Friday 31 October 2014

Engine Arm Friday 31 October 2014

The Bumblehole moorings were OK last night, but this morning we were woken by seagulls and rooks on the boat roof followed by ducks and geese on the cut.

First thing this morning we moved across the canal and filled with water outside the visitor centre finally setting off at 10 am. There was no light at the end of the tunnel, just blackness and we weren't able to see the far end do to the mist in there until almost the half way point, soon after that we were unable to see the end behind us. Passing the ventilation shafts was like going through a rain shower. There were originally 15 shafts but now there are less than half. It looks as if drainage pipes have been fitted to most of the seal shafts. Over the years the handrails have been replaced at least twice and there are at least three different designs in there now. Along the roof of the tunnel there are insulators as at one time the tunnel was fitted with electric light. The old distance markers are still visible, these measure the length in yards where as the newer ones are in meters. I say newer as there are some small ones that show hundreds of meters as well as the full meters ones.

Just clear of the tunnel is the Tividale aqueduct which carries the BCN Old Main Line. This also served as a toil island and there are lock gates that could be closed to prevent boats nipping through without being gauged and charged. I believe the white cast metal structures on the edge were the pivot point for a foot bridge as the toll clerk would need access to both sides of the boat. The Lock gates are still visible but as there was no level difference they were not fitted with paddles or balance beams.

At the end of the Netherton Tunnel Arm we turned left on the BCN New Line and went up the three factory to Factory Junction, on the way we passed the Watery Lane arm that is the home ofDSCF7474 Caggy’s boat yard. This use to be a cross roads of the canal where the link from the Walsall canal crossed the New Main Line before climbing 3 locks to the Old main Line.

At Factory Junction we turned hard left back along the BCN Old Main Line through Tipton passing the statue of the Tipton SlasherDSCF7478 a famous local boxer and then passed some visitor moorings that have been dedicated to John the Lock. John was a local chap who use to spend his spare time helping boaters through the BCN locks until he died a few years back.

The canal runs under the M5 motorway for quite some way and Oldbury Junction leading up to Titford Pools is actually beneath it. There was quite a bit of Duck Weed coming from the Titford Canal that is slowly spreading along the Old Main Line.DSCF7482 Shortly after this we crossed the New Main Line on Stewards Aqueduct and a boat just happened to be approaching below as we crossed. DSCF7484 We were not far from our destination for the weekend now. The BCNS AGM and bonfire rally at the Engine Arm, but before we get there we have yet another tunnel to go through, this time quite a short one at 103 yard, the Summit Tunnel. This is flanked by two bridges but the tunnel is wide enough for two boats to pass and has a tow path.DSCF7485

We passed the Smethwick New Pumping Station which will be open for visitors tomorrow and just round the corner was the end of the moorings for boats attending the Rally, Not only are boats moored on the Old Main Line, but they are down on The New Main Line and the Engine Arm.

map engine arm Today’s Journey 10 miles 3 locks two junctions 3 canal and 2 tunnels.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Bumble Hole Thursday 30 October 2014


Dear reader, tonight’s blog is slightly different in that I have added two albums of photographs, clicking the link “view full album” will open them in something called “One Drive” this is a Microsoft product so I don’t know if it works in Apple. Maybe someone will let me know.

A highly recommended mooring last night in Hawne Basin and this morning we filled with diesel at 63p/lt domestic rate.DSCF7377

We thanked them and said goodbye at 10.30 this morning and left in warm sunshine, out through the very narrow entrance bridge hole and sharp left to retrace our steps.DSCF7381 The canal at the moment only goes a few hundred yards to the right but that could change if the Lapal Canal gets restored. See the Lapal Website for more information.

Between here and the tunnel we passed the site of the old Stewart and Lloyds Pipe works. Stewart and Lloyd had a fleet of tugs to pull trains of day boats around the system.DSCF7386 DSCF7385 DSCF7384

It wasn’t long before we were back into Gosty Hill Tunnel. This is quite interesting as each end there is a section where the head room is very low, head height for about 50 yards but the middle section has a very high head room, probably another 4 feet.

