That's it for another year and my waistline is thankful. We have been given hoards of chocolate and other edible things so if anybody is holding a raffle for a good cause and needs prizes let me know! With the floods around the north it is sobering to think we could have been on the Calder and Hebble for the winter. I hope that all are safe and that not too much damage has been done.
Last year we headed up the Oxford Canal and then made our way to Birmingham. We stopped the night at Aston University and had a very quiet night. I don't think we have stopped there when the University has been sitting so it maybe much busier then. The next junction is Aston where we turn to head up the Farmers Bridge Locks and Birmingham. We always love visiting Brum and the Farmers Flight is one of the easiest to work on the system.
As we were waiting for a friend to visit we decided to go and take a look at some of the bits of the Birmingham backwaters that we hadn't seen as yet. We made our way out east and at Oldbury hung a left after Spon Lane to head up to the Titford Pools. The locks are easy to work and there was nobody on the move either. We headed to the pools but didn't venture too far in as there were many trees etc in the water that didn't fill us with confidence about the available depth. We stopped the night at the pump house before descending to the old main line again. I hope they find a use for the extensive maltings up this canal.
We headed down the Brades staircase pair at Brades Junction and managed to pick a good supply of damsons before reaching the New Main Line and then turning onto the Wednesbury Old Canal at Pudding Green. We soon arrived at Ryders Green where the 'new' Walsall Canal descended the locks. We chose to explore the line of the Old Canal to Black as on the sign post. It quickly became the Black Canal too. and the reeds pressed in and we could go no further than about half the distance to Swan Village. on asking the BCNS sand C&RT about this it seems that this section of canal is 'abandoned' as there levels of toxic waste that would need to be dredged from the canal and then disposed of makes it too expensive. Apparently there should be a a sign declaring it closed. I hope they don't let it get is such a state that it is lost for ever. The BCNS do periodically clear the reeds. When we had reversed out and started to descend the Ryders Green Locks a couple stood watching us and then declared that although they had lived in the area over twenty years they didn't know the flight of 8 locks existed but they had never seen a boat on the canal either!
We had a few hours stop at the wharf in the middle of Walsall before heading up the Walsall Locks and arriving at the Birchills Junction. We had explored the delights of Brownhills Anglesey and Pelsall so headed directly to Wolverhampton. We will definitely be that way again as it is a lovely quiet backwater of the BCN. I do like the BCN for it's rough and ready character. It is the antithesis of Braunston and Stoke Bruerne but the past history of the canals is brought to life even more in my eyes. Walsall is well worth a look, if just for the pubs and you will be surprised just how green the canals in this area are.
We spent a night at the quiet Sneyd Wharf before heading back to the 'civilisation' the BCN Main Line. At Horseley Junction the uninviting dive under a low bridge and the railway line does nothing to invite passing boaters to explore the Wyrley and Essington. We headed back towards Birmingham and had a great couple of days at Tipton and the Black Country Museum. Dudley is another place we will have to go back to and explore much more.
After Dudley we headed down the Factory Locks on to the New Main Line and what to some would be the boring very straight run in to Brum but with all the branches and Junctions and interesting buildings and bridges time easily slips past. Above is Bromford Junction where on the left three locks take you up to the Old Main Line Smethwick summit. There was an even higher one previously though. If you are thinking it looks similar to the bridges at Braunston Junction you may have something. However other than the herons and occasional cyclists and dog walkers industry and roar of the motorway keep most away. There is a sign post between the bridges to fulfill the blog title.
After picking up our friend we left the hubbub of Birmingham via the Farmers Bridge Locks, the Digbeth Branch, Typhoo Basin and the Satltley Cut to join the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. Despite the proximity of the M42 the Curdworth Locks restore you back to the countryside and grassed towpaths before arriving at Fazeley Junction. A useful stop over for the services and restocking at the shops. This time we were heading north to Fradley.
After a weekm our friend departed near Fradley and as we had cut our cruise short by a month we were determined to fill the time so we headed south once more and we were soon heading down the lovely Coventry Canal towards Tamworth. We like the faded charm of Atherstone and the lovely hidden square off the High Street overlooked by the church and several pubs. There are some good shops too. The variety to be found in the locks also make the ascent of the eleven of them from Bradley Green a delight. This sign on the High Street that Thomas Telford's coaching Road, now the A5, ran through the town. It joined the port for the boat to Ireland at Holyhead with London and was a busy route after the unification of Great Britain and Ireland. Telford joined up exsisting turnpike roads and improved parts of Watling Street and re routed other bits through to towns to bring communication and prosperity. The whole route was completed once the Menai Suspension Bridge was completed in 1826.
At Marston Junction we turned up the Ashby Canal and had a great week or so on the lockless and quiet canal. We had plenty of walks in the good weather find plenty of good pubs and beers to toast our luck in being able to spend time on the canals of England and be right among the history of the nation after exploring the Bosworth Field Museum and learning more about Henry and Richard. After reversing our route from the current terminus we headed to Hawkesbury Junction and headed down to Coventry Basin. Another spot not favoured by too many. However it is close to the centre of Coventry which has much to explore and sites to see and is well worth a trip. Even the canal has been much improved since we were last there too.
We then headed north again and finished up near Streethay Wharf and moored the boat up to finish our time on the boat for 2015. We miss it when we are in bricks and mortar and the blog is a good excuse for me to look back to last season and forward to next. I hope all are safe and secure and have warm feet and full stomachs for the end of the year.