Saturday, 26 September 2015

Explorer B to Bradley

Explorer B to Bradley
September 2015

Last week saw the second formal BCNS Explorer Cruise of 2015 make its way around the lesser travelled sections of the BCN, led by Stuart and Marie Sherratt.

Rotten Park Reservoir Autumn 2015

This time there were about 24 boats which I met up with twice. Firstly I met them during their stop at Longwood Boat Club, our home mooring which was a flying visit and then a longer visit when I met them at Broadwaters two days later to lead a walk along the abandoned Bradley Locks, Rotten Brunt and Gospel Oak routes.

A new lock gate nearing completion

This is a good "lost canals" walk because its passes through the thick of the abandoned routes and it can be linked with 1. A visit to the Bradley Lock Gate factory  and 2. A visit to the Gospel Oak pub for liquid refreshment on the way back. I am a cheap date - my price for the walk is a pint!

The dry dock storage area

But I had started out early because as part of an ongoing bit of research into the reservoirs of the BCN, I wanted to take an early morning photograph of the Rotten Park Reservoir. Rotten Park and Broadwaters are not exactly close, but I managed the two locations even through the rush hour traffic.

Heel posts - not Mills Bombs!

The Bradley factory are always well worth a visit, with all those big boys toys on show and carpentry projects underway which are of epic proportions.

 The huge bandsaw - with my Blackberry to indicate the size

Did you know that each lock gate is made by just one carpenter and the process typically takes about a week. A small gate may cost circa £10,000 and a large one £25,000 and will have a life span of 22 to 25 years. The oak used is not treated in any way and wandering around the yard is like reading the winter stoppage list - with the name of each lock to be re-gates painted on the balance beam.

I love the kit they use, particularly the bandsaw with huge teeth - see my Blackberry in comparison.

The 2015 vintage gate plates

I did leave the factory with a souvenir courtesy of Stuart's intervention. I have long hankered for a spare lock gate construction date casting. I saw Stuart pull one out of the skip a year or two ago and this time he emerged from the store room with two plates dated 2013 clanking in his ruck sack. Let me be clear that they were given to him! Anyway, one of these was handed over and is destined to adorn my new shed, which will confuse visitors who will assume that it was "Built at Bradley 2013".

Always something of interest in the skip!

On my way back I stopped off at the Smethwick Heritage Centre in Victoria Park as part of the reservoir project, a place I had assumed was the site of the Smethwick Great Reservoir built to serve the original Brindley summit. In the centre I found a good map from the 1840's which clearly showed the reservoir on the other side of the road, a site which was decommissioned and then built on in 1900.

The Great Reservoir - Smethwick

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