Tuesday 3 November 2020

In a bit of a jam

 Monday 26th October; Astwood bottom lock to marina, via winding hole above

Tuesday 27th October; a rotten journey home

Unexpected rain first thing messed up the morning’s plans for painting, but when it stopped we washed down the starboard side - the wind helped dry it quickly – and then polished it between us.  Then I cleaned the windows inside and out while Dave did a trial of mixing paint to touch up the rust spots on the pale grey paint.  Getting a tin of a matching colour has proved impossible, so as it’s just a couple of small areas he tried a bit of blending with what we’ve already got.  It’s not a good match but at least it’s protected for the winter.

Keeping an eye on proceedings

We had lunch, then went up the bottom two locks to the winding hole.  While Dave trundled off to wind, I waited at the lock and had a look at the lock cottage garden.  The flowers are going over now; the sunflower looks rather dark and sad in this photo, and I hope it is being left for the birds. 

Ours at home have had half the seeds eaten already, but we’ve never spotted the diners in action!  Then I turned to take a snap of Chuffed –

Dratted wind

- before realising that things weren’t quite going to plan.  The wind had been rising all morning, and before he could get the bow right into the very narrow offside of the winding hole, he had been blown broadside out of  the winding hole and the boat had stuck across the canal.  Oh for bow thrusters!  I hared up the towpath and lifted the stern button, so he could get unjammed, then hauled on the stern rope to help him get an angle and put the bow where it was supposed to go.  A bit more hauling, and I hastily coiled the rope and chucked it at his feet while he was close enough as we certainly didn’t want it round the propeller; if he’d been any further away he’d have had to drop into neutral to recover it and risk getting blown off course again.

As the wind was coming straight at us, the rest of the trip was almost incident-free.  As we passed last night’s mooring I took a photo of the lovely rose-hips opposite from a closer viewpoint.

Before the junction we passed a boat (from somewhere further north, I can’t remember where, or what its name was – with this decorative ropework.

The bridges at Hanbury junction shielded us from the wind and we could appreciate the sun glowing through the autumn leaves before we turned.

The volunteers were still on duty at Hanbury locks, so we had a bit of help to go down, which was very welcome.  We also picked up Meg’s ball from outside the hut. She had dropped it into the empty top lock yesterday as we walked back from Droitwich.  Yesterday’s volunteer said he’d retrieve it when the next boat came up, which he did, so if you’re reading this, lovely lockie, woof! thank you very much!

Today’s volunteer

Then it was the not inconsiderable task of getting onto the wharf in the marina.  If there is any wind on the cut, you will find it stronger in a marina.  If we hadn’t had to top up with diesel before leaving the boat for the winter (to minimise the risk of getting diesel bug), we wouldn’t even have tried to get on it.  I needed lovely Kevin from the office to come and help me get tied up.  Even so, Dave got us into our berth quite quickly (and no-one watching of course).  Very much a bow-in sort of day – trying to reverse in would have been asking for trouble!

It wasn’t raining at the time, so he managed to paint the port side between the gunwales and rubbing strake.  I got some of the packing done and into the car and dealt with the recycling and rubbish – doubtless there would be more tomorrow, but the forecast was awful.  There were showers to the west of us, but we still had the sun – and a lovely rainbow.

The port side still needs washing and waxing, but with lots of other jobs easier to do when it's not raining, it will have to wait till we can get back up again.  At least it is on the pontoon side.  Dave managed to get all the engine bits and pieces sorted in the dry.

We got the tonneau cover on in readiness for the rain on its way.  We'll have to remove it temporarily tomorrow when we lock up and leave, but even if it's raining then it' will have kept the stern and bilge dry in the meantime.  We lit the fire as the moon rose above the marina.

