Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for May 29th, 2011

BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 12noon to 1.45pm

Posted by indigodream on 29 May, 2011

12 noon – 1.45pm

We were pleasantly surprised by the Walsall Canal, which has improved beyond all recognition since we cruised this way two years ago. We’d heard that the BCNS had worked hard to clean and dredge the canal and they’ve done a great job. Once again we had the canal largely to ourselves but as we approached the Town Arm boats were starting to funnel in towards the finishing line – aah, so we did have the right weekend after all!

A lady from the BCNS was greeting boats as they came in and logging their finishing time – we came in at 1.45pm so we’ll get the maximum bonus points, as well as the points for the 93 locks and over 50 miles cruised – I think we got a few of the ‘treasure hunt’ questions right too.

We moored up just outside the basin – there are over 20 boats here this afternoon and it’s a grand sight. There are smart new housing developments alongside the canal now, where there had been dereliction and the whole place has a carnival air. We greeted Captain Ahab and family as well as meeting other old friends and making new ones, such as the owners of greyhound Poppy (that’s Princess Poppy to you!), who themselves own a share in a boat and happened to be in Birmingham for a mini-break this weekend. They heard us going through Aston flight this morning and actually got out of their beds in the adjacent hotel to take photos!

Sarah and Andy went to get their car from Wolverhampton, leaving the hounds with me, then there was more excitement as the mayor and his retinue came down to chat to the visiting boaters. We found out that they had a greyhound connection as one of his close relatives has a retired greyhound – they were persuaded to contribute to our collecting tin. In total we’ve raised £35 in contributions from visitors at the basin, so that definitely takes our total over £2000 with gift aid (we were a little short but I have a few sponsors left to chase).

So that’s it for now, we’ve done an epic cruise and putting it towards a good cause has added a whole dimension of pleasure and excitement to the venture.

We have some HUGE thanks – firstly to our gallant crew of volunteers, Graham from nb Matilda Rose, Sarah, Andy, Ranger, Henry and Archie from nbs Greyhound and Henry H, who have left footsore and weary after doing a sterling job at the locks. Secondly but by no means the lesser thanks, of course, to the BCNS – it’s impossible to underestimate the amount of effort it takes to organise such a big event and we’re very grateful, as is our nominated charity – Greyhoundhomer.

I may have to update some of the details later as I’m a bit weary (!) so do expect an update/errata over the next few days. In the meantime I’m off to the pub for a celebratory shandy…

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 8am – 12noon

Posted by indigodream on 29 May, 2011

8am – 12 noon

Oldbury Junction – Walsall Canal

Ooh, it’s been a while since I’ve done an update but we’ve been very busy and I have an achievement to announce – we have finished locking – hurrah – AND we have reached the magnificent total of 93 locks in 24 hours thanks to our tremendous team.

So, we were a bit worried about going up the Oldbury Locks – we’ve heard that it was shallow and slow, but I’m sorry now that I used the verb ‘flew’ to describe our passage up the Farmer’s Bridge flight because it leaves me no words to describe the speed of our passage up and down the Oldbury flight – “Supersonic” maybe! This arm is what you might typically expect from the BCN – more derelict and certainly the least beautiful of the sections we’ve cruised so far. Yet the towpath and locks seem well maintained and the few walkers we met were very friendly. The Titford pumping station at the top is interesting and Richard, who cycled on ahead, reported that the Titford pools themselves were charming, though we winded the boat before that point.

We then went down the Spon Lane 3 with their petrochemical tainted waters shimmering in the weak light. There was a dead fox decaying by the middle lock and alongside was a lawn edging tool – you could make a story of that, allbeit not a nice one….

We then had a brief respite along the New Main Line – just time for a round of coffees and some croissants before we turned at Pudding Mill Junction and headed down the  Ryders Green locks.

The hounds have been getting increasingly tired as the day wears on – they walked up the Aston flight and down the Oldbury flight then they had a bobble down Ryder’s Green locks – they are now all fast asleep – three on deck on their sheepskins and wrapped in blue fluffy blankets against the cold (sooo cute) and one stretched in blog central i.e. the sofa!

