Category Archives: BCN

Twenty One Down. 7th March

Top of Wolverhampton to Hunting Bridge No 7, Shropshire Union Canal

Lock 1 Wolverhampton Flight

The chaps at Oxley Marine had warned Mick of a pound a few locks down the Wolverhampton flight that empties itself overnight. They suggested after locking down the top lock to leave a paddle cracked open at both ends of the lock to send water down. We however didn’t like the idea of leaving water coming down the flight.

Star t Wars

So whilst I popped to Sainsburys for some milk, a newspaper and to see how their stocks of loo roll were doing, Mick sent some water down the flight. The first pound had been a couple of inches low, so that was topped up and another couple of locks worth of water flowed down and around the bywashes of the flight. Hopefully this would be enough.

Sharing the work

We entered the top lock at around 9:45am and started to work our way down. We’ve been up three times, the last time Mick single handing as I’d broken my ankle, but today was to be our first time going down the flight.

Rubble and Industrial past

The second lock was a touch too far to walk ahead to set to then return to let Mick and Oleanna out, after all I’d be doing that on the majority of the flight so I saved my energy.

Date stones

We made steady progress downhill dropping into our routine quickly. Each and every lock was empty so required filling. Back and forth I walked, Mick closed top gates and lifted a bottom paddle.

Giving the M a clean

There were several gongoozlers. A man of very few English words watched and tried to express how interesting it all was. Then a young chap with a can of cider started to ask questions. He offered to open and close gates, lending a hand. Even though I explained how things worked he didn’t get it. He asked if I wanted any more help, ‘Only if you want to’. Was I going to have an assistant all the way down the flight? No, as I walked ahead to set the next lock he wandered off down a path, at least he’d saved me walking round to open gates on a lock.

Handrails!

All bar one of the flight have double bottom gates and only three have handrails on them. At these I could kick the bottom gates open, but the ones without a handrail I walked round.

A couple walking up the flight (about halfway) stopped and chatted, on their way back down they opened and closed some gates for me. They asked how many locks there were, 21. Over what distance are they, at the time I didn’t know this, but I know I’d already walked 4.5 miles!

Viaduct. The towpath has improved since we first came up, no wading through mud

Some biscuits and water kept us going. Under the viaduct, where trains head to Birmingham from Shrewsbury. The sun was now out making it quite a pleasant day.

Then the aroma of horses, loads of horses. Looking through the hedge on the offside I could see horse boxes parked up at Wolverhampton Racecourse. A Mum and young boy walked past, he was trying to stand and watch, but Mum kept pushing him along, the same at the next lock. Sadly I didn’t get the opportunity to ask if he’d like to push a gate. However Tilly stopped them dead in their tracks, wooing them sat in a window.

Get on with it!!!!

Never mind them! Will you two please hurry up and stop moving the outside. This one has plenty of trees , will you tie it up now! Yes NOW!!!

At lock 18 a muscle in my left arm decided it had had enough. Blimey it hurt. Mick suggested that I drove, all well and good but as I couldn’t lower my arm without it hurting I wouldn’t have been able to operate the throttle. I continued winding paddles and keeping my left arm raised. Thankfully it wore off and was as if nothing had happened.

Just look at all those trees!

Really, this outside fitted the bill. She’s been singing Saturday, Saturday, Saturday is Tillys day, for days now, but it didn’t seem to be my day. She’d been and got a newspaper so I knew it was Saturday! No matter how much I pleaded from every window and door they just kept on going.

21!

At 1:15pm we pulled out of the bottom lock, biped the horn to announce our imminent arrival at Aldersley Junction. But which way would we turn?

Right please.

Right please

There was a gap in the moored boats so we pulled in and had some well earnt lunch. A couple of Norbury Junction hire boats came out from Autherely Junction each in turn headed north. This meant the stop lock, all of four inches would be in our favour.

Blossom

Whilst descending, Mick disposed of rubbish at the bins, then we moved up to the water point and topped up the tank. Just gone 3pm we pushed off again to reach our chosen mooring for the day between Bridges 7 and 8 of the Shropie about an hours cruise ahead.

There it is and only one boat

This was a very strong contender for a Mrs Tilly stamp of approval two years ago, except Mrs Tilly stamps hadn’t come about at that point. Would the mooring meet Tilly’s exacting standards?

