Angelsey Basin to Riddian Bridge, Daw End Branch BCN
Despite drizzle and a touch more wind than we’d expected we moved onwards today. Retracing ourselves back to Catshill Junction we passed the two Fountains men tidying up the towpath again. One trimming the hedge, the other cutting the grass and then blowing away the cuttings.
Along this stretch is a line of painted stones, done by the local school, I’d wondered what would happen when the chaps arrived at that stretch. It looks like the stones were just driven over by the first tractor which pushed them down so hopefully the second one will just skate over the top not affecting the painting.
At Catshill we turned left onto the Daw End Branch. For most of our miles today we seemed to be on an embankment above houses and light industry.
At Walsall Wood Bridge a group of volunteers were hard at work picking up rubbish, scraping the moss of the edging tiles and cutting back trees that were trying to take hold in the brickwork. All the time a very tall fisherman looked down on them. The sculpture is by Luke Perry (the same chap who did the sculptures along the Dudley No2 canal) and is part of a sculpture trail through Walsall Wood. Originally the sculpture had a fish hanging from fishing line, a lucky catch but sadly the fish is long gone.
There is also some heavier industry. Through the trees we could see what could only be a large mound of spoil, was it from the coal industry? Rubbish? A large hole alongside suggested something was being dug up. Further investigation suggests it was a clay quarry used for making bricks.
The large McKechnie Metals Ltd building now stands empty, no glass in the windows, just distorted skeletal metal framework. McKechnie Brass was the last brass extrusion manufacturing company in the country. They used scrap brass to produce brass rods and profiles for alsorts of products including pins for plugs, padlocks, lift tracks and overhead conductive wire for the railway industry. Sadly the firm went out of business in 2013, having accrued millions in debts. The site is set for redevelopment, but the 116 page document I found was going to take too long to read to find out what exactly the site will be used for.
We had our eyes set on mooring at Park Lime Pits Nature Reserve. If we found a space away from the car park and railway line Tilly would have a fine time. There are rings here, but there was also a cruiser tied to them. We tried a little further along with no luck.
I stood at the bow watching the depth of water as we went, hoping the bottom of the canal would drop out of view suggesting there was enough depth to pull in. We tried several times and eventually after half a mile found one spot that apart from the last foot was okay. Here we were surrounded by fields and not too many woofer walkers.
I really wanted someone to come out and play. I kept coming back to ask them, but they wanted to sit and finish off their smelly cheese!
A pot of butternut squash goulash was popped on the stove to bubble away all afternoon whilst I tried to do a bit of work collecting reference photos for costume designs for The Garden. Have to say emails from the Viennese English Theatre kept distracting me somewhat. Wonder if anything will come of them?
Pelsall Junction to Brownhills Colliery Basins to Brownhills Services
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
We now wound our way along past houses and light industry. Evidence of old arms scarce now they have been built over.
Some places were more rural, Mick spied two huge deer in amongst the trees, they were the size of donkeys.
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.
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.
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.
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.
High Bridge to Tiverdale Quays (Dudley Port Basin)
So much for 8.30! The music started at 7.45am, just as loud as it had been all yesterday afternoon. It’s a shame we weren’t in a residential area. At least it meant we didn’t lounge around in bed for too long.
Over breakfast we got distracted. An email from C&RT came in regarding the Council Election. Today we had been invited to place our votes for the Election of 4 Private Boating Representatives. We clicked the link, pulled out the candidates we already knew we wanted to vote for and then re-read the other candidates spiel. Not being ‘first past the post’, you put the candidates in order of preference, you can put all the candidates in your list, or as many/few as you like (as long as you vote for four people). We put six in order of preference. The comments on social media later in the day suggested that the original email should have explained a touch about the Council and what it does, also about the voting process.
The Council is responsible for appointing Trustees and has the power to dismiss Trustees. While Trustees are responsible for determining policy and strategy, Council has an important role in helping to shape policy, raising and debating issues, providing guidance and perspective and acting as a sounding board for Trustees
Our shopping list was reorganised and we set off with our sherpa Brompton to Sainsburys. As I started Mick headed to Homebase to buy a couple of hose connectors as we were down to one and that one lacked a washer.
