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The Odyssey 2009: Day 34

Posted by indigodream on 31 July, 2009

Sunday 26th July

Whittington Lock to Dimmingsdale Lock

Lock gates.....

Lock gates.....

I’m so glad that we remembered to consciously enjoy our cruise yesterday because today our spirits were slightly dampened by a day in our waterproofs!

We set off  in the rain but at 10.30am it dried out briefly in time for our stop at the useful services just above Kinver lock – we emptied the toilet tank, filled the water tank and got rid of some rubbish. There are also showers here.

The clouds looked ominous though and we kept our waterproofs on (it being a well-known fact that taking your waterproofs off makes it rain immediately!)

Shortly after our little pit-stop we felt Birmingham’s siren pull – it was Stourton Junction leading to the scenic Stourbridge Canal, but we resisted and carried straight on. We’re glad we did. If we thought that stretch up to Kinver was lovely, then the next bit is even better.

New views at every lock

New views at every lock

Note: Richard says that he spotted Hadar on our travels but she was all locked up – pity, we haven’t bumped into any fellow bloggers for a while.

A little way up from the junction we spotted a cave on the right of the canal, sealed with a padlocked timber door. It’s a curious object, ominously known as the ‘Devil’s Den’, but apparently once used as a boathouse. It’s impossible to tell how deep the cave is, but the entrance seems to be well-silted so I doubt if you’d be able to drag anything much bigger than a canoe into there now.

Past the Devil’s Den the countryside takes over with waves of meadows sweeping relentlessly against the dark green cliffs of the surrounding forestry.

There are very few long-term online moorings on this stretch of canal but there is a substantial marina at Ashwood with a few lengths of online moorings nearby. We were a bit sad to see a sign at the marina entrance “No hire boats” – it seemed unusually aloof for this canal. “Why?” we wondered – have hire boats been a nuisance? Do they accidentally miss the main channel and end up stranded in the marina’s narrow arm? What would a hire boat be looking for in the marina – there aren’t any obvious attractions (like a shop).  Who knows!

The devil's den

The devil's den

One of the other attractions all along this canal are what I’d call ‘proper’ locks – narrow and deep.  Most are 9′ plus and with each one a new vista emerges – fantastic. BUT watch out for the bywashes below the locks – they’re lively and push the boat all over the place, making for a few untidy lock entries on my part. Richard decided to drive a bit today so I actually did some of the grunt work. It was fine – these are very well-maintained locks with smooth and easy gates/paddles. The locks fill quickly with a combination of two ground paddles and a fierce gate paddle so we made good progress up the canal.

The locks are mainly rural, so the dogs could get off for a rummage at most of them. But they soon lost interest. We soon noticed the pitter-patter of rain on the water in front of us. I hoped that it was just a passing shower but it was, in fact, the start of a torrential downpour which was to last the rest of the day.

Bratch

Bratch Bottom

It was a shame as there is the interest of a deep staircase at Botterham, followed not long after by the famous flight at Bratch.

Now Bratch is undoubtedly interesting but I do hate these locks – they’re such a fiddle. I KNOW they’re a flight not a staircase but it’s really a technicality when you look at how the locks have to be set using their colour-coded paddles. There was a boat working its way down so I had to wait for half an hour at the bottom. I huddled up in my waterproofs, trying to present as small a target for the rain as possible. I was entertained by a father and son combination fishing in the wide basin beneath the lock. It seemed exceptionally boring but the little boy (of only 6 or 7) seemed to be having a good time. I was also amused by a pair of lads who walked through the rain to the underpass leading to the first lock just so they could stay dry while they had a few ciggies. One did risk getting his feet drenched as he perched on the edge of the bywash channel – judging the speed of the water coming out he did well to get his trainers above the flow in time!

You can’t deny the sheer scale of the Bratch locks – they are so deep and surrounded by massive infrastructure of paths and bridges. I think it’s a gongoozler-magnet, on better days. I was alarmed by the fact that the lock-keeper (maybe retired BW volunteer) just opens the gate paddle straight away, with the boat well below the water-level. I was even more alarmed when Richard did the same, as the bottom gate hadn’t shut properly and I was afraid of getting the back fender pinched in the gate. It wasn’t, but it’s nice to be asked whether the boat is ready before letting through a torrent of water at head height!

