Monday, 27 January 2014

Anglesey Basin.


This week finds us at the End of the Anglesey Branch of the Wyrley & Essington Canal.This canal was built in 1800 as a feeder from the Cannock Chase Reservoir,now called Chasewater,for the W&E canal.It was made navigable,and called the Anglesey Branch in 1850,to connect to the Marquis of Anglesey’s coal mines which were situated near the reservoir.There were a total of ten pits near here over the years,with the last one closing around the 1950’s,and coal was still carried along the canal from the nearby Anglesey Basin until 1967.

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Freeth Bridge that carries the A5 over the Anglesey Branch,see the original arched bridge between the concrete bits where the road has been widened.Anglesey Basin and the Coal Staithes which were used to load coal into Narrowboats.There was a railway track alongside the basin which was used to bring the coal from the mines when the nearer mines became exhausted. 

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First thing in the morning here at our mooring and there we are breasted up in the entrance to the feeder.Sadly,not all mornings have been like this one was.

We left Brownhills last Tuesday and made our way here to the very end of the Anglesey Branch where it’s wide enough to Wind,or turn,and then reverse into the mouth of the feeder from the reservoir.There are mooring rings on both sides but it’s not deep enough to moor on one side so we have breasted up with Fenakapan.Chasetown and Burntwood aren’t too far from here so there are plenty of shops and a few pubs within a reasonable walking distance.There is also a Micro Brewery on the side of the Reservoir called Beowulf that does an excellent selection of bottled beers which also helps to make this quite an attractive mooring.

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The Valve House on top of the Chasewater dam,in here are the controls to adjust the feed of water down to the canal.Looking down from the top of the dam onto our mooring at the end of the canal.

Most of our days here have been spent walking around the surrounding area and we’ve covered quite a few miles in total.On Wednesday we took a stroll around the reservoir and also had a look at the the Chasewater Railway which runs around the reservoir,as well as over it at one point.On Thursday Lisa and I walked over the M6 Toll road and then across Brownhills Common,to what used to be The Slough Arm.This was an arm off the W&E that went to the coalmines on Brownhills Common.The arm is closed now though there are still some short stretches of shallow water.From there we walked along the towpath to Ogley Junction where the W&E used to continue for just over 7 miles,and through 30 locks,to Huddlesford Junction on the Coventry Canal.This part of the W&E was abandoned,drained and filled in in the 1960’s but the Lichfield Canal Trust are very active in the restoration of what is set to become the Lichfield Canal.Lisa and I only saw the old Lock Cottage that stood at the head of the original eight lock Ogley flight,the rest is on private land and inaccessible.Restoration is very much in progress on other stretches of the canal though.

Anglesey Basin 2 002  Anglesey Basin 2 003

The remains of the Slough Arm branch,not much to see,but behind the reeds there are the remains of an old wharf.Slough Railway Bridge that carried the former L&NW Railway alongside the arm and Brownhills Common.

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Ogley Junction,the W&E went under the bridge and through to Huddlesford Junction on the Coventry Canal from here.The only bit of the W&E East of Ogley Junction,though it is proposed to reopen it in the future as the Litchfield Canal.

On Saturday the four of us took a walk up to Castle Ring,an Iron Age Hill Fort, high up on the southern edge of Cannock Chase,which was thought to have been occupied around AD 50.We called into the Uxbridge Arms in Chasetown on the way back and had a couple of pints of some very nice Real Ale,purely for medicinal purposes of course.On Sunday we had booked Lunch at the Chasewater Railway where we enjoyed a very nice Carvery for £4.95 before visiting the railway museum.None of the trains are running this early in the year but it was still a pleasant day in spite of the squally wind and torrential rain outside.

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The Mining Memorial at nearby Chase Terrace,dedicated to Burntwoods mining hereitage,the pit pony has been christened Scamp,after Sankey’s Corner Arts Miner Project.The remains of an old Windmill we saw in the grounds of the 400 year old,Ye Olde Windmill Inn at Gentleshaw,on our way back from Castle Ring.

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A couple of pic’s taken outside the Chasewater Railway,not on Sunday I must add.

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The 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotive  built by Hawthorn & Leslie of Newcastle on Tyne, in 1909 and called Asbestos,not a name that would be used today I think.She was owned and named by a company in Manchester that produced Asbestos Sheeting.Lisa and Di with a miniature goat called Zues,only six months old and not likely to grow any bigger,he’s tame and the young lady takes him out on a lead.

Well that’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done 0 Locks again and only 3 Miles,giving us a Grand Total of 582 Locks and 997 Miles since October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Beautiful Brownhills.


Ok,the title may not be everyone’s opinion of Brownhills in the West Midlands,but for us boaters it has a lot going for it.Along with the spotlessly clean Service Block,containing showers,loos and plenty of hot water,there’s a Tesco,Wilco’s,Aldi,B&M and the High Street shops just across the road,and the moorings here have a paved surface with bollards.What more could we want ?

Brownhills 005 Lisa's Brownhills 013

The War memorial on the top of Barr Beacon and one of the views,notice the snow in the foreground.It was a bit of a surprise to wake and find a dusting of snow,it didn’t last long though.Barr Beacon is one of the highest points in the West Midlands and we walked there while moored at Longwood Junction.

