Monday, 20 August 2012

Into Birmingham - And Back to "Four Plus Dog"

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

On the Old Main Line - M5 completely covers the canal here.
One of the things about travelling around the Birmingham Canal Navigations is that there is often a choice of routes.  Specifically for part of the journey from Wolverhampton into Birmingham there are two canals - the Old Main Line, and the subsequently built New Main Line, which takes a more direct route, and is in a cutting about 20 feet deeper than the original.  These two lines are connected together both at the ends, but also at two points in the middle, by short flights of three locks, and there are therefore 4 different ways of getting from one level to the other.

Strange juxtaposition of old bridge and modern motorway.
The Black Country Museum is on the upper Wolverhampton level , whereas Birmingham centre is on the lower level, so we needed to use one of the four sets of locks between the two.  Personally I'm no great fan of the New Main Line, which is wide, but largely straight and featureless.  Rather more interesting is the longer, winding, Old Main Line, although much of it can't exactly be described as picturesque.

These "tunnels" are not old, dating only from covering the canal here the 1970s
We set off on the Old Line, expecting to turn off at Brades Junction through the Brades Locks and down the interconnecting Gower Branch to the New Main Line.  This has the interest that the top two Brades locks are a paired staircase, sharing a gate between the two - the only staircase lock on the whole BCN.  Also there is a very low bridge at the foot of these locks, if the water is at its correct level, (which it was not the last time we went under!).  However on reaching Brades a hire boat was turning into these locks, so we decided not to wait whilst they worked out what to do, and possibly deal with the debris that can accumulate there.

"Thaxted" - A "Big Northwich" boat leaving Smetwick Locks
So we pressed on for the whole length of the Old Main Line, whose winding course is for some distance either cris-crossed by the M5 motorway, or has it running directly overhead.  This motorway has clearly had some major emergency repairs done to some of the supports, and I was somewhat alarmed by just how many devices are attached to the supports, presumably monitoring for further failures - often as many as 20 on a single beam!

Where the two lines merge into just one, we finally descended the theee locks at Smethwick that make up the twenty foot level difference.

Joining of the two routes - we have come under further bridge on right.
Pressing on into Birmingham, we found far more moorings free than is often the case in August.  There is a particular location we would normally occupy, and this was free, but there is little prospect there of a patch of grass, which Odin needs on a regular basis.  So instead we took an available spot elsewhere, with some semblance of grass nearby, (well a patch of mud and weeds, actually!).

Fuel boat "Roach" passes soon after we have tied up.
We were tied up early enough in the day, that Cath and I went and had lunch nearby.  Later on, we both went shopping, leaving David with dog and computer.  Micheal had arranged to come back to the boat, arriving soon after 6:00 pm, so whilst I took over dog minding, Cath and David met him at New Street station.  Shortly after a very happy Odin was very pleased to see Michael back.

We chose somewhere nearby for our evening meal, rather than venturing down near the mailbox as we typically would.  This is simply the easier way of handling things, until Odin is somewhat older, (a young puppy is only supposed to be taken on short walks, until their bones are harder).

Black Country Museum to Birmingham

Miles: 8.7, Locks: 3
Total Miles: 382.7, Locks: 209 (Worked)


  1. Is that Dave Moore's boat, Resolute, moored on the other side in that pic of Roach?

  2. Yes it is Dave Moore's boat, but it moved off fairly soon after when I was not there to spot it go, so we didn't actually meet Dave this particular day.