Market Drayton to Tyrley Top Lock
What a wet morning! Not downpour wet, but totally soggyfying wetness that sneaks up on you. So we decided to sit and wait for it to stop and let Tilly out instead. Our schedule slipping, but then at 1 hour 18 minutes a day it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up on ourselves.
The morning got pottered away, but all three of us were getting bored and wanted to be on the move again. After lunch we decided to don the waterproofs and push off, if all we did was get to the top of Tyrley that at least would be progress.
Approaching the bottom of the locks we entered our first cutting. Not that impressive at first, but soon the tree canopy covers the whole cutting and you are cocooned below, damp and surrounded by red and green stone. We wondered why the locks had been cut here instead of building them closer to Market Drayton, maybe the geology here was more suitable than further on.
The last few days we’ve noticed quite a flow on the canal, it’s been similar to that on the Llangollen. Below the locks it looked like we could go white water rafting! A new piece of armco has been added to the old to try to force the bywash to flow down stream instead of across. The force of the water is so great that watching from above I wondered how long the new metalwork would last.
The bottom two locks were empty, I opened up for Mick to charge Oleanna through the rapids and into the lower chamber. With the lock filling I walked up to the second lock to open the gates. I could see that the next lock was full and there was almost certainly another boat coming down the flight by the amount of water pouring over the lock gates. I turned to try to signal to Mick to leave the gate open for them, but he’d already closed it and was stepping back on board in the mouth of the lock.
The bottom lock has new gates and no mention that the following pound should not be moored in, the next lock up has signs on the bottom gates warning you to set the next lock before exiting. We knew this, hence me having gone to open the gates, but others coming up hill wouldn’t!
Our mistake here had been for Mick to close the gate. Despite having stopped close in the entrance to the lock, the amount of water coming down and heading to the bywash weir had pushed Oleannas bow across towards the towpath. Mick stepped on board and tried to straighten her up to bring her through the next lot of rapids. Without a working bow thruster this meant moving the stern across to pivot the boat away from the weir. However the force of water coming down and the stone shelf under the water meant that the stern of Oleanna was pushed onto the stone and stuck there!
I could see that he needed assistance so walked back, the boat coming down the flight loitered in their lock waiting to see what would happen. Mick was pushing with the boat hook trying to get the stern off to no avail. The bow was still free, but that wasn’t helping. I walked up to explain what was happening to the next boat (The Lollipop Boat), he came and tried pushing whilst Oleanna fought to get off the rock. We both stood on the off side to add weight to that side, engine, push, still no movement.
The Lollipop chap suggested that we should refill the lock above bring their boat in and then try flushing the pound with the water from the lock, which hopefully would lift Oleanna enough and with some oomph from the engine get her free. So this is what we did, all that happened was another couple of inches that normally sits below the water line appeared above. Oleanna was even more aground.
The Lollipop boat was moved down into the next lock out of the way. Towing Oleanna wasn’t going to be an option as we didn’t want them to get stuck as well. Boat poles came out, with two of us pushing the bow and Oleanna in gear, still no movement, her bow was now aground too. Mick wanted less water in the pound, Lollipop man suggested more, it felt like he’d been here helping or in a similar situation before. So I headed up to the lock above and opened up the gate paddle hoping to raise the water level enough to refloat Oleanna. From above I could see the two of them pushing and pushing, Oleanna doing her best to fight free, plumes of water going over the towpath, still I let water down.
A dog walker joined in, he was passed our boat pole. With the two of them at the bow I could see Oleanna starting to swing round, but was the stern free? The chaps moved along towards the stern pushing and using the poles as levers, ‘Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I’ll move the world’ as Frank Matthews used to say (he most probably still does!). Then I could make out that the water at the stern wasn’t washing over the towpath and Oleanna was moving towards me and the lock above. No time to stop and say big Thank Yous as she would have just gone aground again.
Once the next lock was filling with Oleanna safe inside I walked back down to retrieve our pole and shout a big Thank you to the Lollipop boat just as they were exiting the bottom lock. Everyone had remained calm throughout and that bit of local knowledge had helped get Oleanna free. If there hadn’t been so much water coming down the flight it most probably wouldn’t have happened. If I’d been allowed to help it would have been sorted a lot quicker. Tom didn’t seem to want my tuppennys worth though!
We worked our way up to the top with ease. Stopped to fill with water at the slow tap. By now the light was starting to fade so we pulled up onto the end of the visitors moorings stoked the fire and dried off. Maybe we’d have been better off spending the day being bored!
5 locks, 1.39 miles, 1 major sticking, 2 inches, 4 inches out of the water, 1 sign, 2 poles, 1 hook, 75438gallons of water later, 1 hour stuck, 1 floating boat, 2 big Thank yous to the chaps, 1 full water tank, 2 showers, 2 drying coats, 1 cat who knew what to do all along, but nobody was listening!