We moved from our 48 hour mooring on Thursday, to a 14 day mooring round by the Mailbox area, next to the Cube. It was ok but a little dark, and alot more pedestrian traffic. One of our fellow explorers was moored on a 14 day mooring by the Barclaycard arena, so we made arrangements to breast alongside on Friday evening as they were departing on Saturday morning. Which is what we did. There were alot of people around as a concert by Jeff Lynn’s ELO was on at the arena. £56 being the cheapest ticket!
A social evening followed with a good chat over a few bevvies., and no mention of the referendum result thank goodness.
Barclaycard arena at night
On Saturday our friends departed and we slipped into their space along the towpath. Job done. We had a walk into the city centre to The Bullring shopping centre and markets. A large area of indoor and outdoor markets selling all sorts of goods., and a large indoor retail area with all the usual shops. Too much to take in all at once.
Bullring shopping area architecture
St Martins in the Bullring church
The modern Grand Central station is along the way, which has only recently been opened, and it really is an impressive sight
Grand Central station
close up view of the station
We purchased a few items of fruit and veg in the market and then decided we had had enough sight seeing for one day. Sunday I changed the bed and made use of the launderette at Sherborne Wharf as the machine there could take my 7kg load; also managing to get it dry in the drier. The weather has certainly changed and isn’t condusive to drying clothes as there has been very little sunshine and heat. We have had to put the central heating on a couple of times, which in June is a bit sad.
I made an appointment to see the Back to Backs on Tuesday afternoon. Like the Black Country Living museum, is a lovely portrait of social history. The Back to Backs are in fact houses that have a dividing wall between them (one house at the front and one at the back), with no access through the middle. This meant that many houses could be built on small spaces of land. They are unique to Birmingham and other places in the North of the UK, and were built to solve the housing crisis of the day. The houses were given to the National Trust in the 1970’s, and show how people lived from the mid 1800’s to the 1970’s. They have been tastefully restored., and are the only ones remaining in Birmingham. A guide takes the tour around the houses explaining about the people and the history. As many as 60 people lived in the houses we saw, sharing 3 toilets (well buckets actually). It was the daughter of the family’s job to empty the chamber pots daily and also the buckets into larger containers in the yard. These were then taken by the night soil men for disposal. The houses were served by a well that frequently was contaminated with the above mentioned waste, so many people succombed to illness and died. Windows couldn’t be opened to let in fresh air as the stench of the waste was so strong. The families living along the courtyard paid less rent because of it. Children shared bedrooms with their parents, and they even took in lodgers to help make ends meet. These lodgers sharing bedrooms with many children! So much for the good old days! The last family moved out in 1966, but by that time the outside loo was a flushing one, water was piped in to the houses, and they had electricity. These houses managed to survive because there were a row of shops within them; the last (a tailor’s shop) ceased trading in the early 1970’s.
Back to Back houses from the side
Old fashioned sweet shop
Tailors premises on the left
There wouldn’t have been cars in the old days!
This area is next to the Chinese quarter and we haven’t seen so many Chinese eating establishments in one place for long time. By the time the tour had finished (2 hours) it had started raining, so we headed home. A really interesting visit.
Today the weather is really hammering it down, which is typical when waiting for our sofa bed delivery. It arrived at 12.30 and erected by the driver, and must say is much more comfortable than our old one. We filled up with diesel after taking delivery by the wharf. We obviously had to leave our 14 day mooring and by the time we had turned and come back it had been taken; never mind weather permitting we will be travelling again tomorrow; heading toward Stratford-on-Avon.
I really must blog more often (or write a diary) as I forget what we have done and when we have done it!
At last we have arrived in Birmingham. It’s only taken us 9 weeks to get here! But I must say we have enjoyed our time on the BCN backwaters and have learnt alot about the area. We left Titford on Tuesday morning nice and early,
Titford pumphouse at the top lock of the Titford canal, and the headquarters of the BCNS.
deciding that Charlie would work the 6 locks through, and I would handle the boat; which I don’t mind as it was quiet. We got through the locks quite quickly, as nothing coming the other way (not much traffic comes through as it doesn’t lead anywhere; only boats that want to tick it off the list bother).
Once back on the Old Main Line we had a pleasant cruise through to Birmingham.
Passing Spon Lane locks
Under the M5 again!
Apt motorway sign!
