Thursday, 22 October 2015

The ‘21’ and the Curly Wyrley

Wednesday 7th October; Stoke Pound to Roughwood Country Park

We awoke to a bang! The wind had got up overnight and a gust had blown us against the shelf below the waterline. Before we left, Dave went down the engine hole and saw to a loose connection he spotted last night in the battery department, which we hope may improve the poor charging problem. We have been having to turn the fridge off earlier and earlier in the evening over the last few days.

A fishing match was just setting up as we approached Autherley Junction. It was due to start about 20 minutes later, so they were all waves and cheery smiles as we passed. There was a short queue at the stop lock; we were second of three. The boat in front of us has one of those fascinating names; ‘Revenue’s Revenge’. I wish I’d asked him for the story behind it, though it sounds as though it could be a sad one.  Soon we were at the bottom of the Wolverhampton flight, which I always enjoy as the locks aren’t difficult and are mostly close enough for easy locking ahead. I had to turn the first half-dozen until we met a couple of boats coming down, then the last half-dozen were also against us. Even so, we were up within three hours.

At lock 16 I always remember a sad old man who used to sit and watch the boats.  When we came this way maybe 6 or 7 years ago on our share boat (nb Padworth) he told me how he and his late wife used to holiday in Torquay every year, and every year came back with a Torbay palm.  Over the years nearly every front garden on the terrace ended up with one of these, and I remember the astonishing sight –  Torquay seafront in Wolverhampton and you could hardly see the houses for the palms!  Sadly over the years the front gardens have been paved over for parking and this is all that remains.

1 still a few palms wolverhampton 21

At lock 15 is a stone in the lock tail with the date inscribed; as the BCN was joined to the Staffs and Worcester at Aldersley Junction in 1772, I think this lock must have had some work done in 1861!

2 engraved stone wolverhampton flight

I also noticed a benchmark in the steps at lock 6 or 7.  These were chiselled into structures to act as reference points for surveyors.  An angle iron was placed into the horizontal groove to act as a bench for the surveying rod, and the arrow mark below just indicated its position.  I read somewhere that these are no longer used for surveying in case subsidence (or rebuilding of steps) has occurred which would make them useless.

3 benchmark about lock 6 0r 7

I also noticed that the gate paddles on this flight are all marked with ‘L’ or ‘R’, presumably for the benefit of maintenance crews.  You just have to make sure you’re looking downhill when you are fitting them.  I’ve never noticed this before.  Is it the same for all paddles on paired gates? 

4 gate paddles left and right marked

After a belated lunch at the top we had to wrap up well against the chilly wind – fleeces and hats – before turning onto the Wyrley and Essington canal at Horseley Fields junction. A new waterway for us!  It’s very industrial to start with. Here’s a slightly unusual scrapyard for ex stock-cars.

7 scrapyard on w&E

We were looking out for the mirrored bridge – it’s not exactly a bridge, more a shiny arch. But fun all the same.

8 mirror arch on w&e  12 mirror arch on w&e

There is a short stub where the Bentley canal used to join;

13 bentley canal start

and behind it is the large Bentley shopping park, which has some big name shops such as Next and TK-Maxx, and a large Sainsbury’s near the canal at the far end. The canal was very built-up for the first few miles, with a lot of new or newish housing. We saw a posh duck house, but Knight’s bridge is a bit more downmarket than its namesake in London ……

15 knights bridge

 15 posh duckhouse

We’d got the ‘safe’ mooring list from the BCN Society website and wondered about going on to Sneyd Junction, but thought it might be quite noisy from the M6 which is not far away there. So when we saw a good edge opposite the Roughwood Country Park we slipped gently in – plenty of depth and not too much weed. A dog-walker said kids can be a nuisance here, but as it’s dark by 7 now we thought we’d chance it.

17 mooring opposite roughwood country park

Good call – just a few dog walkers this evening, and though housing isn’t far away there were several acres of open grassy land and paths for Meg to have a good run.  Dave replaced the hot-plate at the back of the fire so we could have a toasty fire this evening.  I’d hoped to get an ‘action photo’ of the operation but there wasn’t room!

Unfortunately the battery bank is not fully holding charge and it looks as though new batteries are needed.  If we lived aboard we would probably have turned round this morning and gone back to Norbury Junction where the chandlery has an offer, but we need to be down at Droitwich Spa in a week or so.  So the fridge is off and all the stuff from it is wrapped in wet newspaper, left outside at night, crammed into the cold cupboards under the sink during the day as the air temperature isn’t that low outside in spite of the cold wind.

21 locks, eight and a half miles.  We didn’t see a moving boat after mid-morning.

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