Friday, 22 September 2017

A tough locking day

Wednesday 20th September; Windmill End to beyond the Stourbridge 16

We thought we’d pull across to the water point and fill up while we finished breakfast.  But we didn’t have the right connector for the tap here so by 8 we were on our way to Blower’s Green, where we needed to stop anyway to empty a cassette.  It was another chilly morning, at least to start with.

Along the way we passed under Primrose Bridge, which used to be known as Geoff Astle's bridge.  Those of a certain vintage might remember the name of Geoff Astle, who played for West Bromwich Albion in some long ago competition.  Probably the FA cup, but I can’t find the photos I took last time we came this way, or what I found out about it; it may even have been when we were still on our share boat NB Padworth. Anyway, the fans kept renaming the bridge, and there was graffiti proclaiming ‘Geoff Astle is king’.  Little remains now apart from a small notice in the dark of the bridge ‘ole and the red paint below; I guess the fans who did the graffiti are either too infirm to get the spray cans out, or are no longer with us.  I think the red paint spells Astle but it’s very indistinct. 

2 geoff astle's bridge

St Andrew’s church is up high on Netherton Hill to the east of the canal.  Nicholson’s says that it is the site of mass graves of the victims of a cholera outbreak.  We moored at the facilities block at Park Head junction and while the water tank filled I walked up the Park Head locks to see the other end of Dudley Tunnel.  The gauge is in place over the portal and it looks even smaller than the other end where we went on the trip boat.  The gate is not part of a lock; it is presumably there to be used as a stop gate when necessary.

5 dudley tunnel parkhead end

Considering the cramped nature of the tunnel, that boats have to book passage, and especially that internal combustion engines must not be used, there is remarkably little warning at the south portal.

6 portal sign

There is a series of short arms at the locks, reminiscent of Bugsworth basin but on a smaller scale.  I didn’t spend much time here and as I returned to Parkhead Junction Dave had left the water point and was manoeuvring round the 90-degree bend to the lock in a tricky cross-wind.  It’s a deep lock and there was plenty of time for a picture of the pumping station building.

8 blowers green lock

We needed to restock the galley so moored above the Merry Hill shopping centre.  There used to be a Sainsbury's just across the car parks but that closed some years ago.  Now  you have to trudge through the entire covered area to get to the Asda at the far end – unless you want to get all your groceries in M&S, at a price!  Actually in retrospect I might have done that.  Merry Hill is a horrible horrible place.

Anyway we had lunch and decided to get on down the Delph locks at least.  They are deep locks and quite hard work.  This is the top lock.

9 delph locks are deep

And this is the restored row of stables near the top of the flight.  Shame about the graffiti.

10 delph stable block

We met three boats coming up and made good time.  The bywashes on this flight take the form of waterfalls and are impressive when water is flowing over them.  Here Dave waits for me to open the bottom lock for him, with the waterfalls in the background.

11 waiting for bottom lock to be ready

We didn’t fancy mooring between this flight and the Stourbridge 16 so we carried on.  We knew that a boat was ahead of us and he hadn’t stopped below the Delph flight, so once more the locks were all against us, and on some the bottom gates were open too.  We were nearly at the bottom before I remembered that we have a bike which would have made locking ahead a lot easier ….  Some of the gates are in poor condition and I hope they are on the winter maintenance list.

13 some stourbridge 16 gates are in poor condition

The top gates were heavy and although the weather was dry and not cold this flight is not the most enjoyable.  At least the locks are single width!  Between locks 9 and 10 (I think that’s right) the pound is only a few feet long and there is no room for two boats to pass.  Of course, this would be where we met the single boat coming up the flight! but I had read about the short pound so was aware we would need to wait for them to come up.

15 short pound between locks 9 and 10We were beginning to get tired but luckily we had bought sugary junk doughnuts in Asda to keep our energy levels up.  With four locks to go we found the boat in front was tying up at Dadford’s Warehouse for the night.

16 dadfords shed and remote control boat

The elderly owner has remote control, at least of the tiller, for locking but we didn’t have a chance to ask him about it.  We could have used the visitor mooring at the Red House Cone museum but it wasn’t really suitable for Meg so we gritted our teeth and went on to complete the flight.  We went on to find an open area in the countryside before we stopped and discovered a wonderful place to moor.  Now isn’t this a better view than an ugly and noisy temple to consumerism?

17 horses

There were 14horses in the field but the light was going and my little camera couldn’t really cope.  Dave had better luck when some of them went for a bit of a gallop. 

20 galloping

It was a heavy day of locking, but all the effort was worth it.

7 miles 25 locks

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