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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.

Saturday 18 March 2017

There and back to see how far it is.

The day was set to be fair so we decided to go on a short there and back cruise. The destination was set as Merry Hill, not for the shopping  particularly but for a visit to The Vine, brewery tap of Batham's Brewery.

A lovely sunny day for a picture of Bumble Hole Lake right next to our nights moorings. Last night was particularly clear with Orin almost overhead and an extremely bright Venus just setting. A large moon just rising before we turned in. It is an old clay pit that now serves as a nature reserve as well as a storm water surge reservoir.

A very clear view as we look back through Fox and Goose Bridge.

Amy at the helm as we pass the old Lloyds Proving House. Netherton was famous for the fabrication of anchors and their chains. They were brought her for proof testing and certification before going off to the ship yards.

Looking up the Park Head Locks and the disused railway line towards the southern entrance to the Dudley Canal Tunnel. I must moor up up here one day, and I keep meaning to get the boat guaged to see if she will go through the Dudley Tunnel. I'm pretty sure we wont fit though.

Amy enjoying the sun as she waits for the lock at Blowers Green. Fortunately the cement works was not at full blast as it is not quite so pleasant with dust and noise blowing all over you.

On the left is the old entrance to the old Two Locks Line that cut out the loop round via Park Head Junction. Dudley Canal No. 2 heads off to the right, under the more mundane bridge.

Almost all the visitor berths at the Waterfront were take, just room for us to slide in. We had a bite to eat and then set off down the Black Delph Locks and up the road to the Vines. The brewery is just behind. They were doing a roaring trade in lunches but we settled for  a quick drink. I really like Batham's Bitter, but was very good and just had the one before heading off to Asda at Merry Hill Centre to buy our tea. We settled on a curry in a box, two different curries, rice, onion bhajis and two nanns, all for £4. I was a little dismayed to see that the chicken and come from Thailand, but otherwise went down a treat.

On our return to the boat we set off to retrace our steps. Here we are approaching  Brewin's 'Tunnel'. He was the superintendent when the original canal was dug and when they came across the very hard Dolerite rock they had to tunnel through it. When techniques had been improved, by 1856 it was decided to remove the bottleneck of a tunnel by opening it out. It seemed to have taken two years as 1856/58 is inscribed on the key stone on the high bridge.

Lodge Farm Reservoir is an old clay pit that was later flooded to keep the canal topped up. However it is not used for this now and is used for water skiing, as can be seen by the jump ramps that are moored there.

The Dudley Canals in their day would have been extremely busy as industry was everywhere on both banks. there are still signs of this activity with disused railway bridges, basin and little bridges like the one above. However these days you could be forgiven for thinking that you are in a much more rural
The tower of St. Andrew's Church at Netherton adds to the rural theme as it seems that it is in view for the entire journey along the Dudley No.2 canal as the canal contours round it's hill.

Wew were back to our berth in good time and so was able to do a few little jobs, like replacing draft proofing on the front doors and cut new deck mats to size before setting down to our curry and watching a bit of TV before turning in.

Friday 17 March 2017

New Line to Netherton.

On Tuesday my daughter and I drove down to Birmingham to be reunited with 'Holderness'. The plan was to move the boat over the next couple of days. When we finally left Sherborne Wharf we did stop and knock for Ray on 'Ferndale' but he was obviously back in the Wellington with Diane away.

We just carried on on the main line chugging along in a a little dappled sunshine and not meeting another boat. Although the weather was similar to to the above pictures, these pictures are from April 2016 ( I couldn't find the camera!). That is why the gorse is a bit more in blossom than currently. This is the toll island on the New Main Line just west of Winson Green Junction.

We stayed on the main line at Smetwick Junction and avoided the 3 lock and 20' rise up to the Wolverhampton Level on the old Main Line.

Made sense really as about 2.5 miles later we would be coming down the Spon Lane Locks at the junction that rejoins the New Main Line from the right

I have always fancied these BCN cottages that are on the Nertherton Branch next to the Tividale Aqueduct where the Old Main Line crosses over. I reckon they would be close to 'civilisation' but be nice and quiet and 'isolated'. They look nice and tidy these days too.

