|This Month's Totals and Average|
|101.18 miles||66 locks||52.66 hrs||3.17 lmph|
Lovely hot sunny morning. After yesterday's heavy day, we decided to stay put and have a quiet day. Went for a slow walk to Lidl for stores. In the afternoon we pottered with routine chores and catching up.
Away promptly on another bright morning, saying goodbye to John & Judith. Turned left out of the Town Arm, continuing south on the Walsall Canal. Very weedy and a lot of rubbish - one trip down the weedhatch for a bag of rubbish, and one length of plastic removed from the rudder-post using a boathook. Passed the site of the junction with the Anson Branch (this connected to the Bentley Canal which ended up at Bentley Bridge, Wednesfield). At Moorcroft Junction, the Bradley Locks Branch used to join, leading to the Wednesbury Oak Loop east of Bradley workshops. Continuing on, we passed the Junction to the derelict Gospel Oak Branch, and Doe Bank Junction where the Tame Valley Canal joins. At this point we were onto brand new territory.
At Toll End Junction, the Toll End Communication used to head across towards Tipton, joining with the Tipton Green Canal which joined the New Main Line adjacent to Caggy's Yard, then on to Tipton Green at Coronation Park. We then arrived at Ryder's Green Locks, the real start of our trouble. We ascended Bottom Lock to find the next pound very low. Tried gently moving forward but, after going down the weedhatch twice in 100 yards and ending up sitting on the bottom, we called CRT for assistance. They arrived in 45 minutes and ran water down from the top. We let John & Judith know as we had heard they were following. They caught up just as we were getting on the move again. One of the CRT lads set the remainder of the flight so we soared up. We passed that on by drawing the bottom paddles and opening the gate for "Serena". Arrived at the top with "Serena" just behind. Although now considered to continue to the main line, the Walsall Canal actually ends at Top Lock, joining what used to be the Wednesbury Old Canal which ran from Spon Lane to Ridgacre (the old line from Top Lock to Ridgacre is now not recommended as it is overgrown with weed. We both continued to Pudding Green Junction.
Back on 'good' canal again, we parted with "Serena", them turning left for Cambrian Wharf, us turning right and heading for Dudley Port Junction where we turned left and through the Netherton Tunnel. At Windmill End, we moored for the night, exhausted.
|11.52 miles||8 locks||6.55 hrs||2.98 lmph|
Sunny morning, but with a cool breeze again. On the move fairly promptly, continuing westward. Weed again slowing us. Turned left at Birchills Junction onto the Walsall Canal. Very dirty with rubbish, particularly around Top Lock. Descended Locks 1 to 6 reasonably well, with rubbish really only causing difficulties at Top. Entered Lock 7 and started to empty it, only to find that the water was flooding the towpath. I had a long hike across the roads to get to the other end of the flood and empty lock 8 to try to drain off the excess. With the ground finally not a swimming pool, I found that the anti-vandal locks on the top gates would not release with my key - rang CRT and reported both problems. Brought Pat and "Paws" through Lock 7 ready to descend 8, and Pat went to make lunch while we waited.
CRT arrived just as lunch was served (so lunch had to wait), and they advised that some keys were not releasing locks properly. I can understand this with old keys getting worn, but mine was purchased from CRT only a few months ago, so suggest that it is the locks that are getting worn and need replacing.
Turned into Walsall Town Arm and headed through to the basin where we winded (pubs very noisy, even at this time in the afternoon). I got my belated lunch while Pat went for bread. We then elected to move out to the CRT pontoon as it would be slightly quieter away from the pubs. Big bladeful of plastic, and the bowthrust failed. Limped to the pontoon. Cleared the prop then started looking at the bowthrust. Saw "Serena" coming in so assisted them alongside and caught up the last few days. Bowthrust shelved for today.
|5.82 miles||8 locks||4.86 hrs||2.85 lmph|
Nice sunny start to the day, even if the breeze was a little cool. Woken fairly early by boats starting to leave (1st boat away was at 06:15). After breakfast, cleared the banner and bunting away, then took a quick walk up to Tesco for necessary stores. Pat then returned to town to use the launderette. We decided that we would just move back to Pelsall today to reduce the working day tomorrow and let other boats disperse.
