Total Pageviews

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Pottering along to Penkridge.

After my disappointment at the beer in the Anchor I managed to talk Helen into helping wash the port side of the boat this morning. The sun was on the other side and as it was early there was no heat in it. With two of us it didn't take very long at all, and it made a big difference. However it made me think it needed polishing too.
We were off by 10:30 and passed the pub and on the straight. I boat spied us and pulled out quickly.

These poplar trees seem to be suffering and the leaves are really coming off quite quickly. The water is full of leaves and the 'fluff' from the Rosebay Willow Herb. I suppose that although the trees are by the canal I suppose that the clay puddling of the canal means that not too much water escapes through for them to use.

WE had passed a couple of boats coming our way, but when the canals were working there would have been a ton of coal loaded boats coming down from Cannock area pits and scattering hither and thither at the junction. I wonder if I will still be boating when they get the link open again?

The marina basin at the junction has an 'industrial' look about it. However looking on the maps it seems that it wasn't established until the 1970's so there would be no working boats by then.

The Staffordshire County Council's Energy Recovery Facility is run by Veolia and is in essence getting energy from burning waste. It opened in 2014. I quite like the building as it has a pleasing shape. It seems that all the handling goes on within the building so reducing, noise, dust, smell and visual harshness. The green roof seemed to be quite green. I wonder if they have to water it.

Just past the Veolia works is the Shenectardy works. I have poosted about this before, but it started out as a tar works before WWII and was taken over by the American company. There is no stopping or mooring in this stretch in case of trouble at the plant.

On the other side of the canal is a massive building that belongs to Gestamp. It is a Spanish company but has factories and office all over the world (China, Spain, Argentina, Thailand, Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Slovakia, USA and Hungary! They make car components and system. This factory opened in 2018 and has taken over from a much smaller one in Cannock. Apparently it too 43,000 tonnes of concrete and £50 million.

We stopped for water before the lock at Gailey. It was good to see that the round house has reopened for business. Helen got some cards and more importantly, ice creams!

Another gratuitous photo of the Round House, but really to get the nice flowers that Helen has cultivated this year. She has gone mainly for dahlias and they have come up trumps.

We seemed to meet a boat at each lock as we pottered on. The original plan was to aim for Acton Trussell, but we needed a few things and didn't need any urging to alter the plans. Otherton Lock (I think, but it may be Rodbaston Lock) is always like a Jacuzzi. There is always a bit of a chemical smell and there are always many bubbles in the lock. It just looks like a hot tub when you fill it. There must be something leeching out from somewhere near here as no of the other locks, up or down from here, have the same smell or bubbles. 

Otherton Marina seems similar to the other at Hatherton Junction, but again it is a relatively modern one. It is nothing to do with the colliery basin that was a little further up the canal.

We found a spot to moor before the first lock and as it was before 16:00 we went in to town so that Helen could have a poke about the charity shops. I was promised a drink too, so I tagged along. We were going to go to the Star, that seems to be the one most speak off, and it is years since we have been in for a drink. However I noticed that the Horse and Jockey had been refurbished and had been acquired by Black Country Pubs last year. We like the way they 'do' there pubs and after a few poor results the last couple of pub visits we would be assured of a great range of beers too. They had their own range on and about 6 quest beers too, and a couple of draft ciders to. It was beautifully cool in inside too, so we were reluctant to leave, but we did.
After tea the heat finaly got to me and I went outside and started polishing the port side! I got a couple of metres done before I had to retreat as I was getting eaten alive.


Saturday, 13 August 2022

A 'B'ratch, Two A's Aldersley/Autherley, and a 'C'ross Green.

 First thing after breakfast I was out and washing off the Feratan that I had put on the sanded bit of the st'bd side I had done previously. As soon as it was rubbed clean and dry I was slapping on the primer. It was so warm that I managed to get a second coat on too. Whilst I was doing this a gentleman came up to me and asked if there was a rally here at Bratch this weekend. I had seen a poster in a boat window about a rally, but I didn't know when it was (Bank Holiday weekend it seems). This chap lived next door to the moorings and it seems that the gates had been lifted off and dumped next to the gateway. The lock had been left intact! He was worried that it may have been travellers, but we hadn't heard anything. Later the Police were there. I got some other bits done and was ready for off about 11:00. A boat had just started up the flight so Helen went over to ask the keepers if we could follow them up. The answer was yes and we set off up the locks.

