Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A thousand amps

At Anglesey Basin it seems the thing to do is cycle round Chasewater Reservoir, so we got our bikes out and did just that. We didn't get all the way round as we called in to the Chasewater Railway at Brtownhills West Station.

The driver of the diesel loco was very chatty; once he'd wiggled it over the tracks to the platform I was asking him all sorts of questions.

The ammeter in the cab is impressive, reading up to 1000A. That would be a little over the top for Jubilee!

I had a good coffee in the station buffet. Perhaps one day we will travel on the train.

After spending longer than we had intended at the railway we returned to the boat and set off for Pelsall. We had lunch at Brownhills and found Aldi. Nearby is this impressive tribute to the former local mining industry: a larger-than-life Brownhills miner on a roundabout. (Next time I'll take a photo from the front.)

After making use of the facilities we carried on to Pelsall Junction where we tied up for the festival.

We are early, but we have offered to help with setting up.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Fishy goings on

We had a pleasant stay at Longwood Junction, just above Rushall Top Lock, but it was time to move on and cruise the five miles of the Daw End Branch. This is looking back at the junction, with the curtailed Longwood Arm on the left.

After skirting round Aldridge we came to Catshill Junction, where the Daw End Branch meets the Anglesey Branch and the Wyrley and Essington Canal. We turned left on the Curly Wurly in order to visit Tesco's, less than half a mile from the junction. Again, the photo below is looking back at the junction. Anglesey Branch on the left; Daw End Branch on the right.

The water here is very clear, enabling many fish to be seen. This one has red fins - anyone know what it is? This is not the fishy goings on of the title, by the way. That comes later.

After lunch and Tesco's we retraced our route to Catshill Junction, this time carrying on along the Anglesey Branch. Here we saw yet another motorbike being ridden along the towpath.

I have their faces, but I don't think I should publish them.

In a mile we came to Ogley Junction, where the yet-to-be-restored Lichfield Canal heads east to join the Coventry Canal at Huddlesford Junction. This route would be exceedingly convenient for us to get to Fazeley after the Pelsall festival; we will, however, have to take a longer way round.

At about 1630 we tied up at Anglesey Basin next to Two Jays.

I popped up the bank to look at Chasewater Reservoir before starting a barbecue. The drizzle held off and the BBQ was another success.

The fishy goings on of the title? As we came to Walsall Wood on the Daw End Branch there was a group of four anglers. They didn't have keep nets; instead they had black plastic bags and buckets which they picked up and took with them as we passed. They seemed to have fish in them. One of the fishermen spoke to me, but I didn't understand a word of what he said - and it wasn't merely a Brummie/Black Country accent. To me it sounded eastern European.

Apologies for the poor photo. And stop that sniggering at the back there. I'm sure there's a perfectly good historical reason behind the name of the bridge.

What's that? You can't read it? OK, here it is.

Tomorrow we'll go back past the Brownhills Tesco's to Pelsall Junction to help with the setting up of the IWA festival.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

How did this get round the prop?

Mixed in with the weed which attached itself to the prop as we came up Rushall Locks yesterday was this medical-looking tube.

I think it's what people have up their nose if they need oxygen.

We stayed put at Rushall Top Lock today, or rather, the boat did. Andy picked us up in the morning so we could go to church with him (Helen was minimising thr risk of infection by staying at home). We went to Aldridge Parish Church for a lively, Olympics-themed, communion service. After this we went to Andy and Helen's house for lunch, to which we contributed, and saw their amazing new kitchen (and Andy's shed). We hope we didn't tire out Helen too much. It was great to see them both; we'll see Andy again in a few days' time at the IWA Pelsall festival.

When Andy dropped us back at the boat he did a bit of blackberrying; I helped when I'd taken a photo or two.

This evening we walked to the White House, a Sizzling chain pub, for a meal. My sirloin steak was fairly bland - I think I'll stick with the cheaper rump steak next time. Jan's enjoyed her chicken. They had run out of the Sunday roasts which we had initially tried to order.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

What the motorbikes on the towpath did next

Last time I steered along the Tame Valley Canal we encountered motorbikes on the towpath, so I wasn't entirely surprised when a loud noise nearby got even louder and gained the form of two motorbikes joining the towpath in front of us.

This illustrates the antisocial side of what the riders presumably think of as jolly japes. As they approach a pedestrian at speed ...

... she has to get out of the way as the bikes roar through a deep puddle.

At Rushall Junction we turned left onto the Rushall Canal and immediately found ourselves in a much weedier environment. Today I must have been down the weed hatch half a dozen times. I suppose blanket weed makes a change from plastic bags.

The first seven of the nine locks are close together; one pound was very low. I had to steal water from the pound above, and then top up that pound from the next one.

Despite the obvious lack of traffic on this canal the locks were mostly in good condition. One paddle rack has slipped out of position ...

... and this anti-vandal device was inoperable owing to the presence of what looks like a socket someone has lost trying to work it.

The long pound leading to the top two locks shows how little used it is.

We tied up on the 48 hour mooring by the facilities block at Longwood Boat Club, which has the best, cleanest Elsan disposal point I have had the pleasure to use.

After tea we walked to the Manor Arms pub where I had an excellent ale in the unusual bar.

