Saturday, 31 December 2016


After yesterday’s frost it was much milder this morning.  However more cold weather Is forecast so we decided to top up the water tank. We reversed Waiouru back to the services at Cambrian Wharf.  This must be one of the slowest taps on the network.  The tank was half full and it still took 90 minutes to fill.

Two CRT employees arrived with empty rubbish bins.  We promptly started to fill them!  I then suggested they go and find something more interesting to do.  That’s when they informed me there was a “water issue” and I should have noticed the water level was down five inches. This is a very big pound which means a five inch drop is a huge volume of water.  They then told me the pumps were “out of action” and they were off to find some water.  Apparently the problem has been created by unseasonal lack of rain (or snow?).  We offered to assist by leaving the tap running upon our departure.


A lovely blue sky but by early afternoon the top of the BT Tower had disappeared behind low cloud.


With New Year just around the corner I decided to check on this year’s resolution.  Lose 10kg…. only 15kg to go.  It’s going to be tight!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Slip sliding away

We left the stove going on the lowest possible setting last night knowing the temperature was going to fall to zero.  When we awoke this morning it was 18°c inside the cabin which is more than can be said for the outside temperature.  The surface of the towpath was covered with a heavy white frost making it rather treacherous.  Pedestrians were very gingerly making their way to work carefully walking along the edge of the path closest to the vegetation.


After her recent fall Jan decided she wasn’t going to venture away from the boat until it had all melted.  That never happened which meant I made a solo walk to the large Tesco at Hockley for a few essentials.  The rest of the day was spent inside the cabin.

We have now filled two 2TB hard drives with video data.  We started recording TV data in 2003.  A small proportion of it is the DVD’s we’ve purchased, however the majority is recorded TV programs.  Back in Oz I built a MythTV box which had four TV capture cards.  I also configured an electronic program guide (EPG) which was linked to the MythTV box.  This setup enabled us to record a significant number of programs.  Jan likes drama and mystery whilst I prefer documentaries.  The MythTV box had the ability to automatically  identify and cut out ads from the recordings before compressing them to a smaller size.  The project was started when we decided we were going to build a narrowboat and I thought live TV reception might be an issue.  That assumption proved to be invalid, instead we have continued to record programs on the boat.  Not having the MythTV box means I’ve had to identify and cut out the ads manually before compressing the files.  With both hard drives now almost full I’ve had to start searching on line for a third drive.  The drives are more expensive in the UK and it took me some time to find a suitable supplier.  The price is still higher than Oz, but needs must. 

The forecast is for another cold night but hopefully a warmer day tomorrow.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Hark hark the dogs do bark & Where’s the Pied Piper?

One change we have noticed since we were last in Birmingham is the significant increase in beggars with the majority of them being young adults.  Is it the time of year?  I suppose I should feel compassionate but I’ve also noticed a number of signs up advertising temporary work over the festive season.  I struggle with compassion when someone prefers to sit and beg rather than work.

Jan was buying her weekly magazines in Tesco and the lady at the till told her that “we” (Tesco or UK?) supply all the “German” sausages being sold from the numerous food stalls in the Birmingham Christmas Market.  She then mention that she starts work before dawn and was horrified by the large number of rats around the food stalls.  It takes several weeks for rats to breed so I doubt there has been a significant increase in the rat population.  It’s probably more likely that the food stalls have attracted them from other locations.

On a more pleasant note we’ve enjoyed having our youngest son stay with us over Christmas and the boat now seems much quieter since his departure.  We had a good walk around the CBD today stopping in  “Spoons” for a cooked lunch.  Jan has been using her new coffee machine.  with only one coffee drinker on board the stock of coffee capsules should last a month. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Unusual Christmas

It’s normal for us to have an unusual Christmas lunch.  One year it was jam sandwiches on the side of the road half way between Sydney and Adelaide.  Another year we had tomato sandwiches.  A BBQ in the nearby park another time.  Yesterday it was a Chinese takeaway!

Later in the day our son and I went to the Birmingham IMAX cinema and watched the latest Star Wars film in 3D.

Today Jan got to play with her Christmas Present.  It’s a coffee machine.


It takes coffee capsules and also has a removable milk container.  I hate coffee so I can’t write much more about the workings of the machine.  What I can tell you is the combined output of the two alternators on the Beta 43 boat engine produced enough electricity to power the machine without drawing anything from the domestic battery bank.

I’ve kept myself amused by changing the firmware on the Samsung Galaxy S4 boat phone.  Samsung have ceased providing updates for this model phone.  My plan was to upgrade the firmware from Android 4 to Android 6 using a custom ROM (firmware).  This would have three advantages.

  1. Install a more modern version of the Android operating system.
  2. The custom ROM allowed me to exclude much of the “bloatware” Samsung places on the phone.
  3. Using a custom ROM and alternative APN setting is supposed to improve internet tethering.

