After the coldest night of the holiday we were all quite dreading getting up and getting going but it was actually not a bad morning and so three of the crew went off with keys and windlasses to get the three swingbridges and the Barge Lock open.
Just above Bromsgrove Road Bridge No 8 the canalised river makes a turn to the left and straight ahead there seems to be the remains of a bridge – we suspect this is the original line of the canal which has been obliterated.
There seemed to be a little bit more flow on the river but we still made it through the M5 tunnel with no problems. The Body Brook where it enters into the canal immediately below lcck 6 is really nothing more than a trickle but obviously it can carry quite a lot of water at times.
The M5 was a lot noisier this time round and even inside the chamber of the staircase lock you couldn’t get away from it and you could hear it over the boat’s engine.
Between the staircase lock and Rugby Club Bridge No 2 the canal is almost totally overgrown with reeds and I suspect you’d have problems if a boat was coming the other way.but beyond the bridge the canal opens up again as you return to the old line of the canal.
The last three locks on the canal even have side ponds which work and although its obvious that a lot of people DON’T use them they work perfectly.
We came through Hanbury Junction Bridge No 1 and onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and moored up for breakfast on the Hanbury Visitor Moorings as we were facing another 42 locks before the end of the day.
Astwood Bottom Lock No 17 marks the start of the long slog up to Birmingham but for a bottom lock its rather a long way (over 3 furlongs) to the next lock in the flight and in fact its pretty much the same distance from the bottom lock to Astwood Lock No 18 as it is from that lock to Astwood Top Lock No 22. Its worth getting on the boat after the top lock and taking time to have a coffee and go to the loo before you hit Stoke Bottom Lock No 23 as from there until the top of the flight at Tardebigge you might as well walk.
We were just about through Stoke Bottom lock and had crew well on the way to Stoke Prior Lock No 24 when a boat cast off from the boat yard and although the person steering seemed to know what he was doing the same could not be said of the rest of his crew. Apparently they had just picked up the boat and were heading off down the Grand Union. We were really rather worried that being stuck behind them would mean we’d just never make it up the locks but they slowly started to get their act together and by the time we got to the top they were actually doing quite well.
When we got to Tardebigge Lock No 50 several of us scrambled up to look at the water level in Tardebigge Reservoir and it was quite a long way down but then again if the canal reservoirs aren’t getting low by September then you’ve obviously had a very wet summer.
At Tardebigge Top Lock No 58 we met a boat coming down that we’d last met at Swindon Locks earlier in the week – they were heading for Worcester but had had a leisurely trip through Birmingham and had even taken in a show.
We filled up with water at Tardebigge Wharf which took quite a while as the pressure is quite low, but it allowed the boats ahead of us to get through Tardebigge Tunnel so we weren’t breathing in their exhaust fumes as we went through.
We made our way through the late afternoon until we got to Alvechurch Marina where we saw “Slipstream” which we’d last seen near bilford bottom lock the previous morning.
The moorings by the bridge were pretty full and although we got a mooring the next boat along only got in with some juggling and lifting their hinged rear fender up. We were going to eat on board and then go to the pub but we felt like a pre-supper drink and as the Weighbridge didn’t open until 7pm we walked along the bank to the Crown Inn by Alvechurch Visitor Moorings (which were also full). The beer range was rather limited and rather expensive so after a couple we walked back to the boat and after eating headed off to the Weighbridge which had a good range and they always have a mild on tap – and a good mild it was too.