clock we had completed 19 locks and we were desperate for a food break, not having had much since we started. (No mid morning coffee!) There are no real stopping places in mid flight but with limited traffic we felt able to moor on a lock landing, so long as we kept a beady eye for any approaching boats (there were none). We were also alongside the cottage with all the radio equipment.

Our lunch break was about half our normal standard but it was good to be refreshed. Only 11 more locks to go. Just after we were descending the next lock a hire boat appeared from  above with at least three active crew. However, we largely kept our pace although they did offer to close up a couple of locks after us so that we could get a bit further ahead.

Alas, just after bridge 50, with six  more locks to go, the battery on the camera ran out, so no more photos!

The rest of the flight continued as before and it was 17:03 when we emerged from the bottom lock, 30 from the top. We were able to moor up just around the corner, far enough away from the pub to avoid noise and cooking odours!

Overall, all but three locks were against us and needed filling before we could descend. It dhad taken 5 and a quarter hours, not our best time but by the time we tied up we we felt quite tired but mentally very pleased with our achievement. Going down hill with just two of us is always a challenge, especially as closing up the bottom gates adds quite a bit of time to progress. Although the bottom gate paddles were mostly OK to lift, many of the top paddles were very difficult and in a couple of cases (including the last lock!) definitely a challenge.

7.1 Miles - 30 Locks

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