Friday, 20 November 2015

Stats for 2015; highest, longest, deepest ….

We have been out seven times this year, with trips of between 11 miles (our last trip this year) and 108 miles (Anderton to Swanley via Llangollen) and lasting between 6 and 20 days (South Pennine ring). We’ve spent 4 fewer days on board than last year and travelled fewer miles with fewer locks, but have been on more new waterways.     

Huddersfield Narrow canal, near Marsden, June13 rising up 40E

We’ve had too much water …… Todmorden lock, Rochdale canal, June

19 top gates lock 19

and too little.  Clayton top lock, Ashton canal, May

19 low top pound clayton

We have experienced the deepest narrow lock in the UK (Vinegar lock on the Ashton), deepest broad lock (Tuel Lane on the Rochdale), and traversed the highest summits in England and Wales; the Rochdale is the highest broad canal (600’) and the Huddersfield Narrow the highest narrow canal (645’).

1 highest lock in england

We have been through three tunnels over a mile and a half long, including Standedge, the highest, deepest and longest tunnel in the UK.  Other firsts for us were guillotine lock gates, chain-operated lock gates, the Anderton Boat Lift and the Calder and Hebble Spike!

Anderton boat lift, July

27 boat lift

  Using the Calder and Hebble spike, Salterhebble locks, June17d spike

Miles (approx): 513

Narrow locks: 378, broad locks: 126, large (river) locks: 8

Moveable bridges: 48 including those fixed open

Major aqueducts: Pontcysyllte and Chirk

Tunnels; 33 including Harecastle (2919 yards), Preston Brook (1239 yards), Standedge (5698 yards), Wast Hills (2726 yards).

Days on board: 94


Grand Union, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham and Fazeley, Trent and Mersey. Bridgewater*, Rochdale*, Ashton*, Calder and Hebble Navigation*, Huddersfield Broad*, Huddersfield Narrow*, River Weaver*, Shropshire Union, Middlewich Branch, Llangollen, Worcester and Birmingham, Droitwich Junction.  Birmingham Canal Navigations; Main Line, Wolverhampton Level, Wyrley and Essington* (part), Walsall*.

* indicates new waterways for us.

Moored at Devil’s Garden near Big Wood, River Weaver, July

devils garden

Marinas stayed at

Calcutt, Aston, Droylsden, Anderton, Swanley, Droitwich Spa.

Next year - north, south, east …?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Droitwich Spa marina

Sunday 15th and Monday 16th November

1 and a half miles, 3 locks

After a wild night (the weather, not us ……)  the wind was still blowing hard.  This morning it was coming up the canal towards us, so it wasn’t a problem cruising down to the visitor moorings at Hanbury Junction.  Lots of leaves and other floating debris about though.  Dave had read that you don’t necessarily have to put the engine into reverse to remove leaves from the prop – just put the engine in neutral and they drop off.  It works!  Doesn't do anything for weeds though, and if you have reeds caught round the rudder you (I) still have to lie down on the deck to reach them without overbalancing.  Dave cycled into town to get the paper while I took Meg for a run back to Astwood locks.  It was lovely on the way out, but unfortunately into the teeth of the wind coming back!  Not very nice for Dave on the bike either.  Just time for a lovely hot shower before repairing to the Eagle and Sun for a carvery lunch – very nice.

After a cup of tea and a read of the paper, and hoping the wind would have dropped a bit, we finished our journey down the locks and into the marina.  The river level board still showed the Severn in the yellow, stream decreasing.  There is a plaque at the top lock commemorating Neil Pitts, whose legacy helped with the restoration of the flight.

1 plaque at hanbury top lock

This is the hole which has appeared by the side pond at the bottom lock.  It looks quite deep.

2 hole by side pond bottom lock

A boat had just gone down ahead of us on its way to Droitwich Spa, so I had to turn all three locks, giving Dave plenty of time to think about how to get across the marina in the wind, which was strong and blustery.  He slid Chuffed alongside our pontoon without trouble, having perfectly judged the approach.  This was lucky, as we are the last-but-one berth before the rocks at the edge and there is no room to manoeuvre if you overshoot!

We spent the rest of the afternoon and the following morning on the multifarious little tasks involved in preparing for winter.  Oven and galley cupboards cleaned, perishables packed up, weed hatch inspected (and cleared of some weed), anti-freeze topped up, etc, etc.

When we drove home, we had an unexpected diversion past Black Prince at Stoke Prior to get to the motorway – road works prevented access to Droitwich Spa. 

