Thursday we moved again along the Wyrley and Essington canal towards Pelsall junction. We had decided to travel up the Cannock Extension canal and have a few days there as it is nice and quiet. Before turning at the junction I spotted a deer in the field ahead, not phased at all by the boat.
Signpost showing the way
And on to the Cannock extension canal. On the left above the bridge is an old stable block that was for boat horses in the day, but now being developed as a des res. On the right 2 old cottages.
Our journey since leaving Longwood Boat club has been in countryside, and has been a pleasant surprise. The Cannock Extension canal opened in 1863 to serve the Cannock coalfield. This is the area known as the Black Country, due to the many coalfields that once were around this area. It used to be 5 miles long but mining caused alot of subsidence so it became abandoned. There is probably approximately a mile of it left. We went as far as we could go; our old book saying we could turn at the end. We did manage to turn (just), by the boatyard entrance, but we should have checked our more up to date book as we were supposed to turn in one of the arms along the way.
The end of the line, with moored boats along the offside. Norton Canes boatyard crane in view.
After turning we found a quiet spot to moor, and still no other boats moving.
our quiet spot
Saturday did see some boat movement though. It was the BCNS (Birmingham Canal Navigation Society) 24hr Marathon challenge. Suddenly things weren’t quite so quiet! This is an annual event that any boat can enter, starting anywhere on the BCN at 8am on the Saturday, and finishing at 2pm on the Sunday at Hawne Basin on the Dudley number 2 canal. The idea being to travel to every little bit of canal possible.
Things suddenly got busy
Working boat towing another
Working boat with no load so bow looks huge
Many boats came by flying the Black Country flag, and as it was 24 hours 3 came past during the night. The old working boats have a distinctive sound that we refer to as chuggers. We will probably be on our way tomorrow toward Sneyd Wharf, getting washing done as we travel, then we can top up the water tank. Will things get busier being half term? Who knows?
On Thursday we headed back to Anglesey basin after filling up with water and doing the necessary sanitary bit (a boaters obsession). This time we managed to moor at the very end. There was one boat already there so we pulled alongside, it was a little bit shallow for us, but we waited until the other boat moved off then moved to their spot, which was a little deeper. Alot of carp in the clear water, and Charlie managed to catch one.
A rather large carp. It just about fitted in the landing net
On Friday I saw a deer walking along the ridge, and as I took Izzy for a walk I managed to capture a photo of a group of them; it was quite early in the morning.
A small group of deer on our early morning walk.
We cannot go any further!
Charlie needed a haircut and we keep a hair cutting tool onboard. He settled down for me to do this, but the cutter wasn’t cutting very well. He likes a grade 1, so he took the comb off the head and oiled the cutting blade. I didn’t think to check that he had put the grade 1 comb back on, so promptly started cutting. It wasn’t until I went to tidy up the neck area that I noticed it wasn’t on. Oh dear he now has a convict haircut! I thought it was quite funny; he will have to keep his cap on.
Saturday our daughter and grandchildren came. They had asked if they could sleep over. A tight squeeze now they are growing up. They brought their scooters to play on (bad move on my part in telling them to do this as we now have a chip in the rear door courtesy of my grandson). Sunday the weather was set to improve so we spent most of the day at Chasewater park.
We had a train ride pulled by a steam engine, albeit a small one.
Waiting for the train to move
Noel on the train
and Charlie posing as usual.
We went to the end of the line, then returned to Chasewater Heath and got off to look around the park for deer. Didn’t see any this time, so walked back to the station and had an ice cream before getting back on the train for Brownhills West.
Nostalgic sights and smells
Back at the main park we didn’t quite make it past the go kart track.
Supposed to be 10 minutes but they managed half an hour
My daughter and son in law collected the children late afternoon, and we were once again on our own in the peace and quiet. We had our post and parcels to sift through.
Yesterday (Monday) we moved back to Brownhills. I bought a venetian blind from Wilko for the kitchen window, which Charlie fitted today; and I may add looks quite smart. We topped the larder up, and will probably move away from this area in the next couple of days, otherwise we will be outstaying our welcome. I have also ordered a new sofa bed. The one we have onboard came with the boat, and we have made use of it for the 3 years we have owned it; but now it is time to get one that is a bit more comfortable. Only thing now is finding a suitable postcode to get it delivered to in 4 weeks time; oh and getting rid of the old one beforehand. This should be the last big purchase.
and as promised the Miners statue that greets drivers into Brownhills. Reminding everyone of why the town was built here in the first place.
I had forgotten to mention in my last blog that I had a disaster with my half of the walkie talkie. We had bought these 5 years ago when we did our first narrowboating holiday; and they were still working. We had thought to replace them last year as occasionally they would play up. Anyway whilst I walked on ahead to test the canal depth for mooring (this being done with a walking pole that has tape on it), I bent over to put the pole in the water and “bingo” the walkie talkie unclipped as if by magic, from my pocket and plopped in the canal (at least it wasn’t the Iphone this time!). Feeling annoyed I had to leg it back to the boat and explain to Charlie what had happened (he had wondered why I wasn’t answering it). Bearing in mind that the clip never came off when you wanted it to; but waits to do this when I wasn’t expecting it. New walkie talkie’s methinks.
