|Lockie Baz shepherds us down the low pound|
But today the BCN struck back! It took us five hours to do five miles. Well, to be more exact, it took us two hours to go one mile and the remainder to do the rest. We tore ourselves away from our affable and convenient mooring by Longwood Boat Club to tackle our first locks since Wolverhampton nearly a week back.
The nine locks at Rushall are the start of a gradual descent into the centre of Birmingham. There are two at the top, then a mile long pound, then the remaining seven in a close flight. We were greeted at the top by Baz, one of the lockies from CRT's Wolverhampton team who gave us the glad tidings that the mile pound was "very low". They actually keep it low because it leaks badly, so no point wasting water – until a boat turns up and wants to go through. "Stay in the channel, we'll get you through" smiled Baz.
|Where's the driver? Up at the front, poling off|
Scraping the bottom means churning up all the plastic bags, rags and other rubbish that lie buried in the silt, no to mention listening to the clonkings as the prop bashed half sunk objects and ominous underwater scraping noises as we ran over more. Then there were the mysterious humps and bumps – little hump bridges of silt that Harry lurched over in clumsy jumps or ran along the edge of at a whacky angle until dropping back level.
|Dragging rubbish off the prop|
|And this is what we found|
All the while we were edging slowly, so slowly towards the distant lock until we finally made it and I stopped to clear a tangled assortment of plastic bags, polythene, rope and rang off the prop.
|Headings down the locks toward distant Birmingham|
|Turning onto the Tame Valley: look at the rope score marks on the metalwork|
The Tame Valley is universally described as 'very dull' in the guidebooks. I didn't think so, at least not to start with. True it's pretty much straight but for much of its length it runs in high embankments so there are some fine views across B'rum. And none finer than the spectacular crossing of the M5 just as it means the M6, the two motorways carried on concrete stilts across the landscape yet still lower than the far older canal.
|Soaring over the M5 with the M6 coming in from the right|
|The remains of the old toll stop where working boats paid their dues|
|Journey's end – Ocker Hill ahead in the setting sun|