Monday, 26 August 2013

Ghost Canals of the BCN - Pensnett and Fens Branches

Walks around the forgotten corners of the BCN
Pensnett and Fens Branches 
August 2013

I know, I know, The Fens Branch is no more the BCN than the Stourbridge Canal. But for my money it shares the same DNA, It looks like BCN, smells like BCN - so as it offers an interesting addition to the Pensnett walk it is carrying honorary membership, if only for the duration of this article.

Grab your boots, a copy of Richard Deans "Canals of Birmingham", a fistful of Godfrey Edition maps and a modern A-Z  and get out there. Don't forget tour camera as this walk offers some areas of surprising beauty.

This walk was first published in the June 2013 edition of the BCN Society's magazine "Boundary Post".

For those less familiar with the Pensnett canal, it continues on from the western end of the Dudley Tunnel at Parkhead.

This time we will be visiting the “back of the map”- the area to the west of the Dudley / Netherton tunnels.  The walk will take us from Parkhead along the line of the Pensnett Canal then down the hill to the Fens Branch before returning via Merry Hill, taking in the old line of the Delph Locks as we pass, a distance of about six miles but with scope for some short cuts to reduce the distance if so desired.

Irritatingly, a pesky new-fangled railway contraption gets in the way of a pure circular walk, cutting a path right across my preferred route! So I will assume that you are visiting by car and suggest a couple of short spot visits along the line of the Pensnett Canal before we get to the walk proper.

Park Head
Park Head Basin marks the start of the Earl of Dudley’s 1840 1.25 mile lockless Pensnett Canal, leaving in a southerly direction on the 473 ft Wolverhampton Level. Today it is limited to a short arm which goes under a bridge before coming to an abrupt end under the arches of an abandoned railway viaduct.

This is a fascinating area and will be familiar to many readers, with the stub of the Grazebrook Arm, the three little used Park Head Locks and the western portal of the Dudley Tunnel all readily available for exploration.

Beyond the viaduct the line of the canal has been lost but with a bit of imagination it’s easy to see that Crackley Way has been built along its contour.

A4036 Pedmore Road Area
Drive down Peartree Lane and take the second on the right after Crackley Way and you will find a short cul de sac with a footpath exiting to the left at the far end. This, believe it or not, it the old towpath which manages to squeeze between huge engineering works and finally emerges onto Pedmore Road, with the canal bed reused as a hugely polluted cooling pond, its water slimy and stinking with industrial oils.

Cross Pedmore Road and the line of the canal continues through the grounds of C Brown and Sons, Steel Stockholders. My suggestion would be to visit this area early on a Sunday morning when the place is deserted and you can follow the reeded up bed of the canal for a quarter of a mile, but at any other time you will be limited to the what you can see from the road.

Sadly, it’s here that the railway cuts across the area with no crossings and there is no alternative but to retrace your steps to your car and drive round to the main part of the walk.

Fens Pools
It is fitting to start this walk from Canal Street, off to the south of the A461 Dudley Road. This really is a road to nowhere, diving into a post-industrial wasteland fringed with barbed wire fencing, salvage yards and howling guard dogs. Again, it’s a place best visited on a Sunday, but at the far end the canal still exists filled with water, reflections of industrial decay reflected in its reed fringed margins.

And now it’s time for a change of pace. Leaving all the old industry behind, the Wallows Wharf terminus of the Pensnett Canal  lies beneath Fens Pool Avenue, a hive of wharves and railway sidings till its closure in 1940. But all that has gone and the next stage of this walk is to follow the line of Dudley’s mineral railway down Fens Pool Avenue and through a narrow path which exits 2/3rds of the way along on the right, taking you into the spectacular and under-appreciated Fens Pools Nature Reserve. These three pools were all old clay pits but nature has softened the scars and the railway embankment offers a superb vantage point to watch the birds wheel to and fro over the open expanses of water.

But all this nature is skin deep. Scout around in the undergrowth and you will find old railway wheels embedded in solidified pools of iron, but in contrast you will also find an incongruous area of ancient ridge and furrow field which somehow escaped the industrial turmoil of the last 250 years.

Follow the tramway between Fens Pool and Middle Pool and circle round the northern end of Middle Pool. Then it’s back across the dam at the western end of Middle Pool and you will find the tree fringed terminus basin of the Fens Branch, with Grove Pool immediately to the north.
From here there is a good walking along the towpath, with the canal bed in water and very attractive, crossing Pensnett Road and Cressett Avenue to reach the current limit of the navigable waterway and the junction with the Stourbridge Extension Canal.

