Yesterday evening we wandered down to The Fountain to watch some of the folk performing, one who we knew and decided that we would move on this morning. It turned out a lot of people had the same idea as when we got up the two boats ahead had all ready gone. It wasn’t long before Scorpio and Leo a working pair owned by CRT came by. We set off at our normal 10 AM start following the old Main Line to Factory Junction where we turned hard right to go down the three Factory Locks on the New Main Line a very straight canal compared with the others. As I rounded the junction there sat Scorpio at the top of the locks waiting to go down, they were already bow hauling the butty Leo down so I walked down to lend a hand only to find they had a load of people already helping. The pounds between the three locks were quite low but if Scorpio was OK then we would have no problem.
One of the locks has a cantilevered foot bridge across its tail, it you look to the right hand end you can see this end is clear of the ground to allow a tow rope to pass when the boats were pulled by horses.
In its heyday there were lots of junctions on this canal where loops went off and even canals crossing, lots of them have been filled in now, the first joined the Walsall Canal to the Old main line and crossed the New main Line on the level at Watery Lane Junction. One side is still in water and being used as a boat yard but the other side has long gone. This use to go up through 3 locks to bring it to the same level as the old Main Line, now the land just falls away.
We had a slow run, not only because we were following the pair but also passing through a fishing match of 25 anglers, I wonder it the boats behind were met as cheerfully as we were.
At Pudding Green Junction we turned sharp left up the Wednesbury Old Canal, we passed the other end of it yesterday at Deepfield Junction, unfortunately the middle section like a lot of other loops has been lost as can bee seen on this map produced by Waterway Routes Luckily for us the pair ahead carried straight on or I would have changed my plans for the day.
After a short time you come to Ryders green Junction also know I believe as Chemical Junction on the Chemical canal after the chemical works on this arm. Here we go straight ahead down the Riders Green flight of 8 locks on the Walsall canal. Half way down the flight we hit our first problem as Diana was unable to open the top gate of lock 4, when I got there I had a poke about and recovered this metal ladder that was in front of the gate, maybe the gate had been happily riding over it for years and today it decided just to hit it.
At the next lock it was a Transit wheel and tyre floating behind the gate. As we went down some locks were full and some empty but non seamed to leak excessively, strange. When we reached lock 7 I could see people at lock 8, maybe a boat coming up, but then they vanished. Looking through the binoculars I could see the bottom gate open and what I was the top paddle up. When we arrived it turned out the bottom gate and bottom paddle was up, whether they would have succeeded in raising the top paddle if we hadn’t arrived is anyone's guess. Just below the bottom lock there are what looks like a lot of old loading arms on the right hand side, it is hard to see as the scrub in covering everything. so a very poor photo I’m afraid. From here the canal was in a much more depressing state with dereliction along the banks. There are parts where there are modern housing estates but they are all shut off from the canal by high steel railings even though they were built with sweeping staircases running down. Every development we saw was like this, some with double railings top and bottom of the stairs.All the old buildings if not abandoned and burnt are covered in anti climb devices, razor and barbed wire.
Another old arm goes off at Ocker Hill which is now a long term mooring, last time we were this way we got invited to moor there overnight rather than staying out on the towpath. On the opposite side the Tame Valley Canal joins and we will be going that way tomorrow.
Soon there are more disused arms, the first just before the new Metro Bridge use to run through to join the Wednesbury Loop, now completely grown over after a few yards. A little further on there is yet another junction at Moorcroft bridge again connecting to the Wednesbury loop. About 5 minutes latter we passed a huge cemetery on the towpath side with row and rows of stones.
Someone has been clearing the towpath along here, they have gone a good job removing the turf that had taken hold on the path, what I don’t know is why they didn’t clear it away instead of just throwing it on the grass, it should do something for the efficiency of the grass cutting.
At the next junction we turned right down the Walsall Town Arm, at the end is a basin with pontoons, but at the entrance there is a floating boom and behind that about 10 foot of solid floating rubbish. The basin its is partly surrounded by high rise buildings. Luckily for us CRT have installed a floating pontoon on the offside back at the junction for 24 hour mooring, this is only accessible by water so no chance of visiting town or town visiting us. We reversed back and are now sitting opposite the new flats that have been built on the towpath side.
11 miles, 11 locks 5 canals and hundreds of junctions in 5¾ hours