#40 BCN (+ W&B & Stratford Canals) – South East. August 2016

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Tuesday 30th August 2016      Early start today. Cruising from the waters of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal into those of the BCN.The Birmingham Canal Navigations. nb:Black Bart is a BCN Replica so this is a must visit area for Bart & crew.

We turn South-East from the S&W into the first chamber of the 21 Wolverhampton Flight of locks. This is going to be FUN.

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Glorious start to the day. Some mist still hanging above the water at this early hour.

Bridges, bridges everywhere. Locks, locks, locks even moor everywhere.

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Love all the bridges we is crouching under during today’s mammoth ascent.

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Following a multitude of a few moor arising lock chambers.

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Three hours negotiating

twenty one narrow locks

& muchly hard work & effort

from our crew’s senior lock keeper.

We Have Done It.

Wow !!  That were Great !!!

Two miles & arising of twenty one locks. Now we have another thirteen miles cruising & just three moor lock chambers (to descend) a tittle further on & we might make it to Birmingham later this afternoon/evening, if we are lucky. That finger & toes thing. All cross now….  Thirteen miles may not sound much to you guys out there, but in Bart World that be a Blooming long way. We flow through Broad Street/Wolverhampton Tunnel leaving the big city behind. Sorry !!  People to see places to go….  Horsley Fields Junction is soon passing us by with the Wyrley & Essington Canal flowing off to & past Brownhills.

The Old Main Line makes it’s wiggly way to & past Deepfields Junction with the Bradley Arm before we chug on & through the 360 yards long (329 metres) Coseley Tunnel. The Birmingham to Wolverhampton canal was originally cut in 1769/72. Canal genius James Brindley naturally following the land’s contours. Genius Thomas Telford was engaged later, to improve the canal using straight routes wherever possible, providing a shorter journey that went close to key industrial works and included a number of cutting & tunnel projects. One being Coseley Tunnel (with a tow-path each side) which opened in 1837. The canal is distinctly different from before the North of the tunnel. A less wriggly affair. We like a generous mix of both types. Straights, gently curves & wriggles. Great. Factory Junction soon appears before us, with the wriggly Old Main Line departing further South to Dudley before it then winds it’s way towards Birmingham. Cap’n Bart sets a moor direct course for the New Main Line descending the three Tipton Factory locks. A Long old (‘new’ actually) straight stretches out ahead of Bart & crew.

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After a fair while Dudley Port Junction sends water South down the Netherton Tunnel & soon(ish) Albion Junction for the Gower Branch which parallels the previous back down to the Old Main Line which be wobberlishly-tracking our smoothed out route. At Sandwell, Pudding Green Junction sends flows North-East via the Wednesbury Old & Walsall Canals, as we & Bart continue on our way to Bromford Junction. At the junction Lister & Old Prop take the right fork, continuing on the New Main Line

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The M5 & Steward Aqueduct swishes the Old Main Line over us before the 122 yard Galton Tunnel leads us into a pleasant big curvy bend under the Engine Arm Aqueduct & through Smethwick Junction where the Old Main Line rejoins our ‘New’ waterway again.

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The last three miles of today’s liquid path glides Bart past both ends of the Soho Loop & the Icknield Port Loop. We finally be entering Birmingham proper where Bart creeps slowly past Ladywood Junction at the West end of Oozells Street Loop & after creeping under Sheepcote Bridge Bart is Berthing for a very well earned rest. Breath Deeply. Twenty four locks, nine hours & fifteen miles. What a day. Fantastic !!!

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Wednesday 31st August      An udder early start. Mad. Not quite ‘stupid’ o’clock like yesterday though. We are off, to the Mail Box, sharp turning South-West. nb:Black Bart has swam from the BCN Main Line through ‘waters meeting’ into the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Construction of a barge-width (14 ft) canal began in 1792 from Birmingham. After many delays & money problems the canal was finally completed in 1815. In 1807 the canal reached Tardebigge without the use of locks. Costs of building 14 foot locks was too great so the 56 locks down to Worcester were built to 7-foot narrow format with the final two locks connecting to the Severn in Worcester at the South end being 14 foot to allow river craft access to Diglis Basin. 

