Sunday, 27 May 2012

BCN Explorer Cruise Day 7

We had a total of 12 miles to travel today, but no locks. Leaving Birmingham along the New Main Line we did a detour round the 2 loop-line canals of Icknield Port and Soho, to give Martin and Maggie a brief taster of things we'd seen and experienced already this week.

This is Winson Green Prison

built over an old canal branch.

We passed over these motorway stanchions yesterday on the higher level canal

The first of 2 tunnels today was Netherton tunnel, which is 3027 yards long, double width with 2 towpaths and very high.

There's plenty of room for passing boats.

At the other end of the tunnel we stopped to fill up with water at Bumble Hole services.  There was a wildlife event being held in the adjacent nature reserve and this pair of polecats were being made a great fuss of.  This one was particularly keen on ice-cream.

The main reason we'd stopped to fill the water tank was to make sure the boat was as low in the water as possible because Gosty Hill Tunnel is VERY low in places.  A friend of ours had measured the air draft for us the last time he'd been through, as we'd been told we would need to clear the roof. That wouldn't really have been possible as our roof box is too big and too heavy but, to be safe, I removed the windmill and moved the tallest plants to the back of the boat (which is lower than the front).  In actual fact, the roof clearance wasn't as bad as we'd expected and only the tops of the chive plants touched the ceiling, the box was well clear. The tunnel is 557 yards long and we went through very slowly, just over tick-over. It was quite an experience but not one I'd like to make on a regular basis (I'm a bit claustrophobic).  The return trip tomorrow will be quite enough, thank you!

this is the entrance to Gosty Hill Tunnel

The tunnel isn't very low when you first go in, but it is very narrow.  Half way through however, the ceiling level drops suddenly.  The vampire portrait guards the warning marker and gives some indication of the difference in heights. The sign says Hawne Basin 1 mile

air shaft in the tunnel

level change looking back

tunnel is extremely narrow, only a couple of inches
each side of the boat

leaving the tunnel

We finally ended our day's cruise at Hawne Basin, where we were made very welcome by the local moorers, two of whom had been on the cruise with us.

We moored in the basin and spent our last evening in the marina's social club having a Chinese take-away meal and fund-raising raffle.

The entire week has been amazing.  We've seen parts of the canal system we would never have visited alone, made good friends and basically had a ball. I know people say that us continuous cruisers are always on holiday, but this really has seemed like a good holiday!

If you've ever considered joining one of the BCN organised Explorer Cruises I'd definitely recommend it.  We'd like to return another year and do the 'A' cruise which has a different itinerary going to different places, with more locks.

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