Sunday, 6 November 2016

Autumn Cruise - Week 4

Monday 31st October - Waring's Green to Birmingham

Woke to a misty start this morning, but the sun soon broke through and we had the most amazing day of cruising in temperatures rivalling those in August!!

Getting ready to set off, Dave is really happy as he much prefers this sort of weather to the grey skies we have had over the last few days!

Cruising up past Lady Lane Wharf we caught sight of this sad view of a house which looks as though it has been burnt out. I can't help thinking what happened and why?

In total contrast there has been massive new development at Dicken's Heath with canalside apartments which somehow look as if they should be on the Costa Brava!!

Brandwood Tunnel is 352 yds long and has no towpath inside.  It is able to take two way traffic, although I don't relish trying to pass another boat in the dark!  
When the boats were horse drawn, the horses went over the top of the tunnel and the boat had to be hauled through the tunnel by the means of an iron handrail on the side of the wall.

After the tunnel we passed the sight of an old swing bridge, the working circle is still evident, but the swing bridge is long gone!

We then came to the first lock on the Stratford Canal, which is a Guillotine Lock, and we stopped to allow a boat to come through.

All of the mechanism has been restored and is in good working order, but it is no longer used.  However, you can understand from this picture why it is called a guillotine lock!!

This is the junction of the Stratford Canal with the Birmingham and Worcester Canal at King's Norton. It is quite an acute angle, so took a bit of navigating to get it round.

Junction House and the finger post with a couple of gongoozlers sitting watching, fortunately the manoeuvre went perfectly!!

As we cruised past Bournville and the Cadbury's World we spotted a rainbow in the sky.  For some reason it seemed to be upside down, and there was no rain anywhere!

At the Birmingham University we saw a Hydrogen boat on the canal - could this be the narrowboat of the future?

The colours on the trees are stunning at the moment, a changing vista, at every turn of the canal.

Approaching Edgbaston Tunnel the canal passes under some railway bridges.  The canal narrows considerably, and on this occasion, Toby saw a cat and whilst barking at the cat he slipped and fell in the canal!!  Dave was able to get off the boat, run back to Toby manfully swimming after the boat, and scoop him out of the canal!!

One traumatised dog had to have a shower and dry off in the sunshine, the first time Toby has ever fallen off the boat whilst it was moving!!  I guess it had to happen!

Here we are cruising back in to Birmingham, the Barclaycard Arena ahead of us, Sea Life centre on the left and the island in the middle of the canal.  We have moored up for the next 2 nights in exactly the same spot we were in on our way out!

Gas Street Basin and The Mailbox lit up in the early evening.   Just love the reflection in the canal.

Tuesday 1st November - a day in Birmingham

Today we spent time exploring the city of Birmingham.

Across the road from the Library is a beautiful gilded statue of three famous people, Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, famous for improving and developing the steam engine.  It is known locally as 'The Golden Boys'.

Birmingham Library has been described as the largest public library in the UK and is regarded as a flagship project for the redevelopment of the city.  It was officially opened in September 2013.  An unusual building which makes me think of fondant fancies!!

An interesting statistic!!!

Iron:Man, a statue by Antony Gormley, in Victoria Square.  The statue stands 20ft tall including the feet which are buried beneath the pavement.  It is said by the sculptor to represent the traditional skills of Birmingham and the Black Country practised during the Industrial Revolution.

Birmingham City Council House is an imposing building in Victoria Square, now a Grade II listed building.  

Wednesday 2nd November - Birmingham to Windmill End

Woke to another gorgeous morning and set off for Windmill End on Dudley No. 2 Canal. This is Oozells Street Loop in the heart of Birmingham where there are many permanent moorings.

We then explored the Icknield Port Loop to the south of the Main Line.

At the top of the loop is the Rotton Park Reservoir which acts as a feeder to the canal.

The loop then rejoins the Main Line Canal and we went straight across to explore the Soho Loop.  This loop has a towpath throughout it's length and goes north of the main line.

