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Archive for May 30th, 2009

BCN Marathon Challenge (3) – Saturday 5pm – 8pm

Posted by indigodream on 30 May, 2009

Horseley Fields Junction (5pm) to Sneyd Junction Bridge

No photos with this one – the connection’s just too slow and we’re saving our energy for steering! We’ll post them on a photoblog tomorrow.

This was our first proper foray onto the Wyrley and Essington and we found plenty of interest. There are some lovely places along the canal and, once again, the locals were friendly and interested. No wonder, most were amazed at the amount of boat traffic that had passed today – we were the fifth in line on a waterway where they can go months without seeing a boat.

There were some tricky bridges to negotiate – Rookery Bridge is narrow on a sharp blind bend – Richard reckoned there would have been collisions aplenty when the canal was in its heyday. No worries for us though. The next was Church Bridge, which fishermen had warned us was shallow. They said that the four boats in front of us had all got stuck there. We cruised through without any hassle and guessed that it was four deep drafted working boats.

As it happens, the shallow bit was beyond the bridge where there seem to be some major works going on, possibly to do with the gas main. The towpath is totally blocked off and the working pontoon extended well into the canal. According to another local fisherman, the whole canal has been closed for a while.

This was confirmed when we ran into Fulbourne, who was plodding along gamely (though when we saw her she’d stopped to clear weeds from the prop). They courteously let us pass, though we did send a while brested up and chatting.

They had indeed got grounded, along with nb Malus and nb Atlas – the working pair who followed us out from Hawne Basin. They’d apparently been towed free by a little narrowboat (didn’t catch the name) but had been having a slow time of it since.

I must mention Elaine, one of Fulbourne’s long-standing crew members. She looked fabulous in traditional dress with matching blouse, full skirts and bonnet.

There are several marked 48-hour moorings here which didn’t look too bad at all. They were convenient for pubs, which always fits our bill!

It being such a lovely evening, there were a lot of people on the towpath. Now, my suspicious mind made criminals of them all but that’s grossly unfair. One man walking with his kids was shocked to hear what a bad reputation the canal has – he says you’ll never have trouble here. His youngest, who must have been five or six, seriously informed us that he’d caught the biggest fish ever in his little net – ‘abut as big as the boat’ was his estimate!

We did see two lads carrying a mattress along the towpath with the clear intention of chucking in the water. We took photos and shouted at them to take it to the tip. We were heartened when other walkers shouted at them as well. Of course, they’ll just walk down to a more deserted part of the path and in it will go – b”$$%^&.

A little further on we caught our first foreign body round the prop – a fleece hood, which, for such a small garment, was surprisingly effective at stopping the prop. It’s always clothing on the BCN – why?

The canal wanders gently through the suburbs – there’s lush growth all around and the canal’s wide enough not to feel oppressive as it passes by neat gardens and even one end-of-garden mooring for nb. Alice. The only menace here was the clouds of smoke emanating from the various barbecues that everyone had on the go. Just up from Perry Hall Bridge I got a bit concerned by a gang of very tiny kids holding what seemed to be water balloons. I kept my eye on them and got even more concerned when they were joined by two older kids on bikes. The vision of being chased down the towpath being pelted with balloons filled my imagination. But the big kids were just fascinated by the boat, asking lots of questions and seemingly genuinely interested in the answers. The litte kids just looked slight bemused, in the way of 5-year olds.

Later on we were passed by a modern working boat, not part of the challenge, who gesticulated wildly for me to get in to the side. I snuck in, and promptly ran aground a metre from the bank. Ah well, there’s something quite relaxing about being aground, you know you’re stuck and there’s nothing to be done until the passing boat shunts some water your way. As they went past I had a surge of sympathy from them. The first in line was a dredger with it’s front end running under the water; it was towing a tug which was towing an empty full-length butty. The tug apparently has a 4’ 6” draught – uh, good luck with that then….

