Saturday, 22 April 2017

Up the Junction and round the bend

It's been a very successful day. I don't know if it was worry about the route, but neither of us slept terribly well, which at least meant that we were able to get going in good time. At ten to eight, Sheila backed Sanity Again off the pontoon and swung her bow towards Vines Park. The first swing bridge was straightforward, but, as Jennie had warned us, the second one in use,19, is problematic. These bridges are locked in the open-to-pedestrians position by a bar which slots through a hole in an upstand made from a bit of RSJ. There's a tongue on the end of the bar with a hole in it to take a BWB padlock.

On Bridge 19, the tongue isn't quite long enough so that the bridge has to be held firmly across to enable the padlock hasp to be removed or inserted. I was able to recruit a passer-by to help me open it, but Sheila had to hop off to help close up.

The Barge Lock, broad but not accessible to wide beams any more, also has a swing bridge across it. This one is no problem, not least because only the hasp of the padlock is now left. The difficulty with the lock is the fact that none of the gates will open properly because of silt in the recesses. It makes moving round the lock quite complicated and especially frustrating on a day like today, when the low level of the river means that the two ends could have been opened at once.

No matter, we got through and I re-boarded to view the approaching M5 tunnel/bridge. Hilariously, CRT have put the standard tunnel notices at either end, including the advice to wear life jackets for what's essentially a long bridge hole. With the river so low we had about 5" clearance – there are suspended height gauges at the smaller bridges at each end, so plenty of warning if you are not going to make it. The scale showed 2.1 metres – at that level, if you can get through Harecastle, you can get through this bridge.

Relieved to be past it, we were soon heading up the remaining locks. 4 and 5 are a standard staircase, empty the lower chamber and fill the top one regardless of your direction of travel. I was using the long throw windlass for many of the paddles and certainly needed it for the middle paddles of the staircase.

The top three locks are the originals and have side ponds, all of which were empty today and so of no use to us. Steve the volockie joined us for the top lock and proved to be both helpful and chatty. It was just after ten when we reached the junction with the Worcester and Birmingham (or Booster and Wormingham if you're in the mood for a Spoonerism...) We'd planned to stop there but Sheila had meanwhile clocked that some mooring was shown on the Pearson's just below Astwood Bottom, from whence a path leads to Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property. Steve had confirmed to her that these were good moorings, so we carried on and have tied here.

There was a boat here when we arrived, but they've since set off and we're comfortably on our own in the middle of the Spring countryside. In fact, it's so pleasant, we plan to stop for two nights, so as to be able to appreciate Hanbury Hall tomorrow, when we're rested. The afternoon has been spent putting stuff back on the roof, stowing the anchor, chain and warp, cleaning up the well deck and sawing up some firewood we've collected. (Actually, Sheila does the collecting, she has a sharp eye for odd bits of wood lying about.)

After that, it was warm enough to sit out on the towpath for a while, though a rising and chilly breeze has driven us back indoors now.


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