On one side of the loop is Winson Green Prison and on the other is an asylum!!  We go to some salubrious places!!

Having rejoined 
the Main line we encountered an enormous concrete island in the middle of the canal. These had toll offices beside them, none of which exist any more.  They are very narrow to pass through!

We then passed under the aqueduct carrying the Engine Branch from the Old Main Line, travelling above us to our right.

Smethwick New Pumping Station, no longer in use, but you can arrange a tour to have a look around it.

Galton Tunnel is a short tunnel that carries a main road over the canal, most picturesque.


As we carry on the main line we pass the junction with the Old Main Line which has 6 very heavy locks on.  The New Main Line was built to speed up the passage of boats through to Birmingham.  You can see this on the map, but it will need to be greatly enlarged!

We turned left off the New Main Line onto the Netherton Branch Canal.

This took us down to the Netherton Tunnel. a wide, tall tunnel that was originally lit by gas lamps.  It is 1.75 miles long and now very dark.  It took us 35 minutes to pass through it and fortunately we didn't meet another boat.  The pinprick of light in the photo is the light at the end of the tunnel!!

Once through the tunnel we stopped to put on water and moored up for the night at Windmill End.  We walked Toby around the area in the glorious sunshine.  This is the mouth of the tunnel showing how deep under the hill it goes.  The Canal is now called Dudley No. 2 Canal.

Cobb's Engine House, is the remains of a pumping station which kept the coal mines free of water.

Another picture showing the beautiful autumn colours.

On our walk we found several of these copper pipes which reach all the way down into the mines and removed the lethal gases.  Seemed quite ghostly now.

As the temperatures were dropping we returned to the boat and lit the woodburner for only the second time on this cruise, it just hasn't been cold enough, but tonight we shall benefit from it's heat!

Thursday 3rd November - Windmill End to Merry Hill

Yes it was a cold night, we had frost on the ground!  Toby was delighted and rubbed his head all through it!!

We set off from Windmill End and followed the canal round to join Dudley No. 1 Canal.

This is the remains of a tunnel which was opened up, leaving a very tall bridge over the canal.

The canal then meets Dudley No 1 canal at Park Head Junction.  We had to take a sharp left hand bend and go down Blowers Green Lock - all 12 foot of it.  Behind us are the locks which go up to Dudley Tunnel. Powered craft can't go through Dudley Tunnel as there is no ventilation in the tunnel.  The other end of the tunnel is at the Black Country Museum, where we were in Week 2.

Looming majestically over the lock is Blowers Green Pumphouse which was used to take water back to the Dudley Tunnel and the Main Line Canal. 

 We then passed under an incredibly low bridge and cruised round to the Marina at the Water Front near Merry Hill Shopping Centre.

The boat moored in front of us is Beefur, Sue and Dave, who we met on our Llangollen Cruise at the beginning of this year.

After our excursion to the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, we met up with Sue and Dave in the Waterfront Inn to share a drink or two!  Many thanks to them for bringing our attention to the fact that the Wightwick Locks are shutting on 7th November for the Winter Works and we must get beyond them to save retracing our steps!

Friday 4th November - Merry Hill to Wordsley Junction

The Shopping Centre is vast, but we did very well and didn't get lost!!  It was built on the site of the Round Oak Steelworks which closed in 1983 after almost two centuries of steel making.

From there we twisted and turned our way to the top of the Delph Locks, 8 locks in total and 7 of which are in a straight line with small pounds between them.  The view across to Stourbridge is amazing!  At the bottom of the locks the Canal becomes the Stourbridge Canal and continues to join the Staffordshire and Worcester canal at Stourton Junction.

The canal then swings around Brierley Hill until it gets to Leys Junction where it heads southwest down the Stourbridge 16 Locks.
The Bottle and Glass Inn used to stand beside Lock 3, but now resides in the Black Country Museum!

Locks 9 and 10 have a very short pound between them, and are reminiscent of the Bratch Locks on the Staffordshire and Worcester canal.

