Tuesday 19th June; Birmingham to Curdworth
People are still having problems receiving comments on Blogger. I managed to retrieve some from the ‘Comments awaiting moderation’ bit on the Design page (thanks for that Pip on Oleanna), and commented on Tom’s blog (Waiouru) on the topic, but he clearly hasn’t received my comment.
We were on the move soon after 8 this morning, but stopped first at Cambrian Wharf services as we were in dire need – 2 cassettes to empty, water tank to fill and some rubbish to dispose of. At the ‘roundabout’ at Old Turn junction those stupid ‘Walk This Way’ etc banners had been replaced by the new CRT logo.
It does look better. But everywhere else we have seen it, although the bright blue is fine, the strange half-sucked polo logo just looks anonymous. Rather a waste of money.
The Cambrian Wharf water tap is very slow, and after a while we got fed up with it. We know we will be able to top up in the next couple of days, so we gave up and had started down the Farmer’s Bridge flight before 9. Dave was just filling the top lock – someone had gone down as we connected the water hose – when a volunteer arrived and opened every other lock for us. What a star!
And, growing out between two stones at the edge of the lock was this single specimen of wheat, which must have come from bird food, or duck food.
Building work is carrying on apace. I think this one is going to add to the wind tunnel effect when it is complete;
A couple of the locks are in the undercroft of buildings, and I really dislike one of these. The offside ground paddle is only accessible across the bottom gate. The light is poor, it’s noisy and echoing, and if the gate swings open while you are closing the paddle you would have to kneel down and yell to the steerer to nudge the gate shut again so you can get back to the towpath side. There is no ladder either, so If there was an emergency the steerer would have to get up on the roof and climb through the fence – not at all easy for some folk. It would be difficult for a single-hander.
Yes, yes, I know you don’t have to use that paddle!
Efforts are being made to prettify the locks, and near the bottom herbs have been planted along the wall. There is thyme, sage, and golden marjoram. Mint is in there too, so in a few years this will be mostly mint!
We were down in about 1 hour 20 minutes, which is a little more than 6 minutes per lock. That’s the fastest we have ever done it, but I’m not laying claim to any record. Grateful thanks to that volunteer, as we had a lot of locks still to come.
Just below the flight some surveying was taking place; the banksman told us that some flats are to be built on the offside, and the wall was being checked out. That’s a tape measure the hi-vis chap is holding.
Further on was a pontoon with large notices warning of diving operations – the black-clad one on the left is in a wetsuit preparing to go down.
Not much further on is Barker Bridge. At last I have an appropriate snap of it!
A diversion is in place at Aston junction; one of the Aston locks was scheduled for repair during the winter stoppages, but other work was more urgent. As there is a good alternative route to use (just a couple of miles added to your journey) they opted to do the work during the summer. There is a notice, though it’s quite difficult to see. We knew about it already, and there is also a notice at the top of Farmer’s Bridge, but the volunteer who helped us down still made sure that we knew.
So at the junction we turned right onto the Digbeth branch, towards the Ashted flight. Although it’s still in the middle of the city, the lock surrounds are full of wild flowers. Ox-eye daisies -
and some sort of yellow vetch.
There was even a single orchid! Not sure what, but it had spotted leaves, and I’d love to know what is was.
I recall reading on a blog that Ashted tunnel can be dodgy, and the blogger recommended the use of the centre rope to hold it onto the towpath side during passage. When we came this way last year we were going uphill and everything was fine, but I wish I’d remembered that advice this time! Some floating rubbish suddenly forced the boat against the wall and two fender attachments were bashed off, as well as some paint. Luckily the fenders were on the roof, where they belong when cruising, so the bits weren't lost.
We turned left rather than go down into Typhoo basin, through what might have been a stop lock or gauging point. There is nothing in Nicholson to say what is was and I haven’t got around to researching it.
There is some imaginative graffiti art along the Digbeth branch, which I have photographed before, but this more sober example caught Dave’s eye on the offside.
Before long we were at Dumpy Bag junction (Bordesley junction). On our first time round this way we were going up Camp Hill locks, but a builder’s bag was floating about in a predatory sort of way, so Dave had to drift in towards the lock pushing the bag gently to the narrow ledge below the towpath from where I could reach it with the boat hook and haul it out.
Garrison locks are not far from the junction and suddenly there were three boats – the leader was a private boat, followed by two hire boats on a school trip – 18 kids altogether! Wow. They seemed to be the age to have just done their GCSEs and were bound for Cadbury World.
The moorings at Star City were empty thank goodness so we could have a decent lunch break. There’s nowhere to give the dog a decent walk, so we weren’t going to stay overnight. Soon after the mooring is the site of Nechells Shallow lock, no longer in use. The blue thing above the water is a lorry on the M6.
There was no wind, so rounding Salford junction presented no problems. The M6 follows the canal for a while before it swings away and is replaced by huge electricity sub-stations.
Dave had his wits about him and spotted this heron catching a fish – a roach, he thought, it looked about 6” long.
Minworth locks were against us, but these would be the last for us today. The lock moorings at the bottom one were occupied – one boat was locked up and empty, but the other was a hire boat with a quilt hanging out of its engine hole – they had had to call out the boatyard after trying, and failing, to remove it themselves.
We finally got to Curdworth just before 5 and moored before Curdworth Church bridge. I was shattered and went for a shower. I don’t know where Dave gets his energy from – he drilled out the broken rivets from the fender hangers and replaced them, then emptied the paint locker and replaced the runner along the bottom. Before we got some matting to raise it off the well deck, the locker had been in the firing line of any overflow when the water tank was filled, and over the years had rotted away. The left side is fine, though it needed painting; the batten on the right was completely rotten. It isn’t now! (I think there was something on the camera lens, sorry about that).
10½ miles, 27 locks, 7 hours’ cruising, 1 exhausted crew. Many cookies consumed, especially by the crew.