Monday, 8 November 2010


While in Gas Street last night I was having a tour round Google Earth and found that the time clock allowed me to go back to 1945.
You can see clearly the duplicated locks at Smethwick. After hunting round I found quite a few canals that are no longer here, such as, the Toll End, the canal that extended out from the Cambrian Wharf and lots of arms now filled in.
The other interesting place to visit in 1945 is London, seeing all the docks full of ships.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The bonfire and loop the loop

After a couple of days on the arm with a few boats about and the beer tent to ourselves virtually, things started to happen on Saturday morning, boats arriving from all directions, lighting masts going up and the bonfire being built. It was all hands on deck for the transportation of pallets and various lumps of wood from the arm to the lock side at Smethwick top lock. About 4:00 bonfire was completed then guarded to stop the local numpties putting light to it. We sneaked off for pint in the tent, then Andrea had to do her stint in the Burger bar and I went to get scrubbed up. 7:30 the blue touch paper was lit and up she went, then followed a superb firework display. I tried taking photos and video but it was impossible trying to keep track of it all.
We finished the night off in you know where... and drank them dry.
Sunday morning we wandered down to help pack everything away but when we got there, it was all done. Don't know what time they all got up, must have been bright and early.
After a few had moved out of the arm we then set off. Only going to Gas Street and all day to do it in, we went for a BCN tour, we haven't done this for a while. So following the old way into Brum doing all the loops. First we headed off down Spon Lane Locks, turning left at the bottom in the mud and 100 years of industrial sludge. Next left turn into Soho loop passed the prison. A lot of the industry has gone from this area being replaced with park land and houses. However, towards the end of the loop there are one or two bits left. Like this...
and this...
oh! and this
Crossing the main line and into Icknield port loop, bringing back memories of my pipefitting days with the steam and condensate mains on the wall complete with expansion loops, wonderful stuff.
Passing the reservoir and the BW yard and then passed all the dereliction and back onto the main line then just a short way to Gas Street.

Friday, 5 November 2010

A bit more BCN

Just thought I'd take a few more pictures...
This is looking down from the Engine Arm.
Looking at what industries were round here at one time you wouldn't want to fall in here. There is one thing, weed and reeds can't grow here.

At the top of the Smethwick locks there's a board hiding in the bushes giving the history of the place, makes good reading. The picture shows the duplicated locks and if you dig around in the grass you'll find remnants of lock brickwork still there.

This link is full of all sorts of stuff about the area, it's a bit hard to follow. There are 8 sections on the industrial canals.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Blue brick, cast iron and rivets

Leaving Merryhill this morning and we're back in the land of blue brick, cast iron and rivets, all the stuff of the Black Country Canals.

The thing about the BCN, is all the now unused bits that makes you wonder what it was like in 1925, when Dove was brand new and doing it's first runs through Birmingham to Preston Brook.
When all the arms busy with boats and Bridges busy with rail traffic even if it was the GWR
Canals passing over canals and toll islands at every junction

Going up Factory locks where the bottom gates are single and the cast iron foot bridge has the tow line gap at the side.
On the way round to the Engine Arm we called for a pint or two at Glass and Bottle in the Black Country Museum and very nice it was too.
Up the Engine Arm you'll find the proper BCN, the backside of Birmingham, where not a lot has changed.
The water is black with shiny bits in it, the buildings are well used and full of history. They have bits of ironmongery bolted on the walls that used to serve some purpose at some time, but now redundant and rusting away, leaving you guessing as to their use.

There are Bridges made wider using riveted iron section supporting blue brick work to accommodate the industrial growth of the day.
We're now tied up opposite this building, which is still working by the way.

As far as I'm concerned, this is real boating, not poncing about on the posh bits, this is where it all started, the industrial heart of England, moving manufactured goods and raw materials by boat.
Use it or lose it

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

What a grand day

We left Kinver this morning, a little late, but no matter, we're only going to Merryhill to team up with a friend of ours.
Soon up Stewponey lock and turning right up Stourton locks. I think it was the third lock up where the tow path changes sides across this little bridge. The railings look as if they were designed to catch the tow line and drop it through the slot in the bridge.
In this picture you can see where the cotton tow line has cut it's way through the cast iron. This explains why some of the cantilever brackets on other bridges have disappeared, the cotton line has cut right through.
As we motored on to the bottom of Stourbridge locks we past a little boat yard and sat on the side was Helen, a Leonard Leigh tug. The shape and depth of hull really caught my eye and would love to have a closer look one day. Sorry rivet counting.
On the way up Stourbridge I'm pleased to see this building still standing. However, not to my surprise it has been on fire and looks ready for demolition. Funny how many buildings go through this phase so developers can build new houses instead of renovating a perfectly good building.
Going up passed Dadfords yard, I like this clever piece of engineering. The locks look like a staircase but there is a pound between them, it's behind the house and tunneled into the gap between the gates

On reaching the Delph, a friend of ours joined us to do a bit of locking. At the top the weather turned a bit damp, rain coats back on for the last bit.
The funny thing about our friend, his boat is called Hector, who wasn't that friendly with Achilles. All we need now is a boat called Paris, then we better watch our heel.

