Monday, 25 November 2013

Christmas Shopping.


This week we are moored on the embankment above Merry Hill shopping centre near Brierley Hill in the West Midlands.At around the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Centuries,almost all the iron making in the world was carried out within 20 miles of here and on this site stood the Round Oak Steelworks.Production at Round Oak was started by the Earl of Dudley in 1857 and the plant was closed down on the 23rd. December 1982.The site was redeveloped between 1985 and 1990 and now has over 250 stores with 10,000 car parking spaces.Since we got here Lisa has been in her element,she’s probably been in every one of the 250 stores at least once.

Lisa's Merry Hill 006 Merry Hill 2 001

The view over Merry Hill from our mooring.On the right is a photo’ of the dreaded weed hatch on Chyandour and  through this I have access to the propeller and whatever may be wrapped around it.The cover has been removed so I can get my arm down to have a feel around after the tiller started to vibrate,which is a dead giveaway that something is caught round the prop’. The BCN has a bit of a reputation for rubbish and this time it was a plastic bag or two.Difficult to tell for sure cos’ it was all well shredded and believe me,it was very cold down there so I wasn’t going to analyse it.

We left Windmill End last Tuesday morning to make our way the 4 miles to here so we can get our Christmas Shopping done,and we’re also due to meet up with the friends who we are going to be cruising the Birmingham Canals with over the next couple of months or so.We’re expecting them tomorrow and we haven’t seen them since the beginning of June when we were up the the Shroppie,so a good night is on the cards for tomorrow.Most of our week has been spent browsing around the shops here though we have had a couple of excursions.On Friday we walked back up the Dudley No 1 canal to the junction with the Dudley No 2 canal at Park Head and then on to the Dudley Tunnel.

Merry Hill 003 Merry Hill 010

A view up the Dudley No1 from Park Head bottom lock,with the disused railway viaduct in the distance and the old Toll House and Lockkeepers Cottage on the left.Park Head Top Lock with the former Pensnett Canal on the left and the entrance to the Grazebrook Arm across the top of the lock.The Pensnett canal was a mile and a quarter long and served the Northern side of the Round Oak Steelworks as well as a couple of the Earl of Dudleys coalfields,there’s very little left of this canal now as it has mostly been built over.

Merry Hill 016 Merry Hill 017

The approach to Dudley Tunnel with the Stop Lock in the foreground. This Tunnel is 3,154 yards long and emerges at the Black Country Museum.Sadly Chyandour is way too high to pass through the gauge at the tunnel mouth so we wont be going to Birmingham that way.

Merry Hill 023 Merry Hill 024

Blowers Green Lock at Parkhead Junction,the junction of the Dudley No1 and No2 Canals.One of the many signs alongside the canals giving information about the area.

On Saturday we used our Bus Passes for the first time.Some more friends,that we haven’t seen since last year,came over to Birmingham and we met up with them at the new library.Birmingham Library is amazing and we had planned to spend a day there when we got to Birmingham later this week but,having got to our rendesvous a bit early,we had a quick look around before our friends Pat and Rodger,from the good ship The Cat’s Whiskers,arrived.Oops,I nearly missed the “The” but the Editor put me right.

Merry Hill 032 Merry Hill 046

Me taking the sun at the new Birmingham Library and Lisa viewing the touch screen which gives details of some of the buildings on the skyline,that can be seen from the top of the Library.

Merry Hill 038 Merry Hill 047

A couple of views inside the library,the one on the left is looking down a couple of floors.Not good if you suffer from Vertigo.We had a great afternoon with Pat and Rodger and look forward to catching up with them again in the future.Less than a year till the next time we hope.

Well,that’s all again for this week I’m afraid.Since our last blog we have done all of 3 Locks,though I should say,the same lock three times ‘cos we went back up to Park Head Junction to use the services there yesterday,and 7 Miles.Giving us a Grand Total of 534 Locks and 919 Miles since we set off on our travels in October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Tunnels and Trains.