From here you could simply retrace your steps back through the Fens Pools Nature Reserve, circling round the other side of the lakes or you can continue on for 2.5 miles along the Stourbridge Canal which will bring you to the foot of the eight locks of the Delph Flight. With water cascading down the waterfalls on a sunny day, this has to be one of the most impressive flight of locks anywhere. But there is more to this flight than meets the eye. The top and bottom chambers are the originals from 1770 but the intervening seven locks were reduced to six when they were realigned and rebuilt in 1858. The old course of the “nine locks” looped to the south, loosely following the road “The Goss” and up into the trees behind the stable block where the old line of the canal is in water as a short branch.

Then it’s just over a half mile walk along the towpath to the Merry Hill shopping centre, itself on a very modern canal diversion and then and on to the Waterfront, a short walk to the A461 Dudley Road and back to your car at Canal Street.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Ghost Canals of the BCN - Wyrley Bank Branch

Walks around the lost sections of the BCN
Wyrley Bank Branch
August 2013

Continuing a short series of walks covering some of the lost sections of the BCN, first published in the BCN Society's March 2013 edition of the Boundary Post.

I hope this inspires you to explore these fascinating relics of an industrial past which is fast fading into obscurity. 

This walk takes you out to the north of the BCN, following a line from Bloxwich to Cheslyn Hay:

Looking for interesting walks in and around the BCN? Andy Tidy shares some of his favourite “forgotten corners” of the BCN.

This month’s walk takes us to one of the northern most extremities of the BCN, the Wyrley Bank Branch Canal which runs due north from Sneyd Junction in Bloxwich to Cheslyn Hay 3.5 miles distant.

This is a there and back walk which can be tackled from either end. The towpath is well maintained which makes for easy walking or, if you prefer, this is a route which you can explore by bicycle. Perhaps the hardest part is finding an end to start from. Sneyd is possibly the easier place to find where the A5421 Lichfield Road crosses the canal at the site of lock 2. However, for the purposes of this walk we will start in the north in Cheslyn Hay. To find the site of the Wyrley Wharf terminal basin you will need to find Dundalk Lane where it splits with Lapwing Close at Campions Wood.

This northern end represents part of a Local Nature Reserve and the towpath itself is part of the  Forest of Mercia Way. It’s a route which is popular with local dog walkers but is an under used resource for canal lovers. The canal has a good inventory of built remnants and for more than half its length it is in water – all a far cry from the waterless Balls Hill and Danks Branches we looked at in the last edition of Boundary Post.

The first structure to be encountered is the foundation of Wyrley Bank Bridge, one of the few lift bridges on the BCN. The brick narrows rises clear from a very distinct canal bed which at the time if my visit included a thin film of water. Then it’s only a few hundred yards to the site of the breach which emptied this canal in 1954. These days the breach is all fenced off and is spanned by a bridge with the path leading on to an area of opencast mining which obliterated the area around Gilpins Basin in the 1980’s.

This area of opencast isn’t all bad news. The line of canal is there or thereabouts represented by a drainage ditch which links north and south pools and leads to the site of the collapsed Landywood Bridge and the associated Landywood Wharf. South of this point the canal returns to water and passes beneath the well preserved Bakers Bridge and on to the collapsed Long Lane Bridge, now a 20ft embankment which blocks the cutting. Then it’s on to the first railway crossing and the site of the Cannock Colliery, the original terminus of the Wyrley and Essington Canal before it was extended to Huddlesford Basin via Ogley Locks.

Today there is little to see of the loading basins which are only a few hundred yards distant and 30 ft higher than the western end of the nearby Lord Hayes Branch. The canal turns sharply beneath the railway bridge, its piers protected by a steel rope roller which remains seized, but intact.

The canal is now fully back in water as it heads south past another interchange basin and back under the railway to the Broad Lane crossing on the outskirts of Bloxwich. By now you will have covered 2.25 miles and if you want to stick to a country walk it is time to turn back. For my money I like to see things through to the end, and I would encourage you to carry on for the remaining 1.25 miles.