All around Bentley Wharf footbridge, suburbia gives way to countryside; there may well be a nature reserve of some sort here. By now it was 7.15pm and on a normal day we’d have moored here without hesitation, for the dogs if nothing else.

A little way past the footbridge the noise of the traffic suddenly intruded and there was the M6, running next to the canal before marching over our heads at the next bridge.

The whole of the Curley Wyrely has been a revelation so far – it really is a great canal. But there was more to come at Sneyd Junction Bridge. It’s a sharp right turn at the junction and I caught a glimpse of some residential moorings beyond the bridge. Unfortunately I fluffed the turn but my excuse was that I had a tyre wrapped round the prop!  Not a big one, probably from a mountain bike or similar but I’ve never know the prop stop faster. From previous accounts, it’s not the BCN Challenge unless you pick up a tyre; I think that should be worth a few bonus points!

We got through the bridge to find a very friendly community of boaters. The working pair, Malus and Atlas, together with their ‘towing’ buddy had stopped here for supper. One of the residents kindly let us brest up to her boat, so we took advantage and got rid of the two binfuls of weed at the rubbish point, ate our supper and chatted (they’re very doggie people here – average dog-population of 3 per boat!).

We moved on, with some reluctance, at 8.10pm with a few more hours ahead of us. Though we did move on optimistically, with the hope that if the rest of the Wyrley and Essington were as good then we’d be in for a fine night’s cruise.

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Horseley Fields Junction (5pm) to Sneyd Junction Bridge

This was our first proper foray onto the Wyrley and Essington and we found plenty of interest. There are some lovely places along the canal and, once again, the locals were friendly and interested. No wonder, most were amazed at the amount of boat traffic that had passed today – we were the fifth in line on a waterway where they can go months without seeing a boat.

There were some tricky bridges to negotiate – Rookery Bridge is narrow on a sharp blind bend – Richard reckoned there would have been collisions aplenty when the canal was in its heyday. No worries for us though. The next was Church Bridge, which fishermen had warned us was shallow. They said that the four boats in front of us had all got stuck there. We cruised through without any hassle and guessed that it was four deep drafted working boats.

As it happens, the shallow bit was beyond the bridge where there seem to be some major works going on, possibly to do with the gas main. The towpath is totally blocked off and the working pontoon extended well into the canal. According to another local fisherman, the whole canal has been closed for a while.

This was confirmed when we ran into Fulbourne, who was plodding along gamely (though when we saw her she’d stopped to clear weeds from the prop). They courteously let us pass, though we did send a while brested up and chatting.

They had indeed got grounded, along with nb Malus and nb Atlas – the working pair who followed us out from Hawne Basin. They’d apparently been towed free by a little narrowboat (didn’t catch the name) but had been having a slow time of it since.

I must mention Elaine, one of Fulbourne’s long-standing crew members. She looked fabulous in traditional dress with matching blouse, full skirts and bonnet.

There are several marked 48-hour moorings here which didn’t look too bad at all. They were convenient for pubs, which always fits our bill!

It being such a lovely evening, there were a lot of people on the towpath. Now, my suspicious mind made criminals of them all but that’s grossly unfair. One man walking with his kids was shocked to hear what a bad reputation the canal has – he says you’ll never have trouble here. His youngest, who must have been five or six, seriously informed us that he’d caught the biggest fish in his little net – ‘abut as big as the boat’ was the verdict!

We did see two lads carrying a mattress along the towpath with the clear intention of chucking in the water. We took photos and shouted at them to take it to the tip. We were heartened when other walkers shouted at them as well. Of course, they’ll just walk down to a more deserted part of the path and in it will go – buggers.

A little further on we caught our first foreign body round the prop – a fleece hood, which, for such a small garment, was surprisingly effective at stopping the prop. It’s always clothing on the BCN – why?