This week our blog comes to you from the Windmill End Junction of the Birmingham Canal Navigations,Dudley No.2 Canal,quite a mouthful hey?,and,as our title suggests,we’ve spent quite a bit of time in tunnels and on trains since I last posted.The mooring here is just a few hundred yards from the South portal of the Netherton Tunnel in an area that was once the epitome of The Black Country.In the 19th Century,Coal,iron stone and clay were mined here,there were Blast Furnaces,Brick Kilns,Boilers and Coke Ovens,all adding to the smog and pollution that gave the area it’s name.Today it’s a Nature Reserve with pleasant walks and some thought provoking names like Bumble Hole,Fox & Goose Bridge,Boshboil Branch,Blow Cold Bank Colliery and of course,Windmill End.Boshboil,it seems,comes from the cooling of Coke,from the nearby Coke Ovens,in water filled Bosh Tubs.Bet you all knew that !!!

Ok,let’s get on.We left Bournville last Tuesday and made our way South on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Alvechurch and our journey took us through the Edgebaston Tunnel and the Wast Hills Tunnel,so,more tunnels.Our only reason for going to Alvechurch was because the Marina there sells fuel and oil filters cheaper than anywhere else on the system that I’ve come across so far.Also I needed a new Air Filter and,as I couldn’t find one anywhere else,I arranged with Beta Marine,the marinisers of our engine,to deliver one to Alvechurch Marina for us,which they did.While we were getting our bits at the Marina we asked about the possibility of a mooring for a few days and Cath,a member of the very pleasant staff there,was able to find us a berth.This meant we had an abundance of cheap electricity and access to unlimited amounts of water so there was no need to be sparing with either during our stay.There is also The Weighbridge,a pub at the marina that sells a number of Real Ales that are frequently changed and we managed to sample a few during our stay.

Alvechurch is a nice little village in Worcestershire and,as well as a couple of Butchers and a Co-op about ten minutes walk from the canal,it has a Railway station alongside the canal and so,we let the train take the strain,on the three days we were in the marina.We went back to Bournville to have a nose around where we missed out last Monday and,because we have the breaking strain of wet tissue,we nipped into Cadbury World for a few chocky things as well.Friday and Saturday though were the highlights of our week.Birmingham has a Frankfurt Christmas Market from mid November to just before Christmas and we love it,we try to get to it every year and have been successful for the last four years.This Year we had the added bonus of our Daughters,Sons in Law and Grandchildren meeting us on both days,and we all had a brilliant time.

Alvechurch 001 Alvechurch 002

A couple of Pic’s from on and around the Green in Bournville.Bournville Junior School on the left and the Rest House on the right

Alvechurch 005 Alvechurch 013

A couple of the stalls on Birmingham Christmas Market.One selling Chocolate Hardware,spanners,ball races,taps,cogs etc.and they were so realistic.The other is one of the bars selling German Beer and Gluhwein.I have the beer,Lisa the Gluhwein.Oh!!,I forgot,she likes the hot Cider too.

Alvechurch 037 Alvechurch 039

Some of the Christmas Lights in Birmingham.I’m still playing at trying to take some good pic’s.

We left Alvechurch on Sunday Morning to make our way to Merry Hill Shopping Centre,so it was back up the W&B and through the two tunnels to Worcester Bar in Birmingham.From there we cruised along the New Main Line canal,through the tunnel at Broad Street,a detour round the Icknield Port Loop,and finally moored up yesterday afternoon,after 15 miles,at the Smethwick Pumping Station.We left there this morning,cruising through two more tunnels,one at Galton and then finally,the Netherton,the one we’ve just passed through.

Birmingham 1 010 Birmingham 1 019

The Ross Barlow,a Hybrid Hydrogen Narrowboat,it’s a project of Birmingham University using Hydrogen to generate electricity to propel the boat.We passed it’s mooring on the W&B near the University.The approach to the Mailbox in Birmingham with the Cube dominating the area.

Birmingham 1 024 Birmingham 1 039

Approaching the NIA and Old Turn Junction on the New Main Line,the straight,less interesting canal of the two,which was constructed by Thomas Telford.The CRT workshops on the Icknield Port Loop which was part of the Old Main Line,the contour canal built by James Brindley.

