Saturday 5 October 2019

Top (almost) to bottom

Monday 30th September; Tardebigge flight
We needed an early start today, so we could reach Stoke Pound before the forecast rain arrived in the early afternoon.  So by 8.30 Dave had cast off and I was walking to lock 2 (we came down the top lock last night, of course, to get to the good moorings).  Along the way I passed a milestone which has been dedicated to the memory of Alan White, a canal historian as well as a man of the cloth.

Although a boat had come up yesterday afternoon, so leaving the locks full, and we were the first boat down today, there is a lot of leakage and many of the locks were against us.  Most were completely empty, but some mysteriously were nearly full – I wonder if those were the ones that had work done on them last winter?

I took a couple of photos near the top, but I worry that my phone will fall out of my pocket, so I put it back on the boat to avoid any mishap.  This is the first, or maybe the second, lock.  I do seem to be having trouble holding my phone level.  I must get my camera fixed.

We saw no-one but dog walkers and runners for a long time.  Then at about half-way we met a hire-boat, which had left Worcester on the Saturday afternoon.  We were the first moving boat they had seen in nearly two days!  The lovely chaps on boards had fished a punctured football out of the canal, which Meg was very glad to receive.  She had a lot of fun with it, but unfortunately lost it later – there is a sharp drop on the landward side of the towpath all the way along here, and eventually, after having forced her way through undergrowth once to retrieve it, she abandoned it when it rolled down a second time.  One thing the crew said though was how clean they were finding the canal – they hadn’t seen a single plastic bottle - so congratulations to the local volunteers (including Jennie and Chris on Tentatrice) who keep it that way!

As we dropped down towards the little car park at about half way we spotted a volunteer donning his lifejacket.  He offered us help, but we were doing really well so sent him up to help the hirers, who were struggling a little.  Our system was great – I’d walk down to set the next lock and open the gate, before walking back to where Dave had entered the previous lock, closed the top gate, and opened  the bottom paddles.  He'd open both gates too if I hadn't got back in time to do the towpath side.  Then I'd close up while he was on his way to the open gate of the next one.  These locks are gentle and not too deep, and we always find it easier to share the work when we’re going down.  We are quite slick at this now.  I did step across the bottom gates today, though not yesterday; at the top lock it just ‘feels wrong’ – and anyway it was raining, and I don't step across in the rain.

After a while we started to meet more boats coming up.  At the Noisy Dog house, the one with all the aerials, we’d already got Meg back on board at the previous lock.  She won’t walk past as she feels so threatened by them when they shout at her over the wall. They ignored me completely, the Alsatian curled up in his sink and the other one lying in the doorway as usual.  They also ignored a little spaniel that walked past – beneath their notice perhaps – but leapt up and yelled at Meg as she sailed past looking sideways at them with her nose in the air .  I’m glad they are always chained up as they could probably clear that wall with a single bound.  It's not much of a life for them, so no wonder they react so vigorously to passing dogs.

Someone was coming down behind us, and with all the recent rain there was a lot of water coming down the bywashes and over the gates.  By the time we reached the last two locks the water had been over the towpath.

Lock 30
 I certainly wasn’t going to bother opening the offside paddles on these locks – I’d have needed wellies to get across!

Bottom lock
We moored in time for lunch, just less than 4 hours after we had started.  We were quite pleased with ourselves.  After eating I went straight out to pick blackberries, as there were still some good ones about.  Luckily I turned back before I reached the best spot – the drizzle started as I got back to the boat and it didn’t stop.  Along the way were these glowing strings of rubies threading their way through the hedge – bryony berries which I always love to see at this time of year.  It’s a shame they are poisonous to humans – they look very juicy.

Dave had brought the gangplank in before it rained, and had spread newspapers to protect the bed so he could repair the paintwork which was beginning to peel in places.  He got most of it rubbed down, masked off and painted while I made some gingerbread and cleaned round a bit.  We felt we deserved a night off from cooking, so went to the pub where we enjoyed cheap beer (happy hour) and then 25% off our main courses as it was still before 7pm.  Dave’s chicken portion was so huge we took half of it home for sandwiches tomorrow AND there were plenty of scraps for Meg. 

The rain didn’t really stop all evening, though it was only drizzle while we were navigating the puddles and muddy bits on the dark towpath.  Then we lit the fire for a cosy evening.

29 locks, 2 miles


  1. We’ve been amazed by how quiet lots of the canals have been, especially the bit of the Worcs and Brum that we did, and the Staffs and Worcs and BCN. We’ve had our pick of moorings everywhere, and have only had a lock queue once!

  2. Thank you for the mention Debby! It is the voluntary lock keepers who keep the place clean in the summer and we will take over when they stop. The amounts of rubbish do vary, but being so rural it is usually only a small bag full each week. Still one too many, but that is another story!

    We too hate going past 'the dog house'. Monty feels the need to answer back, so the best way to deal with it is to walk him past on his lead and try to ignore the noise. Someone said they have a new puppy, but I did not see it when we came down last Wednesday. The non Alsatian type dog must be very old - I have a photo of it in 2006 looking very young. I reckon they are there as guard dogs as the radio kit in the house must be very valuable. Jennie