You know us, we'll always turn out to tackle the Wolverhampton locks, so when Dave Moore posted on CWF that he was looking for help, having injured his knee (though actually it was better by yesterday) I leapt in to volunteer our services.
This was not just to be a case of parking in Broad Street, doing the locks, and walking back to the car, however (just as well, as the lower end of Broad Street was sealed off following a stabbing at the nightclub in the former BW building there). No, this was to be a full day's boating, taking in parts of the BCN we'd not previously seen, notably a section of the Wyrley and Essington Canal.
We arranged to meet Dave at Sneyd (my whispered injunction to Jim prior to phoning Dave up to make arrangements was 'try and get him to say it first and then we'll know how to pronounce it'. It's Sneed, to save you similar worries) and quickly set off. The W&E - at least the bit we saw - was clean and green and not even very curly. There was some weed but not as bad as elsewhere. Most of it had a very rural appearance, until we stopped in Wednesfield to buy some provisions for lunch, where there was a biggish retail park.
Dave was very anxious that I write nice things about the BCN because in his view people tend to have an unfairly low opinion of, or are unnecessarily worried about it. He's been boating there since the sixties, and says he's never had any trouble or felt threatened. Well, he didn't need to worry about me, because I love what I've seen of the BCN and am very keen to explore more. We have had a couple of minor incidents around Wolverhampton (but then we've also had one in Stone) but I wouldn't let that put me off. The chances of something seriously bad happening are minuscule, and it's worth the occasional annoyance.
All the same, we met only one other boat on the W&E before joining the BCN Main Line at Horseley Fields Junction, although on coming to the locks there were a fair few more, in each direction. We didn't break any records but got a decent rhythm going, along with Dave's mate Keith, and did catch up with a boatload of Norwegians in front of us. After a few locks with us on their tail, they let us by, albeit with only two locks to go.
Even then the day wasn't over, as we continued to Compton, where Dave was stopping for the night, and retired to the Marston's pub there for dinner and beer and great conversation, eventually getting a taxi, courtesy of Dave (I owe you some change Dave) with a driver who was thankfully able to follow our garbled directions back to Sneyd, where we picked up the car, and, road Street still being closed, had another road tour of little-known outposts of the Black Country.
Now this would not be complete without saying a bit about Resolute, Dave's fabulous and justly well known boat - but of course I didn't take a camera, did I, so will have to describe it in words. It's a 60' tug, built by Graham Edgeson at Norton Canes, and a stunning looking boat, especially when it's coming towards you with its low swoopy fore end. What particularly impressed us were the handrails - beautifully designed to overlap the cabin sides slightly, and made, though you would never guess from looking, of wood, treated with resin before being painted - a lesson we are hoping to put into practice on Bakewell's back cabin. The paintwork and signwriting are of course gorgeous, and everything clean and gleaming... oh, and it's got a 1942 Kelvin J3.
So although Dave thanked us for our help, I'd like to say a big thank you to Dave for a great day's boating. And it didn't even rain until we were safely ensconced in the pub.