As we were awake early we decided to get up and off. We thought the day was going to turn out warm and sunny and with 24 locks and five miles to travel to our planned mooring beside the Merryhill Shopping Centre, we wanted to try to get as far as possible while it was cool. We were underway by 7am.
We travelled along the Stourbridge Canal and passed the end of the branch arm that goes into the town and headed up the 16 Stourbridge locks which rise past some fine examples of Black Country canal architecture with little sign of the industry that once supported the canal. These sites are being developed for housing. Storm worked the locks and I steered. After about half way you are invited to visit the Glassworks Museum with moorings outside but we arrived before it opened and so continued on to the top of the flight.
Here we turned right and were wending our way around Brierley Hill when we suddenly stopped moving. Reverse gear didn’t make any impact on our predicament and we had to get the pole out. The boat’s stern was well and truly stuck but we did manage to pole the bow over to the bank so that we could all get off; Max leapt from the roof, and we stepped off the side, taking the stern and middle ropes with us. We both pulled on a rope and only when we managed to cause the boat to rock sideways did it finally float free. The lady living opposite seemed quite concerned about the boat but was very impressed when we freed it.
We got back on board and motored on slowly, trying to keep in the deep water in the middle. There were signs that the water level was about a foot lower than usual and our passage wasn’t helped by the objects discarded in the canal. We spotted a few shopping trolleys, a fridge, and other twisted metal objects that could have been pushbikes in a former life. The boat bucked over other submerged objects.
We made it to the locks where we swapped roles and I set off to prepare the next 8 locks while Storm steered. The start of the locks heralds the start of the Dudley No 2 Canal. Storm had a trip down the weed hatch while he waited for me and removed a pair of jeans from round our propeller.
Delph Locks are designated a conservation area and so are all well looked after. They were all set in our favour.
I spoke to a CRT staff member about the low water levels and he looked slightly sheepish and admitted that he’d expected it to rain overnight and had not switched on the overnight flow button that tops up the pound. He said he’d just switched it on so the levels would improve through the course of the afternoon.
As we cleared the top lock the sun came out as though to confirm that we’d made the right choice by setting off early. The good weather didn’t last long though and by mid afternoon it was raining and it hasn’t stopped since. It looks as though yesterday’s heat wave was just a flash in the pan.