We left Brownhills on Tuesday after a quick decision to move as it was raining steadily, and headed for Catshill junction to turn onto the Anglesey branch. At the end of this branch is a small basin, and apparently this is the furthest north that can be travelled on the BCN. We had an eventful journey, because as we came past Ogley junction (abandoned now, but restoration looks likely; the other end of this part is on the Coventry canal at Huddlesford junction; it would be nice if it was linked up), and through the bridge, we promptly ran aground. Charlie managed to get onto the towpath with our long pole, and he pushing and me gently reversing we managed to get off; he had to walk to the next bridge though to get back onboard. It was really raining by this time. This area was coal mining country and there are remnants of this all around. There is a miners statue at Brownhills that we need to go and photograph, to celebrate this heritage. I’ll put this on the next blog.
We made it to the end but there were 2 boats moored in the spaces available, so we turned and moored further along. Up the bank you can see in the picture there is a valve house, and behind the wall is the Chasewater reservoir, which was opened in 1799 to supply water to the Wyrley and Essington main line. It was so efficient that at one time it’s owners sold water to other companies. Though just after building the dam collapsed sending water over the surrounding fields, Watling street and into the River Tame at Tamworth. The dam was rebuilt with stone, and has remained intact ever since. This area is now the Chasewater country park, and has the Chasewater heritage railway within it’s boundary. The Anglesey basin was used for coal loading, as the colliery was nearby. There are still remnants of the loading chutes; the last coal was loaded in 1967, and the area is now green and is a site of special scientific interest.
local wildlife in the basin
Wednesday it rained most of the day, so not much done, and Thursday slightly better so I managed to wash the boat side and roof. Friday we went walking around the reservoir.
Last years cygnet’s on the lake
The reservoir is used by local boat clubs and watersport companies. The public are not allowed to use canoes etc due to health and safety issues (according to a local man we were chatting to). It also has children’s play area, crazy golf and conference facilities.
local yacht club in action
another view of the lake from the Chasewater Heath end
It also boasts a herd of deer, but we didn’t manage to get photo’s of them. We didn’t walk all the way around as it is quite a long way, so decided to return on Saturday and partake of a train ride.
Never too far from the M6 toll, as it runs alongside the park
Tree in magnificent blossom
Saturday I prepared dinner before setting off for the promised train ride. The weather was bright, but slightly chilly.
Heritage railway at Chasewater
We knew it was going to be a diesel engine (we haven’t managed a heritage railway yet on our travels that had a steam engine working), but it wasn’t very expensive, and it takes about half an hour to get to the other side of the park.
Chasewater ticket office
While we were waiting for the train we had a look around the museum there. They have lots of rolling stock here; some working and many undergoing restoration.
a badge on one of the engines
Our carriage arrives
It was a pleasant journey, and we alighted at the Chasewater Heaths station and walked around the tip of the reservoir, before returning to the station and getting the train back to Brownhills West. Charlie was wearing his Cornish Pirates rugby shirt, and a family on the train started chatting as they knew Newquay and the area; the husband having studied at Cornwall College as he recognised the shirt logo. When we got back to the boat and dinner cooked, we were quietly enjoying it, with a glass of red when a youth suddenly climbed over the side cover onto the deck! Think he was more surprised than us, and probably a dare as he was with a gang of girls; so now we have decided to keep the cover down completely on the towpath side.
We were joined on Sunday by another boat (a rare sight), but we decided to move back to Brownhills as will need the sanitary station soon. I have contacted all the post offices along this route and none do Poste Restante (not even the main one in Walsall); so we are having post directed to my daughter’s in Leicester as she is visiting us at the weekend. I’m also making use of it and having some parcels delivered, one of them being new walkie talkie’s!! We will stay here at Brownhills for a couple of nights and have decided to go back to Anglesey basin for the weekend as it is easy to get to for my daughter. As there isn’t alot of boat traffic we should be okay visiting it again. Today I have managed to get Izzy’s second booster injection and have my hair cut. Charlie has been varnishing the woodwork around the hatch cover and rear doors, and I need to get outside and apply dubbin to the front cratch cover to keep it protected from the elements.
We had 48 hours on the moorings at Longwood Boat Club. A couple of boats pulled out of the arm whilst we were there; and one of them happened to be the organiser’s of the BCNS explorer cruise. We had a good chat with them and they offered us to join the cruise that was starting on Friday 6th May. After reading the information they gave us we decided to continue on our way and stick with our original plan to do the cruise in June. On Wednesday we had a walk around Hay Heath Nature reserve. A former limestone quarry.
Hay Head Nature reserve
Wildlife in Hay Head
Thursday we moved from the junction to Park Lime Pits, another former limestone quarry developed into a woodland by the Victorians after the quarry collapsed and filled with water. We had a walk to the Manor Arms pub as we were told it was quaint and had no bar! This was true as the beer pumps were attached to the wall. A pork pie lunch with a beer went down well.
Park Lime Pits Nature reserve
The lake at Park Lime Pits
Lovely dog walking area
Found this in the wood. Obviously planted by someone as not a wildflower. Shame the next day it had been picked!
Saturday we were forecast to have possible thunderstorms. We had been doing some varnishing to the front cratch board, and a little touch up on the black paintwork. Inevitable when the boat in use constantly. The weather was very hot and humid, but by 4pm the skies darkened and the forecast thunderstorm arrived, along with torrential rain; this lasted for a couple of hours and the towpath looked like a pond the next morning. Sunday we had a relaxing day. Charlie tried fishing with no luck; and I read my current book. Late afternoon the current BCNS cruise arrived to moor along from the Manor Arms pub to where we were moored. 18 boats arrived and many had to breast up; and being the friendly souls we are we offered our services for a boat to breast against.
Breasted up with Dreamcatcher
It was nice to have some company albeit brief, as still not many boats moving along this canal. Today we cruised for 5 miles to Brownhills sanitary station. Along the way Charlie had to get up on the bow as we had picked up a rather large log with branches. He managed to get it onto land; unfortunately I didn’t have the camera to hand. The canal is a contour canal and is very twisty and windy in places. We turned around at Brownhills and moored by Tesco’s. We walked into town to Aldi. The local Post Office said they didn’t do Poste Restante which is a nuisance as we need post and prescriptions. Tomorrow we hope to move to the Anglesey branch and investigate the Chasewater reservoir and Heritage railway. The weather today has been very hot and humid, but long range forecast says it won’t last.
Sunday we decided to move through the rest of the Perry Barr Locks and get to the sanitary station at the top. Little did we know the trouble we would have. As we ascended we could see that the pounds between the locks were very low. We managed to negotiate the number 11, a short distance to 10,9 and 8 all of which were leaking. On reaching 7 another boat was coming down, we pulled over as they reported low pounds all the way up. Once they passed us we entered the lock, and Charlie went up the flight to open the paddles and let some water down. The distance was 1.46miles, and it took us 4 and a half hours! Needless to say once we got to the top we pulled over onto the 24hr visitor mooring opposite the sanitary station for the rest of the day.
We made it eventually to the top.
I did have some pork out to cook for Sunday lunch, but opted to go to the local co-op and get something that would be more swift to cook. I managed to get a pizza and burrito’s half price and must say it went down a treat. There were 3 boats moored further up, and the next morning another had joined ready to descend the lock. The locks were all leaking apart from the top lock. There have been alot of herons around and we’ve managed to get a few pictures of them.
Heron in flight
Bank holiday Monday and not a soul around. It’s quite surreal being on a canal with little or no boats. Cassettes emptied we were on our way again, and the plan was to moor below the Rushall flight of locks on the Rushall canal. I walked with Izzy 2 miles along the cutting. The towpaths along this stretch have been gravelled which makes for better walking. Shame the canal is full of rubbish in places. The cutting is sandstone some 200 million years old, but is propped up in places with modern brickwork.
Bricks holding the stone
on the other side
a little visitor balancing on the cutting watching us go by!
The canal passes over 2 aqueducts with spectacular views toward Birmingham.
The view over Hamstead from the canal
Negotiating a goose family on the towpath
Under one of the many road bridges
Getting back on board proved a little hair raising as Charlie couldn’t pull the boat in to the side as it was too shallow. I passed him the camera and the dog, then had to hold his hand and jump the gap to get back on board. Once there I proceeded to make tea and prepare dinner. At Rushall junction we were turning right. The M6 motorway goes across at this point.
Now the locks were not far away, but still we couldn’t get moored due to the depth. We still haven’t seen any boats moving. The weather now was starting to close in and it started raining steadily at first. The decision was made to continue through the locks and see if we could moor further up. 9 locks in this flight and we got to between 1 and 2 before the heavens opened, and we decided we had had enough and we moored in the pound; not ideal but no boats moving so we thought we would be okay; until later on in the afternoon when a small cruiser was coming up and we ended up sitting on the bottom of the pound! After they had gone through lock 1, I went and let some water through to get us floating again.
Low pounds all the way
Today we have moved and are currently by Longwood Boating club. There are boats moored here on linear moorings; some haven’t moved since they got there according to the CaRT worker we were chatting to this morning. He says not many boats venture along this way, which may explain the lack of maintenance of the locks. We are on 48hr visitor mooring next to a sanitary station so we can relax for a while. I may even explore the nature reserve nearby if the weather improves tomorrow. We have 5 weeks before we join the BCNS Explorer cruise, so we need to slow down; but only possible if the mooring is favourable. At least we are back in countryside again for the time being.