Friday, February 18, 2011

Walking from Merry Hill

I decided to have a walk up to Park Head Junction this morning, to recce the first bit of the next leg of the journey up into Birmingham.

A dull morning but no rain, with a brisk, cool breeze kicking up.

Through the Merry Hill complex, there are more moorings on the offside, but I think ours are quieter. The traffic noise faded around 9 last night, and we didn’t hear a thing after that.

Offside moorings at Merry Hill

The pontoon moorings are secure, but are charged for.

Leaving the redeveloped area the canal winds between factory walls, typical of an edge of city urban canal.

Further along, the towpath crosses an iron bridge over what used to be an arm connecting to the Dudley No2 Canal.

Woodside Junction Bridge

This short-lived arm, known as the Two Lock Line, was a shortcut, avoiding the sharp turn at Park Head.

Blowers Green Pump House marks Park Head Junction. Here the Dudley No1 heads straight on, up Park Head Locks, to dive into the confines of the 3154 yard long Dudley Tunnel. Narrow and low, powered craft are barred, although there is an electric tug run by the Dudley Canal Trust which will tow suitable boats through, or escort those who wish to practice the art of “legging”.

Blowers Green Pump House, headquarters of The Dudley Canal Trust, stands alongside the lock of the same name.

The Park Head Locks are in very good condition. Restored in the 70’s and little used, I suppose they should be…

Looking down the 3 locks.

To the left is the short Grazebrook Arm, to the right the remains of the 1¼ mile Pensnett Canal.

The south portal of Dudley Tunnel is a little above the top lock.

Dudley Tunnel, South

Note the gauging indicator over the entrance. If your boat can clear this you’ll get through…

Heading back down to the junction I spotted a boat pulling up on the services next to the Pump House. We knew that NB’s Caxton and Matilda Rose were headed this way…

NB Caxton at Park Head Junction.

I went across and introduced myself and was treated to a tour of their fine boat by Lesley and Joe. Not too interested in quality boatbuilding, Meg got to know the black labs Fletcher and Floyd.

They were headed our way, so I set off back to Merry Hill for breakfast.

They arrived, in company with Jill and Graham on Matilda Rose, around lunchtime, and we all repaired on board Rock’n’Roll for a natter and a brew.

This afternoon I decided to see if I could trace the route of the original flight of locks at Delph. I mentioned yesterday that the locks had been re-aligned in 1858.

The bottom and top locks were retained, the 7 intermediate chambers replaced by 6 slightly to the west.

From the top the old line ducks under an iron towpath bridge, but ends shortly after.

Meg demonstrates the route of the old line

But below the bank at the end sits the only remaining chamber of the original locks.

Lock 3, I think

Below this the line is vague at best, infilled and grown over.

Looking back up the old route of Delph Locks, the present flight is on the left.

We returned up the “new” locks, back to the boats for tea. There was a toll house on the old flight, and I wondered if this decayed bit of brickwork in the bushes alongside the locks may have been it’s remains.

Pile of bricks..?

Looking back down the current flight.

As you’ve no doubt realised, we’ve decided to stay an extra day. It’s not often you get 4 blogging boats gathered together!

Locks 0, miles 0

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