Stourton Top Lock to Merry Hill
First job was to give Tilly her worming pill. Mick positioned it in prime position on her biscuits and put down her morning dingding. It and only a couple of proper biscuits were gone within seconds. The easiest pill given to a cat ever and we both still had all our fingers!
With a long day ahead of us we pushed off and soon got rid of our coats as the morning warmed up as we made our way to Wordsley Junction. I’d reread Lillian’s blog from three years ago when we did the Stourbridge flight for the first time. It was a useful read in that some of the bottom gates do not want to stay closed, so cracking a paddle at the top end of the lock will hold them in place. Having said that the second lock caught me out and I had to return to close the gates for a second time.
With few bridges at the bottom gates and short railings I had to walk round to both open and close the gates. As last time, Mick on a few occasions brought Oleanna gently up to the gates and nudged the off side open to save me one trip all the way round. At the forth lock Mick had a go at stepping off on the off side with a rope, to close the gate behind Oleanna. This entailed the rope getting caught on the stone work as our boat made her own way into the lock and Mick frantically trying to free said rope before it ran out. He did succeed and then scrambled up to the top to hold the centre line as I filled the lock.
We still have to visit Red House Glass Cone, today wasn’t going to be the day. It would be better to do it on the way down the flight than the way up, next time.
So far all the locks had been empty, but the next one was very full. I left Mick to finish rising and went to open the paddles on the lock above. This is the really pretty stretch of the canal. Hanson’s Dock General Stores and the double lock which works similar to The Bratch on the Stafford and Worcester Canal along with a boat yard which had NB Swan moored on the outside (she’d passed us near Worsley last year).
Looking up the flight from here I could see a chap opening gates on the locks above. There was no boat coming down so I gave him the thumbs up, this would save me quite a bit of walking round. After a while he came down to the lock we were at. A man of few words, but it seemed that he was one of the kindly folk who spend their life assisting on lock flights. After a couple of locks where the gates were open waiting for us I could see that the chap had put on a lanyard. He made sure it had it’s writing visible and he seemed quite proud of it. It said ‘John, Towpath and Lock Operator and Volunteer’. Maybe John has the newly branded C&RT uniform, but I doubt it. He’s not an official volunteer, but we weren’t complaining. He walked up ahead emptying locks and opening gates, he then closed gates on the off side and only twice did he wind paddles with Oleanna in the lock. He took his time and kept an eye on what I was doing, never lifting a paddle before I did.
John said that he helps out most days and has been doing so for ten years. Today we were the first boat through the locks and I suspect the only one. He certainly made our trip up a lot easier, so Thank you John.
We paused on the off side for some lunch before turning right at Leys Junction and then wound our way around Brierley Hill. Now we were on an urban canal, the amount of rubbish both in the water and around it makes me ashamed to be human. We are such a disgusting species! At least the wheelie bin floating by was full of rubbish. The bed of the canal undulated under us as we passed under bridges making our journey a bumpy one.
The bottom of Delph Locks and Dudley canal No1 came into view after about three quarters of an hour. Ahead of us eight more locks. All but one were empty, some with a gate open ready for us. No John on this flight, so a lot of walking around instead. The sun had brought plenty of Gongoozlers out. Many had questions, but few thought of lending a hand.
The bottom gates had better handrails so I was able to push many of them open saving time and steps. Along the six central locks the bywash cascades like a waterfall to the side, as you start to fill the lock the flow stops as the pound level is lowered which gives you a sense of power. Soon Mick had managed to enlist a family to help with gates which was great. But as we reached the top lock all help and bystanders had left us to it. This lock filled very slowly as I could only get one of the anti vandal locks on the ground paddles to open. Once up it was a matter of just pootleing along to the embankment high above Merry Hill Intu shopping centre where we planned to moor for the night.
It now being 4.20pm and we still hadn’t got our Saturday newspaper, Mick hightailed in down the hill to get one. Whilst he was in the temple to retail he stopped off at the EE shop. Yesterday he’d noticed that Virgin are currently doing a deal on a data only sim, cheaper than we are currently paying EE and for twice as much data a month. So Mick wanted to see if EE would match it, the chap in the shop said that they couldn’t to snap it up! We may well do!
Late afternoon we had a visitor. When I say we, I should really say Tilly had a visitor. Paul from Waterway Routes had come to talk to her about suitable symbols on his maps for his feline customers.
It was nice to meet Paul and see for myself his maps. Tom and her say that they are very detailed. Moorings come with different classifications. The ones I wanted to test out, Stourport, Chester, that fantastic field on the Shroppie and Houdini’s field were looked up for me. Official M moorings can sometimes be alright, but sometimes not as in the case of Chester and Stourport! But the other M’s are pretty good, fields tend to be marked by these. I shall insist we moor on Ms from now on! Oh except the Cat Heath and Safety Committee deemed here to not be suitable for me today and that is an M! I think some work still needs to be done for feline moorings. Anyhow Paul has gone away to think of what symbol he can use for rabbit holes and I can inform him of their locations for future updates.
We also enjoyed meeting with Paul and hearing about his planned cruise this summer up to Yorkshire. A new stretch of the Pocklington Canal which has been restored is to be opened and he will be there to record and map it.
24 locks, 5.39 miles, 1 straight, 1 right, 229ft 5 inches risen, 1 tricked cat, 1 other boat moving today, 1 sunny sunny day, 1 helper John, £3.90 for a pint, 1 proper cruising day, 2 geese nesting, 1 weelie bin, 1 duck not enamoured with chips, 1 unlockable lock, 1 high above everything M mooring, 4 mucky hand prints, 2 many fans for one day, 1 visitor, 1 map master, 2 pooped boaters, 1st night without the stove.
Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 1.847m.