Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Day 14 Bumble hole lock to Crompton

We left our mooring at the usual time of 9am and into our first lock of the day a few meters way, Bumble Hole lock.  The name suggests something from the hobbit or Harry porter film but the tired looking lock keeper’s cottage was definitely not from the set of a film.  Sadly, the owner, now bed ridden, is unable to maintain the cottage.

Lock Keepers cottage at Bumble Hole lock
 After a mile or so we then came to Bratch Locks.  These locks were once a staircase but now are 3 separate locks in close succession.  Today, a lockie was on hand to assist boats up the lock.  The instruction board gave clear instructions so, with two boats ascending ahead of us, Chris asked if we could enter the locks.   Good job I did not hear his reply as he would have got a mouthful from me.  His reply to Chris was “of course not there’s a boat in the lock”, quite male chauvinistic we thought.  His demeanor was the same all the way up to the ladies on the other boats too, barking his commands to leave open or close paddles and gates.

Queuing at Bratch locks
Whilst waiting for the lock an elderly gentleman informed me this was the first time he’d seen a queue at these locks in years.  He then informed me that during WWII the Germans had tried to bomb the nearby water pumphouse but missed and bombed his dad’s farm fields.    He then elaborated that very large boulders had been placed across the road to stop tanks and that after the war they had been rolled into the side ponds and were still there to this day.   Although fascinating I had to give my apologies to him as the lock was ready for me.  He was still chatting away as I entered the lock and the gates closed but I could no longer hear him! He must have thought me quite rude but the lockie was getting impatient.  He certainly won't be on my Christmas card list thats for sure

Entering the bottom lock and instruction board on the right
The bottom gates of the lower lock would not stay shut so a simple device was applied to keep them closed.  A loop of rope hooked over a loop on each gate, simple but effective, however, one had to traverse the lockbeam to apply it.  I reversed AmyJo up to the gates to hold them shut whilst Chris applied the loop of rope.  I'd have thought this a job for the lockie but hay ho.

Loop of rope holding the gates shut.
Like locks 11 and 12 on the Stourbridge flight the locks here have short mini chambers between them.  The paddle posts are marked Blue and Red.  These reminded me of the red and white ones at Foxton and the lockies mantra there.   White after red you’ll end up dead, red after white you’ll be all right.  Here one would say, Blue after red you’ll end up dead,  red after blue is good for you.

When emptying the middle lock the top blue paddles are left open on the top gates of the lock below.

The board makes sense of it all, surprising how many boaters don’t read these signs.
At the top of the locks this little Octagonal building used to be a toll house, now its used to sell post cards and canal memorabilia.

We continued our way through the countryside and three more locks, Awbridge, Ebstree, and Dimmingsdale in sucession.  All neatly maintained and hardly a dribble from the gates 

As the afternoon wore on large black clouds began to appear and head towards us.  At Ebstree lock the heavens finally opened and a downpour of rain descended upon us.  This time Chris managed to keep dry in her thin Regatta rain mac.  Poor Smudge got soaked and just sat looking dejected as the lock filled.  We kept him below while we carried on until the rain stopped.  A couple of rumbles of thunder was heard nearby but after an hour the sun was back out again.

Even when she's getting soaked Chris can still manage a smile
With everything now wet and still more rain clouds looming we descended the two Wightwick locks and moored at Crompton.  Later in the afternoon and in dry weather we strolled into the village and got some shopping.  I then tried to do the blog but we have no internet here.  The boat uses 3, I have EE on my phone and Chris’s phone is on TalkMobile but none have any signal so my apologies for this late post.

Our mooring at Crompton

Total distance:4.67 miles Elapsed time:4h45m47s Locks:9 Bridges:11 
Average speed:0.98 mph (2.87 lock/mph)

Summer Cruise Day 13 Stourton Top Lock to Bumble hole Lock

We were up and ready to cruise at our usual time this morning.  The sun was shining but a chill could be felt in the breeze.

First order of the day was to negotiate the 4 Stourton locks.  Clearly the nearby house owners have taken it apon themselves to maintain the top lock.  Mown lawns for grass and flower beds neatly planted surrounded the top lock, very differant from the rough cut banks of the towpath we had just left.

Preparing to leave last nights mooring

Emacculately tended lock area.
Several gardens backed on to the cut below the lock.  One owner found a unique way to deal with the bywash that runs through their property by building a boat house styled bridge over it.

Novel way to hide the bywash that runs through your property

B&B for some lucky ducks

The bottom lock is near the Stourton Junction.  The junction is wide and open unlike those we had negotiated before. Long sweeping corners make it very easy to turn and see what is aproaching in either direction.

AmyJo below the lock while I close the gate.  The junction is dead ahead

Unable to get back on from her side of the lock Chris walks round via a nearby bridge

Just after making the turn and picking up Chris a boat came through this bridge and turned up the Stourbridge canal.  Lucky for him he'll now have the locks in his favour.

