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The Waterways Wanderings of Narrowboat “Just Heaven”

Dudley

We are moored outside the Black Country Living Museum.
It’s been a long day with lots of contrasts. We started out early again, before seven o’clock to try to beat the weather. Three more locks of the Birmingham & Fazeley canal and then we turned onto the Tame Valley canal. This junction of the Birmingham & Fazeley, the Tame Valley and the Birmingham & Warwick junction (Saltley cut) canals is underneath Spaghetti junction of the M6 and A38(M).

I wonder how many people up there realise there is a junction 200 years older down here?

I wonder how many people up there realise there is a junction 200 years older down here?

The Tame Valley canal was much nicer than we had expected. It skirts around the northern suburbs of Birmingham, but is surprisingly rural. The Perry Barr flight of thirteen locks are very well maintained making life easier for the few boaters who venture this way.

The Perry Barr flight

The Perry Barr flight

An interesting feature of these locks (well interesting to boaters anyway) is that the top paddles are connected via a conduit to the tail of the lock. So when you fill a lock it fills from both ends. This means that there aren’t any swirling currents to move the boat. No “pull”, the boat stays still in the middle. The Tame Valley was built late in the canal era, so this must have been an idea the 19th century canal builders learned from the mistakes of their 18th century colleagues.
Later the Tame Valley canal goes right through the middle of the M5/M6 junction. At one point going over some of the slip road between the two motorways.

Aqueduct over the motorways

Aqueduct over the motorways

We then turned onto the Walsall canal. This wasn’t so attractive. The water was black and oily in places and very shallow. A short trip along the Birmingham old main line brought us to Dudley.

Curdworth

A long day today. We were out of bed by 6:20 and on the move before dawn at 6:35.

Sunrise

Sunrise

The weather forecast wasn’t good, but it wasn’t raining so we thought we’d get going while it was dry. I was glad we had got across the Trent yesterday as this morning it was in the “amber”. A steady progress up to Fradley Junction where we topped up with water and had breakfast. Then off down the Coventry canal. We haven’t been this way since 2006. It was odd, some things triggered memories, other parts we couldn’t remember at all.
This part of the Coventry canal wasn’t built by the Coventry Canal Company as they had run out of money, but was built partly by the Trent & Mersey company and partly by the Birmingham & Fazeley company. This is reflected today in the different bridge name/numbers [End of canal history lesson!]
A short distance after turning onto the Birmingham & Fazeley we called into a marina and topped up with diesel and had a pumpout, then carried on towards Birmingham.

Ornamental foot bridge near Drayton Manor Park

Ornamental foot bridge near Drayton Manor Park

The recent rains have cause a lot of flooding hereabouts. The Kingsbury Water Park had overflowed into nearby farmland.

Flooded fields

Flooded fields

It started to rain about 2:30 when we were partway up the Curdworth lock flight, but we pressed on to moor up near Curdworth tunnel at about 4:30.
For regular readers of this blog (are there any?) you will get another chance soon to vote on boat colour schemes !

Alrewas

Between Wychnor and Alrewas the Trent & Mersey canal crosses the river Trent “on the level”, i.e. the two join and follow the same course for a few hundred yards. After a few days of heavy rain this stretch is prone to flooding. The weather forecast was warning of severe rain for today and tomorrow, so we decided that we needed to get across the Trent sooner rather than later. Even though it was raining quite hard we were up and away by 7:15. When we got to Wychnor the level was still in the “green” so we were OK. We arrived in Alrewas at about 9:30 cold and wet, so breakfast of porridge was taken with the central heating on!

Aldi fishermen’s ┬átrousers are brilliant! They are really warm, comfortable and waterproof. Good old Aldi.

We have been here all day. The rain has been really hard but has just about stopped now (4:00pm). We considered moving on for an hour or so, but have decided to stay put.

Over the last few months we have been considering getting the boat re-painted. The red sections in particular are looking rather scruffy. We don’t really want red again, but couldn’t decide what to change it to. We have been looking at other boats to see what we like.

I have mocked up rough views of what it would look like in two colour schemes we are thinking of. Have a look at the pictures below and vote for your favourite!

Light and dark blue

Light and dark blue

Blue and green

Blue and green

Blue and red (as now)

Blue and red (as now)

Please vote below (Click the pictures for a bigger view)

Blue and Green
Blue and Blue
Blue and Red
Comment:
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Voting now finished – Thanks for you input

Branston

Woke up to a complete change in the weather, cloudy and grey. It stayed overcast until 2:15 when it started to rain. Several boaters we spoke to said that really heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow, so we pressed on until just after 4:00 then stopped for the night.
Yesterday Heddi hurt her back while closing a particularly heavy lock gate. So today I have been working semi-single handed. The first four locks were deep, double width ones with viscous flows from the top paddles, requiring us rope up. So progress was rather slow. Lots of boats going the other way meant that we didn’t have to turn any locks though.
We are back on the more familiar Midlands narrow lock system now. Instead of going back the way we came, we are going to go via the Coventry and Birmingham & Fazely canals, then along the Tame Valley canal and via Wolverhampton to get back to Kinver. This will take us on some other parts of the system that we haven’t done before.
The fire is now lit, and it won’t be long before the wine’s in the glass!

