The moorings at the Black Country Museum are nice, but very noisy, thanks to a major road right alongside. Maybe that's why people were on the move early. The first boat left at 6.30, with another one going about twenty minutes later. Or maybe it was because the weather forecast had been for heavy rain pretty much all day (although that later became a prediction for rain at 3pm, then 5pm, and then none at all). Either way, we were on the move early ourselves too, slipping away at 7.30, just as a Viking hire boat headed our way from the moorings the other side of the bridge. We retraced our steps through Tipton, where lots of boats are already gathered for the festival this weekend. Then we paused while the fuel boat, Roach, reversed to Factory Junction to wind.
Coseley Tunnel comes next, which is wide but not very long. They've done some work to strengthen the banks of the cutting leading up to the entrance.
The canal was very weedy between Tipton and Wolverhampton, and we needed regular blasts of reverse to clear the prop. In just under two hours we reached Horseley Fields Junction, where we turned right onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal.
Shortly afterwards there's a mirrored arch over the canal (I'm not sure why), which means you can take a photo of yourself taking a photo.
The canal continues lockless for miles, passing back gardens and light industry. We last came this way on Debdale in 2008. Then we coasted through bridge holes and kept a look out at the bow for big items of rubbish; this time, things seemed much better -- although the canal still isn't what you'd call deep, and progress isn't what you'd call quick. But at least the amount of rubbish in the canal seemed much, much less than before. In 2008 we turned right at Birchills Junction to go down to Walsall, but today we carried on -- moving onto more new waters.
There's lots of new housing along the canal, and at least it all seems to face the cut, rather than show us the back gardens. One new estate, though, is behind a substantial security fence. At least it'll keep out the rat I spotted running along the towpath.
There was more new housing further on. The show house was built, but the site just seemed to go on and on. A bit of research indicates there'll be 400 new houses.
After Little Bloxwich, the canal changes completely. Rather than factories and housing, there's suddenly open fields, with combine harvesters and cows. At this point we passed our third moving boat of the day, Collingwood, whose bow looked rather impressive coming round the corner.
We moored up shortly afterwards at Pelsall Common, just before the junction of the Cannock Extension Canal. It's a really lovely spot, especially as the sun had come out.
Once we'd moored up I checked the weed hatch and pulled a variety of plastic bags and weed off the prop -- a reasonable haul, but not enough to have hindered our progress too much. It had taken six and a half hours, which seems like a long time on the tiller, so I'd opted out of a trip up the Cannock Extension which is a mile and a half, and dead straight.
Instead, we walked the towpath to the end, where Norton Canes Boat Builders, and Canal Transport Services are based. The canal ends rather abruptly at the A5, and the M6 Toll is just a little further on. But there were two up-sides: a farm shop on the A5 where we bought ice creams to eat on the way back, and we picked blackberries which have been made into an apple and blackberry crumble.
When we got back from the walk, the engine was cool enough for me to do an oil and filter change, which was due. I've now done enough of these that I know what I'm doing, so it didn't take half as long as it used to!
19 miles, 0 locks. (216 miles, 177 locks)