Summer Cruise#2-Day13 Back to 1940


Spots of rain and the feeling of needing more rest days (someone gets his Teacher’s pension this year!), we put off the delights of Wolverhampton, it’s environs and those 21 locks until another day. It’s still 1940 next door in the museum and Steve is threatening to dress up and become an “enactor” . . . “It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow”

The thing is, most of the folk here are enacting – I’m not, I really am a boater! And despite the no smoking policy, I found another “enactor” smoking his pipe too – so we chatted together and soon we had collected dozens of grockles with their huge telephoto lenses taking photos of the two of us, weird. One chap from the States was keen to take a 3D photo. I met some lovely people who do this as their main hobby, travelling all over the country – I particularly liked the Spiv, complete with watches, nylons etc. A policeman (enactor) came and “felt his collar”, as they used to say.

There was Monty again and a real pub (with real £3.80 a pint, prices too)

Dozens of old shops – this tobacconist had my Falcon pipes, wish I could get them for 25 shillings. Note the taped windows.

I only had time to explore a small section but found my way to a dance hall:

The band sounded really good too:

God save the King! He really did look authentic (what do you think Mum? Dad?), I kept shouting out “God save the King” and “He’s one of us, gawd bless yer!”

I did do some leaning on a boat, honest.

They had Air Raid drills throughout the day. These were announced by a very loud audio system with recordings of approaching aircraft, bombs dropping and sirens. They also had hand driven sirens here plus smoke pouring from a first floor window! It all had a chilling effect on me – I just hope we never have to experience anything like this again. The visitors all thought it was a huge laugh and it was comical watching the firemen running down with pails of water & spraying the house lamely with stirrup pumps. A woman threw her baby from the window, stretchers were called for and all it really needed was for someone to say “Mr Mainwaring, is that wise?”. I was impressed by how much trouble these “enactors” had gone to and even some visitors had got into the spirit with big colourful dresses, lipstick, stockings with seams etc It was all “Goodnight Sweetheart” as it was a weird mixture of old & new.

To round it all off, a Lancaster bomber was scheduled to fly by at 1500 and it did:

(Apologies for squeaky toy sound midway in video – Toby was waiting for a walk and let us know he was waiting!!)

A very memorable day . . . . Wolverhampton beckons . . .


Summer Cruise#2-Day 12 Time Warp


Twas raining, Twas Birmingham after all. But it stopped and around 10 ish we pushed off. Another few herberts in the wee hours to wake us up, so we decided to push off for somewhere new. A rather curious day as we cruise along the old route – the original route that Brindley made, a bit twisty with many loops. So they invited Mr Telford to make a new line – dead straight and lower down.

Here’s some snaps of the guide books to illustrate the point:

We’re going right to left, turning right at Smethwick Jn, up 3 locks

Crossing over the new canal, fork right at Oldbury and on . .

Turning left at Tipton, down to the Black Country Living Museum

Once clear of the gentrified centre, things seem to return to post-industrial desolation or re-establishment of greenery. This photo is looking back along the long, wide and deep canal

One of the many ornate entrances to the many loops

The Soho (of foundry not London, fame)

Remnants of a bridge crossing

The Soho foundry itself

Smethwick junction – quick, right turn and into the three rather shabby locks.

I did see a rat spring across the top gate and then I saw a second rat scutter away. Hmm, not over keen on this bit . . . lots of litter too . .

Wolverhampton, the long way round but more interesting?

Maybe time for one of those B&W photos . .  the area deserves it

Viv does the locks but comes back on board to wash her hands afterwards (not needed to do that before).

A burnt out toll house and an air of desolation

Plus more than the usual flotsam – oil, bottle, plastic bags and always, just one shoe

After the Smethwick locks – the canal to the “Engine Arm”, carried over the new canal by an aqueduct.

Then it all got a bit rural, quite a change – we are now at the highest point and going through the Summit Tunnel.

And round the corner to say Hello to the M5. In fact four hellos were needed as we threaded our way underneath.

Lots of scaffolding in place with signs saying do not moor to the scaffolding – who, in their right mind would?

And out into the air and immediately over the new canal on the Stewart aqueduct:

Just spotted another narrowboat on the new canal below!

You can tell this route is not traversed much – encroaching weed! Starting to get the African Queen feeling. Will I have to get out and pull us along? Leeches?

We pass over on another aqueduct (we’ve seen 4 in one morning!) with the new canal going down the Netherton branch to the Netherton tunnel (3027 yds!)

I stopped – to clear the prop yet again and to take some pix . . . hmm 56 minute transit time. How lovely.

