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Saturday 31 August 2013

Up and at 'em.

It was a lovely quiet night last night with one other boat on the mooring at Star City where there was room for about 4 boats I would say. A little way and we were in to the Garrison Locks on the Saltley Cut.

Saltley Gasometers. I'm not sure whether they are still in use. If not i hope they don't just pull them down as they make a great skyline.

The canal is definitely industrialised along here but it didn't look like too many of the buildings were still in use. Everything was fine for a while but as I  came into the second or third lock we  caught stuff on the propeller. It prevented me from going astern but once in the lock and penned up we stopped and quickly got it all off. Less than 5 minutes really.

An impressive pile of stuff of the prop!

At the top lock we came across another boat coming down. They said that we were the first boat they had seen moving since St. Catherine Barnes at 0700. They were certainly putting in the hours as they were on the way to Minworth!

Lock 4 on Garrison Flight. Bridges galore!

We approached Bordesley Junction and turned right on to the Digbeth Branch rather than go up the Camp Hill locks towards Braunston. The cut was still industrial and hardly anybody on the tow path. The first thing of note was the old Fellows, Morton and Clayton warehouses with covered berths. This had been nice used by Graphic artists and looked to be a good example of what to do with these old buildings.

Old Fellows, Morton and Clayton Warehouses.

Next to see was the Warwick Bar. This is very similar to that Worcester Bar at Gas Street basin but is not on the tourist trail. Warwick Bar has two locks to separate the water of the Birmingham and Fazeley and the Warwick and Birmingham Canal. Here however is a covered berth with cast Iron pillars. This is known as the Banana Warehouse as it was once leased to Geest.

Warwick Bar stop locks and the Banana Warehouse as it was once leased to Geest and before that it was run by Pickfords, the road transport company who used to have their own fleet of narrow boats.

A little further on is Digbeth Junction and we decided to explore the short branch to Typhoo Wharf. It seems that it was used by the tea people at some time. It would make a fantastic residential mooring near the centre of town. At present it is not used at all. There was a C&RT work boat moored under the b ridge but nothing else was there.

Typhoo Basin.

 After winding we made out way back out and continued towards the Ashted Locks.

Digbeth Junction, Birmingham.

Coming down from Wolverhampton was drop of 171 feet and with the climb of the lock yesterday and today we would be climbing back up 150 feet. The Ashted flight was quite nice, and would have been better if it was flattened around it. Still it seems as though big things are planned for the area.

Ashted Locks with side pounds to save water.

Once at the top of the six lock flight we soon came to the Science Park moorings. Once tied up we decided to go for a walk back down the last set of locks. We found the Gun Barrel Proof House and the Curzon Street railway terminus.

Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House, 1813.

Curzon Street Railway Station where the first London Birmingham train arrived in 1838!

We walked into the city centre to see the new Central Libraray that has been moved from Chamberlain Square to Centenary Squrare. It looks fantastic and very different to the old one that was brutalist design. I thought the old one was to be demolished but is still there. Matbe as it is Grade II!

The flower building is the new Central Library in Centenary Square that opens this Monday.

We walked back to the boat and as we got close I went up on the road and found a couple of pubs that looked very nice so we we went for a couple. Lo and behold it was Woodcock Street and the back of Aston University. I lived near Birmingham for about 15 years and me and my two younger brothers came for swimming lessons at Woodcock Street Baths. And they are still there! We walked over and blagged out way in. They don't seem to have changed much except that they feel better kept, and much, much warmer. The little cafe where we had a proper size Wagon Wheel or Mint YoYo and a Chocolate Horlicks has been changed into a gym. The whole thing is now called the Doug Ellis Woodcock Street Centre. Doug Ellis was the long term Chairman of Aston Villa FC.

Woodcock Street small pool where me and my younger brothers learned to swim. It looks much warmer now, and it is!

This is what it looked like in 1925, and it wasn't much different when we frequented it. The area has changed now. And what a coincidence that we are moored almost next door.

Friday 30 August 2013

Birmingham bound.

We set off and straight away stopped again straight away to take on some water after our washing yesterday. Helen went up to post some letters and buy milk. We were soon in to the first of the locks.

Perry Barr Top Lock with lock cottage.

Perry Barr Top Lock amenities and cottage with old stable block. The toilets and showers were spotless.

The first seven locks where close together and were easily worked. The cut was very green and quiet. There are also tow paths on both sides and I wonder if this was as there was a lot of traffic and with a tow path on both sides they could have one way traffic on each side.

Helen coming into Lock 7, half way down the flight.

