D4 Birmingham Circular

We had spent the night of 15th moored at Cuckoo Wharf, and can recommend it as a secure site, though off-site amenities are limited – there’s a take-away and a Working Men’s Club for food, though I suppose you could walk to Star City and go to the cinema. We set off just after 9am, initially thinking of reversing the whole way back to Salford Junction, but a boater on the long term moorings at the wharf saw what I intended to do and informed me that you can wind at one of the old wharf bridges below the wharf. I hadn’t even thought of trying as usually many of these have been blocked off. So, thanking him, I set off, turned round and headed back to Salford Junction. Once we got there we turned onto the Tame Valley Canal. We had done TVC in July 2009, but as the camera I was then using for time lapse had bust shortly after we started along the canal, I wanted to try again.

On this trip through Birmingham we were aiming to head up through Wolverhampton Locks and onto the Shropshire Union Canal. My planning, as such as it was, mainly consisted of segmenting the whole route to see roughly where I’d need to be after each day’s cruise, tomorrow’s cruise should take us up Wolverhampton Locks so tonight I needed to stay somewhere after coming off the Tame Valley and before them. Okay, bravado license, I’d actually spent a fair bit of time finding out where was good to moor, I just hadn’t chosen specifically where to stop. This was because reality can be different from information on the web, and what at one point may have been a good place for visitor mooring may not now be. It is possible to get from the City Centre out to Aldersley Junction in a day, so I was thinking that I could take a route back towards the centre and check out possible points along the way.
Tame Valley Canal starts from under a mass of M6 motorway bridges, with massive pillars lodged in the bed of the canal, which gives you a dilemma “which side” – you can religiously stick to one side or maybe weave and alternate between. Once through we got to Perry Barr bottom lock, the first of 13 on this flight that change the hight of the canal by 103 feet. I say flight, its all the locks on the Tame Valley, the first pair are closed together then there’s a long pound of over a mile before the next lock, so you’d expect the first pair to be named differently.
After going through the first two whilst we are still in an industrial part of Birmingham it doesn’t seem to encroach onto the canal ans its a pleasant trip, there are even locals out walking along enjoying the sunshine. Next up we pass under the M6 motorway again, it seems the canal and motorway are entwined as it crosses over the canal a few times until the full flight of locks takes us high enough that it runs parallel with us for a section. The canal now has a towpath on both sides of the canal, or so the map says, I suppose its more accurately to say you can walk along either side but one has a wider path. Perry Lock 3 starts the flight proper and we progress up four locks passing another iron bridge in the towpath showing that at one time there was a wharf there, before saying hello to the M6 as it passes over once more as we continuing on. Perry Barr locks 7 to 13 are all together within about half a mile of canal.
We haven’t met any boats on this canal so far and the locks seem to be set against us, so on this section we operate a method of setting the lock ahead, that is opening the paddle to empty whilst we are ascending the lock below. It does involve more walking, but not much as the locks are close, and does speed up progression through the locks. We got through Perry Barr Top Lock, the last on this canal, at 12.40pm so we were doing quiet well.
There’s a small supermarket not far from the top lock, so we despatched a crew member to get some supplies whilst we went through the final lock. From here we have a long lock-less stretch, allowing us to have lunch on the go. The canal above the locks starts off in a cutting though land drops down to canal level every so often to give you a glance of life beyond, making this a well hidden canal. This all changes after the junction with the Rushall Canal (which takes the BCN on its most northerly, still navigable, route) as the hills fall away and you can see out across the residential areas of Birmingham. The M5 motorway passes over the canal just before the junction, and under the canal just after as it has its own junctions with the M6. The M6 travels parallel to the canal for a while, and can be seen best when you pass over an aqueduct. Indeed, if you time your passage right you could wave to drivers stuck in one of the frequent traffic jams as you cruise on by 😆 . We continued along the canal and then reached Tame Valley Junction by 2.30pm and turned left onto Walsall Canal.
Here’s a time lapse video covering the length Tame Valley Canal, compressing over 5 hours canal time into under 10 minutes.

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