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Team Firefly Virtual BCN Challenge 2020 Cruise Log


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Team Firefly has been working hard on virtual enhancements to our virtual boat and we have been busy provisioning ready for the 2020 Virtual BCN Challenge. We were lucky enough to get a Tesco home delivery slot for today.  But with the limit of 3 cases of beer and 3 boxes of wine simply not being enough, we have realised that we are better off doing a virtual shop where we can choose as much as we want for our virtual boat. The result is that we have had to resort to a virtual butty for the drinks store but the virtual engine has been masterfully enhanced to cope with the extra weight and we will be motoring along at the required 2.5 miles per hour. We will also be popping back in time to visit some hostelries while we are travelling virtually around the BCN, just from an historical interest point of view of course.

 

We are now virtually on our way to pick up the crew and to get to our virtual start location, we would like to introduce the team

 

 

 

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Travelling to our virtual start location on virtual Firefly from the centre of Birmingham where we met up with the crew (virtually of course). So we have a full team on board ready to set off down Farmers Bridge, and to get a little virtual locking practice ready for the next virtual gruelling days of the Virtual BCN Challenge. After all we're a bit out of practice! 
We were having a few calibration problems with the Automat Sehnsucht and suddenly Cambrian Wharf morphed back to the 1950s ...

 

cambrian-1950_orig.jpg

 

 

We were a bit worried about what that meant for our plan to moor overnight at virtual Star City. However fortunately a technical solution (kick) to the Automat Sehnsucht has us back on the virtual canals of 2020 ready to go into Farmers Bridge top lock.

 

imageFB.png

 

Looking forward to virtually passing all of our fellow competitors somewhere on the virtual BCN!! In true BCN Challenge tradition we have brought along a virtual inflatable giraffe on a stick that we will be passing along to other boats when we see them, so watch out for us!!

 

unnamedgiraff.png

Edited by john6767
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Just now, cheshire~rose said:

Is it just me?

 

I can;t see the pictures

It is probably me I was surprised that just pasting worked, so it probably does not.  I see them ok, but I bet no one else does!  Let me try and fix it.

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1 minute ago, john6767 said:

It is probably me I was surprised that just pasting worked, so it probably does not.  I see them ok, but I bet no one else does!  Let me try and fix it.

post 5, I can't see them either. Did they have photographs in 1790?

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I have update the post, but it just put the images at the end.  I can't see how you make images go in the text.

 

OK fixed that post at least......

 

Why is everyone reading this drivel is there nothing on TV tonight

Edited by john6767
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3 minutes ago, john6767 said:

I have update the post, but it just put the images at the end.  I can't see how you make images go in the text.

 

OK fixed that post at least......

Excuse me you left the bottom gate open on that lock. 3 point penalty?

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2 minutes ago, Scholar Gypsy said:

Excuse me you left the bottom gate open on that lock. 3 point penalty?

That was the boat before us, they all seen to do that in the 1950's, and leave the paddles up

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7 minutes ago, john6767 said:

I have update the post, but it just put the images at the end.  I can't see how you make images go in the text.

 

OK fixed that post at least......

 

Why is everyone reading this drivel is there nothing on TV tonight

Perfectly fixed. I love that pic of Cambrian Wharf in the 50s

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We arrived at our secret virtual start location late last night. This morning we have virtually decorated the virtual boat, finished our virtual bacon rolls (shame!) and we're all set for the start of the virtual BCN Challenge 2020. The only thing is, a number of boats have said that they are also starting at Huddlesford Junction, Rebellion and Whisky Galore where are you? We've got spare virtual bacon rolls if any of you would like one? Possibly it's the Automat Sehnsucht playing up again, because we seem to be back in 1954!  We will be moving time again before we set off.

 

imageHudd.png

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Despite the valiant efforts of the virtual volunteers we've had a morning beset by problems on virtual Ogley locks. We'd jumped back in time to before the 1954 Act of Abandonment which closed this section, to the end of the virtual 18th Century but the water shortages on the locks have caused the volunteers to struggle to keep up the 2.5 minutes per lock.  We spoke to a virtual coal boat working their way down the virtual locks to Lichfield (although they seemed very anxious to get away from us!) and they mentioned the excitement that opening of the new reservoir at Cannock Chase 'next year' should speed up travel. So we hopped (with the virtual volunteers gallantly hanging on to the virtual gunwale so that we could take them with us) into 1800 and made it to the top of the flight with time to spare! Huge thanks from all of Firefly's crew to the CRT virtual volunteers and we hope you'll eventually get back safely to isolation in 2020. Just keep thumbing those virtual lifts through virtual time, you'll get there!  Meanwhile, we realised that the channel to the reservoir was only a water feed in 1800. We considered using the newly patented Bootspresse installed on Firefly during our recent virtual improvements to squeeze our way through, but instead we cranked up the Automat Sehnsucht again to zip back into the 21st century so that we could photograph Ogley Junction Towpath Bridge (virtually of course and a surprisingly balmy virtual spot for such a virtual cold day!!)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogley_Junction

