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In John's latest installment, he describes his journey into Brum with a cohort of Trust staff and contractors.
Tunnels vary, as we know, but it is difficult to think of two close by which vary as much as Gosty Hill on the Dudley No 2 and Netherton. Gosty Hill is narrow (one way working) and short and the roof height varies a lot; no towpath.
Netherton is wide and long and high and has a towpath each side. I went through both last Monday when taking HELEN out from Hawne Basin. Another oddity was that usually I don't see another boat but this time we followed a boat through Gosty Hill and met as many as three boats coming the other way in Netherton. See photo right for scenes on the Dudley No 2.
I had with me Ian Lane, the West Midlands waterways manager, and Terry Hodgetts, supervisor of the bank staff dealing with the Dudley, Stourbridge, and Staffs & Worcs Canals. Terry left us after Netherton. Ian then steered all the way into Birmingham before doing all the 13 locks on the Farmers Bridge flight.
He wanted to see for himself the ease (or not) of working the locks. I find this flight one of contrasts. See photo above right of the top of the flight and of Lock 10, right, hidden under a bridge.
Ian left me at the top of Aston Locks, so I worked down this flight of 11 by myself - helped by boats coming up and by a young lad on the towpath. See photo of "the thick" of the flight. I tied for the night at Cuckoo Wharf.
Up early on Tuesday, I photographed the richness of the early sun on the buildings opposite the Wharf (main photo). I was joined by Mark Weatherall, one of the Trust's dredging managers, and Gary Cunningham of Land & Water, who do the actual dredging.
Gary is in charge of the current dredging along the length of the Staffs& Worcs and Mark is presently overseeing dredging on the Trent & Mersey near Barton Turns and has been dredging after the winter floods on the Rochdale and Calder & Hebble. They joined me as they are planning dredging along the Birmingham & Fazeley and wanted , by coming on HELEN , to see for themselves how the experience compared with the information they had garnered from the Trust's electronic surveys and comments from other users, including at consultation meetings.
I'm pleased that dredging planning now includes user consultation. As you probably know, the Trust's annual dredging spend is about £7million, up from the c.£4million in the last days of BW.
Mark and Gary left me at Fazeley - where I photographed this family of swans (right). I turned right onto the Coventry and tied for the night at the bottom of the Atherstone Flight.
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!