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Saturday, 17 March 2012

More Urban Navigations

Just had another week on the Narrowboat, this time in mid March, only myself and my father on board this time round. Dad wanted to see the urban canals but firstly we headed out to the top of Tardibigge locks via 2 short tunnels and spent a night moored in the country.

Moored at Tardebigge

Entering Tardebigge Tunnel.


Shortwood Tunnel

Inside Shortwood Tunnel, 900 yards long.

We again headed into Birmingham on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. We spent a night in the centre of Birmingham, taking time for a meal out at a restuarant in Brindley Place. Then headed up the New main line, then up the 3 "Spon Lane" locks to "Old Main Line" and to moor at Dudley Canal Museum. We missed out on a tour of the underground limestone mines here last time round, so we took a morning trip into the mines, the Limestone was cut out from the inside of the hill in huge caverns and then loaded into narrow boats which used a network of canals inside the hill. One of these eventually became a tunnel right through Dudley Hill to exit at Park Head 1.8 miles away. Modern narrowboats cannot fit through this single tunnel now due to subsidence, but occasionally lower older boats make it through, however they have to be ballasted down with weight.

The start of Dudley Hill mines through the tunnel portal, this opens out
after 100 yards into the collapsed cavern in the hill as shown below.

This is where a Cavern collapsed, this leads into 2 of the tunnels heading
into Dudley Hill, the RH one eventually
 leads to Park Head Junction over 1 mile away.

Various tunnels from Limestone caverns led into the collapsed section,
boats where loaded from here.

Within the mine are scenarios of how the Limestone was gathered, and explanations of the various tunnels, shafts and caverns.
After the mine trip we set of again on the boat heading down the 3 "Factory locks" then turned off the "New main line" towards Netherton Tunnel, this was built to replace Dudley tunnel, the tunnel is 1 .7 miles long, built to allow boats to pass, with a double towpath and takes around 40 minutes to pass through.

Leaving Netherton Tunnel, the tunnel has towpaths either side, but
take a good torch if you want to walk it. The portal at the
far end is only a pinprick.

The far side of Netherton Tunnel is known as Windmill end, there used to be many pits and factories here, but it is now a lovely bit of wild country, a haven for wildfowl, it is a far cry from scenes of the past when factories and mines where pushing out smoke making this the "Black Country".

Windmill End canal junctions, on the right leds to Hawne basin,
Netherton tunnel ahead, and colliery loading basins to the left.

Leaving the junction the canal skirts Netherton Hill and heads for Park Head, an area where there used to be many founderies and chain making factories has now all been landcaped and makes a fairly picturesque scene as it winds its way along.
Passing the area where foundries used to be, interpretive boards on the
towpath tell the story of the "Black Country" Anchors and chain for Titanic
where made near here.

Site of old overgrown canal near Blowers Green.

View back to Netherton Hill.

Another canal junction at Blowers Green. Canal to the right leads to

To the left Locks climbing up to Dudley Tunnel.

Turning round, we re-traced our course back to Windmill End to moor in sight of Cobbs Engine House, where a steam pump used to pump water from mines in the area into the canal.

Mooring at Windmill End, Cobbs Engine House in
the background.

Cobbs Engine House, used to house a beam engine to pump water from
mines into the canal.

We spent the next couple of days wending our way back to the boatyard, final night moored at Hopwood back out in the countryside.

Final mooring at Hopwood.
For those interested in facts:
We did 55 miles in total, with 5 tunnels, all passed in both directions I reckon we spent about 4 hours underground, we only had to do 6 locks and used 41 litres of diesel.
Oh and Dad fell in once, comedy moment, pushing the boat out from the bank, he clung on to the side for too long and could not get back onto land, nearly horizontal, hands on the boat and feet on the towpath he went in with a splash. Worryingly he could not climb back in the front so I had to rush down the side gunwhale and drag him in to the front cockpit by his coat collar. Luckily only a few bruises.

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