Camp Hill to Tipton
21 May 2011
11 Miles - 28 Locks - 8 hours
Camp Hill moorings are as fine as they come in an urban area. Quiet, secure and with incredibly clean showers as a bonus. This is a great staging post for a full frontal assault on the BCN.
Birmingham New Main Line
Edu's Emigma was off before us, leaving me to turn the locks. Given the remoteness of the location this is one of the few places where I feel comfortable lock wheeling way ahead - right down to the bottom lock. But not everything went my way, far from it. As I puffed and panted my way back up beside the deserted pound my pedal fell off. Chinese bikes!
If that wasn't enough I got myself in a right muddle in the penultimate lock. Belle was off foraging and I was working solo. Because the pound below was low I decided to bow haul the boat out of the lock, but forgot that in doing so I would pull the boat onto an underwater shoal. Lo and behold my reward for a momentary lapse of sanity was a boat stranded about four feet out and way down below a brick retaining wall. In desperation I managed to flick the mop off the cabin roof and into my outstretched hands allowing me to push the bows out and get her moving just enough to leap aboard.
That troublesome tyre
Bad news tends to come in threes and this was no exception. Belle had set the last lock but the top gate wasn't fully open. I urged her to get off the gate on which she was sitting and indicated my intention to give it a bit of a shove, squashing the rubbish behind. What I didn't realise was that behind that gate lurked a car wheel complete with hub and tyre. I gave it some welly and ground to a stop, stuck fast in the jaws, I couldn't go forward and I couldn't go back no matter how hard we revved or pulled.
Oldbury's tinny sculpture
Nerves turned to a cold sweat and thoughts turned to a BW rescue squad. Oh the embarrassment. In all my travels I have never, never ever resorted to calling in the troops. I mulled it over - the boat couldn't get narrower and the gate wouldn't open wider so the obstruction had to move. I tried it with a shaft and a mallet but that simply splintered my prize handspike. More thought - then a eureka moment.. the tyre was inflated so a minute of two with a hacksaw on the carcass and the water erupted if a flurry of pressurised air - and the boat drifted free.
Birmingham's BT Tower
Then it was up the Ashted flight in 45 mins before setting about the Farmers Bridge 13, passing an Anglo Welsh boat on the way down who promptly winded and did their up most to catch us up. With an empty gas tank and getting low on diesel I was pleased to see Away to Serve's service boat laying beside the National Sea Life Centre. This is a great facility in an area with very limited service options. As we took on diesel Belle produced a steaming bowl of nettle soup, made from fresh nettles picked from Camp Hill Locks accompanied by home made bread. All very tasty, winning the approval of a sceptical Away engineer.
Nettle picking in Digbeth
Our passage to Tipton included the loops and the Old Main Line via Smethwick- always our preferred route across the Birmingham plateau. Its really good to see the toll office at the top of the Smethwick flight all fixed up. Lets hope that the new roof is both secure and fireproof.
Smethwick's refubished toll house (again)
The Old Main Line offered loads of scope for foraging for Japanese Rose, today's target plant. All this stop and start through the lillypads was a bit of a nightmare and resulted in several trips down the weed hatch.
Foraging for Japanese Rose at Oldbury
We used the Black Country Museum as a mooring, squeezing in among a plethora of workboats which were using most of the space before making a pilgrimage to Mad O'Rurkes, home of the splendid Black Country Lumphammer.