There were quite a few older people at the locks having a constitutional but no ice cream van! It is a very photogenic flight.

They may look like a staircase, but they aren't. Here in the bottom lock the red paddles above let the water out of the middle lock into the side pound. The blue paddles let the water into the bottom lock from the side pound and the middle lock

Here we are in the middle lock and the same is true. The Octagonal toll house is always interesting, be it at Stewpony, Smethick Locks or disappeared from the toll bars on the rest of the BCN.

Wightwick Manor just peaks out from among the trees, and is well worth a visit, but not time today

We passed the Jam Butty once again. The last time was at Whittington. Whilst I was waiting for Helen to ready Compton two gentlemen passed and said you are stopping in a very important spot. I guessed they were referring to the fact that theCompton Lock was the first built on the Staffs. and Worcs. Cana, and not only that but the first narrow lock ever constructed by James Brindley, the engineer in charge. We went on to have a nice chat about canals etc.

I love this bridge, and it looks so good in the sun. It is an old GWR bridge that was built for the old Wombourne branch railway, but now acts as a cycle and pedestrian way.

The trees make a lovely break  break from the sun as they give that dappled shade. The water was quite clear and it was nice to watch the small fish scud about in the sun. The Mobil sign makes a basin that is/was used by the Girlguides of the area.

We approached Aldersley Junction with the Wolverhampton 21 heading off to the right. The remains of a stables at tow path level and a further three storeys of rooms of a lodging house for boaters and their families can be seen at the junction. The toll house and lock keepers house are no longer there to the extreme right of this photo.

This junction was so very busy that in it hey day boats could be waiting up to three days to ascend the flight as the traffic in both directions was so heavy.

Very soon you are at Autherley Junction. The water here is crystal clear as it is constantly been replenished from the large water treatment works by the junction. Where the water streams out of the works, almost opposite Oxley Marine, there was a short arm that served the waterworks with coal, sand etc. I think that these iconic finger post on the canal should be regularly painted up as they must figure on everybody's photos that travel this way.

These poplar trees are extremely tall and mask the playing field of the local high school. I think they would cause havoc if they came down in a gale. The area is quite flat so they must do a great job of cutting the wind down in the winter. I could have done with a bit of a breeze today.

Not the best photo but it is supposed to show one of the 'passing places' in the 'Pendeford Rockin' where the width of the cutting is down to one boat width. The rock was too hard for the technology and so the minimum delay was caused to completion by reducing the width but creating the odd place to pass.

I reckon that studies would find that the cutting has its own micro climate, and I wouldn't be surprised if they found some species of plants and animals that exist nowhere else, as it always appears other worldly, no matter the time of year, to me.

This has been a grand day. The weather has been hot, like being on holiday in Greece. Languid is the world, everybody and everything seems to be going at half speed. The heat lays heavy on the land, sound is subdued, and limbs seem heavy, but not in a bad way. It makes me feel that to relax and soak it up is the only thing to do. We moored up before the Anchor Inn, and after getting a change of clothes we were off. Nice pub but once again they only had Doom Bar on so quickly lost interest. The pub used to be called the Fox and Anchor, but interestingly in 1890's it was the Anchor, so where did the fox come in? The length of car park after the pub is where the Cross Green wharf was.


Friday, 12 August 2022

The Steady Rise to Bratch.

 After our dash to the pub yesterday, as our friend was driving he couldn't stay for a second pint so I felt it only right that I should mark the occasion with another before heading back to the boat.

The church perched above the town of Kinver makes a nice picture with some of the nice buildings too.

The next morning Helen wanted to do a little shopping so I suggested that she should walk up to have her retail therapy and I would bring the boat up and do some little jobs on the boat whilst I waited for her. It all worked well and we were coming up the lock outside the Vine at about 11:00.

Dunsley Tunnel is only 25 yards long! Possibly the shortest tunnel, that is not a bridge, and has laid claim to been the oldest tunnel on the canal system surviving today as it was built around 1769/70. It is cut through the sandstone and not lined.

