Victor risks it!

Published: Tuesday, 02 July 2019

FOR many a year it has been the middle of May when we take to the waterways, but alas, not his time.

As you regular readers should be well aware is because we were somewhat worried about being stuck out by the stoppages, having missed two by the skin of our teeth recently, but with the season more advanced we thought the waterways may be somewhat more reliable.

Staffs & Worcs

So here we are once again on the Staffs & Worcs, heading for the Shroppie, so putting our faith in that noble band of brothers, and of definitely sisters, of the now various societies that  take care of the waterway.

Mooring at the start of Tixall Wide, in the area of the wide water 23 boats were counted all crammed together, yet none in the half mile towards the lock, so the 'wide', that certainly is not as wide as at our first visit exactly 20 years ago—the ever encroaching weeds are seeing to that.

TixallLockPaddle1050488Not a good omen

So to our first lock, and oh dear, a bottom gate paddle with a bag over it! Not an official Canal & River Trust (or CaRT) but the bottom of a coal bag.

So I investigated, obviously wondering if the people in the old lock cottage had something to do with it, but no, removing the bag it was soon discovered that the ratchet would not hold, and a boater had covered the paddle to save anyone perhaps getting hurt by a windless spinning when the ratchet failed to engage. As to its eventual repair...

RustyLockGateEra of the lengthsmen

As mentioned, it was 20 years ago since we first cruised this canal, and that was the era of the lengthsmen—people who took care of the lengths of waterways and made sure it did not need boaters themselves to make paddle gear safe as in the case of Tixall Lock.

In those days stoppages were rare indeed, as those lengthsmen forewarned of any pending problem in addition to keeping such as paddle gear in good working condition without having to call in contractors, as now, who know little of the workings of the waterways.

The lock structures themselves were then well looked after and kept in good condition and painted, unlike the top gate in the picture above of Otherton Lock.

RodbastonMooringsBut alas the former British Waterways decided to save money by dispensing with them all, a policy kept on by CaRT.  Yet the resulting ever increasing stoppages and the many thousands of admitted problems, clearly show that as a money saving scheme it was a dismal failure, as maintenance gets further and further behind and consequently more and more expensive.

Good news

Time for a bit of good news, for the bottom lock mooring at Rodbaston Lock has been fixed at last, having been in a somewhat broken down condition for many a year.

It was at this lock that we received the courtesy of the steerer of Karma Waters allowing us to empty a lock though it was 'his' water, waving us to empty, though really fairly near, that was appreciated.

GeneratorOnBoatNot good

One thing is for sure, we should not like to be moored for the night next to whoever owns the pictured boat when the generator was running. Not only for the noise it must create but the fumes it gives off.  I shouldn't think the inhabitant(s) would be too healthy with the wind blowing in either.

Mind you, there were quite a few boats along the waterway risking disaster, with a couple having their gas bottles out on the deck with rubber pipe leading off, and one with it actually going through the door aperture, meaning that it would certainly get quashed when the door was closed. Crazy!

TheeVisitors400Change of mind

There were a couple of things I had decided not to mention, as I have to admit I have rather flogged them to death. First is the ludicrous claim by CaRT of its 450 million visits to its waterways and second is its leaking lock gates that is now standard. But alas I have failed on both counts.

Being fairly early starters, we call it a day by lunch time, and moored between Rodbaston and Boggs Lock we were surprised at no walkers or cyclists passing, until eventually late in the afternoon three ladies appeared, but then turned back before reaching the boat.

Well into the evening

It was then well into the evening when two girls passed, making a fuss of our Ridgeback Rusty who was keeping watch. And that was it!  The whole length of towpath is just a thin track with not a cycle tyre track in sight, so makes a mockery of CaRT's so ludicrous visitor claims.

BoggsLock400And so to leaking gates.Those at Boggs Lock to be exact.

With the lock seemingly filled, it was taking ages to be able to open the top gate, until a walk down the bottom revealed the reason—water was pouring out of the lock as fast as it was coming in, so it needed two to get the gate eventually open.

Mind you, I must admit neither of us are any longer in our prime, so you fitter ones could possibly manage. Though as many hirers too are 'getting on a bit' I should imagine the lock would cause problems for many. Perhaps it may get attended too next winter as it obviously wasn't in the one past.


It was actually on this canal that we discovered so many boats with two bow fenders, one below the usual one, then realised, with locks with ground paddles and so little chance of getting a boat flooded, a boat could be taken right up to the front of the lock when empty, and even with the two paddles fully opened would stay there—well protected with the two fenders. So an extra fender was attachedand off we went!

On to the junction and a visits to my old mucker, Orph at Oxley Marine, who gave the readers such useful information in his past offerings, and of course a fill up of the red stuff at a very decent price. Another old mucker I hope to see is Brian, another past contributor, who I should add dear Thomas lost his email address!

Victor Swift