Thursday 26 September 2019

One of the most photographed bridges?

When the rain - and the threat of rain - passed I put a second coat of paint on the well deck. The pits are still there but are smoothing out as they fill with paint. I had thought of smearing filler over before painting, but reasoned that it would crack up as the deck flexes when walked on.

I took only one photo today, that of us et al at the Indian restaurant. Before showing that here's one from yesterday as we approached Drayton Footbridge.

I guess most boaters who have travelled along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal will have at least one photo of this unusual bridge.

Several historic boats passed us on their way to Birmingham. Some, if not all, will have been at the gathering at Huddlesford Junction last weekend. This is Whitby having just passed the entrance to Fazeley Mill Marina.

And so to the meal out tonight. Nine boats have now congregated in Fazeley for the BCF event this weekend; fourteen of us enjoyed a meal at Kudos Indian Restaurant. I realise I have omitted Gwyneth from the photo, sorry Gwyneth.

Stephen, Hazel, James, Elizabeth, Richard, Sally, Chris, Chris, Gill, John, Tony, Jan

Wednesday 25 September 2019

A sign on a sinking boat

We were just about to set off from Minworth this morning when our friends Chris and Di came past on Ultreya. We followed them down Curdworth Locks and stopped just above the Dog and Doublet where they joined us for lunch on board Jubilee.

While there Alder and Clover passed on their way up the locks. This is Clover, looking immaculate as ever.

At Bodymoor Heath some wag has put a sign on a sinking boat.

"HMS Brexit".

Yes, well, I have a sinking feeling about Brexit too.

All too soon we were doing our last lock of the year (probably): Curdworth Bottom Lock. After yesterday's deluges it was a pleasant change doing this in sunshine.

We topped up with diesel at Fazeley Mill Marina and had hoped to get a new gas cylinder too, but they had run out. We winded at Fazeley Junction and tied up by Tolson's Footbridge ready for a BCF event this weekend.

In the evening we joined David, Mary, James and Hazel for a meal in the Peninsular Chinese restaurant.

Jan, James, Hazel, David, Mary

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Overspill weirs doing their job

We noticed last night that the Farmer's Bridge flight seemed to be set in our favour, so we got up reasonably early hoping to be the first down the locks. While we were having breakfast, listening to the rain, at least one boat went down, scuppering our plan. Then Edwin appeared on Ferrous with his remote control at the ready.

As we were no longer in a rush we attended to the boat's needs at the services before entering the flight in the pouring rain.

By Lock 4 my shoes had so much water in them that they squelched with every step. My hat and coat performed well, though. Did I mention the rain? We had planned to be in Fazeley by Wednesday evening so we were on a schedule. Having done just six locks in the previous two weeks we had 27 today, all but one against us. At least it wasn't cold, and once you're wet you can't get much wetter.

I don't remember ever seeing overspill weirs doing their job with so much vigour.

One of the new houses where (I believe) the Cincinnati works used to be has made a big effort with the bank, mowing the grass and putting in many potted trees. Incongruously a bus stop stands amongst them.

One for Jim?

I'm pleased to report that the new well deck paint doesn't seem to have suffered in the rain.

Monday 23 September 2019

Is this a boat counter? (As in counter of boats)

On our way to Birmingham this morning I put a topcoat on the well deck. I had applied the primer a couple of nights ago so it had had plenty of time to harden. I've used a cheapo topcoat as a temporary protective measure; we'll see how long it lasts. It's certainly looking a lot better then the rusted, pitted surface it's covering. I doesn't seem to have suffered from the rain which came this afternoon, about four hours after I had finished.

We had a peaceful passage along the Old Main Line, the only incident of note being a moorhen's nest (we think) getting round the prop. There were a lot of quills - when I opened the weed hatch I thought it was a dead peacock.

I was pleased with this photo - very different from Telford's New Main Line.

At one point fixed to the bank close to the water were a couple of low metal boxes, one each side of the canal, with apertures for what looked like an optical sensor. Is this a boat counting device?

The centre of Brum looks very different from the last time we looked round. Tram tracks have appeared coming close to the Symphony Hall. It will look very smart when it's finished.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Few people, much rain and some paint

Day two at Tipton Canal Festival has been pretty much a washout. There was very heavy rain at 0500 - yes, it woke me up - and people stayed away. So when we went to St. Matthew's Church five hours later the site was almost deserted.

A two-piece band played throughout the weekend. The Master Butchers Band comprised accordion and drums and they sounded really good. They played mostly old classics, segueing between them for what seemed like hours on end.

Today, though, they were largely playing to themselves.

Those traders who had bothered to return today packed up early. It didn't actually rain much during the day and the sun even peeped out occasionally, but the punters didn't come back. Boats drifted off too, among them Darley steered by Blossom.

