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Tours 2000, BCN, Severn Estuary, K&A and River Wey

10 - Sunday 9th July - Wolverhampton. Wyrley and Essington Canal to Birchills Junction. Walsall Canal to Pudding Green Junction, including Walsall Town Arm, Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch and Ridgacre (Ridgeacre) Branch. New Main Line to Factory Junction. Black Country Museum moorings. 

Weather - rain storms all day with the (very!) occasional sun. The day's boating began at 3.00am! Well we did move about a bit at that time. Neil heard the tell tale bang of steel against steel. He looked out of the window and expected to see towpath, other than it was water. Neil has vague recollections of a young lady screaming out to "Dave" not to do something. The something "Dave" did was to cast adrift the Water Travel boat in front of us and our bow rope. Neil got up. As our ropes were crossed we were effectively tied together. Neil thought that the safest place for the boats was in the lock. The Top gate was open and one of the bottom paddles was slightly cracked open to set a feed on the W21. Neil nearly managed to pull in both boats without waking any body else up, but the Water Travels occupants surfaced at the last moment. Neil told them not to worry and they disappeared back inside. 
We set off at 7.05 after re-mooring the Water Travel boat. At 7.20 we turned left at Horseley Fields Junction onto the Curley Wyrley (Wyrley and Essington Canal). Just before Wednesfield there is the stub "basin" that used to be the start of the Bentley Canal (Wednesfield Junction). All traces of this have been obliterated by landscaping and some new "tin sheds"! The lower part of the route of the Wednesfield Locks have a new bingo hall on them. 
The next bit of canal is fairly pleasant through housing, with some green bits. We turned into Holly Bank Basin at 9.20 and managed to nearly get to the end, but were stopped by floating reeds. It took about 10 mins each way. At Lane Head bridge we were held up for 15 mins as we had a huge Sargasso Sea of reeds to contend with. We went under the M6 at 10.25 and made a brief stop at Sneyd Yard, to get a signature off one of the moorer's for our BCN Silver Challenge award. We reached Birchills Junction at 11.35 (going down the Walsall Canal) and made a hopeless mooring for Sainsbury's. We did get into the bank, but a cost! Neil and Peter W had a serious de-weed while Colin and Peter B went shopping, as we were nearly out of expendable provisions. After the de-weed (barbed wire and Plastic!) Neil and Peter W decided to creep up to Walsall locks and set the flight and fill up with water. Soon the others arrived back and we set off on the now well maintained flight. A local bod on a pushbike chatted with us, saying he was glad to see a boat. At the bottom (13.20) we quickly ventured up the Walsall Town Arm, for we had finalised the meet up point with Ian Ballard at The Boat pub by Bentley Bridge. The basin development was not as overpowering as expected, apart from the new art gallery. The old restored wharf building was still to be taken by tenants. There was only one boat in the basin (trip boat with window shutters on) Some small kids were chucking stones about, but the guy on the pushbike we chatted with down the Locks soon scared them off!  
At 13.40 we were on our way again down the Walsall Canal, but disaster struck at the next bridge (Woodward's Bridge.) Although we were going slowly we can to a complete standstill as we rode over some serious stuff. The stuff consisted of at least 5 supermarket trolleys, roped together with thick ropes, complete with grappling hook. This is the most serious "de-weed" we have yet encountered and took us an hour to get going again. The boat had first to be pulled back out from over the obstruction. Neil eventually had to saw through 4 stands of this thick rope. The grappling hook, with many cut rope ends has been saved as a souvenir! We developed into somewhat  a non-malicious gongoozling subject. We believe that this was designed to stop the 24 hour BCN Challenge. 
The section after this was the worse bit we encountered depth wise in 1994, but this has been somewhat improved. The M6 is passed under just after the office built over the canal, at Spinks Bridge. The next section is on an embankment over Sneyd Brook and a minor road. At the end of this embankment is the stanked off remains of the Anson Branch, passed at 14.55. This is also on an embankment and passes under the M6 in a not quite navigable culvert. The section alongside the new Black Country Spine Road comes next. The bare road embankments are now mature, with some planting and looks a bit better than our last visit. Some passing cyclists, who had been at The Boat pub, said they had had a conversation with a bloke waiting for us - Ian B! When we arrived at The Boat pub and Bentley Bridge, Ian B did a non stop jump aboard! 
The next item of note was at Willingsworth Hall Bridge, Here the abandoned Bradley Locks Branch goes of at Moorcroft Junction. The start of this arm looked fairly weed free and almost navigable. After the pavoritis (brick pavoirs everywhere, part of the "improvements"!) section below the new Willingsworth Hall Bridge, the old railway bridge had become part of the new tram system. Just beyond this is the entrance to the Gospel Oak Branch (again this looked less weed choked than our last visit), with the weeded up Leabrook railway interchange basin opposite. 
In a complete thunderstorm / downpour we navigated past  Doe Bank Junction with the dead straight Tame Valley Canal. Just opposite this is the new BW regional offices and the restored Ocker Hill Tunnel Branch. We popped into the "no mooring" Ocker Hill Tunnel branch. While we were having a discussion with the jobsworth - you can't come in here - mooring warden about the weather, vandalism, could we moor here, is there water here etc. etc. we managed to "do" most of the branch! At the end of this conversation he did relent and offered us a water stop. 
At 17.10 we were off again, to arrive at Ryder's Green (17.20) Bottom Lock. The pounds between locks 3,4,5 and 6 were virtually dry and we lost about 45 mins. At Ryder's Green Junction we turned up the Wednesbury Old Canal / Ridgacre (Ridgeacre) Branch to get right to the end at Swan Bridge, actually fitting the stern into the water feed culvert, where the Black Country Spine Road has severed the branch. This is at the point that the Ridgacre (Ridgeacre) Arm started. There is a full length winding point at the end. The other side of the road has been completely transformed from the waste land of the road building works of our last visit. There is a new pub just here. Although we were very slow and did a non-dramatic wind, we churned up some incredible black gunk, that smelt like coal! Just as well as it was pissing with rain and there were no "fishermen" about to phone up the Environment Agency. 
After this it was full steam ahead to arrive at the Black Country Museum visitor moorings at 21.15. This was via the rest of the Wednesbury Old Canal to Pudding Green Junction, then the New Main Line and the Old Main Line from Factory Junction. Through Factory Locks it pissed with rain AGAIN! It looked by that time like a dark winters evening! That night we stayed aboard and had a fish and chip supper.