We haven’t seen another boat all morning so it was surprise to see nb Yeoford at the bottom of Ryder’s Green Lock – they’d already finished their challenge but had found the shallow canals a bit of a trial in their deep draughted old boat. The only other boat we’ve met was Napton hire boat nb Victoria who we last saw around 20 hours ago moored behind us at the bottom of the Wolverhampton 21 – it feels like a lifetime ago.

So, we’ve blown our original target out of the water – we have a lock-free pound ahead of us (though it was an exceptionally slow trip the last time we came this way 2 years ago). We may even arrive at our destination, the Walsall town basin, a little early, but I won’t say that because there’s many a thing that could foul our prop between now and then, but we have plenty of time – as long as we arrive by 2pm we’ll still accrue maximum points for completing the marathon.

Right, time to look at lunch – we would have done well if people had sponsored us by the number of calories imbibed! The next post will hopefully be at the end of the challenge – what a trip, what a crew!

I have to report that the crew have just reached that point of hysterical exhaustion where they’re actually looking for more locks to do – it’ll soon wear off!

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 5.30am – 8.25am

Posted by indigodream on 29 May, 2011

5.30am – 8am

Aston Top Lock to Spon Lane (via the Old Main Line)

We flew up Farmer’s Bridge Lock flight with not another boat in sight – it’s the first time ever that we’ve not met a boat in the tiny pound beneath the BT Tower (ok, the tower next door to the BT tower). Strangely, we’ve not met another boat all morning, travelling in either direction. It’s a bit eerie – did we get the date wrong? Did we oversleep and it is, in fact, Monday already? Ah well, if we’ve got it wrong then Captain Ahab has got it wrong too!

We had a brief stop at the slumbering nb Matilda Rose, moored on the new Mainline; Graham dropped his rucksack off under the front cratch but didn’t venture any further into the boat – it was far too early to guarantee a welcome! It felt late to me, but then we have been up for hours!

As we set off along the New Main Line, the campaign team had a meeting on the back deck while I saw to the domestics – to think that 20 pints of milk seemed like a ridiculous amount yesterday but we’re down to the last six pints now – our BCN challenge has been fueled by lattes…

The consensus was that we were making such good time that we should explore the old main line and pop up and down the Oldbury Arm (lots of points) though the instructions recommend turning at Uncle Ben’s Bridge so we won’t get as far as the Titford Pools. Then we’ll come back down to the New Main line via Spon Lane (lots of points) and head down the Ryders Green towards Walsall.

I’d forgotten how nice the Old Main Line is – the Smethwick Lock gave the dogs another good rummaging opportunity and we enjoyed, again, the sight of the tremendous pumping station. Beyond that there is a green corridor leading to the unique grey corridor under the M5 – marvellous, really….

We’re at the first of the Oldbury Locks now and there are still no boats on the move – we met so many on the last challenge – where IS everyone……?????

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 4am – 5.30am

Posted by indigodream on 29 May, 2011

4am – 5.30m

Cuckoo Wharf to Aston Junction

Oh yes, 4am and we’re all up and about – even the dogs, well, not quite the dogs – Lynx and Henry colonised the bed vacated by Sarah – they and Andy seemed set for a lie-in; Ranger dog was very relaxed on his duvet and Archie dog couldn’t get up on account of being stuck under the sofa!

We got off the mooring by 4.20am, noting in passing that Wanderin’ Bark had arrived there some time after us last night (or this morning) but pointing the other way.

By the time we reached Aston Bottom Lock everyone was up and dressed – the loyal crew was doing the locking and I was on coffee and pastry duty – the main lesson I learnt from our first Thames Tideway pilot – keep your crew warm, fed and hydrated – I take it very seriously!

As I write we’re approaching Lock 2 with just one more on the Aston flight to do, then it’s onto Farmer’s Bridge before we decide how to meander the rest of the way to Walsall Town Basin by 2pm.

It’s a cool windy morning but the fresh air is slapping us awake nicely and Sarah is wearing the dogs out by walking them right up the flight – poor Lynx has never had so much exercise!

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