For the last seven days we have been - or rather Legend, with us inside it, has been up in the air at the end of a slipway in a big shed. Because we were in a shed we haven’t been allowed to light the fire and, despite the very nice man lending us an electric heater, it’s been a tad cold up in our wind tunnel. When we haven’t been applying 30 litres of various ludicrously expensive coatings to the outside, we’ve spent the week inside either in bed, under a big duvet with all the blankets we own and a hot water bottle each, or on the settee under a big duvet with all the blankets etc. etc.
Luckily, the fishing match that we didn’t know was taking place all the way along the loop hadn’t started yet so, waving demurely, we drifted gently past about 100 happy souls and several thousand pounds worth of high tech lures, reels, spinners etc. and enough carbon fibre poles to make a new roof for Wembley Stadium.
Our next departure from the New Main Line was at the 3 Smethwick locks, where the old line climbs up and runs parallel with the new for a while. The first lock was empty so we went straight in. That was when we discovered that paddles on BCN locks need a water conservation key. This is a “T” shaped key that undoes a bolt allowing the winding gear to be used.
We stopped for lunch near the Engine Branch; a short cul-de-sac feeder arm that spans the New Line on a stunning aqueduct.
Dudley Tunnel and the Black Country Living Museum.
We would thoroughly recommend a visit to the BCLM.
After a couple of nights we turned round and did a 15 minute trip to Tipton where we stayed for a couple more. Before we went any further we needed a trip out in the car to a chandlery to put a Water Conservation Key on our key hook. So far we’ve not used it; we followed another boat down Factory Locks and they left all the paddles open for us.
Next came the big Netherton Tunnel - 10/10 for the headlight
That’s low – not as low as Dudley, but low all the same. We’d taken the precaution of walking the towpath and we’d read the sign at the entrance, so our bikes were in the well deck, the big box was folded flat and the chimney was lying on the roof. The tricky thing is, if you don’t read the sign you go sailing in without a care because the entrance is a good 4m high. The stoopingly low bit comes at about 200m in. Then there’s a high bit in the middle, then another low bit, then the exit is as high as the entrance.