Merry Hill to Sheepcote Street Bridge, Birmingham
As we sat having our breakfast the sound of fishermens trolleys kept passing us, we were going to be in the middle of a match. The start time was confirmed by the chap sat just behind us, luckily we had enough time to get past them all before they started. A far greyer day than yesterday and we soon wished we’d not let the stove go out over night. We dressed back in waterproofs and plenty of layers which we were grateful for.
Just short of a mile and a half further on was the last lock up to the level of Birmingham, Blowers Green Lock. A couple walked up and offered to help with the gates. They were on their Sunday morning walk and always stop for a little rest at the lock, each having their own lock beam to sit on. Gradually the lock filled and Oleanna had finished the climb up to the New Main Line level. We pulled up round the corner to top up with water and dispose of our rubbish.
Another boat appeared and proceeded to wind above the lock. There is plenty of space here but they managed to get very close to the off side where two fishermen were sat. Using the throttle a great deal the poor chaps sat on the bank must have got wet legs!
Now on the Dudley NO 2 Canal we wound our way around Primrose Hill making our way towards Bumble Hole. The towpath has informative steel sculptures along the way. Some inform you of distances other about the history of the Black Country. The bouncing bomb shell casing, the anchor for the Titanic, and how graffiti changed the name of one of the bridges.
We pulled in opposite the cafe at Bumble Hole for lunch. If ever there was an M mooring here was one. But try as I did they wouldn’t let me out, I could have stayed for days and not run out of trees to climb.
Fed and watered we were ready for Netherton Tunnel. At 2776m long it was the last canal tunnel to be built in the Canal Age, opening in 1858. Being 27ft wide it allowed two way traffic and has a towpath on both sides which helped greatly with the bottle neck that occurred at the Dudley Tunnel. You can see straight through and the only other traffic we encountered was walkers paddling their way along the towpath. It must a thing to do with the kids on a Sunday afternoon, but very damp and extremely cold today.
Popping out the other side it had taken us 30 minutes. Under the Old Main Line and four picturesque cottages sit by the canal. One is for sale, but I’m sure the anti-theft shutters would put quite a few off viewing it! Straight on until we had to turn at Dudley Port Junction, here we chose to go right, just as well as to the left the canal is closed at the moment!
My navigation duties were hard trying to keep Mick on a straight course, so many junctions and loops. Every now and again you came to a central island forcing you to go right to the side. Were these the canal equivalent to speed bumps, designed to slow boats down? Several Canada Geese were making use of them for nesting sites, keeping a beady on us as we passed.
We were getting quite wet and chilled to the bone by now, familiar landmarks passing us by. The Spon Lane locks taking the canal up to the Old Main Line level and it’s pretty bridges, Steward Aqueduct the M5 and railway all crossing each other, Galton Bridge with it’s high span followed by the short tunnel, Engine Arm on it’s ornate aqueduct.
Relieved to see the signs for Sherborne Wharf we had reached our destination for the day, we just needed to find an Oleanna sized gap. A familiar boat loomed out before Sheepcote Street Bridge, NB Leon. Only a few days ago we’d been wondering if ever we’d get to meet up with this boat on the cut and here she was. We could just make out a waving hand at the front doors. But before we went to tap on the roof we found a mooring, got the stove alight, and warmed up. Sorry, but new crew are required! The outside earlier on was where they should have moved us to, not here and this brick wall!
NB Leon belongs to Noel and Carolyn, Noel used to work at Crick Marina and we’ve got to know him over the last few years. He kindly let us moor Oleanna next to Lillian last year for us to move from one to the other. Invited in we were given a full guided tour of NB Leon. A Tyler Wilson Northwich shell built to Noel and Carolyn’s spec, she had arrived at Crick as a lined sailaway with a few extra bits, this is when we last saw inside her. They have done a beautiful job with the fit out and Noel certainly has mastered scumbling for the back cabin. A very handsome boat indeed.
We finished off the day by treating ourselves to a burger and chips each at The Handmade Burger Company around the corner. When we were in Birmingham about three years ago they had no gas so we’d been given two vouchers for future use. Today we at last got to use the second voucher. They also do Gluten Free bread buns which is great, I can actually enjoy a burger as it should be.
1 lock, 12.9 miles, 2 tunnels, 7 mysterons, 1 right, 10 straight ons, 1 rightish, 25 fishermen, 2 soggy chilled boaters, 1 miffed cat! 1 familiar boat, 1.5 hours boaters chat, 1 pretty back cabin, 2 glasses wine, 2 burgers, 2 chips, 0 Torvil and Dean for us.
Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 1.719m.