Sunday, 23 August 2015

Rain stopped play

A pair of swans get a free ride up the canal
We were probably optimistic to leave our Worcester mooring in the face of the weather forecast but our 48 hours were up and when you've got to go, you've got to go.
So we went, knowing that at some point in the next few hours we were likely to get wet. Which we did.
First stop was just a couple of locks up the canal where we could moor within a five minute walk of Aldi and Asda for some re-stocking. The Diglis basin area where we had moored might have been the old commercial heart of the waterway but the town shops had been too far away to carry back bags of shopping.
Our first lock of the day had provided some entertainment: a pair of swans had got in there and wouldn't leave so I had to lock them up with the boat. At first they paddled frantically against the incoming water but then settled down and happily grazed the weed off the lock walls as the water went up. Finally I opened the top gate and off they swam.
After the shop stop, it was a mile up to the next lock but the skies were getting blacker and hardly were we into it than the heavens opened. We sat out the worst inside the boat as the lock filled but finally had to venture out into the rain when a hireboat appeared from the lock above. Hire boats are always on a mission - they move whatever the weather.
Locks come thick and fast on this canal and there were four in the next half mile. We'd just got through them when the rain started hammering down again. It had already stopped play in the Oval Ashes test, now it stopped play here too. We moored up, had lunch and listened to the soporific Belgian GP, with only a break to Usain Bolt's 100m world championship win serving to raise pulse rates above comatose.
Last vestige of the old Cadbury cake factory at Blackpole
The Worcester & Birmingham Canal is synonymous with Cadbury's: the firm's boats used it and there is still a canalside factory at Bournville as well as 'Cadbury World'. Less well known is that until the 1970s there used to be another Cadbury factory making cakes, at Blackpole, where we were hiding from the rain. It employed 700 people and in the early seventies the company wanted to build an even bigger factory but were refused permission by the then government. A few years later it closed as part of 'corporate rationalisation'. Nothing remains, except perhaps the bit of wharf building I photographed.
Finally the rain stopped. England lost the test (but not the Ashes) and we moved off. Two single locks brought us to the short, sharp flight of six Offerton locks and, with the arrival of a watery sun, boats were moving again and we shuffled our way up the flight, passing hireboats coming down.
We have climbed steeply out of Worcester through fourteen locks in barely five miles to reach the straggly village of Tibberton. For now the locks have stopped but it's a brief respite for there are plenty to come on this canal.

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