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BCN Marathon Challenge (4) – Saturday 8pm – 11pm

Posted by indigodream on 31 May, 2009

Sneyd Junction Bridge (8.10pm) to Pelsall Junction (via a trip up and down the Cannock Extension Canal)

Finish time 11pm

As we left Sneyd Junction Bridge, the sun rapidly sank below the horizon and the cold wind set about us. How quickly we went from T-shirts to winter fleeces – I guess it’s not quite midsummer yet.

It was a lovely evening though and we always enjoy twilight cruising, though rarely this late in the day.

The first stretch is light industrial but it soon gives way to a new housing development, still being built,  I guess on some old industrial sites. It must be because of local conditions, but the ground had been built up so that the houses were metres above the canal with no hope of access to the water. We thought this was a shame – it would be good for people here  to able to enjoy the waterway as so many other residents do.

We met three narrowboats going the other way – nb Tawny Owl looked like an ex-hire boat. Which led us to musing whether you could actually hire a boat to do the BCN Challenge? Do hire companies allow it? The next boat was nb Kersher followed later by a boat with no name. We might have asked him the name but we were too busy warning him about some stone-throwing tots that we’d just passed (between Forest footbridge and Coalpool bridge. They weren’t very expert and only managed a minor hit which clanged onto the side of the boat – just annoying really when the kids were probably less than 10 years old. Don’t be put off by this, we have seen worse on more mainstream canals.

There were loads of genial fishermen along this stretch – both on the towpath side and in back gardens. One had a tent set up in his garden with the intention of staying out the whole night. He’ll have a shock if Fulbourne, Atlas and Malus decide to come charging down later on!

After that we had the canal to ourselves, and very nice it was too. Tranquil and lovely, the suburbs soon gave way to countryside, proper countryside with open fields and cattle.

Because we’ve done so few locks today, it’s easy to forget how high the canal is. The vistas alternated between leafy green woodlands and sweeping panoramas into the valley below – stunning. As the night drew in, it became truly magical with the last of the sun’s glow in the west, the brilliant half-moon in the east and a crystal blue sky above. The yellow gorse glowed in the moonlight like a lantern to guide our weary travels.

Richard took the dogs for a last walk, but unfortunately there were fireworks in a town nearby (probably several miles away). Blue got spooked and had to come back on board at the next bridge – he’s refused to leave the boat since, just in case.

It was nigh on full dark by the time we reached the winding holes at the top of the Cannock Extension but it was well worth the trip. The canal is so straight and surrounded by the lush and beautiful countryside of Wyrley Common. Perfect rummaging for dogs but Blue wasn’t having any of it, but Lou came for a rummage with me. Those cunning people at the BCN Society had set a question about Pelsall Road Bridge. I’d assumed it was on the main canal, but it’s actually a short walk up from the winding holes on the branch.

With that mission accomplished, we set back for the junction with the fading glow of the sun still visible in the West. Although it’s not far, it was pitch black when we arrived at the end of the arm. It was shallow on the main canal so we tucked into the towpath on the arm itself. It’s exceptionally quiet here – Pelsall Junction has the reputation of being the best mooring spot just about anywhere on the BCN. We’ll let you know tomorrow, well in a few hours time if we actually keep to our schedule and start cruising at 5am!

Photos to follow when we get home.

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