Day three of our grand adventure:
We never manage to set off at 8am as we plan, realistically we just won’t ever be that type of boater. Somewhere closer to 10am we finally shift off the mooring towards Wolverhampton.
I loved this part of the canal, lots of people consider it a bit of a strange industrial wasteland but there’s an eery beauty in seeing all the old loops and wharfs still in place, slightly overgrown and unloved yet strangely alluring. We kept commenting on how it would be amazing to find a modern purpose for them and give that stretch of canal a new lease of life, the infrastructure is in place, it’s just finding a new purpose! I’ve been mulling it over since.
One of my favourite bits was going under the motorway, it’s just immense and mildly terrifying as it rumbles above you. Even more disconcerting is the amount of work they’re doing patching sections of it up, needless to say we didn’t really fancy hanging around and kept cruising speed straight through! It is great to see car, canal and rail all come together at this point too, so noisy! Yet there’s something about all the points in history merging that feels quite satisfying!
Now here’s where we made our Big Mistake, having reviewed the maps the night before we decided that the New Main Line looked much straighter and much more attractive for a quick push through to Wolverhampton (I was anxious about getting a secure mooring there) so we started off with this in mind. With it being well past the end of March neither of us thought that there would be any stoppages ongoing, it was the beginning of the season after all!
Oh we were wrong.
We hardly saw the single sign (that was terribly placed and much too far on to turn around anyway) that said ‘Canal Closed Ahead’. Thanks for that CRT, you could at least have put a sign where the diversion would make sense to go (to branch onto the Old Main Line), for ignorant boaters like ourselves! Luckily an angler saw us coming and ran down to warn us before we reached the actual point of closure. So we managed to reverse-rope the boat back to the Dudley turning, wind, then shuffle back to the Old Mainline turning with our tails between our legs – idiots! It was a mistake that only cost us a few hours of what was to be a short day cruising anyway, but it threw me off guard and put me in a right mood (with myself) until we reached Wolverhampton later on.
Going back onto the Old Main line and up our first staircase lock (that took a little thinking!) we were tootling along near Dudley. We passed a familiar sight on the way!
After what seemed like the longest day cruising when it shouldn’t have been, we made it to Wolverhampton. After mooring up on the towpath side for some food, we played Mooring Monopoly negotiating with the other boats so a few of us could have an offside mooring while the others wanted the towpath moorings so they could go out for dinner (we went with offside moorings once we had food to make room for others). We had no problem with mooring in Wolverhampton either, it was noisy from the road but after cooking dinner and watching a film we were fast asleep. Boat moving is exhausting!
Wolverhampton locks. I’d done a lot of reading on this stretch of our journey and was really apprehensive, especially over the fact that we even needed anti-vandal keys to get the lock paddles open. I kept my eyes peeled for said “vandals” all the way down but everyone we met was lovely. Who knows!
Maybe as we have such a scruffy boat we seem more approachable? Also noted that as it was early on in the day and not a school holiday we definitely avoided some of the younger “vandals” as well. Our review: don’t avoid it based on reputation, as you’ll have no problems if you time your journey strategically! We can’t say we do anything with wisdom, nor strategy, so it was just by chance on our part…
Once we’d done the locks (21 locks felt like a doddle after Tardebigge!) we found ourselves suddenly in a beautiful rural setting. The sun had come out by this point and it was a glorious day, which helped. The contrast of the top of the flight against the bottom was huge, it was beautiful and green at the base of the locks. Strange to think we were only an industrial setting just under two miles prior!
We did a quick stint on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal to Autherley Junction Stop Lock. We then stopped at the wharf after the lock to refill our second gas bottle and I convinced Chris we also needed an ice cream. Obviously.
We had lunch, our ice creams and set off again, having it in mind that we really wanted to make it as far as we could seeing as we had the time (it was only around 2pm) and the weather certainly helped! We’d vaguely had it in mind that we’d stop at Brewood, but we managed to press on.
We stopped briefly at Wheaton Aston Lock as there was a narrowboat traffic jam (laughable, compared to a real traffic jam) of a few boats waiting to go down the lock. We had a chat with a few of them talking about boats (what else is there to discuss?) luckily no one mentioned toilets so it was relatively tame for boat chat. We also met another boat that was headed to Overwater, a beautifully kept share boat and the couple were so kind! They also helped us through the lock. After the lock we panicked a bit as it looked like there weren’t any moorings!
*More boater chat klaxon*
As we were mooring a passing couple remarked that they’d tried to stop there but as their boat was 60ft they’d had to keep going and now they wished they had a smaller boat like ours. I said we thought we’d need a bigger boat in a few years, so no one’s ever really satisfied are they! They also helped me with the ropes. Imagine if we did this with cars or campers! “Here, let me help you park that, let’s discuss how big our cars are.” Would it be weird? Probably!
It was just after 7 by this point, so we were knackered! But determined to go to the pub we shuffled over nonetheless. Review to come!
In the next blog post Alice falls in love with the Shroppie and decides she’s not too keen on leaving ‘The North’.