Monday, 31 March 2014



Well,that’s it,we’ve finally sailed away from Birmingham after almost 20 weeks and in that time we’ve done over 200 miles,gone through 135 locks,drunk gallons of Real Ale and various other alcoholic beverages,and all in all had a fabulous time.Our thanks go to Andy and Di’ off the good ship Fenakapan who have been our companions since we got back together at the end of November.Between them they showed us places we would unlikely have found ourselves and shared their knowledge of the BCN and Birmingham with us.Andy probably knows the location of every Real Ale pub in the whole of Birmingham and he showed us some good ones.We’ve both gone our separate ways now but,if all goes well,we will meet up again later in the year.Lisa and I are now heading for pastures new and hopefully some new friends as well as some old ones.

Our blog this week comes from the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal in North Warwickshire,just on the outskirts of the village of Curdworth.You can just about make out the distant hum of the M6 Toll and M42 Motorways from here,and there’s the occasional roar of engines from Birmingham Airport,if the wind is blowing the right way,but it’s nice here in the open countryside.We left Birmingham yesterday morning,going down the 13 locks on the Farmers Bridge flight in an hour,thanks to assistance of Andy and Di’ and another gentleman who no longer has a boat because of the poor health of his wife.He likes to help boaters down through the locks having moved to Birmingham after “discovering it”,so to speak, when he had his own boat. Yesterday was a lovely day for cruising the canals so we made the most of that good start and did a total of 27 Locks and 9 Miles before calling it a day.I think that may be some sort of record for us.

Most of our time since last weeks blog has just been spent pottering around Birmingham and getting things together for our departure.I had a good day in the new library on Thursday looking through some of the old maps and books that show the routes of the canals when they were originally built.It surprised me to see how they were constantly being changed to meet the requirements of ever changing industries,canals,branches and arms were filled in or new ones dug as the need arose.On Saturday night we had our farewell meal with Andy and Di’,nothing special,just one of Wetherspoons grills washed down with some of their real Ales.Wetherspoons are having a Real Ale festival at the moment and there are about 50 ales from around the world,from Spain,the USA and Sweden,to name a few,as well as UK ones.We then went into the The Post Office Vaults on New Street and what a delight that is,it’s a tiny bar but they too do ales from around the world and we had a great time.Lisa particularly liked a Belgian one made from Coconut milk.

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I haven’t taken any pictures since last week so I thought I’d give you a selection of ones I’d taken on our hire boat days.Here’s a couple from off the Staffordshire & Worcester.We hired just after the big freeze of 2010 and shortly after these were taken we had to turn back because of ice.The left one is of the Botterham Staircase Locks.On the right Lisa is doing her usual.

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One of the ornate Bye Washes on the S&W,each lock seemed to have a different one.A smoky approach into the Bratch  Locks.They are not a Staircase because there is a Pound between the lock gates but it’s only a few feet long.

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These two were taken in May 2011 on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.The view from the Burnley Embankment on the left.The most striking thing is the Chimney Pots,they’re all the same colour,hundreds of them it seems.A view down some of the broad locks on the L&L,they can be hard work if there’s just the one boat,it’s better if you can share.

Well that’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done 27 Locks and 9 Miles,all yesterday.That gives us a Grand Total of 643 Locks and 1088 Miles since we set off in October 2012.Take care everyone.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Old Turn Junction.


This week we are back in Birmingham for just a few days while we get stocked up,before we head down the Farmers Bridge flight of locks,and away.Old Turn Junction is an old canal crossroads where the Oozels Street Loop,The Newhall Branch and the Birmingham Main Line canals go their separate ways.The Oozels Street Loop is one of the loops of James Brindley’s Old Main Line that went to the coalfields at Wednesbury and then on past Wolverhampton,this bit here opened at the end of the 1760’s.The Newhall Branch is all that’s left of an arm that originally went to coal wharfs in Birmingham and,when it was completed in 1790,the Farmers Bridge Flight on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.To the South East the Birmingham Main line heads towards Gas Street and what was the Paradise Street Branch with more coal wharfs,it then joins the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Worcester Bar.While in the other direction,heading North West,is Thomas Telford’s New Main Line that is straighter than Brindley’s,and bypasses some of the more winding bits before connecting back up to the old Main Line at Tipton.

