Calf Heath to Birmingham City Centre
3rd July 2011
24 miles - 24 locks - 10 hours
Index of posts in this series:
1. Wolverhampton to Birmingham - this post
2. Birmingham to Tardebigge
3. Tardebigge to Droitwich
4. Droitwich town
5. Droitwich to Worcester
6. Worcester to Droitwich
7. Droitwich to Wolverley
9. Wolverley to Dimmingsdale
Why the Droitwich Double? Well, as its the first official week of the newly reopened Droitwich Canal as a through route we thought we would vary the regular Stourport Ring and do a grand figure of eight, descending the Droitwich not once, but twice. Nearly 40 years in the remaking and the first complete reopening of a midlands canal since the Caldon in the early 1970's. Whilst we couldn't be there for the opening ceremony the least we could do was to be one of the first 'regular punters' to make our way along it.
Maybe four passages through the Wolverhampton 21 in as many weeks had sapped my enthusiasm, but I awoke with a heavy heart knowing that the flight wont do itself. I know I shouldn't complain, but it was sunny, you know, really sunny with a scorching sun blasting down out of a clear blue sky and whilst this is nice on the flat, its not so good for working locks!
Wand'ring Bark on the Wolverhampton 21
Spirits were buoyed at the start where we bumped into Aquarius, a beautifully restored working boat awaiting the delivery of the butty Ilford, which they were towing to Gloucester. Aquarius is a regular on the Staffs and Worcester, being owned by the same couple for 40 years and based in the arm above Dimmingsdale Lock. In fact, we saw her paired with Ilford a couple of years, all loaded down with logs from the Shugborough Estate. By a curious twist of fate as we both sat jawing at Wolverhampton bottom lock we were told that the junction post behind us was made from old lock gates and was transported into position by Aquarius 30 years ago.
William Perry - Tipton's Pugelist
The Wolverhampton 21 has become one of Belle's favourite foraging areas so she scuttled off into the undergrowth in search of wild rasberries, rose hips and blackberries, whilst Tilly and I plodded up the hill. The set of the locks did us as few favours as the weather and the ascent dragged on for 3.5 hours - its had to believe that sub two hour runs were routine when the top gate paddles existed.
The weed between Wolverhampton and Coseley is getting thick, not prop clogging thick but instead is so restricts the channel that progress is slowed to a crawl. Things looked up beyond Bloomfield Junction and we opted to take the Old Main Line - the scenic route descending at Smethwick. The depth of the OML at Tipton puzzles me - I suspect the whole area has subsided with mining and resulted in an over deep channel as also exists at Walsall Wood.
Smethwick Top Lock
We arrived in Sherborne Wharf at 7.15, pausing to chew the cud with Paul of Waterway Routes. Both Aquarius and Waterway Routes are making their slow pilgrimages to Droitwich so we won't be short of company when we get there. We moored just behind Star Polisher and enjoyed some drinks with Nick and Victoria before hitting the sack for an early night.
The modern face of Sherborne Wharf