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Birmingham Canal Navigations

Pelsall Canal Festival

Wyrley and Essington Canal

June 15 - 16, 2013

Station On-Air: June 13 - 18

HF (80 - 10), VHF (2 & 70), PMR (446: Ch 59)

To celebrate the continuing existence of the historically significant 200-year old canals which thread the large plateau of land forming the UK West Midlands, this Amateur Radio Station accompanied the 100 or so narrow boats which rallied together at the Pelsall Canal Festival in June 2013.

Pelsall Junction where the Wyrley and Essington Canal meets the Cannock Extension Canal (Photo: June 2011 Festival)

Pelsall is a spacious rural village in the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall near to the city of Wolverhampton in the north West Midlands . The canal, with its affectionate nickname of "Curley Wyrley", was constructed as a narrow, lock-free, contour-following navigation with the original purpose of transporting coal which was simply mined for being only a few feet below the land surface hereabouts. These days, like so many other canals in the UK, its significant summer-time traffic is recreational for being an integral part of the 120 canal-miles which form the intriguing BCN.

Recreational boating, in traditional or else authentically replicated narrow boats, is an activity which is virtually unique to the UK with its multiply connected network of canals. Designed originally to convey cargoes of raw materials pulled along by a horse walking on an adjacent towpath, such boats are all narrow width (approx. 7ft or 2M). This allows them to pass beneath bridges which were purposely constructed to be minimum, simple structures. Likewise they could change levels up or down flights of narrow-chamber locks with a minimum of water loss. Although many of the bridges have now been widened or replaced, almost all flights of locks remain faithful to their original design.

In recent decades, the power of the steam and then the diesel engine has prevailed and some working boats (the "motor") will be seen towing a similar sized unpowered vessel (with various names such as "butty" or "joey"). In either case, a small rear boatsman's cabin houses the skipper and his entire family. Authentic boats would be decorated in bright colours and would uphold traditions such as having a set of brass utensils which the boater is proud to keep clean with daily polishing. These may be augmented with lace cloths and lace-edged plates for decoration and the often-replicated roses-and-castles folk artwork. As an example, please see the traditional Buckby Can used for fresh water, at the base of this page.

Pair of working-boats, Atlas and Malus, being locked-up.

In contrast, the modern recreational narrow-boat can boast a fit-out as good as any camper-van and rallies, such as this Pelsall Festival, afford an excellent opportunity for boaters to get together and compare notes on the latest "mod cons". Boats with a Radio Ham on board can combine the two interests perhaps through the recently-formed BiWota. This is the British Inland Waterways On The Air movement which is attempting to co-ordinate ham-boaters who wish to "activate" a particular canal, river or significant water-side premises. While the modern "shack-in-a-box" transceiver allows for imaginative ways to turn a little onboard space into the radio "shack", aerials, especially for HF operation, continue to pose problems to test the ham-ingenuity. When travelling, a narrowboat will often pass through bridges and tunnels with barely a few inches clearance so all such external protrusions, like the cabin-stove chimneys of old, must be laid horizontally. There are many designs of compact mobile whip which still do not match this exacting constraint !

G8CQH/M currently uses his 20ft/6M tilt-over mast to support a multi-band trapped inv-V.

For the Festival, the Amateur Radio Station, GB2BCN, was installed in a caravan with awning, situated on the edge of a copse of tall trees near the south end of the Pelsall Junction bridge. This ensured that the station could be visited by many of the attendees, while its aerials were installed well above their heads for safety and optimum performance.

nb Valencia locking-up the famous Tardebigge flight on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal by the QTH of G0EHQ

Links to web pages relevant to this Station: Curley Wyrley, BCN-Society, BIWOTA, Pelsall, Booking-Forms, Facebook


To link to this page, please use: www.qrz.com/db/gb2bcn .



Titford Pumphouse

Engine Street


West Midlands

B69 4NL


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