Category Archives: Canal and River Trust

All Hail The Haily Snowed. 11th February

BUMingham

With a gas bottle empty we’d thought about cruising out to Alvechurch to get it replaced and give Tilly some much needed countryside. How I fondly remember trees! But when we woke and checked the forecast for the day we changed our minds. 20mph winds, nowhere near as strong as on Sunday, but still not that easy to handle a narrowboat in.

I used to climb trees, now I just dream of them

After breakfast we made ready to move, one thing that couldn’t wait was water. Mick tried calling Sherborne Wharf a couple of times but nobody was answering. However when we looked out we could see a widebeam moored at the services, someone must be there. So we pushed off (well we didn’t need to push much as the wind did most of it for us) and headed through Sheepcote Street Bridge, pulling in behind the green widebeam.

The Polo boat

The BCN is narrow, so what is a widebeam doing in these parts?. Well it’s the office for the new development on Icknield Port Loop and they’d come for a pump out and top up of diesel.

Roses!

Once the chap was finished with them we got some more coal, topped up on water from the tap with good pressure, bought a new bottle of gas and disposed of our yellow water. Blimey it was chilly out there, just how are the roses going to fare?

Winding the old fashioned way

We moved along retracing the now familiar route to Monument Road Bridge where the wind assisted us in winding, then back round Oozells Street Loop to return to our mooring. We waved at NB Waterway Routes, you never know Paul might have been watching as we passed.

Hello Paul

The wind was now really quite blustery, at times more so than it had been with Ciara, there was also the occasional flurry of snow. So for the remainder of the day Tilly was confined to quarters. I might be wanting some boot polish if the snow continues.

Sideways trees

The afternoon was spent doing some work. Sideways trees were made for my model and extra layers to help change the seasons. I’m thinking that the greenery on the sideways trees might be quilted fabric, which has different fabrics added over the top.

My main concern is the method by which the seasons are added and taken away. This will be done by the actors and needs to be simple so that we don’t end up watching two people carefully placing rings on hooks for five minutes and then later removing them for ten minutes. My actors are great at acting, but having learning disabilities makes some tasks take a long time. But I’ll discuss this with Amy the Director who knows peoples strengths better than me and this is what a white card model is for. Only one piece left to make and the model will be finished, just the costume designs to do now.

Camouflage netting for Autumn

During the day C&RT stoppage notices have been coming in. Also the boating Facebook groups have been filled with photos of the storm damage caused by Ciara. The Pennine waterways have been hit badly as they were during the Boxing Day storms in 2015. Some boats have been left high and dry once the waters receded. In other places there has been damage to the canal infrastructure. Footage of the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder and Hebble shows huge mounds of detritus above the top gates and where the bywash normally is has been totally washed away.

Then the penny dropped with me. Figure of Three Locks is east of Huddersfield and west of Wakefield, making the only currently navigable route into Huddersfield the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. My show in the summer is in Huddersfield, then a week later in York. We’d planned on mooring in Huddersfield for the production week and then cruising to York. Right now to do this we’d need to go back through Standedge Tunnel and cross the Pennines by the Leeds Liverpool Canal. As much as this would be a lovely cruise to York it would take us far too long (109.5 hours) in the window between shows!

Of course things may change between now and the summer. So we will be keeping a close eye on the stoppage notices over then next few months. Currently it looks like I’ll be commuting to work.

0 locks, 0.68 miles, 2 bags coal, 1 straight, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 gas bottle, 4 snowy moments, 2 soups, 4 sideways trees, 1 penny dropped, 109.5hrs instead of 27hrs, 2 boaters waiting to see what happens, 4 days till the next named storm!

Sightings. 10th February

BUMingham

A few days ago we decided to ask about our recorded sightings for the last year. C&RT have number checkers who walk the towpaths and record the position of boats along the navigation. Your position is identified to a particular kilometer. This is so that they can check you are moving in accordance to the terms and conditions of your licence. As Continuous Cruisers we need to move every 14 days to a new place and be on a bona fide navigation, not just going back and forth in one area.

Huddersfield

We’ve never worried about covering enough miles to satisfy our licence. Last year we covered 1199 miles and so far this year we’ve achieved 120, some boats struggle to cover 20 miles in a 12 month period. So at times we get referred to as Proper Continuous Cruisers.

