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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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