Tuesday 30 June 2015

Tardebigge Flight

Well our latest cruise around the Inland Waterways is providing us with a lot more musing and the opportunity to visit a few new places. It has also given us the opportunity to meet up with people we chat with on social media. The improved weather has also been a bonus.

We spent a few days in Birmingham, before continuing with our cruise. This time we turned our attention to the Birmingham and Worcester canal and once we passed Kings Norton Junction we were on a new section of the waterways for us.

Scrolling forwards a few days. We came to the Tardebigge Flight and it was a real 'eye opener' on how well the the Canal and River Trust is functioning.  Picture the scenario, we were slowly following a boat down the flight. However, the couple aboard who I have to admit were well past the first flush of youth. Were trying their best and were struggling to manage the locks. So much so, that I was walking down and setting locks for them before returning back to follow on behind with our boat.

At about the halfway point, we met up with a CaRT crew of volunteers taking 'Scorpio' up the flight. Team handed, with a full complement of volunteers. Enough so that they could set three locks in front. So there we were - stood - with other boats waiting behind us. Because we were waiting for Scorpio to come up the three locks that had been commandeered and turned by the volunteer crew.  I had a word with one of the volunteers - who I think genuinly did not appreciate the hold up they were creating. However, the old boating couple continued to struggle along with our help. Whilst being totally ignored by anyone from the locking team from CaRT.

I had been under the impression that there were volunteers lock keepers available to assist boats up and down the flight. However, the only volunteer we saw was travelling along the towpath at a speed a time trial cyclist would have been pleased to maintain. His mode of transport however, was not a cycle, it was a quad bike. Looking all resplendent as he passed us in a cloud of dust.

All of which he managed to accomplish while riding one handed and at the same time smoking his vapour pipe. Meeting all of CaRT's safety standards by wearing a life vest.

Now call me old and cynical if you must - but a shining example was being set for all the off road bike owners. After all, if its good enough for CaRT volunteers, its certainly going to be good enough for anyone else to ride the towpath on a motorcycle or quad bike.  

So maybe as well as creating a time trial venue for high speed cyclists CaRT are also unwittingly creating a green lane for would be motorcycle trials riders.

Needless to say he rode past the two old boaters who were still struggling along. however, when you are travelling at speed you don't have much time to look around and observe people who could have done with a bit of help. 

Then we came across another team of volunteers who were at work painting the lock balance beams. Wow! What a difference, they happily assisted with opening and closing the gates and helped with raising the paddles as they said that they did not want either of us to risk touching anything that had just been painted. A very cheerful and gregarious group of volunteers and obviously having a good time, enjoying what they were doing.

Although boating today might well be an old persons pastime especially as the younger boaters are noticeable by their absence. (Well apart from the odd booze cruise on a hire boat) The person doing the locks needs to be pretty fit and strong because the way that things are going - its going to be a very long time before they start to improve.  

So how did we manage our passage down the flight? Well my other half who is like me retired, struggled with the majority of the ground paddles due to their stiffness. Once the water levels had equalised a bit, things would ease.  A fair few of the lock gates had seen much better days and a few were difficult for her to get moving. 

Further along the Birmingham Worcester canal. Around bridge 38 we noticed that the water level seemed to be a bit on the low side. Looking at the pilings it would seem that the level is down by about six inches. We noticed a pipe, ties off with a bit of red string, hanging into the canal. 

In what seemed to us to be a bit of an entrepreneurial ad-hoc water abstraction. The pipe seemed to lead into what looked like several small holdings.  Whilst I don't think that the abstraction here is responsible for the current low levels. As the advertisements for the supermarket chain say - every little helps. 

A list of people who have rejected honours has recently been leaked. There are some very illustrious names on the list.  It would seem that to be real 'worthies' you now have to be seen to spurn and award for the kudos. New figures from the Cabinet Office show that over the past three years alone 116 people have rejected such honours. 

I was asked a question by a fellow boater. He said, 'what do you think about Sally Ash getting a gong?' I enquired, 'what was if for?' He said 'for services to the Inland Waterways'. I said 'So she got a gong for just doing her normal everyday job. Well we all should be getting one of those then'.  'She got an MBE' he added.  You mean 'Mistakes Become Easier' says I. 

Sally certainly managed to became very well known in boating circles. The Kennet and Avon Boating Community website contains a document listing her major achievements while working for British Waterways and more latterly the Trust.  It makes for interesting reading and provides an alternative perspective on her career.



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