Friday, 28 June 2013

Brindley and the Bratch!

Summer Cruise 2013 – Thurs 27th June

Day 23: Moored at the top of Bratch Locks, Staffs and Worcester Canal
                7.5 miles and 16 locks in 5 engine hours

We knew the day would start warmly and end in rain – and so it did!

We dropped down the last 4 locks of the Stourbridge Canal numbered 17 to 20 on my canal maps – though numbered 1 to 4 on the lock gates (presumably the Stourton Four).

The gardens backing the canal here are delightful.

Landscaped to make the most of the canal

Watched over by Old Mother Nature

The bottom lock had a recording device in the corner of the lock wall. I understand that this records the number of fills of the lock (and depth?) and then the information is remotely transmitted by the solar powered gadget in the black cabinet on the bank.
This gives the monitoring team data about usage and water levels – it's called SCADA.

SCADA devive at the Stourton Bottom Lock

We then turned east onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal that runs from Stourport-on-Severn to Great Haywood (in Staffs), where it connects with the Trent and Mersey Canal.

It was an early canal construction, opened throughout in 1772, so generally follows the countour of the land as it rises up to the edge of Wolverhampton.
It is mosty rural and is quite isolated with old bridges and lock design.

Circular overflow weir – typical of the Staffs and Worcs

By now, it was teeming with rain as Chris enters the lower of the 3 locks at Bratch

Originally, a staircase design, they were changed to be effectively 3 separate locks – although 'squashed' into to rise of the hillside

Famous photo shot of the octagonal lock house and a very wet Anton!

Looking back down the locks 30 feet rise in 3 locks
We had had enough! We pulled over at the Visitor Moorings!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Into Our Last Week!

Summer Cruise 2013 – Wed 26th June

Day 22: Moored after Newtown Bridge, Stourbridge Canal

Our schedule gives us a 'day-in-hand', so we used it here in a delightful rural, south facing spot, on the best sunny day for a while. We had a bbq, using the Cobb on top of the hatch.

It worked well, especially as the towpath here is used by cyclists and runners.

The Cobb BBQ working well!

This section of the canal is part of the 615 mile Monarch's Way – tracing the route taken by the fleeing King Charles I after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

In the evening I walked up to see the locks and tomorrow's route.
There were 4 boats moored along this stretch so obviously popular and in the map for a future cruise.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Originals!

Dudley No.2 and No1 and Stourbridge Canals

Summer Cruise 2013 – Tues 25th June
Day 21: Moored above Lock 17, Stourbridge Canal
              10 miles in all, with 25 locks in 9 engine hours

As this was always going to be a longish day, we set off by 9am in warm sunshine along the winding Dudley No.2 Canal. This was completed in 1792 as a link around Birmingham to the southern, Worcester and B'ham route to the River Severn.

It was a curly course with good water and mainly clear of 'grot'.

We last came this way about 20 years ago when we shared a hire boat with our Kiwi friends who wanted to see the lesser known side of England. From memory, it seems to be cleaner?

Originally built as Brewins Tunnel, but opened out 20 years later to avoid the need to 'leg' through boats

Blackbrook Junction -the disused entrance to the short cut – Two Lock Line (closed 1909 due to subsidence)

Park Head Junction – looking up at the route through the Dudley Tunnel
New tailgate bridge – with H & S safety rails

We now turned south west, along the original 1779 Dudley No.1 Canal – again a contour route, winding through its old industrial past. Suddenly, on the site of the old Round Oak Steel Works, it opens out to a new Office and Leisure Complex called, appropriately The Waterfront. There are moorings here which look OK for a future trip.

The permanent moorings at The Waterfront

Visitor moorings

Just little further on we started the main feature of the day – locks, and lots of them.

The first flight of Delph Nine Locks is now 8 after a new middle group of 6 were constructed in 1858. It was here we encountered a number of boats coming up (the fishermen also complained there had been 8 or so going down!), presumably as an alternative route into Birmingham as the more direct route of the Wolverhampton Locks is closed due to a severe lock wall crack.

Old sign!

Newer sign (though not yet the Canal and River Trust sign?)!

Looking down the Delph Lock Flight

Chris steers past the famous Delph cascade - the bypass weir in flow
A tight manoeuvre to pass in the short lock pound
Leaving Delph, cruising past a pleasant garden

On leaving Delph Locks, the canal becomes the Stourbridge Canal, also completed by 1779 and winds around to Leys Junction. This is the start of the drop through 16 locks, each about 9 foot deep, down to Stourbridge.

We again needed to wait at some locks to allow boats to pass – also gave time for an ice cream. Historically interesting, it has been well cared for in parts, though other bits are rough (eg fire damaged warehouse).

Looking down the Stourbridge Lock Flight

Passing the timber clad 'Dadford's Shed' – a former Warehouse where sounds of welding could be heard


The Red House cone (kiln) for the glass industry here

At the bottom of the locks, just near the arm into Stourbridge Town, we met live-aboard boater John Sloan. He had recently spent the day with Richard Parry, our new Chief Executive for the Canal Trust. I am pleased to report (as elsewhere in the canal press) that John is impressed with this initial experience which hopefully bodes well for the future.

We gently cruised on, looking for a mooring spot and were not disappointed to get into some newer metal edging, in the sun! A good day's boating!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Netherton Tunnel!

