I had been surprised that we had survived the Walsall Canal without a trip to the weedhatch yesterday, but when we turned onto the New Main Line it was obvious that it needed some attention. I decided to wait until we'd arrived at Birmingham but then promptly forgot all about it until reminded by Pete early this morning.
Despite their boating experience, the other members of the crew claimed never to have been down a weed-hatch before - even claiming not to know where it was! I fell for this and volunteered to show them how. Now I haven't mentioned the weather very much this trip, but the predominant feature was the cold! The temperature had been several degrees below zero overnight and although no ice had formed at Oozells Street (those air-con vents again?) the water was bloody cold.
|The mug in the weed-hatch|
Once underway, Steve quickly discovered ice on the cut at the turn back onto the main line and once out of the city centre we were breaking ice all the way, plans to do the Icknield Port and Soho loops being abandoned due to the conditions.
|Breaking ice on the New Main Line|
|Smethwick Top Lock|
Surely it can't be worth it for the number of boaters passing this way? (Or am I missing something?)
Despite the Black Country Museum being closed we journeyed up the arm leading to it anyway, as we needed water. I then entertained the Community Payback team working there by winding the boat in the rather confined space available.
Then it was on to Tipton and back on to the New Main Line. The turn onto the Netherton Tunnel branch was tricky, due to the ice, but Steve managed it perfectly and of course there was no ice in the tunnel itself! Up until now there hadn't been any moored boats to worry about, but once on the Dudley Canal we did come across a few which meant reaching a compromise between slowing down so as not to do any damage and maintaining enough forward motion to give steerage and break the ice. Fortunately, those few boat owners who were aboard their boats seemed very understanding.
We had a quick stop at Blower's Green so that Steve and Pete could walk up and see the other end of Dudley Tunnel (we'd seen the north end at the Black Country Museum) and then tied up at Merry Hill on the moorings overlooking Sainsbury's. The rest of the crew were strangers to the Black Country and I think Brierley Hill High Street (or what's left of it) came as a bit of a shock, but we did find a reasonable Indian Restaurant for a curry later on.