Monday, 29 June 2009

Unexpected Neighbours.

Moored peacefully in the Saltisford Arm. Last night we welcomed five boat loads of youngsters from Tynedale Middle School from Blythe, Northumberland. What a great bunch of canny lads and lasses (Sorry about that, must have been watching a rerun of the Likely Lads). They certainly livened the place up. They are polite, cheerful and full of a joie de vivre a lot of us could do well to copy. We could use a few more boat loads like it.
Well done Tynedale Middle, they are a credit to your school and to their parents, keep sending them on trips like this, they cheer the canals up no end.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

The Trip to Warwick.

Well for the last few days there hasn't been enough signal to download anything to the blog so I'll bring you up to date on our latest excitements. After a days rest at Catherine de Barnes we descended Knowle Locks, the first of the Grand Union wide locks with their unique paddle gear which is inclined to be a bit on the heavy side, twenty five turns of the windlass to raise the paddles.

The next point of interest was Kingswood Junction where the Stratford on Avon canal joins the G.U. We moored and had a wander round what is a fairly complex junction. As it was the Stratford I felt duty bound to take a picture of a barrel roofed cottage and a split bridge as these are always described as typical of the Stratford. The split in the bridge was to allow the horses tow line to drop through so there was no need to disconnect the horse when the boat went under the bridge, clever eh?

After a stop at Tom o'the Wood (It's a pub named after a windmill that used to stand nearby) which allowed me to catch this magnificent bream, Jill said it smelled horrible,well it was a bit fishy,

we wandered slowly down to the Hatton Flight a.k.a. the Stairway to Heaven and peered gloomily down at a seemingly endless line of dauntingly large locks

when salvation in the shape of n.b. Betty Eccles turned up, a brand new boat on its first trip, boy did I sweat going down those locks in case I made some horrible mistake and gave their pride and joy a wallop but she came out the bottom just as beautiful as she went in at the top, whew!

We shared the locks and the labour down the twenty two wide locks, passing a huge dragonfly,

a British Waterways yard with their latest transport, I know they're short of money but come on, surely they can afford a Mk.1 Transit,

and some environmentally friendly lock gates and completed the whole flight in two hours and forty minutes.
We are now moored in the Saltisford Arm and tomorrow we intend to start exploring Warwick.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The leaving of Birmingham.

Today we shook the dust of the Black Country from our shoes and headed off. At 0615 we were at the top off Farmers Bridge locks a.k.a. The Old Thirteen and ready to go.

Note position of bollard in relation to the balance beam, note also what happens when you turn round from the beam and try to walk away.

As you go down the locks the side ponds make a peninsular of the offside lock wall and go in under the new building.

One of the locks is in a short tunnel under a new building. Note graffiti, prolific on the B.C.N. but of poor quality.

Having negotiated the Old Thirteen we arrived at the top of the Aston Flight but we didn't go that way today, instead we turned right

and headed down the Digbeth Branch to Ashted locks and tunnel, which appears to be inhabited by a hairy gnome like creature.
At Typhoo Basin we turned left and went through Warwick Bar out onto the waters of the Grand Union Canal

and at Bordesley Junction the first of Camp Hill locks loomed ahead, but these are G.U. locks with double bottom gates, much easier than the single gates of B.C.N. locks which tend to be a tad heavy.
Only two more locks to go, note stationary traffic.

Birmingham is left behind, Camp Hill top lock is in the distance behind us.

We met intrepid explorers at Ackers.

We passed through the verdant environs of Solihull.
Shortly after we moored at Catherine de Barnes, I don't know who she was but I was pleased to see her. We had worked through twenty five locks in four and a quarter hours and then cruised for just over two hours so we rewarded ourselves with lunch in The Boat Inn, very welcome.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Quiet day.