Achilles and Hector laying side by side at Merryhill, we've never stopped here before, nice spot.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

What a cock up

All set for a blast down the river this morning, but as we're going down the locks a BW chap comes along asking if we're booked to go on the river? Didn't know we had to says I. Apparently in winter season you have to book a passage through the river locks. So BW chap gives us the number to ring. I ring the number and in true BW fashion I get an answer machine and another number to ring and then another answer machine. So I leave a message stating name, number and where we are, thinking the chap on the other end just might be busy! well you never know.
We waited in the the lock a while then set off down the river. About 15 minutes later we're approching the lock, there's another boat waiting on the moorings, as we get closer we see the crew all fishing and waving at us to go back, I don't think so! On pulling along side, it's a Canal Time boat waiting to go through the lock. They tell us they have to wait two days, the locks closed. So the first photo of the day is Achilles going back up the locks to Stourport.
Plan "B". We'll go up Stourbridge and the Delph spend some time at the Black Contry Museum. So today we just re-traced our steps and had an early stop at Kinver.
But on the way I spotted one or two things that puzzled me, first, why would they build stone steps into a wall you can walk round?
When they cut through the rock why did they leave the little lump on the right?

And what's the hole for, looking at the opening it used to have a door frame set in it. Inside it opens up into quite a large room. It 's on the off side with only foot access.

Monday, 1 November 2010

To the BCN Bonfire...

...via Worcester? Well, you know us by now, we can't do anything straight forward. We haven't been down this end for about six years, so we thought we'd make a bit of a detour and do the Stourport ring. Just see if anything had changed.
We set off Saturday morning in no great rush to get to Penkridge for the night. It was a bit of a bland day, nothing much happened. To quote young Albert "there were no ship wrecks and nobody drowned, in fact nothing to laugh at all".
Sunday, got up nice and early thanks to GMT. On the way up through Gailey the trees are now taking on that rusty iron look, at lot more pleasing than green.

After Gailey, we're on the summit pound and the twists and turns, like at Coven, are no problem now we're on Achilles, it handles like a toy compared with Dove, so if you do have a senior moment or a brain fart, call it what you will, you're soon back on track and not up the bank.
While travelling this section there seams to be a lot of maggot downers, is it the start of the fishing season? I've never seen so many happy smiling faces.
On the down hill side, the canal seams to have a different flavour, as in lock bits, like the little foot bridges. The one pictured below is of cast iron section and one single span and unusually with no gap for the tow line to slot through. Most of the others have the slot or the remnants of.

Passing through Bratch and Wombourn and the very deep Botterham staircase and stopping at the top side of Hinksford lock.
Waking next morning and it's November. And looking out of the hatch it certainly is, Trees covered in browns and yellows wrapped in a fog, damp and cold, in the distance a lock, ghostly and gray. After a pot of tea things start to look a little better and we set off. Soon passing Greens Forge and into the quiet of the woods, you could be anywhere, turn the corner to Gothersley lock and you're reminded by the bloody graffiti that you're not far from the Stourbridge brainless brats. This part of the canal must have been the hardest to build due to the solid rock it has to go through. The canal in parts, is a stone trough carved in the hillside and must have been sole destroying for the men on the ground.
Arriving at Kidderminster and looking at picture below, you'd think what a wonderful place to stop...This is where a friend of ours was arrased by a group of fourteen year old brats at 4:00am and then attacked. On passing through I did notice a lack of boats tied up.
Back on the foot bridge theme, here's the one at Kidderminster lock complete with slot and line guards. It's been modernised some what but the main bits are still there.
Passing through Kidderminster I was glad to see this old mill building still standing and being used. I was going to take another photo of the other side but, I was gob smacked to see Debenhams had stuck a glass carbuncle on the front, are these architects blind or just daft.

Yet another bridge, sorry. But I really like this one
The last bridge of the day, shame there's no steam loco on it.
We're now tied up at Stourport, River Severn tomorrow.