Vampires and Elephants. 22nd January

Bumble Hole to Hawne Basin to Bumble Hole

The temperature had risen overnight and despite it being a touch foggy this morning there was no ice on the stretch we were moored. Waiting an extra day had saved some of our blacking.

Bumble Hole

We pushed over to the water point and topped up the tank, making use of being on the port side we also emptied out the yellow water into a container. The Conservation Centre was busy and a young chap stopped to ask Mick the usual questions. People were having cuppas looking at the displays and enjoying being out in the open air.

Lots of high-vis appeared. The first few picking up litter, they were volunteers. The next group included the lad who’d been talking to Mick, they had spades, brooms and swapped sides of the canal where another chap put on an orange top. These chaps waved their tools at the edges of the path just counting down the hours they had to do of Community Payback.

Reversing back to the junction Oleanna was spun round and now faced the route to Hawne Basin, new water for everyone on board. A short distance on we could see a chap wearing a life jacket holding a tablet, he was trying to look over new fencing that had been put around a new housing estate. We had to ask him what he was looking for. ‘I’m trying to get access to a weir to check it, but this new fence is in the way.’ He continued to walk round eventually finding a hole in the mesh fence which he could get through, obviously the developer has omitted to leave access for C&RT leaving the chap to scramble through a hole made by locals.

We pootled onwards wondering what the area would have been like 100 years ago. Busy and smokey guaranteed. Along the towpath of the Dudley No 2 are cut out information boards. Local characters and places are explained in a few lines.

Pull that chain

Doulton originally produced terracotta and engineering bricks here but moved on to specialise in glazed sanitary ware. The works closed in the early 20th C and were demolished in the 1970’s. (More info here)

Eliza Tinsley still a company name now

Eliza Tinsley. Following the death of her nail making husband Thomas in 1851, Eliza continued to run the business and began to make chain. Known locally as ‘The Widow’ she made a name for herself as being a fare and knowledgeable business woman. By 1871 she employed around 4000 people making nails, chains, rivets etc. She retired in 1872, but the business continued turning to mechanisation and concentrating on chain making for the booming ship building industry and mining. The company has since branched out expanding with demand. (More info here)


When travelling circus’ came to the area Elephants were often found frolicking in the canal. That must have been a sight as you headed towards them with your fully laden boat! The sculpture trail was made by local artist Luke Perry.

Gosty Hill Tunnel

After a couple of miles we’d reached Gosty Hill Tunnel. Here the entrance is very narrow and shallow. The sign says passage should take around 10 minutes, we didn’t believe it as our progress was already very v e r y slow!

That’s a big change in height

The tunnel is only 509 m long but is very narrow. Head height varies quite a bit, more than enough height to stand tall at the helm then two lower sections where stooping is your only option. The northern end starts off high with the change comes a large white line and a portrait of a Vampire.

A Vampire!

In 2017 a boat managed to get wedged in the tunnel by two logs. They had no way of getting free, presumably they were in the part with little head room. No phone signal, so all they could do was wait for another boat to come and help them. Their wait was around 20 hours in the dark. I wonder what the rescue boat thought, how long had they waited for the tunnel to clear before entering?

The only ventilation shaft

Today all we had was some plastic packing that made a crunching noise as we passed through v e r y slowly.

What a busy place this would have been 100 years ago

A different world when we popped out the southern end. Large brick walls angled away from us with large arched openings. Major industry obviously. A sign for Stewarts and Lloyds sits in an old arch giving a hint to the industry here. The two largest manufacturers of steel tubes in great Britain amalgamated in 1903. By 1967 the company had become part of British Steel.

The same stretch back in the 60’s

A short section of online moorings brings you to the entrance to Hawne Basin a very sharp turn under a narrow bridge.

Entranceto the basin

Mick managed without touching anywhere, but it looks like many don’t! Across the way was the service mooring as we positioned ourselves a very friendly chap came to say he’d be a few minutes.

A handy skip to moor to
Fill her up please.

Oleanna’s stern had to be tied to a skip then we were ready to fill with the cheapest diesel we’ve seen in a long time. At 63p a litre we topped the tank up right to the top. I kept an eye on the pump so it would stop bang on a litre. This I did at 100, a nice round number. If we’d have filled at Sherbourne Wharf it would have cost us another £22, that’s 1.75 boxes of wine!

Bang on full

More bags of coal, Multi, an untried brand for us, but at £7.80 for 20kgs who was complaining. Apparently it burns quite hot, so it’s best to mix it with our normal coal. We emptied our bins and enquired about staying the night, but it looked doubtful as boats had been shoehorned into every available space, no pontoons visible.

So we headed back out, pulling in where another boat was moored. We came to rest at a jaunty angle and decided that after lunch we’d move back to Bumble Hole.

Back in the tunnel

The tunnel was clear again so we set off through, this time timing ourselves. The old boatmen would set the boat going in the tunnel and then retire below to make themselves a mug of cocoa as little steering was required. Mick kept hold of the tiller though to save our nav lights coming a cropper. When we popped out the northern end my stop watch had just reached 17 minutes.

Through again

Approaching Totnal Bridge, Oleanna decided that she’d like to keep going straight! Not the required line as this headed us towards the bank. Mick managed to get her to turn a touch after the bridge which lined us up with a submerged something. We could hear it under the hull bumping along, then when it reached the stern we stopped dead!

A boat waiting to go through the tunnel

Forwards, backwards, we tried pushing sideways. No movement possible. There was a request that I should head to the bow, rearranging the movable ballast (me). This brought our stern up a touch, a bit of reverse got us closer to the side from where Mick managed to push the back further out, then a blast of the engine got us away. Phew!


We’d chosen to do our return journey at possibly the worst time to travel, school kicking out time. A group of lads stood on a bridge and we half expected to have projectiles throw at us, but they were too interested in smoking their aromatic tobacco to be interested in us.

Another part of the sculpture trail

Back at Bumble Hole we returned to where we’d been this morning. The towpath edges trimmed back, the trimmings of mud now brushed all over the tarmac.

0 locks, 6 miles, 1 reverse, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 1 wind, 1 full water tank, 1 load washing, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh box, 100 litres diesel, 63p! 6 bags coal, 1 tunnel twice, 2 mysterons, 1 waiting boat, 1 stuck stern, 6 engines, 0 shouting in tunnels, 0 shore leave.

One thought on “Vampires and Elephants. 22nd January

  1. Anonymous

    We picked up a large piece of carpet at the Bumblehole enterance to the tunnel on one of our visits. Apparently there is significant fly tiping into the canal around this area.


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