I think from memory the length of the tunnel is 2768 metres and the book says 3027 yards and I seem to remember is the fourth longest in use today. If the light at the end of the tunnel is the end and  not a boat coming it seems much closer than it seemed on Tuesday as we seemed to take and gae to apss through. 

It was getting a little dark when we got to the other end so luckily we were tying up not far away, almost opposite the tearoom near Windmill End Junction. We were soon settled in and had a cottage pie prepared by Helen at home in the oven.

Once tea was polished off, pots washed and The Archers caught up with we went for a walk up the road to the Old Swan, or Ma Padoe's as it is more normally known. I enjoyed my couple of pints of Entire before trooping back to bed. After some fresh air it was most welcome

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Bye bye Brum.

I'm not sure what is going on but following our shopping trip on Monday, which was a big disappointment as the market wasn't open, I decided that I would pop round to Sherborne Wharf to ask where our booked mooring would be. I was therefore surprised to find everywhere locked up and the Fiddle and Bone pub looking as though it was having a total refurbishment. The office in the Round House looked open so I walked round the road was to get in. Only to find that it was just being used as a store for items out of the pub. The boaters facilities was locked up and there was nobody around to ask.

As the sun was shining I walked round to their old place round in Oozells Loop. Everywhere was locked up but there were folk moving about, so I let technology do the walking a called them on the phone. It seems that they are now based on a boat moored in the basin at Sherborne Basin in the Loop. I'm not sure whether there is fuel available etc, but it sure didn't look like it to me. I got sorted and new where I was going the next morning.

I forgot to thank Diane publicly for her generous gift of hand towels with crocheted piece that allowed it to be secured to a draw or oven rail. The idea being to prevent you using the tea towel to dry your hands. And it works, I did use the towel Diane. Thanks very much indeed, and of course I will think of you every time I get mucky hands!

Our stay aboard was quite short as we were leaving again today, Tuesday. We were packing up the bits that were going home and stowing the rest of it. Our son set out from Hull and about 1000 we started to make a move to Sherborne Wharf  where they will be looking after the boat for a week or so.. Diane and Ray came out just to check how badly I managed to back down to make the turn into the loop.

Ray and Diane taking photographic evidence of the reversing. Pleased to say there was nobody about and I didn't scratch any boats in the course of the trip. They didn't see the lovely swing and backing down into the basin between two boats, but then nobody ever does when you want them to, do they?

We were soon moored up and with the electric on. There are always lots of little jobs to do when arriving or leaving the boat and by the time No.1 son arrived and after a bite of lunch we were on our way back to Hull. Macy the cat always knows something is going on, and goes to hide. Luckily there isn't too many places she can hide on the boat so was soon apprehended and sat on the back shelf of the car. I don't thin Skye the Budgie was any the wiser, so long as there is some millet for her she will travel anywhere.

Watch this space as we are back aboard next week, for a short time.

Monday 6 March 2017

Many Hands.

The day started nice and bright and sun on the panels, always a good start of the day.We were soon off and on our way and after a communication form Dianne and Ray we were looking to meet up with them at the Farmer's Bridge flight.

The moorings just before Aston Junction on the Ashted Line always seems inviting, in it's little garden. Maybe one day we wills top there.

It is always surprising that Birmingham is on a hill, and no matter what direction you approach from you have to go up locks. It is always good to see the BT tower though, as you know you are approaching the centre.

I always like this factory as it reminds me of a Bavarian castle, or Hogwarts. I assume that the round bit on the side is the stairwell, but it does look very big for that.

Some more graffiti at the bottom lock but is quite swish really, and probably official.

Still before the bottom lock, and definitely official.

Just as we were pushing into the bottom lock who should appear but two people with windlasses grasped in hand. They soon had the the gates opened, and that was the last I saw of Helen until I got to the top. Mind you I could hear them both!

Out into the sun, and almost there at the top and by Cambrian Wharf.

