Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The summit conquered

Nearly there; the view from the reservoir with eight locks to go
A quick stop for r & r on a well placed bench
Going up - only 15 to go

We reached the summit of our own personal Everest at 6.15 last night when we exited the top lock of the Tardebigge flight - exactly three and a half hours after we entered the bottom lock.
To be honest it wasn't as bad as we feared - but then again everything was in our favour. It was a pleasant, sunny afternoon for starters and every single lock was set our way - all we had to do was push the bottom doors open and go in.
Remarkably, the whole flight was virtually deserted: we met the Mikron Theatre narrowboat leaving the bottom lock, another boat leaving lock 2 and another coming down at about lock 10. After that, nothing. And yet, amazingly, the locks which must have been empty for up to a couple of hours hadn't leaked themselves tight shut, which says something for the condition of the flight. Sure, the top paddles were very heavy; one of the few times I've wished for a ratchet windlass to speed things up. But you can't have everything.
Unlike the Caen Hill locks, the vast extent of the flight is always hidden from view as it climbs in a series of gentle curves. That's a pity, maybe, or possibly some shrewd tactical planning hen the flight was built to avoid demoralising boaters with an awesome forward sight!
But as you get higher, the views become far reaching and there's no disguising how high one is now, seeing the Severn Valley way below. The view from the reservoir edge near the top is even more impressive.
At the top we voted ourselves a pub dinner to celebrate, which meant another hour's travelling and through two short tunnels to Alvechurch. Our new mate Micky Cull (more of him another time) had recommended missing the marina pub ("that 'orrible pale watery beer - when they said it was from Kinver I knew it would be rubbish") in favour of the next. We did, rushed in there and discovered they didn't do meals on Mondays and Tuesdays. Daft sods! We hurried back along the towpath to the marina which was full of people eating from the 'two meals for a tenner' menu. Result - even if the beer was rubbish and the puddings - £3.50 extra - well worth avoiding unless you like crunching through frozen food. But none of that could spoil a good day and a challenge overcome.

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