Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for July 27th, 2008

The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 24

Posted by indigodream on 27 July, 2008

Merryhill to just above Stourton Top Lock

Our overnight mooring spot - perfect!

Our overnight mooring spot - perfect!

We’ve had an afternoon of almost crystalline perfection today – the sort of cruising that I wish I could put into a glass globe to preserve it for the winter time. If I did, then I’d shake it up on Christmas Day just to see the summer dust, chaff and sparkling sunshine swirling around the Indigo Dream while she gently drifted down the canal.

I’m writing this post on the back deck – it’s slowly cooling down and the last of the day’s light is softly draining away. We’re in a quiet spot surrounded by cornfields; the water’s deep and reflective, with a generous fringe of reeds and sedges. I was mobbed by a cloud of midges but they’ve been chased away by a flock of house martins and swallows – they’re so close I feel I could touch them; they’re so agile that I don’t stand a chance!

Of course I might have been dodging a different swarm if we’d moored a boat length further up – we were just tying up when we realised that a hole in the towpath was occupied by a wasp’s nest. A bit of hasty reversing put us out of harm’s way!

Another veiw from our mooring.

Another veiw from our mooring.

Although it’s very quiet here I’ve got for company some genial cyclists passing on the towpath and we’ve just been overtaken by a trip boat full of merry old folk all eating fish and chips, wafting the delicious smell over the water – it really doesn’t get better than this. The trip boat has passed back – the fish and chips have vanished and now there’s BEER. I asked the long-suffering young helmsman which were the most rowdy – the oldies or the youth – he assured me that they’re both as bad as each other πŸ™‚

So, that’s what’s made it a special end to the day, but what about the rest. Ok, let’s start with ease of transport – we couldn’t face the traffic last night so we left bright and early (by our standards!) and got to Merryhill in around 2 hours. I know it’s mundane

Nefertiti (?) blessing the waters in Merryhill

Nefertiti (?) blessing the waters in Merryhill

but a morning without a traffic jam is always a good start! Beginning our trip from a shopping centre is so useful. We were able to take the car down, pay for our extra day’s mooring (which we arranged with them by phone yesterday), fill up with a delectable Starbuck’s caramel frappuccino then load up with heavy stuff (like LOTS of cans of dog food). We then parked up right behind the boat to onload. We wanted to leave the car at the waterfront for the day/night (in a 2 hour parking bay) – we rang the security guards (the number’s on the lamposts) and they were fine about it. We are gradually learning that the trick is to let them know rather than take the p***.

As usual, we set off about two hours later than intended but it was a lovely sunny day and I knew we’d manage a long afternoon. What a contrast – today was children’s picture book of a summer’s day – hot but not humid, sunny but not brutal, crystal blue sky with a few puffy clouds just for effect! I have to say that I now know how it must feel to be a ready meal – last week I was chilled and frozen and today I’ve been warmed right through πŸ™‚

It’s been a bit too hot for the dogs – I don’t think they’ll be needing jimjams tonight! But for most of the day the locks have been secure and they’ve been able to have 5 minute bobbles here and there – just enough to keep them interested before flopping back onto the shaded sofa.

The alien shopping centre!

The alien shopping centre!

The view down to the Merryhill Shopping Centre from the canal embankment is quite something – the centre looks so alien there. If you’ve ever looked down at Bluewater in Kent then you’ll know what I mean – that looks like a weird spacecraft that’s set down in the old quarry for a brief visit! The moorings here were well-occupied today and further along we noticed that there was an abundance of mooring rings plus good lighting and lots of CCTV cameras. Greygal commented that she’s moored safely here before and I think we would now as well.

After the bustle of Merryhill we were surprised at how abruptly the canal becomes rural again. The Delph 9 (originally), or 8 (as is now), or 10 (if you count the pub!), were charming. There aren’t any roads

Great view from the Delph 9.

Great view from the Delph 9.

after the first lock until you get down to the 7th or 8th lock and it’s very green, so the dogs had their first proper rummage of the day. About three locks down we noticed a man preparing the next lock, windlass in hand. I groaned because the pounds are a bit short and I wasn’t looking forward to passing an upcoming boat. But it wasn’t an upcoming boat – it was John.

Now Richard’s heard of John before – apparently he haunts the locks hereabouts and helps boaters through. Although it was a bit disconcerting to have a complete stranger volunteering to do so much hard work on such a hot day, we soon got used to him. He was a knowledgeable and considerate lock crewman – he always took his time and always checked with me before opening the paddles; checking again whether the boat was well off the cill before opening a second paddle. At the end of the flight he set off at full speed down the towpath – he reminded me a bit of Blue, forging ahead then stopping to see if we were following. He waited at a low bridge and signalled us through when he saw that there was enough headroom then he set off again. We had an inkling then that he was walking all the way down to the Stourbridge 16 to help us

John!

John!

again. I had my usual paranoid misgivings here – was he an axe murderer? Was he a crook? But NO, I believe he is just a quiet, simple and gentle soul who enjoys helping people. It’s a rare old thing and I was bit ashamed for thinking the worse.

