Safe Moorings on the Birmingham Canal Navigatons
10th April 2009
This has to be the most common question I am asked about boating on the BCN. Everyone fancies a trip into the BCN backwaters, but are worried about where they might end up for the night.
The following is a short list of moorings which I have used personally and can endorse with confidence. Its not exhaustive, and there are others which I would use at a pinch.
Taking the BCN in segments:
The North East
Ideally, moor below the bottom lock out on the Staffs and Worcester, and make an early start up the Wolverhampton 21. Alternatively, moor on the offside opposite the BW yard just above the top lock but expect some road noise.
I lovely spot, an hour or so north of Walsall. There are a few residential boaters here and whilst the "proper" moorings are on the towpath side, a courteous request will normally see you fixed up with a berth on the more remote basin side.
The boatyard out at the end of the Cannock Extension Canal offers very safe rural mooring opportunities. There may be some road noise form the A5, but this can be avoided by mooring at the Royal Oak, near Pelsall Junction on the Wyrley and Essington.
The M6 Toll has spoilt its tranquility, but the old basin is still a good spot in the Brownhills area. Moor up in the channel emerging from the Chasewater Reservoir dam.
There is an active boat club at Longwood, where the Daw End Branch and Rushall Canals meet. There is always safety in numbers and this site near Aldridge is a good bet, well away from housing.
Dog and Doublet at Bodymoor Heath
If you are approaching from the east along the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, the last good mooring point is at or near the Dog and Doublet pub. Quiet moorings are on the Fazeley side whereas the moorings near the pub are more convenient for a drink, but are close to the drone of the M42.
Salford (Spaghetti) Junction
As you get closer to the city centre safe moorings are harder to find. Whilst it will win no prizes for beauty, Cuckoo Wharf, just up the Birmingham and Fazely from Salford Junction, does offer a secure stopover point.
If you are making a trip into the BCN you will inevitably find yourself in the centre at some point. The area has been massively regenerated and most areas are highy visible and OK. The real danger here is prank stuff like late night revellers rocking the boat or casting off your ropes. I would suggest three options:
Gas Street Basin
Beast avoided at the weekend (Friday and Saturday) but otherwise OK. I particularly like the spot at the back of the basin under the Hyatt Hotel. Reverse in beside the collection of working boats.
NIA / Symphony Court / Sherborne Wharf
If you can find a cluster of boats to moor near in this area you should be OK. My personal favourite is just inside the Old Turn entrance to the Sherborne Wharf loop, which is covered by the local security cameras. Don't be tempted to tie up to the pillars behind Bannatynes Health Club - they are insubstantial.
This is the basin beside the top lock on the Farmers Bridge flight. You will normally find long term moorers here, offering safety in numbers.
The Northern trip to Wolverhampton
The Engine Arm
A hidden jem in sunny Smethwick. At first glance this is not an inspiring backwater, but there is one solitary visitor mooring in the winding hole, beyond a long line of residential boats. And therein lies the attraction! There are all the facilities, securely locked away in a gated community.
Black Country Museum at Tipton
My favourite mooring in the BCN. A full range of facilities, plus the ambiance of the living museum and a tunnel. Oh, and of course there is Mad O'Rourkes Pie Factory - a spit and sawdust pub that is a must if you are in the area. Moor as far in as you can go to avoid being target practice for kids on the bridge.
The West (the "other" side of the Netherton Tunnel)
If you are entering from the west, consider stopping at Primrose Hill on the Stourbridge Canal. It's as pretty as the name suggets and is the last open countrysude before you hit the Black Country.
Stourbridge Town Arm
This area is OK, and there are lots of pubs in the town but moorings within the locked zone are limited. There is a substantial residential community here who are a friendly bunch. If you arrive late there is always the option of mooring alongside the trip boat, under the Bonded Warehouse - but make sure you are away in good time the next morning.
Hawne Basin - Coombeswood
This is a real BCN outpost on the Dudley No2 canal, beyond the Gosty Hill Tunnel. It comes as a surprise to see a very substantial boating centre in Hawne Basin, and they are very happy to see visitors. A good, safe and quiet location.
For a hundred and someting miles of canals this isn't a very long list, but I never claimed it to be exhaustive. I have used all 15 sites in the last few years and at that time they felt very comfortable.
I am sure that other boaters have more favourites. If you are willing to share your sites please leave a comment and I will add it to the list . Hey, I might even use it myself the next time I am in the area!