Monday, 21 September 2015

A game of two halves

Bratch locks: pretty looking and pretty complex
The great footballing cliche seems very appropriate to today's boating. This morning it belted down with rain. After lunch the sun appeared and I stripped down from rain gear to tee shirt.
After the dreary trudge to Gailey that provoked Thursday's blog outburst, the canal gods relented and allowed a little more water into their canal. We reached Autherley, junction with the Shroppie with no trouble (though the half mile long and one boat width cutting through the rocks was very slow going) and on past Aldersley where we turned off up the Wolverhampton locks earlier this year.
From here on we were on a stretch of the Staffs & Worcs we hadn't visited for five years when we came through here on Star. Incidentally we had passed Star a few miles earlier.
After a weekend break from some 'granny duties' we woke this morning at Compton to find the rain pouring down but with our permitted 48 hours just run out we had to don the wet gear and get moving. But three miles and a couple of locks later we called 'early lunch' as it was getting ever heavier, moored up and watched blue skies start to appear. Must try that trick again.
The locks come more frequently now as this canal drops rapidly down towards its eventual destiny with the Severn. They are deep locks, too, but none deeper than the 30 feet drop of the complicated trio of locks at The Bratch.
These locks started out as a staircase (where each lock joins the one below and empties into it). That's a slow and inefficient process so side ponds were added and each lock is now fed or emptied via these. Even though they may still look like a staircase, they are effectively three separate locks.
Disappointingly hidden by trees, the fine pumping station
Get it? No, no did I even after the resident lock-keeper explained it to me. It's a good job he's permanently on site during the season to prevent flooding or the chaos of one boat trying to go up while another is coming down.
The Bratch locks are a canal landmark too, with a pretty, octagonal lock house. Nearby is a fabulous Victorian gothic water pumping station with two of its original steam engines still in place - one of them in working order. Unfortunately it's been closed to the public for five years while arguments went on about its future. To judge from the scaffolding around it, restoration work seems now to be in hand. Hopefully they will also cut back some of the trees which disappointingly hide much of it from sight.
Is it that a phone mast I see?
Talking of trees, way on the horizon we also spotted a rather unusual species of tree, the phonus mastius camouflagius. A good try but you can't hide a mast that's 10 feet taller than the surrounding trees with a few stick-on branches. Still, it means we get a good 3G signal tonight

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