The BW Wolverhampton Broad Street Depot, now used as a part time Rave venue. BCN Main Line.

Looking back at the 1960's Broad Street Bridge that you exit the basin under. Broad Street Depot to the right. Wolverhampton. BCN Main Line.

About to enter the Wolverhampton Railway Station "tunnel". There are more visitor moorings to the left, but we have never seen them used! Wolverhampton. BCN Main Line.

Coming out from under the station "tunnel". Wolverhampton. BCN Main Line.

The new Union Mill boat builders base. Wolverhampton. BCN Main Line.

Horseley Fields Junction. We are about to turn left onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal. Wolverhampton. BCN Main Line.

Horseley Fields Junction. We have just turned left onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Just starting the newly re-generated bit before Wednesfield. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

The now very short stub of the Bentley Canal. All traces of the Bentley Locks have been destroyed. A new bingo hall sits on part of the old canal line! Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Rookery Bridge. Wednesfield. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

The official visitor moorings for Wednesfield, just beyond Church Bridge. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Moat Green Bridge. Wednesfield. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Green bit! Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We turn into Holly Bank Basin. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We have just turned into Holly Bank Basin. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We are venturing along the Holly Bank Basin. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Looking beyond the weed blockage to the end of Holly Bank Basin. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We have just turned back on to the main line of the Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Lane Head Bridge. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We run into a Sargasso Sea of weed just beyond Lane Head Bridge. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Going parallel with the M6. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We have just gone under the M6. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Sneyd Junction. The abandoned lock line up was obviously considered the main line. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We will turn left under Sneyd Junction Bridge. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We will turn left under Sneyd Junction Bridge. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

BW Sneyd Yard. Now long term and residential moorings. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

We have just passed the crud filled narrows just after Sneyd Yard. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Stokes Bridge has been cheered up a bit! Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

The other side of Stokes Bridge. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Birchills Junction BCN Signpost. Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Birchills Junction. We are about to turn right into the Walsall Canal from the Wyrley and Essington Canal. 

Looking back at Birchills Junction from the Aqueduct over an abandoned railway. Walsall Canal.

We are just about to make the mistake of mooring at the Birchills Sainsbury's visitor moorings! Walsall Canal.

This is what we pick up on getting to the bank! Someone had only just said we seem to have never picked up any barbed wire! Birchills Sainsbury's visitor moorings! Walsall Canal.

We finally get free of the Birchills Sainsbury's visitor moorings. Walsall Canal.

The boatyard just before Walsall Top Lock. Walsall Canal.

Walsall Top Lock. Walsall Canal.

Walsall Top Lock. Walsall Canal.

The lock keepers office burnt out on our last visit has been restored. Walsall Top Lock. Walsall Canal.

Birchills Canal Museum. Walsall Top Lock. Walsall Canal.

We fill with water, while waiting for the returning shopping party. Walsall Top Lock. Walsall Canal.

Walsall Top Lock. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

The Walsall Flight. Walsall Canal.

Walsall Junction. Walsall Canal.

Looking back at Walsall Bottom Lock. Walsall Junction. Walsall Canal.

The old interchange basin is being restored, but the awnings in the centre have been destroyed. Walsall Town Arm.

We are about to make a flying visit to Walsall Town Basin. Walsall Town Arm.

The development of this side of the basin is lower keyed than was thought from our first visit here. This was during the construction of the basin side buildings. Walsall Town Arm.

Leaving the Walsall Town Arm. The controversial Art Galley is directly behind us. 

Walsall Junction. We have just started back down the Walsall Canal again.

Walsall Junction BCN Signpost.

Rolling Mill Street Bridge. We have just passed under the floating bridge deck! Walsall Canal.

Old basin at Pleck. Walsall Canal.

Walsall Canal.

Pagetts Bridge. Walsall Canal.

We have just spent an hour extracting our selves from Wood wards Bridge. The gongoozling party appeared friendly, though two quiet lads seemed to know something about the welcome sunken trolleys! These we unfortunately we had to leave in the bridge hole. Walsall Canal.

Walsall Canal.

The offices built over the canal, just beyond Spinks Bridge and visible from the M6. Walsall Canal.

We pass back under the M6. Walsall Canal.

Looking back at the M6. We are on the embankment over the Sneyd Brook. Walsall Canal.

We are on the embankment over the Sneyd Brook. Walsall Canal.

Forster's Bridge in the distance. Walsall Canal.

Forster's Bridge and aqueduct over a railway line. Walsall Canal.

The un-navigable stub of the Anson Branch, cut off by the M6. Walsall Canal.

The Boat pub at Bentley Bridge. Here poor Ian Ballard was to wait for our late arrival. Walsall Canal.

Ian B ready to hop on. Bentley Bridge. Walsall Canal.

Walsall Canal.

Looking back at section alongside the Black Country Spine Road. Walsall Canal.

Looking back at section alongside the Black Country Spine Road. Walsall Canal.

Rest Of Images


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