Autumnal trundling Oct. 6th - 13th
Route : Gailey - Pratt's Wharf (just south of Kidderminster) & back
Sunday Oct 6th: Gailey - Anchor
We set off from the mooring at 3:30 after turning in the rather crowded basin. The turn was going quite smoothly (if slowly) when we were "helped" round by a good thump on the bow from a hire boat driven by one of the staff. I wasn't pleased as this removed quite a bit of blacking from the bow when we were pushed onto the wall. With "friends " like that ... I suppose they were generating business.
But it was a pleasant afternoon and I quickly put that behind me as I squinted into the setting sun. We were soon caught up by a small cruiser that seemed very keen to pass but on that rather twisting section was impossible to find somewhere to let them by. Anyway, we both caught up a very slow moving narrow boat that seemed to be engaged in a training exercise. Some anglers we passed had seen them doing winding practice. Fortunately both boats pulled over at Hatherton.
By the time we reached the Anchor it was obvious that we had something on the prop so I went down the weed hatch and cleared it. Whilst there I noticed a lot of water coming in the stern gland. Now the boat had just had its 1000 hr service, when this is supposed to be checked and repacked if required. It took about a dozen turns on the stern greaser before any resistance was felt but that stopped the leak. The electric bilge pump was pretty ineffectual as usual so I resorted to the hand pump and got most of it out.
Whilst I was in the engine hole I checked the batteries (another service item) and found the electrolyte was well down. I started to doubt whether the service had indeed been done but it was too late now.
The day dawned bright and pleasant if a little chilly. We took our time getting up and got away at 8:50. Chris took the helm and laid down a challenge by getting through the narrows without a touch. I did the locks till Awbridge where I fell and twisted my ankle which put a stop to that and we reverted to our traditional roles. Chris had some lamb in red wine in the oven and the aroma drifted past the helm all morning so I was more than ready for lunch by the time we got to Bratch top lock.
There was very little traffic, more reminiscent of the dead of winter than early October. The lockie at the Bratch commented that he was seeing less than 10 boats a day when normally he would expect twice that at this time of year. He put it down to the closure of the Lincomb lock on the Severn, closing the Stourport ring.
Despite our excellent lunch we couldn't resist going into the Round Oak for a swift half and a snack so we shared a plate of Nachos. After that we settled in for a quiet evening's reading
Tuesday 8th: Round Oak - Kinver
Not quite such a nice day, overcast but dry. Very quiet on the cut, we didn't see anyone on the move all day. We stopped at Greensforge for water and again at Ashwood marina for the brokerage list. One boat looked interesting so we arranged to see it on our return. We arrived at Kinver about 3:30 which gave Christine time to do some shopping while we awaited the arrival of our friend Celia Bagnall.
Captain Beeky also paid an evening visit, this time bearing gifts of chocolate and crisps. We all enjoyed a good meal (courtesy of Celia) and a chin wag on board before moving up to the Vine where the landlord "Super" Mario kindly let Celia leave her car in his car park for a couple of nights without charge.
Once that was arranged, the Captain set off north to supervise the building of Uncle Mort the next day.
Wednesday 9th: Kinver - Pratts Wharf - Wolverley
As this was Celia's first time on a canal boat we were glad to be going through one of the prettiest bits so we could show boating off in its best light. It was a delightful day sunny and warm, more like June than October (just like June was more like October...).
We stopped at the excellent moorings right outside Sainsburys in Kidderminster where the ladies bought more supplies (and I did some Christmas shopping at the retail park across the road). As we moved on we noticed that Tesco have just opened a new canalside store just south of the lock.
There is a lot of building going on all along the canal in Kidderminster and it looks like the unofficial winding hole just below the lock may soon be unavailable. This could make life awkward as the official one above the lock is just a fraction too small for a sixty foot boat (whatever the Guide says!).
We passed on through yet more building work and some very picturesque locks. Celia picked up locking straight away and with the two ladies winding the windlasses we made excellent progress. This tempted us to go just that bit further and wind at Pratt's wharf. The actual turning point is at the site of a short disused arm on the towpath side. To turn one has to stick the bow under a small bridge which took the towpath over the arm. It was tight but Christine managed it with aplomb.
Celia took the tiller for the return trip and got the hang of it very quickly as we made our way back to Wolverley.
Thursday 10th: Wolverley - Gothersley
We stopped at Kinver where Celia retrieved her car and headed home. We had seen some new houses being built by the lock and Chris cannot resist a show house. She came back with prices and brochures, nice houses but at nearly half a million quid we were not tempted, not even by the canalside location.
We arrived at the isolated visitors mooring at Gothersley round house at the same time as a working boat coming the other way. The chap was single handed and he appreciated us waiting till he had the thing nailed down before we passed to moor behind him. Lots of pleasantries were exchanged before we both retreated to our boats for the night.
Friday 11th: Gothersley - Bratch Top
After stopping at Ashwood to look at a second hand boat we made good progress, stopping at the Round Oak by Bridge 45 for lunch. You can moor right outside and (if you get the right table) keep an eye on the boat while you eat. I can particularly recommend their beef madras. The menu says it comes with "half portions of rice and chips " but actually, it comes with a full portion of each. It's one of the few good meals that has defeated me. Another good thing about the place is that kids are restricted to a family room downstairs.
There was a slight delay at the Botterham staircase as it was totally empty and we had to let down an extra lockfull. At the Bratch we actually had to wait for a boat to come through, the first time we had to wait for anyone this trip. (One gets used to having the cut to oneself.) Just as we were tying up at the visitors moorings, the only rain of the trip started - but as that was it for the day we really weren't bothered.
Saturday 12th: Bratch Top - Gailey
We woke to the sound of rain but as we had an easy day we waited for it to stop, which it did about 10. The day soon brightened and the sun came out which showed of the colours of the autumn leaves against a deep blue sky to great effect.
We picked up a bladeful just as we passed Adderley junction but that was sorted in a few minutes. I was surprised how clear the water was through Wolverhampton - I could see all of the prop quite clearly down the weed hatch. And while underway, when the light was right, I coud see the canal bottom in places.