Wednesday 28 May 2008

BCN West - Sneyd to Aldersley

Sneyd to Aldersley Day 3
Another day dawned clear and bright with summer sun shining into the back cabin through the hatch, which had been ajar all night. We made a start at 8.15 am, initially passing under the M6 and then on through the Rough Wood Nature Reserve with its bountiful wildlife masking the industrial foundations that lie beneath.

This stretch of parkland soon gives way to housing of variable quality. There appears to be a direct correlation between the quantity of rubbish and the quality of housing and, as we pressed on the rubbish grew worse, particularly at the bridge holes which we came to approach with a sense of trepidation. Hardy a bridge went by without some kind of knock or bang from an underwater obstruction and each one was left with a blast of reverse gear to try and clear the permanently fouled prop.

The first 3 miles from Sneyd demanded three visits down the weed hatch to remove a jumper, assorted bags and half a chair! Possibly the worst obstacle was a wheelie bin which we managed to carry into a bridge hole under the boat and then proved extremely difficult to remove. After twenty minutes of rocking back and forth like a beached whale (Capt Ahab is familiar with this situation) we resorted to a spot of bow hauling over some shallows, finally dragging the boat free. The water quality improved as we passed the stub of the Bentley Canal and we made good progress into Wolverhampton, passing under a fantastic mirrored arch in which provides boaters with a fleeting glimpse of their craft like a jockey passing a photo-finish post at the nearby racecourse.

Final Tally
3 days
78 locks
57 miles
11 arms
2 items of clothing
1 carpet
1 bollard
1 inbound incident

8 trips down the weed hatch

Would we recommend a trip around the extremities of the BCN? Absolutely yes, but:

1. Take more time than we did.
2. Avoid weekends and school holidays at all costs
3. Lock your front doors
4. Plan your overnight moorings in advance and work out a contingency plan
5. Expect to make frequent trips down the weedhatch including one full blown clogged prop each day.
Take a hacksaw, wire cutters, sharp knife and protective gloves
7. Expect some activity from hostile natives at some point, and be pleasantly surprised if it does not materialise

The Canals of the BCN more “interesting” than stunningly beautiful. There are very few boat movements, particularly when you stray off the main line and it is likely that you will travel for days at a time before you pass another moving craft. There are the inevitable areas of heavy industry deprived and urban deprivation but these are balanced by long tracts of reclaimed land which have reverted to a very attractive natural state.
This obscure 100 mile network is well worth a visit but planning is essential. Take a good range of tools with you and accept that a few scrapes on the paintwork and trips down the weed hatch are all part of the experience.

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