The canal wanders gently through the suburbs – there’s lush growth all around and the canal’s wide enough not to feel oppressive as it passes by neat gardens and even one end-of-garden mooring for nb. Alice. The only menace here was the clouds of smoke emanating from the various barbecues that everyone had on the go. Just up from Perry Hall Bridge I got a bit concerned by a gang of very tiny kids holding what seemed to be water balloons. I kept my eye on them and got even more concerned when they were joined by two older kids on bikes. The vision of being chased down the towpath being pelted with balloons filled my imagination. But the big kids were just fascinated by the boat, asking lots of questions and seemingly genuinely interested in the answers.

Later on we were passed by a modern working boat, not part of the challenge, who gesticulated wildly for me to get out of the way. I snuck into the side and promptly ran aground a meter from the bank. Ah well, there’s something quite relaxing about being aground, you know you’re stuck and there’s nothing to be done until the passing boat shunts some water your way. As they went past I had a surge of sympathy from them. The first in line was a dredger with it’s front end running under the water; it was towing a tug which was towing an empty full-length butty. The tug apparently has a 4’ 6” draught – uh, good luck with that then.

All around Bentley Wharf footbridge, suburbia gives way to countryside; there may well be a nature reserve of some sort here. By now it was 7.15pm and on a normal day we’d have moored here without hesitation, for the dogs if nothing else.

A little way past the footbridge the noise of the traffic suddenly intruded and there was the M6, running next to the canal before marching over our heads at the next bridge.

The whole of the Curley Wyrely has been a revelation so far – it really is a great canal. But there was more to come at Sneyd Junction Bridge. It’s a sharp right turn at the junction and I caught a glimpse of some residential moorings beyond the bridge. Unfortunately I fluffed the turn but my excuse was that I had a tyre wrapped round the prop J Not a big one, probably from a mountain bike or similar but I’ve never know the prop stop faster. From previous accounts, it’s not the BCN Challenge unless you pick up a tyre; I think that should be worth a few bonus points!

We got through the bridge to find a very friendly community of boaters. The working pair, Malus and Atlas, together with their ‘towing’ buddy had stopped here for supper. One of the residents kindly let us brest up to her boat, so we took advantage and got rid of the two binfuls of weed at the rubbish point, ate our supper and chatted (they’re very doggie people here – average dog-population of 3 per boat!).

We moved on, with some reluctance, at 8.10pm with a few more hours ahead of us. Though we did move on optimistically, with the hope that if the rest of the Wyrley and Essington were as good then we’d be in for a fine night’s cruise.

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BCN Marathon Challenge (2) – Saturday 12.45pm – 5pm

Posted by indigodream on 30 May, 2009

Dudley Port Bridge (12.45pm-ish) to Wednesbury Oak Loop

Shropshire Lass

Shropshire Lass

Just after Dudley Port Bridge we passed nb Shropshire Lass before we decided to take turn down to the Dudley Tunnel portal for a quick look (though we had no intentions of accruing a million BCN challenge points by legging Indigo Dream through :-).

We weren’t disappointed vy our trip down the arm – there’s good mooring here – probably the most highly recommended mooring on the BCN. It looks secure and companionable, with the full range of BW services. The Black Country museum looked fascinating and we’ll come back to visit, probably another year, though we need few excuses to visit the BCN.

We winded just by the museum and headed back towards the Main Line and the Wolverhampton Levels. We passed trip boat Aaron Man by, though I doubt if they were doing the challenge – their passengers looked far too relaxed!

Dudley Tunnel North Portal

Dudley Tunnel North Portal

The stretch by Owen  Street Bridge was very tidy indeed – neat housing, immaculate towpath and an abundance of mooring rings. There were a few private offside moorings and we tried to get the low-down from some local boaters as to whether it would be safe to moor on the towpath side (which looked very inviting). I don’t think they understood the question – they just told us to go to the museum moorings – never mind.

Nearby is also a life-size statue of William Perry – I’m not sure who he was but his stance suggested he was a boxer of bare-knuckle fighter. We’ll have to look him up later.

