Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Going West: Day 15

The day started with an early morning visit to Sainsbury's just down the embankment from our mooring, as Adrian needed milk for his cereal. I was on the doorstep waiting for it to open. We set off in drizzle at around 8.45, through the Waterfront development.

We soon came to Blowers Green Lock, which is a deep one at 12ft. Above is Park Head Junction -- where the Dudley No1 and the Dudley No2 canals meet. Straight ahead, three more locks take you up to the entrance to the Dudley Tunnel, which only unpowered craft can use. We turned sharp right -- very sharp, it's really doubling back on yourself, onto the Dudley No2.

I was surprised by the number of boats we passed, particularly hire boats. We'd crossed with one at the lock, and saw a few more before reaching Windmill End. The canal takes a long arc round Netherton Hill to get there. At windmill end, the final remnants remained of the weekend's Black Country Boating festival. We passed AreAndAre, but there was no sign of Barry and Sandra; by the time we came back, they'd gone. Windmill End has some great names, like the Bumble Hole Arm and the Boshboil Arm, and there's the Cobb's Engine House up on the hill, with its tall chimney. At the junction, we turned right, which is actually remaining on the Dudley No2 canal.

All along this canal are rather attractive metal information boards, some just giving miles (shaped like the Cobb's engine house at Windmill End), others fascinating facts, like the one about elephants from a circus frolicking in the canal in the 1900s. I particularly liked the toll man writing graffiti on his own office at the narrows at Rowley Stop.

The highlight of the route we were on is undoubtedly the Gosty Hill Tunnel. It's wide enough for just one boat; apparently the old boat men used to disappear into their cabins and let the boat take itself through.

The headroom starts reasonably enough, but the roof then drops dramatically. Then it lowers again, before opening up again. The far end is another low bit. Whenever we go through tunnels I think of Grace and Matthew (my second cousins once removed), who've come through Blisworth and Braunston tunnels with us; I've a feeling they'd had enjoyed this one!

At the far end, it was chucking it down with rain. The canal opens out, but with big brick walls, which were the site of the Stewarts and Lloyds tube works.

Our destination was the current terminus of the line, Hawne Basin. There's a right turn under a tiny bridge to get in, but the basin itself is home to a lot of boats. They also sell diesel at excellent prices -- at the moment it's 49p per litre, domestic.

Having filled up with diesel and water, and bought an 'I survived the Gosty Hill Tunnel' brass plaque we set off back again, having lunch along the way. We really enjoyed the trip down to Hawne Basin, and it seems a very friendly boating community there. Turning right at the junction, we were immediately into the Netherton Tunnel, which could hardly be more different. At more than 3000 yards, it's six times longer than Gosty Hill, and not only is it wide enough for two boats, there's even a towpath down both sides -- at one point we were overtaken by a cyclist.

We took about 40 minutes to get through, and would have been quicker had we not caught up with boat and had to go a long section on tick over. Once out of the tunnel we passed under the Tividale Aqueduct, which carries the Old Main Line from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. At the end of the Netherton Branch we turned left onto the New Main Line, and then went up the three Factory Locks. At the top we turned left to Tipton, and then continued to the Black Country Museum arm. We winded and moored up on the far side, in the on,y space long enough; even this is really only half a space, as part of it is designated for Operational Mooring, whatever that is.

The Stourbridge and Dudley Canals have been new waters for us (apart from a diversion up the Stourbridge Town Arm on a hire boat more than fifteen years ago), and we've really enjoyed them. The Stourbridge and Delph flights we did yesterday are a delight, and the whole area is a lot greener than you might expect. As I say, it's also been gratifying to see so many hire boats using these canals.

15 miles, 4 locks. (197 miles, 177 locks)

1 comment:

Harryman said...

It's quite a beast is the Gosty Hill. Apparently a woman got stuck in it when her boat got jammed against the wall by one of the many bits of floating rubbish. After several hours waiting in vain for another boat to come she ended up swimming to the end!!!