After a couple of easy days opposite the Langley Malthouse on The Titford Canal we set off,on Wednesday morning,back down the six Oldbury Locks,onto the Old Main Line,down Brades Locks and back to Albion Junction on the New Main Line.Lisa and I wanted a few quiet relaxing days before we came here to Birmingham and Albion Junction fits the bill well.Only the trains heading backwards and forwards to Wolverhampton disturb the peace and quiet,together with the odd boat going past of course,but,after a while,you don’t notice the trains.We stayed there till Sunday morning before cruising the six miles or so to here,just past Sheepcote Street Bridge,alongside the NIA.We’ve moored close to here on a number of occasions now so it doesn’t hold any surprises.What is surprising though is the number of other boats moored here,a lot more than we’ve seen before.

Yesterday we got the train from New Street and went over to Trent Lock for a few hours.John and Sheila,off the good ship Water Ratz,are back from their holiday in Sri Lanka and we had some catching up to do before they head off on the next leg of their journey.We may catch up with them again later in the year,who knows.While we were at Trent lock we called in to the dockyard there to see Mick & John,the two brothers who created Chyandour for us.It’s good to see that they are both well and working hard,their next creation,Vixen,is getting nearer to completion.

Since our last blog we haven’t really done a great deal so I’ve not got much in the way of photo’s for this week but I did take a few pic’s around the pools at Titford and down the Oldbury flight.

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The end of the Portway Branch at Titford Pools on the left,this view is after going under the M5 bridge,I didn’t take Chyandour so I’m not sure if it’s navigable.This branch went to  the Newbury Lane and Churchbridge Collieries.The end of the Causeway Green Branch with the M5 in the background,again I’ve no idea of the depth of water.This branch went to the Lower Holt and Blackbar collieries,both of which were disused by 1890 .

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Another couple of shots of the part of the pools.There are footpaths all the way round.The one on the left is of the original canal reservoir.

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Langley Maltings from the road,you can see the damage done by the fires that have been set in the buildings.It’s such a shame,I guess they will eventually be demolished.More beautiful industrial architecture lost.

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A last look,for now,down the Oldbury Locks,boatmen called the locks “The Crow” after James Crow,the overseer of an Alkali  works that was alongside the locks and which had a short canal arm,called the Crow Arm,to the works between locks 4 and 3.There we are with Fenakapan working through the top lock.

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Lisa putting her back into it on one of the locks,they were easy locks to work.Lunch at the bottom with a well earned cuppa and the junction with the Old Main Line and the M5 motorway bridge ahead.

That’s all again for this week folks.Since last Monday we have done 11 Miles and 9 Locks,that gives us a Grand Total of 616 Locks and 1079 Miles since October 2012.Take care everyone.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Titford Canal.


This week we are on the Titford Canal near Oldbury in the West Midlands and we are moored opposite the former Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries,Langley Maltings.These buildings were built around 1880 and the grain used for the making of Malt,which is used in the brewing process,was initially delivered by narrowboat,production ended in 2006.The Titford Canal was opened in 1837 and is the highest part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

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Langley Maltings,opposite our mooring on the Titford Canal.The End of the the navigation at Titford Pools and the Portway Branch with the M5 motorway bridge in the distance.The Portway and the nearby Causeway Green Branches were abandoned by 1960

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Titford Pump House,which was built to pump water from the bottom of the Oldbury Locks back to the top,and the Junction of the Titford and Tat Bank Branch Canals.The Tat Bank Canal is closed and is used for residential moorings.Something that was pulled out of the canal near Smethwick and no one is sure what it is or was.It’s definitely military,probably army but the only markings on the chassis are the tyre pressure stencils and the body is obviously missing.Anyone got any ideas?

