March 9th 2010 - Black Country Museum Moorings
Vicki and Ben arrived on Thursday evening but not until 8.50pm (its a long drive from Cambridge!). We met them as arranged in The Talbot Arms by the canal bridge. Unfortunately the pub stopped serving food at 8.45pm so we missed dinner by five minutes! Not to worry, I had prepared a Bolognese sauce in the afternoon as a standby so after a quick drink we walked back down the towpath to the boat and dinner!
Clive had a second birthday celebration with Vicki and Ben and they had brought him the most wonderful present! Vicki had told me on the phone that they were bringing his present but very cryptically said that we wouldn't be able to use it yet! The mind boggled! However all was revealed when he took off the wrapping paper!
Clive's birthday present!
It is exactly what we have been wanting ever since we set off! We have seen reviews of various portable barbecues in the boating magazine but never actually came across one in a shop. Clive is absolutely thrilled with his present and so am I! All we need now is the summer!
On Friday we got up and had breakfast then we took Vicki and Ben to have a look around Market Drayton. Whilst we were there we popped into the Mower shop where Clive's cousin Jean works to surprise her and introduce her to Vicki and Ben.
We went into The Hippodrome for lunch. Once upon a time it was a cinema but has been very tastefully converted into a Witherspoons bar and restaurant;. We have been in there several times before and the food is always good. Then all too soon it was time for Vicki and Ben to set off on the journey back to Cambridge. Still we will be seeing them again in a few weeks time when we all go on holiday together at Easter.
We stayed for one more night in Market Drayton then on Saturday morning we set off once more. We were intending to get as far as Norbury but the temperature plummeted and we were frozen daft on the back of the boat so we decided to call it a day and moor up in the same spot we had moored in a couple of weeks earlier. Right out in the countryside away from everything. It was lovely to get inside our cosy, warm boat and defrost!
The following morning we set off again and it didn't take long to reach Norbury. We made a temporary stop to fill up the diesel tank (they sell very cheap diesel at Norbury Wharf!) and post some letters then we continued our journey down the Shroppie. It was a really beautiful sunny day with wall to wall blue sky, not a cloud in sight. There was only one drawback - it was perishing cold! There was a really biting wind blowing straight in our faces and it never let up all day. In the sunshine it wasn't too bad but the Shroppie has lots of deep, dank cuttings where the sun never shines and it was very chilly down in the bottom I can tell you!
Deep Shroppie Cutting!
It was a very pretty stretch of the Shroppie and apart from the cold it was a very enjoyable cruise. There was only one lock, right out in the middle of nowhere, all by itself! We passed through Gnosell (pron no-zell) and then finally arrived in Brewood (pron brood), where we stayed the last time we were down this way in 2008. We remembered that there was a pub right by the bridge just before our mooring, so before we took all our togs off we nipped over for a swift pint. Well Clive had a pint, I had the new J2O Grape and Kiwi - its delicious!
Monday morning dawned bright and fair once again but fortunately it wasn't as chilly! Again we had a most enjoyable day cruising down to the bottom of the Shroppie. I did see an extraordinary sight though at one of the bridges, amongst the usual flotsam floating around were four coconuts! How bizarre is that!
We finally arrived at Autherley Junction and just before going through we stopped to fill up with water. I remember being here in 2008 too - it was where my gold filling fell out for the first time whilst eating a salad sandwich!!! Once the tank was full we continued on to the junction and this time turned right heading for Birmingham.
Turning right at Autherley Junction
We didn't go very far though, about one hundred yards, then we moored up for the night.
We got up this morning bright and early, had a good breakfast (porridge!) then set off at 9.00am - we had a long, hard day ahead of us! I stayed down below doing the washing up etc then I realised we were turning right again! We had arrived at Aldersley Junction and the first lock already!
Aldersley Junction and Lock No 21
It was a very tight turn and the lock was right there, Clive barely had time to pull up! I hadn't even got my boots on at this point so Clive went and opened the lock gates ready whilst I got togged up. Oh well here goes - 21 locks and uphill all the way!
Actually it wasn't as bad as it sounds. The locks were in extremely good order and had very recently been greased so all the paddles worked beautifully. There were some very strong undercurrents in the locks though and Clive had his work cut out to stop the boat careering up the lock and hitting the front doors. Part way up the flight we passed Wolverhampton Racecourse and we could see horses being put through their paces beyond a big fence. We only met one boat coming down the flight, at lock number 10 but fortunately all the locks had been in our favour all the way up apart from two, which wasn't bad going. All in all it took us about four and half hours to get all the way up, well four and a quarter if you count the stop in one of the locks to have a cup of coffee and a biscuit! However I was very glad indeed to finally arrive at Lock No 1, the top lock! Right slap bang in the middle of Wolverhampton!
Our journey didn't end there though, we had another hour and half to cruise before we reached a suitable spot to moor for the night. I have to say it is not the most salubrious of places! The rest of the cruise was pretty grotty to be honest. The canal was filthy, full of supermarket bags, polystyrene food boxes, drink cartons, bottles etc etc Clive, not surprisingly, ended up having to go down the weed hatch at one point because there was obviously something wrapped around the prop shaft - it turned out to be a plastic bag! We both agreed that, like the Rochdale Canal, we wouldn't come here again by choice!
Finally we reached Tipton Junction and turned right heading for the Black Country Museum where there are good, safe visitor moorings. These are right at the entrance to the Dudley Tunnel, which was first dug in 1775 to gain access to subterranean limestone workings, later extended to join up with the Dudley Canal. However we aren't going that way. We will be turning round and heading back to the junction to take the turn to Birmingham.
We had both had enough by the time we arrived here, as foretold, its been a long, hard day! (Not that long really, it was only 3.30pm when we got here, it just felt long!!!)