Thursday, 22 December 2016

Birmingham Christmas Market

Wow, I can't believe how quickly the last month has gone. We have been busy with lots of Christmas orders for pens, I've lost count how many times I've been down to the Post Office.

We have also just finished the RCTA Christmas Market, which was a massive nine days long. Last year the market was just Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the weather was horrendous, so this year it was decided to hold it over two weekends and the weekdays in between. We had a fantastic time and have come away with a very limited stock so James will be kept busy in January and February so we can at least start the new trading season with something to sell. 

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There were fourteen boats attending the market and we had great fun. On Thursday we had our 'office do' at Jimmy Spices and as usual I managed to get my money's worth and came away feeling very full. And on Sunday after the final packing up a few of us made it to Wetherspoons for a final year drink and good byes until next Spring.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Bentley Bridge to Birmingham

We have had a couple of horrendous weather days, wind and rain, but looking at the news I think we were probably let off lightly compared to other parts of the country.

The moorings at Bentley Bridge are so handy as you are right on the retail park and we had a good stock up at Aldi, we also treated ourselves to a visit to Cineworld and watched Fantastic Beasts and where to find them. It was great just strolling back to the boat, which was probably a lot closer than some of the other people had their cars parked.

We left yesterday morning and made our way back to the junction with the Main Line of the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN). The plan was to do an hour at a time on the tiller each as we thought it would take around five hours to get into Birmingham. James took the first hour whilst I was inside tagging pens, then we swapped so I had Coseley Tunnel to get through, it's only a short one at 360 yards. 

Left turn and we're back on the Main Line

The junction at Tipton where the Old Main Line goes off

Just coming out of the middle lock at Factory Locks
We were soon at the junction at Tipton where the Old Main Line goes off, but this time we continued down Factory Locks on the New Main Line. As James was suffering a bit with a migraine I carried on steering.

Very straight and wide

That's the Netherton Tunnel Branch

And the hill that the tunnel goes through

The railway runs along side most of the way

Lots of little dead end arms and basins now

And past the Gower Branch which links the Old and New Main Lines via three locks

A few narrow bits to negotiate

Pudding Green Junction, this leads to Walsall

More dead end arms

This is Bromford Junction which leads up three locks and joins the Old Main Line 

That's the M5 and the Old Main Line also crosses on the brick bridge

Concrete supports for the M5, the brick bridge carries the Old Main Line with the railway line crossing that 

Looking back, the brick bridge carrying the Old Main Line and the M5 above that

It was a nice dry still day, but a bit chilly

Smethwick Galton Bridge railway station is on this bridge

Smethwick Pump House

That leads through to a little basin - Monument Road Basin Bridge
The New Main Line is very straight so can be a bit tedious, but I was enjoying it having the canal completely to myself, we only past one moored boat and that was at Smethwick Pump House. James took over the tiller on the approach into Birmingham and we past a few people we know moored by Barclaycard Arena, there were waves and shouts of hello, but we continued on through to Cambrian Wharf where we took the last spot and had a lovely welcome from Josh and Peter who had come out to see us. 

We needed to pop straight to the CRT office as our delivery of leaflets for the floating market had arrived and on the way back we stopped off to see Kailey and Josh on their new butty and enjoy a catch up and coffee with them. 

14 miles and 3 locks
TOTAL 711 miles and 650 locks

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Wolverhampton 21

We left Autherley Junction yesterday morning a little later than planned, the temperature had dropped last night and on my morning walk with Dudley the towpath was like a skating rink so we thought it best to let it thaw a bit before tackling the locks. We had left the back canopy down last night, as we knew it was just a quick stop, and this morning James' bench had a layer of ice on it.

It was a short way to Aldersley Junction where the main line goes off and straight into the bottom lock of the Wolverhampton 21. Most of the locks were full, so had to be emptied before getting LJ in and refiling, so it was quite slow progress but I was also being carefully as it was still quite slippy around the locks - we didn't want a repeat of November 2013 - Click here.

The first lock of the day

Missing paddle so this one too ages to fill

The pound was a little low at this one

We came across a photo shoot

And finally at the top

We stopped off at the CRT yard for water
Once through the locks we continued onwards and turned left at Horseley Fields Junction onto the Wyrley ans Essington Canal. We continued on for about a mile and stopped in the little arm at Bentley Bridge next door to Cineworld alongside the retail park. 

I managed to get us on the mirror bridge - but I've got the camera right in front of my face

The view from the lounge window

And view from the front

Seems odd seeing a boat in the car park 

4.5 miles and 21 locks
Total 697 miles 647 locks

Friday, 18 November 2016

Calf Heath to Autherley Junction

We've had a busy few days doing some pen making preparations. I was on sawing duties, the big piece of Dane's base plate and James was rough rounding them on the lathe and drilling ready for the barrels. It was a great place to work, nothing really around for miles, only two people walked by the few days we were there, boat traffic was pretty low too so we had a nice peaceful time.

We took a little time out from our hard work and took Dudley for a stroll and came across this place ....

Doesn't sound too nice, but no smell and no noise and we were pretty close to it!
This morning, as promised, Martin on Fuel Boat Halsall arrived and we stocked up on our winter coal, a change of gas and topped up the diesel. He was done with us and continuing on his way before 9am.  The guys on the fuel boats work really hard and long hours so we like to use them if possible, hence our waiting out a few days here for him on his rounds. 

It was very cold this morning with a thick frost which formed after 7am, but it was lovely and sunny with no wind. After a cup of tea to warm us up after sorting our coal delivery we were on our way.

After a lovely couple of hours, and passing one other moving boat, we have now moored up at Autherley Junction, where the Shropshire Union goes off.

6 miles and 0 locks
692.5 miles and 626 locks