Sunday 28 April 2013

Loafing in Loogaborugga

Loafing in Loogaborugga
April 2013

Loogaborugga I hear you ask, where is that?

Answer, its the Kiwi prenunciation of Loughborough and I should know - we just spent the night moored in Loughborough town Basin with Sandra and Barry on Areandare (R&R). 

Its been great to see Sandra and Barry back on the water after a couple of years in New Zealand, safely installed on Areandare instead of Northern Pride. Hopefully this move afloat will be permanent and I think we can safely bank on seeing some more examples of Barry's great photography on their blog in the coming months.

After an evening of sampling Helen's fruit flavoured tipples and my home brew we settled in for a session of six handed rummy. I am pleased to report that the huge amount of intellectual effort I invested resulted in a predictable moral victory for the Capt - its all skill when you win.  Although I should credit Sandra with joint victory, if measured on points alone. 

Sunday morning saw us wandering round Loughborough, eyeing up the homebrew supplies in Wilkinsons and generally sampling the ambiance. Its a nice town but a bit lacking in character if I can offer an opinion. That said, there are notable aspects to the town and lets start with the 
canal basin. 

Loughborough canal basin

When we passed this way about two years ago the basin was a wilderness and nothing would have persuaded me to spend a night there. I eyed an uninviting stretch of water from the junction and thought nah - why would anyone want to motor along such a desolate strip. Now the area had been redeveloped and I have to say it is quite stunning and a modest sort of way. The arm is lined with apartments and flats and a Travelodge flank the basin itself, and Tesco is just a few hundred yards away. The pontoons are those very short ones which make mooring a challenge, but all in all is a good spot to spend the night and an easy walk into the town centre.

 Loughborough's Carillon Tower

The other gem is Queens Park, complete with its Carrilon tower which celebrates both the bell making which was the town's main industry at one time, and also serves as an impressive war memorial. The town still makes bells, with John Taylor Bellfounders supplying both St Pauls in London and York Minster. The park is dynamic too, celebrating the Olympics with a tribute to the Team GB synchronised swimmers who were based in the town during the 2012 event.

 Loughborough's tribute to the 2012 Synchronised Swimming team.

Then it was back to Mountsorrel on a windswept Soar, steering Areandare and putting her unusual engine and hydraulic transmission combo through its paces. All in all a great weekend seeing old friends, playing with a new boat and even a bit of new water (although it was only 200 yards long).

Here is a link the Barry and Sandra's blog.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Girls Afloat

Girls afloat
April 2013

At last - the first weekend afloat when we have been blessed with fine weather.

Aldersley Junction

The snag was it was only a partial weekend from my perspective. Helen and one of her friends wanted to spend the weekend on the boat, but they didnt want to take it out alone. The end result was a logistical nightmare with three cars shuffling across Wolverhampton to facilitate transfers to and fro.

Transport aside, Saturday was lovely and Helen, her friend and family and of course your truly ventured down the Staffs and Worcester to Dimmingsdale Lock with the spring sunshine smiling on us all the way.

The trip gave the new loo a good test but little fingers couldn't resist pressing the flush repeatedly and within three hours the cassette was at capacity! Good job I have a spare...

The trip also marked the start of the 2013 foraging season with a huge patch of fresh wild garlic identified near Wolverhampton which was quickly thinned out and a suitable preserve created. Next it was the gorse - this time being made into gorse cordial which sounded doubtful but actually tasted really good.

Gorse picking

On the foraging tack, its full speed ahead in chez Ahab with jam jars being filled as a rate of knots in advance of the Droitwich and Crick festivals which are looming up over the next four weeks. And attending these festivals brings an abundance of boating experience. 

The stay at Dimmingsdale was not quite the quiet solitude one usually associates with the place. A nearby farm threw a party which culminated with a firework display at midnight, but this didn't seem to bother the girls. All in all a tantalising taster of the 2013 cruising season. Roll on Droitwich.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Oblivion - film review

April 2013

Take a two hour running time, add a dash of the Matrix, a hefty dose of Independence Day and liberally sprinkle with the essence of about 20 classic sci fi films and what to you get? - Oblivion!

When I say Oblivion I don't mean a film which sinks into the celluloid mire without a trace, but rather the Tom Cruise film of that name which by some miracle pulls off the rampant plagarism and delivers a sci fi movie which is a cut above the norm.