2 miles, 7 locks

The following day, we finished the packing – all the food items except a few tins and bottles, all the bedding etc – and in between the heavy showers got the car packed.  All the cleaning got done, including the shower pump reservoir, which is a horrible job, then emptying the water tank, opening taps etc before we left.  We were expecting another lockdown to be announced, (we know now it will start on Thursday 3rd November) so we didn’t want to be caught out if there is a cold snap and we can’t get back up again.  We’d left for home before three, expecting to be past Bristol before the rush hour was at its worst …. only to see warnings on the gantries of hour-long delays.  Trying to find an alternative route round Bristol in the rush hour, on unfamiliar roads in the pouring rain, would have been plain stupid.  We were just joining the crawling traffic when beep! the engine warning sounded and the car dropped into ‘get-you-home’ mode.  This limits the engine to 1500 revs which is no fun on the long slow hills on a motorway.  The incident causing the delay turned out to be a bus which had caught fire many hours before.  There was nothing to see when we got there but two closed lanes – we found out later the inside lane would be closed till the next day as it had to be completely resurfaced.  It added an hour and a half to a journey which is normally 3 hours or less.  And a large dent in the wallet to get (another) fuel injector replaced.  Fingers crossed we will have changed to a petrol-driven car before our next trip!

Trip stats

We travelled 24 miles, 2½ furlongs on the Droitwich Junction and Barge Canals, the River Severn and the Worcester and Birmingham canal. This was made up of (thank you Canalplanner) 13 miles, 7¾ furlongs of narrow canals; 5 miles, 7½ furlongs of broad canals; 4 miles, 3¼ furlongs of large rivers.

We locked through 37 locks in all; 25 narrow locks; 11 broad locks; 1 large lock.

Of the 5 moveable bridges, we had to open only 3, in Vines Park.  Another in the park is permanently open (the only other on the Droitwich Barge canal is not in a condition to be operated).  The 5th is below Diglis locks where the Worcester and Birmingham joins the Severn, but that would only need to be swung for a very tall craft. The 4 tunnels were for the M5 and Impney Way in Droitwich, the A449 at the Hawford end of the canal, and then Dunhampstead.  Canalplanner now gives you another interesting fact which I haven’t reported before – ‘a total of 2 furlongs underground’.  Except that long road-bridge tunnels aren't really underground!

Apart from the days when we crossed, or were passed by, flotillas of hire boats, the waterways have been rather quiet this trip, even though it was half-term.

Sunday 1 November 2020

Too damp for outside work

Sunday 25th October; Dunhampstead to below Astwood flight

The clocks went back last night, and we had a relaxed start waiting for the rain to stop, before leaving at about 10 to move up to Hanbury Junction.  The autumn colours were lovely as we approached Dunhampstead tunnel

and again as we came out.

We were not going back to the marina today but we did need some shopping, so we moored on the Worcester and Birmingham at Hanbury Junction and walked down the towpath into Droitwich, where Dave and Meg played in Vines Park for ten minutes while I nipped into Waitrose for some bread and the Sunday paper.  The towpath at the Rugby Club Bridge by the marina was closed for repair last time we came this way, but now it’s all done – one example where it was worth the hassle (and the bike-friendly surface) as the paths used to get extremely muddy in winter - and if you want to walk up to the pub from the marina you can do so now without getting muddy.

The paths were closed while the work was being done, as there was insufficient space for social distancing between walkers and the CRT workers.

We'd seen black clouds building up in the west while we were still in Vines Park, so hot-footed it back and just beat the rain to get inside for lunch, where we warmed up with left-over stew (sadly no dumplings, but we made do with toast😉).  The rain didn’t last long, and we soon moved up to the quiet stretch below Astwood bottom lock.  It was still chilly and damp, unfortunately not good weather for outside work, such as the painting and polishing that needs doing.  We’d lit the fire by 4 pm and hunkered down.

3 miles, Dunhampstead tunnel.