I can only assume that the middle collapsed at some time and was rebuilt whereas the low bits are original and quite uneven.

Just to the north of the tunnel is a garage, I wonder if they realise how far the land has eroded under their concrete apron. DSCF7399

All along the Dudley No.2 canal there are cast way markers. The smallest was a Moorhen under a bridge and only about 3” tall.The surprising thing is that they have not been vandalised with spray paint.

When we reached the junction we turned left, going straight across would have taken us up the Boshboil Branch but its only about 100 yards long so we gave it a miss. We were now heading for Parkhead Junction. On the way we passed this steel yard and the owner has his Narrowboat moored right out side, I think this proves that  Beechy didn’t freeze to death on the South Oxford but is alive and well.DSCF7407

Not far after this we went through what use to be Brewins Tunnel before it was opened out into a cutting, full details are on one of the “Way Marker” photos. The remains of the brick portals are still visible at the south end. DSCF7427It is now known as Highbridge road bridge for fairly obvious reasons. I would rather think of it as a tunnel like Fenny.

At one time there was a link known as the BCN 2 Lock Line  because it had two locks on it, this use to bypass Parkhead Junction and lock reducing the journey length by about a mile as can be seen on Paul’s “WaterwayRoutes” electronic map http://www.waterwayroutes.co.ukWaterways Routes 2 Locks The bridge across the arm is still there on the left and the branch is in water as far as the top lock, we carried on straight ahead.DSCF7412 Arriving at Parkhead junction we winded and very naughtily moored on the end of the water point by the Blowers Green Pump House to eat our dinner. Moored in a short arm on the corner of the junction is a Stewarts and Lloyds tug that was used to pull the trains of day boats for Stewart and Lloyds tube works at Halesowen.DSCF7418

After lunch (no one came by wanting water) we said goodbye to the junction and headed back to Bumble Hole where we have moored for the night. Since we have been here we have taken a walk along the Bumblehole Branch which is now used as long term moorings, passed the short length of filled in canal to the end of the Boshboil Branch and back to Harnser moored on the Dudley No.2 Canal.

map bumble holeToday’s journey 8 miles 2 of them twice, no locks and two junctions.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Hawne Basin Wednesday 29 October 2014

Mooring at Cambrian Wharf overnight was fine. It was a bit noisy during the evening but once the pub closed it quietened down and didn’t hear anything overnight. In the early evening it started to drizzle and was still at it this morning when we got up.DSCF7315

After leaving the wharf at 10 o’clock the first job was to take on a bit of water, the CaRT volunteers where gathering by the office before setting off down the locks. There were a few boats going down the flight and we met a couple during the day, but they have all been hire boats, a final flurry at half term perhaps.

We set off along the BCN New Main Line staying on the lower level. There has been a bit of towpath work along here and someone has tipped the safety fence into the cut.DSCF7316

There is a nice covering of ivy on the portals of Galton Tunnel, I wonder how many years it will be before its a full curtain.DSCF7322

One thing did puzzle my, what is so special about Albion Junction where the Gower Branch joins the Main Line that it was felt necessary to put notices up telling you to sound your horn,DSCF7328 are the boats coming out fired from a catapult or something, can’t the just look like at every other junction?

Do to all the junctions on the New Main Line and the possibility or boats joining and leaving it there are a number of toll islands. Loaded boats would stop here and their cargo weighed by displacement and so charged the going toll rate per ton. This island is slightly different in that it had a centre channel. Most were just an island with a channel each side.DSCF7318 This one would have had a roof and gantry over it and would have been used to gauge the boats by adding know weights to empty boats and measuring their displacement. This would be recorded in a register so that when loaded the displacement could be converted to weight carried.

At Dudley port junction we turned left onto the Netherton Tunnel Branch and through Netherton Tunnel.