Its a post apocalyptic story of man (America) fighting the evil planet raping aliens. A story of the underdog battling against all the odds - and delivering triumph in the end (Independence Day). We even have the hero flying the suicide mission, but even here all is not as it seems.

Dont expect a tight plot - its got more loose ends than my favourite boating sweater, but the central tale is as compelling as it is heart warming. As ever, aliens clever enough to deploy all that technology seem very gullible in the final showdown, but that is how aliens are!

The opening half hour sets the scene and it takes a while for the film to get going - even then its not always clear exactly who the bad guys are. But then things liven up and just as you fear for the future of the human remnant, Morgan Freemans sonorous narrative cuts in and assures you that all will be well - things always work out ok when you have Morgan Freeman in your corner.

Its a good sci fi film, a familiar but the eclectic collection of plotlines are woven together very well and its well worth a look see. 

A good film which entertained and exceeded expectations.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Pensnett Canal - Canal Street

Pensnett Canal - Canal St area
April 2013

Exploring the Pensnett Canal is a frustrating business. If it isnt private land it the active railway which bars progress on foot.

Undeterred, I drove round to the satisfyingly named Canal Street, haunt of multiple car breakers and not a place to linger during the working week. But at 9.00am on a Sunday morning the place is deserted and those gaps in the fence are a tempting prospect.

Pensnett Canal at Canal St crossing

I then skirted round to to Stourbridge Road and the crossing at the canals terminus, site of a large interchange basin were canal traffic was transferred to Lord Hays mineral line.

 Loading basins south of Stourbridge Road

To round off this visit I walked down Fens Pool Avenue and through a walkway into the Fens Pool nature reserve, following the old line of the Mineral Tramway. The three huge pools were all originally clay pits which were later pressed into service as reservoirs to supply the Fens Branch Canal. The lofty tramway soars above the surrounding lakes and offers an excellent vantage point.

 Fens Pool, Pensnett

Middle Pool, Pensnett

Tramway relic - a carriage wheel embedded in iron slag

Sunday 21 April 2013

Pensnett Canal - Pedmore Road

Pensnett Canal revisited - Pedmore Road area
April 2013

I had unfinished business with the Pensnett Canal. When I last visited there was a long central section I couldn't get access to, a section to the north of Pedmore Road but tucked away to the rear of a busy steel stockholder.

Pensnet Canal map C1902

This visit was very early on a Sunday morning and the works were deserted. There was no one to seek permission so I wandered in and was able to follow the canal bed all the way from the cooling pond to the south of Pedmore Road through to the railway bridge.

Cooling Ponds at Pedmore Road

Pensnett Canal bed to the north of Pedmore Road

 Rubbish strewn channel

A distant glimpse of the railway bridge

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Snow Drops - book review

Snow Drops
by A D Miller
April 2013

I had an abortive attempt at this book several weeks ago, but failed to engaged with the plot and set it aside for another time.

The other time occurred as I packed my bag for the Kazakhstan trip when two eight hour flights dawned plus the inevitable airport hanging around and of course the empty hours in a hotel with only the international news channel for company.

The second attempt was timely as the book is set in Moscow, a culture with more than a passing similarity to Kazakhstan. The book is written as some form of confessional by Nick, a n ex pat accountant to person or persons unknown - possibly a future partner attempting to explain the circumstances of his last winter in Russia. Its a study on the dark side of Moscow, and human nature.

In the context of this book a snow drop is a body which emerges from the snow in the Moscow spring, paralleling the implications of his actions which become apparent as time passes. In some ways its a classic story of a flawed love affair where both parties are not what they seem and slowly moral positions are compromised. Nick's professional integrity suffers attrition in the face of corruption, greed and betrayal in equal measure mirroring his personal life where all is not as he wants it to be and whilst willing the truth to be otherwise, he presses on in the hope that all will be well.

Its probably best described as a psychological thriller which is quite engaging and an easy read. The cast is small and the plot fairly complex and I would have to say that even the conclusion lacks and major sting in the tail. Rather you become aware of the inevitability of the conclusion and the book is something of an apologetic for the loss of moral standards.

Not a bad book, but nothing really great either.

Monday 15 April 2013

Derventio Brewery

Derventio Brewery, Derby
April 2013

Tilly and J gave me a rather unusual birthday present - a guided tour of the Derventio micro brewery in Derby. And they didn't stop at a look around - they insisted on a fair amount of imbibing to test their wares.

