Wednesday, 31 March 2010


5 Locks, 2.46 Miles. Now moored at Penkridge

Despite thunderous looking clouds overhead we slipped our moorings to head off to Penkridge where we have been told there is a good market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We never stopped here on our last visit up the Staffs and Worcester Canal so we plan to stay here over Easter and have a good look around.

Penkridge 002 Bridge 81 Staffs and Worcester  Canal.  Work in progress.

We were lucky that the rain held off and since arriving in Penkridge the sky has cleared and lightened up quite considerably. A good opportunity to go for a stroll after lunch.

2207 locks, 4238.60 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


0 Locks, 4.99 Miles. Now moored at Gailey.

As our mooring at Coven was fairly isolated we decided to move on to Gailey this morning to be closer to civilisation with the forecast bad weather despite the rain. We set off between the showers which didn’t last long as it finished up raining all the way. It was a short time after mooring up that the rain stopped, Murphy’s law strikes again.

2202 locks, 4236.14 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 29 March 2010

Adios Amigos.

21 Locks, 5.28 Miles. Now moored at Coven.

Last night as we knew it was to be our last night together we had a farewell dinner with Carrie and Derek on Uccello.  Roast pork and veges cooked by Dot with a lovely chocolate cake for afters made by Carrie.

Wolverhampton 005 The final cake that Carrie made after seeing our Rag Rug.

With a long range weather forecast not looking too hot it was decided that today was the day to do the Wolverhampton flight, all 21 locks. We set off at 10am or 9am in Carrie’s eye’s as the clocks went forward last night to British Summer time.

Unfortunately we had another boat who had the same idea but set off at least an hour ahead of us so we knew that most, if not all the locks would be set against us. We led the way with Uccello behind us working together to get the boats through as quickly as possible. We had only just started our descent when another boat arrived at the top lock so that meant 4 boat’s in total on the descent.

Wolverhampton 016 Aldersley  Junction. An old factory perhaps?

After about 3 locks the crew on the last boat who shall remain nameless started complaining that we were holding them up. They were in a hurry as they had to get the boat back to it’s base and they obviously had not planned things very well. They were politely told that we were going as fast as was humanly possible and they would just have to take their turn.

We had heard some rumours about the flight not being very good but we found quite the opposite. Locks and towpath well maintained and the locals were all friendly so it was a hassle free run. It wasn’t until the very last lock that 2 boats showed up wanting to ascend the flight, pity they couldn’t have shown up an hour or so earlier, it would have made things just that wee bit better with less water being used.

Wolverhampton 020 Very narrow boat Sarni at Oxley marine on the Staffs and Worcester Canal

At Aldersley junction it was time to say farewell to our travelling companions for the last 3½ months, Derek and Carrie, not forgetting Bungie the dog . They were turning left towards Stourport where we turned right towards Great Haywood. It has been a pleasure to travel with them and we look forward to perhaps seeing them later in the year. Safe journey guys.

Wolverhampton 014Our last sighting of Uccello at Aldersley Junction.

We called into Oxley Marine for diesel and a new gas tank where we cordially greeted like long lost friends and invited to join them for a drink in their private club on the premises. After nearly 4 hours and 21 locks it was nice to sit, chill out and relax before setting off again. We only travelled for about an hour when we found the moorings near the Fox and Anchor pub. The funny thing is that we had spent at least half an hour at Oxley Marine and had been moored for over an hour when the “in a hurry”  boat finally went past us. The last time we saw him was at the junction as he descended the final lock so if he was in that much of a hurry where did he get too for the lost hour and a half?

Wolverhampton 023 Pendeford Rockin on the Staffs and Worcs: Chiselled out of solid rock. Single lane only.

2202 locks, 4231.15 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Bye Bye Birmingham.

3 Locks, 13.29 Miles, 3 Tunnels. Now moored at Wolverhampton.

We had come to the end of a very enjoyable visit to the BCN and due to a long cruise to Wolverhampton we left Cambrian Wharf around 8.30am. With an improvement in weather we are starting to see more boats out and about now and today was no exception. One of the boats was the joint venture tug and butty from Wolverhampton Probation service and BW clearing rubbish from the canal heading towards Factory locks. From the amount of guys on the boats and the rubbish collected I think most of them were just taking advantage of a good thing.

The wildlife we spotted today were well into the new breeding season with a pair of swans already brooding over a clutch of egg’s and Coot’s still busily building their nests. One surprise just after leaving Factory lock’s was a very healthy looking Fox in the Reed bed between the canal and factories.

