BCN Explorer Cruise – Pelsall & Walsall

When we left Longwood Boat Club, on Tuesday morning, the weather had begun to deteriorate a bit but we were lucky for most of the day. It was a bit misty but it didn’t actually rain as we turned onto the Anglesey Branch from the Daw End Canal and moored up to take a look at Anglesey Basin and the Chasewater Reservoir.

Anglesea BasinChasewater Reservoir

We didn’t have a great deal of time but we’d very much like to try to make it back here to take a walk round the reservoir. The moorings are incredibly peaceful with some lovely woodland. On our walk back to the boat from the reservoir we spotted this fellow who wasn’t at all shy and posed for photographs.

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The bottom of the Anglesey Branch marks the junction between the Daw End and Wyrley and Essington (commonly known as the Curly Wyrley on account as it’s a very bendy canal). As with much of this area on the BCN the canal has a rural feel. Signs of the original busy industrial heritage, that the canals were built to service, are never very far away. Fenced off flattened areas that once housed factories and coal mines provide a constant reminder of the past.

We moored for the night at Pelsall Common but, unfortunately, the rain had well and truly set in by then and I didn’t take any photographs of what was a very pleasant mooring. There was a small settlement of travellers on the common but they didn’t bother us and we didn’t bother them. We popped into the Finger Post pub hoping to get an evening meal but were out of luck as the chef had gone home ill. Shame.

Our next destination was the basin in the centre of Walsall town. It wasn’t a long cruise and we got down the locks and moored up in the basin before lunch.

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We went to the Black Country Arms for lunch in the middle of town. It has 15 real ales and a pretty good menu. I had my first try of the Black Country specialty Grey peas (pronounced peys) and bacon. Very good it was too!

After lunch Ellie visited the Art Gallery and managed to persuade someone to take her up to the top of the building to a floor that is normally out of bounds so that she could take this wonderful photograph of some of the boats in the basin. It’s not often you see your boat from this angle.

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BCN Explorer Cruise – the first couple of days

On Saturday morning we set out from the mooring on the Old Main Line at Tipton, surprisingly fresh after our evening in The Fountain. We were heading for Ocker Hill at the start of the Tame Valley Canal.

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Ellie and I walked the couple of miles to the first set of locks – Brades Locks on the Gower Branch which includes the BCN’s only staircase.

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One by one, the boats arrived to make the descent.

Leaving the Gower branch, we turned briefly onto the New Main Line, then  onto the Wednesbury Old Canal at Pudding Junction, on to Ryders Green Junction and down the 8 Ryders Green Locks. The flight was manned for us by several BCN Society lock wheelers. This is Charlie, the BCNS Chairman. His wife, I discovered, went to the same school as me in Belfast and was in the year below me. Small world.

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Our mooring at Ocker Hill had a rural feel and very peaceful it was too (at least it was when the local youths stopped speeding up and down on their motor cycles!)

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The next day we set out along the Tame Valley canal heading for Longwood Boat Club. As with most of the BCN, there’s a fair bit of rubbish to negotiate but, so far, we’ve been lucky and haven’t needed to visit the weed hatch between stops.

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This stretch of canal is incredibly straight and has aqueducts over spaghetti junction….

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…and the River Tame.

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We joined the Rushall Canal at Rushall Junction and headed up the 9 locks (again ably assisted by helpful lock wheelers and our Ellie).

There was a brief holdup while we waited for a blockage to be sorted out in one of the locks above (apparently it was a bin lid that had been caught between a boat and the side of the lock). Time for a chat with Steve and Cheryl on the  beautiful nb The Lady Hannah.

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Our welcome at Longwood Boat Club was spectacular. One by one the boats were  shepherded through the last lock, given mugs of tea, and shown into moorings. Sheila Bowen made some amazing cakes and we were welcomed like royalty.

It was a beautiful day and, on advice from Chris and Penny we took a walk down the canal and through some lovely woodland – to walk off some of those cakes!

The day was rounded off with a Chinese Meal, delivered to the Club House.

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Gordon, assisted by Penny and Alison, gained himself a fair few brownie points by heading into the kitchen to do the washing up in time for us all to enjoy Phil Clayton’s presentation Joeys Joshers and James A Birmingham Canal Miscellany. It was a wonderful illustrated talk punctuated with original songs and it was enjoyed immensely by everyone there.

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Briefly into Brum

Last Monday we positively flew up the Wolverhampton 21 in just over 3 hours. Most of the locks were set for us which made my job very much easier.

We also got a fair bit of help opening and closing gates from some friendly passers by and no sign of any ‘yoofs’ to give us bother. Perfect.

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Wolverhampton has a reputation as an unsafe place to moor so they provide secure mooring for about three narrowboats. Unfortunately it’s so secure that you can’t get off once you’ve moored up so no chance to explore the city on this occasion. There was a boat moored there already and he would seem to have been there for a while as he rushed up when we were mooring up to clear up the mess from his multitude of little pooches – and there was quite a lot of it!

Our aim was to get to Tipton for the start of the BCN Explorer Cruise on Friday 12th but first we had to head into Birmingham to pick up my daughter Ellie from New Street Station. Any excuse – I love mooring in Brum!

The journey into Birmingham from Wolverhampton is fascinating. There are several stretches that takes you under the M5…

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…over other canals…

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…through some surprisingly pretty scenery…

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…and up close and personal with some of the wildlife.

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The criss crossing canals, like the Engine Arm, tempt you to stray off the straight and narrow. I think we’ll definitely head up here before we leave the area.

On Wednesday we spent the day wandering around the markets, meeting my mate Nigel for a coffee outside the Cube where he works, getting my hair done and generally having a mooch around before going to see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2. All in all a very relaxing day.

