Jump to content

Extending the Four Counties Ring


Saskia
 Share

Featured Posts

Hiring a boat for 20 days from Anderton together with the husband (just the two of us). Planning on cruising the Four Counties Ring clockwise, but not sure what to extend the route with. 

Already cruised the Llangollen on our last UK trip, together with Chester and back, so that's off the list for now. 

 

We were initially looking at the combining the Four Counties with the Black Country Ring - skipping the Staffs & Worcs canal - but previous experience in Manchester has put husband off from big city boating. The Aston and Farmers Bridge locks do not sound tempting to him.

 

We really do want to visit the Black Country Living Museum though.

How is the stretch from Wolverhampton, mooring at the BCLMuseum for a visit, continuing through Netherton Tunnel and the Dudley and Stourbridge Canal, then back to Wolverhampton on the Staffs&Worcs - either clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Might go for a detour to Kinver for the rockhouses as well if time is on our side.

 

We also thought about avoiding the Birmingham area altogether and try the Caldon Canal and leisurely explore both branches, but as strange as it sounds, I might be afraid it will all be too rural and 'more of the same'. Better safe this canal for a future, shorter holiday I guess.

 

Any advice is welcome, also for pub mooring or hidden gems or walks away from the towpath. Thanks in advance! :)

 

Ps.

Our holiday style: 6ish hours a day cruising - loving to take it slow, mooring up for lunch, having time to explore surrounding villages and sites, going for a nice pint. No rushing or long days cruising. Don't mind a lot of locks! 

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Having done the Autherley to Stourport section of the Staffs & Worcs for the first time last year, I love it so much I'm currently doing it again, with a trip to Gloucester. The bit between Compton and Wolverley is the best, very scenic and canal side pubs along the way. Lots of moorings too and I've only past half a dozen boats. I'd recommend it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Birmingham provides a good mix of cruising, from old industrial to modern canal side apartments.  Me and my wife regularly visit on our boat.  The route from Netherton to Stourton Junction is more scenic than Wolverhampton.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Caldon is good and interesting, with a river section at the end, plus a pub accessed via a level crossing used by steam trains. It has a big stoppage at present so might still be closed if you plan to visit soon.  Birmingham is good and much much better than Manchester.   Birmingham to BCM on the old main line is good urban cruising.

  • Greenie 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How about…. 4 Counties clockwise as far as Autherley, on a bit to Aldersley, up the Wolverhampton 21, BCLM, Netherton Tunnel (either nip down Factory, or the long way round Old Main Line/Brades), Delph, down to Stourton, back up to Autherley and continue the 4 Counties. Potential side quests to Hawne Basin, Stourbridge and even Titford if time allows?

 

That said, T&M down to Fradley, into Birmingham via Aston/Farmers Bridge and out again via BCLM/Wolverhampton and back on the ring at Autherley is a possibility. I’d rather do Aston/Farmers Bridge/middle of Birmingham than go through Manchester again.

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just stick to your Plan A and combine the Four Counties and Black Country Ring minus the Staffs & Worcs section.

 

Birmingham makes itself attractive to visit by canal - the opposite of Manchester - and mooring in the city centre is recommended. The towpaths are very well used and don't feel unsafe although being an urban area they are used by all sorts of people.

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Two weeks to do four counties, then two weeks to Liverpool and back, any spare time could be spent on the weaver.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Saskia,

 

You haven't said why your husband didn't like Manchester. Was it the locks?  The 'scenery'? The people?  The mooring locations?

 

As others have said, cruising through Birmingham is quite different to Manchester.  You want to avoid Farmer's Bridge and Aston, but your alternative takes you down Delph and Stourbridge flights anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't see any reason to avoid Farmer's Bridge and Aston, they aren't somewhere I would moor overnight but when we went down through them a couple of weeks ago there was a hire boat that had overnighted below Farmer's Bridge bottom lock and another boat further along that stretch plus three boats on the offside at the business park.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Timx said:

Two weeks to do four counties, then two weeks to Liverpool and back,

Well that accounts for 4 of their 3 weeks…

25 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

Hi Saskia,

 

You haven't said why your husband didn't like Manchester. Was it the locks?  The 'scenery'? The people?  The mooring locations?

 

As others have said, cruising through Birmingham is quite different to Manchester.  You want to avoid Farmer's Bridge and Aston, but your alternative takes you down Delph and Stourbridge flights anyway.

If they want to do the BCLM then they’re going up and down via the Wolverhampton level one way or another.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Thanks for your suggestions everyone! Hadn't looked into going the Liverpool way. Time for more homework and canalplanning :)

 

41 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

Hi Saskia,

 

You haven't said why your husband didn't like Manchester. Was it the locks?  The 'scenery'? The people?  The mooring locations?

 

As others have said, cruising through Birmingham is quite different to Manchester.  You want to avoid Farmer's Bridge and Aston, but your alternative takes you down Delph and Stourbridge flights anyway.

It's the sum of all above I guess (the locks not in numbers, but in the state of them), and add to that, just an unlucky day. Mooring at Castlefield was excellent! But the day after, we had some issues getting through the Rochdale 9 - water levels low, garbage that abstructed a lock gate and having all sorts of stuff around the prop. The sight of syringes in the water and watching where to walk to avoid human waste on the part below the tall office buildings didn't help having a good mood too. We eventually moored overnight halfway the Ashton locks due to a persistant sleeping bag on our prop. (So much for tight planning a canal trip, hence why we are now reluctant when people suggest to 'just have a long day pushing it and you will have passed the nasty bits').

Nothing serious happened other than people banging on the boat at night or walking over the boat, but still this was the most unpleasant experience we had on a boating holiday so far.