DSCF7330 Netherton tunnel is quite large with a towpath running through on both sides and wide enough for meeting boats to pass. At one time there were over a dozen air/construction vents in the roof, but a majority have been sealed up. Tunnels were constructed but sinking a shaft to the level of the tunnel floor and then excavating the tunnel to meet up with the next shaft with the spoil being winched to the surface. When the tunnel was complete most shafts were sealed over, but some were left open for ventilation.

 DSCF7340Looking up a ventilation shaft

Although the tunnel has a tow path through it on both sides, it was needed for the horse to tow the boats through as at over 3000 yards long it was to long to efficiently leg them through, the tow path on the north side has been gated off.

Once clear of the tunnel we decided to visit Hawne Basin so it was hard left again onto the Dudley No.2 canal where we stopped for lunch in steady rain. While we have been here Atlas and MalusDSCF7357 have been passed in both directions, the second with a load of youngsters onboard. We ended up following them all the way to Hawne basin, a somewhat slow trip. It turned out that the youngsters are doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award and will be staying at Halesowen tonight.

One of the highlights of the Dudley No.2 is Gosty Tunnel, BW could never quite make their minds up how to spell it and two notices within 3 yards of each other are different.DSCF7366

Just before the tunnel on the offside is a lay-by that was built for the tunnel tug that use to pull unpowered boats through the tunnel.DSCF7367

At Hawne Basin Atlas and Malus breasted up and winded in the entrance to the basin, while I was waiting for them a boater from the basin told me what they were doing, which was handy or I would have been right in the way when they came back breasted. He asked if I was staying overnight and suggested I might like to spend the night in the basin which was very kind of him, so as the pair winded I slid round beside them and popped through the bridge into the basin for the night.

map Halesowen

Today’s journey 12 miles, 3 canal, 3 junctions and 3 tunnels

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Cambrian Wharf Tuesday 28 October 2014

Star City proved to be a very good mooring, we were the only boat there and went to eat at “OODLES n’OODLES” Described at “casual pan Asian cooking”. I think we were one of only two non Asian tables in there. The service and food was good and the price very reasonable, but the don’t serve alcohol, only soft drinks.

This morning before setting off I investigated the fresh water pump again, it is sucking air in somewhere so sometimes the taps start with a gush. I think its the seal on the lid of the pump strainer, so gave the O ring a good clean and put it back together again, it could even be the pump, but there was no sign of a leak anywhere.

We finally pushed off in the sunshine at about half ten, needless to say the garrison Flight were all against us. During the summer the bottom lock cottage was up for auction with a rather highDSCF7279 guide price, I don’t know what state it was in then, but today it only looks fit for demolition.

The Garrison flight are a bit unusual as when you draw the top paddles not only does it fill the lock from just behind the top gates but also via the bottom paddle culverts blasting water fromDSCF7287 behind the gate if it had been left open. These are the only ones I know like this. Needless to say as we cleared the top lock we met a boat coming down, still they got a good run out of it. Turning right at Bordesley Junction we noticed a boat going up Camp Hill so at least Ashted locks should be with us.

The Bond looks very smart as you make your way to the nowDSCF7290 disused Stop Lock just before Digbeth Junction. At the junction we turned hard right again and were soon into Curzon Tunnel. Here the instructions tell you to make sure the tunnel is clear,DSCF7296 but its curved and about wide enough for 4 boats to pass. After the tunnel there is a lot of building work going on with old buildings being pulled down and big boxes being put up. Over inDSCF7298 the distance I could see this old shell, I wonder if that is also destine for the bulldozer.

Half way up Ashted and we spotted people with windlasses but no boat, as they were well ahead of the boat they opened the bottom gate of lock 2 while we worked lock 3, their boat just coming out of Ashted tunnel as lock 2 filled. I didn’t realise that Ashted tunnel was so tight and there is a real risk to the offside cabin top edge if you don’t take care.

