Thursday 30 September 2021

The fox and Anchor, Cross Green

 This morning we visited Wightwick Manor, what a strange house with so many different styles built over a short period of time. Todays planning officers would have a heart attack if something like that landed on their desk today.

It was half past one when we set off and the weather had remained dry all morning, mind you we had plenty during the night. The first lock Wightwick top lock was with us, but I wonder about the tail bridge, when they rebuilt the approach wall why didn't the new arch follow the line of the original. Was it intentional to make it stand out as new on old? Just below Compton Lock we spotted our friends Heather and Steve moored up. I should say Heather spotted us, as I said to Diana, who is that on a boat waving madly at us. I never wear my glasses while boating. They were moored directly opposite what use to be Limekiln Chandlery but now a couple of rather smart houses, in the grounds they have made a feature of an old boat hull, so we moored behind them for a chat before Heather cam and gave us a hand with Compton Lock., then it started to rain. Its not a very good photograph but someone  has hung pompoms  from the tree branches right over the middle of the towpath with a tag on them.A short way before Aldersley Junction someone has recreated a little piece of Greece it there back garden, I hope they get the weather to enjoy it. Shortly after this we spotted more friends moored up so we stopped for another chat, now you understand why todays journey has been so slow. This time it was Anne and Oli with their two rescue dogs, not dogs that rescue people, dogs that have been rescued from life in a dog pound. We pushed on it the rather miserable weather past Autherley Junction and into the narrows, here we met a boat coming towards us, but luckily when he saw us he was right by a passing place so I was able to catty on and go round him. Or stopping place for the night is right outside The Fox and Anchor pub, but they seem to have dropped Fox from the name now. We may even go there to eat tonight.

Todays Journey 6¼ miles 3 lock in 3¼ hours

Wednesday 29 September 2021


Woke to a lovely sunny morning but at 7AM the weather station indicated it was a little under 4° C. outside, tonight the stove is alight..
 Just as we were untying to boat ahead set off so we would have the locks against us. He did apologise when we met at the lock for pulling away in front , but it wasn't his fault, he was moored some distance from us and probably didn't see us getting ready.
I thought I would try one of my artistic photos at the lock tail bridge where over the years the lines have worn away the steel. I was also very impressed with this offside garden, they must spend a lot of time on it to keep it all neat like that.As we approached Botterham staircase lock the boat ahead was still waiting to enter as they had met a boat coming down. The derelict house at the bottom of the locks has been completely gutted and being fully refurbished.  
I have found a photograph of what it was like in 2017 when we passed, a few less dormers for a start.  

Some time a go a boat sank in the bottom chamber of Botterham lock and the last time we came down the water was like a power hose coming through the intermediate gates.

May 2021 leaking gates

It  looks as if CRT have fixed some rubber sheeting to the faces of the gate to reduce the water flow between them.
We stopped for a bit at Wombourne bridge for a visit to Sainsburys to top up supplies as its the most convenient place for the next few days. I love some of the names you come across on the canals, today we have had Giggetty Wharf and Bumblehole Bridge.Then it was on to the famous Bratch Locks, this is a set of 3 locks that at first appear to be a staircase but are in fact 3 separate locks with remote pounds between them with only a few feet between the top and bottom gates of each lock.
There was quite a bit of water coming out of the bywash below the flight which pushed my bow to the off side so I had to give it quite a bit of power to get back on line, this didn't impress the row of fishermen sitting on the offside bank, below the lock on the bend .By now there were several dark clouds about and I could see heavy rain falling to the North East of us, but thankfully we stayed dry today.
Lots of people on several Facebook groups have warned of the dangers of drinking water straight from the water tank and suggesting filters or bottled water, after seeing this chap that may be good advice.

We carried on meeting the second boat of the day right in a bridge hole, we both stopped and gave way finally mooring  just below Wightwick Lock for the night, not the quietest of moorings with a road running parallel to the canal on both sides and a road bridge across the canal just ahead of us, but as we plan to visit Wightwick hall tomorrow its the most convenient place to stop.

Today's Journey 6 miles, 11 locks in 5 hours

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Hinksford Lock

 Apart form a fox barking in the early hours we had a very quiet night but you need good curtains as the area is well illuminated. I looked out this morning about twenty past nine as a chap on a bike came up the locks with a bag on his back and stopped by the bottom gate which made me wonder if there was a boat coming up. It turned out it was Jim, a friend of John who has helped us up and down the flight many times. I always gave John a couple of bottles of beer for his trouble but Jim informed me that John doesn't drink. Anyway we were in the top lock at nine thirty and Jim was off on his bike setting ahead, this resulted in us being at Wordsley Junction at ten past eleven. I thanked him kindly and gave him a few bob asking him to also get John a couple of Mars bars, we said farewell and he headed off on his bike to Kidderminster. 
I was surprised to see this lock beam is still hanging on to life, its not far short of just being a skeleton of its former self.

The Red House Glass museum had no sign of life but a nice display on their end wall.

