Sunday, 14 September 2014

Phew! Brummagem.

We decided on an early start, well for us it was!  By 0730 we were off from our moorings at Autherley junction.  A cloudy but fine start and pretty much the same most of the day.

Early morning fishing

High bridges

We were soon at the pleasant leafy junction with the Main line of the Birmingham and Worcester at Aldersley, left turn as a hire boat exited and into the first lock of this flight,  the Wolverhampton 21. The name says's it all really.  The early start was really in the hope of finding the locks set in our favour, empty!  This would mean that we could motor into each successive lock without emptying first.  The exit of the hire boat somewhat confounded us, until we realised they had moored for the night in one of the lower pounds, as had another hire boat on the landing of lock 18. Think we may well have woken them up!

The first nine locks or so were very pleasant, the route still with a rural feel and the water clean. Herons abounded and we did spot the odd Kingfisher.  By lock 10 though, it was getting distinctly more urban, with signs of alcohol abuse and associated litter on the banks and numerous plastic bottles plus the odd traffic cone in the water. Up to this point, all the locks had been in our favour, but after this Ali had to empty the locks to some extent, indicating that there must be a boat ahead of us, possibly starting the day from mid way up the flight. Not unpleasant though and the locks themselves were in good order.  In just under three hours we had reached the top.

We had decided that we would head for Birmingham on the Wolverhampton level, as this was new territory for us, rather than the main line. Our route was less direct and more contoured, but a change from the dead straight we had navigated last time.  So it was past Deepfields junction and through Coseley tunnel. At Factory junction it was right turn and past the arm to the Black Country Museum.  The waters in this area were disappointingly untidy with litter, but again apart from this, the journey was pleasant and meandering.  Passing Dudley Port with its newish housing, we soon passed over the route from Netherton tunnel onto the main line and then passed the Gower branch. Just after Seven stars bridge, the canal passes under the M5, which straddles the canal for some distance. Odd to see an old original bridge now sheltering under this elevated concrete roadway..

Over the Netherton Tunnel Branch (tunnel in the distance - just!)

Under the M5

Over the Birmingham Main Line Canal

The scenery though, as you wind in and out has an almost rural feel, if you don't look up!  The canal crosses the Birmingham level, then dropping down the three Smethwick locks, joins the main line at  Smethwick junction.  The route is now wide and straight into central Birmingham. The waters to appear much more litter free.  Whilst we saw few boats moving during the day, as we neared the centre numbers increased somewhat.

Signposts under the M5

Hard to believe this is about 3 miles from the city centre

By 1600, we were moored just before Old Turn Junction and an easy walk to Gas street.  There are plenty of moorings in this area and whilst overlooked by many a tall block of flats or commercial buildings, it remains very pleasant.  So why do some boaters spoil it by lighting fires in such restricted and built up areas?  Rant over!

So a busy old day.  Day off tomorrow whilst Ali goes shopping after meeting her sister.

Miles 16
Locks 24
Tunnels 360 yds

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A little naughty, but needs must....

Our overnight mooring was just south of bridge 35 in Gnosall.  We did not have that early a start as we were not anticipating going any further than Autherley.  So after showering and preparing yet another wash load, it was pram hood down, aerial off and we were ready to go bar casting off.

All of a sudden we heard the roar of an engine accompanied by shouting.  Appearing under bridge 35 came the bow of a Norbury day boat.  Now normally, we would have let a boat pass us before casting off, but the prospect of following this one down some narrow sections saw us cast off and pull out when they were some 100 yds behind us.  Yes, I did feel guilty, but I am glad we did get away and going.  We slowly passed the moored boats, with the day boat rapidly gaining on us.  Norbury obviously give no instruction on passing moored boats!

Brings a new meaning to 'roof garden'! 

Once through the rather short but pretty Cowley tunnel, we were  able to make a little gain on them, until we slowed for moored boats and they didn't.  This continued for a mile or so until we reached Turnover bridge when they misjudged the angle of the bridge and became wedged.  At High Onn bridge we spied a second day boat which had turned and moored, the crew well into alcoholic beverages.  Our boat then turned, or tried to, ramming the bank as boats tried to pass heading north and south.  Peace at last...

