Friday 19 April 2024

Three Tunnels to Kings Norton

Today's  Canal - Worcester and Birmingham

This milestone, almost opposite our overnight mooring, is dedicated to Rev Alan White. For some time he was both Chaplain and head of Mathematics at Bromsgrove School and later became priest-in-charge of Tardebigge Parish. He became a popular historian of the local area, the canals in particular and published a number of books.

As we prepared to set off there was still a light drizzle but it quickly cleared and most of the day was quite sunny but the stiff breeze meant that warmer layers were still needed.

Just a short distance to the last lock in the Tardebigge flight, much deeper than all of the others. As Christine steered the boat into the lock it came to a dead stop, half in and half out. No amount of forward or reverse would shift it (and, no we had not left a fender down) Eventually, Mike was able to flush the boat out with a short burst through a top paddle. The boat, once free, came in smoothly,  but to be safe Christine kept it moving forward and backwards as the lock was filled.

However, with the top gate open, the boat only moved a couple of metres before once again stopping, this time very firmly, with no opportunity for flushing. We pushed and pulled, tried the engine and muscle to no avail. We identified the point at which something was caught but it was about 300 mm below the surface. We tried forcing it down with long pole but as soon as it was a little bit loose it floated back up enough to re-establish the blockage. The final trick, before ringing CaRT, was to get several people to step on and off the gunnel to see if rocking it would help. Surprisingly, this did loosen it enough to reverse a bit further and to make sure that the obstacle - probably a piece of wood but we never saw it - did not catch again. Despite taking what felt like a long time, the boat ahead of us had still not quite finished with the water point.

As, by now, there was a queue for the service point, we did not completely fill the water tank and left as soon as we had dealt with the various disposals. At least the washing machine had completed its task - Christine set it going as soon as we turned on the engine.

The first tunnel is only a very short distance beyond the wharf. (This maintenance base, still used today, was not the original wharf which is the other end of the tunnel and now used by Anglo Welsh as a bhore base)

The towpath at the site of the bank slippage that delayed us at the end of last year, is still closed but it seems that there is no advance warning or even explanation. Two walkers were frantically consulting their maps and smartphone to find an alternative route.

Little has changed since the canal was cleared and the bank made safe, if not yet passable on foot.

Shortwood was the second tunnel - neither remarkably long, 8 or 9 minutes each.

We continued through Alvechurch and found a lunch mooring opposite Withybed  Moorings who kindly found us space to moor for the weeks while we had to wait for the canal to re-open, allowing us to return home instead.

This stretch of towpath looks uninteresting, save for that it seems to have been re-built more recently than the adjacent sections.

However, this was where line of the canal re-joined at one end of a short diversion that was created when the nearby motorway was built. Seemingly it was cheaper to do this that raise the elevation of the road which was otherwise too low to give sufficient clearance for  boats - the road is on an incline at this point (even if our photo does not  make it very clear!)

We were now on the Birmingham Level with a long cruise uninterrupted by locks. Just after passing Bittell reservoir we spotted the place where a fallen tree closed the canal for a couple of days last week. Surprising that no liveaboards have yet taken advantage of the neat pile of logs.


t did not look as if the tree was as substantial as some and only minor damage to the offside bank resulted from the fall.

And so to Wast Hill Tunnel, very much longer than the other two - about 2500m. Despite it taking a little over half an hour to navigate, we did not have to pass another boat coming southwards.

Just after the tunnel we stopped for the night on the moorings a little south of Kings Norton Junction, a spot we have stopped at several times before.

9.1 Miles - 1 Lock

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