Saturday, October 24, 2015


It had been my intention just to sit and watch the goings on by the canal side. There's a word for this, apparently. A gongoozler is a person who enjoys watching activity on the canals. The headquarters of the Dudley Canal Trust has been a shed at the side of the dock for many years. The Trust website is here.

But it was all happening in Dudley last week, with the opening of the Trust's new multi-million pound visitor centre, the Portal. That's it on the right. The Portal houses a purpose built learning suite and function room, an interactive exhibition, a gift shop, and a licenced restaurant.

Time for a trip.

The canals were constructed to facilitate the extraction of limestone.

I found the experience absolutely fascinating, if somewhat surreal at times. We stopped to watch an educational film. Then there was a sound and light show in a different gallery.

Apparently there are other canals at lower levels, now flooded.

One of a number of tableaux encountered along the way.

I now know exactly what a barge pole is, and will no doubt always remember this when "I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole" jumps to mind.

One of the passengers volunteered to demonstrate 'legging', the way of moving canal boats along narrow tunnels, with less damage than using a barge pole. A brave lass indeed! None of the men on board were tempted to volunteer.

This open space was originally an underground cavern from which limestone had been excavated, before the roof was collapsed.

It so happens that I abhor the practice of taking photos of your food and posting these on social media. But I had to show you my lunch in the new Portal's cafe (make that licensed restaurant), which is appropriately called the Gongoozler, where my cauliflower soup came on a slate. Dudley posh, is it not!

Talking about things I'm not a fan of ....

Here's a 'selfie', if only to elicit the response, "Like the hat!"

Full marks to the Dudley Canal Trust! More on my southern adventures to come soon.

Photos © Skip Cottage

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