The Bloxwich section is more gritty than pretty, with the neighbouring houses using the canal as both a dump and an impromptu bonfire site. The water has gone but the line remains clear, returning to mud as the canal winds round a football pitch and past the entrance to the Essington Locks Branch which lifted the canal through five locks to Essington Colliery at 536 feet, the highest point on the BCN. This arm was built in 1795 and closed in 1830 when the coal was played out – little wonder that the remains are limited to a pair of hedges and a few indistinct terraces where the locks stood.

All good walks benefit from a fitting finale and this one comes up trumps. Soon after the Essington Locks Junction you come to Sneyd Top Lock, the first of five which dropped the canal down to Sneyd Junction. You will see the entrance to the top lock in the bushes and the edges of the lock chamber are just starting to peep out through the grass with the land dropping down to the site of lock number four. The flight of locks continued beneath what is now Vernon Way but before you march on down the road to Sneyd Junction, take a look at Sneyd Reservior to your right.

Sneyd Reservoir was a huge undertaking, built in 1805 and at over 40 feet deep it contained millions of gallons to feed the top pound of the Wyrley Bank Branch.Today the reservoir is a shadow of its former self but it retains enough water to make it a popular fishing spot. A walk along these ramparts reveals the remains of a navigable feeder which ran to the far end of the reservoir and a now demolished pumphouse, which lifted the water into the lake via an inflow tunnel which can still be found.

Returning to the canal line there is just lock number one visible, with its chamber lying crazy and cracked. Subsidence has taken its toll, lowering the top end by three feet or more but its lower wings are more or less intact, a brooding presence watching over Sneyd Junction, a tantalising reminder of yet another BCN route which has been lost to the boater.

Andy has documented these, and many more of the lost sections of the BCN in his blog “Captain Ahab’s Watery Tales” which includes maps, photos and a light historical context.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Ghost Canals of the BCN - Balls Hill and Danks Branches

Walks around the abandoned corners of the BCN

Other posts in this series:

Ridgeacre, Balls Hill and Danks Branches
August 2013

Following my extensive posts about the abandoned sections of the BCN I have been asked to write them up in the form of walks for publication in the BCN Society's quarterly magazine, Boundary Post.

This has caused me to reflect on the geography of how these routes hang together and, wherever possible, to turn them into circular walks of between four and six miles. 

Rather than lose these items I will apply them to the blog for future reference, but if you want to get the most out of these walks you should invest in a copy of Richard Dean's map "Canals of Birmingham" ISBN 978 0 9561306 0 0 and if you really want a historical context the Godfrey Edition maps provide a breathtaking amount of detail from the dawn of the 20th century.

I will start with the circular walk which was published in December 2012 and later shared with The Explorer B cruise in the Ridgeacre area earlier this year, not least because it has four pubs along its route (and offers a rich diversity of lost canals - but that's just a bonus).

Looking for interesting walks in and around the BCN? Andy Tidy shares some of his favourite “forgotten corners” of the BCN .

The Ridgacre Pub on the Black Country New Road (Postcode : B70 0NP) is an excellent place to start a canal hunt. Not only does it sit slap bang in the middle of a web of lost routes, it also offers convenient source of refreshment and, of course, a handy car park.

For our first walk we are going to take a look at the Balls Hill and Danks Branches which offer a circular walk of about five miles and will take about two hours to complete.  For maximum enjoyment it’s a good idea to get a copy of the 1902 Godfrey Edition OS Map Great Bridge and Toll End number 68.05, and a contemporary map so you can see what has changed.

Starting at the Ridgacre Pub and looking north you will immediately see an open pool of water and a bridge crossing the entrance of a GWR interchange basin, one of many on the integrated canal / rail network of the Black Country. Skirt round to the back of the pub and you will enter a long thin area of trees – the old Balls Hill Branch, or more accurately the original northern end of Brindley’s 1770’s Wednesbury Old Canal, abandoned in 1952. Follow this footpath over Richmond Street and onto Brickhouse Lane.

Here the canal bed is visible in open grassland, bending sharply to the left as it goes round the old Swan Farm Brick Works and into an industrial complex only to emerge a few hundred yards later beside the Bee Hive Pub. From here the canal turns due north and follows a contour all the way to Golds Green. Access is tricky and you will have to drop down to the roundabout and skirt the bottom of the escarpment via George Henry Road and Bagnall Street, rejoining the canal line just before the Miners Arms. At this point it’s worth doubling back and taking a walk along the snaking course of the canal which extends from the aptly named new Waterside Street.