These tours are pretty popular with about 30 people passing through in the morning and a dozen of us in the afternoon. It all cracked off with a half pint of what we fancied - a glass of heady Barbarian Stout for  myself and J, and a lager ale called Venus for Jeff and Tilley. The porter was strong in the style of Black Sheep and the Venus was la bright and tasty brew which was as refreshing and the porter was heavy.

The brewery has been operating singe 2006 and employs its two partners and an apprentice running about four brews of 900 gallons each week - gradually expanding its range as successful new lines are identified.

We were walked through the grain used, the production of the liquour and the wort as the bitter hops and flavouring hops were added to taste before being boiled up and then transferred to the fermentation vats. This move saw us move from the chilly main process area to aroma rich  warmth of the fermentation room, where the yeast is added, the temperature raised to 23 / 26C and then after acting for two to three days, the vats are chilled and the fermentation process brought to a standstill.

Most of the beer is sold by the barrel, but recent innovations includes a bottling plant which extends the shelf life from 6 weeks to a year and vastly increases their sale options.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing was to see just how similar the process is to the homebrew cycle we use. The brew master admitted that he is an unqualified amateur who cut his teeth on homebrew so I guess that there is hope for all of us.

These are difficult lime for breweries but its good to see the growth of small artisan micro breweries like Derventio filling a gap in the market and offering some different tastes to satisfy the needs of discerning beer drinkers.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Kazakhstan - Almaty

Kazakhstan - Almaty
April 2013

My travel schedule has been a bit relentless lately. Its only a week since I returned from Malta and here I am boarding another plane on yet another business trip - this time to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Excuse the quality of the above photo - it was taken on my Blackberry but shows the Kazakhstan international ski jump centre, and this is the exact view from the office window.

Kazakhstan is on the extreme the eastern edge of our European region and is as geographically remote as the Caymen Islands to our west. Our interpretation of Europe is more wacky than Eurovision! That said, these places have to be visited from time to time  and it will come as no surprise that the Caymen's attract more volunteers for visits...

So, last Sunday it was off on KLM via Amsterdam, departure 11.00am from Birmingham and touchdown in Almaty at 2.00am local time (9.00pm GMT). This outbound leg is really grim as you need to get some sleep as soon as you get there to be ready to work the next day, but your body tells you its too early for sleep. Then its up and off to the office and it is 2.00pm before the trickle of e-mail's from London signifies the "real" time back home. All very confusing and knackering. Last time I was in Almaty I never clicked into local time and I existed on less than three hours sleep, per might bit mercifully I slept for over five hours after I landed and adapted really well this time round.

Life in Almaty is strange. In some ways its as alien a culture as I have experienced anywhere, including Africa - its mostly Russian speaking and the built legacy of the Soviet era is as strong as the lasting cultural impact. My first morning didn't go too well as the hotel taxi driver got his wires crossed and insisted on taking me bank to the Airport whereas all I wanted twas to get to the office in the financial district! In the end a mixture of my protestations, an e-mail to my colleagues and the hotel clocking that I hadn't yet paid my bill got things sorted out. 

Spring has struck in Almaty, with the leaves of the scrubby trees bursting out and the temperature up in the low 20's. All a very pleasant change from the lingering frosts of the UK. We bustled about in our shirtsleeves and dined on an outdoor patio seeking shade where we could.

My local colleagues were as hospitable as ever and I was treated to a range of international cuisine including delights from Uzbekistan and Georgia. They seem to include a lot of meat and unlike the UK, the use of horse is positively encouraged.

With my three days on the ground over it was time to get back to my hotel, finally sampling the local specialty of the Gypsy Taxi. Almaty, like Moscow, has little in the way of a formal taxi service and instead the practice is to stand on the street side and hold out your wallet and eventually someone will stop, ask your desired destination and if its not too far out of the way a price will be agreed and off you go. No booking, no insurance, no assurance - sounds like a nightmare. The amazing thing is that it generally seems to work ok. My selection of taxi was so so. I hopped in the front and shared the drivers only word of English which was a very well expressed "Hello", dropped of another passenger and then hit the dual carriage ways. It was at the first corner I got worried - we approached at breakneck speed with the engine rattling, coolant odour pervading the cab and then he applied the brakes. Three sets of pads snatched at the discs, their rivets tearing into the metal with a terrible scream. I am not sure if we stopped using the fourth wheel which didn't scream. or maybe that one gave up the ghost long ago. Either way, I reached for my seat belt and prayed!

