Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Boat launching ramps on the Dudley No. 2 Canal

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast, but then returned across the grass to help with the final phase of clearing the site after the festival. There was still the kitchen marquee to take down and load into a trailer and a container. We got away (at last) just after midday, when we boated down to Hawne Basin to get diesel and gas. The diesel was got, but the gas wasn't as they'd sold the last cylinder this morning.

On the way down I spotted something I don't remember seeing before: wooden ramps leading from the bank into the canal.

I was told these are ramps used to launch boats made in the boatyard there. There is little other evidence of the boatyard remaining; the area has returned to woodland.

The sort of boats constructed were, I am told, Joeys (or dayboats), an example of which is tied up by the former Stewarts and Lloyds Tube Works.

It was about 4pm when we got back to Windmill End Junction. As we were in no particular hurry to get anywhere we decided to return to our festival mooring for the night. Many of the BCBF team were still hanging around; we found ourselves invited to an impromptu al fresco meal of faggot, baked potato and veg. It was most pleasant sitting in the evening sunshine enjoying a glass or two and a chat.

I don't know why everybody looks so glum in my photo!

After that Tim and Tracey of Sola Gratia came over for drinks. We have more or less decided to go to the Tipton boat festival this weekend so we'll probably head there tomorrow.

Monday, 16 September 2019

How many volunteers does it take to empty an Elsan tank?

One thing we've been doing at the Black Country Boating Festival is running the boat race game. This is primarily intended for children, but when a pair of PCSOs walked past it was too good a photo-opportunity to miss. The idea of the game is to use a straw to blow a boat along a miniature canal, and get it to the other end before your opponent.

This was yesterday, when the weather was again very obliging, encouraging the crowds once more.

In the afternoon Jan and I were brought to the main marquee on some pretext … and we found ourselves being presented by the Mayor of Dudley with a trophy for "Volunteer of the Year"! This was completely unexpected. Indeed, there were plenty of other volunteers equally - or more - deserving of the award, so I accepted on behalf of the team.

We'll have to come back next year, if only to return the cup. (But we have already booked in as this is one of the best festivals on the calendar.)

As usual there are few photos of me actually doing anything as I'm usually the one behind the camera. So this is the dismantling of the marquee on Sunday evening by some of the other volunteers.

It was good to get it down and packed away in the dry; last night it rained. Today we continued with the break down. One part of this was to empty and rinse out the Elsan disposal container. This attracted a surprising number of volunteers simply looking on.

What is the attraction of poo? There were even more observers who didn't make it into the photo.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Perfect conditions bring out the crowds at the BCBF

What a day! Day one of the weekend Black Country Boating Festival and it's been perfect. Warm and sunny, but not hot and with little breeze. The punters flocked in, some of them playing the "boat race" game on the Boaters' Christian Fellowship stand outside our boat.

We had valuable help from BCF members Stephen and Gwyneth who brought the game, Tony, and Malcolm and Steph.

This gives some idea of the popularity of the festival - the crowds are mainly locals who love the event.

One of the trading boats had a proper pizza oven in the cratch. The pizzas were reportedly very good.

Business at the festival was so good that some stands sold out. Opposite us the cup cake stand shut up shop with a sign reading "Sold out. Back tomorrow."

Next to it the hog roast had also run out of roasted hog.

Tomorrow's forecast is for slightly cloudier and cooler conditions, so perhaps it won't be quite so busy.

Friday, 13 September 2019

BCBF: one day to go

I've managed to find a moment to take a photo at last. This is where we are at Windmill End for the Black Country Boating Festival, where today I have worked for hours on the main trading marquee. Photo of that tomorrow, perhaps.

The bar, and hence the festival, opened to boaterand campers this evening; the public will come in their hordes tomorrow. Busy, busy, busy.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Edgbaston Tunnel

I've been lugging stuff around the site here at Windmill End before the Black Country Boating Festival this weekend. There's quite a bit to do, but there's still time. I didn't take any photos today so here's one from yesterday: Edgbaston Tunnel.