Birmingham 1 059 Birmingham 1 058

One of the Toll Islands on the New Main Line.Tolls were charged for using the canal system.The Engine Arm Aqueduct,this carries the Engine Arm of the Old Main Line over the New Main Line and is a lovely ornate bit of engineering.

Birmingham 2 022 Lisa's Birmingham 015 

This picture always impresses me.It’s the M5 Motorway going over both Main Lines with the Stewart Aqueduct,which carries the Old Main Line,in the distance.There we are turning onto the Netherton Tunnel Branch.

Birmingham 2 035 Birmingham 2 056

In the Netherton and out of the far end just before our mooring for tonight.

That’s it again for another week folks,but before I go,the tunnels.All in all we’ve gone through 7 this week,some twice,with a total distance of 8,894 yards,or a tad over 5 miles,not bad hey?Since last week we have also done 0 Locks and 28 Miles,giving us a Grand Total of 531 Locks and 912 Miles since we set of last October.Take care everyone.

Monday, 11 November 2013

5 canals,40 locks & the smell of chocolate.


This week we are moored on the visitor moorings at Bournville,the home of the famous chocolate.We’re not visiting the factory itself because,we’ve “been there,done that” already.We were hoping to take the opportunity to have a look at the village of Bournville that was created by the Cadbury family at the end of the 19th Century.George and John Cadbury needed to move their business out of Birmingham to expand,and because the canal and railway were here and vital to their business,this was the place they chose.Sadly though,it didn’t stop raining here till late today,so that’s another place to have a look at another time,we don’t get wet unless we have to.

As the title says,we have been on five canals since our last blog,we’ve been on the Coventry,the Birmingham & Fazeley,the Grand Union,the Digbeth Branch of the B&F and we’re now on the Worcester & Birmingham.We left Tamworth last Tuesday and made our way to Fazeley Junction where we turned left,off the Coventry and onto the B&F where we made our first stop at Fazeley Mill Marina and filled up with diesel.This marina is described by it’s owners as a “ Friendly Marina “ and I can assure you the reception we received was as friendly as we’ve encountered anywhere.From there we continued up the B&F to Lock 9  and the Dog & Doublet where,again ‘cos of the rain,we stayed a couple of nights.The fact that the pub has a friendly Landlord and Landlady,as well as nice ale,has no bearing whatsoever on the length of our stay,thankyou Jim and Patricia.

Garrison Locks 002 Garrison Locks 003

A view down the Curdworth Flight on the B&F,a bit of a murky day but not raining.There’s us moored on the pontoon outside Star City,a nice mooring.

From Lock 9 on the B&F we made our way through 11 Locks and 8 Miles to Star City on the Grand Union Canal near the famous Gravelly Hill interchange,better known as Spaghetti Junction.You actually cruise alongside the motorway before turning under it and surprisingly,though you can see the motorway from Star City moorings,you don’t hear it.We moored on the pontoon at Star City,which is on the offside,and it was lit up like daylight all night long.The next day we set off on what to us was new territory,we had been up the Aston flight of locks on the B&F back in January so,out of curiosity,we decided to have a look at the Garrison flight on the Grand Union canal.It’s different,I can say that,and I will certainly do it again,we did actually meet a couple of boats coming down the locks too.At Bordesley Junction we turned right and headed to the Digbeth Branch at the Digbeth,or,Proof House Junction.

Garrison Locks 005 Garrison Locks 009

Our first lock on the Garrison Flight on the Grand Union and a look back at the industrial scene from lock 2.

Garrison Locks 011 Garrison Locks 021

A couple of pic’s of our voyage up the Garrison Locks on Friday.

Garrison Locks 016 Garrison Locks 026

Another boat leaving the lock ahead of us,this was one of the couple of boats we saw on our way.The difference as we continued along the GU,so much more urban in appearance than at the start.

I love Birmingham,it has so much canal history it’s amazing how the short trip between Bordesley and Digbeth Junctions demonstrates that.We passed the Bond,a Fellows Morton and Clayton warehouse,an Ice House and the Banana Warehouse at Warwick Bar Stop Lock.Ahead of us was the Proof House where gun barrels were proofed,that is tested for safety,and to the left was Typhoo Basin,famous for the tea.