 

image.png

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It's been a busy virtual day on virtual NB Firefly, with unseasonable cold virtual weather. Having wrapped up warm, we struggled coming up virtual Ogley Locks from Huddlesford Junction with shortage of virtual water (see previous posts). Then we had a virtual round trip to Anglesey Basin as the sun broke through for a brief few hours, as you can see from the photo we posted earlier for virtual Ogley Junction. What a change from all of our previous BCN Challenge (non-virtual) experiences when we've stumbled around Chasewater in the dark searching for clues about being 'out of our depth'  or the 'Marquis'!  We included a quick trip down the Sandhills Arm, and then down the Gilpins Arm on our way from Catshill to Pelsall (see photo below) as the cold weather started to close in. When we got to Pelsall Junction, our virtual COVID safe haven mooring for tonight, we found these guys (see photo below), in the entrance to Cannock Extension clearing ice blocks from the narrows of the canal entrance. Maybe that will be useful in the morning??? or maybe not!!!

 

Historical information from the cruise:

 

Huddlesford to Ogley: In designing the Ogley to Huddlesford route Pitt was particularly concerned about water conservation and so designed a lock that would conserve water in segments of a semi-circular side-pond which was used for lock 18. (ref: Silent Highways, the forgotten heritage of the Midlands Canals by Ray Shill)

 

Ogley to Anglesey Basin: Originally this was built as a water feeder and was only made navigable in 1863 to access the coal mines being sunk by the Marquis of Anglesey. Hence this formed Ogley Junction as it is today (ref: lhcrt.org.uk)

 

Sandhills Arm: has been long disused although at the time of Richard Chester-Browne's book there was a collection of wharf buildings at the end on private land (ref: The Other Sixty Miles by Richard Chester-Browne)

 

Gilpins Arm: was a private branch built by landowners William and George Gilpin, Edge Tool Manufacturers, to supply coal, iron and limestone. They leased the Near Newlands Colliery nearby  (ref: Blackcountryhistory.org and The Other Sixty Miles by Richard Chester-Browne). 

 

 

Ref: The Birmingham Canal Navigations Through Time by R. H. Davies

 

GilpinArm_zps7540e1dd.jpg.8c696aa033fc8a5b11f9785c857eda93.jpg

Gilpins Arm

 

pelsallice.jpg.31f20c53b3141b2e87bc6a6c81806e54.jpg

Looking back at Pelsall Junction from the start of the Cannock Extension Canal

Edited by john6767
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The weather has dramatically improved overnight and the virtual ice has all gone. We decided to use the  Automat Sehnsucht to zip back to more hospitable times and say hello to a few friends at Pelsall Festival, so we set the dial to 15th June 2013 as we left virtual Pelsall Junction.

 

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A few people can probably recognise their own boat here?

 

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Sue and Richard being awarded 1st place on the 2013 BCN Non-Virtual Challenge, very worthy winners!

 

Before we know it we're at Fishley Junction and turning on to the Lord Hayes Branch.

 

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Ref: http://captainahabswaterytales.blogspot.com/2011/11/lord-hays-canal-part-1.html

 

Oops! This isn't going to work! Is there a virtual rubbish collection (shopping trolley) prize in this virtual Challenge?
OK, back to the trusty (rusty?) Automat Sehnsucht to dial back to 1800 when the Lord Hayes Branch was newly opened giving access to the Newton collieries from the Wyrley and Essington. Firefly is now able to navigate the Fishley Number 1 Bridge, useful that it's a girder style bridge because we're worried about the canal subsidence being caused by the collieries.

 

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We go to the end of the Lord Hayes Branch and then return back to Pelsall Junction and off up the Cannock Extension!

 

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Stopping for a spot of lunch and the end of the currently navigable part of the Cannock Extension canal.  We are reminded of the (non-virtual) BCN Challenge clue that had us discovering the mooring bollards next to the A5!

 

 

 

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After lunch making progress on the Cannock Extension canal.  As far as Norton Canes we were in the present day but as we approached Wattling Street we needed to use the machine thingy again to go back to when the canal north from here still existed.

 

image.png.ce39c23f988f09001645cd5d4f97dcb5.png

 lhcrt.org.uk

 

Why is it always black and white.

 

The canal beyond as we get towards Rumer Hill Junction is high up and very open, and it seems like some others have the same plan as us.

 

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nortoncaneshistory.co.uk

 

The Cannock Extension canal was opened from Pelsall Junction to Rumer Hill Junction in 1858, and completed to Hednesford Basin in 1863.  There is a nice big open expanse of water at Rumer Hill Junction.

 

Rumer Hill's claim to fame is the "mid day tide", it is said that the movement of so many boats caused the water level here to raise by 18 inches in the middle of the day as boats travelled towards Hednesford Basin.

