Plans for today changed somewhat over dinner last night, when Adrian announced that he'd broken a tooth. A chunk had come off one of his molars, so we thought it probably needed looking at. So this morning, we set off at 8, heading for Stourbridge. Once the local dentists opened, Adrian started ringing round to try to get an appointment. The most convenient one said they'd be able to see him on Friday, but one a bit further away could do 9.45. We moored up between the Stour Aqueduct and Wordsley Junction, and Adrian went off to get a taxi to the dentist at Quarry Bank.
While he was gone, I ran a load of washing, washed the side of the boat, swept the chimney, and started a fire -- to try to harden off the stove blacking, which come sometimes produce a bit of smoke. After Adrian's initial assessment, the dentist said he'd have to wait if he wanted a filling done today -- but the wait turned out to be only twenty minutes. When it was all done, they called him a cab to bring him back to Stourbridge. Adrian was very impressed with the dental practice; maybe we should come to the West Midlands for treatment in future.
Consequently it was rather later than planned when we set off up the Stourbridge locks. There was a hire boat just coming down the bottom lock, and we met a few other boats returning from the Black Country Boating Festival, so they were all in our favour. The best part of the flight is about a third of the way up, where there's the huge Red House Cone, now a glassmaking visitor centre, and Dadford's shed, with a boat yard attached (where we spotted the butty, Kildare, out of the water having work done; it's usually paired with the steam powered motor boat, President). Then there's The Dock, a very pretty general store and off licence, although I'm not sure whether it still opens.
There are great views back down the flight at this point, too.
Lock's 9 and 10 are just a few feet apart, like a mini Bratch, with a huge side pond behind the adjoining cottage.
We completed all sixteen locks in a little over two hours, which seemed like pretty good going, and we had risen 145 ft. At the top is a junction, and we turned right to stay on the main line. It's very twisty, and at one bridge our chimney came to a bit of grief as it wouldn't fit. I'd realised the problem some way back, but still couldn't stop quite in time to prevent a small crunching of the chimney, until Adrian could go and take it down do we could proceed. To my surprise we passed a couple of hire boats along this stretch. We had lunch on the move during this interlude between locks.
Then we got to the Delph Locks. There are eight of them, although there used to be nine -- which explains why the bridge at the top is called Nine Locks Bridge, and the pub at the bottom is the Tenth Lock. In 1856, six new locks were built to replace seven old ones in the central section of the flight. They rise steeply up the hill, and there are dramatic overflow weirs alongside. Water levels weren't that high today, so the bottom couple were dry -- it was only further up that they began to flow.
Again, all the locks were in our favour. We met a boat at the second lock, and a Viking hire boat towards the top of the flight. From the top, the views must be really good on a clear day.
Just below the top lock, the course of the old locks can be seen. There's a typical Horsley Iron Works bridge over the old arm.
It was at the top lock that the rain started. As it had been forecast to be pretty bad all day, we'd done quite well so far with only having the odd bit of drizzle. The flight had taken us only around an hour, thanks to being able to set ahead easily. We carried on just a little further, and moored on the embankment overlooking the Merry Hill shopping centre. Remarkably, given the late start, we were all secure by around 3.30.
7 miles, 24 locks. (182 miles, 173 locks)