Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Coolcanals go for Olympics on canals?

It's the calm after the sporty storm as steaming euphoria settles over the Olympic Park, and roaring huggable London quietly fluffs its mane with pride. But while gold medals swing from the pert necks of athletic bodies, I'm nursing saggy aching limbs after my challenge cruising the infamous Tardebigge flight on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal. 30 locks in a rise of 220feet in just over 2 miles makes Tardebigge the longest lock flight in Britain - boaters either hate it or love it!

We were less than 3 locks into the flight when a BW chap (in his new Canal & River Trust T-shirt) came chugging along the towpath on a quadbike. A fine compliment hid in his ear-to-ear grin and happy greeting  "Oh no, it's the two most dangerous people on the canals!" (He was coincidently the BW hero who rescued us last winter when our boat got wedged in the lock in Stourport Basins) Just for fun, Martine had to prove, on behalf of all womankind, that contrary to the Stourport mishap, girls can be cool as cucumbers at the tiller... and she steered our boat 'through the eye of the needle' into the next slither-thin lock on the flight! Our hero doffed his imaginary hat in overblown Thespian jest, and we sailed away, all three of us waving in canal camaraderie.

In 30 locks I returned a happy "good morning" to 4 boats, 12 bikes and over 40 walkers (I was counting the strolling couples, bouncing families and waggy dog walkers easily enough, but lost count when a rambling group yomped past). Then there was the friendly bunch who were holidaying in a former lock keeper's cottage along the flight (www.landmarktrust.org.uk) - they mucked in by closing the lock gates for us as we passed their cottage.

Winding locksful of uncountable gallons of canal water, and lifting a 57ft steel narrowboat downhill sounds like an Olympic workout... but I'm telling my saggy muscles, it's just another day chilling out for us boaters.

PS The Tardebigge Lock Flight is one of the 100 treasures of the canals in our latest book

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