We arrived here in Brownhills,on Thursday,having left the mooring at Longwood Junction on Wednesday.It isn’t very far but on our way here we stopped overnight at the Manor Arms,a pub next to the towpath,on the 5.5 mile long Daw End Branch of the Wyrley & Essington Canal.It does pay to adequately research canalside pubs first ‘cos,having spent all day anticipating a pleasant evening meal,we discovered that they don’t do food on a Wednesday evening.Fortunately,just along the road from the Manor Arms is The Boathouse and we just got there in time as they stop serving at 8.

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Line astern as we cruise along the Daw End Branch and the sign at Catshill Junction where the Daw End meets the Wyrley & Essington.

The journey along the Daw end Branch wasn’t too bad,it’s a tad weedy and shallow  in places,particularly between the junction at Longwood and Walsall Wood Bridge,but from there on it was fine.On one side of the canal can be seen huge quarries which supply the local brickworks.At Catshill Junction we turned left onto the Wyrely & Essington Canal itself and made our way here to Brownhills where we intend to stay till tomorrow.Lisa has had plenty of retail therapy while we have been here.On Saturday,Bus Passes in hand,we set of to have a look at some of the local area and we had a pleasant day enjoying brief stops in Walsall,West Bromwich,Wolverhampton, Wednesbury and Dudley.We had breakfast at the ‘Spoons in West Bromwich and an evening meal in the ‘Spoons in Walsall,all for a total of less than £20 for the two of us.Don’t we lead an exciting lifestyle?

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Moored up on the Visitor Moorings at Brownhills with the Amenity Building in the background centre right.The two London,Midland & Scottish Railway Interchange basin arms here at Brownhills.The left one is now moorings and the right one is used as a Slipway for the Canoe Club that shares the Amenity Block.This Interchange enabled the railways to use narrowboats to deliver and collect goods from factories alongside the canals.It was one of a number of interchange basins in Birmingham that enabled the canals to survive after the arrival of the railways.

Brownhills 033  Lisa's Brownhills 021

A 46 feet high stainless steel sculpture of a coal miner, erected in May 2006 on a roundabout at one end of the High Street in Brownhills.It commemorates the town's mining tradition and is called Jigger after Jack "Jigger" Taylor who was killed in a roof fall at Walsall Wood pit in 1951.The other is a mural on a wall as you leave the Bus Station in Dudley.I’ve not been able to find anything to say what it represents though it’s obviously to do with the local industries,i.e. chain making and mining.

Well,that’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done no Locks and 6 Miles giving a Grand Total of 582 Locks and 994 Miles since we set off back in October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Rushall Locks.


This week we are moored at the top of the Rushall flight of locks on the Rushall Canal,in the West Midlands,about a mile and a half from Walsall to the West,and about the same from Aldridge to the East.The Rushall Canal is a bit under three miles long with nine locks and was completed in 1847.The junction here is formed from three canals,there’s the Rushall,the Daw End Branch of the Wryley & Essington and also the Hay Head Branch.The Hay Head branch was to give access to the Lime works at Hay Head enabling them to supply Lime to the Black Country Ironworks by canal.

The highlight of our week was Tuesday,when,instead of going for the Steak Night at the nearest Wetherspoons,we decided to go to a pub that Lisa and Di had spotted.This was the Tennis Court on Walsall Road about ten minutes walk from Perry Barr top lock.They were doing meals at 50% off,so all four of us had a very enjoyable meal for £16 with excellent service and cheap beer too.On Wednesday Lisa had to go to the dentist to get a tooth attended too after losing a filling a few weeks ago.We’d spotted a dentist on the Walsall Road as we walked into Great Barr and made an appointment last Friday.We chose wisely because Lisa was treated by a Miss Chaudary who did an excellent job for a very reasonable charge.From the dentists we hopped onto a bus,showed our passes and went to West Bromwich,where we had a bit more retail therapy,before enjoying lunch in the local ‘spoons which has an interesting facade,being a former Billiard Hall.In the afternoon went to watch a film in the nearby Odeon Cinema,courtesy of Orange Wednesdays.

Rushall Branch 001  Rushall Branch 002

The much travelled Farley Drinking Fountain in West Bromwich.Built as a memorial to his mother by Reuben Farley,a renowned industrialist and philanthropist who served as Mayor of West Bromwich five times.The front of the Wetherspoons that was formerly a Billiard Hall.

We finally left Perry Barr top lock last Friday and made our way along the Tame Valley Canal to Rushall Junction where we turned sharp right then cruised up here to Longwood Junction where we will probably stay till Thursday or Friday.

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Heading along the Tame Valley Canal beneath a couple of very high bridges as we go through the cutting and then high on the embankment looking down on the houses below.

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Turning off the Tame Valley onto the Rushall,it’s quite a tight turn.Safely round and looking up the bit of the Tame Valley we haven’t yet cruised.

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Lisa closing the gate as Andy and Fenakepan head up the Rushall Locks and then opening the next lock for me.It may look like she does it all but the four of us have a great system and share the work.

