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Virtual BCN Challenge 2020: Day 2

Posted by alexgrehyauthor on 14 May, 2020

The Virtual Adventures of Augmented Reality Indigo Dream (ARID)

Day 2: Tuesday 5th March

1. Outline Cruising Log: Day 2




Time in

Time out

 Gilpin’s Arm





W&E main line to Pelsall Junction





Cannock Extension to Watling St & return





W&E main line to Lord Hayes Junction





Lord Hayes Branch





W&E main line to Birchills  Junc





Birchills Junc to Walsall Junc





Walsall Junc to Basin and return





Walsall Junc to Birchills Junc





Birchills Junc to Sneyd Junc





2. Detailed Cruising Log

We had a peaceful night at Gilpin’s Junction but were very glad of ARID’s generous dimensions. After accusations of “greyhound abuse” on our opening post we had to quickly re-assign the sofa and human beds.  Sadly the inclement weather meant that we had to let Simon indoors, the meagre blanket that we’d left for him on deck being covered in yesterday’s snow. Christine had the inflatable bed on the floor, where she found her legs pinned by 30kg of snoozing greyhound, but at least her feet were warm!


Alex on a 4′ 6″ double bed – he’d rather a king size but really, the clue’s in the name Alex, narrowboat!



Saffy Sofa

Saffy now has a sofa…on day 1 we were accused of hound abuse because Saffy only had an armchair! 😀



The morning started bright and breezy; the wind had a cold edge but at least the skies were blue – I’d say a 17 on the cyanometer which we are now using to gauge the weather.

Gilpin’s Arm

In 2020, of course, the turn to Gilpin’s Arm is tranquil and countryfied; with the lockdown in force, the air is particularly clear. Image our surprise then when we activated the time machine and found this smoky, industrial landscape before us. Nonetheless, if it weren’t for industry, there would be no canals, so we forgot about the fume-filled air and enjoyed the energy that formed our modern world.

While we were there, we encountered some strange craft, never seen on any other part of the canal system…

As a helmswoman challenged by height I can definitely see (or not!) the disadvantages of this engine design!

Cannock Extension

It never ceases to amaze us how the Cannock Extension can be arrow straight when the Wyrley and Essington is so convoluted!

For fun, we deployed the time machine, but soon found ourselves head to head with this formidable convoy of Amptom Boats (85′ x 7′ 9″) being towed by a day tug as their journey could be completed in a day. Although the canal is wide and deep, it was easier to move forward in time than to move into the bank!

We moved to 2009, where we met some old friends – traditional craft nb Fulbourne and arguably the BCN’s most famous residents, Atlas and Malus.

Atlas & Malus


Fulbourne at Pelsall Junction

We came back to the present to cruise the now quiet and beautiful canal – it’s a perfect place for the greyhounds to stretch their legs.

In 2017 the propeller picked up a fine length of stair carpet under Wyrley Grove Bridge. In 2018, we picked up the second length – same carpet, same place. Sadly, we didn’t pick up a third section today as I have a house to furnish in Wales!

Cannock Carpet 2017


Cannock Carpet 2018

Wyrley and Essington Canal

My personal favourite – winding and beautiful, surrounded by lush countryside with a fine view over the Tame Valley to the Birmingham Plateau beyond.

It’s affectionately nicknamed the “Curly Wyrley” for good reason…


Wyrley & Essington views 2a

The Curly Wyrley


Wyrley & Essington views 1a

Lush countryside and expansive views…


Curly Wurly Orchid

And a most unexpected treasure – a wild English orchid growing on the towpath…

Lord’s Hayes Arm

We flitted between times on this Arm – although there is little left in the present, it exists in the past, and is expected to live again in the future (hopefully as soon as 2030) as part of the new route down to Hatherton. Of course we stopped there to inspect the new junction that will be.

While passing through Fishley Colliery, we paused in the present for quick a game of golf (in the present day).

Christine Lord's Hayes 1

Lord’s Hayes Arm looking particularly tranquil on this day…


Simon Lord's Hayes Terminus

The Lord’s Hayes Arm terminus – present day – a nursing home appropriately named “Water’s Edge”

Walsall Canal

Ah the Walsall Canal is familiar ground for Indigo Dream. However, after a day spend relaxing with no locks to do, the crew found the toil of the Walsall flight a bit taxing. Lucky for us that Simon found a fine place for us to take the waters – the brine pools at Walsall swimming pool providing some much needed hydrotherapy.


Simon Walsall Brine BathsThe Town Basin was quiet, but it a very fine mooring spot, However we turned back up the locks, pleased to be avoiding the stretch from Walsall to Ocker Hill, which is invariably shallow and slow.

