Category Archives: Tunnels

Magnet Fishing. 11th March

Shushions Bridge to High Meadow Aqueduct, Norbury Junction

Look what Mick caught this morning!

He’s caught something!

Our ash pan. Last night when he was emptying it into our ash can it slipped off the handle thingy and dived into the depths of the Shropshire Union. It apparently made a very good noise as it hit the water, instantly cooling down in a sizzle. Luckily our Sea Magnet did the job of retrieving it from the not too deep depths.

Careful
Yay! Our ash pan

A sea magnet is a very useful thing, when we were at Sandford Lock on the Thames, a shareboat moored nearby somehow dropped a side hatch door into the cut. Our magnet managed to hold it’s weight for it to be pulled out. You hope never to use it, but when the time comes they are very handy.

Tilly was allowed shore leave before we set off, she found her own breakfast and then returned for a snooze.

Stocking up for next winter

Whilst still in bed the first boat went past, then as we had breakfast several more. Has the boating season just suddenly started? We’ve seen more moving boats today than in the last few months! Just as we were pushing off one appeared through the bridge hole behind us, Mick pulled us back in quickly to let them go first.

Our route took us through more wooded cuttings, one boat had stopped to fill his hold with large chunks of tree, suspect he’ll keep warm for quite some time.

Magical yet scary

Looking back the arch made by the trees and ivy were a fairytale, sadly waiting for the next windy day to topple a few more of them.

A day boat came towards us, pulled too far over to the side and got stuck. Mick suggested going into reverse to help pull the stern away from the bank, they were soon free again.

Caution whilst cruising the Shropie

The approach to Cowley Tunnel, all 80 yards of it was a haze of branches just starting to turn green at their tips. Through the tunnel cut from stone with trees clinging on for dear life above.

A magical twiggy haze

We considered stopping here, but first checked out the two canalside pubs menus. With plans on meeting friends tomorrow I wanted to see if I could have anything other than steak or gammon. Sadly neither The Boat or Navigation menus on line gave many options, so we stuck to our original plan and continued.

Cowley Tunnel
Clinging on

Just through the bridge a dog ran back and forth, checking either end of it’s boat. We knew who this was, the plant boat. A couple of years ago we bought a Thyme plant from them which is still going strong, we told the chap, he was happy but it did mean no sale. I’m considering trying to grow strawberries this year, wonder when I should plant them? Have to look that up.

Mandarin Spring Roll Duck

Now on embankments we got views, views stretching to the Wrekin.

The Wrekin

Then we could see the end of moored boats, we pulled in behind one leaving no git gap. But then looked around. The wind was strong and we were under a large tree, at least we knew the size of gap to leave for a 58ft boat, we pulled back to avoid trees should they fall.

From one tree to the next

Tilly spent the afternoon up the trees. One route up, across three tops to a suitable route down again. Mick climbed into the engine bay again to finish off the engine service, this time the smelly fuel filters.

The Garden drawings finished

I got the drawing board out and spent the afternoon measuring and drawing up my design for The Garden. Three sheets of drawings, 1 for a carpenter, 2 for me. The whole show drawn up in a couple of hours.

I’ve not been in here before

0 locks, 6.06 miles, 80 yards of tunnel, 0 mysterons, 1 tasty friend, 1 mandarin spring roll, 1 very fit dog, 2 noninclusive menus, 1 changed fuel filter, 1 cleaned fuel filter, 2 outsides, 1 ground plan, 3 sheets working drawings, 2 much sewing to do, I’d best buy some fabric soon and start.

Skating

Tipton Medical Centre to Off Side mooring Wolverhampton

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

Figure Skating

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

Filters ready for the next service

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

Bye bye Tipton

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

Next time

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

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

The waterfall in Coseley Tunnel

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

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

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

Was that the way in, now all bricked up

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

A slightly better photo

Day 8.

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

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

Black Country Museum to Owen Street Bridge, Tipton

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

Open today

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

Inside the trap shop

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

The Pawnbrokers

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

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

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

Helter Skelter being dismantled
Trolleybus!!!!

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

There’s an Ampton down there somewhere!