Minutes later and we could have had problems getting round
 Unlike the bywashes on the Shroppie the by washes on the Stourbridge and Staffs canals are all routed well away frrom the locks so the flow does not cause problems.  Most have large collectors like this one while the outlets apear far away with much reduced flows.

Large bywash collectors like this one are used at many locks around here
At Gothersley lock we were met by this boat.  The owners were heading to Kidiminster.  The guy informed us they provide a service where foreign customers are given the chance to cruise and at the same time learn to improve their English whilst on the trip.  What a great idea!

Improve your English cruise boat
After Gothesley and Rocky locks we came to Ashwood Nurseries.  Its owner lives alongside and has beautifully tended gardens.  The sign asks boaters not to moor opposite the bungalow.  I think its a bit of a cheek to do that especially as suitable mooring spaces are few and far between, but then I don't moor round here so don't know the reason behind the "polite request".

Lovely garden at Ashwood nurseries.

Next is Greenforge lock.  Here a neat lock cottage had its owners drinking tea outside watching the activity at the lock.  What an idilic way to while away the day.

Freinds of ours own a boat called "Anne of Greenforge"  I wonder if this was where the boat came from before they bought it.

Greenforge lock cottage.  The owners are sitting behind the flowers by the door, easy to miss them
 At Swindon the gardens are well maintained and this one must have just been re landscaped.  Neat and formal its delightful.  In fac the canal is relatively rubbish free, wider and deeper making progress much better.  I haven't been down the weed hatch today!

After Swindon and Marsh lock one comes apon Botherham Staircase locks, a two chamber staircase.  These locks are quite deep, the second being on the other side of a road bridge.  One cannot see the paddles of the top gate from below nor can the lock wheeler see whats happening in the chamber below.  Good communication is essential here.

AmyJo enters the bottom chamber

Chris's view as lockwheeler on the middle gates.
 A little further on we came to Wombourne, Chris wants to call it Wombledon.  Here a modern 3 bed semi has been given the barn look with this unusual extention.  Instead of looking out of place it actually works well.  The big windows downstairs show a lovely space inside.

Either you like it or not.  We like it.
 There are some moorings just before our next lock, Bumble hole lock,  after our busy day yesterday and the moorings right outside a pub with a delightful, if noisy, beer garden full of kids playing,  we decided to stop and relax with an evening meal in the pub.  By 7pm all was silent and the garden empty save a few adults.

Total distance:6.50 miles Elapsed time:5h42m43s Locks:13 Bridges:16 
Average speed:1.14 mph (3.41 lock/mph) 

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Summer Cruise Day 12 Merry Hill to Stourton Top Lock

What happened to Day 11 I hear you ask?  Well as you know it was a complete wash out.  Strong wind and rain from the moment we woke up until to the moment we went to bed.  Even Smudge kept his walks to a minimum.  In short the day was yuck!  We simply pottered about, mostly chilled and stayed put.  

I spent the day trying to get our GPS tracker, Navvigator to work.  I completely reformated the PC disk, reloaded Windows, and all the needed software but still the open port error kept occurring.  No matter what I did it would not work.  Finally, just before going to bed, I tried it one more time.  It worked!

This morning we got AmyJo ready to cruise.  I turned the PC on and with trepidation turned on the the GPS and, yay, it worked again.  Smug with success I got underway.

The Brierley Hop Inn where we had bad service and equally bad food.
 There is a sense that this area has been extensively redeveloped.  The cut is clean and lined with concrete banks.  Mooring rings are plentiful if always, for some reason, on a curved stretch of the cut.  To the left is a huge retail park.  I wanted some fuses from Halfords which was at the far end of the complex.  It took me a full 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other yesterday.  The centre covers 2 floors and is clearly popular with the locals.

Leaving the moorings for todays cruise
 Not long after leaving the Waterfront complex  we arrived at Delph Locks.  It was clear a boat had not long descended as the locks were against us, we thoufght it was one moored in the basin that left early this morning.  The first lock is right under a busy main road.  I got to wondering how they managed to remove and replace the gates as, being quite deep, there clearly was not enough head room to crane the gates out.

Delph Top lock under the busy main road
 After pondering this for a while I noticed two groups of three loops in the underside of the bridge .  Clearly these are so block and tackles can be used to edge the gates in and out so a crane can lift them.

You can just see the loops in the bridge above the lock gates

First one done, 8 more in this flight to do.

Waiting below top lock whilst Chris reset the next lock for us
At the second lock we could see down the flight and our assumption was confirmed,  three locks down the afore mentioned boat was descending, so now we would have all the locks against us.

The prospect of all these being against us did not fill us with joy

Beams in this state did not help

Locks against us as far as we could see.

Progress down the first two locks was slow.  There is only one ladder in the chamber to climb out and its in the middle making it difficult for me to climb out to help Chris.  Coupled with the fact the only way across the lock is on top of the lock gate, squeezing past greasy lock paddles mid way.  Added to this there is no access below the first lock for me to walk up and close the other gate for Chris, though there was at the second lock shown above..