Digbeth Branch 009 Digbeth Branch 010

The Banana Warehouse and Warwick Bar Stop Lock.Water was precious so stop locks were used to prevent one canal company stealing another company’s water while allowing passage for boats.The Bond,situated a little way back from Warwick Bar.

Lisa's Digbeth Branch 037 Lisa's Digbeth Branch 042

Approaching Digbeth or Proof House Junction,we’re just about to enter Warwick Bar Stop Lock.We did turn left at the junction and go into Typhoo Basin for a quick look before winding.Typhoo Basin after we had winded,not sure which was the tea factory.I have a recollection of delivering tea to Typhoo when I worked for BRS.It was a load of Tea Chests from London Docks and they even swept the floor of the trailer so nothing was wasted.Typhoo blended their own tea here from before the second world war.

From Typhoo Basin we continued our journey along the Digbeth Branch,through the two tunnels and 6 locks,to where we moored opposite the Aston Science Park.It was interesting going through the Ashted Tunnel and the top lock of the Ashted flight,there was so much water in the canal that it was flowing over the top gates.Because this canal was new to us we weren’t aware that high water through the tunnel makes it difficult to avoid hitting the walls and we had a couple of close calls,though fortunately no damage.

Garrison Locks 032 Garrison Locks 035

Looking back from Lock 5 on the Ashted flight,the water is almost to the top of the bottom gates.The end of the 103 yard long Ashted Tunnel as we entered the final lock of the day,and yes,it was raining.we left a little paint from the flue on the walls but no damage really,we were lucky.

Digbeth Branch 006 Digbeth Branch 002

Curzon Street tunnel,it’s a couple of rail bridges really.The west Coast Main Line runs above and Curzon Street Station was also up there before it was demolished.Our mooring opposite Aston Science Park.Directly to the left of us was a Manure Factory at the turn of the Century,imagine that.

We spent a couple of nights opposite the Science Park before setting off yesterday to go up the 13 locks on the Famers Bridge flight and onto the plateau that Birmingham sits on.The Farmers bridge flight is familiar territory so,as all the locks were in our favour,or almost in our favour, we did them in an hour and a half.The trip was made more interesting by the number of friendly people,of many nationalities,who helped with the gates,took photo’s and asked questions.One Irish lad,who hadn’t realised the canals were used,was most impressed,so much so that I gave him a ride out of one lock and into the next.From the top of the Farmers Bridge flight we turned left at Old Turn Junction,where the island sits in the middle of the canal,this is a ventilation shaft for the railway beneath.We made our way through Worcester Bar and past Gas Street Basin onto our fifth canal,the Worcester & Birmingham,and cruised the four miles down to our present mooring opposite the Cadbury Works and the smell of Chocolate.

That’s all again for this week folks.Since our last blog we have done the amazing sum of 40 Locks and 23 Miles,giving a Grand Total of 531 Locks and 884 Miles since October 2012.A virtual wave and have a good trip to the captain of the good ship NB Centurion ( I think that was the name ) that passed us this afternoon.I got what you said so I hope you enjoy this.Take care everyone.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Anchor Bridge 70,Tamworth


First of all I would like to apologise to my reader for the lack of a blog last week,he will know who he is.The reason there was no blog is because we seemed to have had loads to do but most of it I felt you would find of little interest,whilst at the same time,we were cruising or mooring in places that we have already covered.

Lisa's Ashby 2 004 Ashby Canal 2 007

There I am doing one of the jobs that need doing now and then.This time I’m checking the Propshaft bolts for tightness.The little lady herself,5 days old and gorgeous.

A lot of the week before last was spent getting ourselves in a position to go and visit our new Granddaughter.We wanted to see her as much as we could before leaving the Ashby to make our way through the Atherstone flight of locks before the Winter Closure programme began today.Locks 4 to 10 are now closed until the 21st of December and we want to be in Birmingham by the end of this month at the very latest.

