Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What a day!

The fallen tree that blocked our passage
Yes, what a day it's been. We took half an hour to get off our overnight mooring; got comprehensively stuck getting out of the next lock, stuck again on the pound to Kidderminster, stuck again when we tried to moor after the lock for a well deserved McDonalds, caught in a hailstorm that peppered my face like airgun pellets and finally brought to a halt by a huge tree which had been blown down across the canal. On top of that I witnessed the old chap on the boat in front fall overboard when his plank slipped and badly gash his head.
All this in little more than two miles! Which took about three hours.
The first problem we were half-expecting: we went aground when mooring last night at Wolverley Lock but usually a quick shove gets you away. Not this time: poling, pulling, reversing - we tried the lot until we were finally off.
All went well until we reached the next lock, Wolverley Court where the tower blocks of Kidderminster loom in the distance. In the top, down, out the bottom gates. Stuck! This time we were right in the middle: memories of Llangollen and the night we had to spend stuck in mid-stream. Fortunately we managed to pole the nose close enough to the side for me to jump off and gather up front, rear and centre lines to try and manipulate us into what water there was while Harrywoman helmed us gently forwards. And so finally we got away. Or rather she did while I walked. And walked – there were no bridgeholes to hop on at.
Evidence of the drop in water levels that got us stuck
A mile later I hopped on at the first one ... and we immediately got stuck again so I had to hop off again with the lines! It was clear by now that the pound was well down – more than six inches I reckoned. We were expecting to find a paddle left up at the next lock as the cause.
The handsome canalside church at Kidderminster
The entry to Kidderminster is unprepossessing, following a long line of bland 'executive' homes newly built in the familiar crammed-in fashion along the offside and then a waterside Sainsburys. But then relief: the handsome town church with a small wharf and crane in front of it as we reached Kidderminster Lock. But God is very much separated from Mammon for the church sits in lonely isolation on one side of the noisy dual carriageway ring road. And on the other is the huge Weaver's Wharf shopping centre with its McDonalds, Pizza Hut, M&S, Tesco and all the other usual suspects. Mind you, the giant carpet mill has been saved and now houses Debenhams and a Frankie & Benny's.
Kidderminster was once famous for its carpets. Today the old carpet mill is the only evidence. Oh, and a Carpet City outlet!
The canal was still low, even though we'd found no paddles left up at the lock. I soon had other things to contend with when the sun rapidly vanished, the wind brought rain and moments later a vicious hailstorm. I sheltered under a bridge, went inside and had an excellent noodle lunch conjured up in moments by the Queen of the Galley.
Tools of the tree clearers' trade
And so to the fallen tree where boats were queuing either side, the first since nine a.m. Three gangs from CRT were out clearing fallen trees in the area and ours had just arrived after sorting a previous faller. But before they could begin their first aid kit had to come out for the elderly boater who'd fallen in. An ambulance was called and he went off for checks. (Fortunately he was fine and arrived back three hours later just as the last of the tree was cleared.)
So how do two men clear a 40ft tree that's crashed across the canal? With the aid of a rowing dinghy, a chainsaw and a very clever mini tracked vehicle with a built in winch they made it look easy.
The only good side to the day was that we discovered that the low water levels had been caused by paddles left up at Kidderminster – the boat in front of us had found them – and, even better, our temporary mooring waiting for the tree clearers was outside a pub.
Which is where we are just heading for a meal!

1 comment:

  1. And what you are doing is meant to be fun :). You were very brave to stop anywhere near Kiddie, even the locals don't go out after dark and braver still to eat McD's.