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Sunday, 11 October 2009

Worcester to Birmingham via Tardebigge

Tuesday 29th we arrived at Diglis locks on another lovely day and locked up out of the river into the Birmingham & Worcester canal, a mere 30 miles and 51 locks to Gas Street basin.

Having used the services we climbed up the next 2 locks we found a good mooring with easy access to the city centre and the railway stations. Very dusty towpath and poor dog fouling control, but not aywhere near as bad as in Bishops Stortford. We did more sightseeing around the centre, including me visiting a very impressive closed church & the Guildhall (not a patch on the one in Bath last year).

Wednesday 30th a simple train journey to Narborough, but one where a ticket from Worcester to Narborough was quoted at about 3 times the cost of a ticket to Birmingham plus one to Narborough. Be aware. The journey the next day Thursday 1st was much more interesting! We travelled from Worcester to a small place called Barnham near to Chichester in West Sussex. I couldn’t believe it when the Trainline search showed there was one train we could use all the way with no changes, who would have imagined someone deciding a train should run from Gt Malvern to Brighton! We boarded at 11.02 and got off at 15.30….. a 2 car train, it had toilets but nothing to slake the thirst, fortunately we had bought a sandwich before boarding and had taken water. Very scenic route with the train changing direction twice we went via Gloucester and Bristol, plus Trowbridge, covering part of our cruise last year. Good to see the family again, but our journey back was to be via London, but as we arrived at the platform in Barnham we were told there had been a fatality (a jumper) a few stations away and our train was cancelled. Eventually we were put on a train to Brighton, where we changed to a bus replacement service (engineering works) to Hayawards Heath, on to Blackfriars on a very full train past Gatwick. To Paddington by tube and then a busy train via Oxford where we had to move forward 2 carriages as they were being dropped arriving in Worcester via every halt you could imagine over 6 hours after arriving at Barnham. Fortunately the Tesco Express by the station was still open to let us get some milk. Trains can be great, sometimes not so.

Monday 5th and we thought a work colleague & his wife might appear for coffee, but when there was no sign by 11.30 I called & they were still packing away their caravan, so a brief shop & we were off up locks. Weather was fine and it was a lovely warm afternoon. We covered 7 locks and 3 ½ miles in the day stopping close to the brand new Worcester Warriors rugby stadium, a bit before we crossed the M5.

Tuesday 6th and after overnight rain it was dry as we rose and were away by 9.15 (early for us) and up through 5 locks with some fine drizzle, fine afterwards. We stopped below bridge 36 and after lunch walked across fields to Hanbury Hall (National Trust). House was OK ish but had virtually no original furniture. Gardens were interesting including the accurately recreated parterre. 5 miles 5 locks.

Wednesday 7th and we had heavy overnight rain and I washed off the rest of Worcester’s dust. It was bright at first but cooled. We stopped for water at Stoke Works where the pub opposite does a weekday carvery lunch at just £3.99. We didn’t try it as Carol had prepared something but it looked busy.

We then carried on through Stoke Wharf where we found the much needed Elsan disposal point that did not appear on our Nicholson map. The Black Prince base there had around 21 hire boats in, including 3 brand new ones and it looked as if there were 3 more under construction so they must see a future in hiring.

Many bricks on the flight show their maker's mark.

We carried on through the Stoke flight and moored opposite the Inn at the bottom of the Tardebigge flight.
This lovely house is close to Stoke Top lock.
The locks had been simple to operate and quite fast and water levels were good, but before we turned in for the night we had gained a list and were aground. I pushed Lily off, but at 2.30 Carol woke me, she could hardly stand as she got out of bed, I reckoned we had a list of at least 20 degrees and were firmly aground. It was cold and very dark as the moon had yet to rise and it took much pushing from the bank with the pole with Lily in reverse to get free. We then moved forwards to the lock bollards, getting the bows in fairly well but with the stern well out. I then set off back the 200yards to the lock below us & found the top gate wide open. I pushed it shut, there was not a great amount obviously flowing through the bottom gates, I even had to draw a paddle slightly to get the top gate to close tight. A boat had come up behind us in the late afternoon and obviously the gate had opened and let the water out.