The Kazakh people are both a friendy and attractive bunch, their mixed race ancestry blending into a dark, willowy, asian, Mongolian fusion which is pleasing on the eye and good company to boot. But its the sheer remoteness of the of the place which gets me. To reach the new capital city of Astana is a 1000k drive and if you need to get out to another major city beyond Kazakhstan you will have to travel an eye watering 2,500k - its almost a landlocked island. No wonder its one of the most expensive cities in the world.

And so it was back on the anti social 4.30am flight (then delayed by an hour and a half) chasing the dawn all across Europe to land at 10.30am after over eight hours in the air - a never ending morning. Thankfully I had yesterday off in lieu of my Sunday travel, a day when my family assembled to celebrate my 52nd birthday with a meal at Jimmy Spices followed up with a viewing of The Blues Brothers eased along with some sampling of our home grown cider and Jacks rather good home brew.

 Not a bad way to end a busy week.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Water Under the Bridge - book review

Water Under the Bridge
by Julian Holland
April 2013

Helen picked this book up for the princely sum of £2.50 - and well worth the money it was.

It has to be said that its a coffee table book really - lots of great photos and some engaging narrative to provide context.

It no great classic, in fact its something of a light weight. It does not try to cover the whole system but instead take some contrasting waterways and focus's in on them. It offers a light historical perspective for each chapter (my sort of history) and then expands this into an easy to read account of what you can expect to see if you visit.

Then there are the photos which are simply superb - a delight to savour.

Its not the sort of book you read from cover, but rather something you dip into as your curiosity leads you. 

A good read and something guests on board would really enjoy. Something to leave on the boat rather than to become a cornerstone of my reference library.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Small Boat on the Meuse - book review

Small Boat on the Meuse
by Roger Pilkington
April 2013

My trip to Malta offered a significant amount of reading time which included Pilkington's first travel book on the new Thames Commodore, crossing the channel and following a familiar path into the heart of Europe along the Meuse - one of his favourite waterways.

Whilst the Pilkingtons are now a firm part of my life, and their travels are rarely far from my imagination. However, this was mostly known ground and was therefore not as captivating as usual.

The odd thing is though, I find myself becoming very familiar with the Continental system and increasingly keen to get over there and have a look for ourselves. Gradually, bit by bit, I am finding a medium term plan evolving after we have exhausted the UK waterways when we will get a bigger boat and really do the job properly - but that's all at least 10 years in the future.

All these tales of distant journeys and hitherto unknown history is getting to me....

By the time you read this I will be in Kazakhstan and will probably have read Pilkingtons next installment. Watch this space.

Sunday 7 April 2013

A chilly Easter cruise

Easter 2013
April 2013

45 miles, 4 locks, 14 hours

We had a plan - four days out on the water with some old friends with Market Drayton as a likely destination.

Snowdrifts on the Shroppie

But then spring failed to materialise and we were left in the grip id winds from the Baltic, howling round the residual snowdrifts left behind from last weekend. Not the spring idyll we were hoping for! Plans were rehashed from the warmth of Malta and a limited two day trip was devised for Easter Sunday and Monday.

A wintry ice fall on the Shropshire Union Canal

In the event we set off on Saturday afternoon, just reaching the Fox and Anchor at Coven where we retired for an excellent meal and several pints, catching up on the months which had passed since we last met up. Of course, the boat was toasty and warm and we converted yet another couple to six handed rummy.

Sunday offered some intermittent sunshine and encouraged us to press on along the Shroppie, shaking the winter cobwebs from Wand'ring Bark. The plan was to stop at Gnosall but I forgot that the next winding hole is at Norbury so we went a bit further than planned. To my surprise a CDWF Banter was in full swing at Gnosall but as we were entertaining I didnt show my face.

Monday, by contrast, saw near zero temperatures and a penetrating wind from the east, chilling me to the bone as I steered the boat back for 7 hours. That said, it takes more than a bit of cold to put me off my boating and with the festival season rapidly approaching I cant wait to get back out there.

Can you recognise the un named wooden boat?

The trip offered an opportunity to test out some winter boat improvements including the new cassette loo (fully functional), the new Taff Rail (bears my weight) and the new mattress (very comfy).