Our big thanks to Ray and Diane who got us up the flight in just an hour. So fast I hardly had time to take any photos at all. They make a nice couple don't they.

We had collected plenty of rubbish at Minworth top lock and up the Garrison flight so we stopped at the rubbish disposal to discharge it to the bins. A boat just arrived to take our spot going down the locks, so very lucky for them.

We moored up just astern of Ferndale by the Indoor Arena and after tea and cake Helen and I went shopping into town. Disappointingly the market was closed on Monday so we didn't tick off everything on our list.

We has arranged to meet up with the Ferndale mob later and we wandered over to the Wellington to show them the 10 or 16 beer menu on a TV screen, and to see if they had the Aston Marina gangs tipple of Titanic. Lo and behold they did, but we had to go to the roof bar to enjoy the Plum Porter. It was then but a short journey to the Barajee for an Indian sitting over looking the Worcester Bar, right over the canal. Much chat and life stories, rants and moans, and what ever the opposite of those is and it was time to wander back to the boat. I lovely night, and always nice to have a chat and to find that our paths may cross later n the year as we are both heading north.

Thanks again to you both for you help up the locks, and company at the pub.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Industrial landscape and art!

It chucked it down just before we got up, so we enjoyed a cup of tea in bed with the rain beating down on the roof. By the time we had had our porridge and got sorted it was down to a drizzle. By the time I popped my head out to set off it was down to just a mizzle, and that was as bad as it got all day.

Helen came out expecting the worst but the sun even came out and it was a pleasant day.

As we headed up Saltley Cut we thought that the towpath was quite clean. I definitely that the plastic bag ban has had an effect on the rubbish in the canal. I wish they could do something about plastic bottles as they seem to be be the most numerous objects now, along with glass bottles. I'm not sure whether it is because I have become much more cultured since the start of Hull's City of Culture, but some of this graffiti is quite 'arty'. At least there is no swear words etc.

I have christened this the 'skip tip'. It is where old skips go to die.

I think that this stretch of the canal would be a good one to adopt as the towpath is quite green and there are a few people about too. With a bit of TLC, despite the painted walls and derelict factories, it could be very attractive

This was after our regulation trip down the weed hatch. Plenty of plastic but now seems to be those tougher, the 'bags for life', than the old ones. Last time we came this way we had clothing round the prop which was a bit more difficult to clear. I'm pretty sure that this new propeller of ours has more of a tendency to 'collect' debris.

As we got to the top of the Garrison Locks there is a long straight with plenty of bridges. Today there was a smallish fishing competition going on. Today they were all nice and friendly and we didn't have to play chicken with them. That is when you approach but they don't let on that they have seen you until the very last minute and lifts their pole up just in time!

After we had negotiated Bordesley Junction and turned right towards Warwick Bar we approached this tree. Once more I think I have been over cultured as from a distance this tree looked like an art installation, where the artist had spent hours choosing where to hang each piece of rubbish and it is supposed to describe the end of the world or some thing. In actual fact it was a tree next to a plastics recycling place. I am not sure what C&RT can do about companies on the off side that pollute the canal but some are making a real mess of our canals.

Just to show that my 'culture radar' hasn't gone completely awry her was some graffiti that is very good indeed.

The banana dock at Warwick Bar is looking decidedly unloved. I suppose it will just fall in to disrepair unless a use can be found for it. Maybe a floating cafe with a little swing bridge across the Bar?

We resisted the delights of Typhoo Basin, even though we were really looking forward to a cuppa, and turned right once again. These accommodation blocks were just going up last time we passed this way and now they have students living in them. There are others going up too. These are called University Locks, where as I thought they were Ashted Locks.

We were speeding up the locks and were soon at the last lock and about to head through Ashted Tunnel. I managed to not scratch the new paint on the tunnel wall as it is a little tight here. When we got to the top we had a discussion about heading onwards and up the Farmer's Bridge flight to the city centre, but decided against it as that cup of tea was calling. We stopped in our usual spot near the winding hole by Aston University. Tomorrow we will be at the top. We have a little bit of a shopping list of things we need for the boat, and I'm sure a pint or two will be in order.