Day 40: the Black Country

August 7th, 2010

I spent two full days in Birmingham, doing various odd jobs and (ahem) relatively little thesis work. The odd jobs did include getting all the Manchester Ship Canal paperwork sorted and fixing the minor problem with the starter motor though, so I’m happy with that.

Today I’ve had Nicola on board for a short cruise to the Black Country Living Museum – we left Brum in the drizzle, went up three locks at Smethwick, noodled about under the M5 and finally headed off along the Old Main Line towards Dudley. The New Main Line I did on the way down – it’s ruler-straight and rather tedious with little scenery. By contrast, the Old Main Line is just as wide and deep, but much more interesting. As you get towards Tipton the canal gets clearer and the margins become full of waterlilies.
At this point we met the steam narrowboat “President” and butty “Kildare” coming the other way – I seem to meet them every time I come to the West Midlands – and I managed to get some video of them chuffing past.
Just around the corner is the Black Country Living Museum, where we moored for the afternoon and overnight. It’s got trams, trolleybuses, a coal mine, historic houses and other buildings illustrating industrial life in this part of the world. It also serves traditional Black Country fare – there was a colossal queue for fish-and-chips-fried-in-dripping-and-wrapped-in-newspaper, so I had faggots and gravy in the cafe instead…

The museum is adjacent to Dudley Tunnel, which isn’t a traditional canal tunnel at all, but rather a series of limestone mines linked by canals. Some of the junctions have been opened out now, so you go through a sequence of tunnels, passing briefly out into the light again between them. The Dudley Canal Trust operate three electric trip boats, and also have a tugboat that can tow a narrowboat through, provided it has a sufficiently low cabin, as the headroom is very limited!

Day 40: Birmingham to Tipton Junction, 8 miles and 3 locks. Tomorrow, the Wolverhampton flight of 21 locks!

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