Our first reasonable sized shopping trip since Christmas, we were down to one last box of wine under the back steps. If we’d been getting a delivery we’d have bought six boxes, but today we only got four. Several reasons for this. Our sherpa can carry a lot, but two more boxes?! Our current tenant in the house is in arrears with her rent, so our bank balance is shrinking. Also we should really start having two dry days a week again, both for finances and our health.
Once we were back time had slipped away. Our planned destination for the day was now too far away. So we discussed what to do, one thing was certain we’d be moving on away from the noise.
A quick look at our maps and a large M showed itself about an hours cruise away at Dudley Port Basin. We pushed off leaving the radio shouting to itself for the rest of the day and evening.
Along the Old Main line we soon encountered thin ice. It rippled as we cruised by, then dull pinging noises started to happen at stretches where the ice covered the width of the canal. Maybe we should go down Brades Locks today, we’ve seen people moor below before. But no we kept to our new plan, carving our way further North West past the locks and over the entrance to Netherton Tunnel.
Soon the opening on the left showed itself. A housing estate surrounds a large basin where lots of boats could moor. We chose the far corner away from cars and in the sunshine, the whole basin to our selves. Oleanna was pulled back to the next spot after we noticed the amount of dog shit just where we’d step off the boat. Nice!
A quick health and safety check and the area was deemed okay for cats. We had no idea what lay behind hedges and fences so would have to trust Tilly.
A very large green box. What’s inside that?! Tom came and made me jump, he closed the side so I couldn’t investigate anymore, spoil sport! Brick walls, but just the right height to get up, a few sideways trees to explore too. Better than BUMingham, but there are better outsides than this one.
We were relieved that Tilly’s path didn’t cross with two other cats who were out for their afternoon stroll, one looked like an elderly lady with cut back fur. I suspect should Tilly have had a confrontation she would have come out on top, but we didn’t want any cat fights.
The forecast for the next week is looking a touch warmer, so hopefully ice shouldn’t become a problem. But our freezer is stocked, nearly three weeks worth of meals. Yesterdays roast chicken is now striped and frozen. It will do us another three meals and the bones have been bubbled up for stock during the afternoon and evening on top of the stove, so that’s either soup or risotto already half made.
0 locks, 1.92 miles, 1 straight, 1 over, 6 votes, 1 change of plan, 4 boxes not 6, almost 2 months owing, 2 belts to tighten, 0 pixel left, 1 coconut, 7.45! 1.5 hours shore leave, 2 dollops of pooh!
Cast Iron Roving Bridge to Cast Iron Roving Bridge
Just as we were about to tuck into a late breakfast a familiar face bobbed down to say hello at our side hatch. Paul from Waterway Routes was heading off for the day to do some data checking for his maps. We arranged to meet up later in the day.
Tilly came and went whilst I made use of the washing machine. Mick headed into town to pick up some new glasses, he was a touch concerned that I might not like them as I’d not been with him when he chose new frames. The heavens opened and I was glad I was having a lazy day.
For lunch we set free one of the cheeses I’d brought back with me. Pixel had been loosely vacuum packed as it was so squidgy. It took a while to cut off an end, I then realised that the whole cheese was wrapped in muslin and it should have been unwrapped completely. But the liquid state that it was inside would have required a bowl! So hoping that the muslin would contain it we continued cutting it away, bit by bit.
Verdict. Ohhh yummy, gooey, slightly ‘prickelnd’ on the tongue. In fact after a couple of slices of my GF Austrian bread spread with it my tongue was just starting to go a little bit numb! We’ll try and eek this one out as it was most definitely a treat cheese.
Mick’s glasses are okay, bigger than his previous ones, Dame Edna meets Ben Sherman, apparently this is more modern and cool!
Paul popped in for a cuppa late afternoon when he’d returned after cycling part of the Trent and Mersey. Tomorrow he would be cycling from Lincoln to Boston to check data, good job he has an electric assisted Brompton, just hope the wind stays in his favour for the day.
Saturday morning, a bright start to the day, but we loitered in bed for a while, well I have been working hard! Mick headed off for our Saturday newspaper and after a leisurely breakfast we decided to go on a little pootle.
