Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Day 7 – arrival!

Last day: we were ahead of schedule so had a fairly easy day. There were more straight cuttings and tall bridges.

The bridges on this section still have the cast iron plates to protect the stonework from the ropes on the horse-drawn boats.

The only tunnel on this section, the Cowley tunnel, is only 81 yards long but is cut out of solid rock so no lining is necessary.

After the one lock and a stop for lunch (during which there was a shower of rain – the only one during the day for quite a while - and we were in the cabin) we arrived at Norbury Junction at 2:50. We moored short of the boatyard for tea.

After driving back to Stockton to collect my car, we opened a bottle of fizz to celebrate the end of the journey.

Day 7 was 10.1 miles, 1 lock.

Over the week, we travelled 53.7 miles and passed through 88 locks. The journey by car back to Stockton was 72 miles – going round Birmingham – but took 1 hour 40 minutes...

Click on the maps below to see a larger version with the GPS track overlaid:

Monday, 21 November 2011

Wolverley move again – Wednesday, onto the Shropshire Union

Wednesday was the day when we got onto the Shroppie at last. But first the Wolverhampton locks – a flight of 21 in 2 miles or so. Some way down the flight was a fascinating high railway bridge with a wonderful skewed arch for the canal to pass under.

We had left the mooring at 9 am and cleared the last lock at 11:45 – including a ten minute break for tea just after the railway bridge and before lock 17. Just below the bottom lock was Aldersley Junction – not yet into the Shroppie but nearly there.

At noon exactly we turned at Autherley Junction into the Shropshire Union – and a stop lock. The log says “ they tell us there’s ANOTHER lock”

We were soon on the Shropshire Union – with its long straight sections over embankments and through cuttings, and its wonderful stone bridges, many much taller than on other canals.

... and a modern motorway bridge carrying the M54

We moored at Brewood and celebrated with a cream tea at The Mess.

Day 6: 6.6 miles, 22 locks

Click on the maps below to see a larger version with the GPS track overlaid:

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Panto photos

Click on the picture to see larger versions

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tuesday – Black Country – part 2

Adjacent to the sad lock was a wonderful cast-iron aqueduct where a branch of the Old Main Line crosses the New Line to an enginehouse.

Below on the new main line was a toll island where boats were measured so that the weight of the cargo they were carrying could be read from markings on the sides – like the Plimsoll Line on modern sea-going vessels.

Once we were through the Summit Tunnel – which appears to have been relined with reinforced concrete, very different from another tunnel later in the week – we were out in the countryside again. In most places the canal is very murky – you can’t see the bottom even if it’s only a few feet deep. However here the water was incredibly clear – we could see the bottom, the weeds and, occasionally, the fish!

Day 5: 13.1 miles, 3 locks

Click on the maps below to see a larger version with the GPS track overlaid:

Monday, 14 November 2011

Tuesday – Black Country – part 1

Black Country?

We left urban Birmingham with its shopping and architecture and headed west. We had decided to take the old main line rather than Telford’s new line.

Our only three locks, the Smethwick flight, were marked by flowers left by friends of Sara and Fayz, two teenagers who had lost their lives at the top lock on the previous Wednesday. A very sad interlude on our trip.

Click on the map below to see a larger version with the GPS track overlaid:

Friday, 11 November 2011

Monday – no locks to Birmingham

Monday was a lock-free day, unless you count the stop lock at Kings Norton Junction. This has guillotine gates but was open all the way though:

Before the junction we had another lift bridge – but this one was on a main road with electrically operated barriers.

Here are the crew and the cars they stopped – who weren’t too friendly!

Kings Norton Junction is the end of the Stratford canal we were now on the Birmingham and Worcester. The tollhouse at the junction is a beautiful building:

Did you notice the finger post? 40 locks to Warwick!

On the way up to the centre of Birmingham we passed the University and resisted stopping at Cadbury World at Bourneville. We eventually moored near Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham near The Mailbox. The girls were talking about Harvey Nicks – whatever that is!

Day 4: 10.3 miles, 0 locks
Click on the maps below to see a larger version with the GPS track overlaid:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sunday – ahead of schedule

Sunday was another big lock day – but not quite as bad as Saturday. And a lock-free day to look forward to tomorrow! After an early start we went through the Shrewley tunnel. The girls walked over the top to the village to buy newspapers. They had to walk through the horse tunnel that took the towpath over the top – there was no towpath through the tunnel. In the horse-drawn days, boats would be legged through!

At 9:20 we turned off the Grand Union canal and onto the Stratford. We had another flight of locks, but these were all single width 7 foot ones, so much lighter than the Grand Union. We completed the flight of 19 locks, leaving the top lock (number 2) at noon exactly. Number 1 is the stop lock at the North end of the Stratford – wait till tomorrow! After Lunch, we came to the first of the lift bridges – more winding with the windlass!

The Canal was beautiful here – although no autumn colours yet. Our log says "15:19 Moored in sunshine just before dickens Heath"

Day 3: 9.4 miles, 19 locks

Click on the maps below to see a larger version with the GPS track overlaid. The GPS doesn’t align too well, I’m afraid.

Hatton to Kingswood:

Kingswood to Dickens Heath:

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Saturday – a big day

The schedule for Saturday was to get to Warwick. However, we did some more detailed calculations on Friday evening and realised that this would leave the next two days too hard to achieve. So we decided to start the Hatton Flight on Saturday. This meant forgoing the Warwick restaurants – but we remembered The Waterman, near the top of the Hatton flight! So we set of early for a day of locks.

Through Leamington, we shared the cut with a Sprint Canoe. I’d never seen one of these before but apparently it’s in the Olympics. It looks very hard work and uncomfortable. This canoeist was obviously in training.

After 8 locks, we turned North and started the Hatton flight. Although not the longest flight on the English canals (Tardebigge has that honour – 30 locks in 2¼ miles) the 21 locks at Hatton are quite a challenge. Known as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’  they are not quite in a straight line so you can’t see all of them at once. Looking back, there’s a wonderful view of the tower of St Mary’s, Warwick, but we didn’t look back too often!

We were lucky with the locks as virtually all were set for us – they were nearly empty so we didn’t have to spend time emptying them before opening the bottom gates. The flight of 21 locks we completed in just over 3 hours including a 20 minute break for tea.

Day 2: 9.6 miles, 29 locks

Click on the map below to see a larger version with the GPS track overlaid: