Monday, 12 October 2015

Church Eaton (left Birmingham and back on the Shrpopie)



Saturday was a long day for us.  We left Gas Street Basin in the middle of Birmingham, travelled 18 miles and went through 25 locks and ended up on the Shropshire Union in the countryside on the way to Wales.  We had told Kevin and Diane, who were moored alongside us, that we wanted to leave at eight and they said Kevin would be up at that time so no worries.  I went out earlier to get our Saturday paper and walked under the ornate aqueduct that was leaking when we were here in February.  A section of canal was drained to the east of Gas Street Basin for several weeks while the leak was fixed.

The red fire hose doors are helpful for Birmingham canal historians because, although all traces of a canal may be lost on the ground, these doors are a giveaway that there used to be a canal underneath the road.

We were heading north west to Wolverhampton and the first mile from the city centre has many junctions and loops – we explored all of these with my Dad earlier this year but here is a crossroads where the Soho loop (with Winson Green prison on it) is on the left and right is the Icknield Port loop.

This is Smethwick junction where the Wolverhampton level comes in on the right and the Main Line continues straight on.  These two routes run parallel for a couple of miles but the older Wolverhampton level has six locks whereas the Main Line was cut through without the need for locks.  We hadn’t taken the Main Line route before so this was new to us.  


The Engine Arm branch turns of the Wolverhampton level and crosses over the Main Line on this beautiful iron aqueduct.  We are desperate to get a picture of a boat on each level but even though we have been through several of these around the country we have not yet succeeded.

This engine pump house pumps water from the lower level up to the top level.

Galton tunnel is on the Main Line and avoided the need for locks.

Galton road bridge is an amazing structure – it was the highest single span bridge in the world when it was built.  It is now a listed structure and restricted to foot traffic.  I did wonder if the bridge was put in place before the cutting was dug out.

The Wolverhampton level crosses the Main Line here but once again no picture of a boat going over.  The whole structure is rather dwarfed by the M5.

Many canals on the Birmingham Canal Navigations used to have toll houses built on islands in the cut; although the islands remain nearly all the toll houses have disappeared.

This is Bromford junction where we have come down the Main Line on the right (M5 bridge in background) and to the left is a slip road upto the Wolverhampton level.

A mile further on we passed Pudding Green junction where the Wednesbury Old canal heads north to join the Walsall canal and other branches.

We continued along the dead straight Main Line for another two miles and at the end went up the three Factory locks at Tipton Green.  We were now eight miles from the centre of Birmingham.

Coseley tunnel was next and is fairly unusual in that it was built with a towpath on either side.

On the outskirts of Wolverhampton we passed Deepfields junction where the Wednesbury Oak loop heads off to the left in this picture.

The canal gets rather narrow in these parts, quite different to the wide sections in Birmingham.

Wolverhampton has a lot of derelict canal side buildings and we showed these in previous blogs but here is a good example of mixing old and new.

This is a railway-canal interchange site – derelict now but one of the few such sites left in the country.

Entering Wolverhampton is Horseley junction where the Wyrley and Essington canal (the Curly Wurly) goes off to the right.

In the middle of Wolverhampton we hit the top of the infamous Wolverhampton 21 – a flight of 21 locks that is notorious for the trouble caused by locals.  True, the locks are often maliciously opened and the canal drained but we have never run into trouble.  As usual, striking up conversations and showing interest always seems to help.  At one point a youth was showing off by leaping across the lock – not something we would recommend.

We know that pictures of every lock we go through are not of particular interest but it’s the best way for us to keep a record so that’s why we tend to leave them to the end of each entry.  The Wolverhampton 21 are at the bottom of this entry.

We followed our usual routine of Karen getting the next lock ready and I closed up the previous one.  Neither of us felt intimidated at any point which was good.  Although I didn’t fancy using the tunnel to get back up and close the gates after getting the boat out of the lock.

The last lock proved difficult as we couldn’t get the bottom gate opened – perseverance and boat hooks soon sorted it out.

We only had three trips to the weed hatch during the day – far fewer than previous trips here so maybe the regular clean ups are having a good effect.

At the bottom of the Wolverhampton 21 we joined the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal at Aldersley junction and headed north.

This cheeky heron didn’t move as we went under it.  It must have known that Karen was trying to get a picture of it in flight.

After ½ mile just before the junction onto the Shropshire Union we passed one of our favourite boatyards at Oxley Moor.  It has its own bar but it has never been open when we have passed before.  To our luck it was open this time so we moored up and went for a pint.  It was more like a working mens club (two pints and two packets of crisps for £6.60!) and we got some cheap strong cheese and fresh eggs as well as our pints.

We went back to the boat and while Karen took all our empty egg boxes back to the bar I carried on to Autherley junction and turned left onto the Shroppie.

Immediately there is a stop lock and Karen caught back up by this point.

We carried on for a couple of miles and moored up in the country having left Wolverhampton behind.

Sunday



We continued our travels north on Sunday which was yet another sunny day.  We will have a few days on the Shropshire Union canal which is one of the more modern canals having been completed not long before 1850.  It runs from Authersley junction where we went for a drink yesterday to Ellesmere Port on the River Mersey.  Many boaters rave about the Shroppie but we don’t see it that way.  Because it is relatively modern it was built in straight lines with embankments and cutting rather than locks.  We prefer contour based canals which tend to be windy but also have more locks to get over the hills or across the valleys.  Having said all this it is a very rural canal with Market Drayton and Chester being the only large towns on its route.  

Soon after setting off we went through Brewood (pronounced ‘brood’) which has many residential boats. It was at Brewood that we had to replace one of our alternators last winter.

Here is an example of the transition between embankment and wooded cutting – the difference in temperature between the two was most marked.

Another feature of this canal is the narrows – these are where the rock was so hard that it was easier to carve a narrow channel.  It does mean that a crew member has to go ahead to make sure a boat isn’t coming in the opposite direction

At Wheaton Aston we went through our only lock of the day and again there were many residential boats moored on the offside.

We moored for the day after ten miles.  We finished early as we wanted to do some odd jobs and then settle down to the Ireland France match.  This is our view from both directions.

Here are the Wolverhampton 21 from Saturday.


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