Home now.  Where to go next year?

1b stepping stones with meg

Meg on the stepping stones at Uppermill, Huddersfield Narrow canal.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Weed, mud and wind

Saturday 14th November

We were anticipating a late start, as heavy rain was forecast; but it didn’t materialise, so after a while we set off up Astwood locks to turn round at the winding hole above the second lock.  It was quite chilly this morning, windy and dry, though rain was threatening.  The winding hole was narrow but also very overgrown and there was a lot of stuff under the water which Dave discovered when the wind blew him further over than he wanted to be.

1 turning in astwood winding hole

We will email CRT and hope they have time to clear it over winter.  We had toyed with the idea of going further and turning round at Stoke Wharf, where Black Prince has a hire base.  We decided against it as with all the hire boats in for the winter there may not have been enough room to turn.  As we came back down the lock, we were surprised to see a boat waiting below – like us, they were turning above the lock.  We carried on down to the bottom lock, which was full of floating debris.  So by the time we moored – just a hundred yards or so past the lock moorings, not far – we had picked up a considerable moustache, about 6” thick.  It floated off as we moored and you could see quite how much there was.

  3 moustache  4 moustache

Another boat passed us as we moored, saying they had seen no boats moving since leaving Birmingham – now they’d passed two in less than an hour!  The rain started and continued on and off as we had lunch and got on with some of the jobs on the list, but eased off mid-afternoon so we got togged up in our wet weathers and took Meg off to follow footpaths on a circular route.  We started at the bottom lock, where a footpath crosses the canal.  The lock must have had some repair work done in 2012.

5 in concrete slab at astwood bottom lock

‘Peace Convoy’ is a term that was used to describe New Age travellers (peace and love, man) who lived in old ambulances, buses etc and moved around the country in groups, causing trouble/being harassed by the police, depending on your point of view.  But I couldn’t find anything specific about a convoy passing this way in 2012, or at all.

Our walk took us towards Droitwich Spa marina along muddy tracks and through wet fields (what a surprise).  Some fields had been sown with winter cereals and others with some kind of brassica.  We thought it might be a fodder crop, used for strip grazing at some point in the winter.  However, there was an awful lot of it so it’s more likely to be overwintering oilseed rape.  If we see Nick, the farmer who owns the marina, before we leave we’ll ask him.  Meg did a lot of belting back and forth;

6 flying through forage brassica

The lights on the horizon are the floodlights at Droitwich Spa Rugby Club the far side of the marina.  You can see from the poor exposure that the light was already going at 4 o’clock.  By the time we got to Westfields Farm, just behind the marina, it was almost twilight.  We had just squished through the liquid mud in a gateway (they have cattle) and somewhere had missed the turning we wanted, so we ended up at Hanbury Junction.  We arrived back at Chuffed in the dark – at least we knew where we were going along the towpath!

Dave continued varnishing the porthole frames and I lit the fire.  During the evening the wind got up and we were buffeted and rocked back and forth till well after midnight – it kept me awake for quite a while.

4 locks (2 repeated), about a mile and a half distance.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The sun was warm on our backs ……. for a while

Friday 13th November; Dunhampstead to Astwood Locks 

It rained overnight and was pouring at daybreak so we took our tea back to bed.  By 9.30 the sun was out and after a quick loo at Nicholson’s we decided to go down past Oddingley before turning back.  But the clouds were looming and soon it was waterproofs on as the first sharp shower blasted in.  The rain wasn’t too heavy but the wind was very strong.  In between the showers the sun was out and there was a splendid rainbow over Dunhampstead.  Soon afterwards we saw a kingfisher too.

2 and a rainbow

Oddingley still has a signal box, though it is now occupied by a crossing keeper who operates the manual level crossing.  The box is scheduled for demolition as it will become redundant when the crossing is fitted with automated barriers.  This was supposed to have happened this summer but it is still there, with its keeper in attendance.  A quick search didn’t find out the latest news, but it appears a ‘suitable recipient’ for the signal box was being sought.  Anyway it’s still there at the moment.

3 oddingley signal box

We turned in the winding hole between Oddingley and Tibberton.  The wind made it hard to start with, then easy as it caught the front of the boat and pushed it in the right direction.  The showers had blown away by now and we could feel the sun warm on our backs as we retraced our steps route.  The wind was strong enough for us to look askance at the angle of these trees as we passed beneath them.

