On Wednesday, we left Walsall in the pouring rain. Ellie had left us and headed back to Cornwall so it was just Gordon and I (with the help of the wonderful lock wheelers from the BCNS) who worked our way back up the Walsall flight to moor up at Moorcroft Junction for our planned visit to the CRT Bradley Lock Gate Workshop.
It was a mile and a half walk up the unrestored Bradley Arm, lead by Dave Pearson of the BCNS and IWA. On the way up, Dave told us about the Arm in it’s hey day and also gave us an overview of the prospective restoration. I don’t think we’ll see it come to fruition in our boating lifetime but it does look like an achievable objective, and would link up with the remaining navigable section of the Wednesbury Oak Loop which currently serves the Bradley Lock Gate Workshops.
The first three locks of the original flight have been partially restored but are nowhere near usable yet….
…while the position of the rest of the flight can be clearly seen in the undulations of the path that leads up the line of the flight towards the Bradley Workshops.
There are only two workshops in the country that produce lock gates for CRT. The Bradley Workshop is responsible for lock gates and beams for narrow canals, while the workshop at Stanley Ferry builds the bigger gates needed on wide canals. It’s all reassuringly low tech but the craftsmanship levels of skill involved are world class.
Repairs are undertaken as well as new builds and the replacement balance beam for Lock 10 on the Wolverhampton 21 was ready to be transported to its new home.
I was particularly interested to see these finger posts that had been removed and replaced with new. It took me a moment or two but I eventually figured out that they came from Great Haywood.
I don’t think it’s in use any more but this ‘boat turner’ looks like it could still do the job of upturning a hull so that the underside can be worked on.
Towards the end of the visit the humans were still enjoying themselves but Mabel and Dylan, Chris and Penny’s two beautiful Italian Spinoni hunting dogs were slightly less enthralled.
After a wet walk back, the planned evening barbeque and fund raising raffle looked increasingly unlikely. We were lucky though, and the weather dried out in time for us to have a gathering on the tow path and draw the raffle. (No prizes for us I’m afraid).
The next day was the last of the cruise and the weather was very much better. On this occasion we chose to go the long way around as we headed back to Tipton and go up the three Spon Lane Locks to get back onto the Old Main Line. The contrast as you go up is marked with the bottom two locks having a distinctly rural feel…
…while the top lock drags you kicking and screaming back into the urban world as it passes under the M5.
Our final get together was held in the Pie Factory in Tipton. Not an actual factory but a pub that, as the name suggests, specialises in pies. Before the dinner we were all given commemorative brass plaques showing a map of the BCN.
It was a lovely evening, spent in the company of a great bunch of people. We only spent a few days together but I’m sure that some friendships have been forged that will stand the test of time.
Back at the moorings we were greeted with a wonderful sunset. A very fitting end to an extremely enjoyable cruise.