Thursday, 7 April 2016

Starting Lapworth locks

Sunday 3rd April; Shirley to Lapworth locks

We were a bit too close to the pub I think.  There was a lot of noise till well after closing time, though it didn’t keep Dave awake!  It rained in the night, but the sun was shining as we got up.  Dave wandered down to the small Sainsbury’s near the railway station at about 10 to get the paper, and we cast off at about 10.30.  We had been warned that the lift bridge might need several goes before it worked, but it was fine.  Although I did learn that when the display says ‘barriers raised’ it doesn’t mean it’s finished - if you take your finger off the button the barriers start to come down again, to the horror of the cars that are impatient to get away!  But it quickly responds when you jam your finger down again.  You have to wait for the clonk and the message that says you can take your key out all of one second later.

1 shirley drawbridge 1

There was no locking to be done and I was freezing cold in spite of thermals and the sunshine, so I made myself a hot water bottle – lovely!  Meg didn’t mind though and was happy smelling the smells and enjoying the sun.

3 whiffly nose

It was slow going past the moored boats at Earlswood and Warings Green but it didn’t matter.  We moored before bridge 20 on one of the short stretches of dryish towpath to pop up to Wedge’s bakery and get some bread and bits for lunch, and an extravagantly magnificent Apple Danish for Dave (though he’d eaten it up before I could take a snap).  I made do with a rather yummy chocolate brownie cake.

After lunch we carried on through Hockley Heath.  The towpath is a quagmire in some places, yet almost completely dry a few yards further on.  I rather like the tracery of shadow in the second picture.

4 squishy towpath after M42  5 but many drier bits too

We saw our first duck’s nest of the year.  The female was turning her eggs as we passed, but by the time I had got my camera ready we had gone by and the drake was blocking the view.  The duck’s breast looks like a great lump on the side of his head!

6 first duck nest

We had a compliment from  a hire boat this morning – ‘the best name we’ve seen on this holiday!’  They can’t have liked this one much, though it made us laugh…

7 but do I like the name

There are two manually operated draw bridges on this section.  This is the first, where unusually I found lowering it to be harder work than raising it.

8 approaching drawbridge 26

I knew one of these bridges was a bit of a bugg*r but couldn’t remember which – it was the second, just past some permanent moorings.  We moored up above the top of Lapworth locks, where we had planned to stop for the night, but it was quite close to a fast road and there were several gaps in the hedge where Meg could have easily got through.  So we walked down the flight to see if there was a better spot, and decided to go down the first four locks to the long pound between locks 5 and 6 (the first one of the flight is number 2, as the stop lock at King’s Norton is still number one even though it is no longer used).  This CRT workboat was moored on the lock landing at the top – naughty!  Why don’t they use piling hooks like the rest of us?

9 bad CRT lapworth top lock

A boat was just coming out of the top lock, and left the gate open for us. 

10 lapworth top lock

We moored eventually a couple of hundred yards before lock 6.  Blissfully quiet, safe for the dog, and with just enough passers-by on the towpath for interest.

7 miles, 4 locks, 3 drawbridges (2 manual)


  1. That lift bridge at Shirley is fun when a car, or in one case a Sky van, tries to jump the lights and the barrier and is on the deck when it starts to lift! Its happened to us three times. One time the car driver shouted that it was my fault because "I could see he was on the bridge when I started to lift it"!
    And you're right, that bridge near the top lock is an absolute bu99er.
    Say 'Hello' to our boat when you go past the basin below lock 19.


    NB 'Red Wharf'

    1. Hi Sam
      The last time we came through it failed with the gates down but at least no-one shouted at us! Because of lack of internet signal I am several days behind with the blog - now in Stratford - and have only just picked up your message, so will try and pop in when we go onto the Grand Union
      Best wishes Debby