Walsall Locks

Fine view from the Walsall Locks…


Walsall Town Basin

Winding in Walsall Town Basin…


Walsall Top towards Birchills

Heading away from Walsall Top Lock towards our overnight mooring…


Sneyd Junction Moorings

3. Daily Challenge

Things started to get a bit surreal today as our challenge was to make a swan! The organisers suggested a towel sculpture or origami – they could never have guessed that one crew (definitely not us!), had a laser cutter out and were able to create the most beautiful stylised swan in plywood.

I’m no great shakes at origami so I turned to towels…

I present to you (drum roll) the rare green-winged towel swan and her brood of origami cygnets…

As the day’s quiz was also about birds, I decided to pen a little ditty for the judges:

12 Birds a Boating 

On the twelfth day of boating, these birds we saw, I pledge!

Twelve woodpeckers drumming

Eleven plovers piping

Ten magpies leaping

Nine starlings dancing

Eight herons fishing

Seven swans a swimming

Six geese a guarding

Five golden pheasants

Four cooty birds

Three laying hens

Two summer swallows

And a kingfisher on the water’s edge.


4. From the galley

Recipe of the Day: Traditional Birmingham Food (controversial!)

Google search: Traditional Birmingham Food (savoury)– faggots, groaty pudding, Balti, pork scratchings

Google search: Traditional Birmingham Food for vegetarians: Vegetable balti

Google Search: Traditional Birmingham Food for vegetarians who don’t like curry: No results found!

Alright, I’m only joking! There are many fine vegetarian options, I should know, I’ve cooked most of them for our crew over the years (and have a spectacular recipe to share tomorrow)!

When I designed and made a commemorative BCN jam back in 2017, it was much easier to find traditional savoury recipes (which is why I made a BCN Balti Chutney in 2018!). But there is good foraging on the BCN – all these ingredients will be found around the city (at a push, top up the fruit in the farm shop in Essington!)

Jammin’ on the BCN – a celebration jam for the 2017 BCN Marathon Challenge

5. Tales from the Geistersammler (Ghost Collector) 

The Geistersammler remained strangely empty until we reached the far reaches of the Cannock Extension Arm, when we were greeted by a number of spectral visitors…

“Ave Natis! Cassius est nomen meum..

The Roman centurion, wearing armour that I’d only seen in my schoolbooks, must have sensed my confusion. He switched to English, and was surprisingly eloquent.

“Greeting sailors! My name is Cassius, centurion of Rome. I was completing my watch on Watling Street when I was drawn to your fine ship!”

“Welcome! I don’t imagine there were barges, sorry, ships, here in your time.”

“No, there were forests and troublesome Britons, led by that red-haired wench, Boudicca. But we crushed her under our iron-shod sandals, though who knows what we might find in these far-flung counties.”

“You’ll find us! My name is Esne and you will not take my village from me!” a Briton popped out of the Geistersammler. He was simply dressed, but was obviously a man of some substance. His spear looked sharp as it scraped along the cabin’s ceiling. 

The centurion drew his short sword. “YOUR village? All things belong to Caesar.”

“Essington is mine, for now and always!” Esne yelled.

“Pax Domus!” I cried, invoking the traditional peace of the house before war broke out.

“Indeed, there is little point in fighting. We are one people now.” a languid voice joined our conversation.

“Caradoc of Cannock Chase at your service. Who would have guessed that our town would be named by the heathen Welsh. How times have changed since you two were busy dividing the country between you. We are one now.”

“Ah, welcome Caradoc, was the canal here in your time? Do you have a tale to tell?”

“There was no such thing here, though water was our fortune. The fair springs of Reaumorehill Well yielded the cleanest, freshest water in the country.”

“Oh, but it’s always been so hard to keep water in the canal.”

“’tis true, the gravelly soil which gave Cannock its name is profligate with its treasure, thus we are rich in rain and poor in drought.”

Caradoc’s ghost winked. “The king sent his tax collectors here while London burned; they came for money and for water but found neither, forty-two of our forty-four households were too poor to pay. We sent them away thirsty while we bathed in our good fortune when the next thunderstorm washed over us.” 

Esne laughed with Caradoc – nothing better than dodging taxes.

“You corrupt Britons,” Cassius shook his head, “You never give unto Caesar, whether it be respect or tithes. But surely there were Roman hands in the making of this straight canal – deep, fitted for its purpose, no Briton could construct so efficiently!”

I thought of the extravagant curves of the Wyrley and Essington canal, barely two miles away. Thinking that the sight of it might kill our roman friend for a second time, I quickly closed the connection to the Geistersammler for another day…         

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