Shirley (yes, at the drawbridge again but only a few hours from Lapworth)

On Thursday morning I’d resigned myself to staying at Hopwood for the next couple of days whilst the ice melted.

When I took Buddy for his first walk, I checked the water point (that had burst on Tuesday) and it was completely off.  At least CRT had stopped the leak but there was no indication of how long it would be out of action.  The channel that Steve had made in the ice when he left for Birmingham yesterday hadn’t frozen over so whilst having my coffee I rang Lyons boatyard on the Stratford canal to ask about the ice situation there.  They told me it was all clear so, coupled with the fact that there was no water at the water point I decided to set off just before 10 o’clock.

All was clear on the Worcester & Birmingham canal and as I approached the 1 ½ mile long Wast Hills tunnel, for the fourth time in as many weeks, there was hardly any ice.

Approaching Wast Hills tunnel

As you may well know, I’m a bit bah humbug about Christmas and could quite happily ignore it.  Karen, though, does like to put up lights and a few baubles.  At least the lights are LED and battery powered so are not a drain on our boat batteries.  I have to leave myself a note every day to make sure I turn the lights on just before Karen gets home ūüėČ  She has also rigged up lights on our outside Christmas tree so, just to prove I do have them on, here’s a picture taken when going through the tunnel.

Once we were out of the tunnel I knew we were back in the outskirts of Birmingham as the bridges have the red doors in them.  If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you’ll be bored of hearing about them, but for new readers, they were installed during the last war to enable firefighters to have easy access to water.

About ½ mile after leaving the tunnel we arrived at Kings Norton junction where we turned right onto the Stratford canal.

Turning right onto the Stratford canal

It wasn’t long before I realised that only a few boats had been along here over the last few days.  The ice was still quite thick in places but, strangely, in others it had completely disappeared.  Just short of Brandwood tunnel I stopped and moored up as the going was getting so difficult.  It’s amazing how breaking ice can make a boat swerve off direction quite alarmingly.  Apart from potentially damaging the blacking, I kept getting moved onto one side or the other, often ending up on a silt bank.  That meant I had to reverse off and then try and carve a different channel.

After mooring up I had a look around the local estate for places for Karen could park the car after work.  It wasn’t a particularly nice estate and I was half inclined to cancel Sue who was due to come up on Friday.

I got back to the boat, had lunch and then rang the boatyard again.  They assured me that it was only a hundred yards or so and the ice disappears, so I got togged up again and carried on.

Approaching Brandwood tunnel just after lunch

I finally made it to the boatyard and filled up with diesel and water.  I also got rid of the rubbish and recycling that had been building up for the last couple of weeks.  I had a good chat with Sarah who served me and realised we sort of knew each other as we had seen each other around before.  She and her husband live on their boat, Stealth, and work four days a week, spending the other three cruising the system.  

All was clear for a while after leaving the yard, and the ice was relatively thin, but about ¼ mile before where I wanted to moor at Shirley liftbridge, it started getting thick again.  This time I had to keep reversing to give myself clear water to enable me to have power to cut a channel through the ice.  I arrived at the aqueduct just before where I wanted to moor and was completely stopped.  As I had done several times already during the journey I got the bargepole and went ahead breaking the ice.

A couple were out walking their dog and they stopped to watch my shenanigans but at least they were also giving me active encouragement.  They were saying things like, ‘you can make it’ and ‘go on really rev that engine’.  I got moored up in the end and couldn’t believe it had taken six hours to cover seven miles, and that was without any locks

Last of the sun at our mooring for Thursday night

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