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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Looping the Loops.

Helen wanted to have a look round the new Central Library and there was a chance to see some more of the 4 Squares Festival before we left. We went into town to buy a paper and were almost first through the door at the Library. Helen was impressed and as it wasn't raining today the views were better too. It looks like Birmingham is almost built in a shallow bowl as there are hills all round.


This beutiful garden is at the back of the new library but can be seen from the viewing platform, but is a wonderful facility for the tower blocks near by and makes Cambrian Wharf an even better mooring.


The large domed building is the National Indoor Area that is undergoing renovation at the moment. Just above can be seen Rotton Park Reservoir with a Golden domed mosque close by.


In Victoria Square the No Fit State Circus School put on a very entertaining show as a prelude to offering circus skills training to anybody who wanted them.


We left Cambrian Wharf about 1400 and stopped for water just nearby. I thought that we would be quite a while as the tap is not the fastest and I thought we would be just about empty, but we were soon away again. The first junction is Old Turn Junction where the Worcester and Birmingham, the Birmingham and Fazeley and the Birmingham Main Line canals meet, and is the site of Brindley Place which is a big tourist area on the canal.


We decided to go down the Icknield Port Loop as there is no towpath round it. It looks like the industry has been flattened and is awaiting redevelopment. It seems there are plans to ensure the island of the loop is to be a self contained community so with luck will be a very nice place to be close to the city centre and with the Rotton Park Reservoir on the doorstep. The photo shows a C&RT yard at the foot of the dam of the reservoir.


The trip boat from Bridley Place follows the Soho and Icknield Port Loops. Here it looks very green and there are many dumb barges awaiting work moored up on the banks.


As you come out of the Icknield Port loop you can cross straight over the Main line and enter the Soho Loop. After a short length of old factories the loop becomes very green with parks on the 'mainland' side. There is a very large park in front of Winson Green Prison. It looks like an old stately home that is acting as the gatehouse and offices. The next bridge may have the answer as it is called Asylum Bridge and this could be what the original use was.


As you cruise around the Birmingham Canal Navigation you will see that most of the bridges have holes in their sides. I think I read that they were for the Fire Brigade to place their hose into the the cut for a water supply. I expect that this must have happened during WWII Blitz and was to ensure a ready supply for fire fighting in case the mains were damaged.


As there were so many arms and junctions in the BCN and a massive number of day boats being towed about that they had to keep a very close eye on the traffic to ensure that they received the tolls that they had due. All over the network are toll islands where they could guage and count the boats as they passed. They mainly had octagonal offices on them and now most have all gone. The one above at Winson Green Junction had bays in to tie up boats in the centre. The bays have been filled with reeds now.


At Smethwick Junction we left the Main Line for the Old Line and were soon rising up the three Smethwick Locks to rise to the height of 473ft.  We had been heading for the Titford Canal but as we were late leaving we decided to stop on the Engine Arm. At the top of the three Smethwick Locks there is a tight turn through a small bridge hole on to a Gothic bridge which spans the New Main Line below. The engine arm was built to pump water from to the high level canal. The first engine was run in 1779 and ran there for over a hundred years. The arm has a residential mooring up it but there is now a winding hole and service block at the end and one or two moorings for visitors.


Having just left the Smethick Top Lock, turning from the Summit Pound into the Engine Arm. The terracing leads up to a housing estate built on the old Summit pound that was taken by a further three locks to a 491ft height.


Just crossing the cast iron bridge over the Main Line canal. We hadn't been long moored up when it chucked it down so it was a good decision to stop early. I told you that I would make up for the lack of photographs yesterday. 

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