Meanwhile the surly crew try to jump ship – get back!

On past the delightfully named but swamp infested Tividale Quays – could any boat actually get in there??

Almost missed the turn at Tipton junction – prop full of weed, bowthruster full of weed . . . we limped on through the narrows and on to the Black Country Living Museum moorings – full services here plus a winding hole – bit tricky to wind when your two means of propulsion are slightly hampered but we swing and we park up, for a day or two.  Ahead is the portal of the Dudley Tunnel.  I think you can pass through but it has to be pre-booked and you get pulled through by an electric tug – no diesel fumes here, as there’s no ventilation. Lots of side caverns and trip boats.

The bridge allows views into the museum which covers 26 acres and this weekend is 1940’s weekend – see

Talking of portals – I really did think I had entered a time warp as I peeped in the door of the museum just as the royal car went by with our King & Queen, hotly followed by our amazing general – Monty!

Must go back tomorrow!


Summer Cruise#2 – Day 11 Rest


Had a wander around the city last night – visited the Wellington, famous real ale place with 16 beers on but NO DOGS! So, sat out in the alley with the cancer patients having our beer, then went back for slow cooked gammon and a pile of mash! Had a few Herbets loudly passing the boat at 0230 but otherwise a good mooring.

Today I went out for a cycle on the bike – just to see some of the canal arms. Then after lunch we took the Boggle out for a walk and a look around the Cathedral side of town (and yes, with a new pub in mind).

Busy place! Lots of school kids in crocodiles visiting Sea Life – kind of appropriate. The cathedral had some marvellous stained glass windows and bears – yes, every city seems to have these things – Bath had lions one year, pigs the next. Bristol had Wallace & Gromits everywhere:

Cute? But very little in the way of green spaces to walk our dog.

One of my secret aims was to visit the Western Arcade – a magnificent Victorian shopping arcade, with a very rare tobacconist! Time to stock up!

And, oh look, a bar! The Post Office Vaults. About 8 beers and around a dozen ciders too. A very good range of beers too.

We tried Hip Hop (Briggs) = excellent, Dark Drake (Dancing Duck)= v. good, Shaky Stevens American stout and the IPA – all good stuff AND they let Toby in too.

So this is what the outside of the infamous Birmingham New Street station looks like – shed loads of Baco Foil??!

And just around the corner was a BrewDog pub – all fizzy, keg beer but with amazing flavours and eye-wateringly high prices – I had Hop Kills at £7.25 a pint, so we tried halves – the price board is deceptive as it is in odd quantities, like 2/3 pint. No, the Vaults gets the thumbs up here.

Very dog friendly though.


Summer Cruise#2-Day 10


Despite feeling a tad tired we really did want to get to Birmingham today. Oddly, it’s safer right in the centre rather than stopping short and mooring up. So we plodded on – no locks or bridges (the big Shirley drawbridge was bust & left open). So a 14 mile cruise along the North Stratford – twisty and windy, first hour enclosed by trees. Often shallow too. Into King’s Norton junction through Lock No 1 , a huge guillotine stop lock , turn right and on the Worcester & Birmingham canal. Past familiar sites – the Cadbury Bourneville HQ, Selly Oak, Edgbaston and then into Gas Street basin . . . pick up plastic around the prop . . . stop boat on the grockle boat pontoon to remove . . . . then find us a spare mooring near Sheepcote bridge! A long (for us) day of 5.8 engine hours but all tied up by 3 ish.

The original design for this canal was to be a wide beam – hence the large bridges – sadly this was never meant to be!

Very rural for ages and then a big urbanisation – Waterside.

Most of the first hour was almost enclosed by trees

And the magnificent entrance to the tunnel

Nearly at King’s Norton junction when we ran into (almost) some work boats engaged in dredging!

I did wonder why the last lock we did was numbered No2 – the huge stop lock here is No1. They did go to some lengths to separate the canals.

Very narrow and ominous with the huge gate overhead – did Steve flinch then?

Up ahead – the junction:

We turn right for Brum

Between the hedges we spot Cabury’s at Bournville!

Through Edgbaston tunnel – creepy

Not far to go now – edge round the corner, into Gas Street Basin

Past Sea Life and the entrance to the Birmingham & Fazely canal

Moorings are filling up but we find a good one – that’ll do for a few days!


Summer Cruise#2 – Day 9


Well, the rain stopped. The sun peeped out but the wind spoke softly – time to move.

0820 we slipped our moorings and pootled up to that quaint Kingswood Junction.

