Thursday 29th September; Perry Barr to Birmingham
There was a lot of rain last night, but we had moored carefully so that the cabin wasn’t under the trees to get dripped on. Steady rain on the roof is lovely, soporific, unlike random drips and falling twigs if you moor under trees. The towpath across the canal wasn't very busy, but on this side, although there is a path all the way along the canal, only one person went by in all the time we were there.
After breakfast I washed the starboard side of the boat, and Dave went down the weed hatch and recovered a heap of shredded plastic, wire and baler twine, our ‘haul’ from yesterday.
I piled it into a bucket and took it off to the skip with our rubbish bag, along the way collecting a couple of jumpers that looked as though they had been round someone's prop, and a fisherman’s can of sweetcorn – after I’d scattered the remaining contents for the fish and pigeons. At the rubbish compound was a sad bin I hadn’t seen before; I suppose it’s elf ‘n safety.
A notable building at the top lock is the BCN house, now converted into two flats.
Meg and I had a bit of a walk and when we got back Dave had been busy with the Carnauba wax. Now both sides of the boat are ready for winter. We didn’t get away till about 11, and although it was warm in the sun we were in a deep cutting and it was pretty chilly in the shade. The bridges have to be high – this is Freeth bridge;
and in the dappled sunlight further along we had a good view of a kingfisher, though it didn’t deign to hang around for a photograph. You can just see another high bridge, and there were others visible though the photo doesn’t really show them.
There are a couple of small shops at the Piercy aqueduct so I popped down a very long flight of steps to get the paper. The canal continues as a mix of cuttings and embankments for most of its length, crossing the river Tame far below.
At Rushall junction was a CRT notice about the closure. We carried on, alongside the M6 for a while.
Then came the highlight of my day, the aqueduct across the M5. For years and years we have queued under it to join the M6 when travelling to more northern marinas, and only realised a couple of years ago – while reading someone’s blog! that there was a canal up there. Dave put the engine into neutral so we could both get off and have a good look. Facing north, to where the M5 joins the M6 -
You can see that the aqueduct is quite high above the traffic, so maybe it wasn’t so surprising that no-one seemed to notice us and perhaps they couldn’t really see the boat, as the walkways on each side are wide.
None of the pictures shows it, but if you look west and south as you cross you can see how deep the valley is, with motorways snaking through into the distance. And there were we, up high with a fabulous view.
Excitement over, we continued along the straight and wide Tame Valley canal, into an increasingly strong and cold headwind. We stopped near the Hateley Heath aqueduct for lunch, glad to get inside in the warm. Then it was on towards the junction at Ocker Hill past this future hazard to navigation, streaming out in the wind.
At the bottom of Ryder’s Green locks the crew of the boat coming down (the first we had seen for over 24 hours) kindly opened up for us as the lock was in our favour. The rest of the locks were all set for us so we made very quick progress. At one point a gym ball was blowing around in the strong wind – from the side now, and gusting.
I am not a number ……
Another boat approached as we entered the top lock, then we rounded Pudding Green junction and joined the Main Line into Birmingham. At the junction is a grove of silver birch trees, just visible through the bridge.
We cracked on into Birmingham, passing the bottom of Spon Lane locks which are amongst the oldest in the country. Little used, they were full of stagnant water when we went up that way last year.
But this time we went straight on. Under the old - the Stewart aqueduct, which carries the Wolverhampton level over the Main Line, and the new - the M5 .
As time was getting on we took the first mooring we found, on the 14-day section opposite Sherborne Wharf and the Fiddle and Bone. Though there were several spaces further on, this one is best for the dog and gives us plenty of time to think what our next move is to be.
We went to eat at the Handmade Burger Co (excellent) then walked round looking at the security arrangements for the Tory party conference, which starts tomorrow at the ICC. The lovely policemen we chatted to told us they would be on duty all night – as were the security staff, visible on the ICC side of the canal which is now off limits to the hoi-polloi. Then we went for a drink at the Fiddle and Bone as there was live music. The group was good, but the crowd very sparse and the drinks prices exorbitant so we didn’t stay very long.
8 locks, 13 miles.