Friday 26 April 2024

Perfect locking weather, and an interesting descent down the 21

Wednesday 24th April; Coseley Stop to Autherley Junction
After a quiet night, as long as you disregarded the geese, we made the decision to try and get down the Wolverhampton 21 without having to stop.  We knew there would be opportunity to stop in the longer pounds, but you have to go through 16 locks to get to them!
Coseley tunnel

It was very cold, and dull too.  There was a lot of plastic in the water as there always is round here.  Some of it found its way into the many coot’s nests we saw today.

We saw lots of other waterfowl too, little grebe, swans, moorhens and mallard including one very unfortunate female who was not having a good day.

Three onto one is not fair!

She was able to get away in the end and flew off, hotly pursued by her would-be suitors.  This isn’t our favourite part of the system, with industry (or ex-industry) lining the waterway, with the wildlife gradually becoming less abundant.

Concrete and feathers for a nest    

 Our plan had been a good one.  Pull into the facilities area, water up and dispose of the rubbish we have accumulated.  Then make up some sandwiches to keep us going down the flight.  But we had to go with plan B as there were two boats already in the little arm.  We were surprised to see Alchemy still moored above the flight.

It transpired they were in the middle of sorting out a weed hatch problem.  We pulled in at the top of the 21 locks.  Although we had passed a boat which had come up not long before, it was already empty.  Not without some trepidation we started down.  It wasn’t too difficult – maybe we would be ok.  On to the second.  This one was full, but it turned out to be the only one – we had to turn all the other locks.  We tentatively started our normal teamwork for descending a flight, and Dave’s knee worked and my stamina held up.  I open the top gate, leave Dave to deal with that and start the emptying while I walk on to raise a paddle at the next lock.  Then I come back, we open the bottom gates together, he gets back on board and drives out, I close up and walk down after him to open the next top gate.  Before long it was warm enough to start shedding layers.  As the weather was dry, once I had warmed up I was even able to step across the bottom gates.  With water and flapjack to keep us going, we made steady progress, though not as speedily as usual.
Once we were over halfway, I was beginning to flag a little, but then it started to get interesting.  Below one lock were a couple of magnet fishers.  I always ask if they have found anything interesting, but this pair really had.  I commented how pleased I was they had removed a length of wire netting – they must be boaters?  No, they just enjoy magnet fishing – and they take away what they pull out, unlike some.  Though they didn’t personally remove their ‘best’ find - a World War One bomb!  The canal was closed of course, while the bomb was recovered and taken away to be exploded.  It was good they recognised it for what it was and didn’t get blown up!

Thanks ladies, great job!

It wasn’t long before we were at lock 15.  Long ago, possibly in our share boat Padworth 15 or 20 years ago, we met a delightful elderly gentleman sitting on the bench at this lock.  He asked us to look at the gardens behind him, in front of a row of terraced cottages, about 20 I would say.  And each one had a Torbay Palm in the front garden.  He and his late wife used to go to Torquay every summer, and once they had established their own they bought a Torbay Palm back every year for a neighbour.  Over the years, the whole row got a palm for their front garden.  Some years later I heard he had gone into a nursing home, and later still we transited the flight and noticed that most of the palms had gone – we blamed cars for taking their place in the little front gardens.  But we were wrong!

All that is left

A lady was getting out of her car, the one in the photo.  I boldly called across to tell her about the old chap and his story (I would never have dared to do that back in the day).  Tom, she said?  What a lovely man!  She actually lives in his house.  She didn’t know the story of the palms but she did know that a lot of them died in a severe winter about 10 years ago.  Tom passed away some years ago.  I am so glad she was getting out of her car at just the right moment!
The next lock was the last of ‘the thick’ and the final five were spaced apart.  Should we stop for some lunch?  We decided to press on.  A boat behind us had been catching up, and with an extra crew member we had had a bit of extra help now and then with the bottom gates.  The locks were too far apart for locking ahead, so while Dave was floating about waiting for me to open top gates he cracked on and made some sandwiches which kept us going to the bottom.  Above the bottom lock the cherries were in magnificent bloom.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now / is hung with bloom along the bough …

Finally we had made it down!  Though we met no boats coming up, which would have made it easier, the antibiotics had kicked in so I’d had enough energy to cope, Dave's knee had worked and we had made it in one piece.  Thankfully there was plenty of space at Autherley Junction visitor moorings and we were soon tied up.   I can’t remember how long it took us, but considering that all but one of the locks was against us we were quite pleased with our time.  Anyway, that was it for the day!

21 locks, 6½ miles, Coseley tunnel (bit wet).  No fire needed tonight.



  1. What a lovely blog, I'm one of the magnet fishers that you bumped into, so lovely to have met you :) and both lovely and fascinating to be able to follow your adventures.

    1. How lovely to hear from you! best wishes and take care of the bombs ... ;)