4 leaning in the wind

As we returned towards Dunhampstead we noticed the large amount of mistletoe in the trees.  Some was high up, such as behind the church;

5 oddingley church and mistletoe

and some low down in hedgerow trees such as this lot in a hawthorn.  At least I think it was a hawthorn – it was hard to tell.

6 mistletoe in the sun

It was getting on for lunchtime as we passed Hanbury Junction and we went on towards Astwood locks where we moored in a patch of sunlight a few hundred yards short of the bottom of the flight.  The weather deteriorated quite quickly and by mid-afternoon it was cold, grey and windy, with occasional showers.  We soon lit the fire and had a cosy evening.

I had an interesting comment today on a blog post from July, when we were moored at Moore on the Bridgewater canal.  I had gone for a run to have a look at the Manchester Ship canal and came across an interesting pair of gateposts with horse heads atop.  They looked a bit grand for what seemed to be a long drive to not a lot. 

from the Moore Community Activities Forum12 November 2015 at 05:43

Just thought you might like to know that the Horse heads in Moore are at the gates of what used to be a Royal Artillery Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery Camp during WW2. Former Prime Minister Ted Heath confirms in his memoirs that he was stationed at Moore Lane Camp during his time in the Armed Forces.


Five and a half miles, no locks, Dunhampstead tunnel.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Just a few days’ pottering

Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th November; Droitwich Spa marina to Dunhampstead

We're going to have a few days aboard before winterising.  We drove up to Droitwich Spa marina on Wednesday, leaving rainy Devon behind, and even saw a few gleams of sun before it got dark.  I left Dave in the engine hole and took Meg off to stretch her legs.  She is very good in the car when she knows we are coming up to the boat – if she has her bandana on and the back seat is packed in a certain way she just lies down and goes straight to sleep.  But she does need a good walk when we arrive!  At the top of Hanbury locks the indicator board showed that the Severn water level is in the yellow.

5 severn on amber

Our original plan was to do the Droitwich Ring, but there are stoppages on the locks coming up from Worcester.  We then wondered about going down to Worcester and mooring at the racecourse but having been a bit scared on the Avon a few years ago we don’t do rivers in the yellow.  The board says the Severn is going down but rain is forecast, so we’ll just potter about on the canal.

We stayed in the marina overnight.  After a trip into town for some shopping, and topping up the water tank, we started up Hanbury locks in the sunshine.  At the top lock I took a photo of the drained side pond.  There is a large hole in the ground by the bottom one but I didn’t have the camera at the time.

2 drained side pond hanbury 1

There is a warning notice on the bottom gate of the top lock.  My mental conversion program isn’t that accurate so I wasn’t sure whether it meant the lock was wider or narrower than normal. 

1 not seen this before hanbury 1

Google tells me it’s barely over 7 feet.  So yes, it’s a bit tight – in which case why not say so?  How many boaters will know straight away 2.14m is a bit narrow?

The electronic board was still showing the Severn in the yellow.  We made the tight turn to go south on the Worcester and Birmingham as the sun disappeared and thick cloud came over.  I took the photo of the bridge at the end of the Droitwich Junction canal as we were about to go under the bridge by the Eagle and Sun.

4 tight turn hanbury junction

We moored a couple of miles on at Dunhampstead visitor moorings, which are now a designated winter mooring spot.  I found out when researching stoppages that only 50% of a VM can be thus used, and anyone can moor if there is space.  No problem today - just one boat there, and two more on the permanent moorings at the far end.  We saw no moving boats, though the one moored yesterday near the junction had gone on his way to Stoke Works.

It became very windy during the afternoon and evening.  Glad we are tucked up nice and warm.

2 and a half miles, 3 locks

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Droitwich Spa and home

Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th October; Stoke Pound to Droitwich Spa Marina, and home

We didn’t get up early on Wednesday, and Dave decided to wash the port side of the boat before we left, but even so at a quarter to ten we were still the first away from the moorings. The sun was warm and there was less wind than yesterday as we started down Stoke locks. I have never noticed this windmill before; it’s across the fields to the west of the top lock. 

1 view from top stoke lock I discovered that it is a 19th century post mill and is part of the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings. The museum has over 30 buildings ranging from a mediaeval town house to an Anderson air-raid shelter, a privy, threshing barn, forge and a pre-fab.  (For the non-UK or younger reader; prefabs, as the prefabricated houses are known, were put up after the war to house the huge numbers of returning ex-servicemen and people who had been bombed out.  It was supposed to be a short-term solution for 10 or 15 years, but I remember a school-friend having moved from one in the 1960s). The museum’s priority is to retain the buildings in their original position, and I don’t know where the other ones are located, but the windmill at least is only about 10 minutes walk from the Queen's Head at Stoke Pound.  It’s in an odd position for a windmill though, as it’s nowhere near the top of the hill at Tardebigge, even if the trees weren’t there when it was in full operation.

