Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Steadily South

The lockkeeper at The Bratch comes on at eight and although the flight is no longer locked overnight, navigating it without the lockie's advice is at your own risk. Accordingly, though we've done the flight several times before, we decided to get to the lock landing a bit before eight and wait until we saw him. As it turned out, we were early, half seven in fact, but so was he and we went straight in.

The Bratch is not a true staircase, though it was originally, but a curiosity in that there are three separate chambers, each with top and bottom gates, but virtually no distance between them. The flow from one chamber to the next is balanced by side pounds rather in the way of the Watford and Foxton staircases. In this case, the rule is "blue before red", the blue paddles being the top paddles of each chamber and the red the bottom paddles of the one above.

We soon got down with the lockie's help and were on our way towards Bumblehole and Botterham. Between the former and the latter of these I was able to get a washload running, just. Botterham is a true staircase of two chambers; no fancy stuff here, you have to have the upper chamber full and the lower empty regardless of which way you are going. We waited for a boat to work up and then set off down. There were two boats waiting below and one at least above by the time we'd finished, illustrating yet again the wisdom of "start early, stop early" on a popular canal at this time of year.

It wasn't long before Marsh Lock appeared, soon followed by Swindon and the rain. We'd planned to stop at Swindon and the washing was just getting into its final spin as we locked down. There are good moorings below the lock which had just the one boat on it when we arrived. Another has since turned up and settled for the day like ourselves.

After coffee we had a mooch round the village and checked out the pubs. The Pub Guide has no entries for here so we thought to remedy that deficiency by eating out tonight. Our choice has provisionally fallen on The Green Man, but I'll report tomorrow on the final result. Of the other two pubs mentioned in the canal guides, the Old Bush is still trading – and offering two curries for a tenner tonight – but the Greyhound is currently being turned into domestic accommodation and will soon be surrounded with tightly packed new houses.

Indeed, the whole village is a bit like that. There is very little sign of the original place and it's now a dormitory suburb for Wolverhampton and, apparently, Telford. There's a Post Office and general store for emergency supplies, but of course Kinver has a much better range of shopping opportunities. We plan to be there tomorrow so haven't availed ourselves of Swindon's scanty facilities.

The weather is gradually improving and we have hopes for tomorrow. Meantime, we've had a quiet afternoon on board which has at least enabled me to catch up with the backlog of entries for the Pub Guide.


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