Stephen’s Strolls: Dudley Dawdle

I spy Tividale Aqueduct, which i think will be a good place to stop for lunch.

I’ll be going back up to the aqueduct in a bit, but for now I’ve come down to the canal it passes over to give you an idea of what those three locks did i walked past earlier, back in Tipton.

Because canals with slopes are known as “A f***ing stupid idea, are you mad or what?”, if you need to go up or down hill, the easiest method is to use a lock. Those three locks changed the height from the level I’m at now to the height of Tivedale Aqueduct, as you can see in this photo.

This branch line comes off the main line canal I was walking on earlier. The name of this branch line is the Netherton Tunnel Branch Canal. Which should give you a clue as to what you’ll see when i turn around…

And here it is, a bit closer. I wonder if you can make out the end?

If you’d like more info, you can follow this link. Or you can read the info on these signs, assuming the photos come out okay.

As i said previously, I’m not walking down there today, but instead I’m carrying on with the circuit. So I’m now back up the top, with a photo showing the canal below as it heads from the mainline…

… into oblivion. Bwahahaha!

Really needed a stepladder for that last pic!

A bit of wildlife

…okay, might be a misnomer. More like Extremely Relaxed Life

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Looks like i have my own canal to navigate…

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With any water system, there is always the danger of floods. Canals are closed water systems, because it is expensive to keep on having to pump in water to fill it up. But rain happens, and the water level is only about a foot below the towpath level. A day or two of heavy rain, and there could be floods.

Well, rather like your bath has an overflow pipe, canals too have such devices. Here’s one:

If the canal level rises, it will flow over the low wall in a controlled manner.

Normally that’s as much as you’d see, but here we can make out a bit more. In the photo above, can you see the bit next to the green fence?

Here it is, a bit closer.

That’s where excess water drains too. And if that too overflows, it will run off into the channel, which in turn…

…leads into the storm drain network

Just the other side of the bridge is the Gower Branch canal, which i will follow back to the main line.

Those of you who have been following my posts can probably guess what i will be walking by, as i make my way down to the main line level

If you guessed locks…

…you’d be almost right. This one has not two, but THREE gates!

In case you couldn’t see the third gate that clearly, here it is, with the middle gate:

This is known as a staircase lock

Here’s a pic showing all three gates for the double lock.

Here’s how it works. A narrow boat coming from under the bridge (to the left of the pic below) will approach the first gate.

You’ll notice the difference in water levels. This means the gate cannot open. Sluice gates are opened, allowing water to drain out of the first lock. When the water levels are equal, the gate can open, and the boat can move forward. The gate is closed, and the sluice gate is shut (or you will not be going anywhere and people will get cross with you). The boat moves to the middle gate.

The sluice gates by the middle gate are opened…

… which now allows the water to raise the narrow boat up until it is at the same level as the second lock.

This gate can now be opened, and the boat can move forward once more.

The middle gate and sluices are shut, and then the whole process is repeated with the final lock.

The advantage of a staircase lock is it allows a high rise over a short distance. The disadvantage is it does take time, and for these locks only one boat can fit in it and use it at any one time.

The really observant among you will have realised that i had walked up three locks earlier, and technically i have only walked down two, so i should be seeing a regular lock soon.

But to those who are thinking that, i should point out that locks can be any height. The one at Hawksbury Junction, where Coventry Canal meets the Oxford Canal, is only 6 inches! So it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ll go up and down the same number of locks if you’re doing a loop.

But if you did think there would be another lock…

…you were right!

There are some signs, like a bit of blossom…

…catkins on some trees…

…and some trees are now sprouting new leaves.

In the main though, most of the deciduous trees still look like they did during winter.

BTW, that bridge in the distance marks where the Gower branch joins the Main Line

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Another canal overspill! This time for the main line

The top of the vertical ironwork is about where the canal level is. Underneath that is the overspill catchment, and at the very bottom, the run off to the drainage system

And at the mainline, you can see where the overspill is guided towards the catchment area

See this little island that is restricting travel on the Birmingham New Main Line?

That’s a toll island, and would have charged fees for those travelling from one canal authority to another.

There is evidence of the old gates that would have stopped the water from one canal authority feeding into the other. You can see the recesses in the wall of the island where the gates swing into.

The gates on my side were out of sight, recessed in the embankment, but you could (just about) see them on the other side.

As the gates are no longer in use, you can see the tell-tale sign of how the canals can be blocked off, if they need to be drained.

Drop some planks of wood in the two slots (one on each bank), let them swell and you’ve a barrier to allow drainage without empting the entire network!

Back in the golden age of canals, there were many such authorities, but nowadays they are all maintained by the wonderful Canal and River Trust (insert round of applause here).

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Nearly back at station, but even more nearly out of power! Sorry, this is going to be cut short for now…

On the train, waiting to depart. Have a charging point, but i only have cable, not plug socket!

Anyway, let’s try and post some pics.

Here’s the Netherton Tunnel Branch canal, where it leaves the New Main Line.


As an aside, why do people think we English have strange place names?

Anyway, here’s a sign, right by the branch line.

Finally, in the words of the BeeGees…

This is where I came in

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A lovely couple sat opposite me, and they have a Samsung charger, and they are letting me share!

“You are an officer and a gentleman” i said.

“There’s a phrase I don’t hear every day” said the husband.

The charger had a couple of free ports, and the husband said “you can stick it in either hole”.

There was the briefest of pauses, and we all burst out laughing. I said “I’m not going to make any comment about how often you hear THAT phrase!”

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Sorry, didn’t see your post until now. It’s been pleasantly warm, but still “wear hat and coat”, albeit a thin hat and coat.

I wouldn’t want to swim in the canals, whatever the weather! They are clean enough for fish to live in, but there’s still a lot of rubbish in them. Water is only about waist deep.

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