With the next week looking like overnight temperatures will be low, we need to stock up on essentials. Earlier in the week Mick had pulled in at Alvechurch to enquire how much their gas was. At £29.90 Mick bought two bottles! Coal was the next thing, so we pulled along to the service point outside the Distillery.
Another boat was topping up and emptying when we arrived so we pulled in and waited our turn. We’re hoping to reach Horne Basin, where the diesel is cheap, in a couple of days so we only stocked up on coal. Only three bags as it was £13 for 25kg a touch more than we’re used to.
The water tank was filled, the tap here has good pressure, one to remember! As we pulled away more boats were arriving, quite a busy spell.
We decided to have a little jaunt a touch further along the canal to turn round. We passed the boat that runs it’s engine late at night sat not much further on. One end of the Soho Loop is closed at the moment so we chose the Icknield Loop instead.
Blimey it was chilly out there, the sun low in the sky making it hard to see. The island here is becoming a new neighbourhood according to the developments website. Car free with modern terraced houses, green spaces (currently concrete and mud) and a widebeam sales office.
Coming back onto the Main Line we turned right and headed back into town, turning down the Oozells Street Loop so that we could turn back on ourselves to have the hatch towpath side where we’d been moored before. The left turn out of the loop was a touch tight, but Mick managed it without hitting anywhere.
After a cheesy lunch we walked into town. A bag of unwanted items was donated to Cancer Research, this has now freed up space for this years Christmas presents. Boots was visited for an adjustment to Mick’s new glasses as they were tending to slip down his nose. A food shop for a couple of days and some model making materials for my next project, I have a model box to make soon.
Back on Oleanna I browned some shin beef added veg and popped the cast iron pot onto the stove to bubble away the remainder of the afternoon. Whilst in Vienna I longed to cook for myself easily avoiding gluten in my diet. I’d dreamt of cooking on the stove top. Later on jacket potatoes went inside the fire box and yoghurt dumplings were sat on top of the stew. It’s good to be home again.
0 locks, 2.14 miles, 2 straights, 2 lefts, 2 rights, 1 liquid cheese, 3 bags coal, 12 loads washing, 1 full water tank, 2 visits from Paul, 1 stew, 12 dumplings, 1 flummoxed cat, 1 set of needles knitting again.
Tardebigge Top Lock to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham, BCN
Out in Vienna it was time to pack my bags. One thing left to do, visit the cheese shop on Langegasse that I’ve been walking past and inhaling for the last ten days.
Many cheeses in this shop are kept in cabinets for safety, our safety. Many of the cheeses in this shop look like given half a chance they would take over the world with only Dr Who capable of stopping them. With so much to choose from and a taxi booked I couldn’t sample too many, which maybe was a good thing.
I’m not too fond of Emmental or Gruyere so that immediately ruled out half of the shop. The chap helped me and gave me a couple of samples. I like goats cheese, but in Britain you don’t often get a hard goats cheese. So as I was in Austria I had to have one from the mountains, ‘High on a hill lived a lonely goatherd’. It was tasty, sold.
Then a softer cheese. No chance to taste this one as they are individual cheeses that have a whole culture of their own. Sold! The chap vacuum wrapped them for me so that my bag wouldn’t be making it’s own way back to the UK.
My taxi was early, the driver arriving just as I checked out and was asking where to wait. Soon I was whisked out to the airport to await a delayed first flight to Munich.
I’d booked a window seat, but at the gate I was issued with a new seat in the middle! This was a shame as there were fantastic views over the Austrian Alps, not much snow though!
Meanwhile back in Birmingham.
Mick and Tilly have been avoiding storm Brendon. On Monday once Chris had left to visit more boat builders Mick filled the water tank and headed northwards again. Passing NB Sola Gratia, under the M42 he chose a suitable place without trees to spend Monday night by Bridge 68.
Tuesday they decided to head into Birmingham setting off early to beat the weather. At 9am they reached the southern portal of Wast Hill Tunnel. The interior of Oleanna already in full tunnel mode, hoping that with all the lights being on this would keep Tilly from fretting. I suspect he just timed their passage well and she was busy having her morning snooze as he could hear no shouting at the back doors.
A mile and a half later they came back out into daylight. But what lay ahead?
