Tuesday 4th October; Walsall to Pelsall Common
Apart from the
small annoying matter of the Wharf bar playing music till 3 am – on a Monday night! – we were pleasantly surprised by Walsall. I walked down the pedestrianised main street to the Asda at the other end and did some tourist stuff along the way. Tucked in along the main street is the Victorian Arcade.
It is Grade II listed and is ‘a well-preserved example of a late-Victorian shopping arcade’. Several of the shop-fronts are original. The roof is glazed.
At the far end is a glazed dome, and there are offices on the first floor.
Further down the street is a bustling market majoring in fruit & veg stalls and others with fantastic sari cloth. A statue to Sister Dora surveys the scene.
Dorothy Pattison known as Sister Dora was famous in the area for her nursing skills and had the reputation of a civilian Florence Nightingale. She did much to reduce the death rate from industrial accidents and apparently Walsall had a better record in this respect than many of the London teaching hospitals. Sister Dora was reputedly the first woman in England (not counting royalty) to be honoured by a statue.
Shopping done, we visited the New Art Gallery just a few yards from the boat. It’s only small but has some high-quality stuff. At the moment they have the Garman Ryan collection on loan from the Tate. Kathleen Garman was the widow of the sculptor and artist Jacob Epstein and Sally Ryan was a close friend. After his death in 1959 they built up the collection which contains artworks by Picasso, Constable, Pissarro, Rodin, etc as well as many pieces by Epstein himself. Kathleen grew up in Walsall and the collection was gifted to the people of Walsall in 1973.
The bust on the left is of Kathleen as a young woman, by Jacob Epstein.
The photos are of Kathleen in old age.
The other benefit of visiting the gallery is that you can take a snap of your boat from above.
If we stop here again we will moor beyond the narrows where the music from the bar should be further away. Music apart, it’s a fine place to moor; safe, close to a variety of shops in the main street, and there is a cinema and retail park behind the hotel in the top of the photo. The picture below shows the art gallery the far side of the basin. The yellow boom at the start of the narrows just pushes out of the way as you pass. We wondered if it was a method of keeping litter out of the basin – it certainly didn’t deter the geese.
After an early lunch we set off in a stiff breeze for the Walsall flight. The locks were full of rubbish but mostly in our favour and we met a couple of boats coming down. Soon we were turning onto the bit of the Curly Wyrley we haven’t done before, and heading east.
Soon the built-up area thinned out and eventually we were in the countryside. It’s nice to be able to stretch your eyes after being hemmed in by buildings for so long.
Our destination was Pelsall Common. I had seen some photos but we we were unprepared for the lovely great expanse of grass and Meg was ecstatic! We moored shortly before the junction with the Cannock Extension.
Dave went down the engine hole to clean and re-align the bilge pump, which had become misaligned during our trolley incident the other day, and I did some baking. Then we took Meg and went for a walk on the common before making a detour to the Finger-Post for a welcome pint. It was getting dark as we returned to the boat. The blob in the top picture is Dave. You can just see Meg’s ears silhouetted against the canal in front of him.
5 and a half miles, 8 locks