Monday 23rd to Sunday 29th April 2012.

This week we mostly pottered along and, being in no particular hurry, we left the Staffs & Worcs canal to pay a visit to the Stourbridge Canal and its ‘Arm’.

The four Stourton locks worked well enough going uphill but gave us no end of trouble coming down. A log tried to race us into the lock and we got jammed half in and half out. Lots of prodding with the pole, bouncing on the gunwale and revving the engine got us clear eventually but the next lock down wasn’t happy with us going through and we made several attempts at sealing the top gate until ‘water-out’ exceeded ‘water-in’.
stourton locks

Impressions of the Arm? Not brilliant. We found the boat basin uninviting, the shops disappointing and just how you swing a 72 footer with that trip boat moored opposite the hole I have no idea.

I asked a workman under the Customs House if we could stop for water (I meant to say Elsan) and he was pretty insistent that we didn’t stop there because he was working near the tap under the Customs House so we followed his advice and pushed off to the tap outside the basin.

It’s not only the boat basin that made us feel uncomfortable. I’m not a great fan of mooring near waste ground surrounded by broken galvanised fence panels. It did me no good seeing a fly tipper deliver two consignments to a hole in the fence where he threw down a gas boiler, electric iron, fence panels and bundles of polythene sheet.

flytipping

On his second visit he had to pass me at the water point so I struck up a conversation hoping to bring up the unsavoury topic of fly tipping only to finish up discussing the merits of old Glow-Worm combi boilers and him offering me the control board electronics if I didn’t mind stripping it out myself.

He told me he was having the brass and copper before leaving the rest on the waste ground and, by the way, did I have a screwdriver he could borrow? Cheeky monkey!

Back down on the S&W we met Mrs ‘nb.Georgina’ and caught up with their news since last we shared an iceberg at Foxton (winter 2010-2011). Like us they are due for bottom blacking, those rust spots spreading upwards and outwards from the bottom plate.
Oh why can’t someone invent a galvanising process for narrowboats.

Done a couple of tunnels this week, short ones, but still quite interesting. The one that passes under houses tempted me to sound the horn and knock on the tunnel roof to wake the residents above.
cookley tunnel

The sandstone in these parts is a lovely shade of red, good for all sorts of things including housing. We never made it to the rock caves at Kinver but we found the one at Debdale Lock and gave it the once over. It has the appearance of a bus stop but it could have been a navvies’ rain shelter, there’s certainly enough rain over here to make it worthwhile.
rock cave

Some of the bends are a bit tight with sandstone cliffs rising vertically out of the canal bed. Reminded me of that last mile or so before Llangollen.
sandstone

But it’s the quietness of the canal that surprised me, few roads, no railway at all and little in the way of houses overlooking the canal. I said no railway but I may be wrong having spotted a train signal on someone’s front lawn.
train signal

We came across a boat mooring that I would place at the top of my wish list. Currently occupied by Graham Booth’s nb.Rome (of canal writer fame) it is tucked away in its own little sandstone cutting. Very nice.
nbRome

And finally we called it a day at Wolverley near Kidderminster before the real rain set in.
It’s been spits and spots up to now but it’s got so bad that we aren’t sure now which side of the boat has the shallowest water.

Boat traffic has dropped off during the week, possibly due to rising water levels on the Severn downstream from here. Hire boats doing the ‘Ring’ are getting turned back and complaining about seeing the same scenery twice in one holiday.
One entertained us by taking the bend too tight and stranding in the shallows while another ran out of canal and tried to mount the towpath. Oh the joys of narrowboat watching.

And this made me smile too. If you shrink lock gates they make excellent garden gates.
garden gates

Next week we might be on the River Severn. Water levels permitting we’ll point towards Gloucester but no one is holding their breath in the meantime. News is filtering through that rain in the hills has yet to reach us.

We won’t be the only ones on a dodgy river as poor old Roger and Babs on nb.Megan are stuck, like others, on the River Nene. In good company, they share a mooring with nb.No Probs, a boat we met last year heading for the Fens (Hi guys).

Has anyone ever seen a ringed blue tit? I mean the common blue tit with a ring on its leg. We get them on our porthole birdfeeder.
Does it mean they’re married?
I married a bird once. Cost me not one ring but two. Truth be told she probably paid for the first one, I was broke at the time as I was on a student’s grant during the Wilson era.
If I remember right we (she) bought it at a jewellers shop at the top of Christmas Steps in Bristol a long, long, long time ago.