On Thursday Gord  headed off for a hossie appointment in Wigan and I met Ellie from the station. We adjourned to the Bacchus Bar underneath the Burlington Hotel and spent a lovely hour or so drinking Hendricks while waiting for Gord to arrive back from Wigan to help us back to the boat with the suitcases (our Ellie isn’t known for travelling light)

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Friday saw us retracing our steps to the mooring at Tipton where we were meeting the other boats for the explorer cruise. Ellie had her first steering lesson and did very well too!

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Gathered on the bank by the John the Lock Moorings in Tipton, Stuart and Marie gave the assembled boaters some information on the cruise before we headed off to the adjacent Fountain Inn for some refreshment.

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A trip down the Shropshire Union

We’ve finally set out on our travels again. We headed down Heartbreak Hill with the sterling help of Sue and Andy from nb Festina Lente….

…before heading along the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch and onto the Shropshire Union proper. It really is a very beautiful canal, although it is a touch cold on the embankments when the breeze blows.

The by washes at the locks can also prove a touch challenging!

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At the bottom of the Audlem Flight we were unexpectedly joined by Carol and Stuart from nb Kathleen May. We moored beside them in Saul Junction marina for a couple of years and haven’t bumped into them for a while so it was great to catch up and to meet their delightful, if mischievous, new dog, Becca.

 

After Audlem, our first major stop was at Nantwich, where we spent a couple of days. The weather was glorious and we headed across the fields to the village of Acton where there’s a beautiful church with Anglo Saxon origins.

We wandered across the fields taking a rather circuitous route into Nantwich town.

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There’s another St Mary’s church here and although younger than the one at Acton is almost cathedral like. It’s octagonal tower reminded me of the one on Ely Cathedral

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It’s a wonderful building with some beautiful stained glass….

and some exquisitely carved misericord seats.

When we bought the boat our first mooring was at Norbury Junction. We had always meant to go and visit the nearby Anchor Inn but somehow never got around to it. We weren’t going to miss the chance again and we moored right outside it. The pub is run by Olive and has been for over 40 years, having changed very little during that time. It was a freezing cold day so Olive’s coal fire and excellent beer were very welcome.

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We’re off the ‘Shroppie’ now and heading for Birmingham where we’ll be joining the BCN Society spring cruise – really looking forward to it!

 

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Living the good life on the Grand Union Canal

Living on a canal boat certainly means that you’re lucky enough to get up close and personal with wildlife every day…

OK, the cat’s not exactly a wild animal but it was lovely that it paid us a brief visit from its own boat moored nearby.

Even some of the lock gates get in on the act. I know these plants are not very good for the gates as they destroy the wood, but it is very attractive to look at.

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There are also multiple opportunities for forraging. Gordon is happiest in autumn when he finds a good supply of wood that we can use for the winter.

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There’ve also been loads of pickings in the hedgerows this year….

…I’m going to have to put in a fair few hours making jams, jellies, cakes and crumbles over the next week or so!

The London Bit 

One of the excursions we enjoyed while we were in London was a guided walking tour arranged by Fun London Tours. It was called Hidden London and it was included in the two for one brochure if you had a train ticket so it was amazingly good value. It lasted for about an hour and a half, had a fascinating commentary and took in, amongst other things, a cabman’s shelter erected in around 1875 for London Cabbies to shelter while staying close to their horse and carriage, a disused tube station (outside only unfortunately), Samuel Johnson’s house, St Clements Church, one of the dragons that mark the entrance to the City of London and the church that inspired the design of the tiered wedding cake.

We passed by Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub which was allegedly Samuel Johnson’s local. The lower levels of the pub are in the old cellars of the long gone Carmelite Priory. When the tour finished it would have been rude not to take a look.

Very atmospheric and rather reminiscent of cellar bars in Krakow in Poland.

 

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Out of London and heading north

Our last week or so in the London area was spent around Yiewsley, just outside Uxbridge. On the surface, not a very pretty spot but it’s actually a bit of a water wonderland. It’s got the Grand Union Canal, the River Fray and the River Colne and Little Britain Lake (so called because it’s got a roughly Britannic shape – ish)

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We took a few walks exploring various aspects of the area. On one side of the canal Yiewsley and West Drayton are fairly typical London Suburbs. On the other you have this…..

Today, in some distinctly autumnal weather, we officially left the London area and are heading north for the winter. We know we’re out of London ‘cos we went under the M25 – twice!

 

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We’ve spent the best part of the summer in the south east this year and the weather has been very kind to us. The last few weeks in and around London have been particularly glorious and we’ve made the most of them. When you’re in London there’s always something to do but you’re so busy doing it that blogging about it takes a bit of a back seat. In the next few  weeks we’re heading back up north over old territory which leaves nothing much to blog about. Rather than try and condense the last week or so in London into one enormous post, I’ve decided to put up photographs of our trips out, in a section added to the next few posts I write. As the weather worsens it should have the added bonus of bringing back a touch of sunshine.

The London bit

A trip to Kew Gardens

 

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Farewell Elaine

Last Wednesday saw us, together with Ray and Diane from Ferndale, head off to Macclesfield  for the funeral of our very dear friend Elaine. So many people were there to say goodbye including boating friends from far and wide. The readings given by Elaine’s nieces Leyna and Josie-Beth were wonderful and Paul’s tribute was amazing. It was a beautiful service, led by a minister who had known and loved Elaine.

There really aren’t the words to say how wonderful this lady was and to describe the impact she had on my life and indeed the lives of everyone around her. Without doubt she was the kindest, most generous and lovely soul that I’ve ever encountered and she will be missed.

I consider myself lucky to have known her and been her friend. We knew her for such a short time but shared so many wonderful memories! Thank you and farewell Elaine.

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