Whilst it was again warm, it was mainly cloudy.  We bimbled into Wheaton Aston, not requiring fuel seemed a waste, as this is the cheapest place on the system.  Then onto the extensive services moorings, with four water points. Topped and emptied, then Ali walked up to the lock.  By this time we were third in the queue, but it was busy with traffic in both directions, so soon up and away.

This has to be one of the smallest narrowboats??

A few miles on and we passed through Brewood ( pronounced Brood ).  It was quieter than the last time we visited, with less permanent moorers and vacant visitor moorings.  No need to stop, so on we went.  The S.U. moorings just south of bridge 8 were busy, but space was not best utilised as each boat had at least two rings between them.  No sharing a ring and making best use of space here.  As we were carrying on, not a problem, but why, oh why do people do this?

At Autherley junction, we negotiated the stop lock and turned right onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal.  The first mooring was free, so we were in and tied up for the day. 

Tomorrow we are hitting Birmingham.....

So yes, we were a little naughty, but, "Non, je ne regrette rien", as the song goes!

Lone fishermen?  All three in the field as we passed

Miles 13.5
Locks 2
Tunnel 81 yds.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Gnosall, civilisation and we have Internet!

Yesterday saw us ascend the five Adderley locks , then the five Tyrley locks before mooring for the day at Goldstone Wharf.  For the first time in a good while, we had no telephony/Internet but at least had Tv.

The day had dawned mild if a little cloudy.  It was however warm and as the day progressed it got very warm.  We soon began the ascent of the rather pleasant Adderley flight, having set the washer on before we moved off, this went onto hold until the flight was completed and the travel power could be re engaged.  These are easy locks, or would be if the by washes were not so fierce, still, no shortage of water!.  We were soon up and on our way towards Market Drayton and so the washer was re engaged on the lock free section, completing on the outskirts of town.

We moored just after Lords bridge and walked into town to do a little shopping.  Market Drayton is I am sorry to say, still as depressing as on our last visit.  There are many empty shops and many a charity shop.  For such an outwardly pleasant town, it is sad to see.  We walked back to the boat, moved onto the services and when completed, moved on.

We then began the ascent of the five Tyreley locks without incident.  The sun was out as we entered Woodseaves cutting, but the tree cover blotted out much of the light.  This is a deep narrow and somewhat dank cutting, the towpath somewhat waterlogged.  Fortunately, we met only one boat when making the passage.  As we re entered the sunshine, our day's destination hove into view, Goldstone Wharf.  Surprisingly, the visitor moorings were empty, so we picked the very first, which allowed us to sit in the sun just beyond the hedge.  It also allowed us to get the "Whirley Gig" out to dry the washing.

Being so close to the Pub, we just had to visit for a meal......and a couple of drinks of course.

Miles 7.5
Locks 10

Today we had a later start as we had no locks to contend with.  The day was mostly cloudy, but pleasant all the same. We were soon onto the Shebdon Embankment, a rather understated piece of canal engineering, the canal elevated above the surrounding countryside. Then past the what seems like miles of moorings ending at the renowned Anchor PH. Then into Grub street cutting, narrow and overshadowed  by trees, ending with the much photographed High Bridge.

At the very quiet Norbury Junction we stopped briefly to empty the cassette.  Norbury Wharf really are taking the Mickey here, with boats moored six deep opposite the services, greatly reducing the navigation.  Luckily, as it was quiet, it was no great problem.  Then along the Shelmore Embankment and to our destination, Gnosall.

It remained quiet boat wise all day.  We moored easily and after chilling walked into the village, intending to visit the church which had a good write up in our Nicholson's.  It was locked! So we walked back, buying bread and milk at the Co-op.  We intended eating at The Boat inn, but due to a bereavement, they were closed for food, so we walked up to The Oak and had a good meal.

Our last full day on the Shroppy tomorrow, then we have to decide on our route towards home.

Miles 9.5