Can I come out now?

A touch too blowy to find out properly. Tom had to remove things from the top because it was so blowy. She stayed inside and mixed floury things together and put a chicken in the oven. Today wasn’t Saturday after all it was going to be Sunday.

That way or…
that way?

22 locks, 5.52 miles, 1 newspaper, 4 rolls not 100, 21 empty locks, 84 paddles working, 1.8 miles, 2 helpers, 1 can cider, 1 can beer, 1 right, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 0 rubbish, 1.5 hours shore leave, 0.5 taken, 2 much fresh air, 1 loaf started, 2 much discard, 1 Tilly fan email, Hello Guy! 1 roast chicken, 2 pooped boaters, 68 days on the BCN, 1 Oleanna has left the plateau.

Day 9.

Starter fed in morning and evening.

Flours, oil, seeds and water mixed and left overnight ready for tomorrow.

Skating

Tipton Medical Centre to Off Side mooring Wolverhampton

Ice!!! That hadn’t been factored into the plan for today!

Figure Skating

The alarm had been set, a full days cruise ahead of us, but we woke to Coots ice skating outside the boat. After breakfast Mick went to see how thick it was with a boat hook, too thick. Oh well, stand down everyone.

Filters ready for the next service

One job today was buying filters for the next engine service. So instead of picking them up as we cruised past Oxley Marine, Mick caught a train then a bus down to Autherley Junction just in case the boatyard there is closed tomorrow. The chaps said that they were always there and furnished Mick with all he wanted before returning back up to the Wolverhampton Level.

Bye bye Tipton

Not only did he return with filters but with news that at 132ft lower there was no ice, there was also no ice in Wolverhampton. By now the sun had worked it’s magic and melted the ice in Tipton too.

Next time

So after lunch we pushed off to get ourselves to the top of the locks ready for the morning. With a bit more time on our hands than originally planned we were disappointed that it was too late on a Friday to turn down the Bradley Arm. The C&RT Bradley Workshops are at the end there and needs to be open to provide enough room to wind, Fridays they knock off at 3pm, we wouldn’t get there in time. So that is one thing left on the list for next time.

The sun was out, warming everything. Bright blue skies, such a shame not to make the most of it going down the locks, but that’s boating for you.

The waterfall in Coseley Tunnel

Coseley Tunnel dripped at the northern end, buildings were being built. We tried to remember what this stretch was like when we first did it on NB Winding Down. Far more derelict factories and warehouses then.

It would make a fantastic set, not sure what for though

At Horseley Fields Junction we looked out for the old entrance to what is now Urban Moorings, a bricked up archway must have been where it was. The service mooring visible as we came past the junction, no need to do any washing today so we would cope with the ringroad noise for a night.

Was that the way in, now all bricked up

0 locks, 5.31 miles, 2lefts, 1 straight, 2 ice skaters, 2 oil filters, 1 fuel filter, 1 air filter, 2 buses, 2 trains, 1 sunny day, 1 pumpout tank taking root, 2 dabchicks, 1 sour dough starter ready for use, 1 more night on the plateau.

A slightly better photo

Day 8.

One starter bubbling away waiting to be fed. The discard jar is now full. Bread and pancakes this weekend me thinks.

Traps, Tunnels, Terra Firma And Tara. 5th March

Black Country Museum to Owen Street Bridge, Tipton

After booking ourselves onto the midday tunnel trip we walked back into the Black Country Museum. There were places we’d not looked at yesterday. The first to catch our eye was the Trap Shop.

Open today

Here a very knowledgeable chap talked us through the history of trap making. From men sitting hammering shapes, to fly wheel presses churning out parts to a gas powered engine that turned the presses. Sidebotham’s sold animal traps around the world even after they were banned in England. Not the nicest of things they were designed to hold their victim until the hunter came along to release them!

Inside the trap shop

The building was originally ran along the back wall of Sainsburys in Wednesfield, well before the supermarket was there. It was dismantled kept in storage and took four years to build back to how it had been.

The Pawnbrokers

We called in at the Pawnbrokers, Tipton in the day had forty such shops, for such a small town this just showed how most of the inhabitants lived from day to day hand to mouth, or not even managing that.

