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The Tuesday Night Club on Tour
5 - Dimmingsdale to Birmingham (including Fens Branch / Stourbridge Extension Canal, Wednesbury Old Canal to Swan Bridge), Staffs and Worcs Canal, Stourbridge Canal, Dudley No1 Canal, BCN Mainline.
Wednesday 24th March 2004
The boat moored with us on the Dimmingsdale Lock Visitor Mooring moved off fairly early in
a Northern direction. This prompted us to get up, eventually moving off at 08:45. Bratch (09:45 - 10:05) was a joy, Winter opening hours with NO BW
help to slow things down! We stopped for water above Greensforge Lock (12:10 - 12:45) having just started a small
amount of washing. This was to save water, while plumbed in and to do a run that was not to big to
immediately go into drying mode. The washing machine had not been used since last year, but seems to have survived winter.
Stourton Junction at 14:05 and we turned left up Stourton Locks onto the Stourbridge. Wordsley Junction with Stourbridge Town arm was passed at 15:10, we had thought about not trying for Merry Hill that night and going up the arm for the night, but progress looked OK to see the Fens Branch in the light, so we carried on up the Stourbridge 16.
Still the continual showers all day, most of which occurred while going up the 16. At the top of the Stourbridge 16 at 17:25, we then turned left down the Fens Branch. A rather flimsy and unsubstantial new BW workboat was moored at the junction. This 60ftish narrowboat looking craft looked as though it may last a decade, rather less than some on the more venerable BW fleet.
The Fens Branch up to Brockmoor Junction had been lightly dredged. The new Britannia Bridge, not there on our last visit, beyond here the towpath was blocked off as BW had just replaced, in similar style the lattice footbridge across the Stourbridge Extension Canal. We carried on under the rail bridge, but ground to a halt here, with the bow riding up the silted channel. Probably were just lucky to have easily got up to Haywoods Bridge in 2000, just after this feeder had been dredged.
After extracting ourselves from the silt, we reversed up the stub of the Stourbridge Extension Canal, as far as the infilled Bromley stop lock, this always was deep, so no real change here. BW had nearly finished installing a new washwall and fenced of moorings on the north bank. Back to Stourbridge Canal, Leys Junction at 17:50 and we headed up towards Delph Locks in the half light. Neil worked Delph Flight, 18:25 - 19:30 in the dark. Quite a lot of locks full, so walked up flight first, lifting one bottom gate paddle.
An inquisitive bloke in one of the new houses beside the old locks line came out and said that he had never seen a boat go up flight and was it normal for boats to travel at night? Soon after coming out of Delph Top, we were moored up at Merry Hill (19:45), just before the main foot bridge. We were the only boat moored there. That night we availed our selves of the Wetherspoon's two meals for 5.25 quid offer, washed down with a couple of pints of Pedigree. Quiet and rather cold night, Mikuni came on a fair bit during the night to maintain the 12 degree C programmed night time temp on Earnest.
Thursday 25th March 2004
That morning Martin Clark did the trek to Merry Hill Sainsbury's for
supplies, while Neil did "boaty" things. The main failure the day before was
the top front fender mount. Neil got round this by using spare bit of fender chain round
the "T" stud with a couple of the spare shackles. We eventually set off at 11:30. Not much rain today, but still rather cold.
Blowers Green lock (12:00) coincided with late breakfast............or was that early lunch, so Neil did this solo. Deserted Windmill End was passed at 13:00, then reasonably spirited, exactly half an hour passage through Netherton Tunnel, exiting at 13:32. We decided that we did have time for a bit more exploring and getting diesel at Oldbury Boat Services before meeting Captain Beeky at National Indoor Arena moorings in Brum for the night.
We turned right at Dudley Port Junction at 13:45, then left onto the Wednesbury Old Canal (Walsall) at 14:05. Martin had slowed right down for Belper Bridge when disaster struck.......totally ceased up propeller with mangled interior sprung mattress round the prop, so much so the rudder was thrown sideways!
Well after an hour of getting nowhere with several Stanley knife blades, useless Draper side cutters, small mooring pin we were ready to give up. Neil's hands were in tatters, which did make him rather "grumpy". At this point Martin spotted an apparition............a pair of BW people both of higher "Black and White" clad rank, bloke and lady with clip board, covered in plastic to keep off the now gentle rain. They said that they were doing a survey of the Walsall Canal, to try to improve things to encourage more boaters up there..........and were we in trouble? Soon BW mobiles were buzzing and the Ryder's Green Lenghtsmen, Steve and Dave appeared. After one of the guys investigated the still rather well attached mattress, more BW guys were phoned, one soon appearing with a brand new pair of small lever cutters..........the guys had gone out and bought these!!!
Soon we were dragged back to Ryder's Green Top Lock. Steve and Dave said that they may have to get under the boat to remove mattress, there was too much crap, and not enough room to move about in a narrow lock, so they would get us in the next pound and drop the water in that. Once in the lock up to 10 little urchins came to watch the proceedings. One last successful attempt at removing the mattress now occurred. Neil and Martin dragged on the mattress with the boat hook, while Dave used a keb. Virtually spring at a time the mattress came off, with Steve snipping away down the weed hatch. The BW guys soon raced off and we had a quick tidy up.
