Penkridge - Wolverhampton Top Lock No.1
Staffs and Worcester Canal, BCN Main Line
12 miles, 27 locks
We started this morning aiming to reach Autherley Junction (where the Staffs and Worcs meets the BCN at Wolverhampton) and then see how far we could get into Birmingham.
The last few miles of the S&W took longer than planned as we were travelling behind several boats and had to wait at the locks, but it was lovely weather and we met friendly people at each lock. The biggest queues were at Gailey Top Lock, with three or four boats waiting in each direction. So we tied up, and had ice creams as we waited for our turn.
At about 2:30, we got a call from John, previous owner of the Duck, who we are hoping to meet up with while in Brum. He let us know that most of the locks on the BCN are currently padlocked shut by BW to prevent water loss after about 4pm. Thankfully he texted back to say the the Wolverhampton 21 (the flight which we needed to ascend in order to get onto the BCN) was closed at 6:30 not 4.
We also hoped to see our friend Mike who blogs at Random Writings as his thesis-writing cruise is currently taking him through Birmingham too. We did see his boat, Innocenti, at Autherley Junction, but there was no-one in. So we carried on, hoping to head up the flight, and gave him a text to let him know where we were. Unfortunately when we got there we realised that we needed a water conservation key, also known as a handcuff key, which is different to the normal BW key. We knew we had one somewhere, but having never used it, couldn't think where it was! I tried calling BW (no answer), and was considering giving up and trying to get one in the morning, when suddenly Mike and his friend Nicola appeared, to help us up the locks. They themselves had just come down the flight earlier! We were very grateful, especially when Mike brought two of the special keys with him! Problem solved.
Ascending the Twenty-One
The flight took us an hour and a half - with three crew we were very efficient! There were also several boats descending, including the ex-BW working boats Collingwood and Ash. They were currently host to a Christadelphian boating holiday group, of all things! The butty Ash was being hauled down behind the motor, and so we kept the Duck out of the way as they bowhauled it past.
We soon reached the basin at the top, which is a little noisy, but relatively safe, as there are several other boats moored here, and they kept an eye on the Duck as we went up the road to have a curry with Mike and Nicola. Apparently while we were away, a drunk had got into the cratch and was 'rapping to the cat' who he had claimed was 'on vodka'. Still, he didn't cause any harm and was gone by the time we got back from a very tasty curry just minutes from the mooring.
Tomorrow, we hope to visit the Black Country Living Museum, do a bit of cruising, and see John for a BBQ in the evening.