Victor finds another lock 'bites the dust'

Published: Saturday, 13 July 2019

CLIMBING Heartbreak Hill the many locks that are twinned can make it of course much easier.

8BottomPaddleBut alas, under the jurisdiction of Canal & River Trust they are getting less and less, with more having 'bit the dust' since we last cruised, with now an alarming total of seven out of action.

Could be workable

The lock on the right in the first picture has two broken bottom gate paddles, and though the lock is full—and could be workable with its top gate open, no effort, other than the orange fencing and tape on the defunct paddles has been done.

The second picture shows another lock that is now out of action our being told it had a broken bottom paddle last year, and though reported, nothing was done and it was also ignored in the winter stoppage maintenance.

8TopPaddlesSimply closed to navigation

And so as now often happens in these situations, the remaining bottom paddle broke earlier this year I was told, and again nothing was done, the lock simply closed to navigation.

The consensus of opinion amongst those I spoke to is that it will simply be left to rot, as there is a working lock by its side, so it is deemed unnecessary.

Something that is well proven by the other twinned locks that have been discarded.

Harecastle experience

Then it was into Harecastle Tunnel, but with a 'newbie' in the queue it was decided by the fella in charge to put him in the middle of the three boats with us taking up the rear.

Oh dear! He decided to travel the length on tickover, and all you who have experienced tunnels know only too well this mean ricocheting from side to side, which was exactly what the boat in front was doing, crashing into one side then the other.


So we went up close and told hm that if he went quicker at a normal cruising speed he would find it much easier. And luckily he wasn't one of the 'know it all' boaters but took the advice and consequently continued in a straight line, giving thanks to us for the advice.

This was a share boat, but I would have thought its various owners would have been informed about the aspects of boating in different circumstances by whoever was in charge. But obviously not.

Mind you, in our hiring days many, many moons ago, even though a couple included tunnels, I don't remember any instructions, only hitting the sides in this very same tunnel, until we learnt better!

Strange boats

Dropping down from Stoke is a boat yard crammed with strange boats, but I reckon the one in the picture above takes a bit of beating with its grass roof!

8CanGeeseThere were others of similar ilk, that have been there, we had noticed, for many a year, even with 'for sale' notices, long decrepit.

Before reaching this yard we had intended to have a break at Westport Lake, but the ever increasing number of Canada geese make it a hazard, attempting to dodge the mounds of 'droppings' they leave on the canal side, so we gave it a miss.  The place is being overrunI by them.

No water

It was then a wait at the top of the locks into Stone as the second pound down was empty, but there was a CaRT man letting water down. As his van was parked by the lock and as it was still early in the morning I gathered this was a normal occurrence, and as he mentioned a gate had been left open, this pointed to leakage draining the pound overnight, as no mention of paddles were made.

In conversation, asking how long he had worked for Cart, he soon told that he had originally covered this area, so knew what it was all about, but then a reconstruction of the areas meant he was then transferred to the Shroppie.

8CanoesThen yet another reconstruction of the various areas meant he was back again on the Trent & Mersey, telling that many employees were fed up of the continuing shifting of areas meaning they had to either move or travel greater distances, adding that nothing these days was certain with 'this lot'!


I of course realise that it is no bad idea to give youngsters a taste of the waterways with such as canoeing, and over the years we have seen no few parties and all well under control, on many waterways, but all usually out in the country and more importantly well away from moored boats.

So I was most surprised to see the party of canoeists in the picture just above Star Lock in Stone obviously setting off in this busy section between two rows of moored boats and opposite a boat hire yard and a pound with other facilities including a chandlery.

8StoneBoatNot sensible

To me this was not a sensible place to take what are obviously young children canoeing on the water.  And as they came in a van, surely they could have been taken to a less active and certainly safer stretch of water.

I reckon it is about time that Stone Boatbuilding did something about its somewhat decrepit looking signwriting, that has become worse as the years have gone by, and hardly an invitation for would-be customers, unless of course it is boat building no more.

Volunteers at last!

Yes my friends, volunteers at last! Here we have travelled the Four Counties Ring from Fradley right round into Stone, encountering a few flights and awkward locks, but ner a single volunteer to give a helping hand.

And here is Thomas struggling with Newcastle Road Lock (it would not fill as a woman from an Anglo Welsh Hire boat had found a bottom gate paddle to difficult so had not fully closed it).

01Out of Date2A bit useless

Yet as we eventually drop down, there are two of those elusive volunteers sat on the seat by the water tap busily chatting away to each other. A bit useless eh?

We are told by the powers that be that there are hundreds of volunteers 'Making it Better by Water', as the latest slogan tells us, but they were not making it much better for boaters, that's for sure!


Except for a quick glance at the boats with no licences last week on the Shroppie, since Cart told us that unlicenced boats were down to 1% of the total I have not taken much interest, but coming out of Sandon Lock on Saturday morning I noticed a couple with expired licences, that awakened my interest.


So I counted, and there was even a green one that had expired in 2013, and then at various years up to 2018, with people actually living in a couple of the boats, so altogether along the pound to the next lock there was a total of seven boats with expired licences, but there certainly weren't just under 700 boats moored to make it 1%, so it makes a mockery of yet another CaRT statistic.

And yes, there were more in the next pound, but I had lost interest.

Deserted at Rugeley

We were most surprised to arrive at our normal shopping town of Rugeley this morning, Saturday, to discover the moorings completely deserted, as pictured, as on our way up we had difficulty finding space.

01OilBut cruising from the town to the top of Fradley locks we counted 22 boats all heading that way, so by the afternoon it is most likely another matter entirely.

Not welcome

One thing we did see that was not at all welcome was about a mile of oil on the water around Bridge 56, with the sheer amount of it meaning there had been a major spill, but as to whether intentional or not we of course could not define, as there was no obvious source.

And so to Fradley and a mooring by the top lock, with  far too many worrying crashes into the top gate as boats get pulled by the sheer force of water. It surprises me the number of steerer who don't realise that with ground paddles, and thus no chance of flooding, it is easy to hold the boat against the top gate when ascending, so preventing possible damage to the gate when the force rushes it forward when attempting to hold it back with the engine.

So perhaps CaRT does have a legitimate complaint about boaters wrecking the lock gates. But as its handbook does not state this simple fact, it is only by experience that boaters learn.

Victor Swift