Category Archives: Narrowboat Life

On Your Toes. 25th January

Pelsall Junction to Pelsall Junction

Yesterday they spent the whole day moving the outside, no chance for a snooze whilst they had tea and certainly no chance of a game of pen before they got up either! This morning however things returned to normal, for a while. Then they sprung out of bed put their outside clothes on and pushed it away!

No breakfast!! Well I don’t blame them, somehow an extra little biscuit had made it’s way into my bowl this morning and I was a touch dubious about it.

Keeping on my toes round here

The outside was spun round and retied. Time to head off and explore. ‘Six and a half hours!’ Except in this outside you have to keep very much on your toes. There are so many woofers walking their humans that I just can’t relax. They come from there, there, over there and some more from even there!

Nearly at the trees

I almost managed to get to the nearest trees once, but gave up in the end and just came to sit in my escape pod or on the back deck.

Tom went off to get a newspaper and She got on with numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. Well I thought there were lots, but apparently there used to a lot more of lots of numbers. At one point today She thought she’d lost lots of numbers, that wasn’t good. I tried helping find them but only got short shrift as I tried to jump in one of the cupboards where they might have been hiding.

Trying to stay out of the outside and out of the way

Eventually she found them, in the last place she looked. They’d been hiding in an envelope under the TV and they’d all already been accounted for!

Lots of numbers

When Tom came back he got short shrift too! He wanted to talk, but She was having none of it even if he had just bought a new ash can with a lid.

From one of the two hardware shops in Pelsall

He did something with a few numbers and said that would do. But She kept on with them for ages longer, apparently this is because of Aladdin. She then logged on to the Gateway and read lots, we were told to be quiet, I wasn’t making any noise anyway!

After a while she smiled again. ‘No Tax’. I don’t know why She’d spent so long She already knew that. They had a yummy tea of stirred vegetables and I just got to look at the funny little biscuit again and do my best to eat round it.

Happy faces now

0 locks, 100m that way, 1 wind, 100m this way, 4 spikes left waiting, 1 Saturday paper, 1 new ash can with lid, 2018/2019 tax return done, class 2 NI paid, 1 scaredy cat, 1 worming pill maturing in the bowl.

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.


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!!


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.

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)


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!


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.


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!


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.

Wine Rationing. 20th January

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.

Bloomin speaker!

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.

Interesting map upstairs in Sainsburys

Here is a link to C&RT website where you can find out more information about the elections. In brief

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.

Neatly stacked boxes

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.

Sherpa Brompton

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.

Brades Hall Locks

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.

Cutting through thin ice

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.

Turning into the basin

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!

Where shall we go?

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.

What is this?

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!

Time To Explore. 19th January

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to High Bridge, Old Main Line, BCN

The New Main Line straight

Our mooring in the city centre hadn’t been too noisy, just the comings and goings from the Arena and the Sunday morning runners pounding past. But we’ve been here long enough, time to move on and do some exploring. We currently have a plan which may change due to circumstances, so we’ll see how we do.

A Full stop would help this sign make better sence

We’d planned to explore the BCN a couple of years ago, but with temperatures soaring and a panto to design we opted out and headed for trees away from the city. Will we succeed this time? It’s winter and the temperature, at the moment, isn’t conducive to long days at the helm and may well mean we get iced in somewhere. We can take our time and keep a close eye on the weather.

The north entrance to the Soho Loop closed off

With padded trousers on we pushed off and headed north west along the New Main Line. We’ve been along this stretch a few times, but things change. Quite a lot of the graffiti has changed. Long lengths of wall have been painted black and artists and (in my opinion) none artists have made their marks. I like good graffiti and today some stuck out, the best being from Pulp Fiction with John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson pointing their guns at us as we left the city.

The Pink Panther
Pulp Fiction

As navigator around the BCN you have to keep on your toes as their are so many loops and dead ends. But I managed to keep us straight until we reached Smethwick Junction where we turned right to head up Smethwick Locks.

Smethwick Junction

Pulling in below the bottom of the three locks Mick had difficulty pulling Oleanna in. Was there something round the prop? Was the bottom too close to the top? She certainly didn’t want to do as requested, so it took a bit of back and forth. But this was just as well as I spied the bow of a boat coming into the bottom lock from above.

One coming down

I walked up and the chap was just opening up the second paddle to empty the lock, he walked back and climbed on the back of his boat, with only one gate to open at the bottom I could do this for him.

First Lock of the year

Mick brought Oleanna into the lock, our first of the year. She rose up and once I’d dropped the paddles Mick opened the gate and I walked up to the next lock leaving him to close up behind.

The sun cast long shadows, but I was glad of standing in the sunshine as out of it even my well insulated legs were getting cold. No turning down the Engine arm which crosses the New Main line here (link to Lillian’s trip down the arm) we carried straight on.

Entrance to the Engine Arm

We passed through the 103 yards of the Summit Tunnel and then the canal takes the same course as the M5 for a while.

Coming out of Summit Tunnel

The road busy overhead and covered in scaffolding. At Spon Lane Junction three locks take boats down onto the New Main Line, but we veered leftwards and continued under the motorway.

Stewarts Aqueduct

Passing over Stewart Aqueduct we were part of a criss cross of bridges. Below The new Main Line, then us on the aqueduct on the Old Main Line, the railway just ahead and soaring over the lot of us the M5.

The old bridge faring better than the M5

We continued to follow the M5 in the shade. Our route far older than the motorway overhead. Off to the left Oldbury Locks take a branch of the canal up to Titford Pools, but we continued straight on, passing a few moored boats on the off side and pulling in just short of High Bridge where there were bollards to moor to.

After tying up we stopped and had a quick check of the area. Numerous parked cars behind a fence that was bound to have gaps in it. A car sales place, loads of rubbish in amongst the trees and scrub, who knew what loitered there, possibly stuff that would be bad for a cat. Decision made Tilly would be grounded whilst we were here.

More M5

Whist we travel through urban areas we tend to have all the doors locked as a precaution. Unlocking the stern doors I was kack handed and Tilly saw a moment of opportunity and went for it! Damn!! NO sorry I’m busy! Too busy to talk to you! So much to do! She wouldn’t come, so I just followed her with the intention of a rugby tackle should the moment arise. Two crows came and shouted at her which helped, then a chap on the towpath also assisted by just existing. Time to head home! It’s just not safe enough to go to the loo round here.

It being a Sunday it was a touch too late to go to the nearby Sainsburys for a stock up shop. This did have it’s downside. We’d left the hustle and bustle of Birmingham and now found ourselves by a car dealership who blast out a local radio station for all the world to hear.

They’d close soon, it’s Sunday. 

Mick went into their reception and was told that they’d close at 5pm and the music would go off then starting again at 8.30am. That was bearable.

6pm came. It hadn’t stopped. I think we were now upto date with chart music. It continued. A phone call to them, just to check it wouldn’t be going all night. No it would stop in about an hour. 

At 7.30pm finally the thumping noise ceased, we let out a cheer. Thank goodness, but what time will it start again in the morning?

3 locks, 5.49 miles, 7 straight ons, 2 rights, 1 left, 1 escapee, 2 crows, 5hrs of constant thumping repetative music, 1 visit, 1 phone call, 2 boaters about to commit homicide, 1 bored cat, 1 roast chicken, 1 shopping list compiled, 3 coconuts, 1 Countryfile weather forecast looking promising.