We’re on the move!
After 18 months of hard work we’ve set off from our mooring and are now continuously cruising the UK waterways for the foreseeable future. This post is going up a little after the fact, as you may have noticed as we’ve been bombarding instagram with our movements over the past month-and-a-bit. We have plans to travel about a quarter of the network this season so I’ve decided to write up a few details of what we find along the way as well as the usual instagram and DIY updates.
Our first leg of the trip was up the infamous Tardebigge flight. We’d been moored at a metal scrapyard near Stoke Prior while fitting out the rest of the boat, and while brilliant as a mooring for not worrying about making noise and being very secure, it’s location meant that we’d inevitably have to start with a little baptism of fire – 36 locks!
Day one: to the pub!
On our first day of moving we set off late afternoon to do the initial 6 locks to make it to the Queens Head Visitor Moorings at the base of lock 29, planning to pop to the pub for the evening and then do the remaining 30 locks in the morning.
All went smoothly apart from the rain. It absolutely poured with rain that day. I think given the opportunity we’d have stayed put until the forecast improved, but our mooring contract ended that day so we had little choice! Some solace at the end of the trip though, there was a Holey-Ship-and-a-bit sized mooring space opposite the pub when we arrived. We lit the fire and tried our best to dry out (living our best narrowboat life). Just before we set off to the pub for food us and the boat behind were forced to shuffle around to accommodate a hireboat family and their boat (that was evidently too big for the -and-a-bit space) but they didn’t seem to understand that there was unlimited space just after the bridge 30 seconds further down. Begrudgingly I slipped around in the mud and rain for 5 minutes to help shift our boat forward and allow them to wedge their boat in a bit better, but it really wound me up. Not even a thanks! I can see why hireboaters have a bad reputation sometimes.
We then headed to the Pub. I’m reviewing pubs in short individual posts so you can find our thoughts on the Queens Head here.
Day 2: the flight.
I didn’t sleep well, so it’s all a bit of a blur. Between the heavy rain and the lovely hireboaters running their engine from 3am (as their stern was wedged against ours I had anxiety dreams of their exhaust slowly carbon monoxiding us to death) my brain just wouldn’t switch off or relax. The next day was another wash out and absolutely exhausted we set off up the locks around 11am. Later than we hoped, but I wouldn’t have coped with any earlier, I needed a pre-flight nap!
Tardebigge itself is a good flight of locks (and by that I mean well maintained and operable!). The top paddles are really stiff compared to the bottom paddles and preferring to work the lock rather than be on the boat, I struggled to open a few as I’m not strong. At all. It was a good workout though! The locks are quick to empty or fill and as most were set against us we made good progress considering! By 3pm we managed to moor up in the long pound just before the deep top lock and have some lunch. I’ve never been so exhausted!
After a break and some lunch we set back off and up the deep lock. It’s unusual in that it raises the boat 11 feet (it’s a replacement for what was originally a boat lift). It’s really daunting to come towards from the base but considering its size, fills really quickly, so you don’t have to be in it for long.
We made it to the top!
After a brief ‘we did it’ rain-dance, we set straight off through Tardebigge tunnel. Our first ever tunnel. I absolutely hated it and spent the entire tunnel cowering on the well deck with fingers, toes and eyes crossed that we made it out to the other side.
I remember reading really early on that the best way to describe the experience of a tunnel in a narrowboat would be to compare it to birthing. Now I fully understand that comparison, though I fully wish I didn’t! I had just enough time to gather my wits again before we went through Shortwood tunnel after Tardebigge Wharf.
We moored up at the 48hr moorings opposite Alvechurch marina by 6.30pm, with a view to popping into the Marina in the morning and asking about their visitor mooring spaces so we had a safe space to stay while we moved the rest of our belongings on board.
Tardebigge was an experience, that’s for certain. I know it does put a lot of boaters off visiting the Worcester and Birmingham canal, due to the sheer length and effort involved in the flight, but overall I’d recommend it.
In the next post we run into problems mooring at Alvechurch and move our belongings on board. Then we set off towards the Shropshire Union canal in the sun!