M5 above with an old canal bridge below
Through summit tunnel
Seikh temple in the background
An old building at Smethwick
When we arrived at Smethwick locks there was a C&RT workboat in the lock cleaning it down, so we had to wait for them to finish. This lock will be closed for repair from next week, and they incorporate a public open day when completed so the public can enter an empty lock and see the workings. While waiting I took some pictures of the Engine arm, that is also closed for repair.
Engine arm under repair
Engine arm goes over the New Main Line canal.
There are many loops and arms on this stretch of canal, some now abandoned. The Old Main Line was built by James Brindley, while the New Main Line being Thomas Telford’s and is the quicker route to Birmingham. I worked the Smethwick locks as there were only 3 to do. Once through we passed Winson Green and the Soho loop, followed by the Icknield Port loop, both of which come back to the main line. Both once serving foundries and factories.
An old toll island near to Birmingham
We arrived in Birmingham at midday, and managed to get moored on the end of Oozells street loop by the Barclaycard arena and the sealife centre. (9locks, 5.52miles, 4hours 40mins)
We had a little jaunt into Birmingham to get our bearings, as there is so much to see and do, and we are only on 48hr moorings. A selection of photo’s now follows…
The Cube, full of upmarket restaurants
The Mailbox, also full of upmarket restaurants and shops, and home to the local BBC
New Birmingham Library
One of many sculptures around the city.
There is alot of regeneration going on around the city. Today we set off again as we wanted to go back to the library and see the view from the roof.
Secret garden on the 7th floor of the library
It’s a long way up, but the view is stunning
We had walked over this and hadn’t realised it was a piece of artwork; obviously created for viewing from above
On floor 9 is Shakespeare’s collection housed in the dome at the top of the library. It was saved from fire in the 1800’s and has only now been put on show to the public after being kept in storage in the old library building. It’s like stepping back in time.
Shakespeare’s room in the library
Town hall building in Victoria square
Council House building in Victoria square
I found out today that our sofabed is ready for delivery. I have arranged with Sherborne Wharf to accept delivery there as they have a car park near the canal. Tomorrow we need to see if we can get onto a 14day mooring, as delivery isn’t until next Wednesday. If we can it will give us a chance for more exploring as I still want to see the shopping area, the museum, the chinese quarter, the back to backs, the station…………etc,etc,etc
The first port of call on Saturday morning was a trip to Tipton library for a talk on the 10 reasons Tipton was famous and the lost canals of Tipton. This was a very interesting and informative talk with a slideshow. Tipton had many canals in the canal era, serving factories and mines. Most have now been abandoned. Where there were once factories, housing estates have been built. It was interesting to see old map pictures of the way the canals once looked; and modern day comparisons of how they look now. The Black Country had the largest coal seam in the world, being 30 feet deep; which is why in some places the canal is 30 feet above the houses. They didn’t mine under the canal! After the talk we headed off again bearing left at Tipton junction onto the Old Main Line, passing over the Tividale aqueduct (over the entrance to the Netherton tunnel), around Oldbury, passing under the M5 motorway to Oldbury junction. We then did a sharp right to ascend the Oldbury locks. I was quite pleased with myself as I was steering and managed to get the boat round without any mishap.
6 locks to ascend on the Oldbury flight; or otherwise known as The Crow
Once through we had the opportunity to visit the Titford pools. So we carried on with another boat as it can be shallow in places. The BCNS is hoping to regenerate the Titford canal and pools, and as part of this project they want as many boats as possible to visit the area. We will receive a plaque to say we have done it. (6locks, 6.53miles, 3hours 30mins)
Entrance to the main pool
Boat behind called Dodgey
Entering the smaller pool
We have submitted our photo’s and our form so will receive our plaque in the post, as the society didn’t have any available.
Once moored we had a social evening with Chinese and a quiz in the BCNS clubhouse at Titford pumphouse. Our team won the quiz and enjoyed a box of chocolates to share.
A sign in the clubhouse
Today most of the boats have departed, some going back to their bases, and others cruising for the summer. We may see some again who knows. The cruise has been tiring but very enjoyable. We have been given another plaque for our collection. It has given us the experience of travelling with other boats, and seeing a part of the canal network that is rarely cruised due to it’s bad reputation. Next stop will be Birmingham city centre. Today (Sunday) we have helped with some lockwheeling, made a cake and now it’s time for a rest.