Saturday 31 October 2020

Idiot boater(s) and a bit of a rant about cyclists

Saturday 24th October; Perdiswell Park to Dunhampstead

The hire boats from Lowesmoor Basin started passing soon after first light, but we had shopping to do before we left.  We thought, let them all get clear of Offerton locks before we arrive!  Dave went to Halfords, then took Meg over to the park, while I trekked up to Sainsbury’s.  They were doing 25% off 6 bottles of wine, so it seemed sensible to take my shopping trolley.  We didn’t hang about when we were back at the boat, as the weather forecast for the afternoon is not good.  We knew the locks would probably all be against us, but by Tolladine (the second one) the first boat was already coming down.  They told us an ABC boat had passed them at 7pm last night, going too fast, and in the dark.  At TIBBERTON! That is 4 miles and 8 locks from where they would have passed us yesterday. They must have started the Offerton flight in half-light and finished in darkness, not something we would contemplate in a month of Sundays.  They (or one of them) had probably got a schedule and wouldn't compromise for the sake of safety.  Maybe they didn't realise the dangers of locking in the dark?

At Offerton bottom lock, the towpath is closed for widening and ‘improvement’ as far as Tibberton.

It says ‘no access’ but there is just room to get round to operate the lock.  The hirers must have been told it’s OK to go through, as no-one was waiting.

I saw a poster advertising a circus as I walked to Sainsbury’s, and there it was in the Rugby Club car park, looming up behind the trees.

We caught up with the last of the ABC boats, a delightful family of first-timers, doing everything properly, though they still wanted reassurance that they were doing ok and not holding us up.  Then a volunteer arrived from the top, helping them through and raising a paddle to turn their lock ready for us.  With this little bit of help we made the top lock before the heavy drizzle softly closed around us.

We continued damply through Tibberton, where the towpath with the long visitor mooring was fenced off leaving space for just one boat.  I imagine the ‘improvement’ is so that more people can feel ‘better by water’.  The stoppage notice says it is for 'widening and improvement', with an all-weather surface and access improvements. Although there are a few dodgy bits, most of the towpath seemed fine to me, apart from a few puddly bits between the locks and TIbberton.  I think there are more important things for the money to be spent on.

 It will probably mean a lot more bikes.  Families and ‘leisure’ cyclists are fine – they don’t speed, often use their bells to warn of their approach, and say ‘thank you’ as they pass.  It’s the ‘serious’ cyclists that annoy me.  Why is it so sissy to have a bell and ring it?  That’s what I was told once.  I want to tell them to go to Birmingham, where they will find that 90% of serious cyclists do just that, with the result that walkers and runners move aside without breaking step, and the cyclists pass easily and safely with minimal reduction in speed. It also means you don't jump out of your skin as one of them flashes by - if there is noise from the wind, trains, cars etc you can't hear them coming! 

Rant over! Perhaps I might get round to contacting CRT.

Anyway, we went as far as Dunhampstead where we moored for a late lunch.  Luckily I had bought some tasty snacks in Sainsbury’s to keep us going as we travelled, so that was not a problem!  There was a dry spell as we moored, and we got the tonneau cover on before lighting the fire and enjoying being in the warm and out of the pouring rain.  And for once I got a blog posted before tea – veg and bean stew with dumplings – yum!

4½ miles, 8 locks



Friday 30 October 2020

Traffic cones and 50/50 coal

Friday 23rd October; Commandery to Perdiswell Park

It’s quiet at the Commandery in the late evenings now.  Any live music from the nearby pub stops abruptly at 10 and there are few passers-by after that.  The Vue cinema over the way is open, but the road traffic drops off very quickly.  So we had a quiet night, and woke to dull skies and rain on and off all morning.  In the dryish spells Meg got walked and the paper was bought, coffee was drunk and the paper read.  We left at about 11 and pottered gently up as far as the little park before bridge 12, the one with the mural painted along it. On one of the earlier bridges was an odd message

                                                            Ready for panto season?

It’s a pretty little park, popular with dog walkers, one mile from the Worcester end of the canal and 29 from Birmingham.  It seems quiet enough for a safe overnight stop - well looked after and no litter.

