Category Archives: Bridges

When In Birmingham. 19th February

BUMingham

All the boats around us moved off this morning, some that way others the other, they were all getting or going to get a touch damp as the rain came and went for most of the day.

Tilly about to adjust the seating for a better view

I spent much of the day taking photos of the model for The Garden and persuading our new printer/scanner to actually scan my costume drawings. Not just part of them, but the whole drawing and in the format I wanted. It took forever, maybe I need to read the instructions! Or maybe it is just contrary!!

Rainy BUMingham days mean toy box days

Tonight is our last night in the centre of Birmingham for this visit, so we decided to head out for a curry. It would have been rude not to.

Having done a little bit of research before venturing out we looked at the menu in one restaurant on Broad Street and decided that our boaty shoes would show us up, even if the lighting was subdued, also our bank balance would appreciate us going elsewhere.

View down to the canal

In the end we chose to climb the stairs up to Barajee which sits on top of the canal. We’ve had a takeaway from here before. Their website has a legend for allergy symbols, although no symbols showed against any of their dishes. But inside the restaurant the menu had the reverse, so I knew I’d be avoiding anything that wouldn’t agree with me. We’d chosen Indian as I knew I’d have a lot to choose from rather than just Hunters chicken, steak or gammon all of which get a touch boring.

Curry

We chose a Murgh-e Achari and a Lamb Pista Badami, both of which we’ve never had before along with a sag bhaji. They were all very tasty, good choices and we only just ate a touch too much whilst being able to look down onto the canal. A good way to end our visit.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 last smiley man, 38 photos edited to 12, 1.5 hours scanning! 10 days early for white card, 1st pay cheque, 1 agent prod, 2 glasses wine, 2 new currys, 1 bowl of sag, 2 full contented boaters, 1 last night in BUMingham.

Wading Through Trolleys. 2nd February

Lower Ocker Hill Branch to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham

Heading back out onto the canal

We popped back out onto the canal shortly before 11am, heading eastwards towards Birmingham. The hope was to get up Ryders Green Locks before too many people were about, the area has a reputation.

At the bottom of the locks

Below the locks had far less rubbish than I remembered when we came through in June 2018, it being earlier in the day might have had something to do with it. The bottom lock was empty waiting for us, a good sign, maybe.

The first pound on the flight is longer than the rest and goes under several bridges before reaching the next lock. Mick took it steady under them. The middle bridge is a foot bridge leading across to Poundland and Asda. Asda may have a shortage of trolleys at the moment as most of them seemed to be in the canal! A few more stood close to the bridge awaiting their turn.

Here we go!

Wheels and legs of trolleys appeared just below the surface a couple just rising far enough to grasp a gasp of air. The sedimental trolley layers seemed thicker towards Asda, deeper water could be found towards the centre. However the depth wasn’t quite enough for us to just glide over the tops with the occasional bump or scraping.

A few attempts of forwards and reverse were needed to help settle the metal wheeled cages below to give us just enough depth to pass on wards. It took a little while but we made it. C&RT will be well aware of what lies below the surface here, but we’ll double check with them when the office is open.

At the next lock I walked through the boat to reach the bow to get off, not wanting to risk getting stuck on more trolleys. Here the local drinking club had already convened. As I walked up I said a jolly ‘Morning!’ to them. One chap congratulated us for having got through the last pound, but wanted to show me something. He walked me to the top of the lock and pointed across to a low wall by Poundland. Here a fence had been broken and part of it was floating just above the lock. ‘When we left last night it was dark, but the fence was still there’. ‘I’ve tried to get the wood out of the canal, but not managed yet’.

The drinkers

He was very familiar from when we came through last time. Chatty, helpful and on at least his second can of Scrumpy Jack of the morning! As I opened the gate he and his two mates managed to pull the fencing to the side and lifted it out. ‘I’ve looked for the rest of it, but it’s nowhere. Just be careful’ as he put his rubbish in a bin bag by the bridge.

