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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bottom of Wolverhampton 21 to . . . . .

Unfortunately I am ending the blog for this year here - apparently I am out of space for posting any more photos.
When I start next years blog - I'll post on here the link.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Wolverhampton 21

On route to the Wolverhampton 21 (flight of locks) we thought that weed might be a problem
 But we didn't expect to find these 2 guys round the bend cutting and collecting the weed.

As we reached Wolverhampton (& the top of Wolverhampton 21), we went under a large bridge with the Wolverhampton rail station's car park on it.

The sign for the locks, and the junction with the Wyrley & Essington canal.  Aldersley junction is at the bottom of the Wolverhampton flight.

The "21" are single/narrow locks, but like the last time we did this flight (a few years ago) we were following someone down which meant we had to fill every lock first, and therefore doing the flight took longer and was harder work than it would have been if all the locks had been in our favour.
Wolverhampton Top Lock

The second lock, with the boat we were following in the distance heading towards lock 3.

At last a boat coming up the flight towards us

Not even a third of the way down and we had the threat of bad, wet weather.

Every lock and every piece of paddle gear has handcuff (anti vandal) mechanisms fitted
The industrial backdrop begins to give way to some countryside as we went down the flight.

We did get wet - it rained for 2 locks.

The penultimate lock.  Unlike all the others this lock has single gates on each end.  The rest all have 2 gates on the bottom end.

The bottom lock.  The ground paddles face each other on this one for some reason.

The bottom lock - looking down to the Staffs & Worcs canal below.
The bottom lock seen from the Staffs & Worcs canal.

The signpost says Stourpost to the left and Great Heywood to the right - we went right.

The Black Country Museum

For more detailed information about the museum see The Black Country Museum website.

Here are a selection of my photos taken at the museum.

Working tram.

Its not all boats either, there are a wide variety of shops, some selling produce others set up as museum exhibits.  There are also workers houses set up as they would have been at the turn of the 19th to 20th Century.

But one of our favourites was the coal fired fish and chippie - with the frying done in beef dripping fat, and eaten out of paper with fingers.

Travelling from Gas Street to Black Country Museum

We spent a couple of nights moored in Gas Street Basin before we set off for the Black Country Museum.  
The area around Gas Street has seen some substantial investment to make is appear a pleasant city centre moorings.  The tiny pink boat is a water bus that covers a short distance between the Mailbox (where the BBC has its studios), Brindley Place, King Edwards Wharf, Gas Street Basin and Sherborne Wharf.

In the background can be seen the top of The Cube, a strangely designed building that houses a variety of businesses including one of Marco Pierre White's restaurants. 

This year Birmingham is making a big effort with regards to the Britain in Bloom competition and is one of the finalists.

We left Birmingham's centre the was we had come in, via the Main Line, but after almost 3 miles we reached Smethwick
Junction, where the Wolverhampton Level meets the Main Line.  Here we went up 3 locks, with a total rise on 20 foot.  The octagnol toll house at the top of the locks is typical of the toll houses built by the BCN Company, although I believe this one is a replica. 

As we went up the top lock we picked up "something" around the prop.  Never good news.  So once we were up the lock, Gordon was back down the weed hatch.  Among the usual suspects of torn plastic carrier bags, sort pieces of rope and string, this time he found a full sari!

As we cruised through the Wolverhampton level, we hoped we wouldn't pick up anything else around the prop given the state of the water!

We went through the Summit tunnel (all of 103 yards).  See the exhaust in the air - Domino was smoking a lot that day.

Not far from the tunnel the canal goes under the M5 motorway for over a mile.

There is even a canal junction under the motorway (leading to Tipton Pools).

But after a while we lost our concrete ceiling, and were back under the sky again.

And with very clear water

The sign from the Black Country Museum to the left and Wolverhampton to the right.

The tunnel ahead is the northern end of the Dudley tunnel - which I mentioned in my post on the BCN - its for unpowered craft only.  We moored for a couple of nights on the left just behind the red a blue boat.

Monday, 17 September 2012


We pick up the tale where we rejoined the Dudley Canal at Windmill End Junction, with the options
of heading to the little loop of Bumble Hole (straight-ahead), or to go to Birmingham (to the right) or back towards Wolverhampton and Stourbridge (left).

Going right we almost immediately come to Netherton Tunnel which is 3027 yards long.  Unlike the previous tunnel we went through (Gosty Tunnel), Netherton tunnel has decent head room.  But the downside to this tunnel is that its a "wet" one - that is every so often large drops of water fall on you and the boat.  Also this tunnel is wide enough to allow 2 way traffic, thereby doing away with a timing system (as found in the Preston Brook tunnel) or the need to man the tunnel to resrict passage (like in the Harecastle tunnel).   

From the tunnel we emerged onto the short Netherton Tunnel Branch - lined with a few cottages.  At the end of the branch is the Main Line at Birmingham Level.  The Birmingham Level refers to a series of canals that 453 foot above sea level, and is made up of a total of 49.2 miles.  The BCN Main Line, or Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line describes the evolving route of the Birmingham Canal between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.  For more information of the BCN Main Line see BCN Main Line

 The Sign post says "Wolverhampton 6 1/2 miles and 3 locks" (to the left) and "Birmingham 6 3/4 miles" (to the right).

One feature of the BCN Main line is the toll islands.  A toll island is a place on a canal where a fee was collected as boats carrying cargo passed. These were sited at strategic points such as the stop lock at the transition from one canal company to another where water transfer was a concern, or at busy locks where water usage and pumping costs were an issue.

 Cruising the Main line gives the chance to see some lovely old bridges, and some not so lovely new bridges.

The first of these photos shows the Engine Arm Aqueduct -a short canal branch of half a mile, that was built by Thomas Telford in 1825 to carry water from Rotton Park Reservoir over to the Wolverhampton Level of the main line - for more details see Engine Arm
The second of these bridges carries the M5 motorway.  It lacks the grace of the Engine Arm Aqueduct somewhat.

This is the New Smethwick Pumping Station.  Originally, it was one of two engines used to pump water back up to the 491 foot (150 m) summit level of the BCN Old Main Line (Birmingham Canal) canal at Smethwick,

not far from the Soho Foundry where it was made. The other engine, also built by Boulton and Watt, was at the other end of the summit level at Spon Lane. In 1804 a second Boulton and Watt engine was added alongside the 1779 engine.  In 1892, a replacement engine was built in a new pumping house, now Grade II listed, next to Brasshouse Lane, as the original Smethwick Engine was considered uneconomic to repair.  Nowadays there is only one engine in this building.

Sadly there are plenty of sights of graffiti as we head into the centre of Birmingham.   But once we reach the centre, it is clear that considerable effort has been made to make the canal centre of Birmingham look appealing.

Approaching Gas Street and the centre of Birmingham.  To the right of the photo is the Sea Life Centre.