Arriving at Wolverhampton it was a case of where to moor? There are secure 24hr moorings between Mill St bridge and Broad St bridge, Broad St basin which only had room for 1 boat or between the top lock and Broad St bridge which have access to town but of course are unsecure. We took the first option even though there is no access to town from here hence the secure moorings, they can only be accessed by boat.

2181 locks, 4225.87 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Back to Brum.

8 Locks, 8.3 Miles. 1 Tunnel Now moored at Cambrian Wharf.

Birmingham 053 2592x1944 The pillars supporting the M5 over the BCN.

The overnight moorings at Ocker Hill were reasonably quiet but as we were only allowed to stop for 1 night it was time to get moving again. The final stretch of the Walsall Canal was a slight improvement on what we had to endure yesterday but we still struck problems entering some of the lock’s where the lock entrance had silted up with not having any or little use over winter. There was also another narrow section that was heavily weeded up on both banks with barely 2 feet of water in the channel that slowed our progress but we made it.

Birmingham 054 2592x1944 BW clearing tree's along the BCN New Main Line

As we had a commitment in Birmingham we turned left at Pudding Green junction while Derek and Carrie on Uccello turned right to head to Dudley where we will meet up with them again tomorrow.

Birmingham 056-1 Engine Arm aqueduct over the BCN New Main Line.

At Cambrian Wharf Daisy on Nb Hector had arranged an overnight mooring for us on one of the pontoons which I believe is a private mooring but the occupier is away at present. Daisy was the main reason for returning to Birmingham because she has made us a rag rug in black and white of a NZ silver fern. Daisy specialises in producing handmade and designer rag rugs made to measure.  If you are looking for a colour co-ordinated rug to match your boat colour scheme or even a rug with engine logos such as Lister or Gardner logos, contact us (our contact details are on lefthand side of the page) and we will give you her details.

Birmingham 059 The rag rug that Daisy made.

2178 locks, 4212.58 miles, 88 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 26 March 2010

Hard days work.

0 Locks, 6.13 Miles. Now moored at Ocker Hill BW Yard.

Our day started out OK but within a mile of leaving the Walsall town arm our problems began. Visit’s down the weed hatch became more and more frequent until we had filled 2 household rubbish bags. Another problem was grounding on submerged objects passing through bridge hole’s. Fishermen along the way wanted to know if we were lost as they hadn’t seen a boat on this section of canal for years.

Walsall 044Another memorial to Nurse Dora. Queen St Cemetery Sister Dora Gardens.

Approaching Moorcroft junction the channel became decidedly narrow due to reeds on one side and tree’s encroaching into the canal on the other. The channel was barely 8 feet wide and only about 2 feet deep as we had to churn our way through black smelly mud. It took over 15 minutes to travel barely 100 yards. Both Derek’s were getting concerned that we wouldn’t get through. Once past Lea Brook bridge the conditions did improve.

Walsall 045A genuine canal side warehouse.

Arriving at Ocker Hill BW yard we were told that the visitor moorings no longer exist. They have implemented a system whereby you can moor on the work boat moorings if they available after 6PM. We were finally given permission to moor on 2 empty private moorings as we were only staying overnight.

Walsall 047Bridge contractors take a great interest in a rare sighting of a boat on the Walsall Canal.

After such a horrendous day I felt the need to report our findings to BW HQ and West Midlands by email because quite honestly this section of canal is falling into dis-use and rapidly becoming un-navigable. Even the lack of wild life on the canal gives an indication of the state of the water.

Walsall 049 High reach platforms or Cherry pickers as we know them.

2170 locks, 4204.28 miles, 87 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Lock day.

8 Locks, 0.82 Miles. Now moored in Walsall.

British Waterways were on the job early this morning due to a drained pound part way down the Walsall flight. The top lock had been full overnight but was now draining as BW had the top paddle open and the bottom paddle half open to get some water further down.

Walsall 002Lock 7 Walsall flight. Smiths old Flour Mill building in modern day use.

Just as we were about to set off the BW guy returned to bring things back to normal on the top lock but we had already beaten him too it by setting up the lock for ourselves. After a bit of a chin wag with the BW man we were away. Everything went quite smoothly until lock 7 where upon the bottom gate refused to close fully after Gypsy Rover had departed. With only one top paddle open due to the anti vandal device on the opposite side refusing to unlock we couldn’t fill the lock quick enough to overcome the leakage. Derek on Uccello finally caught up with us and between the 2 of us managed to unlock the anti vandal device. With 2 paddles now operational we soon had the lock full and the top gate open but it was draining the pound rather rapidly so Carrie had to get Uccello into the lock ASAP so that we could get the gate shut and stem the water flow.No sooner had we got the top gate shut, the lock started to drain without the bottom paddles even being opened. At least we had got Uccello through and not stranded between locks. We have since informed BW to get their men to attend to the matter.

