Waring’s Green

Where as Friday was a day for Locks, yesterday 18/5 was a day for Tunnels. First we had the small but significant milestone to navigate, Tardebigge Top Lock. Once we had completed our ascent, we could claim, to have completed the longest flight of Locks in the U.K. thirty Locks over two miles, which raises the Canal by 220 feet.

Tardebigge Top Lock

When the Canal was originally built, there was a vertical boat lift where the Top Lock is located, but due to technical problems it was abandoned, and now no trace of it exists. There is however a plaque.

Site of former boat lift

Next was our first of four Tunnels, Tardebigge Tunnel, then a stop at the Anglo Welsh hire base, primarily for diesel, but also a pump out. Our trip up the Severn against the flow, had clearly caused the engine to be a bit more thirsty than usual, we needed nearly a hundred litres.

Entrance to the 580 yard Tardebigge Tunnel

A short distance further on we navigated our second tunnel, Shortwood Tunnel, which at 613 yards was just that little bit longer. We carried on, passing Alvechurch Marina. It was here that with family we went on a Canal holiday, when we first made our decision to buy a boat to live on. Just beyond the Marina we stopped for lunch. With a few miles still to go, we did not stop long. Passing beneath the M42 and the Bittell Reservoirs, it wasn’t long before we encountered our third Tunnel. At 2726 yards, Wast Hills Tunnel would be the longest of the day.

Entrance to Wast Hills Tunnel

As we approached the entrance, we saw the illumination of a tunnel lamp within. This meant at least one boat was oncoming. It wasn’t until we were in the tunnel, that we realised the problem we would soon have. Many tunnel lights used today, are way brighter than they need be. This is generally ok, if the boater angles the lamp up towards the roof and slightly towards starboard. In doing this, the lamp will not blind an oncoming boat. This boat however, not only had a very powerful light, it was also angled to port. We were totally blinded by it. Once passed this boat, our remaining transit of the tunnel was unopposed. On entry to Wast Hills Tunnel, we were in rural Worcestershire, when we exited we were in Warwickshire, and on the outskirts of the Black Country. A mile further on we reached King’s Norton Junction, where the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, meets the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.

King’s Norton Junction

In the photo above we are turning right onto the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Had we continued through the bridge, we would have passed the Cadbury Works at Bournville, and reached Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham, a little over four miles further on. Just beyond the junction, we passed through a Guillotine Lock no longer in use. Presumably in a bygone era, it was used to prevent water from the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, flowing into the Stratford upon Avon Canal. The level of the former, was an inch higher than the latter, and Canal companies used to jealously guard their water resources.

King’s Norton Guillotine Lock

We were now in a fairly urban area, and the next couple of miles would be a little torturous. It seemed as if every 50 yards or so, we collected some rubbish on the prop. Fortunately we were able to rid ourselves of the problem, by engaging reverse gear, and not the more arduous job of going down the weed hatch. Our last tunnel of the day was Brandwood, at 352 yards the shortest we would do.

Brandwood Tunnel, we could see the light at the end.

Three more miles and we arrived at the Shirley Draw Bridge. This requires the use of a key, and is fully automated. The reaction by some of the traffic which was stopped, was rather comical. The prospect of being held up for a minute or two, resulted in screeching of tyres as u-turns were performed.

Shirley Draw Bridge

Once beyond the draw bridge, we were back into our comfort zone, aka open countryside.We found a mooring a couple of miles further on, by the hamlet of Waring’s Green. Conveniently it has two pubs, so Sunday lunch would be sorted.

Today we went to the Bulls Head for a roast dinner. Later back at the boat we gave it a clean and tended to some of its war wounds.

Bulls Head, our lunch venue

Tomorrow we have another Lock day, the Lapworth flight, ending up back on the

Grand Union Canal, the Avon ring completed.

Totals 15 Miles 1 Lock 4 Tunnels

Running total 135 Miles 168 Locks 8 Tunnels

Tardebigge

Last night there were three other boats moored at the base of the Tardebigge Lock flight, all facing the same way as us. We had a discussion about whether to get up early and hope to be the first boat up the flight, thereby ensuring the Locks, which would have no doubt drained overnight, would be in our favour. We decided no, we would wake up normally. We heard the first boat engine start at about quarter to eight, and by half past, all three other boats were on their way. No need to rush breakfast now, all Locks would be against us. Slipping our lines at 9am, we made our way into Tardebigge Bottom Lock, only 30 to go.

Tardebigge Bottom Lock

We quickly got in to a routine. Once the Lock chamber was half full, the crew would go ahead to set the next Lock, whilst I dealt with the current one. The system worked quite smoothly, and by the first hour we had passed through eight Locks. At one point we were even catching up with the boat ahead, which had set off about twenty minutes before us. The halfway point was reached after two hours and fifteen minutes. We were slowing slightly. It was about this time we also encountered a shower, which had not been forecast. Fortunately it was only brief. On reaching Tardebigge reservoir, we knew we had cracked it, only five more to go.

Tardebigge Reservoir
Looking down from the banks of the reservoir

Tardebigge reservoir was built about fifty feet below the summit level, and a pump house was therefore needed further up the flight, to pump the water back up the hill. There is a large field adjacent to the reservoir, so four legs was allowed to get off the boat to have a run around.

The engine house

Once we passed the former pump house, we had made it. The Top Lock is actually located a bit further on, beyond the visitor moorings. We would not be doing that today. We found a spot to secure the boat, then collapsed into our armchairs, for a mug of tea and a well earned rest.

Mooring spot at Tardebigge

As you can see in the photo above, we have needed to utilise the wheelbarrow tyres here, because the mooring is shallow. The mooring rings have also not been well spaced for a sixty foot boat, so the extra long ropes have been required. One other reason to stay put for today is, that we need a fair amount of diesel and a pump out. The Anglo Welsh hire base just above the Top Lock, cannot serve us today as they are busy with boat hand overs, so we will wait till tomorrow.

Totals 2 Miles 29 Locks

Running total 120 Miles 167 Locks 4 Tunnels

Stoke Pound

At 9 am we were underway, earlier than usual for us. We had a few miles to go before reaching our first set of six Locks. We navigated through Dunhampstead, which has a small Canal side shop, selling gifts and chandlery items. Next was Dunhampstead Tunnel, which at 230 yards is fairly short. On approach to Hanbury Junction, where the Droitwich Canal, joins the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, there is a line of long term moored boats. We slowed to a tickover, so as not to rock the boats, then just as we were closing on the junction, another boat emerged from the direction of Droitwich, and was now ahead of us towards the Locks.

Looking back at Hanbury Junction

With the boat ahead, all the Locks would be against us now, still never mind the sun was shining. At the top of the Astwood flight, this other boat moored. We passed them then stopped for water. After a quick lunch break we got going again, this time with nothing in front of us, towards the Stoke flight of six Locks. The only concern we had now was, would there be space to stop above the top lock. There is only a very short pound between Stoke Top Lock, and Tardebigge Bottom Lock, and we certainly did not want to be committed to that flight of 30 Locks today. We were lucky, there was a little space, we secured the boat, then went to the Queens Head P.H. for refreshments.

Mooring spot at Stoke Pound

Just ahead of our mooring, you can see the white posts to the Lock Landing for Tardebigge Bottom Lock.

Totals 7 Miles 12 Locks 1 Tunnel

Running totals 118 Miles 138 Locks 4 Tunnels