Dave wondered the other day where the thousands of bricks in tunnels and locks were made. Today I noticed quite how many bricks are stamped with the maker’s name and there were three different ones used just on Stoke and Astwood locks where you might have thought they would all have come from the same place.  As well as these two was the one for the Earl of Dudley’s brickworks I saw yesterday.

2 joseph hamblet brick  5 fw bennett brick

We emptied a cassette at Stoke Wharf while the boat was in the lock, as there were no boats waiting below.  Then we stopped on the visitor moorings at Stoke Works as we were running out of milk.  I got the bike out and whizzed pedalled up to the friendly little stores on Ryebank Lane just over half a mile away.  There is a butcher next door to it.  The sun was glorious most of the day and with the autumn colours beginning to show, Astwood locks were very attractive.

6 autumn colour astwood locks

The blackberries are still fruiting well even though it’s the middle of October. At the bottom Astwood lock they looked so good I tasted one and it was sweet enough for me to grab a container and pick some.

7 blackberries astwood locks

We had lunch in the sunshine below the locks and eventually both our mooring companions from last night came by. We waited a while before leaving as they were going down onto the Droitwich canals where we are headed. By the time we rounded Hanbury Junction, they had gone and the volunteer lockies were waiting for us.  An electronic information board has been installed as a trial at the top lock.  It shows the river conditions on the Salwarpe, which joins the canal nearer to Droitwich, and the Severn at Bevere Lock.   (Water level boards are seen below locks on rivers or where the canal becomes, or is influenced by, a river navigation.  If the water level is in the green, the river conditions are safe for navigation, but if it is up to the red you’d be very unwise to proceed.  Your insurance would probably be invalid too if you came to grief).  As you can see the Salwarpe and Severn are both in the green here.  I thought the culvert which takes the canal under the M5 was affected by the level of the Salwarpe, but on investigation it appears not.

8 new water level indicator hanbury top lock

You can see that the middle two sets of lights – in the amber ‘Proceed with caution’ section - will show whether the water is rising or falling.  The boards below locks can’t tell you this – only how close the water level is to the red. 

Normally at Hanbury Locks you use the side ponds to save water, but they are all out of use at the moment. There is a large hole in the bottom one which is awaiting repair. Here is the lovely volunteer who has been here for years.

9 lovely volockie top lock

We were soon moored up and Chuffed will be here for the winter, though we may go out again before we winterise.  It depends on the weather – if it’s very wet and windy we will wimp out and stay at home.  One of Dave’s jobs for the winter will be fitting new mats to the stern deck to match the well deck which looks very smart or at least it will when he has filled in a couple of missing bits by the edge. He is using Versatile interlocking non-slip tiles from Industrial Plastic Supplies Ltd, which was a lot cheaper than a chandlery – the black tiles were about half the price. 

Anyway the afternoon was warm and dry enough for Dave to do some painting on the gas locker lid at the bow.  I swept the leaves from the roof and gave it a scrub to remove Dave’s footprints (the disadvantage of our work sharing at locks) and the bird poo.  No matter if you moor away from trees, the blighters still get you.  We had intended to wash the starboard side of the boat too, but someone else has moored on our allocated pontoon and we are next to them.  So as we reversed in to make unloading easier the pontoon is on the port side so it’ll have to wait.  We’ll cope.

15 locks, about 4 miles

On Thursday Dave set off early towards Droitwich Spa station to go and fetch the car from Swanley marina.  I took Meg for a decent walk as she will be stuck in the car this afternoon.  If you follow the towpath to the Hanbury locks you are walking beside a busy road and there are gaps in the hedge so dogs need to be on the lead.  So some lazy and thoughtless idiot must have stood here and watched their dog perform under this sign and failed to pick up after it ……


I am afraid I didn’t pick up the pile of poo either – it was already breaking down and collapsing sideways (too much info, sorry).  Anyway, I took Meg back towards Droitwich via Gateway Park where there is an interesting take on displaying information boards.

2 structure at gateway park

Dave had a tedious journey back from Swanley, getting caught in traffic at the roadworks where the M5 leaves the M6 – but he did manage to spot the Wolverhampton Level where it passes under the motorway! 

Stats for this trip (copied from Canalplanner);

89 miles, 3½ furlongs and 121 narrow locks.