We had lunch, and as the weather had cleared Meg had a good game of ball before we continued along to Perdiswell Park and our usual mooring spot at bridge 17.  We could see something orange in the water as we rose up Bilford Bottom lock.  It was a traffic cone, right in the middle of the channel, and it disappeared below the water as I emptied the top lock.  Luckily the local CRT volunteer was around and would deal with it after we had gone through.  The sports centre car park has lots of cones marking out the routes for entry and exit and this is the fourth he has had to deal with.

As we moored, we realised that one of the piling hooks had been left at our lunch stop.  It wasn’t that far away, so I went for a gentle jog back to retrieve it while Dave attacked the lid of the gas locker.  He had to drill out the bolts holding the brass ‘Gas’ plate to get at the rust underneath – Halfords is not far away, so it wouldn’t matter if he had no spares.  He rust-treated it, and started putting undercoat on just as the ABC hirers from Lowesmoor Basin in Worcester started to pass on the first day of their holidays.  Only two today, but both going far too fast.  I was lighting the fire by then.  We have been trialling ‘Homecare Eco50’, which is half and half coal and compressed wood waste.  It looks like coal (ie black and dirty) and is supposed to be just as hot, but produces less smoke and fewer harmful emissions, as well as using wood waste.  I can’t comment on the smoke, but it lit well (we start with newspaper and kindling, with a broken compressed-sawdust heat-log) and seemed to be just like coal, nice and hot!  It comes in 10kg sacks, and we got ours in Wickes.  Price-wise it’s very close to coal from what I remember the last time we bought some (75p per kg), but we thought it didn’t last quite as long as Excel.  We will get it instead of coal, as we don’t have that many fires, so we can use it to cut our emissions even if it costs a little more.  But I’m not sure what we would do if we lived aboard.

Chuffed alogside the pretty park at bridge 12.  Shame about the dog bin! 

2½ miles, 5 locks, 1 recovered piling hook.


Monday 26 October 2020

Something’s missing! And not just the plastic

Thursday 22nd October; Hawford mooring to Commandery

The sky was nearly clear when we got up and the sun soon showed itself.  There was considerable condensation on the windows this morning – it’s the first time it’s been cold enough for it, but we didn’t help matters by using the radiators to dry towels yesterday evening!  We weren’t late leaving, at about 9.15, but two hire boats had already come up.  At least one had moored last night at the pub upriver.  There was a CRT chap around this morning – it’s part of his beat, he had been checking the overflow weirs – and he gave us a hand down the first lock.  These locks are really heavy so we were glad of his help.  He has a beautiful saluki, but it’s very shy and wouldn’t say hello.  I didn’t think to take a photo, so here’s one of the notice at the bottom lock instead.

It’s been a while since boaters have needed to phone ahead to the river locks – they have CCTV now!  The bottom gates onto the river are unusual, in that the footboard is on the inner edge of the gates, so if you are going up you must take care not to get your tiller caught underneath as the water rises.  There’s a good reason for this – the extra few inches of width allow widebeam boats to use the lock as a refuge when the river is in flood.

It was a lovely morning for cruising, unfortunately with the sun in our eyes but we were glad to be out on such a beautiful day.  We only had to wait a moment for Bevere lock to open.  We were pretty sure it would be ready for us as a boat had just come through – they had missed the turning for the Droitwich canal, and had had to go through the lock, turn and come back again!  The entrance to the fish pass below is easy to see to the right, with the new wooden edge and fencing standing out.

With a hot drink in an insulated mug and lovely weather we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise down to Worcester.  The poor owner of this craft would be forgiven for being a bit cheesed off though – this little cruiser was afloat just a few weeks ago, though it shouldn’t have been tied up on that stretch.  Perhaps it had been abandoned.

We were looking forward to seeing – or not seeing – Sabrina footbridge, which should have been taken down for refurbishment the previous week.  However, there had been problems with removing part of the deck and it was abandoned for a few weeks.

                                                        Not exactly Avignon!