last week,while we were moored at Windmill End,one of the things I wanted to do was  visit a local hostelry called “ Ma Pardoe’s” or The Old Swan.They brew their own ales at The Old Swan,with names like,Old Swan Original,Entire and Bumble Hole,and I can vouch for every one of them.A plate of Liver & Onions washed down with a few pints of Bumble Hole led to a memorable night on Tuesday.On Wednesday we left Windmill End to nip down to the end of the Dudley No.2 Canal at Hawne Basin where Coombeswood Canal Trust provide some lovely services as well as very cheap diesel.We spent the night there and made use of their washing machine and dryer,again very reasonably priced,and they also have a bath.Yes,a proper bath,with plenty of hot water,something Lisa only gets to enjoy nowadays when we stay in a hotel.

On Thursday morning we filled up with diesel and made our way back to Windmill End for a few more days of taking things easy. Then,on Friday morning,out came the Bus Passes,and we nipped over to Dudley to get a few bits and bobs.In the afternoon we got on the first bus that came along in the opposite direction and went to Stourbridge where we had a pleasant browse around the town that is famous for its glass making.

Saturday was just a day to relax in the warm sunshine that we are enjoying at the moment and also to take a look at the Visitor Centre at Windmill End.Bumble Hole & Warrens Hall Local Nature Reserve Visitor Centre,to give it it’s correct title,is run by volunteers who operate a small cafe and sell bits and pieces to raise funds.Inside the visitor centre there are maps and models showing what was here not so many years ago,as well as the details of Hingley & Sons the chain-makers of nearby Netherton,who made the anchor for the Titanic.I find this whole area fascinating,what was once a mass of industry is now green and pleasant land,to steal someone else’s phrase.There were Coal Mines,Blast furnaces ,Iron Works and Brick Kilns here,all belching out the black smoke and grime that led to the area being called “The Black Country”.

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One of the things we have a go at on the winter evenings is making Rag Rugs.This one was made by Lisa,it’s her fifth,all different sizes and this one is the largest.Mine’s a bit bigger and not quite finished yet.Lisa with Peppa the parrot.Her owner takes her out for a couple of hours every day,as you can see she’s on a lead but doesn’t fly very far,just a few feet.

We left Windmill End,for the final time on Sunday morning after topping up Chyandour’s water tank,and cruised the 3 miles and a bit,back through the Netherton Tunnel,to Albion Junction on the BCN Main Line.It was a gloriously sunny day and we recorded the highest temperature so far this year,just a tad over 23 Degrees.We left Albion Junction this morning,turned South onto  the Gower Branch of the BCN and up through the Brades Locks to Brades Hall Junction with the Old Main Line.From there it was along the Old Main Line to Oldbury Junction where we turned sharp right onto the Titford Canal and then up the 6 Oldbury Locks to where we are now.A very pleasant 3 hour cruise.

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Brades Hall Junction on the Old Main Line after we came up Brades Locks.Oldbury Junction,after we had turned,that’s the M5 Motorway crossing the junction.

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Chyandour rising up one of the Oldbury Locks and looking down part of the flight with another M5 Motorway bridge in the distance.We’re pretty much surrounded by the M5 but you can’t hear it where we are moored.

Well,that’s it again for this week.Since our last blog we have travelled 10 Miles and gone through 9 Locks.That gives us a Grand Total of 607 Locks and 1068 Miles since we set off in October 21012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Windmill End.


If you’ve been keeping up at the back,you will realise that we are moored this week at a spot that I mentioned in one of our blogs last November.We are back on the moorings,just past the junction of the Netherton Tunnel Branch and the Dudley No.1 Canal,on the Dudley No.2 canal.Sounds a bit confusing,but it’s quite simple really,Windmill End Junction is a hundred yards behind us.We got here yesterday,in glorious sunshine and on the warmest day of the year so far.I took advantage of the lovely weather and gave Chyandour a good wash and brush up ready for the spring which doesn’t feel that far away now.