Our request was put in out of interest and returned a few days later, the last time we did one was when we were on NB Lillyanne in 2015.

Huddersfield Narrow

It’s interesting where you don’t get number checkers. In 2015 we had no sightings at all on the Huddersfield Narrow or Broad Canals (even though we’d booked to go through Standegde Tunnel), yet we got spotted twice in one day on the Erewash Canal.

Our report this time misses out our trip up the Stainforth and Keadby Canal even though we booked to go through Cromwell and Keadby Locks. No sightings either on our way to or from Sheffield, the flight into the city also has to be booked. We were then picked back up at Goole.

Manchester

Periodic sightings on our way over the Rochdale Canal to late April, but then nothing until we reached Rugby at the beginning of June. From here there are sightings down into London and then Hanwell before we headed onto the River Wey and Thames which are not Canal and River Trust waters, so we disappeared for a couple of months.

Paddington

On the Kennet and Avon we were spotted at regular intervals, three times whilst cruising. I don’t remember the notes on whether we were moored or cruising back in 2015. The number of sightings on the K&A wasn’t surprising as it’s a popular canal with mooring difficulties. There were rumours when we were there, that the local boaters know when the number checker will be round, so they move onto a 48 hr mooring shortly after the checker has been through. Their number is checked the following week and they push off early the next week before they get checked again. This enables them to stay in one place for two weeks and not just the 48 hrs!

Bristol

The next sightings were once Mick got off the Thames in November and we were stranded between Oxford and Thrupp for a while due to flooding. Whilst we were there we talked to the local Enforcement Officer and our over stay was allowed.

No sightings during December and we’ve only been spotted twice since we’ve been in Birmingham.

All very interesting for us.

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.

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

Vampires and Elephants. 22nd January

Bumble Hole to Hawne Basin to Bumble Hole

The temperature had risen overnight and despite it being a touch foggy this morning there was no ice on the stretch we were moored. Waiting an extra day had saved some of our blacking.

Bumble Hole

We pushed over to the water point and topped up the tank, making use of being on the port side we also emptied out the yellow water into a container. The Conservation Centre was busy and a young chap stopped to ask Mick the usual questions. People were having cuppas looking at the displays and enjoying being out in the open air.

Lots of high-vis appeared. The first few picking up litter, they were volunteers. The next group included the lad who’d been talking to Mick, they had spades, brooms and swapped sides of the canal where another chap put on an orange top. These chaps waved their tools at the edges of the path just counting down the hours they had to do of Community Payback.

Reversing back to the junction Oleanna was spun round and now faced the route to Hawne Basin, new water for everyone on board. A short distance on we could see a chap wearing a life jacket holding a tablet, he was trying to look over new fencing that had been put around a new housing estate. We had to ask him what he was looking for. ‘I’m trying to get access to a weir to check it, but this new fence is in the way.’ He continued to walk round eventually finding a hole in the mesh fence which he could get through, obviously the developer has omitted to leave access for C&RT leaving the chap to scramble through a hole made by locals.

We pootled onwards wondering what the area would have been like 100 years ago. Busy and smokey guaranteed. Along the towpath of the Dudley No 2 are cut out information boards. Local characters and places are explained in a few lines.

Pull that chain

Doulton originally produced terracotta and engineering bricks here but moved on to specialise in glazed sanitary ware. The works closed in the early 20th C and were demolished in the 1970’s. (More info here)

Eliza Tinsley still a company name now

Eliza Tinsley. Following the death of her nail making husband Thomas in 1851, Eliza continued to run the business and began to make chain. Known locally as ‘The Widow’ she made a name for herself as being a fare and knowledgeable business woman. By 1871 she employed around 4000 people making nails, chains, rivets etc. She retired in 1872, but the business continued turning to mechanisation and concentrating on chain making for the booming ship building industry and mining. The company has since branched out expanding with demand. (More info here)

Elephants!

When travelling circus’ came to the area Elephants were often found frolicking in the canal. That must have been a sight as you headed towards them with your fully laden boat! The sculpture trail was made by local artist Luke Perry.

Gosty Hill Tunnel

After a couple of miles we’d reached Gosty Hill Tunnel. Here the entrance is very narrow and shallow. The sign says passage should take around 10 minutes, we didn’t believe it as our progress was already very v e r y slow!