The grandchildren were collected at the end of the half term week, and it was suddenly remarkably quiet again. Although the canal has been quiet we have seen a few more boats than when we started. We moved from the Black Country Museum moorings on Monday 5th June and stopped at Tipton for the night. Tuesday we descended 3 locks on the new main line and headed for Caggy’s boatyard for diesel and gas. Charlie also needed engine oil as it was that time again to service the engine and change the filters. The boatyard only had a tiny pontoon to moor against so it was a bit of fun getting the boat into position. We eventually managed it and filled the tank with diesel, also needed a replacement gas bottle, 10 litres of engine oil and some stern tube grease. What an exciting shop that was. At least the oil and gas were the cheapest we had paid since cruising. We cruised back up the 3 locks we had descended and headed back toward Wolverhampton. A little dog wasn’t so lucky as we saw it’s body floating around the lock gate with it’s red harness still attached. We couldn’t reach it to get it out, but we both felt upset at someone having lost their pet. Glad that Izzy has her life jacket. We took a detour at Deepfields junction and cruised along the Bradley arm. There are C&Rt workshops at the end (we would be visiting them later); but we turned halfway as there was really nowhere suitable to moor. At least we can say we have been there. We moored after we had turned at the junction for 2 nights and Charlie was happy that he got the engine oil and filter changed, and also the gearbox oil (though his battery powered oilpump broke so he now needs a new one). Thursday we set off again and headed for Wolverhampton as we were meeting the other boats in the cruise on Friday. There is a sanitary station there at the top of the locks so we topped up with water and emptied the waste cassettes. All ready now for the cruise.
The old Chubb lock factory near the moorings; now offices
The other boats gradually arriving and breasted up at Wolverhampton.
We had a walk round Wolverhampton on Friday, and after all the boats had arrived (19 in total) had an informal meeting to hand out the itinerary and discuss the cruise; followed by a beer in one of the local pubs.
And we are off on Saturday….
just to prove I do steer occasionally!
The weather so far has been overcast, apart from one day the previous week when it rained heavily and the local news reported flooding to properties and shops in Birmingham. The long range forecast isn’t looking good either.
We left the Wolverhampton moorings and turned left at Horseley junction onto the Wyrley and Essington canal, through Wednesfield (stopped for shopping), Bloxwich, Sneyd Wharf, Birchills junction, Little Bloxwich and finally stopping at Pelsall Common (0 locks, 12.77miles, 5hours).
Many old wharf buildings and abandoned canal arms along the journey
Although we had stopped for lunch we decided to have an early eve meal at the Fingerpost pub on the common. The rain decided to give us a visit that evening, so we sat inside and had a homemade beefburger and chips; of course washed down with an alcoholic beverage.
Sunday…We were off again towards Brownhills where we decided to stay for the night, as the cruise were heading up the Anglesey branch and we had spent 10 days there previously. I also wanted to visit the butchers in Brownhills to top up the freezer. A little excitement that afternoon; some lovely local youths untied the boat moored in front of us; luckily we managed to retrieve it before it headed along the canal.(0locks, 2.18miles, 2hours)
Monday..after visiting the butchers we set off again on to the Daw end canal through Walsall wood and finishing at Longwood Boat club for the night.
Moored at the top lock
Homemade delicacies to taste and purchase
There was a social evening with a fish and chip supper, followed by a historical talk on the BCN.(0locks, 5.71miles, 3hrs 20mins)
Tuesday…time to descend the locks in the Rushall flight (or so we thought). Everyone staggered their leaving time and the boat club supplied volunteer lock wheelers to help us all through. Another bit of excitement (though not for the boater concerned), they had a log caught under their bow which pushed them against the lock wall and made the stern sink below the water. Luckily they had noticed in time and tragedy was averted. We descended through 2 locks and it was about a mile to the 3rd one when we got a message to stop as there was a problem at lock 8 and C&Rt operatives were on hand to sort it out. It was a piece of an old paddle that had got lodged under the new paddle and the pound had to be drained to sort it out. That put us on hold for approx 2 hours in which time we had our lunch. So far the rain had held off, and we were the last of 7 boats to get through the rest of the 9 lock flight. Once the problem had been sorted we were off again, but the weather certainly went off with us. We were lock wheeling in torrential rain, thunder and lightening. By the time we were through our rain wear wasn’t holding any more water and we were soaked through (not the most pleasant of afternoons). Once through the locks I managed to shower on the go and got quite warm until Charlie summoned me to take over the tiller as he was freezing and wet through. On we went in the rain turning at Newton Junction onto the Tame valley canal, crossing and running parallel with the M6/M5 junction; the traffic was at a standstill on both motorways, it seemed we were travelling faster on the boat!). We turned right at the junction with the Walsall canal at Ocker Hill, and moored just before Moorcroft junction which is now derelict. A raffle was held later that eve when there was a break in the weather. I won a bottle of white wine that went into my ham hock stewpot! Yummy. (9locks, 7.42miles, 6hours 51mins)
Wednesday…..still raining, and reports again of localised flooding in the Birmingham area. A walk to the Bradley workshops was in order in the rain, with a local historian telling us the history of the area.