Just past lock 13 we passed a boat "moored" with a couple of ropes from its roof the the top rail of the railings just below the lock moorings. not an ideal place of method to moor.
Once clear of the flight we decided not to visit Stourbridge but carry on down to Stourton Junction and there at the Stourton top lock was Jim on his bike with the lock full and the top gate open ready for us. One of the houses in the flight has an impressive bird box, or house.Lots of the houses have very smart gardens leading right to the canal side and some have even used a bit of the offside land at the locks. We said goodbye to Jim for the final time at the last lock. If all the official Volockies worked like this it would be just great, every lock full and open for us all the way down. not two or three standing around just one lock of the flight.At the junction we turned right on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and it wasn't long before we met a boat coming down. We have come down 39 locks since we left Titford Pools on Sunday. Someone left a comment were the Titford Pools the highest point on the system. They are not the highest on the system but the highest navigable section of the BCN canals at some 38 feet above the Wolverhampton level and some 300 feet above Stourton Junction, from here we would be going up hill again. We stopped for lunch at Prestwood Bridge on the visitor moorings where another boat went by, so hopefully the rest of todays locks would be with us. After lunch we wet off in light rain which just got worse, as expected the locks were with us and Just as I was approaching Rocky Lock a couple walked down from above, thankfully looking before they turned it and seeing me approach opened the bottom gates. From here the rain got even heavier. Passing Hinksford Wharf  we see that Heart of England Narrowboats now have their hire base there.
As we went up through Hinksford lock God stopped the rain, he just decided to pour it out of a big bucket instead, it just fell down, we called it a day about a hundred yards above the lock, needles to say, once all the wet stuff was stripped of, a cup of tea brewed, it stopped raining. 

Todays Journey 7¾ miles, 24 locks in 5½ hours.

Monday 27 September 2021

Leys Junction

 Well last night was interesting, safely tied up in the basin, the wind picked up, the rain lashed down and muggins here had left his Ipad on the slide all night so it was quite damp this morning when I got it in, much to my surprised it still works. That's not the end of my technical woos, I have two lap tops with me, one the screen had died so I have no idea what's happening. The other has a faulty charger socket and has to lay very still and it may charge, its also suffering the blue screen of death every now and again. I have just come in the boat and the phone is as dead as a dido.

Anyway at 10 am this morning the sun was out, the rain had gone away and we had a good pumpout and fill up with diesel before heading on our way at quarter to eleven. Leaving Hawne Basin was interesting with two of the moored in the basin having their bows well across the entrance, or in our case exit bridge hole.
Once out its a very tight turn towards Gosty Tunnel, Pat and Sheila were on there boat to wish us goodbye and we were off. An uneventful trip to Windmill End Junction where it was again hard left toward the Delph locks, about half way there it hammered it down with rain again, but we stopped at Blowers Green to fill with water and also have a bit of lunch, when we had finished both the rain eased for a bit and we joined the Dudley Number One Canal at Parkhead Junction. We made the decision to stop at Merry Hills for a bit to see what the weather thought it might do. Looking back towards Hawne Basin there was a very low, flattish rainbow.After about an hour we decided the weather was going to hold and set off to the  locks, Just as we did so we met a boat, both commenting it was the first we had seen on the move today. Now the strange thing the locks are only just round the corner but the first and second chambers were both empty but after that the others were ether almost full or full. Our normal procedure is to fill the next chamber with the water from the lock above, but even so there was a lot of water going over the weirs. This was fine until we came to lock 9 which only has a small by-wash so the complete lock area was flooded, A gallant chap waded into 4" of water with Diana to open the top gate.The water was topping the top gate and flooding the towpath and all the lock surround with a rapids running down under the bridge to the tail of the bottom lock.Once in the lock and dropping the chamber this was my view from the bottom of the chamber.Once clear of the flight things improved greatly, the only sign we saw of the recent pollution incident was a little floating material that was used in the clean up and this swan with bit of a black chest.We carried on to moor for the night just above the Stourbridge flight of locks.

Todays Journey 10 miles, 10 locks in 5½ hours


Sunday 26 September 2021

Hawne Basin

 The first movement we saw this morning was Pat and Sheila reversing by us to head back down the 6 Crow locks as they decided not to visit the pools. Although the agreed set of time from the  Pump House was 9-30 a couple of the boats had gone up early and we would meet them as they came back, stopping to meet them also coincided with me getting an arm full of old clothing round the prop which held us up for a bit and allowed Graham to overtake. As we left the mooring Joanna with a butty were about to set off. Graham made his way straight to the far pool with me following a bit behind, I don't think the fishermen were too impressed with all the activity, especially as I passed one at about 4 MPH  as he was the first hidden in the offside bushes. I was able to get some photos of Graham as he came round in the poolbefore he returned under the motorway bridge to investigate the second pool 
I followed him under the bridge and took a short cut into the pool by reversing through a gap in the bank beside the motorway. In the second pool I decided to see if I could actually get under the motorway between the concrete legs, the answer was yes.By now Graham had come into the basin at the top and shortly afterwards Joanna and butty joined us.They had a full complement of passengers on the deck out for the ride. I was able to get a bit of video as they came round in front of the motorway.