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

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

Hard hatted and ready

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

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

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

Pixel par illuminations

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

Formations

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

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

The light at the end

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

No bread to buy other than in a pudding

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

Tara for now

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

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

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

At bloomin last!!!

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

Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory

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

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

Pies and more chips!

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

All gone despite the crust

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

Day 7.

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

Elbow Bumps. 3rd March

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

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

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

Recycled pots

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

Left please

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

They are in there somewhere

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

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

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

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

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

Another misleading instruction

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

Moored up at the back gate, almost

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

Bridge closed to boats when we arrived

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

Up and over this bridge tomorrow

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

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

Day 5. Morning

Houch mixed in, 10 dessert spoons discarded then fed

Lunchtime.

Extra feed showing signs of bubbles again

Evening.

Bubbles! Visible bubbling. Some discarded and fed

Ryding Over. 25th February

Coombes Bridge to Lower Ocker Hill Branch

A much quieter evening last night and we were up earlyish to start the day the only way we could with Blueberry Pancakes. A couple of years ago Jaq on NB Valerie had suggested using Bobs Red Mill’s 1 to 1 flour in baking, it’s that bit more expensive than the usual brands of gluten free flour, but I hunted down a bag. I haven’t used it that much and this morning noticed that it was just about to run past it’s best before date, so it went to the batter. It does make the best pancakes for breakfast.

Blueberry pancakes, yum

Once filled up we made ready to cruise, the sun was out, would we need all our layers? We put them on just in case and within an hour we were glad we had. The lady from Hawne Basin was walking her dog, we said we’d maybe see them on the Leeds Liverpool this summer, but she’d just been offered a job so would be staying put. But their friends on NB Lottie Jane would be up there for the festival in May. Could that be the NB Lottie Jane we had drinks on at the beginning of May last year with the NB Mr Blue Sky crew?

Going
going
gone

When talking to Paul the other week he’d suggested walking over the top of Gosty Hill Tunnel, I hopped off just before the south portal and waved Mick goodbye as he ducked into the dark. Yesterday it had taken us 18 minutes to travel through and the second half had taken around 10 minutes. I set the stop watch going.

A good place for a breather

Gosty Hill is pretty steep at the southern end but this gives you good views towards Dudley and Tipton. I knew I’d be quicker than Oleanna and at around 8 minutes stood for a rest against a brick structure in someones garden.

Nice climbing rose there

This is the top to the one and only air shaft from the tunnel (a mysteron). I hoped to be there to listen out for Mick passing below and maybe say hello as he did so. But sadly the traffic on the road was a touch too noisy and a very friendly electrician chatted to me as he got things from his van, his mate hadn’t believed him that boats still passed below.

There they are

After five minuets I finished walking down the hill to see Oleanna already popping out of the north portal, 17 minutes, positively speedy.

Mick made sure we lined up differently to bridges that had been problematical a month ago and coasted through without too much bother. Just a shame sleet seemed to be setting in now.

A right at Windmill Junction and through Netherton Tunnel for the last time this visit. We’d been wondering if our chosen route northwards would exclude tunnels until we reach Foulridge, but there are quite a few small one’s we’d forgotten about en route.

Sleet had turned to rain on the otherside of the tunnel. A right then a left brought us to the top of the Ryder Green flight. Most locks were full and we made steady progress downhill. Zooming in to Lock 7 I couldn’t see the usual drinkers but then all of a sudden they were there. No sign of the chap with dreds or the Polish chap from last time, but three new drinkers. One chap was very interested in how a lock worked, he was considering a boating holiday but would need to cut out the beer to save up!

Where are they?
There

I hopped on board. The next pound the supermarket trolley pound. If we were to get stuck I’d rather be able to make a cuppa and stay warm whilst we waited to be rescued. On the Asda side, trolleys poked their wheels up for air as we coasted along at a safe distance on a slightly jaunty angle.

The cone to warn you

The last lock landing was harder to pull into, but we got there in the end. Were the cans in the lock just one days consumption? I trod carefully around the gates as there was so much broken glass, you wouldn’t want to go falling over.

Just from today? Or longer?

Now we hoped luck would be on our side. I stood at the bow and waited to peek around the corner at Ockers Hill but an orange blob caught my eye. Was it? Would it stay put?