That’s a big change in height

The tunnel is only 509 m long but is very narrow. Head height varies quite a bit, more than enough height to stand tall at the helm then two lower sections where stooping is your only option. The northern end starts off high with the change comes a large white line and a portrait of a Vampire.

A Vampire!

In 2017 a boat managed to get wedged in the tunnel by two logs. They had no way of getting free, presumably they were in the part with little head room. No phone signal, so all they could do was wait for another boat to come and help them. Their wait was around 20 hours in the dark. I wonder what the rescue boat thought, how long had they waited for the tunnel to clear before entering?

The only ventilation shaft

Today all we had was some plastic packing that made a crunching noise as we passed through v e r y slowly.

What a busy place this would have been 100 years ago

A different world when we popped out the southern end. Large brick walls angled away from us with large arched openings. Major industry obviously. A sign for Stewarts and Lloyds sits in an old arch giving a hint to the industry here. The two largest manufacturers of steel tubes in great Britain amalgamated in 1903. By 1967 the company had become part of British Steel.

The same stretch back in the 60’s

A short section of online moorings brings you to the entrance to Hawne Basin a very sharp turn under a narrow bridge.

Entranceto the basin

Mick managed without touching anywhere, but it looks like many don’t! Across the way was the service mooring as we positioned ourselves a very friendly chap came to say he’d be a few minutes.

A handy skip to moor to
Fill her up please.

Oleanna’s stern had to be tied to a skip then we were ready to fill with the cheapest diesel we’ve seen in a long time. At 63p a litre we topped the tank up right to the top. I kept an eye on the pump so it would stop bang on a litre. This I did at 100, a nice round number. If we’d have filled at Sherbourne Wharf it would have cost us another £22, that’s 1.75 boxes of wine!

Bang on full

More bags of coal, Multi, an untried brand for us, but at £7.80 for 20kgs who was complaining. Apparently it burns quite hot, so it’s best to mix it with our normal coal. We emptied our bins and enquired about staying the night, but it looked doubtful as boats had been shoehorned into every available space, no pontoons visible.

So we headed back out, pulling in where another boat was moored. We came to rest at a jaunty angle and decided that after lunch we’d move back to Bumble Hole.

Back in the tunnel

The tunnel was clear again so we set off through, this time timing ourselves. The old boatmen would set the boat going in the tunnel and then retire below to make themselves a mug of cocoa as little steering was required. Mick kept hold of the tiller though to save our nav lights coming a cropper. When we popped out the northern end my stop watch had just reached 17 minutes.

Through again

Approaching Totnal Bridge, Oleanna decided that she’d like to keep going straight! Not the required line as this headed us towards the bank. Mick managed to get her to turn a touch after the bridge which lined us up with a submerged something. We could hear it under the hull bumping along, then when it reached the stern we stopped dead!

A boat waiting to go through the tunnel

Forwards, backwards, we tried pushing sideways. No movement possible. There was a request that I should head to the bow, rearranging the movable ballast (me). This brought our stern up a touch, a bit of reverse got us closer to the side from where Mick managed to push the back further out, then a blast of the engine got us away. Phew!

Moorhens

We’d chosen to do our return journey at possibly the worst time to travel, school kicking out time. A group of lads stood on a bridge and we half expected to have projectiles throw at us, but they were too interested in smoking their aromatic tobacco to be interested in us.

Another part of the sculpture trail

Back at Bumble Hole we returned to where we’d been this morning. The towpath edges trimmed back, the trimmings of mud now brushed all over the tarmac.

0 locks, 6 miles, 1 reverse, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 1 wind, 1 full water tank, 1 load washing, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh box, 100 litres diesel, 63p! 6 bags coal, 1 tunnel twice, 2 mysterons, 1 waiting boat, 1 stuck stern, 6 engines, 0 shouting in tunnels, 0 shore leave.

PPE 21st January

Dudley Port Basin to Bumble Hole, Dudley No 2, BCN

A whole basin to ourselves

Our mooring had been a great improvement from last night, so much quieter. With the temperature that little bit higher we hoped for little ice on todays cruise. We pushed off and winded, making note of house numbers should we return and want a supermarket delivery.

Back over the tunnel entrance

Back out onto the Old Main Line we retraced our steps from yesterday, over the top of Netherton Tunnel to Brades Locks on The Gower Branch. On our first ever trip into Birmingham these were our first locks down onto the New Main line on NB Winding Down.

