Monday, 12 October 2015

The last leg

Sunday 11th October 2015
Tardebigge to Stoke Pound
2 miles, 29 locks

The day dawned dry, bright and sunny.  Chris was on the mend and I had to hope I could work through with my cold.  We had a secret weapon in the form of a friend of ours, Thalia.  Two extra hands and legs are invaluable when you have 29 locks to do!  Thalia is an experienced boater and an excellent helmsman.  An added bonus - she is also great company, so made the day a lot easier for us.

We all saw a lot of the inside of the locks - the blue sky got bluer and the weather warmer as the day drew on.  We only met one boat coming up the locks - there were 2 ahead of us going down, so all but one of the locks were empty and needed to be filled before we could enter.

We all pulled and pushed gates, wound paddles up and down - many hands really do make light work.

The tow path was busy all day including a couple of very large groups of hikers.

We had made a late start as we were babysitting two grandsons on Saturday night, so by the time they were collected (09:45), I had dropped Chris at Tardebigge and then driven to The Queens Head, Stoke Pound (more miles than by boat!) to collect Thalia and then got back to Tardebigge and the boat, had a cuppa it was around 10:30 when we set off.

We took our time and enjoyed the weather and views.  Lunch was had in a lock just after the half way point.  We were catching up on the boats in front, so a short stop made sense in more ways than one.

We caught up with the boat ahead of us two locks from the end, so well timed on our part.  Monty had run hither and thither all day.  We had help opening and closing the tow path gates on a few occasions on the way down - I am never backwards in coming forwards with a request for help!! Mind you if we were to get a pound for every time someone suggests that Monty be trained to work locks we would not have to worry about paying for the next tank of diesel!!

At the very last lock we met with a family who used to be neighbours. Their two girls along with other youngsters (and the not so young!) were eager to help with the gates.  Help is always welcome, but even more so when it is the last of 29 locks!  'The flight took us about 3.5 hours, which is not too shabby.  It was a really good day and we both felt much better for being out in the fresh air with the sun on our backs.

We moored opposite the Queens Head right by one of the new mile posts.  These are being carved by members of the Worcester Birmingham and Droitwich Canal Society and the work is part of an ongoing project.  Apparently they have a new supply of sandstone to work on.

Once we had moored and had a well earned cuppa, Thalia drove me back to Tardebigge, then followed me (and our car) to Droitwich Spa Marina and then took me back to the Pub.  As we were leaving a very large party of hikers were being ushered off the towpath with instructions to change shoes in their cars and then meet up for a meal in the pub.  The organiser mistook Thalia and I as part of the group - I should have asked if he was paying before admitting we were interlopers!  Our turn did come after all the car moving - our long awaited Sunday roast.  The big question 'would it be any good?'.  The answer - a resounding 'yes'.  Not the cheapest roast, however the beef was the best I have had for a very long time - perfectly pink and it melted in the mouth.  No room for dessert, so after coffee we bade farewell and thanks to Thalia and returned to the boat for a quiet night in.

Monday 12th October 2015
Stoke Pound to Droitwich Spa Marina
4.75 miles, 15 locks.

Normally a day with 15 locks would be seen as a challenge, but after 29 yesterday we thought it would be a sinecure.  The weather was perfect - blue sky, warm and sunny with very little breeze.  It was so chilly first thing that when Monty made his first trip down the garden as he lifted his leg his donation was 'steaming' as it hit the ground!!  We let the sun warm things up before leaving just after 10:00.

After the first Stoke lock we got our first view of the windmill at Avoncroft - one of our favourite visiting places when we are at home.  Apologies for the slightly out of focus photo - I was steering and trying to line up to get into the lock.  Neither the photo or the manoeuvre were my best!

There was a single hander in front of us, so once again all the locks were empty and had to be filled before we could enter, however at lock three along came two of our fellow C&RT litter pickers that we know quite well.  Quite a while was spent chatting and catching up on all the news - time enough for the single hander to get well ahead, and then John and Dave stayed with us and helped us through the last four locks.  We bade them farewell at Stoke bottom lock.  Their help was much appreciated.

We stopped at Pinders for diesel, a couple of bags of coal, to order some paint for touch up jobs and say hello to the workforce.  I popped out and bought a couple of sandwiches from the Priory Cafe (easy access from the lock - cross the road onto the trading estate and you cannot miss it).  We tied up at the Stoke visitor moorings to eat our sandwiches (they were very good) before we continued on. This part of the canal is full of wide open country particularly round the Astwood flight of 6 locks. We were both beginning to flag - was that due to 29 locks yesterday, the fact we are both a bit below par, that we had a bad night last night or due to a sense of anti climax as this is the end for this year?

The lock cottage at lock 19 is as pretty as ever, but no flags flying this year - just lots of washing blowing in the gentle breeze.

We reached the end of the Astwood flight and the next challenge - the three big locks at Hanbury.  Would there or wouldn't there be an Voluntary Lock Keepers?  Sadly no.  It is the end of the season, so not surprising. The locks are deep

I don't think I had ever been at the helm going in or out of the top lock as I am sure I have never seen this plaque before.  It must have been a sizeable legacy, but what a good job there are people out there who do have the wherewithal to fund such worthwhile projects.

Another reason for no lock keepers - the side ponds are all taped up and out of use and the main reason for VLK's here is to ensure people manage the side ponds correctly.  We are not sure why, but this is the bottom lock and Chris said there is a sink hole behind that orange fencing, but he did not have the camera, so no photos.  I am sure we will find out what the problem is in due course.

So out of the last lock for this year, a few yards along the cut and turn right into the marina.

This is one of Monty's favourite positions when he is on the boat and one of us isn't - today someone suggested that he looks like a periscope!

And so back to our mooring.  Safely moored nothing more to look forward to other than the big clean and touch up inside and out before Tentatrice is winterized until next spring. Tomorrow we will start unloading stuff we don't need and take it home.  I have WI tomorrow night, so we will stay at home, but will be back here on Wednesday and plan on staying until all the jobs have been done.

But for now the full stats since we left will follow and that is likely to be that from us until 2016! Shall we wish you all a Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year?!!

Stats for the 2015 summer cruise:

Start - 11th June.  Finish - 12th October 2015

Miles - 496.5
Locks - 430
Swing bridges - 38
Tunnels - 9
Aqueducts - 14
Motorways - we passed under these on 16 occasions
Visitors on 14 occasions
Waterways - 14 different ones - Worcs & Birmingham, R Severn, Gloucs/Sharpness, Severn Estuary, Bristol R Avon, Kennet & Avon, R Thames, R Wey, Grand Union, GU Paddington Arm, Regents Canal, Tidal Thames.
Counties - at least 15, but I have to do a bit more research to check this.  Did we go into Hampshire is the question.  Back to Nicholsons - where would we boaters do without their guides?!

In summary - The best bits - the Tidal Thames from Limehouse to Brentford, the Severn Estuary and going under the Bristol Suspension Bridge.  Also in the best bits has to be the joy of catching up with friends and family, some we have not seen for many years and one we have never met before - our youngest great nephew, Teddy. There were 'wet episodes', but no so many to mar the summer. Sometimes we holed up, others we got wet!  Overall it has been a wonderful cruise.

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