After some fiddling I managed to install the custom ROM.  However I decided not to install the Google GApps which means the phone now doesn’t have access to applications like Chrome, GMail, Google Maps, etc.  But it’s the boat phone so none of these applications are currently essential and by doing this I’ve removed more “bloat” from the phone hopefully making it faster.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Friday, 23 December 2016

Bright Day

We might be in the depths of winter but today the sun was so blinding we had to dress the part.
Life’s so bright…. Got to wear shades!  Smile
Just when we were thinking we might pick up a tan the canal took us beneath the M5 Motorway.
There are two sections where the motorway is directly overhead and following the canal.  I guess this was a cheaper option than “acquiring” the adjacent commercial properties.
We passed a lone fisher.  Nothing said and he scarcely glanced at us as we quietly passed by.
Steward Aqueduct takes the Old Main Line over the New Main Line with the huge concrete cylindrical piers of more modern M5 Bridge readily apparent.
Neither of us remember the old toll building beside Smethwick Top Lock having a burned roof the last time we were this way.  More vandalism?
There was a CRT work team above the flight removing moss from the towpath brick paving.
The pavers around the locks were slippery after the overnight frost and Jan was sensibly taking her time to work Waiouru through the three locks down to the New Main Line.
The dome of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh Temple at Smethwick can he seen on the skyline.
We passed a boat leaving Birmingham as we approached Monument Road Bridge.  It’s the first time we have passed a moving boat in the last week.
There were plenty of vacant moorings around Old Turn Junction so we continued down to the CRT services near Cambrian Wharf to top up the water and dispose of the rubbish.  A familiar boat was moored in Cambrian Wharf and I walked over to say a quick hello to James and Debbie on The Pen Boat (nb Lois-Jane).
Once the business was done we winded and found a good mooring opposite the NIA.
Readers you will have read about Jan’s fall several days ago.  She now has the necessary attributes to audition for the Black & White Minstrel Show.  So please be careful at this time of year. 
Yesterday evening I was invited to a Christmas party.  I had a few sherbets, followed by a few more, and topped up with some double sherbets.....
I still had the sense to know I was over the limit.
That's when I decided to do what I have never done before: I took a taxi back to the boat.
Sure enough there was a police road block and random mobile testing station on the way home, and since I was in a taxi, they waved it past.  I arrived back at the boat safely without incident.  This was both a great relief and a surprise because I had never driven a taxi before.  I don't even know where I got it from, or how to now get it off the towpath.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Titford Canal

The feet are feeling slightly better which allowed me to do some further exploring.  This time I decided to walk the Titford Canal.  The canal joins the Old Main Line at Oldbury Junction which is now under the busy M5 Motorway.  Whilst walking the towpath to the junction I noticed the numerous signs of former canal arms.  It’s interesting how you see them once you know to look.


You can see more of the former local canals and arms in this next map extract from Waterway Routes.  I’ve highlighted the end of each in red.


Our current mooring and the location of the floating pontoons from yesterday’s incident are marked with the red arrows.

My only human contact during the walk was the policeman on his bike.  Was he on patrol or heading home?  We passed each other again on my return so it was obviously a patrol.


Oldbury Junction and the start of the Titford Canal is located underneath the busy M5 Motorway


I had anticipated going down the six locks of the Oldbury Flight and it came as a surprise to find they go UP.  The old boatmen call this flight The Crow after the adjacent chemical works owned by Jim Crow.


Looking back.

This canal started it’s life as a narrow feeder drawing waters from Titford Pools, Smethwick and Edgbaston Reservoir.  Much of the feeder between Smethwick and Edgbaston was a tunnel.  The water was collected from the surrounding area and stored in the man made reservoirs.

I’ve highlighted the route of the original feeder in green from the Waterway Routes map extract below.


Towards the top of the flight was an interesting sign (for boaters) adjacent to the canal.  I wonder what their ppl is?  It’s the Fast Fuel outlet. <link here>


There’s an unusual looking device immediately below the top lock on the off side.  I think it’s an electrically operated valve connected to the adjacent pump house?


In 1835 it was decided to widen and canalize much of the feeder.  This also resulted in additional canals being constructed at Titford Pools to service local collieries and chemical works.  This resulted in a shortage of water.  If the Old Man Line is higher than the New Main Line and the Titford Canal is even higher then it’s logical that the Titford Canal is the highest point on the BCN.  Actually it’s the second highest canal on the inland waterways after the Rochdale Canal.

I couldn’t find the construction date of Titford Pumphouse which stands beside the top lock. Originally there was one steam powered single beam engine bringing water back up the flight.  However the growth in canal traffic soon resulted in the expansion of the pump house and installation of a second pump.  The lean-to building on the left was the blacksmith shop.  The pump house is now the main office of the BCN Society.  


The arm to the right is the former feeder to Smethwick and Edgbaston.  It’s now long term CRT moorings.

As I headed down (up) the canal the first object of note was what appeared to be a former Malting.  I recognised the unique top to the kilns from our time on the River Lea.


This is Langley Malting.  The buildings are listed and were damaged in an arson attack in 2006.  The council refused permission for them to be demolished. Apparently there is now a plan to convert the buildings into residential properties.