We headed left at Factory Junction. I had a bit of whimsy here as I wondered how many ‘factory bridges’ there are around here – there are two at this junction! We got yet another nice surprise here. We’d turned on the fearsome Wolverhampton Levels – fabled bandit country. But this first bit, at least, is as rural an urban canal as you

Woleverhampton Level

Woleverhampton Level

could ever hope for – full of greenery and wildlife and what looked to be top dog rummaging on the towpath side. The stretch around Coseley Tunnel is particularly scenic and I’d happily give mooring a go here.

We met nb Trundles along here – also on the challenge. I was very envious of one of the crew’s BCN Challenge T-shirts. We must get more organised with decorating the boat and ourselves next time.

nb Trundles

nb Trundles

We turned right onto Wednesbury Oak Loop at Deepfields Junction and we were stunned by how lovely it is. Neat housing on the offside and what looked to be miles of open countryside on the towpath side. Here’s another candidate for an experimental mooring. The local seem very friendly and the kids here are showing an interest in boating, allbeit on an old piece of foam insulation steered with a toy spade last used for building sandcastles! I’d highly recommend a trip right up to the winding hole past Highfields Road Bridge (which is marked ‘limit of navigation’ on our Nicholson’s. It’s the limit because, in

Brave Lad .....

Brave Lad …..

theory, you can only wind at the end during office hours.

We carried on regardless as there’s extra points to be had by answering a questions

Well you can wind 60' outside the workshops but the sign is sensible

Well you can wind 60′ outside the workshops but the sign is sensible

at the far end of the navigation. Ah, what we gained in points I think we may have lost in time. The canal’s wonderfully clear here but that may be what’s caused a huge overgrowth of weed. The pernicious stuff was just at prop height and wound it’s way round, resistant to the cutting edge of 1400 revs. We crawled along, clearing weed from the prop every 10 minutes or so. At least it was weed – I know that we’re not even halfway through the challenge but we haven’t had to remove any unnatural debris from the prop as yet. Mind you, getting Richard to fish out a long length of hosepipe from the front of the boat probably saved us some unwinding!

Our bucket over flows ...

Our bucket over flows …

The reward for the tedium of unwinding weed from the prop was the signs of old industry being cleared away, possibly for new housing, and the BW yard at the end. It’s obviously a working yard with huge new lock gates piled on top of each other, no doubt waiting for next year’s winter maintenance programme. Some of our favourite flights – Caen Hill and Tardbigge are in for some new gates by the looks of it.

New Gates

New Gates

We spent 20 minutes looking for the answer to the BCN questions before ringing for advice. Predictably the answer involved the pub on the road (which we couldn’t reach through the locked yard). In the meantime, Blue and Lou rolled in the cool grass and enjoyed the change of scenery.

Lou having a break

Lou having a break

We winded the boat without any drama – it’s wide and deep at the end of the navigation, though our weed-wound prop was less than efficient. So, don’t let lack of winding holes put you off coming to the far limit of the navigation. But I’m not sure what to say about the weed. I’m a firm believer in the ‘use it or lose’ it principle, but ploughing through that weed was tedious. I’ve got a vague recollection of reading about it – I think that the weed is either a migrant from abroad or from domestic ponds and is creating a BIG problem on navigable waterways. I’m not sure what the solution is, but that’s one advantage of the turbid waters of Spon Lane – nothing grows in it!

Blue having a break

Blue having a break

We met nb Whitchurch on the way back, she was toiling her way up the loop, dragging weed out of her propeller as she went. We stored our weed on deck, they chucked it back in. That felt counter-intuitive, but unlike plastic bags, there’s an infinite supply of weed so chucking a propful back probably won’t make a difference. Later on we passed nb Api Wanderings who we’d met earlier at Spon Lane. They were less than happy having tried to get up the prohibited Ridgeacre Arm and been forced to reverse out. We’d met one of the organisers by chance last night and he’d warned us that BW had asked boaters not to go there – the message obviously didn’t get to

nb Whitchurch

nb Whitchurch

everyone.

