The Right Left. 17th September

Sheepcote Street Bridge to Coombeswood Canal Trust, Dudley No 2

Goodbye BUMingham

An early start, well almost, slightly delayed by an incident whilst moving a bucket off our roof. All I can say is that the contents were a lot easier to clear up than those from any other type of boat toilet and as it was a secondary bucket there was no smell whatsoever.

Cloaked in cloud

Time to say goodbye to Birmingham, the tops of the buildings hiding in the morning cloud. We decided to make a slight detour on our way out of the city. Mick had once taken Lillian around the Soho Loop whilst I had been out show shopping so it was only right for Oleanna to follow the old line around the loop.

Soho Loop

The first stretch was as urban as I’d imagined, a building sight on the island and a graffiti wall alongside the towpath. Then things started to green up a touch. Then the tone of Oleanna’s engine changed. Mick tried a blast of reverse, but no this wasn’t going to get rid of what ever we’d just caught on the prop. Oleanna drifted towards the towpath, but then bumped into something under the water a couple of times, then she found herself listing on what ever it was. No chance of getting into the side now. Engine off and the propmate was put to work clearing black sacking.

We continued round missing going up to Hockley Port, after all we’d made an early start for a reason, that little jaunt can wait for another time to fill with water. As we approached Winson Green Junction a chap with white head phones walked over the bridge closely followed by an excited ginger and white cat. Dad’s home!!!! We turned back onto the Main Line and continued to head North West.

Hello Ghost! this years tag

Junctions old and not so old went past. The older ones left over from 1827 when Thomas Telford straightened out the Old Main Line reducing travel times. Lots of the loops were left to service existing factories and wharfs, others over time have been blocked off and built over.

Over flowing from above

At Smethwick Junction you can head up three locks to stay on the Old Main Line at the Wolverhampton Level or continue along the New Main Line the two canals sitting quite close together before the Old Line crosses over the New under the M5 and wanders off south westerly. Today the level on the Old Main Line must have been good, we don’t remember water cascading down what must be an overspill.

Now the canal stretches out straight ahead, Gauging stations (speed bumps) slowing passage down splitting the canal in two. Long reaching bridges span across the water and towpath. In the cuttings high up bridges tower above, one of them being platforms for Smethwick Station.

The water on board would now be hot so I left Mick to cruise the straight line and headed below for a shower. He was left with instructions to find the right left, not the left right. Navigation around the BCN can be so confusing!

A Blackberry jungle up above

I was back up top in time to make sure he made the correct turn at Dudley Port Junction down towards Netherton Tunnel. Long straddling tendrils hung over the opening of the north portal, bet there are some good blackberries above!

Despite Netherton Tunnel being 2776m long you can easily see right through. Today we could just make out the shape of a boat ahead of us, the first moving boat we’d seen. It took us half an hour to reach day light at the other end. Our second moving boat came into view now, just making the turn left at Windmill End, the way we were going.

A boat!

The Dudley No 2 can be shallow in parts, some bridge holes awkward as your boat becomes unresponsive to the tiller. We followed NB Jasper at a reasonable distance, were they heading this way for the same reason as us? Or do they moor down here?

Toll Man Was Ere

Luke Perry’s informative sculptures keep you amused, my favourites are the Toll Man spraying his mark on his dilapidated office and keep your eyes open for coots about the place on walls and in bridge holes.

Two boats!

When we reached Gosty Hill Tunnel the boat we’d followed through Netherton were mooring up alongside the busy road and the boat that was directly in front of us was now gradually making progress through the tight fitting tunnel. We pulled up still in day light our bow just about inside the portal and waited. Not being able to see the stern of the boat in front we wanted to give them plenty of space, so we waited a good five minutes to make sure they were well on their way.


Gosty Hill Tunnel starts off reasonably high, but then there is a big step down in the roof. This is why we’d taken the bucket off the roof and the top off the chimney, however there was still plenty of inches above the grabrails and horns.

Time to duck

Out on the far side we pulled up just before the Coombeswood Canal Trust permanent moorings for some lunch. This would hopefully give the boat ahead time to fill with diesel or get back on their mooring. However NB Mr Bojangles came past, soon followed by another boat. Only one boat came back past us, so all we could assume was that the others were returning to their moorings.

A tight turn that many have missed

We pootled up and turned through the tight bridge, a couple of moored boats sticking out across our path, but Mick expertly got past them. NB Mr Bojangles was on the diesel point but we were invited to pull alongside. They were making full use of the facilities before returning back to their mooring in the morning. They lent us heir hose so we could fill with water and the diesel was easy, but emptying our yellow water would be a touch problematic breasted up.

The very helpful lady from the basin suggested we could pull up on a vacant mooring just outside the basin to pump into our container and then use the elsan. Then as Mick paid for the diesel she asked if we’d like to stay the night on the mooring too.

To encourage boaters to use the canal down to Hawne Basin the trust not only has the cheapest diesel on the network (currently 65p a litre) but if they have space available you can moor there for free for a week, any longer then it’s £4 a night.

What’s down here?

We pulled back out of the basin and pulled as far in onto the available mooring as we could, the lady coming to help us. A very friendly reception and somewhere suitable to let Tilly out.

What’s under here?

Rules were read then the front door was left open for her to come and go. She went this way then that, then checked over the bridge. This outside is SO much better than the last two! Can we keep this one?

Just going over there

0 locks, 12.17 miles, 6 straights, 2 lefts, 3 rights, 2 tunnels, 8 mysterons, 3 moving boats, 6 herons, 118 litres, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 free mooring, 3 hours, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.