 

943219382_image(3).png.0946887648ad5722b2262779b9564e9e.png

  nortoncaneshistory.co.uk 

 

 

We soon got to Hednesford Basin (known as 'Edgeford' by the boatmen) at the end of the Cannock Extension Canal. It was used extensively after the First World War (1914-1918) as by this time, most of the coal for the Black Country came from  East Cannock and LIttleworth mines.

 

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Hednesford basin was an extensive railway interchange

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From here we will be returning back to Rummer Hill Junction.

 

Sadly the canal around Rumer Hill Junction and the Churchbridge locks was obliterated by opencast mining in the 1960's.  Rumer Hill Junction would have been at the centre of this photograph

1447496495_image(7).png.703a5d1a19231900366ead829f2bb600.png

 

wikivisually.com

 

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Caroline have been busy on the daily challenge.  So may I present our bevy of swans  (or if you prefer bank, drift, eyrar, gaggle, gargle, herd or whiteness)

 

I am not sure how much virtual help they will be with virtual route planning.

 

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Coming away from Rumer Hill Junction, then down the 13 locks at Churchbridge in 1863, when they were officially in use, and we're loving the precision of the straight line of locks.  

 
image.png.13b234f90a84793d2af60726a5a4c1bb.png
 
Apparently they've been called the best engineered locks in the country thanks to the collaboration between Staffs and Worcs Canal Company and Birmingham Canal Company. In the foreground of the picture you can see Gilpins Factory, that's the Mr Gilpin whose 'Arm' we enjoyed yesterday!
 
197976153_image(1).png.47954c5c802ecb27c1509f29531d77f0.png
RefA view of Churchbridge locks  (Gt Wyrley Local History Society)
 
At the bottom of the flight we stopped off for a quick virtual beer in 1861 at the newly opened White Lion.
 
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Churchbridge Bottom Lock and White Lion Hotel
 
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Ref: 1884 25″ OS Map, showing the White Lion, surrounding houses, the canal system and the road network.
(Staffordshire Record Office)
Churchbridge is a seriously busy transport hub!
Now we're off down the Hatherton Locks, seriously missing our CRT volunteers from yesterday now as we're averaging 5 minutes a lock and sliding the scale on the Automat Sehnsucht back to a less busy time of the 1840s when the Hatherton canal was the first significant transport link to arrive in Churchbridge, running from Calf Heath, through Wedges Mills. In their enthusiasm to build the canal the Staffs & Worcs Canal Company had started work without an Act and so had to negotiated agreements for every land purchase it required. 
 
It's been a long day of locking so we're delighted to get down through the last lock of the day and arrive in Hatherton Junction. Particularly in 2019 when we can slip into the marina and fill up with virtual diesel, fortunately this took no virtual time!
 
1618863876_image(4).png.82468c77a33023d1960253b85082963a.png
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We reached Hatherton Junction with virtual time left out of our 7 hour virtual day, so we pressed on along the virtual S & W.

 

We set the newly patented improvement to Firefly, the Selbstfahren, and settled down for a smooth evening run. We twiddled with the Automat Sehnsucht to arrive back at the junction with the Birmingham Canal on 21 September 1772 when the link between the S & W and the Birmingham Canal finally opened. It had a troubled history with the authorising Act of Parliament (1768) for the Birmingham Canal actually providing a provision for the S & W to build the junction if the Birmingham Company failed to do so within 6 months of their canal opening, with the option to charge the Birmingham Canal Company for its construction!  This very nearly happened but when S & W presented their bill to Parliament in January 1771 the Birmingham Canal conceded. 

 

We have a little confusion over our virtual COVID safe haven mooring for tonight. That's not about whether its safe (phew!) or where it is (virtual google maps is tracking us as ever!) but what to call it.  It's been known as Aldersley, The Junction, Old Autherley Junction, Autherley 1 Junction and even Autherley Junction. To make things worse, in 1835 the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal opened with a junction 0.5 miles north of here which they called Autherley Junction. So finally the names were standardised with Aldersley Junction at the end of the Birmingham Canal and the start of the Wolverhampton 21. 

 

1873184382_image(6).png.4de494264477164822caea39e14cc62c.png

http://blackcountryhistory.org/  

 

The toll house is no longer there in the current day, what a shame it really improves the scene.

 

1644075407_image(5).png.4490fe2f183ed7a4e7106dcb69b66637.png
https://en.wikipedia.org/

 

We tie our lines here for the night!  Not sure I can keep this pace for for much longer, I think we may have more locks to do tomorrow.
 

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Glad that you were able to fit in Churchbridge Locks!  I would've liked to go that way but didn't like the look of doing them a second time for no points or having to travel the similarly pointless S&W.

 

Which brings us to travel time - I'll leave it for the judges to do the judging - but don't you need around 9.5 hours of cruising to do everything you've described?

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