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

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.

Halcyon days

The next morning Kathy (who doesn’t often lie in at the weekends, compared to me who will lie in at the drop of a hat) got up early and took some photos, hoping to catch some atmospheric shots before the canal filled up with boats.

She took several photos which are on her Flickr site but the best one has to be of a heron sitting in Cowley Tunnel:

Heron in Cowley Tunnel

Although we didn’t have a long way to go to get back to the moorings we didn’t really need an early start but Tyrley locks can easil turn into a bottle neck and we did want to get home at a reasonable time.

We were the only boat on the move again – there seemed to be no sign of life on most of the moored boats, curtains were drawn, doors closed, padlocks in place. Hard to believe it was the middle of the summer holidays.

By the time we got to Norbury there were a few more signs of life: dogs on the towpath (blissfully unaware of the squirrel that was scampering along the fence above its head), a few people walking round and a couple of boats on the move. The Cafe at Norbury was open and we nearly pulled in for breakfast but decided to push on.

Kathy really wanted to see if she could get some better pictures of the bird in the cutting so she was on the back deck, camera primed.

I noticed the Kingfisher first – it darted down the canal in front of us which is normal behaviour. Then it went and stood on the bank. As we got closer it seemed to hop round a bit and seemed to be distracted.

Kathy zoomed right in on it using her zoom lens and got the following:

Kingfisher with a fish

The Kingfisher had a fish and seemed to be intent on eating it rather than flying away.

As we went through the cutting we kept a close lookout for the Kestrel. There was no sign of it and the whole cutting was still (even the cat wasn’t lying on the roof of the moored boat).

Just as we approached the end of the cutting the Kestrel zoomed in from overhead and vanished into the trees, and then a minute or so later crossed the canal and vanished again. It was obviously doing it just to spite us 😉

We kept meeting boats coming the other way, but they seemed to come in pulses, small batches of 3-4 boats, which is odd given that the locks would tend to remove grouping and thin the boats out into a regular spaced out stream.

Of course it was a given that we’d meet one of these bursts of boats going through Woodseaves cutting. It was fun but at least it shows that the channel is actually 14 feet wide!

Tyrley locks turned out to be the bottle neck that it can so often be. There were 3 boats in front of us and a few coming up. It didn’t help that some of the boats going down had never seen a lock before in their lives and didn’t have even the basic idea on how to use a lock.

So with novices heading down the locks the last thing you need is arrogant “I’ve been boating for ever” types coming up and stealing locks off people. Chaos – at one point there were 4 boats in the pound between the top and second lock. We got one coming up as we were going down – turns up, opens the paddle on the near side (without checking that we were ready) which meant Kathy had to walk over to the far side of the lock (I usually do that side on the way down to avoid her having to walk over) and then of course she was on the wrong side of the lock so had to walk all the way back round again when she was heading down to the second lock.

Waiting between the 3rd and 4th locks wasn’t exactly fun due to at least two wasps nests in the bank and I don’t think they were too happy to have boats right outside their front doors. Maybe BW could put some notices up saying “Please do not moor outside the Wasps Nests”, they seem all too keen to put similar notices up for people who choose to live in properties that overlook the canal.

The public moorings at Market Drayton weren’t too busy and we were able to turn and back into our moorings with no real difficulty