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).

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Interesting day but disappointing evening

Saturday 10th October; Birmingham

Dave gave Meg a good long walk this morning while I planned a walk for us round Birmingham, and off we went after an early lunch. First we ventured into the depths of the Mailbox, having only checked out the restaurants on the outside before. There is a lot of building work being done inside, with hoardings up all over the place and we were quite disoriented by the time we got out. The BBC tour today was full when I tried to book yesterday, which was a shame – I would have loved to see the Archers’ studio!

We found our way out eventually and headed off to find the redeveloped New Street Station and the ex-Pallisades shopping centre, now called Grand Central. Big shops are not our thing – as a rule I find retail ‘therapy’ tedious and frustrating – so we just gawped at the amazing reflective roof above the station entrance.  Dave will be here next week, down in the bowels of the station, when he travels back to Swanley to collect the car.  Most of the area in front of the station seems to be complete …..

2 new st station

but the barrier at the bottom of this shot masks an area which is still being worked on.

4 new st station

I took this photo directly underneath the curve of the reflective bit but I don’t think I am in shot.

5 new st station

We walked on past the Bullring. We last came here with the children about 15 years ago when we had a hire boat, and the Rotunda was an isolated concrete ugly thing surrounded by concrete and roads. It’s still not beautiful but the area around is more pedestrianised and heaving with shops and shoppers. Well, I suppose it was Saturday afternoon. If it had been less busy we would have gone to explore the market but couldn’t bear the thought of the crowds.

bull at bullring

Now for our next target, St Philip’s Cathedral, to see the four stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones. Well I’m sure they are magnificent – the little bits we could see were glowing with colour even though there was no sun outside – but the whole of the interior, apart from just enough space for worship, was pretty much obscured by scaffolding and sheeting. The work should all be finished by Christmas, but we’ll have to wait till next year before we can come back.  The cathedral was built in 1715, in the English Baroque style. So it’s the 300th anniversary this year. To the left of the gate where I took this picture was an engraved stone.  It was difficult to read, but I think it said it was the entrance to a family vault.  It was only a foot or so in each direction, so I don’t know how you would get new occupants in.

st philips cathedral

Our next destination was the little art gallery run by the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists which has free exhibitions. The top floor was given over to an exhibition by Colin Simmonds, who we had never heard of. We looked around, liking some of his pictures and not others.  I don’t think we said anything too disparaging about them, which was lucky because there he was, chatting to the visitors. When he realised we were on a boat he said he was interested in painting the canals so we gave him a few suggestions for hiring and promised to look out for him!

To get back to Chuffed we walked down to the Birmingham and Fazeley canal past St Paul’s Church and climbed over a wall at about lock 7, just before the canal disappears under the buildings.  Although we crossed the canal near here on our way to the gallery, it was completely invisible from the road.  I stopped briefly at Cambrian Wharf to say hello to Tom and Jan on Waiouru while Dave went back to take Meg out before we went out for the evening.

The play we had fancied at the Rep was sold out and we didn’t want to hang about waiting for returns, so we looked up the films at the Mailbox – the only showing with seats available would have been £12.30 a ticket! That’s a shocking price for us country bumpkins!  And no crumbly discount either. So off we crumbled to Strada, which was heaving with young girls and their parents.  There was a One Direction concert on at the Arena and the girls were all having their tea.  They were soon gone, off to spend their parents’ money on the street sellers’ tat, then going in to squeal at their idols leaving Mum and Dad to go and have a quiet meal elsewhere. For those in blissful ignorance of teen pop, One Direction is a popular beat combo boy band but you’ll have to find the link for yourself ’cos I can’t be bothered.   In the relative peace, we had a very so-so meal and wished we’d gone for a curry.

We called in to the Fiddle and Bone on the way back, but the band was not very good so we left after a pint. We will be on our way tomorrow.  We didn’t see anything specifying the maximum length of stay on this mooring, but our neighbour looked to have been there for a few days.  The stretch opposite was 7 or 14 day, can’t remember which.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

New Batteries and a Bang on the Ear

Friday 9th October; Smethwick Pumping Station – Birmingham

We left our deceptively rural mooring before 9.  There are industrial units away to the right above and behind the trees, and a busy road and railway the far side of the Main Line which is below and to the left. 