Deepfields Junction (4.10pm) to Horsley Fields Junction

 

I handed the tiller to Richard for the next bit as I’d got a bit spit roasted on the helm and needed a fresh application of suntan lotion. I’d love to say that the red bits will turn brown but I’m afraid not – it’ll be freckles followed by wrinkles, such is the boater’s life!

The rest of the Wolverhampton Level passed by quietly. It’s lined with old industry, ‘fascinating cranes (Richard’s words) and pleasant green stretches with well-maintained towpaths. It felt very safe and we were sad, again, that people are put off by its reputation. Mind you, we didn’t enter into the city itself. Having passed under Walsall Street Bridge – the most westerly point of our BCN meanderings, we

Fascinating Cranes

Fascinating Cranes

bypassed the locks and turned instead onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal – aka ‘the Curley Wurley.

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Dudley Port Bridge (12.45pm-ish) to Wednesbury Oak Loop

Just after Dudley Port Bridge we passed nb Shropshire Lass before we decided to take turn down to the Dudley Tunnel portal for a quick look (though we had no intentions of accruing a million BCN challenge points by legging Indigo Dream through J).

We weren’t disappointed – there’s good mooring here – probably the most highly recommended mooring on the BCN. It looks secure and companionable, with the full range of BW services. The Black Country museum looked fascinating and we’ll come back to visit, probably another year, though we need few excuses to visit the BCN.

winded just by the museum and headed back towards the Main Line and the Wolverhampton Levels. We passed trip boat Aaron Man by, though I doubt if they were doing the challenge – their passengers looked far too relaxed!

The stretch by Owen Street Bridge was very tidy indeed – neat housing, immaculate towpath and an abundance of mooring rings. There were a few private offside moorings and we tried to get the low-down from some local boaters as to whether it would be safe to moor on the towpath side (which looked very inviting). I don’t think they understood the question – they just told us to go to the museum moorings – never mind.

Nearby is also a life-size statue of William Perry – I’m not sure who he was but his stance suggested he was a boxer of bare-knuckle fighter. We’ll have to look him up later.

We headed left at Factory Junction. I had a bit of whimsy here as I wondered how many ‘factory bridges’ there are around here – there are two at this junction! We got yet another nice surprise here. We’d turned on the fearsome Wolverhampton Levels – fabled bandit country. But this first bit, at least, is as rural an urban canal as you could ever hope for – full of greenery and wildlife and what looked to be top dog rummaging on the towpath side. The stretch around Coseley Tunnel is particularly scenic and I’d happily give mooring a go here.

We met nb Trundles along here – also on the challenge. I was very envious of one of the crew’s BCN Challenge T-shirts. We must get more organised with decorating the boat and ourselves next time.

We turned right onto Wednesbury Oak Loop at Deepfields Junction and we were stunned by how lovely it is. Neat housing on the offside and what looked to be miles of open countryside on the towpath side. Here’s another candidate for an experimental mooring. I’d highly recommend a trip right up to the winding hole past Highfields Road Bridge (which is marked ‘limit of navigation’ on our Nicholson’s. It’s the limit because, in theory, you can only wind at the end during office hours.

We carried on regardless as there’s extra points to be had by answering a questions at the far end of the navigation. Ah, what we gained in points I think we may have lost in time. The canal’s wonderfully clear here but that may be what’s caused a huge overgrowth of weed. The pernicious stuff was just at prop height and wound it’s way round, resistant to the cutting edge of 1400 revs. We crawled along, clearing weed from the prop every 10 minutes or so. At least it was weed – I know that we’re not even halfway through the challenge but we haven’t had to remove any unnatural debris from the prop as yet. Mind you, getting Richard to fish out a long length of hosepipe from the front of the boat probably saved us some unwinding!