Last week we stayed in Walsall Basin till Thursday afternoon then we moved outside the Basin and onto the Pontoon just before the junction.The Police had advised us that things could get a bit noisy from the bar next to our mooring and,after getting caught on Monday night,we didn’t want a repeat.Don’t get me wrong,we had no problems in Walsall,in fact we had a good time as I shall reveal later.The bar near the moorings though has a disco for students on Monday nights till 3 in the morning,we weren’t aware of this till late on Monday night and as a result I didn’t get to sleep till the early hours.There were no problems and Lisa said that the disco stopped at dead on 3 o’clock,but we didn’t fancy it all again.Tuesday Night was quiet and Wednesday night was like a morgue,all we heard was the buses going past.

On Tuesday we spent the day visiting the museums that Walsall has to offer and as a result I was quite surprised.Walsall had the largest concentration of Leather producers in the World and became the home of English Saddle making.Walsall still provides Saddles for the Royal Family and Handbags for the Queen and the local football club is called…………………. you guessed it,The Saddlers.After our day visiting the museums we all went to eat in one of the local ‘Spoons,the St.Mathews Hall,Tuesday Night being Steak Night,and had a very enjoyable meal.From there we went to the Black Country Arms where they have a dozen Real Ales on traditional hand pumps.We managed to sample 11 of them I’ve been told,I wasn’t counting,just enjoying.The Landlady,Kim and her Daughter run a lovely pub and it’s well worth a visit if you like your Real Ales.

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A couple of pic’s inside the Leather Museum.Working with leather is still labour intensive but nothing like how it was a hundred years ago.Some of the leathers were like satin to touch,soft and pliable and Ron,one of the Museum staff,showed us a couple of genuine snake skins and a crocodile skin.Such skins are illegal now but he had his from before they were outlawed,having been in the trade for over 70 years.

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Sue in her part of the museum,she showed us a machine that stuck Gold Leaf to leather and some of the sewing machines,Singers,believe it or not.The bar of The Black Country Arms in Walsall,look at all those lovely beer pumps.

On Wednesday Lisa and I set off to have a look at what was left of a couple of abandoned canals near Walsall,the Anson Branch and it’s junction with the Bentley Canal.Some bits are still visible as you can see from the photo’s.

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The junction of the abandoned Anson Branch and the Walsall Junction Canal.Looking back along the Anson Branch.The canal bed has a little water but it’s all filled with reeds.

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The aqueduct that carries the Anson Canal over the River Tame according to the maps,but the river actually flows through a culvert 20 yards to the right of this photo.Could this have been for a Tramway? The junction of the Anson Branch and the Bentley Canal.The Anson Branch was a little over a mile long with no locks and was opened in 1830 to serve the Coalmines and Quarries owned by the Earl of Lichfield.It was all abandoned by the early 1960’s.The Bentley Canal was five and a half miles long with 10 locks,opened in the 1840’s and also abandoned in the 1960’s.Not a good decade for our canals.

After a quiet Thursday night we left the pontoon outside Walsall when the rain stopped on Friday morning.We cruised the 8 Miles and 8 Locks up the Walsall Junction Canal,onto the Wednesbury Old Canal and then to our mooring on the New Main Line at Albion Junction.This was the mooring where we had our Christmas and we spent Saturday there before leaving yesterday morning.Our day at Albion Junction was another of those days when Lisa and I go off to have a look at the abandoned canals nearby,this time it was the Wednesbury Old Canal which is sometimes referred to as the Balls Hill Branch or the Ridgeacre Branch.Sadly,both the Balls Hill and Ridgeacre Branches are no longer navigable,only the bit of the Wednesbury Old Canal from Ryders Green Junction to short of Swan Bridge is navigable and now there’s no where to turn round if you go up in a boat,there’s too much weed blocking the canal.We had planned to take the boat but I’m glad we put it off “till next time”.

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Pudding Green Junction with the New Main line to the left and Wednesbury Old Canal to the right.Lisa is posing on the bridge with Roxy the dog.Ryders Green Junction with Walsall Junction Canal and the 8 Ryders green locks to the left and Wednesbury Old Canal to the right.

