It was a flawless, windless, blue sort of day, just right for a winter walk...
The Captain and Boatwif had enjoyed a three night stay in Stratford-upon-Avon and now were making a first visit to the Bromsgrove home to which the Relief Captain and First Mate had recently relocated. Zipped into warm jackets, gaitered from ankles to knees, each walker was aided by a trusty walking pole. First were bought Saturday newspapers at the Aston Fields Co-op. Then we crossed a narrow road bridge high over the
On to country lanes: several. Road traffic was light but then ahead stretched a hill, a noticeable hill, a steep hill. Up we strode, talking less, puffing more. Pause at a gateway to gaze south and west, spotting the spire of Bromsgrove's Church, the smudge of the
Lock 51; lock 50, down the towpath we went. The sun shone. The air was cool, not cold. From time to time dog walkers and joggers approached us. On this narrow canal everything is narrow – the locks, the channel, the towpath. You pass with care. About halfway down there were signs of lock repairs. Iron fencing enclosed the upper end of a lock and the work to be done was all too apparent, a steady gush of water projecting through the top gate down into the lock chamber. We passed a narrow lock side house, its roof arrayed with poles and aerials. Past a moored boat, the scene quiet, no hint of boat movement, no sound of ratchet and windlass. Then on the offside appeared a sign: Tardebigge Bottom Lock. This was Lock 29. The famed Tardebigge Flight has 30 locks – but only a few hundred yards further on are the six Stoke locks, totalling 36 in just four miles. The walkers reminisced, recounting their various Tardebigge adventures, once as a crew with young teenagers, once with young adults, once just as Captain and Boatwif. Grey-sided Ebenezer hove into view, nestled on a comfortable offside mooring. Then relief for the thirsty walkers, refreshments at the Queen's Head Inn, now a smart and pleasant dining place. It, like the canal, and like the walkers, had seen the years roll past, had undergone various reconfigurations.
Seated by a window overlooking the water Relief Captain pulled out his Nicholson's Guide. We pored over our route, marvelled at the closeness of the locks, obvious on the page, observed firsthand by ourselves that morning. We puzzled over where the Droitwich Canals join the cut and how far it would be to walk that way... Lazy? practical? The afternoon advanced and a taxi aided the return to Bromsgrove. It had been a good walk – there could be a good trip... How about we check cruise routes for Tardebigge and the