Rushall Branch 033 Rushall Branch 036 

Di on Fenakapan making the Bacon Sandwiches for lunch.Where we are moored now at Longwood Junction,we’re the second of the narrowboats moored centre right.The centre of the picture is the Hay Head Branch,bottom left is the Daw End and centre right is the Rushall.

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The end of the Hay Head Branch today,it’s just a mooring now,I’m standing next to the A34 which cuts the canal in two.Lisa looking at what remains of the Hay Head Branch,this point is about halfway along the original length.There’s nothing left of the old Limestone mines now but I’ve found out that a John Wilkinson obtained the limestone for his furnaces at Bilston from here in the early 19th Century.

Well,that’s all again for this week folks.Since our last blog we have done 9 Locks and 5 Miles,giving us a Grand Total of 581 Locks and 988 Miles since October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Perry Barr.


We are now moored at the top of the Perry Barr Locks on the Tame Valley Canal which is part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.There are thirteen locks here at Perry Barr which lift the canal 106 feet and the old boatmen are said to have called them “The New Thirteen”,the Old Thirteen being the Farmers Bridge Flight on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.

Perry Barr 011  Perry Barr 012

The Inside of The Bartons Arms in the Newtown area of Aston.A lovely pub built in 1901 for Mitchells & Butlers.Laurel & Hardy once stayed here.We just nipped in for a pint or two,only in the interests of historic research of course.

Last Tuesday we left the the moorings at Aston University on the Digbeth Branch,cruised down through the Ashted Locks and then turned left at Proof House Junction on to the Grand Union,formerly the Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal.We made our way down through the Garrison Flight to Star City where we once again moored on the pontoon on the offside.We’d stayed here on our way into Birmingham back in November so we knew it would be a good mooring.Tuesday was also New Years Eve and we had planned a great time as we were still in company with Andy and Di off NB Fenakapan, we celebrated well into the early hours of New Years Day.

Perry Barr 014  Perry Barr 018

Approaching the Ashted Tunnel on the Digbeth Branch,a bit less water this time so the top of Chyandour wasn’t as close to the roof.The Proof House at the junction with the Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal.It was here that Gun Barrels were proofed,ie.tested.

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Approaching Warwick Bar,a former Stop Lock.Some better Graffiti alongside the canal. 

On Thursday,Lisa,myself and Chyandour set off into new territory.I’ve wanted to cruise the BCN for years and so now,together with Andy and Di,who’ve been this way before,we were about to get the chance.Turning left at Salford Junction and under Spaghetti Junction,we headed up the Tame Valley Canal and into the unknown.The first thing that struck us was the awesome sight of Spaghetti junction towering overhead with it’s roads going in every direction.We’ve driven over Gravelly Hill Interchange,to give it it’s proper title,on a number of occasions ourselves and,along with thousands of other motorists,we were not aware of what lay beneath.We steadily made our way up the Tame Valley and started working our way through the locks.Having been cruising with Fenakapan since the beginning of December,we’ve got a steady routine worked out to get both boats through locks and we were getting into the swing of things and thinking of stopping for lunch.It was then that things turned out to be a bit different,the Lift Pump for the fuel on Fenakapan died just as we got her through lock 11.At first it looked like we would have to pull the boat up the other 10 locks but Andy managed to get the engine running on a gravity feed and away we went again,not far though.Two more locks and then the water level in the Quarter Mile pound below lock 7 was so low that Fenakapan wouldn’t go more than a few yards out of lock 8 before running aground.We then had to wait the best part of two hours to get enough water down the flight to resume our journey,three of the lock pounds above lock 7 were also very low so water had to be sent down from the very top.It was dark as we did the last few locks and,as this was my first experience of cruising in the dark,I have to say that working locks at night is not the best of experiences.

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Just a few pictures from beneath Spaghetti Junction.

Anyway,we made it to the top of the flight with no further delays and we’ve been moored here ever since.Andy ordered a new lift pump which finally arrived this afternoon,an electric one this time because the mechanical one had failed on a previous occasion and also,the electric one is cheaper.We’ve spent our time tidying both Chyandour and Fenakapan and also exploring both Perry Barr and Great Barr,both of which are only an half hour walk away.

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Lock 13 on The Tame Valley Canal and Fenakapan grounded above Lock 8.

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The approach to the last 7 locks on the Perry Barr Flight just as it was getting dark and the two boats outside the water point at Perry Barr.Lisa and I watered both boats and it was easier to pass the hose across by using Chyandours bow.We haven’t seen another boat since we got here,other than a Waterways boat with some old lock gates on,that is

We had a visit from a former work colleague on Saturday evening.Roald and I worked together on the Megabus,he worked out of Aberdeen and I worked out of Perth so we only saw each other occasionally.We chatted so much the time flew,so he stayed over and set off back to Aberdeen,and work,on Sunday morning.I know you’ll read this Roald so we hope you had a safe journey and aren’t being worked too hard.

Well,that’s all again for another week.Since our last blog we have done 24 locks and 6 Miles,giving us a Grand Total of 572 Locks and 983 Miles since October 2012.Take care everyone.