The flight was so busy that they had to recirculate the water from the bottom of the locks back to the top. The canal runs under the M6 twice before the last lock but otherwise it remained quiet.

The penultimate lock has a lovely BCN cottage, found in the other wise industrial area. A reminder of a past era.

The bottom lock with the Grid house where the water was 'filtered' before pumping back up to the top of the lock. In the distance can be seen an old chimney that has been retained but it's original factory has gone.

Detail of the chimney in the other photo. It looks to me like it is an electromagnet so maybe something to do with the factory. What do you think.

The canal soon approaches 'Spaghetti Junction' where a series of motorways and roads form a criss cross of roads.

Elevated sections of roads in the sunshine.

Under the arches is Salford Junction where the Tames Valley Canal, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and Grand Union Canal meet. Thrown in is a river and a railway line too.

Salford Junction signpost. I wonder why the distances have changed? Some in kilometers and some in miles, or do the new figures hide the 'k'.

We left the Tame Valley canal and turned up the Grand Union. Very soon we stopped at fairly new moorings outside Star City which is a casino, cinema and other fun complex. As we are port side to I washed the side down and polished a bit too. I also touched up some rust. At tea time we went to see the 'Grown Ups 2'. I don't think that it will win any Oscars but it did make us smile and made a change. We will move on further into Birmingham.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Down the straight and narrow.

The first lock of the day was about 50m from our overnight berth. There are 9 locks of the Rushall Locks, with to near out berth and then about a mile to the next few.

As the Rushall Canal was built at the end of the canal building boom it was built almost dead straight. There are only three bends in the section that we traveled today.

Rushall Top Lock locking down the straight.

Helen drove the boat today and I worked the locks as we were going down and I would be able to climb across the bottom gates where as Helen would have to walk right round the lock.

The whole route today was nicely green with mainly housing behind the tree line. Helen making sure she is clear of the cill.

I'm not sure why this bridge is call Guilty Bridge but it is a bit of a mystery about the date as it looks like 1838 and the canal wasn't started until 1840 as far as I know.

Tony is able to stride across the lock gates to open the opposite paddles, close gates etc and must save miles of walking on a flight of locks.

The end of the first straight comes after passing under the MG and Rushall Junction is between the junction of the M6 and M5.

Rushall Junction.

The next section is similar to the Shropshire Union in as much as it seems to be driven through deep cuttings and then up in the air on embankments. As it was a late addition to the network engineer allowed this straight as an arrow route.

High level pedestrian Chimney Bridge.

Helen steering down the last straight before we stopped just before the next set of locks. The services here seem very well maintained.

As we did a wash today, whilst underway, we put the rotary close drier up and soon had it dry. I also started using the damsons we picked to make something. It is taking longer than expected, but more news later.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Daw End canal.

We set off down the Anglesey Branch. We didn't meet another boat and there were few people on the tow path even.

On the way to Ogley Junction.

We were soon at Ogley Junction and under the Anglesey Bridge. This was just at the junction where the Wyrley and Essington Canal continued on.

I love the cast iron name plate and it is interesting to note that the date of 1850 is when the Birmingham Canal Navigation merged with the Wyrley and Essington Canal.

We were soon at Catshill Junction which was the start of Daw End Branch Canal.

This has been the most industrial section of the canals round the BCN so far. Having said that it was still very green. In the past there had been many collieries and sandpits etc. There has been so much subsidence that the canal is now about 30' above the surrounding land and in the past the banks had to regularly heightened. There was a huge sand pit that is still being filled with the waste of the area. However it was still a very big hole! This part was also the most shallow and narrowest part of the canal.

It was a good thing that the canal isn't too busy as we would never have past in this section.

The last couple of miles of today's trip was out into the country again and you could have been on any of the better traveled canals. The Daw End Branch canal ended at the Hay Head Limestone Mine. Unusually that limestone was mined from underground and had been for a long time. The limestone was taken to the owners iron works at Bradley and Bilston. The rock was a very good quality. There were also lime kilns here.

The end of the Daw End Branch was up the cut in the centre of the picture where it went into the limestone workings. It wasn't until the merger of the Birmingham Canal Navigation and the Wyrley and Essington Canal in 1840. The construction did not start straight away as the company thought better of it but the Government had to remind them that money they had given to assist the merger would have to be paid back if the new canal wasn't constructed. The new canal was called the Rushall Canal and joins with the Tame Valley canal after 3 miles and nine locks.

Hay Head Mine Terminus. There is not much to see now, especially as there most of it was below ground. We walked round the Hay Head area as it is now a nature reserve. When we got back I washed and polished the side whilst Helen baked biscuits and a cake.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

All the way to Anglesey

We woke up to a foggy day but it soon cleared up once we got under way. Back to Pelsall Junction and left turn towards Brownhills. 