Bottles of stuff, whether they did you any good was a different matter they just looked the business

The chap in the Chemist was full of the new street plans further up the hill. The first building to be erected will be a pub from Wolverhampton. Around 30 million has been raised to create the new street and after many years of planning things are starting to happen. The aim is for the new street to be fully open in two years time, sadly our years pass won’t cover that, but maybe there will be something new before the end of the year for us to look at.

Helter Skelter being dismantled
Trolleybus!!!!

Then Mick spotted a trolley bus. Would it get us up the hill and back down in time for our trip into Dudley Tunnel? We walked up to catch it, but with no passengers waiting for it it headed back up the hill. So instead we walked back down to the lime kilns to see if we could work out which of the sunken boats was an Ampton. Below the surface hulls lurked.

There’s an Ampton down there somewhere!

Oleanna is 26 paces long and 58ft 6″. So we needed to find a hull that was around 35 paces long. We think we found two, both very well submerged.

Dudley Canal Trust was heaving with young kids who’d all been on a trip into the tunnel. They were full of it. One lad almost gave us a guided tour without being in the tunnel, he said it was quite ‘Bumpy’. Our boat was far quieter, only six of us. We donned hard hats and sat on the benches. The chap at the helm gave us a running commentary and another fella kept an eye on us and untied the boat ready for the tunnel.

Hard hatted and ready

Limestone mines in Castle Hill necessitated a tunnel system to help extricate the limestone. Lord Ward had the tunnels and canals built under the hill, work started in 1775 a year before the Act of Parliament was passed for both tunnel and canal. The work was completed in 1778. The tunnel gave access to the other side of the hill, 3 miles underground, the second longest in the country.

One of the caverns without it’s roof and two tunnels ahead

Large caverns and various tunnels fill the hill. Today the first two caverns have no roof and are open to the sky, then our boat dipped into the black of the tunnels. Now lined with concrete and areas oversprayed the first section is very round, but this soon becomes more rock like. Opening out into a larger cavern we were shown a film explaining how the limestone was created, then the hills pushed up creating fault lines.

Pixel par illuminations

On further and another cavern, more film showing how the limestone was mined and how the Victorians used the tunnels for excursions, coming in by boat and listening to bands, having picnics. Today there is a stage where performances can happen, people get married and concerts are performed.

Formations

We backed out through a different tunnel, this one lined with handmade bricks. The original method for boats to come through the tunnel was to be legged. Two volunteers took to a plank in the middle of the boat and they started to leg us along. The tunnel being only one boats width meant one way traffic and boats would queue up at either end to await their turn. One chap could leg three boats joined together on his own, meaning he made more money than the normal pairs of leggers.

Once through the main tunnel the boat would enter the big cavern where numerous tunnels headed off, which one was the right way? A lamp hangs in what would have been dusty air to guide you through. They say this is where the term ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ comes from. However our guide didn’t explain how the leggers got the boats across the wide cavern, presumably the boats were poled across here.

The light at the end

Passage through the hill was much easier through Netherton Tunnel, opened in 1858, which was wide and had a towpath on both sides. So by 1959 Dudley tunnel was more or less disused and British Waterways were going to close it, despite protests it finally closed in 1962. Much work was done by determined enthusiasts and it reopened in 1973. In the late 80’s more work was done to open up links between the caverns. Now visitors can go inside in the electric powered boats to see the sights. No diesel engines are allowed in the tunnel due to lack of ventilation and most modern boats don’t have a low enough profile to manage the journey. A very interesting tour, well worth the drips and getting very cold.

No bread to buy other than in a pudding

Mick still wanted a ride on the trolleybus so we headed back into the museum, but it seemed that the driver must be at lunch, so we joined the queue for a sneaky bag of chips between us before we left.

Tara for now

Time to head onwards. We winded with the bow under the bridge into the museum then pulled up at the services. Water topped up and yellow water disposed of we pushed off and headed to Tipton.

We pulled in behind a couple of boats moored on the off side by the Medical Centre,walked down into the shuttered town centre to find the Co-op to stock up on a few items.

Back at Oleanna we decided that our second mate should be trusted with some outside time, she most probably wouldn’t like it. Chaperoned for a while she nosed at the people in the doctors waiting room and checked under the friendly cover, but no one was around to play with.