After lunch, and with all the washing back up to date, we said farewell to John & Judith and let go. Reversed up to the services berth. Once "Paws" was suitably ready, we winded and headed back towards Pelsall. Slower run than outbound - level a little lower and weed slowing us more. Moored just west of Works Bridge.
|2.48 miles||0 locks||1.33 hrs||1.86 lmph|
Spent the weekend at the Brownhills Festival . Both mornings started damp and cool, but improved over the day.
I went up early on Saturday to assist in setting up (mostly gazebos), then did a two-hour stint on the IWA stand. After lunch we both took a wander along the stalls and trading boats, before heading across to the community centre to listen to a talk on the links between rail and canal in the Black Country area (which was excellent).
I went up early again on Sunday morning as there were some changes to those with stands, new gazebos needed to be erected, then we both went on to the Methodist Church for their morning service (made very welcome). Edwin was there as well. In the afternoon, we had John & Judith round for tea/coffee.
Very heavy rain overnight had eased to a steady drizzle by breakfast. On the move fairly promptly, heading eastwards for Brownhills for the BCN Society's celebration of 250 years of the canals coming to Birmingham. Better going today through the weed, but the duckweed seems to collect small (and some larger) bits of wood which then get round the prop - a lot of rattling, but fortunately no stoppages. Arrived at Brownhills mid-morning and were invited to moor alongside "Serena", then drop aboard for tea/coffee. Drizzle died out over the course of the morning. Had a quick chat with Edwin as we were heading back for lunch.
Sun finally getting through by after lunch. Went for a walk up into the town (after being collared by 'catering' Dot who had remembered Pat's scones from last year). Extra flour purchased! Chatted with several of the other boaters on the way back. Got the BCF banner and bunting up.
|2.40 miles||0 locks||0.97 hrs||2.49 lmph|
Another lovely day. Went for a short walk to collect prescriptions and a couple of odds & ends, then let go mid-morning and reversed out of the basin. Headed eastwards away from Bentley Bridge, but came to another abrupt stop after half an hour, just before Moat House Bridge. Down the weed-hatch, and found a sleeping-bag poking up through the hatchway. Fortunately, it had only 'plugged' the gap around the prop, not wrapped itself around it. It pulled free very easily, so on the move again after only about 10 mins.
Lunch on the move. Canal very dirty with rubbish and cut reeds, although the water itself was actually very clear where one could see it under the surface scum. The rubbish started to thin as we cleared Shortheath, but the blanket weed was starting to slow us down. No further stoppages before we arrived at Sneyd Junction (where the Wyrley Bank Branch used to join). Pulled in for services - got rid of the sleeping-bag.
Leaving Sneyd, we continued generally eastwards, passing Birchills Junction (we go that way when we return next Monday). Passed the junction with the now derelict Lord Hayes' Branch. This was once a private branch, but this end will probably be used as the new connection for the restored 'Hatherton' Canal. We continued as far as Pelsall North Common where we moored up for the night. Cloud had been building all afternoon, and a cool breeze had sprung up. Had a brief chat with Peter aboard "Solar Kingfisher" as he passed, also on his way to Brownhills.
|10.99 miles||0 locks||4.90 hrs||2.24 lmph|
The family returned shortly after breakfast. Had a great morning chatting, and playing with Aria. She ran off some of her energy on the grass areas. Aria got her lunch before they left for home. We'll see them again at the end of the cruising season.
After our lunch, went to Sainsbury's for a large storing. Have so far noted Christine on "Saddleworth Rose", Bob on "Bimble", Mike & Marion on "Lamprey", and "Constable" from last year, heading to the festival at Brownhills.
After another excellent night at Tividale Quays, we set off promptly, headed west. Turned in at the museum for services, then continued along the Old Line towards Wolverhampton. Passed the site of Bloomfield Junction where the original Old Line wound round (most now derelict, but still navigable from the other end as far as the Bradley workshops). This section formed the Wednesbury Oak Loop when John Smeaton created a shortcut by digging the Coseley Tunnel. Continued through the tunnel and passed Deepfields Junction, the other end of the Wednesbury Oak Loop. I had noted a number of little grebes (dabchick) between the two junctions, but there was also a lot of cut weed drifting around.
