Kings Norton to top of Tardebigge Locks

7th September 2016

Oops, another addendum but to yesterday’s blog this time. The photo of the church in yesterday’s blog was of St Nicolas in Kings Norton. And what may you ask is the significance of this rather mundane looking church. Well, the Rev W. Awdry of Thomas the Tank Engine fame was a curate during the Second World War at St Nicolas.

Also, another avid blog reader uncovered the history of how the good old Canadian goose came to be in the old blighty.

It was Charles II who imported a number of strange geese, in 1665, from the new colonies in North America to act as ornaments in his London garden, otherwise known as St James’s Park. They were much larger and more exotic than the dear old greylag goose, the native British species, and the idea soon caught on among the nobility. Gradually, these colonial geese – later named Canada geese – were to be found decorating the gardens of many of our finest stately homes. Over time, a number of them escaped into the wild and started to create a feral population. Although Britain does receive a handful of migrating Canada geese every winter, the vast majority of the birds we have today are the descendants of those aristocratic ornaments.

Oh my, we really are into the swing of this life style. Nadine was up at 6.00am as she is an early riser and then Di, Fras and Pete dragged themselves out at 9.00am. By the time we fed the pooches, got changed and made our beds it was 10.am before we even headed out the door to Molly’s.

So back across the playing fields and the village center and into Molly’s minus the pooches who were tied up outside and not the best pleased with that arrangement. Toque made her presence known by howling and making her owners look like they beat the living crap out of her. So that involved Fras and Di doing musical chairs in and out of the café to keep the pooches up to date on our progress.

Pete and Nadine meantime got to experience a full English breakfast which was pretty much a first for them. Pete excelled in that not only did he finish the baked beans but he ate Fraser’s portion. This guy could obviously live in England with no qualms. After two hours of filling our faces we then dragged our bodies with our tummy’s trailing behind us back to the boat.

On our return to nb Lucy it was midday and we still had four hours of cruising to do so it is going to be a day where we will cruise into the early evening as we need to stop for water plus a pump out and some fuel.

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So Pete has opted not to steer the boat which is probably a good thing considering he is legally blind but that hasn’t stopped us putting Nadine to work on the helm. Meantime Di and Fras are training Pete up to work the locks. He has the filling up of nb Lucy with water down to a fine art so now time to get down to the serious stuff of locks. Wish we had a model so that we could demonstrate to Pete the way locks work but with his engineering brain he is adapting very well.

Now some of you will be wide eyed and holding your hands in front of your mouths because we have a blind person on the boat with us but Pete and Nadine have sailed in the Caribbean before and done really stupid things like ride halfway across Canada on a tandem. So what we are about to foist on him is tame in comparison and anyway, this guy is up for anything.

Shortly after setting off we went through the Wast Hill tunnel which was 2726 yards long. The way for Pete to get an idea of the dimensions of the tunnel was to clap his hands and listen for the echo and to also use his white cane to touch the sides and roof of the tunnel. As much as it is a learning experience for him it is also a learning experience for us which we are appreciating very much.

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Following our adventure through the tunnel it was a quick stop at the Alvechurch marina for some diesel and the interminable pump out. At the marina they had a fantastic model of a lock which was great for us to explain to Pete how a lock worked. They also had a winding mechanism of a paddle so he got to play in the grease and understand these workings.

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Whilst at the marina we also had a wander around the boat yard to give Pete and Nadine an idea of what a boat looked like out of the water as they actually are very flat bottomed.

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We then cruised up through the Shortwood Tunnel of 613 yards which was a mere slip of a tunnel. This was followed shortly by the Tardebigge Tunnel at 580 yards which was even ‘slippier’. This is the first double width tunnel that we have actually met another boat going the other way. We made the maneuver very successfully and neigh not a bump. Two nb’s passing in the dark.

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We dropped off at the Anglo Welsh marina as we are looking for brass plagues. These brass plagues have the name of the canals on them and sometimes they also mention the numbers of locks and distances. What we are going to do with this collection of plagues that will probably cause us to be overweight on the flight back, we are not sure of yet.

Just a photo of how stunning this canal is – so it really is not a “just”.

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We got to the top lock of the Tardebigge flight of 36 locks and decided to go through the first one to give Pete and Nadine the realisation that now was a good time to jump ship. This particular lock is 14 foot which is one of the deepest narrowbeam locks on the system. They did extremely well and in fact wanted to go for a walk after we had moored up to see what we were in for tomorrow. Fools!!

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The setting of the locks is amongst stunning rural scenery. They follow the contours of the land so there are a number of “s’s” in their course. We are up on the plateau with a view of the surrounding country side and will be descending 217 feet in four miles with 36 locks. It is also one of the most intensive set of locks in the system. As the book says, “Tardebigge locks represents a boater’s rite of passage.”

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On our walk Pete decided to give Di and Fras the experience of what a heart attack felt like as he walked across the top of the lock gate. This blind guy is into everything and into experiencing everything – nothing is holding him back except for Di and Fraser’s paranoia that he is going to hurt himself.

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Then for an encore he decided to do his daily stretches on the arm of the lock gate. This was not so heart stopping for Fras and Di.

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Toque and Mapes decided to get in on the exercise regime.

We then wandered back to the boat for a meal of carbohydrate loading as we are going to need it for tomorrow. It has been warm today so with the cooking it became too unbearable to eat our dinner inside the boat so we set up on the towpath with our chairs, tables, plates of food and wine – as you do.

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By time showers were completed and dishes done it was 9.00pm and time for bed in readiness for an early start tomorrow.

 

 

 

 


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