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Saturday 30 April 2016


No.1 daughter and Joe arrived at 2218 and after a chat and a cocoa it was to bed. This morning we managed to get them up and out by 1000, but only as far as the closest Weatherspoons for a full English to fuel the day. Next stop was the new Birmingham Library that had queues at the door ready for them to open at 1100. Joe had studied the building at University so wanted to see it in real life. We had a good look round at the gardens and Shakspeare Room at the top.

The vies from the Library of Old Turn Junction.

The view of Cambrian Wharf at the top of Farmer's Bridge Locks. We managed to get inside before the rain and have managed to miss the showers all day.

After leaving the library we headed for the Coffin Works by Farmer's Bridge Locks. We arrived about 1330 so had 30 mins to wait for our tour.

This is a time capsule museum. The business of Newman Brothers closed in 1990 and had been mothballed. It took 15 years from the Birmingham City Council buying the premises to it being opened. Miss Green the last owner wanted it to be preserved and so left everything she could in place. The building had to be emptied and cataloged and the the building repaired, cleaned and painted and brought up to modern standards. It has been opened about 18  months I think. This is the courtyard that once contained a acid dipping shed, a gas generator, and the loos.

Newman Bros. specialised in making funeral jewelry for undertakers. In this area tin plate had items stamped out using these drop hammers.

These are the dies that were at the bottom of the drop hammers that formed the shape. Carved out of steel by hand using chisels and then when the pattern is verified the steel is hardened.

The bench on the other side was covered with bits and pieces of the trade.

This tin plate polished breast plate shows Helen and Amy at their best!

The whole building was lit by gas light until the 1960, and even with the electric light it was quite dark inside. This swing presses were worked by women who could stamp out a profile evry few seconds.

When the company closed all the stock could have been sold but the owner kept enough to ensure that there was enough left to make an authentic presentation. All the boxes have items in them.

 This hand hoist connected all three floors of the building.
There is also a shroud room where high end coffin cloths and shrouds were made. The company provided ornaments and shrouds etc for the funeral of Winston Churchill and it is thought Elizabeth the Queen Mother as the high quality item from Newman's were stockpiled by undertakers following their closure.

The tour takes an hour ans it well worth the £6 and is a very informative. Along with the Jewelry Quarter Museum you get a great insight into the workshops of the past. It is well recommended if you are passing through Brum on the canals. We stopped of at the Queens in Newhall Street and had an amble round the Jewelry Quarter to show our guests before heading back to the boat for tea and cake.

The Jewelry Quarter does not only provide rings and things!

Later we will head out to find a curry on Broad Street if we can continue to evade the showers.

Friday 29 April 2016

Jewelry junket.

We were off early this morning to get to the Jewelers as soon as possible to choose a stone! We had taken in a ring from my mother to have a sapphire removed and a diamond put in it's place. We were also having some ear rings and a pendant made from some other bits and pieces from her. The jewelers were very good and got in a few suitable diamonds for us to look at. The most expensive was almost £2000!! We didn't select that one!!! They asked us to come back in the afternoon and the work would be completed. We had another walk round the Jewelry Quarter.

Just one of the many nice sights on the way.

We headed from their into town as we wanted to go to the indoor and outdoor market. We walked past University College Birmingham and picked up some bread and pastries. On the way down from the Bull Ring you see the back of Selfridge's building

Selfridge's certainly stands out.

Just in the area of the above photo I was surprised to find this statue of Lord Nelson. You can't get much further from the sea than Birmingham but it seems that the people of the City really took to him after he visited the town. In fact this statue was the first one raised to the great victor of Trafalgar in the country. It was also paid for mainly by many many small directions of the working folk so demonstrating their love of the hero.

After lunch we walked back to the Jewelers via a different route to see more of the sights. Here we saw a cast iron urinal by the Jewelry Quarter station. These are getting rarer and rarer these days.

Many of the beautiful buildings that housed jewelry workshops have great detail on them to make them stand out. I loved this lamp and sign above a door.

St Paul's is a lovely old church with numbered box pews still. They hold free organ recitals on Thursday lunchtimes. The east window looked really dark. It seems in the late 1700's the art of making stain glass had been lost and so they painted oxides on glass and heated it. The picture was fantastic but it is nowhere near as transparent as a normal stained glass window.

We called into the Shakespeare pub and had a drink to celebrate our purchases. I had three 1/3rd pints to try three different beers. The cheapest would have been a pint at £3-75, but it was a nice pub and we were celebrating.

On the way back to the boat we passed round the back of the 'new' library and you get a different view. In the park young lads were taking turns to to do back flips and spins and turns in the air. I have no idea how you would learn to do that. In another part of the park, on a bench, was another face of the city as two older blokes were supping from cans of lager. At least the park is being used.

We are now waiting for Amy and Joe to arrive at new Street to join us for the weekend. We have big plans so I expect that we will be knackered by the end of it. But looking forward to it.

Back to Brum.

