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Archive for July 3rd, 2014

Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 15

Posted by indigodream on 3 July, 2014

Sunday 22nd June

Hawne Basin to Sheepcote Bridge (Central Birmingham)

Gosty Hill tunnel is a tight squeeze at either end..

Gosty Hill tunnel is a tight squeeze at either end..

We had a rare cruise by ourselves today with no guests – hound or human. This gave us a relatively restful start to the day, with little pressure on time – we’re still adapting to Birmingham at normal i.e. not BCN Challenge, pace 🙂

We’d moored overnight just outside the basin so no long goodbye, except for the local dog-walkers, who had become familiar in passing. Leaving was a poignant experience – we’ve had a good time here, yet I doubt whether we’ll be back for a couple of years.

Richard took us out and we managed to avoid any major prop-fouls apart from one sticky moment just before the Gosty Hill Tunnel. As Richard turned the prop in reverse then forwards, the smell of heavy hydrocarbons rose out of the black water. I’ve always wondered about the levels of pollution hereabouts – forget fracking, just dredge out the bottom of the canal here and at Spon Lane bottom, extract the oil and fuel Birmingham for a year 🙂

Also just before you enter the tunnel are the impressive remains of the old Stewarts and Lloyds works. This was the company that pioneered the manufacture of steel tubes but is sadly no more. There is great photograph of what the works used to look like here.

Gosty Hill is quite obviously 1-way working and it’s straight enough to see it there’s boat in there but it can be hard to work out which direction they’re travelling in. This time, I remembered that someone had left the basin earlier so it was a boat going through ahead of us. We followed them in and before long we were catching up. As we neared the end of the tunnel, we realised that the boat in front was on stop – you’ve guessed it, they had a fouled prop in the narrows by where the tunnel tug boat used to live! They got clear and moved away just as we came up behind them. It was one of the Coombeswood Canal Trust’s trip boats and they courteously let us pass as soon as we were out of the narrows.

But Gosty Hill has a suprisingly high ceiling in the central section..

But Gosty Hill has a suprisingly high ceiling in the central section..

I don’t like helming through long tunnels – I get all disorientated, so Richard did the bulk of the driving in the morning – first through Gosty Hill then Netherton  – though I can manage Netherton – it has the propotions of a cathedral so it’s not so challenging for my senses! But first we had a typical Indigo Dream moment; as we came up to Netherton Tunnel, Richard spotted some cyclists dismounting to walk through the tunnel – they didn’t have any lights and faced a 2 mile walk in the pitch darkness. Richard offered them a lift, which they gratefully accepted! Our unexpected guests were a young couple who were very interested in hiring a narrowboat for a holiday but had never been on board before. I gave them a walk-through of the boat and had a happy half-hour talking over what they might look for in a hire boat. They were very impressed with the Indigo Dream, but I had to point out that a hire boat would only be half as nice (I didn’t tell them that it would also be twice as clean!).

We dropped our guests off at the far end of the tunnel and carried on towards the new mainline. It’s so tranquil along here – I wonder what it would be like to stop overnight here – it’s hard to believe that there would be trouble – it’s deserted. It would certainly be a fine place for the greyhounds.

I took over the helming after the tunnel so that Richard could get on with chores inside the boat – including a thorough clean ready for next weekend’s cruising.

I enjoyed my time on the helm – it gave me the chance to “join the dots” and cruise some of the sections that we missed during the BCN Challege. The new mainline is straight and deep, I can only imagine how the old boatmen must have greeted this canal equivalent of the M1. These days, it’s industrial surroundings are largely covered with drifts of wild flowers – so beautiful at this time of year.

My spirits lifted as we cruised along – it was a fine day and I LOVE every magnificent inch of the BCN – it’s a real joy to be back here.

Reflections in the ivy-clad X tunnel -

Reflections in the ivy-clad Galton tunnel –

As we got into central Birmingham, it was obvious that other boaters were enjoying the BCN too. The moorings were jam-packed – there were some traders who’d arrived early for the floating market the following weekend but most were visitors. While we were glad to see Birmingham so loved, we were dismayed to find that Cambrian Wharf and all the visitor moorings down as far as Sheepcote Bridge were full, with the exception of the 48-hour moorings close to the waterpoint.

We turned at Cambrian Wharf and moved back out past Sheepcote Bridge to find a miraculous space on the visitor moorings leading to St Vincent Street Bridge. They are 14 day moorings and we checked, then checked again, for mooring restrictions for the floating market but there were none. We moored up, grateful for the space, and quickly packed up for the long drive home – slightly complicated by a detour to Hawne Basin to pick up Richard’s car and an al fresco lunch at Starbucks. It had to be alfresco – it was far too hot to leave the dogs in the car while we ate!

Once we break through the 2-hour drive barrier, Sunday evenings have become a bit of a slog, but we’d had a great weekend’s cruising and added £100 to Perry Barr RGt’s coffers, so all very worthwhile.

Photoblog:

 

The new Mainline - magnificent!

The new Mainline – magnificent!

Spon Lane bottom lock - but we're going straight ahead today :-)

Spon Lane bottom lock – but we’re going straight ahead today 🙂

A day of reflections - as if the M5 didn't make it's presence felt enough!

A day of reflections – as if the M5 didn’t make it’s presence felt enough!

The Engine Arm Aqueduct

The Engine Arm Aqueduct

You don't see many wild foxgloves around these days - I love seeing them here :-)

You don’t see many wild foxgloves around these days – I love seeing them here 🙂

Ivy watch - see those factory buildings on the right? When we first came here the ivy was up to the roof, then they the next time they'c cut it down and I was sad, but now it's back! Nature wins - hurrah :-)

Ivy watch – see those factory buildings on the right? When we first came here the ivy was up to the roof, then the next time they’d cut it down and I was sad, but now it’s back! Nature wins – hurrah 🙂

More drifts of wild flowers, or maybe a remnant of someone's garden carried in a load of topsoil - beautiful either way.

More drifts of wild flowers, or maybe the remains of someone’s garden carried in a load of topsoil – beautiful either way.

There are many remnants of the old canal infrastructure here - it's a fascinating landscape...

There are many remnants of the old canal infrastructure here – it’s a fascinating landscape…

Another remnant which loomed over the boat as we passed through the narrows...

Another remnant which loomed over the boat as we passed through the narrows…

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