Rewind to Wednesday 24th August
Sheepcote Bridge to Black Country Museum
The day started cool and overcast, which was better for me, though it brightened up considerably later on. We had another logistical day as we had old friends Ken and Sue, with grandson Luke coming to cruise, not forgetting experienced canine Indigo Dreamers Poppy and Pluto. They were driving down from North Wales and would leave their car at the Black Country Museum, our cruising target for the day. Richard would pick them up by car and bring them back to the boat. It was such a smooth plan, but they accidentally put the wrong post code into the satnav and ended up in Kidderminster!
Never mind, it gave me time to pop to the Sainsbury’s Local for food and to spot a handy taxi rank on Oozell’s Street (which I wish I’d spotted yesterday when we needed a cab). It also gave me time to prepare lunch so that when they arrived we could all have a restorative meal.
By lunchtime it was 30 degree indoors and a fine day for exploring the BCN; we’re great fans of the city’s waterways and haven’t been here since 2013, so we were excited to be back. Unlike our BCN challenge days, we had plenty of time, so we set off down the new main line – it was as grand as ever and we waxed lyrical about it’s many features. To make the best of the transport layer cake (where the old canal crosses the new Main Line under the West Coast railway and the M5) we first passed right under it then we made an acute right turn to ascend the Spon Lane locks.
Spon Lane is a fine spot – the locks seem so cut-off from the real world and all the dogs had a good rummage, though it was a bit hot for zoomies. We then set off along the Wolverhampton level, enjoying every fascinating inch.
We got to the Black Country Museum late afternoon, just as a boat claimed the last secure mooring spot on the towpath. We spoke to the staff there, and we would have been allowed to brest up to another boat, but they didn’t seem that welcoming and we had four dogs to offload, (though only Archie and Henry would stay overnight). We asked the staff whether they’d heard of any trouble on the moorings just outside the museum and they said they hadn’t.
As it was still light, we took a chance on mooring just outside the museum while we uhhmed and ahhh’d about staying there overnight. We were still undecided when we strolled back to the museum car park to say goodbye to our guests. We had planned to eat at the museum cafe/bar, which is open for supper, but it’s not dog-friendly, even on the outside terrace, and the place seemed empty and soulless – we weren’t impressed.
When we got back to the boat we mused again on whether to move. Richard had cycled round the corner to scout alternatives – our other choice was on the long length of mooring rings in the housing development round the corner. In the meantime, another boat joined us on the moorings and we felt “safety in numbers” and stayed put. This later proved to be a mistake, but that’s hindsight for you!
The mooring were very noisy with traffic from the two main roads nearby and later some roadworks involving a pneumatic drill. It would have been just as noisy on the other side of the bridge in the museum, so we can’t fault the rings just outside for that!
We settled down to eat on board and to watch some more DVDs – the moorings were quiet without any bother from the towpath, which was a relief. During the evening, three more boats came down hoping to moor at the museum – one had hoped to get through the Dudley Tunnel. We were astonished, as they had an abundant rooftop garden which added two feet to their air draft. They headed off towards Netherton, where they definitely wouldn’t have trouble with headroom! All three latecomers headed off to the yonder – I wonder where they went?
It all seemed to be going well – the towpath had been very quiet and at 2.30pm the tumultuous rain promised in the forecast arrived. Although the noise of the rain woke me up, I was strangely reassured as I thought the filthy weather would keep the mischief-makers indoors – I was wrong!
At 3.30am, Richard heard a gentle scraping noise – he was awake and reading and at first we thought it was just one of the hounds moving around, but then it happened again. There was obviously something going on so he sprang out of bed to look. Although it was seconds from the second scrape to Richard getting onto the front deck, his bike was gone and the thieves had scarpered. In such a short time, they’d cropped through the bike lock and were already out of sight. To us it felt like a professional job rather than an opportunistic crime and it was too late for us to wonder about the dodgy character we’d seen under the bridge earlier who might have been spotting things to steal.
We had a restless night after that – there were no more incidents and the boats were unmolested, but we were on edge, as you might expect. The hounds were not bothered, they heard nothing and cared even less!