Back in 2018 the locks were locked by C&RT over night and we’d arrived at this lock heading downhill just as it was about to be padlocked. The boys in blue helped us down, they were playing an everlasting game with the local youths of cat and mouse. Lock beams being lifted, pounds drained, trolleys, general vandalism, so none of what we were encountering was unexpected.

The chaps insisted on closing the gates behind us, meaning I could walk on ahead to the next lock. Here I found some more of the fence, now burnt by the bottom gate. At least it hadn’t been used to try to burn a lock beam, a foot thick of oak beam takes a lot of fire to get it going thank goodness.

That’ll have been some of the fence

As I started to fill the lock I found more of the fence, sitting by our bow. Once the level rose we lifted it out. No doubt tomorrow it’ll be back in the cut, we just didn’t have enough space on the roof for so much fence.

There’s some more

Each lock now was empty, apart from the very top one. I signalled to Mick that I needed to empty it, a touch hard when there’s a bridge right over the bottom gates. He pulled back a touch and I lifted the one paddle I could unlocked. The surge of water was doing it’s best to drag Oleanna towards the gate, but Mick would engage reverse and keep her away…. wouldn’t he….?!

The flight behind us

I could hear the engine doing it’s best, but still Oleanna kept coming. I dropped the paddle as quickly as I could, but she’d got momentum behind her now. Luckily there was only a slight biff to the bottom gate, no damage done.

Oleanna had picked something up around her prop again, hence the prop not doing what was asked of it. Luckily the wind wasn’t going to affect us today as we were in a bridge hole. I held onto the centre rope to stop her from drifting back and forth too much whilst Mick got down and at one with the weed hatch.

Stopping her from drifting back to the lock below

The prop mate did it’s job, thankfully removing a length of twisted razor wire, the pond gloves would not have survived this. Plenty more came away from the prop and filled the stern deck. This was all put on the roof to dispose of later in a bin, if we’d just left it on the towpath it would only end up back on someone’s prop and they might not have a prop mate!

Rusty razor wire and a couple of shirts

Now with power restored I could empty the lock safely.

To Pudding Green Please

At the junction we resisted the temptation to go down the arm, we’ll save that for another day if we feel brave enough. On to Pudding Green Junction where we turned towards Birmingham City Centre.

There was work to be done and as all Mick had to do was continue in a straight line I bobbed down below to bake some sundried tomato bread and finish off my costume reference for The Garden.

You’ve just got to love some of the names round here

Familiar landmarks went past. Three central reservations and the round pillars holding the M5 above our heads. Then the Soho Loop and Oozells Street Loop, time to have a break and help moor up. We winded and returned to where we’d been a couple of weeks ago with the hatch on the towpath for Tilly to make a hasty return to the boat should she need to.

The bridges were full of people, plenty of youngsters all heading to the Arena to see Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live! Blimey they were a rowdy bunch, buying checker flags and horns. Think we preferred the Strictly Come Dancing Audience of a couple of weeks ago.

8 locks, 7.37 miles, 7 straights, 1 right, 1 left, 1 wind, 1 tunnel, 2 times under, 2 layers of trolleys, 2.3m razor wire, 2nd Scrumpy Jack by 11am, 1 coconut, 1 broken fence, 8 actors with reference, £20 over budget, 1 sundried tomato bread loaf, 1 pair socks finished.

Elongated Arms. 1st February

Riddian Bridge to Lower Ocker Hill Branch, BCN

Sun straight ahead a touch blinding

With winds forecast to be over 40mph later today we aimed to get going, hopefully to miss the worst of it. Despite our aim we didn’t push off till 10am, would this give us enough time to moor up before the worst hit?

To the South
To the North

The sun was out, blue skies overhead as we pootled our way to the top of Rushall Locks. We could have moored above the locks last night but that wouldn’t have been half as good for Tilly. Signs on the outside of a building here tell you cruising times to both north and south. I think we’ve got plenty of time to get to York by mid July, via a lot of other places on the way.

