Catch up with the latest from John Dodwell, our boating Trustee.
Friday: I left the Star City offside pontoon moorings (shared overnight with two other boats) and headed for the Tame Valley Canal and the 13 Perry Barr locks (all against me) and then up the 9 Rushall locks, mooring at the top by the Longwood Boat Club for the night. One of the intriguing aspects of these two canals is that as they were not built until the 1840s, they represent the state of the art of canal building at the time - e.g. different paddle holes and gear.
How the surrounding areas have changed! I was struck by the absence of industry and greenery has taken over at Garrison locks (Thursday) and these two flights. I saw dragonflies and the ubiquitous herons. The golden rod was coming out and there were more blackberries for picking. The towpaths were well cut - and to the water's edge. I talked to a young angler near the top of Perry Barr locks who was fishing for perch and even pike. Ironic that later on I had a keep net around the propeller!
Saturday: No locks today! I was now on the c. 50 mile pound which stretches all the way via Wolverhampton to Smethwick. That's why in the coal carrying days (my tug Helen used to pull the coal boats) they used boats up to 85 feet long and up to 8ft 6n wide as they never went through locks. You can see one or two preserved ones at the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley.
I headed for the terminus of Anglesey Basin where the coal boats were loaded. Apart from Aldridge, I was impressed by how rural it all was. Just before Aldridge I saw where recent dredgings had been put behind new neophrene sheeting bank protection. 'Putting the mud back in the field it came from' is what I call it. After Anglesey, I headed back for Catshill Junction at Brownshill (where the canoe club was active) and through the countryside to Pelsall. Here, I turned up the Cannock Extension Canal - worth it for the two boatyards at the end. Then back to Pelsall, I turned right through more countryside heading for Walsall and tieing for the night at The Sneyd. I got delayed by having to get wire and tangled grot off the propeller - but then Helen does draw 3 ft.
Sunday: On Sunday I went into Wolverhampton. I met the Trust's chief executive Richard Parry at the top of the 21 locks and we worked down the flight together, helped by a succession of boats coming up. Richard wanted to experience for himself working the Flight. Lock 20 only had one top paddle working as the paddle post had collapsed on the other one (the same as at the bottom lock at Lapworth); I must remember to report this and ask when the new posts will be in place.
Richard did the lock wheeling and we worked the locks together with my shutting the far bottom gate with my boat shaft. We both enjoyed listening to the English Test cricket team comprehensively beating the Indians! I left Helen with Orph Mable at Oxley Moor Marine for about three weeks and went to get the train back to London - as engineering works (do railway people call them stoppages?) meant Euston was closed, it took 4 hours via Oxford and Reading!
John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.
John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!See more blogs from John Dodwell