It was then that our luck changed. Just at Jibbet Bridge, I heard a horrible grinding noise from the shaft. Quickly getting into neutral, I drifted to the side and Pat managed off with a rope. Investigation found that the stern seal was red-hot. Pulled the bleeder pipe off and found only a trickle of cooling water. Checked the weed-hatch and found a large ball of the cut weed had mixed itself with some shredded plastic and wound itself round the propeller, cutting off the cooling supply. Fairly easily removed, and once cleared, re-checked the bleed tube finding good flow. Allowed it to flow for a time to cool the bearing, then put everything back together.
A total stop of about a half-hour, and with the bearing cool again, we gingerly moved off again. No apparent problems so, with lunch on the move, continued to Horseley Fields Junction and turned right onto the Wyrley & Essington. Eventually arrived at Wednesfield Junction and Bentley Bridge - no other boats in the basin (once the entrance to the Bentley Canal which connected to the Anson Branch of the Walsall Canal). Moored up to await the arrival of our family visitors.
Kenney, Louise and Aria turned up just before dinner time (a bit later than anyone had anticipated). We all went for dinner together to Cosmo World Food Buffet (all you can eat buffet, from worldwide cuisine, some cooked in front of you). Excellent selection and great taste. Aria was tired after two days at Alton Towers so they then went off to their B&B for the night - we collapsed, shattered! (don't know how they keep up that pace)
|6.66 miles||0 locks||2.60 hrs||2.56 lmph|
Another sunny morning, but with a slightly cooler breeze. Pat took a walk to Sainsbury's, then I walked down to St Paul's with BCF literature. Lunch aboard.
After lunch, let go and headed west out of Oozells Street Loop and continued towards Tipton. This time, we just did a straight run to Factory Locks, ascended, and turned left onto the Old Main Line. Having had such a good night at Tividale Quays, we decided to go again. Moored up just before dinner time.
|9.78 miles||3 locks||4.14 hrs||3.08 lmph|
The drizzle died out overnight, leaving a lovely sunny morning. Went to the service at St Paul's, celebrating 30 years of the Merchant Navy Association . I ended up as standard bearer for the standard of the, now disbanded, Wolverhampton Branch (the standard is to be officially laid up shortly). The National Standard was supported by Standards from other branches, the Royal Navy Association, local Sea Scouts and the RNLI, and attended by the National President and committee, the local Mayor, and members of a number of branches. Lovely service with a very nautical theme throughout and contributions from the Lichfield Lighthouse Company . The main service was continued outside at the Merchant Navy headstone, with a two-minute silence. There was a buffet lunch laid on afterwards.
Leaving there, we made our way round to Granville Street (Bridge 88) for tea with John & Jane. Great meeting up, and catching up, with them again. Nearly dinner time when we got back to "Paws" for a quiet evening.
Beautifully quiet night, awoke well refreshed. Quietly slipped and left the basin, and headed eastward on the Old Main Line. Unfortunately, after only half an hour, we picked up something on the prop whilst passing through the narrows before Fisher's Bridge. It took 40 minutes to remove the jacket, whilst we were just drifting (couldn't get alongside)!
Eventually on the move again, and continued past the end of the Brades Locks Branch and on to Oldbury Junction. We have never actually been down the Spon Lane Flight (3 locks), so I elected to do the two very tight turns, at Spon Lane Junction and Bromford Junction, rather than continuing round to Smethwick. Maybe a bad decision - we ended up with a log jammed at the side of the boat as we descended Bottom Lock. I ended up having to slowly refill the lock to refloat "Paws" before easing the log clear and re-draining the lock. From there, we decided to take a turn round the Soho and Icknield Port Loops (just for the fun of it!) before arriving at Old Turn. There has been a lot of building in the centre of Icknield Port since we were last round this way.
