Thursday 27 April 2017

Coventry Canal. Birmingham &Fazeley Canal. BCN. Polesworth to Hawne Basin.

There is a very handy mooring at Polesworth where we’ve stayed before.
The towpath is nice and wide, there’s car parking just next to the bridge and the village itself is just round the corner. As we had a few things to catch up with and two days work in London coming up we tied up and stayed for the full fortnight. Dave took advantage of the good weather and got lots of firewood chopped up. He also attacked the car headlights with an Autoglym polishing kit and was very impressed with the results.

At the weekend we went out to the WRG barn dance.
We had a fantastic time, lots of dancing, a delicious curry and we met up with Jane and Colin from Sloe Gin who we last saw at the IWA festival at Nothampton.

Just up the towpath from Polesworth is Pooley Country Park so we had a walk up to the top of the old spoil heap to the leaf tower.
A couple of days later, as we weren’t going to be boating that way, we drove out to Hopwas Woods and had a lovely spring-time walk around there.
 Baby Himalayan Balsam ready to run riot.
 A carpet of beautiful windflowers.

Our two days work were at Goodmayes and Harrold Wood stations; both to the east of London on the new Crossrail line.
A fleeting glimps of a new Crossrail Train
As we were working from 2pm till 2am on both days we were given a hotel room between shifts. The Ritz it was not. In a sort of perverse good way, we’d terrified ourselves by reading the Tripadvisor reviews about it before we got there, so when it wasn’t quite as dire as we were expecting we were pleasantly surprised. We spent most of the second morning with a full English while hooked up to the wifi in a Tesco café.
We also spent all of the money we’d earned on a new computer and flights to Bordeaux and Belfast in December.

Mum and Dad were going to a posh hotel near Ironbridge for their car club’s AGM, so we arranged to have a day out and visit them. In the afternoon we went into Ironbridge itself for a walk around.

Dave spent most of the day convinced that we’d never been to Ironbridge, and it was only when he recognised the teddy-bear shop that he realised that we had, as Ann-Marie had been saying all along, been there with the 2cv club.

From Polesworth we followed the Cov to Fazeley Junction then tuned left onto the B&F... Kingsbury Waterpark; another mooring we’ve been to before and love.
The view from the boat at Kingsbury
While we were there we arranged to go and visit Laura and Alison who were moored in Large Marge not too far away at Lapworth. We hadn’t seen them for a while and we thought it would be nice to visit Packwood House with them and give them a hand down the locks.

After that we were joining WRG for the annual BCN clean-up; a two day blitz with grappling hooks on a section of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

At the end of it, according to CRT, our haul amounted to 20 tonnes of scrap, including numerous shopping trolleys, bicycles, tyres, at least two motorbikes and several car bumpers. As Legend was going to be empty for three nights while all that was going on, before we left we got some upholstery cleaner and used it on our recently re-vamped sofa so that it would be clean and dry by the time we got back. With a bit of elbow grease and a fair bit if rinsing it came up really well. If we’d remembered we’d got a Karcher window vac we could have done an even better job!

There was a winding hole next to where we were moored at Kingsbury, so we cleaned both sides of the boat and repainted the cream stripes just above the gunnels.
Theses have a hard life as they are forever being rubbed by feet going up and down the side of the boat so we tend to touch them up every year. While we had the paint out we re-painted the boat poles as well.
We also repositioned the anchor and hung it on the tiller swan-neck.
It had previously been in the box under the solar panels but it took up too much useful space in there. We weren’t sure how much it would get in the way swinging around on the back deck, but it is surprisingly inconspicuous when we’re under-way.

We recently got back in contact with two of our dearest friends, Jacqui and Al. They were coming for their first taste of life aboard Legend and, in Al’s case, his first time on a narrow-boat of any description. In preparation for their visit we did a little hop up the locks to the Dog and Doublet at Bodymoor Heath; not our usual sort of haunt - being in the middle of a pub garden - but very easy for visitors to find and park.
Al is over 6’ so we weren’t sure if he’d fit. He didn’t, but he was really good about it and sat down a lot. We had a very pleasant, if slightly inebriated evening, catching up on old times, playing cards and laughing a lot. In the morning, with Jacqui and Al wielding windlasses, we were up the beautifully kept Curdworth flight, through the tunnel and moored up at Minworth in no time at all.