Hello!

A Kingfisher sat in a tree just a few feet away. As we levelled with it it swooped away to another perch and continued to show us the way for a few more hundred yards. Such beauty in amongst all the rubbish.

There was space, Hooray as we wanted to stop now. Tied up and Tilly let out we could warm up again.

Chocolate, mmmm!

This evening I made a batch of buckwheat flour pancakes. Four savoury with ham and strong cheddar which baked for a while in the oven. Then five sweat, chocolate, sugar and lemon and golden syrup. Not all together! All very nice indeed.

8 locks, 8.46 miles, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 1 straight, 2 tunnels, 8 mysterons, 1 seen from the top, 1 chilly day, 2021 May, 3 drinkers, 31 cans, 1 kingfisher, 1.5 hrs shore leave, 15 blueberry, 4 ham and cheese, 5 sweat, happy pancake day.

Dynamite! 24th February

Bumble Hole to Coombes Bridge

Last night we were aware of people on the towpath across the way from us. Nothing too rowdy, but when we heard a small bang Mick had a look out through the windows. As he moved from one end of the boat to the other we could hear someone running away. Then there was no sign of anyone again. We thought nothing of it.

Luke Perry land

This morning it was still breezy, was it too breezy to reverse to the water point and then back to the junction? Or should we go under the next bridge, wind and come back? As we would be going through Gosty Hill Tunnel Mick decided to reverse, meaning that the chimney would be on the towpath side whilst at the water point and he could swap the tall chimney for the short stumpy one. This also meant we could empty the yellow water tank with ease.

Waterpoint unusable without a male adaptor

The water point at sometime in the last month has had the very handy adapter removed, the bit you screw your connector onto before attaching your hose. We hunted through all our possible hose attachments to no avail. Then the chap from inside the visitor centre also had a routle through his box of bits. Sadly there was no means of attaching our hose today. This would have to wait.

As I got ready to push us back off I noticed something that certainly wasn’t on our bow yesterday when we’d moored up. Then another one.

Dynamite!!!

Sticks of dynamite! Admittedly mini sticks. The green fuse hadn’t ignited the sticks thank goodness, but maybe this is what we had heard last night. Someone throwing fire crackers at us!

Okay

At the junction we turned towards Hawne Basin and made our way along the Dudley No 2. The engine was put into neutral to coast under the bridges, especially those we’d had trouble with before. Then our progress slowed right down as we made our way into Gosty Tunnel.

Get ready to duck

This passage took us 18 minutes, I wonder if anyone does it in the 10 suggested on the C&RT sign at the entrance? Then we made our way towards Burton Bridge the narrow entrance to Hawne Basin.

Today the wind didn’t help, it didn’t help at all. Mick managed to negotiate the bridge very well but once in the marina it was impossible to cruise in and position the stern at the diesel pump. He brought us in facing the wrong way and then we let the wind push the bow out, the stern was pulled round by Mick and a lady, whilst I apologised to the couple of boats our bow bumped into.

Filling up

Diesel. A fill up of 90 litres. As we’d come in under the bridge we got the cheaper price 59p, 10p cheaper than if you come through the gate. So very much worth the trip. Three bags of coal the use of their water point and disposal of our rubbish. Here is where I laid Mick’s umbrella to rest.

Farewell
old friend

We’d planned on returning to Bumble Hole today, but we both decided that maybe we’d stay outside the marina here instead. We didn’t really want to be a target for a second night. So instead we watched the very first episode of Vera and I sorted out a mistake I’d done on a pair of socks, meaning unravelling around 100 rows! By the end of the evening they were back on track.

Squeezing our way back under the bridge

0 locks, 3.06 miles, 2 sticks unexploded dynamite, 0 attachment, 1 reverse, 2 lefts, 1 right, 1 wind, 90 litres, 10p discount, 1 empty wee tank, 3 bags coal, 0 rubbish, 0 umbrella, 1 full water tank, 1 quieter evening.

Blue Skies And Empty Pounds. 23rd February

New Inn Road Bridge to Bumble Hole

We took time over breakfast and waited to see if the forecast was correct, the rain was meant to stop at 9am. It did, but we left it a while longer just in case before pushing off.