There was a boat up against the towpath, pinned in my a fallen tree. Had the tree fallen onto the boat? Mick was about to try to nudge his way through when the owner came out. Last night he’d tried to do the same, but got stuck. Whether he was grounded or just held by the tree Mick didn’t know, but one thing was certain Mick was now stuck too!
The other boater had rung to report it to C&RT, another phone call wouldn’t hurt after all Mick had nowhere to go. He couldn’t get into the side so was just having to sit in the middle. Apparently C&RT staff were on route to access the situation.
Then the C&RT staff got held up by traffic so the contractors were called and sent anyway. They arrived with long handled chain saws and proceeded to climb onto the roof of the stuck boat. Helmets, high-vis but no life jackets! The roof of the boat was wet and had no grabrail or anything should they slip to stop them. They chopped and chopped away at the tree. Soon the trapped boat was free.
Mick offered the bow of Oleanna as a platform to carry on working from, then they moved to the stern to clear more. At last Mick and Oleanna could continue on their journey into Birmingham. The 8.5 miles had taken around 7.5 hours and Mick had got a touch wet in the process.
Location is always important. So I insisted on some greenery in the BUMingham outside. Tom obliged and tied up the one with short sideways trees. Thank goodness it wasn’t just bricks again!
So back in Munich.
I should have had an hour and a half waiting for my next flight. There were things to do, look at the shops and restaurants, then eat the quinoa salad I’d brought with me from Vienna. The new (well to me new) passport control had to be cleared, this I am now a dab hand at after being rejected on my outbound flight. Hold your passport down on the screen with your hand so that it can be read!
I headed to the gate, not quite at the furthest point of the airport, but almost. Staff arrived, then announced that there was a delay. This extended and we finally were allowed through the boarding gate as our plane should have been pushed back. There was no plane, just a bus to take us out to our Star Alliance A319-100, here we crossed the tarmac and climbed the steps to find our seats.
With everyone on board we taxied round to run up along the side of the runway. The pilot swung us round onto the tarmac, would this be a rolling start? We tootled along for a little while straightening, then the engines roared up and the wheels began to speed up. Time to say goodbye to Europe….
Except the engine soon powered down! There had only been a short blast of throttle, now we were trundling along the runway. An air hostess quickly came on the tannoy and said that an announcement would be made shortly by the captain as to why we hadn’t taken off. They don’t use the term abandoned as this might cause alarm!
Once we’d turned off the runway the Captain spoke to us, something about the engines not being in sink, I’m not sure what he was saying as a group of English men were too busy joking with each other about finding the nearest underware shop! One thing we did all hear though was that he was going to go round and try to take off again.
This time we headed further up the runway, turned to face the tarmac and stopped. The engines roared and we set off, so far so good, we’d made it further than last time. Bye Europe… as the wheels lifted off the ground this time. Phew!! I had wondered if we’d have to change planes, be diverted to another UK airport, but thankfully we were on our way.
The sun soon set on the horizon turning the sky orange. After an hour and something the coast of main land Europe showed, lights twinkling below. Clouds covered the English coast, just the occasional glimpse confirmed we were over land again.
With half an hour to go we started to descend, the lower we got the bumpier it got. Bumpier and bumpier. The bumpyness kept on coming. We seemed to be getting lower, but would we be sent round again by air traffic control. There were a lot of houses getting closer, surely we must be about at the end of the run way!
As the runway lights came into view the plane crabbed it’s way towards the ground, was this still Storm Brendan? One wheel down, then the other, both now on the tarmac going slightly diagonally. As soon as the engines stopped their furious noise a round of aplause filled the plane, followed by more comments about underwear shops.
Only about half an hour late, I sailed through biometric passport control, my bag was about the tenth to appear on the conveyor. The cheese in my bag kept quiet so I exited arrivals through the green customes doors to see Mick stood holding his phone with my name flashing away in red, just in case I’d forgotten what he looked like!
0 locks, 14.16 miles, 1 wind, 2 much wind, 1 tree, 1 wet boater, 2 chain saws, £20 on cheese, 2 vacuum bags for safety, 1 taxi, 2 planes, 2 trains, 3 shuttles, 1 walk, 271 head nudges with Tilly, 16 very posh first night chocolates.