Passport to Pelsall
Right now the stars seem to be in alignment. Its the day after the summer solstice, the sun is out and most crucially, Helen is feeling well - so we seized the day and grabbed a night afloat.
The Fingerpost on Pelsall Common
There is an ill founded misconception that its all a bit grim on the northern BCN but nothing could be further from the truth. Tucked out in the far reaches of the remaindered section lies the village of Pelsall and with it a rather wonderful canal side common. This semi rural location has to be one of the gems of the BCN which, if it was anywhere else, would be rammed with boats moored bumper to bumper (think Tixall Wide).
Cannock Extension Canal
But because its in one of the remotest sections of the BCN - a full days cruising from the Main Line - it attracts few visitors. And so here we sit, moored next to the rather good Fingerpost pub in glorious isolation having had the ten miles of cruising without meeting a single moving boat.
Not that it has always been this way. The common used to be home to a enormous ironworks with blast furnaces blazing away 24 hours a day, fed by dozens of Joey or Day Boats bringing coal, ironstone and limestone and taking finished product out. But those days of industry are long gone and the sounds of birdsong seem to have eradicated even the echoes.
Of course, others do know of this spot and periodically the common is the venue for canal festivals. BCNS tend to hold biannual events here but this year its the turn of the IWA's big festival which will attract over 150 boats over the August bank holiday weekend. Given our change of plan this summer it seemed daft not to take advantage of the IWA gathering so Wand'ring Bark and The Jam Butty will be attending and offering as fine a selection of preserves as you are likely to find.
As this spot is three hours cruising from Longwood (not towing the butty) it is a regular destination and one which photographs well through the season. I attach a selection of tonight's images to let you see what you are missing.