Yesterday (Tuesday as I write this) was just a day of surfeit. Too much money spent in the Ian Allan bookshop, too much dim sum consumed at lunchtime, much too close to the stage for The Who in concert at the Barclaycard Arena (I could feel the vibrations rearranging my skelington) and much too snoozy to want to get up promptly this morning. Previous experience of the passage to Walsall Basin encouraged me to leave plenty of time in hand so despite the protestations of the first mate, we were up and away by 8.30 – which is quite late when you think about it, so I don’t know why he’s groaning and moaning so much.
As it happened, a drained pound on the Ryder’s Green flight held us up by about an hour so depending on which way you look at it, I was right to leave extra time, or wrong to sacrifice precious snoozing time. It did however give me a chance to catch up with Barlows’ Gort and its owner, both of which were delightful – and notable for being one of the very few working boats to have had a Gardner fitted, and not the semi-diesel of the Cowburn & Cowper fleet but my favourite 2L2 no less. I have been promised a nosey at Brownhills.
Continuing on my theme of surfeit, something else there was way too much of – rubbish in and around the cut. It is such a shame because otherwise the Walsall canal would be a perfectly fine bit of urban canal – but the ubiquitous tut is painful to see, be it the deliberately dumped stuff or windblown detritus. Clear it up and spot dredge a couple of squidgy bits and you’re good to go – a stretch that has its interest, especially if you have your Waterway Routes map so you can see where all the stubs used to go; you won’t meet any other boats, probably, so you’ll be unhurried and unharried. And while it will never be gentrified or smartened up anytime soon, it’s a useful link up to the northern BCN, the natives are friendly, the winos super helpful and has a super end point in Walsall Town Basin. And most importantly, when you chug by all the arms and cuts that have long since been obliterated, you are very forcefully reminded that we do indeed need to use it or risk losing it.
The Walsall Canal fan club is very small, I think it’s me and two others, and they might be greyhounds. I suspect most people’s comments about it are repeated hearsay rather than (recent) experience-based, and while I cannot sit here and say it must be on your list of top five canals to do, I will happily report that we didn’t get stuck, didn’t get anything on the prop, didn’t get stoned, shot at or abducted by aliens…but we did get warned by the winos about the trolley reef under Wellington Bridge. And waved at by a four year old boy. And ‘hiya’ed’ by a group of schoolgirls. And completely ignored by a gang of teenage lads. Which was depressing as my girlish allure has obviously upped and left, leaving me facing the hideous reality of old bagdom.
We’re all tucked up for the night, four of Yarwoods’ finest in a row, as we were subsequently joined by Flamingo and Beatty, both manoeuvred and moored up by Alan and Nick respectively with some considerable aplomb. Onwards tomorrow, destination Brownhills, and a meeting up with lesser, non Norty types…