Saturday 16th June; Kingswood Junction to Hockley Heath
It rained overnight and we were slightly under the trees, so it was a bit drippy. And lock 20 leading to the north of the junction was leaky, so there was the sound of rushing water in the background too. Oh, and the trains …. nothing stopped us getting a good night’s sleep though! We were up quite early, and by 8 o’clock Meg and I were walking up to the shop for some milk and the paper. There is no dog mooring there – I had to tuck her lead under the lid of the metal locker outside the shop to stop her wandering about.
We were getting ready to leave when a boat came down the lock - very handy. I dropped off some rubbish in between working the first two locks. Here is Dave bringing Chuffed past the fishing lake opposite the water point.
We went smoothly up the first batch of locks. While I was setting lock 14, the bottom of the thick of the flight, I spotted a couple of animals in the field – rabbits or hares? They were too far away to tell with the naked eye. Mr Google says hares have black tips to their ears, but this zoomed and enlarged photo doesn’t really help me. I’d like it to be a hare but the last one I saw was sitting upright like a dog, so it’s probably just a bunny. Though it does have very long ears.
The flight stretches away up the hill, and we knew there were yet more locks round the bend at the top.
We got into our lock flight routine – Dave comes into a lock, I close the bottom gates, and while he deals with the top paddles I walk up to set the next one, before coming back to close up the lock he is just leaving. I had hoped to buy some plants at the little café but they didn’t open till later. I went down below to get some water and when I came back out there was a cheery volunteer. What excellent timing!
Some of the locks are in need of some TLC.
I asked the lockie if anything was ever going to get done about the top gate of lock 16. It often sticks halfway when you are opening or closing it and can be a real *ugger to deal with. I reported it last year – apparently it gets reported quite often, but never gets to the top of the list. He recommended giving it a bit of a bounce if it sticks.
Some of the locks were empty and some were almost full, but with the lockie’s help we made excellent time. Some of the side ponds have the pretty flowering rush in flower.
We were soon at the difficult lock 7. It’s not the lock that’s the problem, more the short curving pound below it. But with no-one coming down, Dave got into the lock with no trouble at all.
Last time we came up here, the rather overbearing owner coming down insisted we pull onto the lock mooring to give him a ‘clear run’ into the lock. It didn’t work but luckily his friend, who was steering, was going so slowly there was no damage.
The cottage is proper chocolate box, with roses growing all up the front wall. It’s a shame that a car with a cover over it is parked outside to spoil the photos.
The lockie left us at the next lock to help the boats that were following some way behind. There is a gap now before the last two pairs of locks. The yellow water-lily grows along this stretch. It’s known as ‘brandy bottle’ as the seed heads resemble old-fashioned brandy bottles.
A timber yard runs alongside the canal between the top two locks. We needed a strip of wood to repair one of the front lockers, so the plan was to moor above the top lock and walk back. But as I came back from opening the top lock, I heard the sound of a metal door sliding shut. A quick shout through the hedge established he was about to close, it being nearly midday, but would wait … so Dave climbed down the bank and by the time I had taken the boat into the top lock he was back with his wood cut exactly to size.
The cottage below the lock has a beautifully kept garden alongside the towpath.
We carried on towards Hockley Heath. There were two lift bridges to complete the morning’s work; the first one is harder than the second. We stopped at the start of the visitor moorings and Dave popped up to the chippie for a change from cheese sandwiches for lunch. We didn’t go far after that – there is a quiet mooring shortly before bridge 24, not too shady and with enough depth to get right in to the side. It was hard work this morning, so I just read the paper. Dave painted his bit of wood and took Meg off for a decent walk. We were just wondering whether to go for a pint back at the pub when the heavens opened, with thunder, so we didn’t.
3½ miles, 19 locks, 2 lift bridges