There is no bar as such: drinks are dispensed from one wall of the room where customers are sitting.

David and Penny left us before we set off this morning, David having cycled back to Park Head to get their car yesterday.

Friday, 19 August 2016

I didn't think I'd get this far up the Ridgeacre Branch

We moved on from central Birmingham today, but not before visiting the Ikon Gallery with its modern art installations. You have to wonder what whacky ideas artists will think of next. We engaged fully with one particular work; details coming up.

First a summary of our travelling today. We set off after lunch, taking a quick spin round Gas Street Basin (winding at the 90 degree bend at Holliday Wharf) before returning along the New Main Line as far as Pudding Green Junction. Here we turned right along the Wednesbury Old Canal heading for Ryder's Green Locks and the Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch.

Just before the locks is Ryder's Green Junction where the Ridgeacre Branch, er, branches off. The last time I passed this way, three years ago I think, reeds were blocking the entrance. This time the way looked clear, apart from a notice advising against navigation.

The sign talks about reeds and silt but doesn't actually forbid entry, so I took Jubilee in on tickover.

Well, if boats don't navigate a canal it will be lost, so I was only doing my bit. Has anyone else been up there recently?

At one point we ran over something a bit hard, but we got through Hadley Bridge and almost up to the marked winding hole. Here the reeds closed in and it seemed prudent to stop and go back.

Up to this point neither silt nor reeds had impeded our progress. Nor had the plastic bags I removed from the prop when we got back onto the main line. The prop did stir up a lot of evil black stuff from the canal bed, especially when making correction thrusts when reversing. David at the bow with a cabin shaft helped to keep the boat pointing the right way going backwards, and it all went smoothly. I removed a decent amount of plastic from the weed hatch after that little excursion.

All the Ryder's Green Locks were against us and we stopped twice more for plastic bag removal, but the run down was reasonably pleasant. Some local lads were friendly and helped with gates at a couple of locks; a group of older people with drinks cans under a bridge looked rougher but exchanged greetings and warned Jan about the submerged trollies.

We tied up in the Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch and I got inside just as the heavens opened. Phew!

I mentioned the art in the Ikon. One piece was interactive and involved the participant climbing onto a wooden board and then propelling him/herself out of the window 20 or 30 feet above ground! Naturally I volunteered first.

I was hoping that I'd be sticking out a long way, but it was only my head which got drizzled on. And one is looking up, not down.

Here's Jan enjoying the experience.

Tomorrow we have the delights of the Tame Valley and Rushall Canals to look forward to. And a rendezvous with the Tidys. Excellent.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Spon Lane Bridge

Apart from the unusual name Spon Lane Bridge is remarkable for something else. It is one of a small number of bridges with a dividing wall separating a road from a turnover route for horses.

The first bridge going west from Braunston Turn on the Oxford/Grand Union is similar, being a combination of turnover bridge and accomodation bridge.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

How does Anchor Bridge stay up?

We left our 48 hour mooring outside the BCLM and travelled along the Old Main Line to Birmingham. Anchor Bridge has a very flat brick span. The bricks in the underside of the arch in the middle can't possibly be in compression, can they? How do they stay in place?

There's a lot of metal industry along here as well as a huge DPD depot. The bays are numbered up to 118B (even numbers only, but with an "A" and a "B"). One company does "all alloy slitting", whatever that is.

Just before Summit Tunnel I suddenly picked up a large quantity of thick plastic round the prop. It was about lunchtime so we took the opportunity to enjoy the peaceful surroundings in the sunshine.

We detoured down the Engine Arm and marvelled at the CRT facility block and other services available to the moorers down there.

Here we are crossing the aqueduct over the New Main Line.

The masonry blocks lining the towpath bridge have curious regular circular depressions. Is this purely decorative or is it something to do with how the stone has been worked?

Have I ever asked so many questions in a single blog post?

We are now in Cambrian Wharf, having secured the far end mooring along the edge. We had a good barbecue on the hard surface outside the boat with very few passers by. The Flapper pub is quiet, meaning that this is a very peaceful spot in the centre of the city. Unlike last night there is no traffic noise.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Sparks fly at the Black Country Living Museum

Today was Black Country Living Museum day, so David and I cycled off to Tipton Station to get the cheapest rail tickets to qualify for the 2 for 1 deal on museum entry. An outlay of £2.80 saved £16.95 for Jan and me; David did the same for him and Penny. We were in the site not long after opening; by the time it shut at 1700 we felt like we'd done enough.

Some brief picture highlights: demos involving hot metal are always good to watch. Here the chainmaker bashes some steel into shape.

Originally it would have been wrought iron, but apparently it's not being produced in this country any more so they buy local steel for the demonstrations.

In the afternoon we were given a good tour of the old working boats, including Clayton's tar boar Stour, Primrose, Bessie and Diamond.

Large parts of Diamond's elm bottom have rotted away.

Just before the museum shut the lift bridge was raised to allow Atlas and Malus to tie up.

This is the portal of Dudley Tunnel we had been hoping to approach from the other direction.

One day ... one day ...

In the evening had a good curry at a restaurant whose name I cannot remember in Tipton. As we walked back to the boat we came across Mad O'Rourke's mad pie place. I enjoyed a Lumphammer ale while we looked around.

Brum city centre tomorrow, I think.