A couple of years ago, we were on the Worcs & B'ham, coming from the south, but we winded at The Vale and didn't complete the run into the centre. We decided to rectify that today, so continued through Gas Street Basin and Worcester Bar, and out towards Edgbaston. Winding at The Vale, we returned to Old Turn and moored at Brindley Place again. Noted "Ichthus" moored by Bridge 88, but no signs of John or Jane.
The sunny start partially clouded over, with occasional light drizzle late morning and during the afternoon.
|12.54 miles||3 locks||5.39 hrs||2.89 lmph|
The overnight rain finally fizzled out around breakfast, giving a cool but sunny day. Went for a walk into town in the morning for necessary stores.
After lunch, still a lovely sunny day, so I walked along the towpath to Tividale Quays to 'reccy' for a mooring - we had heard they may be available there. Found a lovely basin surrounded by a private estate. Very clean, no rubbish or graffiti. Chatted with Chris and two other residents, who were very friendly. Space for about 8 boats inside (and possibly another 6-8 on the berths outside), rings provided. Looks like a good mooring - mentally filed for future reference. Sudden downpour mid-afternoon after I got back.
Our mooring time had again expired so, on the strength of my walk earlier, we let go, winded, and used the services, then headed back out onto the Old Main Line, turning eastwards. Turning in at Tividale Quays, we moored up for the night. Kitty, one of the Oldbury PCSO's, had seen us coming in, and walked round for a chat. Great talking with her - full of interest in our lifestyle.
|1.22 miles||0 locks||0.61 hrs||2.01 lmph|
Heavy rain continued through the night, easing to moderate showers in the morning. We decided to stay put, Pat wanted to get some baking done (cakes and bread). Showers continued throughout the day and into the night.
Heavy rain arrived overnight and continued through the morning. Unfortunately, our time had expired at our chosen mooring and we had to move. Rain had eased to a light drizzle by after lunch, so got on the move.
Headed out the west side of Oozells Street Loop (via Sherbourne Wharf) and continued westwards along the "Birmingham Canal". Passed the entrances to what are now the Icknield Port Loop and Soho Loop, but were originally the course of the old main line (along with the Oozells Street Loop). Continued past Smethwick Junction (where the old main line continued up onto the Wolverhampton Level) and round the Smethwick by-pass created by Telford to reduce the number of locks. After passing under the old line, at Spon Lane Junction we saw the 3 locks connecting the old and new lines at the west end of the by-pass, then continued on Telford's "Island Line" for Tipton. Ascending Factory (3) Locks with the help of CRT staff who were locking up for the night, we rejoined the old main line, turning left for Dudley. Turning right onto the Dudley No.1 Canal we headed into the confines of the Black Country Living Museum where there are excellent CRT moorings. The rain had returned for a final fling as we ascended the locks, so having only got slightly damp during the afternoon, we arrived soaked. Battened down and dried out!
|8.91 miles||3 locks||3.72 hrs||3.20 lmph|
Up early expecting a visitor - Ellie Suttie, a family friend who works locally is getting married in a couple of weeks, and dropped in on her way to work to collect a "wee minding" for her and Allen.
After Ellie went on to work, we decided we would stay put for the day and do our 'shopping trip'. Walked down to the Chinese Quarter to our favourite supermarket, then to the Bull Ring indoor and outdoor markets for spices, fruit and veg. Had lunch at the café in St Martin in the Bull Ring church, before returning to "Paws"
Rain came on shortly after we got back, and we had showers for the remainder of the day.
Set off promptly on another cool, cloudy morning. Returned from the Digbeth Branch to the Birmingham & Fazeley Main Line, heading up to the centre of Birmingham. Once again, Pat decided she was driving so I packed my windlass and 'hoofed it'. Locks 13 and 12 were against us, but we met boats coming down at both 11 and 10 so had a good road for the remainder of the way up. With the locks being close together, I was opening the top paddles and leaving Pat to finish, while I went forward and opened the next bottom gate, returning to close the gate Pat had just left. I think we made record time, despite not feeling we were rushing. John & Judith met us at the top lock. Pat pulled over to the services berth for all the usual items. After discussion, we decided that the short pontoons in Cambrian Wharf weren't going to be easy for our 60', and the berth in the corner had the potential for rubbish around the prop. Elected to go across to Brindley Place.