At bloomin last!!!

A short whole after 4pm a visitor arrived. Heather, Mrs Bleasdale, was in the area and had spotted we were too, so she called in for a cuppa, a hot cross bun and a very good boaty catch up. NB Bleasdale is currently stuck down on the Great Ouse due to high river levels and delayed maintenance. Last year we had a catch up in Weedon, so there was plenty to talk about. The subject turned to the Irish waterways, this is the second person who’s brought the idea up. Costs need to be looked into, but it’s an idea, I might need to do extra work for us to be able to afford it, but it is an idea!

Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory

Heather headed off to catch a train and we headed off to walk through Tipton to Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory. We’ve heard mention of this pub by several bloggers but never been. This being our last night on the Birmingham plateau we decided to treat ourselves and managed to time it with Thursday Pie for a fiver night.

The interior of the pub is very much an old style boozer, no modernisation here, just tables and benches to pack in the masses. We managed to find one of only two free tables, ordered our pies and drinks.

Pies and more chips!

Their gluten free menu had five pies for me to choose from. I was excited, it’s not often I get to enjoy a pie. The only shame was that my puff pastry top was only just browned on top. Gluten free things always take longer than normal and I suspect my pie had been put in the oven at the same time as Mick’s. His crust had bubbled up wonderfully, but mine was doing the chewy under cooked gluten free thing that I now avoid by making my own pastry. Such a shame as I’d been so looking forward to a good pie. The filling was very tasty beef and my gluten free battered chips were tastier than Mick’s.

All gone despite the crust

0 locks, 0.54 miles, 1 wind, 1 straight, 0 trolley bus, 1 trap shop, 2 horses, 1 new street all the talk, 1 year and 1 week, 1 sneaky bag, 76 of each, 6 on a boat, 9 million bricks and counting, 1 text message underground, 2 leggers, 1 lamp, 1 Heather, 1 hour shore leave, 2 boxes wine, 2 pies and chips, 1 pint, 1 glass wine, 2 boaters in need of veg.

Day 7.

Things are doing well, I’ll give it a day longer, but start keeping the discard for some pancakes. Fed twice today and bubbling nicely.

Elbow Bumps. 3rd March

Urban Moorings to The Black Country Museum, Dudley No 1 Canal

Everyone talks about how slow water points are around the network, Hillmorton and Cambrian Wharf being especially known for it. Well we now know where the slowest one is. The ladies at Urban Moorings had warned us yesterday, there is a leak in the supply, luckily on the other side of their water meter, but this reduces the pressure, a lot.

Mick set the hose up whilst we had breakfast, the tank carried on filling whilst we did various chores. We handed over spare oil containers for reuse and added our recycling to theirs. Not quite a full tank of water but it would do us.

Recycled pots

Time to say thank you and be on our way. Elbow nudges all round, no-one is shaking hands or hugging at the moment. We left them to continue work on their pumpkin patch and a bench with a glass bottle base. Photos on their facebook page.

Left please

Just a short distance to Horseley Fields Junction where we turned southwards and meandered our way. From out of nowhere came this rather odd noise, I remembered hearing it around this area before. Was it an alarm or a bird call? Looking in the overgrown offside vegetation, Friendly cover! I spotted two birds swimming around. Not Coots or Moorhens, they had orangey brown cheeks and were a touch smaller than other waterbirds. Hunting through Google I came to the conclusion that they were Dabchicks. I’ll keep an eye open when we pass later in the week and try to get a better photo.

They are in there somewhere

By a new housing estate a damn has been erected with buoys around it’s edge. We feel the wrong sign has been put up. Also beware as the white tarpaulin looks like it is quite happily floating around almost mid cut, just waiting to get entangled around an unsuspecting prop.

Don’t go between the buoys!
The white tarp extends out to the buoys

As we had sneaked an extra load of washing in this morning we decided that the Bradley Arm/ Wednesbury Oak Loop would have to wait for the next time we’re up this way, so we sailed on past at Deepfields Junction, through Coseley Tunnel. I was fine inside even though She has put my Escape Pod away! Then at Factory Junction we turned right missing out on the locks.

