The Last 11ft 6” To Birmingham. 15th April

Merry Hill to Sheepcote Street Bridge, Birmingham


As we sat having our breakfast the sound of fishermen’s trolleys kept passing us, we were going to be in the middle of a match. The start time was confirmed by the chap sat just behind us, luckily we had enough time to get past them all before they started. A far greyer day than yesterday and we soon wished we’d not let the stove go out over night. We dressed back in waterproofs and plenty of layers which we were grateful for.

The last 11' 6" to Birmingham

Just short of a mile and a half further on was the last lock up to the level of Birmingham, Blowers Green Lock. A couple walked up and offered to help with the gates. They were on their Sunday morning walk and always stop for a little rest at the lock, each having their own lock beam to sit on. Gradually the lock filled and Oleanna had finished the climb up to the New Main Line level. We pulled up round the corner to top up with water and dispose of our rubbish.

Another boat appeared and proceeded to wind above the lock. There is plenty of space here but they managed to get very close to the off side where two fishermen were sat. Using the throttle a great deal the poor chaps sat on the bank must have got wet legs!

Now on the Dudley NO 2 Canal we wound our way around Primrose Hill making our way towards Bumble Hole. The towpath has informative steel sculptures along the way. Some inform you of distances other about the history of the Black Country. The bouncing bomb shell casing, the anchor for the Titanic, and how graffiti changed the name of one of the bridges.


Approaching Bumble HoleWe can stay here can't we?

We pulled in opposite the cafe at Bumble Hole for lunch. If ever there was an M mooring here was one. But try as I did they wouldn’t let me out, I could have stayed for days and not run out of trees to climb.

Before the tunnel

Fed and watered we were ready for Netherton Tunnel.

A Mysteron scanning its way along the roof

At 2776m long it was the last canal tunnel to be built in the Canal Age, opening in 1858. Being 27ft wide it allowed two way traffic and has a towpath on both sides which helped greatly with the bottle neck that occurred at the Dudley Tunnel. You can see straight through and the only other traffic we encountered was walkers paddling their way along the towpath. It must a thing to do with the kids on a Sunday afternoon, but very damp and extremely cold today.

Canal side cottages

Popping out the other side it had taken us 30 minutes. Under the Old Main Line and four picturesque cottages sit by the canal. One is for sale, but I’m sure the anti-theft shutters would put quite a few off viewing it! Straight on until we had to turn at Dudley Port Junction, here we chose to go right, just as well as to the left the canal is closed at the moment!

Turning right

The New Main Line is straight for what seems like miles. It’s depth and lack of moored boats mean that the miles get ticked off relatively quickly, just as well as it was now raining!

Spon Lane heading to the leftMy navigation duties were hard trying to keep Mick on a straight course, so many junctions and loops. Every now and again you came to a central island forcing you to go right to the side. Were these the canal equivalent to speed bumps, designed to slow boats down? Several Canada Geese were making use of them for nesting sites, keeping a beady on us as we passed.

M5 way overheadBlonde

We were getting quite wet and chilled to the bone by now, familiar landmarks passing us by. The Spon Lane locks taking the canal up to the Old Main Line level and it’s pretty bridges, Steward Aqueduct the M5 and railway all crossing each other, Galton Bridge with it’s high span followed by the short tunnel, the Engine Arm on it’s ornate aqueduct.

Engine Arm

A much admired boat

Relieved to see the signs for Sherborne Wharf we had reached our destination for the day, we just needed to find an Oleanna sized gap. A familiar boat loomed out before Sheepcote Street Bridge, NB Leon. Only a few days ago we’d been wondering if ever we’d get to meet up with this boat on the cut and here she was. We could just make out a waving hand at the front doors. But before we went to tap on the roof we found a mooring, got the stove alight, and warmed up.

Sorry, but new crew are required! The outside earlier on was where they should have moved us to, not here and this brick wall!

NB Leon belongs to Noel and Carolyn, Noel used to work at Crick Marina and we’ve got to know him over the last few years. He kindly let us moor Oleanna next to Lillian in Crick Marina last year for us to move from one boat to the other. Invited in we were given a full guided tour of NB Leon. A Tyler Wilson Northwich shell built to Noel and Carolyn’s spec, she had arrived at Crick as a lined sailaway with a few extra bits, this is when we last saw inside her. They have done a beautiful job with the fit out and Noel certainly has mastered scumbling for the back cabin. A very handsome boat indeed.

Birmingham at nightWe finished off the day by treating ourselves to a burger and chips each at The Handmade Burger Company around the corner. When we were in Birmingham about three years ago they had no gas so we’d been given two vouchers for future use. Today we at last got to use the second voucher. They also do Gluten Free bread buns which is great, I can actually enjoy a burger as it should be.

DSCF7114sm1 lock, 12.9 miles, 2 tunnels, 7 mysterons, 1 right, 10 straight ons, 1 rightish, 25 fishermen, 2 soggy chilled boaters, 1 miffed cat! 1 familiar boat, 1.5 hours boaters chat, 1 pretty back cabin, 2 glasses wine, 2 burgers, 2 chips, 0 Torvil and Dean for us.

Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 1.719m.

7 thoughts on “The Last 11ft 6” To Birmingham. 15th April

  1. Jennie

    Where are you heading for from Birmingham and when? We will be heading to Birmingham from Tardebigge on Thursday – any chance that our paths might cross? I am sure you are relieved to be on the move. Jennie nb Tentatrice

  2. Mike Todd

    As I understand it, the obstructions are toll islands. In some cases you can just see the base of a hut. They are all over the BCN not just the main line. It seems inevitable that a scrape along one side is not an option, given the way the towpath runs straight into the toll island.

  3. Paul (from Waterway Routes)

    They are toll islands. As boats passed through the depth in the water could be measured to judge the weight of the cargo and the appropriate toll levied.One of those you passed also had a central \”notch\” which enabled boats to be painted with weight markers, rather like a plimsoll line on a ship. An empty boat would be moored in the \”notch\” and weights gradually added with lines painted on the sides of the boat at intervals. When it later passed through the weight of cargo could be assessed more quickly and accurately than using a depth stick.

  4. Pip and Mick

    Hi JennieOur paths will cross!We may be at the top of Tardebigge later today or tomorrow, dependant on our boat builders.Look forward to meeting you, even if only briefly.Pip

  5. Jennie

    Hi Pip, We will be moving up lock 58 about 11 ish as we have to go to Crafted Boats depot by their dry dock as our bow thruster is feeling poorly. We will probably stay there over night and move off tomorrow. I assume you will not be doing Tardebigge until the morning if you do come through today? If so, I would advise mooring below lock 58 where there are good rings – the ground is very soft above the lock and pins have a habit of pulling out. We will be out and about today, so I will look out for you below the lock later on unless I hear differently. It would be good to meet up. If you don't make it here we will almost certainly pass you tomorrow sometime. Jennie

  6. Pip and Mick

    Hi JennieOur paths did cross today, we were going down the top lock shortly before you pulled out from Crafted Boats. Sorry to have missed you. We'd decided to get down the flight today and try to get a day in hand for a revised visit from our builders next week.Enjoy your summer cruise, who knows we may pass each other later in the summer.Pip

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