Thursday 23 September 2021

Smethwick Pumping Station

 Today's Canals - Dudley No 1, New Main Line, Brades, Old Main Line

The day started grey, even a little damp, but quickly turned warm, later hot, with plenty of sunshine amongst a few fluffy clouds.

We have had various plans for this week in and around the BCN and they are still evolving! After some debate we set off with a plan to reach the city centre by mid afternoon via the Old Main Line (Wolverhampton Level) Whatever the plan, the first task was to return back through Netherton Tunnel. Yet again we saw no-one else in the tunnel either coming towards us or following behind.

When we came this way two days ago we mentioned the cottages at the toll stop at the north end of the tunnel. What we did not spot then was that, although the front has the two original numbers, each has been converted into two apartments, making four in all!

At the main line we turned right until we passed through Albion Junction Toll Island.

Another right turn and we were heading up the branch to the Brades Locks, but we could see that there was a boat just ahead of us almost at the locks.

As we neared the first lock we could see that the other boat had kindly drawn the bottom paddles so that the lock was set for us when we arrived. As a result we were catching them up at the staircase and Christine went to empty the bottom lock as they should by now be in the upper lock.

Mike was a bit puzzled as he hovered mid stream - there is no lock landing to tie the boat to. Then he saw Christine coming back and directing him towards the bank. It seems that she had had to sort out two quite different problems for them. Firstly they wanted confirmation that turning right at the top would bring them to Netherton Tunnel (they were out from Worcester and doing a ring via that tunnel and the Delph Locks and thence down to Stourport and the Severn) Christine had to point out to them that they would be crossing the tunnel approach at some height and that they needed to turn around and go back down the locks! Their second problem was that they could not get out of the bottom lock into the top one - they had omitted to fill the top lock first as given on the instructions! Repaying their earlier helpfulness she offered to let them wind and come back down straight away and that we would wait for them. After all, we are not on a schedule - yet!

When we finally reached the junction we turned left and followed the line to Oldbury Junction we took when we visited Titford Pools. The Titford Canal goes off to the left in the photo above.

For the next mile the canal weaves in and out from under the motorway. Most of the works that have taken several years are now complete and the scaffolding removed. A number of teams remain on site presumably to complete unfinished business.

The few remaining old bridges look incongruous and quite out of scale.

Just occasionally we could see some large scale metal manufacturing that was once the life blood of this area. Sometimes the names of specialist processes mean nothing to us - this one undertakes slitting and cutting - it seems that the term slitting refers to taking a coil of metal and chopping into required lengths. It may be an old industry but this company was only formed in 1999 and has expanded considerably (or so their web site says!)

By contrast, Steel and Alloy Processing Ltd are now part of  Gonvarri Industries, originally from Spain, who have 45 factories in 19 different countries and over 60 years history. They process steel and aluminium into a wide range of products: precision tubes to lattice towers. Here in West Brom they seem to be focussed on the automotive industry.

As soon as we finally left the motorway the scenery became almost rural.

An attempt was made in 2006 to prevent the removal of the loading chutes at Sandwell Park Colliery Wharf. Although at first it seemed successful they, alas, as no more. See here and here for a bit of detail. They were last used in the 1960s.

We stopped for lunch outside the Smethwick Pumping Station where there was a rare set of mooring rings. Afterwards we again reviewed our plans and agreed to stay here tonight (it seems as quiet and safe as anywhere) and call Sherbourne Wharf to see if we can arrive there early - perhaps even tomorrow. They were happy to accommodate this change of our booking - originally we aimed to arrive there on Monday before returning home.

We took time to wander around the immediate area a bit, unfortunately the pumping station museum is not open at present.

Later Christine went  down to the New Main Line and across a high footbridge (over road and rail) to the local shops in Smethwick. She came back bearing a sugary cake for tonight's pud. The shops are very much dominated by the particular ethnic population. History has not always been kind to Smethwick but it does seem to us that there is a sense of community pride. Far less litter and rubbish than we might have expected and certainly no marauding gangs!

Beside the road that runs over the canal there is a small quiet area with a number of sculptures relating the canal history of the area (even if we have never seen a balance beam looking like that!)

7.0 Miles - 3 Locks

1 comment:

  1. Weare behind the Sealife Centre at the moment, off to Tipton tomorrow as the BCNS have a cruise to the Bradley CRT workshop on Saturday