Factory Locks, we’ll get enough locks in a day or two

Through Tipton we made note of moorings, all free at the moment and continued onwards. At Tipton Junction we stayed straight, onto the Dudley No 1 Canal, what there is that you can navigate on your own boat before reaching Dudley Tunnel. Not far till we reached our destination joining a couple of other boats on the moorings outside The Black Country Museum.

Another misleading instruction

A black corrugated fence surrounds the museum, not much for Tilly. A quick check on the situation deemed it sadly unsuitable. The trees that she would naturally be drawn to are far too close to the busy road, no shore leave again.

Moored up at the back gate, almost

Taking a walk down to the back gate of the museum we planned on crossing over the new swing bridge (well new to us along with the new visitor centre since we were last here on NB Lillyanne) to make use of the boaters facilities on the other side. Except the bridge was swung open to boat traffic, the old route over the top of the tunnel entrance was blocked off, so we’d have to walk all the way round. Through the gate with our key of power, up over the bridge, along the road to the main entrance to the Dudley Canal Trust. All just to go for a pee! We then tried to come back via the swing bridge but were told it was closed now so we’d have to walk round. Good job they weren’t too keen on closing the gates at 4pm!

Bridge closed to boats when we arrived

There is most probably a reason for them closing the bridge to pedestrians, but it didn’t make sense to us. Out of hours it means that to reach the service block we would have to go by boat as the bridge is padlocked. We walked all the way back round!

Up and over this bridge tomorrow

I have perseveared with what I thought was a lost cause of my sour dough starter today, adding in an extra feed to try to pep it back up. I think I have sussed what was wrong. The instructions say to drain off any liquid that forms on the surface, hooch. This I’ve been doing, but because of this it has all become quite thick. So this morning I just stirred it back in, an option given on the full youtube instructions. I then spooned off some to discard and fed it. By late lunchtime it was bubbly again, another feed and things are definitely not dead.

0 locks, 5.47 miles, 1 load washing, 4 elbow bumps, 1 slooooow tap, 1 left, 2 straights, 1 right, 1 tunnel, 0 mysterons, 1 tarp lurking, 1 bridge closed, 0 shore leave, 1 thinner starter rising again, 1 possible solution for Vienna, 2 boaters waiting for the museum to open.

Day 5. Morning

Houch mixed in, 10 dessert spoons discarded then fed

Lunchtime.

Extra feed showing signs of bubbles again

Evening.

Bubbles! Visible bubbling. Some discarded and fed

Urban Oasis. 2nd March

Lane Head Bridge to Urban Moorings, Lycetts Basin Bridge

A day full of sunshine. We soon passed where Vernon (Production Manager in Vienna) used to play as a child on the Short Heath Branch. His grandmothers cottage apparently was demolished and replaced by the current houses in the 1930’s and she moved to a council house. His Grandfather was night watchman on the arm and his uncles were day boat men delivering coal to Wolverhampton till the early 1960s.

Short Heath Branch

Today NB Senior Moment was occupied both by humans and several Pekineses. Maybe they’d just come back from a cruise or were preparing for one.

Mini Woofers and woofer gang plank

We pootled onwards, the canal seeming far cleaner than it had done a month ago. In the bottom of someones garden I spied a curled up mass of fur, could it be alive? It opened it’s eyes to check us out as we passed. A couple of hundred yards later another battered and torn fox walked along the canal edge. They both looked like they’d been in a fight and had seen better days.

Foxy fox

Approaching Rockery Bridge I got ready to hop off and see if this Sainsburys might have some arrowroot. I wizzed round the store and found some with baking powder and baking soda, I just hope my starter perks itself up in the next day or two!

Stop for a cuppa

Mick carried on and moored up on the first set of bollards, lunchtime. As we ate a boat came past, the first boat we’ve seen moving since we left Brindley Place! yes we did see some heads on Tividale Aqueduct, but not the actual boat.

Boat!!!!

Onwards, picking up a big branch which necessitated reversing and changing course before we continued much further. Our original plan had been to head for the offside moorings in Wolverhampton, hopefully stopping at Urban Moorings for some coal on the way.

Urban Moorings

As we came under Swan Garden Bridge we could see the end of the arm where Urban Moorings sits. A bench looks down the canal with Fender Fred watching for boats.