7 tunnels; Cowley (81 yards), Wolverhampton (109 yards), Summit (103 yards), Edgbaston (105 yards), Wast Hill (2726 yards), Shortwood (614 yards) and Tardebigge (580 yards).

Canals travelled; Llangollen (little bit); Shropshire Union (part); Staffs and Worcester(little bit);  BCN (parts of the Main Line, Old Main Line (Wolverhampton Level), Wyrley and Essington, and all the Walsall canal except the Town Arm); Worcester and Birmingham (part); Droitwich Junction canal (part).

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Tunnels and locks and a wet dog

Tuesday 13th October; Alvechurch to Stoke Pound

We were away by 9 in bright sunshine before plunging into Shortwood Tunnel (wet) and then Tardebigge (dry). We stopped at the facilities block to empty a cassette and dump rubbish. The bins had just been emptied and I inadvertently put the rubbish into the recycling bin, which was sideways on and it was just by chance I spotted the writing on the side. Why are the rubbish and recycling bins all red and why isn’t the recycling one separated from the general waste bins?  I’ve stopped using the red recycling bins as so many people don’t realise/don’t care about the recycling and just sling their rubbish in.  Anyway I got the boathook and fished it out to put it in the right bin. We started down the 30-lock Tardebigge flight just after 10. One day I must visit Tardebigge Church which has a beautiful and unusual spire.

1 tardebigge tower

In spite of the lovely sunshine there was a biting wind and all the walkers were well wrapped up. The Tardebigge Engine House looked as though it was being renovated last time we were here. It used to be the Tyler’s Lock pub, and is now luxury apartments after an application for change of use to offices was refused. Strictly Private now, with notices to that effect.

2 ex pumping station

There were lots of dogs taking their owners for walks. Near the reservoir Meg started to play with a larger dog before deciding it was too scary, but in taking evasive action she tipped herself into the canal!  Luckily she is quite light and I could easily pull her out though I got pretty wet when she shook herself. This is the innocent cause of her downfall with its apologetic owner behind.

3 near tardebigge reservoir

The other day as we were going through Wast Hills tunnel, Dave wondered how many bricks had been used and where they had been made.  Today I spotted this stamped into a brick in one of the lock surrounds.

4 earl of dudleys brick

At about the halfway point of the flight is a damson tree. Ripe fruit was still on it but too high to reach. One of the locks near the bottom of the flight has a footpath crossing it, but I don’t remember the footbridge last time we came this way. It is a sort of cantilever arrangement and there is a small drop to the bank on the towpath side.

6 footbridge lock 31

We got into a splendid rhythm as we worked down. Apart from the top lock, I had to turn every single one, but luckily it is easy to see if there is a boat on its way up (or not, today).  I would leave Dave coming into the lock I had just opened while I walked back to close up the previous one. As he worked down his lock, I went on to the next but one, where I raised a top paddle before coming back to open the gate of the one below Dave’s lock, then as he brought Chuffed towards that one I walked  back to close up the lock he’d just left ….. It worked beautifully and we were down in 3 hours 40 minutes.  I did a lot of walking though – the flight is about a mile and a half long.  The work was made a little easier by the pawl catches on the ground paddles – they are the pivoted sort that can be released by a little movement of the windlass when you start to wind down, so you don’t have to hold them out of the way.  When you are operating 30 of them (not 60 – I only raised the paddles on the towpath side) this makes a considerable saving of effort!

8 pinging release pawl catch

I had been hoping to give my shorts a last glimpse of the sun today; but although I got hot working the locks and walking downhill, every time I turned round to go back uphill I was going straight into the freezing wind.  We were relieved that there was plenty of space to moor at the bottom of the flight.

9 phew moored at stoke pound

The moorings seem to have been improved since we were here last.  My legs were tired – I must have walked the flight three times in all – so I lazed about inside this afternoon (apart from going over to book a table at the pub) while Dave stayed out in the cold doing more paint touch-up work. The only two boats we saw on the move today came down later in the afternoon and moored in front of us – one a hire boat from Worcester which had only gone up to Alvechurch the day before.  Gluttons for punishment!

At 7 we walked over to the lovely warm pub and had a pleasant meal. How on earth did I miss the sign saying 25% off everything between 5 and 7 o’clock when I went in to book?   Then I did a double-take when I went into the ladies – these two lovely chaps were standing there grinning at me…. 

10 surprise in loo 1

They are of course photos reflected in the mirror!  Almost life-size and pasted to the cubicle doors (looking out, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable if they were looking in ….).  I think they are Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Rather nice to look at but a bit of a surprise to start with!