After a compact and bijou lunch in the well-deck we ran them back to the pub where we said goodbye and waved them off with promises of an imminent return visit to their lovely cottage in Devon.

There was final car trip to Toolstation for paint and last minute supplies before we started our run into Birmingham for our third bottom blacking.

We had an chilly start, but bright and not too windy, making our progress to Cambrian Wharf a very pleasant affair. By the end of our day’s boating we’d climbed 28 locks on the B&F and gone from rural countryside to metropolitan inner city, sometimes even underneath the inner city!

Unsurprisingly there was no room in Cambrian Wharf itself; there are two boat length’s worth of 14 day moorings there, making them highly desirable and hardly ever vacant, but we found a 48hr Legend-sized gap at Farmer’s Bridge Junction, right under the NIA.
We gave ourselves a spare day in Birmingham so we could have a look round and we spent a good part of it in the new library.

 What an amazing place! Words and pictures just don’t do it justice; if you haven’t been there you really ought to go. New Street Station's glittery new exterior is worth a look too.
We also had a walk through Brum’s wonderful markets where, amongst other things, we got half a very tasty brie for £1 and couldn’t resist pulling chunks off it on the way home.

Next morning we set off bright and early heading for the Black Country Living Museum. We’ve decided that every time we find ourselves on the BCN we should try to navigate a bit of it that we haven’t done before. So, instead of going straight along the Telford Main Line and up Factory locks, we went across Old Turn Junction, onto the Ouzels loop and through Sherborne Wharf where, although we found Charlie’s oddly-named boat - the Felonius Mongoose - there was no sign of the man himself (well, it was a bit early.)

We then carried on to Albion Junction where we turned left onto the Gower Branch and climbed up Brade’s locks - the top two of which are a staircase. There we turned right on the Wolverhampton level towards Tipton, and then left to the BCLM moorings. We did an empty-out and fill-up at the services, then turned around and moored up ready for another early start the next morning.
After a quick brew, we wandered off to the new BCLM visitor centre to see about getting a ride on one of the electric trip boats going into the Dudley tunnels. Everyone had told us how good the trips are, and when we’d stopped there before we’d only had time to visit the museum, so we were very happy to get booked onto the 1:30 boat. When we came out of the visitor centre we were even more happy to find out that we’d tuned up just in time, as all the mooring spaces were now full and several boats were moored outside.
The trip was indeed fabulous.

Amazing as the bits of it we saw were, the most amazing part was that there is far, far more of the whole labyrinth under Dudley town and castle than you get to see in one 40 minute boat ride, and that an awful lot of it is in tunnels and caves that are beneath you and now flooded. We were very impressed with the way it was presented, and our guide/steerer made the whole thing come alive with her extensive knowledge of the mines and tunnels and their history. And she was funny with it.

There had been rumours of anti-social behaviour at Windmill End, so we set off from the BCLM at the crack of dawn and were down Factory Locks...
 Low water in Factory locks.
The only youths we saw all day
...and through the big, wide Netherton tunnel before the local low-life had a chance to surface. From there it was just a short hop down the Dudley No2 and through the small, narrow Gosty Hill tunnel...
The famous Dracula picture in Gosty Hill tunnel.
...past the derelict Stewart’s tube works to the end of the navigation. The canal used to continue from here through the notorious Lapal tunnel to the Birmingham & Worcester canal at Selly Oak, but for now it terminates just after a turn-off to the right under a little brick bridge into Hawne Basin; once a rail interchange for the tube works and now a pretty little marina owned by the Coombeswood Canal Trust. Among the many useful services they provide is a slipway onto an all-weather hard standing which as you, Dear Reader will remember, is where we’ve been twice before for our bottom blacking. 

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