We had quite a few miles to do today and we were under way by 9.20am! One lock but a lot of junctions to negotiate. We are used to getting to the end of a canal and then turning either left or right – all these junctions made life complicated but interesting! To start with we were on the Main Line but that splits at Smethwick Junction to become the Old Line and the New Line. We chose the New Line as there are no locks. Eventually a spur of the Old Line joined the New Line and the canal then becomes the New Main Line! We took the second turning on the left which was the Netherton Branch and after going under an aqueduct which holds the Old Main Line we came to the Netherton Tunnel which is 3027 yards long. Millie doesn’t like tunnels so I came down below and caught up on a few emails. She soon came and sat beside me with her eyes wide like saucers! Once we were out of the tunnel she jumped down and settled back onto her chair and went back to sleep! Just after the tunnel we joined the Dudley No 2 Canal at Windmill End Junction – it was quite pretty there with a café on Netherton Tunnel with the Old Main Line aquaduct in the foregroundthe towpath with lots of people sitting outside. We continued down the canal to Park Head Junction where we joined the Dudley No 1 Canal and where we had our one lock to do – a deep one of 12 feet. There were two young boys there with their Grandad and they were fascinated by th:-) We weren’t too sure where we were going to stop and came firstly to The Waterfront and tied up there. It wasn’t where I thought we would be so we moved on a bit to, almost, on top of the Merry Hill Shopping Centre! I restrained myself from looking round the centre but we did frequent Sainsburys.
Today’s history lesson! Along the Main Line and the New Main Line are Toll or Gauging Points. Generally these were at a lock but here they have built an artificially constricted part of the canal so that the boat had to pass within inches of the toll point and unable to evade the toll. On canals where the fee was based on cargo weight it also put the boat in a convenient place to read the gauging mark height from the water line. Canals were set up Toll point with a Telford Aquaduct behindas commercial enterprises. The fee for using the canals was dependent on the type of cargo and its weight. Each boat had to have four (or, for some canal companies - Swansea, Glamorganshire, Oxford, six) gauging plates fitted to the hull at the "corners" of the boat - bow and stern at each side - indicating a measurement point and a boat serial number. The boat was calibrated by measuring the height of the gunwales above water level at each corner with the boat unladen and then measured again when known weights had been loaded into the boat from an overhead gantry. These measurements were logged in toll-keeper's tables and copies sent to every toll office within the boat's trading range. At toll offices if a toll collector suspected an incorrect waybill (declared cargo) the height of the four corners of the boat were checked with a gauging stick and averaged to allow for uneven cargo loading. That boat's entry in the gauging table was used to determine the cargo weight. The toll fee was worked out from the weight and cargo type.