Monday, January 26, 2009

Interesting conversations and a short trip up the Shroppie

We stayed put as planned yesterday. I had a long run, took Meg for a decent walk, and had a long chat with Den “The Blacksmith” on NB ASTRA. Very interesting, talking about boats and boat people, and generally putting the world to rights. He’s full of knowledge, especially of the Black Country canals. But his knowledge stretches a bit further afield. Some years ago, Dad worked with an ex boatman called Ralph Mole. He (Ralph, not Dad!) has since passed away, but Den knows the family, and gave me a potted history of his background. He even knows a chap called Fred, who used to work the gravel boats on the Soar with Ralph, and who still lives on his boat at the bottom of Atherstone Locks!

NB Astra
He also advised me to go to Turners at Wheaton Aston for the best priced diesel around. So we’ll have a short excursion up the Shroppie for a couple of days, before turning around to head back to Stourport.

I’ve had concerns about condensation in the hull for a while. It is inevitable in a steel hull, where the air inside is warm and the steel shell is cold. In the engine bay quite a bit of water collects at this time of year. In the summer it’s bone dry down there.

So I decided I needed to have a look in the bilge below the accomodation. But there’s no access through the floor. Solution – get out the jigsaw, and make one!

Bilge Hatch

With the back step in place, you can’t even see it.

As it turns out, I needn’t have bothered; it’s dry as snuff down there. But, what price peace of mind, eh?

This morning we were off at 11:30, following a restored working boat down to Autherley. The narrow section, know as Pendeford Rockin’, where the navvies encountered a tough ridge of rock, was passed without meeting a boat coming in the other direction, luckily. There are passing places, but it’s still a squeeze.

Pendeford Rockin’
The narrow bit finishes at Marsh Lane Bridge.

A little further along we met the working boat again, it having winded at the junction.

Cloned sheds on an allotment. Someone got a deal at the local ShedsRUs...

An unusually bold heron watched us going past….

But his nerve broke finally!
Autherley Junction
At the junction we turned sharp right, and into the stop lock, built to separate the waters of the Staffs and Worcs in the event of a breach on the Shropshire Union. It had the added advantage of stopping the boats so that appropriate tolls could be extracted!

Autherley Stop Lock
The Shroppie shows it’s nature pretty well straight away. Gone is the method of following the contours of the terrain as the earlier canals did. The modern method (in 1835!) was cut and fill, slicing through the hills and using the spoil to form embankments over the valleys. This gives a wide, straight waterway, alternating good views with mossy cuttings.

Wide water on the Shropshire Union.

Security Goose keeps a close eye on us at Wolverhampton Boat Club
It makes it a bit boring, though, sometimes.

3 miles from the junction we pulled over, on one of the mooring spots provided by the Shropshire Union Canal Society. These are welcome, as most of the bank is concrete edged with a shelf sticking out under the water, preventing getting the boat close enough to use ordinary fenders.

Where are we? - Moored between Bridge 7 and 8.
Locks 1 (6” fall!), miles 7, although only about 1¼ as the crow flies.

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