The top lock was full with it’s gate half open, as was the second one down. I walked to have a look from the bridge and noticed that that was where the good news stopped, the next pound down was decidedly low, bordering on being empty.

That’ll need topping up

Tim and Tracey had said they’d had to fill pounds the other day when they came up the flight so I decided to have a walk down to see if this was the only pound. Mick lifted paddles and started to fill up from above. The pound between locks 5 and 6 only had a few inches of water in it, this would take a touch more than just a couple of locks full.

So will that!

I phoned Mick to let him know we’d be needing water further down the flight, then walked to the bottom lock to check everything was closed, it was. By lock 5 there is a bridge hole where I could count 14 brick courses above the puddle that lay at the bottom of the canal. These would be around 4 inches each, Oleanna’s draught around 2ft 7inches. So we would need to fill the pound so that at most 4 bricks showed, this would still be lower than the marks on the wall suggested the pound normally sits at. Hopefully this would be enough for us to move from one lock to the next.

I will always read this as CR&S

All the lock gates were closed, then paddles at both ends opened. Once the level was up to four bricks I started to walk back up the flight closing all the bottom paddles and leaving the top ones open on the upper locks, so that they would fill as we descended. I most probably could have done this with all of the locks but if someone started to head up they might not notice an open paddle and we’d be back to filling pounds again.

Into the top lock

It had taken about half an hour to sort levels, thank goodness the pounds weren’t all that big, and we could start to work our way down. Mick closed top gates and would lift a paddle on the bottom gate whilst I walked down to open the next gate and make sure the lock below was already filling, then walk back up to set Oleanna free and close the gate.

Is that some sunshine?

On reaching the bottom pound the lock of water brought the level up to three bricks, just enough to get us over the cill and slowly into the next chamber, in hindsight another bricks worth would have been good.

Out the bottom

Once out of the stinky bottom lock we swung a right. No horn blowers today, although there were a couple of chaps walking around in high-vis, maybe just keeping an eye on things.

BLUE sky!

When the M5 yielded we got to see the sky. It was a funny colour, a sort of blue! It’s been a while since we’ve seen blue sky and white fluffy clouds. Almost a lovely day if the wind would just calm down a touch.

Under and over again

This visit to the area we’d not been up or down the Spon Branch and it’s such a good name ‘SPONNNNNN!!!’ that we just had to go down the locks. At Spon Lane Junction the canal is wide to enable the almost 330 degree turn to face the locks. This should have been okay, but the wind had different ideas and kept pushing us this way and that. Eventually we got close enough to the side for me to hop off and open the gate.

Trying to turn at Spon Lane Junction

Double bottom gates again, the top one with a handy bridge, but the other two on the branch only have a walkway on the gates without a handrail. No kicking these gates open and I don’t hop from an open gate to a closed one, only one thing to do walk round! Luckily my assistant on Oleanna had positioned the boat hook within reach so once Oleanna was clear of the gates he could push the off side gate closed, saving a trip round.

Going down

A couple of muffins helped to fend off starvation as we made our way back along the New Main Line and turned at Dudley Port Junction to face Netherton Tunnel. Up on Tividale Aqueduct we could just make out a moving boat, the only one we saw all day, we waved but no wave came back.

Turning towards Netherton Tunnel

Then we were plunged into the darkness of the tunnel. Two torches followed us and towards the southern portal four bicycles headed in, none with any lights. Popping back out into day light and sunshine we pulled in to the moorings, water could wait for tomorrow, lunch couldn’t.

Out the other side

Tilly had a good sniff around, climbed a few trees, but the whole place smells too much of woofer to be really good. A lad on a motorbike could be heard zooming around the area, luckily Tilly had taken to sitting in the pram cover for when he came past at speed. We all decided that maybe it would be better for her to be indoors.

Tree!!!

9 locks, 6.38 miles, 5 straights, 1 right, 2 lefts, 2 empty pounds, 14 to 3, 0 work for DPD today, 1 tunnel, 7 mysterons, 1 annoying motorbike, 2 muffins, 1 huge joint of roast pork with excellent crackling.