Operational Mooring, Walsall to Lane Head Bridge, Wyrley and Essington Canal
We’d survived the night and got some sleep. Being moored up to a floating pontoon in a storm has it’s benefits, if the water level rises so do you. But it also has it’s down sides, even though securely moored to the cleats on the pontoon this doesn’t mean that you won’t move. Oleanna and the pontoon were as one in the gusts, bumping around.
This morning the wind was still with us but the waves on the canal were half the size. Decision made we’d head for the locks and hope that we had been sat in a wind tunnel and just around the bend all would be calm or at least calmer.
The covers took a bit to roll back as they whipped round in the wind. I stayed at the bow ready to hop off once we had turned at the junction. It didn’t seem any less windy as Oleanna spun round to face north and the locks but at least the sun was out.
All bar one of the locks were in our favour, hooray! But the top gates gave us problems!
The first lock was fine apart from the rubbish. I’d list the items in the lock to Mick and we’d see how many he could spot , hopefully not around the prop. Second lock by an old flour mill had a for sale sign in it plus plenty of other rubbish. Once up I opened the gate, except it stopped short. A few open and closes usually gets things dislodged or out of the way, but not this time. Mick brought Oleanna forward but there wasn’t enough room for her to get through. Time to prod about to see what could be moved in the murky deep.
Boat hook didn’t do any good so the pole came out. The gate moved in and out and Mick tried to identify where the problem was. Poking and prodding, digging away at what ever lay down there. Eventually the gate moved just a few more inches, would it be enough? It was just.
Paul (Waterway Routes) had told us to look out for a different gate arrangement on one of the locks. Here at Lock 6 there were double gates, the rest as on much of the BCN have single gates. Now why would this be?
A single gate means the lock has to be longer. Double gates save water and length. It had to be something to do with the pound below. There was an arched bridge to what had been the entrance to a wharf, could it be that for a full length boat 70ft 11″ to get in through the bridge the throat of the lock had to be further away from it so as to give enough room to be able to swing round. There is no widening of the pound here to assist with this. Maybe a double gate reduces the length of the lock throat too.
Looking at Google earth later it looked like a full length boat wouldn’t have been able to wind here, so if they’d come down the locks and gone under the bridge they would have to reverse out and remain facing downhill. If coming up the locks they would have to reverse through the bridge and remain facing uphill. Are we correct Paul?
The next few locks filled, emptying the pounds above from being on the weir to a good few inches below, we only had one pound that was shallow. This along with a traffic cone and a bread crate made for slow progress into the lock, but we got there in the end. Coasting in, steadily filling it and then coasting out. I don’t know whether it was us or another boat that had put a ragged hole in the traffic cone, at least it wasn’t around our prop.
Bright sunshine was intermixed with gusts of wind and hail. Flying high in a garden was a sheet attached to a tree. At the back of someone’s garden the wall had collapsed due tothe amount of rubbish piled up against it. Maybe they think that if they give the pile just a little push every now and then that the contents will eventually become someone elses problem.
As I walked up to Lock 2, I spied a cat in the friendly cover. It soon turned it’s head so I could see that it wasn’t Tilly. A Tuxedo cat with a white nose. But not just any Tuxedo cat, this was a member of the Tilly Tail Gang, it’s white tip flicked round in annoyance at being disturbed looking for friends. I left it to it and carried on up hill to fill the next lock.
Deja Vu. The top gate stopped short of opening fully. The gap not wide enough. More digging around in the depths with the pole, gate swung open and closed, more digging. This felt like something really solid down there and it wasn’t shifting. If only we had a long handled Keb, but we didn’t. Only one thing for it call C&RT out.
It took a while for the person on the end of the phone to work out where we were, ‘not Ryders Green, Walsall Locks’, ‘No 2, second from the top’. Could we reverse out of the flight, yes, but that seemed pointless to us when we just needed someone to clear one gate and we were better off just sitting in the lock.
Eventually Mick got put through to a chap called Keith. Ahh! His Sunday team were out helping a stuck boat at Hatton, they wouldn’t be free for at least a couple of hours. He chatted through about what it might be, not the collar the gate was otherwise moving freely.
We nudged Oleanna back so that she was clear of the cill and Mick continued digging away. Keith rang back, his team would be at Hatton for another three to four hours, but he had called someone in who wasn’t working today to come out to us, they’d be an hour.
More digging. Maybe if both of us pushed on the gate? The combination of all our efforts and most probably our joint body weight on the beam got it to open just a few more inches. Was it enough? Mick brought Oleanna forward and managed to clear the gates, we were free.
A call to Keith before we got to the top lock, he said they’d still send someone to clear behind the gate.
The top lock was full with a paddle up and gate wide open. Up we rose and some eager gongoozlers loitered to open the gate for us. We then realised we’d need to be in the lock to top up the water tank, so their help wasn’t needed just yet.
Two hoses and poor water pressure. So I walked up to see what the moorings ahead were like compared to the Visitors Mooring above the lock. I also wanted to see if Sainsburys had any arrowroot. I returned as Mick was packing away after chatting to the C&RT chaps, no arrowroot but a possible mooring where Tilly could stretch her legs and climb trees.
We pushed on and pulled into the side, well not quite. The rings were awkwardly placed and there was something keeping us from getting into the edge. Sorry Tilly. Pah!!!!
Another hour or so cruise to the next mooring. Back onto the Curley Wurley we compared notes on rubbish levels. Both the Walsall and Curley Wurley have a long way to go before reaching Green Flag status! Both are revolting in parts. Vandelism is worst on the Walsall with trolleys, trees and graffiti.
But wanton fly tipping on parts of the Curley and Wurley look more like landfill than a place to relax and enjoy. You wonder what the people in the house right alongside think, or maybe it is caused by them. However Walsall itself has been worth the trip.
Soon we arrived at The United Kingdom Inn, here the kids playground was busy as adults watched sport and drank. Not suitable for Tilly sadly and she may be cabin bound for a few more days yet, we will make it up to her soon.
Sat behind our locked gate I slow cooked a breast of lamb, braised the remainder of the red cabbage and we listened to people come and go from the pubs either side of the bridge until late.
8 locks, 4.25 miles, 2 canals, 2 coconuts, 1 fire extinguisher, 2 problematic gates, 2 spoons less, 1 cup more, 1 less successful day, 0 arrowroot, 1 full water tank, 6 hail storms, 1 less windy day.
Day 3 Morning.
Before feeding, risen with a dome.
2 spoons discarded then fed
Day 3 Evening.
Before feeding, just about no rise, did it peek far too soon?
2 spoons discarded, then fed.