Stwepony Lock is under the main road. There is the octagonal toll house and this house by the lock. It looks to me as if the house was either a mill or warehouse at one time. Bu April 1771 the Staffs. and Worcs. Canal was only open between Stourport and Compton Lock but was open for cargoes. The general toll for non perishable toll for goods was 2.5p per mile per ton. For nails and clay from Stewpony to Stourport the toll was a 2s per ton. The name Stewpony is said to be after 'stipeny' that was two pennies. This was the cost of a glass of beer at a certain class of hotel found along the turnpikes and there was the was the Stewpony and Foley Arms by the lock that catered for the coach traffic.

Before and after the lock you get glimpses of Stourton Castle (pronounced Stower, Stir or Store 'ton). It was first a proper castle built in about 1132 and passed between several families and royalty including the Duke of Clarence, Tewkesbury Abbey and Henry VIII. Parts of the surviving building, apart from the original Medieval gatehouse of the castle, was probably built in 1580's by a Thomas Whorwood. In 1832/33 when the remodeled and partly rebuilt The gatehouse and three wings were incorporated into the new building with a new front completing the four sides. The courtyard was covered over.

We had stopped for water at Kinver, as it was free, and so continued on past the tap after Stewpony Lock and straight on past Stourton Junction, We do like the Stourbridge Canal and then on to Brum, but not this time.

This picture with the mature trees lining the tow path reminds me of the French roads where trees were planted supposedly to give shade to marching troops. Nobody marching today.

This is all that remains of the Gothersley Round House that was similar to the one at Gailey. It was damaged in 1991 by storm and has come to this. It marked a wharf that served an extremely busy Gothersley Ironworks, that has disappeared completely.

Ashwood Basin was a busy centre of traffic, especially coal for the canals. In 1827 James Foster for the John Bradley Co and the Earl of Dudley agreed to build a 3.5 mile railway from the basin to Shut End on Pensett Chase to bring coal to the basin. It opened in 1829 and eventually stretched from Ashwood to Baggeridge and Netherton, including the Round Oak steel works. It was known as the Pensett Railway. The last traffic to the basin was in 1949, but some of the lines survived until 1966. It was rediscovered in the mid 50's and slowly a marina was born. I love the old windlass on the corner. I wonder if it was the original to heave the boats in and out of the basin?

The pumping station at Hinksford is rater shy and hides its face from the canal. It was built for the South Staffordshire Water Co in 1900/01. As it appears on the 1900 25 inch OS map it must have been largely completed by then. It is not as ornate as the one at Bratch but they still put plenty of detail into the brickwork.

I love this lock house at Bumblehole Lock. It just looks solid and purposeful. I love the iron windows and stops and it must be original with the canal. It is Listed as Grade II.

We arrived at the bottom of Bratch Locks at about 16:30 and there was a minor revolt from Helen who didn't fancy even more locks today. I wanted to have the tow path on the st'bd side as I had some work to do, but the old wharf that fed the Bratch pumping station with coal was free, and so I had st'bd side access, and the mutiny was cancelled.

Once tied up I set to sanding the very poor parts of the boot topping and managed to get a lot of it done by 18:00. I quickly put a coat of Feratan on and called it a night. I had been watched by several groups of twenty somethings that came to sit at the bench and drink and smoke weed, but I think the noise of the sander caused them to move on. We both slept well!!


Thursday, 11 August 2022

A long day, but worth it


As we came up through York Street Lock last night I took this photo of the tolls house below it.

Before getting to Gilgal Bridge you pass this building, the rear of it shows its relationship with the canal.It was the Baldwin Foundry. Thomas Baldwin from Shropshire and worked in iron. He came to work here and by 1814 had bought the business. The foundry specialised in hinges and they were known as Baldwin's Best Butts! He was so successful that he started buying up the local mills. The business employed many locals for 5 generations and they were so busy that the furnace worked day and night. In later generations the family supplied two Prime Ministers in Alfred and Stanley Baldwin!