Back to double gates

The bottom gates on the Rushall Flight are doubles, not singles as is common on most of the BCN. The top lock had a nice wide walkway over the top gate and a handy bridge at the bottom, but this wasn’t the case all the way down.

Eerrrk!

The top two locks are closish together and then only just visible in the distance was lock 3 over a straight mile away. The first stretch of the long pound was filled with reddened dead scum, a slight aroma wafting from it as we parted it around Oleanna’s hull.

I hopped off at Moat Bridge and walked to the next, Sutton Road Bridge, where I joined the road to visit the handy Co-op. Quite a few things I wanted had sad gits labels , so loaves of bread and tomatoes joined our Saturday newspaper in my basket.

Handy long bridge hole so you can go shopping

When I got back to the canal, Oleanna was taking shelter under the wide bridge. No other boat traffic so it didn’t matter that we were blocking the navigation.

Heading down, the rest of the flight through the bridge

Then the flight was upon us, some locks full others empty. We soon got into our rythmn I’d open up, then walk ahead to set the next lock whilst Mick brought Oleanna in above, closed the lock and lifted a bottom paddle. I’d be back in time to lift the second paddle and open the gates.

Mick bringing Oleanna down the lock above

I tried my usual trick of kicking the gates open, but decided that the gates looked too chunky, so reverted to walking round instead. If I remembered to drop the off side paddle then Mick could close it from below using the boat hook saving me crossing the gates again.

No anti vandal lock on the bottom paddle

Each paddle, bar one on the very bottom gate is locked with an anti-vandal mechanism which you get very used to around these parts, you just have to remember which pocket you put your handcuff key in to be able to unlock them!

The roofing felt may be new, but the wood underneath is showing that it’s been there 24 years

The lower down the flight we got the more and more spongy the walkways got on the gates. Underfelt is used as anti slip across these, but the surface below some of it was very rotten and decidedly wobbly, I made sure I always had hold of the hand rail should anything fail. One of the gates was allowing water to bubble up from the bottom cill, guaranteeing a quick descent.

At the bottom lock, new gates sealed both ends and with new walkways I was able to cross with confidence once again.

Urban Snake waiting to catch a prop

Straight on to Rushall Junction, well at a slight angle now, the wind was building. A very long urban snake sat waiting to catch us out where the stern needed to swing. If it hadn’t been so windy we’d most probably have stopped to pick it up, but instead the engine was taken out of gear at the last moment to let us glide past, then engaged again to force the bow round to the west. Time to cling onto possessions and boat hooks!

High on an embankment

The Tame Valley Canal sits high on an embankment and runs along the side of the M6 for a while to where the M5 joins it.

Loads of concrete

Roads intertwining high on concrete stilts, the River Tame curling it’s way slowly beneath.

Magnet fishing

Then once over the railway you are surrounded, the canal now in a cutting. A group were magnet fishing at one bridge, several items had been pulled out or just to the side. The chap said he was looking for mobile phones, so he’d most probably leave the trolleys where they had got dragged to.

Blimey it was windy, a touch more revs needed to keep us on our course, good job there are only a couple of moored boats about.

A rope swing distracted Mick at a bridge just for a second or two too long, the engine tone changed. A blast of reverse, still the same. Damn something round the prop. He managed to pull us almost in to the side and hopped off with a centre line. A spike was hammered in to help me keep hold of Oleanna against the wind whilst Mick delved into the murky waters of the weed hatch.

Quite Ghostly

The wind was tunneling it’s way along the canal and Oleanna’s bow was being forced across the cut. The spike was pulling out, should I just let go. No I clung on, forced the spike back into the ground. In a two second lull of wind I rearranged myself to stand on the rope once it was through the spike loop, then I could lean back remembering my windsurfing days when I was just a teenager. I lent back thinking of heavy things like lardy cakes all the time my arms gradually getting that little bit longer. Surely Mick must have finished by now!!!