Beyond Bagnall Street the canal is covered in industrial buildings but Google Earth reveals its course which can again be glimpsed from the far end of Pikehelve Street, an old residential area previously referred to as Golds Hill. A visit to Shaw Street and the site of Golds Hill Bridge will round off the accessible elements of this section. The actual canal continues east through the industrial area, its line still apparent as a strip of tree covered ground but access is impossible without the agreement of the owners. The canal terminated just to the east of the tram line in Hill Top after crossing an aqueduct which was removed in the 1960’s. If you want to cover every last inch of this canal you can drive round to the end of Tunnel Road and see a depression which was probably part of the terminal basin.

From the bridge on Shaw Street you can carry on keeping to the left and follow an old path down the hill and over the site of Golds Hill Colliery, passing under the abandoned railway line. This brings you to Golds Hill Bridge (another by the same name) on the Tame Valley Canal.
Now you need to stop and get your bearings. You could continue your circular walk by following the
Tame Valley to the Walsall Canal and turning left to the foot of the Ryders Green Locks, but that
would miss out the Danks Branch.  This canal was on a level with the Tame Valley, but pre dated it
and during its construction it cut off the northern tip of the Danks which was close to what is today an electrical sub station.

The Danks ran due south over what is now meadow but was housing and industry before dipping under the railway line. The canal bed has been lost but if you scramble down from the railway track bed you will find a perfectly preserved skew crossing with canal and towpath.  The canal bed is lost beneath an industrial site, its course meeting Bagnall Street at its junction with Chimney Road.  Chimney Road is itself built on the southern 400 yard spur of the Danks Branch, constructed to serve a number of brick works and collieries.
The Danks holds a final built remnant in the shape of another railway bridge, this one almost under the Black Country New Road. Access is tricky and dependent on the amount of undergrowth, but with some perseverance you can get under the bridge and see the towpath and water channel.

The Danks Branch joins the Walsall Canal at Hempole Lane Bridge and a close inspection reveals a curving towing path descending into a mire of rubbish, giving horses access to the Danks.

The route back to the Ridgacre is up the impressive eight locks of the Ryders Green flight and then back along the stub of the Ridgeacre / Swan Arm. Until a few years ago you could still get boats to the Swan Roundabout, but silting and pollution have closed this short length and viewing is restricted to the few intrepid canal hunters and hardy fishermen who venture along this obscure stretch of water.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Montgomery - The Cabin

The Cabin
August 2013

The interior of the boatman's cabin was well constructed and there is a lot we can retain. Sure, the stove, chimney, bulls eyes and hatch are all missing - but that's all stuff which can be fixed. All this interior comes as a huge bonus.

From cabin to hold

At 6ft 3in I would find a low boatman's cabin very difficult to live with but that's one of the joys of this project. We can let rip with the traditional cabin knowing is more for show than for everyday use. 

Hold to stern

In the main it will be an office and a store but it will also double us as a spare bedroom for visitors, which will let us convert the saloon in the motor and make it more usable.

Cabin roof

I was surprised at the width - its a good 6ft 6 inches which make it a viable option for us as a temporary bedroom. Most cross beds are simply not long enough for us. 

Anyway, these images record the starting point.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Montgomery - artwork

Montgomery artwork
August 2013

The interior of Montgomery carries a few surprises - all positive.

The inside is a done out in true boatman's style, scumbling, artwork plus all the classic elements. 

This has all been applied with great care and considerable skill so my hope is to clean it all up but retain most of it, even if some is a bit worn. To be honest, I quite like the patina of age and use.

Drop down table / cupboard

Here are some samples of the interior artwork.

Any guesses about the artist?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Montgomery - the stern

Montgomery's rear end
August 2013

The stern of The Jam Butty is a 20 year old reproduction josher butty. The lines are sweet and graceful and the water will swim found it beautifully leading to a substantial elum which will need a bit of TLC before she floats again.

 Montgomery's stern

I am told that there was a plan to motorise the butty in one of its incarnations, and there are some fittings in place which will have to be removed. 

Insider the stern - hydraulic drive fittings

There has been a lot of love and attention poured out on this craft and as far as possible I will restore rather than renew. We will certainly keep the name on the stern.

Authentic detailing

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Montgomery - the old steelwork

The Day Boat hull
August 2013

Today I will focus on the 100 year old bows and hold of The Jam Butty.