the canal used to run along this stretch
course of the old canal
Bradley workshops making replacement lock gates
machinery in the workshop
Lockgates in the making
The finished gates waiting to go to their new home
Moorcroft junction moorings
After the walk (still raining) we were off again along the Walsall canal through Moxley, Darlaston and Pleck, then turning right into the Walsall town arm. This stretch of canal has been the worst we have seen for litter and rubbish in the canal. Many boats have had to clear their weed hatches regularly; we have been lucky. We did manage to retrieve an Adidas football in good condition.
All breasted up
Our supper destination which was just where we moored our boat. Value menu was the order of the day.
Once moored we had interested teenagers wondering if they could look inside the boats. An explanation on why they couldn’t as they were our homes. At least this time there was no trouble with them. (0locks, 5.08miles, 2hours 50mins).
Thursday…We had a quick look around Walsall and were impressed by the range of shops. This was the home town of Jerome K. Jerome, and it was also famous for making leather goods. There is a leather museum locally but we didn’t have time to visit. Leaving the moorings we were near the back of the convoy as had to wait till the others departed, we ascended the Walsall locks, being told to enter by drifting in and not using any fast propulsion on leaving, so as not to stir up any bricks that may have been at the bottom. All went smoothly this time. We turned left at Birchills junction and back on to the Wyrley and Essington, through Sneyd and Lane Head and moored at Wednesfield. We had a meal in the boat as I had made the ham hock stew extravaganza. It had been a dry afternoon, but the rain soon returned in the evening. (8locks, 8.23miles, 6hours 5mins).
Today is Friday…we left Wednesfield very early in order to get to Tipton first, as we were fed up at being in the back of the queue. I thought it was 07.45 when we left, but it turned out it was 06.45. No wonder we are now feeling more tired than usual. We were the first to arrive at Tipton and now at the front of the boat queue moored outside a very posh doctors surgery). We had a rather nice lunch in the Fountain Inn (lamb shanks, mash and peas followed by apple and rhubarb crumble). The other boaters are heading to the Pie Factory this evening, but Charlie didn’t fancy eating a heavy meal that late, so we are not joining them. (0locks, 6miles, 2hours 40minutes).
Tomorrow is our final day and we will be heading for Oldbury junction to our final destination at the top of the Titford canal. More to come in next blog on these last 2 days. Hopefully won’t leave it so late next time!
And what a busy one it has been. We left the Cannock Extension canal and headed for Sneyd Wharf; facilities there and we thought we would be able to moor overnight. But on arrival the moorings were private only. We had travelled for approx 4 hours and really didn’t want to travel any more. One of the boaters who had a mooring there suggested we spoke to a gentleman who looked after the area, with a view to staying overnight. There was one mooring spot that had been paid for but no one used! A deal was struck and we pulled into the empty space after filling up with water. It was nice and secure.
Tuesday 31st May was our 41st Wedding Anniversary. It didn’t start well. Charlie spilt his morning juice and in his panic to clear up the spill tipped the phone into the washing up water. I had a sense of deja-vu as we lost our last phone into the cut almost a year before. It was quickly fished out and it looked to be working until we went to put on the hotspot for running our navvygator programme. Nothing would connect it and I suspected the port had taken in water. So being a sunny day I placed it on the roof to dry. Luckily it did after we had finished the days cruise. All working well again now. The next thing was Charlie’s cap blew off his head and landed in the canal. I told him not to bother going back for it as he needed a new one anyway. We arrived at Bentley Bridge which seemed nice mooring in a short arm near the leisure complex in the retail park there. I contacted my daughter and it was agreed that she would bring the grandchildren on Wednesday for a few days. The third mishap was when we decided we would go for a meal to celebrate our anniversary. We chose the Fayre and Square pub next to the mooring. We were told it would be a half hour wait. 40 minutes later we were still waiting and were getting hungry; so I asked the waitress and she showed us to our table. The people on the table next to us had come in just before us and had been waiting over half an hour for their food, so we decided to go elsewhere and chose Bella Italia (I joined their club online and got a 40% reduction on the main course, so it worked out cheaper).
