Thursday 25th May; Hockley Heath to Birmingham
It was HOT. We didn’t leave till nearly ten; rather than get going straight after breakfast we swept the roof of the accumulated oak catkins and other assorted bits of tree, before washing off the aphid honeydew.
It was pleasant working in the shade but very warm. Before we really got going on the long trip into Birmingham, we stopped for a quick visit to Wedge's bakery for some bread and treats (though later we were disappointed with the cakes, sausage roll and non-spicy veg samosa, the bread was nice).
Then it was cracking on, sun cream and hats deployed, appreciating the fabulous weather and the lovely dappled shade.
At Dickens Heath, where there seem to be more houses every time we pass, the water feature was working for once. It’s a strange thing – I wonder if anyone actually appreciates it?
A little while later we were enjoying the quiet morning and approaching a bridge when suddenly the bow rode up out of the water and over some object as though we were on a (slow) rollercoaster! Dave took the engine out of gear and we waited to see what would happen …..
it was still rolling over in the water and we were lucky not to have a problem with it. In fact we were to see a lot of floating bits of tree along the rest of the North Stratford. At Shirley drawbridge everything went smoothly – a few years ago it failed before it was properly closed and of course it makes you a little bit anxious when that happens. On the towpath side, what used to be a ‘wasteland’ (as I’m sure the developers would have described it) is now a sea of roofs with no trees or open green spaces for children to play in; the greenery in the picture is on the edge of the towpath.
We stopped to take on water at bridge 5. The water flow was so good that the tank was filled before we had eaten our snacks from Wedge’s, so we finished our lunch with ears cocked for approaching boats in case we had to make a smart exit. But we didn’t have to. The cottage nearby is still being restored, but is in a much better condition that last time we passed.
A boat pulled out in front of us as we approached the guillotine lock – I think they had been having a look at the mechanism. Anyway I took the two obligatory photos at the junction, the first of the guillotine gates of the old stop lock.
And then for once the sun was not entirely in the wrong place for a picture of the toll house at the junction.
Once on the Worcester and Birmingham there was much less shade and as well as swigging pints of water we had to deploy pretty scarves (well I did, Dave had one of the dog’s towels) to protect the backs of our necks from the blistering heat.
Although it is not the prettiest stretch of canal, there were flowers to be seen; the yellow flags would have been wild but the poppies were doubles so probably had been sown deliberately.
It is quite a long drag up this bit in the heat, but eventually the BT tower hove into view.
Because of the security situation following the appalling suicide bomb in Manchester armed police were in evidence as we came round Old Turn junction. They looked relaxed and were smiling at people and passing boats, which was reassuring.
We moored on the Sea Life centre side of the canal, which we find to be quieter than the other side and it is better for the dog as there is more shade in the summer.
A long hot day.
14½ miles, Shirley drawbridge, Brandwood, Edgbaston and Broad Street tunnels