Come on spring - this is getting ridiculous....

Friday 5 April 2013

Flights of fancy - update

Wolverhampton Level exits old and new (ish)
Various updates

(Update Sept 2011) (and April 2013)

Mark pointed out that the Gibson's Arm also had a lock off the Birmingham Level as it entered the basins, under what is now Centenary Square and the new Birmingham Library, adding to my list of downward exits from this pound.

This fact stuck in my mind and when I picked up one of Ray Shill's articles in the BCNS's Boundary Post I discovered a map revealing that access to the basins was via a lock up off the main line - not down. Actually its from Richard Chester Brown's "The Other Sixty Miles" so I should have noticed this before. It therefore does not qualify for my list of exits from the Birmingham Level, but I have no idea what they used for a water supply...

April 2013 - I was reading John Liley's "Journeys of the Swan when I found a photo of the entrance of the Newhall Branch exiting the back of Cambrian Wharf and taken in 1969:

Entrance to the Newhall Branch Canal in Birmingham - 1969

Solve one issue and another crops up - any suggestions?

Original post from May 2011:

I was plodding along the Old Main Line at Smethwick yesterday, gazing up at that huge chimney and wondering why they needed such a big pumping engine to keep the top level in water.

Of course, there were lots of loads about then, but the Wolverhampton Level is huge, it must be the better part of 40 miles from Longwood near Aldridge round to Smethwick and the Engine Arm. Thats a big reservoir even before you start to include Chasewater. This line of thinking got me counting lock flights which drew on the Wolverhampton Level, and it was a bit like counting sheep and every time I compiled a mental list I remembered others.

So, for those interested, this is the list I came up with:

1. Smethwick Locks ( were duplicated, but lets count as one)
2. Spon Lane Locks - oldest lock chambers in the UK
3. Brades Locks - only staircase on the BCN
4. Tipton Green Locks - infilled but still partly visible in a park
5. Factory Locks - the fastest way from Wolverhampton to Birmingham
6. Park Head Locks - beyond the Dudley Tunnel and sometimes operational (today yes)
7. Bradley Locks - infilled but visible descending to the Walsall Canal
8. Wolverhampton 21 to the Staffs and Worcester
9. Bentley Locks - lost beneath a retail park
10. Walsall Locks
11. Church Bridge Locks - lost beneath a road in Cannock
12. Rushall Locks - The least used flight on the BCN?
13. Ogley Locks - connecting the Wyrley and Essington with the T&M - being restored

Is my list complete? I cant think of any more, save possibly a short arm parallel to the Toll End Communication Canal to service the original factory which made all those graceful iron bridges, which may or may not have existed at the same time as the adjacent Toll End. 

Jeff tells me I shouldn't know all this stuff and I should get out less!

All this thought took me as far as the Titford Canal so I thought that to be fair, I should do the same exercise for the Birmingham Level:

1. Farmers Bridge Locks 
2. Lapworth Flight
3. Tardebigge Flight
4. Blowers Green (thanks Nick) via Lappal and later Netherton
5. Two Locks line (thanks again Nick - and to think I have walked the route!)
5. Ryders Green Locks
6. Toll End Communication Canal

Have I missed any?

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Journeys of the Swan

Journeys of the Swan
by John Liley
April 2013

My rummage through the collection of books for sale from the BCN Society unearthed a copy of Journeys of the Swan, complete with a very 1960's flower power typeface on its cover.

The period nature of the book initially caused me to set it aside, but then I reread the name of the author - John Liley who continues to write fascinating articles from his hotel boat in France. I have always enjoyed his writings, but never had any idea of his background. So, reading a book written by him in 1971 based on his travels in a working boat in the mid 1960's was promptly added to the "must have" pile.

My foreign travels provide plenty of scope for reading, either whilst waiting for planes, on planes or simply killing time in hotels. This book as therefore became my evening reading in Malta and from a distance of 1000 miles and nearly 50 years I followed his adventured on the Swan, a working boat salvaged by a friend from Braunston and whose single cylinder Gardner semi diesel reliably thumped them the length and breath of England over several seasons.

The tale starts with the boat's recovery from Braunston and then its initial trip to take part in the reopening of the South Stratford Canal.  Then it was a circumnavigation of London followed by a mega trip to Birmingham, Middlewich and Leicester. The next season included a trip to the Worcester Avon in the days before the upper Avon had been completed - all undertaken at breakneck pace in two week holiday snatches.