It now has a wider towpath (or should I say cycle path?) extending over the canal, making it impossible for boats to pass. This isn't a problem as the tunnel is short, and most boaters would have waited anyway if an oncoming boat was already in.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

A tunnel that wasn't, and one that was (although currently unnavigable)

It was good to see the toll house at King's Norton Junction being renovated after the fire a year or so ago.

On the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and heading into Birmingham there was a new building awaiting us. It looked as though it was built right over the canal with a tunnel for boats...

… but when we got there we found the building - part of the University of Birmingham and seemingly called Unite Students - was just to the west of the canal.

The only tunnel was that built to accommodate the proposed restoration (and re-routing) of the Dudley No. 2 Canal. This used to run from very near here at Selly Oak to Hawne Basin via the (now collapsed) Lapal Tunnel. If the restoration succeeds it is likely that the new canal will be known as the Lapal Canal.

The (short) tunnel is directly behind the slender tree in the photo above.

We stopped just round the corner from Holliday Wharf and walked to the Apple store. Here my phone was looked at but they couldn't do anything to make it work again. Grr. I discovered there that none of my contacts has been backed up in something called iCloud. Double grr. I am therefore now having to use my old Nokia PAYG, with no e-mail or WhatsApp. Even text messages cost money.

After lunch we continued our journey to Windmill End for the Black Country Boating Festival this weekend. At the toll island on the Birmingham Canal New Main Line, just before the Engine Arm Aqueduct, we found that it has been taken over by a nascent beech forest. It gave the side of the boat a good rubbing.

A little later, on a bridge high over the canal, a heron perched.

Who can identify the bridge for me?

We turned left at Dudley Port Junction and took about 35 minutes to get through Netherton Tunnel. The sign at the entrance suggests that passage should take approximately 56 minutes (sic). Really? Perhaps I misread the sign. We are now at the site of the BCBF and will get stuck in - helping with the setup - tomorrow.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Temporary bridge which few people use

It took not much more than half-an-hour to reach Kingswood Junction this morning. On the way we saw a pair of kingfishers. Jan spotted them having a bit of an argy-bargy on the towpath; I saw them only as they flew in front of us a couple of time before disappearing into the bushes.

The footbridge over the tail of Lock 19 on the Stratford Canal is in the process of being rebuilt, seemingly with a stainless steel deck.

While the bridge is closed a temporary scaffold-based bridge has been erected over the lock.

According to a local the only people who use it are children.

I imagine most people, like the person I spoke to, use the lock gates to get across.

It was good to get a visit from a former colleague of mine at Lapworth. This is in Lapworth Top Lock.

Ian had been the sports supremo at BBC Look East; he moved to BBC Midlands Today some years ago and lives lives by the canal. Every time we pass we message him in case he's around; today we coincided.

This evening we went to our favourite Indian restaurant, the Sweet Chillies in Yardley Wood Road, Birmingham. It was a cracking meal as always.

Tomorrow I'll go to the Apple store in Brum to see if I can get my phone sorted.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Last broad locks done for a while

We walked to St Paul's Church in Leamington Spa this morning for the 0930 service. It took half-an-hour (the walk, not the service); there we saw Ben's brother, Tim, who gave us the lift yesterday, and Tim's wife, Ros. The service was very good.

Back at the boat (another half-hour's walk) we set off to Warwick and then Hatton. Just before Hatton Bottom Lock we saw Jacky on her boat Thomas. She was in the middle of her lunch but promised to help us up the first few locks. This she did; we then paused for a cup of tea before Jacky walked back down to her boat and we carried on, refreshed.

Jacky and Jan

The flight was very quiet, but many of the locks were in our favour. One boat we met coming down seemed to be on a collision course for Jubilee but the boats passed safely.

Shrewley Tunnel was wetter than I remembered. The water was calm as we passed the Mid Warwickshire Yacht Club moorings (where are the yachts?).

We stopped near Rowington in time for me to watch the F1 Grand Prix.

Hatton marked the last broad locks we shall do this year; tomorrow we shall turn left and right at Kingswood Junction to go up the north Stratford Canal.