Back to the mooring

Kathy got up early and went off bird hunting but there was neither sight nor sound of it and she came back with just a few general scenic shots.

The day had started off sunny but it clouded over and the wind which had been coolish all weekend went noticeably colder. If the weather was good and we didn’t get held up much at Tyrley locks we thought we might head past the moorings and turn at the winding hole at the head of Adderley locks – which of course doomed us on both the weather front and the queues at Tyrley locks.

Tyrley locks had a pretty steady flow of boats in both directions but not evenly balanced which meant that we ended up doing as much lock work, if not more, than we would have done if there had been no other boats around. However there weren’t any clueless fools on the flight which made for a nice change.

We got back to the moorings for a latish lunch and we actually left the boat at about 3:30 and we got home before 5, which might be worth remembering for other bank holiday weekends

To the cutting

The mile of canal from the 48 hour moorings near Hunting Bridge No 7 to the winding hole by Upper Hattons Bridge No 5 has an embankment, a cutting, a couple of bridges, a rather smelly farm, some open fields and a Motorway -its a microcosm of the entire canal.

The winding hole at Upper Hattons is a rather large elongated affair, and considering its the first winding hole north of Wolverhampton Boat Club it is rather silted up and turning round in it produces rather a lot of black silt and unpleasant smells.

Like the previous day there seemed to be a burst of activity first thing in the morning and then things went quiet. There was a small queue for the lock at Wheaton Aston, but nothing like it had been on Easter Sunday when we had to wait for over an hour to get through. As we needed to water and get rid of some rubbish we pulled in below the lock at the sanitary station and had lunch at the same time.

Kathy had an idea that she might stand a better chance of getting a good photo or three of the bird of prey in Grub Street cutting if we moored over night and she could go and wander round. So we moored up for the night just north of High Bridge – a good mooring in that it was nice and deep up to the edge but it was a pain putting the metal hooks round the piling rail as the rather soft bank had covered over the top of the piling, but some enthusiastic work with a mooring pin soon cleared space. There is another problem with this mooring and that’s the midges – rather nasty ones which cause very large swellings.

Three Mile Post

There is one advantage of heading south on the Shropshire Union and that is that after Tyrley there is only the single lock at Wheaton Aston which means that the day can be spent relaxing, reading, listening to music or just watching the world go by.

There is one disadvantage however : the what feels like endless lines of moored boats on the offside. Still I suppose it does give you even more time to watch the world go by.

During the mad rush on Friday we’d forgotten to take some stuff out of the fridge and we found we had no butter – still thats not a problem we thought, there is a handy little store at Norbury junction so we can just pick some stuff up there when we pull in for a pumpout.

Just before we cast off from the moorings there was a small flurry of traffic and I did wonder if we were going to spend the entire day stuck in a traffic jam – anyone who has boated round Braunston over a bank holiday weekend will know just what I’m talking about. However things went quiet and we found ourselves making our solitary way southwards.

It was a perfect day for canal boating – the sun was shining but there was a slight breeze which stopped things getting too hot.

The Daimler was back by the boats near Grub Street Winding Hole – it seems such an odd juxtapositioning – rather smart classic car and really scruffy boats.

The moorings on the approach to Norbury Junction seemed to be pretty full, which surprised me as the forecast for the weekend was good and its really the last long weekend in the “season” so you’d expect more people to be out and about.

We called in at the boatyard at Norbury Junction for a pump out and a new front fender (which was pretty rotten). The store had everything but butter so we decided to wait until Wheaton Aston and pop to the store there.

Passing through Gnosall we noticed Tyseley moored up on the offside by Coton Mill and signs advertising that Mikron were playing there tonight. I have to say I was surprised to see them there as I’d expected them to be at the IWA National Gathering over at St Ives, but I guess they decided not to go – which in a way is understandable as the way there does involve a lot of rather desolate waterways and if your business is theatre there probably isn’t much financial sense in it.

The shop at Wheaton Aston (a couple of hundred yards up from the garage) had butter and quite a range of supplies so its something worth remembering.

Our “target” for the night was the stretch of 48 hour moorings by the three mile mile post near Hunting Bridge No 7 – primarily because we know we can get Mintball into the side properly on these mooring as they don’t have the rather annoying concrete ledge about a foot under water. I was expecting them to be quite full as the visitor moorings at Brewood were packed, but when we got there we found plenty of space.

What is it about Tyrley Locks?

Well the planned weekend didn’t get off to a good start. Kathy took one of our cats to the vet because she’s been loosing weight (more than she should have been doing). She came out from the vets and the car wouldn’t start. Called the break down people who said it would be an hour before they got there : it was actually more as their driver didn’t seem to be able to find the Park and Ride Car Park at Cheltenham Race Course, and when he did he drove right past Kathy who was standing there by the car with the bonnet up – the car had its bonnet up, not Kathy! Whilst she was wasting here time the vets came out and said the blood test showed that Smokey had Kidney Disease. When we were telling mum about this later she expressed amazement that a vets can do its own blood tests on site and get the results in less than 2 hours when it takes the NHS weeks to do a blood test.

So with all the delays Kathy didn’t get stuff done in the morning that she should have done so packing and loading the car went a bit wonky and some stuff got left behind – but we did have the major items (clothes, food, booze etc.) so that was OK.

The roads were lousy – it took over 1 hour from just south of Kidderminster to Bridgenorth so we got to the boat a bit later than planned, however we soon loaded up and headed off.

I’m almost starting to dread Tyrley locks as they just seem to make boaters do silly things – and this time it started before we even got into the bottom lock. The lock was empty as a boat had left it only a couple of minutes earlier but that didn’t stop someone coming down from the lock above and start filling it without even checking to see if there was a boat coming – I was about 20 feet from the gates and Kathy and Mum and Dad were just about at the bottom gates! The man did drop the paddles and let us through and apologised saying that he just hadn’t seen us.

Now anyone who has done Tyrley will know that the by-wash channels are vicious and cause some nasty side currents so if you are going up stream you need to take the locks at a bit of a dash to get the nose in cleanly. Of course going in like this means you need more reverse and tend to end further up the lock than planned. We’ve found Mintball likes sitting about a foot clear of the bottom gates which avoids any nasty backwards or forwards pulls and surges. So after a completly event free second lock we entered the middle lock of the flight. There was a man on the bank – it turns out he was on Ivy (from Longport) and was coming down. Before we had the gates even half closed and I was actually moving forward he slammed up the top paddles. Voices were raised – it was pointed out that we weren’t actually ready. He said that we “nearly were” and “If you are going to be like that then you can do all the paddles yourself”. He then went off in a sulk – its nice to know that private boaters can be worse than hireboaters.

I’ve previously said things on here about Challenger Stealth Hire boats – well we met one that wasn’t. Ivy had closed the gates on the lock when they were coming down and the people behind them (on a Challenger boat) saw us and actually opened up the gates. We got chatting – it seemed that Ivy had forced them, and another boat going in the oppposite direction, to take evasive action when he pulled out of a mooring (off line marina or arm?) right between them. Hopefully the crew on that Challenger boat will become the norm rather than the exception.

After the madness of Tyrley I was dreading going through Woodseves cutting. In fact we had it to ourselves so we chugged through the green tunnel of trees and ferns and lillies before mooring up for the night on the 48 hour moorings near The Wharf at Goldstone.