As last week – more photos can be found here:
Day 8 – Netherton Tunnel to Dudley Canal Trust
We originally looked at going through the Dudley Tunnel, as you can’t use your engine in there and would have to lie on the roof and use your legs to push the boat along. However, the tunnel itself only allows for older work boat style cabins not the modern height of cabins today, so we navigated just down the ways, the more modern Netherton Tunnel. Out in just over 50 mins, we had to pull over straight away as we had caught something round the prop. A quick investigation and the offending plastic bag was removed. I did suspect as we got closer to the city that this would happen more.
Turning left at the junction, this stretch was a super straight section of the Birmingham Level Main Line, until we did a little run of 3 locks putting us on the Wolverhampton Level and a left turn to go towards the Dudley Canal Trust. A mini turning right (was very tight!) took us down to the visitor moorings. There aren’t many in the basin, but luckily a ring on the wall of the bridge meant we could just about fit!
Day 9 – Dudley Canal Trust Trip
The canal trust here run a 45 minute trip multiple times daily, or once a month they do a 2 hour trip through the Dudley tunnel and the caverns and basins of some of their extensive system. Seeing as we couldn’t ‘leg’ Māhina through the Dudley tunnel, this was the next best thing. After checking in at the visitor centre, we caught the coach to the other end of the tunnel to board the trip boat – we all had a chuckle as the helmsman looked like a younger Richard!
The tunnel took about an hour, where I did actually learn about what the different colours of deposits means in the tunnel covering limestone, clay, coal and iron ore. I loved seeing the different sections of the tunnel, changing between brickwork to hand mined Limestone, Sandstone and the super hard Dolerite. Coming out into the sunny basin was so peaceful, you really could be anywhere in the world, forgetting you were in Dudley! A further explore of the tunnels and caverns where they put on concerts etc and we were back to the visitor centre.
We were gifted tea of a proper Black Country fish & chips by Mr P’s Chippy, run by a friend from back in the High Wycombe days who relocated and set up shop. What makes them Black Country is the fact of the battered chips! I mean, screw the calorie count today as these ares dangerous but bloody delicious!
Day 10 – Black Country Living Museum
We have heard such good things about this museum so we couldn’t be here and not take a look! What a great place, we were not disappointed. Literally stepped through the doors into the past, all the roads, building, transport and people as was from mostly the early 1900’s up to 1930’s. Walking through the mine area (couldn’t go down the mine at the moment), in and out of peoples houses, having a pint in the pub, being interviewed by the day’s press.
There is a fair bit of construction going on there at the moment as they are building a whole new section on 1940s to 1960’s. The ticket is valid for 12 months so I’m sure we’ll be back to see how they’re getting along. I joked at the people eating fish & chips at 10am but at lunchtime I could see why, as the queue went back along the pavement. After last night’s gourmet version, I couldn’t have another, so maybe next time. Luckily there was an exit right onto the canal, so after a long day exploring I promptly had a nanna nap, all this touristing is tiring.
The weather was closing in again, so we decided to push on, to shorten the days as the toll of being cold and wet everyday was growing. We had been told Smethwick was a nice place to moor but unfortunately on the day my spidey senses were on full alert after seeing drug dealers under 4 bridges in a row and disturbing a couple rather busy on a bench!
There was a pump out option we were planning on doing in the morning but figured head down to Engine Arm now as all the eyes were looking at us a bit too much. As we slowly passed the linear mooring (with a locked gate on the towpath) we tackled the wind with the help of a super friendly resident and his bouncy fun still young dog. To be fair, I lost all usefulness in the boating sense as I enjoyed playing with the dog as we pumped out – oops! The resident told us the bit opposite was a secure 48hr mooring which was music to my ears!
Day 11 – Engine Arm to Birmingham Central
Setting off early, we said goodbye to the friendly folk on Engine Arm and headed back up to our 3 locks of the day. The first one was so laden with rubbish there would be no way the gate would open, so we pulled over to clear that. Judging by the mounds either side of the lock gates, we were definitely not the first to have to do that. Juggling a bit of work while Richard took the helm, we then made the short hop to Birmingham. Pulled over just outside the Distillery bar with the Sealife centre, Arena and ICC all in our eyeline. I did worry we’d have a noisy night being moored next to the bar, but it didn’t stop raining, so unsurprisingly the beer garden was empty! Just before bed we did chuckle as we heard a man walk past talking to his imaginary mate. “Can you swim mate?”, “No, can you swim?”, “No, but I have a canoooooeeeee”. That’s good than as I was thinking I don’t want to have to get out of bed and get the lifesaver ring ready just in case!
Day 12 – Birmingham Central to Minworth
Knew it would be a big morning this morning as we had 27 locks ahead in an area where all the advise is…”don’t stop!”. Righto then.
We were very happy to see 2 lock volunteers come out of their little hut as we approached, they had just bought a boat up the flight at 7am and offered to help us go back down. With that extra pair of hands we were able to do the first 13 locks in around an hour. I was on helmslady duties and it was lovely being able to head out of one lock straight into the other. A builder was surprised as I went past, as apparently I was the first ‘lady driver’ he’d seen. I wasn’t too surprised as weirdly it does seem to be the gender role of men drive, women work the locks, stupid so none of that for us. I managed a particularly windy transition from one lock to another after a heads up from the vlockie that I even impressed myself! With those 13 done, it was a short drive to the next 11.
No help on these ones but most were set in our favour and we found our flow going down them. Soon we were seeing more countryside and less rubbish and my nerves came down a little. The spot by the Boat Inn in Minworth was perfect as we had a new colleague of mine, Julie, coming to visit for a gin in person after months of Whats App chats!
Day 13 – Minworth to Tamworth
An easy journey today, a few hours up the water to Tamworth. We stopped at Fazeley Junction for a pitstop as Richard had managed to book in for his second jab a hop and a skip from the canal. Really enjoyed seeing the return of the countryside as we meandered up towards Hopwas. We arranged to meet Rachael & Garry who I work with in events world for dinner in the Tame Otter. Our first meal inside a premises since September 2020! Was so good to see them both.
Day 14 – Minworth to Curdworth
A little run of locks today down to the Dog & Doublet pub. Had a lovely pair of folk following us down, also from the G&S canal, they’d been stuck on the River Avon in flood. Everytime we left a lock we cracked a top paddle for it to fill up again and be ready for them as they arrived. I had the first experience of someone turning a lock on us as we had started to fill from the top paddles, Richard had walked back to me when someone pulled up below and started to open the bottom paddles then walked away! How he didn’t see my boat hovering by the lock entrance just goes to prove how he didnt event look to see if someone was coming as he would have spotted the top paddles up too therefore just draining the pound and not filling the lock at all!
Day 15 – Tamworth to Fradley
Another easy journey, moving a few hours to Fradley. After the strict arrival times at Dudley everything chills now for a while, as we go bit by bit up the waterway. We knew it would get busy busy on a fair weather bank holiday weekend, but at times it was like playing dodgems with the amount of boats on the system. Definitely challenging my weaving in and out of spaces to let others pass or reversing to allow another boat to go through the bridges.
Happily spied a mooring spot just a spit away from our friends that we’ve come to see for the weekend. Roll on some sunny BBQ times, a bit of work but a bit of rest from boating for a couple of days!