Sunday, 25 May 2014

BCN Marathon Challenge - Day 2 - Sunday

(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)
Leaving Ocker Hill moorings just after 05:00 a.m.

Sometime in the dark I head a paddling sound of water - Albion were slipping off into the night having had a short sleep. A couple of minutes later I head the thump of their powerful engine starting up once they were out of the mooring arm, and onto the main line.

First locks of the day at Ryder's Green
It was just starting to get light as our own alarm went off at 4:30. We didn't get going straight away - coffee and some kind of breakfast were in order before the next flight of locks.

A lot of different crews will have moved this out of the way this weekend!
Ryders Green locks were dispatched fairly easily, although I was beginning to feel very physically tired by then. At the top there was a large raft of weeds blocking the top gate - poled out of the way.

Bromford Junction where we went left up Spon Lane locks.

This junction at Spon Lane is literally directly under the M5 motorway
Left onto the main line, then up Spon Lane locks (3 locks) onto the 'Old Main Line', which is the original route through Birmingham (1770s). The 'New Main Line' was cut straight through the loops of the old route, some 60 or so years later than the original canal.  Once there we turned onto the Titford Pools arm, and worked up the 6 locks to the summit. By the time we were there the locks were very busy, with some 7 or 8 challenge boats in the flight at the same time. Canal and River Trust CEO, Richard Parry, was busy working boats through the locks with Team Tawny Owl as we came down.

CRT's CEO Richard Parry hard at work at Oldbury locks
Back onto the Old Main Line, I steered for a while again, then we turned onto the Brades Branch, and down the staircase lock to get back to the New Main Line again. Having got there we headed as fast as we could towards Hawne Basin - the finishing point. This meant going through two tunnels - the double width Netherton Tunnel, which has railings along the towpaths on either side - meaning that in the dark of the tunnel (2768 metres long) you find cyclists riding past. In this tunnel a light approaching may not be another boat, but a cyclist. Also, we had to pass through the very different single width Gosty Hill Tunnel - only about 500 metres long, but the roof comes down very low and you need to proceed with caution to make sure that you hang onto your boat paintwork. In both tunnels David practiced his cornet again.

Netherton tunnel - one of the last built - and unusually with a tow-path each side
We arrived at Hawne Basin at about 12:30 - theoretically we could have done another hour and a half's boating, but we couldn't have got many more points, and would have risked being penalised on points for arriving after the finish time.

So, a drink, a well earned rest, and we watched the other boats arriving while we took time to catch up with everyone on the stories of the challenge. The Hawne Basin bar ran out of beer very quickly - next time, perhaps they will order in more for 42 boatloads of thirsty boaters arriving en masse. However, we cannot fault the hospitality of the Basin. They made us all very welcome, and made a very good end to a very challenging, and enjoyable, BCN Challenge.

Entering Netherton tunnel, with Tividale aqueduct behind.

This end of Gosty Hill tunnel looks generous, but things quickly change!
Ocker Hill Services to Hawne Basin
Miles: 15.5, Locks: 26

Total Challenge Miles: 50.9, Locks: 56

Total Holiday Miles: 177.1, Locks: 123 

Gosty gets suddenly lower - there were potential points for naming the ghost!

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