Thursday 27 June 2013

BCN Explorer

BCN Explorer B
Balls Hill Branch walk
June 2013

I had a very boaty sort of day in a "not afloat" sort of way.

The day started with a visit to Wand'ring Bark and seeing our friends off for a weekend aboard. They have been out with us before so they know the ropes but they still needed showing around.

Goodbye Wand'ring Bark

My plan was to go with them to the first bridge and then walk back and get out at Misty's. Good plan but Misty's is closed and so is the access. I then had to walk and extra two miles round via the next bridge in high sun and even higher humidity. It wasn't long before the first sighting was noted and reports sent back to us about the boat's progress.

But that wasn't me done with boating for the day. 4.00pm found me at Ocker Hill and meeting up with the Explorer B cruise for a guided walk of the lost canals. The problem was the options open to me - there are so many old canals I could chose from. In the end I settled on the one I recently wrote for the Boundary Post which is approx 6 miles, takes 2.5 hours plus as long in the Ridgeacre Pub as is needed.

Explorer B moorings at Ocker Hill

We walked up the Ryders Green flight of 8 locks and crossed to the Wednedbury Old Canal, the northern end of Brindley's original canal otherwise known as the Ridgeacre or Swan Arm.
There was much speculation about the navigability of this polluted backwater but all plans for an attempt were fitmly squashed when they saw the reed bank mid way along. The reeds are advancing rapidly and it wont be many years till the WOC is covered all the way to Ryders Green Junction.

Crossing the top lock

We had some old photo's with us so we could see how things used to be and then made a welcome stop at the Ridgeacre Pub where pints of Doom Bar were downed and thirsts slaked. Then it was off along what became the Balls Hill Branch to Golds Hill, picking out the line of the canal wherever possible before dropping down to the moorings next to the Danks Branch.

Charlie - I got through there in 2009!

This is a good walk as it covers navigable canals, a canal which is just being lost and a couple of completely in filled ones where the route is only identifiable by the tell tale clues left behind. There is the added benefit of the number of pubs en route - The Eight Locks, The Ridgeacre, The Beehive and the Miners Arms. 

Rope marks on the Walsall Canal

The explorers seemed to enjoy the walk and for my part it was a great excuse to revisit a favourite area of the BCN and meet some great people along the way.

Not a bad "then and now" pair at the foot of the Ryders Green Locks


Anonymous said...

That's a great "before n after" sequence - we like the Ryder's Green flight - but what a shame that the Ridgeacre branch is being lost. Last time we came to Brum it was closed because of pollution.

Sue, nb Indigo Dream

p.s. sorry for not getting touch - you're often in our thoughts - especially when I'm chanting over a pan of jam to get it to set!

Halfie said...

What a shame about the Ridg(e)acre Branch. We got to the end in Shadow on one of our first cruises on that boat about ten years ago. It was narrow and shallow, and infested with rubbish, but I was determined! I shall have to go again, to try to keep the canal navigable. Or would that now be impossible?

Barry and Sandra said...

Lovely post Andy! Thanks for your hospitality last night, wonderful to see you and Helen again.

Were we the first Wand'ring Bark spotters I wonder?
Sandra & Barry

Andy Tidy said...

Sue - I loves your posts of the Gravesend trip.
Halfie - seriously impossible - you could probably walk across the canal.
Barry and Sandra - great to see you too. Probably the first Bark Twitchers but not our first stalkers...