Retreat

Yesterday we abandoned our attempt to go via Walsall.  We successfully turned the boat round despite the lack of an official winding point, so we knew our retreat only required travelling through water and the Ryder Green Locks we’d already been in.  Nevertheless I woke this morning feeling more than a little anxious about it.

Before we set off I had to find my sunglasses as we were pointing straight at the sun and it was reflecting off the water.  We were getting no discernible heat from it, and it soon disappeared behind clouds.

We reached the first lock, and Clare and Bryn got off to open the gate.  I realised that the propellor was turning in thick goo as I tried to line up.  I used plenty of throttle and crawled in to the lock entrance.  By the time the boat was about half way in, it had come to a complete stop.  I got Bryn to open a paddle to let some water in to the lock, and used plenty of throttle to prevent myself being washed out with it.  Then he shut the paddle and the boat drifted in to the lock – phew!

Lock Gate with Graffito
Lock Gate Pre-Signed by “Bryn”

The second lock was the one where the gate had only just opened wide enough.  At this one the boat also stopped halfway in.  I gave it plenty of throttle which seemed to push water out of the lock.  Then when I slackened off, the lock refilled and washed me in with it.  I was pretty sure the rest would be easier, and I was getting cold, so I asked Clare to drive for a bit.  Running ahead to open locks, sometimes just for the sake of it, was an excellent way to warm up.

Shane and Bryn Working a Lock
The Boys in Red Working the Lock
Repaired Lock Gate
Rotten Lock Gate Repaired with Metal Scaffold

The remaining locks were much easier, though clearly in need of some attention.  We soon reached the top and then the junction on to the Birmingham New Main Line.  We arrived at the Factory Locks to take us up to the Old Main Line at a good time for lunch.  After lunch we zoomed up those three locks in good time to make Wolverhampton before dark.

Trolley In Canal
The Archetypal Canal Sight – Upturned Shopping Trolley

This section of canal was pretty in places and there were sections with huge numbers of birds, including herons, coots and moor hens.  Much more of it was industrial or post-industrial.  In some places, new housing developments were bringing people and some new hazards to the canal side.

Just before the locks there is a small wharf where we were able to get water.  It involved an awkward turn to get in.  Once I’d completed it, I realised that I could probably have reversed in more easily – now I had to reverse out and repeat the awkward turn.  We drove the last few boat lengths to moorings above the Wolverhampton Locks just at sunset, though we hadn’t seen the sun for most of the day.

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