Tuesday 13th October; Alvechurch to Stoke Pound
We were away by 9 in bright sunshine before plunging into Shortwood Tunnel (wet) and then Tardebigge (dry). We stopped at the facilities block to empty a cassette and dump rubbish. The bins had just been emptied and I inadvertently put the rubbish into the recycling bin, which was sideways on and it was just by chance I spotted the writing on the side. Why are the rubbish and recycling bins all red and why isn’t the recycling one separated from the general waste bins? I’ve stopped using the red recycling bins as so many people don’t realise/don’t care about the recycling and just sling their rubbish in. Anyway I got the boathook and fished it out to put it in the right bin. We started down the 30-lock Tardebigge flight just after 10. One day I must visit Tardebigge Church which has a beautiful and unusual spire.
In spite of the lovely sunshine there was a biting wind and all the walkers were well wrapped up. The Tardebigge Engine House looked as though it was being renovated last time we were here. It used to be the Tyler’s Lock pub, and is now luxury apartments after an application for change of use to offices was refused. Strictly Private now, with notices to that effect.
There were lots of dogs taking their owners for walks. Near the reservoir Meg started to play with a larger dog before deciding it was too scary, but in taking evasive action she tipped herself into the canal! Luckily she is quite light and I could easily pull her out though I got pretty wet when she shook herself. This is the innocent cause of her downfall with its apologetic owner behind.
The other day as we were going through Wast Hills tunnel, Dave wondered how many bricks had been used and where they had been made. Today I spotted this stamped into a brick in one of the lock surrounds.
At about the halfway point of the flight is a damson tree. Ripe fruit was still on it but too high to reach. One of the locks near the bottom of the flight has a footpath crossing it, but I don’t remember the footbridge last time we came this way. It is a sort of cantilever arrangement and there is a small drop to the bank on the towpath side.
We got into a splendid rhythm as we worked down. Apart from the top lock, I had to turn every single one, but luckily it is easy to see if there is a boat on its way up (or not, today). I would leave Dave coming into the lock I had just opened while I walked back to close up the previous one. As he worked down his lock, I went on to the next but one, where I raised a top paddle before coming back to open the gate of the one below Dave’s lock, then as he brought Chuffed towards that one I walked back to close up the lock he’d just left ….. It worked beautifully and we were down in 3 hours 40 minutes. I did a lot of walking though – the flight is about a mile and a half long. The work was made a little easier by the pawl catches on the ground paddles – they are the pivoted sort that can be released by a little movement of the windlass when you start to wind down, so you don’t have to hold them out of the way. When you are operating 30 of them (not 60 – I only raised the paddles on the towpath side) this makes a considerable saving of effort!
I had been hoping to give my shorts a last glimpse of the sun today; but although I got hot working the locks and walking downhill, every time I turned round to go back uphill I was going straight into the freezing wind. We were relieved that there was plenty of space to moor at the bottom of the flight.
The moorings seem to have been improved since we were here last. My legs were tired – I must have walked the flight three times in all – so I lazed about inside this afternoon (apart from going over to book a table at the pub) while Dave stayed out in the cold doing more paint touch-up work. The only two boats we saw on the move today came down later in the afternoon and moored in front of us – one a hire boat from Worcester which had only gone up to Alvechurch the day before. Gluttons for punishment!
At 7 we walked over to the lovely warm pub and had a pleasant meal. How on earth did I miss the sign saying 25% off everything between 5 and 7 o’clock when I went in to book? Then I did a double-take when I went into the ladies – these two lovely chaps were standing there grinning at me….
They are of course photos reflected in the mirror! Almost life-size and pasted to the cubicle doors (looking out, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable if they were looking in ….). I think they are Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Rather nice to look at but a bit of a surprise to start with!
30 locks, 5 miles, Shortwood tunnel (613 yards, wet) and Tardebigge tunnel (580 yards).