When we were ready to go we decided on a walk round the Local Nature Reserve as the sun was shining and it felt nice and warm. The land was owned by the Earl of Dudley and it contained coal mines, clay pits, blast furnaces, iron foundries, boiler works, timber yards and brickworks along with boat yards. When the mines closed and the other industries fell away. The Earl left the land to the Council and stated that it was not to be built in.

The four bridges at the junction are Grade II listed and were built in 1830. When the Netherton tunnel was opened in 1858 it was to relieve the congestion at Dudley and Lapal Tunnels. However the canal that it was connecting to was a contour canal and so would have problems of it's own. The Boshboil and Bumble Hole arms were actually a loop of the old canal. They used the waste from cutting the tunnel to build an embankment that cut off the loop and left what is there today. There were three mines in the area, Windmill End and Warren Hall No.1 and No.2. When the Windmill End pit was dug in 1830 it started to flood. A pumping engine was installed in 1831 but the Cobb's Engine Engine was installed in 1836. The water removed was added to the canal. It was shut down in the 1920's during the General Strike and when restarted it couldn't cope with the flooding and the mines were closed soon after. The Engine was closed in 1925. The small steam engine pump was removed and was sent to the USA for Henry Ford's museum.

This canal basin was where boats loaded coke and breeze. (Breeze is the fine particles of coke). The coke ovens were just near the basin. They also loaded coal from the Warren's Hall Pit No.2 that was up the hill. The coal arrived by an inclined tramway.

The Cobb's Engine House and canal junction from Tansley Hill.

A touch of spring colour in the woods.

After our walk we set off after topping up with water at the well used visitor centre about 1120. Once through the other side of the hill the sun had gone and it was cold and drizzly. The New Main Line runs next to the railway for much of it's route. None of the drivers waved!

Different style bridges from the same Company from different dates.

The Old and New Lines run parallel and were connected by the Smethwick pumping station that pumped water up to the higher Old Main Line.

The New Main Line cut of the loops of the old contour canal but they were retained for access to the companies that had set up along them. On the left can be seen one entrance to the Soho Loop that served the Soho Foundry that was a ground breaking factory. The old canal would have crossed to the nearest arm on the right that became the Cape Loop and Arm that was then continued to what is now the Winson Green loop. The second entrance on the right (hidden by a bush) that was the entrance into a factory from the New Line.

We moored up down the Oozells Loop and straight away the rain and hail started. We settled in for the final 'Line of Duty' on the box. We managed to get a signal right between the buildings.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Another classic pub.

I like the mooring at the Waterfront as it has always been quiet and with sun all day, and I have never seen it full.
The Brewers Wharf pub at the southern end of the 'basin'. It is a pseudo pub, looking old but fabricated.

I like this office block at the north end of the basin with the private pontoon moorings below it.

We set off at just after 1000 and were soon at the only lock of the day at Blowers Green Lock. A lady told us that they had moored third boat out on the water point as there was  contractors boats moored up. I had seen the contractor going past with a powered unit, pushing one pan and pulling another. He had no waterproofs and it was snowing and blowing a gale and freezing cold yesterday evening. I don't blame him for mooring up here. Helen is just bringing 'Holderness' into the 12' deep lock.

All the bridges round here are flat topped and this is due to the fact that there was much mining round here and this resulted in lots of subsidence. A flat bridge made it easier to build the bridge up as the land sank.

There is an isthmus of land that supported coal mines. the neck of the 'island was cut by the Two locks line. This must have been great to miss out the congestion of boats going up the Park Head Locks to the Dudley Tunnel. The Two Locks Line is to the left and the Dudley No.2 Canal to the right.

We stopped at Windmill End and filled up with water at the Bumble Hole Visitor centre. It was packed with folk having a drink and a bun after walking around the Local Nature Reserve. Once full we just pushed across to the other side and moored up. We had done some washing on the way here and once moored we hung it up and then waited for it to dry. We didn't want to leave it as there were many showers about. We actually didn't have any this afternoon. Once it was dry we went off to visit another pub!

We walked about 15 mins to the Old Swan (Ma Pardoe's) which is a brew pub. It was amazing to see the tiled ceiling with the Old Swan sign. On the right edge of the photo is the solid fuel stove that wasn't lit today. I like the sign to the right that reads 'The ales brewed at this establishment are the purest in the Borough. Brewed by a 'medalist' and certified brewer.' Only beer brewed on the site is sold and whilst not as likeable as the Batham's for me the Old Swan bitter at £2-20 was a real bargain. This is definitely a pub that beer drinkers should visit as there are not many like this left

We went home a different route as we saw the evening sun on the Cobb's Engine House and the southern portal of the Netherton Tunnel.

Looking the other way is the junction of the Dudley No.2 Canal that goes off left to the Lapal Tunnel and the Netherton Tunnel Branch that disappears behind the camera.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Through the hill to Paradise.

It proved to be a good mooring as we didn't wake up, once through the night. This morning there was a bugle playing in the distance about 0930 then something like the Muslim call to prayer that went on for about half an hour before we left. I wonder what it was?

