26th June 2013 SONFLOWER was moored at Bridge 41 on The Worcester and Birmingham Canal and our friends handed her back to us spick and span and reported that she had behaved well for their holiday cruise to the Droitwich Ring and a bit more.
27th June 2013 After a hospital appointment in Oxford we drove to Bridge 41 in brilliant sunshine and got on board SONFLOWER at about 3pm. It immediately started to rain. We waited for the shower to pass. It eased off at about 5.30pm and the Best Mate decided to cook a dinner from the provisions in the cupboard. Fresh baked ciabatta under an anchovy, bacon, and tomato topping hit the spot with Vina Decana to wash it down. After dinner, with three hours of daylight remaining, we decided to work the 6 Stoke Prior Locks and moored at the foot of Tardebigge Flight at about 9.00pm. I then got on my folding bicycle and cycled back to the car. I put it in the back and drove to the top of Tardebigge Flight. By now it was gloomy, drizzly and mist in the narrow lanes. Long grasses brushed the sides of the car. I prayed that I would not meet another vehicle and have to reverse to a passing place. I found the church and its large car park but could see no way of getting to the canal with the bike so I drove back out and down the lane a piece until I came to London Lane. I had seen the other end of this from the other side of the canal so guessed that it had a bridge! I drove down it making one wrong turn into a country house drive. I turned round and drove out promptly when the security lights came on. I found the bridge and parked the car under a hawthorn tree at a field entrance. It did not look like it would be in the way. I got on the bike and started off down the flight past lock No 57 without any lights in the deepening darkness. I soon found that the gears would not change from the lowest gear and I was glad to be riding down the flight and free-wheeling most of the way.
I got back to the boat at about 1015pm, showered and got ready for bed. I slept like a log. 2 miles, 6 locks
28th June 2013 I woke at 0430 and found it was light and clear. I got up and dressed and started the engine at 0500. I had seen that the flight was empty in our favour the night before and knew there to be an Alvechurch Hire craft moored ahead of us. I was not going to risk losing the favour of "a good road". We entered the Tardebigge Bottom Lock No 28 at 5.15am and our ascent commenced.
We met the lock keeper at about 7.30, ten locks up and enquired where we might be able to break for breakfast. "At the top" he said, "Just keep going". We did. We met a Canal Club boat about two thirds of the way up and passed uneventfully.
By the time we got to lock No 50 the Alvechurch boat was gaining on us. With crew, they were quicker than we were so my decision to go early (and earlier than their early start) proved a good one. They were one lock behind when we got to Lock No 57. This took longer than usual as the CanalClub crew had left a bottom paddle open! (This is the only lock with hydraulic paddle motors and the indicators are not very evident). I sighted Bridge 55 where I had left the car. On the bridge were men in Hi-viz jackets. They looked very official and I thought immediately that the police were looking for the owner of the car that had been abandoned under the hawthorn bush late the previous evening. We moored just past the bridge and I went up to see what the fuss was. It was the water board looking for a water meter! Returning to the boat, the Alvechurch crew passed us and we decided to cook breakfast.
We now pored over the maps to see what our next move could be. After the Top Lock there were two tunnels. There were no tow-paths through the tunnels. We decided to drive ahead to see where the boat and car might meet up again. We went to the AngloWelsh base at Bridge 56 and looked. The lanes were narrow and busy and there was no where suitable to park. There was no real path back from there either as the "path' demanded a dash across the dual carriageway and climbing over the central barrier to boot. Not really possible carrying a bike. No path over the Shortwood Tunnel either suitable for a bike with only bottom gear. Gradually the truth dawned. The Best Mate would have to navigate the tunnels single handed while I drove the car ahead. We returned to the Tardebigge CaRT yard and the lock keeper was very nice. He told us we could leave the car or the boat as long as we liked. We parked the car and returned to complete the flight working through at about 11.00am. With the Best Mate at the tiller, I returned to the car. I met her at the Anglo Welsh yard to congratulate her on her first tunnel navigation and again at Bridge 59 after her second through the Shortwood Tunnel. She then went on to Alvechurch. I parked the car on the road near the station and met her at the 48hour moorings opposite ABC. Here we perused the maps again. We remembered that when we took our very first boating holiday it was from Alvechurch Marina and we cruised right into Birmingham on the first afternoon.
It was now about 3pm. We thought we could be in Brum at 7pm and decided we would treat ourselves to a curry on Broad Street when we got there. The car was parked outside houses and not on yellow lines so we left it there and off we went. It started to rain almost immediately and the rain got heavier as we progressed. We followed an Alvechurch Hire Crew through the long Wast Hill Tunnel. I think that they had been told to keep to the right and slow down if they saw a light coming toward them. We could see the light of a boat almost as soon as we entered the tunnel so this is what they did. After we had passed at the middle of the tunnel they increased their speed and the second half of the tunnel was pretty good going.
Apart from being soaking wet, the trip was uneventful after that and we moored outside Bobby Brown's Bar at 7pm. I showered and we had a Banquet for two in Barajee overlooking the Brindly Place Basin. They packed up what we could not eat and we took it back to the boat. 17.1/4 miles, 30 locks, 4 tunnels (Tardebigge Tunnel (580 yards long), Shortwood Tunnel (614 yards long), Wast Hill Tunnel (2726 yards long) and Edgbaston Tunnel (105 yards long)). 14 hours.
29th June 2013 We moved the boat to Farmer's Bridge Junction and filled with water. Then I discovered that the Basin at Cambrian Wharf is all 14 day moorings. We moored on a finger mooring and locked up to walk to New Street Station and catch a train back to Alvechurch where we collected the car. I discovered that I had left the drivers window open! We drove home.
To be continued! Without the car!
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