For twenty years direct connection to the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) was prevented by the Worcester Bar, a physical barrier at Gas Street Basin Birmingham, so the BCN would not lose water to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Cargoes had to be laboriously manhandled between boats on either side. In 1815 an Act allowed the creation of a stop lock and the bar was breached. The Worcester and Birmingham raised their water level by six inches to minimise water loss. There were separate toll offices either side of the bar for the two canal companies. The two pairs of lock gates have now been removed. The bar still exists, with boats moored to both sides.

We are now starting to leave Brummy Land behind, via the famous cricket (The Warwickshire Bears) ground & it’s earlier 105 yard tunnel namesake.

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There be some very tight squeezy road (sorry, water) works. Not much room to spare, struggling to get past the lumpy (technical term) metal bits on the floating platform. Canal very shallow by the bank on tuther side & bridge narrowing only just past the obstruction. Someone could have been a tittle bit moor thoughtful aboat this one we thinks. Definitely NOT a thumbs-up for whoever is to blame for lack of thought !!!!!!   Not unpleasant aromas fill the air as we pass through sum place called Bournville  on our way to Kings Norton Junction where we are already leaving the Worcester & Birmingham Canal for the

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Northern waters of the Stratford Canal. Principal engineer were William Clowes. Opened in 1800, with the full route successfully completed in 1816. Soon after very tight turning (moor than a three point turn) East Bart is carefully negotiating the narrows of the now unused, open Stop Lock No.1 . The Guillotine Lock.

The Darkness of Brandwood Tunnel (352 yard) is soon surrounding Bart & the crew. Sum-wot wet in ‘ere mate !!  & that’s not just below Bart. Quite chillin drips keep slopping down from above. A few exhales of breath is occurring down ‘ere. Many miles chug by before Bart hunkers down under Shirley Drawbridge. Cap’n Bart & crew trog very slowly & quietly through the shallow waters of the twisty & curvy wurvy Stratford Canal. As we pass under one bridge there is a very unpleasant graunch from below, by poor Old Prop. Propulsion is abruptly stopped by the safety cutout on the gearbox before Skip has a chance to react & put her into neutral. Neutral is selected just after. Revs (already low) are dropped to minimum tick-over. Then propulsion is tentatively requested again. All sounds & feels OK. We continue careful wary progress.  Hockley Heath & Farm Lift Drawbridges are the last pivoting mechanisms to negotiate today. Tis already four in’afternoon & Lapworth Top Lock soonish followed by three moor are our next obstacles. Not long after & we is confronted by an assistant lock keeper (from the good ship Thow’d Fettler) & then we are confronted by & readying ourselves for the descending of the main Lapworth flight of many many lock chambers. Almost professional, speedy progress is enjoyed by an amazingly almost well oiled machine of fine manufacture, made to high tolerances. Most Impressive !!  Tis not even 7.00pm & Bart has safely passed through Lapworth Junction turning into the Kingswoood Arm, now Berthing for a very well earned rest. Breath Deeply. Three waterways, three lift bridges, Twenty (only) locks, ten hours & eighteen miles. What a day. Again – Fantastic !!!  & Beautifully bright & Sunny too, just as yesterday.

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Thursday 1st September      Oh !!  Crew need to relax. No rest for the wicked. If that be what we have become. Wicked ??  No Not Us. Lister is awoken early again. Yes. Third day on the trot. Or should that be on the chug. Make up your own minds. We is far too ty-red to even try thinking aboat such a ting. Lines slipped & nb:Black Bart is leaving our waterway friends of the previous couple of days

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& passing through Kingswood Junction turning South along the Grand Union Canal. Looks like we might be in for another GLORIOUS day. Fantastic !!  Might see you there later……

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Black Bart has cruised South-East, to Kingswood Junction from Aldersley Junction, swimming 15 miles of the BCN and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal & the Stratford Canal, crawling through four tunnels, ascending 21 & descending 23 narrow lock chambers, sailing over the Puppy Green, Dudley Port, Ryland, Moors, Coopers, River Tame, Holiday Street, disused railway, Bourn Brook, Griffins Brook, Bournville Lane, River Rea, River Cole in 13 strange channels called aqueducts, gliding under Steward & Engine Arm Aqueducts, swimming along several embankments, through numerous cuttings, creeping under 3 drawbridges & Swimming slowly, carefully under 132 ‘fixed’ bridges. Summit like that anyway. If you find any (all of the) errors, don’t tell anyone, us included. Goodnight !!!

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