Walsall 007 The sprung loaded boom across the entrance to Walsall town basin.

While working our way down the flight a group of about a dozen guys arrived dressed in Hi-Vis jackets armed with all sorts of tools and equipment. It transpired that they are 18 – 24 year olds on a 6 month work experience with the “Black Country” and a local council initiative under contract to BW tidying up the towpaths and waters edge on the BCN. They were doing a pretty good job of making the canal a pleasant and tidy environment.

Walsall 010 Walsall town basin in front of the town's new Art Gallery. Uccello and Gypsy Rover in residence.

Going into Walsall Town Basin we had heard and read that there is a boom across the entrance. It turns out to be nothing more than a 6” diameter plastic pipe that is only attached at one end by a large spring. When you push past it with the boat, it merely springs back into place once you are clear of it. Simple really and not a problem. There are 6 moorings, 4 on pontoons and 2 wharf side but if you don’t feel like staying in town you can moor on the BW work boat pontoons by the Walsall junction which were completely empty when we came through.

Walsall 011 Redeveloped part of Walsall town centre close to the canal basin.

Walsall 013 Red Lion hotel dated 1896. Walsall town centre.

As we had arrived in Walsall quite early it gave us the opportunity to go and do some sight seeing. With a mixture of old and new buildings there were plenty of interesting and historical buildings to look at. Like with many towns and cities these days modern shopping complexes are depleting the High St leaving many empty shops and those remaining, fighting for survival.

Walsall 015Hey, this is Walsall not Edinburgh.

The one really interesting fact was a statue that from a distance looked like so many we have seen of Queen Victoria. It turned out to be a statue of Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison aka; Nurse Dora who in 1865 was instrumental in bringing health care to the mine workers and families in Walsall. She also started the first Cottage Hospital here, where she worked until her death in 1878. She is the first woman in Britain that is not royalty ever to have a statue erected in her honour. There is also a plaque on the wall of the Tesco Metro in the centre of town which was the approximate site of her original Cottage Hospital.

Walsall 023 Statue to a woman who wasn't royalty. Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison aka Nurse Dora in Walsall.

Walsall 035One heck of a mural in Walsall.Walsall 040  Walsall has a history of leather work hence the new museum cafe, shop and original tannery over the old limestone mine.

2170 locks, 4198.15 miles, 87 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Deer at Chasewater Reservoir!

Yesterday while we were still in bed Derek on Nb Uccello was out walking Bungy and this is what he saw, they disappeared not long after. They say the early bird gets the worm or in this case the photos.

002 001

Next stop Walsall!

0 Locks, 10.10 Miles. Now moored at Walsall top lock.

After a very enjoyable stay at Anglesey Basin it was time to move on. Unfortunately we missed a rare sight this morning  but luckily Derek on Uccello was on the spot to capture the moment. Five Deer wandering along the grass verge of the dam oblivious to numerous early morning walkers and a dog.  We will try and scrounge the photo that he took for you to see.

Tame Valley 100 BW facilities at Brownshill on the Wryley & Essington Canal.

There was plenty of wild life activity along the way starting with the swan we spotted 2 days ago just starting to build his nest. He has now completed it to a height of about 18” – 24” and was sitting on it looking quite pleased with himself. There was plenty of other activity with Moorhens and Coots all starting to build nests in reeds and fallen tree branches.

Tame Valley 108Looking straight up the Cannock extension of the Wryley & Essington Canal.

While trying to moor up Brownhills Tesco store we got  stuck on a large submerged object alongside the old market and where there was a large hole in the fencing alongside the canal. We leant over on an odd angle and were unable to move. Luckily Uccello was close at hand and towed us free.

Tame Valley 111 Looking back at Pelsall Junction, Wryley & Essington Canal. Looks like a good place to moor alongside the park.

Other than a very long length of rope around Uccello’s prop and a tyre retread around our prop the rest of the days travels were relatively plain sailing. We had contemplated a quick visit up the Cannock Extension but decided against it in the interests of time.

Tame Valley 113 Pelsall works bridge 1824.

