Thursday, 14 September 2017

A sobering incident

Thursday 14th September; Aston junction to Birmingham city centre

We had a quiet night at the university moorings.  It was raining when we woke, but when we left soon after 8.30 it was bright sunshine though there was a strong and cold headwind.  You might not expect much vegetation on a city waterway but you would be wrong – it’s impossible to get your back end out of this bridge ‘ole without half the boat ploughing through overgrown shrubs.   And we’re only 55’, so it must be much worse for longer boats.  Luckily the chimney was lying on the roof or we might have lost it overboard.

1 vegetation at bridge

Something else went overboard though – a gust of wind sent Dave’s cap flying into the water shortly after that and we had a dickens of a job reversing back to recover it.  We were being blown all over the place and just got it before it sank out of sight.  There is a lot of building going on and this tower block was having something done to it by the men on the cradle which spanned the whole width of the building.  You can just see their white hard hats; the one in the middle was controlling the ascent and the other was doing whatever it was – loud bangs were involved.

2 work platform going up tower block

Before we reached the Farmer’s Bridge flight we passed under a bridge for Meg, with the BT tower rising beyond it

3 a bridge for meg

Many of the Farmer’s Bridge locks run alongside or underneath the buildings on the offside.  It was dark and gloomy at times, and the stink under some recalled that lock on the Rochdale Nine.4 silhouette

Not many of the buildings have paid much attention to how they appear from the canal, but someone has put in the effort here.  If you don’t lift your eyes above head height you wouldn’t ever notice.

5 side of building on farmers bridge flight

It wasn’t long before the sudden strength of the bywashes made it apparent that someone had started down the flight.

7 strong bywash someones coming down

The wind was funnelling down the narrow channel between the high buildings and when coupled with odd currents from the bywashes made steering quite a challenge.  The lock gates were heavy but I’m glad it wasn’t me on the tiller.

The second boat we met had moved too far over to wait for us to leave our lock.  In trying to get away from the building the steerer leant so far over the taff-rail that he overbalanced and in he went.  The water was up to his armpits (he was quite short) and he couldn’t get himself back on board even with his friend hauling on his belt – his belly was in the way. 

8 a dunking

I took the photo before I twigged he would need more help.  Dave was about to go into the lock and wasn’t available, but two workmen from a building site arrived and hauled him out.  It took them three hard pulls to get him out.  There were two shocking things about the incident - even in September the water was so cold his legs were going numb, but far worse was that NO-ONE thought to use the life-ring (so he could safely get to the lock ladder), or remember that you can make a rope loop to use as a step.  Mea culpa! It just goes to show that not only do you need to have a ‘man overboard’ drill, you need to keep it at the front of your mind not buried away at the back.  A boarding ladder would seem to be a good idea.

We made the rest of the flight without incident and waited our turn at the facilities as NB Marquis went by.   Another boater said it has the oldest hull still cruising though it has had many modifications. 

9 marquis oldest original hull still cruising

There were mooring restriction notices (starting tomorrow) all the way from Tindal Bridge to St Vincent St Bridge so, as we usually stay in Birmingham for a couple of nights, we joined the three boats already moored beyond the bridge. 

Dave went off with Meg and I walked down to the Tesco Metro at the Mailbox to get something for lunch.  The bridge there is festooned with lovelocks - padlocks whose key is dropped into the water, signifying undying love - in the peculiar habit that has become popular in the last couple of years.

10 mailbox bridge keys

Notice the one with a combination?  Has the canny partner memorised the number so s/he can come and retrieve the padlock when the relationship has run its course?

After lunch we went to find Perrott’s Folly, which is described in Nicholson’s as a seven storey tower built in 1758.  JRR Tolkein, who lived not far away for a while, was thought to have based one of the Towers of Gondor upon this strange building.

11perrotts folly

This was as close as we could get.  It has high-density housing behind it, a busy road in front and a health centre and its car park to the sides.  In the photo below, taken at the entrance to the health centre by its sharply pointed security fencing, it looks great, but there doesn't seem to be any access other than through the health centre.

13 perrotts folly

It doesn’t appear to be inhabited, and it was disappointing to see something so interesting apparently uncared for.  It is on the Ladywood edge of Edgbaston, so not a pretty area and we were close to busy roads all the way there.  We could at least come back to the boat through the park behind the Arena where Meg could be off the lead and have a game of ball.

14 meg in park

We cut through the passage under the Round House to return to the canal.

15 back of the round house

2 miles 13 locks

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