As requested, we set off early and were down the 6 locks of "The Crow" by 9.15. Many thanks to Brian Holmes who helped us all by lock-wheeling (setting the next lock ready to speed things up). Brian's a lovely chap with a wonderful sense of humour and is quite famous on the canals, some of you may know him from his days as a correspondent on Narrowboatworld.com
Today's itinerary was for us to cruise 9.5 miles back to Wolverhampton. This was backtracking the route we'd taken to Titford last week, so we decided to take a detour, it is an explorer cruise after all. We turned right at Junction Bridge and went down Brades Locks onto the Gower Branch Canal. These are a staircase of 2 locks followed by a single lock.
The bottom lock is right beside the Shri Venkateswara Hindu Temple. There are high railings surrounding the temple and adjacent shrines so we couldn't get a very clear view, but what we did manage to see was quite spectacular. If you're interested you can see more here
The Gower Branch is only about half a mile long and at the end we turned left onto the Birmingham Level Main line. After cruising through 2 fishing matches where the fishermen were quite amiable for a change, we arrived at Tipton to go up the 3 Factory Locks. Two young lads of about 10 years old were looking after a younger boy of about 5 and came to watch as we went into the bottom lock. They looked a bit dodgy with their pasty faces and hoodies, but couldn't have been nicer. They asked sensible questions and were quite chuffed when I let them push the top gate open. The youngest boy, who was wearing his wellies on the wrong feet, thanked us for letting him help and then said he was going to sing us a special song for the boat, all about pirates.....priceless!
We rejoined the Wolverhampton Level and carried on through Coseley Tunnel which is very wide and has 2 towpaths through it. It's also very wet with lots of water dripping from the roof, so you need to wear a hat! At Deepfields Junction we decided to take another detour and turned right onto the Wednesbury Oak loop, following n.b.Upton, another member of the Explorer Cruise.
It's only about half a mile to the limit of navigation but it's a lovely half mile. There were lots of Yellow Flag iris at the waters edge, apple trees in full blossom, bluebells and a huge lilac tree in full bloom.
We also saw several pairs of Little Grebes, which we've never seen anywhere else before.
There's a sign saying that the limit of navigation at weekends is this winding hole, however it also says that on weekdays you can go another mile to the BW yard at the end of the branch. As it's Sunday both boats decided not to risk it and we turned round here. Upton let us turn first, presumably so we'd break up the weeds and make it easier for him.
It's very obvious that few boats come down here as the weed is extremely thick, however the weed cutter we have fitted on our prop shaft make short work of it.
Rejoining the main line again, we carried on to Wolverhampton to join up with some of the cruisers who had already arrived and moored up. We're all double breasted up but it's no problem at all, I even managed to get the washing hung out when we arrived and it's dried in the afternoon sun. All in all we've had a great first day and are looking forward to a social evening in the pub tonight.