2162 locks, 4197.33 miles, 87 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Chasewater Country Park.

Tame Valley 088 Uccello and Gypsy Rover at Anglesey Basin, by the Chasewater reservoir.

This morning both crews headed off to investigate more of the park starting with the Chasewater Railway which we should have visited yesterday when it was open. Hey ho that’s life!  The railway is an old colliery line servicing collieries in the Cannock Chase area. These days it’s a visitor attraction within the park and travels over 4 miles of track which extends half way around the reservoir. It must be one of the earliest preservation railway groups in the country starting in 1959 and they have done a fantastic job with the new station building and heritage centre.

Tame Valley 093Chasewater reservoir looking decidedly dry.

In the Chasewater Innovation Centre we inspected an art exhibition where a young sculptor was exhibiting some of his work. The sculptor only found his hidden talent for art after suffering a major stroke whilst being treated for blood poisoning at the age of 19. Unable to speak and only having the use of one hand he has fought his way back to become a first class artist.

Tame Valley 085 Looking across the face of the Chasewater Dam normally covered by water.

After this Derek and Carrie returned to their boat but we carried on to the other end of the dam to see what was happening in that area. Large area’s had been cleared of all tree’s and had been marked out with survey pegs. A mobile drilling unit was in use at the base of the dam and from what we saw he was drilling down through very wet soft clay. He told us he had another 3 holes to drill but we didn’t ascertain if they were just for geological survey reasons or repair work. We were no sooner back aboard Gypsy Rover when the forecasted rain arrived, great timing.

Tame Valley 095Drilling being carried out on the foundations of the Chasewater reservoir.

Monday, 22 March 2010

All gone!

Tame Valley 055 A very dry overflow pond from the Chasewater reservoir.

Anglesey Basin

Tame Valley 068 The end of the line, the furthest north you can travel on the BCN

Going, going down

Tame Valley 056 A very low Chasewater Reservoir.

The tides out!

Tame Valley 062 A very low Chasewater Reservoir, drained for the first time in over 200 years

Chasewater Reservoir

Tame Valley 058 A very low Chasewater Reservoir. A pier with no water.

Daw End branch.

Tame Valley 052 A cob making his nest for 2010 on the Daw End branch.

Wow and so close to town

Tame Valley 051 Quite a view considering how close we are to Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Catshill Junction

Tame Valley 050 What the canal meant to the area.

Our suitcase!!

Tame Valley 042 Or what’s left of it after fouling the propeller on the Rushall Canal

Chasewater the Reservoir that isn’t.

0 Locks, 7.32 Miles. Now moored at Anglesey Basin.

Yesterday, rain stopped play as they say in cricket. After several days of heavy locking we were all quite happy to sit it out for a day. While chilling out we did receive an unusual phone call from Geoff ( I hope I’ve got that right) from Nb Dash that was moored immediately opposite us. He wasn’t on his boat but home somewhere in Suffolk. He has been following the blog and twigged that we were moored somewhere near his boat so gave us a call to ensure his boat was OK and a quick chat about the area. Thanks for that Geoff.

This morning was clear and bright so we watered up and gave the boat a bit of a wash before setting off once more. The first couple of miles through a vast area of warehouses and light industrial was slow going due to mud and weeds. Luckily we didn’t have any problems with a fouled propeller, just plenty of reverse thrusting kept it clear.

Once we got closer to Catshill Junction the condition of the canal improved in width and depth and we were able to make better progress.

Considering how close we are to Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton the scenery has been quite spectacular in places making our trip up here worth while. Arriving at the terminus of the canal we found one boat on the moorings so just moored in front of him on the grass bank. An hour or so later the owner of the other boat returned and left so we were able to pull back on to the wharf albeit breasted up as usual. There appeared to be a large rock or stone in the water on the other side of the moorings stopping either of us from getting in close. I tested the water depth which was fine it was just this obstruction.

Walking up to the reservoir we were among hundreds of others who had all come out for a stroll in the sunshine and a walk around the very empty reservoir. Despite signs to say “Stay off the Soft Mud” many people were walking right out to the edge of the present waterline and no doubt getting themselves in a mess. Looking at the water level and the position of the pump house I doubt whether they can lower the water level much further than they have already. Apparently stranded fish have been a bit of a problem during the draining process but all appeared well today.

Sorry no photos tonight as the internet is not stable enough. Normal service will resume as soon as possible.

2162 locks, 4187.23 miles, 87 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Have Suitcase but no travel!