Off we set at 17:00, now even more determined to continue up the stub of the Wednesbury Old Canal to the Swan Village dropped Black Country Spine Road bridge (also incorrectly known at the Ridgacre (Ridgeacre) Branch - this started at Swan Village). We crept along stirring up much ORANGE muck, rather different from the totally black stuff when we last went up here in 2000. No real problem until Swan Bridge..........a line of trolleys could be seen sticking out of the water, all across the bridge hole. The RH side was clearer, so Neil got on the bow, lifted the trolleys off the bottom, while Martin pole the boat to the left, thus clearing a 7ft wide gap, one foot away from the RH side of the bridge hole. With a bit of bumping and grinding we got through, then it was easy up to the dropped road culvert.
After a rather easy wind we retraced our steps, going easily through Swan Bridge out of gear, after a bit of a run up. Back at Ryder's Green Junction at 17:45. Before we were back to The mainline (18:05) we had a fretful Captain Beeky on the phone, wandering if his mobile bed for the night would make it into Brum! After a bit of phone homing-in we picked up Andrew under the M5 crossing. Neil then had a rather well deserved shower and hand attention session. During this there was the now infamous "toll island?....what toll island!!!" incident. Arrival at the TOTALLY deserted NIA moorings was at 19:35 and we quickly departed to the Baragee Indian on Broad Street Bridge. Rather expensive, recommended by Linda, but VERY good.
Wordsley Junction, the Stourbridge Town Arm joins from the right after Junction Bridge. Stourbridge Canal.
Stourbridge 16 Locks. Stourbridge Canal.
Stourbridge 16 Locks. Stourbridge Canal.
Stourbridge 16 Locks. Looking down on Dadford's Shed. Stourbridge Canal.
We have started up the Fens Branch in the fading light.
Brockmoor Junction. The Fens Branch carries on under the railway bridge, while the short stub of the Stourbridge Extension Canal goes off to the left.
The very in-keeping replacement lattice towpath bridge at Brockmoor Junction. Fens Branch.
Although the Fens Branch looks clear under the railway bridge, it is totally silted up.
View of the still to be completed new moorings, from the present end of the Stourbridge Extension Canal.
The Stourbridge Extension Canal is filled in from the Bromley Stop Lock.
The new Britannia Bridge. Fens Branch.
Coming back to Leys Junction and the Stourbridge Canal. Fens Branch.
New BW / sponsored workboat at Leys Junction.
New BW / sponsored workboat at Leys Junction.
Coalbourne Brook Bridge - with a potential handrail scraping arch. Stourbridge Canal.
Morning exit from the Merry Hill "experience". Dudley No 1 Canal.
Looking back at the new pontoon moorings at Merry Hill. This will presumably be for residential boats. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Dudley No 1 Canal.
The remains of Woodside Junction, here the Two Lock Line used to cut off the corner, avoiding Park Head. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Dudley No 1 Canal.
Blowers Green Lock. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Park Head Bottom Lock. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Black Brook Junction, here the Two Lock Line used to exit. Dudley No 1 Canal.
High Bridge, this was the Brewins Tunnel, constructed when the canal route was altered to accommodate the Lodge Farm Reservoir. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Primrose Bridge is just around the corner. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Withymoor Island Trust moorings. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Fox and Goose Bridge. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Looking back at the filled in towpath bridge that used to go over the Withymoor Branch and Griffin Bridge. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Bumblehole Arm to the left. Windmill End. Dudley No 1 Canal.
Windmill End. Boshboil Arm to the left, Dudley No 2 Canal to the right, Netherton Tunnel Branch straighton.
As we enter Netherton Tunnel, the far exit can be clearly seen. Netherton Tunnel Branch.
Exiting Netherton Tunnel. The aqueduct beyond carries the BCN Wolverhampton Level across the Netherton Tunnel Branch.
BCN Wolverhampton Level Aqueduct across the Netherton Tunnel Branch.
Looking back at Pudding Green Junction, we have just gone up the Wednesbury Old Canal.
Wednesbury Old Canal.
Belper Bridge, Wednesbury Old Canal.
The Triumphant BW bods, Dave and Steve, remains of mattress and the spectator kids. Ryder's Green Top Lock - or should that be Ryder's Green Dry Dock? Wednesbury Old Canal.
At Ryder's Green Junction we carry on up the Wednesbury Old Canal. Hadley Bridge. This section of old loop is wrongly called the Ridgacre (Ridgeacre) Branch.
Coming up to weedy bit. Wednesbury Old Canal.
Just passed the weedy bit. Wednesbury Old Canal.
Approaching the end of the Wednesbury Old Canal, at this point the Ridgacre (Ridgeacre) Branch used to carry on, before being cut off by the Black Country Spine Road in 1994.
We jam Earnest in the entrance to the low 6ft wide culvert! Wednesbury Old Canal.
Looking back from the end of the Wednesbury Old Canal, winding point to the left.
In the winding point. Wednesbury Old Canal.
Back to Swan Bridge. Wednesbury Old Canal.
We have just re-negotiated the displaced trolley reef at Swan Bridge. Wednesbury Old Canal.
Exiting narrow weedy bit. Wednesbury Old Canal.
Looking back at Ryder's Green Locks, we have just turned onto the main section of the Wednesbury Old Canal.
Back at Pudding Green Junction, we are about to turn left onto the BCN Mainline.
The Tour Continues...
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