Compton to Birmingham

Saturday 6th February 2010

Zulu in Wolverhampton Top Lock
Zulu in Wolverhampton Top Lock

Thanks for the help at Wolverhampton Locks, Springy, whoever you were!   What a result – 24 hours earlier I had posted a request in Canal World Forums for someone to help lockwheeling up the Wolverhampton flight this morning, and hey presto Springy turned up windlass and anti-vandal key in hand after a brief discussion on the internet.

The flight is in very good condition and the locks are all pretty easy but single handed walking ahead and back, you end up walking more than double the distance. With 21 locks this makes a four mile walk, on top of 126 gate openings and closings, and hundreds of paddles to wind.

So with an extra pair of hands we made very light work of it and arrived at the top lock just before 11am, not quite 3 hours after starting. Copious cups of coffee and lock-cooked bacon and eggs kept us going strong. Springy turned out to be a most knowledgeable boater, as are so many members on Canal World and it made a very pleasant morning’s boating.

Once at the top I bade Springy goodbye and made good use of the immaculate BW service facilities at Broad Street before setting off in search of a suitable mooring to leave Zulu until next weekend.

Where better to look than Waterscape.com, since every question I have asked British Waterways in the last two years has been answered with “have you checked waterscape.com?”

Well I did, confirming that 14 day moorings are few and far between on the BCN, and on most of them you wouldn’t want to leave the boat unattended for too long, so what better than the 14 day moorings at Dudley’s Black Country Museum – behind lock and key; this is as good as it gets.

I pottered along past a few dog walkers and a couple of anglers, looking forward to another feature which I had just discovered on waterscape. “Coseley Tunnel: Risk of throwing of stones and other missiles”

Coseley Tunnel without being stoned
Coseley Tunnel without being stoned

Who was going to throw them?  There wasn’t a soul in sight of the towpath. I have no doubt that in years gone by a bored group of local lads discovered that it was fun to frighten boaters, but this should surely not become a documented note on the navigation guide as these things come and go as the perpetrators grow up, move on to more rewarding crimes or get locked up. Or maybe I was just lucky today. In fact I later did pass a group of 10-12 year olds chucking bricks into the water at Dudley, but not at the boat. No need to add this to waterscape yet thanks, BW.  Maybe when they are 14 and on glue …..

So I arrived at Dudley just after 3pm, missing the last tunnel trip boat of the day – which is a shame as I have never been through before, but noted that on the first Sunday of the month they operate a trip all the way through the tunnel, which sounds worth coming back for.

Extract from the Boaters Guide to BCN
Extract from the Boaters Guide to BCN

I was however moored on a 48 hour mooring so needed to find the 14 day alternative – the very reason I had come here – but it was patently obvious that there was no such thing. Waterscape.com has once again provided incorrect information. With some of the moorings being private, others for museum customers only that only leaves room for half a dozen boats at the most and all 48 hours max. So at half three, I decided to push on to Birmingham and back tracked to Factory Junction. I really enjoyed the three Factory Locks which rank among my favourites. They are unusual in having a continuous straight brickwork edge from the top to the bottom, so in theory you can pull the boat out of one lock, close the gates and then walk ahead while the boat drifts onwards towards the next lock, opening the gate and watching it glide in. Don’t try this on a windy day folks, but today I had the whole place to myself and dropped down the three locks in just over 15 minutes total.

About 100 yards beyond the bottom lock I noticed the most enormous heap of beer cans on the bridge embankment to the left. I reached for the camera, but quickly put it back when I saw the most likely source of the mess – a large group of Tipton’s finest hoodies had obviously made this some kind of headquarters, right above the can mountain, and several appeared involved in taking stronger stuff than lager. Better to push on than get involved in handing out rubbish bags, lest I should become their contents.

As it got dark the cold set in, and I began to wonder if the scaremongering press, notably the Daily Express, were going to be right about another cold spell heading our way. Definitely best to be secure in Birmingham in case this happens and the canal freezes over again!  With an extra coat and gloves on, the rest of the journey was wonderful – I didn’t see one single person between Dudley Port and Sherbourne Wharf.

Zulu at Birmingham 48 hr Moorings
Zulu at Birmingham 48 hr Moorings

It was about 7pm when I arrived in Birmingham and the first thing I noticed was that the moorings between Sherbourne Loop and the next bridge are 14 days, on both sides of the canal too. Grrrrrr Waterscape.com doesn’t mention this at all, making a mockery of the information it provides, where it says all moorings are 48 hours apart from Cambrian Wharf which I knew to have three 14 day moorings. Well at least that was the another problem solved. This area has a really nice feel to it, with security cameras all over the place, and residential balconies all along. For a Saturday night the whole place was very quiet indeed and I didn’t half sleep well!

Today’s total is a respectable 25 locks and 23 miles and I feel that arriving in Birmingham has been a major milestone in the journey. The only available route south from here is going to be down Farmers Bridge locks, then Aston and up Camp Hill to join the Grand Union at its northernmost point at Solihull, all of which needs to be done in one session due to lack of moorings, so thats probably what I will do next weekend, heading for Hatton where there’s a very convenient station. Now whilst I would have been absolutely happy to do Wolverhampton locks alone but appreciated some assistance, Hatton flight is another matter altogether and I won’t be doing them single handed unless I have no choice. I therefore give you advance notice that if anyone is interested in helping me down Hatton, I would really really appreciate your help in a couple or three weeks time!

Meanwhile thanks again to Springy. It was great to meet you and without your help I would definitely not be writing this from Birmingham!

2 Replies to “Compton to Birmingham”

  1. Don’t just speak your mind on the blog – let BW and waterscape know their information is absolute rubbish. Use corrections@waterscape.com not boatersguide@waterscape.com – the address on their guides gets bounced!!!!
    Then write to the local waterways office using http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk/contact-us to say that wrong information is worse than no information, but they should be aiming at correct information, and copy it to Caroline.Killeavy@britishwaterways.co.uk – head of customer relations. Especially in this weather we need to know where the facilities are.

    1. I am busy writing to BW right now – its a good job I had plenty time to move on to Birmingham on this occasion. Thanks for the mailing contacts etc – I am still waiting for a reply sent to the HQ address three months ago, but thats another subject!

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