Monday 3rd October; Birmingham to Walsall Town Arm
By ‘eck it was cold this morning in spite of the sunshine! We tootled down to Cambrian Wharf to fill/empty and the wind was howling down the canal behind us. On the way back with it in our faces it was even worse! The musical chimes signalled 10 o’clock as we approached Old Turn Junction. If we had been wanting to turn down the Worcester and Birmingham we would have had to undergo some sort of security check because of the Tory conference.
A security boom was in place to stop you speeding straight through. It was almost worth going that way, and turning at the Mailbox and coming back, to give those poor bored guards something to do! Once out of the wind tunnel effect of the buildings we soon got warm. There had been very few boats moored in Birmingham and we saw our only moving boat of the day on the main line before we turned right at Pudding Green junction, by which time we were back into shorts and T-shirts.
We sailed into the top lock hoping for a smooth passage down the Ryder’s Green flight. But there was something behind one of the bottom gates and Dave couldn’t get Chuffed out. In fact he got stuck in spite of going very cautiously, and it took us some pushing and shoving to get him back into the lock. We got the long pole and poked around what seemed to be a pile of gravel someone had tipped into the lock, and shifted it enough to get out. I phoned CRT to let them know in case it caused problems for someone else.
All was going well till we were in the last lock pound. Some friendly daytime drinkers had helped us through lock 7, and I had walked ahead to turn the last lock. I looked up to see Chuffed stationary under Brickhouse Lane Bridge at rather a strange angle and sprinted back to see what was up.
She was tilted over far enough to have tipped stuff off shelves. Nothing on the prop thank goodness, but clearly something had been chucked off the bridge! We pushed – the bow moved sideways a foot or so – pulled forwards and back, to no avail, and even hung off the side to try and get free but nothing happened. ‘Haven’t you just called? was the surprised response from CRT …..
We had already seen the CRT guys with a paint-pot half-way up the flight and told them about the problem with the top lock, and within 20 minutes they had arrived to help. After some pushing and poking around – there was nothing under the bow -
they decided they would try pulling.
With the engine in forward they managed to get us free. Our heroes! We have never had to call them out before. They sent us off with a cheery wave and we left them fishing under the bridge. They dragged out two trolleys and an assortment of wire baskets. We were jolly lucky to have got off so lightly.
In places there was a great deal of floating debris – at one point I had to use a short pole to clear a passage through great floating clumps of reeds.
After these delays, and slow progress on a shallow stretch needing a couple of bursts of reverse to clear the prop, we decided to go into Walsall Town arm and moored on the pontoons in the basin. One other boat was there, but was unoccupied. We hadn’t known what to expect but were pleasantly surprised – not much litter and generally well-kept, apart from rather a lot of goose poo, with plenty of grass nearby for the dog. We had a wander down the pedestrianised main street close to the basin and found it still thronged with shoppers even after 5.
13 and half miles, 8 locks