Back to bed & eventually to sleep, but at 7.30 there was a crashing & banging as water was let down from the lock above. A BW chap had fortunately done a trip down the flight first thing (using his mower as transport) and started moving water down.

Thursday 8th dawned cold.

Very misty and damp but clear and brightened to a glorious day. We were off at 8.30 and for the whole flight had every lock for us! Having started in sweatshirt & fleece before I’d got 2/3rds of the way up I was in T shirt.
nearing the top.

We met 2 boats just over half way up and cleared lock 57 at 12.45 & stopped for lunch having done 29 locks and walked around 6 miles (to-ing & fro-ing opening & closing gates) in 4 ¼ hours. Rested we moved on the our last lock before Birmingham at the Top Lock which is quite deep, and was against us. When I’d emptied it & Carol had got Lily in I couldn’t close one of the gates, resorting to probing the cill with our pole to see if we could find a rock, but to no avail. There being 2 BW chaps at work in the yard just above the lock, I asked them to come & look. They used their long handled flat tyne rake to scrape around, the cill was very deep, I’d guess about 6 feet, bad we were still faced with a gate that would not close. Eventually we reversed Lily till her prop was above the cill and gave it some welly in both forward & reverse, and the gate closed!

Tardebigge church.

Plaque at the top of Tardebigge commemorating the meeting that gave rise to the Inland Waterways Association in 1946

These hulks are all that remains of some old boats.
After filling with water at the yard we cruised on through Tardebigge and Shortwood tunnels and tied up in Alvechurch. Alongside a pub, but again not going in!! I walked in to the village, some interesting old buildings but not a lot else, but got a paper and some tomatoes. 30 locks & 6 miles in 7 hours cruising.

Friday 9th started overcast and cool and basically stayed that way. We cruised on easily to Wast Hills tunnel, meeting several boats including one chugging along happily with its Bollinder sending up puffs of exhaust smoke and giving its special sound. As we reached the tunnel a boat was just entering and OH BOY!! We went through in neutral much of the way, the 2726 yards taking 70 minutes and the boat in front zig zagged from side to side. I walked to our bows and called out to them to see if they were in trouble but got no response other than me hearing a foreign language. In fairness to them they did manage to get straight and let and on-coming boat pass, and he told us it was a CanalTime boat!

Before we left the tunnel two other boats had caught up with us and gave us a toot, and as we left the tunnel our leaders were still wobbling to and fro at far below our tickover speed. We spoke to them and in broken French English he said it was very difficult, they had just started from Alvechurch. What a poor place to set such boats, either an enormous lock flight one way, or one of the longest tunnels the other way. They let us past, but the following boats had longer to wait.

We reached Gas St around 2.30, tried to moor in Cambrian Wharf but no room and reversed back to moor alongside the NIA. Just 11 miles.

Amazing things have happened to us this year, and this day was to give us another. We walked around the city a bit and decided to have a curry as it was Friday. We went to the Celebrity restaurant right alongside Broad St Tunnel. We had been there many years ago, and this time it was even better. Nowhere near as cheap as our tremendous Vishal in Leicester, but our two dishes were fantastic. Coming out at around 7.30 we saw throngs heading for the NIA and I asked who was on to be told it was Michael McInver who is someone Carol had been going on about for weeks & who I had seen very briefly on TV. We walked to the box office and got tickets on the third row (Carol’s birthday approaches, its part of her present) and had a great time. Even greater was the fact that 10 minutes after curtain down we were back home.

Saturday 10th a lovely warm day and we needed a big shop, we had emptied out pretty well so it was off to Tesco at Fiveways and later we went to the Museum & Art Gallery. During the afternoon we went to Symphony Hall and bought tickets in “the gods” for the evening CBSO concert which feature Tchaikovski’s 4th. It was magical, and then when we came out there was a band playing live, and pretty well, at Brindley Place, so we stopped there, and then did a bit of a wander to the Birmingham Festival of Light event.

We are stopping here a few days more.

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