The last part of Dudley No 1 Canal is rural and scenic. The water is very clear here, though unfortunately as we passed by bits of wood, bubble wrap and other garbage kept emerging from the depths. But we also saw shoals of fish flashing through it all so it wasn’t so bad. These later proved to be perch with green bodies and bright red dorsal and tail fins. We passed an old boatyard (Delph Marine) which had some fine old redbrick buildings – it was good to see some boats as there really isn’t much traffic on this canal.

The turn onto the Stourbridge Canal has some interesting modern industry around it – we wondered what a tall slim chimney was for – it was belching steam from an opening on its side but nothing was coming out of the top. Maybe I should campaign for all waterside industries to put up a sign so that curious and interested boaters can know what they do!

A view from the Stourbridge 16

A view from the Stourbridge 16

When we got to the Stroubridge 16 there was John, busy getting the top lock ready for us. This flight again seems cut off from the world there’s isn’t any road access until lock 4, so we let the dogs out for another rummage. There looked to be great dogwalking potential in the Buckpool Nature Reserve near the top of the flight but we didn’t explore – it was far too hot for Blue and Lou to be running around.

This flight wasn’t quite as charming as the Delph 9 but it was still scenic with richly planted side-pounds and hordes of friendly and helpful passers-by. We felt very welcome here. The lock gates are quite leaky but even this was positive as the sun sparkled through the mini-waterfalls and lit the gloomy pits of the deep locks with tiny rainbows.

Stuart Crystal's bottle kiln

Stuart Crystal's bottle kiln

As we approached lock 9 I thought we’d been mysteriously transported to Stafford (where we spent so much time on Dragonfly). There in front of me was a huge bottle kiln. However this one was a lot bigger and in much better repair than the ones that dot the Staffordshire landscape. We passed right by it later on and found it was a glass works belonging to Stuart Crystal. They do guided tours but we were much too late to take advantage – another time maybe – it has visitor moorings and looked interesting.

As I was sitting at the bottom of Lock 9, Richard kept warning me about the ‘long pound’ that was ahead of me. I hadn’t a clue what he was going on about until he and John opened the bottom gate! I don’t know why they bothered with a pound at all – it was all of 15 feet long – may as well call it a staircase and be done with it! It was very reminiscent of Bratch and maybe the lock cottage name says it all – “double lock cottage”!

There’s a scenic view back from lock 11 onto some fine old dock buildings (now a shop) and what looks like an old victorian train station but which is also a boatyard – very confusing. Just beyond here we lost John – there was a single-handed boater coming up the flight and we suggested that he help him instead. The single-hander was delighted!

View back from Stourbridge Lock 16

View back from Stourbridge Lock 16

As we went down the flight the water became clearer still and revealed more water plants and less garbage. There’s a good stretch of parkland between lock 15 and 16. Some boaters we met in the morning warned us NOT to moor here as he darkly described how local youths use boats for target practice. We were tempted by the Stourbridge Town Arm but we were concerned that it was getting late in the day and that we would be stuck with rowdy moorings on a Saturday night, so we kept on down the canal.

I’m so pleased that we did – the next bit is stunning – rolling countryside all decked out in harvest gold; dappled shade through green woodland and finally bursting out into the brilliant evening sunshine about a quarter of a mile above Stewponey Top Lock. Funnily enough I’d say this was the cleanest bit of canal we’ve seen today but we

The rural Stourbridge Canal

The rural Stourbridge Canal

still managed to totally foul the prop with a few plastic bags and a red jumper (but no resulting topless woman!). This is where we’re moored now and it feels quite magical – only time will tell whether it stays that way all night!

It’s pitch black here now apart from the huge orange glow in the sky behind us – presumably Birmingham and Dudley – a reminder of the bright lights we’ve left behind.

Kids!

We did encounter some kids on the last rural stretch of canal – they had a rope hanging from a tree and were swinging over the water and dropping in. They had the sense to get out of the water as we passed by, but one lad was hanging on to the rope when his so-called friends pushed him in. He splatted into the side of the boat – no harm was done (to him, that is, needless to say the steel boat was completely undented!) but I still found a few choice words!

Richard’s Reminiscences

Richard cycled back to get the car – quite a feat considering the steep hills that we’d locked down. On his way he saw two Alvechurch hire boats working their way down the Delph 9 – he was impressed – that’s quite a big day’s cruising if they’d only picked the boats up this afternoon. He was also a complete hero as he found an excellent chinese takeaway and bought some much needed sustenance back to the boat. He commented that Stourton from the road is a different world – you’d never believe that a canal existed here, let alone such a scenic one.

Photoblog:

Beautiful Buddleia

Beautiful Buddleia

I just wanted to add a few photos from the Delph 9 and the first stretch of the Stourbridge Canal between the Delph 9 and Leys Junction – it’s more scenic that you’d imagine.

Richard lock-wheeling between the mythigcal 9th lock and the legendary 10th lock!

Richard lock-wheeling between the mythical 9th lock and the legendary 10th lock!

One of the Delph 9

One of the Delph 9

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