Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Choosin’ good days for cruisin’

There was an early shower this morning, but then the sun came out and we’ve had a fine day, the sun high enough now to actually feel warm when it shows it’s face.

A bit dull as we leave Polesworth mooringsSAM_8298
Note the good, all-weather surface on the towpath? That extends all the way through Tamworth and Fazeley and doesn’t revert to grass (mud!) till Sutton Bridge. Unfortunately it ends here so the towpath through the village is boggy and wet.SAM_8300
What a shame the good surface couldn’t have been continued to the other side of the village.

There are more moorings on the east side of the village, and the towpath is at least made up along this length.

Still, the condition of the towpath aside, the condition of the day improved steadily as we headed towards Atherstone.

The West Coast Main Line is never far from the canal, just outside Polesworth it crosses the canal and the River Anker.SAM_8303


Near Wood Park Farm there’s a narrows, originally crossed by a swing bridge.
The unused bridge, permanently open, is slowly disintegrating.

Beautiful day…SAM_8310

Grendon Dock was a busy boatbuilding and maintenance yard during the commercial era of the canal, it still keeps going today.

Grendon DockSAM_8317

SAM_8319A project for the future

It’s a riveted iron butty, no name unfortunately.
Note the wooden cabins fixed to the metal hull. This would be towed behind a motor boat, and would be the main accommodation for the boatman and his family. The fore cabin would sleep a couple of children. The butty cabin was preferred because it was roomier and warmer, and less prone to condensation than the steel back cabin on the motor.

A quintessentially English scene across the fields, Grendon church tower poking through the trees, the “Big House” nearbySAM_8324

We topped off the water tank at the services alongside Bradley Green Bridge, then covered the last ¼ mile to the bottom of Atherstone Locks. These were closed for maintenance during the winter stoppage season, lock gates to be replaced.

Old gates removed during the stoppages

We were just approaching the bottom lock when a figure appeared on the lock-side and beckoned us forward. Good timing, a boat was coming down and the lock was empty, so the gates were opened for us.

With no-one going up ahead, this also meant that the locks above were also in our favour. Result!

Lock 11, Atherstone flightSAM_8326

These locks are quite slow to fill for narrow locks, and the first six are in three groups of two, meaning I could get back on and relieve Mags on the tiller for the longer pounds.

Approaching Lock 10, the down-heading boat just visible in the distance entering the bottom lockSAM_8327

Locks 7 and 6 bracket the entrance to Baddesley Basin, moorings and home to Barry Hawkins boatbuilders.
The wharf had rail connections to Baddesley Colliery to the west and the main line alongside.

Lock 6 was our last lock, just vacated by another boat coming down as Mags approached. 

Ascending Lock 6, we moored on the pound above
These are the new gates, replacing those in the work-boat below.


First time I’ve seen one of these with “Canal & River Trust” on.
The Bradley lock gate workshop is at Bilston, near Wolverhampton.

It’s a bit muddy on the towpath along here, and we’ve the rumble of trains passing on the line just 100 yards away, but it’ll do for one night.

Five more locks tomorrow, then a long lock-free run to Hawkesbury Junction and the Oxford Canal.

Hi Mike. Thanks for the comment. All becomes clear…

Locks 6, miles 4

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