11 surprise in loo 2

30 locks, 5 miles, Shortwood tunnel (613 yards, wet) and Tardebigge tunnel (580 yards).

Monday, 26 October 2015

Gearing up for Tardebigge

Sunday 11th and Monday 12th October; Birmingham to Alvechurch

The sun was out but blimey was it chilly!  First we went down to Cambrian Wharf where we winded and tied up at the facilities block for filling and emptying. Tom (nb Waiouru) came over for a chat and I popped over to say hello to Jan and a quick ‘Hi’ to Les and Jaq (nb Valerie).  Here they are at Cambrian Wharf.

1 valerie and waiouru

AS we joined the Worcester and Birmingham, the sun was shining straight at the Barclaycard Arena, picking out its colours. In spite of the hordes swarming around last night, there wasn’t a scrap of litter to be seen, so full marks to whoever organises/pays for the street cleaners.  (The tiller wasn’t really unattended, Dave was checking his watch).  The Water Bus has snuck up behind us.

2 goodbye arena

The towpath was busy with runners, cyclists and walkers enjoying the patches of sunshine – the trees on the offside were casting shade over us all and it was cold enough for hats and gloves if you weren’t generating enough heat by running.  Past the university, we reached the aqueduct over the A38 Bypass, which opened in 2011.  The canal had to be diverted while the road was being built.  In about 2009 or 2010 we went over on our share boat.  As we approached it looked as though the canal was blocked by a black wall of tyres; but there was a sharp bend into a temporary channel, the sides all protected by rows of tyres. At the far end there was another bend back onto the canal, and beneath was a wide dusty chasm with massive earth-moving machinery.  This is what the view looks like today.

6 aqueduct over a38 bypass7 a38 bypass

To my everlasting regret we took no photos (probably didn’t have a digital camera) – this link to an aerial shot showing the diversion is the best I can find.  The canal runs diagonally from the top right to the bottom middle of the picture, and the diversion goes to the left of the trough – either the disconnected old or the unconnected new one, I can’t tell. 

We needed to stop at Selly Oak for shopping, but the bollards were occupied by two boats which looked as though they had been there for a while, with a group of fishermen just the other side of them. We managed to tie up to the railings further down – not the best spot! I went off to Sainsbury’s without Dave – we felt someone really ought to stay with the boat.  Here is the view from the towpath …

8 dodgy mooring at selly oak

and the side hatch.

  9 dodgy mooring at selly oakWhen I got back Dave strode off to Halfords for some bits and pieces, and a new TV aerial connector from Curry’s as ours had got damaged.  After we left, we spotted some Armco piling down by the next bridge, though we didn’t test the water depth for mooring. It was a bit warmer out of the shade of the trees as we passed Cadbury’s and then King’s Norton junction,

10 kings norton junction

but the trees crowded in again on the approach to Wast Hills tunnel. The tunnel was cold, draughty and wet.  We were through in 31 minutes.  We soon pulled in at Hopwood visitor moorings and I lit the fire while Dave had a fun time down the weed hatch, removing the detritus from Birmingham – mostly torn bits of plastic, tape and fishing line.

On the Monday we went for a walk in the sunshine to the Upper Bittell reservoir, which feeds the canal, and through fields with fabulous views back to the towpath near the tunnel portal.  Disappointingly you are only by the reservoir for a short time, but there was not a lot to see on it.

1 upper bittell reservoir

On our way again with a cup of coffee, and once under the busy and noisy M42 we passed the non-navigable Crown Meadow arm.  There is a large sign saying ‘No Boats’ to each side.  Someone clearly trims the greenery to keep them visible but I think it’s pretty obvious ….

2 no boats down crown meadow arm

Most of the Alvechurch hire boats seemed to be back at base.  We carried on past the visitor moorings to a little way past the aqueduct, on the last decent spot before the Tardebigge tunnel.   Sunny, quiet, pretty and with a good edge.  I did various bits of cleaning before taking Meg for a run as far as the main road which crosses the Tardebigge tunnel.  In the woods and field edges were dozens of pheasants, which Meg did a good job of dispersing, maybe giving them a better chance of avoiding the guns?  We nearly had pheasant for tea though – she snapped at one as it took flight and just missed its tail feathers.  Meanwhile Dave carried on with the outside painting jobs while the sun still shone.

Over the two days we travelled about 13 miles and traversed Wast Hills tunnels (2726 yds).