Bumble Hole to Wolverhampton Tunnel
A quick reverse and wind and we were heading in the right direction again, back towards Netherton Tunnel. Two flashes of blue caught my eye, one Kingfisher stopping on the tunnel railings to wish us well. It hung around until we were almost level with it.
The tunnel seemed a touch wetter today, we passed a pedestrian who still had at least a mile to go in the dark. Not sure I’d want to walk through.
Out of the northern portal and we could spy a couple of boats heading towards us. At first they looked like work boats but as they got closer we realised that they were two trip boats from the Dudley Tunnel. Where were they heading? To the other end of the tunnel, to Hawne Basin for maintenance. You could certainly tell they were designed to have people on board as the sterns sat so low in the water.
Then decision time. Left or right? For our next destination we could go either way.
Left it was and on towards Factory Locks to get us back up onto the Old Main Line.
Just below the bottom gate there is a small bridge based on those that span the canal. This one is only attached on the off side and hangs over the lock tail. We brought Oleanna into the lock it having been empty. There was quite a lot of glass around so I trod carefully to avoid it, but this meant I was being too slow closing the gate, not enough momentum. I stopped being careful and gave it a big pull, this worked better until it wouldn’t close any further with still about 18″ to go. I tried opening and closing it, but still no joy.
We opened it fully, well as far as it would and Mick had a prod around with a boat hook. There was something down there, he just couldn’t quite get hold of it. Maybe it had moved enough? No!
Would the gate seal if we started to fill the lock? The pound above was full and the bywash into it was flowing, so we could try. I lifted a paddle, the gate closed. By now another boat was heading down, they filled the empty lock in front of us and took their time. Well I suppose we didn’t look like we were in a hurry, looking at the bottom gate which was actually loosing water at a rate of knots!
We levelled out with the pound above and opened the gate. The pound was a good foot down and the flow of water still through the lock was quite alarming. Should we stay in the lock with the gate closed, necessitating refilling it? Should we come out of the lock, that’s if we could get over the cill. Mick decided to do the latter and I walked up to warn the other boat that we might need to let more water down for both boats to get over the cills.
Mick got out of the lock and waited. The lock above emptying had helped, but I don’t think either of the crew had any idea what I was on about, they most probably thought I was complaining about a standard leaky gate which this wasn’t. The lady was about to drop the off side paddle and then fight her way back over the gate, but I knew we were all the time running lower and lower on water, so suggested she use the top gate and I’d drop the paddle once the gate was open.
The boats do-ce-doed in the pound round each other, the chap complaining under his breath that Mick should have stayed in the lock, well one of them would have to go round the other anyway. They got over the bottom cill, Oleanna did too, but would there be enough water for them to get into the next lock okay?
We watched as they slowly made it into the lock and closed the gate behind them. As we rose they descended, most probably wondering what the fuss had been about. Just hope whatever it was that had originally stopped the gate from closing hadn’t wedged it shut with them in the lock.
Factory Junction we kept to the right and made our way towards Wolverhampton. We’ve been this way three times but in the opposite direction, hence not much of it looked familiar.
New housing developments stand where old factories once were, more houses going up all the time. The house with all the cctv and the crane bridge brought back memories though.
A cuppa in hand and some cruising fudge we discussed where we’d moor today. We’d compared our maps with the BCN safe mooring list and none of the places we had thought of were listed, so we changed our plan, stopping a touch early.
At Horseley Fields Junction we bore left and headed towards the top of the Wolverhampton 21.
At the service yard we winded and then pulled in on the off side mooring, secure in the knowledge that nobody could get to us unless they were on a boat as there is no land access.
This looked great. Plenty of climbing to do in this outside. Some friendly cover that turns into a tree that covered a wall, brilliant! This would keep me busy for hours. Except they both shook their heads. She said something about me getting carried away with climbing and then would get a shock when I reached the top. Apparently I don’t understand about cars and roads and just at the top there is a ring road with lots of cars. No shore leave again, not even considered!
3 locks, 9.13 miles, 2 tunnels, 0 shouting, 1 reverse, 2 winds, 2 lefts, 1 right, 1 straight, 0 coconuts, 1 pig annoying gate, 1 pound emptying as it filled, 1 slow boat, 2 electric boats, 1 changed plan, 1-2 to Liverpool, 1 noisy ring road, 1 loaf of glutenous bread baked.