The reward for the tedium of unwinding weed from the prop was the signs of old industry being cleared away, possibly for new housing, and the BW yard at the end. It’s obviously a working yard with huge new lock gates piled on top of each other, no doubt waiting for next year’s winter maintenance programme. Some of our favourite flights – Caen Hill and Tardbigge are in for some new gates by the looks of it. We spent 20 minutes looking for the answer to the BCN questions before ringing for advice. Predictably the answer involved the pub on the road (which we couldn’t reach through the locked yard). In the meantime, Blue and Lou rolled in the cool grass and enjoyed the change of scenery.

We winded the boat without any drama – it’s wide and deep at the end of the navigation, though our weed-wound prop was less than efficient. So, don’t let lack of winding holes put you off coming to the far limit of the navigation. But I’m not sure what to say about the weed. I’m a firm believer in the ‘use it or lose’ it principle, but ploughing through that weed was tedious. I’ve got a vague recollection of reading about it – I think that the weed is either a migrant from abroad or from domestic ponds and is creating a BIG problem on navigable waterways. I’m not sure what the solution is, but that’s one advantage of the turbid waters of Spon Lane – nothing grows in it!

We met nb Whitchurch on the way back, she was toiling her way up the loop, dragging weed out of her propeller as she went. We stored our weed on deck, they chucked it back in. That felt counter-intuitive, but unlike plastic bags, there’s an infinite supply of weed so chucking a propful back probably won’t make a difference. Later on we passed nb Api Wanderings who we’d met earlier at Spon Lane. They were less than happy having tried to get up the prohibited Ridgeacre Arm and been forced to reverse out. We’d met one of the organisers by chance last night and he’d warned us that BW had asked boaters not to go there – the message obviously didn’t get to everyone.

Deepfields Junction (4.10pm) to Horsley Fields Junction

I handed the tiller to Richard for the next bit as I’d got a bit spit roasted on the helm and needed a fresh application of suntan lotion. I’d love to say that the red bits will turn brown but I’m afraid not – it’ll be freckles followed by wrinkles, such is the boater’s life!

The rest of the Wolverhampton Level passed by quietly. It’s lined with old industry, ‘fascinating cranes (Richard’s words) and pleasant green stretches with well-maintained towpaths. It felt very safe and we were sad, again, that people are put off by its reputation. Mind you, we didn’t enter into the city itself. Having passed under Walsall Street Bridge – the most westerly point of our BCN meanderings, we bypassed the locks and turned instead onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal – aka ‘the Curley Wurley.

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BCN Marathon Challenge (1) – Saturday 9am – 12.45pm

Posted by indigodream on 30 May, 2009

Hawne Basin (9am)  to Windmill End Junction

P1010961

Hawne Basin

We had an extremely quiet night on the moorings just outside Hawne Basin. We like it here – there’s great dog-walking, there’s giant B & Q on the top of the hill opposite and there’s the wonderful people who moor in the basin. We talked to more people in an hour here than we did in 6 months in Packet Boat Marina – ho hum!

We came to Hawne Basin for the BCN Challenge points – you could come for the interest, the good company, the walks, and the panoramic views.

By 8.55am we were ready to set off, engine running, pins out – but we virtuously held Indigo Dream in place until the dot of 9am and then we were off. We’d also resisted opening the sealed envelope until 9am and were dismayed to find that the first of the quiz questions was “what is the name of the statue at Burton Bridge?”. Now we saw the name hung on a laminated card around the statue’s neck – what was it?

It was a salutary reminder that we’d need to pay attention on this trip!

Our departure would surely merit a bit of Norse saga – “Bright the sun and high our hearts as Indigo Dream cleaved the clear water……” –

Good dog walking in there!

Good dog walking in there!

it’s that sort of day. Blue skies, brilliant sunshine with a refreshing edgy breeze to keep us awake!

