Sunday, 25 September 2022

Autumn Cruise: Day 6

We had a lovely evening with Andy and Helen last night.  They picked us up from the bridge and we went to the Wolferstan Arms in the next village.  The food was good enough, but of course the company was exemplary!  We had a lot to catch up on.

This morning we set off at 8.30.  A corner in Amington marked the most northerly point of our cruise.  Just before Glascote Locks, Adrian jumped off the boat to get some milk from the Co-op; a boat was coming out of the top lock, so I went straight in.

A boat was also coming up the lower lock, so that was easy, and as we went down a boat arrived below.  Before Fazeley Junction, we made a brief stop to remove a load of reeds from the weedhatch.  We also discussed whether we have ever done the Curdworth Locks going up — and didn’t think we had; we’ve always come down them, heading away from Birmingham.  The turn at the junction onto the Birmingham And Fazeley was much tighter than I’d expected.  It confirmed our suspicion that we hadn’t done that particular turn before, and I was so busy making it that I didn’t take any photos.  However, a towpath walker said “you’ve done that before — well done”, and I didn’t argue with him!  Work to convert the mill at the junction into flats appears to have been completed; a boat was turning at the winding hole straight after the Coleshill Road Bridge, which confused me for a moment, and then it was through the Drayton Footbridge.

I’d forgotten how lovely the next section of canal is.  Once the road has veered off it’s quiet, surrounded by gravel pits, and very serene.  There are long straight sections, and after the final bridge before the locks I could see a boat ahead, arriving at the lock landing.  When we approached several minutes later, we could see it was a single hander, who was taking his time.  So we decided to moor up and have a walk around some of the lakes of the Kingsbury Water Park, to give him a head start.  We walked around two of the lakes, and popped into a couple of the hides to see what was about — which was mostly swans, Canada geese, and coots.  It’s still a rather lovely area though.

Back at the boat we had a rather early lunch — Adrian had checked the dates on the tins of soup in the cupboard, and found one with a best before of 2016, so we had that!  We set off up the locks at 12.15.  The bottom few are a good distance apart.  When we got to the fourth lock up, the single hander was there.  He looked in quite a bad way, puffing and blowing as he climbed up off the boat.  I closed the bottom gate for him, and he opened a top paddle.  His boat had a push tug, which is a little workshop for welding and cratch cover repairs.  But he said he’d recently been diagnosed with a lung condition, and this was his first set of lock, to see how he got on; he’d decided four was enough (which we were quite glad about).  As we left the same lock, a boat was coming towards us, so we could leave the gate open — but the steerer told us there was almost no water above the next lock.  When I got up there, a lady was just about to fill the lock for her boat coming down.  There was very little water, and I wondered about the wisdom of taking another lock full out of the pound — but she pointed out that if we went up, it was unlikely the two boats would be able to get past each other.  I said I’d go and run some more water down, as as I passed he husband on the boat I could see he was aground in the middle of the pound.  Pounds were low all the way up the flight, so I opened bottom and top paddles on all locks all the way up to number 2, where I waited.  The pound between lock 2 and lock 1 is about half a mile long, so I didn’t mind pinching its water.  I waited for about 20 minutes, then had a phone call from Adrian saying he’d come up the lock and was edging towards the next one.  I walked back down, closing paddles as I came.

Above the next lock, there are massive workings on both sides of the canal for HS2.

At least the next few locks are fairly close together, because more water needed to be run down.  I ended up walking up and down that part of the flight many times, but those pounds are also shorter, so quicker to fill.

The whole flight feels as though it’s on the edge of failure (which it actually did on Friday, while a paddle was repaired).  Several locks have a paddle out of action, and gates and cills leak like nobody’s business.  It’s no wonder the flight is short of water.  By the time we got there, even the pound between locks 2 and 1 was a bit low.  We eventually got to the top, having taken just a few minutes shy of three hours to do the 11 locks.  And we’d been warned that the levels above the flight were also pretty bad — down by about 8 inches I reckoned.  It meant that when we went through the diminutive Curdworth tunnel, I thought I was going to have to get off and push, it was such a struggle.

We were aiming for the moorings by Wiggins Hill Bridge.  We’ve previously stopped by the Cuttle Bridge Inn’s car park, where there have normally been loads of boats and spaces were at a premium.  Today however, there was no-one moored there.  We’ve also seen people moored the other side of the bridge, where the road is further away and there are fields over the towpath bridge — so we went through.  This proved to be a mistake, as the lack of water meant it was impossible to get the stern anywhere near the bank.  So we’ve moored with a moat round the boat, the stern several feet out.  We just hope the levels don’t drop any further.  We now have a chicken roasting in the oven.  For the past few days the gas has had the telltale smell that the bottle is running out, and sure enough it’s just run and and we’ve had to change it.  The bottle has lasted a year and a day.

11 miles, 13 locks.  (89 miles, 50 locks)


Nev Wells said...

Thats committed cruising - we briefly toyed with the idea of doing the ring but chickened out - glad we did. Hopefully you will have some water in the morning. The Ashby is so far ok, apart form the early bit near the mobile homes.... lots of rock on view there !

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

The water park is best visited from mid-evening onwards. Once most people, especially the dog walkers, have gone home the wildlife comes out to play and there's much more to see.