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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Back waters of the BCN

It has certainly been a day to remember. We had already planned our route to take in as many as the back waters of the BCN as possible and after leaving our moorings, went straight down the Main line to Smethwick Junction. That was on the first part of our planned route. As I took loads of photos I thought it would be easier to show you where we went rather then just to write about it.

The main line seems to have quite a few of these 'islands'. I'm still unsure as to why they are here.
Turning right into Smethwick Junction and the first of the 3 locks on this section, I was shocked to see a load of dead fish between the locks. A strong smell of diesel was present which lead me to believe the fish had been poisoned.

Diesel or Oil?
 2nd of Smethwick locks

Weed was a real problem on this waterway.  Ian was forever clearing the stuff from behind the gates
Toll House at the top lock. Within a few mtrs was the left turn onto the Engine Arm, another small waterway hardly used. At the end of the arm, and shown in Nicholson, is the facilities block. Its well worth a visit as they are spotlessly clean and has a launderette, elsan and pumpout.

The turn into the Engine Arm.

The view of the Aqueduct


 Facilities at the end of the arm. The BT tower can just be seen on the skyline.

View from the aqueduct looking down at the BCN Main Line.

Smethwick Pump House.


The weed was everywhere but the scum on the water was smelly and disgusting. There was no hint of where it had come from either.
Summit tunnel looking back at the North portal.
Sailing under the M5 motorway looking toward Spon Lane Locks
Top lock
 Heading toward the middle lock
 Bottom lock and looking toward Bromford junction where we rejoin the BCN Main Line.
The water that flowed out of the lock was covered in oil. The water above this lock was chrystal clear so it seemed that someone must have emptied their used oil into the lock.
Walsall Junction on the right and our next waterway.

 Top lock of Ryders Green. We however decided to take a trip along the Ridgeacre Branch off to our right.

It didn't bode well when floating weed hindered our progress but when thick black sludge appeared behind us I started to get worried. The boat felt sluggish and the further into the arm we went the worse the black oily mud became.  Then we touched bottom and ground to a halt. Ian tried to reverse but all we ended up doing pushing the stern  toward the far bank.

Ian grabbed the pole to try and pole the stern round but the end of the pole disappeared into the thick mud giving him nothing to push against. We were basically stuck on the wrong side of the canal. Ian then pushed the pole down the side of the boat and by using that as a lever managed to bring the stern back into the center. When he tried to bring the bow round by throttling forward, nothing happened. In fact he lost drive altogether. We had clouds of smoke pouring out from the exhaust but no propulsion. Thankfully the bow ended up by a small

bridge, towpath side, and I managed to climb from
 the bow and onto the towpath, and with Ian throwing both stern and center ropes for me to catch, I ended up being the pack horse and dragging the boat back to the junction. Ian even offered to bring me a nose bag to keep me going, the cheek of it!! Once at the junction we had the dilemma of how to bring the boat across the canal and back onto the far towpath on the Walsall canal. There was no way for me to get across other then to walk round by the lock. There was nothing for it but for Ian to get his rubber gloves on and go rummaging around the prop.

This is what he pulled out! No wonder we couldn't go forward or back.

Filled two carrier bags.
So beware. If anyone wants to try and go toward Black Lake on the Ridgeacre Arm, go in a rowing boat!!!
Once drive was restored we started the descent down Ryders Green Locks. All 8 of them. Our plan was to get to Walsall Basin tonight and the safe moorings emailed to us by Brenda Ward, chairman of the BCN canal society. Somehow we couldn't see this happening as our excursion up the arm cost us 90 minutes of our time. Ian had another quick look at the email sent and found that she recommended Ocker Hill Arm situated just before the facilities block As we turned into the arm a  notice had been pinned to the fence stating that this was residential

moorings. So we reversed out again and stopped by the facilities.  Ian went to inquire at the C&RT office situated nearby if we could spend the night. He came back with thumbs up. We had a secure place to stay!

 Tame Valley Junction. Ocker Hill Arm is just before this.
 The Ocker Hill Arm on the right.
Our moorings for tonight,

1 comment:

Adam said...

I think even the regulars on the BCN Challenge have given up on the Ridgeacre Arm -- in fact I think the last couple of times it's had a sign warning people not to venture up there.

Last time we were in Birmingham we decided to leave via a route we hadn't tried before and did the Tame Valley and the Perry Barr locks down to the B&F. It was an interesting trip, and of course we saw no other boats on the move. We've also done the trip into Walsall on a previous trip. The basin isn't secure, in that it's open to the public, but it seems safe enough. There's a boom across the entrance to the basin which fools some people, but you can just push it out of the way. I'm never quite sure whether it's to keep rubbish out of the basin, or to keep it in!

Looking forward to hearing about your explorations.

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