Shardlow

We awoke this morning to sunshine and a clear blue sky. The moorings outside County Hall in Nottingham are excellent. There’s lots of room and they’re free. The whole of the riverside area is well maintained and an excellent resource for the locals and visiting boaters. Other city councils should take note (Yes Worcester I’m talking to you).

Outside County Hall

Outside County Hall

County Hall from Trent Bridge

County Hall from Trent Bridge

A walk before breakfast then set off. A short stop at Sainbury’s which is alongside the Nottingham canal and then up the last stretch of river and back onto the Trent & Mersey canal. It’s been really warm with lots of boat traffic about, particularly CanalTime/CanalBoat club boats heading back to Sawley.

Nottingham

We are now moored on the Trent in Nottingham just a few yards from Trent Bridge Cricket ground. Today has been cold and wet. Mostly drizzly rain, but standing out in it for over over 7 hours wasn’t particularly pleasant!
The Trent has lots of bird life. Today we have seen ducks (tufted & mallard), geese (greylag & Canada), swans, kingfishers, cormorants, grebes, herons, common gulls, etc. We occasionally see a cormorant on the Severn, but around here they are more common than herons. They like to perch on posts or dead trees drying off their wings.

Cormorant on a post

Cormorant on a post

A Gaggle of Geese

A Gaggle of Geese

Today was the last day of the main Trent, though we have a couple of short sections between the Nottingham canal and the Trent & Mersey canal to do tomorrow.
We have been considering changing our route back to Kinver and going via the Birmingham & Fazley and the Tame Valley canal. Haven’t quite decided yet.

Newark on Trent

A long, cold, wet day today. We locked out onto the river at 8:00. This was just as the tide was rising, the idea being that this would push us up river all the way to Cromwell, so avoiding the overnight stop at Torksey. Well it certainly pushed us! At times we were doing just over 9mph. Unfortunately the weather was awful. It started off cold and raining. The rain eased off after the first couple of hours, but the cold wind continued all day. Navigation was made “interesting” by swirling currents, lots of floating debris and loaded gravel barges bearing down on us (one of them as we were passing under a bridge!)
Unfortunately, partly because of the weather, and partly because we were too busy! we didnt take any photos. Below is us ascending Cromwell lock to get off the tidal stretch. The lockie said that the incoming flow would be “a bit vicious”. He wasnt exagerating.

Rising in Cromwell Lock

Rising in Cromwell Lock

Keadby Lock

A lazy day today. We are booked in with the Keadby lock keeper for tomorrow’s 8:00am tide. So we only had about 4 hours cruising to do. A bright, sunny day, but with a coldish wind, though not as windy as yesterday.
I think it must always be windy here as there a lot of these around!
"Catch the Wind"
We arrived here about 12:30, had lunch then went for a walk to look at the village. The Nicholsons guide book describes Keadby as “dull”. I think they were being generous. We decided that it deserves a prize for the least interesting place we’ve been for a very long time. So back to the boat to read books and chill out until the thrills of zooming up the Trent on the flood tide tomorrow!.

Thorne

Wind, wind and more wind!
We have been battling a gale most of today. The day started OK, bright and sunny. We did three loads of washing whilst connected to the water point, then set off about 9:00. I called the Keadby lockie who said that we would need to be there by 7:00am tomorrow in order to catch the tide. That would have been a bit of a push, so we booked in for Thursday at 8:00 instead.
As we approached the first lock the sun was in my eyes and I didnt see that the light was on “red” (stop) rather than “amber” (boater operated). Then I saw why, out of the lock came a very large gravel barge!

Gravel Barge

Gravel Barge

At that exact moment the sky decided to start chucking it down with rain, but we managed to get into the lock OK. The lockie put us through quickly and we were on our way.
The wind was blowing really strongly as we made our way along the New Junction Canal. Here there is a series of lift & swing bridges. Approaching and leaving the landing stages either side to drop off and pick up crew was extremely difficult!
Coming under a lift bridge

Coming under a lift bridge


Next we turned onto the Stainforth & Keadby, this a little smaller and reminded us of the Gloucester & Sharpness. A short shopping trip in Thorne then moored up for the night at about 4:30.

Whitley Lock

After a wonderful weekend at the wedding we set off back for home.
The Naburn lock keeper told us to be there at 9:30 so we left York at about 7:45. He warned us that, because it was a high spring tide, it would be fast, and getting into Selby lock might be tricky. We pushed against the rising tide for about an hour, then it turned and before long we were flying along! The current past the lock entrance was very fast. I left the turn a little late and was about a boat length downstream by the time we had completed the turn. With lots of revs we crept back up and in without mishap.

High tide on the Ouse

High tide on the Ouse

The Selby canal was much more placid by comparison. On to the River Aire, which was on “amber”, but no problem at all. By now the wind had picked up and was blowing strongly. A short chug along the Aire & Calder canal to Whitley Lock, which is a pleasant mooring we knew from the way up.

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