Brades Staircase

I hopped off to set the staircase for us, filling the top chamber and emptying the bottom one. As the water emptied out four coconuts swirled round below the bottom gates, bumping into each other, two made a break from the bunch and headed on down towards the next lock whilst the others continued round in circles.

Coconuts

This was where we first noticed coconuts in the canal, the Asian community place coconuts in the water as offerings as they would do in the Ganges.

With Oleanna in the top chamber Mick turned the engine off. It was time to check what we’d caught around the prop. Being a Tyler Wilson shell our weed hatch is totally separate to the engine compartment. This means that should the cover not get tightened enough we can’t fill the engine bay with water and sink. Our cover is below the canal surface so is also under the water.

Lifting the lid on our weed hatch

Mick undid the cover, a tight fit so it needs a bit of wellie with a lump hammer.

Cover off, see what comes out with the prop mate

Once off it was time to see what was around the prop. With use of our Prop Mate a very handy tool he managed to drag up and cut through quite a bit of plastic. But there was more down there, time for the pond gloves!

PPE Gloved up and ready

With a glove on Mick had to lean further over the weed hatch so that he could touch the prop. More plastic, fishing line and some plastic banding came out. A good collection, this won’t be our last whilst on the BCN.

Delving for the last bits
Urban Jellyfish

Now the prop was clear we could continue. As I filled one chamber from the other I spied a familiar shape down at the next lock.

What …
the heck?!

A cat sat staring into the friendly cover, it turned towards me flashing white bits. Hang on! Then it walked towards me, white toes! Hang on Hang on. The camera came out to zoom in. Was it? How could she be down there?! I turned to see Tilly sitting in the window, Phew!

Eyeing up the outside from inside

Oleanna is in desperate need of a wash. The other day I accused Mick of throwing a very muddy dog at the cabin sides whilst I’d been in Vienna. He denied this and I worked out that it most probably happened when the Fountains contractors were clearing the tree near Wast Hill Tunnel last week. I must get round to washing her, even if it’s just the windows!

Oleanna chased the coconuts down to the New Main Line and turned left to head along the straight before turning onto the Netherton Tunnel Branch. Time to get us ready.

PPE Life Jacket

The big torch was brought out the back, life jackets and all the cabin lights put on. I also found some Christmas fudge to give us a sugar boost whilst in the chilly tunnel.

Well it’s cold in tunnels!

Then a new job was added to tunnel mode, the Escape Pod. About bloo*in time they got my PPE out for going through tunnels, what do they think I’ve been shouting about all this time! Thank Paul for suggesting I might like my pod at the ready should the need arise. They have their life jackets on for when the outside gets stolen, so I should have my Escape Pod.

Tilly’s PPE

Netherton Tunnel is 2.776km long, wide with a towpath on both sides. It is straight so even from the junction you can see the light at the other end despite it being just over two miles away.

Going in, the other end just visible

Two way traffic is possible and pedestrians with suitable footwear for puddles can walk through too. Today we only saw one bike, no boats.

Coming out

We’d come across a few patches of cat ice this morning, would it be better or worse on the southern side of the tunnel. We bobbed out into the light again, no ice, brilliant.

Windmill End Junction, we turned towards Gosty Hill Tunnel and Hawne Basin. After about 100ft of ice we chose to stop. The ice was surprisingly thick here. Nobody had gone through to break it up to aid its melt. Diesel could wait another day.

Windmill Junction behind

Reversing back to the junction took a bit of doing with ice surrounding us. Mick winded and with the bow facing towards Blowers Green we carved our way through broken up ice to the bollards. Extra breaking of ice was required to get us into the side, but this was done with a boat hook.

Not too sure

Health and Safety deemed the ice to be broken up sufficiently for it to be safe for cats to explore. Tilly wasn’t too certain about this and clung to my ankles. Maybe it smelt too much of woofers, but she took some persuading to venture towards the trees.

Trees, every one of them smelt of woofer!

A quick comfort break was followed by a dash up a tree. Then we spotted our first snowdrops of the year, always a welcome sight. However Tilly soon returned to try to trip me up!

Snowdrops!

3 locks, 2 a staircase, 4.78 miles, 2 lefts, 1 right, 2.776 km underground, 1 wind, 2 types of ice, 12 coconuts, 2.5 hours not fully used, 1st snowdrops, 2nd helping of stew, 2nd dry day.