Further on there is an example of a well maintained timber warehouse, Dadford's Shed originally used for transhipment and now home to narrow boat builders.

The massive Red House Cone (Kiln) dates from the 18th Century and is now part of the glass-making heritage centre.

At the bottom of the locks is Wordsley Junction with the Stourbridge Arm that ends in Stourbridge.  As we need to be the other side of Wightwick in two days time we shall visit this on another occasion.

Unfortunately, we struggled to get out of the bottom lock and we gradually lost all forward and reverse motion.  The engine was fine, the weed hatch was clear, so we had to pull over and call River and Canal Rescue to come and sort the problem for us.
By 5pm an engineer had arrived and diagnosed that we had a gearbox oil leak, and it was virtually dry.  He replaced the worn seal, topped up the oil and solved the problem. We were very impressed with the service!! 
We remained moored up for the evening, and decided to continue tomorrow towards Wightwick Locks.

Saturday 5th November - Wordsley Junction to Bratch Locks

We made an early start this morning, just to give ourselves plenty of time to get towards the Wightwick Locks.  Our over night mooring was under trees and we have collected plenty of leaves!!
Ella is running smoothly this morning, we just have the leaves on the canal to deal with!

In dry dock was Bramble was having a second coat of blacking, a working boat from 1934 built for Fellows, Morton and Clayton, carrying coal, steel bars and other goods between Bentwood and the Midlands.

We have just come down the Stourton Locks to Stourton Junction and are going to turn right onto the Staffordshire and Worcester canal. 

This is a curious feature, it seems to be a narrowboat shaped cutting in the rock, which I think is known as 'Devil's Den'.  

 At Gothersley a memorial marks the site of the Roundhouse, built in 1805 as part of the ironworks and was lived in until 1930.

At Greensforge we had to wait for a boat to struggle out of the lock, with the leaves falling from the trees it clogs up the propeller and many boats fail to get any forward propulsion. Fortunately we no problems and were able to get up the lock successfully.

After filling up with water, we continued on our way towards The Bratch Locks and were very pleased to be able to get up the three locks with out the help of the lock keeper that helped us during the summer.  We then moored up for the night at the top of the locks.

Sunday 6th November - Bratch Locks to Bridge 8, Shropshire Union Canal

At Ebstree Lock a robin obligingly posed for it's photograph as we worked the lock.

Canal and River Trust boats ready and waiting to begin the winter works on the Wightwick Locks tomorrow.  
We have successfully made it beyond the locks even with time lost to our minor breakdown!

Aldersley Junction, where we turned right and headed up the Wolverhampton 21 Locks almost three weeks ago!  It is very satisfying to be able to come full circle!

At Autherley Junction we leave the Staffordshire and Worcester canal and turn left onto the Shropshire Union. our home canal.

We continue along the canal until we get to the visitor moorings between bridges 7 and 8, the weather has closed in on us and for only the second time this cruise we find ourselves actually cruising in the rain!!  We are glad to stop and moor up for the night!!

This week has been a testing time for us, Toby falling in the canal and having to perform a dog overboard rescue, Ella breaking down and having to call our River and Canal rescue, but we have come through them both and are still smiling, we continue to learn from our experiences and hopefully improve as boaters.


  1. I really enjoy your travel blog, always a joy.
    Kindest regards.
    Bernard, Volunteer Lock Keeper at Etruria.

    1. Hello Bernard, so pleased to hear that you are still reading the blog. We always mention the volunteers whenever we meet them as we believe that you all do a fantastic job. We shall be heading home over the next week and then our next outing will hopefully be around mid February, look out for us then! Keep up the good work, Janet and Dave, x

  2. It was very nice to see you on Wednesday. I did wonder if we'd ever meet anyone that launched on the same date as we did. The blogs good and easy to read, keep it up

    The website I’m doing is It’s in it’s infancy and I’m still working on keeping the format consistent. I don’t think I’ll ever finish the site so I’m planning on concentrating on sections such as rings, i.e the four counties etc