Bentley Bridge moorings
On Wednesday I did some shopping in the Aldi there in preparation for the grand-childrens arrival. Cupboards topped up, I then took Izzy for a walk along the towpath at midday. On my return I find that Charlie had been harassed by a group of 6 youths, who were trying to jump on the boat. They came close for a second time to shout at us so he produced his camera, and that seemed to do the trick as they ran away. Next thing a security guard from the car park was asking us what we were doing taking photos of children. The kids had taken a photo of Charlie with the camera alledgedly and reported him to the security guard. We were told we weren’t allowed to take photo’s of the car park (which we hadn’t) as it was private, and something to do with anti-terrorism laws? And we could be seen to be paedophiles by taking photo’s! After explaining he was on his own at the time and felt intimidated, things quietened down and we had a chat with the guard about these sorts of issues. His response was to phone the police. Ok fair enough, but on the news that same evening was a piece about West Midlands police 101 service missing over 1000 calls in 2 years and shop keepers were dismayed at response times (as usually the affray had passed by the time the police got there). The grandchildren came Wednesday afternoon, we had another night on the arm and moved off Thursday morning, through Wolverhampton (stopping at the sanitary station there), and stopped after a 4 hour cruise at a semi rural spot near Wallbrook Bridge just after the Coseley tunnel.
Our mooring for the night. Lots of space for the kids to run around
Forgot to mention that Grand-daughter Charlie took the tiller that morning
Friday we were off again to the Black Country Living museum (of Peaky Blinders fame).
Moored by the museum
For anyone that hasn’t been it is well worth a visit. A real insight into social history of the Black Country. There is also the Dudley Tunnel and Limestone mines there.
Dudley Tunnel visitor centre
We decided to do the tunnel trip first. A 45 minute trip into one of the oldest canal tunnels in Britain.
Ready to go on the trip boat; a hard hat area.
Into the tunnel
We learnt from the guide the history of the area and how the tunnels were dug.
Another boat exiting the second portal
Area of a Limestone quarry and mine
One of the many lit up areas to give atmosphere within the tunnel
Memorial to the people who keep this tunnel open
Apparently many functions can be held here including wedding, Halloween celebrations and christmas festivities. After our tunnel trip we headed over to the museum complex. The ticket entry price seems expensive, but if you gift aid it, a yearly pass is then issued which allows free entry.
Charlie took over 100 photo’s on our visit’s, so I have only used a few to show the various exhibits. When the land was purchased for this museum, there were only lime kilns and a mine shaft on the land. Every exhibit seen has been taken from various places around the area including Birmingham; taken down brick by brick, and re-assembled at the museum exactly as it had been originally. The result is a nostalgic look at days gone by. Not necessarily the good old days as life expectancy down the coal mine was around 16-20 years. And many other people died by 38 due to the bad atmosphere produced by the coal fires, mines and factories. Children were expected to work the mines from 6 years of age; and women and girls were eventually replaced by pit ponies; but even then they had to work above ground on the slag heaps.
White building at the end of the street is the Bottle and Glass Inn. 1930’s building
Buses, trams and vintage vehicles ferrying visitors around the site
Even older transport
A wobbly house that was originally built over a mine, so hence the wobble
1930’s Fish and Chip shop
One of the many shops
Some of the shops were selling sweets, cakes, gentleman’s clothing and vegetables.
A closer view of the pub; it even had sawdust on the floor
A travelling gospel church
Inside a boatmans cabin. Hard to believe a large family was brought up in one of these
The volunteers who help at this museum all wear vintage dress and are there to tell stories and anecdotes of the era. There is even a vintage fair.
Fast merry go round. Noel had 3 goes on this.
Wibbly Wobbly walking bridge
We went to the museum on Saturday from 10-4. There were magic shows for half term and street games for the kids to play. We went down a coal mine which was very spooky, and experienced what it would have been like in the dark and damp. And the kids watched their first Punch and Judy show, which they really enjoyed.We went again on Sunday and made sure we did all the things we had missed on the previous 2 days. The children really enjoyed it; and we certainly got our money’s worth. We even managed a picnic in the park. The weather has certainly been good this half term which helped in the entertainment of the children. I now have no money left!
Our Explorer cruise starts this coming Friday so we are off to find a boatyard and fill up with diesel and gas; the itinary covers some of what we have done already, but at a quicker pace (a week). We will be travelling longer days that we normally do, so a couple of days rest is the order of the day. Having said that though we have to go through 3 locks to get to the diesel. We have to be at Wolverhampton top lock by Friday.