The reality is that the base plate was beyond salvation so that has been replaced with a a fresh sheet of steel. The sides are the real thing, a century old and in the main 8mm thick (or whatever that is in Imperial measurements).

 The old plating

It hasn't done badly, although there is blistering on the joins under the wide rubbing strakes. This expansion is nothing new as the bulging strakes show lots of evidence of wear from their working days. This corrosion is being repaired by removing bits of the strakes and welding extra plate to the rusted sections and then replacing the strakes to their original position.

 Rust repairs

Of course, the whole thing is studded with rivets and, before you ask, no I havn't counted them - yet!

Distinctive strakes

The strakes are unusual so and suggestions about the origins of the sides would be welcomed.

To blend the old with the modern strakes on the stern are being continued forward into the hold section and the stern will carry some on the BCN day boat strakes to blend the styles and create a unified whole.

The top "rail" is a temporary addition to achieve a straight gunnel.

New strakes carried forward onto the old

Monday, 12 August 2013

Blisworth Canal Festival 2013

Blisworth Canal Festival 2013
August 2013

You woudn't think that Blisworth festival is still in its infancy. Its only been running for three years and every year it goes from strength to strength. It's helped by enjoying a uncannily favorable run of good weather, but each year it gets bigger and bigger.

 Comfortably Numb and butty Echoes

This little village really embraces its canal festival, with stallholders and exhibitors packing every open space and hall, plus many gardens opening up to the public for the weekend. 

Blisworth Allotment Society display

As its free event it is very hard to estimate the numbers of visitors but the official guess was about 8,000 on Saturday and a similar number on the Sunday ranging up to 24,000 for the whole weekend. Either way there was lots to see and do, with a good number of trade boats on the main drag between the mill and Candle Bridge plus a large extra festival site on the western side of the canal where a WW2 recreation team let lose their machine gun at regular, ear splitting intervals.

Wild Side receives an enthusiastic welcome back

For me the success in numbers was also a snag. Sure we had a fantastic couple of days on the Wildside stall with loads of satisfied customers returning from last year but all this activity meant that apart from a coffee trip before 11.00am, there was no opportunity to get out and about and see the event as a whole.

In fact, my forays were little more than a quick run down the towpath and back during which I has a few snatched exchanges with other traders and exhibitors who we see from time to time. Perhaps the best surprise was to see the Fudge Boat back in action - attending their first event this year after an unfortunate number of setbacks since we last saw them at Windmill End last September.

 The off beat and the unusual came our way

However, it seemed that every visitor passed our stall at Candle Bridge, lots of the boaters and blog readers and all with a sweet tooth for our yummy preserves. By Sunday afternoon we has sold out of chutney and with all our remaining jam out on display it became more and more difficult to field a full stall. Wild Side is a runaway success at Blisworth.

Our neighbours are the lovely Blisworth allotment society whose green fingers produce the most amazing fruit and veg, and this year sported a "flower" arrangement containing no less than 12 vegetables - absolutely stunning.

I am developing an unhealthy obsession with butty stern's!

Blisworth really is one of our favourite festivals. Its too far to get to by boat but the friendly atmosphere and the preserve hungry crowds make it a "must attend" event in the Wild Side calendar.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Jam Butty - the bows

Montgomery's bows
August 2013

I make no apology for a flurry of posts on the subject of Montgomery, the small butty which will become our close companion in the years to come.

We want to record her transformation from the cabin of a reproduction josher butty and the front end of a 100 year old BCN day boat. The two elements have been welded together with a new base in the bows and hold so I will run a few posts carrying a set of photos on various elements of the project.

For today lets look at the bows.

A Wand'ring Bark's eye view

Far from the sweeping lines of the stern, the bows are somewhat bluff, the rounded stem post rising near vertically which will make it relatively easy to create a snug fender nest between the two craft.

 The bows, left and right

The curious feature is the rounded stem post. Most day boats have a thinner stem / stern post and I have never seen another which looks like this - any ideas?

Inside the stem post - an original curved profile

Thursday, 8 August 2013

A walk with Ray Shill

Ray Shill in Walsall
1 August 2013

Ray is, without doubt, one of Birmingham's leading authorities on the history of the BCN, He has written book after book on the subject and every year he undertakes a guided walk for those interested under the guise of the BCN Society.

