Kingfisher Country

When we turned back towards the wharf we moored up in a stretch of canal where we had just seen a kingfisher.  I was optimistic of seeing another at breakfast, but it was not to be.  We were soon at the lift bridge, this time I hopped off to operate it.  As Clare had reported, it was more effort to lower than raise it –  a safety feature perhaps?

We were both surprised when we arrived at the service jetty without reaching another bridge.  Either we had both misremembered the order of things the day before, or … someone had moved the bridge!  We winded first and then moored up again at the wharf in the same spot as previously.  It was much easier when I was certain that we’d fit with less than a foot to spare – get the end I can see within a couple of inches, and the other end will be fine.

We got the diesel tank filled, and also managed to get some chandlery spares, anti-freeze (for the domestic hot water system) and stern tube grease.  Under one of the rear benches is a grease tube which which is the reservoir for the gland that stops the propellor shaft leaking.  A lot of unwinding is needed to make it ready to accept more grease, but the tub has a clever arrangement that allows the grease to be extruded in to the tube with little mess.

After a stop at the shop (other bread shops are available) for bread, we drove on. Our eyes were peeled for kingfishers, but we found instead a cow on a precarious slope – behaving more like a goat.

Cow on a steep canal bank
Beware of Low Flying Cows or Sudden Cow Noises

We hadn’t got far when Clare spotted a sign for a bakery – I told you other bread shops were available.  She returned with a number of useful food items – and more bread. We carried on and were treated to a number of separate kingfisher sightings.  In one case I saw a blue flash amid a splash and then saw a kingfisher on a branch with a fish in its mouth. Clare was out with her camera, but they are too small and shy to be captured with her equipment. We saw a few herons doing slightly unusual things, such as landing near us and strutting away.

Heron with wings wide flaring for landing on the towpath
Heron Landing on the Towpath

We made steady but surprisingly slow progress.  The combination of the shallow water and autumn leaves mean we are making much slower progress than we normally expect to make.  We stopped as it was starting to get dark having covered just over six miles to Shirley.

The forecast was right that there was heavy rain all this morning.  At breakfast, the windows were running with rain water, but I still caught the flash of a kingfisher. This one skipped from branch to branch on the opposite bank for a few minutes. The rain stopped after lunch, so we set off in gradually brightening weather.  We had multiple kingfisher sightings throughout the afternoon.  The going was slow with the propellor continually clogging up with leaves.  A blast of reverse at least every few hundred yards was needed to allow us to make progress in some sections.

Clare driving Bartimaeus under a lift bridge, with Open Close buttons on control panel visible.
Clare driving Bartimaeus Under a Lift Bridge

I hopped off to operate the only lift bridge of the day.  It was push button operated so I put my key in and held the Open button. The klaxon started and the lights started flashing.  A van appeared and drove straight on to the bridge. Mindful of a previous incident I let go of the button.  I had to let go of the button again as a car drove over from the other side. Third time lucky, I held the button until the barriers came down and the bridge started to lift – phew!

Just before Kings Norton Junction we reached the remaining lock on the Stratford Canal – number 1 – we’d wondered where that was. Clare got ready with a windlass but we soon realised that wasn’t necessary. It is a guillotine lock that is no longer used.  When first constructed, the Birmingham and Worcester Canal was required to be one inch above the level of the Stratford Canal to prevent water being taken from the older canal.  The difference was maintained using this lock – these days Canal and River Trust own both canals and the levels are the same.

Clare thinks the heavy structures above our heads were worrying. I presume they have been secured so that the chains are now simply decorative.

We reached the junction and moored up beyond it at sunset time.  We’ve travelled a distance of four and a half miles in two and a half hours. We weren’t trying to hurry, but I’m not sure we could have gone much faster.  The Stratford Canal is very pretty, but extremely slow, especially in autumn.

After we’d gone inside we heard a strange tapping noise.  Clare went to investigate and discovered a pair of crows investigating our centre rope – does it look like a dead snake?

Two rows on the roof of Bartimaeus
What is that Tapping Noise?
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