Summer Cruise 2013 – Mon 24th June

Day 20: Moored at Windmill End Junction, Netherton
              10 miles in all, with 1 Big Tunnel

A cold day and windy too, we delayed our start until midday.

Around the Oozell Street Loop and a tricky exit (with a rope) back onto the Main Line, this time towards Gas Street.

Sherborne St. Wharf

Approaching the exit

Looking backwards!

Through Brindley Place, where the trip boat pulled out just in front of us!

Broad Street Tunnel, really a wide road!

We went slowly through the Warwickshire Bar. The 'strange but true' history here is that when the Worcester and Birmingham Canal was started in 1792, the Birmingham Canal Navigation would not allow a connection, so goods had to be laboriously manhandled across the physical barrier between boats either side.

In 1815 an Act allowed the creation of a stop lock and the bar was breached. The Worcester and Birmingham raised their water level by six inches to minimise water loss and today the two pairs of lock gates have been removed. There were separate toll offices either side of the bar for the two canal companies. The bar still exists, with boats moored to both sides of it.

The Warwickshire Bar – see the rather fine Cafe (which does real ale as well!)

Looking back – see the two Community Officers, they and the police have a high profile around here

We turned at the Mailboxes and reversed to the service point for fresh water and to do the toilet for the week.

Then the return trip, back through the centre of Birmingham – until next June 2014, for more opera!!

The New Main Line has several toll islands that would have had toll offices on them

Emerging from Galton Tunnel
The dead straight 'new' line, as part of Telford's improvements around 1830

There is considerable dereliction away from the city centre

Under the Old Line at Tividale Aqueduct, looking at the Tunnel Entrance

Netherton Tunnel was opened in 1858 being the last canal tunnel to be built. Constructed to relieve the congestion of the single, non tow path, Dudley Tunnel, it was extremely modern for its day being wide enough for two narrowboats to pass with a tow path on each side. Initially lit by gas for 24hr working this was changed to electricity.

At 3027 yards long (almost 1 and 3/4 miles), it is the 4th longest in use today. 9 men died building it with 18 seriously injured. 17 shafts were dug along its length for excavation of which 7 were kept as ventilation shafts – dripping wet down the brick linings.

There is light at the end of the tunnel?!

Looking back at the brick lining and the tow path, with railing

A wet ventilation shaft

One tow path is now gated off
Our overnight mooring at Bumble Hole – with the engine house chimney in view

Cobb's Engine House – built in 1831, it housed a stationary Newcomen steam pump used to pump water firstly from Windmill End Colliery and later other mines in the area, discharging into the canal. So it also helped to keep the water levels up.

Birmingham: Enjoying!

Summer Cruise 2013 – Weekend of 21/22/23rd June

Day 16-18: Moored at Oozell Loop Junction Bridge, in B'ham

Our first visit to Birmingham (link) was to go to the Hippodrome to enjoy Welsh National Opera's Lohengrin. This hadn't been done in this country for 25 years, so as Wagner fans is was a 'not to be missed!' event. It was excellent and as possibly one of Wagner's most accessible operas, surely should be in the repertoire for the near future?

We have also been round the Birmingham Canals to the Boat Festival at Pelsall, right up round the northern canals (link) – again, great fun and reasonable weather.

This weekend we are back in the centre of the City for Opera North's concert 'austerity' version of Wagner's Siegfried – part 3 of the Ring Cycle on Saturday.

It was absolutely fantastic and a great musical experience – you could see all the orchestra on stage to add interest. The operatic singing was majestic with giant screens augmenting the story with subtitles. Just great!

Here are a few photos from the weekend:

Tree clearance outside the NIA

Apparently the NIA is having a 'make-over'

Sorting out the cables on the Symphony Hall Bridge? It was given a coat of paint

The Dragon Boats at speed

In costume – the babies versus the teddy bears

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Birmingham: Lots of Locks – Upwards!

Summer Cruise 2013 – Thurs 20th June

Day 15: Moored at Oozell Loop Junction Bridge, in B'ham
               3.5 miles, 24 locks in 3 engine hours

Up early with the sounds of industry starting up (big extractor fan) and a CRT work boat setting off for a day's activity. We were on our way by 8.15am and into rain at the first few locks. Thankfully, it soon passed and the day became warmer with some sun to welcome us back to the heart of Birmingham – for the second time this cruise.

Some bridges give a clue to the industrial past

A nod to H&S

Evidence of recent repair

We passed a boat in Lock 10 – the second of the 11 flight and then had the canal to ourselves until the top, when we passed a hire boat with students from Bristol University.

The 11 locks were in reasonable shape, with little leakage, though no water appeared to be coming down. The top of the lock flight is some 70 ft higher and gave views across this part of Birmingham.

Cruising past new offices

Interesting cantilever footbridge – an original as the marks from the pulling lines can be seen

We had these in Edgeware, N.London for the town gas storage (when I was a boy!). Looks like they are still in use?

At the Aston Junction, we turned right to approach the Farmers Bridge flight of locks – 13 here rising some 80ft. They are all close together and heavily built over from the days in 1798 when it was a farmer's field.

We were met by one of the new Volunteer Lock Assistants, and between us (the locks were in our favour and nothing came down) we flew up to the top.

The famous BT tower, which we go past

Dingy railway arches

Under the Tower Building

Squeezing in modern housing

Old and new

2 more locks to go!
Looking back at the BT Tower

Our mooring for the weekend tucked under the Bank Resturant