Ray expands with Martin lending an ear

After a couple of failed attempts in previous years I finally caught up with Ray as he headed off from Walsall Town Basin and headed up the Walsall Locks, sharing a detailed historical context as he went. I was in the company of about 30 like minded enthusiasts who produced a steady stream of questions which stretched even Mr Shill's extensive knowledge to the limit at times.

Q&A's at Walsall top lock

Ray's knowledge is near encyclopedic and it puts my lightweight familiarity with the network to shame. That said, I have never claimed to be a historian - more of a geographer with a liking to get my boots on wanting a historical context when I view today's remains.

 Albion Mill and journey's end.

All in all a great couple of hours in the company of some great individuals - including Mr Denny of Waterways World and Martin, one of my regular relief skippers.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Return from Norbury

Return from Norbury
3rd August 2013

All that rain hammering on the roof gave us a broken nights sleep, struggling to get to sleep and then to stay that way. The storms also dropped the temperature and we woke shivering under a thin throw and went in search of the duvet to keep us warm.

We winded at Norbury, taking advantage of the water and elsan point, passing Sue Cawson (Historic Narrowboat Society) who emerged from her boat just as we had passed.

Whilst the wind had got up, the day remained warm enough for tee shirts and shorts as we journey through Gnosall and then Stretton, catching a fleeting glimpse of Montgomery on the hard standing.

Shropshire Union Canal at Stretton

Brewood was heaving with the visitor moorings rammed and the Overflow area to the north of the bridge packed for a long way towards Countrywide Cruisers. I'm not sure what was on my Brewood was clearly the place to be.

Montgomery under wraps

Brewood is also home to some interesting craft including Eric Bloodaxe, Citus and most recently Tycho - an old ice breaker with the most amazing ram on the front.

There is only only Tycho!

Our journey took us back past a long line of cherry trees which we took full advantage of. We pulled in to the offside and picked from the room, hanging on to the branched. Each time a boat came past we were sucked forward to the next tree so we gradually slid down the entire row. Of course, this attracted much comment from passers by who's curiosity was satisfied by a handful of cherries lobbed across the canal.

This was followed by a couple of hours of stoning and ended up with about 8 kilos of cherries which morphed into 50 jars of yummy Wild Cherry Jam.

It was a long day of travel and got back to the marina at 8.30, spending a final night aboard before leaving for church and another week at work. If you are attending Blisworth Festival next weekend why not seek us out and try some of the Wild Cherry jam for yourselves?

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Foraging ahead to Norbury

Weekend wanderings to Norbury
2nd August 2013

My lack of posts recently has much more to do with a lack of time rather than any lack of desire!

In fact, we have had two successive weekends away on the boat making full use of my altered working hours which effectively gives me a three day weekend every week. Not that we have travelled very far as foraging the first of the summer crops was the primary objective - cherries and wild raspberries.

 Paused at an inoperative Aldersley bottom lock

This weekend saw us move further afield, turning north up the Shropshire Union at Autherley Junction and soon spied a big cherry tree laden with shiny black cherries which were obligingly hanging over the canal. This allowed us to participate in out favourite form of foraging - rooftop gathering. In a few minutes we had gathered 5kg of these beauties. Big, sweet and containing a thick and succulent juice which soon covered the back deck.

Cherry harvest - part one

Along the way we found yet more cherry treed containing a  mix of red and black berries, a little smaller but very plentiful. We didn't pick as we already had about three hours of stoning ahead of us so they were left for the return journey.

Along the way we passed Stretton Wharf and couldn't resist a visit to see Montgomery aka The Jam Butty - but more of that in a future post.

A quick flash of Montgomery's shapely bottom!

It was a hot still day which got stickier as time moved on. We had a vague plan to moor at Gnosall but decided to wind before night. The snag was that I had forgotten that the next winding point is at Norbury, nearly and hour and a half further on. We had just reached the embankment before Norbury when the towering clouds behind us started to rumble and flash and put us in urgent need of a mooring. The problem is that on the embankment the margins are barely under water so when we spied push tug Atlas and two mud hoppers tied up on the offside we found our prayers answered.

Impromptu mooring near Norbury

In no time we were tied to these River Canal Transport craft and ducked inside just as the first big fat blobs of rain spattered on the roof. Its a good job we stopped as the rail hammered away to a greater or lesser extent for the next 8 hours.

We wounded off our evening  with a dictionary less game of scrabble which against all the odds, Helen won with her last couple of words. A bad scrabble player always blames his / her tiles....