Narrowboat Tacet

Silent Movement - Our gap year travelling the inland waterways

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A taste of the BCN

We 're just discovering the BCN, Birmingham Canal Navigations, of which there is over 100 miles.  Famously more waterways than Venice.
The canals transported coal from the many collieries in the midlands, hence the name Black Country for this area. Then of course it became a centre of industry too, so the canals were profitable, busy and much extended  from their beginnings in  the1760's until their demise 1950's.  The end of the coal trade came in 1967.
We left the security of Hawne Basin, Halesowen (once a canal/railway interchange) this morning about 11am. We had filled up with water, got a new gas bottle and stocked up with 7 bags of coal.  We're ready now for a cold snap! 
We passed again through Gosty tunnel which is narrow with varying heights, following the cut through the area of old steel works and collieries,
some of them open spaces

old basin
 some of them now housing or industrial estates.
At Windmill End junction we turned off to Netherton Tunnel, a wide, high and extremely straight tunnel with towpath each side. 

tunnel approach

the light at the end of the tunnel

 Just outside the tunnel is the remains of Cobbs Engine house and chimney. 
The engine inside was used to pump water from the local mines to prevent flooding.

At the other end of the tunnel we passed under the Tividale aqueduct,

past some lovely restored canal cottages to the Birmingham level main line.
Turning right and right again we struggled along the Gower branch which had low levels of water between locks and took a bit of work to let enough water down to get through.
Netherton tunnel from the aqueduct

the rooftops of the Tividale cottages from the aqueduct
Now we were on the higher Woverhampton level and we soon made it through to Dudley where we have moored in the safety of the Black Country Museum.
6 miles, 3 locks, 2 tunnels


  1. They're great moorings at the Black Country Museum, very atmospheric. And the museum is good too. I'm jealous because you've just some some of the bits of the BCN that have so far eluded us -- something's always happened when we've planned to go the other side of the Netherton Tunnel so we've never got there. Hope you're going to explore more of the BCN -- very underused and underrated waterways.

  2. The bridge just before the tunnel is very attractive. That tunnel certainly is straight. How long is it?

  3. Netherton tunnel is 3027 yards long. It had gas lighting originally.