We thought that we would have a fairly long day and wanted to get started up the Tardebigge Locks early so we entered the first lock at 7.50. None of the other boaters were stirring and in fact we saw no boats until we reached the half way point. A boat had arrived the previous evening so the first few locks were in our favour, and as the gates seem well maintained the locks hadn’t filled overnight. (The top paddles are fairly hard work to get moving however). We made very good time, around ten locks an hour even when we had to empty locks. Whichever of us was working the locks would raise the top paddles and run to the next lock to open the gates or raise the paddles if it was full, then return to shut the top gate of the previous lock. The steerer would by then have dropped that lock’s paddles, opened the gate and taken the boat out. Once or twice Alan would have shut the gate as well by the time I started back. We are a little more cautious now after the boat sailed away on the Shroppie!
The scenery on the Tardebigge flight is very chocolate box pretty especially at the higher levels when there are views over to the distant hills. However Alan’s total attention was focussed on the aerial farms (that’s what he calls them) at two cottages mid way up the flight. One even had a vast aerial mounted on a crane. I had thought that the crane was a permanent fixture but Alan says it was probably being set up (I was going to say mid erection but didn’t know if that was appropriate for a family blog!)
In the end we passed four boats descending, one of which was crewed by a Dutch family. They got caught on the wood edging while they waited in the pound for us to pass and we had to let water down. Some of the higher pounds were quite low, whilst in the mid section water was pouring over the by washes. We completed the thirty locks in 3 hours and 20 minutes and it hadn’t seemed too much of an effort: it would have been a different matter if we had tried them the previous day.
We went straight on through the Tardebigge and Shortwood Tunnels and moored at Alvechurch to get some shopping and the all-important Saturday Guardian. How else can we mark the passing of one week to the next? Alvechurch is very red brick suburban as you walk down from the canal but the centre has some attractive older properties and a really good selection of shops. The Co-op had plenty of Guardians – I never know when there are none if that’s because no-one reads them or everyone does which is why they are sold out. We took a different route back because Alan was of the opinion that we had got lost on the way down and the real route would be shorter. It may indeed have been a tad shorter but it probably took longer as we stopped to squint at the very small map on his phone which neither of us can read without reading glasses on, and to ask various people the way.
On we went to the tunnel that no one knows about. Or at least no one on NB Lazydays. The Wast Hill Tunnel is 2726 yards long so an equivalent of the Braunston or Blisworth and took us 30 minute to go through but it took both of us by surprise. It was certainly very easy to travel through as it’s straight and wide enough for two boats to pass. We had a little day boat behind full of kids that screamed and bellowed as soon as they got inside the tunnel. Probably adds to the fun but might also be why we took 30 minutes to transit a tunnel that the BW notice says should average an hour.
By the time we reached King’s Norton Junction it had already been a long day but we didn’t fancy the moorings at all and kept going onto the Stratford. We were going to blog about the IWA action that had swing bridge 2 reinstated as a working bridge having watched the wonderful programme on BBC2 on Friday night but found that it is no longer there at all, just the former swing mechanism. In fact there wasn’t anywhere we fancied stopping for a very long way and we decided to head on all the way to the moorings by Bridge 19 and to eat at one of the pubs.
There is a lift bridge at Major’s Green next to the appropriately named Drawbridge Pub. When we reached it there were three BW boffins looking at the innards of the electric box and poking at things. We were asked to wait for a while till repairs were completed. Alan wandered along to have a look at the moorings on the other side and then stuck his head into the group in a solidarity with men working way. Actually I was hoping that as an electronic engineer he would say Eureka and complete instant repairs so we could go on but he came back and said they had lost a hexagonal nut. One of the men walked backwards and forwards across the bridge several times, they all looked down at the ground for ages and then the nut was found and a test run was made. Needless to say we decided that no test was complete without a boat going through and steamed through quickly before it broke down again and we were stuck.
As we went on there was a lovely surprise when Alan was hailed by Halfie who had biked out to look for us and arrangements were made to meet up later. We finally moored at 7.45 after a twelve hour day and were out of the boat and over the bridge in record time. We had arranged to meet Halfie in the Bull’s Head which was fortunate as the Blue Bell stopped serving food at 6.00. There was a ten minute walk along a quiet country lane and then delicious smells from the Bull’s Head which turned out to be just the sort of pub we like. The food was wonderful, not fussy, just straightforward and well cooked with delicious flavour. Halfie arrived with his wife Jan, daughter Alison and son-in-law Ben and it was such a pleasure to have a good chat. A lovely end to the day.
Today we did 18.30 Miles, 30 Locks and 4 Tunnels (plus 1 from yesterday)
Statistics so far:-
2877.88 Miles, 1848 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 97 Lift Bridges, 56 Tunnels