The strange pagoda-like structure below is the tall supporting bit on the bank, sheathed in scaffolding – I wonder if it has to be supported as there is nothing for it to brace against at the moment?

We hadn’t intended to stop where we usually do on the Riverside moorings, but it was just as well because our usual spot was occupied by a large pontoon affair as part of the bridgeworks.  We passed the swan sanctuary, where the steps were being cleaned, and pulled in on the pontoon ready to ascend Diglis locks to the canal.  As I came up the ramp, there were two lovely volunteers already prepping the lock for us.

So up we went, stopping on the water point first of all to fill up, and empty a cassette and get rid of the rubbish at the same time.  There was no-one else on the moorings, so we pulled up past the water point  for lunch.  The café boat Northern Lights, which was closed and up for sale the last time we were here, had happily opened under new ownership the previous day so we felt morally obliged to support them and had bacon butties (take-away, as the wind was too cold to consider sitting outside under their gazebo).  They were fairly busy, I am pleased to say.

After lunch I needed to go shopping, so took my trolley, and windlass, up to Sidbury lock at the Commandery to check out the moorings on my way.  They were free, so I rang Dave and opened the bottom gates for him while he brought Chuffed along.  I closed the gates, handed him my windlass and left him to it while I went up to town.  I had been doing some Googling and discovered a zero-waste shop, where you can buy all sorts of dry goods without packaging.  I’ve got a few old ice-cream containers and plastic boxes on the boat, which I keep so I can buy meat at the butcher’s without the single-use plastic bags, but so far I’ve not found a zero-waste shop on our travels.  But there is one in the Shambles in Worcester, in the old Market Hall (now known as the Gallery).  Pack it In  has got an excellent variety of pulses, rice, oats, pasta, spices, dried fruit etc and you can take an empty bottle and get a refill of washing-up liquid, laundry liquid etc as well.  I got some pearl barley and lentils, so we can have a stew later this week, and some ground cumin which has been unobtainable at home for a while.  I forgot to take a picture of the shop, but took one in Friar Street nearby instead.

It seemed a shame to be inside on such a sunny afternoon, so after a cup of tea I went for a walk with Meg down to the park behind Diglis Basin, which I discovered while waiting for the bacon butties this morning.

After a good game of ball, we came back via Fort Royal Park behind the Commandery, where I discovered a good recycling bin.  Dave was busy painting the spots on the roof he had treated for rust the other day, but it was cold by now so I went inside to light the fire without taking a photo.

4½ miles, 6 locks, no bridge, no single-use plastic!



Saturday 24 October 2020

Rain all day

 Wednesday 21st October; Hawford top lock moorings

It was raining at 7 when we woke up, and it just carried on.  Mostly it was pretty light,  but with an occasional heavier burst.  A very good day for staying put and getting on with some jobs.  My first task was to walk Meg, and we left Dave fitting a new wall light to replace a broken one.  I had decided to explore the footpath going south from the bottom lock.  The Severn was shrouded in mist.

We walked up the steps to a private road serving a little group of rather nice-looking houses, then turned sharp right to follow a footpath sign towards the river.

We walked beside a field of turnips, but whether they were for human or animal consumption I couldn’t tell.  But the next field was full of leeks, so perhaps it was a market garden.  In the hedge alongside the footpath were the startlingly pink berries of the native Spindle tree.

When ripe, the pink seed-case splits to reveal orange seeds which are toxic to humans.  We followed a couple of people in hi-vis jackets along a broad stone track leading downhill, then they moved away up a set of steps while we crossed a stile in a new-looking fence and joined a wide muddy strip where vehicles had obviously been driving, though the surface had been levelled and was ready for re-seeding.  I could see the sign on the river for Bevere lock, and then the iron bridge crossing the weir stream came into view through the mist.

A length of new fencing ran inland along an inlet, and as we got closer it was obvious that this was the newly built fish pass.  Six are being built at Severn locks, and this is the first to be completed.  The one at Diglis, complete with a viewing window, should be ready by the end of the year. 

