Monday, 4 April 2016

Tardebigge to Shirley

Saturday 2nd April

A bit of a slow start this morning - we heard the rain and stayed snug in bed before having a leisurely cooked breakfast.  We thought if it was going to rain all day we’d need something warming to start with!  But the rain eased off so by 10.30 we had cast off and pottered up to the top lock.  Luckily, a boat was just coming out which made life easier, though as it was wet I had to forego the usual step across the bottom gates to close them; I only do that in dry weather, when I’m feeling fit and if there are no children around to give a bad example to.  We’d hoped to empty a cassette at the wharf, but a boat was already there so as we’ve got two spares we thought we would wait until Kingswood junction.  Tardebigge and Shortwood tunnels were wet and a bit cold but the sun came out and we were cheered up by the sight of marsh marigolds (aka kingcups) in bloom.

1 kingcups

By the time we got to Alvechurch it was gone midday, so we moored up and I went down to the village for some provisions.  We’ve never visited Alvechurch before and I was pleased to find a greengrocer as well as a Co-op.  By now it was almost warm especially coming back up the hill with a heavy pack!  We set off again after lunch, under the M42 and past the Lower Bittell reservoir where the only birds to be seen were three cormorants.  On the towpath side, Alvechurch Fisheries has established a little fishing lake.  It looked rather comical, so many men sitting so seriously round a lake that was so small it needed an aeration system – either that or a large fish was blowing bubbles!

2 alvecote fisheries

Wast Hills tunnel is straight, so you can see the exit 2,726 yards away as you enter.  Another wet tunnel and cold, but quick as we didn’t meet any oncoming boats so were through in under half an hour.  We rounded King’s Norton Junction and I tried yet again to get an acceptable picture.

3 kings norton junction

The guillotine lock was covered with graffiti as usual so I took a different snap this time.  This is part of the works of the eastern side.

5 guillotine lock 2

The racetrack towpath from here has been freshly laid with tarmac.  Lovely for parents with buggies but also for the boy racers.  Further on the towpath is still being prepared for its transformation.  It’s a shame that the workforce don’t seem to know/care about mooring safely and used a handy tree to tie up to.  It was apparently only tied up at this end and the other was several feet out from the bank, although it didn’t move as we passed; the rope was straight down into the water as though it had a mud weight attached.

6 towpath improvements and bad mooring

At Brandwood Tunnel I took the obligatory snap of Shakespeare looking grim above the western portal.

7 shakespeare at brandwood tunnel

We took on water at bridge 5.  We thought we could hear chainsaws operating nearby, but then two young men came walking by with their grown-up-sized scooters, which had little 2-stroke engines attached.  They zoomed off once they had passed us, and in spite of the noise they didn’t seem to be going particularly fast.  Probably fun, though – they were very cheerful!

8 happy scooterists

We carried on in sunshine, though it was pretty cold in the dappled shade of the trees.  As we neared Shirley, we noticed how much new housing had sprung up since we were last this way, and it was creeping up to the moorings at the aqueduct, which used to feel quite rural.  Our usual spot was taken by a group of boats, one of which had this little addition, helpfully labelled ‘Man shed’ in case you wondered what it was.

9 man shed shirley

We moored a bit further on in full sun, which was lovely.  Dave had had a look at the Mikuni diesel heater while we were at Alvecote and discovered that the exhaust pipe was a bit loose and tightened it up with a new jubilee clip, but when he tested it this evening it still leaks so we’ll probably have to go to a boatyard to get it sorted.

13 miles, 1 lock, 4 tunnels (Tardebigge, Shortwood, Wast Hills, Brandwood)

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