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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 Day 19

Posted by indigodream on 3 September, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 26th July (but being posted on 3rd September in Great Heywood)

Alvechurch Marina to Stoke Pound (Tardebigge Bottom Lock)

Looking back to Alvechurch Marina - it was a friendly place to stop :-)

Looking back to Alvechurch Marina – it was a friendly place to stop πŸ™‚

We couldn’t travel to the boat on Friday night as we needed to arrive when the marina gates and office were open. This gave us a relaxed start to the weekend, without our usual tussle with the Friday traffic.

We also took our time on Saturday morning and didn’t get to Alverchurch until lunchtime. Indigo Dream had been fine on the mooring and the people in the office were very helpful – especially when they allowed Ty into the shop while we were paying and gave him lots of fuss. Ty would happily have stayed with them all weekend rather than go on the boat! Our current hounds are very different to our previous Indigo Dreamers – Ollie is not interested in being on deck (just as well – it was far too hot!) and Ty just cowers on his “safe” bed. After recent episodes where Ty has panicked and tried to jump off while we’re cruising (only succeeding once and we managed to catch him quickly) we’ve started him on conventional anti-anxiety medicines again. These help to keep his panic down but he’s still miserable on board and I now have to keep the deck door shut while locking so he can’t run up and do himself a mischief trying to escape 😦

We had a few chores to do before setting out, the most important of which were getting the boat open and ventilated, putting the fan on for the hounds and filling our fresh water bottles. The air in the boat felt baked and it was great to get moving and allow some fresh air to circulate; fresh, but not cool – it was a yet another scorching afternoon, despite the promise of a cool spell in the weather forecast.

We set off from Alvechurch at 2pm – hmm, a late start considering we had the Tardebigge flight ahead of us! Tardebigge is an “all or nothing” flight – once you’ve started, the locks are so close together you really have to soldier on right to the bottom, all of 36 locks away!

The view from the top of Tardebigge - you have to take a deep breath here - once you start you've got to finish :-)

The view from the top of Tardebigge – you have to take a deep breath here – once you start you’ve got to finish πŸ™‚

But first we had the charming stretch from Alvechurch to the top of the flight. I had completely forgotten how lovely the Worcester and Birmingham Canal is. The canal meandered between opulent hedgerows, replete with wild flowers and heavy with the scent of meadowsweet. There was other wildlife in the form of abundant flies equipped with a fearsome array of biting equipment. How we welcomed the cool of the Shortwood tunnel. I tried to be positive about drips falling from the tunnel roof, but they were shockingly cold on my overheated skin!

There were fewer flies on the other side of the tunnel, but the countryside was still a riot of colour and textures. We had the water to ourselves – no-one is mad enough to start down the flight that late in the day, and I guess the boats coming up had done their cruising in the cool of the morning.

We enjoyed the shaded wooded cutting beyond the tunnel, but we were soon at the top of the flight. We too a deep breath and set off. We were soon into a good locking rhythm – the locks are conveniently close together so Richard could get a lock open, I’d drive in, shut the back gates and open a paddle while he was cycling down to prepare the next. Then he’d cycle back to let me out and finish off behind me. Nonetheless, it was hot work and, despite a floppy sun hat, I started to loathe the relentless sun. By the time we’d done 10 locks I was hot beyond modesty – I rolled my top up as I used to when I was teenager and exposed some midriff. I’ll admit, it was a style too young for my weight but it meant I could enjoy the damp cool of the lock chambers as Indigo Dream descended. Ty and Ollie just sniggered – they were on their favourite beds, shaded from the sun and with a cooling breeze from the tower fan which I’d carefully angled to best effect.

We’ve only been Tardebigge once before, and I’d forgotten just how deep the locks are. But there was a innate rightness and ease to working a narrowboat through narrow locks.

Not only are there a LOT of locks, but they're deep as well!

Not only are there a LOT of locks, but they’re deep as well!

I don’t know whether the photos will capture the sheer beauty of this flight. The scenery is chocolate-box perfect – but as I thought that, I wondered how many people would understand the allusion. How long is it since we had boxes of chocolates or fancy biscuits with padded silk lined lids with pictures of lavish landscape (or kittens in baskets)? Ok, picture postcard perfect then, oh no, who sends postcards these days? Ok, I give up, it is just a very beautiful flight with new and more lovely landscapes at each lock.

We met a few boats coming up – one was lockwheeling, just like us, but they were working a little too far forward, so we had a tedious wait for them to catch up with the lock that they’d turned in front of us – bah! The others were hire boats and a bit tentative when crossing in the short pounds. It’s hard to explain to an oncoming boat that if they don’t actually vacate the lock they’re in then I can’t actually get past them πŸ˜›

Nonetheless, we flew down the flight, and were mooring up in Stoke Pound by 6pm. The “proper” visitor moorings were full, but we found a bit of towpath beyond the bridge which was still an easy walk from the pub. Having stopped so early, we had time to take the hounds for a little bimble before we showered, changed and set off for the pub.

The Queen’s Head was jam-packed – it’s obviously THE place to go on a hot evening. We were lucky enough to get a table in the garden with the hounds. Ty is not too bad in the pub, but then one of the waitresses decided that the only way to get rid of some decorative balloons in the pub’s huge garden teepee (don’t ask) was by bursting them with the fingernails – gross. Ty and Ollie weren’t the only dogs frightened by the noise – surely they could have left the balloons alone until the morning!



We were sitting at a table for four, and were soon joined by another couple who were looking for a seat. We were happy to share and soon got chatting about dogs – they have a rescue collie. Although we didn’t get their names, we had a very convivial evening with them. The pub food was pretty good, if a little pricey, and the service was a bit slow – I think because of the sheer numbers of diners they had in. I had a glass of cider – after a hot afternoon’s locking, nothing else would quench my thirst. It was risky, because of all the trouble I’ve had with my ears (seeing a specialist in August!), I hadn’t had a drink for several months – I have to confess it was marvellous!

We rolled back to the boat by 10pm and we were all very ready for our respective beds. But in the wee small hours I woke up with a raging sore throat and stuffy nose – a summer cold – WHAT! How on earth could a virus possibly survive today’s baking. I spent the rest of the night on the sofa, where I could prop myself upright – Ollie hound was delighted – he soon hopped up and took up my place on the bed next to Richard – heartless hound!


A lot of the lock mooring coping bricks were date/organisation stamped - I like this feature - like the dating of the locks on the Grand Union...

A lot of the lock mooring coping bricks were date/organisation stamped – I like this feature – like the dating of the locks on the Grand Union…

A view up the flight - well. part of the flight...

A view up the flight – well. part of the flight…

And more locks ahead....

And more locks ahead….

This is such a pretty flight - so nice to be back here after so many years...

This is such a pretty flight – so nice to be back here after so many years…





One Response to “Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 Day 19”

  1. Kath said

    Welcome back! We’ve missed you. Keep those updates coming it will be nice to find out how you are now πŸ™‚

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