Husband made me promise we would never ever go through such stretches again, and I don't want to risk single handling the boat halfway through our holidays while he is on a flight back to Schiphol 😅

Edited by Saskia
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, Saskia said:

Thanks for your suggestions everyone! Hadn't looked into going the Liverpool way. Time for more homework and canalplanning :)

 

It's the sum of all above I guess (the locks not in numbers, but in the state of them), and add to that, just an unlucky day. Mooring at Castlefield was excellent! But the day after, we had some issues getting through the Rochdale 9 - water levels low, garbage that abstructed a lock gate and having all sorts of stuff around the prop. The sight of syringes in the water and watching where to walk to avoid human waste on the part below the tall office buildings didn't help having a good mood too. We eventually moored overnight halfway the Ashton locks due to a persistant sleeping bag on our prop. (So much for tight planning a canal trip, hence why we are now reluctant when people suggest to 'just have a long day pushing it and you will have passed the nasty bits').

Nothing serious happened other than people banging on the boat at night or walking over the boat, but still this was the most unpleasant experience we had on a boating holiday so far.

Husband made me promise we would never ever go through such stretches again, and I don't want to risk single handling the boat halfway through our holidays while he is on a flight back to Schiphol 😅

What you've just described is quite common in Manchester and very rare in Birmingham.  Farmer's and Aston flights and interesting and well maintained.  I've gone up and down them countless times and never had a serious prop-foul. 

 

If you start from Birmingham city centre, the usual advice would be to moor at Minworth or Curdworth which is a fairly easy day.  However, if you are having problems there are other choices which are far preferable to halfway up Ashton (somewhere I would never want to be stuck!).  You could stop on the offside a couple of locks up from Aston bottom lock, or at Cuckoo Wharf, or at Star City (which you would need to reverse to, or go via the other route through Ashted Tunnel and Garrison Locks).

 

Having said all that, your alternative of Netherton Tunnel and Dudley/Stourbridge Canal is lovely too.

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Birmingham is well worth a visit (or maybe essential to visit). The area around the conference centre has  been spruced up and there are lots of  (relatively) quiet moorings available. When boating we tend to moor out in the sticks - but are equally content to moor in Brum.

There are many Youtube videos around so you could almost choose your exact mooring !

After you've had an overdose of shopping I can recommend -

The pen museum

National Trust Back to backs

NT round house

The jewelery quarter

The art gallery

The library - great views from the roof.

All the above are walkable and pedestrianised from the canal(s)

Most threads on here discuss cruising but ignore places to visit. The BCLM has been mentioned - do not forget the fish and chip shop which is excellent.

 

Enough!

 

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can only echo what everyone says above. When we bought the boat a couple of years ago Birmingham was somewhere I thought I'd rather avoid, eg make sure I stopped somewhere the day before where I could get through the next day without stopping (difficult when we keep the boat only just a couple of days outside Brum). Now having been there many times I'd say it's one of my favourite places to visit. We now make a point of stopping there. There's always loads going on on the canal there, the surrounding area is very 'touristy', and not in the least threatening. When we were there a couple of weeks ago a concert kicked out at half ten and we were expecting a noisy night, but it was quiet again by 11, which has been our experience most times we've been.

 

Farmers bridge is easy to work, and the descent through the city is actually really interesting, especially when you start going underground. It's a bit 'industrial' after the Aston flight for a couple of miles, hence the advice to stop somewhere after Minworth, but you're soon back in countryside.

 

Going through Netherton and down through Delph and the Stourbridge canal is also a nice trip. We did it going up the other way last year. The canal is really clean and it's not a busy stretch.

 

The Wolverhampton flight is one of my least favourite and wouldn't be my preference, there was a lot of rubbish in the canal between Factory and the top of the Wolverhampton flight a few weeks ago, and it probably didn't help my mood that it started hammering down with rain just after we got through the top lock and didn't stop until we were almost out of the bottom!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with your experience of the Rochdale 9 and Manchester in general.  Its the only place I've ever had serious prop foulling and they seem to have done as much as possible to make boats feel unwelcome through that stretch. 

However we really like Birmingham Centre and have traveled that way many times. Aston and Farmers aren't great locations but the locks are pretty easy.

The moorings by the sealife centre are some of my favourites anywhere.  It somehow feels really special to moor in the heart of such a big city.

A run out through Dudley and Wolverhampton is a must at least once to see the clear water and the fish. Only place I know that the water is that clear. Don't be afraid to experience the old main line either. It's weed ridden and slow,  but throttle back and take it steady.

The Wolverhampton are a slog to be endured, but always seem to be quicker than expected.

I'd recommend this way and restore your faith in city travel. 

 

  • Greenie 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks all so much for the suggestions and replies. Good to hear Brum is very much different from Manchester canalwise. And nice to have a forum like this instead of going with Google streetview photos 😅 We still have a few months before we travel (and might even change our plans last-minute or while cruising), but faith in the original route restored. Thanks again 😄

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, Lancshoppy said:

I agree with your experience of the Rochdale 9 and Manchester in general.  Its the only place I've ever had serious prop foulling and they seem to have done as much as possible to make boats feel unwelcome through that stretch. 

However we really like Birmingham Centre and have traveled that way many times. Aston and Farmers aren't great locations but the locks are pretty easy.

The moorings by the sealife centre are some of my favourites anywhere.  It somehow feels really special to moor in the heart of such a big city.

A run out through Dudley and Wolverhampton is a must at least once to see the clear water and the fish. Only place I know that the water is that clear. Don't be afraid to experience the old main line either. It's weed ridden and slow,  but throttle back and take it steady.

The Wolverhampton are a slog to be endured, but always seem to be quicker than expected.

I'd recommend this way and restore your faith in city travel. 

 

 

The water is remarkably clear at the bottom of the Delph Locks too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.