we then made our way without incident to the top of the locks where we assisted both the boat ahead and graham down the flight. This map shops out route around the pools.
After we had helped the others down the flight we had lunch before setting off down the 6 Crow locks and turning left at the Old Main Line. We carried on to Brades Hall Junction where we turned right down the Brades staircase locks and through to the New main Line, turning left until we came to the next junction, Dudley Port Junction where we turned left again to Netherton Tunnel, 30 minutes in the dark and we were the other side of the hill and ready to turn left yet again at Windmill End Junction down the Dudley Number 2 canal through Ghostly Tunnel to Hawne Basin where we have moored for the night on the service wharf, Dee did have a mooring ready for us but as we will just do a pumpout and fill with diesel first thing tomorrow and then leave we will be fine here.

Todays Journey 10¾ miles, 9 locks in 7 hrs.


Saturday 25 September 2021

Titford Pump House

 Boats were on the at about 7am this morning as those on the John the Lock moorings had to go passed us and wind to be facing in the right direction. Moored directly in front of us were 2 day boat and also Mike with his tug Joanna, he was planning to tow both of theseto the Bradley workshop. Here is a short video of him picking them
up before setting off along the Wolverhampton level with them both in tow.We were second to last to leave followed by Graham who was moored on the inside of us. It was a very slow journey as we all trapesed along in procession to Deepfields Junction where we turned up the Bradley arm.

I have never seen so many "Dabchicks" Little Grebes as I saw today down this canal, they were everywhere .For some reason Graham decided to lift his bike from the well deck and put it on his roof, I was expecting both to end up in the canal at any moment. When we reached the terminus there was just one space left in the basin, some boats had decided to moor outside the basin. The entrance to the basin is on an angle so to get in you motor past and then reverse back in. Last time we did this when it was time to leave we were just able to turn right and motor straight down the canal, since then they have piled the offside bank making the canal about two foot narrower, so like the longer boats we had to turn left and then turn round in a wider section of the canal to make our way back to the main line. Unfortunately today the workshops were closed, in the past we have been able to look round inside, but I did spot these miniature lock gates out in the yard and yes they open.After lunch people started leaving in there own time, this meant there was no one directly ahead of us, I had to stop once to clear the prop of weeds and polly but other than that we had a good run to the end where we caught up with some of the boats ahead. The Wolverhampton level was more problematic with lots of people having problems, I think this was due to the weed we had all chopped up earlier now just floating around.It was nice to get a stretch of weed free water going through the 360 yard Crossley Tunnel, not only is this a wide tunnel, 2 boats can meet and pass but also it has a tow path each side and a high roof. Did I mention it also drips.

 We didn't have to visit the weed hatch until we reached Tipton, but going was getting a bit slow by then. We carried on through Tipton to Oldbury Locks Junction where again we caught up with some more of our party as they waited their turn to climb the 6 Oldbury or Crow lock to reach our destination for the night.

Todays Journey 12 miles, 6 locks in 7½ hours

Friday 24 September 2021


 This morning Graham and Brenda took us for another day out, this time we walked to the indoor/outdoor market where I have never seen so much fish on sale, like wise the meat, loads of fruit and veg stalls plus anything else you could think of. Returning to the boats we had a quick lunch before setting off at mid day heading to Tipton where we were meeting up with lots of other boaters for a convoy up the Bradley Arm tomorrow.

We set off round the Oozells loop back to the New Main Line, on the way we passed this flat where the owner has completely filled the balcony with flowers, its the most I have ever seen crammed onto a balcony.Once on the Main line we followed Graham at a reasonable distance until he turned left round the Port Loop, we carried straight on and then turned right round the Soho Loop. Just inside the loop there is a massive building project going on. Just before the end of the loop we passed this goose which I think is a cross bread.It was just after this that the going got heavier with the silt and I think it was here that I think I picked up the polly. Back out on the main line we turned right and could see Graham away in the distance, we did a bit but then I gave in and cleared the prop. We caught up with Graham again as Brenda was about to take the boat into Smethwick Locks on the Old Main Line, for some reason the bottom lock beam has number ten on it.By the time we reached the second lock the sky was turning grey but the sun was picking out the top of the Mosque nicely, as I got the camera out to capture it and was framing the picture a small flock of geese came over and dropped into the frame. At the top lock they have competed restoring, yet again the imitation toll both but it now supports a light tube it the top of the roof. I wonder how much more money CRT will spend on this folly.

Two wooden sculptures have appeared on the offside, one opposite the pumphouse and the other at the entrance to the Summit Tunnel. 

From here it was a steady chug to Tipton Junction, a short way before the junction we caught up with a very slow boat who kindly waved us passed, we later found out they had a badly fouled prop. When we reached Tipton there were already lots of boats moored near the park and since we have been here many more have arrived, I think there are about 20 at the moment.

Todays Journey 9¾ miles. 3 locks in 3½ hours