John has a good style, mixing history with an insightful commentary of his travels. These were the days when the continuation of the canal network was far from certain and there is an underlying sense of urgency to get round as much as they could, whilst they still could. Maybe there was something in the air in the 60's - my father travelled dawn to dusk, and then some which was pretty much like these guys. 

The book makes you appreciate the changes achieved over the decades - the opening of the Kennet and Avon, Droitwich, Upper Avon and that's just in the south. But its not just the miles and furlongs added, its the state of the cut itself. These guys were really struggling to get their 3ft 6in draft through the smaller canals where 2ft 6in of water wasn't uncommon. I'm not saying that working boats dont struggle from time to time, but generally there is a bit more gap between the top and the bottom these days.

Monday 1 April 2013

Startling discovery in Dudley

New Canal Tunnel found beneath Dudley Castle
1 April 2013

Recent structural work on the Netherton Tunnel and information released from the War Office records have unearthed details about the existence of a hitherto unknown link between the Netherton and Dudley Tunnels on the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

Whilst undertaking the £1.5m repairs to the Netherton Tunnel, engineers were surprised to discover the entrance to a further north south tunnel. They report that differential settlement between the two excavations is the likely cause of recent helical cracking seen in the roof the 1858 bore, rather than the unstable sub strata which was previously thought to be the issue. It appears that the 1940’s extension, constructed amidst intense secrecy, was a hurried affair with insufficient resources devoted to the structural integrity of the subterranean junction.

This new linking tunnel exited the Netherton about half way along and progressed due north to join the smaller 1785 Dudley Tunnel via the abandoned limestone caverns. The northern entrance remains visible within the modern tunnel complex and is seen by thousands of visitors each year as the sealed entrance to Dark Cavern, a tunnel which was found to be unstable and was blocked off by the construction of a newer navigation channel in the 1980’s.

The records indicate that this linking tunnel was dug in the early days of World War 2 to gain access to a reserve of high grade oil contained within an anticline hydrocarbon trap approx 300 metres below Dudley Castle. The unusual mix of rich mineral oil and the adjacent limestone resulted in an oil which was particularly well suited to hydraulic applications in the aerospace industry.  

Workers accessed  to the terminal was via a shaft descending from the grounds of Dudley castle but the oils themselves were shipped out by Claytons of Oldbury under direct contract to the War Office. Claytons initially used the tanker motors Soar and Taff for this trade till they were sold and replaced by Ribble and Spey towards the end of the war. These craft accessed the underground oil terminal, operated by the Government owned Aprilla Fuels, during the hours of darkness and transporting the unrefined oils to Midland Tar Distillers works at Oldbury. An uninterrupted power supply was provided via a micro hydro electric generating station sited at the foot of the Tividale Aqueduct, powered by water drawn from the higher Wolverhampton Level.

After processing, the high grade hydraulic oil was transported by Claytons in barrels to Bromford Wharf on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal for use in the manufacture of Spitfires, a site now occupied by Jaguar.

This source of British mineral oil was so important to the war effort that steps were taken to protect the portals of the Netherton Tunnel from the Luftwaffe’s version of the bouncing bomb. A close inspection of the portal walls has revealed fixing brackets for a disguised metal mesh screen which could be dropped in the event of an air attack. It is unclear if this defensive counter measure was ever actually deployed. The oil reserves were exhausted just before the end of the war and the tunnel was bricked up to minimise the risk of explosion.

This new discovery potentially provides a huge boost to Dudley’s tourist industry, linking the Dudley Castle and Zoo, Dudley Canal Trust Trust and the Black Country Living Museum into an integrated whole and is likely to attract an additional 100,000 visitors each year. A new Aprilla Fuels Restoration Trust has been constituted as a Community Interest Company and Messrs WS Atkins have been appointed to undertake feasibility report to restore the semi circular tunnel to full navigable standards.

Mr C Lion, spokesman for Dudley Castle and Zoo, expressed delight in this find which will be accessed via their hilltop site. “This added attraction will really put Dudley on the map. The Aprilla Fuels Tunnel, as it will be known, will do much to oil the wheels of a local economy which has been struggling to keep its head above water for several years”.

Limited public access is expected in the spring 2014 with full boating access expected in very early April 2015.