New Inn Road Bridge to Bumble Hole
We took time over breakfast and waited to see if the forecast was correct, the rain was meant to stop at 9am. It did, but we left it a while longer just in case before pushing off.
The top lock was full with it’s gate half open, as was the second one down. I walked to have a look from the bridge and noticed that that was where the good news stopped, the next pound down was decidedly low, bordering on being empty.
Tim and Tracey had said they’d had to fill pounds the other day when they came up the flight so I decided to have a walk down to see if this was the only pound. Mick lifted paddles and started to fill up from above. The pound between locks 5 and 6 only had a few inches of water in it, this would take a touch more than just a couple of locks full.
I phoned Mick to let him know we’d be needing water further down the flight, then walked to the bottom lock to check everything was closed, it was. By lock 5 there is a bridge hole where I could count 14 brick courses above the puddle that lay at the bottom of the canal. These would be around 4 inches each, Oleanna’s draught around 2ft 7inches. So we would need to fill the pound so that at most 4 bricks showed, this would still be lower than the marks on the wall suggested the pound normally sits at. Hopefully this would be enough for us to move from one lock to the next.
All the lock gates were closed, then paddles at both ends opened. Once the level was up to four bricks I started to walk back up the flight closing all the bottom paddles and leaving the top ones open on the upper locks, so that they would fill as we descended. I most probably could have done this with all of the locks but if someone started to head up they might not notice an open paddle and we’d be back to filling pounds again.
It had taken about half an hour to sort levels, thank goodness the pounds weren’t all that big, and we could start to work our way down. Mick closed top gates and would lift a paddle on the bottom gate whilst I walked down to open the next gate and make sure the lock below was already filling, then walk back up to set Oleanna free and close the gate.
On reaching the bottom pound the lock of water brought the level up to three bricks, just enough to get us over the cill and slowly into the next chamber, in hindsight another bricks worth would have been good.
Once out of the stinky bottom lock we swung a right. No horn blowers today, although there were a couple of chaps walking around in high-vis, maybe just keeping an eye on things.
When the M5 yielded we got to see the sky. It was a funny colour, a sort of blue! It’s been a while since we’ve seen blue sky and white fluffy clouds. Almost a lovely day if the wind would just calm down a touch.
This visit to the area we’d not been up or down the Spon Branch and it’s such a good name ‘SPONNNNNN!!!’ that we just had to go down the locks. At Spon Lane Junction the canal is wide to enable the almost 330 degree turn to face the locks. This should have been okay, but the wind had different ideas and kept pushing us this way and that. Eventually we got close enough to the side for me to hop off and open the gate.
Double bottom gates again, the top one with a handy bridge, but the other two on the branch only have a walkway on the gates without a handrail. No kicking these gates open and I don’t hop from an open gate to a closed one, only one thing to do walk round! Luckily my assistant on Oleanna had positioned the boat hook within reach so once Oleanna was clear of the gates he could push the off side gate closed, saving a trip round.
A couple of muffins helped to fend off starvation as we made our way back along the New Main Line and turned at Dudley Port Junction to face Netherton Tunnel. Up on Tividale Aqueduct we could just make out a moving boat, the only one we saw all day, we waved but no wave came back.
Then we were plunged into the darkness of the tunnel. Two torches followed us and towards the southern portal four bicycles headed in, none with any lights. Popping back out into day light and sunshine we pulled in to the moorings, water could wait for tomorrow, lunch couldn’t.
Tilly had a good sniff around, climbed a few trees, but the whole place smells too much of woofer to be really good. A lad on a motorbike could be heard zooming around the area, luckily Tilly had taken to sitting in the pram cover for when he came past at speed. We all decided that maybe it would be better for her to be indoors.
9 locks, 6.38 miles, 5 straights, 1 right, 2 lefts, 2 empty pounds, 14 to 3, 0 work for DPD today, 1 tunnel, 7 mysterons, 1 annoying motorbike, 2 muffins, 1 huge joint of roast pork with excellent crackling.