Alvechurch to Queens Head
The alarm went off early again for me to turn my phone on, just in case there was a text message from Ricky saying that he was on his way. We rolled over and had some more sleep knowing very well that a text wouldn’t arrive.
After breakfast we gave Ricky a call, we knew that the rest of this week they were busy but wanted to have an idea of when the next opportunity for a visit might be so that we can find a suitable mooring where we want to be. Tuesday was suggested, so we decided that we should press on and get onto the Gloucester Sharpness Canal by then as we have other commitments next week.
We’d timed our stay in Alvechurch well, as in not over a sunny weekend. Three years ago we’d been here for Mick to attend two RCR courses on boat maintenance and to have Lillian blacked. We’d moored in the same space over two weekends and witnessed hire boats heading out for a weekend in Birmingham, stag and hen dos. Most would come through the bridge and aim straight at the visitor moorings! Pirates brandishing boat poles that by the time they reached Hopwood were broken in two. This time there have only been a few boats pass us all on good behaviour.
The schedule we’d set out with from Birmingham had us not moving far today to the top of the next flight of locks, just over an hours cruise away. Wanting to get a couple of days ahead of ourselves and the weather being good we decided to press on further. We passed a Black Prince hire boat at the marina and soon passed Kate Saffin’s boat NB Morning Mist. Alarum are touring their Idle Women show again this year following the journeys of Daphne March and Nancy Rideway, cruising from Worcester to Tipton and Cannock then further north on the Leeds Liverpool. We’d been hoping to catch the show again this year, but sadly due to the Severn getting too fat we’ve missed it.
Approaching Shortwood Tunnel we could see a light coming towards us, so we held back before entering. The rapeseed fields are just starting to get a hint of colour and it looks like the number of bluebells along the wooded stretch will be a mass of blue next month.
The sun was out and our layers started to reduce. The sight of Tardebigge church as you come through the tunnel was wonderful, such an elegant spire.
We pulled over to dispose of our rubbish deciding to leave filling up with water until we reach Stoke Wharf tomorrow. Keeping our eyes peeled for NB Tentatrice we moved on to the top of the locks. Not having met Chris and Jennie I didn’t recognise Chris and I only realised it must be him when he started to reverse Tentatrice out from between other boats. Hopefully next time our bows will cross properly and we’ll have time for a chat.
The Black Prince hire boat had just beaten us to the top lock, just as well as they had a crew of four and would have caught us up quickly. Once they were through we refilled the lock and brought Oleanna down the first of the thirty locks that makes up the Tardebigge flight the longest flight in the country. Here’s hoping my twinging back was going to be okay. A chap from NB Drekely pulled up behind us and came to help with the gates. .
I walked down to the next lock knowing that it would need filling, but handily enough there was a boat coming up in it so we waited our turn. The couple on board looked a little bit pooped and the lady was so relieved to hear that they were going to stop now for the day. On we carried, the hire boat in front meeting another coming the other way a couple of locks down hill. I went ahead to set the next lock in our favour leaving Mick to empty the one Oleanna was in. Returning to open the gates I was fooled by the bywash bubbling away below the gates thinking the lock was still emptying, this only happened once! Mick moved Oleanna into the next chamber as the hire boat coming up was just opening their lock gate, they brought their boat out and waited for us.
Everyone does things their own way, we’d have stayed in the lock below with the gate open and then passed the other boat in the pound. But the chap clung onto their boat with the centre line whilst the lady closed the top gate. A good fault to have, but it did mean that she then had to raise a paddle so that she could open the gate again.
This was the last boat coming up hill and sadly this was the only lock we had set in our favour for the remainder of the flight. The Black Prince boat ahead with their four crew vanished into the distance whilst we settled into our routine of working a flight downhill. Surprisingly my back eased with all the pulling, pushing, winding, kicking gates open and walking there and back and there again.
We’ve only done the flight once before, three years minus three days ago. Then we had the assistance of Bridget and Storm from NB Blackbird, we moved her down the flight the day before. Today wasn’t quite as hot as three years ago. I found myself taking the same photos as we worked our way down hill.
By the last few locks we could see that NB Drekely was catching us up, I don’t think we held them up as they hadn’t quite reached the bottom lock as we exited. The Black Prince boat ahead had come down the flight competently, one paddle had been left open a fraction half way down the flight. However their relief was obvious when they’d reached the 30th and final lock of the day, both paddles fully open, I could almost hear their cheers as they ran down towards the pub after closing the gates.
We pulled in, let Tilly survey the outside and then remembered the down side of mooring here. The pub was very busy hardly a seat left outside and there was a birthday party going on in the teepee, so there was music and a lot of hubhub going on. This we were expecting, a shame we’d forgotten about the barking dogs locked up in the field next to us. Maybe Tilly walking past didn’t help, certainly the kids howling in response only added to the racket! Next time we’ll move a bit further on even if it means one more lock.
30 locks, 5.32 miles, 2 tunnels, 0 visit, 1 blue boat spotted, 1 Monty sensible woofer, 1 boat ahead, 2 coming up, 2 set for us, 28 against us, 2 gates help with, 30 yarn bombed locks, 0 beers at the cottage, 1 woofer in a sink, 5 volunteers on tomorrow! 1 beautiful sunnyday, 3 hours of me time, 1 stupid noisy ugly ridiculous woofer, 40th birthday, 1 extra glass of wine each.
Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 1.175m.