Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Onwards to Parkhead

Parkhead Historic Boat Gathering 2018
September 2018


Whilst I was at the CRT meetings on Wednesday Helen was attending a routine hospital appointment and returned home for a couple of nights, leaving me to move the boats to Parkhead, ready for our last trading event of the season on The Jam Butty.

Parkhead 2018


I took the direct route down the New Main Line and soon passed a large group of volunteers clearing the toll island at the end of the Soho Loop, and was also overtaken by Bob on Bimble whohad been moored outside the Birmingham Arena for a few days.

Clearing the toll island

My approach to Smethwick Junction presented me with something of a first - I overtook another narrowboat! No, it wasn't moored, broken down or indeed moving in reverse. It was a bona fide boat which was travelling extremely slowly. Now its true I have overtaken boats whilst I have been towing before, but one was a narrowboat pulling a broken down 70 footer and the other was a pair of fully loaded coal boats. As most of you will know, my pace on the water will never trouble the speed limits, but at normal towing speed (probably 2.5 mph in this case) I inexorably caught up with this craft and in the end signaled I would pass. Of course, it turned out he was following the old line and I the new, so I could have bided my time had I known. Well, reports of the manouver gave the guys in the beer tent something to laugh about that evening!

Last outing for The Jam Butty this season

I made it through the Netherton Tunnel without a scrape but was thwarted in my efforts to refill with water at Bumblehole because someone has nicked the tap fitting. I pressed on down the Dudley No2 Canal and was caught by the Phillips on Aquarius as I passed the southern end of the Two Locks Line. With just under a mile to go to Blowers Green it was touch and go if I should try and let them past, but the canal in this area is very narrow and shallow and the likely end result would be us both stemming up (aground). They didn't press me so be crawled along and they finally overtook at the Pumphouse where I stopped to use a still serviceable tap. 

 Emu arrives passing Joey Boat No65

The three locks up to Parkhead Basin were well manned by volunteers and I simply managed the boats as the locks were worked around me. The harbour master was operating from the office at the bottom lock and I was advised that I would be mooring on the northern side of the Pensnett Arm.  Armed with this knowledge we decided to pull the boats back into the arm on ropes, later shuffling them about with the motor on the outside of the butty to maximise the bankside for the other trading boats.


Boats in every nook and cranny

It was great to catch up with Barry and Sandra on the Homebrew Boat and Friday night was spent at Ma Pardo's in Netherton to celebrate Sandra's birthday. 

Birthday celebrations with Barry and Sandra

The festival itself is a lovely affair, comprising a retro collection of historic boats, vintage cars / motorbikes, stationary engines and even  three local steam engines, plus of course a wide range of stalls, trade boats and the obligatory bar stocked with Ma Pardo's finest. The festival also showcases horse boating with demonstrations of a Joey Boat being hauled up the locks using all the pulleys and posts which adorned the lock flights in the area. All this against the backdrop of the splendid wooded basin which was restored in the 1990's.



Steam engines taking centre stage

On Saturday the sun shone and offered a warm and still day, but on Sunday a chill wind blew in and we were left in no doubt that autumn is upon us. Sadly, in spite of all it had to offer, the crowds didn't really materialise and the site lacked the bustle of previous years (it takes place every 2 years). One face in the crown I should have recognised was Fuzz from Car SOS. I met him on the bridge, recognised his face, exchanged greeting and figured he was a customer.... Dur.



Horse boating on the locks

Helen had arrived by car and we look the opportunity to get the first load of our stuff home on Sunday morning. I had a chilly afternoon on the stall with few customers and managed to have it all down and packed away by 5.00pm. The harbour master had a schedule of boats leaving and I was the last out at 5.30pm, following Kew which moored up at Bumblehole.

Steve Bingham's wheels

I needed to get to Hockley Port on Monday morning so pressed on in the gathering gloom, negotiating my way across Bumblehole using my tunnel light and then into the two mile Netherton Tunnel. There is something a bit spooky about using these long tunnels at night, probably because you cant see the end and you don't really know where you are till you emerge. I timed my passage and Neterton seems to take a very consistent 45 mins when towing, which isn't too bad as the motor boat alone would still take 35 minutes.

I moored on the bollards just beyond Tividale Aqueduct, a regular stopping point and had an uninterrupted night.

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