Monday, 26 October 2015

Gearing up for Tardebigge

Sunday 11th and Monday 12th October; Birmingham to Alvechurch

The sun was out but blimey was it chilly!  First we went down to Cambrian Wharf where we winded and tied up at the facilities block for filling and emptying. Tom (nb Waiouru) came over for a chat and I popped over to say hello to Jan and a quick ‘Hi’ to Les and Jaq (nb Valerie).  Here they are at Cambrian Wharf.

1 valerie and waiouru

AS we joined the Worcester and Birmingham, the sun was shining straight at the Barclaycard Arena, picking out its colours. In spite of the hordes swarming around last night, there wasn’t a scrap of litter to be seen, so full marks to whoever organises/pays for the street cleaners.  (The tiller wasn’t really unattended, Dave was checking his watch).  The Water Bus has snuck up behind us.

2 goodbye arena

The towpath was busy with runners, cyclists and walkers enjoying the patches of sunshine – the trees on the offside were casting shade over us all and it was cold enough for hats and gloves if you weren’t generating enough heat by running.  Past the university, we reached the aqueduct over the A38 Bypass, which opened in 2011.  The canal had to be diverted while the road was being built.  In about 2009 or 2010 we went over on our share boat.  As we approached it looked as though the canal was blocked by a black wall of tyres; but there was a sharp bend into a temporary channel, the sides all protected by rows of tyres. At the far end there was another bend back onto the canal, and beneath was a wide dusty chasm with massive earth-moving machinery.  This is what the view looks like today.

6 aqueduct over a38 bypass7 a38 bypass

To my everlasting regret we took no photos (probably didn’t have a digital camera) – this link to an aerial shot showing the diversion is the best I can find.  The canal runs diagonally from the top right to the bottom middle of the picture, and the diversion goes to the left of the trough – either the disconnected old or the unconnected new one, I can’t tell. 

We needed to stop at Selly Oak for shopping, but the bollards were occupied by two boats which looked as though they had been there for a while, with a group of fishermen just the other side of them. We managed to tie up to the railings further down – not the best spot! I went off to Sainsbury’s without Dave – we felt someone really ought to stay with the boat.  Here is the view from the towpath …

8 dodgy mooring at selly oak

and the side hatch.

  9 dodgy mooring at selly oakWhen I got back Dave strode off to Halfords for some bits and pieces, and a new TV aerial connector from Curry’s as ours had got damaged.  After we left, we spotted some Armco piling down by the next bridge, though we didn’t test the water depth for mooring. It was a bit warmer out of the shade of the trees as we passed Cadbury’s and then King’s Norton junction,

10 kings norton junction

but the trees crowded in again on the approach to Wast Hills tunnel. The tunnel was cold, draughty and wet.  We were through in 31 minutes.  We soon pulled in at Hopwood visitor moorings and I lit the fire while Dave had a fun time down the weed hatch, removing the detritus from Birmingham – mostly torn bits of plastic, tape and fishing line.

On the Monday we went for a walk in the sunshine to the Upper Bittell reservoir, which feeds the canal, and through fields with fabulous views back to the towpath near the tunnel portal.  Disappointingly you are only by the reservoir for a short time, but there was not a lot to see on it.

1 upper bittell reservoir

On our way again with a cup of coffee, and once under the busy and noisy M42 we passed the non-navigable Crown Meadow arm.  There is a large sign saying ‘No Boats’ to each side.  Someone clearly trims the greenery to keep them visible but I think it’s pretty obvious ….

2 no boats down crown meadow arm

Most of the Alvechurch hire boats seemed to be back at base.  We carried on past the visitor moorings to a little way past the aqueduct, on the last decent spot before the Tardebigge tunnel.   Sunny, quiet, pretty and with a good edge.  I did various bits of cleaning before taking Meg for a run as far as the main road which crosses the Tardebigge tunnel.  In the woods and field edges were dozens of pheasants, which Meg did a good job of dispersing, maybe giving them a better chance of avoiding the guns?  We nearly had pheasant for tea though – she snapped at one as it took flight and just missed its tail feathers.  Meanwhile Dave carried on with the outside painting jobs while the sun still shone.

Over the two days we travelled about 13 miles and traversed Wast Hills tunnels (2726 yds).

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