We passed along, marvelling at the rich embankment where we walked the dogs last night – all lush grass, thorny thickets of gorse and the broom’s bright yellow blossom – a real harbinger of summer when the seed pods will dry up in the heat and explode as you walk past.

This gave way to the castle fortifications of the old tube-making works that line the bank just before the Gosty Hill Tunnel. Like many an old castle wall, they’ve been the bulwark of industry against agriculture for many a year, but it’s mother nature that wins every time as the Buddleia gradually creeps over all.

Stewarts and Lloyds, Steel tube Pioneers 1903 - 1967

Stewarts and Lloyds, Steel tube Pioneers 1903 – 1967

I always mourn the passing of our manufacturing industry. This plant was owned by Stewarts and Lloyds – a famous firm which pioneered the art of tube-making and apparently manufactured the first seamless tube. It closed in 1967, but Richard has met people who used to work for them and who still speak highly of the company. All gone now……..

But it’s impossible to be melancholy in the Gosty Hill Tunnel. There seem to be several spellings – ‘Gosty’ in the guide books; ‘Gorsty’ on the BW sign; but it’ll always be ‘Ghosty’ to me, with it’s low roof and large portrait of Dracula on the centre arch where the roof sinks down. There was an added frisson today as the old music of an accordion drifted down the tunnel – it was from the working boats behind who we knew were also doing the challenge today.

Past Gosty Hill Tunnel watch out for the low headroom on the bridges – Richard wasn’t watching his head, he was watching his shoulders!

Site of last night's Girlie Party

Site of last night’s Girlie Party

I must mention Totnal Footbridge where a gang of local girlies were having a picnic last night. Not the obvious location, but if the main provisions in your basket are cans of strongbow then maybe it doesn’t matter where you are!

There’s a real ‘top of the world’ feeling to this canal, even though you’re surrounded by suburban houses and light industry – Worcestershire falls away at your feet, bringing the far Malverns almost within reach. It’s a quality that you only get at the summits of contour canals, perched delicately on high hillsides.

Garbage is, sadly, a feature here, though no more so than through the Hanwell flight on the Grand Union. I thought it was a bit chilly for skinny dipping, but the life-size and very pink inflatable doll with the impossibly large breasts floating in the canal seemed to disagree 🙂

Hmmmmm

Hmmmmm

There’s also a bit of graffiti around – I wondered whether youth could be persuaded to use facebook to inform us that “C was bummed by Y” in future…..

We got to the Delightful Windmill End Junction in good time – it is lovely here. We got a good view of the old pumping station up on the hill , still keeping watch despite its roofless dereliction. It kept the local mines dry for years but it was turned off during a strike, the shafts filled with water an it never could empty them again. It’s eerie to think of the silent and water filled shafts that must run beneath our feet here.

Blue was expecting his usual walk at the Bumblehole and came up on deck ready to leap off. But we’re on a mission so onwards we went – never mind Blue, we’re bound to find some locks later.

Is this cornwall?

Is this cornwall?

Windmill End Junction (9.50am)  to Dudley Port Junction

It’s only a short hop from Windmill End Junction to the vastness of the Netherton Tunnel. The Gosty Hill Tunnel has something of the otherworldly feel of a cathedral; the Netherton rejects such fancies – it’s a businesslike piece of work – big because that’s more efficient; wide because it makes sense to have two towpaths. There are several large ventilation shafts (wet!) but several more have been lost – there are apparently warning signs on the hill above.

Dudley Port Junction (10.30am) to Bromford Junction

The New Main Line

The New Main Line

This is the main line – probably the finest ‘highway’ of its day and still looking good even now. Every now and then the magnificent broad canal is cut in half by some mean and curious ‘narrows’; they’re reminiscent of old lock chambers but they are, in fact, old gauging points where tolls were levied on the various cargoes that flowed this way. It’s an incongruous feature – the canal’s so wide you could imagine big commercial barges here, but the architecture, bridges, tolls and locks ensure that it’s narrowboats only.

