Wednesday, 21 August 2013

An excuse to visit yet another short length of canal new to us.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Attractive cast iron bridge crossing one entrance to Icknield Port Loop
Today we planned to stay in Birmingham, but needed to go urgently and buy diesel.  Dipping the tank revealed that whilst my estimate that we had enough to get here had obviously been correct, we certainly would not have gone a lot further.

This entrance is at a cross roads - the Soho loop is opposite the Icnirld loop.
Also last night, although we had found a slot to moor not far from gas Street, it had actually been quite noisy outside, and we could also take advantage of the many boats leaving moorings to move on to find a hopefully quieter spot for tonight.

Once there were thousands of BCN dayboats - these days not that many.
Diesel comes from Sherbourne Wharf, located on the Oozells Street loop.  Here we could also exchange a Calor Gas cylinder that had run out.  Unfortunately their diesel is fairly expensive, but we didn't have a choice.

Same boat, other end, with other craft beyond
The exit from Oozells Street Loop onto the main line of the canal is at a very tangential angle, making swinging around back to the central moorings a bit of a "shunt", and I thought it would be easier to head away from the centre, then turn in the entrance to one of the basins or side arms beyond.  It was at this point I realised we have never traversed the short Icknield Port loop and that we could incorporate this as a way of making an extended turning around operation.

Largelt CRT owned maintenance boats of many generations.
The Icknireld Port Loop is part of the original winding main line before it was re-engineered with a new straight route, leaving many parts that had been cut through by it still connected, but now only serving anything that lay down them.  It is unusual in not having a tow-path, so you can only get to see it all if you take a boat down it.

Tug "Nansen II"
I had simply not expected to see a very large number of boats down it, but in fact it is used to store a large number of maintenance craft.  First you encounter a lot of very rusty old "mud hoppers" and also "Joey" boats.  It would appear a lot of these could belong to the canal contractor Rothens, but I'm not sure.

The Birmingham Buddist "Vihara" apparently.
However you then pass CRT's own depot with many of their own maintenance craft also present.  The vary from the latest hydraulically powered tugs right back to further Joeys I couldn't really see, but which were really interesting looking BCN "day boat" types.

Interesting old factory
Also present was the historic boat "Nansen II", which for example was at the tug event we took "Sickle" to at the Black Country living museum.

Further round the loop, as you start to return towards the main line, there are a lot of derelict or near derelict factories of the type that the BCN used to have tousands of, but which are increasingly being eradicated from the system.

Almost unbelievable this is central Birmingham, though.
As much as anywhere we have been this loop gives a glimpse of how things used to be, which you largely miss if you just pass down the New main Line.

Leaving the loop through a rather less ornate bridge.
What has changed though, since I first boated on the BCN in the 1970s, is that you can go the whole way around such a loop with few worries, and keep a clear propeller throughout.  Back in the 1970s I recall peering down the end of it at the weed and rubbish, and thinking it would be quite impossible to ever again get a boat down it.

Birmingham including Oozells Street and Icknield Port Loops
Miles: 3.5 (Chalice), Locks: 0

Total Miles: 315.5, Locks: 152

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