9 Locks, 5.10 Miles. Now moored at Longwood Junction.

Well today started out reasonably well. I managed to get a looooong hot shower at the facilities block and we had a peaceful night despite being near a road bridge. Unfortunately Derek on Uccello was only slightly improved after doing his back a mischief a couple of days ago but he was determined to soldier on. Everything was going well until we turned right at Rushall Junction. It was like changing from a wide river to a narrow stream. With reeds on both sides and the water depth becoming shallower our progress slowed quite decidedly.

Tame Valley 033Part of the old back pumping system at the Perry Barr flight

At lock 9 I dropped Dot off to do her locking duties and immediately became grounded in soft mud. When Dot had the lock set I tried to move off when all of a sudden there was a bang and the engine died. I signalled Derek on Uccello to pass me as he was sitting mid stream awaiting his turn. When I got down the weed hatch I was confronted by something big and blue. I attacked it with my pole hook to start off with and came away with the lid of a vinyl suitcase. I could feel wire in amongst the debris but my cutters were not strong enough to cut it. What I needed was a pair of bolt cutters which Carrie was kindly loaned by a neighbour tending his garden. I did manage to make a few cuts in the wire but to no avail due to the age and condition of the cutters.

Tame Valley 034 This sort of graffiti is acceptable. A good likeness of Bob Marley.

Only one thing for it but to ring BW for some heavy equipment. The Foreman I spoke to said that he could have somebody with us in about an hour or so and I told him what would be required, i.e. bolt cutters. While waiting we decided to keep going by bow hauling Gypsy Rover up through the locks as they are fairly close together. This went well between locks 9 and 8 but going up to lock 7 we went aground and had a devils own job getting into the lock. With some help from Carrie we did finally make it but decided that was enough bow hauling for one day. It worked out quite well actually because BW could drive in right alongside the boat at this point.

Tame Valley 035 Looking down the Perry Barr flight from the top.

BW crew No 1 arrived only armed with an extra long pole hook with which they manage to extricate the main body of the suitcase but there was still a lot of the framework wrapped around the prop shaft. Only one thing for it they had to go to the yard for some bolt cutters, (that’s funny where had I heard that mentioned before?), this they assured me would only take 20 minutes. In the meantime we had our lunch. About an hour and a half later a BW truck arrived, but hang on that’s a different crew!  Sure enough BW crew No 2 had received a phone call from crew No1 to say that the front wheel bearing on their truck had collapsed and they were awaiting a recovery wagon to take them to the garage so could crew no 2 carry on where crew no 1 had left off and finish trying to help us.

Tame Valley 039The height of these bridges gives some indication how deep the valley is.

Not a problem but of course they were on the other side of Birmingham hence the time delay. Needless to say they didn’t have any bolt cutters, only a hack saw and secateurs neither of which were going to be much use. However the younger of the 2 guys donned his long gloves, headed down the weed hatch and after about 20 minutes had managed to unwind the wire and remove it completely. After a quick check to make sure that we were back in working order they left taking with them one very battered and torn suitcase.

Tame Valley 041Rushall Canal where a new towpath is in better condition than the actual canal.

The irony of crew No1’s truck is that it was due to be written off and replaced with a brand new truck next Wednesday. What a bummer! After all this we finally got under way again and made our present moorings with no further ado but we have since learnt that the canal is much shallower this week due to the Chasewater Reservoir being drained.

2162 locks, 4179.91 miles, 87 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 19 March 2010

Heading up the Tame Valley.

13 Locks, 3.32 Miles. Now moored at Perry Barr top lock

Last night’s moorings were not the most salubrious so with the weather being in our favour we opted to move on this morning.

Tame Valley 013 The concrete jungle of Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham.

At Salford Junction we turned left underneath the concrete jungle of the motorway interchange commonly known as “Spaghetti Junction” Hundreds of concrete pillars of all heights bearing huge cross beams carrying the M6 and A38(M) in all directions. Contractors were busy carrying out remedial repairs on this massive concrete monstrosity but this didn’t affect the canal.

Tame Valley 014 About time this was replaced BW

Again we had a good run up through the locks passing some of the relics of the old back pumping system used to recirculate and save water. Once away from the motorways it was nice to hear the sound of the birds instead of the drone of motor vehicle’s even though we were passing through residential area’s. At the top of the Perry Barr locks we could look back toward Birmingham which is only a couple of miles away as the crow flies.

Tame Valley 016Perry Barr locks on the Tame Valley Canal.

2153 locks, 4174.81 miles, 87 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006