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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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