I had just commentated we don't get lockies helping us down locks like they do on Celebrity 5 Go Barging when, as we entered the third lock, we could see two CRT volockies (volunteer lockies) walking up.  Both then helped us down the rest of the flight.  One reseting the lock below and the other helping Chris at our lock.  This made our passage down the flight much quicker and easier from then on.

If there was a prize for the most helpful and cheerful volunteer lockies then Steve and his companion must get top prize.  They work Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week and Saturdays at weekends. They work with only one cuff key between them and CRT will not buy them a second.  A cuff key is used to unlock a pin that stops the paddles being wound up, it also known as an anti vandal key.  As we worked with them Chris lent them one of ours for which they were truly thankful.  If we could have got another one close by I'd have gladly bought them one as a thank you.  We have met many volunteers on our travels but none quite as freindly and cheerful as these two.

Steve and his companion, sadly we did not get her name but thanks to you both.

This bridge was so tight they have marked where to line up as you go through

The fishermen here are really freindlly

This gent to the left of frame had followed us down the locks and remained with us for the next four miles on and off.
After Delph locks the canal twists and turn sharply at times through suburbs, some neat some unkempt as is the canal in places.  We soon reached Leys Junction at the head of the Stourbridge Locks.  Steve had told us the boat in front was heading for Kinver via these locks so, windlasses in hand, we stealed ourselves to reset all 16 locks as we descended.

Leys Junction is lined with graffitted walls hiding some industrial units.

Having helped Chris open the paddles I returned to AmyJo

Chris waits for the top lock to fill whilst our walker passes by again.

The locks in this flight have large wide pounds to conserve water.

In the foreground the walkway over the lock gate can be seen and is typical round here.  The curve bar is a hand rail!

This boater had found a lovely spot to rest and chill out fishing.
Chris was beginning to find the locks too hard to work so I insisted we switch roles, I lock wheeling and Chris handling AmyJo (I like her to keep her hand on the tiller through locks now and again anyway).  

This change was quite timely as the next two locks were unusual.  Whilst they were two seperate locks, only 10 feet seperated them.  Took me a little while to work out how to set them.  Leave the bottom lock top paddle open and let it fill as the lock above empties.  When the lock above is down the levels should all be equal so top gates of the bottom lock can be opened.

Empting the lock AmyJo sits in

The closeness of the two lock is evident here as is the relief on Chris's face.

Safely through and into the next pound.
After this we swapped back as we wanted to moor up below the next lock and Chris didn't want to do this.  As I pulled off I felt something wrap itself round the prop.  My third visit down the weed hatch of the day revealed nothing.  It must have freed off as I stopped again.

AmyJo waits whilst I get to grips with the weed hatch

The locks are quite pictureesque here
Below lock 12 is the Red Cone glass factory and they have convenient moorings on the offside outside their factory.  Time for some lunch in their cafe.  Toasted Cheese and Ham sandwiches can be recommended here.  Kathrine if you read this get Alan to bring you here you can try all sorts of crafts, and their shops are full of the sort of things you would like.

Glass factory moorings are big enough for just one boat

The bottle kiln now houses demonstrations of glass blowing.

Not sure if these are part of the factory or juct an office block

My arty photo for today

Finally after 3 more locks we reached the bottom lock to find hoards of paddlers of all ages below the bottom gates.  Below the lock is the junction to the Stourbridge arm and the paddles were directly in our path once we cleared the lock.  I got Chris to check with the instructor if it was ok to lower the lock as I feared the turbulance may overcome the less competant young paddlers.  The instructer got the paddlers to move into the arm out of the way but two wanted to ride the turbulance as Chris emptied the lock.  They thoroughly enjoyed it.

Riding the turbulance
We had planned to got down to Stourbridge but the staff at the glass factory informed us the moorings would be very busy with boats for the coming Glass festival next weekend.  We decided to give it a miss this time.

Safely out of harms way.  Off to the left is the route to Stourbridge.

Whilst parents and instructor look on
The next few miles of the canal becomes quite narrow and reedy,  I was just thinking good job it is not busy when a boat rounded a bend towards us.  It took some slow and careful manouvering from both of us for them to pass.  In fact we are very surprised that today we have only seen three boats on the move all day.  This stretch from Wolverhampton is so quiet, hardly any boats about, moored or moving.  Just the odd long term mooring here and there.  If you want quiet then do this ring!

Narrow and reedy with over hanging trees
By 5pm we reached the last locks, Stourton locks, before the end of the Stourbridge canal.  There was just room for us to moor up before the lock landing and so we gratefully moored up, exhausted having done 25 locks, every one against us, but happy having enjoyed the Strourbridge canal.

Sad end to a work boat near the locks,  I hate to see them like this, so sad.

Tomorrow we set off on our last leg of the Stourbridge ring and meet back at the top of the Wolverhampton 21 where we started it.  We'll then continue up the Staff and Wocester canal back to Autherley Junction.

Total distance:5.85 miles Elapsed time:h7m37s Locks:25 Bridges:27 
Average speed:0.43 mph (4.21 lock/mph)