A large wet something hit the deck, hopefully that was all there was going to be. My arms were now stinging like Alan’s in A Regular Little Houdini, then they burned, at least if I let go I wouldn’t end up feet first in a tunnel of mud with the tide coming in!

As soon as Mick stood up I called out to him and Oleanna was just pulled in enough for us to get back on again with a jump. Blimey my arms throbbed. We now just hoped that the mooring we were aiming for was free and sheltered enough to be able to moor up with an amount of ease.

Still a while to go before we got to Tame Valley Junction, we’d most certainly had enough by now. We turned left and I could see round through the hedge that there was space. Reversing in would be easier we hopped than winding as the entrance to the arm was at an acute angle.

Luck was with us, the wind had dropped. Mick brought us round and started to reverse and as he did so a gentle little breeze pushed the bow round to the right angle to clear the bridge at the entrance of the arm.

Now who can I find here?

Once tied up we could both breath again. A quick check round and the mooring was deemed suitable for Tilly. A late lunch was followed by a hair cut for Mick which was just interesting enough to bring Tilly out from the sideways trees to be picked up and returned inside just before dusk.

9 locks, 6.79 miles, 1 straight, 1 right, 1 left, 1 reverse, 1 newspaper, 2 sad gits loaves, 1 giant snake, 1 padded coat, M6, M5, 1 battle with the wind, 2 inches longer, 2 relieved boaters, grade 3, 1 key, 1.5 hours shore leave, 2 coconuts.

Thank you to Paul (Waterway Routes) we now know how many times the A5, Watling Street, crosses the navigable canal network. Fifteen times, more if you include the disused canals.

Top O' The Map. 28th January

Pelsall Junction to Brownhills Colliery Basins to Brownhills Services

Tilly just in the sun

Another beautiful morning despite the wind. We wrapped up warmly and pushed off backwards to the junction. Here Oleanna was turned to face almost due north and onto the Cannock Extension Canal.

What looks like two houses made into one
New or converted?

The cottage at the first bridge looks like it was once two houses, 211 and 212 plaques on the wall. The railings also have a gap in them, presumably where a front door used to be. Across the way is what looks like a new build with a Rayburn and gym on view to the canal.

Straight, then straight some more

The Cannock Extension, well what is left of it is straight and keeps on going straight until it reaches the A5 and M6 Toll. This is now the limit of navigation, but the canal used to turn west and continue up to Cannock Chase to a colliery, it is known locally as Top O’ The Map.

Local wild life
The old side slipway

Today we saw more boats than we’ve seen in weeks. Moorings fill the end of the canal. Norton Canes Boat builders used to be based here before moving to Glascote. You can still see where boats used to be launched sideways into the cut, now parking for moorers.

Winding hole

We pootled up to the winding hole where a sign suggests that 70ft boats should put their stern in towards the dry dock, lift the planks against the door and wind without using their engine. We put Oleanna’s stern in and winded, but using a touch of our engine and bow thruster to help against the breeze.

Tilly would have loved this stretch plenty of trees, but we suspect it would have been hard to get into the side.

Back to the junction

Back at the junction we turned left eastwards. Passing The Fingerpost Pub, under the bridge we could see the big hole that the car accident had left. Good job the car stopped when it did!

That’s a big hole

We now wound our way along past houses and light industry. Evidence of old arms scarce now they have been built over.

Deer

Some places were more rural, Mick spied two huge deer in amongst the trees, they were the size of donkeys.

Brownhill Services

The services at Brownhills were clean and very warm. We topped up the water tank and decided what to do. There are plenty of bollards to moor to just outside Tescos, across the way was far more cat friendly. We could moor up, go shopping then move across to moor.