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This is as far as you can get with a boat up the Wednesbury Old Canal and there isn’t enough room to wind a boat above about 40 foot long.Walk on a bit farther and this is the sight that greets you,the Ridgeacre Branch started here and the canal to Balls Hill Basin was straight on for another couple of miles or so.There are stretches of the canal in water beyond here but it flows through culverts,similar to this one,under the next couple of roads so it’s not navigable.

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There I am ,hard at work,giving Chyandour a bit of a wash and brush up.It was a glorious day here yesterday so I made the most of it.

Well that’s it again for this week,we’re off out to a nearby pub this evening to sample some of their real ales.Since our last blog we have covered 17 Miles and gone through 8 Locks.That now gives us a Grand Total of 598 Locks and 1058 Miles since October 2012.Take care everyone.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Walsall Basin.


Just a short blog this week I’m afraid as we haven’t done much since last week,in fact,we’ve mostly been going over old ground until today.Last Wednesday we left the mooring near the Manor Arms on the Daw End Branch Canal and made our way back to Brownhills.On the way we stopped short of the junction at Catshill where we got the chainsaw out and cut up a fallen tree that was on the towpath.Free wood to supplement the coal.The tree had been blown down on the stormy night 10 days previous,we had seen it as we went past,and it was still there when we went back.

We stayed at Brownhills till the lunchtime on Friday having replenished our supplies in the local shops,and we’d also nipped over to Cannock on the bus to the market there before we left.On Saturday and Sunday we moored a hundred yards or so past Fishley Junction on the W&E,that was where Lord Hayes Branch used to be.A couple of weeks ago we had moored there,it’s one of those out of the way moorings that we like so much.Having spent a relaxing weekend there,we set off this morning to do the 8 Locks and 6 Miles to Walsall.

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Birchills Junction where we stopped to nip to the scrapyard,it looks better when the sun is shining,honestly.Moored above Walsall Top lock waiting our turn at the Water point.You now have to moor in the lock itself to get at the water tap.

It was a good cruise too and we had a couple of stops on the way here.The first was for Andy to dispose of his old leisure batteries at a scrapyard near Birchills Junction where we left the “Curly Wyrely” and joined the Walsall Junction Canal.His original ones had finally died after four years and though I knew they had a value,I was quite surprised to discover how much scrap batteries are worth.The scrapyard was paying £460 per tonne which made the dead batteries roughly £12 each.From the junction we went the few hundred yards to the top of the Walsall Locks,and the services that are situated by the side of the top lock,to top up with water.

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The Former Canal Museum next to the Walsall top Lock.It was originally built as a Boatman’s Rest at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Seamen and Boatmen’s Friend Society.Washing facilities were provided to those waiting to pass through the locks.The crews of the narrowboats were also encouraged not to drink alcohol in the nearby public house so tea, coffee, food and tobacco were offered and a helper would write a letter as most of the boatmen could not read or write.Andy and Di getting ready to go down the lock after getting water.

The trip down the locks was excellent,they must be some of the easiest locks on the system,and we were moored here in the basin in no time at all.OK,Andy and Di went ahead of us while we got water and they filled the locks when they left them so they would be set for us,that meant all the locks were then in our favour,which is always a bonus.This was the first time down the Walsall Locks for Lisa and I,we’d moored on the single secure mooring at the top lock back in November 2011,on a hire boat from Norbury Wharf.At that time we decided not to take the boat down and then back up again,so we just took a walk down to the basin.

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The Albion Flour Mill,part way down Walsall Locks,it’s now called Smiths Flour Mill and converted to apartments.It was a Steam Mill,built in 1848 with the entrance to the covered canal wharf clearly visible on the lower right of the mill.It was still milling flour in 1973.There we are,moored in the basin at Walsall,not as quiet as Fishley Junction so we will see how long we will stay.

Well,that’s it for this week.Since our last blog we have done 8 Locks and 14 Miles.That now gives us the Grand Total of 590 Locks and 1041 Miles since October 2012.Take care everyone.