Just lately this blog is more like the adventures of TinTin rather than the restoration of Dove. We will get back to some serious restoration later this year when some funds appear in the bank, but for now, we may as well be out and about ploughing our way through the mud and the weed.
The latest outing took us to Walsall for an art thing at the New Gallery in the town arm. As the BCN Challenge was cancelled this year, we thought we'd do just a bit by going to Walsall via the Tame Valley and back via Wolverhampton. We set off just after dinner on Thursday and gently plodded our way down the Conventry canal then on to the Birmingham and Fazeley. A quick note here for those who didn't know, from Wittington to Fazeley the bridges are named and not numbered. This is because the Coventry Canal Co. had a few problems and the Birmingham and Fazeley had to bail them out, so this stretch of the canal is actually the Birmingham and Fazeley. Look out for the stone marker near Wittington Bridge. We arrived at the Dog and Doublet at about tea time and got not further due to low water, so we got as near to the bank as posible stayed the night. By 6:00 in the morning the levels were up and everything looked ok so we cranked up the motor and just as we did the boat behind started up and set off before us, mmm. By the time we got going they were out of sight but for some unkown reason we were left with a broken paddle on the next lock up and every pound empty! Generally levels were down all the way to Minworth but after that everything was fine. As we past under the gloom of the Gravely Hill Interchange, that's its' posh name, I was expecting allsorts of horrors but, nothing, just a bit slow going through the narrows, quite supprising. By the time we got to Perry Barr Locks it was my shift on the tiller and Andrea was locking. As I entered the bottom lock we tried the automatic gate closing system, this is where the gully from the top paddle runs to the front of the lock as normal then under ground to the middle of the lock and then on to the back of the bottom gate. So the first gully stops the boat, middle holds it and the last shuts the gate. However, due to lack of use it didn't work that well, so back to shutting gates by hand. At lock three our progress was halted, Andrea informed me that every pound was well down and she was off to run some water down. I tried to get across the first pound but no chance a bit too much rubbish in there. Entering the next lock was like going into the Amazon rain forest, there were trees growing out of the walls. Nearly at the top and a BW person appeared asking if there was a problem and if we were ok as a boat had gone up not 20 minuets ago with no trouble, sounds familliar this! At the top, looks like plenty of water and plenty of rubish, plastic bags, tyres and lumps of wood. We've now got quite a few miles of level water with an unlevel bottom, it was hard work all the way on the Tame Valley, with the mud and the weed and of course the occasional metalic object. On arrival at Tame Valley Juction the fishermen weren't that pleased to see us and on making the turn we saw why, the stuff that came up from the bottom and the smell! we left a glimering silvery black sludge. Now on the Walsall canal, if you want a word to describe it, you'll have to make one up but for now, pure crap will have to do. Basically, it's a long garden pond complete with flowering Water Lillies and pond weed on a grand scale. The motor is wound right up and we're doing half a mile an hour! Every bridge hole is a nightmare, with kids spitting and throwing cans. It's impossible to get a run at them to ride over the crap, at Lea Brook bridge we finish up bow hauling with help of some kids, they're not all bad here. The final crunch came at Spinks Bridge, we ran into a pile of bricks. After two hours of proding about with the shaft, we had chain blocks pulling from steelwork, we recruited five blokes as they passed, who we can't thank enough. I finished up climbing in and move the bricks with my feet the best I could, only find concrete blocks under the bricks. The only thing left to do was to rope the boat back then all of us pull like hell forward. We got to the concrete and started rocking side to side and after a while, it climbed over and we're free, what a relief. It's now going dark and we've got another 6 bridges before the town arm. As it happends we did'nt get stuck again but it was a hard slog right into the arm. We came to stop in the basin and didn't bother to tie up there was no need, the weed held us. In the morning we woke to find us in the same place so I started the motor and turned the boat round and reversed to wharf side, this took about 20 minuets but it didn't half clear some weed. After a while Paul and Laurence arrived to sort out Barnet, they couldn't belive we did what we did, as it turn out , the area we travelled through last night is very risky.
Saturday saw quite a bit of interest from the local shoppers, obviously not a regular thing, seeing boats in the basin. Saturday night we waited for the attention of the teenage drinkers but they were all well behaved and there was no bother at all. We popped round to a nice little pub in the town, the Red Lion, however, we did notice as the night went on, the couples were girl/girl or boy/boy so probably not the place for two over 50 fuddy duddies. Sunday morning 9:00 not a sole about so we set off up the Walsall locks, what a difference, lock beams all painted, grass cut and plenty of water. At the top it's a bit weedy in places but better than the bottom. As we progressed things got better and better and by the time we got to Birchills Junction things were great. Turning left onto the Wyrley and Essington canal and to our supprise, deep water, no weed and every bridge hole cleaned out. We motored on through various scenery some better than others but all interesting. Fishermen nodding back to you, kids waving, no graffiti, is this Wednesfield or have we ended up on some other planet. We're soon at Horsleyfields Junction and turning right onto familiar territory. Its all plane sailing from here.
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