Birdies lined up against the wind

But even if we found somewhere deep enough Tilly still wouldn’t be allowed out as the canal along the next stretch was covered in scummy stuff, making the surface look solid to a cat. With plenty of bird life floating along it was too risky to let her out. So we pulled up infront of another boat. Well we tried to, but things under the scummy surface made this hard.

The chap from the boat behind came out to see if he could lend a hand. We managed to get close enough in the end, perhaps just sitting on the bottom. The chap gave us the basic lie of the land and warned us that the nearest gate into the services has got a none C&RT padlock on it, but you could still get in round the other side. Presumably this is why his stern is tied on the other side of the railings.

Goaty mountain cheese from Vienna

After some of the smelly goats cheese for lunch we headed to Tesco to do a little shop. This ended up being a touch bigger than planned as they had a special offer on barbecue briquettes. Well we had to stock up.

I know it’s still January

0 locks, 4.42 miles, 1 mile one way, 1 mile back again, 1 wind, 1 reverse, 2 straight ons, 1 chilly blowy day, 1 full water tank, 1 bag charcoal, 1 smelly cheese, 0 shore leave, 1 shallow mooring.

Antipodean Visitors. 27th January

Pelsall Junction

Mooring at Pelsall wasn’t just so that Tilly could have a run around and for me to do some work, it was also for us to be close to the road network.

A beautiful morning

With visitors due Oleanna had a tidy and a sweep through this morning. Then to encourage Tilly to have some outdoor time I finally got round to washing the port side windows. The cratch window is the best, I get to lie on the top by the horns and watch the cloth and newspaper go back and forth until the outside can be seen clearly again.

The travellers were delayed, there had been a crash on the M1 and they had stopped to help. So the stern or Oleanna got a good sweep down and a rinse off with canal water, followed by the gunnel. If they were held up any longer I might of got round to the flithy roof and cabin sides.

A check on progress and they were almost with us, time to smarten up a touch and head for the pub. The Fingerpost Pub was boasting a new menu, food served daily 12-3pm, we’d not bothered to check. But they had let one of their two chefs go, so no food on Mondays or Tuesdays! We loitered in the car park, there were several more pubs in Pelsall to choose from.

The bridge over the canal had a car drive into it a while ago and there is a contraflow of traffic over it. Will the bridge be mended or will a planned new bridge be built to replace it? Locals are not in favour of a new improved bridge as this would attract lorries to the area, the old canal bridge would remain but for pedestrians. But for now the towpath is closed and traffic takes turns to cross.

There was waving from the car at the front of the queue! They had arrived.

Emma and Ted doing well despite jetlag

Emma my Bestestest friend and her son (my Godson) Ted are over for a visit from Sydney for a few weeks. They had originally been coming to visit Teds Grandmother in Ireland, but sadly she passed away before Christmas. This means they are now hurtling around trying to catch up with as many friends as they can. Last night (their first) they had enjoyed the hospitality of my brother, then we were their lunch date/pit stop whilst en-route to the Peak District to see Emma’s Aunt.

The Fingerpost

Time was ticking so after big hugs all round we hopped into the car and headed in to Pensall. We passed The Fingerpost which as it’s name suggests has fingers pointing in four directions.

The first pub we came to was the Old House At Home, a Marstons pub, the car park was busy so it looked hopeful. Yes they were still serving food, phew! We settled down for a good catch up and some okay pub food. Having said that the Yorkshire stack with cheesy mash looked interesting.

An okay pub for a chain

It’s been over six years since we saw last Ted, he turned 21 late last year, what a handsome tall young man he is. In between labouring for a building firm (in 40+C recently) he is studying law. Emma we last saw when Oleanna was still spanking new and we loitered around London to meet up with her nearly three years ago. Lots has happened in that time and we only just managed to scratch the surface, a late night drink with Emma on our own was really needed, but sadly not this time.

Me and my Godson

After a couple of hours we got a lift back to the boat, well to the other side of the canal where a footbridge crosses. This was a much better way to approach Oleanna, sitting on her mooring in the middle of the common, viewed from the top of the arched footbridge, very romantic.