We met nb. Saltaire here – we’d passed them yesterday going the other way – that’s

nb Saltaire

nb Saltaire

the beauty of the BCN challenge – it forces you to take all these interesting twists and turns. We also passed a fuel boat ‘Awaytoservice’. I’m not sure whether they were on the challenge – Richard asked them “will we see you at Walsall Town”, to which they said “yes, please” in a desperate for business sort of way. I don’t doubt we’ll be ready for a bit of diesel by the time we get there!

Bromford Junction (11.10am) to Oldbury Junction

The Spon Lane locks are characterised by tarry black waters full of ancient petrochemicals, their smell and the mercifully unidentifiable garbage coated in black gunk. It marks the transition from the new main line to the old line with its now meaningless meanderings that once led to each and every factory along the canal.

We will need their services tomorrow!

We will need their services tomorrow!

As we went up the first lock, nb. Waterways Routes passed along the main line beneath us.

The dogs hopped off for a rummage but it’s so hot that they soon got back on board – Lou looked like she regretted getting off the boat at all. Let’s hope we find somewhere interesting for them to run around in the cool of the evening.

We shot up the locks – the bottom two were set our way and we met nb. Api

What sise were those trousers?

What sise were those trousers?

Wanderer here. They were a cheerful crew – they’d come down from Titford and warned us that it was slow going – shallow and be-garbaged (they’d picked up a pair of trousers in their prop – size unspecified!). At top lock we crossed over with nb. Joanna, who’d also come down from Titford.

Another Titford Survicor

Another Titford Survicor

It was an awkward turn back on ourselves to head towards Oldbury Junction  – Richard tugged me round with the ropes and managed to lose both the front and centre as she swung out (at least he had the sense to let go!). This is one way of finding out whether your mooring ropes are long enough to snag your prop – the answer’s ‘no’ by the way 🙂

We travelled for ages beneath the M5 – it’s a much longer stretch than I remembered and quite creepy in places under the dark Anchor Bridge with it’s strangely squashed down arch and low roof. I was musing on many things when I quite suddenly noticed the signpost for Titford and did a hasty turn into the junction. I needn’t have bothered – there was a boat moored at the bottom lock who informed us that people were turning at ‘Uncle Ben’s Bridge’, well before the end of the navigation. He himself had unfortunately broken down, but a tug and butty were just working up the lock flight in front of us. They’d apparently taken 20 minutes to get through the first lock. We decided to abandon our trip to Titford and headed back to the old main line.

Oldbury Junction to Dudley Port Bridge

We soon cleared the M5 and were back into the brilliant sunshine. This next bit is great – although it’s the old main line, the canal is deep

View down onto the New Main Line

View down onto the New Main Line

and improbably wide in places. We passed the Chemical Arm and the cheery coffee shop nearby. We’ve had a great welcome here, even from the fishermen, who must be despairing at the sight of so many boats. We passed nb. Solatium here with its crew of 6 precariously perched along its rather short tug decks.

We passed Brades Hall Junction at 12.10pm but instead of turning back down to the new main line (as we did last year) we carried on. We’re glad we did as it ‘squared the circle’ for us as we passed over the Tividale Aqueduct which crossed the cut leading to the Netherton Tunnel!

Past the aqueduct the canal broadens through a very tidy new housing development between Kiers Bridge and Dudley Port Bridge with fine moorings and even a small (but empty) marina. It’s lovely – a real hidden gem. We’re hoping to find many more during our meanderings…..

More Photos:

Fascinating bit of canal under the M5

Fascinating bit of canal under the M5

Final Competitor for this Blog

nb. Solatium

View down onto Netherton Tunnel

View down onto Netherton Tunnel

Old Main Line east of Netherton

Old Main Line east of Netherton

Old Main Line just past Kiers Bridge

Old Main Line just past Kiers Bridge

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