A foggy day on the Cannock Extension Canal.

It wasn't long before we were there and found the services and water point shared with a Canoe Centre. We did the needful and just moved on a little to another mooring that happened to be right outside a Tesco's. There was an Aldi's close too. We took a walk on to the High Street to see if we could find some books we were after in Charity shops. No luck, so back for a big shop.

Brownhills used to be a big mining area although you wouldn't know it now. To remind everybody this fantastic statue has been erected in 2006 on a very prominent roundabout. It was designed by John McKenna and has an official nickname of Jigger after Jack 'Jigger' Taylor who died in a roof collapse at Walsall Wood pit in 1951.

After lunch we moved on to Catshill Junction. Here the Wyrley and Essington Canal turns north. Soon after the junction I spotted a damson tree heavy with fruit on the off side. I was just about to move over when a boat came down the arm. The fruit was not quite ripe but will make great pies/jams etc. A little further on we came to Ogley Junction. This is where the Wyrley and Essington continued on to Huddlesford Junction, but is now blocked, although under restoration by the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Trust. We turned left on to the Anglesey Branch.

Signpost at Ogley Junction.

The cut passes under the A5, Watling Street and then the M6 Toll Road before arriving at the foot of the Chasewater Reservoir in what used to be a colliery Basin. There was no room to moor right at the end due to weed but we found a mooring not far away and walked up to the dam. The Dam was built in 1799 soley for supplying the canal. Unfortunately it burst soon after it opened.Luckily no lives were lost. In the end it was so successful they sold water to other companies. It was recently been drained and cleaned and the dam reconditioned. It was empty several years and caused problems for water supply to the BCN. It seems to be full now.

The termination of the Anglesey Branch. A narrow boat can be seen at the very end and above the house on the left can be seen the dam.

The dam wall showing it is almost full and the octagonal valve house that is the same as the toll houses on the BCN used to be.

We managed to find an ice cream just before they closed and watched some wire pulled wake boarders. We also saw a Crested Grebe with three chicks on the water.

Helen happy with an ice cream and a bit of sun.

Our mooring for the evening.

Monday 26 August 2013

Rural Idyll.

The rock music from the pub 200yds away was loud but actually wasn't bad at all. I'm glad I wasn't in front of the speakers through. We thanked the Landlady as we passed this morning. As we set off we saw two herons squabbling in flight and then straight  after my first little grebe. What a place to see them. It is obvious that there is not much traffic on these canals as the ducks fly off when they see us coming. On the other canals they flock to the side as you pass to see if they get any bread or stuff!

Not the world's best photo but I thought it was interesting that the Walsall Top Lock had won a National 3rd Prize for best kept lock in 2006. I don't think anybody would even enter it now. Which is a shame as it would be a great place as the rings from tethering horses are still at the wall.

This is the worst we have had the canal so far it is all lillies. I did have to stop and clear the weed hatch today as we had picked up a bit of wire but it was soon gone.

Despite dire warnings of a passage through Goscote it was pretty good all the way. There was a section where there were loads of pigeon lofts but there was loads of green spaces that had been left when heavy industry had gone. There are some great names around too. New Invention, Coal Pool, Triangle, Clay Hanger, Hill Top and Pleck!

View to the East from the Wyrley and Essington Canal near Goscote.

Pelsall Works Bridge built by the Horseley Coal and Iron Co. in 1824. Not bad nick for nearly 200 years old.

Just past the bridge we turned left at Pelsall Junction onto the Cannock Extension Canal. This canal went all the way to Hednesford at the foot of Cannock Chase to access the coal mines there. It was built in 1863. In the hey day about 50 boats a day would meet at the junction and as so many were on the arm at a time the water level would be lifted by about 6"! Subsidence closed the top end and the canal ends now at Norton Canes just at Watling Street. We went right to the end and then found a lovely mooring on the way back.

One of two basin arms that were once the Brownhills Grove Colliery loading moorings and now make a nice quiet spot.

After lunch I headed off to find some blackberries and Helen got stuck into a book. I walked on to Pelsall Common that was the site of an iron and spelter works. There is a area of heather heath so I should think that it is a valuable habitat.


Pelsall Common heather heath.

I came back with 4lb of brambles and relatively few scratches. On the way back I saw the biggest fish ever in the canal it was very close to the bank and must have been close to 2' long. I assume it was a carp.

The lily pad was about 5" across to give some scale. Not the best picture but hopefully you will understand why I was so impressed.