They didn’t want to play with fish, but I did

Ted had a guided tour and met Tilly, who was quite sociable for a change. Well I knew he was important and wouldn’t be staying long. I think Emma was a touch relieved to see that we live a cosy life in winter with our stove burning 24/7.

Bestestest friend

Far too soon it was time for them to head further north. We waved them goodbye as they crossed back over the bridge to the car. The only way to get to spend more time with them is to visit Australia, we haven’t been for over a decade, maybe my next design fees should be saved up for a trip!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 broken bridge, 1 tidy boat, 6 clean windows, 1 cat assistant, 1 bestestest friend, 6ft+ of Godson, 2 Aussies enjoying our clean air, 2 chilly Aussies, 2 Yorkshire Stacks, 1 Hunters chicken, 1 steak and kidney pie, 2 glasses of wine, 3.5 pints, 2.5 hours so not enough, 1 thumbs up from Huddersfield, 3 envelopes forgotten.

Coconut Record. 24th January

Wolverhampton Tunnel to Pelsall Junction

Back to the junction

The alarm was set this morning. Once it had gone off we were up to have our cuppa with breakfast instead of in bed. You would think mooring right next to a ring road would be noisy, but last night and the last time we moored here we got a reasonable nights sleep.

The last bit of reasonably arty grafitti

Last night Mick had been reading his Pearsons Guide on The Black Country Rings, it had suggested that the first mooring we’d have come across on the Wyrley and Essington Canal would have been a secure one, we’d see what we thought as we passed this morning.

A nice place to moor

We pootled back up to Horseley Field Junction where we turned left onto new water. A short distance on we passed the Urban Moorings, some facebook friends of ours have just spent a few months moored here. A nice little community, they have just started selling coal and gas at reasonable prices.

Hello!

Where once an old railway bridge spanned the canal there is now an arc of mirror. This catches you as you pass underneath. On a sunny day I suspect our reflection would have been brighter. A shame the other side faces upwards and has turned green.

Wednesfield Junction

At what once was Wednesfield Junction a short arm sits next to a pub, mooring rings on both sides. One side against the pub, the other a car park, Tilly would not have been allowed out on either side. Who knows how noisy the pub would have been last night, but we might have treated ourselves to the pictures which is right next door.

A handy barrier

We carried on a touch before squeezing ourselves onto some bollards. A quick top up shop of veg and milk was required and this was the closest we could get to Sainsburys. Mick stayed with Oleanna and I headed to do the shopping returning with a little bit more than intended!

Knight’s Bridge

No stopping for long today, we wanted to cover some miles, so we pushed off again. After three miles we had reached Knight’s Bridge. Here a solitary boat sits on it’s home mooring, one we’ve shared the Wolverhampton mooring with before. We could hear the pack of Pekingese from inside the house.

Could this be where Gran lived

This bridge is also where Vernons (the production Manager in Vienna) Gran used to live, one of the houses by the bridge. Two were visible, another hid behind fencing.

Short Heathe Branch, once filled with sunken boats

Then we passed the disused Short Heath Branch, this is where Vernon and his mates used to play on sunken boats in his youth. None were visible today, maybe they have been cleared away, we didn’t want to find out so continued on our course.

The secure spot already taken

At Lane Head Bridge moorings a boat was on the secure section, there would have been space for us should we have wanted to stop, but we had a better place in mind.

Builders vehicles

The going was slow, Mick not wanting to churn the bottom of the canal up too much and collect things on the prop. There was plenty down there that we could see, some large items, trolleys and barriers, others more pliable. Yesterday a boat had reported on picking up several items on their prop including a horse duvet, curtains and the like. Luckily we managed to avoid having to visit the weedhatch for such things.

