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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Happy in Hawne (I hope).

Well the weather had turned when we got going in the morning at 0930. Dull and with a very chilly slight wind. First navigational task was make the turn into the remainder of the Dudley No.2 Canal.

Cobb's Engine House was named after the the farmer who owned the land before the canal came. The arm to the left was the original route of the canal until the Netherton Tunnel (straight on)  was built between 1855/58. The old loop is now the Boshboil Arm and it linked to the Bumble Hole to create the loop.

The bridge is the entrance to Doulton's Basin. There is a large area that has been cleared and they are now building 'bog' standard house there. My little joke, as the Doulton factory here once made sanitary ware using local clay brought from pits and mines of the area. The canal would have been extensively used other raw materials and of course the finished products.

A little way past is the remains of a tollman's office. The figure is just a cut out but is life size, at least he didn't reply when I said good morning! He has his guaging stick in his hand.

Another of the information markers indicates where elephants played in the waters of Rowley Regis, and we aren't talking of an earlier geological age either! It reminds of Royal Leamington Spa, only because elephants were taken to bath in the park there.

Between Windmill E and Gosty Hill Tunnel there were many collieries, Springfield, Pennet Hill, Ash Tree, Pearson's, Fly, Old Lion, Eagle, Waterfall Lane,  Black Heath, Haden Hill and Gosty Hill, along with the Old Hall Iron Works, Tiger Chain Works and the Doulton's sanitary works along with other brick and tile works. It is hard to imaging the traffic, noise and chaos that there would have been on the canal at the time.

Smith's Bridge, and Wright's Bridge are plain bridges that could easily be raised as subsidence from mining activity required. There are moorings provide past the rail bridge as there is a pub up the road along with fish and chip shop.

Gosty Hill Tunnel was just a little tunnle compared with the very long Lapal Tunnel that is no more, and linked the Dudley No.2 with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak. The route was opened in 1798 but Gosty Hill Tunnel was extensively in 1881 and this large portal of the 509 mt long tunnel is deceiving as inside the roof height drops dramatically a couple of times. On the left we have just passed the old tug dock as the little tug was used to tow boats through from 1913 to the late 1930's.

We seemed to be going slower and slower through the tunnel. I wondered whether it was just that the canal was shallow, but decided to stop once clear and removed a good crop of lost plastic.

Once you clear the tunnel the waters seem to widen and you are now in the area of the Stewarts and Lloyds tube factory. An iron works was started here in 1860 and changed hands regularly until under the ownership of Lloyds and Lloyds in 1869 when they started to specialise in tubes. In 1903 they joined with a Scottish company doing the same thing and became Stewarts and Lloyds. At it's peak in the 1950's the site covered 54 acres, with most of it covered, and employed over 3000. They were very good employers providing many benefits unheard of at the time, such as housing, sickness benefits, sports facilities and education. The company was nationalised as part of British Steel in 1968 then was sold on to Corus etc until it finally closed in 1990. The canal was crisscrossed with bridges and pipes and would have been a very busy spot. All is quite now but part of the site has become an industrial estate.
The Stewart and Lloyds factory remains on the east bank of the canal. Nearest to the camera is an old loading bay. The abutments further along would be to support the heavy plant in the factory above.

We soon arrived at the Coombeswood Canal Trust's Hawne Basin which used to be a railway transshipment depot. It is a tight turn into the basin under Burton Bridge but I managed not to damage the new paintwork and went along to the services wharf to check in and fill up with diesel. 56p/litre. We were also shown our layby berth and we were soon reversed into it and made fast. We soon had everything tidied up and turned off etc and we were on our way to catch the bus back to Birmingham to pick up the car and head home for another couple of weeks.

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