if you count the Cannock Extension, Anglesey Branch and the Daw End Branch as separate canals.
Friday 7th October; Perry Barr to Catherine de Barnes
Grey and chilly all day. Well wrapped up, we were in Perry Barr top lock before 9. We were hoping to see the CRT guy who is based here, to tell him about the dodgy bottom gates we encountered yesterday, but he wasn’t around so I sent the details by email later on. Unfortunately the first 10 locks were against us but we got a good system of shared work going.
We eventually met a boat coming up and the bottom two locks were set for us. A rather phallic lone chimney stands preserved amidst the new industrial units.
Spaghetti Junction seen from the north looked little different than from the south, but the planning and logistics involved is still impressive.
Beside the railway bridge that crosses under the roads is this dignified memorial, which you can see is kept clean and tidy and there is no graffiti unlike the rest of this area.
Detective Constable Michael Swindells was killed in the line of duty in 2004 just here, below Gravelly Hill interchange (as Spaghetti Junction is more correctly known). He and his colleagues had been pursuing a mentally ill man who had been threatening people with a knife and DC Swindells was stabbed. He was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. The enquiry established that the murderer had not been taking his medication, though the police had been told when they enquired before the tragedy that he was not considered a cause for concern. You may wonder how much has been learned from this.
We rounded Salford junction onto the Grand Union and moored at Star City. We have not been on this little stretch before and hadn’t believed other bloggers’ description of it as a reasonable mooring. But there is grass for the dog, and the Star City complex effectively blocks the noise of the M6. This is a bit of an ‘estate agent’ photo though – it makes it look quite rural although a road, Star City and a car park are directly behind the hedge!
We had an early lunch and then dithered over what to do next – stay amid the wafting odours of MacDonald's, or crack on to get out of the city? It was only 1 o’clock so we went on.
Garrison locks were all against us, but we made steady progress. It was quite chilly and very grey but not unpleasant, and Meg pottered about happily.
Soon we were at Bordesley Junction. Dave dropped me off before the bridge so that I could go ahead and prepare the first of the Camp Hill locks. Someone's got their eyes on you!
I started to empty the lock then noticed something large and white roiling around just below the surface. So it was a hasty rush to the junction to warn Dave of a builder’s dumpy bag in the cut. It was too far out for me to reach it, and as Dave crept carefully round the junction it crept ever closer to Chuffed before sliding gently underneath. You can just see it to the right of the boat in the picture below. Not so much an urban jellyfish (plastic bag to the uninitiated), more a giant squid!
With a judicious mixture of neutral and slow ahead he managed to get past and into the lock, then handed me the boat hook so I could retrieve it. By now it was drizzling so we had a fun time going up Camp Hill with our little extra.
Luckily there is a facilities block at the top lock so we could dispose of it, along with a large ‘bag for life’ that was lurking at one lock.
Then it was get a brew on, crack out the cake and get going on the long haul out through the Birmingham suburbs. Small Heath, Sparkbrook and Tyseley were not so lovely, Yardley rather more salubrious. The drizzle had stopped but the cloud cover was still low. In spite of this the autumn colours, just starting, stood out in the gloom.
From Yardley, the canal runs in a deep wooded cutting. The leaves are (mostly) still on the trees, so the housing and industry is pretty much hidden. But enough leaves were in the water to regularly foul the prop, so although the canal is deep and wide, allowing a decent rate of progress, we had to go into neutral every now and then for the leaves to drop off. There was a lot of other tree debris too to avoid, ranging from long thick twigs which caught on the bow to short chunky bits of branch. We only saw three boats on the move today – one going up Perry Barr locks, one coming from the Farmers’ Bridge direction at Salford junction, and finally a hire boat just as we were shaking off the suburbs.
We moored at Catherine de Barnes at about 6. We haven’t had such a long day for ages and were heartily relieved to stop.
24 locks, 13 miles, 8 and a half hours cruising. Quite enough for one day.
What about those 10 canals? Birmingham and Fazeley, Tame Valley, Walsall, Birmingham Main Line, Wyrley and Essington, Cannock Extension, Anglesey branch, Daw End branch, Rushall Canal, Grand Union. And quite a lot of it for the first time.