Friday, 19 March 2010

"Pain is temporary, pride is forever"

That's a mantra that was quoted to me by Susie Hewer, who was kind enough to add a comment to this blog a few days ago.

It's been particularly apposite this week. I've been going through a slight depression - for no particular reason; it just happens from time to time - I've had a general feeling of yeughness and, earlier in the week, I discovered a boil in a very inconvenient place.

The depression would have been worse had I not had this walk to prepare for - giving me
the feeling that I am doing something worthwhile. And it would have got worse had I allowed it to. The yeughness was probably a result of the depression. And I've managed, thank goodness, to shuffle off my mortal boil. So, today, the longest walk for a while, though not the longest walk I've done. Bus to Dudley Port; up the canal to Coseley Tunnel; then back again, home, in time to watch the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

This is Dudley Port, where a viaduct carrying the West Coast Main Line - and on which Dudley Port Railway Station is situated -crosses the main road; you can see it here, in the foreground.

In the background is the Ryland Acqueduct - I'm not sure why it is named thus, but it carried the Birmingham Canal. Canal and railway line are never far apart. This is where I joined the canal today; my main task, though, was to take another look at one of the most difficult stretches of the canal, which is Coseley Tunnel.

It's strange that once I have made a journey, a repeat of it seems far shorter. Certainly the distance from Dudley to Coseley seemed to be far shorter than it was when I made the same trip, in the opposite direction,
the Saturday before last. That may, of course, have been a result of my being fresher today than I was then.

Much of the Birm
ingham Canal is designated as part of the National Cycle Network, but on the approach to the tunnel there's a sign diverting cyclists elsewhere - up and over, rather than through the tunnel. Some of them might not like the idea too much, and you can see why when you look at the steepness of the slope they would have to cycle up in order to avoid the tunnel. But once they, or anyone on foot, get into the tunnel, you can see why cyclists are recommended not to use it. It's over 300 yards long, and unlit.
It has, thank go
odness, a handrail, but it's an unnerving experience walking through it, even when there's nobody coming in the opposite direction.
And that is what was happening today; you can just about see him in this picture. Not only was he coming in the opposite direction - he was riding a bicycle. It would have been completely impossible for us to pass one another in the tunnel. I'll give careful consideration to going "up and over" rather than through the tunnel when it comes to July 17th.

So from here, it was an about turn and back, first, to Tipton.
This is pretty much the hal
f way point on the Birmingham Canal - though not on the whole walk. And there's a pub there! The only canalside pub on the Birmingham Canal, outside the centre of Birmingham.
Imagine my distress when I saw that I had got there a day too late to enjoy a 'glam rock evening!'

Here, the old main line and the new main line split. I followed the New Main Line, which is far short
er and, barring a flight of three locks immediately after this pub, has no locks at all, all the way to Birmingham.

The course of the canal from here is very straight - as you can see from this picture
- and, frankly, a bit dull. The local council has designated this as an 'urban greenway' and it's certainly less depressing than the scenes of industrial decay nearer to Wolverhampton; there's also the benefit that a straight journey seems to get you to where you want to be far more quickly than a twisty one does.
The canal here has towpaths on both sides. The National Cycle Network signs recommend that cyclists use the towpath on the south side -that towpath is prperly built, while the one on the north side, which I used today, is covered with short grass and is very uneven, but it's perfectly passable in dry weather.

I was amused by this bit of graffiti one one of the bridges the canal passes over.

"Astle" is, as those of you from this part of the country - and many of you from elsewhere - will now, Jeff Astle. He was a forward for West Bromwich Albion and, occasionally, England in the 1960s and 1970s. Goodness knows how old the graffiti is - it may be fairly recent, dating from around the time of his death: Jeff Astle died in 2002, and believed his death was at the very least accelerated by brain injuries sustained by heading the ball so much. Footballs where then far more likely to absorb water than they are now.

From there on it was through increasingly familiar territory - the Galton Valley begins just after this straight stretch. I certainly felt a great deal better for doing the walk.

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