Bratch Middle

Bratch Middle

Actually, we’ve been a bit lax with our gate paddles throughout this stretch. Once the boat is stable at the back of the lock, and I’ve decided that we probably won’t sink, then I’m signalling for Richard to open the gate paddle. It’s all very safe with the boat in reverse at the back of the lock, but if something fouled the prop then the boat would be sucked straight into the flow. I should really go back to ‘best practice’ and wait until the gate paddles are submerged before opening them.

Once we got to the top of Bratch, we stopped off at the little lock keeper’s shop and bought a few plaques. We’ve not thought of collecting them but the BCN Challenge plaque will look a bit lonely by itself (when we finally get round to fixing it to the back door). But we’ve seen very attractive plaque displays on other boats and it will be good to mark the scope of our wanderings on Indigo Dream.

We’d planned to get quite a bit further today but by 5.30pm it was seriously miserable on deck. We were bone dry inside our waterproofs but it was just too gloomy to be fun. We decided to moor in a quiet rural spot above Dimmingsdale Lock. There are 48-hour moorings on the right just above the lock, but nb The Corridor, from the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, was tied up there and there wasn’t quite enough room for us (though it looked like a top mooring spot). It didn’t matter – there are fine moorings on the left just before the tiny side-branch on the right.

Bratch Top

Bratch Top

Although it wasn’t that cold, we ran the heating just for the sheer comfort of it, and to dry off our waterproofs, of course! I offered the doggies a walk and ran a little way down the towpath to get them going – Blue jumped straight back on board; Lou looked at me, looked at the boat, looked at me, then went back to her bed.

Being a countryside mooring we ate on board and had a cosy gathering in front of one of the the ‘Lord of the Rings’ DVDs. All four of us snuggled onto the sofa (quite a feat) and cuddled together for comfort. When the rest of us retreated to our nests at the front of the boat, Lou was left with the sofa to herself – she whimpered for quite a while – I think she missed the pack! Richard thought she was just hungry, which may be the most likely explanation, as she doesn’t normally want to share her bed!

Photoblog:


Rolling countryside

Rolling countryside

Green and pleasant land.....

Green and pleasant land.....

Riotout plant life at Dunsley Tunnel

Riotous plant life at Dunsley Tunnel

We were amazed that this old wooden hull is still afloat....

We were amazed that this old wooden hull is still afloat....

Jolly toll-house at Stewponey - there's a lively wharf here.

Jolly toll-house at Stewponey - there's a lively wharf here.

We liked this wine holder....

We liked this wine holder....

What is this structure - any ideas?

What is this structure - any ideas?

The girls....

The girls....

Alert lock crew

Alert lock crew

Very neat moorings at Wimsey Wharf

Very neat moorings at Wimsey Wharf

Amazing canalside garden

Amazing canalside garden

Ashwood Marina

Ashwood Marina

Lou in contemplative moods

Lou in contemplative moods

Both Blue and Lou almost fell in the canal today while crossing these lock gates!

Both Blue and Lou almost fell in the canal today while crossing these lock gates!

Typical english scene - rain would have stopped play before they got started!

Typical english scene - rain would have stopped play before they got started!

The Botterham staircase

The Botterham staircase

That's such a dodgy bridge - particularly slippery in the rain

That's such a dodgy bridge - particularly slippery in the rain

2 Responses to “The Odyssey 2009: Day 34”

  1. Caroline Knowles said

    Hello,
    I don’t know if you can remember me, but I met Lou and Blue outside of the Navigation in Northampton, around a year ago?
    Its great to hear you are still enjoying your travels.
    Unfortunately our Greyhound Molly died 2 weeks ago. It was a bit of a freak accident, she fell when I had her out on a walk whilst chasing her ball. It was very quick but very sad as she was only 7. She is a great miss for all of us especially Maggie (the lurcher), as they were great friends.
    I am sure we will get another greyhound or lurcher, as Maggie seems very sad and is moping around. Its just choosing the right time I guess.
    Me and my partner Nathan, have relocated back to Sunderland, as we were both made redundant earlier in the year, but are happy to be having a fresh start.
    I will keep on checking on your travels, and give the Lou and Blue and big hug.

    Caroline x

  2. indigodream said

    We are in a rubbish signal area so do excuse this reply if it seems a bit disjointed, Sue will no doubt be along later to reply better. We are so sorry to hear your news. I think the freak accident is something that we all dread. In the past we have never lasted more than a few days without a dog, our advice is go and get one as soon as you feel ready, don’t worry about it being very emotional.

    Despite the all our care and experience, Lou managed to fall into the canal today …. she is a bit bruised but otherwise fine. Gave Sue a fright, especially as she nearly fell in herself during the fishing out stage.

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