We stopped at the Science Park for a spot of lunch, unfortunately while we were stopped a boat came and turned all Farmers Bridge flight so all the flight was against us. Years ago one of the lock side buildings had a mural covering its wall, when the building was changed to student accommodation and new windows cut into the wall the mural was destroyed, but they have replaced it with another, a bit modern but very good.DSCF7308

Near the bottom of the flight is an old lengthmans hut but for some reason as well as fitting a grill to the door they have filled the hut with a grill, maybe its meant to be art, as under some DSCF7307 DSCF7305 one of the bridges they have fitted grills to the alcoves and these are “decorative”.DSCF7311

We continued to the top of the flight, the boat we had been following reversed into Cambrian Wharf which is what I had planned to do, but on inspection there was just enough room for us to get in behind him.

map Cumbrian Basin Today’s journey 24 locks 3 junctions, 4 canals 1 stoplock 2 tunnels and 5 1/4 miles

Monday 27 October 2014

Star City Monday 27 October 2014

A boat passed before we were about, but the locks would have been against us anyway so it didn’t matter.  Last night we turned the stove off before going to bed and a good job too. as we woke quite warm without it.

We set off at 9 AM and were soon at the first of 11 locks, I quite like these locks with single top and bottom gates that don’t leak much and paddle gear that all worked, also they are a nice distance for walking.
When we reached lock 3 I spotted a boat just leaving lock 4, our luck was changing. Diana left the top gate ready for them and they moored up by the pub, so she had to walk back and close it. Lock 5 was sure to be with us, but no it was full and the top gate was wide open.

I find the lock gear on this flight interesting and I can’t say that I have noticed it anywhere else, There is a safety chain fitted toDSCF7249 the paddle shaft which I assume would stop the rack running out if the paddle became detached. I do note that CaRT and BW before them chose not to use it.DSCF7251

Soon after this we could see the boat ahead, just above lock 10 they pulled over for water so we passed them, but of course 11 was still against us. On into Curdworth tunnel, its not very long with a towpath running through it, but at the south end there is quite a bulge in the wall and this has taken paint of the handrail before today. There is also one a few yard before the end so you need to keep close to the towpath.DSCF7253

There is an interesting British Waterways notice at the end of the tunnel telling you to stay inside the boat. I can’t steer from inside the boatDSCF7257

There are several tiled name boards on the flight with sculpted wood at each end. This one says Curdworth. But what youDSCF7248 probably didn’t notice in this photo is that the Birmingham Angles Association have decided to nail one of their rather garish signs on the wooden sculptures.They are bad enough nailed up in trees etc, but on a sculpture is just vandalism. I feel an email coming on. DSCF7247

We had planned to moor near the Kingsbury Arms for the night but we had made good time and it was still not quite mid day. Work is on going on the new extension with old carpets andDSCF7261 rubbish being burned out the back, so we would have needed to have gone through the bridge anyway.

We decided to head for Star City on the Grand Union canal for the night as we have never stopped there before. We were pleased to find that all the anti vandal locks worked OK on the Minworth flight and we had the good fortune to meet a couple of boats between the top of Curdworth and the bottom of Minworth, so they were all in our favour. We topped up with water just below the top lock but noted that the bottom nearside paddle is still out of operation with CaRT tape wrapped round it. It was not working and I reported it back on 15 July this year. Also there is now a notice on this lock saying it has to be left empty.DSCF7267

Like lots of other parts of the Birmingham suburbs a fortune is being spent on the towpaths with a tarmac surface being laid for DSCF7272the cyclists. We met one of the work boats taking materials to the site, I have never seen a work boat loaded this badly before with the starboard gunwale almost at water level and a couple of foot of freeboard on the Port side. It must have been a nightmare to push. Don’t be misled by the angle of the tug. DSCF7271 I should have photographed it coming towards me but I was busy trying to keep out of his way.

At Salford Junction it was very hard left and up the Grand Union, through the now disused Nechells Stop Lock and onto the offside Star City floating 24 hr visitor moorings at 1435 hrs. Once moored it was a trip down the weed hatch to remove a sock, some polly and a length of plastic that felt like wire underwater, then a walk round Star City, we didn’t know what to expect but we are now trying to decide where to go for dinner tonight.

map starcity

14 locks I junction 2 canals and just under 10 miles