 The project is to allow salmon and the endangered twaite shad, eels and lamprey, to pass upstream to spawn.  We turned round at this point, unwilling to go through any more mud.  The yellow-jackets had gone, and so we went up the steps into the woods.  It looked as though they had been rebuilt when the original footpath was obliterated by the access road for the construction vehicles.

The path emerged into the leek field through a bank of nettles, and we retraced our steps.  I had been lucky with the weather and we didn’t get too wet.  Meanwhile Dave had been getting on with bits and pieces, and when I got back we emptied the well deck so he could finish painting the floor.  Apart from the anchor, everything came into the saloon – two wooden lockers, the hose reel, the matting and a bag of ‘Homecare Eco50’ which we will be trialling over the next few days.

Safely at anchor

Dave had to use a bit of filler where the areas we prepped on our last trip were a bit uneven.  We had lunch while it went off, then he applied a coat of red oxide paint.  Meg and I went off for short walk, this time to the upstream side of the junction along a footpath which has been completed since we were last here.

The mist had cleared and autumn colours glowed in the gloom. 

And a couple of cormorants surveyed their watery domain.  They took turns in showing me a good profile.

Because the weather was so damp Dave’s paint took quite a while to be ready for another coat, and he needed some fresh air, so Meg was delighted to have another walk.  I paid for my enjoyable relaxing morning by getting out the rubber gloves and old toothbrush and cleaning the top of the gaskets and the sliders of the empty cassettes.  Delightful!

The clutter from the well deck had to stay in the saloon overnight so the second coat of redox had time to dry properly.  The weather was so mild that we didn’t need a fire, though we did put the central heating on for an hour to get some hot water.  There was more heavy rain later on, but by then we had gone to bed.

Friday 23 October 2020

A lovely autumn day

Tuesday 20th October; Vines Park to Hawford top lock.

We were tired after a busy few days, and didn’t wake till after 8 this morning.  The railway and busy roads are not far away, but it’s still a peaceful spot here.  By the time I had popped over to Waitrose, which was nearly empty, and put the shopping away, it was well after 10 before we slipped our mooring.  We waved to our helpful hirers from yesterday, who were moored on the pontoons -

and enjoyed a pleasant cruise through the outskirts of Droitwich, admiring the autumn colours in the sunshine.

‘Site of swingbridge’ appears twice on the map.  The first, Salwarpe swing bridge, is still there, though not in any fit state to be used.

The other has vanished, though there is still the narrowing of the navigation and the brick support for the mechanism.  The light wind sent autumn leaves spinning down, yellow and brown as they drifted across - and into - the canal.  Leaf soup is now on the menu, and we had to drop into neutral a few times to let the leaves drop off the propeller.

As we reached the top lock of the Ladywood flight, a Black Prince was ahead of us, just going out at the other end.  I went to help the crew close the heavy bottom gate.  I mentioned how hard all these locks are, but she didn’t take the hint at first.  We are definitely not in the first flush of youth, but they were quite a bit older than us and finding the heavy double locks very hard going,  so we easily caught up with them while they were still descending the second lock.  By then they had decided to wait for us at the next one.  Thank goodness!  We filled the lock again, and Dave walked back to fetch the boat.  And disappeared.  I turned round as he vanished.

He had got out by the time I took the photo!

The lock mooring is short and the bank treacherous, and what had looked like a solid edge turned out to be an overhang.  But the water was less than waist deep, and in the event he only got wet feet. The water hadn't got through his lined trousers so he didn’t need a shower before we carried on.  So we were a little late at the next lock, but not by much.  The hirers turned out to be good locking partners.  They should have picked a boat up from Chirk, but with the Wales lockdown ‘firebreak’ imminent had been rerouted to Stoke Prior.  They had been hiring on and off for years, but with decreasing mobility had decided this would be their last hire. But not their last boating holiday - a hotel boat for their next trip!

