Coombes Bridge to Lower Ocker Hill Branch
A much quieter evening last night and we were up earlyish to start the day the only way we could with Blueberry Pancakes. A couple of years ago Jaq on NB Valerie had suggested using Bobs Red Mill’s 1 to 1 flour in baking, it’s that bit more expensive than the usual brands of gluten free flour, but I hunted down a bag. I haven’t used it that much and this morning noticed that it was just about to run past it’s best before date, so it went to the batter. It does make the best pancakes for breakfast.
Once filled up we made ready to cruise, the sun was out, would we need all our layers? We put them on just in case and within an hour we were glad we had. The lady from Hawne Basin was walking her dog, we said we’d maybe see them on the Leeds Liverpool this summer, but she’d just been offered a job so would be staying put. But their friends on NB Lottie Jane would be up there for the festival in May. Could that be the NB Lottie Jane we had drinks on at the beginning of May last year with the NB Mr Blue Sky crew?
When talking to Paul the other week he’d suggested walking over the top of Gosty Hill Tunnel, I hopped off just before the south portal and waved Mick goodbye as he ducked into the dark. Yesterday it had taken us 18 minutes to travel through and the second half had taken around 10 minutes. I set the stop watch going.
Gosty Hill is pretty steep at the southern end but this gives you good views towards Dudley and Tipton. I knew I’d be quicker than Oleanna and at around 8 minutes stood for a rest against a brick structure in someones garden.
This is the top to the one and only air shaft from the tunnel (a mysteron). I hoped to be there to listen out for Mick passing below and maybe say hello as he did so. But sadly the traffic on the road was a touch too noisy and a very friendly electrician chatted to me as he got things from his van, his mate hadn’t believed him that boats still passed below.
After five minuets I finished walking down the hill to see Oleanna already popping out of the north portal, 17 minutes, positively speedy.
Mick made sure we lined up differently to bridges that had been problematical a month ago and coasted through without too much bother. Just a shame sleet seemed to be setting in now.
A right at Windmill Junction and through Netherton Tunnel for the last time this visit. We’d been wondering if our chosen route northwards would exclude tunnels until we reach Foulridge, but there are quite a few small one’s we’d forgotten about en route.
Sleet had turned to rain on the otherside of the tunnel. A right then a left brought us to the top of the Ryder Green flight. Most locks were full and we made steady progress downhill. Zooming in to Lock 7 I couldn’t see the usual drinkers but then all of a sudden they were there. No sign of the chap with dreds or the Polish chap from last time, but three new drinkers. One chap was very interested in how a lock worked, he was considering a boating holiday but would need to cut out the beer to save up!
I hopped on board. The next pound the supermarket trolley pound. If we were to get stuck I’d rather be able to make a cuppa and stay warm whilst we waited to be rescued. On the Asda side, trolleys poked their wheels up for air as we coasted along at a safe distance on a slightly jaunty angle.
The last lock landing was harder to pull into, but we got there in the end. Were the cans in the lock just one days consumption? I trod carefully around the gates as there was so much broken glass, you wouldn’t want to go falling over.
Now we hoped luck would be on our side. I stood at the bow and waited to peek around the corner at Ockers Hill but an orange blob caught my eye. Was it? Would it stay put?
A Kingfisher sat in a tree just a few feet away. As we levelled with it it swooped away to another perch and continued to show us the way for a few more hundred yards. Such beauty in amongst all the rubbish.
There was space, Hooray as we wanted to stop now. Tied up and Tilly let out we could warm up again.
This evening I made a batch of buckwheat flour pancakes. Four savoury with ham and strong cheddar which baked for a while in the oven. Then five sweat, chocolate, sugar and lemon and golden syrup. Not all together! All very nice indeed.
8 locks, 8.46 miles, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 1 straight, 2 tunnels, 8 mysterons, 1 seen from the top, 1 chilly day, 2021 May, 3 drinkers, 31 cans, 1 kingfisher, 1.5 hrs shore leave, 15 blueberry, 4 ham and cheese, 5 sweat, happy pancake day.