Our first club cruise this year has been to the BCN.
Dates: June 6th 2015 – June 13th 2015.
Nine boats attended:
Doinmein, Lucky B, Aquarigo II, Intrigue, Dawn Owl, Dream Catcher, Clara Grace, Minimum Momentum and Cormorant II
During the week of the cruise, 36 locks were used and around 46 miles were covered.
After gathering close by Deep Cuttings Junction (AKA Old Turn) and our first meal together, we began our cruise.
Since the Oldbury Locks were out of action through a damaged lock beam the itinerary was hastily but efficiently re-arranged. Therefore, having cruised around the remaining loops off the main line, we diverted through Netherton Tunnel with the intention of mooring overnight at Windmill End and The Bumblehole. A second change of plan here and up the Dudley No. 2 Canal and through the very narrow and disconcertingly low Gosty Hill Tunnel to Coombeswood Canal Trust’s base in Hawne Basin.
We had a very friendly welcome, and traditional gathering re-established for Pimms o’clock.
Diesel at Hawne was 55p per litre so it was well worth the diversion; a great start to our cruise. We cruised on to Tipton Green and the Black Country Museum, with excellent moorings at Tipton Green. Many hours were spent at what has to be one of the best museums in the Country. In the evening we all went to Mad O’Rourkes Rourkes Pie Factory where a long table had been
organised to accommodate our group. Geoff Smith was awarded a certificate for eating the “Desperate Dan” cow pie.
This is a very large pie, complete with cows horns of pastry!
We then moved on to an area most of us had not cruised before – the BCN above the main line. Starting with the Wednesbury Old Canal down the 8 Ryders Green Locks to Moorcroft Junction where we moored. Bob Hallam had some special mooring posts made for here, as there are so few mooring bollards.
Next day a walk was arranged to the Bradley workshops where CRT make Lock gates. It was a very interesting trip appreciated by all.
Afterwards we took a cruise to Walsall. This short section gave an indication typical of these little-used stretches of canal. The problems were that most boats picked up rubbish, several had stopped to remove heavy trash via the weed hatch. However, we successfully navigated to the Walsall Town Basin.
This Basin is an excellent facility, right in the centre of Town with all the shops you could want nearby, an art gallery and also Leather Museum.
For the unaware, leatherwork was one of the range of goods for which the town was famous. Must be one of the best provided for moorings around. A good pub meal had been arranged in the Black Country Arms, much appreciated by all.
Next day though…….
The Battle of Walsall Locks
Fleet leader today, Minimo, with Geoff and Beryl aboard, ventured off at 8.00am intending to get through the locks and have a restful day – some chance! They were faced with a drained pound to start with.
We had already met with a CRT man who knew about the problem. He went back and opened paddles etc., in order to get Minimo through lock 8. (From the bottom, they go upwards to 1). Now at lock 7, a jammed gate, so back down went again Geoff and Beryl were sent back to the starting point at lock 8. At around 11, Bob (Cormorant II) and Martin (Doinmein) decided that serious muscle was needed. A posse of 4 strong and wise men was raised and despatched in much haste to the flight. The lower pound was still dry so some of the party went up to the top and opened the necessary paddles to get some water down. No messing with half-up paddles with this team, the feeding pound is a day and a half cruise long and the main feeder for the whole BCN is too!
We met Geoff (Minimo) again and finally got him on the way. Lucky man! He had all the gates open and in his favour. Everyone else was called in by phone in some semblance of order and the fun started. We lost count of the problems and where they occurred, but disabled boats with major prop fouling and exertions in the weed hatches became the routine. Carpets, curtains, bags ,wire etc. all had to be removed. Boats had to be pulled out of the locks as more pounds went dry through leaking locks. It finally took eight hours to get nine boats up the eight locks. A major positive we took from all this, is that the club has members who have great experience and while some disagree with some of the solutions, we worked together to solve them. It was teamwork in action and a credit to all involved; I suspect instead of 8 locks we effectively did double that each!
Finally, as our last boat Cormorant II pulled into the top lock, Unique’s crew, Lynne and Roger, met them after cycling from Pelsall Common (our planned mooring) and crewed for them for the final few miles.
Ever Onwards …
Now on to the Wyrley and Essington canal, through some shallow sections and on to Pelsall Junction, a delightful place, for the night.
The next day some members went up the Cannock Extension, the most Northerly remaining section of the BCN, while others went straight to Chasewater via the Anglesey Branch. Again, a wonderful place and such a lovely Canal, as pretty and interesting as any in the country.
Our final day took us down the Rushall Canal and Daw End Branch, into Longwood Junction. Here, we had all signed up for the Longwood Boat Club Rally. Unfortunately it rained all day on the Saturday. It was though, a great little festival crowned on the Saturday by a special song given by the band for Geoff and Beryl Smith. Not “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but more about something to do with Weatherspoons!! Ask Beryl and Geoff when you see them again.
With the Cruise finished, some went south, some went back along the Wyrley and Essington towards Wolverhampton and onwards to the Caldon Canal. The “Curly Wyrley” is a canal gem which took the uninitiated completely by surprise! For the majority of its length it is a lovely canal, a treat that most miss in the rush to Gas Street and beyond.
What we did highlight, is that for relatively little work, CRT could turn the whole BCN into an excellent cruising route. Yes, there are a few issues with locals, but provision of secure moorings and some dredging of the difficult bits and most of the problems would be solved.
All in all, a successful cruise, challenging at times, but always in good spirit and for some I’m sure, a desire to see even more of the many industrial areas we hear so much about – the reason the canals were initially built..
More in due course.