There is the random roller seen in the top photo, but is next to the basin, lower photo on the off side. This was old Severn Valley Railway transhipment basin, later Great Western Railway. The railway wagons were lowered down to the basin via an inclined plane. The main cargo was iron ans steel bars from Wales that were taken to Pratts Wharf, on the Stour, (see later). They must have received coal and sand too. The basin must have been built in the late 1880's as it doesn't appear on the 1883 map but it does on the 1891 map.

There is another old warehouse that has been converted to a nice house at Upper Milton outside Stourport.

This the arm down to the River Stour and Pratt's Wharf. The raw materials for the Wilden Ironworks were transshipped to smaller vessels to take the cargo down the river. The large Wilden Pool was used to flood the river to a suitable depth when the traffic was working. By 1948 the ironworks had become a tinplate works and was closed when Baldwin's amalgamated with Richard Thomas Co. Ltd and the factory was closed. 

This is the Severn Valley Railway Bridge. The railway started as the Shrewsbury to Hartlebury railway and had 15 stations, but no Bewdley and Kidderminster stations until a loop was built, this line, in 1878. It had always been a quiet line and in the end it closed in 1963. Two years later plans were made to purchase the line. In 1966 a new society paid £25,000 to buy it and it has gone from strength to strength and has increased in its original length.

Caldwall Lock is quite picturesque and a volunteer was painting it on his own. He seems start at one lock and finish them and starts again! A cyclist stopped and asked if he could watch as he had never seen a boat going through a lock. He was cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats!

Some of the buildings on the canal side in Kidderminster have been preserved. They are beautiful brick buildidngs and well made chimney. In the distance, on the left side of the canal is an old corn mill. The first over bridge was to an arm to the Slingfield Spinning Mill. The site of the Weavers Wharf development has saved the buildings that were latterly part of the Brinton carpet works.

As you come up from under the main road into Kidderminster Lock you get a great view of St. Mary's and All Saints Church. at the foot of the church was a canal wharf and an arm heading off down to the right, so it would have been a busy place.

It seems that there has been a church here at Wolverley since the Domesday Book in 1086. This building was erected in 1772 attached to an older tower. It stands on a knoll and can be seen for miles. It was quite a rich congregations as the local charcoal and, mill owners and iron masters were generous.

The trees gave nice cool shade and made a very attractive picture as the spots of light and dark bring jungle clearings to mind. 

The cave at Debdale Lock is Grade II listed and was constructed at the same time as the lock, about 1770. It is 9m x 3m and is up to 2.5m high with a bench around the wall. The lock and the lock house are also Listed Grade II. We had some help from a family with young children who were familiar with canals and loved to work the locks. Helen wasn't going to be arguing as it had been a long day.

This is another spot on this canal where you aren't quite sure which way to go, as it looks like you should be going under the bridge, but that is an old arm to Cookley Iron works. It seems that there was a finery mill here, this is where wrought iron is made from pig iron. There was a slitting mill here in 1639. This was a mill that split bars of iron into rods so that they could be used to make nails etc. There had also been a corn mill on the site. A forge appeared in the 1670's and in 1690's an iron works. It passed to the Knight family and they became rich and the main employer of the area. They benefited from the canal, and the arm built into the works, but by 1886, into the railway age they were missing out in not having a rail link and moved their plant to Brierley Hill. Iron and steel working still carried on here and steel wheels are still made here.

Cookley Tunnel is only 25 yds long and as always got me wondering when is it a tunnel and when is it a bridge? I came to the conclusion that if there is something other than a road or railway over the canal it becomes a tunnel. What do you think? There are lot longer bridges than this.

We were 'rushing' to meet up with a friend of ours, and to have a pint of Batham's with him at the Plough and Harrow in Kinver. As we passed through the Whittington Horse Bridge, the last before Kinver, we decided not to risk all the moorings below the lock being full, and to moor up a little further out of town which we duly did, and ended up only being 10 mins late. The beer was as good as always, and it was great to catch up with Chris. I hope Cyd gets well soon and we see you both again soon. I think it was called the Horse Bridge as it has just a bridleway over it. In the early 1900's it linked the Anchor to the left and the Whittington Inn's to the right that was close to Whittington Hall.

It had been another long day in the sun but well worth it for a pint and a catch up. Everybody seems to stay moored up so not a bad trip, and quiet on the canal.