Dispose of rubbish. And begin the first of nineteen locks – yes, almost as many as Monday but these be ickle ones.

No hydraulics but a couple of winds and the paddles are up. It is a very old canal (or it seems it) and one of the first to be restored – lots of plaques on the wall in the basin. A CRT volunteer turned up too – helping us to set the locks above. And despite the daunting aspect of so many locks, it all went swimmingly. After these Lapworth locks there are no more until we’re into Birmingham.

We stopped at bridge 20, for a visit to the famous Wedge’s bakery (loaf, Aberdeen Angus steak & onions sarnie (hot), pulled pork & stuffing & apple sauce (hot), a custard slice (huge), a chocolate eclair (also huge), a 8 inch lump of black pudding, two lamb samosas and a lump of Cropwell Bishop Stilton!! Hmm, just a wee stock up then??). No pictures of these as these were set upon by the ravenous crew and consumed with alacrity.

A short hop from here and we get to our final mooring, just past the Blue Bell Cider House (no really, not another pub Steve??)

Here’s the first lock – with the original bridge – note the gap, to allow the horse-drawn barge to keep the rope connected.

And Steve finds the B&W setting on his camera for some “arty” heritage shots:

Or sometimes better in colour?

With some help from the volly (Pat)

He showed me how to open the two bottom gates on your own – I sort of get it:

More art?

This looks like a contender for photo of the day – maybe a new desktop piccie?

And what happens when two boats need to pass?

Nearing the top – another of those bridges . . .

And the last of the monochrome artworks . . . vote now!

Phew! Got to the top and on for another hour but no more locks . .

Final stop (after the pit stop at Wedge’s !) Spot the tired Toby?

Conveniently near the Blue Bell Cider House!

Tomorrow – Birmingham!


Summer Cruise#2 – Day 8 R&R

Rain is forecast. Rest is required. Pub lunch promised to crew.

Lazy day. Viv derusts her magnetic hooks in the cratch and paints em with Hammerite.

Some cleaning, polishing, plus Steve checks his little black knob – bit suspect that it is not working as we’ve had no TV for a week.

Not really wanted any but be nice to know if it is kaput. But no, the multimeter checked its continuity and it bleeped so thats OK.

Oh, and lunch in the Tom of the Wood. They do snacks which is good as a lot of their mains were around £12. Nice modern but cosy place.

Walk down to the strange and convoluted Kingswood junction, where the Grand Union branches to the Stratford.

Pictures tomorrow maybe.

More rain.

Playing Killers on the bluetooth speaker . . . . Are we human or just dancer?

Time  for a round of nine spot dominoes!  Brace yourself David – its a £1 a point!😉

So far so good. No sign of the West Country gribble. 

Batteries holding up 91%, today, which is nice.

Blue Bell Cider house and Wedge’s bakery tomorrow.

Summer Cruise#2 – Day 7 The Hatton Flight


With our day of rest completed, we were up early-ish and off by 0830, past the Saltisford arm and under the bridge to the first of the 21 locks of the infamous Hatton Flight. All was quiet and no sign of any other boater – so we waited for a bit . . . always wise to share locks – not only for the stability of having two boats in these wide locks but also for the chat & help! Not too long and Dave & Marilyn arrived on their boat Deolali Tapp (look that one up!). And we cheerfully sailed up all 21 locks in about 3 and a half hours – pretty good! Very grateful for all their help.

Under and then In, the first lock.

We waited and then in the distance – a boat!

A gentle bimble – Viv did the first few locks, then we changed around

Viv drove very well:

We’ve already done about eight locks and then you round the corner to see this huge flight up ahead – woe! With the four us working together, we really did quite enjoy it and the weather was a lot cooler too. All this effort to raise the boats nearly 150 feet up!

I even think Viv was enjoying it!

Near the top was a pond with a sculpture:

And gongoozlers, of course . . . nearly there

Nice pic of Dave on his boat

The final lock, where we said Cheerio to DeolaliTapp.

Only an hour further to tie up for the night . . . first Shrewley Tunnel and some pterodactyl activity up ahead?

A tired but happy Steve

Heritage bling – an old iron rubbing post for the horse-drawn barges

Turner’s Wood – time to stop. Seven miles and 21 locks, 5.8 engine hours.

And, oh look, there’s a pub! The “Tom O’ the Wood”. Time for a beer then


With heavy & continuous rain forecast for tomorrow, we may just stay put – back to the pub for lunch then?