Fred with his cuppa and pipe

Could we see anyone? We slowed and crept our way along. Towards the end was a mooring, by some new looking sheds. A lady was stood by a door and said hello. We asked if they had any coal and if so, what variety. ‘Excell 20kg bags, £10 a bag’. Yes please. We pulled in as more and more people appeared from the sheds all wearing high-vis.

What a welcome, help to moor up too. Conversations about where we were heading turned to them saying that they had a visitors mooring £8 including electric a night. Mick and I were having a similar conversation at different ends of the boat, him saying we’d have a chat about it, me saying ‘We’ll be staying the night then’ images of the washing machine going round round in both our heads.

The gardens made from anything and everything that floats on by

Once tied up we were given guided tours of the moorings. Neither of us had realised just how big the site was. Originally Commercial Wharf the arm and land around it, there were Lime Kilns a wharf and slipway where boats were maintained. The boats, Ampton boats, were used for transporting coal along the flat Wolverhampton level and Wyrely and Essington Canal, no need to descend any locks so they were built longer and a touch wider, their holds could carry 45 to 50 tons of coal.

The site was used as a boat yard until 1992 when the last boat left the dock. Several boats had been restored here including NB Tench.

Miss Scotland had been down to help with the weeding today

Urban Moorings CIC are a group of boaters who are wanting to create mooring sites that boaters actually want, integrating history, ecology, art and volunteering. They redevelop moorings very slowly ‘Slow Regeneration’ without having to spend millions of pounds doing so. The moorers live on site, their aim is to turn derelict and unprofitable sites owned by C&RT into self managed boater run moorings.

These very friendly ladies have been here for three years, built moorings, brought electric and water onto site, made gardens for nature to inhabit where lime kilns used to be. They must have spent years clearing away buddleia and now sheds seem to be taking over. An office, a workshop, a bits and bobs exchange, more moorings planned. Recently they advertised on facebook that they were now selling coal and gas. Today they received 100 bags of Excell and moved their gas cage into position. There had also been a volunteer day to kick start the creation of a community garden. What an Oasis.

Four/five dogs inhabit the area, but they offered to put them all away if Tilly wanted some shore leave. We both looked around. She would absolutely love it here if the scent of woofers wasn’t too much for her. But we decided that the look of underneath the decking on our mooring would be far too interesting and it would be a very soggy and painful extrication for both her and us. Another day kept inside, Saturday isn’t that far off!

Work in progress, coal cage and recycling next to one of the sheds

After all the chatting, oh Kate Saffin was also here having volunteered for the day, we eventually managed to get hooked up, washing machine on, yellow water disposed of. If our solids container had been more advanced it could have been emptied here too. That is something we’ll think about, if we can store our solids during the first stage of composting and deposit it when next we pass then we’ll be using our toilet as fully intended.

They do seem to have thought of everything one could want and have plans for even more here. All profits go back into the project, so any support either through volunteering or purchases will be used to improve what they have to offer. Good luck to them, we’ll certainly be putting them on our map as a good stopping place. More information here Urban Moorings CIC

0 locks, 4.44 miles, 90grams arrowroot, 2 foxes, 5 footballs, 2 coconuts, 1 moving boat, 1 unexpected mooring, 4 bags coal, 3 loads washing, 1 Kate, 0 shore leave, 1 Miss Scotland, 2 possible openings, 1 offer, 1 oasis in Wolverhampton.

Day 4.

Not much to show today, two feeds and no bubbles, no rise. I’ll keep going for a few more days to see if it comes back. 😦

Digging Around In The Deep. 1st March

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.

The wind tunnel mooring

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.

Heading into Lock 8

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!

Eeerk!

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.

Rather nice conversion

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.

Digging around

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?

Double gates, Hmmm?

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.

Entrance to a wharf under the bridge on the right

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?

Traffic cone after a tussle with a prop

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.

If I pile it high enough and keeping pushing it’ll just disapear

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.

Hang on a ,minute!!!

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.

Hello pretty
A member of the Tilly Tail Gang

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 pretty Toll House at the top lock

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.

The Boatman’s Rest which used to be a museum, it may be converted into a home for someone now

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.

Someone’s pushed the railings out to dump their rubbish

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.

Just fling your rubbish over too!