Lisa's Ashby 2 011 Ashby Canal 2 008

The Triumph motorcycle factory alongside the Ashby Canal outside Hinckley and a mini rainbow as we cruised towards Atherstone last Monday

The result of our application for bus passes has reached a satisfactory conclusion,we are now proud owners of said passes.It seems that the requirement for registration for Council Tax is only to ensure there’s an address to send the passes too.Our Driving Licences,for which we are legally required to have an address,and our banks are registered at our address so we used them as proof and our application was accepted,at the third attempt though.The moral of this story is,don’t give up at the first,or even second,hurdle.

We set off towards Atherstone a week ago Friday,obviously giving ourselves plenty of time to get to the locks.There was a severe weather warning for the beginning of last week and we wanted to be somewhere sheltered just in case.We stopped at Stoke Golding for Saturday so that we could go to the Ashby Canal Society Quiz night.We didn’t win,in fact we were about average,but we had a good night with Peter & Jeanne,of good ship Castellan fame,who were our quiz mates.We left there on Sunday,which was quite a windy day,and we got to Burton Hastings and called it a day,expecting things to go down hill weatherwise as the rest of the day wore on.It didn’t,in fact,for us anyway,Monday was a bit of an anti climax as we made our way steadily to the top of Atherstone Locks.

Ashby Canal 2 013 Ashby Canal 2 015

The replica Steam Tug Hasty which first went in the water on 20th July 2011.She is a copy of a Steam Tug of the same name that could have been in use before 1870.Here she is a few hundred yards above the Atherstone Flight.The top lock of the Atherstone Flight.There used to be a bridge over the entrance to a basin just about where the towpath disappears on the right of the picture.

As we were well ahead of time we decided to stay a couple of days in one of our favourite places and get some supplies in,and this we did,before heading down the locks on Wednesday.We managed to get a couple of pints in the Maid in the Mill on Tuesday night.It’s just off the top of the flight and we found it to be a friendly,cosy little pub.The reason for our allowing ourselves plenty of time to get through the locks etc. became apparent when we got to lock 8 on Wednesday morning,the lock itself was full but the pound beyond it was empty.The pound is the stretch of water between locks and it turned out that there was a leak on lock 10 and as a result the canal between locks 8 and 10 had been drained of water.Canals & Rivers Trust turned up as we arrived at the lock and while Lisa made everyone cups of tea,they set about refilling the canal and we were away again within a couple of hours.It could have been a lot worse and the delay could have been a lot longer,some of our canals can be closed for months after a leak that empties them.

Ashby Canal 2 016 Lisa's Bridge 70 006

The pound between Locks 8 and 9.CRT are starting to refill it after the leak at lock 10 was fixed.Sally and Sam having a dip in one of the pools caused by subsidence at the former Pooley Hall Colliery near Alvecote.

We got to Alvecote that afternoon and decided to stay a couple of days so we could spend some time with a good friend Geoff and his dogs,Sam and Sally off Blue Buzzard.We were still well ahead of our schedule as the next stoppage,on Minworth lock 1,isn’t till next Monday,the 11th,so it was over to the Samuel Barlow for a beer or two.The Samuel Barlow is one of the few places where I know I can get a good steak,ok the chef is a bit different,but he does know how to grill a steak,so Thursday night we were over there for a meal.Our next stop was at Anchor Bridge 70,near Tamworth,where we were going to meet up with Peter and Jeanne again and also where our daughter could pick us up and take us to the Barton Boy Scouts Bonfire on Saturday night.That was a great night with Dick and Dom to open the show and a brilliant display of fireworks accompanied by music.

Anchor Bridge 70 011 Anchor Bridge 70 022

The Bonfire at Barton Scouts Fireworks display.Dick and Dom with our Grandchildren.

Anchor Bridge 70 059 Anchor Bridge 70 066

A couple of attempts at photo’s of fireworks with my new camera.

Since then we’ve just been pottering about the boat,keeping things tidy and generally relaxing,before we set off tomorrow on the next leg of our journey towards Birmingham.If things go to plan we will be on the outskirts by Friday and into the centre for Sunday,but,that could change at any time.

That’s all for this week folks.Since our last blog we have done 11 Locks and 51 Miles,giving us a Grand Total of 491 Locks and 861 Miles since we set off in October 2012.Take care everyone.