The stretch of canal from here to Titford Pools is rather attractive with little sign of rubbish in the canal.


The Pools are actually very noisy with busy main roads on two sides.  Not a place to moor.  Moreover I’ve read they area also very shallow


I think this fellow is a symbol of the site “feeder” heritage?


Titford Pools were created etween 1773 and 1774 a dam was raised to enclose a 9-acre site, collecting rain that fell on the Rowley Hills.
IMG_1253IMG_1254The Pools can’t always have been shallow as the BCNS website states during the 70's and 80's, a series rallies were held in the pools and scaffold based pontoons were built to accommodate the boats. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Turtle

The other boater at the Dudley Canal Trust suggested we consider the offside floating pontoons at Oldbury as a safe mooring.  We had remembered them from our last cruise on the Old Main Line.  They are adjacent to a large cafe and access to the moorings is cut off when the cafe closes its gates.

The cruise was uneventful and as we approached Whimsey Bridge I could see the pontoons.  There are also moorings with bollards on the towpath side but obviously they would be less secure.  I put Waiouru into neutral three boat length short of the pontoons allowing the momentum to take us forward.  Jan collected the starboard (right) centreline and moved around onto the gunwale as I carefully steered the boat onto the mooring.  We were still slowly moving when Jan stepped off with the rope whilst I continued to look towards the bow carefully avoiding hitting the pontoons.  In that instance there was a cry and I looked back to see Jan gracefully fall backwards as her feet went out from underneath her.  She was down with her arms in the air and left leg hanging over the edge of the pontoon.  Meanwhile the boat was slowly continuing on.  I called to Jan “Get up or I’ll leave you!”  Of course I meant the boat was still going forward but no doubt I’m going to be reminded of this inadvertent slip of the tongue for quite some time!

Jan floundered around like a turtle on its back.  Meanwhile I stepped off the stern thinking to tie off the loose centreline on to a bollard and go back to assist her.  That’s when I discovered the timber decking had a surface made of roller bearings.  Not only was I sliding all over the decking but the centreline was in the water.  I eventually managed to grab the cabin handrail and get back onto the gunwale where I recovered the centreline.

Meanwhile Jan was making unsuccessful efforts to get back onto her feet.  After several minutes she managed to get herself into a sitting position where she was able to remove her boots and socks.  I reversed Waiouru back to her location and she was able to carefully get back on board.  Obviously this isn’t such a good mooring!


Floating pontoons on the right.  The moorings on the towpath side are very close to the busy bridge. We decided to reverse 100 metres to the moorings before the bridge.


These moorings don’t get much foot traffic and are slightly noisy during the day due to the adjacent commercial premises.  The local area appears to all be light commercial rather than residential so we’re not anticipating any problems. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Tipton Walk

We had two emails from readers (Paul & Mike) suggesting a local walk might reveal some interesting information.  Today’s walk took me to both suggested locations. 

I’ll explain the route using the following extract from Paul Balmer’s excellent Waterway Routes canal maps.


The route took me back down the towpath to Tipton Junction and then on to Tipton Green Bridge.  The canal widens on the  other side of the bridge which gives a hint about what was once here.


If you examine the map above you will notice the white dotted line to the right showing the route of an abandoned canal.  I’ve added two thin red arrows to the map!  The wide section of canal in the photo above is obviously a junction where boats could turn.  On reaching the widest point on the right I noticed a linear park which would have once been the canal.


Part the way down the path I came upon the remains of the second lock.


The continuation of the canal alignment can be seen on the far side of Union Street.  It connected to the New Main Line.  Well actually it did more than that.  Paul’s map shows it continuing.on to join the Walsall Canal


The more I examine the Waterway Routes maps the more I realize just how extensive the canal network was in the greater Birmingham area. 

IMG_1223Caggys Boatyard occupies what would have been the other end of the canal on the opposite side of the New Main Line.  The boatyard has a dry dock and one of the resident boaters confirmed the yard sells diesel, but he didn’t know the current price.  You can see the white diesel bowser at the right end of the bridge in the above photo. 

IMG_1225The dry dock


There is a sign on the centre pier of the next bridge.  Looks like pump out and elsan are also available!

I turned left at Factory Junction, but not before having a good look at the canal side pub.  It’s The Barge & Barrel which has a local reputation for specializing in rock music.


However above one of the unused doorways was the old name


The building actually isn’t all that old, dating back to the 1920-30’s and replaced a pub that was even closer to the canal.

Just after the junction there appears on first sight to be some CRT facilities.  However a sign states there is no mooring or services .


On the road side of the building is a plaque


Well that explains the buildings original purpose.

A little further up Hurst Lane is Mad O’Rourke’s Pie Factory.


I’m partial to a good pie but mine must have shortcrust pastry top and bottom.  Mad O’Rourke’s Menu suggests all their pies have a puff pastry topping.  To me that’s like having a stew with a puff pastry lid. 

Our time in Tipton is up and we want to move on.