Wednesday 20th March; Birmingham to King’s Heath Swingbridge (derelict)
Thursday 21st March; just a little further on
It all started so well today! Meg had her walk, the rubbish got disposed of (via a stroll to Cambrian Wharf), the paper was bought along with milk at the little Cambrian Stores. Soon after 10 we left our moorings opposite the Round House, which is being restored and it looks as though it will be let out to commercial enterprises.
We set off towards the Icknield Port Loop, deciding it would be more interesting to cruise a loop to turn the boat round rather than just winding in the entrance. We turned into the second entrance to the loop, at the ‘crossroads’ with the start of the Hockley Port Loop and were delighted to see that the side of the bridge away from the towpath had escaped the attentions of graffiti vandals.
CRT-type work was going on at Icknield Port, where a workboat had two end-of-first-life lock gates waiting for disposal
At the city end of the loop, the area of derelict factories we had seen being flattened last year is now a building site. This is what the widebeam we saw yesterday in Brindley Place had been advertising.
It all used to look like this ....
but now -
We couldn’t decide if the white building on the left was offices or examples of the starter homes on offer. It looks as though they are constructing some sort of small arm or basin here, where the dam is still in place.
Back through the city centre, pausing at Holliday Wharf to empty the cassettes and get some water, and out of the city we went. At Selly Oak we had another look for the old Selly Oak Junction with the Lapal Canal – was this it? It looks as though the towpath may have risen over a bridge. The route looks a bit blocked …
We wondered if these steps would eventually be the towpath access to the new Sainsbury’s. If so, some mooring rings would be nice! There doesn’t look to be a great deal of room for the Lapal canal to run though.
The plan was to stop for lunch at King’s Norton Junction, and go on to Hockley Heath. The engine had been overheating a little, and a blast of reverse threw some plastic off, but when we moored just round the junction at lunchtime it was obvious Dave would need to go down the weed hatch.
There wasn’t a great deal of rubbish, but I had pulled a black plastic sack out of the water as we moored, so there was a ready container for it. There was some surgery happening to a large tree at the Guillotine Lock – they weren’t taking it down, just cutting it back a bit. It’s very skilled work - I caught it just as the piece of tree was descending with perfect control.
We set off about 3, only to pull in almost immediately as the engine overheated. There was quite a bit of water in the bilge, but we couldn’t see where it had come from. After it had cooled a bit, Dave checked and topped up the coolant header tank – it took a couple of pints – and we tried again, managing just a couple of hundred yards. We coasted in to the bollards by the derelict swing bridge and called RCR. The engineer reached us at 5.30, diagnosed a problem with the thermostat housing and said he’d have to call Barras in the morning to see if we need a complete new unit or just gaskets.
We were a little anxious about stopping overnight along this stretch – just a few hundred yards away the self-pumpout equipment at the junction was removed after constant vandalism – but it seemed to be quite quiet with just families and dog walkers enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.
It was a very quiet night and we awoke to birdsong. The next morning Dave topped up the water and we crept carefully along to Lyons’ Boatyard where we moored on the towpath side. The engine hadn’t overheated and there was no water in the bilge, as we had been going barely above tickover, so we were able to leave the engine running to charge the batteries. A message came from RCR to say they would be in touch ‘soon’, and another a little later to say they would be emailing an ‘estimate’ for the work, but are we safe to continue cruising or not? We don’t know. Mid-afternoon we had a ‘how did we do’ phone call and the lady was surprised to hear we had no idea what was going on. She passed me on to someone else who promised there would be an email by 5pm….. but no. Lyons’ engineer is working away today but will be in tomorrow so we will at least be able to find out if we can safely cruise.
8 miles in 2 days, Brandwood tunnel, a lot of thumb-twiddling.