Wednesday 13th September; Curdworth to Aston Junction
We hadn’t realised that the Midlands would be affected by storm Aileen. We were moored in a slight cutting so the boat was completely unaffected by the gales, but there were tall trees on the bank so when the wind woke us in the night it was a bit worrying! All was well though and only a few twigs adorned the roof rather than the large branches we had feared.
We were off at about 9 well wrapped up against the chilly wind. Most of the time we were steering directly into it and it was jolly cold. Towpath improvements were taking place at Minworth and we were pleased to see that the gravel had been brought in at least part of the way by water.
At Minworth bottom lock I found treasure in the form of beautiful conkers. I love collecting them, always have, though now I just like to look at them and feel them rather than bash other people's, and then I use them for spider/moth repellent purposes. Then at the top gate was a little pile of useful firewood which some kind person had already pulled out of the water.
But that was not all we picked up. We were lucky that the paddling pool decided to get rather too friendly immediately above the lock, so we could easily moor up for the attack with the bread knife. We wondered if it had been a victim of last night’s gales and whether the owners were wondering what had happened to it. No more paddling now, I think.
There was a lot of activity at lock 2. We were lucky the paddling pool hadn’t delayed us further or we would have had a wait of a couple of hours. A 16 metre section of towpath wall had collapsed just above the lock mooring and they were just beginning to lower the pound above to make emergency repairs. We had help locking up while the rest of the crew unloaded sandbags for the temporary repair.
They had to lower the water level before they could start to stack the sandbags.
One came up to the top lock (with his cup of tea) to stop boats coming down, and kindly closed up for us.
On we went through the delightful approaches to Salford junction.
Once round the awkward turn onto the Grand Union we pulled in at Star City for some lunch. We went for a look round inside the main building. Dave tried to visit last time we were here but was quickly escorted out as he had Meg with him. I had never seen inside but was not impressed. It’s not really our sort of place; apart from a Vue cinema (nothing we particularly wanted to see) and Tenpin bowling it was mostly filled with fast-food outlets. On a weekday lunch-time it was almost deserted.
After waiting for a shower to pass over we went on to the five Garrison locks, where we met a delightful man who works on landscaping along the canals for Birmingham City Council. He knew little about the actual canals and when he said how fascinated he was we suggested he investigate CRT volunteering opportunities.
At Bordesley junction we turned right onto the Digbeth Branch, a very awkward turn because of the strong wind funnelling down the canal. We are pretty sure this is new waters for us, but we could possibly have come this way once when we were hiring. But we weren't so dedicated as to go down to Typhoo Basin just to turn round and come out again.
There is some great street art along the stretch near Bordesley junction.
After seeing just two boats since we left Minworth we were astonished to discover a narrowboat at the bottom of the Ashted flight, about to start the ascent. We helped each other out – I closed up for them on some locks and they reciprocated by raising a bottom paddle for us when they were a bit further ahead. They had come all the way from Knowle on the Grand Union. The wind was extremely strong and Dave had to wait in the lock chambers till I had opened the next lock so he could go straight in.
Both boats moored for the night above the locks, by the buildings of Aston university. We thought we might look for a pub but it came on to rain again and we thought better of it. It was a lot quieter than Star City.
9 miles, 14 locks, Ashted tunnel