- Netherton Tunnel Footbridge, Windmill End -
The outings together straddled the crossover from 2018 into 2019 with trip number one being a Windmill End wander on New Year's Eve. I caught the X8 across from Wolverhampton to Warrens Hall and then surveyed Windmill End Junction, trying to capture the various different turnover footbridges serving the Boshboil Arm and the Netherton Tunnel Branch. The Dudley No. 2 Canal soon took centre stage though, leading me towards Blackheath via Bullfields Bridge (Springfield Lane) and the back end of Brickhouse Farm.
- Totnal Bridge -
Added interest along the Dudley No. 2 towpath is undoubtedly provided by a series of little moorhen figures plus local history artworks, notably recalling the chainmaker Eliza Tinsley as a prominent Black Country businesswoman. After passing under Powke Lane beside what used to be the Neptune pub (now a Londis supermarket), I proceeded to Totnal Bridge before venturing across some playing fields in search of local Blackheath photo targets. The old library building on Carnegie Road has found a new use as the Bookworms Day Care nursery with a Gruffalo peering out of one of the windows, while Alan Jinks's Watch Repairs shop looked atmospherically antiquated.
- The Waterfall -
Every good canal walk should always pitch up at a pub or two and I picked two classics by way of bidding 2018 a fond farewell. The Waterfall was essential for some Holden's hospitality even though the interior has had a makeover since I last saw it, creating an almost continental cafe vibe until the taste of scratchings and Bathams Bitter confirmed I'm very firmly in the Black Country. My final pint of the old year came in the Britannia at Rowley Village, an establishment that has latterly become home to the Britt Brewery so I simply had to sample their Working Mon's Mild (5% and very drinkable) - the giant cobs were also impossible to resist.
- Cater's Bridge and Minworth Locks -
Plunging headlong into 2019 next whereby Friday 4th January provided my curtain raiser for the year. Still firmly bitten by the canal bug, I made tracks for Gravelly Hill Station and joined the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal at Bromford Lane to the rear of Buffet Island. The surroundings are initially industrial heading up towards Tyburn, negotiating the likes of Brace Factory Bridge (Holly Lane) and Butlers Bridge (Kingsbury Road). The towpath at one point flanks the Tyburn House, a Sizzling roadhouse with an appearance reminiscent of Cotswold stone, but things gradually become more scenic through the Minworth Locks.
- Curdworth Tunnel -
Minworth Green gave me my fix of North Birmingham pictures, the leafy open space here being overlooked by the Hare & Hounds, a primary school and F G Mansell's Cycle Repairs hut. It's then a case of ploughing onwards into Warwickshire, counting down a satisfying sequence of bridges (Wiggins Hill, Broad Balk, Curdworth Church) to ultimately reach Curdworth Tunnel. I'd never done this particular section of the canal until now so I was in my element, taking pictures of new discoveries and enjoying the invigorating exercise. Curdworth Tunnel by the way is 52 metres long with a full towpath throughout.
- Curdworth Village -
Not only was that stretch of canal new to me, I'd never set foot in Curdworth before. The village immediately charmed me with a totem sign and some old-fashioned cottages, plus there's a modern village hall situated on Coleshill Road. Two pubs serve the main centre so it would've been rude not to do them both; I therefore duly accounted for the White Horse (a rather corporate Vintage Inns place where the Doom Bar was decent and the roaring fire much appreciated) and the Beehive (homely if a touch dated which naturally made it my favourite of the two, a proper boozer for a pint of Pedigree). The trip concluded with a ride on the number 75 Diamond bus to Sutton Coldfield via Walmley and Reddicap Heath - the route also serves Coleshill and Birmingham International - meaning I returned home happy with a few more miles under my belt. I certainly sense there could be more canals to come as 2019 continues, but for now... cheers!