Thursday, 26 April 2012

Easter Trip (part one)

We were pondering over our Easter trip being constrained by the imminent arrival of our daughter Terri from her work in Germany and her plans for the holiday and the restrictions placed on the waterways by the lack of water. We settled on a trip to the Black Country and the Black Country Museum. We were last there with Pickles number one sixteen years ago. I've got to say that I was looking forward to going through Brum, Lisa possibly less so.

Farmers up to Brum
I was pouring over the maps and had planned the itinerary, the car shuffles and parking locations, the hospital appointments, Coventry Beer Festival, the museum visit, Terri's visits (possibly with friend), train timings there and return and all manner of possible combinations of events.

The best laid plans never survive first contact so I was not expecting great success from all this.
Farmers flight
Alvecote, where we left the car, to Birmingham took several days and a stopover at Curdworth. Other than the snow on the second day and the fuel filter failure on the same day, it was a trouble free journey to central Birmingham where we moored outside the side of the Sealife Centre.
Isn't industrial architecture fascinating (well I think so)
Terri and her friend, Tressa (both actors) joined us at Birmingham for the journey from Brum to Dudley and the outlaws joined us for the day at the museum.
A couple of actors being arrested for, well, being actors
On the journey through the BCN, we used the Old Line which was really very pleasant with only one stop to remove plastic bags. The further we got from central Birmingham, the clearer the water got and by the time we got to Dudley it was as clear as a goldfish bowl, minus the goldfish (but goldfish will make an appearance in part 2), the plastic bridge and pretend seaweed. The museum was very good and well worth a day out.

The return trip involved the new line which was faster but very boring as the whole thing is dead straight and very wide. Good, if time is money but not necessarily for leisure boating (no plastic bags thought). Not a single stone throwing yuff was encountered during the whole trip although I can't imagine why I would be expecting any. In fact, we hardly saw anyone.

On the return trip we decided to try Soho, Icknield Port and Oozels Street loops (use 'em or lose 'em). Soho was a breeze and very pleasant although Lisa had just put on the washing machine so engine revs had to be increased to 1100 and it was done at a bit of a lick. 

Icknield Port Loop proved a bit of a nightmare as this is where BW and other contractors leave their dumb barges to sink, rot and where they are abandoned and parked for free. About a third of the way round we found that several had parted from their moorings and had blocked the canal.

The loop has no tow path and my crew of one (as we were rid of the others) were unwilling to clamber over rusting hulks to place them in some sort of order and tie them up by what remained of their blue plastic string. It would have been a messy, dangerous job and I wouldn't have fancied it myself but I can't imagine why Lisa wasn't interested, so (on health and safety grounds) we reluctantly cut our losses and reversed back out of the loop. It was rather shallow and I was churning up mud but eventually we backed out onto the main line again. I think I'll email BW about this as this should really be clear for through traffic even though there's really nothing on the loop (but that's not the point is it).

More actors
Oozells was simple and the difference between the existing, quite scruffy and full of character, Sherbourn Wharf buildings (that haven't changed since our last visit sixteen years ago) and the new, posh accommodation blocks (gated communities) and modern pedestrian bridges was very stark. Our previous mooring outside the side of the Sealife Centre had been taken but there was space for us at Cambrian Wharf.

I would love to have tried the Engine Branch and the Titford Canal but we left those for another day. I couldn't work out if there was a winding 'ole at the end of the Engine branch and we didn't have time for the Titford locks and again couldn'd work out if I could wind at Titford Pools.

From what we saw of the BCN we were very impressed with its general navigability. With the exception of the rubbish in the water on the Farmers flight (normal) we had few problems. It's a little different from the Oxford and Stratford canals we had completed on previous years but fascinating in its own way.

Part 2 later


Adam said...

The BCN really is very under-rated. Last September when we decided to use the Tame Valley Canal rather than the more direct route down the Farmer's Bridge and Aston locks (as we've done that several times), people looked at us as though we were mad. In fact, it's a great trip with a lot of interest, and of course there's never another moving boat to be seen.

By the way, any chance of replacing the Debdale blog with the Briar Rose one on your blog roll, as the Debdale one is no longer updated?

Pete said...

Thanks for the reminder Adam. All done.

We really enjoyed the BCN and want to explore a different route next time. The Tame Valley Canal sounds like a goer. I think I'll do some reading up.

And it's all on the doorstep.

Albert @ said...

Great pictures! I really love the third pic! It's so cute.

Pete said...

The third picture is a photo of a tunnel. Maybe a cute tunnel (in the mind of weirdo) but a tunnel nevertheless.

Personally I've never seen tunnels in this way but everyone to their own.