We noticed that the bottom locks gates appear to have weed-control fabric tacked over them.  At a couple of the locks this has started to come loose below the waterline, and I imagine would present a problem to boats going up if they drifted too far back. 

We discovered from a CRT chap a couple of days later that it is indeed weed-control fabric and it’s supposed to help stop the bottom gates leaking.  It doesn’t seem to be terribly effective - it's meant to be permeable for goodness' sake! - and the loose bits can’t be removed until he can get a boat to work from.

We stopped at the Hawford moorings for a late lunch, then decided to stay put.  We’d gone far enough for one day.  The forecast tomorrow is dire, and this is a nice place to stop.  I helped our friendly hirers down the Hawford locks - of course, they had to get back to Stoke Prior, so had to move on after lunch - then came back to give Dave a hand rubbing down the little spots on the roof.  They looked like little burst bubbles – as most of them weren’t rusting underneath, we guess that when the roof was repainted a few years ago, the top coat of raddle must have been put on while there were still a few drops of condensation from the wet-dock roof on the boat.  Anyway, they all got treated for rust.

We are trying a new attachment method for the tonneau cover.  Rather than a series of canopy guys, which can be difficult to stretch far enough to reach the hooks (till they perish and stretch too far, or break), I threaded a continuous length of shock cord through the holes.  We’ll see how that goes.  Tomorrow should be rather a test!  No photo though – it was dusk when we put it on and the rain was already starting.

5½ miles, 6 heavy locks



Tuesday 20 October 2020

Hoping to beat another lockdown ……

Monday 19th October; Droitwich Spa marina to Vines Park

After a good journey up the M5 – only held up briefly by a convoi exceptionnel – we arrived at the marina at lunchtime.  (I much prefer the French term, which was on the back of the load, to the rather boring ‘abnormal load’ on the back of the escort vehicle.)  We brought with us the table from the dinette.  The top had some nasty water-marks from the leaking mushroon vent, so we took it home after the last trip  and Dave spent some time at home stripping it down, staining and varnishing it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't till we returned to the boat that he realised it needed at least 3 weeks to harden off sufficiently for normal use - not the couple of days it had had!  So until I can find a cheap tablecloth in Worcester it is covered with a fleece blanket to minimise damage.  He hopes to re-varnish it just before we go home.

There was a brisk and chilly breeze as we left our berth, but once we were on the canal it was sheltered and almost mild.  The staircase was against us, but all the other locks were in our favour, though they had mostly leaked so I had to top them up.  Unluckily for the hire boat coming down the bottom of the previous (Hanbury) lock, we had no idea they were there, so not only were we first at the staircase, we had some help too.  Ann is a blog reader and she and her family are experienced hirers, so we had some difficulty keeping ahead of them at the rest of the locks!   There is an eating apple tree at the staircase and Ann reports that the apples are excellent, but as we brought plenty from our trees at home we didn't try them.  The bottom gates on the staircase and the lock after it have one paddle chained up.

This is to lessen the flow of water into the M5 tunnel, which has very low headroom.  At least I chose the right side of the lock to work!  These locks aren't the lightest to use.

The tunnel is indeed very low - I took this photo at the last moment before ducking down to sit comfortably on the step, while Dave had to crouch so he could see where to steer withour braining himself.

The restoration of the canal made use of an existing culvert under the motorway, where the Body Brook flowed, which explains the limited height.  I imagine an extra lockful of water (they are all deep locks) could easily make life difficult for boats navigating through the tunnel if both paddles were opened at the same time.

We made our way through the remaining locks, which were easy, and the three swing bridges (two of which can be quite awkward) and moored alongside Vines Park just before Netherwich Basin.  It’s much easier here for Meg – she doesn’t like the surface on the pontoons in the basin.  This is quite annoying if there is no alternative.

It got cold quickly, so the fire was lit earlier than usual.

1½ miles, 5 locks, 3 swing bridges, 2 tunnels (the M5 and Impney Way bridges, which are right next to each other, though there is slightly more headroom inder the second).