1 last nights m near smethwick

The Pumping Station heritage centre stood in bright sunshine.  It only seems to be open occasionally, and still had the bunting out from the last time.

  3 smethwick pumping station

Is this little moorhen the last baby of the season?  It was peep-peeping around near the locks, pretty much ignored by its parents. I hope it will be old enough to look after itself before the cold weather kicks in.

4 a late baby

While we waited for the top lock to fill, we could hear what sounded like a lock paddle being raised further down.  But no such luck – it was a pneumatic drill or something similar breaking up concrete, but we couldn’t really  see what they were up to.  Just the sad sight of the ‘New Navigation’ ….. I wonder if it’s due for demolition or restoration?

6 new no longer

We joined the Main Line, heading straight into the sun, and eventually arrived at Sherborne Wharf boatyard, which is now on the Main Line rather than tucked away round the Oozell’s Street Loop. We re-fuelled round there last time we were here and this is somewhat easier to access!  The trip boat seems to have a reserved mooring and there is also a Water Bus stop.  I can’t remember what public mooring there was along here before and don’t know whether any was lost.  Luckily the batteries were in stock and they let us stay on the service mooring to do the work, as there were no spaces nearby.  I just drank coffee and kept a look-out for anyone who might have needed to breast up to use the facilities.  The milk was still fresh, the wet newspaper having done a good job of keeping it cold.

7 out come those batteries

Meg was shut inside much to her disgust. She kept an eye on proceedings though –

9 dogs eye view

but couldn’t see much!

10 what meg could see

By midday Dave had finished – with just a short delay while he tracked down one of the isolation switches which had disappeared beneath the engine.  We pulled back onto a mooring to swap places with the boat behind us, which needed a pump-out before they left for the Black Country Museum – they had been perfectly happy to wait though we had offered to move.  As a reward for Dave’s labours I awarded him (and me of course) lunch in the Fiddle and Bone, which is dog-friendly downstairs. Sherborne Wharf office is under the arches in the Roundhouse, behind the gaily painted tables and chairs.

12 lunch at fiddle and bone

Now we had enough battery power to operate the fridge, it was time for a trip to the Springhill Tesco, half a mile away across the grassy area behind the Arena. I left Meg enjoying the space to run around in while Dave chucked the ball for her.

In the evening we strolled down to the Mailbox and back, watching the Friday evening crowds, the girls spindling along on their teetery heels, the boys larking about around the ‘fall-y over-y things’ – the bollards!  We had delicious burgers from a wide choice in the Handmade Burger Company, then went back to the Fiddle and Bone for the gig by the Celtic rock band ‘Bang on the Ear’. Excellent band, good crowd, pints of Doom Bar, late to bed.

13 excellent bang on the ear

And I finally realised that the ‘Bone’ part of the pub name is a Trombone!

3 locks, 3 miles

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Walsall canal and two dead fridges

Thursday 8th October; Roughwood Country Park to Summit Tunnel, Wolverhampton Level

What a beautiful morning after yesterday’s greyness and cold! We left about 9.30.  The canal looks peaceful and very rural, but the M6 was roaring away to our left.

1 peaceful sight but m6 noisy

After ten minutes enjoying the sunshine there was a sudden bang and the engine stopped. B***er, we thought – reeds both sides of the canal and no chance of mooring to get down the weed hatch. We drifted on a bit, then Dave cautiously tried reverse – whatever it was had luckily dropped or got thrown off and we continued cautiously to our first planned stop at Sneyd Junction sanitary station for filling and emptying. There is a little community of permanent moorers here, with electric hook-ups. It’s also supposed to be a safe mooring for visitors – it’s on the list compiled by the BCN Society – but we were at a loss to see where you would moor.  Apart from the sanitary station mooring, the non-residential spaces were taken up by a weed-cutter or marked as ‘work-boats only’.