Not a lot happened today, had an exciting walk to Tescos for dog food and then thought about going fishing but the weather looked a bit grim so didn't bother, lucky I didn't because it chucked it down later.
Now here is a question, many canal bridges in Birmingham have square apertures in their parapets (see below), what for? I have two theories;
1) They were put in when the bridge was built to enable horse manure, of which there would have been large quantities, to be shovelled directly into a boat below for transporting out to the farms for manure or,
2) They were cut during W.W.2 to allow fire pumps to lower their hoses directly into the canal for fire fighting during air raids.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

An Exploration (The Soho Loop).

It was pump out day today so we started out past a pair of working boats,

winded in Gas Street Basin

and tied up alongside the honey barge.

Pumped out and dieseled up we set off to explore the Soho Loop, turning in under Rotton Park Junction Bridge.

Where did all those side arms go?

On through derelict industry, hard to believe this was once the workshop of the world, all going, now

replaced with modern(ish) housing and a view of the Birmingham skyline.

A glimpse up into Hockley Port.

Something strange was lurking in the bushes

by Winson Green.

We know where this side arm went, the name plate reads Winson Green Prison Bridge, is this Brums version of Traitors Gate?

And back to the main line.

This afternoon we went down into the city again as there was an open air food fair, only succumbed to some French sausage and cheese and some hand made pork pies with various additions. Oh yes, a sausage and onion bap (but I left some of the roll so it wasn't fattening).
Also had a quick look at the Matthew Boulton exhibition in the museum as it tied in with the Soho Loop.
Birmingham is a city with a real buzz, I love the place.

Friday, 19 June 2009


And so we set off over Old Turn Junction,

Went through the I.C.C.

Met three of Brums golden boys.

A Big Issue sales pitch, with space for the dog.

The beach?

The Floosie in the Jacuzzi has been left high and dry.

Jill tames the beast.

So why is it here?
Brum does offer some surprises.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The B.C.N.

A day of two halves.

Well what can I say, pride comes before a fall? Up early to set off for Brum, needed water but there were two boats moored on the water point so we waited for signs of life. Eventually a chap appeared on one of them so we asked if it was OK to breast up on him to water, the answer was affirmative so we drifted across the cut, secured to him and watered. On completion we prepared to cast off, Jill stepped onto the sharp end of the other boat, stepped down into the well deck and fell with a mighty crash, having ascertained that no permanent damage had ensued we pushed off, I stepped onto our gunwhale and, after warning so many people to avoid the fenders, I stepped on one, the waters of the B.C.N are remarkably warm although the canal bed is of a somewhat dubious composition. My dear lady immediately rushed off and got the rope ladder, which we had purchased last year in Hungerford for just such an occurance, and threw it across to me as I rummaged frantically in my pockets to check that my mobile was not also enjoying an immersion in Dudleys finest. I hooked it over the towing stud, put my foot on the bottom rung, took my weight and the rope snapped, tried the next rung, all same same. Luckily the third one held and I emerged like Venus from the foam. By now I had a large audience but all on the other side of the cut so attempts to go round with the hat proved abortive. Jill accused me of doing it just to upstage her.
We winded and set off down the Old Main Line, this was the second half. You would never believe you were in the Black Country, the fish can be seen swimming in the crystal clear waters amongst the water lilies, coots nested along the off side, totally unconcerned by our passing, herons stalked the edges and flowers bloomed in wild profusion along the banks, sorry, getting a bit lyrical there but it is incredible. Mind you after you meet the M5 at Oldbury it all goes a bit downhill although the sight of little B.C.N. bridges crouched below the towering pillars of the motorway is quite evocative.
We are now at Gas Street and ready for tomorrows adventure in deepest Birmingham!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Swimming Dogs.

0445 this morning we were awoken by loud splashing noises from the back of the boat, happily leaping out of bed I peered over the back of the boat to discover a golden retriever with its front paws on the rudder and a chocolate lab. just going down for the third time. With the assistance of the chap off the next boat we hauled them onto the bank. After much further excitement we managed to reunite them with their owner, wet and covered in ash and cinders. It really is a long story so don't ask.
These pictures will give you an idea of what to look out for, perhaps someone will give us a wave as they pass.