Staring Down The Barrel Of A Gun. 19th September

Dudley Port Basin to Wolverhampton Tunnel

Last nights mooring

It was just starting to stop raining when the Sainsburys van arrived, the young chap brought our order over to the boat where it was loaded in through the side hatch. Once everything was stowed we finished off breakfast then made ready to push off, timing it perfectly with the sun coming out.


We’d just turned to face the entrance when a new shiny red Bickerstaff boat cruised past, there were waves all round. No-one was coming so we were straight out of the basin and heading north west.

With the sun out and the water being so clear the bottom of the canal looked like the back drop for a Disney film, all aqua blue lily pads waving at us from the depths. Just how long would it stay like this for? We’ve been hearing of masses of weed towards Wolverhampton and boats having to stop every hundred yards to clear their prop, but for now we enjoyed being able to see the bottom.

Soon to be a new bridge

Coneygree Rail Bridge has been removed, it looks like the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension of the Metro will be using the crossing with a purpose built structure.

On the off side a duck sits on top of a cannon defending it’s landing and swing seat. Tipton Junction and we turned right, not able to see how many boats were nestled by the Black Country Museum. No boats at John The Locks Moorings, maybe we’d already seen the only boat we’d see today.

Nobody coming up Factory Locks, another route up from the Birmingham level. There’s a large area of building rubble on the off side. Was this here early last year? Or is it new? We couldn’t remember.

Coseley Tunnel next, not long at 329m, a towpath on each side, three cyclists to our starboard and a waterfall to our port side. Straight on at Deepfields Junction, the Bradley Arm still to be ticked off the BCN list.

Don’t stray from path

Now we started to meet the weed, a distinct channel has been cut through by boats, stick to it and you may be okay, venture off it and you’ll be down the weedhatch guaranteed!

Beep beep! Anyone home?

Round a few more bends, another boat come into view. Straight away we knew who it was and what they were likely to be doing. Mike and Christine on NB Alchemy have been enjoying the Curley Wurley over the last few days, we’d not been sure where our paths would cross, but now we knew. We bipped our horn. No sign of movement. Another two bipps, still nothing. The front door was open, gang plank deployed, hopefully they’d not been kidnapped!

Hopefully our paths will cross again next year, somewhere, sometime

Then Mike’s head appeared from the stern, he’d of course been down the weedhatch, not only weed but a long length of plastic had wrapped itself around the drive shaft. We loitered to have a chat. No wind blowing us off course today and no passing boats so we managed quite a lengthy conversation, which was disturbed by a hire boat coming round the bend. We moved over to let the boat come past meaning we ended up towards the off side, Mick indicated which side to pass us on and hand signals came back.

As they passed us one chap asked when they’d get back out into the open, we think he meant the countryside, Mick said well you’re headed for Birmingham. The chap seemed to be puzzled by that, just about any countryside from here would be a days cruise away, we wondered if they had a map?

Conspiracy graffiti

We waved goodbye to Mike and Christine, then discovered we’d got stuck in the shallow off side. Boat pole was retrieved from the roof and Mick tried to push Oleanna off, but the silt below was so deep the pole just kept going into it. A bit of rocking, reversing and eventually we managed to get moving again, only to be stopped by something around our propeller just around the bend. Where we drifted to seemed to be a popular place to dump thick weed from propellers.

I love this structure

Back on the move we soon arrived at Horsely Fields Junction, here we turned right onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and into the narrow channel with buddleia and other bushes growing across it. Up ahead two chaps came into view staring straight towards us. They were nestled amongst cars piled high in a scrap yard. One chap sat on the wall, in front of him a white plastic container, resting on this was a rifle!

Who’d have guessed there’d be a rifle pointing at us

Hang on! Hang on!! That rifle was pointing towards us! I was stood at the bow so would be first in the line of fire! I smiled and said hello, keeping calm. As we got closer the chaps kept staring, thankfully past me and just to the right of Mick. Phew! ‘What have you got in your sights?’ I asked. ‘Rats!’

As it says Urban Moorings

Just past the gunmen is Urban Moorings. We pulled up alongside the first moored boat. Early last year we had a night here on their visitor mooring, currently occupied, and had a full guided tour of the moorings. Lots has changed since then, there are more wooden buildings and more planned, lots and lots of plants growing everywhere. As last year we had a very warm welcome.

Fred in with the flowers

A few days ago we’d called ahead to see if we could off load the solids from our separating toilet, adding them to their now established compost bins. They can accommodate those who pass by, but not every boater in the West Midlands turning up in cars! They now have four bins built out of railway sleepers which seem to have enough insulation that the contents are always warm, therefore the composting process is speeded up somewhat. The first bin from a year ago is being used in flower beds, the compost is so rich that they are having to mix it with top soil, their flower beds look very happy on it.

Michaelmas Daisies

We left them with a cash donation towards their future plans and twelve babies from our wild strawberry plants that I’d just pruned from the second trough this morning. With permission and guidance we were allowed to wind at the end of the island. This isn’t marked as a winding hole as the end of the island used to be pointed, jutting out quite a way, it now hides below the surface for the unsuspecting. Directions were to turn as if we were heading down past the boats in the arm and not to drift towards the submerged point. Mick took his time, churning up black from the depths and slowly got us round. Thank you ladies, maybe see you next year.

There’s a pointy bit lurking beneath the water

Back to the junction we turned right towards Wolverhampton. Here the towpath has been closed for the last week due to an unstable wall. Well I say closed, but you’d never know it was, cyclists and walkers quite happily getting past the fencing at both ends. The fence nearer Wolverhampton sticks out across the cut and looked really quite unstable.

Right please

We pulled in on the offside mooring, not needing to go anywhere tonight here would be fine for us. The ivy clad wall did however mean that Tilly would spend the next few hours complaining at not being allowed shore leave. We ignored her, preferring her complaints to worrying as she climbed up towards the ring road!

That looks safe!

Tonight we enjoyed a leg of lamb with all the accompaniments. We’ll still be enjoying it for a few more days as there is plenty left.

It’s rubbish this! LET ME OUT!!!!

0 locks, 6.9 miles, 3 lefts, 2 rights, 1 straight on, 1 wind, 1 tunnel, 1 blogging boat, 1 clogged prop, 6ft of silt, 2 buckets, 4 hot bins, 107 babies, 12 given to a good home, 0.5 leg of lamb, 1 off side mooring, 1 mardy cat.