Shortly before 6pm we moved round the corner to the BCLM facilities and moorings and will head to Birmingham tomorrow. Oh yes, last night I primed the well deck, finishing at 2230. An hour later there was a light rain shower but I don't think it caused any harm. By the time the heavy rain came it had dried sufficiently; it now looks much better than it did.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Memories from a man who used to work on tar boat runs

Day one of the Tipton Canal Festival turned out to be sunny, warm and busy. There was a constant stream of people walking past our BCF boat race game; most of the time it was just Jan and I running it. We were helped for a while by Trevor, who had driven from Stoke-on-Trent to see us.

Before the crowds arrived a man came over to say that he could remember the Halford Branch, the location name signwritten on our boat. He then told me that he was born on a boat, first steered aged five and worked with his family, the Tolleys, first for Fellows, Morton and Clayton, then for Thomas Clayton bringing tar from Ellesmere Port to Oldbury for distilling. He said that it took only 15 minutes for the tar to be pumped out of the boats. I wish there had been more time to talk to him as his memory was sharp (although I find it astonishing that tar could be pumped so quickly). His surname is Tolley but I can't remember his first name. Can anyone help?

I grabbed an opportunity to have a quick look round the festival in the morning and came across a mobile glass blower. Fascinating. I asked him one or two questions about his craft but he wouldn't give anything away. It worked by magic, he said.

We were at one end of the site, but this didn't seem to affect business.

Friday 20 September 2019

Removing rust from the well deck

A number of historic boats arrived at Tipton today, among them Bittel ...

… and Trent.

I started to tackle a job I had been putting off for too long: the rusty well deck. The main culprit was the hard rubbery matting with small feet. These had quickly worn through the paint and caused the deck to rust. I removed as much of the flaky rust as I could, finding that an old knife was the best tool for this.

At Crick a couple of years ago I bought a Tercoo Roatating Blaster attachment for an electric drill. I tried this, but it couldn't cope with the severity of the layers of rust.

When I had had enough of scraping I Fertanned the whole area. We'll see what it's like in the morning.

Thursday 19 September 2019

Meal out rounds off a day of maintenance

Here is the promised photo of the Morse control, looking from the back. At the top you can see the two metal clips, the right-hand one of which had slipped down to prevent the lever moving beyond the tickover position.

I spent some time baling out the bilge sump under the stern gland. A lot of water had appeared there over the last couple of weeks. Could it all have come from the stern gland? I have a drip catcher which has been filling more quickly than it used to, so I tightened the stern gland a little and mopped up all the water I could. Something to keep an eye on.

Another repair job was to get my bike sorted out. It had lain unused for months with a flat back tyre. My tardiness in getting round to fixing it was because I had thought that the hub gear cable would need to be removed before I could get the wheel off. In the end I found that not to be necessary, and I successfully replaced both the inner tube and the outer tyre. The old inner tube had 16 repair patches!

This evening we went to Mad O'Rourke's Pie Factory just up the road in Tipton. We were part of a party of ten and had a most enjoyable time. The Lumphammer Bitter (3.6%) was by far the tastiest ale I sampled (beating Sledgehammer (5.6%) and the Ruby Mild (6.0%).

L-R: Keith, Colin, Helen, Andy, Tim, Tracey, Sue and Jo.  The chap at the top of the photo with his thumb up is photobombing.

I'm hoping to organise a similar meal out in two or three days, to a curry house.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Oh no! What's happened to forward gear?

We left Windmill End for the final time this morning, after walking down to Lidl for some supplies.

Having passed through Netherton Tunnel we stopped just after Tividale Aqueduct for lunch.

At Dudley Port Junction we turned left onto the New Main Line and after a while came to the former Watery Lane Junction.

The plaque reads: The Tipton Green and Toll End Communication formerly crossed the Birmingham Level at this point 1809 - 1960.

It was good to feel the windlass in my hand again for Factory Locks after more than a week on the Birmingham Level. But at Lock 2 … Houston, we have a problem.

Jan, at the helm at the bottom of the lock, reported that it would go no faster than tickover in forward. I filled the lock and had a feel of the Morse control. It seemed to be physically obstructed in forward. I would have to take a proper look, but decided to do this on the lock landing above the top lock. Jan steered into Lock 1 on tickover, ascended the lock and stopped on the landing. With the deck boards up I could see the cable moving as it should. The Morse lever seemed to be hitting something much nearer to the control itself. Opening the door on which it is mounted I immediately saw the cause of the problem. (And here I should have taken a photo. Perhaps tomorrow.) A woodscrew holding a metal clip thing in position had come loose; the metal clip had rotated such that it was stopping the lever travelling much beyond the vertical. It was a matter of seconds to tighten the screw with the clip in what I hope is the right place - and we were up and running again.

At Factory Junction, a few yards from where we'd stopped, we turned left to head to the facilities by the Black Country Living Museum. On the way we passed the site of the Tipton Canal Festival.

At least, this is where some boats had congregated. A bit further on we came across Andy and Helen on Wand'ring Bark and The Jam Butty. We tied up in front of them after the services and joined them for a cup of tea. Later in the evening Chris and Sally of Kairos came for drinks.

Tomorrow we don't have to go anywhere or do anything (much)! Oh, apart from joining a group of people going to Mad O'Rourke's Pie Factory. Will I have another cow pie?

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.