Summer Cruise#2-Day 6 Rest Day


It’s Sunday and still bloody hot mate, as the Aussies may well say. Our plan to tackle the 21 locks ahead of us is postponed to Monday, when the forecast is more temperate plus, we’d like to have a day off and see something of Warwick – not a city, no cathedral but a jolly good town to visit, as we found out. Plus today, 9th July, they have a Chilli Festival on. Yum.  We walked the two or so miles into town, admired the chilli and assorted food stalls, had a Thai street food dish for lunch, a pint and a general wander around. Steve went up the tower of the huge church whilst Viv looked around inside with Toby in tow. Lots of famous tombs here (Earl of Leicester, old Dudley himself). We also picked up a natty hand made and hand painted dish from Spain that has raised bits for grating garlic, chocolate, lemons, ginger etc. Nice.

We said goodbye to Graham & Josie! Bon Voyage.


Some very interesting architecture in Warwick – this 17th C sundial

The Crown court and the vast church!

With an unusual arch – Steve went up the tower! Here’s the view from the top – if you can ignore the puffing and panting!! Good views of Warwick race course & the castle.

Meanwhile back in the market square – the food festival – lots of churros, Thai food, various forms of chilli inspired grub, cannolis, ice creams, biltong, fudge etc

Very colourful . . .

Poor Toby, dragged along . . . Steve tries some of the Reaper Relish!!

Good stuff.

And on to the grockle tour . .  ye olde partes . . .

Here’s some static views from the tower:

Quite a scorcher day but glad we made the effort to explore Warwick. Viv’s got her neat little gadget – have to try it out:


Summer Cruise#2-Day 5


Time for some lazy days. I mean how many locks have we descended??? We set off around 10 this morning and got to bridge 43 – right by the A452 but handy for Sainsbury’s and PC World, where Viv bought supplies and I bought a Bluetooth keyboard respectively. Makes this typing so much easier. A nice cheese, salami milano, gherkin and lettuce sandwich – then off. Past a boat wharf and Kate Boats, then fill with water before tackling two uphill locks, yea, the first of our ascent to Birmingham. We are now moored opposite-ish the Cape of Good Hope pub. Hmm, with six beers on and a splendid menu, our evening is sorted. We have also met up with Graham & Josie on Dragonfly, I do owe them a pint for the hard work in lock sharing at Stockton.

Seems quite nice – Leamington Spa
In fact some very scenic bits
And over the River Avon on an aqueduct
Bit of a tight squeeze past Delta Marine services and their huge wide beam
And past Kate hire boats – I’m guessing a lot of these will be heading our way soon
Two Cape locks – going up for a change
Almost though the second lock and the pub is in sight
Ah, the Cape of Good Hope – very busy
It’s another Adagio – seen last in Market Harborough
Our “spot” just in front of our friends on Dragonfly
Ah, here’s the crew bringing Skipper his brew!

And here’s the good selection of beers on offer:

6 good beers and even a Church End beer

Summer Cruise#2 – Day 4


Shall we, shan’t we? It was a bit too hot doing all those locks yesterday and we have ten more today. We prevaricated and procrastinated, we umm’wd and ar’ed too! In the end we set off at midday. Again luck was on our side as a hire boat full of some lovely North Americans (three generations of  Canadians and Americans!) agreed to tackle the ten locks together. The first generation had a birthday, not sure how many years but Grandpa Ed was celebrating and steering too. Their children had children and all were very good at doing  cartwheels as well as working the locks. We were very grateful to them,  Cheers!

They stopped for lunch and we managed the last three locks ourselves, just open one paddle and one gate,  no waurez. Got to the last lock and then moored up , maybe only 3.7 hours but it felt longer. We did promise Toby a swim but the river Leam was too tricky to get down to, so a watering can had to do. We also met up with some of the Kate hire boats, in particular a nice couple from St Leonards School in St Andrews. We had met before at Cuttle where I noticed that he was a fellow pipe smoker and correctly guessed that was a teacher in a boarding school! Our paths crossed some three times, as you do in this linear boating life? The last time was whilst moored up for the day. They shared a few G & T ‘s and some yarns about teaching and alcohol production. Nice.

1900 and it feels like we’ve had a hard day! This way of life may only be fleeting but its most enjoyable at the moment.

Big big locks but lots of help – staircase lock here

Lots of kids on boats 

Great to share
Busy day

Very tranquil section

Rare shots of us alone, last few locks

Poor Toby, poor Viv still working the locks

Nearly at the end of this flight

One the original narrow locks

Good old Viv

Leaky lock

Yep, Radford Bottom, the last lock!


 Time to call it a day. Thanks to our friends for sharing and working the locks! Bless you.

Enjoy Grandpa’s birthday!