The human race really is disgusting

We’d been expecting light industry by the side of the canal, but houses backed up to it on both sides for much of our journey north. Nothing much of interest other than plenty of rubbish! I suppose once you’ve tipped your rubbish over the garden fence it vanishes into thin air! Plastic kids umbrellas will degrade rapidly once out of sight and mind. We humans are disgusting!!

M6

Along the side of the M6 for a while which gradually rose to cross the canal. At Sneyd Junction a set of locks used to rise up to Essington and Norton Cannock Collieries, the bottom lock now filled in with a culvert for drainage.

Once the bottom of Sneyd Locks

The water tank was topped up at Sneyd services and the weed hatch checked, nothing much but a couple of bits of plastic. I made lunch whilst the tank filled and then we were off again with cuppas in insulated cups.

Now we came across the light industrial units. G4S with what looked like armoured vans, is gold bullion moved in these with their escape hatches on the roof?

Scummy scum scum

Along with the industry came scummy water. Was this dead duckweed, some other weed or what happens to coconuts once the water breaks them down. Today the coconut count was nearly at two per mile, by far a record.

Watching us from on high

The scum went on for an age, both of us hopping it would diminish before our mooring for the day, if not then Tilly’s shore leave was likely to be suspended as she would think it a solid surface to walk on.

The old Brass works site

At Birchills Junction we passed the end of the Walsall Canal, we’ll venture down there at some point. The Wyrley and Essington Canal is known as the Curlywurly (or is it the Curlywyrley?) as it follows the 473ft contour doubling back on itself several times. One big bend now has a cleared site to one side where once the Elkington Brass Works used to stand. The area is earmarked for 263 houses.

The canal would head off between the trees here

Once through little Bloxwich the scum started to dissipate and the surroundings became far more rural. At what was Fishley Junction you can see the line where once the Lord Hayes Branch used to head off. This could be the start of the proposed new route of the Hatherton Canal which would gradually drop towards Hatherton Junction on the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. Would this bring more boats this way? A new ring always attracts boaters.

Hmm, this outside might just do

Not much further and we ducked under Pelsall Works Bridge. Now very rural but once busy with iron works, the common known locally as ‘The Cracker’ after one of the huge foundry machines. Pulling in proved a touch tricky, me stood at the bow checking for depth which didn’t seem to be enough. Then close to the junction I couldn’t see the bottom anymore, we tried and succeeded. Spikes in, tied up, time to let Tilly out.

Not quite enough friendly cover to keep me covered

Great! But which way to go? This outside has trees, but they are distant. Normally this would not be a problem, but here there are woofers walking their humans, lots of them. She came out and we had a bit of a walk around until Magpies complained about me. Anyhow it was just turning dark so we decided to go back and warm up in front of the stove, tomorrow I’ll venture further to find friends.

Pelsall Junction

0 locks, 12.84 miles, 2 lefts, 4 straights, 1 cuppa with breakfast, 1 cuppa on the go, 1 lunch on the go, 1 full water tank, 1 joint pork, 2 bags flour, 2 pints milk, 1 scummy canal, 21 coconuts, 35 minutes shore leave, 1 pair socks finished.

Quick Before We Run Out Of Water! 23rd January

Bumble Hole to Wolverhampton Tunnel

Came to say farewell

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.

Time
to go

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.

Moving boats! A rare breed

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.

Which way now?

Then decision time. Left or right? For our next destination we could go either way.

Vegan graffiti, catching on to modern trends

Left it was and on towards Factory Locks to get us back up onto the Old Main Line.

Cantilevered bridge

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.

Hang on what’s that?

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.

Safely over the top cill, level dropping all the time

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.

Loads of room

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?

Black smoke, hope their engine is 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.

Nearly back at the top

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.

Plenty of new houses

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.

Now that does look familiar

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.

What a lot of rivets

At Horseley Fields Junction we bore left and headed towards the top of the Wolverhampton 21.

Winding ready to move on the morning

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.

Just look at all that climbing potential!

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!

A smile and two guns

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.

2 smiles