Birmingham – and it’s raining

From Coalbourne Brook Bridge to Sheepcote Street Visitor Moorings, a distance of 20 miles, 4¼ flg and 25 locks.

We got up to overcast skies and we just knew the weather was no going to be good. We headed off up the arm and turned at the Closed Arm to the old Iron Works before heading back to the junction and dropping crew off so we could start up the Stourbridge 16

We’d only done a couple of the locks before it started to drizzle, and that pretty much set the weather for the day although there were periods of relative dryness. We made pretty good time up the flight even though it wasn’t fun getting over the top balance beams in the wet.

It was interesting to see how much the area round the flight has changed – even from our last visit which was only a few years ago. I can remember when the glass works was still operational and you could go on factory floor trips. The conversion of most of the buildings has been quite tasteful and sensible and most of the new build even though its done in a rather obvious mock industrial doesn’t look that bad at all.

As you get towardsDouble Lock Cottage Bridge you could almost be back in the countryside and it’s hard to believe you are only a few miles from the centre of Birmingham.

C&RT were out kebbing each of the weirs collecting weed and rubbish and apart from some minor vandalism the whole lock flight, and indeed the whole canal, was actually quite pleasant – and I’m not sure why many more people don’t use the canal as it gives you a much more interesting way out of Birmingham than say Wolverhampton or Tardebigge, and although the locks can be a bit awkward they are relatively easy to use and pretty quick to empty and fill and there is just about no surging – we just sat at the back of the lock and didn’t even ride the bottom gates.

We turned right at Leys Junction and made our way in the now quite heavy rain towards the Delph locks. It hadn’t eased off by the time we reached Black Delph and the bottom lock. The Delph locks are often know as “The Nine” and the local pub is called “The 10th Lock” even though there are only 8. The top lock and the bottom lock are the 1st and 9th lock of the old flight but a new flight with one less lock was built alongside the original flight which was then abandoned. The only indication that the lock layout has changed is the alignment of the top and bottom locks in relation to the main flight of 6 locks, and the arm leading off below the top lock. The overflow weirs for the new locks are very impressive, especially when there is a lot of spare water on the flight, and look more like reservoir spillways than simple canal lock overflows.

We met a boat at lock number 3 who wanted to know if all the locks were this big and we had to tell them yes – they were heading to Stourbridge and they looked about as soaked through as us.

There was a lone angler just above the top lock and apart from him we saw no-one until we got to Merry Hill where the Merry Hill Visitor Moorings were pretty much full of anglers who seemed far from pleasant. We stopped on The Waterfront Visitor Moorings (Dudley) and had a coffee and warmed up a bit.

It was still raining when we got to Blowers Green Lock and we swung round the corner, moored up and filled up with water. The rain was pretty set now and all we could do was chug on – parts of this route into Birmingham aren’t the most enticing and continual rain doesn’t really help make it any better, and as you pass Blackbrook Junction you kind of wish that the old “Two Locks” Line hadn’t succumbed to mining subsidence.

We finally got a break from the rain when we dived underground at Netherton Tunnel (South end) but even then we had to dodge water pouring down some of the air shafts. We sort of hoped that maybe the weather might have got a little better whilst we were in the tunnel but by the time we reached Dudley Port Junction it was pretty torrential and rather unpleasant. We plough on through the rain until we reached the centre of Birmingham where we stopped for the night. After drying off and getting changed we went and had a couple of beers at The Craven Arms before wandering down into the Chinese Quarter and having quite a good Vietnamese which was very different to the “Vietnamese” food we’d had in the past in Cheltenham. Then we wandered up to The Wellington where we finished the evening off.

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