After lunch, walked back to Cambrian for a catch-up with John & Judith over coffee/tea. Great catching up again, and look forward to seeing them again at Brownhills.
|1.66 miles||13 locks||2.21 hrs||6.65 lmph|
After a quiet night, let go for the next leg to Birmingham - the start of the climb up onto the plateau. Slightly warmer than yesterday. Headed through Curdworth and on to Minworth, ascending the first 3 of todays locks. Pat decided that she wanted to drive today so I was relegated to lock duties. Good road at this flight. A LOT of rubbish in the canal around the Minworth/Tyburn area! Pat then handed the driving back to me and went below to do some 'housekeeping'. Continued along to Gravelly Hill where we turned left at the second exit at Salford Junction, to head up the Aston Flight. Approaching the flight, Pat returned and took over driving again. Ascended Locks 11, 10 and 9 (all with us), then moored at Aston Business Park for a sandwich lunch (unfortunately, the small café wasn't open, so home-made had to do).
After lunch, set off again, but another boat had come up astern and it would have been impolite to cut out in front of them. We therefore had a bad road for the reminder of the flight, but the other boat did draw a paddle as they vacated each lock, helping us get on faster. At the top, they turned right onto the Farmer's Bridge Flight, while we turned left onto the Digbeth Branch and, after winding, moored above Ashted Top Lock at Aston Science Park, a good, quiet (for city centre) mooring. The day had slowly clouded over but remained warmer than yesterday.
Have been in touch with John & Judith ("Serena"), who are currently at Cambrian Wharf. Look forward to catching up with them tomorrow.
|8.00 miles||14 locks||5.14 hrs||4.28 lmph|
Beautiful sunny morning, with plenty of birdsong. Wind fairly strong, though, and quite cold. Just getting ready to move off and we heard a cuckoo calling over in the waterpark. Set off up the Curdworth Flight (11 locks) - good road from 11 to 8, then 7 and 6 were against us. Waited at Lock 5 for a hire boat coming down, then had a good road to the top. Moored in the straight between the lock and the first bridge, happy to be up before the forecast rain arrived. Soup was very welcome for lunch.
The forecast rain never arrived, the day remaining cool with sunny periods and scattered clouds.
|2.79 miles||11 locks||3.02 hrs||4.56 lmph|
Heavy rain showers overnight brought a damp and cool morning. On the go promptly to try to beat the forecast heavy rain at lunchtime. Continued towards Fazeley, past Huddlesford Junction and through Whittington, Tamhorn, and Hopwas. Far more swallows in evidence this morning. Turned right at Fazeley Junction towards Birmingham, but then stopped for water and loo outside Fazeley Mill Marina, and fuel inside once the berth was free. Reversed back clear of the entrance for lunch and a brief visit to David & Mary for BCF paperwork. The heavy rain arrived as forecast, just over lunch.
Managed to take advantage of a short period of mere drizzle to move "Paws" along to Kingsbury where we moored for the night.
|10.54 miles||0 locks||4.10 hrs||2.57 lmph|
Elected to have a quiet day today and stay put. Early morning sun clouded somewhat by breakfast time. Pat decided to do some cleaning. Forecast precipitation arrived around lunchtime in the form of heavy rain and hail showers.
Early morning sun gave way to scattered cloud. I went to Fazeley for a haircut and Sainsbury's-specific stores, while Pat 'did some clearing up'. Replaced gas bottle, then had lunch. Had phonecall from son and grand-daughter confirming their visit details (slightly different from what I remembered being organised, but doesn't matter) - we will meet them at Bentley Bridge Tuesday afternoon (14th).
After lunch, prepared for departure again, let go, and retraced yesterday's route to Fradley Junction. No volunteers on the locks we worked. Turned right onto the detached portion of the Coventry Canal, heading towards Fazeley. Moored at our usual point at Streethay. Day had clouded over by this time and was starting to get cool, with a few spots of rain mid-evening.
|5.87 miles||3 locks||3.13 hrs||2.84 lmph|