Netherton Branch Canal from Dudley Port Junction with the tunnel in the distance.

BCN cottages, the aqueduct where the Old Main Line crosses over the level of the New Main Line.

The best I could do of the tunnel. It is 1.75 miles long and is two way with two footpaths. It was built in 1858 to relieve the massive congestion of the Dudley and Lapal tunnels.

After about 35 mins we were once again in the sunlight. I got fully rigged up in gear as I thought that it would be cold and draughty in the tunnel, but it seemed to be warmer than outside and was pretty dry too. This is the southern portal.

 Cobb's Engine House from the junction of the Dudley No.1 Canal, Dudley No.2 Canal and the Boshboil Arm.

Passed under High Bridge. This was actually Brewin's Tunnel that was built in 1838. The Navvies came across a seam of hard igneous Basalt rock and had to tunnel through. It only lasted 20 years as then they were able to open it up but this narrow still survives.

St Andrew's Church in Netherton seems to be visible from everywhere in this area. The landscape in the foreground was the area of a plethora of coal mines but now makes fora great green space.

We stopped at Blowers Green Lock to take on water and get rid of the rubbish before heading down the lock.

From Blowers Green the canal to Dudley Tunnel heads up through the Park Head Locks. The canal cottage is in a nice setting and as the tunnel is almost inaccessible to a normal vessel it would make a great mooring.

We were soon at the 'Waterfront' and moored up below the office blocks. After soup we went for a walk down to the Merryhill Centre. The only reason we were shopping again was a deal struck that I would be able to visit the Vine pub, more normally known as the 'Bull and Bladder'. This is the home of Batham's Brewery and is my all time favourite (so far anyway).

There is a central passage way with several rooms off. It was comfortable and warm on a very cold day. The beer was magnificent. They only had two the bitter and the mild. We had a bag of pork scratchings that had a warning on the packet, 'Only recommended for people with strong healthy teeth. Although every care has been taken to remove bones, some may remain!!!'

The brewery tap of Batham's Brewery called the Vine but known as the 'Bull and Bladder'.

After a few pints we set of back to the boat but got enveloped in a blizzard and ended up looking like snowmen as we staggered into the Intu Merryhill Centre. We warmed up as Helen had another look around before setting off again. No sooner had we got outside than we got struck by a snow storm again. Once back at the boat there have been intermittent hail and snow storms with some lightening.

Monday 25 April 2016

shopping, supping and sailing.

It is very quiet on this berth down Oozells Loop and we slept well. But once we were up we set off for the Jewelry Quarter. Helen had a ring to alter and some stones to have set. The Jewelry Quarter is a nice area with lots of little Victorian factories, some still working, some altered to offices and shops and some changed into apartments. A few more apartments and I reckon the whole place will be a lovely place to live right near the city centre.

This is the pediment on a factory called the Victoria Works. You don't often see this cameo of her. 

There are many buildings like this in the area.

Beautiful tile work on the Queens Arms in Hockley

The Jewelry Quarter is in Hockley and the Chamberlain Memorial Clock is in the centre of the crossroads. It was erected in 1903 and is a cast iron tower that was erected to commemorate local politician Joseph Chamberlain's visit to South Africa after the Boer war in 1902/03. It was clockwork but now is electric and also chimes. It is quite unusual as it was unveiled whilst he was still alive.

Other buildings in Birmingham city centre seem to have taken over from the Rotunda but it was very dramatic when it was first built in 1965. They wanted to knock it down at one time, to build the new Bull Ring Centre.

The mirrored exterior of New Street Station is very striking and the interior of Grand Central is also 100% better than what was there before as it opens up the space rather than feeling caged in.

After doing a little food shopping I left Helen to carry it back to the boat and give her an hour to browse the shops on her own. Once we met up we headed over to the Mail Box and Cube areas.

Our objective was the Craven Arms that had been recommended to us by blog reader Sam. It was worth the walk as it was a nice find with a good range of beers on as well as the range of Black Country Brewery. They only had ready made sandwiches and the only bad thing I could say about it was that there was music playing, and it was just a tad too loud.

We walked back to Old Turn Junction via the canal and so passed Gas Street Basin and Worcester Bar. It looks a lot different to when I saw it in the late 1960's.

We set off as soon as we got back. Helen stayed in to do some baking. I would never argue with that!

This is the toll island just past Winson Green Junction. You can clearly see the gap in the centre of the island where boats were taken for guaging to check what tolls were required to be charged. There are so many loops and arms around that the toll islands are many to catch the boats as they pass on even short journeys.

Looking back to Galton Tunnel and Galton Bridge spanning the New Main Line. We are just about under the rail bridge that has a station on it.

A couple of hours later the weather was getting blacker and blacker and as I was freezing by now as the wind was in my face. I made it as far as Dudley Port Junction and turned into the Netherton Branch and moored just round the corner. No sooner had I got moored up than the hail came down. very satisfying to be inside with hands wrapped round a mug of tea with the hail rattling on the roof. A good day was had by all.