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.

The Beast. 29th February

Operational Mooring to Town Basin to Operational Mooring, Walsall

In an ideal world we’d have pushed off and headed up the locks today, but with storm Jorge having already buffeted us about last night we weren’t sure we’d be going anywhere . We’d decided to wake earlyish for us, check the forecast for the next few hours and then formulate a plan.

The sun was out and it seemed calmer than last night. Forecast, the winds would build and it would be wet at times. We could make an early start but to get to a mooring we had several hours to cruise and we already know about the amount of rubbish that awaits us on the curleywurley. The thought of getting something major around the prop with strong winds was not a good one.

No help from Tilly today

Should we head back into the basin so we could get off the boat and go somewhere if we wanted to? This would mean we could get a Saturday newspaper. Was the wind on the operational mooring being funneled by the tall buildings? Or would this be worse in the basin? Would the pub have live music on tonight? All these questions and Tilly wasn’t helping us with any answers!

That’s grown!

First it was breakfast time for the sourdough starter. The cabbage had done it’s job and there was a distinct rise in the jar. I removed the leaves, drained off any fluid then added another half cup of flour and the same of water and gave it a really good stir. I then marked the level with an elastic band so I could see easily how well it did during the day.

With the winds set to increase we decided to head to the basin and see what it was like there. Taking care on the slippy pontoon we pushed off up to the junction where the wind whizzed us round. Blimey it was cold, neither of us had prepared well enough for the arctic blast. Back in town we moored up where we’d left yesterday, keeping the Costa customers entertained over their flat whites.

Once a cinema, you’d never guess

As Mick headed off to get a newspaper from WHSmiths I checked out what would be happening at Bar 10 tonight. A tribute band and a DJ starting at 9:30 going on till late! When Mick came back we easily made our minds up that sitting in a wind tunnel would be preferable to not being able to get to sleep due to music and rowdy drinkers.

We backed away from the pontoon, winded (a little bit harder here) and returned to where we’d come from. Once tied up we could relax, break the news to Tilly she wouldn’t be going out again and have a cooked breakfast.

There you go.

Looking up to the proving shelf I could see things were happening to my starter. I could swear it grew everytime I looked away. The level crept up the inside of the glass, had I misread the instructions and bought the wrong sized jar? This was only day two, that cabbage had given it ideas above it’s station, would I need to sit it in a bowl to catch it if it grew over the top? Instead when there was only an inch left of air in the jar I moved it off the shelf onto the table where the cooler temperature should slow it’s growth.

A couple of hours after breakfast
A couple more!

During the afternoon I found my ground plan of the theatre in Vienna. I then made cut outs of sofas, baths, doors etc and started to arrange them on the plan doing my best to keep the important elements within everyone’s sight lines. If only I could grown the downstage area by 1m each side, would a corner bath work better? When were corner baths brought in?

Bedroom door too close to beams

I spent a couple of hours nudging the furniture around trying to find the best solution, then added into the equation the height of their stage and needing to be able to see over the back of a sofa as to what was happening on a balcony US. This would mean having several steps up to the balcony, where could they go. Was there enough room to get a large laundry basket through doors Down Stage? Could I move the balcony Down Stage? What if this went there? Or that there?

Steps to the balcony and the prosc widened

I sent an email to Vernon the Production Manager with a few questions, like could I make their proscenium wider. I’m waiting to hear back, I already know the answer but it’s worth asking.

Almost breaking out of the jar

By 9pm, the beast in the jar was needing feeding again, it had deflated itself so I plucked up the courage to take the lid off and give it a feed. We’ll see if we have to fight our way into the main cabin in the morning.

Jorge has buffeted us about for most of the day and given us some sunshine along with hail stones bouncing in through the mushroom vents. Here’s hoping it calms down enough for us to get up the locks tomorrow.

0 locks, 0.9 miles, 2 winds in the wind, 2 moorings, 1 newspaper, 1 tribute band, 1 inch, 4 inches, 7 inches! 1 beast in a jar, 4 options, 2m extra wide or no space for actors, 2 troublesome balconies, 1 extreamly windy mooring, 59 views from facebook, are we being talked about?

Day 2 Evening.

Reached top of the jar before deflating. Liquid drained off and fed again