Friday, 22 March 2019

The plan was to creep quietly out of the marina …

Sunday 17th March; Droitwich Spa Marina to lock 33, Tardebigge flight

I am posting this on Friday 22nd March.  This trip has not been going to plan at all!

We were up early as the wind would be at its gentlest before 8 am.  We planned to leave quietly but the piercing whine, which disappears once the engine is going, wouldn’t stop!  Dave tried again but the engine wouldn’t fire.  We must have spoilt quite a few Sunday morning lie-ins. Out came the jump leads and Dave started the engine off the domestic batteries.  Then we did creep quietly out, to our great relief as the wind was visibly strengthening.  Up the Hanbury flight we went, to turn northwards up towards Birmingham.  The gauge at the top lock shows the Severn still in flood, and the Salwarpe, the little river which joins the canal on the way towards Droitwich, had come up in yesterday’s rain.  

The sky was blue and the sun was brilliant.  What a change from the last few days!  We are thankful to be on the canal and our route not constrained by river levels. 
It’s not just locks that get maintained during the winter, but at least work on the signs doesn’t give rise to a stoppage.  

This must be the first day for ages the people at the lock cottage have been able to hang their washing out without fear of it flying away!  It's a good drying day today.

Dave was kept busy doing the locking while I tried hard to get to grips with cruising in the wind.  It’s unfortunately necessary - I had major surgery in January (for bowel cancer) and it’s taking a while to get back to full fitness.

The towpath at Stoke Works is closed for several hundred yards at the moment.  There is a massive housing development under construction all along the canal.

We wondered if they will be offered as lovely properties with views of the canal – but a factory spreads its unlovely self all along the offside so purchasers might be rather disappointed!
I tentatively  went to set the bottom lock of the Stoke flight and managed ok, so I did a few more.  We pulled in at the Queen’s Head at lunchtime, not intending to go further today.  Dave went down the engine hole to investigate the starter battery while I admired the pussy willow. 

After lunch we walked up the flight to a little over half-way.  The noisy dogs in the Dog House were busy shouting at the Jack Russell walking in front of us and we slipped by without them really noticing.  But they were waiting as we came back! 

The locks in the lower part of the flight were all empty, so we decided to forgo a meal in the pub tonight and come up through the first 5 locks, to where there is a long-ish pound with a piled edge.  This would mean less work tomorrow – there are 30 locks in the flight and if another boat had started before us tomorrow, well that would be 5 more to set.  I locked ahead – opening the bottom gates on an empty Tardebigge lock is easy! then walked back to close up after Dave had raised the ground paddles and opened the top gates.  It worked a treat – he got the heavy work and I felt I’d achieved a decent amount of work without exhausting myself.  Fingers crossed for a good day tomorrow. 

It’s a much better lookout here than down at the bottom by the pub. 

5 miles, 20 locks, 1 failed starter battery