2 sneyd - where do you moor

And the M6 was roaring away behind the trees. Much quieter where we were last night! As we moved on, the edges of the canal remained very weedy although the depth was generally good. There was a lot of floating debris – not rubbish particularly, but lots of bits of tree such as this which got caught round the bow and was long enough for Dave to spot from the stern.

3 caught round bow

At Birchills Junction the Curly Wyrley continues eastwards, but we started down the Walsall Locks on the Walsall Canal. Half way down, to our astonishment – and theirs too – we met a boat coming up. It was the only one we saw on the move all day.  Both crew were shedding layers like mad as the weather had almost reverted to summer.  The locks are quite attractive, though there was a fair bit of broken glass around so Meg had to stay on board.

5 walsall flight

We decided not to go up the Walsall Town Arm. The crew of the other boat told me the pontoons are covered in goose and duck sh*t so they had to use the pub mooring. But our batteries seem to be on the way out; when we stopped yesterday they were only showing half full even though the fridge had been off. So we wanted to push on to Birmingham. We lunched on the move, as time was getting on and the only mooring spot we saw had a scaffold pole sticking out of the water.  We passed under the M6 for the second time this morning; this is the long crawl to the M5, courtesy of long-term road works.  Dave will be crawling along with them at boating speed in a week or so when he fetches the car from Swanley.

6 queue for m5

The canal edges continued to be weedy. You’d have to be careful turning in this winding hole ….

7 weedy winding hole

Meg had her comfort break between bridges, and as we got back on the boat a kingfisher shot past through the bridgehole.  After a long built-up and industrial stretch, with a herd of cherry-pickers peering over a fence, it became more rural again, with the occasional horse tethered out to grass.

8 peeping over the wall 9 grazing horse nr darlaston

We had considered mooring overnight at Ocker Hill, which is a safe mooring – but it was flanked by what looked like an electricity sub-station and near a busy road.  We didn’t fancy it at all and thought if we couldn’t find a suitable towpath spot we’d try our luck in Birmingham centre. We went up the Ryders Green locks, which were all in our favour, and at Pudding Green Junction we joined the Main Line. This pic was taken looking back towards Walsall.

13 pudding green junction

As it was already well after 4, we were a bit concerned about finding a decent mooring in Birmingham itself, so we decided to go up the Spon Lane locks, as we’d remembered a reasonable spot the other side of the Summit Tunnel on the Wolverhampton Level.  As I opened the paddles to empty the first lock, a mighty stink of stagnant ponds rose up!  I don’t think these locks are used very often!  The top of the three has a little split bridge, like the ones on the Stratford. The split is to enable the tow-rope to pass through the bridge without the horse having to be unhitched.

14 spon lane top lock

It’s an incongruous sight sitting there under the M5! At the top of the locks  we joined the Wolverhampton Level as it comes in from the right (it would be a bit of a shuffle if you wanted to turn right here to go towards the Black Country museum – the angle is well under 90 degrees). It has just crossed the Main Line on the Stewart Aqueduct and swings round to pass underneath the towering M5.  You can just see the signpost sticking out to the left of the pillar.  Some wag – either someone very tall or more likely sitting on someone else’s shoulders - has twisted the arms round so they are pointing down the wrong bits of canal.

15 spon lane top lock

As you leave the M5 behind, the Summit Tunnel comes into view. The railway bridge comes first – in the low sunlight, the arches and the shadows were striking.

17 summit tunnel

We moored a couple of hundred yards before the Smethwick Pumping Station Heritage Centre, which has rings outside but is much too close to a noisy and busy road to be safe for the dog.  

Along one stretch today we saw a fridge bobbing about, and later on we counted eight shopping trolleys sticking out of the water.  We will report them tomorrow. The second defunct fridge  of the title is ours – or rather it’s just turned off so we are sure of having enough power for essentials like the water pump.  Wet newspaper is doing a splendid job of keeping the milk fresh!

19 locks, about 11 and a half miles